Futures and Pasts
This is my last ever column for MRR in a print manifestation; the first column that I wrote for was in the July 2015 issue, which means that I’ve been doing this for almost exactly four years now. I had absolutely zero aspirations to be a columnist, and it’s honestly not something that ever crossed my mind for even a moment before I actually signed up for it. When Grace was still the content coordinator and she had reached out to me to see if I’d have any interest in doing a music column focused on post-punk and weirdo DIY sounds past and present that might not be getting much or any attention elsewhere in the magazine, it really caught me off-guard. Why would anyone bother to read what I had to say about music? Why not leave it to someone who presents as way more “punk” than I feel like I do? Ever since the announcement that MRR was going to cease to exist as a monthly magazine, I’ve heard really similar lines of thought from so many people when recounting their feelings of inadequacy when it came to getting involved at MRR (or in DIY punk in general, for that matter). And not surprisingly, hardly any of those people were straight, white cis- men. We’re conditioned to doubt ourselves, to discount or minimize our knowledge and abilities, to constantly measure ourselves up against arbitrary external standards. I’ve literally been an active participant in DIY punk for half of my life, but I’m constantly struggling with the feeling that I’m still trying to catch up somehow.
Long story short, being asked to do this column was one of the first times that I ever truly felt like all of my years of researching, obsessing over, and advocating for off-kilter genius underground music were seen as being credible and valuable, and I feel so fortunate to have been given this platform—it’s something that I took extremely seriously, to the point of giving myself anxiety attacks while trying to articulate my thoughts for this column every month. In my weird archivist mind, the significance of proper documentation is so paramount, and there were so many bands and recordings that I wanted to pull out from the margins and include in my allotted 2000 words per issue, whether it was a group of punk women who recorded one single in 1981 and then immediately disbanded, or small- town modern art-punk freaks uploading their demos to Bandcamp in 2019.
It’s easy to forget in an increasingly screen- oriented world, but there’s a certain inherent impermanence to born-digital content, and contrary to what some people might argue, you really can’t find “everything” online. I think about the stacks of fanzines from the 1980s that I’ve collected, with the laid-out-by-hand ads for micro-labels that might have only ever released a tape compilation or two, photos of bands who played a handful of shows but never made any proper recordings, or reviews of albums that still haven’t been uploaded to Youtube or chronicled on someone’s minimal synth blog. All of these things live on through those printed pages, and often only through those printed pages. This magazine has existed for nearly four decades, and the significance of that longevity and legacy can’t be understated. I’ve loved being able to contribute to the documentation of all sorts of wild sounds that might otherwise be lost to time, knowing that by creating a permanent record in print, they would be preserved as a part of punk history as reflected in MRR, and one that could still be referenced years down the line. I took this column on as a challenge to myself, to throw myself into something that was overwhelming and outside of my comfort zone in a lot of ways, and battling all of my frustration and self-doubt in the process has been more than worth it to have had this outlet to shout out even just a fraction of the people on the fringes of punk and DIY who I feel deserve more than that.
I’m not exactly sure what’s next for MRR or how I might fit into that, but let’s keep in touch, okay? Email is firstname.lastname@example.org, sights and sounds are at futuresandpasts.org.