Columns

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

Farewell Maximum Rocknroll, We Hardly Knew Ye 

Hearing the sad news about the changes MRR would soon be going though, I had a very difficult time finding motivation to compile a column for this month. It may seem strange to some to have been affected so heavily by such news, but few things have made as large of an impact on my life as Maximum Rocknroll has. Because of that I thought I would share a couple of short little stories about MRR that I have from my past. 

Discovery 

For those of you paying attention, which the powers that be would have you believe are not too many since magazines don’t sell like they used to, this first little tale will sound familiar as I wrote one of my very first columns about it. I first stumbled upon Maximum Rocknroll as a 13 or 14 year old kid.As a bored youth, I mostly spent my time skateboarding, hanging around the arcade and cheap movie theatre at the mall, and recreationally engaging in whatever drugs I could stumble upon, which thankfully wasn’t very many. Getting out of school and not ready to go home just yet I dropped a hit of acid and took off on my skateboard. After a few hours out terrorizing the quaint little suburban town, I decided to start riding home. To break up the ride I happened into a book store and was walking around the magazine aisle looking for nothing in particular. Perched on a shelf amongst a number of slicker, more professional looking music magazines my eyes came to rest on the classic black and white newsprint cover that would soon be a monthly staple in my life, the very first copy of Maximum Rocknroll I ever laid eyes on. I remember excitedly picking it up and thumbing through it as the cover story, “Are Keyboards Punk?” had caught my eye. I was intrigued, excited, confused, and most of all hooked. I assume that those of us still reading Maximum are an aging crowd and I don’t know how well you, dear reader, remember being a teenager, but I recall that I knew absolutely everything at the time. I’m not sure what has happened to me since, but I certainly used to know everything. Picking up that rag while already knowing everything I was floored to flip from page to page and not recognize most of the bands referenced. I bought that issue and rushed home, reading it from cover to cover, again and again. This was the first inkling that I ever had in my life that the world of punk was a much larger world than I ever could have imagined it being. I believe I picked up a copy every month from that point on. 

Happenstance 

One of the first times I ever made it all the way from Western New York to Sunny California on tour, we had an amusing experience the night that we had a gig booked in San Francisco. Now, I couldn’t tell you where we played or who we played with, but I do remember one thing about that day. Arriving to the city early we drove around looking to find something to eat. This happening prior to the destruction of touring being an adventure with GPS becoming popularized and readily availability, we often would just drive until we found a busy looking strip and try to find something edible. Once we saw somewhere that seemed acceptable we began looking for a place to park our rusted out, half dead van. Up and down side streets for a good five to ten minutes we drove, finding nothing that would accommodate our obnoxiously large, oil leaking machine. As we drove I heard Barb exclaim from the back seat “Hey! Wasn’t that Martin from Limp Wrist we just drove past”? Now, one thing you should know about my friend Barb is that she would often suggest that two people looked identical who I swear had absolutely nothing in common. It happened all the damn time. It became something of an ongoing goof between Steve and I. We chuckled to ourselves as we found a parking spot and started walking back towards the busy strip we had originally been looking for. The joke gained some momentum as we walked past a short old Asian man. Steve leaned over to me, feigning being star struck, exclaiming “oh my god, I think that was Jello Biafra!” The two of us howled with laughter as poor Barb grew ever redder with rage. That is, until we passed the point where Barb thought she saw Martin. There he was, it actually was him. That ever sweet, kind man, waiting at the sidewalk to excitedly greet us. None of us had ever met Martin at this point in our young touring lives, so it wasn’t as if he had rushed out to meet a friend he saw coming by. Turns out, Martin was at the MRR compound and just so happen to see and hear a big sketchy van of punks drive down the street. Assuming that we were headed to MRR as our destination, he rushed out to meet us and proceeded to give us an extensive tour of the facility. I was floored by how welcoming he was and felt humbled to be walking through the place that made the magazine I had loved for years become a reality. 

Wonderment 

A few years ago I lived with a good friend of mine named Sheena, who many of you may know of due to her Lemuria fame. As her band gained some notoriety they began touring with more notable bands and made friends with a number of them. One day while I was working I got a text from Sheena making sure that I didn’t mind if a band crashed over at our house that night. Surely that was something that never bothered me, seeing as how I often rely on the kindness of others putting me and my idiot friends up while out on the road. When I returned home, Sheena was already asleep but the dudes from the band were still bedding down. I struck up a conversation with them and learned that they were a band I had never heard of called The Wonder Years. Nice enough guys, we chatted for a few minutes then I let them be and retired to my room. Trying to be a bit hospitable, you can never earn too much good tour karma, I woke up at a reasonable time and made a pot of coffee and let them know they were of course welcome to join me in a cup. One of the members of this well known pop-punk band came into the kitchen, poured a hot cup of coffee, and sat down at my kitchen table where the mail sat waiting to be gone through. Reaching out, he plucked the new MRR off the top of the mail pile and began to flip through it. “This is cool, is this a zine you do?” the lad asked me. Chuckling, I sarcastically responded positively before realizing that he wasn’t kidding. This dude, playing in a traveling band that claim to be some variant of punk, had never even heard of Maximum Rocknroll. I explained to him what MRR was and gave him a little rundown about its importance. I also expressed to him how insane it was that he thought even for a second that over 300 issues of a zine that size could have been compiled and released by a single person such as myself out of a tiny little home in Buffalo, NY. 

What originally started as me wanting to share a few little anecdotal stories about the rag you hold in your hands now has me thinking a bit more. If that somewhat successful, out of touch doofus thought it were possible for a zine of this caliber to be run by a single individual out of their house in Buffalo, NY then I would like to officially put myself out there to do just that. Hell, maybe he is right! 

However, being that this is the April issue and all I think I shall end by making my theory on this whole debacle known. I believe that we’ve all been duped by those in charge and that the board of directors over at MRR just played the biggest April Fools prank on all of us by making us think that this print zine we love so well will soon be no more. Well done, everyone. You got people talking and feeling nostalgic. Now it’s time to tell the masses that it was all a gag and that we will be picking up this magazine for years to come. 

If, however, I do end up being wrong about this, it has been an absolute honor to regularly contribute to something that has helped shape my life as much as this magazine has. 

—Biff Bifaro