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KILLED ON JUAREZ (photo by Rob Coons)

MRR Radio #1592• 1/14/18

On this week's Maximum Rocknroll Radio, Rob highlights bands from Indonesia and plays a Rip Off Records set. Time to ...

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Fight No More: The Music and Death of
J.J. Jacobson of Offenders

By David Ensminger As the crushing cold front overtook much of North America, including an unusual swath of the South, and ...

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New Blood! SS/BLOCK, NIGHT PEOPLE, VILE SPIRIT, ÉSZELÉS, and BRAIN ITCH

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MRR Radio #1591 • 1/7/18

MRR Remote Radio present Jenna and Melissa trying on their favourite Toronto punk outfits in this 1-hour-long Ontarian special. "We ...

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Maximum Rocknroll #417 • Feb 2018

It's that time you've all been waiting for: Maximum Rocknroll's Year-End Top Ten Issue! MRR #417, our February 2018 issue, ...

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Fight No More: The Music and Death of
J.J. Jacobson of Offenders


January 11th, 2018 by

By David Ensminger

As the crushing cold front overtook much of North America, including an unusual swath of the South, and just hours after I completed an interview with Pat Doyle of Offenders, he notified everybody via social media that Offenders singer J.J. Jacobson, who joined the band in 1981, died in the streets of Austin, causes unknown so far. Jacobson and Doyle steered the band through the fiery albums Endless Struggle and We Must Rebel and a handful of tours across America when they would gig with bands like Condemned to Death and Crucifucks.

JJ Jacobson of the Offenders (photo by Geoff Cordner)

Now, like Marky Ramone being the sole survivor of the Ramones, Doyle is the last remaining Offender. Not long ago, he and Jacobson teamed up for a reunion of sorts by tapping local talent like Craig Merritt (World Burns to Death) and Jeff Martin (Buzzcrusher), which highlighted the reissue of their albums by Southern Lord in 2014. The gigs also paid homage to their lost bandmates Mikey Donaldson (who played with MDC and Sister Double Happiness as well), who died in 2007, and Tony Johnson (Tony Offender), who died from cancer in 2012.

Offenders tunes remain a vivid reminder of the alchemy between punk, metal, and hardcore in the 1980s and evoke a countercultural sense of defiance, resolve, and aggression that can be easily paired with the new world: tunes like “Get Mad,” “Youth Riot,” and “Fight Back” are just a few that laid the groundwork for their ethos and appeared to act as precursors to some current social movements. “I met J.J. at a meeting with the Offenders for the cover of Endless Struggle,” recalls Carlos Lowry, whose art became a permanent fixture on albums by the Dicks and MDC. “He was very young and liked the cover quite a bit. He was the only one at the meeting that noticed the hidden faces in the rock formations. Over the years, I heard all the stories about hard-living and legal problems, but he was always sweet to me, like that young kid I first met, but with a countenance that seemed much older than his years. As a performer, he was great, and to me he seemed to represent the world of hardcore that was coming, less the older rockers turned punks that most of my friends were exciting and quite a bit less compromising.”

Offenders were crucial and salient to Austin’s veteran punk and hardcore community, who is still reeling from the recent loss of Chris Wing, singer for Jerryskids and Sharon Tate’s Baby. As Gary Floyd told me by phone, Wing was a brick that helped hold up the wall of memory for that juncture in Texas music. Jacobson, in turn, was a younger peer who joined Offenders, a former Killeen, Texas-based band, three years into their lifespan, just as they saddled up with the Dicks and the Stains/MDC and shook up Austin with a roster of more militant tunes that tended to shunt new wave aside. “He came up to me once and threw his arm around me and hugged me out of nowhere…we were punk rock singers and brothers. He was a sweet kid back in the day,” Dave Dictor of MDC recalls, and now “we are all dying off one by one.”

Like many punks, Jacobson, who did a stint in prison, had his demons. To some degree, many punks have used music to cope and translate a sense of trauma. They often relocate their pain—from torn up communities and families, from bruises and physical assault—into the psychic territory of their songs. In doing so, they change from being hopeless, ill fated, and powerless, to embodying a survivor’s rebel yell. In some ways, music allows them to de-fang the pang, for moments at least. What was once fragmented, confusing, battering, and even dooming, can be grappled. What was once unspoken and made invisible careens to the surfaces of the songs, shared in a space of mind with audiences from trailer parks and manicured houses to run-down apartments and no-name tent cities. Even more so, Offenders took the pain and filtered it through an inventive musical vocabulary. They molded the templates.

“I saw a lot of hardcore bands in the early- and mid-’80s, at least 50, probably significantly more than that,” tells Jeff Smith of the Hickoids and Smart Dads, who messaged me after sharing his thoughts with Doyle. Smith is a longtime fan of the “blistering….pioneering” unit. He also roadied a few times for the band, later played in a band with original singer Mick Buck, and even shared a drug dealer with Jacobson a decade and a half back. “A lot of [the bands then] were flat out shitty, most were entirely unmemorable and musically derivative. Some were a little slicker but full of nauseating political poseur-isms. The Offenders were none of that. The music was top-notch, original and powerful. And J.J. was as real as it gets. His struggle was real. He was genuinely as hard as the music. I don’t think he cared what the words were to the anthems he sang because that came from his heart. He was born into a world of chaos and he didn’t need to fantasize about hard times or downward mobility, he lived it.” He continued, in earnest, “Some singers are real and good. Some singers are good because they’re real. That was J.J. Rest in chaos.”

JJ Jacobson of the Offenders (photo by Geoff Cordner)

Those sentiments are shared by Doyle, who dealt with J.J. firsthand in Offenders. In the interview I pursued with him, he opened up about the singer: “J.J. was sixteen when he joined the band, and at least partially illiterate. The kid was a perpetual runaway/dropout and had already been in juvie numerous times by then. He had some epic abusive shit going on at home and responded just as you’d expect. So, the lyrics came from a real place. His girlfriend and I helped him channel those feelings into workable lyrics. I think his first song was “Fight Back.” After that, stuff like “We Must Rebel” and “Like Father Like Son” and “Wanted by Authority” just rolled off his notepad like there was nothing to it, like they’d been waiting in the wings for years. In retrospect, I think his lyrics still make an impact today because of their authenticity. Most punks came from the white suburbs and just pretended to be oppressed, but J.J. had street cred in spades, and it resonated with the kids. He didn’t just scream about Reagan and the specter of nuclear war, his words came from the real experiences he carried around with him.”

His death may not have surprised many people locally—those who saw him alone on the south side, those who knew his struggles—but in the land of the free, you don’t have to agree with the way people live, but you can mourn Jacobson’s sizable talent, his passion-lined voice, and his gumption and rage, that got trammeled in lost time, personal trials, and the mess heap of addiction. “We all realized that J.J. walked his own path, resisting those who loved to help him,” Tracey Torres of Black Salve noted to me on Facebook, yet “[he] was, and will always be, a legend to the Austin scene.”

His voice will always be there: powerful, troubled, frantic, angry as hell, hopeful, super emotive, and real as a bomb blast.



Maximum Rocknroll #417 • Feb 2018

It’s that time you’ve all been waiting for: Maximum Rocknroll‘s Year-End Top Ten Issue! MRR #417, our February 2018 issue, brings you lists upon lists of our favorite punk records of the year. What were the best records of the year? Which record labels crushed it? You’ll have to pick up this issue to find out more. But that’s not all—we also have great photographs from Angela Owens and Farrah Skeiky, and interviews from bands from around the globe. Featured in this issue are London anarcho-femme punks CHARMPIT, Chicago hardcore freaks RASH, synthesizer lovers ISOTOPE SOAP from Sweden, party animals DFMK from Tijuana, and four-track fiend ERIK NERVOUS from Shipshewana, Indiana. Cover art by Nathan Ward! You won’t want to miss this issue.

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Still available: MRR #416 • January 2018 issue…

MRR #416

Fred Cole of DEAD MOON in memoriam, comic artist Liz Prince, Finland’s ABORTTI 13, DIAGNOSIS? BASTARD! from Sweden, Cleveland’s PERVERTS AGAIN, Von Beat of the RALPHS from Texas, Australia’s BENT, Germany’s KENNY KENNY OH OH, COMPOSITE from Oakland, OXIDANT from North Carolina, and Japan’s ZAY.

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Maximum Rocknroll #416 • Jan 2018

Another new year, another exciting issue of Maximum Rocknroll! MRR #416, our January 2018 issue, begins with a sad note as we say goodbye to DIY icon Fred Cole of DEAD MOON, the RATS, PIERCED ARROWS and more. But this issue isn’t all doom and gloom! We have comic artist Liz Prince who gushes all about her love of pop punk and her hopes of converting kids to punks. We also have a double blast of Scandinavian punk: ABORTTI 13 from Finland divulge their dreams of becoming legends, and DIAGNOSIS? BASTARD! have quite a bit to say about violence (or lack thereof) in their native Sweden. Cleveland’s PERVERTS AGAIN reveal their love for pop culture by discussing just how much they love “I Love College” by Asher Roth. Von Beat, the ex-drummer of the RALPHS, reminisces on the early Texas punk/new wave scene, including time spent with labelmate Bobby Soxx. Three different bands from around the globe — Australia’s BENT, Germany’s KENNY KENNY OH OH, and Oakland’s COMPOSITE — all spill about their complex feelings surrounding being femme and playing punk. OXIDANT from North Carolina wax poetic on powerviolence, anxiety, and social power, while Japan’s ZAY talks about defying expectations as a punk supergroup. Need more? Good! You can have all of these interviews plus all of the columnists and reviews that you love to hate to love. Maximum Rocknroll won’t read itself — pick it up and read it!

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You can also order this issue by mail by sending $4.99 in the US, $7 Canada, $9 Mexico, or $11 worldwide to: MRR • PO Box 460760 • San Francisco, CA 94146 • USA …or just SUBSCRIBE.

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Maximum Rocknroll #415 • Dec 2017

Check it out, it’s Maximum Rocknroll #415, the December 2017 issue! We are proud to feature an interview conducted by the organizer of the Bay Area’s Evaluate What You Tolerate compilation and zine with Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. She speaks at length with us about organizing alternatives to state policing. We also hear from Portland, Oregon’s No! To Rape Culture collective about marginalized people collectively organizing against rape and other forms of oppression. Ex-VELVET UNDERGROUND member Willie “Loco” Alexander spills all about his 50-plus-year-long “so-called career” from his early garage rock years to his modern recordings. We also have part two of our lengthy article about the history of Alabama punk, covering Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, and more! Also included is an article in tribute to the radical life of Fred “Freak” Smith of BEEFEATER. We have a ton of international punk coverage this month! There is a massive feature on Sheffield, England, including a scene report, a mini-interivew with the Kids of the Lughole label, a full-length interview with COMMUNITY, and a photo spread from the Noise Annoys festival. For those hungry more more photos, there’s some fresh shots from Toronto’s Not Dead Yet fest as well. Russia’s STRESSHOLD give exclusive tidbits about touring and feminism in their home country, while Irish punks GRIT describe the politics and gentrification in Ireland. We also get updates about mental health from misanthropic Norwegian punks NEGATIV (who are a lot more positive than you’d expect). Plus you’ll find enough columns and reviews to gossip over for the rest of the month. So what are you waiting for?

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Maximum Rocknroll #414 • Nov 2017

Are y’all ready for Maximum Rocknroll #414? Our November 2017 issue will teach you a thing or two all about the History of Alabama Punk! This issue features the first of a two part series all about the DIY scene throughout Alabama, with this part focusing on Birmingham. But our focus on Alabama is not entirely retrospective; BAD EXAMPLE will catch everybody up to speed on current happenings in Birmingham. We also hear from Bay Area heartthrobs MIDNITE SNAXXX, who run through their tour of Alabama and a slew of other snacky tidbits We also catch up with not one, not two, but three bands as they begin their tours throughout the United States: São Paulo’s CANKRO talk about being an intercontinental band, Chicago’s C.H.E.W. finally reveal the meaning behind their name, and the nomadic PERIOD BOMB unleashes a treatise about the contemporary DIY scene. For international coverage, Sweden’s BRING THE DRONES discuss their supergroup status, Budapest’s PADKAROSDA dissect just what it means to be a Hungarian band, and New Zealand’s UNSANITARY NAPKIN find ways to resist Trump from the other side of the world. We also hear from the friends of Victoria Scalisi from DAMAD who tell us about her kindness and strength in the wake of her passing. And somehow after all of that, we still managed to fit all of the columns and reviews that you’ve come to expect from Maximum Rocknroll! You don’t want to miss this jam-packed issue.

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