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MRR Radio #1587 • 12/10/17

This week Matt pulls some rarities out of the vault to make the scums and punks drool. Intro song: STENGTE DØRER ...

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MRR Radio #1586 • 12/3/17

On this week's MRR Radio, Rob goes ballistic for late '70s and early '80s Bloodstains punk rock from around the ...

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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 ...

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"Who gives a fuck?"

MRR Radio #1585 • 11/26/17

“[...] Elvis gives them a short speech about the death pangs that humanity must go through in order to reach ...

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MRR Radio #1584 • 11/19/17

Another fuct up Rotten Ron and Horrrible Halitosis Punker Power Hour. Intro song: DRUGCHARGE - Husk Rotten Ron fucks it up so you ...

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John Holmstrom Remembers Arturo Vega

June 11th, 2013 by

ramonesArturo Vega, one of the most influential visual artists in punk rock — as the designer of the Ramones iconic and much-copied logo, and artistic director for the band for their entire history — passed away in New York City aged 65 on Saturday, June 8th.

He famously described his thoughts on the creation of the Ramones logo:

I saw them as the ultimate all-American band. To me, they reflected the American character in general—an almost childish innocent aggression…. I thought, ‘The Great Seal of the President of the United States’ would be perfect for the Ramones, with the eagle holding arrows—to symbolize strength and the aggression that would be used against whomever dares to attack us—and an olive branch, offered to those who want to be friendly. But we decided to change it a little bit. Instead of the olive branch, we had an apple tree branch, since the Ramones were American as apple pie. And since Johnny was such a baseball fanatic, we had the eagle hold a baseball bat instead of the [Great Seal]’s arrows.

We asked John Holmstrom — the founder and editor of Punk Magazine and cover illustrator for the Ramones albums Road to Ruin and Rocket to Russia — to share some of his memories of Arturo. We are very grateful to John and GODLIS for taking the time to share their thoughts and photography of their old friend during this difficult time.

Arturo Vega at CBGB, 1977 photo ©GODLIS

Arturo Vega at CBGB, 1977 – photo ©GODLIS

“One of the reasons I was so fascinated by the Ramones was the fact that they had an official Art Director. At the time I was still just an aspiring artist, fresh out of art school, and I thought that since this band had the smarts to hire someone to make their posters, t-shirts etc. was so very cool. I also liked his work a lot—that early poster of the leather jacket with the eagle belt buckle was a very interesting image, so different from your average rock ‘n’ roll art at the time. It was stark, bold, minimalist…

The very first Ramones poster by Arturo Vega

“I think I became aware of his art after I got to know the Ramones better after I published the first couple of issues [of Punk Magazine]. So although he wasn’t a direct influence, he was definitely an artist whose work I admired and respected. There was a bit of a rivalry because he didn’t like the cartoon look that I brought to their record covers, but I never wanted to be The Ramones Art Director, which he loved so much. His stage banners, t-shirts, logo design, album cover artwork, and so many other contributions to what made the Ramones cannot be minimized. Like his friend Curt Hoppe said to me earlier today: “The Ramones emblem is as recognizable a work of art as the Mona Lisa.”

Ramones Logo designed by Arturo Vega

“But his loft on East 2nd Street–wow! He had his paintings on display, hundreds on Ramones t-shirts in a huge closet, and Joey and Dee Dee lived there. And it was almost on top of CBGBs, so when they would perform there, they’d often hang out at home, then walk downstairs into the club and play their set, then go back upstairs. Arturo was kind of supporting them in those early days, so in a way there might not have been the Ramones without his support.

“Over the years, Arturo became more of an employee of the Ramones and less the fine artist he was after the 22 years-plus he worked for the band. He is one of the few people who worked with the band over their entire career, but for a few years afterwards he continued to handle a lot of their merchandising.

“He was just beginning to come into his own as an artist–he recently held a major, career retrospective in Chihuahua, Mexico, his hometown, where he was also working to try to get kids interested in art and away from the drug gang culture. He seemed to be much happier than he was as the Ramones merch guy.

“I am hearing endless stories about what Arturo did for many, many people–small favors, big favors, a helping hand, financial assistance, connecting people with each other, etc. etc. He was a very generous person and a fun person to be around and so an awful lot of people miss him.”

—John Holmstrom, June 10, 2013

Interview with Arturo Vega on Fringe Underground

The Guardian obituary

Holding It Down in the South Bay with Bill Daniel

November 26th, 2012 by

Big Boys (photo by Bill Daniel)

San Jose has long had a very active and dedicated, but a very elusive punk scene. All ages (and otherwise) shows have carried on in California’s third largest city largely unnoticed by the local press. Flyers occasionally show up at record stores and on lampposts-the ones with those creepy yellow San Jose lamps. It’s a sprawling metropolis that could hide several scenes. Many venues have come and gone, including Vic’s Garage, Nickel City, Homestead Lanes and, um, the Avalon. It seems that the Silicon Valley’s king city may now have a new punk homebase.

30 North Third Street in Downtown San Jose (DTSJ) is the home to The San Jose Rock Shop – downtown’s only musical instrument outlet. Somewhat less visibly it is also home to an all-ages, members only club that is very much run in the spirit of 924 Gilman Street. At the same address, through a different door, lies the recently opened Seeing Things – Gallery/Books/Zines. The space opened up with an exhibition of the Tri-X-Noise photo exhibit of regular contributor to this site Bill Daniel. You have just hours left to see this exhibit of very large photo prints, its last day is TODAY, November 26th!

This article pretty much wouldn’t exist without a recent posting by Gary Singh in the most recent Silicon Valley Metro.

This Must Be the Place: Post-Punk Tribes 1978 – 1982

July 25th, 2012 by

This weekend San Francisco’s Roxie Theater is bringing to the big screen several super-obscure film documents of the late-70s/early 80s post-punk explosion. THIS MUST BE THE PLACE: POST-PUNK TRIBES 1978 – 1982 is a unique show featuring eight San Francisco premiere screenings that is not to be missed.

We talked to Roxie Theater programmer Mike Keegan, to get the full scoop:

I watch a tremendous amount of rock documentaries, and I am more or less enthralled by even the weakest entries in the genre. One of the major bummers of the world of rock docs, however – especially in the light of the proliferation of hastily put-together docs about baby boomer and post-baby boomer bands – is the default cinematic language that’s codified around them. That is: rad archival footage cut woefully short by contemporary interviews with participants contextualizing and excusing away bad behavior and youthful exuberance from the comfortable armchair of middle age. To that, I say: fuck that weak noise, let’s see what they meant when they said it.

Mike’s being nice, but I think we can assume that there is less Keith Morris and more of what the hell things were like in those heady days.

The movies are arranged like a geographical travelogue… My co-programmer Gina Basso and I scoured the deepest corners of nerdy obsession and disreputable film academia to assemble a weekend of super-rare small-gauge (8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm) local films about the most inarguably exciting period of music, stuff between 1978 and 1982 that could fall underneath that epic umbrella called “post-punk.” After the much-hyped filth and fury of the initial punk movement almost instantly combusted or codified, things got much more interesting. In the halcyon pre-internet days, regional scenes were allowed to grow and develop their own identifiable and often highly idiosyncratic sounds, word of one another’s development spreading slowly through fanzines and small mail order distributors. Lucky for us, there were also cameras laying around.

Of particular interest are these two films:

I CAN SEE IT AND I’M PART OF IT: San Francisco Punk Portraits 1978 – 82
The time between Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974 and Reagan’s ascent from CA governor to U.S. presidency in 1981 marks a prolific surge of artistic and creative production across California, often taking a sharp trajectory from the 60s utopian idealism as a strong sense of distrust and disillusionment cast its long, dark shadows and was reflected in music – once again, the natural channel for response, reaction and outrage. In San Francisco the thriving music scene developed its own punk conceit, an arsenal comprised of bands, filmmakers, artists, clubs and the ever-supportive denizens along for the ride. Gender factors largely into the equation as women were not merely audience members, but forceful contributors driving the scene. The boundary between the spectator and performer was often blurred as audience members were inspired to pick up instruments, form bands and be on the stage the very next week. The DIY aesthetic prevailed… and the cameras were rolling!

I CAN SEE IT AND I’M PART OF IT is a unique glimpse into SF’s punk past – an archival treasure trove comprised of moving and still images, both amateur and professional. This shorts program, curated especially for THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, includes but is not limited to:

In the Red — a slice of life from the perspective of two friends (co-directors Liz Keim and Karen Merchant) who followed the scene at close range. A poetic tapestry of live performance, intimate interviews (Will Shatter exposed!) and cityscapes. In the Red gives insight into a creative and politically charged environment at the dawn of the 80s. A dusty and gritty gem! Dirs: Liz Keim & Karen Merchant. Digital. 1978. 20 mins.

Louder, Faster, Shorter — a raw and powerful performance document recorded at the Mabuhay Gardens in March 1978 during a benefit concert for striking Kentucky coal miners. Bands UXA, The Dils, The Avengers, Sleepers, and Mutants raised over $3000! Beautifully shot, it’s an insider’s view that takes you to the belly of the beast, a musical time traveler’s delight. Dir: Mindaugus Bagdon. 16mm. 1978. 17 mins.

Bruce Connor, a key figure in San Francisco’s artistic community since the 1950s, began documenting the SF punk scene in 1977 when his friend Toni Basil (the dancer from his seminal film Breakaway and of “Oh Mickey you’re so fine…” fame) invited him to see Devo. This portion of I CAN SEE IT AND I’M PART OF IT includes a slideshow presentation of Conner’s legendary portraits of individuals and performance shots, a primary element of the history of SF punk. Conner segment includes music videos he made during this time: Mongoloid (music by Devo), and Mea Culpa (feauturing music by David Byrne & Brian Eno).

Still from Bruce Connor’s Mongoloid

Despite the heavy regionalism we’re focusing on in this series, these bands did not exist in a bubble. Through various magical combinations of guile, luck, stupidity and very hard work, plenty of bands got in the van and relentlessly criss-crossed the nation, serving as Johnny Appleseeds of the underground. Once the van was back on the road, a new scene had sprung. Thanks to the Hugh M. Hefner Archive of the Moving Image, we’re tapping into an unimagined motherlode of live footage from the likes of Public Image Limited, Black Flag, the Avengers, Suicide and many more, much of it shot for regional television programs or personal collections. 16mm/35mm/Digital. 1978 – 1982. Approx. 75 mins.

This Must Be The Place: Post-Punk Tribes 1978 – 1982 shows Friday, July 27 – Sunday, July 29 at The Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street (between Valencia and Guerrero), San Francisco, CA. Full Program details HERE

Poly Styrene (Marianne Elliot-Said) 1957–2011

April 29th, 2011 by

X-Ray Spex Live at the Roundhouse, London in 2008. (photo by Dave Knapik)

On Monday, April 25th, 2011, Marianne Elliot-Said, better known to the world as Poly Styrene — the singer for classic UK punk rock band X-Ray Spex — died after a bout with breast cancer. Her third solo album, Generation Indigo, was released to shocked fans the following day. X-Ray Spex has stood the test of time and taste to stand out from the English punk rock mid-late ’70s era. Their initial handful of singles and debut album – Germ Free Adolescents – some 16 songs total – still stand as strong statements in a field of often now-faded thrashers. That album was released on major label EMI, the home of the Beatles, and it reached number 30 in the UK album charts. But it was punk as fuck, and such was the nature of things in those few brief months in the late ’70s where punk bands were in the mainstream.

OK. So why was Poly Styrene awesome? She was a chubby, mixed-race (Somali/Scottish-Irish) teenage girl with braces in awkward, brightly colored clothes who could barely hold on to the tune. And, despite the mentions of this by the critics of the time and later, and the insistence that she was the antithesis of a rock band front person, she was, in fact, the perfect front person for X-Ray Spex. None of these things mattered. She was just awesome. What she did was brilliant, and it was popular. X-Ray Spex were a chart success in the late ’70s: they were on Top of the Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Test and recorded sessions for John Peel. A few years after X-Ray Spex released Germ Free Adolescents on EMI, the rock band Heart were signed to that label and their lead singer Ann Wilson notoriously received much pressure from the label over her weight. Like I said. It just didn’t matter with Poly Styrene. The subject never came up.

Poly would go on to release some very different solo material shortly after X-Ray Spex broke up the first time around, before vanishing into a Krishna-tinged haze for a bit. X-Ray Spex re-emerged in the mid-’90s to release the little known album Conscious Consumer. The Spex did not get far after that after Poly was run over by a fire engine(!). Poly came back strong during the last decade with two solo albums, an X-Ray Spex reunion (the Roundhouse reunion show was released on CD/DVD in late 2009) and the holiday singles “City of Christmas Ghosts” with Goldblade in 2008 and “Black Christmas” in 2010. She will be much missed.

Poly Styrene Official Site

Obituaries and memories:

A roundup of Twitter memories on Spinner.com

13 Reasons Poly Styrene Was Cool on And Your Bird Can Swing

“Remembering Poly Styrene” and interview on Pop Dose

Los Angeles Times Obituary

The Guardian Obituary

Jaime Hernandez y otros en San Jose

March 2nd, 2011 by

Our old friend and shitworker Marc Arsenault of Wow Cool zine (amongst other claims to fame) brings us this report…

Jaime Hernandez comics on view in San Jose

Love & Rockets comics artist and Nardcore pioneer Jaime Hernandez has a rare exhibit of the original art for several of his complete Love & Rockets comics stories at the MACLA Gallery (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana) in San Jose, California. Jaime is one of three artists included in the show “Novelas, Love and Other Adventures”at MACLA, which is on view through March 26, 2011. Also included in the show are the works of Oakland’s Favianna Rodriguez and Rio Yañez‘s 3D prints (glasses required) of performance artist Mayra Ramirez‘s “Las Adventures of the Ramirez Sisters.” The exhibition “presents graphic works and comic storytelling that explores the subculture of Latino barrio life, American punk, ’80s rock and new wave music, along with complex female protagonists.”

The complete art for the Love & Rockets strips “The Death of Speedy Ortiz” (all 39 pages), “Home School,” “Day By Day with Hopey,” and “Cream City” are on view. Jaime Hernandez’s original art is astoundingly clean and precise. This is the man who has given us the iconic art for Dr. Know and Ill Repute (and other Oxnard bands) and the many classic punk rock moments from the Love & Rockets comics. “If you were really hard core you would have thrown a full bottle”. This is one not to be missed.

Jaime Hernandez was the subject of an interview in MRR 332, the Punk Comics issue; and, he was also featured here in December.

MACLA, 510 S. First Street, San Jose, CA 95113,  (408) 998-ARTE
Free Admission

MACLA Gallery Hours:
Wednesday & Thursday, 12pm to 7pm
Friday & Saturday, 12pm to 5pm
and by special appointment

Full disclosure: Marc Arsenault was the designer and cover colorist on Love & Rockets way the hell back in 1996-97.