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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” is our weekly feature spotlighting new bands from around the world! See below for info on how to submit. Now, ...

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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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MRR archives: Maximum Rocknroll & TRUST present Welcome to Cruise Country photozine • 1986

December 13th, 2012 by

Continuing with our MRR Archives Series in celebration of our 30th Anniversary, here is the complete download of our second photozine, a special All-European issue produced in collaboration with Germany’s TRUST fanzine, Welcome to Cruise Country (see below for link). For this archive post, we sent some questions to our friends Dolf Hermannstädter and Jan Roehlk at the still-thriving TRUST fanzine HQ about the photozine and the current state of punk zinery. Danke schön, Jan und Dolf!

Click image to download Welcome to Cruise Country!

How did you first learn about Maximum Rocknroll?

Dolf: It was back in 1983. Dave Dictor of MDC sent me an issue after I wrote him a letter. He also included a copy of Ripper. If I remember correctly I was more turned on by Ripper. ;-)

Jan: I got to know MRR through a review in a local fanzine in the beginning of the ’90s. I had a subscription, then canceled it and only read it once in a while because I was a little overtired about the millionth crust band interview (sorry!) but renewed a subscription again and this time kept it.

Was MRR an inspiration for starting TRUST?

Dolf: Yes, definitely, we were much impressed by MRR, Ripper and Flipside! I have to say that I don’t really like the open submission concept concerning the interviews. I like it more when a core writer staff conducts the interviews, and it is not only to avoid people sending in faked interviews or made-up scene reports. Like with all open source medias it is the same problem: It is cool that all can submit, but who controls it? Maybe it is just a matter of taste, some people like it, some not, and hey, it works for MRR clearly…so, all good! :)

Painajainen (photo by J.P. Inkinen)

Jan: German Wikipedia writes about TRUST: “Taking the American MRR fanzine as a role model, the first issue of TRUST was published in 1986 by the founding members Thomasso Schultze, Mitch Alber, Armin Hofman, Dolf Hermannstädter and Anne Ullrich. Just like MRR was connecting the worldwide punk scene, TRUST started with the aim to connect the German punk and hardcore scene through a regular published print fanzine, a totally new thing for punk fanzines back then.” (Some zines came out only locally, once a year or so and were kind of harder to find.)

So, yes, MRR was a really huge influence. And for me it will remain an inspiration for continuing with my writings for TRUST. MRR offers a real good worldwide view of the punk scene, and it is (still) great to have all the news, columns, record/movie/book reviews and shit collected every month on paper, at least for me.

For a while, Flipside matched my musical taste more, but really, I like(d) both a lot. By the way, here is an interview I recently did for TRUST with Hudley Flipside. There is a nice part about MRR and Tim Yo in her answer after question six.

I always like to do something for/with the people of MRR. TRUST asked MRR years ago if we could support each other by exchanging ads and we do so to this day… And it always felt good to contribute (did two scene reports in 2004 and 2010).

One special thing about MRR which blew me away twice and still keeps me inspired when I think of it is the spirit of the coordinators and their serious dedication to the labor of love for the DIY-punk scene and the mag. I twice met different coordinators for an interview for TRUST and they were like, “MRR gave us so much when we were young, so I give it now back with my MRR involvement.” I did two interviews in San Francisco at the MRR compound in 2004 and 2008. Both times it felt really good to meet the coordinators in person and see how it all works in the house.

How did the idea come about for the TRUST/MRR photozine?

Jan: Helge Schreiber had the idea. He also stayed for some months at MRR and pulled it together. His involvement in this issue came from his writings for MRR from 1983 to 1994 about European bands.

Dolf: We just thought it would be a great project and that it would help the global scene to connect.

Who decided which photos to use?

Dolf: As far as I remember, it was a co-op of people from TRUST (Anne Ullrich, Thomasso Schulze..) and Helge Schreiber was also heavily involved.

Tu Do Hospital (by Helge Schreiber)

Was all of the production for Welcome to Cruise Country done at MRR? Did any of you actually come to MRR to work on this? If so, what was it like to meet Tim Yo in person?

Jan: In the beginning of 1987 Helge finished his civil service and with the transfer money he flew out to San Francisco. Together with MRR he put together the zine. He collected all the photos out of the sources of a lot of photographers from over Europe. Later the same year, the special photo issue between MRR and TRUST called Welcome to Cruise Country with photos only by European bands was released. Since the street date it has ten million copies. No, it is for sure sold out.

Dolf: Yes, it was all done there. It was great to meet Tim, he was a fun guy to hang around and had a lot of life experience and good ideas and arguments. What impressed me the most (this was in 1987) was that there was a older guy who was still cool. Since most of our peers where our age, or usually older people become adults and Tim was still cool. I liked that since I hardy knew any other older people who where like him.

Were there separate European and U.S. printings of the photo-zine?

Dolf: Yes, the US version was on shitty newsprint [hence the kinda crappy quality of the PDF here —ed.] and the Euro version was offset. They where otherwise identically, only the cover was a bit different. The names of the zines where in different order.

Do you want to explain the title for our younger American readers? How big was the cruise missile issue, and was it seen as a uniting political issue for European punks?

Some older punks dissed the new breed as Stirnbandwixxer (“bandana jerks”) and the younger dissed the old punks as Nietenkaiser (“spike emperor”). —Jan

Dolf: The historic-political background concerning the title of the photo issue had to do with Cold War times and politics. In 1980 NATO planned to react to the deployment of Russian intermediate-range missiles with the deployment of American cruise missiles and Pershing II intermediate-range missiles in Europe. Parallel to that, NATO wanted to make an disarmament offer directed to the Soviets. That double-strategic plan — install weapons while talking about disarmament — was called the NATO Double-Track Decision. This decision was the reenforcing point of a whole bunch of anti-war protests in Europe, and a lot of people in the punk scene were against the Double-Track Decision. All of that emerged later in the title of the photo issue. Uniting political issue for European punks? Hard to answer…

Jan: I’d like to add one more thing may need some explaining — the very origin of the name TRUST. Sometimes people don’t understand or just don’t know what the original intention was. One of the founders of TRUST, in 1986, had the idea for the name. It has nothing to do with the 7Seconds song title, and also not with the French band by the same name. It was intended to be a play on words: “trust” is an old expression for “huge monopolistic corporations cartel which dominates the market.” Besides the obvious (trust) that was the intention, to claim in an ironic way, like “Trust us, obey us cause we rule.”

Everything Falls Apart (photos by Anne Ullrich)

As you look through the photo zine now, is there anything that surprises you, makes you laugh, makes you embarrassed, etc.?

Jan: Fuck you big time, you old punks over forty. I am jealous. Seriously, this remains amazing on several levels. First thing that comes into my mind: Great cover shot. And how young all these bands were. So enthusiastic. So serious and joyful and powerful and full of good fun. A few of my favorite shots include NEGAZIONE and the crowd shots in Italy. And the LÄRM guys who seemed to have lost contact to Earth: how high can you jump with a bass in the hands?! Guess they took that from SNFU, I assume… Look at that TU DO HOSPITAL pic. No barriers between band and audience and these happy faces. On the pic of EVERYTHING FALLS APART you can see the singer, Thomasso, back then one of the main driving forces for TRUST Fanzine.

For today’s 16-year-old kids, this issue must look like an artifact from a long gone civilization. Does that all mean that the past was better than today? Fuck no. It was just…different.

But the Cruise Country issue is also an interesting document to understand the transformation of the European scene. Most of the people on these photos were punks before US Hardcore landed in Europe. They then combined the new sound with British anarcho-punk values and that was the new “movement” of European hardcore back then. Some older punks dissed that new breed as Stirnbandwixxer (that means “bandana jerks”) and the younger, of course, dissed the old punks as Nietenkaiser (“spike emperor”).

And, fuck, then there are those old ads I love looking at so much. The one from Alternative Tentacles announcing the Give Me Convenience DEAD KENNEDYS collection (one of the first punk records I bought, but only in 1991, haha) and saying that Sex Mad by NO MEANS NO is soon to be released. Alchemy Records stating that something from RKL is coming soon, which surely meant the great Rock’n’Roll Nightmare record. Man, Starving Missile Records are also inside. Taang! announces Hate Your Friends by LEMONHEADS.

…Maybe a reprint on good paper quality would also make sense? Read the rest of this entry »

MRR archives: Maximum Rocknroll #8 • Sept 1983

September 19th, 2012 by

Huzzah! Our MRR Archives series chugs right along, celebrating the magazine’s 30 year anniversary. Here for your enjoyment is Maximum Rocknroll issue #8 (complete download now available here). Our guest introduction for this issue comes from the one and only John Marr, who you may know from his own legendary zine Murder Can Be Fun. On a personal note, John is most near and dear to my heart for he is the person who first got me involved as a MRR shitworker some 29 years ago, and I can attest that his behind-the-scenes account of the OG MRR HQ is 100% true. Read and destroy! — Paul

Click image to download MRR #8!

The first thing to realize in looking back at these early issues of MRR is the unbelievable crude production methods we used. This was when the hot new Apple product was the IIe computer with dual 5¼” floppy drives and desktop publishing but a mad software engineer’s dream. We had no scanners, no computers, no laser printers. We did have an electric typewriter that could, in a jaw dropping display of 1983 technology, print out a justified column of copy. Tim had a friend with a graphic arts camera to make halftones of photos. And we had a full complement of steel rulers, Xacto knives, hand waxers, Letraset lettering, and layout tape. Early issues of MRR were handcrafted, albeit unlovingly.

The focus of our labors was Tim and Jeff’s nice little rented Arts & Crafts bungalow in the then affordable Temescal district of Oakland. (Real estate tip: buy near MRR house, wait 10 years.) During the week, a steady stream of volunteers pounded in every letter, every scene report, every interview into that damn typewriter. (And you wonder why there are so many typos! Spell-check too was on the to-be-invented list.) I did a little of the typing and copy editing; I recall one particularly pleasant hatchet job that turned one prominent punk’s 3,000 words of turgid bombast into a thousand words on how to have punk pen pals. But my main involvement was the big Sunday Afternoon Layout meeting.

We would show up around 2:00 p.m. Tim would distribute the copy and halftones and we would get to work, waxing the copy and photos and madly cropping both to make everything fit. More than one mohawk went down before our Xacto knives! There was generally much hilarity in the air as we went about our layouts, rehashing who punched who at last night’s show or competing in the never ending contest to coin the most generic hardcore band name, some outrageous combination of youth, red, black, flag, and army. The battle raged on. And then those three-letter acronym bands—what did they stand for? More importantly, what should they stand for? I always thought it was sad that so little of this lightness and wit wound up on the printed page. People who bitched about MRR’s dourness would have been absolutely shocked.

This particular issue came out at an interesting time: when the more violent segments of the punk audience were getting identical haircuts and starting the American skinhead “scene.” The letters column was starting to fill with people whining about who-punched-who at the last CBGB matinee.  Perhaps the highlight of the issue is Tim’s interview (on the radio?) with SF Skin-to-be Bob Noxious, singer of the then notorious SF band THE FUCK-UPS. He’s an amazingly unselfconscious subject, almost a unwitting work of folk art with a title like “American Numbskull.” You gotta love an interviewee who says things like “I don’t even wear spikes hardly no more” and who rationalizes knocking out 45 GRAVE’s Dinah Cancer with “she didn’t really take offense to it.” The only thing missing is the interview ending with Bob taking a swing at Tim.

Most of the scene reports are forgettable for all save record collectors. Tim picked them for content. Literary or artistic merit were never considerations. If you could throw together a few hundred words that included plenty of band names and contact addresses and toss in a few photos to be shrunken down beyond recognition, you were in. The Boston report, however, does stick out for being penned by mogul-to-be Gerard Cosloy and as a fine example of “The Promoter’s Lament.” And I do believe I detect my own inept hand in the layout of the Philly scene report—the uneven corners and poor overall graphic sense are dead giveaways.

The band interviews, either you love ‘em or hate ‘em. I hate ‘em; I prefer to hear musicians, not read them. The special report on the then new “skate punk” thing is pretty good, especially the Jaks interview. Don’t feel bad about not grasping the concept of “Absolute Music” unless you too just did a head plant off your skateboard after drinking a shoplifted 6-pack of generic beer.

As for the big gab fest between Dave (MDC), Vic (AOF), and Ian (MINOR THREAT), I am so overwhelmed by a sense of sorrow for the poor shitworker who had to transcribe and type the damn thing that I can’t bear to read it. I’m betting, though, that they all come out as unalterably opposed to Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Pushead’s self-interview is best viewed on the bottom of a 12-year-old’s skateboard, preferably at speed. The Mykel Board piece is kinda fun, although it is but a shadow of the column he would soon being to write. And can you believe an issue of MRR with only two columnists?

A few fun details for the keen eyed: buried in the UK scene report is a picture of GBH captioned “Great Big Haircuts? Or Go Back Home?” The shitworkers have their (very small) say! Buried in the record reviews are early works by GG ALLIN (“idiotic and poorly recorded”), the LYRES (“Now this is more like it!”) and FAITH NO MAN, soon to be re-christened FAITH NO MORE. Even if you don’t read the Dave/Vic/Ian piece, look at the pictures! Tim Y. is plainly visible in the front row of one (Hint: he’s the one that looks like a greasy little vampire.) But if you really want to flaunt your MRR old school credentials, spot (and explain!) the “Annie” on the front cover!

— John Marr, 2012

PDF download of MRR #8 now available in the MRR Webstore!
Read more of our MRR Archives series here.

MRR archives: Maximum Rocknroll #7 • July-Aug 1983

September 13th, 2012 by

Continuing with our MRR Archives series in celebration of our 30th Anniversary, here is the complete download of Maximum Rocknroll issue #7!

This issue is chock full of classic punk rock from the likes of YOUTH BRIGADE, WHIPPING BOY, BATTALION OF SAINTS, RED TIDE, and PEACE CORPSE. Scene reports are blowing up big time in MRR #7, with entries from Portland, Seattle, Northern California, SoCal, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Kansas City, Chicago, Wisconsin, Michigan, Boston, Western Mass., Vermont, Connecticut, NYC, New Jersey, Philly, Delaware, DC, Virginia, Yugoslavia, Denmark, UK, Holland (kinda), and Italy… Whew! Rounding it all off is a slew of great articles like “How Far Will the CIA Go in Nicaragua?”, a Rock Against Reagan tour report, and “Annihilate Sex Roles,” an extensive piece on gender in the punk scene, along with the fourth and final installment of the “Underhanded History of the US” comic.

Click image to download MRR #7!

Our guest intro this time comes from the legendary Al Quint: longtime zinester, scenester, blogger, podcaster, and MRR columnist. Reprinted here (with some editing) is Al’s column from 2007 commemorating MRR‘s 25th anniversary. Thanks so much, Al, for your years of contributions to MRR and to punk in general. You rule!

It’s no lie when I say that I’ve been reading this esteemed publication since day one. Almost. I own every issue except the first one. I remember that when MDC came through town for the first time, in the late summer of 1982, they had copies of that first issue with them, but for some foolish reason I didn’t pick one up. I also remember seeing the first issue sitting on the floor of my old friend Chris Corkum’s bedroom. When he was selling off some stuff a few years later, I got an original pressing of the SUBHUMANS’ Incorrect Thoughts off him for like $4. I didn’t snag it then either.

Still, my purpose here isn’t to beg and plead for a copy of the first issue of MRR. Merely grovel. Ah, fuck it, why not beg a bit. Pleeeeeeeeeeease!!! Someone sell me one for a price that won’t bankrupt me. I also have an extra copy of the tenth anniversary issue of Flipside to trade. I’ll xerox ya the first few issues of Suburban Punk and you can have a good laugh at my expense.

Sigh… let’s move on. It’s also no lie that this zine has meant a lot to me over the past quarter century. People like to rip on it, question its relevance, question its dogmatism. One of my dear friends originally contacted me online because she was a fan of my column in another magazine that shall remain nameless here. When I told her that I felt more privileged to write for MRR, she sniffed that this zine is elitist. I told her that she was entitled to her opinion, but getting the opportunity to take up 4,000 or so words of valuable space in each issue was something that I truly appreciated.

MRR really meant a lot to me during those first few years after college, when I had a lot of confusion/anxiety over what direction my life would be taking. Was it going to be a so-called straight career path? Within six months after graduating, that was clearly not the case — or so I thought. I still ended up taking a job at a bank as a teller, and simultaneously got a one-room studio apartment in Lynn, MA.

By then hardcore and punk had become a bigger part of my life. My zine, Suburban Punk, was around  five months old and I’d already managed to publish three issues. I actually started about a month after MRR, so this year also marks the 25th anniversary of my own zine. The first record I played in my new apartment was What We Want Is Free by ARTICLES OF FAITH, and I remember the sun shining into the apartment while the strains of “Bad Attitude” reverberated off the walls. I was on my own and there were no parents to order me to turn down the racket. In fact, in my two-and-a-half years in that place I only got one request from a neighbor to turn it down. Considering I’d often put on BLITZ’s “Fight to Live” at 7 a.m. at a pretty loud volume to help me face eight more hours of work that I disdained, that’s quite remarkable.

I remember bringing my copies of MRR with me to the bank where I was employed and I’d peruse it in the lunch room, wondering if I’d be in trouble if one of the bank’s officers came in and saw the cover of whatever issue I was reading. How would they react to the cover of issue #6, the infamous “The Dicks: A Commie Faggot Band???!”? Nah, one of ’em, Tom, was probably too busy harassing female employees. I found out later on that he got into some hot water over that. Anyway, all of those issues are in plastic bags but quite yellowed since I didn’t take care of ’em for a long time. That musty newspaper smell isn’t all that pleasant on the occasions when I’ll pull them out of the plastics but it’s more than compensated for by having an opportunity to once again read a first-hand history of hardcore as it was unfolding.

It’s a time capsule, if I can indulge in cliché here — hell, this column is already an exercise in self indulgence, but there’s a point to it, dammit. Maybe I had something of a knee-jerk reaction after reading the anti-corporate, anti-governmental screeds that appeared in the pages of this zine, along with the eye-opening coverage of a burgeoning national and international punk and hardcore community. A community that wasn’t always all that communal, with all the different factions arguing back and forth and the like, right-wing skinheads, who denied they were punks, doing battle with anarcho/peace punks and the like. But, hell, I felt as though I belonged. I like to say it planted a seed of sorts — made me realize that I didn’t have to do what was expected, that my life was my own, to state it in simple terms.

It’s incredible and interesting how things have changed, not only with the zine itself but also the methods of communicating, of exchanging music and the like. One of my favorite things back then about MRR and, even more so, Flipside was the fact that both zines were a great source for making connections with people and bands. Flipside had an extensive classified section. MRR didn’t add classifieds until later on, but I’d write to people who had penned scene reports. And it wasn’t just for ads to sell records and the like but a tool to find people to communicate with.

Indeed, these days, it’s email, MySpace [Remember, folks, this is from 2007. —ed.] and file sharing. The immediacy is cool but it doesn’t have the same feeling, of course. Back then it was cut-and-paste — even MRR had a paste-up format and it was fairly primitive in those early issues. Computers make it easier and add to a sharper, dare I say more professional look, but I kind of miss the days of the Xacto knife and eau de rubber cement, as my wife Ellen would call it. I know that there are people who still use mail instead of email, who still cut and paste, who eschew ‘net content for print, and I think that’s also cool.

Of course, I can’t write about MRR without mentioning Tim Yohannan. He was certainly a polarizing figure. He was dogmatic and seemingly intransigent in his beliefs. I didn’t always agree with the guy but he always treated me very well. On my first trips to the Bay Area, in ’85 and ’86, I stayed at two of the old MRR headquarters, in Berkeley and the SF one on Clipper Street (damn, that was one hell of a hill to walk up). Tim made me feel at home. I was contributing to the zine by then, doing scene reports and the occasional interview, so I was already acquainted with him. People would always comment about his hilarious seal-like laugh, and that was one of the first things I also noticed when I met him. I wasn’t really following baseball at that point, but he seemed excited that the Red Sox were in the ’86 World Series against the Mets (let’s not mention Bill Buckner, OK?) and, now that I’m more of a diehard Sox fan than ever, I’ll note that any native of New Jersey who roots for the Sox is OK in my book.

Tim did give me crap about being a fan of AGNOSTIC FRONT and the F.U.’s. I think he believed I was some kind of right-winger, or at least tolerant of those elements, because of the reputation of certain segments of Boston’s hardcore scene. That was far from the case, though. And when my politics took a sharper turn to the left after the ’94 Republican takeover of Congress and their Contract On America, he made a positive note of it in a letter to me just before he passed away. I’m running the risk of being called emo but I cried when I got the sad news about his death in 1998.

MRR lives on, though, and I’m grateful for that. Once I’m finished here, I think I’m going to take some more early issues out of the plastic sleeves and ponder how things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same (for good and bad), look at the ads and fantasize that I could still send off money to the addresses listed for the records I’d missed out on getting back then. It’s a trip seeing DIE KREUZEN’s Cows and Beer EP and AOF’s Wait EP advertised for $2.50, and realizing that Mykel Board will probably still be an MRR columnist after all of us have passed on. I hope that people never stop being inspired, outraged, getting a laugh, or all of the above from reading this publication…

— Al Quint, 2007

PDF download of MRR #7 HERE. Click here to find more of our MRR Archive downloads. We’ve done our best to clean up theses scans while keeping the “newsprint” look, and to keep the file size small while still being readable. If you have any trouble downloading or reading this file, please contact


If you appreciate these free downloads, please consider donating a small amount — however much you think it’s worth — to help us pay some bills around here. Thanks… and enjoy!

The MRR archives continue:
Maximum Rocknroll #6 • May–June 1983

August 29th, 2012 by

MRR #6 — download available soon!

Continuing with the MRR Archives Series in celebration of our 30th Anniversary, here is Maximum Rocknroll issue #6!

No guest intro for this one, folks. Why, you ask? Are we being lazy? Flaky contributors? We’ll never tell. But no matter! This classic (read: old and falling apart) issue of MRR speaks for itself. Starting with this great DICKS cover, how can you go wrong? And just look at that list of band interviews and scene reports. NOTA, REALLY RED, TERVEET KÄDET, AMERICA’S HC, SCREAM, Chicago, NYC, Brazil, Spain… hardcore, and punk in general, was really exploding worldwide in early 1983 and MRR was there to celebrate and document the phenomenon.

And don’t miss the articles on punk first aid, the army, “Vinyl Economics” by East Bay Ray, and Tim Yo railing against skinheads. Also, tons of photos by Murray Bowles, who quickly became our house photographer as well as house photographer to the whole fucking Bay Area punk scene. We’ll be getting an intro from Murray in the archives series, you can be sure of that. Will it accompany a complete download of the If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries… photozine? Stay tuned and see!

If you’re too lazy to download the whole thing (really?) here’s a teaser page from the North California scene report by Brian Edge. Photos by Murray, of course:

(click to enlarge)

PDF download of MRR #6 will be available soon in the MRR Webstore!
Read more of our MRR Archives series here.

MRR archives: Maximum Rocknroll #5 • Mar–Apr 1983

August 14th, 2012 by

Hiya, punx! This one took a little extra time to get posted but I hope it’s worth the wait. Continuing with the MRR Archives Series in celebration of our 30th Anniversary, Maximum Rocknroll issue #5 features some totally classic shit, like interviews with Social Unrest, Bastards, DRI, FU’s, Die Kreuzen, No Labels, Subhumans (UK), our first scene reports from Holland, Brazilian and NE Ohio, and a MDC European tour diary…. Not only that, but we have a very special intro for this issue…

Ruth Schwartz was one of the first people I met at Maximum. I remember, as a nervous 13-year-old guest DJ on the MRR Radio show at KPFA in Berkeley, how I was treated not like little kid but as a comrade, of sorts, by Tim and Ruth. An early introduction to the Ways of Punk that I would come to know and try to uphold myself. Although I never got to know Ruth very well, she has always been someone I hold in great esteem. Her resume includes being the original “co-owner” of Maximum Rocknroll, owner of Mordam Records, the person who spearheaded Blacklist Mailorder, and now the operator of High Performance Advocates and author of The Key to the Golden Handcuffs, a book about business which features a chapter on MRR’s Tim Yohannan.

During our conversation I was taken aback to learn how little involvement Ruth actually had in starting Maximum Rocknroll magazine. (And by “little” I mean none!) But I was equally stoked to learn more about her pre-Maximum days as a college radio DJ, and about MRR’s early crusades against the thuggery of skinheads and the local rock music establishment.


MRR #5 — download available soon!

How did you get into punk, and how did you meet Tim and get involved in MRR Radio?

I grew up in Huntington Beach. I migrated to Santa Rosa, CA, for junior college when I was 17, and then the Sex Pistols played in San Francisco. That was my first punk rock show. Right after that there were punk rock bands in Santa Rosa, including the Breakouts. There was a crew of us who were like our own little music scene, like 12 of us. But I moved to San Francisco as quickly as I could.

I was doing the Harmful Emissions radio program at KUSF. I had never met Tim Yohannan. I knew of him, but I don’t think I had met him until he walked into the KUSF studio one night to meet me. He walked in and said, “Do you want to be on our radio program?” I knew the Maximum Rock & Roll show (MRR Radio). I was a broadcasting student at San Francisco State. I was a music director at that station out there. I had done some shows at KALX (UC Berkeley’s station) and I had finally finagled my way onto Harmful Emissions. Tim came in and asked me to come be on Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll. That’s how I met him.

Why did Tim want you on MRR Radio?

Because I did a kick-ass radio program! When I started at MRR, Rick Scott was behind the board — Tim had another partner before that, Al Ennis — and I think he was just looking for more people. He was just out going, “I need a gang.” I think at that point he had just gotten Ray Farrell to come on, a little bit before me, and he started pursuing Jeff Bale at the same time.

Tell me about Harmful Emissions…

On KUSF, the Vietnamese news was on until 9 or 10 o’clock, and then they would shut down the station. The Harmful Emissions guys would show up at 11 or so and turn on the transmitter — they got permission from the school. Nobody else came back in the station until 7 or 8 in the morning, so they’d just do it… It was awesome, and it was always amazing that the Jesuits let them get away with what they were doing. (The University of San Francisco, where KUSF was, is a Jesuit college.)

The original three Harmful Emissions people were George Epsilante, Steven Spinali, and Tim Maloney, and they were killing it, they were just slaying it. They were awesome because they were going all night — they would just fire up the transmitter and take it until they can’t see straight. Everybody was listening to them ‘cause they were nuts. So, I met George at a party and I just begged him, “I need to be on your program.” That was around 1980.

Basically what would happen is, when the clubs would close everybody was listening to that radio show, and all the bands would go over there and be interviewed and stuff like that. It was mayhem; it was absolute mayhem. If you look at the early ’80s it was Social Unrest, Dead Kennedys… I was a Flipper-aholic. They showed up sometimes. I was like Flipper’s house historian. Later on, I remember when MDC was there, and DRI, and the Fuck-Ups…

And then it all took off when the show hit the Arbitron ratings. Arbitron is the radio equivalent of the Neilson ratings. Harmful Emissions was way underground and all of a sudden it came above ground, and that’s when people at KUSF came in. There was this bunch of guys, and they were like, “Oh, we’re really going to make something of this. We’re gonna make this into a big station. We’re going to regulate the programming,” and that’s when they destroyed it. They standardized their programming and they put in a music director and they put in a program director and they started to can it. So I would show up at night and they would give me play list, and I’m like, “I don’t think so.”

Clockwise from the upper-left: Jeff Bale confronts scummy music promoter Bill Graham, Ruth Schwartz in a photo booth!, Ray Farrell?, Mickey Creep.

What was your role at MRR Radio and how were you involved in the creation of Maximum Rocknroll magazine?

I was totally on syndicating the radio program — that was my baby. Tim gave me that because I was all about radio. So, I came to MRR Radio and I became the board-op when Rick left, and then I started syndicating it. I did it for years and years, editing it with an Xacto knife — I had reels of tape, you know — and getting tapes duplicated and sending the show to radio stations all over the world.

I don’t even remember Tim making that first magazine because I didn’t have anything to do with it. I was still in school, I was working with three radio stations, I was working with Damage magazine as well, and I don’t even remember them doing the comp. Tim and Jeff decided to do the Not So Quiet on the Western Front compilation. I literally had nothing to do with that. They put the whole comp together and they produced that first magazine to go in it because they wanted there to be all the lyrics and the band information and all that inside. It turned pretty thick. There’s 47 bands are on Not So Quiet on the Western Front, so now you’ve got at least that many pages… so that was the first issue of Maximum Rocknroll.

That’s all they intended to do, and they just left it at that for a while. I started working for Rough Trade when I graduated. I remember Not So Quiet coming out, but the only time I ever touched it was selling it at Rough Trade. And then they were like, “That was fun. Let’s do it again.”

My biggest memory of starting the magazine was they said, “Would you write record reviews?” and I said, “Yeah.” I wrote record reviews and they sent them back to me and they said, “We don’t even understand why you’re a college graduate, this writing is so terrible.” I said, “Huh… Well, would you help me?” and they said “Yes,” and I said, “Well, you’re going to have to actually edit me,” and they say “Yes.” I said, “OK,” and I kept writing, and they kept editing… and that’s how I learned to write! So I credit those two guys for that — they taught me how to write. Jeff’s a professor, they were both really decent writers, and I wasn’t.

Tim Yo bankrolled the whole thing. I mean, he had nothing else to spend his money on. The whole capitalization of MRR magazine was Tim putting up the money for Not So Quiet. That thing sold like crazy, so that bankrolled the next project. I became his business partner at that stage, for about eight years. Maximum Rock & Roll was a partnership — Tim and I partnered right after Not So Quiet came out, because all of a sudden there was money. So when he said, “Okay, we’ve got to get a bank account, and we’ve got to put this money somewhere… Would you do this with me?” I said, “Yes.” But Tim had very specific idea about how he wanted to run a business, as you know.

[Oh yes, I know! We talked more about the business side of the magazine and Mordam records, and Ruth finally divesting from MRR, but I wanted to know more about the early days — especially this…]

Can you tell me about the famous on-air debate with Bill Graham on MRR Radio?

That was sort of the beginning of the politicizing of MRR. I think it was one of the first causes that Tim and Jeff took up.

There were all these really great venues in town. Paul Rat was doing the 10th Street Hall and he was going really heavily into promoting. He’s a great guy and he treated all the bands well. Dirk was doing the Mab, and he was also doing On Broadway at that point. There were a lot great venues, a lot of indie stuff going on, and it started getting big. You could fill the 10th Street Hall every weekend… Thousands of people.

Bill Graham didn’t care about Target putting on a show, but when these big halls started filling up for a Dead Kennedys show, or when all the bands started coming up from L.A., it was a really big deal. So, BGP (Bill Graham Presents) was like, “We want a piece of that.” Somebody was putting on a show and BGP sent out thugs and basically said, “We’re gonna shut you down. We’re gonna get you on fire violation, or we’re gonna get you on something…” So Tim just…went to war. Tim went Michael Moore on Bill Graham.

Quite honestly, I think that was one of the first real political things that Tim did. He got that little pointy finger of his out and went for it. That was the first time I saw Tim go aggro. Of course, the picture is of Jeff, right, pointing the finger? But it was always Tim’s finger — he had that evil finger…

From there we went onto skinheads. We had this whole series where we were bringing the skinheads into the studio. And these were our friends. These were people we saw every week at shows, for better or worse. That was really something, I thought. Like, the Bill Graham thing was really great — that Tim was willing to muckrake on that — but the skinhead thing, you know, bringing them up to the station and… I mean, Tim kinda out-talked them.

I knew all those guys — and we were all really impassioned — but I wanted to keep a good scene. I didn’t want these guys to come in and wreck the scene. ‘Cause they were freakin’ idiots, right? So if any of them were willing to come to the table and talk about, “What’s up with this? What are you doin’? Can we, like, stop it?”

What it did was it took those guys who were really nice guys but just kind of a little… misguided, for lack of a better term, and it kind of gave them a new perspective. It really segregated out all these little white supremacist guys. I think it had a tremendous impact because those guys that realized they didn’t want to be little white supremacist assholes, they started holding the space, basically, at these shows.

If you go back to the days of the Farm, nobody was standing up to these guys. Everybody was, like, cowering, and Tim was like, “I’m not going to cower. That’s ridiculous.” Which was good, which was really great leadership. The outcome of that was to get the guys who didn’t want to be assholes to be working toward creating a good environment for shows. I thought that was critical. I didn’t want to stop going to shows because of these guys. I couldn’t imagine a couple of guys wrecking it for hundreds and hundreds of people. So I thought it was really powerful.

I think it’s interesting that you stuck around. When you read some people’s accounts of the early punk scene, it’s like, “And then hardcore came, and the violence came and that was the end of it.” For them, punk rock was over and it doesn’t exist beyond 1981, 1982…

Yeah, but think of all the other things that happened during that time. The whole DC scene happened, then the Chicago scene popped and there was a really vibrant New York scene, Texas was on overload… there was so much good stuff going on.

Why do you think that so many people dropped out of punk at that time?

I think there was a certain amount of people who “grew up,” you know what I mean? “This is not that important to me.” And then there were people who were just what we called the weekenders — they weren’t really into it. They liked the music and they were just looking for something to do. It didn’t really speak to them. And then there were people like us. We were kinda leaders, we weren’t going to let it lie. We were going to stay there, no matter what, and go, “Here’s the really cool stuff that’s going on, that you should know about. People who are doing things right. And there’s a lot more of them than people doing it wrong.”

That whole mentality about creating an alternative and creating an alternative lifestyle and staying independent and all that, that’s a driving force. And one thing I’ve learned about my life, even now — and I’m not of these people who runs around going, “I’ll always be a punk.” But the other side is that I realize now, even in the work I’m doing now, which is completely different, I still feel like the disc jockey. I still feel like I’m going through all of this material and I just searching for the great stuff. And even though there’s all this stuff that sucks and doesn’t work, it’s like, “Yeah, but there is this other really great thing over here. So let’s use that!” I always felt that way, you know? There’s a thousand records out there but I’m going to play you the really cool ones.

PDF download of MRR #5 will be available soon in the MRR Webstore!
Read more of our MRR Archives series here.