MRR archives: Maximum Rocknroll & TRUST present Welcome to Cruise Country photozine • 1986
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!
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! :)
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.
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.”
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?
Over the years, punk has become bigger and more fractured, harder to define. Does TRUST have a hard time deciding what is and isn’t punk?
Dolf: There is no definition of punk, there is no rule book, so punk can be almost anything. TRUST continues to come out bi-monthly as an info medium for the active-not-stupid, progressive, open-minded punk scene and has good, stable, professional distribution through scene structures like record stores, mailorders, selling at gigs (okay, rarely these days as opposed to in the past). For many years TRUST has also been available at all major German train stations newsstands.
TRUST is a labor of love “biz” idea (means that no one gets money for contributing to the zine) and the content should consist of good music and interesting social-political ideas (for example, interviewing authors who write about animal testings, environment destruction, war, military critics, etc.). We don’t always manage to bring these two principles in balance, but the ideal is still the same: to feature music and politics or at least always try to bring across that Hardcore-Punk (as we understand it) is more than just music.
Jan: What was the sub-line in the (long-gone) MRR classifieds section again? Like, “Be careful who you send money to, the punk world is not a perfect world.” Punk can mean totally diverse musical/fashion/drug/etc. tastes and styles, and the connection from these different surface issues lays in the same feeling: a certain “misfit” alienation with mainstream society and with the punk scene.
TRUST makes total sense to me, like having an open minded view on punk and at the same time being total clear about punk being indefinable. We sure have our favorites, like the punk we agree on is the one with great music and strong humanistic-emancipate lyrics, so the consensus band is FUGAZI. You could say that we like content-punk more than fashion-punk.
A good example of our open-minded punk philosophy is TRUST #19 from 1989 with NWA on the cover (I love the cover, that is why I mentioned this issue. See it HERE). Other features besides NWA were interviews with Nirvana, Bad Religion, Sub Pop Records, Blitz youth center in Oslo, Norway, SNUFF, SOULSIDE, UNIFORM CHOICE, GWAR, VICTIMS FAMILY and Cable Street Beat Londoner (anti-fascist organization).
There were certain issues why a few people started TRUST in 1986. They were fed up with the violent, druggy, macho first-wave Deutsch-Punk scene of the early ’80s, and of course with “society.” And the issues old bands like DEAD KENNEDYS or CRASS sung about had not gone away. DEAD KENNEDYS had this wonderful one-liner, “All religions make me wanna throw up.” And what happened till now? Krishna-core came in, Christian-punk, Taqwacore, hell, even conservative punk?! Not to mention racism, environmental destruction, world hunger, wars, poverty and so on.
But you can’t be able to do a critical zine for so long (scene- and society-wise) when it is only lamenting and being (self) hyper-critical in a dogmatic way. So “party for your right to fight” — it is fun to do TRUST, write for the zine and shit. You meet a lot of people who are involved with punk music (probably for more years than you are old), you can interview good bands and interesting labels, you meet other music-and-politics writers and you get to understand the functions of punk “behind the curtains.”
It is strange with punk these days, especially with the circles of retro-sounds and styles. It seems that every two-to-three years a new “groove” re-appears: the return of Deutschpunk, Oi!, doom, early-’80s HC, thrash…
And I really don’t know how to “judge” certain aspects of the punk culture: When you have 17-year-old kids who play 100% like ILL REPUTE and you get their record for a review, what do you say? Is the band a sign for talent or for lack of creativity? And would you rather interview the original band who (kind of) pioneered a certain sound or would you say, “Fuck those old farts, their time is long gone, don’t reopen the coffin! Here is fresh blood from young people?”
Personally, I love BIKINI KILL, and I love AC/DC. I love BLACK FLAG in all their aspects from 1978 to 1986, especially the older I get, their last “process” (no kidding!). On the other hand I love the RAMONES — the band “with just one song.” Contradictions? Yes. It is (to quote Janis Joplin here) “the same old fucking thing”: How to define punk when punk itself refuses to be defined? Punk will probably remain a paradox. Which is good. And which is bad. But we must deal with that ambivalence…Ya know?
It has become harder and harder financially to do a magazine. How does TRUST survive, and how long do you think it will last?
Dolf: Yes, it is hard. At this point we are going strong, but that might change, things change nowadays very fast… How long, we don’t know, but there is no plan to stop the mag. After 26 years TRUST is still around and is the second oldest regularly published punk fanzine of the world. We have a good mixed staff, a good layout artist, and our readers appreciate our content policy. That means “outgoing journalism” and the clear separation of content and advertisement, which should be normal. Our content is determined by what the staffers want to see inside. It is not planned along the release schedules of the record labels and band tour dates.
We do extensive interviews that you would have a hard time reading online (probably like this one). There is nothing wrong with the internet (well, of course there is a lot wrong, but that is another story….), it is good for short news/info. But older people who remember the shift between writing letters and sending emails will never get used to reading long texts online. That is supposed to change with the new “digital native” generation. But in which direction? Why do young people still buy vinyl?
Jan: Dolf works hard to get ads inside, he does all the shitwork alone. Sometimes other writers help, of course. For example, I try to help with searching possible advertisers, but this is a very frustrating task: you often realize then that even the small fanzine world and the punk scene have changed a lot in a negative way. “Back then” adverting was 60% a way to support print-media counterculture and 40% marketing tool. Today the ads seem like a 110% marketing tool. Bands and labels tend to be much more like, “I’ll take an ad if you give my records good reviews or do an interview.” That happens more and more, but we never did package deals and never will. It is the death of journalism, as you can clearly see when flipping through the pages of other music mags. Hey, this always same artists on the front cover from the same “media partner”? It is because all their bands are so fucking good, or is it that they pay to be on the cover? You don’t really know the details, but it seems really like a made-up thing. Please, show more dignity for your writers, and don’t treat me as a reader like this. If I want to read about the greatness of fucking bands of a certain label, I would read their catalog online, right? And why write then at all? Let PR people write for you, give them your content…?
We had a big reprint project in 2010: a book about our first ten issues (facsimile reprint with all old issues, ads, 640 pages). We did 100 copies, all sold out through pre-order. It generated a little profit, which went back into the zine. We’ll do it again now with the issues #11 to #20.
Wanna do another photozine with us?
Dolf: Why not? It should be much easier nowadays then it was back then, then again, it might involve much more work, since it it so much “easier” ;-)
Jan: Yeah, but this time about American bands?
I like special issues. There was this MRR issue in the ’90s about “Punks over 30.” We should re-ask them what they are doing now, like “Punks over 50”! Let’s see what TRUST had… After the MRR/TRUST issue came the drug issue (#78, in 1999). Then issue #116 in 2006 about “sex and music.” That was followed by the issue #126 about “work” in 2007. and the last special issue was issue #149 in 2011 — “30 years of Dischord Records.”
Dolf/Jan: Paul, thanks very much for the interview. It is wonderful that MRR turned 30 years in July 2012. We wish MRR all the best for the future! May it last and continue to pollute people’s minds with punk and good ideas. Long live Maximum Rocknroll fanzine!