Punk rock was one of the most important youth movements of the last century. It was a ferocious and chaotic explosion of art, politics and rebellion that changed the way we communicate and our concepts of communities.
But, the world has changed a great deal since the days of ’77. The scene and the movement are global now. The attitude and spirit of punk is perpetuated by the youth of today through new mediums creating a community of young people with a reach that defies the geographical, financial, and time constraints that hindered the first waves of punk.
Instead of small local zines, the youth of today communicate on the Internet connecting with each other all over the world instantly fostering strong communities with complete strangers who share the same ideals and fearless spirit. So, in this new technological age, what can the days of Sniffin’ Glue offer the post-hardcore bloggers and the new no-wave online journalist?
For the answer to that question, we must seek out those who stand at the crossroads of this entire discussion; Mel and
Both Mel and
So, I am pleased to have the opportunity to pick their brain and ask them as few questions that only they could answer:
Will - I know that there were different zines that circulated during the early days of punk rock, such as Mark Perry's Sniffin' Glue. What impact did these publications have on the punk community?
Mel - Well, it was a long time ago and it’s sometimes hard to remember but I do recall a few which were around at the time. Sniffin’ Glue is the one most people know as it’s the most famous edited by Mark P, but there were many fanzines which were written by people in all areas over the UK.
They were written by the working class kids on the street, not journos who’d been to university. They were immediate, fresh, street wise and written by the people who were participating in the scene, mixing with the people and bands of the day who were unknown at the time.
I couldn’t afford to buy them as I wasn’t working and saved all my money for clothes and seeing bands, Vanessa (my friend) I recall bought them occasionally.
As for the impact it created, well it gave people a chance to find out about what was happening in non jargonistic language. Steve from Manchester ran a fanzine, called Shytalk as did my old friend from Ohio Martin Cass, who is formerly from the North of
Will - Financially, zines are not lucrative and traditionally they only reach a small number of people. So, why do you think young people during the early days of punk were so compelled to create them in the first place? What benefit does the creator get out of developing a zine?
Mel - I think people wanted to do something for themselves as the media weren’t keen in the early days on reporting the punk phenomena, as they thought it would fade as quickly as it emerged. The teenagers became aware that something magical was happening and wanted to write about it straight away. In addition it was a time of the DIY (do it yourself) mentality; let’s show em we can do it, the same as the bands of the day. Punk told you anyone could do anything and it didn’t matter than you might be crap, just have a go! Whether it be designing clothes, art, music or writing. It was such a creative time and I guess they got a buzz out of seeing their work in print.
Will - Many in the zine community have said that print zines are on the decline. Do you think that zines printed on paper will ever disappear? Or, in spite of new technology, do you think there will always be some zines printed on paper.
Mel - I think there will always be the need for paper copies as people like to read at leisure. We are hoarders and collectors; these will become tomorrow’s collectable items and I can guarantee they will be on eBay in 30 years time selling for silly prices. People like to read whilst travelling and use for research when they are away from the pc so I doubt they will disappear. I enjoy reading printed material, yet it’s so hard to find anything with such diversity that appeal to me. I have as
Will - You have created a very good zine on the Internet. What do you think are the benefits of using the web to publish your zine as opposed to doing it on paper? How does the new technology help you reach people that would otherwise never get a hold of your work?
Mel - Well the way we run the zine is kind of a bit ad hoc. We don’t subscribe to any monthly stuff really, although I do put out a monthly newsletter, just to update people to what we have done or are doing. This is because we go with how we are feeling, creativity can’t be forced. We request an interview then do it the next day it works so quickly sometimes. If I had to go down the whole publishing route it would take forever to put together, and of course be costly. The way we work I format the interview or article in word and copy and paste into the site, easy, quick and simple…..well kind of...there might be typos and some grammar issues but its immediate and fresh. We can get instantaneous attention by bulletining on MySpace, facebook, posting comments on bands pages and friends. The people we interview usually do a blog of the interview or post onto their own web sites which then guarantee exposure for us. We have viewers from all over the world and I think this is purely due to word of mouth from MySpace, but we also hand out flyers and cards at gigs. I have interviewed quite a few people who I came across many years ago in the music field and it’s been such a nostalgic trip. The web site is growing by the day! Today we had over 200 viewers.
Will - What would the punk movement have been like had there been Internet technology in '77? Would it have increased the longevity of the scene?
Mel - Ya know I’m not too sure; it’s a good question though. I suspect it might have blown away as quickly as it arrived. Punk was a pretty fast paced scene, by late 1978/79 it became fashionable and mainstream. Then emerged other forms of punk bands, some hardcore punk music and post punk, bands appeared on TV and were interviewed by the latest teen magazines of the day. They became ‘Pop Stars’ and of course then came the New Romantic movement. I’m happy that Punk was a brief moment in time and from this people took elements of the chaos, energy and turned it into creative outlets in various directions.
Wilbert- What impact do you think this new technology will have on the youth subcultures of today? Do you think the kids are missing out on things like paper zines?
Mel - I doubt it has any huge impact on the youth of today, what does? To be honest I think our readers are probably mainly over 30 anyway. It might make a few of them want to go out and do something in the same vein or give them an interest in the people being interviewed, maybe go out and buy the albums or even watch the bands. I can’t see they are missing paper zines as there are plenty magazines out there, it’s just that most are pretty bland, and mainstream. I don’t buy any of them, I just read them whilst in the hairdressers to pass time etc. You certainly won’t find a zine who interviews people as we do on your shelves in one publication. We go from people in the past to the new and up coming bands, artists and writers. In fact anyone who grabs our attention could make it onto the pages of Mudkiss. It’s about getting the public to read about someone whom we find interesting, they don't have to be famous, infamous or at all known.
Will - How do you view yourself as contributor to an Internet zine? Do you view yourself as a professional journalist? Do you see yourself as a member of a community? If so, what are giving that community through your zine?
Mel - I am not that arrogant to think I am a professional journalist; it’s an fascinating pastime for me. I've always enjoyed chatting on-line and many of my interviews have been conducted this way, so it’s very natural for me. I have a full time professional job which is far removed from the web site, it doesn’t entail journalism. I am the editor of the site, the MySpace Mudkiss is a team effort, everyone blogs and bulletins their own pieces of work. We also now have a facebook profile, just another place to promote and meet people. We are all very individual about the bands we like and the kind of people we chose to interview, it’s what makes it appealing I think. We do have a small following that enjoy and support what we do. So I guess we are kind of a little community, but I also enjoy being an individual. I’ve never quite felt comfortable being part of a crowd. We have formed many on-line friendships and met people in real life who otherwise we wouldn’t have done if we didn’t have the zine under way. It certainly has opened doors for us/me. It’s also got me back out there again, watching bands, taking photos in fact I’m almost a born again teenager!! I’m not dead yet and I still have a voice albeit much older.(but wiser)
Will - And finally, I wanted to ask you a personal question. I have grown up fascinated with punk rock, especially the early punk rock scene that you happened to be a part of. My favourite band of all-time is The Clash. Did you ever have a chance to see them live? If so what was it like?
Mel - I saw The Clash 9 times in total, the first time was in 77' at a small infamous club called Eric’s in Liverpool. I have very fond memories of those times. I recalled the events in my diary, in my teenage scrawl. We had great times seeing The Clash in those intimate venues, getting right to the front of the stage usually under Paul Simonon (who we had a massive teenage crush on).
We wandered into the dressing room on a few occasions and they generally remembered us.
One particular gig I remember was a crazy night at Manchester Apollo Theatre when they ripped out all the seats and the audience went wild. It was electrifying, they were at their peak! We managed to scramble on the side of the stage, hiding behind the big speakers. We got spotted by Johnny Green and he threw us some Clash badges, I still have one in my collection. I also used to take a big tape recorder in a holdall to most of the gigs and bootleg the event. It’s such a shame those tapes have now been thrown away in a big clear out, they could be worth a fortune. I witnessed The Clash on most of their tours ‘Out Of Control Tour’, ‘Sort It Out Tour’,’ Out On Parole Tour’, at the famous London’s Anti Nazi Festival (which incidentally
Will - And did you ever meet Joe Strummer? I know that they were very close to their fans and I have always had the impression that the music makers of that era were not to far removed from the music listeners. So, I figured I'd ask.
Mel - Yes we met Joe and the other guys in the early days on quite a few occasions, had photos taken and chatted. My first encounter with Paul in the dressing room, I remember he had trousers unzipped right down and he was lay on the dressing room bench, I was almost speechless, in fact I recorded word by word my first conversation with him in my diary. In the main Topper and Mick were the friendliest, although I do recall one night in the dressing room Joe seeking me out in front of others, telling me that he’d been singing to me. I had been so enamoured with Paul I hadn’t really taken much notice though. Joe was much older than us and he was very popular with the guys. Who would think 30 years down the line he would become such an iconic figure, he was just a normal guy. I did get their autographs, but for some reason not Joes, although my friend did, he signed on a packet of guitar strings and she still has it. I remember the night Pete Wylie came into the dressing room with us chatting to the band.
As The Clash got more and more famous my interest waned as they became unapproachable and distant, it was harder to get backstage and chat to them as before and this spoilt it for us. Many people said they had sold out and they stopped being punks. The last gig I went to in 1980 I remember a girl crying in the toilets, when I asked her what was wrong she said “they’ve sold out”.
I guess things had to move on and they went onto bigger and better things, and I am still a fan today, the music is timeless. They have influenced millions and Joe’s legacy will live on in the music he made not only for The Clash but for the other stuff he did, which only in the past year or so have I started to listen to. I’ve got most of the books written and my old memorabilia I guess they were and still are my favourite band of all time.
Will - I want to thank you again for taking the time to answer my question. I really appreciate it.
Catch The Mudkiss Gang on the following links:
MySpace - www.myspace.com/mudkiss
Wilbert Cooper is journalism major at
Check out THE RED ARMY music at: www.myspace.com/theredarmyrevolution
Interview by Will 25.1.09