A Discovery Named Brisbane
This is a post about a zine. But really it is only kind of about the zine. More so it is about catalysts that come into your life at the right time and tip everything upside down. It’s about wanting direction and going with the roadsigns that present themselves. You never really know what ‘that’ thing is that’s going to change your life – life changes every day and often they are small and miniscule changes. You often don’t know you are having a life changing experience even while it’s happening. It is only often upon looking back at the artifacts of your life that you see moments when the trajectory was violently altered never to return to how it was before.
I found this zine again last night. It was jammed between two art books on one of my bookshelves. The art books made me sneeze from the dust that had settled atop of them. I uncover this zine once every couple of years. From memory I last looked at it back in 2009 when working on an art project. Last night however I noticed that the cover stated “Sept/Oct”… that’s September / October 1993.
Full disclosure on my bias should probably be stated from the outset. I consider this 28 page periodical to be the most important cultural and musical document that I own. Now I know that’s not really a quantifiable statement but as I think of how it is 20 years since I picked this up off the ground in the doorway of Rocking Horse records (and as much as I like a good anniversary to look back over my shoulder) I can’t help but see how sometimes what people do for short-term reasons can sometimes have seismic ramifications on the right person in the right place.
I was 16 and living in a medium sized coastal town when I discovered The Ramones, Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Bad Brains all in one week. Clean blew my head off, changed everything and probably had something to do with getting me kicked out of home around that time. Either way, the next year living far away in the big city of Brisbane, saving up my $20 a fortnight to go buy a new cassette album and really, discovering most of life for the first time – I chanced upon this copy of Scorch. It’s still the only copy of it that I ever found even though I’m sure there were plenty of volumes printed.
I knew nothing about the Brisbane music scene, I didn’t even really know there was such a thing in August 1993. I didn’t know anything about animal testing, vegetarianism or body piercing either to be honest but by October 1993 I was blagging my underage ass into gigs, making big life choices and experimenting with as much of life as I could get my hands on.
These pages did a lot to this young impressionable mind. Perusing through it now, here’s what I remember…
Livid was the second music festival I ever went to (going and seeing the Ramones at the 93 Big Day out was my first festival adventure). I remember taking a running jump onto an eight foot barbed wire fence just off Montague road as the opening chords of Mr.Moon by The Headless Chickens rang out over West End. I was living off $130 a fortnight at the time so it really was the only way I was going to get in. Getting in was actually a bit too easy from memory. Either way I saw my first all nude band in the form of New Zealands Head Like A Hole, I saw the Beasts Of Bourbon make music out of pure bile and I thought Siouxsie was boring and for some unknown reason was too scared to exit via the gates and so left by scaling the same fence I entered over.
I can’t help but chuckle at the ad for Powderfinger’s debut CD launch. I guess we all start small. I can confirm that Bolt Thrower were the first Death Metal band I had ever heard (with Carcass two weeks later following as the second). With a less than extensive understanding of the female species at the time, Babes In Toyland sounded like the sexiest most awesome band out there. In fact they out raged almost all of the male populated albums I owned at the time (still do as a matter of fact).
My first Market Day was this one at Albert Park. I knew no one and none of the bands but I remember Mass Appeal and Hateman confusing me in the best way and also enjoyed seeing so many people spend the day constantly rolling down the hill and taking out other punters. 4ZZZ also entered my daily diet filling my head with more underground music than I could have imagined.
It was a Sunday afternoon when I read this article on animal experimentation and vivisection. I’d never heard of anything being tested on animals before. In fact at the time I couldn’t even understand why other people would think it was a worthwhile practice. I do have a tendency to react strongly when something upsets me deeply and upon reading the this article I went to the fridge and pulled all the cheap sausage rolls out, got the tinned meat products from the cupboard and threw it all in the bin out the back. I knew that the article was not about eating animals but it was the first time in my life I had thought of them as equal entities in this world and the way humans treat then. Regardless of whatever bias might have been in that single article I decided that I wouldn’t support animal cruelty with as much reach as I had. 20 years later I still don’t eat other animals and I still have never once felt the desire to change my mind on that.
The world’s a different place now and I’m not so sure you could have a one page scene report on Brisbane music that’s as definitive and comprehensive as this. Maybe it wasn’t as comprehensive as I thought it might have been. But thought I’d just about discovered every Brisbane band out there at that time. I made a point of going to see every band that was mentioned and written about in those two columns. It’s worth noting that I was 17 and it was an hour’s trip on the train into Brisbane city to get to a venue and most gigs were not all ages. I didn’t get into most of the gigs where I tried but still I tried each week.
It took me several goes and three months to see Acid World play after reading about them. An Anarchist bookstore in West End was the only place I could find their cd to buy. In West End at some street festival on Boundary St I saw them play at like two in the afternoon under the belting sun. I don’t think anyone was having a particularly good time on the burning bitumen but I was still pretty stoked to see them and experience underground punk rock that seemed pretty far removed from the Ramones styled stuff I knew up until then.
I was living on my own and attempting to finish high school during this time. Pulling a sewing needle out of an eraser that had been in someone’s pencil case and piercing my eyebrow during art class didn’t help my prospects of staying on the teachers’ good side. Of course the piercing didn’t work so few weeks later I tried again at home and almost passed out from the pain. Either way after three failed attempts I went and got it professionally done because it seemed so cool and after reading this I really wanted a piercing. A few ears, nose and eyebrows and nipples later I finally went and got a tattoo.
It’s not because I’m much older and out of the loop that I say all ages gigs don’t happen like they used to… it’s because they just don’t happen as much as they used to! Venue owners aren’t prepared to lose money putting on all ages shows in 2013. I don’t know how it was done every other week back in 1993 but it meant one Saturday afternoon I got to safely see Bolt Thrower. I don’t remember much more than looking at their hands and wondering how on earth they played music like that!
I bought every release reviewed here although the only ones I can still find in the music room are Acid World, The Breeders and Bad Brains. I don’t think it is so much remembering a time when you trusted what someone wrote about an album – I think it was more so that I knew nothing and wanted to believe that an album was as good as someone said it was. I bought In Utero the day it came out from Skinny’s. I bought Carcass and Jesus Lizard from Kent and when in the shop pawed over most of the titles listed here wondering what one earth they must sound like. A trip to Kent usually took a couple of hours and I always just bought one thing cause that’s all I could afford.
Boulder Lodge. I can’t remember a thing about the place. About all I can remember are the fuzzy memories in the back of my mind of seeing Fugazi in early November. I heard them on 4ZZZ the week before the show and simply because the person on the radio said this would be a life changing concert I figured I needed to go! It was a life changing concert and still today Fugazi are one of the most important bands to have ever existed!
Maybe all of this is just nostalgic ramblings but really I do enjoy remembering when just about everything was new. When all concerts felt like the first time I was experiencing a type of music. When decisions were made with little to no life experience and notions like the past and the future were measured in days and weeks instead of years and decades. I love that upon looking back, this was the catalyst to shaping many things and ideas that I now don’t know how to live without.
If for no other reason, it is great to look at Brisbane music through this prism – kind of like a time capsule of a place vaguely familar but now long buried under 20 years of evolution and change. I do lament though at how people see local music and what shapes a community mind in Brisbane today. Brisbane’s the same as everywhere else in the world with the same internet, the same online social platforms and so there’s no point in being nostalgic about a time that’s long gone – even if that was a time when you’d go to a local gig and there would commonly be 500 to a thousand people there just to see local bands. Brisbane was like Mars to me in 1993 and this mag inadvertently turned into an an atlas which I used to explore the whole terrain, to upturn every rock and 20-years later I’m still glad I get to be in amongst this town’s creative topography. I believe that there’s still something great to be discovered if you just turn off the tv/computer and venture out of your house and explore.