I had an ongoing correspondence in the early 1990s with a woman named Christina Madonia, who worked at the Sound Exchange record store in Austin, TX and somehow counted herself a fan of the early issues of my own fanzine Superdope. We infrequently wrote “letters”, a form of written communication that some of you may remember, in which we compared notes on various bands, our respective music scenes, the turgid miasma of existence and so forth.
Let it be said that fanzine correspondence from a woman – particularly one near my age, which was at the time 23-24 – was always most welcome, given its extreme rarity. She definitely conveyed a sense of a goofy and creative early 90s Austin that’s subsequently been codified in memory and lionized by many, though it was clear to me then that Christina, who was maybe 22-23 at this point, wasn’t a late-night rager nor an extreme extrovert making the scene but rather an introspective, poetic and graspingly creative old soul, looking for the right outlet to share her vision.
She helped lead the publication of the Sound Exchange’s Bloat in-store fanzine and even reviewed Superdope within it. I’d been trying to uncrack the mysteries of Austin with her via our letters and I remember her telling me she was moving to Houston to work at the Sound Exchange there, which sounded kinda baffling to me at the time, given the asymmetry between the two cities in my mind vis-a-vis the underground rocknroll scene and my personal priorities as such.
(Note: I will interject, two days after writing this post, that what I’ve just recounted appears to have been mostly made-up on my part. Christina has corrected the record; while she did live in Austin, it wasn’t until later in the 90s. She lived in Houston and worked at the record store there the whole time. There was no move to nor from either city during the time we corresponded. This message has been brought to you by whatever deep hole that exists in my memory banks, which we’ll call the “Embellishment Hole” from here on.)
It was here that she published the sole issue of her fanzine Curiosity in Stout Shoes in 1993. It was very much in keeping with the earthy, ethereal, poetic and dissonant nature of what would very soon become her music, as she would soon marry one Tom Carter in Houston and become the Christina Carter whom we know and love from the band Charalambides and later solo recording fame. Apparently – I have been told this by Christina personally – I had something to do with connecting her and Mr. Carter with Tom Lax at Siltbreeze Records, who then put out their first album Union. I’ll go ahead and own that as a feather in my proverbial cap, as I love that record and its follow up Market Square.
Her fanzine was both music-related and music-tangential, a personal fanzine of stories, comics, diary entries and dream depictions along with interviews with Smog/Bill Callahan and Linda Smith. Tom Carter is involved in illustration and pops up frequently in the stories themselves. In 1992 I spent some quality time in Houston with Christina, Tom and their bandmate Jason Bill while I was visiting to work the booth at the “Ace Hardware Convention” for my employer Monster Cable. They were phenomenal hosts, and it was just one of those memorable young-person nights where everything came together. They dazzled me with the culinary delights of Houston’s rich Indian food culture (who knew in California?), took me to drink beers on the lawn in front of KTRU radio at Rice University, and played me records back at their place, which I seem to recall was on or very near a river (?). They made me a tape, as one then did, of some killer Houston psych/noise bands – Dry Nod, Rusted Shut, The Mike Gunn. I left thinking “these are some of the finest people I’ve ever had the privilege of hanging out with”.
In early ‘93 – come to think of it, only a month after this fanzine was published – I came to Houston again as the road manager for the band Claw Hammer, and Tom & Christina came out to Emo’s and hung out with all of us outside while we very purposefully escaped inside headliner The Reverend Horton Heat. I took this photo of Christina with my handheld Instamatic camera here at that show – and alas, thereafter lost contact with her within a year or so, and we wouldn’t reconnect for another 22 years. When I pulled out this Curiosity in Stout Shoes again recently, I noticed that I had been thanked for encouragement for this very singular and interesting one-off fanzine. Hey, I didn’t do nothin’!