It’s now hard for me to fathom just how aggressively I turned my back on many of my fellow late 1990s fanzine brethren and sistren. While my personal underground rocknroll palate was fairly omnivorous during the first half of the decade, I developed a severe reaction to what by 1996 felt like a lemming-like rush by the broader fanzine community toward noise, free jazz, drone, electronics and so forth – toward anything that wasn’t rock.
At the time, I mostly blamed Bananafish. I mean, everyone was reading the thing, myself included. It was well-distributed and editor and chief writer Seymour Glass perhaps inadvertently cultivated quite a curated aura and persona, one that championed (often tongue-in-cheek) the most outré of non-rock music as being central to a finely-honed taste and sensibility. Sun City Girls and Merzbow yes; anything with a hint of swing or swagger, no way. Because he and I skirted around some of the same local bands the previous few years – Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, World of Pooh and so on, all of whom were his personal friends and mere acquaintances of mine, at best – I’m sure I suffered from a bit of jealousy at times for that and for the fact that he wrote exceptionally well & had a real way of making me feel like a wild, weird party of creative freaks was going on in his corner of San Francisco and not in mine. (In hindsight, the freaks I partied with at the time were just fine).
Also in hindsight, I can see now that it’s not quite clear where the creators of underground rock fanzines should have been paying their attention in the lean years of 1996-2000. I personally was more interested in garage heathens such as The Cheater Slicks and spent time digging almost exclusively into 60s punk at the time, and granted, I hadn’t really evolved much beyond a punk-before-all mindset. I was also a ‘lil busy getting married and going to grad school during this time as well. So I’d look at fanzines flogging Fushitsusha, or Flying Saucer Attack, or Tortoise, or Olivia Tremor Control, or William Hooker, or Labradford, or Tono-Bungay, or Loren Mazzacane Connors, or Cecil Taylor and so on, and just completely disassociated myself. I missed out not only on some fantastic music but some top-drawer fanzines writing about it as a result. I only really started heading back into this era within the past ten years, trying to pick up fanzines like Tuba Frenzy that covered it where I can.
In fact I only bought this 1998 issue online this past week, inspired by seeing a different issue of the magazine referenced by Dave Lang on his The Devil’s Lexicon Instagram. The editor of Tuba Frenzy was Tim Ross, and he published this out of Chapel Hill, NC along with a stable of contributors. Far from being a pompous, uninformed, trendy dive into more-difficult music, Tuba Frenzy #4, the magazine’s final issue, was as well-written and informed a mag as I’ve seen from this era, and it was a real disservice to myself that I passed it up back then, something I even recall doing.
There’s a terrific overview and oral history of NYC’s late 70s/early 80s 99 Records (ESG, Glenn Branca, Liquid Liquid, Bush Tetras etc.), as well as truly comprehensive interviews with Oval (one of the Thrill Jockey bands I totally ignored), jazz saxophonist Sam Rivers, the aforementioned Tono-Bungay, Ian Williams from Don Caballero and a ton more. Truly deep musical ephemera and intense explanation for heads, record collectors and fellow deviants.
If you believe this website, you can still buy this issue for $4.00 directly from Tim himself. I’d love to find copies of the other three, once I truly sit down & read this one cover to cover to make up for lost time, and maybe discover a hot new weirdo band from 25 years ago.