It’s hard to overstate just how intense and head-spinning the “KBD era” of punk rock record collecting was. I’d date the beginning of KBD to 1989, when the first four Killed By Death LP compilations of ultra-scarce 70s/80s punk 45s hit the streets, though purists might argue it was the year before that, when Year of the Rats!! came out, or how about ‘87’s release of Where Birdmen Flew, or maybe ‘86, when Me Want Breakfast! changed lives such as mine?
I bought ‘em all, and it was beautiful. Raging, classic punk rock singles from around the world, often originally pressed in editions of 100, offered up with 15 other screamers on quasi-bootlegs, in a time in which there was no internet and – in my case – limited income with which to procure the originals, except for the rare unexpected “bin find” at record stores during a time when most store owners didn’t have a clue as to what these were worth (or would be worth), nor any idea where to buy one. Did I ever tell you about the time in 1987 I found two original Urinals 45s packed into the same poly sleeve, selling for 75 cents each?
Before long there would be a biblical flood of KBD products being unleashed by various bootleggers, sometimes under the shared “Killed By Death” moniker, but increasingly under other communally-shared labels. Most prominent was the Bloodstains series, usually easy to find in quality record stores and which took a region-by-region or country-by-country approach to punk 45s. (Fanzine Hemorrhage especially recommends the blistering Bloodstains Across California and all of the Bloodstains Across Sweden editions, in case you were wondering). There were the Back To Front compilations. The Murder Punks. Even Cumstains Over My Record Collection. Maximum Rocknroll had to put out an entire bibliographic fanzine devoted solely to these comps called CompHELLation to keep track of them all. By the mid-1990s, barrel-scraping had definitely commenced, so anything coming out after that time would usually have 1 or 2 ringers with the rest usually being dreck.
It was into this maelstrom that Roger Mah and his Brain Transplant fanzine stepped in 1997. Far as I can gather, Roger was a UCLA student at this time and was clearly a KBD disciple and expert, and he nailed the most comprehensive interview with The Eat I’ve ever seen and likely ever will see. (The Eat’s “Communist Radio” was one of the key mind-blowers on Killed By Death, Volume 1). The interview goes deep on the band’s “Giggling Hitler” record label and on the South Florida punk scene of the late 70s. Brain Transplant #1 also reprints a Johan Kugelberg piece on Sweden’s Heartwork Records that was originally in Siltbreeze fanzine, and interviews Radio Birdman’s Deniz Tek. His reviews are terrific as well, covering all of the crazed cornucopia of KBD bootleg punk comp releases, along with reviews of the final gasps what I like to call “the great third wave of punk rock”, the 1990s garage punk explosion that itself took a ton of inspiration from the KBD records.
Roger promises in the back of this one that his issue #2 will have “Unpublished Masque photos/anecdotes from Jenny Lens + more dumb punk rock records”. I know from experience that working with Ms. Lens can be taxing, if ultimately fruitful; as it turns out, Roger wouldn’t put out a second issue of the magazine until the late 2010s, and it didn’t have those Jenny Lens photos (but it was outstanding nonetheless, and I’m sure I’ll write it up here eventually). He spent the intervening years running a reissue label called, you got it, Brain Transplant.
I recently asked him if he’s going to put out another issue, and he said (and I quote): “No”.
One thought on “Brain Transplant #1”
Howdy Jay! Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. Jeez 25 years is a long time ago. In 1997 I was working as the punk buyer for Rhino in Westwood. Stocking the store with records no one cared about haha. The garage/punk bands I remember championing were the Fells, Loli and the Chones, and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. TJSA I’m sure I first became aware of via Superdope!
Issue #1 was a run of 1000. Thankfully Tower Records in Sacramento ordered 750, paid upfront, and put them in their stores world wide. I ended up receiving rabid correspondence from music nuts all across the USA, Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, Canada, Mexico.
Issue #2 was gonna focus only on LA punk. I interviewed the Controllers (Kidd Spike and Karla Mad Dog), the Dogs (Loren and Mary Kay), and Shock. And secured a clutch of fantastic unpublished (at the time) Masque photos courtesy of Jenny Lens. Alas I got preoccupied with releasing records and never got around to completing that issue.