My entire collection of Marc Masters’ 1990s Crank fanzine fell victim to “the great lost fanzine box” which we tearily recounted the tale of here. I’ve been slowly righting that wrong over the past few years, and the issue I was most excited to claw back was Crank #2 from Fall 1991, the one we’ll be discussing presently. I (thought I) remembered this one the clearest and had pinned it in my mind as his “San Francisco issue”, given the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and Seymour Glass interviews, yet there’s a bunch I was excited & surprised to rediscover after finally holding it in my grubby paws again, thirty-plus years after the fact & nearly 25 years since my copy went astray down the I-5.
My own fuckin’ name, for one – self-centered egomaniac that I am. See, around this time I’d started my own fanzine Superdope, and as a result of our respective complementary endeavors, Marc and I became pre-internet “pen pals”, I suppose you’d call us. Isn’t that nice? Both of us were mining somewhat similar quarries at this time in our fanzines, but Marc really took his music-writing chops from this point and ran far with them. From these humble beginnings, he’s since written the definitive book on no wave; been a key writer for Pitchfork, The Wire, Bandcamp and elsewhere; and now he’s even got a few podcasts going, the most recent of which is The Music Book Podcast, which I highly recommend. Back in ‘91 he called attention in his preamble to my own minor work, and I appreciated seeing and recalling it just now.
But the dude inadvertently did me a much bigger solid in 2017 that snowballed into one of the coolest experiences of my life. Mind you, we’ve never spoken nor met in person, yet he did a piece late that year in The Wire’s Unofficial Channels column about my current fanzine Dynamite Hemorrhage. This directly led to The Wire’s editor Biba Kopf recommending me to take part in an all-expenses-paid speaking gig at The Tomorrow Festival in Shenzhen, China in 2018, where I got to ramble on about the history of music fanzines to a Chinese audience. Unlike Mark, I’ve never done anything remunerative with music writing, 100% by choice in my case, but this was as close as I’ve come and likely ever will come. An incredible stroke of fortune that I’m eternally grateful for.
Whew, so yeah, how can I be objective about Masters’ 1991 Washington DC-based fanzine, right? Well, I was a partisan for it from day one. A few things struck me on the re-read; first, I’d totally forgotten that there were two other excellent contributors, Heather Lieser and Dave Whelan, and the three of them split up the many reviews. Heather even has an entire page dedicated to her live reviews. She digs The Cannanes, and gets to opine on most of the DIY pop stuff in Crank #2. Dave seems to get about half of the noisier independent rock and some pop stuff, and Marc gets anything & everything out of the weirdo San Francisco scene, including Archipelago Brewing Company (he likes ‘em!), whom I’m proud to say I saw live once, and Caroliner, whom I’m not proud to say I saw more than once.
The Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 interview with Hugh Swarts was a really good one, as he hems and haws about how long he’s hated the name of his own band, and dishes a bit on how lame it was playing with Royal Trux at a 1991 Matador Records showcase at the 6th Street Rendezvous in San Francisco, a show I attended and which I actually thought Royal Trux never even showed up for; either that or I bailed out of the club at 1am rather than wait for them to set up (at that point I’d only heard Twin Infinitives and not the first album!). The mock Seymour Glass “interview” is a frustrating bit of self-aggrandizement disguised as self-sabotage that was both hard to read then and is even harder to comprehend now. Other than that, I like it.
Today I associate Masters with his deep appreciation for and knowledge of more experimental and difficult music, and you can certainly see the seeds of all that taking root here. Yet, as his podcasts and other fine music writing show, there’s still a rocknroller out-of-controller lurking behind that digital pen. Now if I could just find Crank #1, #2, and #4….do you know anyone who might be able to help?