There’s something a little culturally demoralizing for Americans when we come across Europeans who can write, communicate and think better in our native tongue than we can. Folks like Matthias at Fŏrdämning, Henrik at Human Garbage Disposal and Tom Arnaert at Bazooka! are my jealously-looked-upon models in that regard. I mean, I personally took three years of high school Spanish, baby! I even know well enough to stay away from lengua and tripa burritos, so why can’t I craft an erudite, funny, Spanish-only music fanzine?
Well look, maybe erudite isn’t exactly the right word for Arnaert’s 1997 third issue of Bazooka!, but it was absolutely one of my favorite sources for garage punk & expansive roots/world music rock-turning in the late 90s. Arnaert and I traded “CD-Rs” in those days, and the guy sent me some of my favorite collections of obscure global 78s, down-home Americana and blues comps back in those frantic years when everything was coming out on CDs only, and I got the notion that I’d better sell all of my vinyl, and fast, because vinyl records were soon to be dead as a doornail. Clearly, we were trading fanzines as well; I put out my final issue of Superdope in 1998 and I reckon that was my coin of the realm which enabled me to procure this issue of Bazooka! and the two that followed it.
From his perch in Ieper, Belgium, Arnaert surveyed all he saw in the worlds of low-class, lo-fi garage punk and other sundry forms. A great comparison fanzine both in content and layout for this magazine would be Eric Friedl’s Wipeout! – note the exclamation point. Both took as their starting point loud & raw rocknroll music both present and past, and as they dug deeper, they extended their remit to include loads of “black” music, i.e. the bedrock upon which all of their current passions rested. Arnaert in particular goes deep into fife & drum music on this one; you may recall this was the time of Othar Turner mania, powered by cultural appropriators Birdman Records’ Everybody Hollerin’ Goat CD.
Bazooka #3 also surveys 1977-78 Belgian punk – why wouldn’t he? – while also interviewing New Orleans’ trash/rockabilly overlord King Louie (Royal Pendletons, Persuaders, King Louie & The Harahan Crack Combo) and penning a Mick Collins survey to boot. The mag is just bursting with reviews of both records and current fanzines, laid out haphazardly wherever space exists (this happens to be a great cheat for those of us who’ve created fanzines but don’t know a thing about true graphic design). In 1997, this is whom you’d find darting about the pages of Bazooka! as well as in the record collections of its fellow travelers: Bassholes, Thee Headcoatees, the Demolition Doll Rods, Billy Childish, Chrome Cranks, T-Model Ford, Splash Four and Junior Kimbrough. If that sounds like your kettle of tea, let me assure you that it probably is. I experienced those last three years of the 1990s as fairly grim ones, musically, and I know there are others who agree with that verdict – so it was great to have Arnaert’s Bazooka! out there to help illuminate the silver linings.