Z Gun #1 came out on glorious newsprint in 2007 as a stated counterpoint to “the Internet maw” that was, by the founders’ lights, aggressively swallowing up the analog world, and at the same time leading to the disappearance of great internet-based music writing due to belly-up ISPs, vanishing comment boxes and spam-choked Blogger accounts. The guys that put it together, Scott Soriano and Ryan Wells, had cut their musical teeth in a pre-internet era of fanzines and vinyl, so wanted to ensure that there was something of theirs that lived on after any sort of digital apocalypse. I know the feeling.
I was pretty excited when Z Gun #1 came along that year, and by the evidence presented here, I was right to be. Fanzines – good ones – were pretty much extinct. I was doing my own blog called Agony Shorthand just before this, and reading back through this issue today, I even saw it referenced in a review. I came to personally know Wells and Soriano before this time. Ryan Wells in the 90s, mostly because he was a gadfly and record-collector-about-town here in San Francisco, and we’d clink glasses and slap backs, and talk about limited pressings and rad bands at shows.
My introduction to Soriano, who lived in Sacramento, was a little more comic; I’d seen his band Los Huevos play at some dive bar in the Mission in 1997, and in reviewing the band’s record (on Wells’ “Cheap Date” label, as it turned out) in my fanzine Superdope #8, I made light of “the young vocalist’s affected Neanderthal act (diving into the crowd’s knees, knocking pint glasses from hands, etc.”). Well turned out “young” Soriano was easily as old as I am, perhaps older (just better-looking), and he wrote me a quite magnanimous and only moderately defensive email that pleaded his case. He and I then struck up a correspondence, and I’ll always be thankful to and ironically pissed at the guy for teaching me how to use eBay so I could sell off my vinyl collection.
He’d very soon go on to start S-S Records, one of the top-tier sub-underground weirdo/punk labels of the early 21st century. So he and Wells are cranking along, supporting the scene, helping unite the skins & the punks, running a killer garage punk blog called Static Party etc etc. They get the idea for a print fanzine, and Z Gun comes out in 2007. And it’s great! Wells wrote a terrific guide to San Francisco artpunk of the late 70s/early 80s (from Chrome to Flipper to Factrix to The Residents to Church Police and back again) – much the same world that existed just prior to that discussed in our Wiring Dept. review, and a world that’s covered in depth by the forthcoming Who Cares Anyway? book – and Min Yee of the A-Frames takes it one step further and writes about San Francisco’s completely forgotten Black Humor and their 1982 LP.
There’s also a symposium on The Brainbombs, with multiple contributors, and I suppose I’ll just say “folly of youth” – both theirs and my own. I put that band on the cover of my own Superdope #4 in 1992, and despite my undying and enduring love for their first two 45s, I’d very quickly aged out of their fuck/kill/destroy/rape/maim “comedy” by the end of that decade. Wah wah wah, aren’t I special, Mr. Grown Up etc. If you want to know more about the Brainbombs, and pick apart each of their releases in all their intellectual complexity, the single best place to do it is almost certainly in the pages of Z Gun #1.
Really, the rest of this excellent magazine, aside from the Pink Reason and Not Not Fun record label interviews, is given over to a heaping batch of reviews, most of them strong and well-written enough to actually trust. And how often can you say that about a print fanzine? Thankfully they did two more issues as well, and we’ll maybe get to those in time. It all brings back a lot of 2007/2008 “memories”: the Art For Spastics radio show; Terminal Boredom; Tom Lax’s Siltblog; Population Doug; and the whole sick underground crew.
Soriano and Wells kept their Z Gun website, last updated in 2010, still active – and it’s still sitting there, unmolested. So who really needed a print fanzine anyway, right?