Sunday, January 22, 2012

This Is Our Emergency

“When you've finally thrown up your hands
Poured your heart out, yet nothing stands
It seems our efforts are wasted
But yet it hasn't been in vain”

1991 was a terrible year. It started out with a three week intensive college course named “The Holocaust,” which was worse than it sounds. Then I had to drop out of school, because my mom’s horrific medical issues meant I was needed at home to help. Unfortunately, instead I spent nearly two months in the hospital after a surgery went poorly. The bulk of the year was spent working part time and driving my mom to and from her dialysis treatments out of town. It was all too late to help her though, because by September, she was gone. My friend, Wil, wasn’t having a great time of it either. He had been hospitalized for extended stretches and when home, found that he was so heavily medicated that about all he could do was sleep. Yet, out of all this darkness, something sparked between the two of us and we found a way to create something that helped inspire us and brought us closer together as friends. It was a little over 20 years ago we began a small ‘zine named This Wreckage. A project, which in many ways, got me through that terrible time and the reason why I still make half-hearted attempts at writing today via this site.

For those unfamiliar with ‘zines, they were in some sense a precursor to so many of the millions of blogs out there on the web now, but instead we used paper, typewriters, scissors, paste and photocopiers to get our message to an audience. The term ‘zine, which we hated with a passion, came from “fanzine.” Fanzines were homemade, self-published tomes, generally about one particular subject. We named our ‘zine after the 1980 Gary Numan song and produced seven issues over about a two year span. Along the way, we destroyed Mike’s photocopier (Mike, the owner of Driftwood Mac, Lincoln City’s record store, in a sense, was our benefactor), gave L.M. Tomiself a place to seemingly incite fury in anyone who read his writings, we wrote about the L.A riots, religion, and music, and Wil’s demented cartoons always adorned several pages. At one point, a naïve culture paper named Perpetua, published in Seal Rock, gave us a page in their much bigger paper (they had ads and a staff!) for a couple of months. We bit that hand by publishing a rant about the hypocrisy of hippies at a Kenny Loggins environmental rally, featured a questionable cartoon about Somalia and wrote negative reviews of all the promo CDs Perpetua wanted us to write about. That relationship ended after we were chased down by security at the Galleria for leaving Perpetua all over the mall without permission. It all ended in the fall of 1993 with an issue printed on newsprint instead of a photocopier (the pinnacle of ‘zinedom!). Unfortunately, by this point, we had become discouraged by the lack of real response from anyone, besides a few of our friends who submitted art and writing along the way. Plus the expense of printing it entirely out of our pockets became frivolous, because we now had rent and food to cover. The ultimate slap in the face came months after we printed that final issue, when another ‘zine that reviewed ‘zines gave us a glowing review for content, but in the end gave us poor marks, because there was no price included on our cover (it was always free), so the writer assumed that it would be too expensive to recommend to his readers.

Sometimes that same feeling of discouragement overcomes me when I post entries onto this new single minded version of This Wreckage. There’s a need inside anyone who creates art of any type for an audience. When there’s little or no sign of an audience, that artist inevitably questions the point of creating in the first place. It’s only natural. Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling what I’m doing here “art,” but I do find myself wondering why I bother to share these things, because there’s no audience for it. I wonder where the motivation comes from.

“Unfulfillment is killing you
Seems like no one shares the same view
We may have never met but
It might you who pulls me through”

Music has always been my motivation. My love of music and inherent need to share the new music I love with my friends has always been a part of who I am. It is undeniable, so I just go with it. When Wil and I first started doing This Wreckage a little over 20 years ago, music was the driving force for me. It was never featured particularly (every issue ended with music reviews), but it was always there. To be frank, I was hoping to get a bunch of demos and promos for free, so I wouldn’t have to keep spending all of my money on new music. Looking back now, after all these years, what I realize is that the importance of the work we did then was not what we thought we were seeking (an audience, free music, new friends and contacts, and in our most grandiose moments, a dream of earning a living by doing cool stuff and revolution!), instead it was the work itself. Rarely have I felt so inspired and driven as I did when we put those old ‘zines together, plus I don’t think Wil and I were ever closer as friends then when we were collaborating. We had so much fun making those issues that we still talk about recreating it in some form to this day, mainly so we have an excuse to hang out with a purpose and recruit our other friends to join us.

“Don't forget that when you doubt
That anyone will care about
A thing you do and when you're lost
Someone else is always found”

This Wreckage’s final issue may have gotten screwed by a misinformed review back in the day, but its epitaph came along nearly a year after it had been distributed. A small trickle of letters started to appear in the PO Box from mostly High School and college kids who liked what they saw and wanted to let us know that our work impacted and inspired them. We received our first paid advertisement (which was reluctantly returned rather than making a new issue simply because we finally had an ad), and along the way, we met some really cool people who have become long time friends. We met people we may not have otherwise (like when I found myself asking advice from Tsunami’s Jenny Toomey over the phone!), and we did indeed receive some pretty cool demos along the way from various bands such as Versus, Tugboat Annie, and 17 Relics.

Speaking of which, my recent posting of 2011’s best music shockingly has garnered some new music from a band looking for a feature on this very blog. This is the sort of thing I daydreamed about when we started the ‘zine, and now I’m not sure what to do, so I’ll review it and continue to enjoy the process of writing and communicating, no matter who is or isn’t paying attention.

Tremor Low
Kingmaker EP

Here we have a 5 track EP that harkens back to the goth-tinged romance bands of the early 80s like The Cure. This Bay Area four piece has tapped into some nice energy here. An early 80s post-punk vibe is clearly a touchstone here, as the first track is named “Peter Murphy’s Dead” and musically fires on all upbeat raincoat rock cylinders. Actually, their sound reminds me of a nice matching of L.A. band The Autumns and the UK’s Ray (see their Death in Fiction from a few years back). It’s amazing how these sorts of sounds make their way back into the consciousness of each new generation, since so much of this was under heard at the time. But, if the sound is done right and with passion, it is always welcome in my book. The driving title track “Kingmaker” is the highlight here with it’s sing along “Who are you?” chorus, delicate chiming guitars and splashy drumming make for a nice listen. The other big favorite is the closing “2003,” which evokes the aforementioned Peter Murphy’s dreamy solo work. This is a very consistent and enjoyable collection of songs. If any of the touchstones I mentioned are of interest, chances are you will find something to like here.

lyrics and title from Pretty Girls Makes Graves


  1. I think all artists struggle with finding an audience, and I suppose to some extent, they always will. The blessing in that is that it enables us to continue doing what we do for the love of it. I know that as soon as my blog began getting more readership, my posts began to change slightly in an effort to play to what I thought was that particular group of readers. What I realized was that I didn't enjoy writing like that for long and that there are so many more silent readers who won't comment who enjoy reading for what it is.

    For you, Chris, it has always been about the music and I suspect that when you return to your roots and write about what you know, everyone else gets that, too. I so appreciate your unique take on music and the way it opens me up to finding things I wouldn't ever find on my own. I wish I could find a way to make doing what we love profitable, but I also wonder if that would fundamentally change the way it feels to do it.

  2. "This is how it goes when I'm working
    Rise up out my bed of nails
    First light I wake up shaking
    Fingers numb and my thoughts are pale
    It takes a minute to get steady
    Lick the night off of my lips
    Takes me all day to get ready
    Still I'm never quite prepared for it

    Busy with the work
    Pour it on 'till it hurts
    I make pictures with my words
    I'm busy with the work"
    -The Work, lyrics by A. Smith

    I am caught off guard a little, thinking about how picking up a 'rough' little "zine" called This Wreckage all those years ago, ended up altering the curve of my life at the time.

    Keep on keepin' on, stay busy with "the work" Chris.

  3. So many powerful thoughts and feelings tied up in TW, even this far past. As Lola said, it altered the curvature of our lives. Like a dwarf star, an orphan of gravity, it pulled us together and spun us around. If nothing else, that was enough.

    On a less poetic (melodramatic?)
    note, I was happily surprised to hear from the lizard that TW is being used as an example in current-day classes at Taft High. A statement that, yes, kids from here did this. In a world of transient YouTube values, one party politics and Chinese-Lead Barbie dolls, it is weirdly pleasant to have our old work used to (hopefully) inspire another generation to think beyond their own perceived limits.

  4. love the memories that this post brought up - this wreckage, the summer of 1991, all of it.