Some Thoughts #90 - The 20 Year Anniversary Story
So, finally, the 20 Year Anniversary issue of Slug & Lettuce. Only 6 months late. Not bad considering. It’s been quite a time. So let me tell you the story. First of all, in the past year, my son Stigandr Forest was born, we moved house, I returned to full time work at the photo lab after 2 months post partum and I’ve had terrible tendenitis which has made it at times near impossible to do much of anything. Time has slipped through my fingers. Stig is already 10 months old and I can not believe that it has been a year since the last issue of S&L. I planned a break in the winter after he was born, but had hoped to get this issue out on time this Spring. But we moved and that was huge, and so it got pushed back, and the pushed back some more. Once I got that break going, it was hard to get back in the routine. Not to mention that my routine has been turned completely upside down and inside out. For the better—we are doing fantastically well—but these were huge changes none the less. Postage rates have increased and things in the print world have only gotten harder. I’ve continued to question the immediate future of S&L, and even as of now, I am not sure what the answer is or will be. But we all knew that I had to get this issue done and I wanted it to be something special.
I’ve been talking about photo books for years. First I wanted to do one that focused on the early 90s in NYC cause that was such an amazing time and I have such a great document of it all. Then more recently I thought it would be cool to do a book of 20 years of S&L band photos. I figured the editing was already done, it was just a matter of putting it together. Somehow I really overlooked the fact that 20 years is a very long time and that I have taken thousands upon thousands of photographs of bands in that time. And I have printed thousands of them in the pages of S&L. Since the big book projects have not come together on their own, I thought it would be a nice compromise to do “20 years of S&L band photos” in an issue of the zine - this issue. So that is what you now hold in your hands. Again, I have to say that it proved to be a much bigger and more challenging project than I originally thought. Sure I had all the photos picked, and theoretically assembling them might have been easy. But the sheer volume of photos was more vast that I realized. As I’m dropping and placing file after file into the layout I realized I had a problem, and that I would have to do A LOT of editing and condensing. In a way it wasn’t so different from what I have done with each and every issue of S&L for as long as I can remember, except that instead of shrinking text and trying to cram more reviews and photos onto the pages, I was just reducing photos and having to edit more harshly than I had somehow originally thought.
So in the end, by no means is this a complete collection of all the photos from the past 20 years. There are a lot left out, and some of it is pretty random and arbitrary. But none the less in the end, it’s still a pretty good collection and a fair representation of the time. One of the other things that I really didn’t think about or realize was just how much has changed technically over the years that I have been doing S&L. I was pulling photos from Zip Disks, CDs, floppy disks, and realizing that many of the issues and photos from the earlier years were never on a disk to begin with. So I had a lot of different media formats and file folders to sort through after all. The first few issues had photos glued straight onto the pages that were photo copied. Then I got more advanced and was using a stat camera to make halftones. Eventually I found that cheap photo halftone Xeroxes worked great for what I was doing in tandem with typing all my text on the typewriter and then reducing it 65%. Then I started using a computer and that changed everything. Scanning photos into a layout with text - how novel and cool. The first couple issues I was going to the computer output place and getting lino stats. Then the laser printers became more sensible and affordable. Eventually I was able to scan all my photos and home, do the layout at home, print out the laser prints at home as desktop publishing was born. I really have worked on this zine though every phase of technological publishing and I still to this day laser print my pages and rubber cement paste the ads down and then send hard copy to the printer.
But assembling these pages of photos was challenging because I was dealing with so many different formats and found that I had some big gaps from some of those years when I was living here and there and traveling and making due on the fly. Oh the ease of having everything all archived on one format today. But like I said, I’ve been dealing with typesetting machines, stat cameras, 5” and 3” floppies, syquest disks, CD ROMS, zip disks and compact flash cards. I’ve used glue sticks, x-acto knives, waxers, rubber cement, Xerox machines, laser printers, print scanners, film scanners, rub on letters, cut and paste techniques and some Pagemaker 6 (still my program of choice, which shows you that I am still archaic.) Anyway, point is - it’s been a long and wild ride. Much has changed, dramatically, over the years, much of it good and some of it a bummer. Putting this issue together was fun. Reminiscing with the photos and remembering all the shows, all the years and all the fests. A few years stand out as particularly good — 1987, 1993, 2003 — are and were all particularly note worthy years for being able to see an amazing number of bands that were just so indicative of the awesomeness of the scene in that place and time. It’s amazing that I was able to experience all that I have really, and I take none of it for granted. The biggest challenge in this issue comes from same place as the biggest reward - and that was the sheer volume of photos. It was hard to edit this awesome document of 20 years of punk into these few pages even though, as hopefully some of you will notice this is actually the biggest issue of S&L I’ve ever done—24 pages!
And so the story starts...
It was 1987, we had a pretty good punk scene in my home town of State College, Pennsylvania. I was going to shows, reading MRR and ordering zines and records through the mail. I decided to start my own zine. In the spring of 1987 I went to England and in Stratford Upon Avon I saw a pub called “Slug & Lettuce” - I thought that was a pretty funny name and decided to name my zine after it. I spent the rest of the day trying to actually find that pub, but to no avail. It turns out that there are numerous pubs around England with the same name, as well as a posh chain. Several years later I returned to England and found the Slug & Lettuce pub in London - only to not even go inside because it was so hoity toity with a dress code and all that, so that I doubt I could have entered even if I had wanted to. For years I collected photos of any pub by the S&L name that anyone came across - and I have a good dozen perhaps (printed in issue #42), but never did find the “original” one in Stratford Upon Avon. Now with the likes of Google, I can find the address and info, but have yet to find a photo. None the less, that is where the name came, and essentially it means nothing in the context of the zine, other than the whim of a 15 year old. But as to where the name comes from: see Slugs love lettuce, they also love beer. Slugs will eat the lettuce in your garden, but if you put out beer they will instead drown themselves to death it beer. It’s a helpful gardening tip and a touch of British humor.
Moving right along. The first several issues where 8 1/2 by 11 xeroxed copies “traditional” fanzines with band interviews, show interviews, photos, reviews and other random nonsense. I interviewed Half Life, DOA and COC. Plus numerous local and regional bands like Heart of Darkness and Necracedia. By issue #4, I went to the folded in half format which stuck through issue #8. I saw bands like Agnostic Front, Dr. Know, DRI, the Descendents, the Exploited, Warzone, Broken Bones, the UK Subs, Government Issue, Scream, Fugazi and JFA. I took photos of all those bands, though in hindsight some are not very good and some I have only a couple of. I am missing copies of a bunch of these earlier issues and so even I kinda forget what was in a few of them, but I do have all my negatives. With my pack-rat tendencies, I’m sure that I have the issues or the falling apart originals SOMEWHERE, but as many times as I’ve gone searching through my parents closets there are still some I have not found. #9 was a fold-out deal and I remember that I interviewed Social Distortion. And I think it was issue #10 that I put out while living in Boston. By the fall of 1989 I had moved to New York City where I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep the zine going (without the xerox hook-ups and other things that facilitate zine making). But I found a happening scene there and I decided instead of focus on what I could do and that was condense the zine down to one page, focus on the things that I thought were the most important—classifieds, photos and reviews. I would then copy as many as I could afford at any given time and hand them out at shows. And so the format that S&L is today was born.
The punk scene in NYC was awesome and I fell right into the middle of it, going to shows non-stop at clubs, squats and bars. I was going to see Nausea one night and White Zombie the next with the Lunachicks in there somewhere too. Hardcore and punk, rock and metal. It was all happening and it was awesome. I found my place at ABC NO RIO though with the weekly Saturday Hardcore Matinee. I went to my first show in Dec. of 1989 and I never left. In those early days it was bands like Citizen’s Arrest, SFA, Yuppicide, Born Against, and Rorschach. Across town in the squats I was more likely to find Nausea, Public Nuisance and the Radicts. With ABC No RIO established as a good DIY venue, we had touring bands making regular stops and for me the DIY punk and hardcore worlds molded together. The place had a home-like feeling and there was a time when it felt like we knew everyone there, and if we didn’t we met them and got to know them. Neurosis, Anti-Schism, Poison Idea, Subvert, Destroy, Oi Polloi, Filth and Econochrist were all bands that came through in 1990. Local bands like Jesus Crust, Insurgence and the Casualties were playing regularly. Man is the Bastard, Buzzoven, EyeHateGod and Disrupt and then Grief and 13 were all intermingling in the early days. Misery and Hellspawn brought the Mpls to NYC. Civil Disobedience and Social Outcast, Spitboy and Citizen Fish all left their mark. 2.5 Children, The Bouncing Souls and Choking Victim mixed up a whole new style. Mankind, Drop Dead and Deformed Conscience connected NYC to the extended CT and RI family. Huasipungo, Los Crudos and The Skabs represented the Latino and Polish punk communities. Aus Rotten and Submachine brought the Pittsburgians to NYC and really merged my two lives and worlds. There was a little bit of everything going on, international bands and bands from the next state over who felt like locals. I won’t go on to name each and every band that played, but you can see a lot of the pictures in these pages.
Back then, long before the internet, print classifieds were so important to the DIY punk scene. It was a fantastic way to meet other like-minded punks, to find records you were searching for, and to buy and sell all manner of goods. But it was the personals that I was particularly into. I was a big pen pal letter writer and it was those classifieds that I was passionate about. I know many people today that I originally met through zine letter writing — in fact the very network of the punk community that I know was built on those letters.
The one-page format lasted from issue #11 -15 and then with #16 I expanded to an 11x17 page, folded in half and I also started to get them offset printed (which was cheaper than xeroxing if you made enough copies. Inspired by the Squat or Rot newsprint booklets, with issue #20 I printed on tabloid newsprint paper - just 4 pages, one piece of paper and 1,000 copies. Still giving them away for free at shows and through my letter writing and zine trading. And from there the whole thing has grown exponentially. 8 pages, then 12 on up to 20 which I stuck with. And then I would increase the print-run in as I could afford to by this time being funded by the advertising. If at any point I would have set out to print a 20 page zine with a print run of 10,000 copies I would have never been able to do it. Only because it grew slowly and steadily was it possible. It’s always been available for free in person, or for the cost of postage money in the mail. As I found people who were interested in having copies to hand out in their own towns, I started to send anywhere from 10 to 100 copies out to various places. Sometimes I had been to the places I was sending them, sometimes I knew who I was sending them to. Other times they were just kids writing and asking for copies to distro. Ultimately, again, a network grew out of the letter writing and zine trading. I would review zines and records and send a copy to everyone who had a review. As I started to travel, I would go to cool places that I thought should have S&L on their zine racks and so I would drop some off, and then next time around mail off a little bundle. When bands came through NYC I would give them a bundle to take on tour with them to hand out, and some to take back to their home town record shop or show space. And so the zines got out there. For most of the years in NYC, S&L came out bi-monthly. It was consistent and regular and as I like to say, sometimes I think the zine did itself out of sheer momentum. And I loved every minute of it. It has always been just me, though over the years I did start to get help with reviews and added regular columnists. But it was always me who put it all together, and send them all out and did all the other assorted behind the scenes tasks, which again were only possible because it grew slowly and steadily became an extension of myself and an integrated part of my life. If someone would ask me how much time I spend on the zine - it was impossible to ever answer because it was something that I was ALWAYS working on. It was never a job, it has always been a labor of love. I have never made any money off of it, I have really never tried to. Sure there was a time when it would have been nice if I could have dedicated myself even more fully to full time zine production with out the need to have a full time job to support myself. But it never felt right and I ultimately knew that it also never would have worked out. It was part of the formula after all - keeping it free and down to earth. I mean you can leave 100 copies of a free newsprint paper just about anywhere -- but it is really going to be appreciated and wanted, or will it just be put out with the recycling at the end of the week? So the circulation and distribution, while worldwide and widespread was always pretty control and tight. It had to be afterall since it was a minimally funded project. Likewise as time went by, I was cramming more and more into each issue and the type size was getting smaller and smaller. Why not add more pages you might ask? But that would have thrown off the whole thing because the postage weights were calculated on the 20 pages 2 oz size, and to add pages even if the ad revenue was there would have thrown off the whole postage system. I used to really love the post office. Heck, a part of me even wanted a job there. I used to know more about the postal system than many of the people who work there. I can tell you now that love affair has ended, and I find the postal system to be eternally frustrating with the ever rising rates and more and more complicated, less zine friendly regulations. Sigh. But let’s face it - the post has been the fanzine and the punks best friend for many many years and it has made so much of what we do possible.
I left NYC in 1995 and home based out of Pennsylvania again while I bounced around the country for a few years in the mid 90s, traveling and going on tour with bands like Avail, Citizen Fish and Kilara. I kept up with all of my correspondence and regular zine publishing. I kept my NYC PO Box and kept the zine going from there. I was still attached to NYC and ABC NO RIO and so it was an easy place to be for bursts of time while I compiled a zine and mailing. There were times when I would pick up the zines from the printer in a taxi and take them across town to ReconStruction Records. I would then pack up all my mail packages there. Once I even did my entire mailing in the car on the way to Philly. I swear my energy amazes even me. By 1997 I settled in Richmond VA. By recommendation of Philly’s Defenestrator, I found a new printer, Prompt Press in Camden NJ who would ship the zines to me in VA. They used to come on a pallet via Amtrak, but now they just come by UPS. Those few boxes that I used to be able to throw in a taxi now fill up an entire van or front porch. And I wonder why everything started to take so much more time!
It was once I was in Richmond, in the late 90s when S&L changed a little bit again. Without the non-stop punk action in NYC and on the road, and with much less of a punky punk or anarcho-punk scene, I think the vibe changed a bit. I started looking to some other friends for further inspiration and incorporated artwork and writing from others. Initially the columns started by reprinting something that I liked from someone else’s zine. It was usually when I would read something that really hit close to the heart, something I felt myself and wished I could have found the words for. The columnists were my friends and fellow zine makers. I also started printing book reviews and I continued a book distro that I started while touring. The bands I was seeing were a bit less studded leather, dreads and mohawks and there was a lot more hardcore. Bands like Boy Sets Fire, Catharsis and Avail became some of my regular mainstays. Submission Hold, Trial, Milhouse, Silent Majority, Indecision, What Happens Next? and Hatebreed were bands coming through town that I was excited about. From Ashes Rise, His Hero is Gone and Severed Head of State all passed through RVA in their early days and started to pave the way for what would again peek as one of the best eras for me. After I got myself kinda settled in Richmond I started making lots of road trips again for shows. I thought nothing of driving up to Philly or Pittsburgh for a good show. When I was first told about a show in Philly with Born Dead Icons, Tragedy, From Ashes Rise, Strike Anywhere all playing together I knew I had to be there. This was the first Pointless Fests in Philly that I went to and it was the beginning of a new era for me that linked my old friends in the NE with my current life in RVA and it was the era that spawned some of my all time favorite bands as well. And so the years of the great fests began - Pointless, Prank, Chaos in Tejas in Austin, and the Chicago HC fests. Combined with annual trips to San Francisco, I was getting around and living the punk rock chaos, seeing my favorite bands. Traveling to Chicago to see Hellshock, and flying to Austin for World Burns to Death, Artimus Pyle, Tragedy and Kylesa to name only a few made life worth living and brought about a whole new era of quintessential awesome punk!
Sometime in the late 90s in Richmond I changed to a quarterly publishing schedule, which seasonally fit my life quite well. And again, the zine had a momentum of it’s own and it dragged me when I waned and I dragged it when it wavered. All told the amount of time put into it all has just continued to increased. That super small text enables an awful lot of stuff to get crammed into each issue and I couldn’t have kept at it without all the help doing the reviews. I can’t imagine when I did them all myself, but then again I have to realize that I was getting a fraction of the stuff then. And sending out all 10,000 copies is quite a handful as well. I have subscriptions in the US, subscriptions internationally. I send out trade copies for all the reviews and ads. I continue to send out bulk copies of 10-200, some through the mail and some via UPS. The subscriptions have to be prepared just so for the bulk permit mailing, and the international boxes of bulk copies have to be packaged just so in these m-bags. All in all the various steps to mailing out each issues would take several weeks, logging a few hours a day at it. Needless to say - quite a lot of work. I have never been very good at getting help doing the “shitwork”, so it’s always been just me. Where originally the tag line motto was “a zine supporting networking, contacts and communication”, it went on to be more of “a zine supporting the do-it-yourself ethics of the punk community” and DIY punk as a way of life and a lifestyle. The regular artists came along the same way. I’d see something I liked and ask to use it, or I’d ask a friend to draw up something in particular. Jeremy Clark started doing the cover headings with issue #59 in 1999 and has consistently and steadily continued to send me amazing beautiful drawings of punks ever since! I solicited artwork and writing, and was introduced to and met some fantastic people over the years. I also got friends to share their travel stories and document inspiring projects that they worked on. In the end I feel like all the people who contribute to S&L - whether doing reviews, artwork or columns, and yes even the advertisers are all part of an extended Slug & Lettuce family.
While the artists and writers have continued to provide me and you with inspiration, it has all been possible by the regular advertisers, many of whom are also just as good of friends and “family”. There are several who have been along for the entire ride with an ad and voice of support in every single issue — at least since I started to have ads and the current format. So my heartfelt thanks go out to all of you in the S&L family!! The friends I have made, the people I have met, all the great feedback I’ve gotten back and the myriad of inspiration that I found out there which has kept me going all these years.
I’m not sure what is next. I’m not ending the zine, but I’m going to take a little more of a break. S&L has been a part of my life for so long, it’s hard to imagine life without it. But, times are tough and it’s also almost impossible to keep it going as it has been. The new international postage rates alone have made the international distribution all but impossible. And the domestic postage rates aren’t exactly on my side either. Not to mention the fact that everyone is broke and the means to sustain and support the zine’s print run is a struggle. So ultimately we shall see, but I still think it’s important, and the feedback I get reinforces that. In the meantime, I’m working (finally) on a website that will have all the overdue reviews, and I will continue to post new stuff - photos, reviews etc. to that. However, I’m not saying that I’m going to quite the print zine and do an on-line zine. That is NOT the plan. More than likely I will condense the format again to fewer pages and focus on stuff that rocks my world. I’m sure a lot of you are bummed to not see your stuff reviewed in this issue, but hopefully the retrospective will be a good trade. Doing a “regular issue and trying to fit a year’s worth of reviews into it just didn’t seem right or possible and I really wanted to do something “special” with this issue.
So for now, I’m going to sit quiet and take a much needed break. I’m going to hang out with Stig and read books and zines and listen to CDs. If you do zines or put out records, you can continue to send them to me and I’ll continue to check them out and review them, but no promises on exactly how and when the reviews will be done. Who knows, if I get something that I’m really into I may be inspired to do another issue, or something. There have been bands and books that have inspired me to write, travel and move mountains to see them play live in the past. I expect that in the future and in fact need that.
If you have an outstanding subscription, then you’ll get future issues whenever and however them come to be - but people move and addresses get outdated, so keep me Updated. If you want to get a book from the book distro, or something else in place of waiting for your subscription, then I’m willing to work that out. I don’t want anyone to feel ripped off for those stamps that they sent me!
In the meantime, SERIOUSLY - thank you all for what you have done and continue to do. Don’t stop living the punk rock!
-Chris(tine) October 2007