I can't believe it was seventeen years ago now but it was. I'd gone to King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow to see Snuff, who were probably the best band around at the time, if not in the world, then certainly in the UK. Their first EP, with all the coppers on the sea front, had been getting constant play at home since I'd heard them on John Peel and picked it up. The support band for the night had a familiar name but I'd never heard them before. Leatherface they were called. Seemed like a pretty stupid name and a guy I knew told me they weren't that good. Still, I decided to check them out. One guy had a dodgy spiky-topped mullet and the drummer looked like a bit of a bruiser. Visually not very arresting, but when the first guitar kicked in it was instantly familiar. Then it registered that the mullet guitarist was out of HDQ, who I really liked. This was something else again though. I was instantly swept up in the power and melody of Leatherface, and was blown away by the gruff intensity of Frankie Stubbs' voice. Snuff were also great that night, but it was the surprise discovery of a new favorite band that marks the night as special in my memory.
I'd borrowed a clunky VHS video camera from college to shoot Snuff that night, and I managed to get a few Leatherface songs as well. At some point I think I lent the tape (the original!) to a guy from Preston called Frosty and I've never seen it since. There's one other copy that my friend Sandy's got somewhere. After the gig Sandy and I interviewed Snuff (with the members of Leatherface present) for the second issue of our zine that never actually appeared. How many zines never make it past issue one? That first issue was like a cry for help from a small town–there were about four punks in our village so we started a zine, doing through-the-mail interviews with bands we liked (Doom, Cowboy Killers, and Stretch Heads) and a star-struck in-person interview with Joe Lally from Fugazi (he was star-struck by the way, not us). Once we'd put the zine together (nicking layout ideas liberally from the Skate Muties, who had nicked their ideas from Sic Teen) and photocopied it at our mate's mum's office after hours, we brought it to gigs in Glasgow to sell. In hindsight the zine was crap, but through trying to sell it we met a few other zinesters and people in bands–in other words, it had the desired effect of putting us in touch with the wider punk scene around us. Once we had established those acquaintances and friendships, the zine had lost its raison d'etre. We did a bunch of interviews for #2, including DOA, UK Subs, and Snuff, but we were too busy going to gigs, socializing with our newfound punk scene friends, and communicating with other punks around the world via flyer-stuffed re-used envelopes and glued stamps.
I don't really know where I'm going with this. I suppose I'm just writing this down so I don't forget it, so we don't forget. It's pretty unlikely these days that I'll randomly see a band and they'll become a lifelong favorite. Not because there aren't great bands playing today, but that my tastes are pretty developed by this point, and also because I tend to find out about bands long before there's any chance to see them live. Some of us still find out about bands via the radio and through mags like MRR and The Big Takeover, but I think we're increasingly in the minority. I confess I hear a lot of bands for the first time now via the Internet, and it's usually less than a few clicks, if that, from reading a mention of a band on someone's blog or on a message board to listening to their music on their MySpace page. Convenience-wise, this is just unbelievable, but I really hope that one day I'll be pleasantly surprised again at some random show.
Similarly, with all these online communities and such, will isolated kids in small towns feel the need to start zines to reach out to the world at large? Should they? Should I care? I dunno, there's just something endearing and romantic about it. It would be a shame to see that sort of thing disappear for good.
Writing this stuff got me nostalgic so I went on YouTube to look for footage of Snuff and Leatherface. It's amazing how that site just sucks you in. It's a fucking goldmine. I never even knew that Leatherface had made a video, yet here they are, messing about in a scrapyard to the strains of their track 'Peasant In Paradise'. Quaint and wonderful.
If you live in an isolated small town and do a zine, good for you, but don't send it to me.