February 5th, 2013 | Interviews

luke mcgarry

They could’ve settled for being a pair of sludgebrained skaterats getting wasted underneath the Santa Monica Pier, but Dave Markey and Jordan Schwartz took to the streets instead, taking photographs of their burgeoning hardcore scene and then collaging them together with misspelled record reviews, “punk terms” word searches, and crookedly typed band interviews to form the lovingly punk fanzine We Got Power. Bazillion Points has now put out We Got Power, the book, which collects photos, essays from your hardcore all-stars, and a reprint of all 5.5 issues of WGP. Chuck Dukowski chats with Dave and Jordan about the business of zine-making, the LAPD and—of course—Anarchy!

Dave Markey: The logo on the book, We Got Power—it’s the same exact logo we used on the first couple issues of the zine.
Jordan Schwartz: It looks like it’s more than one typeface.
DM: It was a couple different ones I think. Or maybe I used a zero for an O because I was out of Os. Remember how when you had rub-off stuff, you would lose letters and you would have to make do? That’s what the story is with that logo.
JS: Also your Ws do not match.
DM: I think that’s two Vs! I had that [kit] left over from when I did a neighborhood newspaper when I was a 12- and 13-year-old kid in Santa Monica. It was a xerox four- to eight-page little rag. The Neighborhood Journal! So by the time We Got Power came out a few years later, we were running out of letters … to rub off.
JS: You’d have to go to an arts and crafts shop to get more letters, but if you’re sitting there doing it, and you run out—and I’m sure that was like Dave’s thing, it’s like, ‘I gotta get this title done, gimme these two Vs and now I’ve got a W.
DM: But back then it really wasn’t about being hip, it was about trying to make use of what you had.
Well, it was about jamming econo, and one has to remember the whole Sex Pistols cut and paste ransom note thing. Because certainly I was ransom-note-informed in what I did, and I would assume you probably were as well. It gave you license to go with these things and break with convention.
JS: It gave you license to be very loose with your fonts. And then there was the whole ‘it’s punk rock’ thing too.
DM: We were like 12 and 13 during the original ’77 era, so we were a little too young for it, but we got to it a few years later. The interesting thing about those days—I’m sure you remember—is that ‘a few years’ back then meant like decades almost in time. We seemed to be coming to it really late, when in actuality we were just two, three years after the first burst of it. But at the time that seemed like a really long time.
Because it’s all kind of one thing, and it was on its surge and moving into the mainstream consciousness, and it was all happening pretty fast. And then also in your own lives, it’s like if you think about time being measured in lifetimes when you’re in the beginning stages of that, a short amount of time is a lot of time.
JS: Yeah, I mean because the difference between the Hollywood Masque scene and then the hardcore scene—to us, we didn’t really hang out at the Masque, it seemed like it was twenty years ago but it was three, four years ago, but for us it was a lifetime.
DM: You gotta look at how different culture was then too, and how media was—there was no internet and there was no 24-hour news cycle. Everything was so different.
There wasn’t any We Got Power yet!
JS: And when there was, it was only printed. You had to have a physical copy, and there were only 25 issues.
DM: There was Flipside. We were really clued into Flipside when we started it. There was Slash magazine—we were really clued into that. Slash had just published its last issue.
I remember the fanzines, and how you’d go to the Masque and there’d be somebody outside selling fanzines and you’d always buy it if you had any money because it was interesting—it was just another piece of art that you got exposed to at this event.
JS: When we went to Santa Monica High there was a little newsstand around the corner that had No Mag … and the other one was L.A. Weekly.
They were kind of hip.
DM: They did cover stories on punk rock! And we had gotten the soundtrack to The Decline of Western Civilization, and that’s what really made us take notice; and if you remember, the soundtrack came out way before the movie did. We’d listen to that record really obsessively. We memorized all of the dialogue between it, and we would talk it back and forth to each other.
JS: ‘I have good news for the world: there’s no such thing as new wave.’
DM: We were into the new wave! We loved the Talking Heads and we loved Devo and B-52s. That was all really good music to warm us up to what we were about to get into. Because going from like—I don’t know—Supertramp to …
JS: That stuff you couldn’t get away from. To me, from like junior high school and on I had this whole concept of forced music. You had to listen to Led Zeppelin, Cheap Trick, Cars … . You know, like if I went to school, I’d hear it there, on the streets, on TV, on the radio. Then the stuff that was actually really interesting—you had to really go seek it out back then.
DM: Supertramp were brutal. I think all this stuff was just bubbling under in reaction to just how bad music got.
Music got really bad, and then even within the realm of the bands that were better, they all had a couple of bad years, and so it was time for something to happen, and the ‘culturemeisters,’ they lost control of it. And so even though Creem magazine was covering the New York scene and the Ramones and stuff, it kind of just ran away from them, and all of the people who were the media moguls of entertainment and even the labels, they lost track of it.
JS: Or the best they could do was ignore it, and hope that it goes away, right? And in some respects it didn’t go away, it just bubbled under for years—the whole underground, the tour networks, the record labels, the record shops and distribution labels just kept going on.
DM: I don’t know if you remember this, but I remember like right as I was getting clued into it, everyone was saying, ‘Punk is dead’—like ’79. ‘Punk rock is dead; you’re too late. This is over.’ Do you remember that?
I don’t, but I do remember the 60s, in like ’68 or something, people saying that that was dead, and I was a little kid, and I was like, ‘But I didn’t get to try it!’ It seemed so good! And so then I got the 70s … It was like ’78, ’79 when the suburban culture started to become aware of and embrace it—the punk rock music and the culture that went with it. It’s when you were saying that people said it was dead.
DM: I think that’s what really fueled us into the whole hardcore thing, because we wanted our own brand, we wanted our own flavor—
JS: And Dave had already been producing stuff on his own. He was shooting Super-8 films with kids from the neighborhood …
I remember you—from when I actually remember you—you were always doing some kind of movie.
DM: I was shooting The Slog Movie. I shot Black Flag at the Cuckoo’s Nest—you played there two shows in one day. You did a matinee. I think it was Henry [Rollins]’s first show proper.
JS: In L.A.
I think that that is probably true. We didn’t have places to play parties at the time. Maybe … did we do that thing with the Suicidals? Nah …
DM: That was later. This would have been June or July of 1981.
The actual first show.
DM: And Henry had just gotten his first tattoo that day. It was fresh on his arm and it was the four bars. … You never got the tattoo, Chuck?
I don’t have any tattoos. I have like maybe a pencil somewhere where like accidentally I have a dot, but otherwise none. … Robo had a tattoo, but he was embarrassed of it. It was the Zig-Zag man, but he got some Gothic warrior over it. But Henry wanted to do something radical, and did that … So, I’m curious, what did you do with the newsletter?
DM: I knocked on people’s doors and I asked them to subscribe. I’d go, ‘For a dollar, I will deliver this weekly or monthly newspaper to you.’ And I think I had like twenty-five or thirty subscribers.
What was [Neighborhood Journal’s] editorial content and editorial mission?
DM: You know, I think it was a combination of wanting to do it and then wanting to, you know, just do my own thing and have my own business. Even though I was really flailing. But when I look back, I was doing all the work that was needed. Going door to door, getting subscribers, getting advertising. I mean the whole thing—it cost 50 or 75 cents.
JS: I came in later, and I would help out with ads and stuff, but I remember there was one thing about when they were building the new mall—the Santa Monica Mall, which is now the thing connected to the Promenade that just got rebuilt—so we snuck inside there and took some pictures, so we had this big ‘scoop’ on the new mall.
DM: And we would also just make stuff up. All the stories in it were half made-up. Like, we would just do inside jokes and put them in there as fact. I would cut up like a photo of Booji Boy, you know, and publish that. All that music that we were just sort of becoming interested in and getting to—I started just writing articles on these bands. record reviews. We reviewed like Elvis Costello, the Specials, B-52s, that kind of stuff. We were warming up without knowing it.
For me, that’s what attracted me to you guys—the openness to bring together different concepts from the different medias and from different parts of culture and different parts of time. … The media was smaller then than it is now, so people’s ability to be part of all these different things was smaller.
DM: And now we’re just drowned in information. Back then it was sparse enough to where if something that you liked really stood out, you could have a bond and make a friendship on it. Like we could talk back and forth in this language. … Funnily enough, before we got into hardcore, we had this thing warming up that I think made us different from a lot of what was going on with hardcore fanzine publication. We had this sense of humor. I think that made all the difference.
To me it made all the difference. It shows up in We Got Power. The rest of [the media] was much drier, took itself seriously. Even Flipside took itself seriously.
DM: Maximum Rocknroll, by the time that came out, that was like a political manifesto. Meanwhile, I was waking up to heavy political concepts, but we never pushed that forward, and we weren’t trying to militarize. We were more subversive than that, I think. We were trying to get ideas in, and we were using humor as a way to get these ideas in.
Were you self-conscious like that—using humor to get ideas in—or acting from the core?
DM: We were far too young to really be that conscious. I mean, when I look back at it now, that’s how the adult me can assimilate it, but at the time, it was pure.
I know for you, Jordan, skateboarding is important—you’re wearing a Rip City shirt as we sit here. How about you, Dave?
DM: I used to skate. In fact, when Jordan and I met, it was all about skating. The skateboard is actually the thing that brought us together as friends. … I had a subscription to Skateboarder magazine, and we’d take the photos from that and hang them on my bedroom wall, and years later you end up meeting the people who took the photos like Glen E. Friedman. Like, Glen E. Friedman comes in and gives us some photos for our fanzine. We met Ed Colver, we met a lot of photographers—we met Alison Braun—and everyone wanted to contribute to the magazine cuz they saw it and they liked it and they wanted to be a part of it. Meanwhile, we’re taking photos—Jordan and I—and eventually, throughout the 80s, building this archive of negatives, and being really good about storing them, putting them in protective sleeves, keeping them away from the elements. I mean, if we hadn’t had that in mind to be archivists, this book would never exist.
JS: There were a couple things that made the book happen. One was kinda holding on to the negatives, right? And then the other one, just the advancements in the digital age. We Got Power, back in the day, it took less time to put the whole thing together cuz now we either have more projects or straight jobs we’ve gotta deal with and don’t have the same amount of time that we had back then.
DM: Well, you worked at Baskin-Robbins, I had a job working at Pup ’n’ Taco. At the time, I would make the tostadas, and I would use the sour cream dispenser, and I would like put out an anarchy symbol. Every tostada that was ordered, I would hand-draw a circle-A and put it on the tostada.
Did anybody ever comment on that?
DM: No! It was just going over people’s heads. I never heard anything back. it was just something I was doing, it was like my duty. I was spreading anarchy through a tostada. And then, when it came time for us to do an issue of the magazine, Jennifer—Jordan’s sister—had sketched this cat drawing from this pillow—
JS: We called him Anarchy Puss—
DM: From a pillow on our friend’s bed. I took it, and I added the anarchy logo to the cat, and that was our cover. That was the first cover of our magazine. That was the very first thing that we did that we said, ‘OK, now we’re gonna do a magazine cuz we have a cover.’ And it all just sort of spilled out from there.
JS: We had interviewed one of the local bands, Circle One, and it turned out John Macias, the singer of Circle One, his dad owned a print shop in more or less Downtown L.A. and he was kind enough to put us on high-quality paper. So those old issues of the magazine, they’re still around, while a lot of the other publications of the time—Flipside, Maximum Rocknroll—were printed on this pulpy, newsprint stuff.
DM: Yeah, this was like a glossy cover that helped preserve it. And if you look at a magazine now, it’s as new as it was 30 years ago. That has everything to do with Mr. Macias.
I know he printed a lot of fliers for SST and Black Flag. Tens of thousands of them. He would give us a good price if we were willing to drive up there and get them.
DM: We did the same thing. We’d drive up and he’d say, ‘Here, I got this extra ream of this quality paper, I’ll just give it to you guys, cuz I like what you guys are doing. You guys are doing something.’ As opposed to just being teenagers, we were doing something with our time, and I think some people saw the value in that.
What made you decide that you had the power—what made you go, ‘OK, today I’m gonna switch from the Journal.’
DM: We went and saw X and the Blasters and the Gears at the Santa Monica Civic. I mean, I had seen Devo before that, and I had seen the Dickies and maybe the Go-Gos at the Whisky, but like that show was really transformational. I remember hanging out in the parking lot and someone puts this flier in my hand and it’s a Pettibon for a Black Flag show. I think it was the Baces Hall show, and it depicted these Manson girls carving Xs into each other’s foreheads. This flier landed in my hand and I stared at it and I was just like, ‘Whoa, this is really heavy.’ Then all of a sudden, we even moved from X pretty quickly. We just became superfans of Black Flag. The Jealous Again EP had just come out, and then we went and got the Nervous Breakdown record, and we sat there and we just listened to that over and over again. That was a game-changer for us.
JS: And the title was taken from a Rik L. Rik tune, ‘I Got Power.’ … And one of the first gigs we went to review was the Redd Kross, Minutemen, Descendants and Saccharine [Trust] on a Tuesday night at the Cuckoo’s Nest—I’m sure you booked that gig. Alan, Dave and I, we drove on a school night, all the way down to Costa Mesa and there’s like 30 people there or whatever.
DM: I remember Jeff and Steve McDonald got into a fist fight on stage that night. Mugger was there and he was yelling at D. Boon—he was going, ‘TAKE A SHIT D. BOON! TAKE A SHIT!’ This was our very first exposure to the SST crew, and we were just like, ‘Whoa.’
When did you put the last one out?
DM: 1983. The sixth issue was not completed, but maybe half-completed—that was due to be published in early ’84, and then that just sorta fell apart. What had happened was we had done this compilation record with Mystic Records, and they wanted to put it as an insert. We didn’t finish it in time for our record, and then Doug Moody took our record and made a sequel to it and then did a third one to it and then at that point, we’re really no longer involved. I always kept a sort of distance from the guy. Jordan was friends with him. I never quite trusted the guy. And then he kind of was like trying to take the magazine over. He had some people doing articles, and he was like encroaching on my position and I didn’t like it. So I just sort of said, ‘I’m done.’
JS: Plus I think we were also burning out on hardcore at that time. It was a lot of effort to put out a printed magazine back then.
DM: And you learn a lot too as you’re involved in this. You’re doing. I’m really a believer that doing is learning and it’s all ‘edumacation’ in a way. I mean, we didn’t go to college. We went to city college.
JS: That’s high school with ashtrays.
DM: I didn’t go to art school. We went through this and we made our own conclusions and had our own ideas, and was fortunate enough to be stoked by this scene.
And to stoke other people. … Everybody who is doing something inspires the next person who is doing something—
DM: Then it becomes much larger than one person or one band or two bands; it’s a collective.
It’s a ‘we’ … got power.
JS: And you too could have power!
DM: If you look at the cover of the book—that photo I took of Jordan from the punk shack, which was an abandoned real estate office in our neighborhood that we just sort of took over and hung out in and listened to Jordan’s ghetto blaster and graffitied on the wall. … We took that Raymond Pettibon drawing that was published in No Mag, and we took them and we glued them up inside and we were like, ‘We’re having an art opening!’ This is years before Raymond would be showing in galleries or getting his thing happening. I mean, look at all the little things on the cover—there’s Jordan’s skateboard, there’s a little Redd Kross logo, because we really loved Redd Kross. This is some weird drawing that I did and I titled it ‘Flipper,’ because we were totally tripping out on Flipper. We just thought Flipper were like, you know, we thought it was us—in another place and time we’re making these recordings.
JS: … The book has got a bunch of additional photos, stories from the different people in the photos, like yourself, and Keith Morris, Tony Adolescent … And all the five released issues of We Got Power reprinted in their entirety, and then the sixth issue in its rough version which includes the interview with your early band, Wurm, including a very ‘touching’ photo by Spot.
DM: Spot also has a great photo in there of the Adolescents at Baces Hall, which I think was the show with Black Flag that turned into a big riot, if you remember that.
Baces was a big riot. That was just a weird thing how that went down. They thought they were teaching us a lesson, and they ended up creating legends.
DM: A lot of press we’ve been doing on this, people really wanna know about Chief Daryl Gates’ LAPD’s thing with punk rock. Like, they were just out to stomp it out. Some of these shows had two, three hundred cops showing up in riot gear. That was planned out. They were really actively trying to stomp this music and shut it down.
JS: The punk thing is not going away, right? It’s an art form. To me, it seems like it’s becoming this very legitimate thing, where if you’re talking about the late 70s/80s/90s, the punk thing has its influence. Even now, it’s there, it’s not going away. Whether you want to talk about Sex Pistols/English punk or the U.S. hardcore thing. And of course now, bands are playing hardcore all over the world.
So your vision on this thing is it like monolithic—is it a thing that starts and stays, and either grows or dissipates? Is it like a tree that has many branches?
DM: There’s been a lot of music that’s happened throughout the last hundred, two hundred years, and it’s amazing how one thing can galvanize something. Bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks come out of Los Angeles, take what they did, spread it around the country, and by doing that everywhere that they played, kids that were in the audience would see it and go, ‘Fuck, I’m starting a band.’ You go back to the 60s and you look at the Velvet Underground and you realize they sold no records but yet—the few people that were clued in—all those people started bands.
People move along and they grow up and now the kids that bought the magazine back then, they can buy the book, and the people who are interested in that era today, who are younger, can buy the book and they can tap in to what you guys were about, and do something new.
DM: That’s the big hope. You want to be able to tell younger kids that we just fucking did shit. And when you do shit, you may not think much is happening with it at the time, but you never know what influence you can have, you never know who’s paying attention to something in another part of the country. You never know how you’re going to inspire that or make something happen.
I think it’s inexorable. You’re for sure having an impact.
DM: That’s the greatest gift of all of this for me. That’s pretty fucking cool.