Monday, November 8, 2010

Old school is still cool, talking Touch & Go with Tesco Vee

It's easy to overlook how hard it used to be to put out a music zine back in the day before the internet, with all the positives and negatives that go along with it. Tesco Vee, lead singer of hardcore jokesters the Meatmen and one of the original driving forces behind the Touch & Go zine, which ran for 22 issues between 1979 and 1983, knows what it's like to do this. Along with Dave Stimson, they put together a pretty impressive run, covering some of the best new sounds of the early 80's, giving press to bands and scenes that in the intervening years, would become legendary.

They wrote about bands such as Black Flag, Necros, Negative Approach, Poison Idea and the Minutemen among others, paving the way for a whole new wave of underground music journalism that would continue to this very day.

It all started with one simple mission.

"Well, we started it because we were passionate about this new music and wanted to cover it. I would say for me it was like some divine calling, while Dave would say we did it because we were bored," said Vee.

Back in the day, putting together a zine involved a lot of work. There was a lot of leg work to be done, chasing down new and exciting records, getting together to cut and paste it, and then don't forget, finding a place that would copy it. It's a bit of a far cry from today, where opinions can be laid down as fast as clicking a mouse button. Not to discount today's new journalism (after all I am writing this on an internet site), but back then it took a lot of commitment and little insanity to regularly produce something like that.

But the passion to expose people to new and exciting sounds is one of the main factors that connects the old days of cut of paste with the new world of .coms. And before you think that they had a narrow focus for music, Vee asserts that they did cover a wide variety of music, which is another thing that is lost in today's world of overspecialization.

"People think we were hardcore homies, but we gave stuff like the first U2 single a positive review. It was basically if we liked it, we liked it," said Vee.
This would account for the zines championing of such non-hardcore but still very cool bands like the Wipers and the Cramps, along with positive coverage of the burgeoning ska scene, which was to the chagrin of some of their more hardcore-centric supporters. It was grass roots music journalism at its finest.
"It was cool to watch the progression of punk from 1979. It was American hardcore as seen through our eyes and how it progressed in our eyes," said Vee.

Well all this hard work paid off, because the zine's entire 22 issue run has been recently released in one thick volume by Bazillion Points Press earlier this year. Included in the book are testimonials from such hardcore luminaries as Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye and John Brannon. Vee is very happy with the reaction the book has been getting, just as he proud of it in the day, when the zine would connect the dots between various musical scenes and provide inspiration to other would be writers out there.

And it just didn't end with the printed word, because from the zine sprung forth Touch & Go records, which was originally started to put out records by their friends bands such as Negative Approach, Necros, the Fix and, of course, the Meatmen. Vee would eventually leave the label, handing over control to Corey Rusk. From its humble beginnings, the label would become one the most influential indie labels of the late 80's/early '90's, releasing records by such bands as the Jesus Lizard, Big Black and Naked Raygun.

But besides the writing Vee has also fronted the Meatmen (who will be performing at the book signing show on November 13 at Cafe Nine in New Haven) for quite a while. Unlike other bands that came of age during the early 80's, Vee wanted to put his own stamp on the music, which meant approaching hardcore from a different angle.
"When I wanted to start a band, I didn't want to do an anti-Reagan political band, like everyone else. I came at it with an incendiary tongue-in-cheek style of humor in order to keep people off balance, to shake things up a bit," said Vee.
With song titles such as "Tooling For Anus", "Orgy Of One", "1 Down, Three To Go" (which was about the death of John Lennon) and of course the totally un-pc "Crippled Children Suck", the band put it's own, sweaty, semen stained stamp on the hardcore scene for all the good and bad that go with it.

And he still enjoys performing with the band, regardless of what other people might say.

"I'm still having fun. I don't know about other bands and their motivations because some are just a shell of their former selves. I would put this lineup against any of the others and they would hold up. I'm not doing this for the money. I'm still having fun playing the old songs. It's to show the whippsnappers how it's done," said Vee.

This showing the young 'uns how it done involves bringing back the atmosphere of an old hardcore show, which Vee believes should always have a sense of unpredictability, and sense that the show could turn into chaos and any point. That whole thing of fucking shit up. He believes that this element is missing from modern punk shows, and is something that is essential to any good show of that kind. It doesn't have to be violent, just not completely safe and very edgy.
So this will be on display on November 13, come on down to the show, get a book signed and then completely lose your mind to the old school assault. Vee wouldn't want it any other way.

Saturday, November 13 2010, Manic Productions presents The Meatmen, Easy Action and Broken TOUCH AND GO BOOK RELEASE PARTY!

Cafe Nine
250 State Street
New Haven, CT

9:00pm - 21+ - $10

Buy tickets now or pick them up at Redscroll Records or DETRITUS