Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Internet before Internet - Fanzines and cassette tapes - and my "band"

No, I am not going to be nostalgic and say ; ohhh, good old times. No, everything is much better with Internet, no doubt about this. But before was fun too.
Digging my old stuff here at the attic I found few fanzines and remembered I used to publish some at the late 80's and 90's.
Fazines started with the punk movement on the middle/late 70's, more specifically with the Punk Magazine at NY, soon this concept took the whole world as was easy to produce and spread.
Here in Sao Paulo it was the salvation for our lives. Late 70's and early 80's the country was under dictatorship and a simple photocopy page could be considered subversive making you go to jail and even be tortured, but was the only alternative for getting information.
When I stared my first fanzine it was 1988 and I was only 13 years old. The country was running to become a democracy and dictators weren't on power anymore. My fanzine named FORA. ( OUT ) was about garage bands of the Sao Paulo's scene, a little bit of other Brazilian cities as Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre ( where had scenes tiny but cool things and bands happening ) and what I could get about other countries scenes as well. It was about punk, straight edge hardcore , skinhead Oi, phychobilly, extreme metal, British post-punk and gothic, British indie, and the so called American indie rock of the time as Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Beat Happening and things like that... even Mudhoney. I was listening everything with no prejudices
Now to keep reading this I will have to really transport you to the Sao Paulo City of the time. Brazil didn't have any rock magazine except for Rock Brigade, a miracle with many small articles that helped a lot, and another one I forgot the name but was an initiative of the big multinational corporations of the phonographic industry to talk only about their "products".
At the same time, even leaving the political dictatorship the country was still under a policy that any kind of importation from any other country was forbidden. Not saying the devastation the hyper-inflation that was able to destroy the most simple plans you could make for your life.
Well, we kids wanted to listen music . We had no official press for any kind of information. The phonographic industry here only released the very very American or English mainstream albums, only what was huge success there. It means we only had crap at the record stores, TV, radios and magazines...and Brazilian music, that for who likes was still something kind of honest at that time to listen.
There was a place at downtown named Galeria do Rock.... at that time a very decadent all broken place where heroin and cocaine could be easily found. But all we kids into underground rock and culture in general used to go there. At that place had many stores with rare albums for sale, many stores about clothes and rock culture in general . As everything at the 80's and very early 90's , 70% of all was about Metal Culture. All the gangs used to go there for meetings , fights and listening music.
Information was such a rare thing that the only way we could have access to the image of the musicians and the bands was by the cover of the albums, back covers and pullouts. Only that. I remember, it was something as 1987, a guy appeared at the Galeria with 100 photocopies of the Misfits' images, he sold the photos for something like one USDollar each one... It was all sold in 5 minutes. Everybody wanted to see how they were. Incredible. Sure that this guy didn't get the money, a small Skinhead gang took it from him. Typical.
Albums of bands from other countries were so rare that became extremely expensive. So at the Galeria had many stores were you could see the albums displayed on the storefronts and hanged on the walls inside as they were posters. You only had to point which one you wanted and the owner of the store used to say : "are you sure ? will you really going to make me take this album from there ? " What happened is that he put the album to play, all albums were vinyl. After the first song he asked again : "did you like it , are you sure you want this ? " and then he made a cassette tape in front of you. Simple like that. This was the best way to listen all the bands and all the new albums reliesed all over the world and had just arrived to Sao Paulo by illegal traffic.
At evening we put all the cassette tapes into the pocket and went to see any band's shows at some distant periferic area of the city or one of the rare night clubs at downtown that used to open and have a short life. There was absolute no glamour, posers and rock'n'roll was faced in a very raw way. Not for coincidence the most authentic Sao Paulo and Brazilian bands were created during the late 70's and 80's releasing their albums by very small and amateur independent labels . All small labels had a store at the Galeria do Rock.
So now you have already a light idea of how was Sao Paulo rock'n'roll scene at the time.
So there was me at 1988 with 13 years old and the first edition of my new fanzine FORA.
I didn't receive many other fanzines on my mail box and I spent all my money making photocopy of 50 copies of my first edition and sending by regular mail to 'ziners" all over the city. I received two feed backs. Very frustrating. One of the guys told me the fanzine was about many different scenes. Yes it was right. For two reasons, I didn't have information enough about only one scene to fill a whole fanzine of 6 or 8 pages. And later because I was sick with not only the Sao Paulo's scene but all the 80's mentality of gangs and divisions all over the world : " if you listen Hardcore you must to hate Metal" and things like that. I wanted to write and show what I was listening alone, it means , all scenes at the same time.
The truth is that information was so rare and valuable that people able to receive good fanzines in Sao Paulo didn't want to share the addresses to you. It was like a Mafia. Not saying the fanzine collectors were able to get fazines from all over the world and didn't let you know about its addresses too. You really had to have contacts for getting information about bands. What a hell.
Well. As teenagers do in general I used to spend afternoons at some friend's bedroom drinking cheap alcoholic beverages or smoking pot or sniffing glue while listening our favorite bands. It was pretty much that, we barely talked. One day this friend of mine got so waisted that I was able to search for his collection of fanzines and found zines from many different countries, Spain, Germany, Argentine, Italy , Belgium, Netherlands, France, Mexico, Uruguay England, Ireland......
I took note of the address of every single one and went home.
Second edition here I come!! I had many subjects and even photos of local bands and shows. It was a 8 pages edition and I sent to all the countries I could. ( Important note: Americans at the time didn't care so much for the rest of the world. You can imagine my surprise when I started my blog and saw that Americans were 70% of all the visits and the largest number of people that have supported my works in many different ways !! Americans at that time seemed to have a huge prejudice, at least that was the impression we had, it was normal to listen people saying " oh , that is ok, they say this because they are Americans, you know, forgive and forget, at least they are a good band...." ... it was all the time we could have access to an interview of an American band and they made fun of any other country's audience. I remember that the Sonic Youth fanclub had a fanzine and one day I got one edition. They said something like " Sonic Youth is listened even at countries of totally ignorant alien people like Brazil where they think it is heavy metal". It hurts. So we had no connection with American fanzines or bands and few small labels sent catalogs of their albums when we requested, they didn't have any idea of what was happening out of their country except Great Britain. It was frustrating for obvious reasons : we loved American bands. Thank God time proved it was all only a horrible misunderstood. Underground Rock'n'Roll was a huge world community and it was really important to us, made us feel more important than governments and corporations.
After to send my fanzine's copies all over the world it took months not receiving any reply. Suddenly I receive on the same week two replies from Sweden and one week later one from Finland. They all were very nice , writing in a not very good English but thousands of times better than mine ( my fanzine was all in Brazilian Portuguese ). It took me one week to translate their letters. Their own fanzines about bands with similar sounds all written on their local languages. It was great. On the letter they asked me to send Sao Paulo's bands to then, they wanted to know all. Not only this, two of then sent me cassette tapes of very underground bands from their country and one said ;" I am sending you this money for all that is necessary". A considerable amount of money for a Brazilian kid like me that was living in a economic crises of huge hyper-inflation where the prices of everything raised more than once a day. So I took that money and went to the Galeria at the same time. There I would buy some records of my favorite Sao Paulo's bands and save some for the mail costs sending the parcel back to Sweden. The Swedish guy had luck. One of the stores that was an independent label too had hundreds of copies of one album for sale. This album was cheaper than one bus ticked and had too bands, was a "Split", one band on the A side and other on the B side . Both bands typical Sao Paulo's Hardcore Punk Style with influences of Carecas do Suburbuio ( a local kind of skinhead gang that only exists here ). After this I bought a "Restos de Nada" album too and one virgin cassette tape where I recorded "Garotos Podres".
Again a couple of months with no reply . I produced a third edition of my fanzine , but before to send it to all the addresses I could the Swedish guy sent a reply... and on the same week many people from that country and Finland started to send me their fanzines and cassette tapes with their own bands recorded on it or other local bands, they asked me to talk about their bands. I did, I re-made the third edition of my fanzine including their bands, with photos and everything else. They also sent me money to buy records or asked me if I accepted to trade records with then. Sure, I'm in !
The third edition came out and was sent everywhere. I received replies from many countries. People thought weird that 20% of the fanzine was about american, english bands of many diferent kinds of sounds and scenes and 80% was about what was happening in Sao Paulo, Finland and Sweden. hahahah! All written in Brazilian Portuguese... made absolute no sense.
I used to buy all the independent Brazilian bands albums I could find and Brazilian bands demo tapes too. I sent to Italy , Spain, Germany , Norway, Denmark, Belgium and Argentina. Not saying the massive number of copies I had to send to Sweden and Finland. People asked for more. The hobbie became expensive to me only at first as I had to go to mail office almost everyday and send letters or parcels abroad. All the money they sent I spent with albums and cassette tapes, few was saved for mail. But it worths, they sent me many albums and cassette tapes with very rare bands too. Soon I became one of the coolest guys with very rare albums and didn't take too long for charging large amounts of money from other kids of my area to record my albums on their cassette tapes.
Life was going well but I could see the end. I wasn't dumb. I knew the Sao Paulo scene wasn't so big , not as big as the foreigner guys' demand. I used to send albums and demo tapes of bands from other cities too, even so wasn't enough. I knew they would want more and I would be forced to say ; "sorry guys, this is it, maybe next year, we can keep trading fazines".
Than I had the worse idea ever: My friend Marcos had a guitar and got a two track recorder, I think was a Tascan or something. He was listening bands like My Blood Valentine ( one of my favorites ever ) and Jesus and Mary Chain. I told him about my idea and said that would share the profits 50/50. Deal !!!! He agreed at the same time as he always liked to take advantage of people.
We would invent a band I would do the vocals on one microphone and he would play the guitar at the same time on other microphone. It would be the first part of the recording of the song as it was a two track recorder . On the second part I would do the sound of bass with my mouth and he would do the sounds of the drums with his mouth. And that was it . We recorded inside his house's bathroom.
Simple . We knew our audience very well, Scandinavian guys liked everything as extreme as possible , metal, hardcore , didn't matter , they wanted extreme noise and we could do that. When I recorded the vocal I didn't sing , I kind of barked: roar; bawl, howl, as loud as possible and at the end of the lyrics or sentences I kind of let the impression I was saying something in English but couldn't make too clear, so words as " kill, skull, hell, fuck, shit, misery" used to appear sometimes giving the impression that had real lyrics on that. Marcos played this guitar as fast , loud and distorted as possible. On the second part I recorded my voice doing bass sounds as doomdurumdurum doodoommm.... and my friend did the drums noises with his mouth. And in 5 minutes we had a new song. The name of the songs were very convincing : "Die" "kill" "Hate" " anger" Hell". hahahah!
The name of the band was in Brazilian Portuguese , "brain" something , like Cerebros Corruidos, Cerebros Destruidos, Cerebros Assassinos... some crap like that.
We recorded a 45 minutes "demo" tape spreading this masterpiece all over the world.
Conclusion : From everywhere people got amazed and asked if this band had an album or more tapes. Some said it was the craziest Brazilian band and one of the most violent bands of the world. I got in panic. Every week I received more and more letters from people asking me for the tape and more information about the band. I thought that would be caught and considered the biggest liar of the whole world. People would hate me more than they hated Ronald Reagan at the time. I could see my death: being lynched on the streets or in front of the Galeria.
My friend Marcos said it was our big chance:"Lets form a real band and tour the world". Sure , I was almost 14 years old and would tour the world."Shut up, I don't know anyone I can tell this story, anyone I can trust and call to join the "band".
So I got suicide and decided to publish an self destructive edition that was divided in two parts. One with photos of very poor Brazilian people starving on the streets saying : Cerebros Corruidos: this is the singer, this is his two years old dead baby, this whore with aids is the bass player, this stoned drunk murder holding a gun is the drummer, this crack addicted fag that does blowjobs for less than one US Dollars is the guitar player ( my joke to annoy Marcos ) and a story of how fucked up was the band and its horrible everyday life. The second part of the fanzine was an ( obvious fictional ) interview with Elizabeth Taylor as a totally decadent celebrity telling all the "truth", that she was a huge Death Metal fan and used to go to San Francisco visit the local hardcore scene and make anal sex with Jello Biafra, the Dead Kennedys singer, detail: Jello Biafra was the lady of the relationship. And I had access to her because she used to come to Brazil for doing drugs and date under age girls. On the supposed interview she totally stoned talked about the garage rock scene analyzing it as a real fan would do. There was another photo of Elizabeth Taylor "wearing" the classic "Let's Start a War" Exploited t-shirt and a Napalm Death tattoo on the fat groin ( this tattoo photo was taken from a local headbanger girl that was into extreme metal in general and was a friend of my friends ).
Nobody never believed on that, they saw it was a joke about the interview ( all in Brazilian Portuguese: ) It was all ridiculous and funny, had a photos of her hugging a very poor Brazilian whore, extremely obvious was a bad collage. But about the band... they got even more curious and 6 months later I felt forced to visit Marcos again and record a second demo tape, what only took 30 or 40 minutes. I sent the copies all over the world and everybody thought it was a crap and the band had lost its "mojo": "I think the drugs, aids and misery destroyed their creativity" I used to say on the letters. Nobody have never showed any interest for the band anymore. ufff... I was free.
I didn't sign the FORA fanzine with my name , at the time I used to do my "street art" , graffiti all over the city and used to sign Tiopio... long story. So that was my name .
Many of my contacts were lost on the very beginning of the 90's. Later with Internet I tried to find the ones I remembered the name but didn't get any.
1996 I started a fanzine about poetry, all in Portuguese, it had few editions and never called too many attention, I only sent to Sao Paulo's people. The name of this fanzine was "A Estranha Existencia do Ser" ( "the strange existence of the being" : something got lost with the translation... no wait... the title sucks in any language :) .
During the 90's I don't know if fanzine started to become less interesting or if I wasn't more into that as Brazil had had drastic changes and was a much better country for getting information, so I even still received fanzines about the industrial and cyberpunk scene in Belgium or Germany, few garage rock fanzines made in Brazil about local and American scene.... I couldn't void , they just arrived.
Then with Internet it all got lost.
I must to say, Internet is 100 times better, I don't miss that time at all, it was all expensive , hard , lots of work, few information and took a really long time to send and receive back.
But when people say Internet changed the world completely my first reaction is to affirm:" not so much, I do what I used to do more than 20 years ago, now is only easier, cheaper and faster". But yes , Internet changed everything for better and I would never have my work out there if wasn't for this. Not even by fanzine... didn't exist fanzines about visual art and wouldn't change anything if had ones all over there. I don't trade this great blog situation for what happened at the past for nothing on this world.
I don't know what happened with my originals of the FORA ( maybe at my mother's ) and I have here two originals of the Estranha Existencia do Ser. Not proud of that, they are really ugly. hahahah! very very amateur.
But the best part...now it has Americans here on the blog and it feels complete ! Welcome to this brand new international world, Newcomers, hahah!
What people call internet-blogs, to me can not be only considered an extension of the fanzine and cassette tape. It is much more opened and complete now, more democratic and easier. Sometimes when posting I still see myself as a ziner, very free and having fun. And with absolute any of the concerns about editing and publishing and copying I had at the time.
Even so there is one important thing to say. Before all was made totally independent, didn't have companies to support and keep your blog or site available and accessible. Didn't have companies to provide Internet , so maybe now we are a bit more dependent of companies in general and government's infra-structure . It is good to remember we still can have other and more analogic alternatives for information and get rid of what corporations and governments want us to know. Brazil is today the country that has more articles deleted on Internet, it means that it has censorship in a very strong way. And we aren't talking about a self proclaimed not democratic country like China .
Brazil is a western country ( yes , western, I saw an Internet article on an important site where the critic of cinema wrote that got impressed with how the animation Rio blends Brazilian culture with Western culture so well, fuck off ) where the government proclaims to be the biggest democracy of the world with the biggest number of votes during an election ( not forgetting here you are forced to vote ). So if this level of censure is happening here can happen everywhere.
ahhh... another long post. put the blame on this delicious green tea... took a whole bucket of it now. hahahah! I must to be sounding like an old guy remembering the good old times....No way, I am really happy for the fact that past is over !