THIS IS HOW IT'S DONE
I sit here, not wondering if a matchbox would hold my clothes ala Carl Perkins, but writing. Blasting from my hi-fi is a disc issued last year: The self-titled debut LP by a Toronto band, School Jerks. 13 songs in 13 minutes, on a 12-inch 45 RPM record, it sounds just like the sort of old school hardcore records that Really Red singer Ronnie Bonds (AKA U-Ron Bondage) used to play on his Sunday night punk rock show over KPFT in Houston, "Funhouse." We're talking a furious screech that wouldn't sound out of place stacked up on a turntable with The Germs' (GI), Black Flag's Jealous Again, or The Cheifs or Angry Samoans. More impressive yet, it was made by a bunch of guys who look like they're far from leaving their teens, never mind shaving.
I'm a professional freelance rock journalist, have been for years. I want to write about School Jerks. I won't be able to. None of the publications I write for will let me. My editors, if I dared approach them, would tell me none of their readers would be interested. That pisses me off.
I am, besides being a professional freelance rock journalist, also a lifelong musician and punk rocker. I've always done these things. I began in punk rock fanzine culture, doing one of my own in the '80s (Noise Noise Noise) for two issues, before moving on to contribute to fLiPSiDe and Your Flesh, among many others, then going professional in the '90s as punk invaded the mainstream in the form of alternative rock, becoming well-known as a writer for Alternative Press and The Austin Chronicle, plus other publications. The underlying whatsis driving me, though, was my love of raw punk rock and my punk roots, and my desire to expose bands I discovered and loved to a broader audience.
I quit journalism in 1997 to concentrate on making music with my band The Hormones. I was burned out, after a protracted period of strained relations with the Chronicle and AP and honestly thought I was retired. I also was tired of the lack of respect my musical side garnered because I was also a well-known rock journalist. These people obviously did not understand that, as fellow scribbler-and-rocker Lenny Kaye and I once discussed, my musical activities and my journalism were two sides of the very same coin: A desire to give back to a culture and way-of-life that had given me so much. I can now see that these people will never get it, and it's best for me to get on with it.
BUT...I have returned to the game just recently, after spending fifteen years only writing the occasional piece, usually if someone wanted an Iggy Pop interview, or if Guitar World wanted an oral history of the New York Dolls. And now I'm back with The Austin Chronicle, as well as doing interviews for the Rock 'n' Roll Dating website, making my living as a journalist. Which is fine and well: For the most part, I get to pick and choose my subject matter...
...for the most part.
Like I said, there's great new young punk bands I'm discovering, seemingly all at once. I want to write about them, but I wouldn't be allowed. And I want to write about them with raw enthusiasm, the thrill of the moment, in unrestrained language. I wouldn't be able to do that in my outlets, either.
So, it's time to truly return to my roots.
I'd love to cut-n-paste-n-Xerox a proper old school punkzine. However, I neither have the cash to do it nor the cash to lose on such a proposition. Still, I've been saying for years that blogs are the new fanzines: Technology allows instant publication and exposure to a potential audience of literally the span of the world wide web, something said proper old school punkzine distribution could not offer. This really is the original DIY/seize-the-moment/instant-access punk rock ideal finding its most full realization.
"When your culture abandons you, create your own." Trouser Press publisher Ira Robbins wrote that at the dawn of punk in 1977, and those have been the words I've lived by. Hence, Toxic Narcotic, an online punkzine, written and published by me, using and abusing the new technology. Toxic Narcotic: Written and published out of love, in raw language coming directly from the heart and the gut. This is how its done. This is punk rock.
-TIM "NAPALM" STEGALL
Feb. 4, 2013