EnglishIntervjui

Mike Gitter xXx Fanzine

xXx book written by Mike Gitter has left me very impressed. Therefore I’ve decided to write few dozen questions, and send them to Gitter. My expectation were, that the story would extend, well beyond current issue of the fanzine. I like to ask way too many questions, and it is totally cool if it took him a while to get back to me. However he answered in full, all within 48 hour period. Enjoy!!!!

 

Interview by N.B. & S.M.

 

 

What was your biggest influence at the beginning of making xXx?

By 1983, fanzines were commonplace: connecting the underground in a way that the blogosphere and subreddits do today. I simply started a fanzine out of the same anxiousness, anxiety, and hyperactivity that makes one pick up a guitar and be part of it all. That was the “back to basics” promise of punk, hardcore, or anything we’ve come to tag “D.I.Y.”: Do It Yourself. That was the mission, if you chose to accept it. I did, and there’s been no turning back ever since. I was definitely influenced by a few of the classics of the day: Boston’s own Forced Exposure, Glen E. Friedman’s legendary photo zine, My Rules, and, of course, my pal Al Quint’s very own Suburban Punk. There was an earlier version of the zine called Suburban Mucus that I did three issues of that started a year or so before xXx started. 

With a Dead Kennedys show in Waltham, Massachusetts on June 6, I took three interviews originally done for an unfinished fourth issue of a pre-xXx fanzine called Suburban Mucus: an interview with The Proletariat, one with then fledgling punkers Psycho, and another with L.A.’s Legal Weapon, surrounded them with mostly laudatory reviews of shows I had seen over the preceding few months—including a legendary Angry Samoans/SSD/DYS bill at The Channel in Boston—as well as a clutch of record reviews including The NecrosConquest for Death and Scream’s Still Screaming, and voila! xXx #1 was born. Funnily enough, one of the first people to buy a copy of xXx from me at that DK‘s gig was none other than Haverhill native, Rob Zombie! Small world. Just a few years later, Rob’s band, White Zombie, would advertise their Psycho Head Blowout EP in xXx!

 

On which interview you are really proud how it turned out and which one you regret doing it?

 There’s no interviews I regret doing. That’s the point of doing a fanzine and and doing things for yourself….it’s all a documentation of what you wanted to do then and there. The thing I’m probably proudest of with xXx was how I was able to capture a changing musical landscape: from interviews that ranged from Minor Threat to Metallica to Samhain to Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags to Youth of TodayxXx documented music and ideologies in motion. That’s really the key thread that runs throughout the xXx book. Hopefully, that’s something people will get from it.  

 

Why are Siege represented with just a small article in zine, although you were really into this band? What do you think about Drop Dead? Your opinion on the attention they got all these years, was well deserved or not? Why were they so ignored in the past? I saw them at gig 6 months ago with different line up but man… they were so good.

Well, Siege ended up casting a much longer shadow than anyone would have thought of for a band that recorded maybe ten songs and played maybe a dozen shows. I loved the demo when Kurt (Habelt – guitar) handed it to me and loved the tracks on Pushead’s Cleanse The Bacteria compilation. I think as the musical “conversation” developed they ended up having a lot more personal and musical relevance for me and the world at large as time has gone on. Ask the guys in Napalm Death! Or Scott Carlson from Repulsion. Orrrrrr….the guys in Drop Dead who were certainly influenced by Siege to the point where they named their band after them. At the end of the day, like some of the best bands of that era, Siege simply made some mind-numbingly great , original music that was not completely appreciated at the time has stood the test of time better than most.

 

Misfits, Samhain..both ended up being interviewed…. Were they “big” back in the day and do you think that Metallica guys are “guilty” for making all Glenn’s projects popular? About Misfits reunion today – are you into it? Tickets are being sold for more than 100 bucks…Hm… do you think this is wrong and totally opposite from what Misfits represent back in the (punk) days?

 I think Cliff Burton wearing a crimson ghost shirt and definitely helped spread the word and the music of the Misfits, Samhain and later, Danzig. Let’s remember one thing. The Misfits lived up to their name and were never part of a particular scene. They were the greatest punk band that were never completely punk and found a few pockets of fans  but their popularity was really hard won. And, “Big” is a relative term. There were a few places where they had a decent following: New York, New Jersey, Boston, Detroit. L.A. towards the end…. The Misfits were their own thing and played by their own rules which in man ways IS the essence of punk. In 1982, people were calling them “The Punk Rock KISS” and then freaked out when Earth AD sounded like a hardcore record. Go figure. As far as the cost of tickets to see the reunited Misfits play live in 2018? No one says you have to go. No one says you have to participate. However, seeing them in an arena full of people who were happy to be there whether it be for the music or whatever the band represented in their lives was a lot of fun. At the end of the day, the fans got their money’s worth and walked away smiling. The saw something they never thought they ever would. 

 

When it comes to frequent reunions today, how do you feel about such a trend? Which band would you like to see again performing and which one not, and why?

Is it a trend? There’s a few bands that have started playing again, but it’s not like things have gotten exponentially easier for the likes of The Proletariat, Bl’ast! or Final Conflict, all of whom I’ve seen go out there and kill it in the past couple years, but, they are still completing with younger bands that have kids’ attentions. And there is something very cool and time-honored about seeing people who are the real deal like Jack from TSOL or John from Negative Approach pour their hearts into songs that that still mean a lot. Or even seeing Brian Baker playing Dag Nasty songs still means a lot to me as a fan. If people want to be there and it still means something to them, then, great. I’m happy to be there too. If it’s a matter of going through the motions, then it should have be left in the past. That’s why Minor Threat or SS Decontrol will likely never reunite….the people involved simply don’t want to be there and are honest enough with themselves about it. Plus, those bands were so much about a time and a place. There are a few bands I’d like to see go do it again: Uniform Choice for example…but that would largely be to go hang out with my friends.

 

How come there was not a single one Maximum RnR review in xXx? Were you simply not interested in them or some other reasons? In one review you described Social Unrest as too maximum RNRish? Why’s that?

Damn! You did read through the book! Thank you! Maximum was the gold standard, and with Flipside, so much of a mainstay that they didn’t need the additional coverage. Back then, there was a certain push and pull between the political and apolitical sides of the scene and somewhat naively we fell on the apolitical side of the fence. As far as Social Unrest, they were from North California so I’m sure the assumption was that they were aligned with that side of things.

 

In the part about Agnostic Front you described them as “a DYS, self managed business”? Why’s that? As much as I think they are important for HCPunk subculture, I also don’t think they have been DIY band for a long time (actually after Epitaph release I believe their story went into another (mainstream) direction)

I think Roger Miret would differ with you there. While their European profile is much bigger than in the States, Agnostic Front still run the business of Agnostic Front. Like many veteran bands, they’ve been on a number of labels including Epitaph. I would hardly call any of their records “mainstream” – even the more street punk-leaning Epitaph ones. They all have elements of punk, metal, whatnot – and definitely shift sound from record to record like they did in the classic era of Victim In Pain into Cause for Alarm into Liberty and Justice For.…That’s Agnostic Front! You’re not going to hear them on rock radio and the mainstream definitely isn’t ready for Vinnie Stigma! They’re the band that flew the flag for New York Hardcore and still do. They deserve to be called legends.

 

You described Husker Du the most talented punk bend. Are you still thinking the same? Why? Too bad reunion never happened and never will…

Husker Du were not only a great punk band, they were a great band. Bob Mould still is making absolutely great, incendiary records and playing blistering shows. It’s sad that Grant Hart passed. I count myself lucky to have seen them on many occasions from tiny bars to large theaters. As far as being the most talented band at the time, that was me being a young, naive writer. There were lots of great musicians in punk at the time: The Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, Die Kreuzen even people like Rikk Agnew from the Adolescents, Chuck Biscuits….the list goes on. And on.

 

Why are there only 3 non US bands interviewed? Lack of inspiration or you are just not into outside USA scene that much?

There are only 3 international bands interviewed in the book but there are a few more from the entire run of the zine that mostly for space I couldn’t include. The UK Subs.  Broken Bones. We didn’t want to reprint all 20 issues of the zine in their entirety! There’s a few I wish I had interviewed including The Stupids, The Instigators…to say nothing of the giants of Japanese hardcore!  Dunno, just interviewed who I interviewed and who was getting me excited at the time.

 

What’s the reason why you interviewed Metallica, Anthrax and Voivod? 30 years later what do you think about having those bands in the zine? Your opinion how much they influenced world’s music today?

 I always liked metal and metal-influenced bands. Getting handed Venom’s “Die Hard” single or Motorhead‘s Iron Fist album, it felt like a natural next step from bands like Discharge who were already heading in that direction. The Misfits’ Earth AD wasn’t far off from that with plenty of speed and metal riffing. I also had interviews with bands like Exodus and Hirax: bands that were also getting coverage in Maximum Rock N Roll and being called “Speedcore” at the time. Voivod in particular was their own island of heaviness and weirdness that still continues to this day and is a huge influence on the underground. You could hear their influence in the likes of Rorshach and Converge and even in bands like Sepultura.

As far as how they influenced the mainstream? Metallica distinguished themselves early on with songs that dealt with politics, drugs, the human condition. If you want to say what band killed hair metal, it wasn’t necessarily Nirvana. It was Metallica. And in terms of bringing elements of punk culture into the mix, there was a lot. Their association with Pushead was really important as he contributed artwork to their records and merchandise. Hell, Kirk Hammett even played on a Septic Death record! I recently found an old picture of them where James is wearing a Gastunk shirt!

 

Was original idea not to have any columns or it just happened? How much columns are important for one zine’s content?

That was a Maximum Rock N Roll thing. We weren’t them. They did that better than anyone so why imitate them?

Brian Walsbys painting for zine that was never used

What was so magic with hardcore of the 80s that even today we keep on reminiscing after 30 years? Obviously it’s not attendance in shows? In one review of Crucifix show you wrote that there were only 50 people… We have paradox that kids calling themselves hardcore today but they don’t even know most of the bands featured in book; how’s that hardcore not knowing basic history?

 Because people always crave that honesty that was key to hardcore both now and then. From its earliest beginnings to now, there is a truthfulness that doesn’t fade with time and doesn’t rest  on the laurels of one specific band but instead is the key to hardcore as a movement. What I got out of a band like SSD, kids today will get from a band like Fury. They don’t have to know the history or become musicologists. They need to simply find a way to channel the rage that drove us all to hardcore to begin with. I’m happy it’s 35 years later and its still a movement that’s moving forward and continues to be relevant. 

 

 xXx was Boston based zine. In your opinion, which band reppresented Boston HC in the best possible way? Which one was your fave band back than? And do you know what happened to the scene generally in 90s… 00s…. 

 Well, yeah. I’m still a hardcore fan and have loved many of the bands throughout the years as it evolved through the proto-metalcore bands like Overcast as well as straight-edge, youth crew revivalists like In My Eyes and Ten Yard Fight and Have Heart. There was also the other scenes like the Merrimack Valley crew like Cave In and Converge as well as Western Mass heroes  like Killswitch Engage (who I signed at Roadrunner) and Shadows Fall. Even recently, the likes of Boston Strangler and Free still blow me away. Boston has always had a fertile scene. I was lucky to grow up in a town that had a handful of really great bands: SSD, who sparked a hardcore scene from the earlier punk bands like The Freeze (who were also great) or great post-punk bands like Mission of Burma. But we also had Gang Green, Negative FX, Impact Unit, the FU‘s DYS. Slapshot was really important in connecting the 80’s to now via Choke’s previous bands: Negative FX and Last Rights. And of course, there was the best band in town who don’t always get the credit they deserve: Jerry’s Kids. They were really our Black Flag: they were unbelievably focused and rehearsed almost every day which you could see when they hit the stage. Even now, when they play the odd gig, Jerry’s Kids are unbeatable.They just got older and angrier. 

 

Do you have some fave bands that are not from 80s? Perhaps some bands from Boston today?

 Like I said before: Boston Strangler, FreeFirewalker, Panzer Bastard, which is Keith from Wrecking Crew.… 

 

Cover of the last issue

At the beginning of the book you explained how Pushed helped your zine. How they actually helped? Do you think Pushed is nowadays somewhat overrated or underestimated?

From our first correspondence, Pushead was always a friend and a prime mover in the international hardcore scene from the earliest artwork he did for bands like the Misfits and SS Decontrol all the way through his work with Metallica to releasing records and bringing exposure to bands like Final Conflict and Rocket From The Crypt on his Pusmort and Bacteria Sour labels. Brian (Schoeder- Pushead’s surname) supported xXx with label advertising: as far back as the amazing Cleanse The Bacteria comp. He also let me write for Thrasher, where I did interviews and pieces with bands that ranged from Scream to Guns N Roses to Helmet! Pushead has definitely had an affect on my life but also has helped and inspired many others including people like Baroness‘ John Baizley, who was very influenced by Brian’s artwork early in his career. And that’s to say nothing about how much his band Septic Death ruled!

 

 Why did you stop with zinemaking? Was there some goals not accomplished with your zine?

 I got busier with other things and after six year xXx ended up becoming more of an obligation that something I was inspired by.  I ended up writing for other, national magazines like Thrasher and Creem and a little bit later on, Kerrang! , which satiated a lot of my needs to write about and expose new bands. And on top of that, music was changing. Hardcore was entering a low period and a lot of other zines like Forced Exposure were getting into early indie rock and the New York noise scene.That’s not where I wanted it to go.I also didn’t want it to turn into a metal fanzine as a lot of the magazines I was writing for were doing it better on a professional level. I think it ended at the right tine and in the right note. 

 

How would xXx look today if you would make it? 

 A little cleaner and the writing would be a bit better but it would still be pretty raw.  

 

Do you think printing stuff and printing records are not important today?

 No. There’s always going to be people young and old who want the physical experience. Holding a physical record or zine is a “committed” experience. After many years, I’m seeing offset printed zines at merch tables and vinyl sales are bigger than they’ve been in years, 

 

How much time passed since initial idea came up ‘till you got the books from the printing office? What are reactions so far? Do you know how many copies are printed?

 Over ten years by now.  I was approached by Chris Wrenn from Bridge Nine Records about publishing a book version. He had just finished the Schism [Records] book, and was looking for a second project. We discussed it. I sent him all 20 issues of the ‘zine. We were batting back and forth, debating if we were going to re-print all 20 issues, which I think no one really needs to leaf through that amount of naïve, but extremely raw, but extremely uninformed, but extremely heartfelt writing. It’s like every opinion you should have when you’re somewhere between 16 and 22. So, we were talking about the format. OK, let me start by saying xXx wasn’t Touch and Go [Records], it wasn’t Slash [‘zine], it wasn’t the cornerstone of fanzinedom. It wasn’t important enough of that era to validate a book. So, we started looking at it like a greatest hits project, re-printing some key interviews, key reviews, add some then/now commentary to flesh it out. We were thinking it’d be around 130 pages, taking around six or seven months to do. Four years later and an incredible amount of work—multiple life changes—and what felt like probably an immersion into being your own editor, we finished the book. It stands as 288-page, 11″ x 11″, nearly four lbs. hardback. It really took on a life of its own. People seem to really like it and we’ve sold through most of the 5000 copies we initially printed. 

 

 Apology started at the end of you writing for zine… tell us about that band? Was brother of Brian Baker involved in it? Why was only one LP released and how you ended on Wishingwell. Lost & Found did the CD, without permission

 Well, Brian doesn’t have a brother. Matt Baker was a fill in guitarist for Justice League who I met on their first US tour. That was just a joke we had that people seemed to take on so ok. Well Matt was moving to Boston and we talked about doing a band which we eventually did and it was awful. Think The Replacements, 7 Seconds and some really average rock tossed into a blender – badly. And honestly, I’m a terrible singer. So we recorded an EP with Lou Giordano who did a ton of old Boston bands and that came out on Wishingwell. I had been friends with those guys and toured as a roadie with Uniform choice. They either liked me or liked the band and were kind enough to put it out. Truthfully it has about one good song. I’m not sure if the Lost & Found version was a bootleg or not. I believe that Pat Dubar from Wishingwell sold that catalog to that label and it was a semi-legit reissue on their end. Hey, if someone wants to hear it, I’m happy it’s there. I don’t think it’s very good, but  there are a few people I know – Joe Foster, in particular — who really like that record. 

 

 You were also involved in music industry later and writing for magazines like Thrasher and Rolling Stone? What’s the major difference between writing for zine and global magazines? And what bands you helped to get the contract signed…How would you describe that period of your life?

 Well, for quite a few years: 1986-1993, I wrote for a number of national and international magazines. That was a great, really productive part of my life. I moved to New York and started a new life there. I made a lot of friends and had some pretty amazing experiences. I watched a few friends and people who I met during the xXx years in Boston become successful: White Zombie, Prong, Rollins, Sick of it All…the list goes on. Then, Nirvana happened and it felt like a lot of new opportunities and possibilities opened up. Magazines and record companies were suddenly very interested in the underground, which for me, turned into an offer from Atlantic Records to start consulting for their A&R department, That led to a full-fledged A&R job which has spread across a few other labels including Roadrunner and Century Media and has involved hundreds of musicians and bands including Jawbox, Killswitch Engage, Bad Religion, Ignite, HIM, Megadeth…it’s a very long list. 

 

 What are you up to these days?

 I live in Los Angeles and still work for Century Media/Sony. I still do A&R and work with a lot of great people and a lot of great bands. Working on the xXx book and some of the projects around it definitely felt like a homecoming for me in many ways. It’s a good life.

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