Monthly Archives: November 2019

The BLURT Zine Roundup (Fall/Winter 2019 Edition)

Support your local fanzine and the bands it covers…. Plus, your local independent printer and/or copy shop!

BY TIM “INK-STAINED FINGERS” HINELY

 Big Stir magazine (#4)

This terrific little mag is relatively new on the zine scene. Editors Rex and Christina (they run the Big Stir records label and are in the band The Armoires…in addition to all of that I think they probably have real jobs, too!) popped out 3 quick issues and here’s #4. This ish is color/glossy all the way through and just has a real cool look to it (thanks to main artist Joseph Champniss) and has interview with Russ Tolman/Steve Wynn (they ask each other questions), plus Nelson Bragg, Kimberly Rew, Matthew Seligman, Robbie Rist and plenty more. Oh, and not just music…there’s recipes in this baby, too! You won’t not like it. You just won’t (in fact you’ll probably love it!).  www.bigstirrecords.com

The Big Takeover (#84)

You can count on Jack Rabid’s Big Takeover mag like clockwork, every June and December (like daylight savings time…which was just last night, well the end of it anyway).  Bob Mould is the cover star for this ish (and the interview with him is excellent) and in addition to that you’ve got long interviews with The Beths, Joe Jackson, The Cyrkle, Chip Kinman, Bev Davis, plus part 2 of both The Alvvays and Walter Lure interviews. There’s also the usual short takes of lotsa other bands and a boatload of reviews (yup, boatload…think The Love Boat). At 152 pages it’ll keep you occupied for a good long while.     www.bigtakeover.com

Dynamite Hemorrhage (#7)

Former Superdope editor Jay Hinman is back and D.H. is still going strong (thankfully). This one is another half-sized one and, like I said about the previous issue, it looks fantastic (clean layout). In this ish he has interviews with Neutrals’ Sofie Herner plus the late Mike Atta from the Middle Class, Bridget Hayden, the Ex-Lion Tamers and a terrific overview of every issue of Forced Exposure (???!!!). There’s plenty of reviews, too.  Jay’s still got the enthusiasm of his 20-year-old self.   Believe it. www.dynamitehemorrhage.com

Incremental Decrepitude (#6)

 Mr. Dave Brushback is back. I wish he’d publish more often but he runs on this own schedule, we call it Brushback time. You probably remember Dave from the mags Run It and Brushback as well as others. This one is another pocked-sized ish. He’s got interviews with Rob Noyes, Richie Records and Stefan of C/Site Recordings. There’s also record, show and zine reviews so he packs a lot in to not a ton of pages.  I’ve always liked Dave’s writing style (he doesn’t mince words). Could be gone but still write to him to find out. Rock_in_my_shoes@yahoo.com

Own the Whole World (#17)

I could swear that Arizonan (ex-Ohioan) Bob Forward had a new ish out of O.T.W.W. (#18?)  but I’m not finding it, I know he is working on a new one so be on the lookout.    ubgun12@yahoo.com

Skill Shot (#53)

This is Gordon Gordon’s pinball zine out of Seattle (he used to do the great punk mag WDC Period years ago). It’s thin and glossy and covers the Seattle pinball scene like a blanket. Lots of fun and interesting graphics and very small type. Plus go to his site as it has a pinball map plus a link to a calendar, his blog and his podcast well. Also, how to order back issues.     www.skill-shot.com

Ugly Things (#51)

This the latest one from Mike Stax and his crew but there’s probably gonna be a new one out any day/week. Mike’s been putting these things out at such a rapid rate it’s hard to keep up. This ish of the mag that features “ugly sounds from past dimensions” has Randy Holden from Blue Cheer plus Wally Bryson (from The Choir), Night Shadows, Lenny Kaye, Peter Laughner and too much more, really. At 160 pages it’s a garage rock bible Read and then read again (I’m still finishing up issues #’s 48-50…slow reader here and lots to consume).   www.ugly-things.com

Vulcher (#5)

Yes! The Vulcher crew are back and I can only assume that issue #6 is around the corner.  Eddie Flowers, Kelsey Simpson and “Sonic” Sam Murphy run the show with a long list of contributors (including yours truly). They all kick out the jams here and inside there’s contributions from Byron Coley, Rich & Melanie Coffee, Eric Friedl, Bob Forward, Shane Ringo and like 100 more. Eddie does a piece on Exek and Cropped Out festival while I chipped in with a piece on the Vulgar Boatmen. There’s also a Bob Bert interview and tons more.  Thick as a brick, this one is essential reading. www.vulcherfanzine.bigcartel.com

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Tim Hinely knows a thing or two about fanzine publishing, as rumors have it that he has put out legendary ‘zine Dagger since, apparently, the Watergate impeachment era. Maybe even the Andrew Johnson trial. “I just might cover this one, too,” muses Hinely, “although, if that Sarah Records label reunion tour actually happens, all bets are off.”

NOTHING TRICKY ABOUT THIS SONIC PITCH, JUST A SCORCHING… Fastball

Beloved Austin power pop trio whiffs their indie-rock competition with a new record, and our correspondent ventures into the bullpen to learn what went into it. Full access at their Facebook page, natch, and national tourdates will kick off in December.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

It’s been just two years since the Austin-based rockers Fastball last released an LP. Clearly, they still had plenty more to say.

The Help Machine, Fastball’s seventh studio album since starting in the mid-1990s, sounds just as powerful as their 1996 debut, brimming with addictive hooks, taut power chords and a steady rhythm section. The band even brought along Southern California legend Steve Berlin (sax player for Los Lobos and The Blasters) to produce the record.

Though he’s best known as bassist/vocalist for the band, Tony Scalzo actually switched to keyboards and guitar for this outing. Scalzo spoke with Blurt recently about that decision, working with Berlin, and the band’s newfound – and fruitful – burst of creativity.

BLURT: The Help Machine comes not that long after your last LP. Did you guys just go through a fairly prolific period or were many of these songs originally meant for the last album?

TONY SCALZO: As songwriters, both Miles and myself have been generally prolific throughout even the “dry” periods of Fastball’s existence. We both put out solo albums in between releases of Fastball albums. Plus, there were two releases by The Small Stars, an interesting band Miles fronted for a few years. Speaking for myself, I’m always writing and composing. I had a band for four years with my friend, Kevin McKinney called Wrenfro. We performed mostly original music every week for three years at a now defunct club in Austin called, Strange Brew. When we released Step Into Light in 2017, I stepped away from that to focus on Fastball full-time. None of these new songs were written for Step Into Light, though some were written away from Fastball. Two of mine, “Doesn’t It Make You Feel Small” and “Girl You Pretended To Be”, were written while I was doing the Wrenfro thing and were performed live with other people before Fastball heard them.

How did you connect with Steve Berlin for this one?

Our manager brought up his name to produced and we jumped on it. I’ve been a fan of his work for years. Used to see Steve perform with The Blasters in the early ‘80s. Saw him a bunch in Los Lobos and was well aware of his production skills. I loved working with him and was kind of in awe of his focus on the project and his musical imagination. He came up with many ideas for parts I don’t think we could’ve come up with on our own. To my initial disappointment, he never busted out the sax, but as the project started taking shape, I realized there was no place for it.

What was the reasoning behind your decision not to play bass on this one?

I didn’t play bass on the record because Bruce Hughes was available. He has more imagination and way better chops than I do. I don’t see myself as a bassist.

Can you talk a little bit about the title track?

Miles wrote “Help Machine” and, in my opinion, it’s the kind of title that can be interpreted loosely. Song starts with lyrics that evoke a telephone help line or a 12-step meeting. Loosely. It’s very dreamlike and I think the songs provides all the information necessary.

You opted to put this one out on your own label? Why go that route vs. using a traditional record label again?

Fastball has been virtually independent since we left Hollywood Records after Harsh Light Of Day in 2001. Even while signed to Ryko it felt like an indie label because our A&R rep was our friend, Rob Seidenberg, who originally signed us to Hollywood when he was there. I see absolutely no reason to be on a major label. Nobody tells us what to do and we owe no money. It’s all us. As far as getting our music noticed, I think we do pretty well. Energy keeps building at a nice, consistent pace and I see much improvement. We just needed a bit of time to adjust to the way the modern industry works.

The band has been around long enough to experience the music business at two different extremes – when they spent a lot of money signing bands and where they are at now. Do you think it’s easier or harder now for new bands to get noticed?

Quick success is hard to adjust to and we had difficulty realizing just who we were as a band after All The Pain in 1998. We were so busy touring we never worked on improving any aspect of our band/live show. But since we never got huge that seemed to put us in a place where we just kept going because it was the best vehicle for all three of us to get records made and go out and play. I think if we sold twice as many records as we did, we may have imploded. All the weird things that happen with fame…yada yada.

You’ve already announced some new dates – do you plan on adding more and touring for much of the next few months? 

Yes, we have future dates into 2020, we will probably do something that resembles a proper tour in the new year.

What’s next for the band? 

We will continue to make records and play live all over the world at our own pace.