Dynamite Hemorrhage isn’t some recently excavated fanzine obscurity from the days of punk yore. It’s a brand new obscurity from 2014 with each one of its 68 pages existing in the physical realm — on paper. Yes, the stuff used to craft artisinal wastepaper basketballs is being put to use by a music-obsessed individual determined to infect the world with his love of underground music from the past 50 years. So, my second thought — right after “How can I get a copy?” — was “What could possibly compel someone undertake such a brazen act of digital-era hubris?”
Jay Hinman, the writer and publisher of Dynamite Hemorrhage, is a long time San Francisco resident and San Jose native. He’s been unceasingly active in local and national music circles during the past 30 years as a college radio DJ, music writer, fanzine publisher, blogger, and podcaster. No cyber-luddite, Jay’s willingly adopted new technologies to spread the gospels of everything from “panic rock” to “brutarian thud plod.” He combines a deep historical knowledge of rocknroll from “punks, pop merchants, artpunks and garage rock heathens,” with a discerning ear for the proto-contemporary, which delivers to an audience of steely-eared, micro-scene denizens in his action-packed, inimitable prose style. Trust me, there’s no need to disambiguate his phrase, “Aussie dope-scuzz minimalists.” Dynamite Hemorrhage is a solid read no matter which room in the house you do your light reading in.
Though the world is lousy with ahistorical, publicist-debauched music mags, Dynamite Hemorrhage is a recommended, top-shelf read for fans of new and archival real-deal raw rock. The debut issue features a substantial interview with Chris D., singer of LA punk legends, The Flesh Eaters and writer for Slash magazine); a retrospective and interview with the “criminally forgotten” mid-90s all-female Scottish garage art punks, Sally Skull; chats with current bands such as NYC’s minimal art punks, Household, and Columbus, Ohio’s warped no-fi primitivists, Sex Tide; plus 56 record reviews (Spray Paint, Cold Beat, Veronica Falls, Venom P. Stinger, Clothilde, among others) and 17 hefty book reviews that add a whole other dimension to this undertaking. I knew about already a number of the bands covered within, but several I hadn’t heard of, and Jay’s reviews spurred me to further investigation — in some cases actual consumer action — and now I’ve got some new favorites.
The thing is, Jay published the last issue of his prescient Superdope fanzine way back in the late 1990s. It would’ve been so much easier for him to unload all of his new material onto some fetid online message board or strip mall of a blog, but instead he chose to get all future pastoral on us. We recently sat down across a kitchen table from each other to discuss his momentous decision behind suiting up and re-enlisting in the zine wars.
Jay, what have you been up to since the last issue Superdope?
I’ve always tried to stay active and involved in the low culture, the high culture not so much. The last issue of Superdope was in 1998, then I did an online radio show called No Count Dance Party, then I wrote for the online magazine Perfect Sound Forever, then in 2003 the blogging platforms started coming out and I began blogging with Agony Shorthand. Almost no one was blogging about music at that time, maybe 5 or so blogs covering independent rock music. Then a bunch came out after that. I’ve done about 8 different blogs at this point, half of which have been about music, including a generalist blog called Hedonist Jive that encompasses books, film and music. But I’ve noticed that readership plummets if your content is not targeted to a community of enthusiasts. Last year I started Dynamite Hemorrhage as a bi-weekly podcast radio show and it’s now available through iTunes.
Why did you decide to publish Dynamite Hemorrhage in a physical format? And why now?
I got fascinated and flabbergasted by the return of analog culture, which caught me completely off-guard. Vinyl sales are up, record stores are opening, there are viable cassette labels, and even flexi-discs are once again being made. It seemed the infrastructure had somehow reassembled in a way that that might support a new music fanzine as well.
The revenge of the archaic formats.
Right. Frankly, this all happened after I’d sold off the bulk of my vinyl [laughs]. And then I was starting to watch CDs die as well. I really thought a lot of this was a lost cause. I thought everything was going to be in pure digital format. So when you start seeing that flip on its head and not by old people like myself but from people who are young and are just getting into music and getting enthusiastic about it, that’s great.
I never stopped listening to music or being interested in new & archival rocknroll. And for some reason, I have always felt the need to try and get people to listen to what I enjoy. I like to have the physical thing rather than the ephemeral online thing that you check once and then never see again. With the physical thing you always have it there, it maintains some psychic value and possibly even some real value as well.
I’d already started working on DH when another thing happened that sort of validated my decision to do it in the first place: [author] Kim Cooper told me that at the LA Book Fair there was a guy who’d gone out and bought every issue of Superdope, cobbled together a complete set (1-8) and was selling it at the fair for $800.
I picked my jaw up off the floor and thought that even if it had been selling for 1/8th that amount, I still would’ve been surprised. But it also says something about what people are valuing these days.
Did it sell?
Of course not [laughs].
How easy/difficult was it to put together this magazine compared to doing a fanzine 20 years ago?
It was way easier than 20 years ago in terms of the digital tools available now. Back in the day, I would send a band a blank cassette tape along with a list of hand-typed questions, then the band would get together at their practice space and record their answers, then they would mail me back the cassette and I would transcribe it. I don’t have to do any of that anymore. As far as layout, back then, I’d print and cut and glue with multiple trips to the copy shop. Labels’ ads were hand-assembled and hand-drawn as well.
People in the pre-digital era were forced to develop detective skills to find out about non-mainstream culture. What’s it like now doing cyber-detective work tracking down musicians from obscure or long-forgotten bands?
Depends on when the band ceased existing and whether they ever had any digital footprint. Finding a modern band that wants attention is the easiest thing in the world. But finding Scottish band Sally Skull, who put out 2 obscure 45s just before the Internet, was extremely difficult. They ended their career in 1997 before a lot of digital tools came into existence and they never put stuff on Myspace or had songs up on illegal file sharing networks.
What have been some influential zines for you?
I was always turned onto bands by fanzines like Forced Exposure and [Gerard Cosloy’s] Conflict and used them as buying guides. If those guys described a record that I was interested in — of course, back then you couldn’t go and listen to it instantly on the Internet — if it sounded good enough from the review, I would go out and buy it.
Your Chris D. (of The Flesh Eaters) interview covers some of his involvement with the almighty Slash magazine (1977-1980).
Talking to Chris D. it became apparent that there have been people talking about and interested in compiling all the back issues of Slash into an anthology but no one’s done it yet. And I actually fret about that not happening. Slash was a newspaper and newspapers wither and yellow, and people die, and collections get thrown out. I wanted to at least talk to somebody who was involved with it. The main guy behind it, Claude Bessy (aka Kickboy Face) is dead, but Chris is still around, so I made sure to ask him questions about that. Slash is one of the best-written, most interesting magazines I’ve ever read, beyond its coverage of cool bands. It’s about its place in the culture and the fact that these guys were on the front lines when it was all this stuff going down, they were connecting all the dots and marveling at it all. So good. I cannot even pretend to be that good.
How did the book reviews come to be such a significant part of DH?
I always admired the fanzines in which the person who wrote them explored other aspects of culture and showed that they were more than some knuckle-dragging punk rock alcoholic. The typical punk rock fanzine is great if it’s well done, but the ones with somebody reviewing films, art and books were the ones I liked a bit more — Forced Exposure being the main one that used to do that.
Where do you look for and/or how do you acquire information about new music these days?
Bandcamp scouring is a lot of fun. If I spend 30 minutes on Bandcamp, I can find 3 bands I’m really excited about. I also love online radio. I’ve discovered a lot of cool shows like Erica Elizabeth’s Expresway to Yr Skull. That’s the show that kicked me into enthusiasm for a lot of modern pop and post-punk bands. There are other curators out there with really small, cool, on the down-low blogs. I use an RSS reader for those. And if a particular blog starts getting boring and not posting anything I like, I just delete it from my RSS feed.
Do you read Pitchfork?
No. If they were to put forth music I like, then I would. But if [Pitchfork writer] Marc Masters, who I follow on Twitter, posts about something he wrote, I’ll read that, otherwise I wouldn’t bother with it.
Is Dynamite Hemorrhage a break-even proposition?
Yes, it’s strictly break even with 50% ad sales and 50% issue sales. 10 years ago, I don’t think breaking even would’ve been possible. Not that this has anything to do with making money on it. Rather, it was, ‘If I publish this will people buy it and read it?’ If I had asked that 10 years ago the answer would’ve been ‘no way’ and I would’ve done a blog instead. But I asked myself the question again and thought ‘yes they will,’ and they have. I’m almost sold out.
Were you breaking even on Superdope in the ’90s?
The incredible promo gravy train of records and CDs from bands and labels paid for that zine and made it profitable. Most of which I didn’t like and didn’t want to hold onto and couldn’t hold onto because of the limited space in my San Francisco apartment.
What’s your policy about accepting promos from labels and bands nowadays?
Now, I explicitly tell people not to send me physical product and to send MP3s instead. In the early ’90s I loved receiving promos, but it also carried a certain amount of mental burden that I had to review something a respected label sent me, while selling the Primus and Alice In Chains CDs to Amoeba. Now I dispatch with that burden by not accepting promos at all, and I can review and write about whatever I want, guilt-free.
How about the distribution for Dynamite Hemorrhage?
20 years ago, Superdope was distributed via Tower Records, Cargo, See-Hear. I knew all the distributors but they’re now all out of business. The only ones still in business were Midheaven and Forced Exposure mailorder and they are now the two biggest distributors for the magazine. What was really great is that after it came out, stores were getting in touch saying they wanted to carry it, and not on consignment. These stores are willing to pay in advance and pay the true shipping cost. So the model is better now. The only thing much worse is how ridiculous postage costs became. I felt like Rip Van Winkle heading to the post office to mail a copy to Australia. I expected maybe $5 for my 68-page zine and was shocked when it was $11. Had to raise the price and issue a big mea culpa on the blog.
Back in the Superdope day, you were seeing lots of shows as well as listening to tons of recorded music. How often do you see live shows these days? Is it mostly just recorded music for you now?
My live music attendance dropped precipitously in the 2000s; I had a kid, a serious job with a 5:30am wake-up time, etc. I’ll still make it out to see bands every now and again. I saw Cold Beat and Pang at Bottom of the Hill two days ago. I’m most into seeing bills of new bands in small clubs.
Were you going to punk shows as a teen?
No, I was more interested in listening to the radio in my teenage high school bedroom. Just being super entertained by the on-air personalities and all the weird music they were playing in the ’80s. I was a kid and lived in San Jose. San Francisco was an hour away and I didn’t have a car.
What radio station did you listen to?
KFJC. It was extremely formative for me. That’s pretty much where I discovered all the music I like today and everything that’s some derivative of that. It’s burned into my psyche. Most of the bands I play on my show are probably derivatives of that somehow, because a lot of that musical template was being formed in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
You were a deejay on KCSB in Santa Barbara back in the ’80s. Now you’ve got your Dynamite Hemorrhage bi-weekly podcast on iTunes. How much time and effort goes into putting one of those episodes together?
It takes about 2 hours of time to put together a one-hour show. I do it all in GarageBand by dragging and dropping files. I add my stupid commentary on top of that and that’s it. It’s way easier than driving to a radio studio and physically DJing records, though there’s a lot more romance in that. Back when I was thinking that analog was basically dead, I made a point of digitizing my entire record collection. That took a long time. And then I started selling my records on eBay, but consequently I have an amazing MP3 and digital collection. But putting the podcast up on iTunes was the smartest move I made with it. The audience is growing with every episode.
Can you name check some of your current cultural obsessions?
As far as raw rock bands go, the aforementioned Cold Beat (SF), Sex Tide (Columbus, OH), Pampers (NYC), Spray Paint (Austin), Growth (from Sweden, another Bandcamp discovery, they’re along the lines of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Little Claw), Roachclip (Detroit), Household (NYC), Slum of Legs (Brighton, England).
In the past few years, I’ve gotten into more pop stuff. I always liked the New Zealand jangle pop, but had resisted the C-86 thing. I’ve finally opened up to it in recent years. Now I like bands like Veronica Falls, Trick Mammoth (a new band from New Zealand who I’m really into), also Sauna Youth and La Luz. But I do have a line that if you cross it and get too precious or fey I don’t like it.
I’ve been listening to the Analog Africa label of ’70s afrobeat and Colombian music reissues and Jamaican dub from the ’70s. And recent books include Jodi Angel’s You Only Get Letters From Jail (short stories about young men in trouble); books about Russia and Russians — Oliver Bullough’s The Last Man in Russia and Russians by Gregory Feifer.
Anybody else is in the music zine print game these days?
There are a few. There’s a really cool one called Making Waves, covering female-fronted bands of the ’70s and ’80s lost to time. They did it in cut and paste style, but in a very nice-looking book form, almost something you’d buy in an art gallery. Another one from Montreal called Only Death is Fatal. Sam Lefebvre’s Degenerate from Oakland. Savage Damage from here in SF.
Will there be an issue #2 of DH?
Yes. I’m moving to Norway to work all summer and plan to put a new issue of the magazine out when I get back. I go batty if I’m not contributing in some way.
I’ve always gravitated towards the curator, anybody who’s a really great curator of stuff, anybody who’s done their homework, who has a past but is looking towards the future of where music, film and books are going. We need those people because the Internet is a mile wide and an inch deep. I want to be one of those curators and thankfully I am to some people.