“Over the last few days, some people have been messing with the Punk Zine Archive site. None of it was malicious, but I had no luck in preventing it either. To avoid any bigger problems, I have shut down the site….
-The last post on the Punk Zine Archive website, entitled “Bye,” written sometime around July 2011
Missed it by thaaat much. Eighteen months, actually, but still. In the fall of 2012, I started tracking down certain punk and indie rock music zines from the ‘90s and early ‘00s. The endeavor was a mixed bag from the outset. Some were already in my closet. Back issues of others were still available to order online. The New York Public Library had decent collections of one or two at their midtown Manhattan branch.
The punk and hardcore zine HeartattaCk (both the ‘h’ and ‘c’ were capitalized for “hardcore”), from Goleta, CA, proved somewhat trickier. A year earlier, and the majority of its fifty issues, including almost all of issues #1 through #33, would have been right there online – not to mention many others, like the tough-to-find Shredding Material #11, which featured interviews with the trifecta of The Promise Ring, Mineral, and Boys Life. (Yes, the search favored zines that covered second-generation emocore.)
HeartattaCk lived for a dozen years, from its first printing in early 1994 until its last in 2006. It was the baby of Kent McClard, who ran it concurrently with the record label he founded at the start of the ‘90s, Ebullition Records. It wasn’t McClard’s first venture into zine-land, as he had previously done No Answers since the early 80’s, and had also written for Maximumrocknroll. Ebullition, though, was arguably where he first started to make a major mark, putting out some of the most enduring and influential Southern California post-hardcore releases of the era, including the mighty Still Life’s From Angry Heads with Skyward Eyes, and Portraits of Past’s visceral, screamo-inventing (thanks, guys?) self-titled album, which is sometimes referred to as 01010101.
California in the 1990’s was not starved for punk rock fanzines. In high school, my friend Taylor once told me a joke:
Taylor: How many punk rockers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Me: How many?
Taylor: Twenty; one to screw it in, and nineteen to sit around and write zines about it.
Amidst that kind of crowd, HeartattaCk established itself well – surely in part due to the Ebullition connection, but it also had an aggressive and engaging voice, and reflected the concerns of its audience. One of the trickiest minefields of punk rock capitalism in the post-Grunge boom years was the demilitarized zone between art and commerce. Priced at 25 cents, HeartattaCk christened the ship with one contributor sermonizing about the invasive control of social security numbers and, to a greater extent, barcodes. In hindsight, “to barcode or not to barcode” was one of the more quaint preoccupations of West Coast punk rock. Issue #12 prominently featured a quote from Al Franken about not wanting a barcode on his book, along with the short line attributed to the Book of Revelation, “no man will be able to buy or sell without the mark of the beast,” printed directly above what looked like a real barcode (but maybe wasn’t?). If only they had the NSA and Google Glass to rail against.
The airing of grievances was as common as celebrating the scene. Issue #2 (June 1994) featured a guest article by Dirk Hemsath of Doghouse Records sharing his discontent with Cargo Records Distribution, and a piece by McClard going off on bands who “look cool and act wild, but say nothing.” The zine’s voice wasn’t entirely uniform. In a later issue, columnist Daisy Rooks opened by affirming her allegiance to HeartattaCk: “Although a lot of people criticize HaC for being too political or dry or uptight – a lot of people criticize me for the same reasons, and I really think that there are worse things to be.” With that said, she then goes on to chide the old guard: “I think that the UPC code issue was a good place to start and a good line to draw, but I think that it’s definitely played out and tired by now and so I would be happy with a new fight.”
Beyond the charms of being able relive ancient turbulent scene politics, there are numerous other rewards to preserving these pre-blog publications which were designed to live fast and die young. There’s the wistful chronology of retracing a band’s entire lifespan through the advertisements for their records across the years. There’s the connect-the-dots trainspotting of finding little gems like the review of fellow zine Punk Planet’s first issue in the zine review section of HeartattaCk’s second issue. HeartattaCk, it should be noted, also reviewed itself in its own zine reviews section, only half tongue-in-cheek.
Sadly, I had overlooked HeartattaCk during its existence, and, with the Punk Zine Archive down, I may never have been able to dig into it and discover first-hand all of the above and more. That’s where ZAPP came in.
A bit of background: The Zine Archive and Publishing Project (ZAPP) was founded in Seattle, WA, in the mid-1990s roughly around the same time as Richard Hugo House, a resource center for writers in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. ZAPP first set up shop in Hugo House’s basement, dwelling down there until a relatively recent move up to the second floor. I had almost interned for ZAPP a decade earlier when I was a student at the University of Washington, but regretfully had to bow out due to a schedule conflict.
When it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried them yet, I sent an email to their generic address. I heard back within hours from Remy Nelson, the ZAPP liaison, who was fantastically specific:
It looks like we have twenty-four issues of Heart Attack. Specifically issues 1, 2, 6, 8, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 31, 34, 36, 38, 40 and 46. Unfortunately we only have issue twelve of Shredding Material.
We emailed back and forth a few more times that afternoon. That was the last day of February. A friend in Seattle was getting married the first day of June, so I was going to be out there then. One of the quirks of ZAPP is that they are only open twelve hours a week: from 4:00pm to 8:00pm on Wednesdays, 1:00pm to 5:00pm on Thursdays and Saturdays. The wedding was on a Saturday, so any other plans for the days before that had to be scheduled around the two chunks of time on Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon.
In the April in between, the Seattle weekly The Stranger ran a rousing piece by their Books Editor, Paul Constant, about developments – or, perhaps more accurately, deteriorations – in the relationship between Hugo House and ZAPP. The article began as directly as possible: “Here’s the thing: The Zine Archive and Publishing Project…has got to move.”
Though ZAPP itself had swelled over the years from 1,500 to an estimated 20,000 – 30,000 zines, it had become a shrinking priority for Hugo House. The recently resigned archive and library manager had not been replaced, leaving it to be managed by volunteers. Its open hours had been reduced, hence the odd Wednesday/Thursday/Saturday schedule. Directors from Hugo House had met with ZAPP volunteers and supporters back in March to have something akin to ‘a talk.’ Like parents reluctantly nudging an adult child out of the nest, Constant noted “[Hugo House executive director Tree] Swenson didn’t set a deadline for ZAPP’s departure, just urged the committee to start the conversation about what ZAPP’s future would look like.”
When that piece ran, things were still very much open-ended. By the time I flew out to the Northwest at the end of May, there was still no further news about ZAPP’s status to be found, at least online. Not long after landing, I made sure to call the Hugo House to see if the archive was still even open to the public.
That week in Seattle, the weather shifted peculiarly hour-by-hour over Capitol Hill. From early morning, the typical great grey duvet of overcast lay draped between the mountain ranges until around lunch, when patches of light would begin to wear through. Oddly, around 2:00pm, strong winds would begin to dash across the hill, tearing the clouds above further apart. Having done their job, the winds would settle by 3:00pm, leaving the slacker sun to start doing its thing, still impeded here and there by the occasional bruised cotton mass that would drift across it. On Wednesday, as if this meteorological schedule was mere common knowledge, people began to meander on to the ball fields of Cal Anderson Park to sit in the sunlight, as I sat on the perimeter killing time on the other side of 11th Avenue from the Richard Hugo House, waiting for that 4:00 pm opening time.
Finally seeing through months of waiting, my stunted eagerness didn’t seem to make much of an impression on the girl behind the reception desk, barring the part where I couldn’t figure out how to open the front door. Instead of having to sign in, she simply pointed me to the small central stairwell –no longer located in the spacious basement I remembered, it was now in ‘cozier’ digs. The few other folks upstairs were equally impartial to my arrival, not taking any notice as I set up shop at the two small tables next to the open shelves of plastic magazine files.
Impressive as it was to see first-hand how ZAPP’s collection had grown since I was last there – now one of the largest of its kind in the world– what was more striking was its ease of use. I paced the racks until I found the “H” files in the music section, pulled out the first of two that were crammed full of plastic-slipped copies of HeartattaCk, and commenced pawing through their dimmed pages, the whole time swilling coffee and scribbling notes with an inky pen. Granted, the lax environment probably had something to do with the diminished staff and distancing posture of Hugo House. Still, the novelty of such intimate contact with aging ephemera came into greater perspective for me later in the summer, when I went to the Fales Library at New York University.
Back in New York after the wedding, it turned out that the Fales Library was one of a handful of places in the country on record as having issues of HeartattaCk in their collections; the others all being hundreds of miles away in places like the University of Michigan and the Wisconsin Historical Society. (ZAPP, of course, is not searchable through libraries on the WorldCat system, which is kind of a shame.) Spending an afternoon at Fales for some follow-up research, the process was a world apart. First, there was paperwork to fill out and sign. After that, I surrendered my bag to a locker in the corner of the room and grabbed a provided pencil (no pens allowed!) while an assistant wheeled out the specific issues I had formally requested. They were then provided to me one-at-a-time, on a portable foam lectern top replete with that little strand of academic rope that holds pages of scholarly works open with authority.
Browsing the collection at Fales was, of course, out of the question. Not so at ZAPP, where you can read whatever you can reach. It was a striking difference in how the two different facilities managed (or didn’t manage) the handling of the exact same materials. Yes, the odds of a random freak walking in off the street and damaging old rare magazines are probably more likely in New York, but Seattle does have more than its fair per-capita share of weirdos with unwashed hands and nothing better to do (though remembering those sparse open hours is difficult enough for sane people).
The open communal vibe is a key element that makes ZAPP so vital and important. As the acronym goes, it’s an archive of old zines (some dating back decades), but also a place to encourage the publication of new ones, and writing in general. Hunched over those twenty-four issues of HeartattaCk on both that Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon, around the table a small collection of aspiring scribes (all young women, notably) discussed their reading groups, writing groups, and the inevitable lonely work that must be carried out in between. The clubhouse vibe was heartening. As closing time approached on Wednesday, one of them turned to ask if I was finding what I was after, and I realized she must be Remy. She vaguely remembered our email exchange (or at least pretended to), and we briefly talked about our reverse geographical life trajectories – her from New York to Seattle, me the opposite.
I didn’t see Remy on Thursday until the end of open hours again, when she was sitting at the front desk, so I briefly introduced her to my wife (who had joined me that day to peruse comedy-related zines) as we were leaving – me having flipped through nearly every last page of HeartattaCk in the room, as well as random copies of Backfire, Status, Hit It or Quit It, and others, sad that I didn’t have an entire month or two of spare time for the rest of the alphabet. I’ve reached out to Remy twice since, to ask about any developments with the search for a new home for ZAPP, but neither has so far been returned. Hopefully something worthy is in works, because this singular community asset deserves nothing less.