Interview with Tim Yohannan and Jen Angel of Maximumrock’n’roll Part 1|
Bad Taste Is in the Majority, Part 1
Tuesday, October 18 2011
Maximumrock’n’roll proved a very simple point: One man armed with an insatiable dedication, could change the world—no substantial financial backing necessary. Tim Yohannan has, arguably, had the deepest effect on DIY punk rock since its inception. Although most of the efforts he was involved with were run by committee—Maximumrock’n’roll zine, The 924 Gilman Street Project (a live music venue in Berkeley), and the record collective Epicenter—he proved a major, guiding force in them all. His influence spanned not only San Francisco, but the entire world. His plan of operation was as simple in theory as it was hard to pull off in real life: Stay true to your original principles. With Maximumrock’n’roll, Tim had a strong vision and the backbone to keep a strict monthly release schedule and a tight core of dedicated writers. He kept a massive, complicated machine moving for the better part of twenty years. His lasting legacy went beyond the most coveted punk record collection in the entire world and beyond helping compile some of the most influential international hardcore compilation records of all time. He helped settle the bedrock and ballast of what punk rock itself is today—for better or for worse.
Tim’s policies were enormously controversial. He was one of a small handful of critics in the world whose words people took for gospel when it came to what is or isn’t punk or hardcore. That’s no small feat, and it bestowed MRR considerable power and influence far and wide.
When I was younger, two of the three magazines I could count on getting in the mail, even in the gut of a small town, were MRR and Flipside. I really didn’t see a competition between the two. They were complementary views to similar music.
That’s not to say I always agreed with Tim, but this is punk rock. If you don’t agree with MRR’s policies on covering music, nothing’s stopping you from making your own zine and opening your creative output to criticism.
Many people had their gripes with Tim, often disagreeing with him on his politics or his definition of what would be listened to at MRR. Yet, he was such a deep believer in punk ethics. It was hard to deny him respect. He built so much with his own hands from the ground up. How many of us can say that?
Only months after this interview, on April 3, 1998, Tim died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My mother was also diagnosed with the same disease. Before the interview, we talked a little about cancer treatments and how far along his cancer was before it was detected. My mother found out about her condition two weeks before Tim and started treatment immediately. My mother almost died but had a miraculous recovery. It’s such a fine line. Petty differences melt into nothing when faced with death.
Tim, seeing the mortality of his situation, named Jen Angel his successor at the time of this interview, which would be his last. Jen, the creator of Fucktooth fanzine, was tasked with the monstrous responsibility of keeping MRR on the right course. After a tumultuous time following Tim’s death, Jen went on to help form another magazine, Clamor.
MRR continues on to this day.
Todd: Tim, what’s your day job?
Tim: I do shipping and receiving for UC Berkeley.
Todd: Jen, what’s your day job?
Jen: I work at Punks For Presses.
Todd: Oh, I talked to you yesterday. You’re the same Jen. I did not know that.
All: [everyone laughs at Todd]
Jen: I was gonna ask you if you knew the answer.
Todd: What’s your occupation then?
Tim: I never thought of it like that. That pays my bills and keeps me grounded and this is my hobby or fancy or whatever.
Todd: What is this? Say you’re going to give a resume. What would your job description be?
Todd: And Jen, what would your job description be?
Jen: Tim’s is tyrant.
Todd: Oh, that’s right. I thought it was dictator.
Jen: Bad cop, good cop. I guess it would be coordinator, too.
Todd: How do you delineate between what’s punk and what’s not punk? In early issues you review The Jesus And Mary Chain. Would you do that now?
Tim: Stuff that sounds like their very earliest stuff, yes.
Todd: Why do you guys review surf music and not synth-pop?
Tim: Actually, we don’t review surf anymore. We did about two or three years ago when it was sort of surf and garage and everything was starting to perk up again. But then, about a year and a half ago, I decided that most of the surf stuff—if it was just instrumental stuff, the bulk of it was actually not what I would call maximum rock’n’roll. Most of it is pretty laid back.
Tim: Not even.
Todd: Background rock’n’roll.
Tim: Right. Every now and then there will be a record that will come out that we’ll say has an instrumental track and a vocal track and if that’s more on the rock and roll side, we’ll review it.
Todd: Jen, what do you think was the deciding factor for you on coming out to Maximumrock’n’roll from Ohio?
Jen: It’s just a really big thing and I’ve been doing zines for a really long time and Maximum is the biggest zine there is. And if I want to keep doing zines then Maximum is pretty much the way to go.
Todd: How many issues do you work ahead of time?
Tim: Four or five.
Todd: Everything—layout wise, ad space wise and all that stuff?
Jen: Yeah. Well, ad space gets reserved about a month in advance. Completely reserved.
Tim: I would say probably sixty to seventy percent of the ads are automatic and then the rest get filled in as we have space available. We have a master layout chart in the computer for each issue and when one gets all blocked in terms of content then we’ll start the next one. The first thing to go, are the interviews. Then the articles and stuff like that. Now that Jen is here, we’re hopefully gonna have more articles.
Jen: Well, we have a special issue and then two articles lined up. So we’re workin’ on ‘em. We have to plan so far in advance to make space for a special issue and articles so they don’t happen for awhile.
Tim: When it gets to the point where we’re backed up six months, then we’ve got problems. An interview with a band gets done, it takes a month or two before it gets sent to us, four or five months before it comes out, band’s broken up.
Todd: We run into the exact same problems. Where did you get the title Maximumrock’n’roll? Tim: It was when punk started in ‘75, ‘76. The Who called what they were doing in ‘64 or whatever, Maximum R&B, where they were taking R&B and updating it. To me, that’s what punk was doing to rock’n’roll. It was updating it, so that’s why I called it Maximumrock’n’roll.
Todd: So, you like The Who?
Tim: Their earliest stuff.
Todd: Is there any popular band that you like their later stuff?
Tim: Huh! That’s a very good question.
Todd: Do you mind talking about your cancer treatment at all?
Tim: No, I don’t mind.
Todd: ‘Cause I’ve heard it’s lung cancer, pituitary cancer, skin graph cancer. I don’t even know what a pituitary is. What kind of cancer is it?
Tim: It’s lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Todd: Lymph? [Points to the lymph nodes in his neck].
Tim: Yeah, it turns out you have lymph glands all over the fuckin’ place but mainly, in my case, the ones that are affected are in the throat area, the armpit area, the groin area and the abdomen area.
Todd: Is it treated or in remission?
Tim: This kind of lymphoma doesn’t usually go into remission. They can knock it down for a couple of years at best and then it’s back. They tried three different types of chemo and it didn’t really work. Then they gave me some kind of experimental treatment recently and in another month, or a little more than that, I’ll know whether that has some effect. Now, whether it’s gonna have a big effect or not, I don’t know yet.
Todd: How would you describe chemo in non-medical terms?
Tim: They shoot you up with poison and it kills all the fast growing cells. That’s why your hair falls out. That’s a fast growing cell. Your nails turn black. Those are fast growing cells. Taste buds. Things like that go. So, it’s pretty indiscriminant. It’s like the modern day equivalent of leeches.
Todd: What’s the new treatment that they gave you?
Tim: It’s something called a mono-clonal antibody which, I guess, apparently knows how to just find your cancer cells and attach themselves to them and then damages the cells and then that prevents those cells from duplicating. It doesn’t shrink things right away but down the road, when those cells don’t duplicate, they will disappear and die. And then they also combine that with radiation. The humorous—well, it’s humorous now—part of that was that I had to stay in a lead-lined room for six days.
Jen: And just a reminder—Tim doesn’t read.
Tim: I was going nuts, and then they would come in with a Geiger counter and measure me every day until my level got down to a point where they could let me go. I wanted to bail after about four days and they told me that they’d report me to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission if I left. But anyway, it looks like there’s some effectiveness so far with this treatment. The nice thing about this is that there are no side effects other than that you may get leukemia. But other than that there are no side effects.
And an answer to your band question, I cannot think of a band who I think... of modern day bands... none. I can’t think of any. I think the last band that put out a surprising amount of good records before they put out a surprising amount of really bad records was The Rolling Stones. Up to the point where Brian Jones died, I think all of that stuff is still amazingly great and then after that they just sucked. I really think that in most bands, their first record is best because that probably represents years, well, used to represent years, of work. Now it represents even less practice and that’s why I think those are usually the hottest thing. After that they then felt sort of like, “Oh, we have to get records out all of the time” and the excitement drops and the quality drops.
Todd: Jen, what are your three favorite books since Tim doesn’t read?
Jen: It’s kind of hard ‘cause...
Todd: Just pound ‘em out.
Jen: Well, I don’t know. There’s a lot to choose from. One of my favorite political books is Howard’s End. Not the historical document, but a collection of essays called Declarations of Independence (by Howard Zinn). My favorite fiction book is a fantasy, called The Wizard of Earthsea (by Ursula K. LeGuin), which is wizards and dragons kind of stuff, the stuff I read when I was little and is still one of my favorite series. I can’t think of a third one. I read a lot of stuff but tend to get bored halfway through the book.
Todd: What’s the biggest difference between the initial vision of Maximumrock’n’roll to the vision you have for it today? I mean, it’s been around since 1982.
Tim: ‘77 actually. That’s when we started the radio show and that’s when we came up with the name Maximum Rock’n’Roll. How has the vision changed? Probably that I had more hope that, counter-culturally, the world could be affected better. Another is that it could be something that could have positive impact on consciousness. Now I don’t necessarily believe that. I think I have more of the belief that it’s a refuge for alienated people to sort of establish something of their own. I don’t really hold out hopes that it could be a big vehicle for societal change.
Todd: What do you think took its teeth out?
Tim: I would say that maybe over the last ten or fifteen years, the way capitalism has developed in terms of conglomeration of power and wealth more and more in the hands of a few people and the way the media has affected how people think. What people think. I think that’s part of the technique, to just bombard people with so much bullshit information and so much bullshit that they can’t see the forest from the trees. I think it’s been highly effective. And I also think that with the defeat of any alternative, in this case communism, this is the reign of capitalism now—until it destroys the world or destroys itself or whatever it’s gonna do. So, I think that has been the change I have seen in the last twenty years. I don’t think that there’s an effective resistance on a large scale that can be mounted against the power that they have. It’s more a matter of them self-destructing and if there is going to be anything left for anybody else after that. If there is an after that.
Todd: [Silence] Well that kind of depressed me. [Laughter]
Tim: Which is not to say that you shouldn’t fight. In other words, I don’t feel depressed by that. People should resist any way they can. They should try and cooperate any way they can and they should try to create environments where they can maintain some kind of sanity and they should try to have some fun. If you’re stuck on this plane, you do what you can do. Otherwise, you just become a complete cynical fuckhead, which is a victory for them. So, if you have any self respect you have to resist. So, to me, that’s not depressing. It’s sort of like that’s how it works and maybe in a way this is more honest, ya know?
Todd: What was you initial thought on becoming part of Maximumrock’n’roll? How long have you been here for?
Jen: Since April.
Todd: Has anything changed? Has your initial thought when you got in your car in Ohio, by the time you got here, to now, changed? Had anything changed when you met Tim and you walked in here? Was it like, “Oh, I can’t do that” or, “Oh, good”?
Jen: Well, some things have changed. Now I know why there aren’t more articles. I’ve been here for how long and there hasn’t been an article yet that I’ve worked on. You can ask people so many times or people are flaky and people don’t commit. So that’s why I realized that there aren’t that many good interviews. I know that it’s me working on it a lot more than Tim does and we still don’t have a lot to show for it. That frustrates me a lot because we can’t do this by ourselves. So that’s the big thing that has changed and now I understand more why Maximum doesn’t live up to some people’s expectations or whatever.
Todd: Have you found another person to help Jen out yet?
Jen: No. We’ve considered a lot of people but we’re still looking.
Todd: In the job description for the vacancy, it states, “You don’t get paid.” How can somebody work like sixty hours a week, or how many hours you’re asking them to work, and not get paid?
Jen: I don’t get paid. Tim doesn’t get paid.
Tim: In other words, there’s some re... What’s the re word?
Tim: Thank you. You won’t pay rent, but you have to live here for twenty-four hours a day, essentially.
Jen: I don’t really think it’s that bad. I think there are definite times when, say a review deadline or whatever, that it is a lot of work but it’s really kind of off and on. You answer the phone and deal with that whenever someone ever calls you, but it’s not like I have to be here eight hours a day. You have to work with the deadlines, but it’s not like it’s sixty hours I put in every week. It’s like the week after the issue comes out where there’s not much to do and you do a lot of the other work that isn’t related to the magazine.
Todd: How many people work here on a regular basis?
Tim: On a monthly basis, there’s about a hundred all together who contribute in any way, shape, or form. Maybe about seventy of those live in the area and they all have keys and they come in and do typing or reviewing or layout or whatever it is they do. Compared to how we did the mag, let’s say about three years ago, it’s a lot more decentralized. After I got sick, a lot of my job duties got distributed to people. In other words, I used to go pick up the mail every day, but now different people do it every different day. They go to the PO Box, pick up stuff, come over here and do it. Someone else comes over and types in stuff that day. Someone is in charge of the letters to the editor section, somebody’s in charge of the scene report. It’s a lot more decentralized. Our job is to make sure that all of these things interconnect and, “Are they gonna do what they say they’re gonna do?”
Jen: What we do is call people and remind them of their deadlines.
Todd: Any problems with matters of theft or trust? Do you have a lengthy or large selection process for somebody to get a key?
Tim: Considering how many people over the years have had keys, the amount of either theft or whatever is really minuscule. We’re not that discriminant.
Jen: When we select a reviewer, we select them on the basis of their knowledge or whatever about music and whether or not we give them a key right away is, “Okay, how do we feel about them when we meet them?” “Do they seem shady. Do they seem really cool?” It’s basically the first impression. I can only think of one or two cases where I delayed giving keys to somebody for any given period of time. In most cases I’ll give keys right off the bat.
Todd: All right, true or false: Reverend Nørb has three testicles and his drummer has one thus they can still have the title of their album 8 Testicled Pogo Machine?
Tim: Well, I haven’t inspected.
Todd: Because that guy had a lot of energy and I’m trying to trace it to something.
Tim: That’s true. What can you say about somebody who when you meet ‘em and you’re shaking hands with him, he’s pogoing?
Tim: What does that say?
Todd: Do you have a lot of hair on your toes?
Tim: No, I’m not Armenian.
Todd: Did you give the band Head a hundred dollars and say, “Keep on doing what you’re doing ‘cause we like it?”
Tim: [laughs] Well, have you heard their new album?
Todd: No, I have not.
Tim: Then you would know the answer is yes.
Todd: All right Jen, what are some things that make you blind with rage? What are your buttons?
Jen: Last night I went to this show where the promoter didn’t really promote it. When we got there, there were like five people, which means he didn’t publicize it very much. He didn’t collect money at the door. He promised the band gas money and didn’t give it to them. All of that is just so irresponsible and it makes me very angry, but I can’t do much about it. It makes me so mad. Tim always makes fun of me being a very even keel and not an angry person.
Todd: That’s a weird thing to be made fun of.
Jen: That’s probably a question you would be better off asking Tim because he’s the one who has the reputation of flying off the handle. I think that one thing for him is honesty. When you know that someone deliberately lies. I think that’s a big one.
Tim: People who know better using the term “fag.” I blew up at this friend of mine the other day for indiscriminant use of that term. It was literally that the fuse went and within twenty seconds I was giving the finger and telling him what a fuckhead he was and stuff. And then after I got it out of my system we worked it out. Actually, I think it’s good to blow your top sometimes. I think it cleans the pores. What else makes me really pissed off? Yeah, I would say people lying. That bothers me a lot. And people just being fucking lazy. The path of least resistance, which then includes lying, is just so unnecessary and so hurtful and that’ll make me get mad sometimes.
Jen: Something that’s essential for me is don’t commit to a project if you’re not going to do it. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine, as long as you tell me and then I can deal with it or find someone else to do it or whatever. If you wait until the very last moment to tell me that you’re not going to do it, that’s obviously the wrong time to do it.
Todd: Have you ever had a voodoo doll?
Todd: A person’s face on a dartboard?
Tim: I think I’ve been on the receiving end of that.
Todd: Maybe you can clarify something for me. I have no idea how big of an audience Head has but I assume that there is a lot of positive press about that band. Then you have a band like Agnostic Front who you’ve butted heads with and gets written up pretty poorly but there’s a huge amount of people who really like them. How do you account for that discrepancy? Can you trace any reason why if this band gets no press or bad press all of the time and they still sell out a lot of shows?
Tim: Well, bad taste is in the majority, right? So you can account for things like that. Recently, we were taken to task by Mordam because of a bunch of articles we had written attacking Lookout. The assumption that some people there were working on was that we had hurt Lookout’s sales. My feeling has been that in the past whenever we have attacked somebody their sales go up and so I don’t agree with that theory. But you can give great press to a band like Head or whatever that will always remain a little cult band of geeks and their fans are going to be geeks and that’s how it’s gonna work. Or you can attack some bands and that will help them. Any publicity is good publicity.
Todd: I feel the same about The Fixtures. I wish more than four people would show up to see The Fixtures.
Tim: Jen, do you have any thoughts on that?
Jen: Just that it’s controversy. That’s better press than good press. It’s like the band Race Traitor from Chicago...
Todd: What was that catchy tagline? In Your Face or... Simple Disgrace?
Jen: Guilty Disgrace.
Tim: Any bad puns on the cover are mine.
Jen: There’s been very little good press about them, but people talk about them a lot and that’s because of controversy and people saying bad things about them. I definitely see that controversy is better press than saying good things about them.
Todd: What’s the importance of a scene? When you were in high school, where a lot of our readers—and I assume a lot of your readers are, in between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one—when they are in high school they have a scene of their own that’s set up by the high school. Either you’re in football or drama or your anti-football and anti-drama and you’re in a group by yourself. Do you think that the scene is kind of like a middle ground before going into something else or do you think the scene is important for itself? Do these people need to act collectively or do these people need to operate independently? I can give you some examples like when Pushead used to work for you guys and write for you guys and now he’s doing Metallica T-shirts. Is that a good thing or does that mean you’re very, very angry or do you think that he should have stayed in the enclave?
Jen: I definitely think that in terms of activism that a lot of people will be politicized by punk rock and then will move on and do something else totally unrelated to punk. I don’t think that’s betrayal. I just get frustrated because I wish that they would help out the scene that helped them out and that got them to that point. I think a lot of people have criticisms about the scene, which I agree with, but if everyone leaves the scene because they’re critical about it then the scene doesn’t get any better. There aren’t a lot of women and there’s sexism that’s not going to get any better and not going to change if all of the activist people who want to change it go out to do politics or to do their own thing. So, I do get mad when people leave. Plus, it’s kind of annoying when there’s someone who you’ve looked up to for a real long time or you respected what they do and—not necessarily did they sell out—but those things aren’t important anymore to them. They don’t have the same values and they move on and do something else. That makes me disappointed.
Tim: People obviously get involved with, in this case the punk scene, for different reasons. Some people get involved because they need a sense of community. A lot of people I think, actually. They’re very alienated people, or at least in the past that was the case. So, they try to build a community that they can relate to. If it turns out that they can’t relate to it and it’s not supportive enough then they seem to go and find some other kind of community. An example: it would be some people looking for god and they get in the punk scene. They don’t find the fulfillment, so they get into some sect or become religious or whatever. Some people, when they don’t find the satisfaction, they may revert back to the values that they were brought up in and they would become business people or whatever the fuck. For some people this is home and that’s all they’ve got and so they will stay with it and work with it over years and years and years. So, it depends on why people get involved and what they are looking for. I do think that there are a lot of people who benefit, and have benefited, from this stage of involvement. I do think that it would be nice if they, in turn, would—they have learned a lot—and then let’s say they go on and they’re specializing in this or that, that they would share that on some level with this community and with the younger people coming into it. There’d be some sort of responsibility like that and perpetuation. But that doesn’t happen that often.
Todd: Can you name a couple of people who have remained faithful? You’ve run Fat Wreck Chords stuff in your magazine. They’re pretty high profile but every time I’ve had association with them they’ve been very helpful and they seem to have very reasonably priced stuff. Their videocassettes are ten dollars.
Tim: Do you want me to say something nice about Fat Mike? Actually, I don’t have anything against Fat Mike. In some ways, for a bigger label, they’ve stuck more to certain principles than other labels have. There’s a lot of people in their thirties, forties, and even fifties who still view themselves as punk and are still working in this community. Not that many, but enough. But there are a lot of people who have gone on and gotten rich or have become professors or they have a lot of information. They could write some great fucking articles when we’re talking about articles that would maybe affect a lot of younger people. I wish those people would think of that and get in touch and say, “Hey, we want to do this!”
Todd: Have you solicited anybody?
Tim: Oh, every now and then I’ll hear of somebody who comes out of the blue. It depends on what they are doing nowadays. In some cases I wouldn’t want to touch them with a ten-foot pole. Slur on the band. And then there are other people who, I think on some level, their heart is still more or less in the right place and I might occasionally ask someone like that. But I don’t want to be beholden to them. I just wish that there was more initiative coming from people in that position.
Todd: What happened to the Maximumrock’n’roll radio show? Why did it end?
Tim: The last ten years this one person, Radley Hirsch, had been doing all of the tape duplicating in real time for all of the tapes that we sent out, did all the mailings, all the billings. He burnt out after a decade. It wasn’t going to be easy, if at all possible, to find somebody who could do that.
Jen: Especially emotionally.
Tim: And who would be really responsible? If I thought that it was really, really important that this show stay alive I would have fought harder to find someone, but I don’t think it is. I think that a lot of the college stations that take the show have DJ’s that have access to a lot of stuff. Nowadays, whatever your specialized interests are in punk, you can find a mailorder that has the stuff.
Todd: It’s getting more reliable, too.
Tim: Right. To me, it wasn’t a crucial thing and I don’t think the radio show’s been crucial for the last seven years. It’s a fun thing to do but I think that when it was live and we were doing it from KPFA—which was a 59,000-watt station and it was also relayed up and down the valley—then it mattered because then we could get a lot of music and a lot of ideas to a lot of people outside of San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland. It was reaching kids in Fresno, all the way down to Bakersfield, and all the way up to Redding. That mattered to me. This was more of a lark. It wasn’t crucial.
Todd: How do you feel about contributors who are double dipping? Ted Rall is a staff writer for P.O.V. magazine and he has his own radio show. He’s also a contributor for you guys. How do you feel about that?
Tim: If they do it for free then that’s fine. The only thing that bothers me is when people send the exact same article or interview to us and to you and to Rolling Stone and Spin. That’s happened where the identical thing has been sent to Flipside and Maximum.
Jen: Or people call and say, “I have this interview.” Like someone called and wanted to give us this interview with Greil Marcus. I was like, “Okay, maybe that would be an interesting thing but we’re not going to pay you for that!” We don’t pay people. If that’s the reason they’re interested in giving that to us, then we’re not interested.
Todd: Yeah, this guy wrote, saying he was a punk rocker from West Virginia. I said, “Okay, you can do some reviews for us.” He was like, “Well send me stuff.” I’m like, “You don’t have anything? How do you know about punk rock? Just show me a couple examples and we’ll see what happens.” He was like, “I can’t do that.”
Jen: We actually have a zine reviewer who’s thirteen and he does really good. It hasn’t gotten to the point where he thinks all zines suck. He actually reads all of them and does a really good job.
Todd: On every piece of vinyl in the music library, all four edges of the record jackets are secured with thick, green tape. Why?
Tim: Purely arbitrary. I went to Mexico in the summer of 1966 and there was this really great band that I hung out with in Mexico City that summer, this R&B band, and the main guy in the band, Javier Batiz, put tape on the edges of his records. He had this really cool R&B collection. It looked really cool and I said I was going to do that and at that point I had forty records or something. Had I known, I never would have started.
Todd: Is it hard finding green tape?
Tim: Well, the green tape company went out of business and panic struck. But due to the wonders of capitalism, another company filled the gap.
Todd: Any discrepancies in the tapes?
Tim: Yes, there are actually shading and texture differences.
Jen: But there are good things like now if you see a record with green tape on it you know where it came from.
Todd: Or a stunning duplicate thereof. Where do you draw the line between revolutionary culture and radical fetishism?
Tim: I don’t have any idea what you are talking about, but if we’re talking about the ‘60s counter culture, it was radical and meaningful to people up to the point where they got rid of the draft. As soon as they got rid of the draft and people’s asses weren’t on the line anymore, the radicalism faded and became more of a form. So, to me, that’s what, in looking at the punk counter culture, there is a period, especially obvious in the early founding stages, where it’s radical. I think it’s radical to have networks outside of corporate or governmental control. That’s radical and that’s not just the early stages, that develops, and that’s cool. But this society is really excellent at co-opting. Most people are going to be co‑opted and if you look at most people, even the people who are most vocal and charged up at one point, five years from now, where are they gonna be? Unfortunately, most of them won’t be here. There will be a few who will, but most won’t be. At least that’s been the historical pattern. But I don’t want to spend my time trying to figure out who is genuinely radical and who isn’t. It’s like, well, you can try to create what you want to create. You try to resist what you can resist. You try to point out historical patterns so that maybe people can avoid some of the downfalls of previous counter cultures.
Let’s say some of my beef is with Jello (Biafra, owner of Alternative Tentacles Records, ex-lead singer of the Dead Kennedys) or other people like that are all about trying to show patterns of how people change, how values get co-opted, how one goes from radical to liberal and what that means, if not so much to attack the individual but to show... In fact, at that Mordam (Distribution) meeting someone said, “Why do you spend so much time nit-picking about these little things when there are these big issues?” Well, to me these little nit-picky things... It’s very easy to espouse rhetoric about the corporations or this or that and you need to, but, sometimes you have to show what’s right in front of you and how those things change. How those people change. How their values change. And I think those are very valuable lessons in terms of trying to keep something alive and radical.
Todd: Jen, for you right now, what is the most difficult thing about working for this magazine?
Jen: Tim. No, that’s not really true. I’m definitely getting used to it. It’s a big thing. We had our little...
Todd: Cap off the toothpaste kind of thing?
Jen: Yeah. There are a lot of difficult things. Certainly, getting people to write. We’re already dealing with people who have already written off the magazine who I think could make good contributions, who are interested. That’s very difficult. Sometimes with people making assumptions about what I do here or why I’m here.
Todd: What is the number one thing that people wrongly assume about your position here?
Jen: I think a lot of people don’t know exactly what I do. Sometimes people call up on the phone and won’t talk to me and want to talk to Tim and it’s like, “You can talk to me. It’s okay.” We haven’t really had a problem with people deferring to Tim because once people know that I can pretty much do exactly what he does, except for history stuff. He does all the music stuff. I can do whatever else and once they know that then it’s fine. The thing that bothers me the most is people who think that my whole entire life is the magazine, which it’s not. I don’t want it to be, but a definite major portion of it is. That’s the biggest thing that bothers me.
Todd: What’s the biggest misconception people have about Tim Yohannan?
Jen: That you’re tall!
Tim: [Laughter] It used to be.
Jen: The other one is how old you are. So many people are like, “Oh my god, he has white hair!” Most people don’t know that. They think it’s really crazy.
Todd: So how old are you?
Todd: What’s the biggest misconception people have about you?
Tim: I think that in print I come off as very rigid and dogmatic and just dry and political. I think that I actually have a pretty good sense of humor but it doesn’t come across in print and so that’s the misconception. I’ve been stereotyped by certain people as this or that and unless people meet me first-hand they aren’t gonna really know, but that’s how it goes. I accept that and also I think that if you’re going to put yourself in a public position and if your gonna be pretty opinionated, a lot of people are gonna get a weird idea about you and that’s the price.
Todd: Do you regret not having listened to anything because it was on a major label?
Tim: No. I do listen to stuff that’s on majors and I will buy stuff for the collection that’s on majors. I just don’t want the magazine to be a vehicle of support for that. So that’s my feeling. Although, there’s very precious little I can find to buy on a major that is worth buying.
Todd:Maximumrock’n’roll,the zine,started in 1982. What music could you have covered with your current policy, because the big ones that I can think of right off the bat are gone: The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, and even the Go Go’s.
Tim: The bulk of the ‘70s punk bands were on majors and at that time being on a do-it-yourself thing was not part of the consciousness. Some people put out their own records and their own labels but it wasn’t a big anti-corporate kind of thing to do. It was just sort of like, “Uh, let’s put out a record.”
Todd: “Maybe we’ll get picked up.”
Tim: Right. There wasn’t a consciousness about it and that evolved as punk evolved. As the first wave of punk sold out, for want of a better word, and diluted itself and went to majors, it became a piece of shit. As the early hardcore thing started emerging as a reaction to that, then it started becoming part of consciousness which is, well, maybe, “If you do that, you’re gonna suck.”
Todd: Would Maximumrock’n’roll’s focus just follow that large trend of what Slash did? When The Clash’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope came out, Slash ran a full page ad—their pages were huge—and they exclaimed about how wonderful that album was. Do you think Maximumrock’n’roll would have done similar things like review major label stuff?
Tim: We did definitely review major label releases in the early years of the magazine. I think only as it became more of a conscious issue that the network that was being established was an alternative to what the corporations were supplying and that it was something that they would attempt to co-op at some point, that’s when it sort of became an issue or a cause to defend or fight or whatever.
Todd: Have things been repaired between you and Ben Weasel? In the last Riverdales CD’s liner notes, they wrote, “Tim Yo, right on!”
Tim: We’re friends. There was only a brief period when he was really upset that I’d asked him to leave, but after a while I read something that said, “Geez, I don’t know what took him so long to kick me out.” Our friendship has withstood that, as with Jeff Bale (who helped start Hit List). We’re still buddies and I think that’s kinda cool that you can go through that with some people and still have a friendship. I can get really pissed off at somebody as long as they will stand and take it and then they dish it out themselves and, to me, I respect that.
Todd: Is there a band you have sought out that you’ve never been able to interview? Say they broke up or all died in an airplane crash.
Tim: Some bands have been a pain in the ass to try to get. Like Propaghandi. We tried many times to get an interview arranged with them.
Jen: Wasn’t there some band you printed—you called them and then printed them saying they weren’t going to...
Tim: That was essentially it. “Hey, you wanna do an interview?” “Uh gee, I don’t know.” “Okay.”
Todd: I’ve realized that not many bands have been interviewed twice. Can you name a couple?
Jen: We can’t do it.
Todd: Have you ever slipped up?
Tim: If, after five years or something like that and a band is still around and the first interview was some little piece of shit, then I think it’s time to do another one if they have anything to say.
Jen: If they’ve lasted that long, if they have anything to say, or if it’s changed significantly in any way.
Tim: Most never had anything to say to begin with and still don’t later on. It seems to be a criteria for being a great band. That’s my perspective. The best punk has always been done by really dumb shits.
Jen: Which is why we don’t mind printing interviews with people who have nothing to say.
Todd: How many pieces of music—CDs, vinyl, or cassettes—do you receive a month?
Jen: Tim doesn’t listen to CDs at all. He doesn’t like them. The first time I came to visit there wasn’t a CD player in the house except for the CD Rom. He doesn’t listen to CDs. This guy, Ray, does it. He does basically what Tim does with the vinyl. We probably get thirty or more. No, more than that.
Tim: I don’t know how many come in per day but I do know that the rejection rate on CDs is actually higher than it is on vinyl. It must be amazing what’s going through some peoples’ heads when they’re sending all the stuff in.
Jen: We get some stuff from bands that are severely metal. Pure metal. We’re like, “Why are you sending this to us?” It’s not even close. I remember once we got a Willie Nelson CD.
Todd: Do you feel that you are viewed as the delineator between punk rock and not punk rock?
Todd: Why do you think that is?
Tim: Because I do that.
Todd: What’s your delineation?
Jen: He strongly believes in what he says is correct or he wouldn’t have said it. For me, coming from scenes outside of Tim’s scene, I think there are a lot of kids who follow him but I think there are a lot of people who know he’s just opinionated. If Tim says their favorite band isn’t punk anymore, they kind of realize that that’s just Tim’s opinion and it’s not set in stone.
Tim: I think there’s people who will either take my word as the word of god or conversely hate me ‘cause they think I’m pronouncing the word of god.
Todd: What’s your distribution level?
Tim: I think currently it’s 14,000.
Todd: It comes out every month?
Jen: What about Flipside? How often does that come out?
Todd: Well, let’s put it this way. You know how you say that you’ll have a hundred people come in and help you? There’s two at Flipside. There’s about fifty people who write and take pictures and help with material, but two who put all the pieces together.
Tim: Aye, yeh, yeh, bonkers!
Todd: Do you guys think that you have any direct competition?
Tim: I think there’s a lot of different zines that all have different and interesting approaches. At even the height when Flipside and Maximum were... there was some tension there at different points, but, to me, it was never really competition. Flipside definitely had an L.A. perspective and a more laid back approach and Maximum was San Francisco and more political and I think now you have a lot of regular zines that come out that all have their own perspective and the types of stuff they like more. I don’t see that much duplication as there’s overlapping. I think, zine-wise, things are very healthy.
Jen: I agree. People go to zines for different things. There isn’t another zine that people go to for the exact same thing that they go to Maximum for so that’s why I don’t think there’s a lot of competition.
Todd: I feel the same way. I like to read around eight or nine zines every month. My personal favorites. It’s like a good friend. You like to go back and see what they have to say…What are your feelings about dealing with people who you know, right off the bat, don’t share your value systems? I was thinking of the problem Maximum had with the AntiSeen using a confederate flag. How do you get beyond that or is there a breakdown of discourse?
Jen: It depends on if you let it get down to that.
Tim: Right, it depends whether you let it get beyond that.
Jen: I think it really depends on how much because sometimes there’s bands or whatever that I might get beyond that, but I might tell them right away that I don’t agree with what they do. Bands that are pro-life or whatever. I’m gonna tell them right away that I don’t agree with that and if you still want to talk to me then that’s fine. They need to know right away.
Todd: Do you guys review AntiSeen stuff?
Tim: Yep and we’ll review racist bands. I won’t take ads from them if they’re straight-up racists.
Todd: Will you take classified from them?
Jen: It’s hard to get it all. We want to do that. If we get a band that’s completely sexist, you want to review it so that people know that.
Tim: And, you know, if one of the numbers in the PO Box gets transposed then...
Todd: What precipitated the title of tyrant? Before I remember it was “Benevolent protective order of Tim,” then “Tim with attitude,” then “Tim with thick boots,” and then it became “Tyrant Tim.”
Tim: I took the gloves off. I figured that if everyone thinks that’s what I’m about then I decided to sort of make fun of that. It was actually Timojhen Mark who got me cards made, little business cards that said, “Tim the Tyrant.” So I just reproduced that for the little header.
Todd: Nice. That’s the one with the rolling pin?
Tim: No, that’s my regular one: “Yo Mama.” There is one, “Tim the Tyrant” that occasionally gets used.
Todd: Why has the look of Maximum stayed relatively the same?
Tim: Because we suck.
Todd: You guys definitely have a lot more technology than Flipside does, but you know, Al likes that glossy cover. Is there a definite conscious decision to forego...
Jen: Well, there’s the newsprint for life rule.
Todd: So you want to stain people’s hands for the rest of your lives?
Tim: Absolutely. You can tell if they’ve read the magazine if they have black stuff all over their foreheads and all over their clothes.
Todd: The possibility of you dying is here. What’s your largest fear of what will go wrong with the magazine?
Jen: Turning it into an emo zine!
Tim: That is exactly true. I think that, on one hand, I would like to see a perpetuation of the musical discriminatory policy that we have. It’s ironic that the person who’s actually—I’ve been assigning all vinyl up to this point but beginning next month somebody else is going to start doing that.
Jen: He writes the emo column. It’s luring Tim into a sense of security.
Tim: That’s right. There’s certain parameters that we’ve set and a certain attitude that we’ve created around that policy and I think it’s part of Maximum’s persona, so I would like to see that continue but it’s something that can’t be guaranteed.
Jen: When we’re looking for the second zine coordinator and third zine coordinator it’s like you need to agree with the music policy. It’s not like you can think that you’re gonna come and change things into what you want. Maximum has a set policy and you need to understand that before you can consider coming to the magazine.
Tim: Jen actually disagrees. She wrote her last column on how she disagrees with that policy.
Jen: Yes, I disagree with it but that doesn’t mean that I can’t uphold it or that I don’t recognize the function that it serves or I wouldn’t be here. I don’t dislike emo.
Todd: Have you ever been married to anything besides punk rock?
Tim: Rock and roll.
Todd: Have you been married?
Tim: No thank you. I think that is the worst institution. That as a manifestation of relationships which I think is actually evil. They bring out the worst in people.
Holly: He’s not bitter though.
Tim: No, I’m not bitter. I’m not at all bitter. I think love is great but I just think that relationships bring out the worst in people. They exasperate weaknesses and dependencies and co-dependencies and to put your official stamp of approval with marriage on top of that is too much for me.
Todd: Was there one band or a defining time for both of you when you knew you wanted to cover this type of music—that you wanted this to be the rest of your life—whether it is or not?
Tim: You mean as a progenitor of a certain style of music? Is that what you’re talking about?
Todd: Yeah, when you realize that you wanted to be a part of that. Was there a band, a piece of music, or a time frame?
Tim: I could go back to 1955! The first time I heard rock and roll was probably about ‘54 or ‘55 on the radio and that just completely blew me away and changed my life. It’s that simple.
Todd: What do you think was the first band that was a threat to your well being that you saw where you thought they were going to just burn themselves down, burn the club down or kill you?
Tim: MC5 was the first time I felt that at a show where I felt like the whole fuckin’ building was going to collapse and everyone was gonna die.
Todd: What do you consider most militant in your personality?
Tim: My desire to have all of the rich people in the world lined up and shot or be made to become high school janitors.
Jen: I think that Tim would argue that there’s not very much that is militant about me.
Tim: She’s militant about her email.
Jen: No, the phone.
Tim: Yes, she does have a phone sewn into her body somewhere.
Todd: How much TV do you watch a week?
Jen: Including baseball games?
Todd: Baseball games on TV.
Tim: Well, other than baseball games, which are mostly on radio here but some are on TV, I probably watch two hours late at night when I go to bed.
Todd: Any favorite TV shows?
Jen: The Japanese cooking show.
Tim: Oh yeah, the Japanese cooking show! (The Iron Chef) They have a competition between cooks and they have a panel that’s talking and all excited about what they’re doing. It’s totally insane.
Jen: I probably watch two hours total. I watch The Simpsons and The X Files on Sunday. Those are the only things I watch regularly.
Todd: What character do you mostly associate with in The Simpsons?
Jen: Lisa. That’s pretty obvious.
Todd: What is currently on your answering machine if you have a personal answering machine?
Jen: We don’t have an answering machine. It’d probably just say, “Hi, this is Maximum, leave a message if you have to.”
Todd: If you call up information, why isn’t Maximumrock’n’roll listed?
Jen: Because it’s not in the phone book.
Todd: Flipside never declared being a business. Do you think there is anyone who is justifiably rich off of punk rock who exists right now and they worked really hard and they’re still contributing back to the scene?
Jen: That kind of says that being rich can be justifiable in a way. Does that make sense?
Todd: Okay, who is rich that you do not want to shoot who is living off of punk rock?
Tim: I basically have a problem with people making hundreds of thousands if not millions off of punk rock. I think there’s something so basically apparent about that concept that it has nothing to do with punk rock.
Jen: Plus, we’re saying that we think there’s something wrong with rich people. There’s nothing punk rock that says that’s okay. The rich person is a rich person whether they’re into punk rock or not.
Tim: To me, punk rock is about being rebellious, about being a jerk, about you can’t help yourself about a lot of alienating and alienated qualities. To me, it’s not about business and it’s not about commodity and units and things like that.
Todd: If you could line up one band and shoot them which one would it be?
Tim: I don’t think there’s anybody I feel that strongly about in terms of a band, per se. Like I said, they should just be janitors. Anyone we would mention would get all sorts of attention for that.
Todd: There seems to be a lot of people, this is a Jello question now, who not only disagree with Maximumrock’n’roll but go out of their way to make sure that they are mad at Maximumrock’n’roll. They are disenfranchised from Maximumrock’n’roll. Why is that?
Tim: Those people who I have attacked in terms of their value system, how they’re making their money, what they’re doing with their money, have been the ones who attack back the loudest and strongest. I understand why they do that ‘cause I definitely hit them in a place where they don’t want to be hit. With some people, it’s just out of genuine disagreement over issues and I think that’s fair.
Todd: If nothing else, Maximumrock’n’roll—in the world of zinedom—it’s very well known and also known for being attacked or attacking. There’s a definite combativeness.
Tim: With Maximum, we’ve always been opinionated and political.
Jen: It’s not like Maximum attacks people for no reason. There’s always a reason.
Tim: To me, it’s fine that people love us or hate us or whatever. I’d much rather have people with strong opinions in general rather than no opinion.
Todd: Does operating Maximum make you feel defensive about things? Do you think you have a more defined idea of what you like? A lot of people are either attacking you or praising you.
Jen: I feel like I have to defend Tim a lot. People will be like, “Why isn’t this record reviewed?” Friends of mine who are like, “Why didn’t you review our record?” and I’m like, “Well, you’ll have to talk to Tim about that.” People either want me to defend him or want me to say, “Oh, I think it should be reviewed.” You were talking earlier about what misconceptions people have about me being here and one of them is that I’m going to change the zine policy, which I’m not going to. I pretty much can’t, you know? Like I said before, Maximum doesn’t pick fights. We do it for a reason. Tim?
Tim: Well, I’m used to it by now. I think maybe the first few times I felt misinterpreted, I reacted defensively and I’m sure that’s happened in the past. Now it’s sort of waiting for it and, “Why haven’t they reacted yet?” That kind of thing. Now it’s part of the whole chemistry of doing things. It’s like, “Okay, that will happen.” “Is there a way not to get caught up in hysteria and deal with it as reasonably as possible?”
Todd: Have you ever been in a riot?
Todd: Which one?
Tim: A lot.
Todd: Ever broken car windows?
Todd: Hit someone in the kneecaps with a tire iron?
Todd: Hit another person?
Todd: Was he or she uniformed?
Todd: Did they fall down?
Todd: Did they bleed?
Tim: I didn’t stick around.
Todd: Did you get caught?
Tim: No, amazingly.
Todd: How many incidences?
Tim: Well, I can think of at least three where grievous bodily harm was done.
Todd: Ever been hit by a rubber bullet?
Todd: Tear gassed?
Todd: Have you ever told anyone to take a bath? To come back and talk to you later but take a bath now?
Jen: There have been many people we should have said that to. No, I’ve never said it to anyone. That’s just something you deal with.
Tim: No, there is. I just can’t remember who. There was an incident where I actually told him to do that. I think it was you, Jen.
Todd: If you could plant a bomb under any one edifice and be one-hundred percent sure that no one would die, what building would it be and why?
Tim: Well, in the past I would have probably said the Pentagon but maybe now if there was some giant media center of some kind where everything is conglomerated…
Jen: For me, it would be a cross between that and some branch of the government.
Todd: Have you ever saved up a huge buttload of UPCs to get a prize?
Todd: Never got a secret decoder ring?
Tim: Well, when I was a kid, yeah.
Todd: What did you get?
Tim: A little frog man where you put baking soda in the back. I got some dinosaurs, too. When I opened the box some of them were missing so I chased the mailman down the street and asked him if he had any dinosaurs in his thingy.
Todd: Did he?
Tim: It turned out he did!
Todd: Do you see yourself as a role model, as somebody to aspire to?
Tim: I’m not shy from asserting and I think that if you’re going to assert you have a certain responsibility and I do think on some level that leadership is leading by example. I totally believe in working hard and being responsible with the work I do and the commitments that I make. Also, with the age factor in my case, I think that it’s good for younger people to see that rebellion doesn’t just have to be a stage that you go through when you’re young. So in that sense I don’t at all mind being a role model. I think that is good and wish I had seen that when I was a kid. So, in those ways I have no problem with that. It’s not a matter of ego. It’s a matter of responsibility. And the records. I’m in it for the records, which is partially true. [laughs]
Todd: Do you have a comfortable lifestyle? Are you comfortable with how everything is set up? Did it reach what you thought it would?
Tim: Yeah. I’m pretty much an organization person and that’s why I’ve started things like Gilman and Epicenter. I like providing a vehicle for things to be organized and accomplished. As you can see, things here are very organized.
If I wasn’t constantly derided by everybody, you could say there’s a cult‑like atmosphere going on here, but since I’m on the receiving end of much abuse here, we can’t say that. In other words, between my part-time job and the amount of time I’m able to put into this, I’m proud of the fact that it’s lasted this long. It’s weird. When I found out I had cancer, it was sort of like, “Am I going to change now?” People will say, “Don’t you want to go travel?” And I was like, “No, I want to work on the magazine.” This is what I really want. This is what I really want to do and nothing has changed in terms of that lifestyle. In terms of life savings, I have two thousand dollars or something like that. This is what I want to do and that was neat to find out.
Jen: You should ask him when the last time he’s been out of California was.
Todd: Wow. Where did you go?
Tim: I drove cross-country.
Todd: Do you have a car?
Tim: Now, yes.
Todd: Why don’t you drive outside of the state every once in a while?
Tim: In the past, I spent a lot of time in Mexico and I lived in Europe when I was a kid. I just don’t have that wanderlust. Ever since I hit thirty, what I’ve wanted to do was organize. That’s what I wanted to do. I don’t have that in me. I just want to build things. That’s what I want to do. That’s where my joy comes from.
Todd: Do you have any other hobbies other than this? Is there anything that will release steam that the magazine can’t do?
Tim: I love baseball.
Jen: Miniature golf.
Tim: And there are other aspects of personal life which—at this point—are on hold with me. It’s hard to have a personal life when you’re living in a live/work situation and, once I got sick, I couldn’t have a personal life because my life is in limbo, essentially. But there are obviously needs there that could not be met by doing the magazine. I will say that a lot of my needs are about communication and the magazine and the radio show has served me personally and selfishly very well and I think that in some ways that has made me less needy in certain other personal ways. I want intimacy with other humans but when a lot of your communication needs are already being met, maybe you don’t need them so much in a relationship.
Todd: It gets converted somehow.
Tim: Yeah, or met.
Todd: What did the young Tim want to do when he grew up? Tim at five.
Tim: I wanted to be an archeologist.
Jen: When I was first in high school I wanted to play in an orchestra and that’s why I went to college. But that’s the kind of thing where you’d have to give up everything just to do that, which I wasn’t willing to do. That’s why I’m not doing it anymore.
Tim: Tell him what you played.
Jen: I played the bassoon. Nobody would let me in their punk band.
Todd: Do you have any socialist or communist affiliations anymore?
Continue reading Part II here:
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