The Formative Years – Maximumrocknroll
There are many ways to skin a cat when it comes to the creation of a fanzine.
Having the core interests and common denominator somewhat defined as it was the case with punk rock in the 1980s and the potential audience having had to overcome to an obstacle or two to find their way to the scene, the creation of engaging content with a resulting emotional connection and a sense of belonging was a tad easier to achieve as at least in the beginning, the recipients of fanzines was a rather exclusive club looking to immerse themselves in and find information about their passion.
Delivering content in a relatable, conversational style and having idiosyncratic writers that infuse the publication with their own personality, always helps to further refine a personal style that make the editorial content stand out, to add character and ultimately – at least back in the day – it trumped stylish design.
A major drawcard for me as a juvenile delinquent that attracted me to reading – fanzines or other literary emissions – was that I learned something from it, no matter if it was something factual, inspiring, opinions and insights and that it was challenging in some way and, almost equally important, to experience a reduced barrier between the writer and myself.
Enter “MRR”, i.e. Maximumrocknroll from San Francisco.
I do not think that it would be considered a hyperbole to claim that what was initially derived from a radio show and found its first incarnation as the accompanying booklet to the fantastic “Not so quiet on the Western front” compilation, MRR in the pre-internet age quickly became the bible for anyone looking to learn about punk rock subculture and its branches outside the confines of their own scene, city, country and continent.
Founder Tim Yohannan and his crew managed to create a consistent beat and an overarching structure that enabled readers to easily find what they were looking for, while the diversity of the contributors kept the reading experience fresh and engaging.
With the usual ingredients of music related interviews, news and review, especially the columns section with a wide array of relatable international scenesters sharing insights on their scenes and independent coverage that other established mainstream magazines could only dream of.
Literally every reading session of the hefty magazine, ended with me employing an English dictionary to write to contributors and engage with people from the ad section to trade records or order in bulk from distributions that advertised in MRR from all over the world.
Given the interactive environment MRR created, it should not be further wondrous that when they published their guide “Book Your Own Fuckin’ Life” in the early 1990s, it became the ultimate guide for bands to book tours, finding venues and likeminded people when traveling overseas, and to initiate contacts on the ground and go from there.
My first visits to the US and other countries saw me armed with the aforementioned book and the most recent issue of MRR to guide me through the respective cities via the addresses for record stores and venue advertised. Many friendships resulted and evolved, some of which eventually transitioned into the electronic realm and continue to this day.
After MRR created the blueprint of what a worldwide punk rock fanzine could look like and by never not championing a DIY attitude, it spawned the welcome advent of many other fanzines, which again enriched and cross-pollinated the scene and at times helped to ignite a feud or two.
Eventually, in 2019 and after over four hundred issues, MRR ceased to have a physical release and moved online, which naturally took away a bit from the tangible charm it once had before the advent of an age where information was readily available at your fingertips without ever sacrificing its relevant for punk rock.