The New Puritan ReView magazine
Minneapolis, MN; and the rest of the world; 1984-2002
Admittedly, I had no idea what I was trying to do when I started this little 'zine. The first issues were one and two-page printouts - basically, journals I wrote to pass the time on flights between NYC, where I was living at the time, and my hometown of Minneapolis.
These "journals" were little more than metaphors for what was going on in the world, as seen through the eyes of a self-professed music geek. To my way of thinking, it was impossible to write about popular culture without commenting on the events of the world at large by which they had been informed to begin with. From this same perspective, it made perfect sense to consider all facets of pop culture as though they were a part of a much bigger picture - I believed, in fact, that they were. I still feel this way, although it can be difficult at times to convey the significance of some art in relation to global current events. It's there, though, sometimes you just have to dig a bit deeper to make the connection.Read more or less
After I had written the first of these journals, I got the idea to share my thoughts on these matters with other people who might think about simlar things. I typed it up on my old all-upppercase typwriter, and designed a "logo" to serve as a masthead, as though it were a tabloid. The artwork came from a classic painting I had seen used by the band Timbuktu for a gig flyer (still among my possessions), and also on an LP of Mozart, in the Mpls Public Library. The lettering was appropriated from some ad, with a few stylistic alterations of my own. The name? From The Fall, of course - Manchester, England's most durable working-class band, and one of my key influences during the days of choppy, post-punk culture (most of which, ironically, were all from Manchester). The song "New Puritan" was—to my ears—a prime example of hard-hitting, sloganeering lyricism that chomped at the bit of the entertainment industry - something I had been thinking about a lot myself, while working at record stores in NYC. I guess I had been thinking about it a lot while I was in Borrowed Time, come to think of it - trying to market your own band while dodging the politics of the music industry can be more than just a little disheartening, shall we say...
I made a few hundred copies of what turned out to be issue number one, and distributed them to local record shops and book stores, as a "freebie". As was often the case with these things, many of them got swept up in the clutter of band flyers and other adverts, and disappeared pretty quickly. Jim Anderson, who worked at Garage D'Or Records in Mpls, decided to create a shelf space for the over-abundance of small press publications in their store, thus providing the first prominent display space to my humble publication. I found myself replenishing the supply more than once, and after this happened with subsequent editions as well, it slowly dawned on me that I had something that people really were interested in. Subsequently, future editions had more pages, and I got to sprawl out a bit with my writing, graphic design, and photography as well. I also started charging a modest price, if only to cover my own printing costs, as there was no advertising involved.
A few editions down the road, I decided to actually try marketing my "'zine" (as they were affectionately referred to in the 'biz). I had compiled a list of contacts for every record label who had released something I had reviewed, and then some, so I sent them all a copy of the current issue. I wasn't really expecting much, possibly a few form letters thanking me for my submission, or something along those lines. I entertaind the notion that a few people might actually look at the thing and ask me what I wanted. What I wanted, actually, was simply to see what people thought of this kind of thing.
It seems that most of those folks thought it was alright, based on the responses I received. Label reps called me to ask which new releases I wanted to review, or to offer me interviews with artists on their rosters. I got free backstage passes to the first couple Lollapalooza festivals - and they honored my requests to bring in camera and reecording equipment. I got on quite a few guest lists for concerts, and I was on more promo mailing lists than I could reasonably keep up with, although that didn't prevent me from trying. Readers from other countries offered to help distribute my little 'zine in in their parts of the world, including Germany, Italy, and Yugoslavia.
There were plenty of times when I wanted to get out of the whole music "business", but for some reason I just could never completely let it go. At one point in the mid-'90s, after the death of a good friend who had "succeeded" in the music business, I sold or gave away just about everything I owned, and called it a day. I hit the road in search of some peace and solitude, and eventually found myself in Tampa, Florida, of all god-forsaken places, and ended up lending a hand with sound in a small club called The Stone Lounge, running an independent booking agency, and continuing to publish The New Puritan ReView. It seemed there was no escaping it. By the end of 1996, I had dragged my carcass back to Mpls [!], working at First Avenue, and resuming publication of the 'zine, in its' last days on paper, while free-lancing for a number of syndicated entertainment weeklies, as well.
By the time Y2K rolled around, The New Puritan ReView was a web-only publication, finally grinding to a halt around 2002 - at which time I stopped writing for everyone, anywhere. My silly little hobby had developed into a business whch had somehow managed to survive on its' own for nearly eighteen years. The first article I ever had published professionally, pre-dated the 'zine by three years, which totalled twenty-one years in all - the same age at which poet Arthur Rimbaud had decided to stop writing, having grown tired of Bohemian culture. In some ways, perhaps, we had much in common.
Years of living like a vagabond took its' toll on a lot of the old layout masters for the 'zine, as with a lot of the old artifacts of my younger years, getting shuffled from one dank basement to another, in a number of cities. Flopppy discs got corrupted, boxes of paste-ups were destroyed by water-damage and poor storage facililties, and what I've got left to show for all those years is about a CD-ROM's worth of disorganized text files, a cabinet filled with band press kits, a few albums filled with negatives and photos, and—amazingly—a single box with the very first paste-ups of the 'zine in its' infancy. Well, that, and a ton of great memories of the places I got to go, the people I got to meet, and even those who I'm told I inspired to do something similar with their own lives, just in time for the era of online blogging. Me, I'm still on hiatus - for now, anyway. There are always going to be a few irons in the fire, though, no question about that.