The Interrogation of Jordan Schwartz

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Nowhere near as severe as the article title makes this out to be, Jordan Schwartz took the time to answer TBB’s ‘lil ol’ Q&A concerning We Got Power: Hardcore Punk Scenes From 1980s Southern California.

Reading about you and Jennifer gave me a “Freaks and Geeks” vibe–the two of you reminded me of versions of Lindsay and Sam, but a lot more in your element.

Welll I never got into the “Freaks and Geeks” scene so I can’t comment on how accurate your vibe is, but I am two years older than my sister and we were both geeks.  Our mom moved us to different towns in SoCal every year or so we didn’t always have our own set of friends, and we hung out a lot.

What made you and Dave and Jennifer and Alan want to cover the SoCal hardcore scene?

It’s a combination of things including being outsider geeks, hardcore punk rock being more compelling then the New Wave and Ska we have been listening to up until that point, getting some experience in print and film production by hanging out with Dave Markey who lived around the block, and the major catalyst that the hardcore scene was blowing up all around us.  Black Flag , Circle Jerks, and Social Distortion gigs were at worst a bus ride away in Hollywood, and our friend and fellow odd ball Kim Pilkington had a car and was willing to drive on any “mission”.

How long did assembly of the book take?

It took about 8 years from when we first started scanning the old 35mm black and white negatives and realizing that it would work as some form of a book to us actually holding the real thing in our hands.

We went through two publishers the first being our friend Thurston Moore who wanted to publish the book on his Ecstatic Peace press.  Thurston was immediately interested but he kept going forward with other projects, and by the time he was ready to publish our book his company folded.

Fortunately by that time we had become aware of Ian Christie’s Bazillion Points Publishing who had recently released the Touch and Go book which was fairly close to what we wanted to do.  Dave got a hold of Ian rather quickly and Ian was immediately interested.

From that point it took some time for Ian to focus on our project which included him rescanning all of the negatives so he could get familiar with the work.  We then worked on gathering the remaining written pieces, writing the captions, and then reviewing Ian’s layouts.

How’d you and Dave go about collecting the essays?

Dave, Jennifer, and I were able leverage the internet and social networking, plus a few local phone calls to get the various pieces.   This was much easier then in the We Got Power days where things were done via snail mail and typewriters, or trying to catch a band as they were passing through town.

Zines are pretty hot still, especially for artists and illustrators who all collaborate–plus it’s easy to get the word out online now. So the inclusion of the We Got Power scans are really inspiring because the zine is such an effective format.

Assuming by Zines you mean printed zines, yes it’s a much richer experience to have one in your hands versus reading someone’s blog on the internet, it’s also a bit more work than a blog post, but it is still easier to layout print than the old days.  I guess these days printed zines are to blogs as mp3s are to vinyl.

How was circulation?

I’m not sure if you are talking about the book, or the old We Got Power Magazine.

Ian handles the book circulation, which includes sales from his website, direct sales to “finer” stores, and through distributors.  Personally I’ve seen the book on a shelf in Barnes and Noble, in local Art and Design book shop, and in the top 10 of the Amazon Punk Books lists so I am very impressed on how Ian is getting the book out there.

Regarding We Got Power Magazine, If I remember correctly the print runs for the 5 issues of We Got Power Magazine ran from 1200 – 3500.  The issues were printed by the father of the singer of Circle One John Macias from his print shop in Korea Town. He was very generous to us, we paid in cash and printed the issues on high quality paper.   I still have a few copies of Issue number 4 and they are in great condition as opposed to my old Flipside and Maximum Rock and Roll zines that were printed on newspaper pulp and are falling apart.

Distribution was handled through independent record distributors like Systematic, and Rough Trade.  Local distribution was handled by Gremlin Distribution which was driving to every record store within a 50 mile radius in Kim Pilkington’s 1975 AMC Gremlin to sell zines on consignment.  We also sold issues as gigs and while hanging out at Oki Dog’s.

“We Got Power!” feels like a documentary in book form–are there any plans down the line to have a doc in conjunction, especially where Dave’s a filmmaker?

Well there’s a story about the scene from our perspective in there but I don’t know if we will be the ones to make that doc.  Dave did shoot an amazing documentary about the early 80’s hardcore punk rock scene at the time called The Slog Movie which was re-edited and released on DVD in 2007.  He also released a documentary on the Circle Jerks in 2012 called “My Career as Jerk” which is arguably one of his best works.

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