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Interview with Tim Yohannan and Jen Angel of Maximumrockíníroll Part 1|
Bad Taste Is in the Majority, Part 1
Tuesday, October 18 2011
Maximumrockíníroll proved a very simple point: One man armed with an insatiable dedication, could change the worldóno 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 committeeóMaximumrockíníroll zine, The 924 Gilman Street Project (a live music venue in Berkeley), and the record collective Epicenteróhe 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 Maximumrockíníroll, 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 todayófor better or for worse.
Timís 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 isnít punk or hardcore. Thatís 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 didnít see a competition between the two. They were complementary views to similar music.
Thatís not to say I always agreed with Tim, but this is punk rock. If you donít agree with MRRís policies on covering music, nothingís 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-Hodgkinís 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. Itís 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 Timís death, Jen went on to help form another magazine, Clamor.
MRR continues on to this day.
Todd: Tim, whatís your day job?
Tim: I do shipping and receiving for UC Berkeley.
Todd: Jen, whatís your day job?
Jen: I work at Punks For Presses.
Todd: Oh, I talked to you yesterday. Youíre 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: Whatís 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 youíre going to give a resume. What would your job description be?
Todd: And Jen, what would your job description be?
Jen: Timís is tyrant.
Todd: Oh, thatís right. I thought it was dictator.
Jen: Bad cop, good cop. I guess it would be coordinator, too.
Todd: How do you delineate between whatís punk and whatís 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 donít 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 stuffóif it was just instrumental stuff, the bulk of it was actually not what I would call maximum rockíníroll. Most of it is pretty laid back.
Tim: Not even.
Todd: Background rockíníroll.
Tim: Right. Every now and then there will be a record that will come out that weíll say has an instrumental track and a vocal track and if thatís more on the rock and roll side, weíll review it.
Todd: Jen, what do you think was the deciding factor for you on coming out to Maximumrockíníroll from Ohio?
Jen: Itís just a really big thing and Iíve 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: Everythingólayout 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 weíll start the next one. The first thing to go, are the interviews. Then the articles and stuff like that. Now that Jen is here, weíre hopefully gonna have more articles.
Jen: Well, we have a special issue and then two articles lined up. So weíre workiní on Ďem. We have to plan so far in advance to make space for a special issue and articles so they donít happen for awhile.
Tim: When it gets to the point where weíre backed up six months, then weíve 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, bandís broken up.
Todd: We run into the exact same problems. Where did you get the title Maximumrockíníroll? Tim: It was when punk started in Ď75, Ď76. The Who called what they were doing in Ď64 or whatever, Maximum R&B, where they were taking R&B and updating it. To me, thatís what punk was doing to rockíníroll. It was updating it, so thatís why I called it Maximumrockíníroll.
Todd: So, you like The Who?
Tim: Their earliest stuff.
Todd: Is there any popular band that you like their later stuff?
Tim: Huh! Thatís a very good question.
Todd: Do you mind talking about your cancer treatment at all?
Tim: No, I donít mind.
Todd: ĎCause Iíve heard itís lung cancer, pituitary cancer, skin graph cancer. I donít even know what a pituitary is. What kind of cancer is it?
Tim: Itís lymphoma. Non-Hodgkinís lymphoma.
Todd: Lymph? [Points to the lymph nodes in his neck].
Tim: Yeah, it turns out you have lymph glands all over the fuckiní 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 doesnít usually go into remission. They can knock it down for a couple of years at best and then itís back. They tried three different types of chemo and it didnít really work. Then they gave me some kind of experimental treatment recently and in another month, or a little more than that, Iíll know whether that has some effect. Now, whether itís gonna have a big effect or not, I donít 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. Thatís why your hair falls out. Thatís a fast growing cell. Your nails turn black. Those are fast growing cells. Taste buds. Things like that go. So, itís pretty indiscriminant. Itís like the modern day equivalent of leeches.
Todd: Whatís the new treatment that they gave you?
Tim: Itís 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 doesnít shrink things right away but down the road, when those cells donít duplicate, they will disappear and die. And then they also combine that with radiation. The humorousówell, itís humorous nowópart of that was that I had to stay in a lead-lined room for six days.
Jen: And just a reminderóTim doesnít 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 theyíd report me to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission if I left. But anyway, it looks like thereís 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 canít 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 thatís why I think those are usually the hottest thing. After that they then felt sort of like, ďOh, we have to get records out all of the timeĒ and the excitement drops and the quality drops.
Todd: Jen, what are your three favorite books since Tim doesnít read?
Jen: Itís kind of hard Ďcause...
Todd: Just pound Ďem out.
Jen: Well, I donít know. Thereís a lot to choose from. One of my favorite political books is Howardís 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 canít think of a third one. I read a lot of stuff but tend to get bored halfway through the book.
Todd: Whatís the biggest difference between the initial vision of Maximumrockíníroll to the vision you have for it today? I mean, itís been around since 1982.
Tim: Ď77 actually. Thatís when we started the radio show and thatís when we came up with the name Maximum RockíníRoll. 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 donít necessarily believe that. I think I have more of the belief that itís a refuge for alienated people to sort of establish something of their own. I donít 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 thatís part of the technique, to just bombard people with so much bullshit information and so much bullshit that they canít see the forest from the trees. I think itís been highly effective. And I also think that with the defeat of any alternative, in this case communism, this is the reign of capitalism nowóuntil it destroys the world or destroys itself or whatever itís gonna do. So, I think that has been the change I have seen in the last twenty years. I donít think that thereís an effective resistance on a large scale that can be mounted against the power that they have. Itís 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 shouldnít fight. In other words, I donít 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 youíre 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, thatís not depressing. Itís sort of like thatís how it works and maybe in a way this is more honest, ya know?
Todd: What was you initial thought on becoming part of Maximumrockíníroll? 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, ďOh, I canít do thatĒ or, ďOh, goodĒ?
Jen: Well, some things have changed. Now I know why there arenít more articles. Iíve been here for how long and there hasnít been an article yet that Iíve worked on. You can ask people so many times or people are flaky and people donít commit. So thatís why I realized that there arenít that many good interviews. I know that itís me working on it a lot more than Tim does and we still donít have a lot to show for it. That frustrates me a lot because we canít do this by ourselves. So thatís the big thing that has changed and now I understand more why Maximum doesnít live up to some peopleís expectations or whatever.
Todd: Have you found another person to help Jen out yet?
Jen: No. Weíve considered a lot of people but weíre still looking.
Todd: In the job description for the vacancy, it states, ďYou donít get paid.Ē How can somebody work like sixty hours a week, or how many hours youíre asking them to work, and not get paid?
Jen: I donít get paid. Tim doesnít get paid.
Tim: In other words, thereís some re... Whatís the re word?
Tim: Thank you. You wonít pay rent, but you have to live here for twenty-four hours a day, essentially.
Jen: I donít really think itís that bad. I think there are definite times when, say a review deadline or whatever, that it is a lot of work but itís really kind of off and on. You answer the phone and deal with that whenever someone ever calls you, but itís not like I have to be here eight hours a day. You have to work with the deadlines, but itís not like itís sixty hours I put in every week. Itís like the week after the issue comes out where thereís not much to do and you do a lot of the other work that isnít related to the magazine.
Todd: How many people work here on a regular basis?
Tim: On a monthly basis, thereís 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, letís say about three years ago, itís 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, somebodyís in charge of the scene report. Itís a lot more decentralized. Our job is to make sure that all of these things interconnect and, ďAre they gonna do what they say theyíre gonna do?Ē
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. Weíre 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, ďOkay, how do we feel about them when we meet them?Ē ďDo they seem shady. Do they seem really cool?Ē Itís 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 Iíll give keys right off the bat.
Todd: All right, true or false: Reverend NÝrb 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 havenít inspected.
Todd: Because that guy had a lot of energy and Iím trying to trace it to something.
Tim: Thatís true. What can you say about somebody who when you meet Ďem and youíre shaking hands with him, heís pogoing?
Tim: What does that say?
Todd: Do you have a lot of hair on your toes?
Tim: No, Iím not Armenian.
Todd: Did you give the band Head a hundred dollars and say, ďKeep on doing what youíre doing Ďcause we like it?Ē
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 didnít really promote it. When we got there, there were like five people, which means he didnít publicize it very much. He didnít collect money at the door. He promised the band gas money and didnít give it to them. All of that is just so irresponsible and it makes me very angry, but I canít 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: Thatís a weird thing to be made fun of.
Jen: Thatís probably a question you would be better off asking Tim because heís 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 thatís a big one.
Tim: People who know better using the term ďfag.Ē 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 itís 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 thatíll make me get mad sometimes.
Jen: Something thatís essential for me is donít commit to a project if youíre not going to do it. If you donít want to do it, thatís 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 youíre not going to do it, thatís obviously the wrong time to do it.
Todd: Have you ever had a voodoo doll?
Todd: A personís face on a dartboard?
Tim: I think Iíve 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 youíve butted heads with and gets written up pretty poorly but thereís 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 Lookoutís sales. My feeling has been that in the past whenever we have attacked somebody their sales go up and so I donít 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 thatís how itís 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 itís controversy. Thatís better press than good press. Itís 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: Thereís been very little good press about them, but people talk about them a lot and thatís 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: Whatís the importance of a scene? When you were in high school, where a lot of our readersóand I assume a lot of your readers are, in between the ages of fourteen and twenty-oneówhen they are in high school they have a scene of their own thatís set up by the high school. Either youíre in football or drama or your anti-football and anti-drama and youíre 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 heís doing Metallica T-shirts. Is that a good thing or does that mean youíre 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 donít think thatís 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 theyíre critical about it then the scene doesnít get any better. There arenít a lot of women and thereís sexism thatís 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, itís kind of annoying when thereís someone who youíve looked up to for a real long time or you respected what they do andónot necessarily did they sell outóbut those things arenít important anymore to them. They donít 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. Theyíre 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 canít relate to it and itís 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 donít find the fulfillment, so they get into some sect or become religious or whatever. Some people, when they donít 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 thatís all theyíve 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, wouldóthey have learned a lotóand then letís say they go on and theyíre specializing in this or that, that they would share that on some level with this community and with the younger people coming into it. Thereíd be some sort of responsibility like that and perpetuation. But that doesnít happen that often.
Todd: Can you name a couple of people who have remained faithful? Youíve run Fat Wreck Chords stuff in your magazine. Theyíre pretty high profile but every time Iíve had association with them theyíve 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 donít have anything against Fat Mike. In some ways, for a bigger label, theyíve stuck more to certain principles than other labels have. Thereís 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 weíre 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, ďHey, we want to do this!Ē
Todd: Have you solicited anybody?
Tim: Oh, every now and then Iíll hear of somebody who comes out of the blue. It depends on what they are doing nowadays. In some cases I wouldnít 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 donít 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 Maximumrockíníroll 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 wasnít 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 donít think it is. I think that a lot of the college stations that take the show have DJís 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: Itís getting more reliable, too.
Tim: Right. To me, it wasnít a crucial thing and I donít think the radio showís been crucial for the last seven years. Itís a fun thing to do but I think that when it was live and we were doing it from KPFAówhich was a 59,000-watt station and it was also relayed up and down the valleyóthen 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 wasnít 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. Heís also a contributor for you guys. How do you feel about that?
Tim: If they do it for free then thatís 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. Thatís happened where the identical thing has been sent to Flipside and Maximum.
Jen: Or people call and say, ďI have this interview.Ē Like someone called and wanted to give us this interview with Greil Marcus. I was like, ďOkay, maybe that would be an interesting thing but weíre not going to pay you for that!Ē We donít pay people. If thatís the reason theyíre interested in giving that to us, then weíre not interested.
Todd: Yeah, this guy wrote, saying he was a punk rocker from West Virginia. I said, ďOkay, you can do some reviews for us.Ē He was like, ďWell send me stuff.Ē Iím like, ďYou donít have anything? How do you know about punk rock? Just show me a couple examples and weíll see what happens.Ē He was like, ďI canít do that.Ē
Jen: We actually have a zine reviewer whoís thirteen and he does really good. It hasnít 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 donít have any idea what you are talking about, but if weíre talking about the Ď60s 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 peopleís asses werenít on the line anymore, the radicalism faded and became more of a form. So, to me, thatís what, in looking at the punk counter culture, there is a period, especially obvious in the early founding stages, where itís radical. I think itís radical to have networks outside of corporate or governmental control. Thatís radical and thatís not just the early stages, that develops, and thatís 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 wonít be here. There will be a few who will, but most wonít be. At least thatís been the historical pattern. But I donít want to spend my time trying to figure out who is genuinely radical and who isnít. Itís 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.
Letís 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, ďWhy do you spend so much time nit-picking about these little things when there are these big issues?Ē Well, to me these little nit-picky things... Itís very easy to espouse rhetoric about the corporations or this or that and you need to, but, sometimes you have to show whatís 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, thatís not really true. Iím definitely getting used to it. Itís 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. Weíre already dealing with people who have already written off the magazine who I think could make good contributions, who are interested. Thatís very difficult. Sometimes with people making assumptions about what I do here or why Iím here.
Todd: What is the number one thing that people wrongly assume about your position here?
Jen: I think a lot of people donít know exactly what I do. Sometimes people call up on the phone and wonít talk to me and want to talk to Tim and itís like, ďYou can talk to me. Itís okay.Ē We havenít 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 itís fine. The thing that bothers me the most is people who think that my whole entire life is the magazine, which itís not. I donít want it to be, but a definite major portion of it is. Thatís the biggest thing that bothers me.
Todd: Whatís the biggest misconception people have about Tim Yohannan?
Jen: That youíre tall!
Tim: [Laughter] It used to be.
Jen: The other one is how old you are. So many people are like, ďOh my god, he has white hair!Ē Most people donít know that. They think itís really crazy.
Todd: So how old are you?
Todd: Whatís 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 doesnít come across in print and so thatís the misconception. Iíve been stereotyped by certain people as this or that and unless people meet me first-hand they arenít gonna really know, but thatís how it goes. I accept that and also I think that if youíre 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 thatís 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 thatís on majors and I will buy stuff for the collection thatís on majors. I just donít want the magazine to be a vehicle of support for that. So thatís my feeling. Although, thereís very precious little I can find to buy on a major that is worth buying.
Todd:Maximumrockíníroll,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 Goís.
Tim: The bulk of the Ď70s 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 wasnít a big anti-corporate kind of thing to do. It was just sort of like, ďUh, letís put out a record.Ē
Todd: ďMaybe weíll get picked up.Ē
Tim: Right. There wasnít 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, ďIf you do that, youíre gonna suck.Ē
Todd: Would Maximumrockínírollís focus just follow that large trend of what Slash did? When The Clashís Give ĎEm Enough Rope came out, Slash ran a full page adótheir pages were hugeóand they exclaimed about how wonderful that album was. Do you think Maximumrockíníroll 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, thatís 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 CDís liner notes, they wrote, ďTim Yo, right on!Ē
Tim: Weíre friends. There was only a brief period when he was really upset that Iíd asked him to leave, but after a while I read something that said, ďGeez, I donít know what took him so long to kick me out.Ē Our friendship has withstood that, as with Jeff Bale (who helped start Hit List). Weíre still buddies and I think thatís 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 youíve 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: Wasnít there some band you printedóyou called them and then printed them saying they werenít going to...
Tim: That was essentially it. ďHey, you wanna do an interview?Ē ďUh gee, I donít know.Ē ďOkay.Ē
Todd: Iíve realized that not many bands have been interviewed twice. Can you name a couple?
Jen: We canít 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 itís time to do another one if they have anything to say.
Jen: If theyíve lasted that long, if they have anything to say, or if itís changed significantly in any way.
Tim: Most never had anything to say to begin with and still donít later on. It seems to be a criteria for being a great band. Thatís my perspective. The best punk has always been done by really dumb shits.
Jen: Which is why we donít mind printing interviews with people who have nothing to say.
Todd: How many pieces of musicóCDs, vinyl, or cassettesódo you receive a month?
Jen: Tim doesnít listen to CDs at all. He doesnít like them. The first time I came to visit there wasnít a CD player in the house except for the CD Rom. He doesnít 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 donít 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 whatís going through some peoplesí heads when theyíre sending all the stuff in.
Jen: We get some stuff from bands that are severely metal. Pure metal. Weíre like, ďWhy are you sending this to us?Ē Itís 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: Whatís your delineation?
Jen: He strongly believes in what he says is correct or he wouldnít have said it. For me, coming from scenes outside of Timís scene, I think there are a lot of kids who follow him but I think there are a lot of people who know heís just opinionated. If Tim says their favorite band isnít punk anymore, they kind of realize that thatís just Timís opinion and itís not set in stone.
Tim: I think thereís people who will either take my word as the word of god or conversely hate me Ďcause they think Iím pronouncing the word of god.
Todd: Whatís your distribution level?
Tim: I think currently itís 14,000.
Todd: It comes out every month?
Jen: What about Flipside? How often does that come out?
Todd: Well, letís put it this way. You know how you say that youíll have a hundred people come in and help you? Thereís two at Flipside. Thereís 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 thereís 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 donít see that much duplication as thereís overlapping. I think, zine-wise, things are very healthy.
Jen: I agree. People go to zines for different things. There isnít another zine that people go to for the exact same thing that they go to Maximum for so thatís why I donít think thereís a lot of competition.
Todd: I feel the same way. I like to read around eight or nine zines every month. My personal favorites. Itís like a good friend. You like to go back and see what they have to sayÖWhat are your feelings about dealing with people who you know, right off the bat, donít 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 thereís bands or whatever that I might get beyond that, but I might tell them right away that I donít agree with what they do. Bands that are pro-life or whatever. Iím gonna tell them right away that I donít agree with that and if you still want to talk to me then thatís fine. They need to know right away.
Todd: Do you guys review AntiSeen stuff?
Tim: Yep and weíll review racist bands. I wonít take ads from them if theyíre straight-up racists.
Todd: Will you take classified from them?
Jen: Itís hard to get it all. We want to do that. If we get a band thatís 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 ďBenevolent protective order of Tim,Ē then ďTim with attitude,Ē then ďTim with thick boots,Ē and then it became ďTyrant Tim.Ē
Tim: I took the gloves off. I figured that if everyone thinks thatís what Iím 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, ďTim the Tyrant.Ē So I just reproduced that for the little header.
Todd: Nice. Thatís the one with the rolling pin?
Tim: No, thatís my regular one: ďYo Mama.Ē There is one, ďTim the TyrantĒ 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, thereís the newsprint for life rule.
Todd: So you want to stain peopleís hands for the rest of your lives?
Tim: Absolutely. You can tell if theyíve 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. Whatís 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. Itís ironic that the person whoís actuallyóIíve 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. Itís luring Tim into a sense of security.
Tim: Thatís right. Thereís certain parameters that weíve set and a certain attitude that weíve created around that policy and I think itís part of Maximumís persona, so I would like to see that continue but itís something that canít be guaranteed.
Jen: When weíre looking for the second zine coordinator and third zine coordinator itís like you need to agree with the music policy. Itís not like you can think that youíre 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 doesnít mean that I canít uphold it or that I donít recognize the function that it serves or I wouldnít be here. I donít 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: Heís not bitter though.
Tim: No, Iím not bitter. Iím 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 musicóthat you wanted this to be the rest of your lifeówhether it is or not?
Tim: You mean as a progenitor of a certain style of music? Is that what youíre 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 Ď54 or Ď55 on the radio and that just completely blew me away and changed my life. Itís 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 fuckiní 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 thereís not very much that is militant about me.
Tim: Sheís 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 thatís talking and all excited about what theyíre doing. Itís 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. Thatís pretty obvious.
Todd: What is currently on your answering machine if you have a personal answering machine?
Jen: We donít have an answering machine. Itíd probably just say, ďHi, this is Maximum, leave a message if you have to.Ē
Todd: If you call up information, why isnít Maximumrockíníroll listed?
Jen: Because itís 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 theyíre 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 thereís something so basically apparent about that concept that it has nothing to do with punk rock.
Jen: Plus, weíre saying that we think thereís something wrong with rich people. Thereís nothing punk rock that says thatís okay. The rich person is a rich person whether theyíre into punk rock or not.
Tim: To me, punk rock is about being rebellious, about being a jerk, about you canít help yourself about a lot of alienating and alienated qualities. To me, itís not about business and itís 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 donít think thereís 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 Maximumrockíníroll but go out of their way to make sure that they are mad at Maximumrockíníroll. They are disenfranchised from Maximumrockíníroll. Why is that?
Tim: Those people who I have attacked in terms of their value system, how theyíre making their money, what theyíre doing with their money, have been the ones who attack back the loudest and strongest. I understand why they do that Ďcause I definitely hit them in a place where they donít want to be hit. With some people, itís just out of genuine disagreement over issues and I think thatís fair.
Todd: If nothing else, Maximumrockínírollóin the world of zinedomóitís very well known and also known for being attacked or attacking. Thereís a definite combativeness.
Tim: With Maximum, weíve always been opinionated and political.
Jen: Itís not like Maximum attacks people for no reason. Thereís always a reason.
Tim: To me, itís fine that people love us or hate us or whatever. Iíd 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, ďWhy isnít this record reviewed?Ē Friends of mine who are like, ďWhy didnít you review our record?Ē and Iím like, ďWell, youíll have to talk to Tim about that.Ē People either want me to defend him or want me to say, ďOh, I think it should be reviewed.Ē You were talking earlier about what misconceptions people have about me being here and one of them is that Iím going to change the zine policy, which Iím not going to. I pretty much canít, you know? Like I said before, Maximum doesnít pick fights. We do it for a reason. Tim?
Tim: Well, Iím used to it by now. I think maybe the first few times I felt misinterpreted, I reacted defensively and Iím sure thatís happened in the past. Now itís sort of waiting for it and, ďWhy havenít they reacted yet?Ē That kind of thing. Now itís part of the whole chemistry of doing things. Itís like, ďOkay, that will happen.Ē ďIs there a way not to get caught up in hysteria and deal with it as reasonably as possible?Ē
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 didnít 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, Iíve never said it to anyone. Thatís just something you deal with.
Tim: No, there is. I just canít 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 conglomeratedÖ
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: Iím not shy from asserting and I think that if youíre 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 itís good for younger people to see that rebellion doesnít just have to be a stage that you go through when youíre young. So in that sense I donít 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. Itís not a matter of ego. Itís a matter of responsibility. And the records. Iím 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. Iím pretty much an organization person and thatís why Iíve 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 wasnít constantly derided by everybody, you could say thereís a cult‑like atmosphere going on here, but since Iím on the receiving end of much abuse here, we canít say that. In other words, between my part-time job and the amount of time Iím able to put into this, Iím proud of the fact that itís lasted this long. Itís weird. When I found out I had cancer, it was sort of like, ďAm I going to change now?Ē People will say, ďDonít you want to go travel?Ē And I was like, ďNo, I want to work on the magazine.Ē 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 heís 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 donít 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 donít have that wanderlust. Ever since I hit thirty, what Iíve wanted to do was organize. Thatís what I wanted to do. I donít have that in me. I just want to build things. Thatís what I want to do. Thatís 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 canít do?
Tim: I love baseball.
Jen: Miniature golf.
Tim: And there are other aspects of personal life whichóat this pointóare on hold with me. Itís hard to have a personal life when youíre living in a live/work situation and, once I got sick, I couldnít 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 donít 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 thatís why I went to college. But thatís the kind of thing where youíd have to give up everything just to do that, which I wasnít willing to do. Thatís why Iím 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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