Whenever the history of punk is a topic, we always tend to forget local zines documented these very scenes we now so love when they were just in their infancy. One of those mags was Slash, an L.A. based publication created by Melanie Nissen and Steve Simiof in 1977 in one of the prime moments of punk rock. With the streets flooded with the L.A. punk explosion, the 50-cent rag quickly rose from interviews with L.A. bands like The Damned, The Germs and The Screamers to the Sex Pistols and Joey & Dee Dee Ramone by issue #4. They’d ultimately climb to a point of covering all things punk from San Diego all the way to London interviewing everybody from John Waters to Malcom McClaren while still covering some of the best bands in the So Cal including those that hailed from Orange County.
Digging through the old issues you can find via a free downloadable link on circulationzero.com, you’ll find endless articles on OC punk bands whose shows were brilliantly covered through the Slash policy of writing about every band on a bill rather than just the headliner. OC punks wrote plenty of letters either questioning or talking mad shit to Kickboy in the Letters section of the zine, showing a local readership for the mag. They could rip a band to shreds in their albums and singles review section but they always had something to say about the badass sound coming from the 1503. Keep in mind though, this zine died in 1980 due to turning into a full-time label, so you’re way more likely to find a shitload of mentions of The Middle Class as well as The Crowd.
The zine is revered for its coverage of the early L.A. scene and perhaps it went away too soon. Unfortunately, while Lisa Fancher says the zine put the Middle Class on her radar, she believes that the zine proved non-influential in the OC scene and Ronnie “Posh Boy” Fields agrees with her. Fields even claims Craig Lee tried to get Red Cross not to sign a record deal with his label and calls Slash a “(failed) commercial venture masquerading as a fanzine.”
Perhaps the most harshest critique of the zine though comes from the last person you’d ever imagine; Simpsons creator Matt Groening in a letter sent to flash in the issue Vol. 1 # 11;
“This is a short letter of appreciation for you magazine… your graphics are really hot stuff – my compliments to the chefs. And your snotty tone is perfect – good, clean, pissed-off alienated humor is something we all need more of.
My only criticism is that too often your articles glorify the misogynistic attitude of young male cretins, and too often Slash seems to endorse these repugnant attitudes, sexism pervades our culture, and I applaud your disdain and cynicism, but rapist humor is as traditional and predictable as everything you oppose, and I think you should have brains enough to rise above it. Your magazine is not particularly guilty of Nazi/rapist bullshit, bit it is typically guilty of it, and that kind of normality is especially disappointing.”
Maybe it was the Gary Panter drawing in Vol. 1 # 2 with the text suggesting a nude tied up woman was being beaten or maybe it was the image of the band Fear playing in a house with a distraught woman tied up with a ball gag in her mouth in Vol. 1 #9. Maybe it was the A. Marcal interview of Black Randy in Vol. 1 #7 where he asked him “The Negro Question” about the size of his penis or maybe it was the “Like Them…” article written by Modern Boy in Vol. 1 #4 where he spoke how controversy is “just a sickness that plagues wetbacks (“me no comprende”).”
What we do know though is much akin to Playboy, while controversial, this OG infernal rag contains some bad ass journalism. I’m talking exclusive interviews with bands like The Cramps, Nico from Velvet Underground, Poly-Styrene of X-Ray Spex, Darby Crash of the Germs, Jello Biafra and even musician gods like Bob Marley. The list goes on with over 1,100 pages to dig through with many gems to unearth in the zine, especially bits on the Orange County scene. But for now, in honor of 20 years since the beginning of Slash, we’ll hook it up with five of our favorite articles from the zine;
5. Eddie With No Subtitles; Yet Another (Biased) Look At Orange County And Other Dubious Topics
(Vol. 2 # 10 Pg. 13) Uncredited
Eddie of the band Eddie & The Subtitles sat down (or maybe he stood? Laid even?) for an interview with Slash about how he sees the scene through his eyes. His almost dogging like start for the article reflects exactly what he’s about to say. It’s a nostalgic look at the early OC punk scene from the eyes of a man who took part in the L.A. wasteland front & center.
“Slash: You live in Orange County but you play almost exclusively in L.A. Is that because the few places that are down there aren’t suitable for your band?
Eddie: Orange County is an unbelievable mindless, sexless, funless monster that should be permanently shut down…”
4. The Duplicators, Middle Class, L.A. Shakers and The Controllers at Larchmont Hall (still???)
(Vol. 1 #12 Pg, 24)
This article talks about the Robert Omlit, Rikk Agnew, Scott Hoogland, Troy Mills super-group The Duplicators and when Rikk Agnew told The Weekly about it he made sure to point out they got more written about them than any other band on the bill. This highly positive review shows this band could’ve gone places and is also the only mention of Omlit, Hoogland or Mills anywhere inside Slash.
“…As for the singer, he either shouted in the mike until the veins in his forehead popped out, raced around the whole dancehall like a demented brat or threatened to eat someone during their final number, called “I eat everything.” Then he hungrily went for my arm and wouldn’t let go….”
3. Lobotomy Night Number Two With The Snot Puppies, The Reptiles, Middle Class And The Germs At (where else??) The Whisky (Vol. 1 #11 Pg. 25) Uncredited
This article talks about the unnamed writers first time seeing The Middle Class serving as a badass look into essentially what was peoples first response to hardcore punk. From this point on in Slash, Middle Class appears regularly in articles probably due to blowing the writer away with both their sound and performance.
“…I was still sitting on the same stool staring at a pile of napkins and no refreshment in front of me, when Middle Class started. The sound hit me in the back like a semi-truck that’s lost its brakes in a downhill. curve. I turned around after the obligatory delay that shows the tourists you are a jaded, weary connoisseur and almost swallowed my Siouxie and the Banshees badge,,,”
2. New L.A. Bands Update by Chris D. (Vol. 3 #5 Pg. 26-31)
The final issue of Slash had more articles about OC bands than any other previous issue. It represents a dynamic shift, not only in Orange County having its own thriving scene but in also infecting L.A. so much to where 9 OC bands were included in the New L.A. Bands Update; Agent Orange, Adolescents, China White, Der Stab, Dead Skin, The Screws, Sexually Frustrated/I.U.D., Social Distortion and The Stingers. Each band got their own 2-3 paragraphs written about them, each complete with a quote to create a delicious sampler of each band.
“…From Fullerton, Mike P, says about their music, “Post-punk is probably the safest thing you can call it…A lot of people are really getting fed up with the punk scene, the fighting and all that. We’re sick of it. How stupid can everybody be?”
“…About Huntington Beach: The cops are pretty fucked. They’ve been reading the newspapers too much. They think the bands are like gangs. You get pulled over and they go, “Yeah? What gang are you in? THE CROWD? THE SCREWS?”
1. Philip K. Dick Interview (Vol. 3 #5 Pg. 37-38) Uncredited
Who knew Dick was such a PUNK! Reading this interview is bound to make you love his writing far more as he shows off his punk knowledge to Slash and dives into the deeper meanings of his writings. There’s a reason the Fullerton author’s Slash interview is mentioned in almost every article about the mag; because it’s a fascinating interview with a fascinating man. They stepped into the world of a genius and got to peek into how his mind works, countering their curious questions with statements which make one question themselves.
“Slash: What prompted you in 1958 to begin writing about this kind of youth culture? Kids with teeth filed to points?
Dick: Yeah, I don’t know. It wasn’t until ’71 in a speech that I delivered in Vancouver that I was consciously discussing the rise of the youth culture. I got severely criticized for the eulogizing of the youth culture. I glorified punks “kids who would neither read, watch, remember or be intimidated.” I spoke of the rise of a youth culture which would overthrow the government,
Slash: Do you still think that’s the case?
Dick: I certainly do.”