Today marks the 20th anniversary of Purging Talon, this one-man media company I started way, way back in 1993. I was 25 years old at the time and excited to create so much of the video, audio, print and Web work that was to come. And I’m still excited to continue working on and releasing the output of projects both currently known and, to many of you, unknown. One forthcoming book title in particular — a look back of sorts at a certain magazine of note — contains an 11-page “brief” history of Purging Talon and I would like today to release an excerpt from that introduction.
My first serious attempt at self-publishing began in the early-1990s. I was attending school at a small private college in Northern Vermont and, in many ways, running its radio station. And by “running,” I mean it. At the tail end of my tenure there, I was General Manager, Assistant General Manager, Music Director, Metal Director, Production Manager, and DJ to three shows — all at the same time! And it’s not exactly a stretch to imagine that my grades suffered as a result of practically living in that radio station (not to mention my status with my not-too-happy girlfriend at the time), and at one point was given leave from that institution to find education elsewhere. I don’t mind admitting that I had more determination than focus in my youth. But my media journey had to start somewhere. So amidst covered bridges and maple sugar farms, I took that first step.
Through one of the many posts I’d held (Metal Director), I would be in weekly contact with the A&R departments of and general promotions types from numerous record labels. If it was metal in the early-’90s, I had a main line to it: Roadrunner, Earache, Century Media, Nuclear Blast, Megaforce, Capitol, Atlantic, Elektra, and the list goes on. What seemed the most unlikely thing to me (and, perhaps, now to you) was that so many of the reps I spoke with on a regular basis had actually gotten their feet wet in the self-publishing world, having already gone through putting out a zine and, in one case, banked an entire record label off of it. So, after shoveling hype on their star bands back to them or giving them the usually fudged rankings submitted that week to CMJ (read: music directors like free CDs), I’d pick their brains on the print world: how did they get started, how did they promote, what worked, what really didn’t work, etc. (Keep in mind that this period of time predates the World Wide Web.) Before I was even out of the gate, I was already armed with a wealth of knowledge that, even in retrospect, was dead on. And, best of all, I didn’t have to experience those specific pratfalls of publishing firsthand. They did that for me.
I should probably mention that this first zine idea of mine was, if you couldn’t already guess, music-oriented. Yes, I almost put out a fanzine — in this case, one centered on the then-already glutted market of death metal / grindcore. But, I was young and excited so I thought I’d take a crack at it. I’d hung onto all of my label contacts after leaving school and moving to Vermont’s biggest “city,” recorded a slew of band interviews to transcribe, and had plenty of insider info from the trade mags. I had my scissors and glue stick all set. I doggedly typed away on my word processor (or, if you prefer, “electronic typewriter”) from the confines of a makeshift bedroom in a punk rock house with four other party-prone roommates. I was even planning on buying a photocopier to run off the first batch, which seemed rather ambitious back then. I was all ready to launch the debut issue of GRIND! when something rather strange happened.
I was outgrowing music subculture as a whole. My heart was no longer in it and I just couldn’t ignore the white elephant of mindless conformity in the room. It was so painfully obvious to me at that point just how much of it all was so orchestrated by big business and clique politics, whether it was what you wore, what you listened to, what issues were trendy, or the tedious drone of “band talk.” Even being in bands was a constant test of my tolerance, having to look out over a crowd of imbecilic automatons who’d chant, yell or throw their fist in the air at my command. I asked myself a lot of questions then: Why am I serving as entertainment for sheep? How can I continue to put on the act when it feels so fruitless? Is this all really worth it? It dawned on me that if I had anything to say up there or through whatever music I’d recorded, no one would listen but plenty would mimic. I was reaching a level of maturity that didn’t include a lot of other people and mentalities and I’ve no doubt that many people I once knew have some rather sour grapes-inspired insults for me, seeing as I wouldn’t drink the Kool-Aid anymore. So I took my final bow at the curtain close. Exit MGP, stage left.
The result of this awakening was that GRIND! would never come out, regardless of its completion, containing over a dozen extensive interviews, scores of reviews, and whatever else was in there that I can no longer remember. If I even had the proof copy somewhere today, I wouldn’t even know it.
I was sure that I still wanted to publish. Just not this.
So, I took a break from self-publishing for a year while I got to know my brand-new hometown of Burlington. After 2 1/2 years of living in an isolated rural area that was 2,000 people when school was in, 200 when it was out, I was ecstatic over my improved surroundings — having a good time, being young, parties, girls, etc. I was, shall we say, pleasantly distracted.
And then, in 1993, a bundle of joy entered my life. It didn’t coo or smile or even wake me up in the middle of the night to feed it, but it was free and it was the beginning of life for Purging Talon.
It was a computer. More specifically, a Mac Classic that I had won in a contest. It was small, even by the standards of the day, in terms of physical size and memory, but with a pile of floppy disks and sneaking access to the printers at my local university’s computer lab, I was well on my way to releasing a complete piece of shit zine… Poo Poo, to be exact.
The entire concept and most of the material for the first issue of Poo Poo Magazine (released Halloween 1993) came from one night of drinking with a roommate and close friend — types of essays, silly pseudonyms, massive abuse of fonts, blown out pics, you name it. Brought to life were the personas of M.C. Caucasian Pimp and Pope Homeslice IV (and, later, Vanilla Christ and Lex Lucifer), masters of absurd life observations — and each with a real sailor’s mouth, too. The original intention was to create a zine that made fun of other zines by example. What that means is that the “cut-and-paste” style, the vapid topics, and the general mental masturbation common in the zine world in the 1990s was lampooned in PPM — sometimes in a subtle way, other times in a truly mean-spirited way — but in a cute package.
We enjoyed the juxtaposition but the joke got old and at least two of us wanted to get away from the “zine parody” nonsense, as well as the presence of anything band-related and just go on our spiteful rants, which people seemed to enjoy more than anything. So, after the departure of Pope Homeslice IV (losing him to the exciting career of booking punk rock shows at the local teen center), Poo Poo morphed into a hate zine and all was well with the world…
I’d like to thank so many folks for helping as well as contributing to Purging Talon over all of these years: 242 Main, Raul A., Jason Andreasson, Apple, Avatar (the defunct zine shop, not the movie), A.Z. Well, Blanche Barton, Blue Suede News, Bound Together Books, Scott Broderick and The Lindbergh Baby, Simon Brody, Luis Cantero, The Church of Satan, Joseph A. Citro, Comic Relief – Berkeley, Counter Media, Daark, Mark DeGerolamo, Le’ rue Delashay, Baboon Dooley, Deeva Dazzletrash, Dennis and Club Toast, Draconis Blackthorne, Earth Prime Comics, Epicenter Zone Collective, Factsheet 5, Adan Flores, Joel Gausten, Peter H. Gilmore, Greg Giordano and Studio 8 Uncensored/Live, Samantha Godbout, Gonzo’s, David Harris, Molly Hodgdon, The House of Omar, Scott Huffines and Atomic Books, Ipso Facto, Todd Kennedy, Chuck Klosterman, Chris Korda, Kymba-Khan, Robert A. Lang, Leather Tongue Video, Lex Lucifer, Bill M. and The Devil’s Mischief, Jack Malebranche, Michael Mazza, Christopher Mealie, Ken Millette (R.I.P.), Kevin Montanaro, Michael Moynihan and Dominion Press, Moon Mystique, Peggy Nadramia, Nemo, Adam Parfrey and Feral House, Herbert Paulis, Eric Peterson, Pope Homeslice IV, Professor Sinister, Pure Pop Records, Quimby’s, Radio Free Satan, Casey Rae-Hunter and The Contrarian, Ratdog, Aaron Reil, RE/Search, Robert The Merciless, Rock Out Censorship, Roy from zine.net, Brad Searles, Kevin I. Slaughter and Underworld Amusements, George Sprague, Star 69, Thomas Thorn, Tiberia Nine, Tones, University of Vermont, Vanilla Christ, VCAM, Lestat Ventrue and Letters To The Devil, Joseph Veronneau, Gregori Warn, Scott West, Wired Magazine, WRUV 90.1 FM, Chris Xavier and Reptilian Records.
Now, let’s get to the NEXT 20 years, shall we?