Touch & Go and Tesco Vee: We Are Standing on the Shoulders of Weenbags (Part 1)

I know we promised you only one book review a year, and this year our book review / book of the year comes five months early.  Said tome is Touch & Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79 -  ’83 just out on Bazillion Points.  You might know Bazillion Points is run by Ian Christe (author of “Sound of the Beast”, DJ on Sirius / XM’s “Beyond the Pit”).  This guy put out a picture book of Hellhammer photos.  You may also know that Touch & Go is an infamous punk zine from Michigan and later D.C. that was put out by Tesco Vee (of the Meatmen) and his buddy Dave Stimson.  I asked Christe how this unlikely union occurred, and he responded that he spent some bad times in the mid-west as a teen, and the irreverent Touch & Go hit a chord.  And citing the enthusiasm and alienation of T&G’s scribes, he called it  “a handbook for rebellion.”

Now we’re talkin’!  We here at COD can understand that sentiment.  Even though we exist in the biggest media slag pile known to man, we are covering a scene nobody seems to know about, which, like hardcore, features bands of scary looking dudes humbly loading their equipment in and out of unlikely bars, just happy for a place to play.  Coincidentally, our own Mountain Bar is a few doors away from the dives that started the hardcore scene.    

Unlike the later Tesco, whose hyperbolic hatred of human hypocrisy froths forth from every nook and cranny, in the early years, we see a Tesco sort of like the early Lemmy: getting his sea legs, working on a character that would define him for decades.  Like Lemmy, Tesco is skeptical of anything that gets too far away from the prime motivators of sex, power and money.  Lemmy put it in his tunes; Tesco shoves it in your face.  Perfect for hardcore, where stringent ethics sometimes repressed the sleazy side of things to the point where the freedom and rebellion of punk rock morphed into a demented code of morals worthy of John Calvin himself.  Touch & Go balanced out the situation, and it weren’t even a fair fight.

Aside from the fall-on-your-face honesty and breadth of the record reviews in T&G (Big Country, the Cure and Venom!), the thing I find most amusing here is how Tesco and Dave rail against local clubs and DJ’s in Lansing like they are dragging Benedict Judas out in the light for the angry throng.  Imagine you’re a DJ  in a “big” market like Cleveland or Detroit, and you take a semi-retirement job in a down market like Lansing, anticipating half-drunk afternoons groping interns while regaling them with tales of the time you meant Ray Manzerak.  Or you own a bar that features REO Speedwagon cover bands, and you decide to try this new wave thing out one night a week by putting on some power pop combos.  Unbeknownst to you, the T&G fellas tune in and turn on, then break out the IBM Selectric to skewer you for all eternity.  30 years later, people in L.A. are reading about you as having “shit for brains from having that bulbous bean of yours up where it’s dark and smelly, and there’s no getting rid of that ring around the collar,” or “your idea of limited guest lists and ridiculous three dollar covers obviously makes you a pitiful liar.”  The song remains the same: a good writer can fuck you up (wish I knew one).

Anyway, I could go on and on.  Bottom line is, this book is an awesome read for anyone who was around the music explosion of the early ‘80s or wants to watch how a scene grows, blooms and drifts away.   So, without further ado, I present to you part one of our encyclopedic interview with Tesco Vee, the Dutch Hercules himself. 

No doubt academics are starting to study zines, playing connect the dots from Rolling Stone to Maximum Rock n Roll.  When you were actually DOING this shit and not one these guys writing about it in a lab coat 30 years later, did you think you were part of any kind of tradition? 

No, like my pal DS said, "We weren’t doing this for the fans, cuz we didn’t even know how many people were reading the magazine!" We were only doing it to satisfy an intrinsic desire to document the goings on...we felt the new music was important and was getting short shrift by stateside media especially in a backwards one horse burg like Lansing! 

Which other punk zine did you think was the closest to what you were doing?

Geez, we spawned some things like Your Flesh and arguably Forced Exposure, but there were hundreds and each had their own unique flavor.

We’re trying to do our part emulating those zine’s, picking up on threads in the music, but as you point out in the intro essay to the book, it’s basically impossible in the Internet era. Everything’s too accessible—no imagination required.  Should we just give up and do some air guitar on You Tube or what? 

Nah, don’t ever give up!  It’s not just discovery of the new...the next great band, but it is now a great time for re-discovery, which I am constantly doing with all the prog box sets poppin’.  Go back and listen to some of this stuff we talked about in T&G.  Some of it will still resonate and some may not, but the music wasn’t of one pedigree.  Everything from The Pop Group which was anything BUT POP to Discharge, Surgical Penis Klinic to Black Flag.  A review of the book I read recently said the fact that we didn’t favor one genre over another, giving the Big Boys and The Dicks a scathing review, proved that we owed nothing to anyone save for an honest evaluation of their work.

Ya, reading this, I’m blown away by the way even the underground press limits and stereotypes. It’s a constant battle to keep an open mind.  This zine is about music fans who take it all in… Black Flag, the Cure, Venom!  A new world unfolding. Some of the early punks I knew also got me into the Residents, the Cramps and Kate Bush. 

Amen…Open mind, open wallet, buy a fuckin record by the cover and not after hearing it first..say wha?  Music for every mood was how I used to think about it.  Listening to Black Flag in the dark with a doobie doesn’t work; listening to Yello, The Residents, or Abba does.  Way too much pigeonholing going on and that’s always been that way.  People ask me what I’m listening to these days and I say everything!  And with blogs and all there is no shortage of blokes with an opinion on an album.  No shortage of new bands out there, many of whom are doing it for the right reason: for their own intrinsic satisfaction, since "getting signed" has always been a laughable goal, even more so with the total collapse of the record industry.

Our blog is about LA.  A theme in T&G is thinking that something cool is going on somewhere else, particularly So. Cal.  What’s the reality of So. Cal. been for you, over the years visiting or touring here?  And why isn’t Black Randy recognized as a great American poet??  Do you think Black Randy and Darby Crash ever “had” each other, in the Rob Halford sense?

Now that’s a funny thought!  Darby and Randy in a 69 luv clench!  My experience in So. Cal. has never been great.  Tom from Butt Trumpet stole the door money and vamoosed, while me and the boys were onstage in LA back in ’92.  The closet show of last year which was cool cuz got to hang with Slymenstra from Gwar, Tom from Turbonegro and Nick Oliveri, but a bigger room would have been swell!  Finally get off stage and the peckerhead owner won’t give me a goddamn brew!  Hadda get the promoter to come speaky some English!

A real booking agent has promised us a "real west coast tour" in the spring !  Oh, and getting back to Black Randy.  The guy was a genius…shame about the drug abuse...cuz on that album he nailed it.  He had the funk, he had the punk, he had the knee slapping wack…easily one of my top 5 platters ever! Oh and the Pass The Dust I think I’m Bowie title was fab as well

I love that you gave The Wipers a good review.  10 years later Cobain was singing their praises but you guys were way before that.  Is this a book of prophecy I’m holding?  How much other stuff in here is going to come true? 

Geez, good question…Tom Sage was prescient enough to send us his platters and they were always spot on great…that was what was great about doing a zine--going to the PO Box and just never knowing what it might hold.  Just last nite I went to the same Post Office to check my box and there in the foreground was the rack holding the local free paper The City Pulse with me on the cover.  I sat there and took pause, a long drag off my Lucky Strike, and thought how great it was that 30 years later this 500+ page music manifesto was finally out!  I’m on cloud 9 and don’t plan on coming down anytime soon!

You’re from the mid-west originally.  As you’ve pointed out on stage countless times, this country is full of rednecks, hicks, hillbillies.  I personally don’t have much respect for anyone who looks down their nose at these people w/o living amongst them for awhile.  You’ve moved back to Michigan after decades in DC.  Why?  20 million lawyers got you down?

Heard tell the Republicans were comin!  No I agree…you gotta go slumming sometimes to make it real.  I was raised middle class but slept on some concrete floors with John Brannon and Larrisa in Motown back in the day; hard lives can breed some good music.  Michigan is ground zero for white trash militia dirtbags, but so is Northern Virginia just a gallop south of DC.  It was just time to return to the Mitten.   We saved up some dough, sold the house and have never looked back…the traffic is heinous out there, screw that!  Besides we have all the clean fresh water you could ever want and someday all you desert dwelling numbskulls will wise up and see what a great place Michigan is.  Plus don’t get me started about how this place has WAY MORE than its fair share of bands and musicians.  Its a great place to find players and lord knows I’ve had my latest line up of goons may just be my best ever!…so many legendary figures have come from here..MC5 and Stooges just scratch the surface!

What’s up with the Rollins endorsement on the book?  You’ve been critical of him over the years.  Are things all better now?  Do you think Rollins could bench press Glen Danzig? 

Yes!  Long story better told in the book…I had falling outs with Ian [MacKaye] as well though he wasn’t sure why.  We talked it out, went thru a couple boxes of tissues and we are back on great terms now and that makes me happy.  Henry and I have even exchanged pleasantries..Danzig did not respond to requests to contribute to the book..would have been cool to get something from him..Lord knows we sung his praises from the hillside when nobody else in the Midwest gave a flying midget!

We’re you ever a drummer?  Because the way you delivered it, this is a drum machine: “Burn-the-lit-tle-pan-ties-off-a-nu-bile-with-a-bun-son-burn-er.”

Wow. Yes again! I was the drummer and singer in my first band Space Chuck and The Ray Guns!  We were a 3 piece and we played Iggy, Clash, and the like…Barry from the Necros has a tape…gotta get a copy..some really bad originals like "Cynical Man"...someone could blackmail me with that stuff!

I see you are touring with the Hate Police. Is this the same line up?  What about the re-constituted Meatmen? 

That line up is done and don’t air dirty laundry Meatmen coming in Riotfest in Chicago…

I heard when Slayer first played out in L.A., their whole family would show up and encourage them.  A traditional Mexican Catholic family cheering on the boys while they belted out “Evil Knows No Boudaries.”  Did you ever drag out dear old mom and dad to watch a rousing rendition of “Freud Was Wrong” (aka “I wanna fuck my daddy”)?  Did your parents know what you were up to? 

They knew I was in a band and didn’t approve of that! Much less the evil hatemonger with tongue embedded in cheek weenbag I have become!  A  Dutch Reformed conservative upbringing was shoved up my crack…Whydya think I turned out to be such a flame throwin heathen???!!!