Bruce Pavitt

Sub Pop USA (Bazillion Points) trade paperback book

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A trade paperback book compiling reprints of Sub Pop zine issues #1 through #9, plus Bruce Pavitt’s Sub Pop column from Seattle’s The Rocket, 1983–1988. • Forewords by Calvin Johnson, Ann Powers, Larry Reid, Gerard Cosloy, Charles R. Cross • Over 1,000 recording artists hunted down and hyped in their original indie habitats, including Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, the Wipers, Dinosaur Jr., Run-D.M.C., Slayer, Beastie Boys, Mudhoney…plus an entire nation of inspired amateurs.

In 1979, Bruce Pavitt moved from Chicago to Olympia, Washington, and began programming a show called Subterranean Pop on local community radio station KAOS-FM. In 1980, he launched Subterranean Pop magazine, dedicated to the unsung punk, new wave, and experimental regional bands of the Pacific Northwest and Midwest. Calvin Johnson of K joined the zine’s staff later that year, beginning with the second issue. The Sub Pop zine puzzled punk and new wave fans from major cities; readers were surprised that there were enough bands in the forgotten cities and states to devote a column, let alone an entire fanzine. Even more puzzling was the exclusion of artists like the Clash, Gang of Four, Blondie, or PIL, solely because of their major label associations. Driven by the power of independent thinking, early issues featured impassioned rallying cries for local action that make more sense than ever today, alongside early published artwork by Linda Barry, Charles Burns, and Jad Fair.

Copies of Sub Pop USA purchased from the K Mail Order Dept. are signed by Forward author Calvin Johnson.

Sub Pop U.S.A.!

The truth about the American Underground is it's always on the move, ever shifting - - - earthquakes mix milkshakes and guitars spin sycles per second. The underground U.S. rock'n'roll music of 1980-'83 was captured by Bruce Pavitt in Subterranean Pop fanzine, later Sub/Pop fanzine, a radio show and a magazine column, eventually a world famous record label. Bruce concentrated on two underappreciated regions of the U.S., the Midwest and the Northwest, areas outside of the media centers L.A. and N.Y., and a million miles away from London, England.

The early fanzines (and Rocket columns) have been compiled into Sub Pop USA with assorted forward words of encouragement by Ann Powers, Gerard Cosloy and Calvin Johnson (that's me!). Yes, I wrote two essays about working with Bruce Pavitt on Subterranean Pop and the early Olympia underground scene.

Sub Pop U.S.A. is available once again from The K Mail Order Dept. I recently telephoned Bruce Pavitt and quizzed him about some of the artists covered in Subterranean Pop:

Sport of Kings
"Moody Chicago art school...they influenced most of the Chicago groups. they were friends of friends, most of the whole scene was like that."

"It was amazing to see these guys, the singer was 16 when they put that out. They were from the Chicago suburbs but they had some cred because they were so young and were pulling it off. They played a lot of inner city loft parties."

Visible Targets
"An unsung pop punk band from Seattle. Their stuff was really solid pop. Under rated."

"An art band influenced by the UK. I really dug their single "Distant View", which I discovered through PRAXIS magazine."

"Related to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I did see them once. I'll just leave it with 'they were awesome'."

Neo Boys
"I was completely taken with their first 45rpm when it arrived at KAOS-FM. I thought the Greg Sage production was perfect, they wrote really great punk/pop songs. They were one of the inspirations for the zine, I realized I had to share this information with the rest of the country. They and The Dishrags were so good."

The Nurses
Howard Wuelfing. I absolutely loved the track they contributed to the Sub/Pop 5 tape ('Rubber Heads'), it was great. Howard is a wonderful songwriter."

The kind of quirky, left field gem that really made you appreciate the art/pop underground that was happening. It exemplified the personality of the underworld, it didn't fit into any category."

The Wipers
"All I can say: one of the great unsung bands of America."

I was always excited to discover bands doing unique music outside of NY and LA. They were a perfect example, they put out good stuff."

Get Smart!
"'Eat Sleep a Go-go', that's a hit. They partied with William Burroughs in Lawrence, KS; what's not too like?"

The Vague-leys
"Influenced by Joy Division as were a lot of bands in Chicago. Every time you went into Wax Trax they were playing Joy Division so it rubbed off on everyone.  My best friend from Chicago Doug Taylor was the guitar player."

Pell Mell
"Rhyming Guitars, one of the most brilliant records of the American underground of the time. Fully unique surf guitar revisionism. Rhyming Guitars is a masterpiece."

"OMG one of my fave bands ever, an example of why the indie eyetem had to exist, incredible and still holds up."

Concludes Bruce, "In a way what you and I were working on, documenting obscure regional records, was an update of what Harry Smith was doing with the Anthology of American Folk Music. He was championing regional music not being appreciated by the masses, it was being ignored. We essentially created an anthology of American music of that period."