Janet Austin, 2017.
Bruce Milne, Pulp, nos 3 and 4, 1978.
Patti Smith bootleg album review, Pulp, nos 3 and 4, 1978.
RAM magazines, 1980.
My name is Janet Austin, and many years ago I worked with Bruce Milne on the Pulp fanzine. And the way I met Bruce was pretty convoluted but, thinking back, I think it was through Rowland [S Howard].
I started off writing articles for a fanzine that I think it came out of RMIT and it didn't go anywhere and it was really awful, but that was the beginning.Next up: What did you write for Pulp?
What did you write for Pulp?
Rowland told me that Bruce was looking for writers for the music fanzine that he was starting called Pulp – whether it was called Pulp then I'm not sure. So I got in touch with Bruce and started writing for Pulp. So I wrote for a couple – I think there were perhaps only four editions. I interviewed Radio Birdman and Stephen Cummings and I think Mick Harvey, and did a couple of record reviews, including a Patti Smith bootleg – because Patti Smith's Horses changed my life!Next up: What music magazines did you read in the 1970s?
What music magazines did you read in the 1970s?
So, the mid- to late '70s in Melbourne, music wise, were pretty dire, and what you'd listen to would be from overseas, so Bowie and all the mid-70s glam, Bowie and Roxy. And everything revolved around NME and Zig Zag and Trouser Press and Rock Scene. Rock Scene was great. It was like the New Idea of New York music, and had all these great pictures of Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop hanging out at parties, but captioned like it was New Idea. It was great. So, that was the best thing.
So, you wouldn't really read local magazines like RAM or Juke, although we would try to get articles published. Like I was saying with going to see the Saints or Radio Birdman, you'd just see the same people at the same shows, and so you'd get to know each other and you all had sort of similar interests somehow because you gravitated towards those bands because you liked that kind of music, which I guess is what happens now, only then it was very small, so, so small. And that scene was only small for like six months to a year and then it totally changed and then everyone sort of went their separate ways really. But for that year, from I guess '77, it was like a youth club! The school of hard knocks!
And so because you'd read those overseas magazines and you wouldn't read local ones, the reason that you'd start your own fanzine is because there wasn't anything worth reading locally because they weren't writing about that music. There was terrible snobbery and I guess fear of the new and the young.Next up: Why do you think fanzines became popular?
Why do you think fanzines became popular?
Another reason for people starting fanzines would be that we were up to three months behind the latest NME – which would be read by 100 people, one copy, because it was like getting your hands on three-month-old news but the latest news. It was sort of like what you imagine in Victorian Melbourne when the postal boat arrived.
So, going to shows and hanging out at record shops was where you could get the fanzines and hear the latest records for free and just meet people.
And so I guess Australia did feel like it was in a vacuum but it was something to do with the zeitgeist because it was just these different groups of people writing and playing music and doing stuff at the same time. They probably all had similar influences from a few years before, like Bowie and glam and Roxy and Television.Next up: Did you experience any sexism when you worked on fanzines?
Did you experience any sexism when you worked on fanzines?
I think when it all began, the shared knowledge was small, so anyone interested in it was welcome. And definitely working with Bruce [Milne] and Clinton [Walker], who are such great people, I never felt at all anything negative or sexist coming from them. And at that time I foolishly saw people as sort of types rather than genders, so I just felt like I was welcome, so I must have been. Because as we get older, we realise that sexism is everywhere.Next up: Do you think fanzines should be collected by cultural institutions?
Do you think fanzines should be collected by cultural institutions?
Whether it's valuable to preserve that kind of ephemera, I'd say absolutely because what's underground becomes overground and mainstream, so it's a fantastic way of seeing how things develop and change and the different currents. I think it's really like during the English Civil War and the pamphlets that were created were seen as so pivotal to that history and yeah, fanzines, why not as pivotal?Next up: What about the impact of digital technology – is print dead?
What about the impact of digital technology – is print dead?
Having a printed copy of Pulp in your hands is totally different to seeing it on the screen, so paper's not dead. I think the difference between a fanzine and a blog is huge because I mean a fanzine is more like a magazine than a thought-piece, if that's what a blog is. It's bringing together reviews, comments, interviews. So, it's a magazine really.Next up: Were there parallels between fanzines and the independent music scene?
Were there parallels between fanzines and the independent music scene?
Independent music has a parallel with fanzines in that if bands couldn't get a record released, they'd do it themselves. And there were so many fantastic examples of that, like Buzzcocks and Scritti Politti. So I think, on some level, fans of music were doing the same thing by publishing fanzines, because the mainstream press wouldn't write about what you were interested in, so if they won't do it, do it yourself!Return to menu