Fluke article in The Idle Class Magazine

 Letters to Friends + Strangers

Zine culture goes back decades, if not centuries. One could argue that Thomas Payne’s Common Sense was an early example of zine. In the 20th century, they grew out of early sci-fi fandom and eventually spread to topics like feminism, horror stories, and, most notably, music. Early music zines like Crawdaddy! and Mojo Navigator Rock and Roll News sprang up in California. Punk rock’s DIY aesthetic was a perfect fit for zines. British fanzines like Sniffin’ Glue and Bondage spread the word to the world of what was happening in the UK punk scene. Throughout the 1980s, zines spread across other genres such as hardcore and even mainstream rock with multiple Bruce Springsteen fanzines popping up. So, as Little Rock’s DIY and music scene grew during the ’80s and early ’90s, the emergence of zines was a natural progression of the cultural development happening.

One such zine was Fluke. Created by Steve Schmidt, Jason White and Matthew Thompson in North Little Rock. Its origin was a bit serendipitous according to Thompson. Schmidt had graduated high school and was living with his mom and working at TCBY Frozen Yogurt in Lakewood. A homeless man would come in and write the numbers one through twenty-seven on a piece of paper, continuously. At the time, Schmidt figured the man was teaching himself to count, which inspired Schmidt to take action in his own life. He soon began hosting a punk rock radio show on KABF, joined the band Chino Horde and started a fanzine. 

In the summer of 1991, the trio launched Fluke 1. Schmidt interviewed touring bands Fugazi and Plaid Retina, who performed at what is now Vino’s on 7th in Chester in Little Rock. White interviewed Tim Lamb, who published a Little Rock fanzine called Lighten Up in the ’80s. Thompson was taking a writing course at UALR and one of his assignments was to write a letter to the editor of the Arkansas Gazette. His letter addressed the correlation between violence on television and society. It was printed in the paper so he included that in the first issue, as well as other writings, photography and record reviews. Their friend Colin Brooks worked at Kinko’s on JFK and McCain in North Little Rock and he assisted them with printing the first two issues. 

Growing up, Thompson says zines were crucial to the community.

“I think zines touch people on an intimate level because it is a personal piece of literature and art and people feel connected to that.” He added, “They played a vital role in the scene. Fanzines were the glue that held it all together. They offered information, opinions, insight, journalism, art and dialogue between friends. By 1992, there was an influx of local zines in Little Rock. It seemed like everyone and their dog did a zine.”

For Thompson, zines gave him a way to contribute to the scene as a creator. He took what he learned in high school journalism classes and applied to Fluke. He believes the punk rock bible Maximumrocknroll—which began in the Bay Area in 1982—and Ahoalton—a zine on punk rock and Native American culture by Little Rock native Mark Dober—were among the first zines he ever encountered. He would read reviews of other zines in the back pages of Maximumrocknroll and order them. Some of Thompson’s favorite Little Rock zines of the late Eighties/Nineties include Jeremy Brasher’s Risk, which touched on train-hopping; Theo Witsell’s Spectacle; Jim Thompson’s Handout; and Sam Caplan’s Tracks n Macks

Thompson cites John Pugh’s Eyepoke and Get Lost as his absolute favorites of mid ’90s Little Rock zines. Thompson said, “John was everywhere––in the streets, at the shows, at the punk houses, copy shops, traveling, and documenting it all[…]There were a lot of great Little Rock zines in the early ’90s and a lot of not so great ones, too. That didn’t really matter, though. It was something to create and engage your friends with.”

Fluke has brought many memories for Thompson over the years. The highlight has been “being able to connect with people I admire and am inspired by.” He befriended musician Mike Watt, Arkansas artist buZ blurr, and musician and zine creator Aaron Cometbus. He met Arkansas expatriate musicians like Tav Falco and Gary Floyd. He handed copies of the magazine to rock legends Iggy Pop and Keith Morris. Last year, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore even ordered several issues. These, of course, are not the only reasons he has kept the zine going for all these years.

“It energizes me. People interest me. It’s a fanzine, a zine for fans. I’m a fan of music, art, writing, photography, ideas. It’s something I am passionate about,” Thompson said. “Flukeconnects me to the world. I took two long breaks––seven and four years––battling addiction and then piecing my life back together. Fluke has given me purpose in life.”

Many Fluke contributors have gone on to do big things. Fluke co-founder White has toured the world as a guitarist for Green Day for over 20 years now. Brooks played in Dan Zanes and Friends, whose album Catch That Train! won the 2007 Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children. buZ blurr’s art has been shown in major art exhibits and museums worldwide, most recently in SFMOMA and Beyond the Streets in Los Angeles. Nate Powell’s 2008 graphic novel Swallow Me Whole won an Ignatz Award and Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel. He also won a National Book Award for his illustration work for the March graphic novel by the late, great Rep. John Lewis. 

Powell has collaborated with Fluke for 15 years, but he first became a fan in 1992 when he picked up Fluke #2 along with some other local zines. The DIY movement inspired Powell to collaborate with his friends Mike Lierly and Nathan Wilson to self-publish their own comics. In 2006, Powell and Thompson reconnected when Powell contributed illustrations for the booklet accompanying the documentary, Towncraft, about the Little Rock music scene of the late ’80s and early ’90s That was immediately followed by Powell’s cover art for Fluke #7, and they have been regular collaborators since then, roughly once a year. Powell cites Fluke and zine culture as having a major influence on his career to come.

“Zines were one of the most accessible forms of self-expression for teenagers in the 1990’s underground, and there were at least a dozen zines being published by young people in the Little Rock area,” Powell said. “D.O.A., the dystopian superhero comic we self-published starting in 1992, was made possible by the proof-of-concept established through other kids’ zines, and by 1994, I was making more personal zines of my own, eventually folding comics back into the zine content later in the ’90s and ultimately arriving at my current mode of full personal and political expression through my comics.”

Fluke also provided a way for people to stay plugged into their hometown scene in the days before social media and widespread Internet use. Cora Crary, a Little Rock native who left for the Pacific Northwest in the early ’90s, used the zine as a means of connection.

“I left Little Rock in the fall of 1990 and other than living in town for a few months in 1992 and 1994 I wasn’t really around, so for me Fluke contributed to my understanding of what was happening in Little Rock,” Crary said. “That said, Fluke came about at a time in the scene where everyone had zines, since especially if you weren’t in a band, a zine was essentially a calling card, as well as an excuse to ask your geeky questions of the creators you followed. Fluke has persisted all these decades and has provided a through line connecting the Little Rock scene that we grew up in with all the new and adjacent projects made or inspired by those in the scene.”

Over the years, production has evolved. Instead of printing and assembling the zine at a copy shop, Thompson now has a printer who prints and collates Fluke. Instead of printing 100 or so copies, he now prints 1,000 or more and sells them in stores around the country and even abroad. He has slowly but surely built up a distribution network across the country by taking the time to develop personal relationships with people and stores. Some stores have sold Fluke since its inception, but Thompson is always looking for more outlets worldwide to carry the zine. 

Last year, he started Fluke Publishing––printing and distributing magazines created by friends. 

Powell credits Fluke’s longevity to Thompson’s growth as a creative and a person.

“I think it’s essential that zinemakers grow older with their publications, allowing shifts in their own personal interests to coexist with a sense of continuity,” Powell said. “Fluke excels in this by focusing on musicians and artists who have grown and evolved alongside their creations, and Matthew takes care to highlight this in a very open, sincere way.”

Crary sees the zine as an inspiration. She said, “Zines have an intimacy and immediacy to them. Publishing and communications have changed dramatically since the first Fluke was released, but the format remains as relevant as ever […] Fluke has been a love letter to a scene that taught us all that if you don’t see what you’re looking for, then maybe it’s time you make it yourself.”

In late 2019, Thompson curated the “Fluke Life” art show in North Little Rock. Gen X’ers, Millennials and Gen Z’ers packed into Dedicated Visual Art Studio & Gallery in North Little Rock. Patrons browsed through reprints of back issues and bid on skate decks painted by Arkansas artists like Milkdadd, Olivia Trimble and Michael Shaeffer. 

“When I was approached to create a deck, it was a no-brainer,” Shaeffer said. “Fluke has been such a huge part of Central Arkansas culture for as far back as I have lived here. It has always been a zine that would celebrate not only interesting music and art on a national level, but also celebrate cool things happening in the area.”

The skate decks were manufactured about a mile down the road from where the show was held. Paige Hearn, who has made skate decks in Levy since the ’80s, provided the boards. Gallery owner Jose Hernandez helped recruit artists from across the state. The age range of the artists ran the gamut with buZ blurr and Kuhl Brown being the oldest—in their 70s and 80s, respectively—and the youngest was Thompson’s daughter, who was 13 at the time. She was the only artist not from Arkansas, but he made an exception.

Thompson said, “It came together seamlessly, really. Everyone was, pardon the pun, on board to be a part of the show. It was absolutely incredible and overwhelming, the place was packed inside and out for the whole night. It felt like a homecoming of sorts, so many friends I’ve had for decades showed up, as well as people I’d never met. Jason [White] was in town for the holiday so he showed up, too. It was one of the best nights of my life, honestly. I hope to do another one in November, if things calm down with the virus.” 

The future of Fluke looks bright. Thompson plans to continue publishing the zine to grow his audience and will even release a book of his own this year. His love of zines has not wavered even as the magazine enters its 30th year. 

“I found Fluke to be a project that propels me.” He added, “I love how the magazine drives itself and I’m just along for the ride. One idea building on another. I enjoy collaborating with others. Once it is created, I love sending it out into the world––through mail order and to shops that sell zines. Secretly, my magazines are actually letters to friends and strangers.”

If fans would like to order copies, please visit www.flukefanzine.com. Send mail to: Matthew Thompson, PO Box 1547, Phoenix, AZ 85001.


MNRL CVLT FIELD REPORT #1 review in Tales From the Middle 8

 Tales From the Middle 8

Issue 1 of this new zine from NXOEED through Fluke Publishing is good fun. The MNRL CVLT Field Report has a new collection of NXOEED art and is also a curious list of locations you can seek out to mine for rocks. Almost like a personal journal, or instructions between a group of close friends. 

I’m reminded, as far as the content goes, of Public Collectors publications, this feels like something they would have also jumped at the chance to print; the playful cataloguing of information that many would consider throw away or too niche, the stuff zine readers love. As NXOEED says: “This zine exists because it’s exactly what I would have wanted someone else to write.”

It's a curious document of course, lists often are, but the intro and notes are eccentric and so warmly penned that you can't help but smile as you go through each page, each location and description of what you might find there. The latitude and longitude of the location is followed by a description of the stones available there and also a little anecdote, for example "This place gives me the creeps, but its fun..." I haven't read anything quite like it, which is what makes this little zine so interesting.

You can pick the zine up from Fluke Publishing

Fluke #18 review in MAXIMUMROCKNROLL #452

MRR review

Fluke fanzine has been publishing for close to 30 years, though in fits and spurts, with the last five years or so being particularly active. Fluke has a knack for finding interesting and often outsider artists to interview and this issue is no different. Susan A. Phillips is a professor at Pitzer College and provides her insights on the history and importance of graffiti in the Los Angeles region. Everett Gee is an artist currently based in St. Louis, though he spent some time in Little Rock (Fluke’s original home base). Bill Daniel is a photographer and filmmaker who has documented the world of rail car monikers, though the interview focuses on fanzines. Gary Floyd needs no introduction. All this plus art from Nxoeed, photography, an essay on skateboarding and more. 


MRR review 

“Nxoeed” is visual artist James B. Hunt who is based in Phoenix, Arizona. His work includes creatures that look like something out of some wild alien B-movie. This zine includes posters, flyers, band logos and journal entries from a year in the life of Nxoeed. It even includes several pages of art you’re encouraged to cut out to make your own flyer, sticker or whatever you want. Maybe the inspiration you need to get out your scissors and glue stick and make your own zine. Nxoeed is certainly an artist worth checking out and this zine is a great introduction. Brought to you by Fluke Publishing.

Fluke issue 18 now available!

This issue focuses on outsider art and culture.
We caught up with filmmaker, photographer and cinematographer Bill Daniel—creator of the experimental documentary film Who is Bozo Texino?—and talked about zines, Aaron Cometbus and Bill's train-hopping adventures that eventually led to discovering the moniker writers of the US railways system.
Susan A. Phillips of Pitzer College and author of The City Beneath: A Century of Los Angeles Graffiti has been researching graffiti since 1990. Susan shares with us her vast knowledge and discoveries, including graffiti dating back to the early 20th century by legendary hobo A-No. 1.
We welcome back Gary Floyd (Dicks, Sister Double Happiness), who was featured in Fluke 15 in 2018. I had two friends submit interviews with Gary, this is the second one. Gary talks about growing up in Gurdon, Arkansas, moving to Austin and forming the Dicks, and touring with Nirvana with Sister Double Happiness.
Sergej Vutuc—photographer, zine maker, skateboarder and musician now based in Paris, France—contributes his skateboarding photographs that are like none other.
buZ blurr of Colossus of Roads fame writes about connecting with Bill Daniel in the early '90s, during Bill's search for Bozo Texino. buZ also contributed art for this issue.
Linda Kite writes about her relationship with D Boon (Minutemen) and the Desolation Center shows around Los Angeles in the early to mid '80s.
Also in this issue you'll find more art and photographs as well as writings about skateboarding, music, art and friendship. It is my hope that this issue will inspire you to keep searching, keep creating and keep living through these troubled times.

NXOEED issue 1 review in Razorcake

Click here to purchase NXOEED issue 1 from Fluke Publishing: NXOEED 1

Fluke Publishing releases first issue: NXOEED #1, Spring 2020

A year in the life of visual artist James B. Hunt aka NXOEED. Posters he illustrated, band logos he created, altercations he had along the way, and tools for folks who want their poster made by James without actually having to pay him to do it! 

32 pages, 8.5x7 

Order here: NXOEED #1

Fluke 3 reprint!

For the first time since 1993, Fluke 3 is back in print. This issue has stories from the editor about the streets of early '90s Chicago (Wicker Park) and a "When I Was a Kid" installment. John Pugh writes about scars, Mark Howe writes about hip hop, Brian Kozlovsky talks about 8bark tour through New Mexico and Arizona. This issue closes with an interview with ceramic artist and Wicker Park resident Jon Hook.

It's a dollar! Click here: Fluke 3

Fluke issue 17 now available!

"It's been incredible to witness our work on MARCH be so widespread, relatively influential, and to play a role in the eternal battle to legitimize comics in the eyes of the broader public. But that legitimization has often come at the price of rejecting the mainstream superhero comics which shaped so many of us. Whenever I speak to crowds about MARCH, I feel it's important to note that my social conscience was birthed from a potent combination of thrash metal and Chris Claremont's long run writing X-MEN in the '70s and '80s - superhero comics provided that powerful lens by which to perceive racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and nationalism in the world around me, just as my world really started to open up in adolescence. The D.O.A. comics we published as young punk kids in the early '90s may have been dystopian guns-and-boobs superhero adventures, but we were making comics about resistance against totalitarianism, disinformation, and suppression. To me, there's no difference." - Nate Powell
This issue features interviews with Eisner Award-winning artist Nate Powell, Look Back Library's Kevin Marks and Tucson artist Danny Martin. Writings include "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster" by Matthew Thompson, "On Janguism" by John Pugh, "How We Got There From Here" by Anna Marie Armstrong, "Moon Over Millimillenary" by Mark Dober and "Punk Evolution: Beyond the Binary" by Jane Mabrysmith. Art by Laura Walden. Jessie Lynn McMains closes this one out with her poem, "Love Letter With Trains and Brautigan." This issue is packed tight with words and art. Thoughts and inspiration!
52 pages, half-size issue

buZ blurr article in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Wait of World
Surrealville, November 2018. Photo: Matthew Thompson

buZ blurr interview in Oxford American

Interview by Matt White and Matthew Thompson
Watt Towers, 2018. Photo: Matthew Thompson

Fluke issue 15 review in Thrasher Magazine (February 2019)


"This is a killer zine originally from Arkansas but now by way of Arizona. It's got some great stuff as usual--interviews with Gary Floyd of the Dicks, photographer/adventurer Adam Smith, Mike Watt and Ian Mackaye, some ruminations on punk existence, some words from Arkansas native buZ blurr, an essay by D. Boon's widow, and more--love for the Minutemen and D. Boon run deep in this one. The writing and interviews are top notch and engrossing, and it's all in a tightly put together package. There is an online presence, but you can also send a few bucks to PO Box 1547, Phoenix, AZ, 85001 in order to keep the mailman employed and the physical connection real."


We are on tour! If you found a magazine on the street, thank you for picking it up and checking it out.  We have hit Southern California and the Bay Area, headed up to Portland and Seattle next. Also, Tucson, Little Rock, Chicago, Asheville and New York City are on the route, as well as other cities so stay tuned! **NXOEED** is where you can learn more about the artist from **Fluke 16**, he's rad and has art for sale. Follow him on Instagram at @nxoeed. I have back issues here: **Fluke Fanzine**. Please drop us a line if you are so inclined, thanks!

POB 1547

Fluke Retrospective @ Megaphone PHX 12/7 + 12/8

Fluke 16 - The Art of Nxoeed - out now!

The new issue is here! 28 pages of James B. Hunt's art and a 4 page interview of the artist. This is a look into the mind of one of my favorite artists anywhere. Click *here* to purchase!

Fluke #15 review in Razorcake issue 106!

Fluke is one of those zines that I wish was a hundred pages or more each issue. It really is one of the best out there. This issue is the “Lust for Life” issue, which as stated on the last page, is “about getting older yet still following one’s passion.” This issue has excellent interviews with Ian MacKaye, Gary Floyd, Mike Watt, and photographer Adam Smith, who has gone as far as living in his car to follow his passion through and get the photos. There’s also a story from Linda Kite about her time with D. Boon, Steve Hart of New Wave Chicken zine has a story about Tex the Magical Rooster, and more. Buy this for yourself and see. –Matt Average (PO Box 1547, Phoenix, AZ 85001)

Fluke #15 (not #4) review in Razorcake #106!

Fluke tabling at Tempe Art a Gogh Gogh on September 28th!

Zines! Bands! Art! Records! Stickers! Come out on September 28th, I'll be selling Fluke. Starts at 7pm at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe! 

Fluke #15 review in Razorcake #105!

Dudes, I fucked up big time. Fluke honcho Matthew Thompson nudged me a while back to submit something for his new issue, and I was like oh yeah, totally. And I forgot. Then a few months later the fifteenth installment of the venerable institution arrived, with great interviews with Mike Watt, Ian MacKaye, and Gary Floyd (by Erica Dawn Lyle of Scam zine, no less), Linda Kite’s print debut, and good writing by Jessie Lynn McMains. And I didn’t contribute anything. I could have been in there, elbow to elbow with all the heavy hitters: I coulda been a contender! But no! I blew a chance to be in the best issue of Fluke yet for no good reason. This is an egregious error on my part, one that will haunt me for the rest of my woebegone days. But don’t take my word for it: check the new ish and marvel at how awesome it is and ruefully shake your head at the bozo who dropped the ball. –Michael T. Fournier 

Fluke issue 15 out now!

Fluke #15 - “Lust For Life” - is about getting older yet still following one’s passion, whether in work or play (or both). This issue includes interviews with veteran punk rockers - Gary Floyd talks to Erica Dawn Lyle (SCAM zine) about his move to San Francisco with the Dicks in the early '80s, Ian MacKaye talks about Jay Adams biting him at a Minor Threat show in San Pedro and Mike Watt talks about answering the phone to Iggy Pop and hearing, "Ronnie says you're the man." Also in this issue - wonderful art, writings and photographs by some greats (glen E friedman, Ann Summa, buZ blurr, Tara Sharpe, Bill Daniel, KRK Dominguez, Linda Kite, Pat Blashill, Jessie Lynn McMains and others). But wait, there's more - the main feature is on traveling photographer and writer, Adam Smith!

52 pages, half-size issue
Cover art by buZ blurr
Click to buy Fluke 15!

Fluke issue 1 sees a second run!

Purchase here! 
Fluke 1, 1991 (second printing 2017)

Fluke article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Click here --> Fluke makes the hometown paper! Also in the Style section of today's printed copy, go pick one up!
Trusty packs Vino's, Little Rock 1991. Pic by Barrie Lynn Bryant.

Yet another Razorcake review of Fluke 14!

Matt Average review from Razorcake issue 99. That's $6, postage paid!

The (mostly) unedited Barker Gee interview for Fluke issue 11, 2013

Dead Rat Beach, Oakland, CA 2012

FF: Tell me about your first guitar.

BG: My first guitar. I had pretty conservative parents, I lived in the

middle of nowhere.

FF: Where did you live?

BG: Well, my dad was in rehab a lot while I was growing up so I lived

in Memphis, I lived in Blytheville, Arkansas, I lived in a town called

New Madrid, Missouri. New Madrid is where I went to high school, a

great school but I was never in that town except when it was time to

go to class because otherwise I was always in Blytheville with my

grandparents. In any case, my mom was pretty strict. I told her I

wanted a guitar and she was like, “Whatever, you gotta work on the


FF: How old were you?

BG: 11 or 12. She was like, “That’s not happening.” Had my dad been

there, who was a musician, he was in a pretty popular rock group who I

don’t want to say the name of but I’ll tell you – Black Oak Arkansas,

for a little bit.

FF: Didn’t Carmine Appice play drums for them at some point?

BG: I don’t know, I never liked them.

FF: No, Tommy Aldridge, that’s who it was! At first, I almost thought

he was your dad because you have Tommy Aldridge hair. He also played

with Ozzy.

BG: He might be my dad. (laughter)

FF: Now we’re getting somewhere!

BG: No, me and my dad look a lot alike so I’m not trippin’. But

basically, my mom was like, “No! You cannot do that rock and roll

thing, look at your pops, he’s in rehab all the time.” My dad is like

the sweetest person in the world and my mom knows that but she also

knows that he’s a wild one so she didn’t want me to do that. So, I go

work on the farm and she’s doing her thing working on the farm.

Meanwhile, I sneak off and go find all the right pieces of wood and I

find all the right wires and everything. I got all the tools to make

the guitar so I made my first guitar and hid it from them. I’d play it

in this little water pump shed on the farm, where we’d irrigate the

crops. This nice cool place, it was dark and perfect.

FF: What songs were you playing?

BG: Ones that I just made up, I never really cared to know the other

ones because those people could play them just fine so I’d just kind

of make up my own things. I didn’t have any formal training because no

one even knew I had...the shittiest guitar ever. And of course it was,

I didn’t know how to tune it but it sounded pretty good to me. And

then they found it and they were like, “What are you doing?” and it

was so embarrassing. I was like, “You wouldn’t give me a guitar!” My

dad came home and told my grandma and she told them, “We’re going to

get this kid a guitar, we’re going to do it right.” They went to the

pawn shop and bought me an acoustic guitar for fifty bucks. I wanted

an electric guitar but I told them that it was better than my guitar

and I thanked them. They knew that I was going to do good because when

I was a little kid I didn’t speak too much but my grandma had a piano

at her house and I just sat on the stool and I would play songs. They

were like, “He can’t talk but he can play piano, he might be autistic

or something.” They knew I had it in me because my dad was a musician

and here I am not willing to talk but playing songs on the piano. They

got me the guitar for Christmas and said that if I was still with it

by my birthday and was doing good, they’d get me an electric guitar.

My dad told me, I think he said, “If you can play ‘Stairway’ by the

time it’s your birthday, I’ll buy you any guitar you want.” Some

impossible song to learn and he couldn’t have bought the guitar, he

didn’t have the money, but I learned the song anyway. I did pretty

damn good, I thought, or in hindsight I definitely think that. At the

time I thought, “I want the electric guitar! Whatever it takes, I’ll

play this shitty ass song.” I wanted the electric guitar, it didn’t

matter what kind. I just wanted one that gets loud and one that I can

jump on my bed with and really be like, “I got it, yes!” So, I learned

how to play “Stairway (to Heaven)” and I said, “Pops, I learned how to

play ‘Stairway’, what’s up?” and he was like, “It’s not your birthday

yet.” He was kind of...mad but he was stoked at the same time. He

didn’t have the money to buy it so he was like, “I never told you

that!” He’s not a shitty guy, he’s like the sweetest guy in the world

but he’s kind of having a laugh about it because I totally did it. So,

he told my grandma and she said, “I’ll do it, don’t worry, we’re happy

he did this. He’s not in a lot of trouble yet.” Because I would get

grounded and I could just sit in my room and learn all these songs.

Perfect! I got grounded a lot, that’s probably why I got good at


FF: What was your relationship like with the other students at your


BG: I was the only punk and they thought I was weird but I was also

really funny so I got by. The way the fat kids survived.

FF: How did you discover punk rock in Blytheville, Arkansas?

BG: My friend Zach Dees, who is the only person I still talk to from

there. We became really good friends because he was the funny fat kid

and I was the funny punk kid and he was really into horror films and

all this really creepy shit. Everyone was like, “You guys are weird”

and it’s true, we were weird. We’re still weird and I love him for

that. He got out of that place the same way I did – somebody found

something in him and gave him some money to get the fuck out of there

and go learn about what he wanted to do. We would hang out at school

and stay over at each other’s houses on the weekends. He showed me the

Jerky Boys movie when I was eleven or twelve years old. There was this

song called “2000 Light Years Away” by this band Green Day. I thought,

“Whoa, cool name, Green Day.” Then, you know, you go stay with your

grandma in Memphis and you got Camelot and there’s the older punk guy

working there and you’re like, “Hey, what’s up with Green Day, can you

order me the tape?” and he does that and then tells you about a couple

of other bands. You read the Green Day liner notes and you find out

what a “Blatz” is (laughter) and maybe Sewer Trout, and you find out

what Lookout Records is and the dominoes fall and it’s all good. So

then you go digging around in the medicine cabinet and you find the

peroxide, you find a chain, maybe make your own wallet out of duct

tape, and then your grandma takes you to the mall and you get a Green

Day shirt or something. You get all the weird catalogs and someone

mentions Maximum Rocknroll at some point. Then you go to a smaller

record store and you pick up a copy of Maximum Rocknroll.

FF: Where did you get the copy of MRR?

BG: I went to St. Louis with my mother, to go get another psych

evaluation, and I was like, “I have to go to this record store, you

dragged me here kicking and screaming, I promise I’ll be good if you

take me to the record store.” That was Vintage Vinyl, a big record

store in U City, on Delmar. I was like twelve and I got Maximum

Rocknroll and I wrote to every single address in there, saying “send

me stickers, send me catalogs, send me anything.”

FF: What did you get in return?

BG: A lot of funny notes, lots of stickers, lots of catalogs, lots of

free shit. Some of the notes were kind of making fun of me and some

were like, “Here, take all of this shit” because they understood that

I was living in the middle of nowhere. So, a lot of people helped me

and a lot of people gave me a lot of fuel, a little anger with that,

but a lot of sweet people hooking me up, that was nice, you know? So

you got the guitar, now you’re playing punk songs, and you’re like, “I

want that electric guitar.” You know what punk is and you’re like,

“This is what it is, I can only play punk with an electric guitar,”

which is not true but when you’re young and dumb – whatever. So my

grandmother said, “I’ll buy you any guitar. Any guitar.” My dad took

me to the music store with my grandmother’s blank check. Rosemary Gee,

the sweetest lady. I find this Ibanez Blazer for $120, it was the

shittiest guitar in the store but I loved it because it was beat up.

The pick guard was kind of broken, it was perfect! It was wood grain,

black pick guard and I was like, “This is the one I want.” My dad

seriously tried to talk me out of it for like an hour, he asked if I

would rather have the Stratocaster and I said, “No, this one is

better, I promise!”

FF: How’s West Oakland treating you?

BG: West Oakland is a beautiful, sprawling lawless land full of

freaks, wingnuts, punkers, queers, dykes and crazy shit going down,

all the time.

FF: Where’d you get your jeans?

BG: Oh, my jeans (laughter)? There’s a million home bums and I don’t

have a job, I just do whatever I want, I’m a reducer by trade. I take

garbage and I sell it, just like my friends on the street. I know them

all very well and I help them out in their time of need. I was about

to go to Europe for the Neon Piss tour a few months back and a bunch

of them knew it, they were really stoked. They were like, “Take

pictures so I can see what Europe looks like” because some of them

will never know. Some of them have never left Oakland. They’re all

really cool. One of them, my buddy Rob, asked me what I needed before

the European tour and I told him I needed a new pair of jeans because

I couldn’t keep sewing this pair with dental floss. He asked what

brand and size and he came back in ten minutes with the exact pair I

wanted. I asked him how much he wanted and he said four bucks so I

gave him ten and he was like, “Whoa, no way!” I give him breakfast or

coffee sometimes or when things are slow for him I give him my cans

and he gets me my jeans and stuff. He gives me all these cool little

things – like this whale paper weight thing that’s hanging on my wall

here, he gave me that. Not just him, there’s a few guys who give me

stuff. There’s a lot of crazy stories out there on the street.

FF: Tell me about your tape label.

BG: Oh, Pave the Amazon. I was wheeling and dealing in...I’m hesitant

to say junk, but used things, shit that you can sell to keep yourself

alive. I had a bunch of crap from some dead guy, I went over to his

house to clean out all of his stuff and I just hoarded it all in my

basement. While I was selling it, this one guy who also does the same

thing and who may or may not be into meth was like, ”it’s all gotta

go, folks!” He had a tape duplicator and I’d been looking for a tape

duplicator for a long time so I can do this tape label. I go over to

his house and I trade him all this shit that’s garbage to me and that

I couldn’t sell and he’s stoked. He had a use for this garbage and

this tape duplicator is the best you can get, it’s industry standard

for making pro tapes, like the Lionel Richie tape.

FF: What’s the thing with the Lionel Richie tape, you’ve mentioned

that a few times today?

BG: Oh, I got Janelle this Lionel Richie pin and she was like, “I just

had that tape!” and she said that to three people and they all said,

“Oh, I was just listening to that!” It’s so funny because it keeps

coming up. But in any case, I got the tape duplicator and he also had

all these blank tapes that came from a church, because that’s where

most people get them. If you’re looking for a tape duplicator, check

every church because they record the sermons and sell them. Little do

they know, cds are a dying format and cassettes are coming back and

they’re all out there for the taking. They just look at this as

garbage so you can give them twenty bucks for a machine that’s worth

eight hundred bucks or something. I got the best one, fortunately, and

I’ve had a couple more since then that I’ve given to friends to start

their own tape labels. But when you call up the church to ask about

the tape duplicator, ask them if they also have tapes because they

usually got a shitload of them. I kind of made that work for me,

whatever length they were, and I’ve put out every release so far from

those extra church tapes. Even if the albums weren’t that long, I made

it work. The Huff Stuff Magazine demo is only twenty or twenty-five

minutes long but the tape is fifty minutes long on each side so the

way I made that work is I played the tape forward, the album goes and

it ends. You’re up at 3 a.m. so you’re feeling a little crazy and you

want to listen to the tape backwards so you put the tape upside down

in the four track and it plays the record from the very end to the

very beginning, backwards. So you kind of feel like you’re on acid. It

was all free for me, these tapes. It was all garbage and I named the

label Pave the Amazon because it’s funny. I came up with Pave the

Amazon because this environmentalist guy who I argue with - but I love

him - was like, “You want to put out tapes, that’s an environmental

crime!” but I’m like, “I’m a fucking reducer, man, it was garbage.

It’s not going to the big dump in the sky, people are listening to it”

and I went back to reading my ancient Harper’s magazine. There was an

article about somewhere in Brazil where Amazon Road was being paved

over because people were using it so much and I thought of “Pave the

Amazon.” Environmental crime, my ass. I went to my friend, I was in

New York, and at the time I had this band called Huff Stuff Magazine

and I wanted to call the label that but not really. I had ten

different names and he’s over there at the coffee maker and I’m like,

“Aaron, what do I do about this?” I’m riddled with indecision but

there’s an easy answer so you ask your friend. Aaron said, “You got a

way with words, you just don’t know what they are quite yet.” I

rattled off a bunch of names for him, like Huff Stuff Magazine, Actual

Factual Art, Pave the Amazon. He said, “Pave the Amazon,” so there’s

the name of the label. I get all these funny Bay Area environmentalist

people, many of them are my friends, who are like, “What’s up with

that?” and I try to make up a different story just to kind of rile

them up and the actual story may be really good but I give them a more

boring story for them to kind of hate me or something, because it’s

fun. Like “Make the Collector Nerd Sweat” or something. You do the

smoke and mirrors where they’re mad at you but they’re walking away

mad and you’re like “haha.” (laughter) Meanwhile, back at the ranch,

you’re doing the right thing and you’re sleeping easy, living off the

church’s garbage.

FF: So tell me about the (fake) ‘80s band compilation.

BG: It’s not out yet. I don’t mind talking about it because the people

who are going to buy it probably will read Fluke first, then go buy it

and have a laugh at the people who will be fighting to get one of

three-hundred copies and they’re going to be convinced that they

really are bands from the ‘80s. They’re at home at their computers,

googling all these band names that never existed. But the idea is that

there’s all these bands from the ‘80s, you’ve never heard them. Don’t

kid yourself. You can pretend, and many do, that they’ve heard of

these bands. There was this DJ in New London, Connecticut, on WHMU, a

college radio station. He would play all these demos on his show and

it was like a curse. All the other DJs would make fun of him because

every band he played on the radio would break up. His name was Lance

Chance Menanski. They called him “Take a Chance Lance.” Try it, I bet

you won’t. The hand of fate puts those bands down, every time he plays

their demos, he thinks he’s doing the right thing but all of the bands

break up a few weeks later. He’s pissed when they do but he has all

these obscure demos. You find all these recordings around, his


FF: Old school punkers.

BG: Old school punkers, you know, people who went on to do better

things, some went on to die. I have put together a compilation of

these ‘80s punk bands and I think I’m going to call it “Golden

Moldies.” “Pave the Amazon presents Golden Moldies” and it will come

out whenever I can find a few more golden moldies. It’s almost there

and a lot of people ask me about it because they’ve heard of it. I’ll

play you a song or two. But yeah, there are a lot of people doing good

things with their cassette labels and they’re hard to find because

there are only so many church tapes out there. If you want to buy

blank tapes, you can go online and just google “bulk blank cassette

tapes” and they have all the links there and if you want to hear some

more golden moldies besides from the Pave the Amazon comp, you can

check out my buddy Greg Harvester’s blog. I don’t have the internet

but I’ve heard of it and people have told me about his blog


FF: Where can you get the internet?

BG: That’s what I want to know! But anyway, Greg’s got a blog called

“Remote Outposts.” He finds all these old demo tapes but he was there,

he was in a million of those bands. He was in one of my favorite bands

The Grumpies. But he has a lot of demo tapes of all those sick ass old

bands like Impractical Cockpit and Butt Hand aka Street Legal but if

anybody asks you, their real name is Butt Hand. Some of the shittiest

and best music you’ve never heard. They’re out there, it’s all out

there for the taking, it’s free so check out Remote Outposts.

FF: Aaron used to do compilation tapes of Bay Area bands in the ‘80s

and ‘90s, it’d be cool if you did that here.

BG: Oh, like of current bands? Yeah, there are so many. Oakland has a

weird thing going on where there’s a lot to fight for but there’s a

lot to be happy about. There’s a lot to hate, there’s a lot to love

and I think a lot of people have time on their hands because they’re

artists. There are so many good bands here, yes, thank you for the

tip. I will do that, I can already think of ten bands if I can get

them to agree to be on it. They might go, “Pave the Amazon? What’s up

with that?” (laughter)

FF: Why do you think this cassette revival has come about?

BG: Out of necessity. High prices at the pump, economic turmoil at

home and abroad. I think punkers don’t have any money and they should

protect each other and certainly try to at least capture the moment

any way they can but sadly it costs so much to put out records and

punkers are poor. That might change but I doubt it. Don’t know, don’t

care, most of us are poor…

FF: Or at least broke. I think there’s a difference between poor and


BG: I agree, I agree. So we’re broke and all of our money goes back

into our creative endeavors or our rent or whatever it takes. You

gotta live and I think it’s really easy to find a tape anywhere and

put tape on top of the holes and record over that Lionel Richie tape.

Bands like Autonomy, Subclinics, Poison Control, Nasty Intentions,

Dirty Looks, 40 Watts or Red Thread - they never had the money to put

out their own records although several of those bands got deals with

labels but they initially had to put it out themselves and I think

other bands should too, initially, if not again and again and again.

FF: What was your favorite band before you discovered punk rock?

BG: California Raisins (laughter). I had this tape that smelled real

weird and cool. It actually smelled like grapes to me and raisins come

from grapes. It kind of smelled like that artificial grape taste. Do

you remember those children’s chew up Tylenols and there was the grape


FF: Yeah, certain tapes smelled like that and some of them didn’t.

Maybe it was a certain cassette manufacturing company that had the

grape smell.

BG: The California Raisins tape definitely smelled like a grape to me.

Whether that’s real or not, I don’t care. It was real to me, my great-

grandmother bought that tape for me. I get a lot of tapes and maybe I

smell them (laughter). Maybe that’s weird but I don’t care but

occasionally a tape will smell like that and I’m like yeah, “Ruby, my

great grandma.” She shot two of her husbands, she’s the toughest lady

I know. Actually, this guy who I thought was my great grandpa - for my

entire life I never knew who my real great grandfather was because she

ran them all off (laughter) – he was a Memphis mafia guy, he owned a

burger joint on Union, right down the street from Sun Studios. He told

me, “Yeah, Elvis played there.” When I was 15 or 16, my grandma told

me that he wasn’t actually my great grandfather. He was afraid that

Ruby was going to shoot him so he refused to marry her but they lived

together so as a kid, I thought he was my great grandfather.

FF: So why did she shoot her two husbands?

BG: The first one had stepped out on her so she shot him in the arm or

the leg. It was just a .22 and she was just teaching him a lesson.

FF: Just a .22 in the arm, no big deal. (laughter)

BG: Yeah, so they second guy would stay late at work because he had

to. It turns out that he wasn’t cheating on her but she’s a crazy lady

and she’d been through this before so she was like, “I’m tired of you

coming home late, this is what I got for you” BAM! and he’s like

“Damn!” (laughter).

He was like, “I got friends who can vouch for me, what do you need!?”

and she said, “I don’t need anything from you but to shoot you just to

teach you a fuckin’ lesson!” So, he bounced and W.C. came along. He’s

the guy I thought was my great grandfather, he was a sketchy guy who

refused to marry her because he thought she was going to shoot him.