Legendary Los Angeles Punk Slash Magazine receives the anthology treatment

Alice Bag and The Bags from an issue of Slash Magazine Photograph taken by Melanie Nissen.

Slash Magazine was a weekly publication that sprang as an art project by then-couple Steve Samiof and Melanie Nissen, Slash Magazine co-founders. They were profoundly entrenched in the punk and new wave scene and wanted to showcase Melanie Nissen’s photography that chronicled it. In 1977, they established Slash Magazine, consolidating Melanie Nissen’s documentarian lens with original interviews, album reviews, flyers for upcoming shows, as well as other artistic contributions from their colleagues.

After nearly forty years, the print issues of Slash Magazine have been anthologized into a book, ‘Slash: A Punk Magazine From Los Angeles, 1977–80,’ released by Hat & Beard Press. The book includes reproductions of all twenty-nine print covers, featuring punk icons such as Debbie Harry, Johnny Rotten and Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as noteworthy interviews and reviews. New essays and questions and answers from former writers and people in the scene have been added for context, and so has a folder filled with reproductions of flyers of seventy-seven notable bands like Germs, Screamers, Weirdos, The Bags, X, Catholic Discipline, The Zeros, The Go-Go’s, plus others.

While New York’s counterpart, Punk Magazine, promised to document punks in all their “warts, moles, pimples and all,” Slash Magazine saw vibrancy in the mosh pits and sought to seize the energetic Los Angeles scene and its abundant creativity. Samiof told the LA Weekly, “It was an act of love and joy, and that is about as anti-punk as you can be.”

But beneath Slash Magazine’s eager and challenging outlook was plenty of brutal candour. It recognised that disco, a genre which superficially represented all that was entertaining and upbeat, was in reality swiftly deteriorating. They were strongly against popular music and lambasted out-of-touch rockers: “About time we squeezed the pus out and sent the filthy rich old farts of rock ‘n’ roll to retirement homes in Florida where they belong.”

Slash Magazine believed that “objective reviewing” was a thing of the past. Their interviews were always informally crude and carefree, often done drunkenly and without combat-ready questions. Its first interview with the members of The Damned — who badmouth virtually every other punk musician of the time — is one example of Slash Magazine’s adherence to uncensored and ruthless journalism.

While Slash Magazine did early interviews with celebrated Los Angeles punk bands like X and The Screamers, Slash Magazine did not limit itself to covering punk music. It gave press to local reggae, rockabilly, and blues bands of the time, and featured Peter Tosh of The Wailers on its cover in 1978. Its regular writers-slash-musicians, such as Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Chris D., Pleasant Gehman, and Claude Bessy, later went on to contribute music reviews to larger publications like SPIN Magazine and the LA Weekly.

Steve Samiof and Melanie Nissen both studied photography but were apprised by the anarchic aesthetic of punk album covers of the time. Many of their magazine layouts were limited by cost and resources, and so they were always haphazardly put together. Years later, they admit they were forced to improvise when the sizes of the text or photos were off.

Melanie Nissen’s photographs captured bold styles of that era with photos of punks wearing safety pin piercings, torn clothing, and mohawks. On-the-ground at live shows, Melanie Nissen documented the energy of the scene, often in bygone venues like the Tropicana and the Starwood. Print magazines and underground fanzines, in particular, offered entry into subversive music scenes the mainstream media shunned. Because Slash Magazine included event flyers and album reviews as well, it was often where people looked to find music and shows. Gary Panter’s comic book Jimbo, which satirically documented punk subculture, was also featured in Slash Magazine long before he gained mass artistic recognition.

Recently many fundamental punk magazines have been anthologized, such as Destroy All Monsters, Punk Magazine, and Touch and Go. Two other California punk magazines, No Mag and Damage have also been digitally catalogued, though Slash Magazine differentiates itself because it both honestly documented the Los Angeles punk scene in the late 1970s and created a singular aesthetic that was both raw and artful. Alice Bag of the Bags recalled, “they had the best documentation. They were the most professional of the publications.”

After its founders broke up in 1979, Slash Magazine folded in 1980. New management turned it into a record label in the 1980s. The founders took very separate paths, with Steve Samiof going into the hotel trade and Melanie Nissen becoming a professional photographer and art director. In recent interviews, they express Slash Magazine as kind of an experiment done on a very low budget, but the magazine foretold the rise of many prominent punk bands.

Anthologizing a short-lived magazine might not seem truly punk, but ‘Slash: A Punk Magazine From Los Angeles, 1977–80’ offers a physical format likely to engage uninitiated readers. The book organises fragments of the magazine while preserving the spirit of the original publication, contextualising the subculture in a freshly convenient, albeit more refined form. With new commentary and ephemera, the punk subculture of the time is revitalised and canonised in a five-hundred-page glossy art book Slash Magazine’s founders never imagined could be made real.

While the regular copy sells for €54.00 EUR, the limited edition version includes a custom 3-panel folder containing 77 Los Angeles punk fliers from 1977 to 1980. Featuring such bands as the Germs, Screamers, Weirdos, The Bags, X, Catholic Discipline, The Zeros, The Go-Go’s, and much more. These fliers are offset printed reproductions, not originals, limited to 100 copies, and it is available for €135.00 EUR through Hat & Beard Press, Amazon and other online booksellers.

If you enjoy legendary and influential publications such as the Slash Magazine, then we highly recommend a careful reading of the article published on May 28th, 2016, Los Angeles Punk scene under the black sun with John Doe. Also, if you wish us to publish or cover any particular punk event, feel free to share your viewpoints with us, which are more than esteemed by leaving a response to this article, and further suggestions for future articles, or constructive criticism in the comment section. Plus, you may prefer to subscribe to our newsletter by filling out the form below in order to keep yourself refreshed with our most contemporary publishings.

Decibel Magazine publishes doom devoted special issue

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