Books - S

SIMBA: A Collection Of Personal And Political Writings From The Nineties Hardcore Scene - Vique Martin (262 pages, Vitriol/ Simba)
For those who don’t know, Simba was a zine put together by Vique Martin in the early 90s. Rather than focus purely on music, its strength lay in Vique’s more personal observations and political ideals. Nothing was expressed in a dogmatic, holier-than-thou form; instead it was written with clarity, intimacy and honesty. This book collects most of those writings along with columns contributed to zines like HeartAttack, Clamour and Fracture.
While this reprints a lot of Simba, it is not a reprint of the zines themselves. The articles appear in chronological order, but there is no indication of which issue they came from, date of publication, nor any reprints of the covers of the zines themselves.
The book does feature some of the interviews Vique did in Simba including chats with TEXAS IS THE REASON, SPLIT LIP, FABRIC, GREYHOUSE/ BORN AGAINST plus Jordan from Revelation Records, Leslie and Lisa of Ebullition and other zinesters and promoters. The interviews are good, personal and not epically long.
The remainder of the book is given over to articles and columns, which is where the heart of the book lays. A lot of these writings are intimate, personal writings delivered with sobering clarity and honesty. We read of her dad’s suicide, her mum’s passing by heartattack, her divorce, issues with her brother and many other pieces about relationships, love, broken relationships, sex and feminism/ sexual equality. It could be viewed as depressing and slightly self-centred work; in fact it’s honest, cathartic and frequently laced with a sense of positivity. Elsewhere there is a gripping interview with an unnamed friend of Vique’s who is HIV+ which is possibly the highlight of the book.
Reading these pieces presented in book form, it’s interesting to note the progression in quality of the writing and of Vique’s confidence in putting to words what would be pretty much taboo subjects for many others. I know I could never, ever write with such openness about the passing of my Mum or many of the other subjects covered in the book.
It’s presented very much in a zine format, with the narrative in cut ‘n’ paste blocks over various pieces of art, many of which bear no connection to the words on the page (bar lions - go figure!) and provide an often joyous juxtaposition to the text.
Let’s make no mistake - as a columnist, as a zine editor, this is pretty fucking brave writing. However, those not already familiar with Simba, Vique herself or the zines she has written for, may find this tough reading. That’s not a criticism, more a warning, because read with an open mind, the work the book contains is captivating and thought-provoking stuff - and is that not the aim of all written work? If so, this is a massive success. (29.04.14)

SMELL OF DEATH, THE - Bruce Duff (436 pages, Rare Bird) A book by a temporary bass player in the JEFF DAHL BAND written about an 11 country, nine week 1993 European Tour stretched out to over 400 pages doesn’t really sound a winner, does it? In fact, this is a riot to read - fun, engrossing, genuine and expertly written without losing any edge or verve.
The opening chapter dates back to 1987 and a DAHL gig supporting GG ALLIN. Of all the things written about Allin, I think this is the first time I have read about the smell that’s created from one of his colonic-clearing performances. It made me ever more grateful that I never saw, nor ever wanted to see, Allin live.
From there it shifts forward a few years to the rehearsals for the imminent Euro tour. What follows is a city-by-city account of a band on the road. I am a bit biased as I really enjoy tour diaries, but as this is written by someone who was essentially a ‘hired-hand’, it makes for an interesting juxtaposition on the usual band-member tour diary.
All the usual aspects are there - chasing women (and more often than not failing), alcohol and occasional drug excess, great and terrible gigs and dodgy promoters/ club owners. However, given the amount of cities and the page count, Duff transforms the narrative into an often hilarious, frequently tense piece of journalism. So, we also get DAHL’s oddly reclusive nature, his growing contempt and distancing from his back-up band and his apparent pleasure of adult TV channels in various European hotels. Along with that there is a roadie/ merch man who does little and eats lots, random tales of disco dancing, subhuman farts from Kike of the PLEASURE FUCKERS, stolen hats, tense border crossings, damaged ribs, a highly strung tour manager (maybe not new!), dodgy accommodation resulting in conjunctivitis from rancid pillows, per diems that don’t quite live up to the contract and fraught tempers. Amidst all of this, there is even some time for sight seeing, all duly noted in Duff’s direct style.
It should come as no surprise that Duff’s narrative is so fluid, engrossing and genuinely entertaining. He was a music journalist for many years with published work in the likes of Creem, Rip and Billboard, held a position at Triple X Records and has played in bands with the likes of CHEETAH CHROME, TONY ADOLESCENT and 45 GRAVE. Drawing on that kind of background, it’s understandable that a lot of the more mundane stuff many tour journals contain have been omitted here, leaving only the quality.
What makes this a real winner though, is Duff’s narrative style. It’s clear, unpretentious, witty without being silly, confrontational when necessary and completely lacks any self-eulogising many rock ‘stars’ laden upon themselves. The whole book reads very much like Duff is recounting his tales face-to-face over a few beers. It’s intimate and genuine.
Filling out the book are some excellent animations credited only to, A. Person, an introduction by CHEETAH CHROME and an afterword by TONY ADOLESCENT.
This is well worth a read whether you are a DAHL fan or not. Each turn of the page brought a new highlight and a more veraciously enjoyable rock ‘n’ roll travelogue will be hard to find. If you have ever been in a band and toured, some of these stories will make you smile and bring back memories. If you have never been in a band that toured, this may open your eyes to some realities! (21.10.14)