Saturday, October 13, 2012

Empire of Dirt

In 1992 one of my regular stops during the "pre-digital downloads" music era was to the Sound Warehouse located on San Mateo between Menaul and I-40.  Their selection was shit, the clerks were elitist music snobs and the store reeked of desperation (with good reason) Within a year Sound Warehouse was history, swallowed up by Blockbuster and transformed into Blockbuster Music, resplendent in all its trashy corporate trappings. (as if Sound Warehouse wasn't)

It was Empire Records  playing out in real life, minus that pussy Rory Cochrane who made that movie so unwatchable.  I continued to make regular trips to the store after the rebranding, same pricks behind the counter, just wearing a different corporate logo. My only real reason for going there was to pick up a copy of  a free music tabloid that nobody else in town carried.  For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the publication or who wrote for it, with one sole exception... Ivo.

It was a well produced, pseudo fanzine in the style of Greg Shaw's Phonograph Record magazine (which was copying Rolling Stone) that he edited for United Artists in the early 1970s. For in-house publishing, offering in-house branding this newcomer was quite good.  Although the writers were on the payroll of either CBS or Columbia Records it didn't stop them from being profane, sarcastic, witty or funny. The album reviews were slightly acerbic, at times mean spirited and yet right on the money. 

They steered clear of the mainstream and were hip to all the latest happenings on the  grunge and industrial metal  scene. The staff whether by design or not, championed the  British shoegazer shit that was coming out back then, and pushed it on the masses like crack (which was also quite popular at the time) There was a coolly affected irreverence to their writing that said  "Fuck You! multinational conglomerate that bankroll us, we do what we like" so, it  was just a matter of time before the corporate powers pulled the plug. 

The best writer on the staff was Ivo, a style transcending writer, who was equal parts Creem era Lester Bangs, Phast Phreddie of Backdoor Man and Legs McNeil of Punk Magazine. Ivo was usually right on the money, Fudge Tunnel-Creep Diets, Manic Street Preachers- Gold Against His Soul, Suede-Suede, Swerdriver- Mezcal Head. Ivo went off the beaten path with his recommendations, The Obsessed, Royal Trux, Pavement and a band nobody had caught on to just yet, Green Day. 

Naturally, everything they reviewed or featured was accompanied by a multitude of adverts.  For all their 'tude, they were corporate tools, but I didn't care. In early 1994, having picked up the latest issue, an article caught my attention, "Farewell  Ivo" it said.  Upon further perusal, I discovered that it was essentially an obituary. "We bid farewell  to our close friend and colleague Ivo, who flew off into the sunset piloting his attack helicopter over the desert sands of Iraq"

So, I was to believe that Ivo was a reservist, a gunship pilot at that, who had been called to duty to enforce the no-fly zones over Basra & Kurdistan? No more information was forthcoming  and shortly after, Blockbuster Music stopped carrying the publication. I didn't know what to think, but it didn't sound right. As an avid news hound, I would buy and read up to five newspapers every day, there was no mention of a U.S. attack helicopter having gone down. 

The few issues that were saved up  became templates for a handful of album reviews, music critiques and failed  proto-zines that I wrote and tossed away in disgust.  My heart wasn't in it, my writing was little more than an Ivo rehash.  I abandoned every issue of that obscure tabloid in some shitty apartment that I fled just ahead of the sheriff who was coming to evict me (I had several outstanding warrants) 

Who was Ivo and what happened to him? Many links and Google searches later and I still don't have a clue. I imagine that he was a hard wired, intense guy who sported tribal ink and zubaz long before that became a cartoonish stereotype.  I could be wrong, after all for years, I actually thought that Capt America (Albuquerque's iconic zinester) was a grumpy old guy who wore a bandanna, smoked Lucky Strikes and lurked around clubs. 

I've surmised that Ivo was either a composite character created by the staff or a real person, who saw the handwriting on the wall and bailed on the publication. Either way, when they killed off Ivo, it was in an honorable fashion, a Viking's funeral and the entire tabloid soon followed him into oblivion. With the world wide web, there is no longer a need for in-house publications. If Ivo is still alive, you can be certain he has a music blog. 

Every writer has his reasons for writing, for me it's as necessary and vital as oxygen. A writer feels better about himself (or herself) if someone, i.e. anyone, reads what they write, although not having an audience isn't a deal breaker.  Writing for a blog is like having a baby in the house, it must be fed and nurtured. Feeding and caring for a blog can become a chore, there are times when writing becomes a burden and it starts to feel like an obligation. 

You just don't go Mike Vick on something that you love. Nor can I bring myself to abandon Dirt City Chronicles and let it wither on the vine (i.e. Luna Explorer) Thankfully, none of that is really necessary, for there's another option.... syndication! There's over 200 posts in the Dirt City Chronicles archives, why not make like I Love Lucy and repost the hell out of them?

Dirty City Chronicles as its name implies is a throwback to a time when people would read more than a handful of words at one time. The small pond of readers is drying up, internet browsing habits have changed, Twitter is now the dominant force. As strange as it sounds, thanks to texting and twittering, reading is no longer in vogue. So, what does one do when they don't feel the love? I've pondered this for the past month.

The times they are-a-changing and I prefer to change with them.  The irony is that in my quest to find Ivo, I've become Ivo.  So, is it time to kill Ivo? Perhaps a sudden deployment to Afghanistan during which he's last seen hiking into the Hindu Kush  with a backpack full of hashish? LOL! Fucking Ivo gives the brass the bird, pops Tool's Undertow into his Sony Walkman and strolls off into the mist. In heaven everday is Feb. 1st. 1995. 

Just like a redneck who throws a sofa & mattress out by the dumpster and then raises hell and calls the cops when some welfare momma stops to claim them (true story) There's a twofold  method to my madness, re- posting allows me time to watch and write about football while getting the Google Plus masses caught up on Dirt City Chronicles with  some of that funky old cheese. Once the auto-pilot is engaged, Dirt City Chronicles will be in a holding pattern.