Not to sound like the old, bitter hardcore fan who uses phrases like “back in the day” and “before the internet,” but back in the day, before the internet, there were no email addresses, Facebook pages, or any other digital means of getting in touch with bands. If you wanted to contact a band to book them for a show, buy their record, or interview them, you had to rely on the good ol’ postal service. Many fanzines in the 80s and early 90s therefore printed physical mailing addresses for bands alongside reviews of their records or demos. Often, this was their home or the base of operations for a label or distro. Marc Fischer, a Chicago-based teacher and artist, has taken those addresses from the influential American punk zine Maximum Rock'n'roll, searched for them on Google Maps, and compiled the results on a Tumblr called Hardcore Architecture.
Through over 150 addresses, Hardcore Architecture tells a story of sorts, a different side of the genre. Whenever we see images of punk and hardcore’s heyday, it’s inevitably through some black and white or faded photo of someone screaming into a microphone, capturing the underground movement’s raw, youthful aggression. But what often gets overlooked is the everyday banality of this often glorified era. Many bands of the time were fueled by the mundane nature of the suburban towns in which they grew up. Hardcore Architecture paints a portrait of those very real settings. Through a larger lens, it’s also a study of a changing American middle class. Which is a lot to accomplish using nothing but an address finder.
We recently talked about the project with Fischer, who is part of the collective called Public Collectors and is turning it into an exhibit at The Franklin, a Chicago art space in an artist’s backyard, very much staying true to its hometown aesthetic.
Noisey: Tell me about this project.
Marc Fischer: Well, for people who don’t know, Maximum Rock’n’Roll is this Berkeley-based magazine that started in 1982. It was one of the primary places that a band that was starting up could send their punk or hardcore release and have it reviewed. And the reviews are really short. Fifty words is kind of an average, some of them are probably 12 words. [Laughs] So they didn’t write very much, a lot of the language is really repetitive but it was a place for kids who made a demo tape in their basement could run off a bunch of them and send them in for review. And then they would print the address associated with that release, which could be a record label or it could just be someone’s parents’ house or their house.
Because that was how to contact these bands then, because there were no email addresses, obviously.
Yeah and it was similar with people who published fanzines. They’d say “send two dollars to this address to get a copy.” So, it was just an obvious place that if you were making a certain kind of music with a certain ethos, there were probably four places you would send it to and [Maximum Rock'n'roll] would be one of them. And there were usually about 150 or so reviews in each issue.
And so you took all those addresses and put them into Google Maps, and that’s all the Tumblr is, really.
Yeah, so it just very basically lists the name of the release, what issue of Maximum Rock’n’roll it was reviewed, and what city, state, and zip code. I’ve left out the street names and numbers and edited those out of the street view screenshots.
What gave you the idea to start doing that?
I tried it with a few things I was curious about. I was looking at some old metal zine and I was like, “I wonder where that band with some atrocious band name lives.” [Laughs] And then it was like, well, this is kind of an amusing juxtaposition of this completely normal house and this completely provocative band name. But the more I collected of that, the more it started to tell a story or it becomes another way of visualizing a subculture that has a really different texture from the usual kinds of graphics you see representing those bands—instead a bunch of jagged logos and skull drawings and anarchy symbols.
What, if anything, do you think you’ve learned from collecting so many of these screenshots of houses?
It’s still sort of emerging, I guess. I think everyone had the idea that there was a fairly strong suburban aspect to that music. I guess it sort of reminds you with bands that if they were bored in their town, they could get in their van and go somewhere else and bring this thing they’d been practicing in their parents’ basement to another city.
I gotta say, a lot of these houses are a lot fancier than I’d have guessed.
I saw someone commenting, saying something like, does it matter that people lived in comfortable houses? Those were still the people who were caring about what was happening politically in like, Nicaragua or about the nuclear arms race. The jock kids who lived in the same kind of house didn’t care about those things.
One of the first reactions to creating the blog was someone from the band Cryptic Slaughter who maintains an archive blog devoted to the band. The guitarist’s house in Santa Monica is one of the homes featured and someone was taking him to task, saying, “See, I told you they were rich kids.” And he responded with this really wonderful response explaining that actually, this area had rent control which made it affordable to a much broader range of people.
Also, in focusing on the 80s, there’s a 30-year time difference between when many of these things were captured. Some neighborhoods might be much better. Some are probably much worse, depending on what the economy did on the city.
Yeah, a lot of the ones from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in the 80s, that was a rough neighborhood, but now it’s such a desirable real estate area. On the other hand, I saw one from Michigan where the house is now boarded up.
And something that’s not visible from looking at the blog are all the things that I plugged in that aren’t there anymore. Some groups you’ll see a giant shopping center where their house once was.
One of the bands you have is from Montclair, NJ called Suburban Kaos. I don’t know, their suburb didn’t look too kaotic to me. Nice wrap-around porch on the house.
Yeah, there’s a group called Anxiety that had this just extraordinary home associated with it. And it had the most amazing landscaping. The maintenance of the landscaping feels like something that would cause anxiety. [Laughs]
Do you know of any of these bands still living in these locations?
There are a couple that I suspect the person might. There are people who’ve reblogged things saying, oh yeah, that’s where the parents of that band live.
Do you have a favourite discovery in compiling these?
There are little things that kind of tickle me, like the band Suburban Mutilation who have the most absolutely perfect green lawn.
There are funny things that are too visually impossible to include, like the house that someone from The Offspring lived in. Their house is findable but it’s very hard to capture visually because it’s sort of at the end of a street that butts up against what looks like a field or a park.
I guess there’s no one epiphany, it’s sometimes that you have the most exciting band and then you want the house to be some total revelation and it’s just mundane. And other times it’s this group you’ve never heard of before and there’s something remarkable about the home, either it’s extravagant or so unbelievably boring.
Did you just have all these copies of Maximum Rock’n’roll hanging around?
I had about 30 issues from that time period. Luckily, Chicago’s main public library branch, someone there, sort of incredibly acquired a complete run of the magazine in these beautiful bound volumes. You have to ask for them at the reference counter, and it feels like no one’s ever touched them, practically.
Do you think we’re losing something in the internet age and not having that intimate touch of putting your home address on a review?
In a way, I think we might be coming back to some aspects of that culture. Like, when I did my zine, it was totally normal to have friends all over the place that I’d never met in person. Or you might eventually meet them within years, but they were always kind of out there but it was normal that you didn’t meet them in person because they were in another country or they were in prison or something. And now, I ask my students, how many of you have friends on social media that you haven’t met? And most of them do. So I think there’s still that thing where it’s like, how do you harness those relationships to build some sort of interesting creative community?
Is there any band you’d be most curious to see their original homes?
Most of the groups I love, I found their homes. One of the pieces in Vice that I really loved—and I thought that Sam McPheeters should’ve got a fucking Pulitzer for—was that piece he did on Doc Dart from the Crucifucks, who later changed his name to the number 26. That’s a band I find endlessly provocative and fascinating. He’s someone I always wanted to interview and then when I read that piece, I was like, OK, well no one ever needs to do that again, it was so exceptional. He went to where he lived and spent time with him. That would be another laye—to go back and spend time in these places where people grew up. I don’t know, amazing music came out of some really boring-looking towns. I’m not sure I need to know where everyone lived, it’d probably be more interesting to see where they live now. [Laughs]
Dan Ozzi wants to be stereotyped, he wants to be classified. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi