Maximum Rocknroll, the long-running and massively influential punk zine, has announced that it will cease print publication. In an announcement on its website, the MRR staff says that the magazine has three issues left to go. After that, it will continue online, posting its record reviews and keeping up its radio show, which is archives online.
It’s cool that MRR will be continuing in some form, but its end, as a print publication, is historically significant and more than a little bit sad. MRR started as a radio show in San Francisco in 1977. In 1982, it became a print publication, starting out as the print insert for the legendary hardcore compilation Not So Quiet On The Western Front. Ever since then, it has continued as a nonprofit zine, putting out issues monthly, its cheap newsprint distributed wide. I haven’t kept up with the magazine much in recent years, but it’s always been cool to walk into a Barnes & Noble and see MRR staring back on the rack, a rebuke to everything around it.
MRR is notorious for its fundamentalist left-wing politics and its dogmatic anti-corporate stance. In the ’90s, when punk rock was becoming big business, founder Tim Yohannan struck back, writing that the magazine would not review or accept ads from major-label acts or, indeed, from anyone who he deemed insufficiently punk. The magazine would often call out famous bands — be they Green Day or Bikini Kill — for selling out. The post famous piece in the magazine’s history is almost certainly “The Problem With Music,” producer Steve Albini’s 1993 broadside against the major-label system.
MRR has run plenty of bad takes over the years. But MRR has always been more than its scene-guardian rigor. Early on, the magazine became known for its Scene Reports — on the ground chronicles of punk scenes in far-flung, off-the-radar places across the globe. It published Book Your Own Fucking Life, a crucial reference guidebook for underground bands to tour underground venues.
Bands often got their first press in its reviews section; the magazine would review basically any demo sent to them. Lifelong friendships were made through the classified section, where people would look for penpals or tape-trading buddies. I used to howl with laughter over the monthly columns from the Rev. Norb, frontman of the Wisconsin band Boris The Sprinkler, who would talk ridiculous shit in endless run-on sentences full of parentheticals.
The magazine survived the passing of Yohannon, who died of cancer in 1998. And it’s done great work in keeping up with the global punk underground; its website is still a great place to find new Bandcamp bands. Hopefully, it’ll be able to keep doing that work.
Here’s the statement from MRR:
It is with heavy hearts that we are announcing the end of Maximum Rocknroll as a monthly print fanzine. There will be three more issues of the fanzine in its current format; later in 2019 we will begin publishing record reviews online alongside our weekly radio show. Readers can look forward to more online content, updates regarding the archive project initiated in 2016, and other yet-to-be-announced MRR projects, as well as new ways for punks around the world to get involved. We will be having a public meeting at 2:00pm on Sunday, January 20 at the MRR compound to discuss the future — please write [email protected] for details.
Maximum Rocknroll began as a radio show in 1977. For the founders of Maximum Rocknroll, the driving impulse behind the radio show was simple: an unabashed, uncompromising love of punk rock. In 1982, buoyed by burgeoning DIY punk and hardcore scenes all over the world, the founders of the show — Tim Yohannan & the gang — launched Maximum Rocknroll as a print fanzine. That first issue drew a line in the sand between the so-called punks who mimicked society’s worst attributes — the “apolitical, anti-historical, and anti-intellectual,” the ignorant, racist, and violent — and MRR’s principled dedication to promoting a true alternative to the doldrums of the mainstream. That dedication included anti-corporate ideals, avowedly leftist politics, and relentless enthusiasm for DIY punk and hardcore bands and scenes from every inhabited continent of the globe. Over the next several decades, what started as a do-it-yourself labor of love among a handful of friends and fellow travelers has extended to include literally thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of readers. Today, forty-two years after that first radio show, there have been well over 1600 episodes of MRR radio and 400 issues of Maximum Rocknroll fanzine — not to mention some show spaces, record stores, and distros started along the way — all capturing the mood and sound of international DIY punk rock: wild, ebullient, irreverent, and oppositional.
Needless to say, the landscape of the punk underground has shifted over the years, as has the world of print media. Many of the names and faces behind Maximum Rocknroll have changed too. Yet with every such shift, MRR has continued to remind readers that punk rock isn’t any one person, one band, or even one fanzine. It is an idea, an ethos, a fuck you to the status quo, a belief that a different kind of world and a different kind of sound is ours for the making.
These changes do not mean that Maximum Rocknroll is coming to an end. We are still the place to turn if you care about Swedish girl bands or Brazilian thrash or Italian anarchist publications or Filipino teenagers making anti-state pogo punk, if you are interested in media made by punks for punks, if you still believe in the power and potential of autonomously produced and underground culture. We certainly still do, and look forward to the surprises, challenges, and joys that this next chapter will bring. Long live Maximum Rocknroll.