Interviews

xXx Fanzine: Author Mike Gitter Looks Back at '80s Hardcore and Beyond for His New Book

Photo: Dan Rawe

“I think that when I decided to do the zine in 1983, it wasn’t that daunting because I was lucky enough to grow up in the Boston area, around a hardcore scene that was already in full swing by that point,” says Mike Gitter on the other end of my telephone line. 

The veteran A&R executive (he’s signed Bad Religion, CIV, Body Count, etc.) and music journalist (Rip, Thrasher, etc.) is discussing XXX Fanzine, the seminal zine that he published from 1983 till 1988. On Nov. 10, the folks at Bridge Nine Records will be dropping xXx Fanzine: 1983-1988 Hardcore & Punk in the Eighties, a 288-page book that collects articles, reviews, and photographs from Gitter’s beloved zine.

Gitter remembers some of the key players in his local scene during his formative years. “I started going to punk and hardcore shows in 1982. The Boston hardcore scene was very much a perfect storm because you had great college radio stations that had punk and hardcore shows on the air. You had people like Choke (singer of Slapshot), Katie the Cleaning Lady, and Dave Smalley (DYS, Dag Nasty) doing these cool radio shows. We also had great zines like Forced Exposure, Smash, and Suburban Punk.”

I tell Gitter how much Suburban Punk meant to me as a kid first getting into hardcore. “Yeah, Al Quint (the writer behind Suburban Punk) was my local friend and he’s always been like a hardcore big brother to me. Both he and I are sort of these middle to upper middle class Jewish kids from the North Shore. He was another person that was around that I could converse about all of this hardcore stuff that was happening at the time.”

Everyone's a hater these days, but I dare you to bitch about the bands Gitter profiles in his book. Minor Threat, Cro-Mags, Misfits, Suicidal Tendencies, Void, Negative Approach, Metallica, SSD, and Fugazi are just some of the hallowed acts you'll find in the hardcore tome.

Gitter shows Ray of Today a galley of his book at Rev Fest 2017.

Putting together a book is obviously no easy task, and with his hectic schedule working in A&R at Century Media Records, I have to ask Gitter how he found time to tackle the project. “Well, over a decade ago, Chris [Wrenn, owner of Bridge Nine Records) released the SCHISM: New York Hardcore Fanzine book and that initiated the conversation about doing a xXx book. Fast-forward a few years, I had moved out here to California and had a box with hundreds of photographs, flyers, zines, you know, all of that semi-hoarder, ephemera that we all keep. 

"Anyway, I reached out to a couple of labels about doing the book. Revelation Records was one of them. The reason I went with Bridge Nine is because Chris is one of the hardest working and ethical people I know. He ended up doing so much heavy lifting on this book. He was partner in crime in the whole thing.”

Speaking of Bridge Nine, the label is also releasing a 19-song compilation, Still Having Their Say, which will be a companion piece to the xXx book. The record features bands like Strife, Voivod, and Fu Manchu contributing covers from songs that came out during the zine's era.

The compilation was curated by Gitter with the same kind of thoughtfullness he put into the making of his book, meaning, he doesn't want xXx to merely serve as some nostalgia piece. "We didn't want the book to just be something for males in their forties. I think the problem with these kinds of books is that they're often exclusionary. For the compilation, we looked into possibly licensing some punk and hardcore classics, but it just felt so fucking run-of-the-mill to do that. It didn't feel special to go that way. So the idea then changed to getting bands that are currently active covering songs from that era. The response and enthusiasm from the people I reached out to was astonishing. 'Hey, would you like to be part of this?' 'Sure! Can we do a Void song?' Then I would get the track back that they recorded and would be like, 'Holy shit! This is amazing!' I'm really happy with the way it all came out."

Pepper Keenan, Woody Weatherman, and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity check out a copy of the xXx book

Speaking as someone who has been teeing up his own book concept, I’m a bit afraid to ask Gitter how long it took to complete xXx Fanzine: 1983-1988 Hardcore & Punk in the Eighties from concept to completion. “We figured it would take us about six months to finish, but then we went down the rabbit hole. Three and half, four years later, we have a book that is nearly 300 pages long, and has an additional 100 voices, hundreds of extra photographs. It sort of became a different book from what we had planned, and I love that."

Pre-order xXx Fanzine (1983-1988) Hardcore & Punk in the Eighties directly from Bridge Nine Records.

Tagged: mike gitter, xxx fanzine: 1983-1988 hardcore & punk in the eighties

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