INTERVIEW: Tesco Vee and Touch & Go Magazine 30 Years Later
POSTED SUNDAY 04.18.10
It's no small secret that Touch and Go Magazine is more discussed about what it was than has actually ever been read. Editions were small. Layout and editorial was crude, yet lovingly abrasive. The T&G tribe was all from the midwest and it showed. It was the first place that many heard about the Necros, The Meatmen, Negative Approach and The Fix which, not surprisingly, were all records released by Touch And Go and eventually helmed by Necros bassist Corey Rusk. But really, there's so much to the Touch and Go story that it surpasses by modest ability to educate those that read this blog.
Finally, the entirety of Touch And Go's output has been collected. Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83 is due out next month on Ian Christe's Bazillion Points imprint and nobody is more excited than us here at Chunklet.
In what we're hoping is going to be the first of three interviews (in theory, Dave Stimson and Steve Miller will follow), I asked T&G publisher/writer/designer/editor and Meatman Tesco Vee about the magazine, Michigan in the early 80's and his favorite Barry Henssler story. Enjoy!
So when you started Touch and Go, what magazines were you reading and/or aspiring to? Moreover, were you aspiring to anything at all?
I've always been a music fanatic..and learned early on putting quill to parchment was my forte. Not math. So writing a zine was inevitable. I got NME, Sounds et al., weekly and scoured them for the latest and greatest but the writing was pretty clinical. Then I found Slash. The record reviews by Kickboy Face (aka Claude Bessey, RIP) and Chris DesJardine (of Fleasheaters fame) really inspired me to write. And backing up a bit the whole inspiration for writing reviews that bird walked all around the actual band/record was definitely a Lester Bangs nod. That guy was genius. Creem Magazine was always into the good stuff even in the early to mid 70's. The Stooges, Dictators, etc.
What were the biggest stumbling blocks to doing a magazine in an age before computers?
Oh christ! Those old drum Xerox machines! I hadda sneak into the elementary school at 3AM and hope the toner wasn't running out. [For the book] a couple of the T&G's were pretty faint, but thanks to Photoshop, they are darkened up. I would spend hours cutting and doing paste ups. Glue sticks, sharp scissors and a poison pen were standard equipment. Oh, and the stalwart army green IBM Selectric typewriter. There's a pic I found that's in the book of me huntin' and peckin' my way thru a review. You could change fonts with a 4 way ball. Wow, how high tech!
Explain why you think T&G deserves to be bound in a book?
Because nobody ever really saw it! Because the music it covers is still relevant and resonates with subsequent generations. Early on we were up the UK's ass, but that quickly changed to [us] mostly [covering] domestic bands. It's a testament to the Midwest scene in later years and [it] helps document the goings on here. To me, it's like a musical time capsule as told by two guys with passion, irreverence, moxie, verve and chutzpah. Our air of confidence, if you will, was borne of feeling like we were unearthing this stuff and needed to edify the masses. If we hated you, you knew about it, but predominate was our love for the music. It's hard to describe but musically it felt like you were in one of those chambers you stand in filled with swirling money, but just imagine those were 45's. You are in there grabbing at all the 100's of records that were being popped from every hill and dale, trying to find the next obscurity, or hidden gem, and then lather virtue upon, or dismiss like yesterday's stinky socks.
How did you come to meet [T&G co-publisher] Dave Stimson?
We went to the same high school. He was the star running back, I the hair like a big bush parking lot burnout/band nerd so we ran in opposite circles to be sure. I knew who he was and spotted him at a punk show and was surprised. We immediately connected and began sharing our love for the underground music scene that would eventually see the birth of T&G.
Tell me your favorite story about Dave.
It would definitely be the story of how my band The Meatmen got their name. He was living with his folks and getting hearty meals and I'd pick him up to go to a show and he would inevitably let out a loud burp. I would guess what he had for dinner, and I gently took a pull off the stale air I would always guess correct. Beef tips in wine sauce? You are correct, sir!
The man: Tesco Vee
If T&G had a poster boy, who would it be and why?
Well since his glaring countenance adorns the cover, I'll say John Brannon of Negative Approach. The guy epitomizes the Midwest ethos. He's still slinging burgers by day and bellowing out angry anthems in shitholes by night. But the two-headed poster boy would be TV and DS who created T&G. The mag that started the record label. Why didn't I keep a percentage?!
Although T&G was distributed heavily through the Midwest, how did you get the magazine around the world? Did you end up with distributors that would never pay? Was it mostly mailorder?
It was mostly mailorder. We consigned to Michigan record stores like FBC and Schoolkids...many of them went to other zines, record labels and luminaries. Later on we had some distro, but I can't recall who!
From your perspective, tell me about the most significant hardcore bands you covered. Were there any shows that were particularly influential?
The shows at the Freezer Theatre were of legend. Minor Threat, Misfits, NA, you name it. I was all over Minor Threat--[the] greatest East Coast live band. The Fix from Lansing were unbelievable powerful. They were gone too soon. Their set was 20 minutes of uninterrupted aggro. Just blazing!
What articles, interviews, reviews or other writing in T&G are you most proud of?
I suppose the interviews which were usually sarcastic and silly but fun to read. Most were done thru the mail, or on my little hand held tape recorder. When we went to DC for the Youth Brigade/Minor Threat/Circle Jerks show, I felt like a kid at Xmas. DC had an aura, a feel to it, and I jumped [into] it, interviewing like a madman. It wouldn't be long before I bagged Michigan for the Nation's capitol.
What zines did you consider your peers in the early 80's?
Wow. There was a bunch, but like Smegma Journal, Media Disease from Reno, of course Flipside, Max R&R, then a couple years later you had Forced Exposure, Al & Abbie's Straight Edge, Suburban Relapse, Jim Testa's Jersey Beat, Talk Talk from Lawrence, Kansas...oh crap, there were a ton!
What zines do you feel were taking from the T&G rulebook once you quit?
Definitely Your Flesh and Forced Exposure took the T&G attitude and irreverence and continued the tradition. The level of writing in both of those was top shelf. Byron Coley is a literary titan, and truth be told he had a hand in some of my FE classic pieces like the Agnetha Faltskog Penultimate Peter Meter. He [also] wrote the definitive unauthorized bio of Chuck Norris!
Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83
Tell me your favorite John Brannon story.
Oh geez. Staying with him and Larissa in wherever they were squatting to say they were bad neighborhoods in Detroit would be an understatement. That wasn't fireworks you heard in the distance! He was a character. Always coming up with one liners. I love his quote for the book: "Creem taught me how to piss, but T&G taught me how to shit." Okay, the greatest JB moment was on Saturday Night Live [when Fear was the musical guest] and he grabbed the mic just before they cut to commercial and yelled 'Negative Approach is gonna fuck you up!" I still have my original tape [as] it went out nationally. No five second delay back then. Just too cool.
Tell me your favorite Barry Hennsler story.
He sent a loogie flying 20 feet in the air at a carload of girls in a McDonald's parking lot in DC 'cuz they were makin' cracks about the way he looked. I'll never forget the reaction when the phlegm ball landed on her face. Priceless!
When Corey Rusk began using the T&G logo to start a record label, could you ever imagine that kid from Maumee would be selling records by the truck full well into the new millennium?
No way..or like I said I would've kept a percentage! He did okay for himself! I was heartbroken, as was he, when he shut it down.
What skills, if any, were you able to take from your days at T&G and use as you grew up and entered the "real" work force?
Writing comes in handy. Being able to form a sentence, and get your point across. I always write letters to the editor and [they] all get published. People always say "you should write a book Tesco", and I always say "I already did"!
Thirty years have passed, would you ever have thought there'd be a large book containing of all your teenage indiscretions?
No! But am damn glad it is! This is a long time coming, and I'm happy as fuck this thing is coming out! Ian Christie at Bazillion Points has been totally engaged and behind this the whole way. Distro is through Harper Collins, so you should be able to find it wherever fine books are sold!
Do you follow new music still? Specifically, have you kept notes on the re-emerging hardcore scene which apes so much of what was done back then? What's your take on it?
Not so much. I have bands I like but I ain't an expert by any stretch.
A more recent photo of Tesco with his Hate Police....