While binging on the new season of I’m Dying up Here, catching up on The Deuce, or even streaming A Futile and Stupid Gesture, it’s pretty easy to conclude that the ‘70s were awesome and now, “everything is the worst” (©Liz Lemon). In the ‘70s, a zine could matter, people read comics that weren’t also billion-dollar movies, and it was still kind of rebel to listen to The Ramones. And smoke weed. John Holmstrom, founder of legendary Punk magazine, is bringing all of that back—ok, maybe not The Ramones—by dropping a new zine.
Punk only printed 15 issues between ’76 and ’79 (plus a 1981 special edition, The D.O.A. Filmbook), but had an outsized influence on rock journalism and iconography. It was arguably the shredded, screaming, voice of CBGBs– or “the ululations of the new zeitgeist,” as James Wolcott of The Village Voice put it. Holmstrom’s new ‘zine, according to the PR, “intends to bring back the fun of 20th century marijuana culture, when it was the choice of hipsters, beatniks, jazz musicians, hippies, and other misfits.” The inaugural issue of The Stoned Age will feature an interview with Rob Van Dam, the pro wrestler who, it’s been widely reported, can no longer wrestle due to visual impairments from having too many concussions. We’re hoping this makes him ultra-qualified to pull a three-foot Graffix, if that’s still a thing. (Nope: apparently they only make two-footers now.)
The Stoned Age launches at Metropolis Vintage this Saturday at 1pm, with Holmstrom signing new issues of the mag while celebrating the 40th Anniversary of The Ramones’ Road to Ruin, for which he drew the cover. The first 50 people can score a free limited-edition T-Shirt, while everyone will get to peep the shop’s collection of vintage Ramones and Cramps T-Shirts, while DJ Drew Redmond spins old-school punk.
We caught up with Holmstrom via email to see how he’s rolling all this fresh new green.
When I look back at whatever influence we had, I put PUNK magazine in the same category as a music band: We put out 15 records. In a similar way, MAD magazine printed only 23 issues as a comic book, and it had a great influence. The Sex Pistols “officially” recorded only one album. I like the way the late, great Glenn O’Brien once described PUNK Magazine: “The most important magazine in the world for one year.”
Sadly, I don’t see any interesting magazines out there (except for my own Stoned Age publication, which just came out). I did enjoy a lot of the fanzines that were published in the 1980s and ’90s like Brutarian, Royal Flush, etc.
Danny Fields recently spoke at the launch for his photography book, My Ramones, and said, “They never sold any records.” Is it possible now for a band to have great influence without commercial success? Or at least popular success? (Spotify streams, if not record sales.)
I do not think that music matters much any more… Nor, sadly, film, magazines, television etc. There’s too much competition, mostly from mobile phones and apps. In the 20th century, culture was important. In the 21st century, people are more self-absorbed. Back in the day, a book would be published that everyone had to read. When is the last time a book came out that everyone talks about?
So, no, I don’t think it’s possible for a band to influence the world in the way that punk rock happened at CBGB and in London and Sydney, Australia back in 1975.
What do you think about the current round of political protests, and the machine’s efforts to stamp out dissension? If both conservative and liberal media are preaching rebellion/oppression narratives, what’s a punk to do?
Of course, we didn’t pay much attention to politics back then. It’s sad to me that people are so obsessed recently. I don’t think that politics has a huge influence on daily life. I think technology has the biggest impact on daily life. Nowadays there are multi-national corporations that are bigger than governments.
Let’s talk about weed. It’s increasingly legal—and even where it’s not, increasingly acceptable. Is it possible to revive the “outsider,” cool status of a drug that’s being vaped at industry parties by dudebros wearing khakis?
As far as the marijuana subculture is concerned, I am just very happy that our society is on the verge of ending drug possession as a crime. The demonization of marijuana was such a crazy chapter in world history. I have always believed that it needs to be legal, so if that means that dudes in khakis smoke up at industry parties, I’m fine with that. It beats the alternative (throwing people in jail for smoking a flower).
I always imagined that it would and could become legal. It was decriminalized in the 1970s, so it was semi-legal for several years. I remember going to the movies back then and you could always smell it in the theaters, and people were selling it on the streets. When I worked at High Times we would travel to Jamaica and Amsterdam where it was openly used. I figured it would only be a matter of time before people came to their senses and realized the truth.