I got to it late. 1993. After the heyday but prior to the decline. Fanzines, Tape Trading, Flyering. Send back my stamps. Please enclose two IRC’s. No posers!
Before the internet there was the underground tape trading circuit. Envelopes stuffed with photocopied flyers, fifth generation dubbed demo cassettes from exotic acts on far flung shores, indecipherable logos, the anticipation of the trip to the mailbox and the thrill of getting a hand written letter from your favourite band. It never occurred to us that they were just dinky kids in the suburbs too. They were a mystery, an enigma. And we wanted in on the action. So in 1994 my friend Gab and I started our own fanzine ‘Requiem’.
We scribbled countless interviews, stuffed them into envelopes, slicked a thin film of glue over the top of the stamps and sat back to wait. I still get goosebumps when I think about spotting those bulky replies piled up outside my house in the weeks and months (mostly months) that followed. Sigh from Japan sent us photos, Rotting Christ from Greece wanted a letter in blood, My Dying Bride from the UK wrote seven pages. We printed the answers verbatim, bad grammar and broken English intact. We typed, cut and pasted our little tributes long into the night. Using liquid paper to fix the inevitable typewriter spasms and hand drawing spiky gilded borders, crosses and crucifixes. And we weren’t alone. Thousands of these things were being spun together out of Xerox and enthusiasm the world over.
It never felt like work. It was a brotherhood. Lists of cassettes would be painstakingly compiled for comparison. You want Decoryah? I’ll trade for Grand Belial’s Key. There’s no room for any more stamps on the back of this flyer! Stamp the front! We didn’t care about Nirvana. We had Thergothon and Katatonia, the tapes hissing wildly, adding immeasurably to the atmosphere.
Every tape was treasured. Every zine pored over. Nothing was disposable. Until it was. I would give anything to regain the collection I amassed in those years before they were all scattered to the winds by continual moving, my evolving musical tastes and just plain old carelessness.
Fortunately, others have been more meticulous archivists and now the enthusiasm, naiveté, obsession and possession of this scene can be accessed by the nostalgic and the curious alike.
‘Send Back my Stamps’ is the work of one Jason Netherton, author of ‘Extremity Retained: Notes from the Death Metal Underground’ and it compiles scanned images of hundreds of archived zines from back in the day. You can lose entire afternoons here simply admiring the still timeless aesthetic of these things in all their sketchy glory. Little legacies, each and every one of them.
Smell the glue. Feel the paper cuts. DIY forever.