Monday, February 18, 2013

INTERVIEW WITH JOHN HOLMSTROM OF PUNK MAGAZINE

John Holmstrom: Sex over rock 'n' roll, every time. 

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Credit: godlis.com


Where are you?

I still live in the same old NYC/East Village apartment I took over from Deerfrance and Robin back in 1977 with the money I received from my artwork on the Rocket to Russia record covers. Back then I had to pay only $120 per month in rent, plus some back rent that Deer and Robin owed. But back then that was a typical rent to live in this neighborhood.

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Better blond: Debbie Harry or Iggy Pop?

Debbie is the best blonde in the history of rock music. Remember, she was hailed as the "Marilyn Monroe of Punk" back in the 1970s. Iggy is only the greatest rock 'n' roll star of all time. Sorry - for me it's sex over rock 'n' roll every time. I always go with the girl over the boy. Especially when "Marilyn Monroe" is involved. Also, in all seriousness, it was much more difficult for Debbie to break through back in the day than for a guy like Iggy. There was so much ridiculous prejudice against women as rock 'n' roll stars in the 1970s, Debbie and Blondie had to deal with so much stupid crap! I always believed in Debbie--and in that whole band! So when Blondie opened for Iggy Pop for his first solo tour, backed by Bowie? I was a very happy guy. Great for all of them.

If you did an issue of PUNK magazine today, who would be on the cover?

JaPunk! Japanese punk rock! Peelander-Z, here in New York! 50Kaitenz, Poni-Camp and The Radiots from Tokyo! And worldwide punk rock!!! Pussy Riot from Russia! And there are so many interesting punk bands from all over the world now. Man, the USA has become so boring, nothing is happening in our punk scene here. But this is why the way CBGB was closed is a capital crime. People should be in jail for allowing that to happen. Punk rock is a worldwide movement and it started here at CBGBs, but the politicians allowed it to close? I want Senate hearings! I want investigations! Hilly Kristal died for this.

Who do you regret working with the most?

I don't have regrets, can't afford them. Anyhoo, we lern from owr missteaks, didx't u kno? So if I didn't screw up by doing certain things with certain people I would still be a dumb shit. Well, even more of a dumber shit than I am today.

What is punk in 2013?

2013 just began, so let's give that a break. One month in and you want to define the year? Please. Maybe being punk is refusing to allow anything to be defined. That was part of our thinking back in the 1970s. No one wanted to be limited. Punk was whatever you wanted it to be. Not a bad attitude to adopt again. Fuck all labels. Anyhow, punk's now a forever thing. The world has embraced it, it still happens, people are still drawn to the idea of being a rebel, a pain-in-the-butt, and/or someone who tries to affect real change. Anti-war and anti-globalization protests are often labeled as punk. I think there's more to come when it comes to punk and politics. Especially when it comes to global warming.

What is the closest thing to CBGB now?

The film, probably. I have enjoyed working on this so much! The filmmakers flew me down there for a few days and at times I honestly felt like it was 1976-77 again. Best time ever. And they do seem to have the attitude right: Punk. Fuck. Shit.

Which punk band has aged the worst?

I don't think any punk band has aged badly. If they're still alive, that's pretty cool in itself. I love all the punk bands from anytime! It's been so sad to lose people along the way...on the other hand, that Dead Kennedys lawsuit was probably the saddest moment in punk history. "Can't we all just get along?"

Favorite scene in Death Race 2000?

The original or the remake? Actually, my favorite memory of that film was the video game. We used to play it all the time back in the late 1970s. It was the first video game with violence--you could run over little old ladies with your car! You would lose points for hitting them instead of missing them, but it was so much fun to squish them!

Favorite breakfast food?

Argh! How can you ask me that. I live in the greatest neighborhood in the world for food. I can go to the Mud Cafe for their sourdough french toast with fruit, or the Veselka anytime, 24/7, for one of their awesome breakfasts (always enjoy the potato pancakes), or the B&H for their amazing lox & onion omelette (with brown rice OR kasha)... That's like asking me who my favorite child was. (But I never had any, thank God!) People always tell me how "lucky" I am to live in this great neighborhood, but then again they are the same people who would tell me I was crazy to live here in the 1970s and 1980s when there were drug addicts and violence/danger everywhere.

What's the best advice you ever got?

My lawyer, Solomon Glushak, who incorporated Punk Magazine back in 1976 and read every issue to make sure there was no lawsuit material within, was my greatest mentor out of everyone I worked with. Which is a fairly formidable list: Will (The Spirit) Eisner, Harvey (MAD MAgazine) Kurtzman, Tom (High Times) Forcade...I even had some wonderful teachers in middle school and high school who were wonderful. But Solomon was the wisest and the best. The best advice Solomon, or ANYONE, gave me, (and he said this more than once), was:

"John, hang onto everything. You never know if it might become famous twenty years later." 

I wish I had listened to him even more than I did - sure enough, twenty years after starting the magazine all this stuff became so much more valuable. At around fifteen years, I threw a lot of stuff out. I regret this so much! But you have to remember that shortly after we started the magazine it became quickly forgotten and ignored. In 1985, there was no way that I thought that anyone would care about the magazine ever again. Then again, this is how hoarders are born. Now I never throw ANYTHING out!

So my apartment is an unholy mess.

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Links:

The Best of Punk Magazine on Facebook

Buy The Best of Punk Magazine HERE

CBGB: The Movie on Facebook

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