Monthly Archives: May 2015

An interview with Bob Suren

bob surenBob Suren’s book, Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records, comes out on June 8th, and advance copies have been immediately charming everyone in sight. The kickstarter-funded book captures the ups and downs of Bob’s life as a legend of Florida’s hardcore scene and a bellwether of the changing music industry. 

Be sure to check out Bob’s youtube channel for priceless Florida hardcore moments of years past. You might also be able to catch him on tour this July if you live…well, just about anywhere in the southeastern, mid-atlantic, or central parts of the US. Best yet, he’s recording an audiobook of Crate Digger, and many bands discussed in the book have given permission to include their music.

1. Lore is that Crate Digger started as a series of Facebook posts. How did those eventually turn into a book?

A: One of my friends, Shane Hinton, who is 14 years younger than me but a gifted writer and college writing professor, told me that the stories were too good to just be Facebook posts. He told me I should turn it into a book but I didn’t think I had enough stories in me and I didn’t know how to organize it. Shane gave me the idea to organize it as a record collection, with the stories in alphabetical order according to the record titles that they go with. I thought that was clever. For a few months, I only wrote once or twice a week, 300 to 1,000 words at a time. Then The ideas started pouring in and I had to keep a list of everything I wanted to squeeze in. Then almost every day after work for a couple of months, I’d try to write a chapter and it came together really fast. Maybe three months of casual writing and then two or three months of hustling. I got exciting as I saw the ideas getting crossed off my list and the writing went faster. The last day I wrote, when I saw the end was in sight, I wrote nearly 8,000 words. That was Easter Sunday 2012. 

Then came the hard part—trying to find a home for it. For about three or four months, I tried big publishing houses and agents. I did get some positive feedback but no offers. Then I gave up for about four months. Then a friend laid out all the text for me like a book, with graphics and formatted pages. That got me really excited and I started looking for a publisher again. For the second time around, I decided to go after indie publishers and made a short list of about ten. The publisher I really wanted ignored me, which I thought was rude. Then I skipped a few names down the list and tried Microcosm Publishing on my fourth or fifth day of the renewed search. Joe was into it right away. After just a few emails, maybe just 90 minutes times, I was looking at a contract. He had only read two sample chapters. I asked him if he wanted to read the whole book first and he said no. By the time I flew to Portland in Aug. 2014 for the final edit, Joe had only read about half the book. He read the second half for the first time with me right by his side. The editing process was fast and easy. I think we only lost about six pages from the original text, mostly redundancies. I was expecting to bang heads, but the editing process made for a stronger book.

2. The book is organized alphabetically—is that how you used to organize your record collection?

A: When I only had a handful of records, I kept them in the order I bought them, with new stuff up front and old stuff in back. Eventually, this method made it too hard to find what I wanted so I went to alphabetical. I used to keep all the unheard stuff in a small stack on my desk until it got cleaned and listened to once or twice before shelving. I once had a job at a public library. To get the job, they made me alphabetize a bunch of books and put a bunch of books in order by Dewey Decimal. I think it was 40 books in all, all scrambled. They said I had the fastest time ever. I think I did it in less than two minutes. They didn’t know about Sound Idea, the dustiest but most well-organized record store of all time. Even the T-shirts and stickers were alphabetized.

bob suren meets henry rollins3. Fan response to your book has been tremendous—do you have any stories to share about how people are reacting?

A: Yes, I have been getting lots of emails from old friends and people I never met telling me that the book touched them, that they can relate to it. I just got a long email today from a guy I never met who had some of the same experiences. I think what makes a good book or a good song is that it is relatable. That’s why all those old blues songs still make people feel good, because the listener knows he’s not all alone. So, there are a lot of relatable stories and a lot of universal themes, what I like to call the Big Stuff. I wanted to put in a lot of the Big Stuff so that even people who don’t know the music can understand. My 70 year old co-worker told me that she didn’t know anything about punk but she went through all the Big Stuff, too. That’s exactly what I wanted to do. 

And, of course, there are stories so bizarre that they could have only happened to me. Yesterday a guy asked me if the story about the FBI agent is true. Yes, every bit of this book is absolutely true. A lot of people from my past have found me on Facebook recently and ordered the book. That’s been kind of odd but cool.

4. You’ve been navigating the music industry as it’s gone through some massive changes. What do you think is the next big thing? Or, if different, what do you hope it will be?

A: I don’t really follow the industry anymore and I am kind of clueless. I never was good at gauging trends. I could never figure out why some bands were big and others weren’t. I just followed my heart and did things the way that felt right. Some of that was successful and some of it was not. I wish good luck to all the bands, labels, distributors and record shops out there. Vinyl is huge again. I didn’t see that coming. I have no idea how long that will last, but most of the people in music are my kind of people and I wish them well. I just don’t want to crunch numbers any more and play the public relations game. I barely even want to go to shows anymore. I go to shows to talk to my friends between bands. I don’t pay much attention to what is on stage, to tell you the truth. I’m not jaded, I am just more interested in other things. If you give me the choice between a three band punk show or bowling, I’ll take the bowling. It’s new ground for me. I’m no longer interested in treading water.

5. What’s the next big thing for you?

A: Oration is going to be part of my life, reading dates and freestyle talking. I have been playing around with the idea of stand up comedy, too. And I have been writing a lot of poetry which I bet already has people laughing but I don’t care. I am not writing it for them. I’m finding poetry a great way to express myself in short bursts with no limits. I’m also very excited about recording the audio book version of Crate Digger because that’s something I have never done. New territory excites me. Ask me if I want to make a quilt and I am going to say yes because I have no idea how to make a quilt. I want to get into voice over work and maybe acting if I can get a foot in the door. That’s a whole new world that I know nothing about and I may be terrible and I may hate it, but I sure want to try.


This has been an interview with Bob Suren, author of Crate Digger. It’s part of a series of interviews with Microcosm’s writers. The last one was with Why We Drive author Andy Singer. The next is with Consensuality author Helen Wildfell.

Introducing the Scene History Series

Are you stoked about the history of your town? Do you find out interesting nuggets by talking to those who came before you or by researching the details out from books and the Internet? Do you want a reason to hunt out some people you respect for them to fill in the gaps?

Alt text

Well, the Scene History Series is an opportunity to do just that. Like our Simple History Series, we will publish three issues each year, each about a scene that tells the stories of the characters and interactions the scene has with the outside world. 

Due to their tremendous early popularity, we are expanding this series from zines into paperback books.

And we’re believing in democracy here. We are offering an open submission policy for this series. If you want to write about the history of a music scene that you are knowledgeable about or willing to research, we’ll read it, edit it, and work with you, with the goal of us publishing it.

We ask that you focus on the nuts and bolts of the scene rather than one individual, band, or encyclopedic trivia. Focus on the narrative, the characters, and the story. Why was the scene interesting? What made it tick? Why did people become so attached to it? What was unique about how it looked, sounded, and smelled? How did it redirect people away from alternate lives and change the way that they looked at the world forever?

Suggested length is 15,000-30,000 words. Get as creative as you find gratifying. Learn about your favorite places and how things developed.

Submit or ask questions to joe at microcosmpublishing daht com

 

Scene Histories so far (find all the published ones here:

1. Punk in NYC’s Lower East Side, 1981-1991 by Ben Nadler

2. The Rock & Roll of San Francisco’s East Bay, 1950-1980 by Cory M. Linstrum

3. Out of the Basement: From Cheap Trick to DIY Punk in Rockford, Illinois, 1973-2005 by David Ensminger

4. The Prodigal Rogerson: The Circle Jerks and The Golden Years of LA Punk by J. Hunter Bennett

5. The Bounce scene of New Orleans

6. Syracuse, New York and the foundation of vegan straightedge hardcore

7. Caribean Hip Hop

8. Peoria, IL

An interview with Nathan!

If you call or visit our bookstore, chances are good that you’ll meet Nathan Lee Thomas. As Publisher’s Assistant and Community Relations guy, he’s learning the trade of publishing from the big picture to the nuts and bolts, often while sitting behind a barricade of catalogs, Slingshot planners, and new releases. He agreed to answer a few questions for us here.

What are three of your favorite books and what did you learn from them?

1. Finite and Infinite Games by James P. Carse  

2. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach  

3. Illusions by Richard Bach 

I share these three with everyone I meet for the first time and take them to the metaphysical section of Powell’s to help them learn what I learned from them: Life is what you make it, so make it a good one :o)

You spend a lot of time in the bookstore, interacting with customers. What has been your most rewarding interaction with a customer so far?

I have to say my favorite interaction by far, and it’s the one I tell everyone, is when a German family came in to the store and after browsing around for a while, speaking German to one another, the father came over to me for help in locating a particular sticker he couldn’t find.

After several minutes of using broken English to try and describe the image to me he gave up in frustration and attempted to overcome our language barrier by exclaiming, “FUCK YOU MOTHER FUCKER !!” while raising his fist in the air.

 Of course, I knew exactly what sticker he was looking for :o)

What’s your favorite place in Portland? What about not in Portland?

Portland: Top of Mt. Tabor overlooking the city :o)

Not in Portland: When I lived in Germany for two years (ironically enough, this did nothing to help me prepare for German tourists here in Portland), I absolutely fell in love with Trier and would take everyone I knew to visit the city. By the time I left Germany, I must have taken a trip to the city at least half a dozen times or more :o)

This is part of a series of interviews with Microcosm workers! The next one is with sales director Thea Kuticka.

Hot Pants

A thorough and classic examination on tried and true herbal treatments for common gynecological problems, as well as great basic sexual health info. It begins, “Patriarchy sucks. It’s robbed us of our autonomy and much of our history. We believe it’s integral for women to be aware an in control of our own bodies.” Diagrams and herbal remedies teach you how to diagnose and heal many basic problems from bladder infections to inducing your period to ease cramps to even dealing with pregnancy. Learn herbal remedies to ease every stage of the menstrual cycle. There’s references to further reading, descriptions of herbs, and even a section on aphrodisiacs. The sections include: Body Mapping (in brief), About Menstruation, Love in the Age of Aids, 35 years of fertility, STDs and Other Aliens, The Ovaries and the Uterus, Aphrodisiacs, How to Prepare and Use Herbs, Picking Your Own Herbs, Herbal Properties and Dosages, Interesting Reading, Useful Addresses. This book deserves to sit next to your copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves.

Teenage Rebels

Teenage Rebels provides a glimpse into the laws, policies, and political struggles that have shaped the lives of American high school students over the last one hundred years. Through dozens of case studies, Dawson Barrett recounts the strikes, marches, and picket lines of teens all over the U.S. as they demand better textbooks, start recycling programs, and protest the censorship of student newspapers. With historically-influenced artwork and accessible writing, this book is for anyone who has ever challenged the rules and wished for a better world.

Rampant Media Consumption – April 2015

Here’s what we’ve been checking out this month.

Meggyn

Music: Cherry Glazerr, Jacco GardnerThee Oh Sees, Wild Nothing, Madlib, King Woman, Acid King, J-Louis, WAND, Meatbodies, Ah-Lahs 

Books/Zines: My Complicated Relationship With Food, Middlesex, Crate Digger, Snakepit Gets Old

Film/Shows: The Wolf Of Wall Street, Archer, It Follows, Dear White People

Joe

A BUNCH OF PRETTY THINGS I DID NOT BUY

This is exactly the kind of book Penguin should be publishing: expensive, risky, minimalist, and something that wouldn’t exist in the market with the risk management strategies of indie presses. Seemingly an innocuous book about fluffy consumerism, Sarah Lazarovic’s book about coveting beautiful things goes shockingly in depth about the political ramifications and results of our shopping. She looks at people’s tendencies to hoard, where the clothes are manufactured, the equation of identity with brands and fashion, and how we sometimes find ourselves buying things that we don’t even love. She grew up in suburban Florida, miles from the “good mall” where she carved out who she was before abandoning its synthetic smells for her local thrift store and a game of seeing how many rayon dresses she could obtain for a crisp twenty dollar bill. By the end she is living in Ontario and is now an adult, making much more informed choices about where her products come from and not needing to own all of the ones that she admires. It’s a fabulous treatise on shopping, an indulgently joyous book to read, and surprisingly political with plenty of social commentary. Even when I didn’t agree with her conclusions, her ability to engage my cognitive thinking was a breath of fresh air.

Elly

I wasn’t feeling well at the beginning of the month, so I lay on the couch and watched a few Studio Ghibli movies I’d never seen before. Princess Mononoke was perfectly entertaining, kind of heavy-handed but so it goes. I was much more enchanted with The Secret World of Arriety and Howl’s Moving Castle—probably because they’re both based on books of my childhood. 

Then I started to read Snow Crash. It was an exciting dystopian ride through the “loglo” (that’s what lights up the future when it has turned into one giant strip mall). The story was engaging and grappling with ideas about sexism and racism in interesting ways, and I enjoyed it immensely right up until about halfway through when it turned into a long, rambling treatise about an ancient Sumerian language and the Tower of Babel and a good goddess and a bad goddess and I don’t even know what else. It started to feel like that time I was at a party and a guy wouldn’t stop until he’d explained to me his entire made-up theory of pre-history and why it justified all sorts of messed up things about gender relations and so forth. I think the book’ll get better, but can I stick it out ’til it does is another question. It’s a huge book; if you don’t want to commit to reading it yourself here’s a review that’s almost as long. 

Erik

First and foremost, I want to share something that maybe many of you are familiar with, but I found this worthy of remembrance. I could try and describe what it is you’re looking at, but I’m still speechless.

I managed to get a little reading in, the recreational kind. Bel Ami, the second novel by French author Guy de Maupassant. Originally published in 1885, it’s accoladed as his finest work, and perhaps timeless is a good way to put it. Everyone knows a scoundrel, the world is full of them and although times have changed, the scoundrel has remained, more or less the same. This story follows one such person as they climb the Parisian social ladder and manipulate themselves into a prominent position at a forerunning newspaper. Full of the typical balances of love, wealth, strife, and dueling, Bel Ami is an engaging and quick read for those looking to familiarize themselves with the methods of the cheat, scoundrel, riffraff, reprobate, or otherwise rogue type.

Still well engaged in Champions League soccer. My beloved FC Bayern Munich is on their way to play the juggernaut, FC Barcelona, in the semi-finals. The paring should be the favorited high-octane explosion of talent expected at this level of play. There will be more money in talent on the pitch than the national debt… well almost, but truly, should be high quality.

I normally enjoy, on a dubious level the films by Wes Anderson, mostly as I try not to let my imagination get the better of me. However, this week I finally watched Moonrise Kingdom. As I’m likewise sure many of you who’ve seen this film, I too was reminded of everything that made being a kid great. As a child who spent a great deal of their childhood in the scouts, I felt the best intentions were shown on screen. The adaptation sung the highs and lows with more than enough creativity to carry me away into the best versions of my youthful memories.

I’ve been getting a healthy dose of Fela Kuti, famed for having trademarked the term and musical styling Afro-Beat. I’ve known about and listened to his stuff for years now, but recently I watched the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, and I’ve since been back it. The film parlays the rugged and controversial history of legendary rock drummer Ginger Baker, best known for his work with the band Cream. Of the many irresistible adventures Mr. Baker embarked, one such was traveling to Africa to play with Fela. They recorded some music together as a demonstration of both of their diversity, although Fela shined through. Felal Kuti, as a side note famously traveled with a musical entourage of 70 people. His group name: Fela Kuti and the Africa 70, is in reference to the population. I’m a big fan of the 1975 album Expensive Shit Expensive Shit.

Nathan

Went to more Powell’s book readings and thought about related books and zines on our own shelves. :o)

Partisans reminded me of The Blue Suitcase.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed reminded me of Accounting for Ourselves, Support, and Our Commitment is to Our Communities.

DIY Magic reminded me of Grow, How to Be More Creative, More Often, Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist, the 75 Tools for Creative Thinking card deck, and Mighty Ugly.

Is Shame Necessary reminded me of The Power of Neighborhood and the Commons, How to Make Trouble and Influence People, Anarchists in the Boardroom, Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind, and everything by CrimethInc.

Dreamland: The Story of America’s New Opiate Epidemic reminded me of Agents & Assets and Whiteout.

And I went to an OMSI Sci-Fi Festival, which reminded me of Bikes in Space volumes one and two, space sharks, Lowriders in Space, and Octavia’s Brood.

Coco

Listening: Jerry Paper’s newest album, an ex-Animal Crossing lovers dream. Perfume Genius, Iceage, and John Coltrane’s Interstellar Space.

Reading: The collected short stories of Lydia Davis, bell hooks’ All About Love, Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Also making a third attempt at Gravity’s Rainbow

Looking at: It Follows- the movie didn’t scare me, but the idea of it did. Tons of stock photos of Komodo dragons for an impromptu art project.