The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Wednesday, April 4, 2001

We Owe You Nothing

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: "It's all about being in flux. There's no finality to any of this." The words are Thurston Moore's, from the very end of an interview that appears in "We Owe You Nothing/ punk planet: the collected interviews" (Akashic Books). I've been reading some of those interviews over the past few days, and I've found them quite inspiring. I'm also inspired by an interview with Amphetamine Reptiles founder Tom Hazelmyer in Punk Planet's current (March/April) issue. The story of Punk Planet itself is a lesson in turning DIY philosophy into something real, and with real impact — "Punk," writes founder Daniel Sinker, "has always been about asking 'why' and then doing something about it." Art-school student and punk-rock fan Sinker started Punk Planet in 1994, although he was not a journalist and had never published a magazine before. "But that's kind of the point, isn't it?" he writes in his introduction to the book. "I'm not a journalist — never have been and probably never will be. And thank god for that. I've managed to pull off over 40 issues of Punk Planet not because of years spent in journalism school, but because I believed in the dream called punk. Punk said that anyone could take part — in fact, anyone should take part." Later in the intro he continues: "Punk writers aren't sitting at home hoping that their pieces get published, they're publishing them themselves; fans aren't waiting around for someone to put out a record by their favorite band, they're releasing it themselves.... Punk has never waited for the OK from anyone to step out on its own. DIY is the answer to 'Why?'" Similar impulses motivated me to start Addicted To Noise in 1994 (a few years later, I happened across a copy of Punk Planet for the first time). The entertainment, book publishing and media business perpetuates the myth that you need an established company's stamp of approval to be a "real writer" or a "real musician." When I was starting out as a writer many years ago, the first thing I'd be asked if I told someone I was a writer was "Are you freelance or on staff?" The way they said "freelance," they might as well have been describing someone with the plague. Writers, musicians and artists are notoriously insecure; their insecurity plays into a business in which magazine and book editors and record company executives set themselves up as judges, handing out awards ("You're a real talent!") or rejection slips. It took me over 20 years to learn that the opinion of some editor at Rolling Stone has nothing to do with whether my work is good or not. But once you learn that you don't need someone else to tell you that what you're doing is good, it frees you in the most amazing way. And such a feeling of freedom produces bands like Sleater-Kinney, or Sonic Youth, or GBV or Low. Punk Planet is a good magazine because it doesn't want to emulate Spin or other slick media. Yeah, sometimes I read things in there that I would be embarrassed to publish because they're so hopelessly naïve. Big deal — I'd rather see that than another cynical (or ridiculous) trend piece in the Sunday New York Times "Arts and Leisure" section. Daniel Sinker could care less, I'm sure. I heard a term many years ago: beginner's mind. When you haven't done something a thousand times, you can approach it in a fresh and open way. The trick, as you gain experience and expertise, is to keep that perspective. Reading interviews with Moore, and the rebel Kathleen Hanna and the designer Art Chantry, helps me regain "beginner's mind."

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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