The Los Angeles free paper LA Record has been putting local, indie, hip hop and country musicians on the cover since its inception in 2005. But make no mistake; the LA Record is punk rock. Conceived by then OC Weekly music editor Chris Ziegler and friend, publisher Charlie Rose, the paper has blossomed into the sort of thing that you find left behind at local hipster coffee shops, print smudged and mug stained. The last paper Isaac Hayes ever gave an interview to was also the first to feature most of the now famous 'Smell bands' and Smell phenomena that has overtaken most of the Los Angeles music scene this past year and a half.
No Age graced their pages months before the New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones came to sniff about them. Mika Miko, David Scott Stone, Abe Vigoda as well as psychedelic freaky folk, Pocahaunted have all had their turns gracing the small press, that has, for its short existence, covered a lot of ground and made considerable growth in its time alive. Originally presented as a fold out poster in which a local band would recreate a famous album cover, they have now expanded to a monthly paper more in the tradition of Crawdaddy or early issues of Creem magazine.
The entire thing is edited and patched together in Ziegler's bedroom, where he sits daily in his bathrobe fielding and managing the many freelance writers that work for him. The team has also grown from a small group of four or five to a rotating staff that includes regular employees. All in all though, it remains, largely, a labor of love forever wavering on the brink of extinction. Rose and Ziegler juggling credit cards and breaking even with profits in order to cover the paper's costs and debts.
The Record, as it's referred to by most of its readers and fans, joins a long tradition of Los Angeles free music press. Much of which hasn't fared terribly well in times of financial upheaval, which is partly why the the Record's continued survival seems to liken it to something of a little engine that could.
Previous zines and attempts to redefine the LA music scene through free press have managed to make brilliant stabs at what it is exactly that makes the LA music scene so exciting, unique and hard to define. It simply doesn't sit still long enough to settle. Papers such as Slash magazine, the iconic punk hand out that lasted from 1977-1980 and was one of the first papers to feature The Germs, The Bags, Black Flag and other notable LA punk bands; Flip Side Fanzine, which debuted in 1977 and lasted all the way to 2000 and was for many years the reigning king of the LA free press, starting as a handful of photo copies scrawled and pasted together and then stapled. It also outlived the initial first wave of LA punk that it helped to popularize. BAM Magazine, the San Francisco punk equivalent, which launched in 1976 eventually started publishing two separate issues, one in San Francisco, one in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles edition became for many people, along with the city's heavy hitter and only survivor, the LA Record, the go to for the burgeoning 80's metal hair scene that stretched into the early 90's and included Motley Crue, Guns N Roses and other glam experimenter's such as Jane's Addiction, until Flip Side, regained popularity with it's coverage of the growing indie rock scene that included everyone from Black Fag, performance artist Vaginal Davis's band, to Beck, to Elliot Smith.
And until recently, Arthur Magazine. Editor Jay Babcock's baby, which seemed as if it would make it to the homestretch. Unfortunately, the free radical paper which defined in many ways the anti-war stance of the Bush years and included such memorable contributors as Thurston Moore, Art Spiegelman and did stories on such local acts as Lavender Diamond, and cult figures like Diamonda Gala's, finally succumbed to the financial reality of these hard times and exists now as an online blog.
The LA Record has some big footsteps to follow in, but so far the secret to their success seems to be that rather than walk in them, they do things their own way and walk beside, careful to watch other publications missteps and detour around pitfalls and traps. Here's to hoping this little paper can beat the odds.