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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Vampire Diaries "Fade Into You" Review

No Mazzy Star in “Fade Into You.” Season 6’s only gimmick is mid-90s nostalgia. Kai listened to the Gin Blossoms at his home, where he prepared a Thanksgiving meal for Bonnie. “Fade Into You” would’ve fit during the flashback scene to May 10, 1994, in which Jo tricked her brother and soon watched him disappear into a hellscape, orchestrated and executed by their father, a man with a salt-and-pepper goatee, Joshua Park, who disappears into thin air and lives in a cloaked house. The tragic history of that family, which includes Liv and Lucas, the other set of living twins from group of siblings split in half, is similar to The Originals--murderous parents, a psychopathic brother, other powerful family members, etc., etc. Along with that is a convoluted plan that takes an entire episode of exposition to set up.

The Originals, now its own series airing Mondays, were engaging, interesting characters for a dozen or so episodes. The story continued despite reaching an endpoint somewhere in season three. The Original family overtook the series. Characters revolved around Klaus and Rebekah rather than story happening for and because of Elena, Stefan, and Damon. Klaus always threatened Elena, Jeremy, her friends, and lovers, but The Vampire Diaries’ writers continued to write for him and his sister, and the rest of the Originals, because they loved the family, the history, the drama, the romance, the intrigue. Scholars say William Shakespeare told someone that, during the writing of Romeo and Juliet, he needed to kill off Mercutio lest he take over the play and take it from his Romeo and his Juliet. Perhaps the Gemini Coven family storyline is a way to re-invent or redo the Originals story before it spiraled into New Orleans and its own separate thing.

Kai killed his family because he wanted to make a statement. The convoluted history of the Gemini coven includes a thing with twins and merging those twins at the age of 22 to create a super person that becomes a leader of the coven. The stronger one lives while the weaker one dies. Liv’s sad throughout Friendsgiving because of her 22nd birthday and her perceived imminent death. The women seem to think the men will live while they die. Liv’s a stronger character than Lukas—more importantly, she’s a stronger witch. She went she-hulk on Bonnie last season during the poorly conceived Travelers arc. Kai’s motivated to return and merge with his sister, killing her, taking her power, and then destroying the coven. He’ll also need to kill his other siblings, I think. His father doesn’t want Kai to return and will kill his children to prevent it. Joshua created Kai’s hell because of Kai’s murders, but he’ll murder the rest of his children to prevent his escape. It’s not the greatest plot.

Plot devices abound in “Fade Into You.” Friendsgiving lacks genuine friendships. Alaric, Stefan, and Damon acknowledge they’ve experienced a plot device, in one of the niftier pieces of storytelling. A stoned John Barth may’ve allowed a begrudging smirk. Friendsgiving brings Jo, Liv, and Lukas together and they remember they are related and nearly murdered together by their brother. Liam’s there until he’s not and then he returns again only to finally disappear after he reacts to Elena’s vampire confession like Scott Hope reacted to anything-staring blankly ahead of him. Elena learned from Stefan she’ll know if Liam loves her by his reaction to her vampire truth. Liam fails. The revealed connection of the siblings reeks of bad daytime soaps. The siblings immediately exposit the hell out of the family history, the convoluted merging thing, the murderous father, the ascendant, et al. Liv’s plight brings her and Tyler closer. Her decision to kill for Tyler happened because the writers needed a character to give a damn for her besides Lukas, and because a character can’t die without someone in love with that character being destroyed (or turned into a werewolf again).

I sort of loved the unnecessary trip to Portland taken by the Salvatore brothers and Alaric. They went in search of the ascendant and failed. Jo has the ascendant in safekeeping. Damon meets Joshua. Joshua soon fries Damon’s brain and tries to kill his own daughter. They find Jo’s magic in a rusty, bloodied knife. Joshua disappears. They accomplish nothing. Stefan remarks that they traveled to a place for something they could’ve gotten at Friendsgiving. The writers essentially conveyed, through Stefan, that, ‘Hey, we need a B story, and we’ve done the new powerful character has what we want before to very mixed results; so, we’ll subvert it, make it clear we subverted it, and that’ll be that.” Alaric doesn’t want to find the ascendant for Jo’s sake, but Damon wants Bonnie back. He compels Alaric to do whatever it takes to take the magic object from his new girlfriend, which sets up conflict between lovers and between best friends.

“Fade Into You” flashes back some, moves the story forward a lot, is very soapy and melodramatic, and not a great set-up for the long arc of the season. The Vampire Diaries already struggles in its sixth season, and now they’re doing another type of originals story. Also, Elena trusts Damon now and wants him to help her find Bonnie-trust she has because he talked about her for four months. Maybe “Fade Into You” would’ve worked for that scene. “Strange things you never knew…” as Elena learns to love her guy again and the camera fades…out.

Other Thoughts:

-Every house in this show looks similar to Leery Manor in Dawson’s Creek. Elena’s looked like Mitch’s castle and so does the home of Joshua, Kai, Kol, Liv, and Lukas.

-Matt and Jeremy didn’t join Friendsgiving because of the Tripp cleanup. The Friendsgiving device failed. It was a mess. It served multiple purposes, including the Caroline/Stefan separation. Stefan apologizes to her at episode’s end, and Caroline thanks him. She walks away, friendship not fixed.

-TVD cast a different actress for young Jo-a sobering moment for me. I remember younger Jodi Lyn O’Keefe in late 90s/early 00s movies.  

-Nina Fiore & John Hererra wrote the episode. Joshua Butler directed it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SCHWOE: A Story of Failure (Oh, Canada, or Who was Ryan Paxton)

Previously: It is December 2002 and I have an idea: interview The Starting Line ; The first band of the month; a Simple Plan interview?!?

Chapter One, Part 3

Canada is our strange neighbor to the north. Simple Plan came to the states as Simple Plan, but they went by the name Reset in Canada-evidently a pop-punk band with a large enough following to attract Atlantic Records, and also a band who came up the honest way, according to Paxton once upon a time. That mattered to me at sixteen. Members of Simple Plan formed Reset in 1993, and Reset toured with MXPX and other pop-punk bands throughout the late 90s. In 1997 they released their debut album. Atlantic Records signed the band afterwards and changed their names. David of Simple Plan told Paxton, but remember he didn’t tell Paxton anything because Paxton didn’t talk to him, that the name changed happened because they left Reset for Simple Plan. The band’s explanation of the name change made their popularity in the states seem even more created and invented., and if Paxton pulled it out of his ass, it reads like he pulled it from his ass and thought me gullible to run it without question. “I’m Just A Kid” was released as their first single in the states. Mark Hoppus appeared in their video for “I’ll Do Anything.” Simple Plan found more success with other songs on the debut American record and became a polarizing pop-punk band because of that success.

Identity is a tricky thing once one crosses country lines. Atlantic and Wind-Up records executives may’ve feared the Canadian distinction for their new bands. Or they thought Americans considered Canadians weird and different, as outsiders. Simple Plan changed their name; another Canadian pop-punk band, T.O.E., signed with Wind Up records in 2003. Wind Up changed the band name. T.O.E. became Cauterize. The record label possibly ruined four songs the band brought with them from Canada, or the guys in Cauterize decided to bland up their distinctive pop-punk songs for radio play. Four years later, the label ruined the band; if not the label then the band. The band abandoned pop-punk for generic vanilla alternative rock. Take a listen to their Canadian records and then listen to their American records. Try not to feel depressed. Wind-Up records destroyed the band. 2003 was still a ‘boom’ year for pop-punk. Major label executives were the opposite of King Midas. Major labels wanted a piece of the pie. They got it and ruined the pie.

Are Canadians weird? No. One must never generalize; one must instead massage the details, study, with microscopic focus, the particularities, Canadians are nice people. Reasonable and polite. Every nationality has its weird individuals, though. Canadians had theirs in Kamloops, British Columbia, home of Schwoe’s one-time writer/interviewer Ryan Paxton. Paxton liked wrestling, pop-punk, punk, hardcore, post-hardcore, partying, using livejournal, posting to wrestling fan forums, inciting rebellions against the forum’s moderators, dating multiple girls at a time, experiencing crises because he couldn’t date all without hurting the girls, and making up stories about his family and his music life. The Internet’s message boards in the early 2000s were not different from message boards in 2014. Message boards are a place for people who share a common interest gather, converse, make jokes, dramatize every little thing, act as armchair liberals or armchair republicans, to announce he or she has signed a petition and done nothing else for a cause that needs more than a signature on a recyclable piece of paper. I frequented a wrestling fan forum from 2000 until 2003. I talked about the nonsense of pro wrestling. Friendships formed. Among the Internet friends was a guy from England, who suggested I listen to Thrice; a gentleman from Upstate New York with whom I remain in contact; a rural boy from Michigan, who used to race go-karts; and English major who mocked my teenage fascination with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Chats happened on AOL Instant Messenger. Conversations ranged from Triple H beating The Rock to girls to the television shows Dawson’s Creek and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, music, personal stuff, rants about friends, and rants about the forum.

Paxton and I talked about all sorts of topics: hockey, girls, music, movies, tours, school, and work. Paxton told stories of his native Kamloops. I told stories of SEPTA train stations. I shared with Paxton my feelings about girls I wouldn’t share with my closest friends, because I felt mortified thinking of it spreading, of people knowing, of it ruining friendships. He lived outside my social sphere. His whispers wouldn’t travel from ear to ear. His fingers wouldn’t dial numbers I didn’t want dial, and his mouth wouldn’t share what I didn’t want him to share. I told him about this girl and that girl. He shared with me his conflicting feelings about loving a girl while loving another girl, a Cadence and Ashley, six hour train rides, endless conversations at a Vancouver party, and an eventual decision to love Cadence instead of Ashley-these girls followed other girls, Michelle, Karen, and on and on and on. I told him about the secret surprises and catharsis of a religious retreat I wouldn’t share with other souls.

Paxton introduced me to New Found Glory and Fenix TX in 2001. New Found Glory and Fenix TX led me to so many influential bands in my life it’s hard to count, two bands I still consider staples of my life, the nostalgia of my past, my friends for the future. I had a lingering crush on a brunette the summer prior to my freshman year of high school. At Bethany Beach I listened to New Found Glory’s “Eyesore.” I thought New Found Glory’s lyrics were for me, you see, and just for me. When Jordan sang, “Girl, play on, the boys will stay even if you’re gone” I felt he knew the specifics of my situation with that girl and sang those words to make me feel better and to let me know I was not alone-and I didn’t understand the specifics of my situation. I lacked a situation. I imagined a situation to relate to. I knew that I liked her, and that I wanted to sing to her “Change” by Good Charlotte-innocent longing that soon shifted from a brunette to a blonde hair Russian, and then her best friend, another blonde with a French name that meant singer or to sing, a mystical meaning, for she told me, “I was born to sing,” and I imagined playing the music I loved for them and them alone, locking eyes during my cover of “Eyesore” or “Change” or Fenix TX’s “Katie W” or The Starting Line’s “Three’s a Charm.” I imagined a heart-rending video for “Three’s a Charm.” I walked through a crowded dance floor in the west gymnasium at my high school dance in search of my blonde hair Russian darling, only to find her dancing with another, and then walking away only for her to follow and sit with me outside in the rain as Kenny sang the earnest words of woe and pain of youthful romance that wasn’t.

Being in a band was the coolest prospect for me at 16. Blink 182’s The Mark, Tom and Travis Show inspired a desire to play original music with my friends, in front of people, to be part of the scene. Mark and Tom sounded like they had a blast playing songs and making jokes. I wanted to be in a band so badly. I’d ride the bus home from school, listening to my favorite songs and imagined myself on stage drumming, girls swooning, my vocalist crooning. I tried to play the drums. I got my first drum set for Christmas in 2000. I immediately tried to play Travis Barker’s beats from Enema of the State. I couldn’t play Barker’s beats. I tried to mimic his fills, but my precise rhythm was in my head and not my hands. My father signed me up for drum lessons. Each Wednesday, I tried. I failed. I lacked discipline. My drum teacher looked disappointed every week I came without improvement, repeating the same exercises, and paradiddles. Pete, one of my closest friends, and I talked about playing music during the daily bus ride home from school. Another friend, Jawn, wanted to play music: bass or guitar didn’t matter. Making music did. We wanted to play fun music and meet girls.

Paxton knew about my desire to be in a band, to stand on stage and play music and impress girls, because all girls want to be with a musician, and especially a drummer. Paxton, in 2002, told me about his local band in Kamloops, Appleby, that played in local pizza shop and recorded music in a studio. His band recently started. They practiced for hours every day, he told me. They played shows in no time. Every weekend. Friday and Saturday nights. I thought my band, whenever we started, would play shows in no time. Paxton made the process seem easy. He sent me a song written and recorded by his band. Paxton never explained why the band chose the name Appleby. I later theorized he named the band Appleby as a deliberate tribute to TheWB series Roswell that starred one of late 90s prettiest young actresses, Shiri Appleby. Soon after, he sent more songs. One of the songs had a different vocalist. Paxton explained the band had changed vocalists. The guitar work improved within a few weeks. The production quality increased. One time he sent a quality live recording of a cover of Fenix TX’s “Threesome.” I thought Canadians either recorded extremely fast, and possessed endless vaults of cash, and were entitled to any top-notch recording equipment they want, or that maybe Paxton lied about his band.

The Appleby tracks rolled out and into my file folder like an Omar Rodriguez-Lopez solo album. Appleby played pop-punk music with an alternative edge. The initial batch of songs featured a vocalist whose vocals were snotty and earnest, the essence of early 00s pop-punk/skate punk. Tony Hawk wouldn’t hesitate to use one of the songs for his video game soundtrack. The second batch of songs featured a vocalist with a high-pitched voice who sang with attitude and sharp feeling about losing the girl he loved and feeling heart-broken. The guitar, bass, and drum work was tighter in the latter songs. I admired Paxton for making music as good as the music I wanted to write and to write about. I felt cool because I knew a dude whose band seemed poised for something: a record deal or a tour. I blindly believed what he told me. Of course it makes sense one vocalist would leave and another would effortlessly fill the gap in the band. Of course it makes sense the band’s music style would drastically change in a week’s time and that the band quickly release new music.
Paxton slowly introduced his family and social circle to me as Appleby continued. I met his sister, Audrey Paxton, sixteen, cute, a year older than me in 2002. I met her best friend, Karen Laviolette, as well as Paxton’s best friend, known as Seb. His sister and their friends supported his story about Appleby. Did Audrey seeing her brother play? Yes. Audrey wouldn’t tell lies. Seb had a band, polished, punk, and poppy. Did Seb play with Appleby? Oh, yes. Seb wouldn’t lie either. No one lied. I thought no one capable of it in my teenage youth. Seb’s band had a bland generic alternative-rock sound. I ignored that. I knew two dudes in rising punk bands. I wanted a part. I wanted to visit Kamloops to take in a show, hang out with Audrey and Karen, because they were pretty and liked pop-punk, which, for my teenage self, were the only qualities I sought in a girl. I wanted to bro it up with Paxton and Seb.

Paxton, though, and Paxton’s sister, his friends, and Karen, blended together in a weird way. They seemed similar-one voice divided among five people. Ryan wrote well. He kept a livejournal about his life-his hockey league, his frustrations at work, his misadventures with women, and his dramatic family life. Realistic stories, yes, but some had a Lifetime bent such as the entry he wrote about him helping his mother and finding an older man and his daughter, barely saying a word to either, and then later learning from his mother that the man was his father and the young girl his half-sister. I’d talk to Audrey and Paxton at the same time; I later learned how a person could use multiple chat screens.

Crazy and odd occurrences happened. Someone told me—Audrey or Karen, maybe Seb,--that Paxton was in a car accident and in a coma. I received updates from Audrey, Karen and Seb for the entire near-fortnight. Fourteen days later, Paxton came home, got online, and didn’t miss a beat. Strange, I thought, how a comatose person could bounce back so quickly. I didn’t think twice about the quick recovery from a near-fortnight coma. Maybe he had good genes.

Ryan Paxton’s world seemed increasingly insular and strange to me. Things didn’t make sense. A new Appleby song featured another new singer. I noticed live track of the “Threesome” cover was titled “Fenix Tx--Threesome” in my music player. Perhaps, Paxton meant to write “cover” in parenthesis. The live “Threesome” was the funniest thing I heard besides the banter between Tom and Mark on the live album. The vocalist, another new one, which Paxton explained to me: their bassist had the best voice for the song. The bassist went back and forth with the crowd about the subject of the song. Everyone wants a threesome. Raise your hand if you want a threesome. So much enthusiasm for threesomes. Appleby’s bassist’s voice floored me; he sounded exactly like Will Salazar, guitarist, vocalist, and founder of Fenix TX.

I didn’t connect the dots.

Appleby planned to tour the east coast in the summer of 2002. The tour, Ryan told me, would take them to Southeastern Pennsylvania. I planned different activities for the Kamloops bunch-sightseeing, I asked my parents for permission to let them stay at our house, and I told Pete and Jawn that the Canadians were coming. The mysterious Canadians, gosh darn pop punk prodigies. I waited and waited and waited for Paxton to tell me where Appleby would play. Venues are scattered throughout Philadelphia-center city, north Philly, Chinatown, the Spring Garden section, college campuses. Paxton told me Appleby booked a date in Glenside at the Keswick Theater. I never heard of the Keswick. I researched the venue. A brief Internet search for the venue showed that a Keswick Theater existed in Glenside, and it presented plays and recitals, magicians, too; it was not a venue for any rock music. I couldn’t ignore that odd venue choice.
Other dominos began to fall in the Appleby ruse. I don’t remember how but I found out that the first batch of songs I received were written and recorded by a Canadian band named Rimtrick. The second batch of songs were written and recorded by T.O.E.. Indeed, the Fenix TX cover of “Threesome” was not a cover but an actual live recording of Fenix TX playing “Threesome.”  Appleby’s bassist sounded like Will because he was Will.

My mind ran wild. I felt duped, foolish, embarrassed. I wrote bad lyrics about the situation. I confronted Paxton. I showed him my scathing lyrics. Paxton soon disappeared for several weeks. I wrote a poor piece of passive-aggressive prose on the wrestling fan forum deriding people who fabricate and fool people. Audrey and Seb disappeared. Strangely, Karen continued signing onto AOL Instant Messenger. I asked her questions. She explained that the Paxtons were manipulative people who’ve lied and fabricated stories in the past. “Don’t trust them again,” Karen warned. Karen continued defame the Paxton name, telling me about the true Audrey, who stole other girls’ boyfriends, and about the true Seb, and about the true Ryan.
Two new Canadians, male and female, siblings, who were unrelated to the Paxtons, began talking to me, through the wrestling fan forum. The new Canadians were similar to Ryan and Audrey. They used the same emoticons, the same syntax, shared the same interests as the Paxtons. The new Canadians hung around for a month, but they disappeared when the Paxtons resurfaced.

Paxton admitted to making up Appleby and using the songs of Canadian bands. Karen and Paxton revealed they were a potential couple to me as if their coupling would solve the issues. They portrayed themselves as the great redeemers of the manipulative people in their lives. I didn’t care if Karen and Paxton were a couple. I didn’t believe Karen Laviolette existed. Paxton loved hockey. He probably took Laviolette from NHL coach Peter Laviolette. Audrey dropped off the Internet. Karen told me in e-mails that she couldn’t forgive her for lying to me nor for stealing her boyfriend. Paxton didn’t talk about her, because she probably didn’t exist. Truth was rare with Paxton. Karen became a defacto me-an outsider, hurt and betrayed by the same people, who, through our shared experiences, I could trust. The lies continued. Karen and Paxton told me Karen’s sister was engaged to lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist of Rufio, Scott Sellers, which amazed me. How does a teenage girl’s sister from Kamloops meet and fall in love with a touring musician who resided in Rancho Cucamonga, California? And why would I care? Weren’t Paxton and Karen going to date? Karen wanted Paxton take her virginity before she left for university in Vancouver. Why did they keep telling me lies? There were plot-holes that would embarrass a former Dawson’s Creek show runner in the Canadians’ stories.
Karen left for the University of Vancouver and disappeared. I asked about her. Ryan wrote me, in November 2004, “As for your questions.... Karen is doing good in classes, but she is an emotional wreck. She has tons of work and no time for any social activity.” Paxton’s entire social circle disappeared, the ones I knew anyway. He continued to write about people I never talked to, whose lives didn’t become intertwined with mine. Maybe the number of characters he invented was difficult for him to manage. That’s how unimaginative writers write off a character. Poof, she’s gone. She went to the moon.

Paxton lingered like Limp Bizkit without Fred Durst and Wes Borland; here and there he appeared, and then he returned with a new livejournal, a new e-mail, and a new AIM screenname. He didn’t mention his sister or his friends. He had no bands. He worked blue-collar jobs, considered moving to Ireland or to the eastern part of Canada. I decided to move past the lies and forgive him. I told Paxton about Schwoe. Paxton shared my interest in music, in The Scene, and I trusted that he’d contribute quality content to Schwoe. I don’t know why I trusted him after months of lies, fabrications, but I did-a flaw in my design, perhaps. Paxton explained why he wanted to be part of a magazine type thing: I have a lot of ideology and philosophies about music, and I just need a way to vent them out.  So thanks for letting me be a part of it dude! Rock on and peace.” Of course, old habits are hard to break. His first submission was a fabricated Simple Plan interview set up by his fictional friend Seb. The Simple Plan interview could not exist. The existence of it would’ve made possible the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Appleby, his sister, his social circle, his life. Who was Ryan Paxton?

I asked for interviews with local Canadian bands like Rimtrick or T.O.E. Paxton e-mailed me a five-question interview with David of Simple Plan that touched on Reset and what it was like to leave the comfortable success of Quebec. Paxton was a maximalist always because maybe life in Kamloops bored him. I ran the Simple Plan interview. I couldn’t prove its fabrication no more than I could prove any of the people I knew actually existed. Simple Plan was a prominent name in a new fanzine created by a 16 year old kid. I trusted; I forgave. People can change, I thought. People change all the time, in many ways, every second, every minute, like the sky overhead, like constantly moving, transforming clouds, scattered, thin, thick, like great cities made of rich cotton, vast and remote. 

NEXT: The January and February issues; and trying, trying, trying, to land a Starting Line interview

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SCHWOE: A Story of Failure (the first Band of the Month; Simple Plan Interview?!?)

Previously: It's December 2002 and I have an idea.

Chapter One, Part Two

I used to be a nu-metal head. I recorded Godsmack’s special live Halloween performance in 2000. I owned two Staind records. I watched Limp Bizkit’s “Rearranged” video too many times to count. I wore my white socks high because Fred Durst wore his white socks high during a MTV Spring Break performance. I tried to sing like Jonathan Davies. I wanted to become a Wiccan because of Sully Erna. My musical tastes changed during my formative years. New Found Glory and Fenix TX were the beginning of my personal shift in music tastes. The bands, first and foremost, seemed like they were having fun playing music. Nu-metal bands looked suicidal during their performances. New Found Glory and Fenix TX wrote songs about broken hearts but they had fun doing it whereas the Stainds of the music world sang depressing words about being depressed and looked seconds away from slitting their wrists. I didn’t relate to suicidal thoughts and depressing performances, to crooning whines sung to the sound of pouring rain. I moved towards music I identified with, that captured how it felt to be young and confused.

Decades ago, my late father, a jazz musician in his soul, who passed on the soul of song to me, bought a beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where he took me, my siblings, and my mother, and any friends we had, to during the summer. The town of Rehoboth is small, quaint, relaxed, with streets lined with small shops, tiny restaurants, ice cream shops, art galleries, candy shops, arcades, sports memorabilia, and bars. There used to be a record store on a street corner off Rehoboth Avenue. My dad and I used to wander around the store. He’d come across a quality jazz record, and I’d look for any pop-punk bands I could find. During my childhood, I bought Michael Jackson tapes from the store, which my parents would play in the car during our drive home from town. I sang along, annoying my sister, to “Off The Wall” and “Rock With You” and “Can’t Help It.” During the summer of 2001, I saw a giant poster displaying the name RX Bandits with Progress written underneath the image of a Native American. The poster had a white backdrop. A date on the poster promised a release date for Progress. Something about the poster and the name connected with me. RX Bandits. It stuck; it differed from Godsmack, Korn, Staind-ugly names, sour names that turned one’s face. I went home and downloaded a song of theirs titled “Status” on Napster, back in the days when Napster was reviled in the music industry by Metallica. That solitary download of RX Bandits’ “Status” was transformative. I just graduated from the eighth grade. I’d begin high school in September. “Status” is the antithesis of high school, of one’s idea about how to live, of a normal life, of what’s important and what isn’t; it was the antithesis of my entire adolescent world where the opinions of others mattered so much more than my opinions, and the opinion of myself mattered, where appearance mattered more than all of the other stuff that made me a person. Matt Embree sang these influential lyrics about how what you feel inside matters more than how you look outside, how status doesn’t matter, asking, ‘what do you want with status? I don’t need no status: I have a mind of my own; do you have a mind of your own?”  Sung to music that made me want to dance and be kind to everyone I met.

The idea of Schwoe originated during the peak of pop-punk, the punk, the new revolution of the independent scene. Fans voted New Found Glory’s “My Friends Over You” onto Total Request Live daily. Blink 182 made exclusive announcements on TRL about an upcoming album or music video, tours even. Listening to the music, attending shows, buying merch, and hoping to get a ticket signed off and mumble “You’re really good, thanks” wasn’t enough for 16-year-old Chris. I needed to be part of The Scene, to be in it; but how? Websites such as Punk News, Absolute Punk, and Emotional Punk, were the models for me, for my idea of Schwoe, examples for how to use the Internet to report on and be involved with The Scene. The three sites posted interviews, record reviews, and news. Punknews is more purist, intolerant of sellouts, and fanatically judgmental. Absolutepunk embraced the popularity of The Scene and became an all-encompassing resource for new music, new bands, record reviews, show reviews, concert photographs, contents, exclusive announcements, and exclusive Q&As with bands, while EmotionalPunk contented itself with conducting solid interviews and publishing informative reviews, including the best review of Fairweather’s Lusitania. I, ambitious 16-year-old Chris that I was, wanted to blend the sites together to produce the ultimate guide to punk rock, pop-punk and emo, the essential resource for the early millennial Scene.

The genesis of Schwoe is simple. I wanted to hang out with my favorite bands. Journalistic integrity/responsibility weren’t meritous concepts for a 16-year-old boy. I knew, though, that Schwoe needed structure, form, but above that, it needed something groundbreaking. Groundbreaking for me meant an interview. I wanted an interview with a major band-or what I considered a major band. Schwoe wouldn’t launch without an interview with a major band. What was Schwoe, though? A name. A name without a form, without structure; Schwoe remained an idea, a dream, that I needed to figured out and then do it.

I decided on a fanzine format because I couldn’t build a website. I decided the fanzine would run through an e-mail subscription service and whatever kind of easy website I could build using GeoCities or Angelfire. Readership depended on the fans of interviewed bands following a link on the band’s page to Schwoe. Each issue would include a Band of the Month feature, Bands to Check Out, show and record reviews. I wanted contests. I wanted access. The tiny idea seemed monumental to me. The Starting Line humbled the Liam Gallagher side of me, the aspiring Jason Tate in me. Grand ideas about access and being an insider would not happen because I wanted it to happen. Telling my friends about Schwoe and that I’d interview The Starting Line didn’t mean anything. Doing it did. I needed to work to make what I wanted happen, happen.
Bands signed to record labels, toured the United States, Europe, and Asia, selling out venues nightly, and if not, came close to it. Younger bands toured with established bands to hopefully find new fans among fans of the headliner. These bands didn’t need me, a sixteen year old who looked like a stick, to tell people about them. I thought that successful and famous bands were great for Schwoe’s exposure; however, Schwoe wouldn’t be a worth a damn in publicists’ eyes. What did any of their bands gain from spending their time talking to a 16 year old that couldn’t figure out how to get back stage for a scheduled interview? That didn’t know how to do the idea?

I speculated that local bands were similar to Schwoe: unknown, ambitious, hoping to be heard, wanting to be known. The Scene included the smallest bands playing in basements for four friends. The Philadelphia scene received a boost from the success of The Starting Line and Days Away. I took an active interest in the local scene. I searched for bands on the Internet. I read through message boards for tips and leads. Don’t Look Down, a catchy four-piece pop-punk band, hailed from South Jersey and included the son of a former Philadelphia mayor playing the bass guitar. I found the band through a search engine and heard their song “Brainwashed” on “Brainwashed” is a two and a half minute infectiously poppy punk song about a girl. Don’t Look Down was already Going Places, though. I didn’t want to try to interview them, only for what happened that December night outside of The Trocadero theater to repeat. The band released a full-length album two years before, in May 2001. The band toured with MXPX and Midtown. In spring 2003 they co-headlined a show at the Northstar bar with Allister. The first local band I found didn’t need Schwoe, but they represented, to me, the untapped potential of the local scene. Through the same research tools, I found 10 Seconds Too Late, a generic pop-punk band--you know the kind--slick riffs, catchy hooks, songs about girls. Good enough for Schwoe.

10 Seconds Too Late were accessible, which mattered more than anything. I didn’t need to go through a publicist to request an interview nor deal with any post-request hurdles. No publicists. No humiliation. No stress. No bitterly cold waits on the corner of 10th and Arch. E-mail interviews were seen more and more on websites. In-person interviews still happened, but e-mails were easier for both parties. The band needed only to type their responses to a list of questions. The horrible laptop I used and a working dial-up connection were all I needed to conduct my first interview with Schwoe’s first band of the month, 10 Seconds Too Late.

10 Seconds Too Late formed in the summer of 2002. Drummer Matt Tholey and guitarist Todd Cericola wanted to write fun music and recruited a former band mate of theirs in Drive Faster. Another former band mate joined to complete the foursome. The band and I talked about those origins, the writing process, and other ordinary and uninteresting stuff bad interviewers ask bands. My most original question involved SEPTA, which they couldn’t answer due to their suburban upbringing. Any band that claims Philly as their home town isn’t telling the truth. Philly’s a recognizable city whereas Hatboro, Horsham, Doylestown, Glenside, etc. aren’t. I wanted to know whether or not women wanted to hang out with him because he drummed, because I drummed. It was an important question, totally specific to me, and an instance of my teenage solipsistic interest in producing a fanzine.

I adopted the format of interviews I read online. Long-form pieces and profiles weren’t what I knew. I didn’t turn the ten questions with 10 Seconds Too Late into a sizable piece about the untapped talent in the local scene as represented by them. No, I just copied and pasted the e-mail document into a Microsoft Word file. Were the questions even good or interesting or engaging? I didn’t know. The interview was a test run. I never contacted them again. They never sent a copy of their EP for review. Barely anyone read the January issue of Schwoe that spotlighted them. The quality suffered from inexperience--in production, writing, editing, marketing, and promotion. Everything. Microsoft Word 97 and a vague subscription idea were the best an unemployed high school sophomore could do.

I assembled a small staff from a wrestling fan forum community. Schwoe’s staff included a 13 year old from Long Island, New York, who never stopped going on about Long Island’s Brand New. An early twenty-something year old from Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, joined the staff to write record reviews, his name Ryan Paxton. January’s issue had the band of the month, reviews, both show and records, but it needed another band interview. Schwoe now modeled Alternative Press in my sixteen year old mind even if Schwoe didn‘t model Alternative Press in the slightest. Interviews were in the front of the zine. Reviews were in the back. Dan wouldn't contribute to the issue unless Brand New granted him an interview. Ryan Paxton, the Canadian contributor, wrote three reviews and then wrote me in an e-mail dated January 9, 2003,
Other than that, I've contacted David Desrosiers of simple plan through someone that you may not like, but still he gave me a personal address to send him some questions for the zine.  As for The Used, right now it looks like I'm going to go to interview the Used at Michelles work.  I'm going to get an interview with Bert from The Used, but that wont be until Jan 19th. I've always wanted to be apart of a magazine of some sort.  I have a lot of  ideology and philosophies about music, and I just need a way to vent them out.  So thanks for letting me be a part of it dude! Rock on and peace. 
Days later I checked my e-mail and saw his interview with Simple Plan in my inbox, that Canadian pop-punk band people thought were ‘factory-made’ by Atlantic Records. Simple Plan wrote “I’m Just A Kid,” which The New Guy, starring Eliza Dushku and DJ Qualls, used. Simple Plan was a huge get for the fanzine. An impressive launch seemed guaranteed, with, I imagined, scores of people subscribing to the fanzine; however, the existence of the interview gnawed me; it felt off; untrue; made up. I doubted that it was a big get, and I knew it didn't guarantee an impressive launch. I never proved or disproved the authenticity of the interview. His reference to 'someone I may not like' was to someone who may've never existed but whose existence I also never proved or disproved. I buried the interview behind 10 Seconds Too Late, because I thought that Simple Plan never interviewed with Schwoe, because Simple Plan never interviewed with Schwoe.

NEXT TIME: Oh, Canada; or, who was Ryan Paxton?

About The Foot

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Originally, the blog was titled "Jacob's Foot" after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. Since that ended, and I wanted to continue writing about TV, it became TV with The Foot. I write about various television shows. Follow me on Twitter @JacobsFoot. E-mail me at