Diatribe Of The Day: Punk Rockers Against Paste Magazine, and Everything Else For That Matter

Being on the overlap of the dying print industry and the struggling music industry, Decatur based Paste Magazine has had to face down the same squeeze most everyone else has. First they tried a “pay what you want” subscription model as a creative solution, and then earlier this year reached a breaking point and began a donation drive to have fans pitch in to keep the publication alive in exchange for rare songs donated from musicians. But some around the city have expressed contempt for Paste and how they have dealt with their struggles, epitomized by Chunklet Magazine calling out Paste on their website.

Now, I can completely appreciate the sentiment of harpooning other music publications, I do it all the time. In fact, I’m about to do it in this article. And I’ve even been critical of Paste on occasion myself. But this Chunklet rant is just so poorly executed and lazily put together, and that’s surprising because most of what I read from them is usually hilarious. If you’re going to throw down the gauntlet, at least do it with some style. Paste has plenty of elements ripe for satire, but very little outside of 5th grade humour is utilized here. This just reeks of nothing but vitriol jealousy.

As I’ve already admitted, Paste has plenty of imperfections, but there are far worse publications in the world. Compared to other national mags like Spin or Rolling Stone, I’d take Paste over them any day of the week. Regardless of the state of Paste currently, they were on the forefront of backing this Internet music revolution, and they were way ahead of the curve in that respect. They have backed some bands that I don’t think deserve the credit they receive, but they have also done a lot of positive things for the local scene. And right now with all of the problems the music print industry is having, they are doing their best to experiment and try different things in order to find a new paradigm of obtaining revenue. Even if the Radiohead model wasn’t extremely successful and this donation drive is only a temporary solution, they should be applauded for not just sitting on their ass waiting for the walls to crumble around them like everyone else. If the print industry is going to survive in any meaningful way, it is going to take pioneers like Paste to illuminate that path. The fact that so many people are willing to rally around Paste to keep it alive points to a widespread appreciation of the value of this magazine.

As much as the Chunklet stab seems to have gotten the most attention, they aren’t the only one attacking Paste. Stomp And Stammer’s Jeff Clark expressed his disapproval of Paste’s donation drive by saying “I hope they don’t go out of business, but if you can’t make it, you shouldn’t beg. It kind of compromises what you do.” Now this hypocrisy annoys me much more than the weak Chunklet swipe. The issues of objectivity and uncompromised music journalism is a subject that has been of great interest to me over my time as a blogger, and I’ve recently been working on a piece addressing these issues. Without going too far into this specifically, as I will hopefully post that up very soon, you would be hard pressed to convince me there isn’t a single publication in this state, let alone the entire world, that isn’t at least marginally compromised by the method in which it receives its revenue. It would seem to me that finding a way for your audience to pay the tab would compromise what you’re doing far less than the artists you are supposedly critiquing paying you off. I wonder if The Coathangers weren’t the heavily funded, PR and advertisement buying juggernauts they are if Stomp and Stammer wouldn’t have put forth this spooge-fest disguised as journalism. If that article isn’t compromised by something, the only way I can make sense of it is that it is satire and they agree with me that Scramble is the worst album to come out of Atlanta all year (seriously, at least the first record was funny, without the shtick all you have left is overconfidence and talentlessness). I wonder if that writer can even get a hard on without listening to that terrible band. But I digress.

What is really going on here is that the local garage punk community will stop at nothing to oppress any dissenting voice that doesn’t agree they are the greatest and everything else sucks. They like to purport that they are the little guys fighting against the establishment, but the reality is exactly the opposite. Now that Paste is weak, it is time for them to try and pick it off and continue monopolizing their influence. Look, I’m glad that scene has enjoyed so much success and I’ve got nothing but congratulations for everything they achieved, but the punk rockers currently dominate almost every local record label, represent nearly every band getting national attention, even have their own documentary, and have firm control over every major local publication except Paste, and now Paste needs to die?

We don’t all have to hold hands and sing “Cumbaya”, but I think there’s enough room to support a lot of different voices and opinions in this big city, and that is the only way a scene can remain healthy and vital in the long run anyways.

But, the pendulum is swinging back, and I’m not going to pronounce this garage-punk fad over yet, but it is most definitely on the down slope. Sure they will always have their crowd and the people that dig it, but just as that scene was a reaction to the mathy scene of days past, what’s happening in the city at this moment is a direct reaction to the oversaturation of shitty punk. You guys had your decade in the spotlight, you had your glory, and whining that you guys don’t have enough, like wishing Paste dead, is only going to exacerbate the growing sentiment that it is time for a changing of the guard. There is a vibrant pocket of incredible bands and enthusiastic fans that are embracing intelligent music and diversity of sound and this hi-tech age. The old guys may not be aware of it from their ivory towers, or maybe they just don’t care, but there is a serious movement going on in this town right now, and these ridiculously talented artists deserve their moment just as the punks did.

In the end though, as much as these punk journalists wish they could eliminate and drown out every other voice and be able to keep shoving Black Lips clones down everyone’s throat, they are on the losing side of history. The young kids who are the future audience of this city’s music scene don’t want to hear the same old thing over and over again. And thanks to the Internet and us pajama-clad amateurs, they have plenty of alternatives. When I started this meager blog, there were only a few others in the city, and now I can hardly even keep up with all the new local outlets. And I love it, there is so much diversity of opinion. It’s great that everybody can find a niche and a voice. We are a major metropolitan city and we should be able to support everybody doing something special. So punk rockers, you had a great run, but you don’t need to cry just because somebody else is getting some attention, and don’t be jealous just because Atlanta is also willing to support people that don’t agree with you in addition to you. I’m going to keep on reading both Chunklet and Paste, even if that is going to make Mr. Owings soil his panties, because there is enough room here for both of them.

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9 Responses to “Diatribe Of The Day: Punk Rockers Against Paste Magazine, and Everything Else For That Matter”
  1. john Says: July 16th, 2009 at 10:38 pm


  2. Julia Reidy Says: July 16th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I hate to be offended by blowhards, but this line of Owings’ made me physically angry: “And let me say right now that if you’ve ever been a follower of Paste Magazine (other than for research purposes or morbidly curious reasons) and also read Chunklet, I don’t want you as a supporter of our endeavors.” Well, Henry, I’m a former Paste intern. And I until now, I read (and purchased!) Chunklet and enjoyed it. So which is a bigger “fuck you”? Never even being in the same room with an issue of Chunklet again? Or continuing to read it with pleasure?

    Help me here, because I’m at a loss.

  3. Phoebe Cates Says: July 17th, 2009 at 12:01 am

    I played in the fundraiser that spurred Chunklet’s shitty article (pun intended!) and I’d like to kindly tell Henry to lick my balls. I will continue to read Chunklet AND Paste, despite of his wishes.

    Phoebe Cates of Attractive Eighties Women

    PS – http://www.attractiveeightieswomen.com/images/henry.jpg

  4. Phoebe Cates Says: July 17th, 2009 at 12:03 am

    PPS – Great article, Davy!

  5. Anonymous Says: July 17th, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I read the Chunklet article and thought it was hilarious. Nonetheless, their rant does come off as immature and they’re totally playa hatin on Paste magazine. Paste magazine is more upscale, had glossier pages with nicer ads and sponsorships, from a print publication perspective, it was totally a step up from both Chunklet and Stomp and Stammer. They’re just jealous.

  6. Hack McWriter Says: July 17th, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Interesting post, though I think you’re entirely too hard on some of the city’s best bands. That new Coathangers record really is a disappointment, but Gentleman Jesse, Carbonas, Black Lips, etc. have created some truly excellent music. Music that has been, I feel inclined to point out, covered by Paste a good bit. But yeah, much like you, I will keep reading both Chunklet and Paste, even if there are parts of both of them that annoy me.

  7. Steve LaBate Says: July 17th, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Dear Internet Gossip Engine, my name is Steve LaBate and I’ve been an editor at Paste for six years. Not that anyone asked, but here’s what I think about all this…

    1) There’s not a chance in hell Jeff Clark or Henry Owings are jealous of Paste. That is a hilarious thought.

    2) I don’t know Henry, but I like Chunklet. They’re great at what they do. I like most of the bands they cover, and most of the time, the writing is really good. I’m glad Henry and company are out there calling it like they see it, which is all anybody can do.

    3) I have as much interest in debating the relative merits of Paste and Chunklet as Henry does in going to a Norah Jones concert. Besides, it’s a completely fucking pointless discussion—they’re completely different, and there’s room for both.

    4) If Henry didn’t write that thing about Paste being a bucket of shit (which, overall, I admit, was pretty damned hilarious), he wouldn’t be Henry. Also, it was amusing to read his comment about how “more work goes into a bucket of shit” than putting together Paste when I was red-eyed on two hours sleep after being up all night working on the magazine. And the idea that “Paste’s coffers” were ever “flush with money” is hysterical. Come look at my bank statement, seriously.

    5) I like Ryan Adams AND I like The Jesus Lizard. I like Wilco AND I like Harvey Milk. I like Conor Oberst AND I like Shellac. This is OK. I’ve liked all of this stuff simultaneously for a long time, and there’s been no space-time-continuum-unraveling paradox; no cavernous shitsucking black hole has formed at the center of the Universe.

    6) I do think it’s kind of fucking bullshit to wish that 15 people would lose their jobs, no matter how lame you think those jobs are.

    7) In other news, I fucking love Jeff Clark. I’ve had beers with him a bunch of times, and I think he’s cool fucking guy (even if he did trash my band’s record). I like Stomp N Stammer, too—I love to read Jeff’s grumpy-old-bastard screeds. But I also think the idea that Paste taking donations to keep publishing somehow compromises our journalistic integrity is absurd. Like I’m gonna praise some record that I think sucks because some band’s management offered a free download for the Save Paste Campaign? Gimme a fucking break.

    8) This whole us-against-them thing is downright silly—with these music mags hating on each other, and with the notion that it’s the garage-punk scene vs. the rest of Atlanta music. I’ve been playing with Attractive Eighties Women for a few years, and we play with all kinds of different bands – garage bands (Thee Crucials), punk bands (Whiskey Shit Vomit, The Vaginas), metal bands (Jucifer, Zoroaster), comedy bands (Three Dog Stevens, Le Sex-O-Flex), indie-rock bands (Pistolero). This idea that there are all these competing factions is 100-percent imaginary. Also, in regards to Paste, even though it’s a national magazine, for the most part it’s had nothing but love for the Atlanta garage-punk scene. We’ve done plenty on The Black Lips and King Khan and the like, and have been huge supporters of Gentleman Jesse from the get-go.

    9) Happy Friday, everyone, and thanks to Ohm Park for the post.

    10) Dear Henry, if you’re into drinking whiskey and getting fucking rowdy, I’m your man. Ben Arnold knows how to reach me. We can talk about all the records you hate and I love.

    Steve LaBate
    Associate Editor
    Shit Bucket Magazine

  8. Chris Says: July 20th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    That pendulum can’t swing back fast enough.

  9. 7inchatlanta Says: July 23rd, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Wouldn’t the pendulum swinging back lead to math rock and bonehead skinheads and not the type of music you prefer?

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