It's not easy surfing the contradictory waves of being an "Established fanzine"
Fanzine, as its name suggests, was first set up in 1994 in homage to The
Manic Street Preachers, the only band in my adult lifetime to re-unite
intelligence, politics, energy, beauty and general fucked-up ness with
rock'n'roll. As such it was always going to be a molotov aimed at the
After selling (no, getting rid of) 65 copies of issue one, things could only get better and we soon grabbed the attention of both the local and national scenes. Almost unbelievably, they started sending us free records! I still remember the first single we were sent, Trueman's "English Tea", and the first album, The Flamingo's "Plastic Jewels" (both sent by the ever supportive Caffy St Luce at Hall or Nothing), but the name of the first demo fortunately eludes me. In the excitement of getting free stuff, it never occurred to us that we were allowed not to like these presents in the post, that our reviews didn't have to be printed versions of thank you letters.
As we began to cover more and more bands from a wider musical outlook, so we became involved in the local scene by promoting gigs and putting out records. Some of these were fantastic; I still remember the thrill of hearing the first Freeboy single on the radio and the cross dressing scissor kicking glitter glam of The Saffs mini album and of hearing Miss Black America's Peel session or taking The Hammers to Blue Peter or reading about Alcopop in Melody Maker or of putting on Vyvyan and Satellite Beach and The Jellys and more. Our print run was up ten fold, our gigs were described as being ":a new social phenomonon" and some of our releases almost covered their costs. We were in danger of having a success on our hands.
And that's where things started to go wrong. And that's why things have started to change again. All of a sudden R*E*P*E*A*T had become an institution, with all the horrible things that that implies. We'd put on bands because they were our mates, bought us drinks at the pub or because we didn't want to offend them. We raved about stuff that was at best mediocre, at worst unlistenable - I know that I for one reviewed stuff without listening to it, because I couldn't bear to!! Even some of the stuff on the nadir of our own releases, "It Takes A Nation Of Miltons To Hold Us Back", fell into this category. R*E*P*E*A*T was established, comfortable, reliable, a sort of unpaid musical social worker for the mildly upset and slightly-pissed-off-on-a-Monday-morning young people of our historic city.
As I sat trying to start the last issue I realised that I couldn't do it any more. Not in that way. It was time to change or quit.
It was partly due to luck that we staged the cultural revolution that let R*E*P*E*A*T survive. Lots of young writers came along at the same time, some of them in local bands eager to kick over the musical statues. Miss Black America came along with their agitational take on 21st century punk. September 11th happened which gave us an event to hang the whole issue round on our own terms. And so issue 18 was born, spitting opinions and arrogance and politics and bile and honesty from its swaddling clothes, just like The Manics all those years ago.
And surprise surprise, people loved it! Well not all the local scenesters thrown out of their comfy chairs, but most of the local people whose opinions I value. Outside Cambridge the reaction was even more enthusiastic; I now have a collection of over the top reviews with perhaps my favourite coming from one time rivals Organ who glowingly described it as "a complete train wreck of a fanzine".
Most important of all, I liked it.
So this takes us to now as I sit trying to create something as viciously fantastic to follow up with, an issue which will be subtitled "Fuck The Jubilee". To go with the zine there is a new release on R*E*P*E*A*T Records, a split 7 inch single also put out in homage to the Jubilee celebrations. MBRR110 seeks to encapsulate our new found attitude of self belief and tries to link the best of our pasts and our futures into one noisy slab of melodic attitude-packed now. Within the limited red grooves of the vinyl, Neo, who include members of The Saffs and Alcopop, bore into your soul with their intense grungy punk of "Die In America", a woeful tail of the American nightmare. On the flipside the youthful arrogance of "Elizabeth Royal", The Virgin Suicides feedback fuelled attack on the ability of the monarchy to stop people thinking for themselves, shows why this band have been such a fresh blast in the stinky stable of the Cambridge scene.
So come on, join our new art riot, write us a rant, come to a gig or get yourself a single (out now in Jays!). And if you do buy a single, read the run out groove; like everything else we try to write these days its meant to be provocative, thought provoking, intelligent and hopefully honest.
R*E*P*E*A*T - Putting the riot back into rock'n'roll …
This article was first written for The Clap Magazine