Disposable Underground started as a cut-and-paste music ‘zine in 1991. In 1997 the ‘zine moved to desktop publishing, and then PDFs of each issue were posted online starting in 2002. The ‘zine transformed into a blog in 2012 with added video and audio content.
Disposable Underground’s slogan is “championing the musically jaded.”
I discovered, or perhaps I should say I was introduced, to the world of local, underground music in the late 1980s when I was in high school. The first local show I attended might have been a garage show in Reston, VA, maybe in 1988. I don’t remember who was on the bill except that some Reston hardcore and punk bands played, I think, including the death metal band Deceased. That was one of a few pivotal moments when the underground music scene opened up to me, and I became a metalhead and hardcore fan. I dug into bands like Metallica and Megadeth, Cro-Mags and Sick Of It All, and started buying demos from local bands and mailordering ‘zines and records from all over the world. Like many people that started absorbing this kind of music in the 1980s, I was always hunting for the next extremity, something that would outdo the last band I heard. I guess I replaced the escapism of comic books, which I previously collected, with the escapism of music. I always liked music, especially KISS early on, but didn’t go nuts for bands until later.
My father was the first one to bring heavy metal into the house. Although he isn’t a metalhead, in 1985 he read a glowing review of Accept’s Metal Heart in the Washington Post and bought the LP. At the time I wasn’t ready for metal, but he thought it was great and I came around to it eventually. I still have that same copy of the record. (We closed the loop many years later when Accept’s singer came around on tour with his band U.D.O. and we went to the show together.)
Another pivotal moment was meeting the editor of Whatever ‘zine, Judd Harper, in community college. I became interested in contributing to his ‘zine; the idea of writing about my favorite bands at the time, like Autopsy and Deceased, was very appealing. Somehow I then got in touch with Jerry Rutherford, or he got in touch with me, and I started writing for his ‘zine Curious Goods, and after that HellFarmer’s ‘zine Deathcheese.
Nick Teta Jr., gave me the idea to make my own ‘zine, and so in the fall of 1991 I decided to start Disposable Underground (D.U. for short), following in the footsteps of those ‘zines and other ‘zines I read. It was good fun to write about and interview bands that I liked.
My parents were very supportive while I got it off the ground. They bought me a tape recorder so that I could record interviews. I conducted the interviews either in person, over the phone, through the postal mail*, or via email. I took band photos at the gigs with a 35mm camera that was a hand-me-down from my sister. The early phase of the ‘zine was cut-and-paste and my father printed out the pages at his work that I typed up (we had a dot matrix printer at home and I didn’t like the look of the printouts from that). I used those printouts to lay out the ‘zine, pasting in photo prints, band glossies from labels, and ads†, and get the issues printed up.
My uncle gave me some seed money to kick off getting the ‘zine printed. I had them done up bi-monthly at a print shop where Jimmy Murray, a metalhead friend, worked.‡ I had between 250 and 400 printed of the first four issues. Starting with issue #5, I started having the ‘zine photocopied and stapled at Kinko’s in smaller amounts. I tinkered with the format and the look of the ‘zine a lot over the 43 issues I released. The longest one was 60 pages and the shortest (which I called a newsletter) was two pages.
In 1997, starting with issue #20, I started with desktop publishing, laying out the ‘zine in Quark instead of on paper, which was a change that made going online with it possible. In 2002, Andy Low kindly built a tripod.com page for me and started posting my PDFs of the Quark ‘zine issues there. Two years later, Parastoo Zeerat built an HTML-based website for me that housed a live band photo gallery and PDFs of all of the issues, even the older cut-and-paste ‘zines.
And then in 2012, with Parastoo’s help I started a blog for D.U. and stopped making ‘zines. It was like an end of an era.
—Richard, editor, 2022 ■
*How postal mail interviews worked was, we’d write out our Q&A interview questions on paper and mail it to the band and they’d write their answers out and mail them back.
†These ads were flyers I received in the postal mail from bands, record labels, distros, and other ‘zines, as well as print ads from the labels.
‡I heard the band Carcass for the first time from Jimmy when we were on our way to a record convention and he threw one of their tapes in, exclaiming, “These guys shred!” I remember being shocked by the band’s music, a rare feeling you might get when hearing something totally new.
All of the back issues of the ‘zine are searchable at our archive site. There’s a couple of different ways to browse through the issues, and the reviews, interviews, articles, columns, and photos date back to 1990, so there’s plenty of material to go through! ■
All of the blog’s photos, videos, and text is by Richard Johnson unless otherwise noted. Enjoy!
© 1991-2011, 2012-2022 Disposable Underground.