Friday, October 15, 2010

SLIT Interview: The Amazing...Jonathan L!!

Before Jonathan L.'s "The Lopsided World of L" there was his ground-breaking  
"Newsreal" newspaper and "Virgin Vinyl" radio show!
Jonathan L. feisty and energetic as ever!

SLIT: What motivated you to start the (Tucson music newspaper called) Newsreal? (Please describe what the Newreal was and its history) Memorable moments?

JL: I started the publication in May 1974, less than a year after I
arrived in Tucson. I had worked for an underground paper on Long Island "The Express" for a year before I left, and got the bug to do my own-so hence the reason. I started it with $50.

Honestly, there were many, but ultimately, publishing on a shoestring for
11 years.

Probably that would be the most memorable for me personally. It was the only honest publication of it's size of the time period. It wasn't about money. It was about making a career for myself and everyone that ever did
anything for Newsreal. It was a springboard for ideas and not caring about
what the establishment thought.  It was not the most perfect publication,
but it sure had charm. :-)

SLIT: What was Tucson's music scene like when you started the Newsreal?

JL: The music scene when I started Newsreal was Chip Curry and a host of bluegrass bands in 1974-lol

SLIT: How many issues did you first publish? Where did you distribute it?Did you drive it around town yourself?

JL: 1,000 first few issues, then 5, 10 to 20,000 at end--all over Tucson-University and stores, movie theaters. Also in Phoenix in 7th year-I originally distributed them myself-and then I hired someone to do it.

In the beginning up in Phoenix, New Times would go around and throw themaway-lol
Jonathan L (on the left) circa 1980, with Lee Dombrowski, program Director of KWFM at Choo Choos.

SLIT:  How did you put stories together? Who was your competition?

JL: I didn't start writing a lot until the late seventies, but the
magazine was written by many great writers and poets. Among them Dan Buckley (music), David Schow (well known horror novelist), Doug Biggers (politics), and so many others, including you.

It was a collaborative effort of ideas, many were mine, many by the individuals. I did put the whole publication together each month on my art table. I was a design artist. Self taught, and that was my joy.  

I never really got absorbed about competition. I knew the limits of what I had and what it would do.

SLIT: Did you model Newsreal after Rolling Stone? Why the name change from "Mountain Newsreal" to "Newsreal" in the early '80's?

JL: I never modeled after any one publication. After a time people
didn't understand the "mountain"part.  I was infatuated with the mountains
being so close-but dropped it because one word was easier for people to remember.
Actually took the mountain part off in the late 70's.

SLIT: What were some of the "departments" or regular features of the Newsreal? Is there an online archive where people can see samples of old issues?   Also, what were some of your "scoops" or interviews?

JL: You can see some of the old issues on on Bob Zuckers website.  I don't remember the scoops. Would have to find issues to answer that Q about departments. My favorite interview was with the late Buster Crabbe (Olympic swimmer, played Tarzan and Flash Gordon in movies. Interviewed him at his Paradise Valley home in 1977 when he was in his 80's. Gilbert Shelton (Fat Freddie's Cat and Wonder Wart Hog drew special covers for me.  So did Skip Williamson, another well known comic artist. Another favorite interview was John Kay of Steppenwolf. So many musicians were interviewed. Not all by me. Many by Cary Baker (from Chicago), Tina Alvarez and others.

Paul Krassner, who I met in San Francisco right before the first issue, the hippie activist, publisher, wrote a regular column for me, and years later I brought him in to perform live at Dooley's.

Also ran a new wave music chart from San Francisco by Dirk Dirkson back in 1978-1980. That was very cool. 

SLIT: When did you first start covering Tucson's punk/new wave scene? Do you remember your first article on that subject?

JL: Believe it was 78. Thank David LaRussa for that. I was a loyal
listener and then 1980. Lee Joseph, Joann Tamez and I presented artists at
Tumbleweeds. The Fall, Three O'Clock, The Violent Femmes, and Suburban Lawns.  I would advertise on David's show to get people to come. 

I know we all speak about Pearl's Hurricane, Tumbleweeds, etc, but I would like to mention  the club it seems like has been forgotten. Club Europa. For a couple of years from 80-82, local musicians opened up for bands like The Rezillos, Stray Cats, Roky Erikson, Romeo Void, Red Rockers, and many more. It was a great place for scene goers and the music.

SLIT: When I pitched the idea to run SLIT as a column in the Newsreal, why did you agree?

JL: Honestly, because I thought you were creative and a junior version of
me.  I was always looking for something new and different-and you walked into my life.

SLIT:  What were some milestones in the history of the Newsreal?

JL:  I could answer this many ways, but the milestones are how so many who gave a great effort to Newsreal for nothing, went on to be somebody's. I mean, look at Doug Biggers. Owns half of Tucson (wink), Caylah Eddelblute who did so much can be seen on credits for a large amount of movies as a prop master in Hollywood and location,

Dan Buckley's history in Tucson is huge, and the aforementioned David
Schow wrote the screenplay for "Chainsaw Massacre 2", written so many novels and hangs with Stephen King and all the notable Sci Fi and horror elite. So many others used Newreal as a stepping stone in their careers. Those are their personal milestones. I am happy to have been a part of their lives. They all deserve their success's. I am proud of all of them.

SLIT: Did the punk and new wave scene cause you to change your musical tastes? How about your values about what "good" music sounds like?

JL: No. I am the guy who sincerely liked all kinds of music and saw the
value of many styles. Punk was just a hard in your face style of music. I loved it as well as metal, pop, and so many others. Good music is good music-bad music will always be around-but it depends on who's ears are hearing it. The scene itself was fun to be a part of and to watch. Good memories.

SLIT:  Where did you get your interest in music?

JL: Growing up as a child there was music being played everywhere. I saw Bill Haley and the Comets on TV, as well as Elvis on his first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Also Buddy Holly and the The Crickets. There was an English TV show called I think it was, "Oh Boy" too in 1957 in black and white. So from mid fifties and 60's I was buying 45's from 11 years old on. There were stores in New York that would sell 45's at 10 for a buck. I bought all kinds of music and especially the early Motown artists. 

Most were B-sides, not the singles , so I guess maybe that's the beginning of my listening to all tracks, not just singles. I watched the Clay Cole show
on TV, as well as "For Grinders Only" with Rosco. I suppose you would say my interests started from TV, and radio of course.

Scott Muni, Murray The K, and Cousin Brucie were the greatest. And, my own little tattered record player. 

I should say one of the biggest influences was seeing James Brown and
his Famous Flames live in the late sixties. I was blown away by the
performance as well the music. Met him before he passed away. What a
fucking icon for music he was.

SLIT: Do you play an instrument?

JL: My ears. Something I can carry around with me at all times. Very
light. A little harmonica to really answer the question. Not very good, 
but I enjoy it.

SLIT: were you involved with Jonny Sevin's album? And how did you put together those cassettes, such as "Sunday Was Yesterday?"

JL: Yes. I had much input into the album and recording, because they asked me to. They were great! Those cassettes were easy. I asked all of the artists if they would like to be on my cassette and they happily agreed. We all worked together on making it something to have at the time.

SLIT: How do you listen to and evaluate music?

JL: With an open mind, and always on how I would program it on radio.
Radio can be a terrible thing. Once the only real option for music, it has sunk to the bottom with all of the other ways to hear music nowadays.

SLIT: In your opinion, what's the role of the media in the development of a music scene? Can a music scene develop without media coverage and radio airplay?

JL: A music scene cannot begin or survive without all or some of the
elements in your question. Word of mouth only goes so far. The reason why there was a core scene from the late seventies to mid eighties was because of KWFM, David LaRussa, Lee Joseph, Joanne Tamez, Tom Caldwell, Newreal, "Virgin Vinyl", and many of the scenesters that followed and supported the bands.  Only Tucson, Austin, and Seattle have had the pleasure of a REAL music scene. Many other cities would like to think they have or had one, but the three mentioned have
some how managed a mystique from years ago that lingers today. My answer will be disputed I'm sure, but I defy anyone to tell me that one person can create a scene. I apologize if I have left out some names, that others would love to throw
in there.

No one can. We all had to work together to make something of nothing.
Tom Caldwell, owner of Nino's Stealhouse and Nightclub & Jonathan L.

SLIT:  How did you get started in radio?

JL: The backdoor. I sent a tape to three stations in late 1980, after
David LaRussa quit KWFM.  In late 1981 Mark Schwartz from KLPX called me and said that he liked my tape of music and in March of 1982 I debuted "Virgin Vinyl" on 96 Rock. Prior to that Ihad only been on radio twice. Once on  KWFM with Jim Brady as we interviewed Dr. Timothy Leary live on-air one evening in 1977, and as a guest co-host with Johnny D on his show "After Hours" in 1980 on KSTM "The Storm" in Mesa, AZ.

SLIT:  Favorite books? Movies? Bands? Radio stations? ;)

JL: I haven't read a book in a long time, but the Lord Of The Rings
trilogy were my favorites.  I am a big film buff, but I will narrow it
down to two; "True Romance"and "Blade Runner".

Radio stations. _____ ;-)

SLIT:  Does silence make you feel uncomfortable? Would you prefer that there is always some music playing?

JL: This is a great question Howard. Silence kills me. I have to have
either music or something in the background. Silence drives me loony. Funny, the other night there was silence, and all I could hear was two clocks on the wall-one in front of me and the other in the kitchen ticking in unison. I was typing on my computer, and I looked at Gabrielle and said, "Jeez, it is so quiet all Ihear is the clocks". She laughed, and I then put on music. lol

SLIT:  Have computers helped or hurt music?

JL: It is the greatest invention since Post-Its. It not only helps music,
it makes all of our lives better in many ways to communicate with music and just communicating in general. Imagine still having to mail a letter? No e-mails.  Of course the obvious answer is yes, music is all over the Internet. That is great.
This way few have a monopoly over us, instead of many. Kids today will
not be fooled by the way music was dished at us years ago.

SLIT: What inspires you?

JL: The need to stay creative always. To watch others on how they stay

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