Ugly Things 30th Anniversary Interview

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For some time now, Ugly Things magazine has been a regular fixture of the Light In The Attic library. If you were to dig a little through our archive of aging publications that now inhabit our bathroom magazine rack, you would find countless issues of Ugly Things dating back to the early 90′s. First established in 1982, the San Diego based fanzine has championed the underdogs of rock’n’roll, focusing on the best overlooked bands and records of the 1960′s and beyond. The biannual publication has asserted itself as “THE” magazine for the garage rock enthusiast by featuring exclusive interviews, rare photos, and a massive review section of hundreds of vinyl and CD reissues, music-related books and DVDs. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Ugly Things and I was lucky enough to speak with Editor, Mike Stax, about the history of the magazine, some of the most memorable issues and their upcoming 30th Anniversary event. In our 10 + years in existence, Ugly Things has always been a big supporter of Light In The Attic and we can’t thank them enough for that. Here’s to 30 more years guys!

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 *Issue 12, Summer of 1993

Tell us a little about the history of UT. What lead you to start the publication?

It was late 1982 when I started putting together the first issue. It was the MTV era and the music scene seemed to be overrun with poodle hair metal groups and pretty boys with synthesizers. None of it spoke to me at all; in fact it just made me nauseous. For the past several years I had been digging deeper and deeper into the rock & roll of the ’60s, and the deeper I dug the more there was to dig. So I made it a personal mission to enlighten people about the greatness of bands like Q65, the Seeds, the Music Machine and the Pretty Things. I honestly believed (and still believe) that once people are exposed to that music they would never want to listen to the Police or Huey Lewis & the News ever again. So I started Ugly Things — the title was a tribute to the Pretty Things and also a declaration of our philosophy that the most real, authentic and exciting music was made by outsiders and misfits not overly stylized pretty boys.

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I know for me personally and I’m sure for a lot of other people, without UT we wouldn’t have been turned on to countless great bands out there like The Pretty Things, The Monks and a whole slew of awesomely obscure 60′s garage rock groups. So, what’s been your favorite Top 3 articles or interviews over the past 30 years?

I’m always the most excited about whatever interview I’m currently embarking on, but here’s three of my favorites:

1) The Misunderstood (Issues 20-23). People began to question my sanity with this one. I lived and breathed the Misunderstood for about five years, interviewing all of the band members and dozens of other people connected to their story. It’s probably the most in-depth story ever written about a relatively ‘unknown’ band. The band members still cared passionately about the music they had created, and their lives had all been profoundly affected by their experience with the Misunderstood, so the interviews yielded responses that were detailed and filled with emotion.

2) The Monks (Issue 11). Again, the musicians’ lives had been impacted permanently by their experience playing in this band. Visiting Eddie Shaw at his home in Carson City and spending 24 hours immersed in Monks stories and memorabilia was an unforgettable adventure for me and Keith Patterson, who collaborated on the story with me.

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*Dave Day of the Monks

3) Sean Bonniwell (Issue 2). This was the first interview I ever did, and I was fortunate that it was with someone as articulate and impassioned about his art as Sean. He had never talked at length about the Music Machine before, and I know our interest in his music really sparked something inside him and helped him make peace with his past. Talking to Sean inflamed my desire to track down more overlooked musicians from that era and tell their stories. That interview put Ugly Things on the track it has stayed on for the past 30 years. I really miss him.

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With so many magazines shifting from physical circulation to digital, how does UT maintain its physical presence and relevance?

I think Ugly Things provides the kind of detailed, long-form content that loans itself better to the printed page than to the digital format. I mean, no one wants to read a 30,000 word story on a computer screen. Also people want the magazine in a tangible, permanent form — much like having a vinyl LP instead of a bunch of sonically inferior MP3s that are likely evaporate at any moment. I say this a lot: blogs are transitory, print is forever. The printed word carries more weight because it brings with it a sense of permanence. Online opinions are dished up and digested in the moment then they disappear into the ether. But when you set your words down on paper and send them out into the world, you are making a tangible statement that you will have to stand behind. Our readers appreciate and identify with that sense of commitment and passion.

This years marks the 30th anniversary of UT and to commemorate you’re throwing an event in San Diego during Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26. Can you tell us a little bit about the event?

We wanted to put together a celebration of the music we’ve been championing for the past 30 years, but also to make it unique and personal with some once in a lifetime configurations of musicians. On Friday, May 24 we have Glenn Campbell of the Misunderstood flying in from Auckland to play with our band, the Loons, on a special set of Misunderstood favorites and Loons tunes. Campbell is an amazing, instinctive player, and when he cuts loose on his pedal steel he sounds like no one else in the world. Ebbot Lundberg of Soundtrack of Our Lives is another person who impacted the magazine immensely, and he’ll be playing a special solo set that night. A great young band from Orange County, the Neumans will be opening the show. On Saturday we have LOVE Revisited with original LOVE lead guitarist Johnny Echols, and Ebbot will be singing lead for a big section of their set. If anyone can channel Arthur Lee, it’s Ebbot so I think this will be magical. Also that night the Sloths of “Makin’ Love” infamy, and the Rosalyns, an all-star girl garage band with members of the Schizophonics, the Gore Gore Girls, the New Kinetics and the Loons.

The final night is going to be tremendous. The Unclaimed will be playing their first show since 1987. They were one of the first and best of the so-called “garage revival” bands, and leader Shelley Ganz is a visionary songwriter. Then the Nashville Ramblers will play a set of New England ’60s sounds as the Rising Ramrods. They will also back legendary ’60s garage icon Ty Wagner for a couple of songs. Closing the night will be Benedict Arnold & the Traitors, another all-star constellation, this time from Detroit, featuring Fortune & Maltese. They’ll be playing a set of Paul Revere & the Raiders music in full costume and will blow the roof off the place on this final night of fun. They’ll be joined for part of their set by Cyril Jordan of the Flamin’ Groovies, who will also be playing with the Loons on the Friday. We have a few surprise guests in the pipeline too. Also, during the daytime, there will be film screenings, book signings and other fun. It’s going to be an unforgettable weekend!

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For more info about Ugly Things magazine and their upcoming 30th Anniversary event visit Ugly-Things.com.