Zine Philosophy: How To Build A Punk Archive

by Maximum Rock n’ Roll’s archive coordinator Shivaun Watchorn

Maximum Rocknroll has been covering the international punk and hardcore underground for nearly 40 years. MRR was the brainchild of Tim Yohannan, an obsessive record collector from the San Francisco Bay area who embraced punk in its infancy and helped to bring punks all over the world together through his ambitious zine, sometimes called “the paper of record of punk”. Tim died in 1998 and left his massive record collection to the magazine.

We launched our archive project this year with the goal of creating a fully searchable and sortable catalog of our entire record collection by early 2017. Each record will be linked to the full text of its MRR review. We’re also digitizing our archive of radio tapes and the entire print run of the magazine. MRR volunteers have been discussing this project for over a decade and diligently keeping a database of the entire record collection. With the magazine in a solid financial position I was able to come on board as the archive coordinator in April 2016. My job entails checking the database against our holdings, the nitty gritty of digitizing every record review and radio show, and devising a publicly accessible online database—no small task. So far, over 100 volunteers—librarians, archivists, museum professionals, zinesters, punks, freaks, goths, engineers, developers—have helped in every capacity imaginable.

I think a lot about what we have, what we’re missing, and how that reflects the mission and history of MRR. Politics has always been central to MRR, and in the twenty-first century we’ve been staid and intentional about representing and centering the output and experiences of international punks and marginalized people in their own words (and sometimes their own languages). We’re made for punks, by punks—everything in the magazine is generated by submission, and we have no corporate money or influence whatsoever.

Every record in our collection comes in for review purposes, and if we don’t get it from the band or label, it’s unlikely we’ll have it. We try to track down what we’re missing with our small acquisitions budget, but it’s crucial that bands send their records in—they get reviewed and become a permanent part of the largest public collection of international punk and hardcore. The collection grows by about 100 records each month. Every record gets the same green tape around the edges, a tradition started by Tim to distinguish his records from his brother’s. Nowadays I think of it as the great equalizer—the tape is far from archival quality, but it greatly reduces a record’s value to a collector and gives each record a uniform look.

Tim was obsessed with vinyl—not CDs, not tapes, and definitely not digital downloads (which didn’t exist during his lifetime!). Our collection reflects that: we have over 49,000 records, but only 170 cassettes and not a single CD. We don’t review digital downloads, and I don’t think we ever will. MRR’s collection is staggering in volume and breadth: we have vinyl from over 100 countries, documenting a material history of punk that has included women, queers, people of color, punks from the global south, etc. from the very beginning—we have tapes and vinyl from the Philippines in the 1980s!

I often wonder about what we’re missing, what only lives on in the demo review section of the magazine, and how so much essential music exists only digitally or on Youtube or in the brains of a million teenage girls. Impediments to making and releasing punk music on vinyl are myriad, even with the introduction of easy digital recording and sites like Bandcamp. MRR can also be a victim of its own history. Tim Yohannan was outspoken, idealistic, and brash, and in his life he alienated many people and bands whose records and writings are central to a comprehensive history of punk but who wanted nothing to do with MRR. The MRR archive is thus really an institutional archive.

I’m really excited about the progress we’ve made so far. I’ve discovered countless records I’d never heard of which now number among my favorites, and I’ve talked to people and organizations whose DIY archive efforts blow my mind with their care and ambition. We still need all the help we can get—email to get involved from the San Francisco Bay Area or anywhere else on earth.


img_0747Shivaun Watchorn is the Archive Coordinator at Maximum Rocknroll in San Francisco, where she is heading up a project to create an online database of the world’s largest public punk record collection. She worked at Extreme Noise Records in Minneapolis for eight years and has been a library and archives worker at the Minnesota Historical Society, Minnesota Public Radio, and the University of Minnesota.

Canzine Events: BIPOC Genre Writing Panel in Jackman Hall!


Broken Pencil Issue 73 cover by JW Pang

We’re excited to host a panel at Canzine Toronto this year that takes a deeper look at Broken Pencil’s Canzine cover story on the growing movement of BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of colour) writers making waves in sci-fi, horror and fantasy writing, featuring a great panel of writers, speakers, educators and artists! This event is free and open to the public!

4:30pm, Sat Oct 29, Jackman Hall at the AGO, featuring:

t89qlvxwAl Donato is a mild-mannered reporter, ex-carny, and bad anime enthusiast who is probably hungry right now. You can yell at Al via@Gollydrat. Al wrote the cover story for this year’s Canzine issue on BIPOC genre writing!






head_shoot_newWhitney French is a storyteller and a multi-disciplinary artist. She is the founder and co-editor and of the nation-wide publication From the Root Zine and the founder of the transformative community initiative Writing While Black.Her writing has been published in Descant Magazine, Canthius Journal and Selfish Magazine and anthologized in The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry, with forthcoming work edited by Dr. Althea Prince.


cherieCherie Dimaline is a member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community in Ontario. Her first award winning book, Red Rooms, was published by Theytus Books in 2007. Her 2013 novel ‘The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy’ was shortlisted for the Burt Award for First Nations, Metis and Inuit Literature. Cherie’s latest collection of short fiction A Gentle Habit was released by Kegedonce Books, December 2015. Named as the Ontario Emerging Artist of the Year for the 2014 Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, Cherie was appointed as the first Aboriginal Writer in Residence for the Toronto Public Library, Spring 2015. Her upcoming YA novel, The Marrow Thieves is forthcphoto-cred-creationsoflaoming from Cormorant Books, spring 2017.



Komi Olaf is a visual artist, poet  and intern architect. He combines elements of art and design with the power of word and music to fan the flames of creativity and  to aid healing,  learning and growth. He enjoys chess and theatre and believes in the existence of Aliens and extraterrestrial life.



Canzine Kid Collective: Make Yarn Meatballs with Elly!



We’re excited to bring two young art workshop leaders to our Kid Collective programming in the AGO’s Community Gallery at Canzine Toronto this Saturday. At 2pm, you can learn how to draw cute things with seven-year-old Sid (learn more here) or visit 11-year-old Elly Niedzviecki, who will show you and your kids how to make a yarn meatball!

Visit our Canzine Toronto page to check out our complete list of all-day kids’ programming in the Community Gallery.

How to Make A Yarn Meatball with Elly Niedzviecki 2:30 – 3:00
Make a deliciously adorable yarn-meatball in this craft workshop with eleven-year-old artist, Elly Niedzviecki. The meatballs have eyes, noses, and are made of yarn so please don’t eat them. Or go ahead and eat them; we won’t tell you what to do. Children (8 and up), teens, and adults are welcome.

Elly Niedzviecki is a grade 6 student in Toronto. She likes to play guitar, cook, read and torment her little sister.

Canzine Portrait: Chelsea Belrose


Images from Capreol by Chelsea Belrose

Chelsea Belrose is a comics artist from Hamilton who will be joining us as a vendor at Canzine Toronto. Chelsea will be debuting a new comic called Rat – a wordless story done in pen and ink. She will also be debuting some documentary 35mm photo zines: one called Capreol about her hometown in northern Ontario, and one called Les Dépanneur de Verdun, which features photos of every corner store in the borough of Verdun, Mtl. Be sure to check out Chelsea’s beautiful zines at the AGO on Saturday Oct 29.


from Rat


from Les Dépanneur de Verdun

Seneca College’s Comics Jamathon at Canzine Toronto!


This year at Canzine Toronto, we’re very excited to host an all-day Comics Jamathon presented by our National Education Partner Seneca College ! Stop by Seneca’s Art Room (1pm – 7pm, Seminar Room 3 at the AGO) to join an all day Comics Jam. Experience the exciting thrill of collaborative graphic storytelling. Spark your imagination. Riff off other folks’ characters and scenarios. Get your hands dirty and set pens to paper. Read the comics in-progress. Continue the story by adding your own panel to a comic. Who knows how these stories will end! Stop by later to view the finished comics. Or settle into the quiet zone to make your own one-pager comic to take home.

Canzine Portrait: Sabrina Scott

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Excerpt from Witchbody

Sabrina Scott is a PhD student in Science and Technology Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada. They use comics, illustration, zines, and book arts to work through critical theory, philosophy, ethics, spirituality, sensation, and social justice. They are also been a witch all their life. They will be at Canzine Toronto on Sat Oct 29 at the AGO, and they gave us some info about what they will be sharing, and some advice for first-time vendors!

1 – Will you have new work at Canzine? If so, what can you tell us about it?

The primary ‘new work’ I’ll have is only partially new! My graphic novel Witchbody (which launched at the Toronto Queer Zine Fair last October, and was nominated for the Doug Wright Spotlight award this year in 2016) quickly sold out of its first edition of 300 copies. So: I’ll be launching the new second edition of Witchbody this month! The second edition includes a bunch of new drawings as well as a really fantastic foreword by acclaimed philosopher Timothy Morton, who writes both in response to and in anticipation of my work. Morton’s philosophy has greatly shaped the trajectory of my own, so I’m really honoured and humbled by his participation in the second edition. Witchbody is basically a graphic novel about the implications of contemporary witchcraft and magic for environmental education and activism. I drew the thing, I wrote the thing, it has a lot of heart and soul and is very much about my own journey as a witch in this big ol’ city called Toronto. If anyone’s interested, they can read more about Witchbody here and you can pick one up at Canzine!