In the middle of the 1980s, the cool kids spent their time at Tower Records, where all manner of bizarre and scurrilous self-published zines would materialize on the shelves of the magazine section. Those of a certain ilk would exult on the 2 or 3 days a year that a specific black-and-white number called UNSOUND would arrive, for they knew that they would be able to access reviews and interviews covering exhilarating experimental bands like Swans, Test Dept., the Birthday Party, Sonic Youth, Psychic TV, Borbetomagus, Nurse With Wound, Coil, Whitehouse, and many others. It wasn’t many zines that could withstand the prospect of being placed alongside the legendary Industrial Culture Handbook edition of Re/Search, but UNSOUND was up to the challenge.
UNSOUND was a fanzine, founded in San Francisco in 1983, that focused on the first wave of industrial music but covered a wide range of experimental, post-no wave music as well. The co-editors of the zine were William Davenport and Chris Rankin, who were members of the band Problemist. UNSOUND lasted for four years and ten issues, but glorious issues they were.
Most of the issues of UNSOUND concentrated on artist interviews and cassette reviews, but a notable standout feature of the periodical was the detailed discographies of the artists covered therein—during a time of rampant EPs and tape-swapping, useful information indeed as well as hard to compile. Each generous issue of UNSOUND—always presented in vibrant black and white—presented aspects of the industrial music scene, cassette culture, mail art, and so forth.
Davenport finally had to shut the zine down because he had no desire to compromise on the content it was presenting. As he commented last year: “UNSOUND stopped because we were tired of being so poor and I had to make a choice. Did I want to make the magazine more commercial, to put bands on the cover? Not really.”
The final issue of UNSOUND (vol. 3, no. 2) included a cassette compilation with input from bands like Controlled Bleeding, Psyclones, Hunting Lodge, Negativland, the Upper Austrian combo Monochrome Bleu, and (of course) Problemist.
You can view all 10 issues at the Internet Archive.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Every issue of OZ, London’s legendary psychedelic newspaper, is available online
Negativland fans rejoyce! 700+ episodes of Don Joyce’s radio show ‘Over the Edge’ available online