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Spotlight on Local: Veronika Sorrow: Scene Queen and Fashion Fiend
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Veronika Singing

Ah, Colorado Blvd. in good old Pasadena, where gentrified coffee houses sit among pristine storefronts boasting exorbitant price tags; where expensive mothers push their expensive babies in their expensive strollers. But if you go a bit east of the main drag, there is the unmistakable droning of punk music getting gradually louder, and your eyes are pleasantly assaulted by the pink and green neon that beckons you into the beautiful mess that is MeowzMeowz, Pasadena’s one stop rock shop. And behind the counter sits the goth goddess behind it all, Veronika Sorrow.

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Spotlight On Local: Kelly Maglia: From Closet Metalhead To Metal Queen
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Kelly Maglia Photo Credit: Sienna Spalding

[Photo Credit: Sienna Spalding]

Kelly Maglia was a closet metalhead. Even though she grew up in Orange County, just miles from the bright lights of the Sunset Strip and was naturally musically talented, Maglia kept her love of metal under wraps. “It was more the circles that I ran in” Maglia explains, “I was very academic, very studious, and my parents were very not into metal so it felt like a very rebellious thing to be doing. Not a lot of my friends were into it except for my musician friends, so that’s how I got into it. Most of my closest friends were nerdy like me, and I didn’t want to admit to them that I was listening to this music.”

As Maglia grew older, she decided to pursue her love of music becoming classically trained in vocals, piano, and clarinet. She also studied musical theater, theory, and composition and minored in dance. At the same time, Maglia, who was also interested in art and fashion, was being asked to design dance costumes for her sister and her sister’s friends, all of whom were dancers. When she emerged from college she had a degree in music and drama, but she didn’t know what to do with it. When her sister approached her about turning her costume designing hobby into a business, it seemed like a practical step.

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Spotlight On Local: Bruce Duff Gives Us Rock From Behind The Scenes To Center Stage
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Street Walkin' Cheetahs

[Photo courtesy of Heather Harris.]

If you hang out on the Los Angeles rock scene long enough, it’s likely that you will make some sort of acquaintance with the man, the musician, the legend, the Bruce Duff. Duff’s high visibility is probably due to his ability to wear so many hats in the music industry including journalist, publicist, band manager, engineer, podcaster, author, and actively gigging musician. It was a crisp, Fall day in Los Angeles when I submerged into the offices that lurk beneath the Federal Bar to find Duff at his 9-5 gig at Knitting Factory Management to see what he’s been up to lately.

A California native, Duff was born in the city of Riverside. His initiation into rock n’ roll wasn’t about the sex and glamour that lead some down that wayward path. Rather, when Duff was around 10, he was at a child’s party when he saw a boy, even younger than him, pick up a guitar and start playing. “He looked like a rock star on television,” he recalls. And so, Duff was off on his journey.

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Spotlight On Local: Author Steven Blush: Saving Rock N’ Roll, One Book At A Time
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Steven Blush New York Rock book banner

My hands were shaking a bit as I sent the message. Was I really going to ask THE Steven Blush for an interview? I had to remind myself that despite the fact Blush has been such a prominent and powerful figure in rock n’ roll journalism, he has always been a really cool guy. But years have passed since I’d last spoken to him… years that resulted in him rising in the ranks from music journalist and founder of Seconds magazine, to published author and filmmaker. Would he agree to the interview? Would he return my message? Would he even remember who I was? Well, it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Blush is just as awesome as ever.

A New York native, Blush spent much of his childhood hanging around with his dad, who worked on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when “it was still a crazy, fucked up place,” according to Blush. He would stumble into bars like CBGB and the Lismar Lounge and rock n’ roll landmarks like Trash and Vaudeville, witnessing the rise of bands like The Talking Heads and later White Zombie and Circus of Power. Blush also lived in Washington, D.C. for a brief stint and got involved in the hardcore explosion out there. He began booking shows and deejaying.

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Spotlight On Local: Stereo Love – The Royal Family of Rock
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Stereo Love Website

About 10 years ago Judd Steele was thinking of quitting music altogether. The veteran drummer, who had played with rock legends like Brett Michaels and even entertained troops in Afghanistan, was getting tired of the industry. “I never wrote songs, so I never took anything with me,” says Steele. “I was always a drummer looking for another band.” Steele had packed up his main drum kit and was unenthusiastically playing on a cocktail set with what he swore would be his “last band.”

One day, Steele took his 9-year-old daughter Jewel to Guitar Center so he could buy drum sticks. Bored, Jewel hung back at the guitar section. By the time Steele returned, he found his daughter holding a guitar and doing her best rock star poses and a light bulb went off. Steele enrolled Jewel in guitar lessons. Soon after, her sister, Lula, who is a year older, took up bass, emulating her beloved grandfather, who was an accomplished musician and bass player.

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Spotlight On Local: George Tabb, Punk OG Talks Books, Terrorism, and Rock N’ Roll
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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George Tabb Punk Now

It’s been nearly 20 years since I last spoke to or heard from George Tabb. His voice over the telephone sounds substantially raspier than I remembered. “You have to have your life go horribly wrong to want to do punk rock,” he says, and if that’s the case, then Tabb is punk as fuck.

A nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn, NY, Tabb moved to Greeenwich, CT when he was just 7 years old. This may have marked the beginning of his road to ruin. He didn’t get along with his father and was bullied by the local kids for being Jewish. “The kids there had no idea what a Jew was. They would search my head looking for horns or think I drank baby blood,” says Tabb of the experience. As Tabb got older, he moved to Tallahasee, FL to go to college. Things weren’t much better there. “My college roommate’s father was the Imperial Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan,” notes Tabb. However, Tabb would soon find an escape, playing in his first punk rock band in 1979.

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Spotlight On Local: Mary Zimmer – Behind the Voice
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Mary Zimmer Sitting

[Photo courtesy of Laura Koeppel. Used by permission.]

When you listen to Mary Zimmer, it’s easy to get lost in the voice that runs from ethereal croons to relentless gutturals. But Zimmer is more than her voice. Working with bands like Luna Mortis, White Empress, and presently Santa Marta, she knows the ins and outs and ups and downs of the record industry, and she’s walked a long hard road to get where she is today.

Zimmer was born in Illinois’ Great Naval Hospital. The daughter of a military family, Zimmer moved about quite a bit, but finally settled in Wisconsin when her father retired when she was a teenager. Despite her incredible voice and range, she wasn’t a natural-born singer. She performed in local theater and musical productions. She was often asked to sing in those productions, but says of it, “I hated having to sing. My voice was rather large and unwieldy, and I was using it a lot but I didn’t get good at it until later. I think kids get put off singing because they don’t realize it’s something they can actually learn and get better at.”

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Spotlight on Local: Wendy Scripps – Godmother Of The Lower East Side
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Wendy Scripps Close Up

The hustle and bustle of Manhattan is legendary, but I don’t think it is so poignantly captured anywhere as it is on the Lower East Side. A mixture of struggling artists, immigrant culture, historical landmarks, a yearning for a sense of family and community, and an element of crime and danger has made the neighborhood what it is. However, an evolving gentrification has become more and more prevalent throughout the years, pricing out the people that gave the area its character, and many of them have had to move away. Mom and pop businesses are forced to close their doors as the big boys are moving in. Those still standing can do little other than to turn away from eyesores like the 7-11 that now stands on Ave. A. But there’s one woman that’s not going down without a fight.

Wendy Scripps was born in the Bay Area of California, but moved to Manhattan in 1982. Her mother, a Brooklyn native, told Wendy she was born to be a New Yorker. “Once I got to New York, I knew that was where I was supposed to be,” says Scripps. “It fit like a glove.” Scripps’ parents were both active in the art communities. Her mother was a dancer, well ahead of her time. She was a Martha Graham dancer and the first to teach the art of Bharatanatyam (an ancient Indian dance) in America. Scripps’ father was active in the theater community doing stage design, but also loved rock n’ roll music. He began taking Scripps to rock n’ roll shows at a young age.

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Spotlight On Local: CJ Gunn Of The Subtones, Former Guitarist With Marky Ramone
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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CJ Gunn Book Cover photo

I think most people have a love-hate relationship with social media. But I’m sure many will agree that it’s always fun to catch up with people they haven’t seen for ages. When I first met C.J. Gunn (ne Christopher James Gunya), he was a little punk from Cleveland with a big mouth and a heart of gold. Now he turns up one book, one straggly beard, hundreds of tattoos, and 20 years later. I’d say we had some catching up to do and I was happy to have had that opportunity last week.

Born in Cleveland in 1974, Gunn had a tumultuous childhood and ended up losing both of his parents early on. A natural misfit, he turned to the punk scene for a sense of belonging. By the early 90s, Gunn had played in a variety of punk bands in the area. He was great at networking and ended up getting the attention of many local acts as well as national ones passing through nearby cities. One band that was a huge musical influence on Gunn and whose members would become recurring characters in his rock and roll life was The Ramones. When Gunn heard that drummer Marky Ramone was playing in Cleveland with his band The Intruders, he did everything he could to get on the bill with his band The Subtones. Not only was he successful doing that, but he also was lucky enough to get on two more dates opening for The Intruders in nearby towns.

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Spotlight On Local: Robert Butcher’s ‘American Madonnas and Liars’ Art Show
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Marissa Bergen   |  
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Robert Butcher

If you’re wandering around the New York City’s East Village and suddenly find yourself on the outskirts of Alphabet City, there’s a cool little art gallery I know on Ave. A just off of 2nd St. It’s called Art on A. Go in. Check out the art on the walls. If you’re lucky enough to visit before September 22, what you see will be instantly relatable to anyone who can recognize the beauty of a subculture, its decadent allure, its decaying glamour. But those who know photographer Robert Butcher will know that his latest collection American Madonnas and Liars is based on a story that started long ago, born of a lifetime of rock and roll, drugs, and trouble which led up to a suicide attempt and finally resurrection. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to him about what brought him to his latest artistic venture.

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