H.A.G.L. (short for “Have A Good Laugh”) was published in the Newcastle (Upon Tyne) area throughout the 1980s and 90s by Trevor Howarth. It focused mostly on 1977-style punk and Oi! Trev also did a distro. He wasn’t a member of AFA (Anti-Fascist Action) but he wrote about anti-fascist street action and local politics (In his own words: “the usual bits slagging the nazis”.). I’ve only seen a few issues but the layout wasn’t something to excite the reader to dig into it; “wonky and smudged”, I read somewhere. I’m sure Trev would’ve called me a ‘PC prick’: he wasn’t alway politically correct and had a weird sense of humour, easily offensive for some. He had “a gleeful obsession with winding up any liberally minded readers by calling naff things ‘gay’ and making sick jokes about child-abuse”… Others said it was all hilarious; that he “had the power to raise a chuckle, provoke a bit of thought and, most importantly, have a personality that is distinctive of those who are easily offended!”. Scandal-quizes, drinking-stories, chat-up lines, … Anyone!?
Some names of bands interviewed? ‘H.D.Q.’, ‘UK Subs’, ‘Sacrilege’, ‘Razzia’ (#12) – ‘Chaos UK’, ‘Chumbawamba’, ‘Thatcher On Acid’, ‘Axegrinder (#14) – ‘Amebix’, ‘Conflict’, ‘Civilised Society’, ‘Potential Threat’ (#15) – ‘Mega City 4’, ‘Toxic Ephex’ (#16) – ‘Terminus’, ‘Leatherface’, ‘Snuff’ (#18) …
H.A.G.L. started in 1983. He called it a day in 2003 after 30 issues. In between he also contributed to UK Resist. Nowadays he now edits the occasional Savage Amusement webzine, “focused heavily on the regional punk-scene and often sought to comment on the comings and goings of other fanzines, as well as anti-fascist and left politics”. He also self-published Having a Laugh & Having A Say – Not Another Bloody Punk Rock Autobiography (Savage Amusement Publication).
1983. There was always something beyond my control that fucked things up in the band I was in (‘Bondage’; the name being a tribute of course to a certain singer named Beki – although try explaining that 35 years later when you walk into a micropub owned by a garage-punker who greets you with “Ah! Mr Bondage! What can I get you?” as real ale twats look on with raised eyebrows). A fanzine. That’s it. I could have a say ánd have some kind of control over events (as long as I could scrape together the money for printing). One of my fave bands at the time were ‘Uproar’ (great live but never getting it quite down in the studio) and as most zines were só serious , Have A Good Laugh would be the title. I put an ad in Sounds and was surprised to find that bands I had records by actually contacted me. ‘Uproar’ (of course) & ‘The Destructors’ as well as an obscure Yorkshire band ‘All Over The Carpet’. With a typewriter whose ribbon I would reuse until you could barely read it and a bog standard Gestetner duplicator in a cab-style advice-centre in Benwell , my rantings of a northern gobshite would be unleashed to the world with a really shit hand-drawn cover with a laughing gob ripped off from Monkey of ‘The Adicts’. Sickened by the Arselikhan of boring lightweight bands in the music weeklies and the massive decline of Sounds in particular, I set out to be outspoken from the off. How I never got twatted I will never know, but various people on social media have reprinted gig-reviews etc. (I don’t have my own zines anymore) and I was shocked at how confrontational it all was. The early 80s were a great time for punk with gigs every week (like there is now, but with a crowd) and was surprised to be invited into the dressing-room to do a face-to-face interview with John Ellis from ‘The Vibrators’ – most interviews were just given to the bands and they would (hopefully) write back. Politically, like most zines, I was angry as fuck with the evil witch Thatcher . My father had a good well-paid job lined up for me at Consett Steelworks when I left school a few years earlier, but within a year of getting power she shut the whole place down. He would never work again and I was left with shitty rip-off schemes. But amongst the anger was my bad taste sense of humour which caused it’s fair share of controversy . I was involved in CB(radio) wars at the time. We used to wind up the sensible religious types who didn’t like swearing. I drew a 4 page piss-take of one of them ( a touch on the offensive side) and passed it around at the CB-disco. It fell into the wrong hands – his. He came to the house when I was at work threatening legal action & all sorts. Issue 5 of HAGL had just came out and my parents said “Is this what you mean?”. He bought it and sure enough gave it to the coppers to try and get me done under obscenity laws (it had an interview with ‘The Abused’ in it) but they just turned up at the house, gave a warning and said it was no different to the top shelf mags at the newsagents (I still can’t work out if that was praise or an insult). I had every type of band in there including ones I couldn’t stand musically (especially in the late 80s) . If I thought they’d give good answers then I would give it a go. ‘Hellbastard’ for example. Great answers. Whereas a lot of the bands I liked just couldn’t be arsed. Some wouldn’t even reply at all so I would name & shame. It wasn’t like today where you send an email and if no reply that’s no big deal. I was skint as fuck and couldn’t afford to waste SAEs on egotistical tossers. The miners-strike come and went, then the Poll Tax, hassle at work after slagging off the greedy directors 33% pay-rises in the local paper. All were documented angrily . Trouble was never far away with the local nazis especially when a copy of the zine fell into their hands. With few good bands left I diversified a bit and went to see indie-punk bands like ‘Mega City 4’ , ‘Senseless Things’, etc. Many times I felt like giving up. Printers were erratic as fuck (they changed with nearly each issue) and many a time it didn’t look as if I was gonna manage to produce it at all. One issue in the 90s I went all the way to Middlesborough as my mate said I could print it at the MPs office. Great until his staff picked up a copy and I wasn’t invited back to finish it. The early 90s were a cultural wasteland. The odd good band like (early) ‘Blaggers’ but how do you keep it going when there’s nothing to write about? I tried to do a more varied zine called All The Rage, which bombed. Grim times. Loads of trips away to punks-picnics and some write-ups of minor hellraising which make me cringe today. Sned once called me “The Garry Bushell of zines” and looking back some of that stuff was indeed wéll embarrassing. The last half of the 90s showed promise with a load of good new US streetpunk bands and small labels and I set up a small newsletter (Savage Amusement) to keep the freebies coming; then after that (I think it was early noughties) set up a zine called Negative Reaction, splitting the costs with Bison (who does merch for bands at Blackpool) and Laz Ogden (who is about as far politically from me as you could get, so that was awkward at times). Nearly gave up on that after 5 issues then met Dawn who did a zine in the 80s (That Neurotic Feeling) and we gave it a go again. She still has to put up with me today! I wrote a book (Having A Laugh & Having A Say) about 5 years ago which went well, and keep trying to finish another one, provisionally titled Punk Underground; although most who said “Yes I will do an interview” actually meant “Nah I can’t be arsed”. If it appears it will basically be like a nostalgia book-fanzine crossover. It’s sad to see the decline in zines now – like most others I had to pack in due to apathy and huge printing-costs – but I guess anyone can rant on F**k etc. for nothing . Riot 77 is by far the best of what’s left. Speaking of which, F**k: it’s great to see old mates appear on there again, many of which now go to gigs again and most are thankfully still pretty much the same. F**k does, however, open your eyes to some people who share all manner of dodgy shit. There are even some Tory punks on Punks Reunited. I thought only the americans were that fucking stupid. Ah well. Corbyn for PM and that may well happen now the country is about the collapse and the tories don’t wanna be around to take the blame.
Trev H.A.G.L., June 2018
‘Terminus’ was a melodic hardcore-punk band from Scunthorpe (England) of which I distributed the vinyl on the Words Of Warning label: the LP Going Nowhere Fast (1990), the 7″ What Kind Of World? (1991) & the album Back Among The Blind (1992). Around that time of this interview the band consisted of Mark Richardson (vocals/guitar; editor of Fuck Off And Drop Dead zine), Chris Dale (guitar), Col Spence (bass; later Paddy Niland) & Mick Hare (drums; later Steve Connolly). ‘Rocky’ Richard Oxenforth played 2nd guitar on Going Nowhere Fast. Mark compiled a comprehensive biography of the band on his website.