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80s Hardcore

Capturing SoCal punk/hardcore: Paradigm Zine Speaks

Interview with Kari Hamanaka of Paradigm Zine: WebsiteIGLinktree

Take us back to your first punk show. What kind of feeling did it give you?

I remember being in awe. It was a Pennywise show with The Vandals, in Long Beach. The drums started and it sounded exactly like what I had been listening to all this time on a CD with my headphones, so it was a surreal feeling to hear it live. I don’t even remember what song it was or, really, anything else about that show. I just remember how it felt when those drums started.

How have the Punk and Hardcore scenes influenced your photography?

I guess it’s more pragmatic lessons than anything else, like always having one eye on any potential elbows or fists about to knock me or the camera.

Otherwise, I don’t think of myself as a photographer or what I’m doing as photography, really. There are a lot of actual photographers at these shows, who know all about the right lighting, the right angles and they’re creating art. I shoot with a kit lens on the automatic setting. I’m more about will the frame I’ve got at least help tell part of the story and complement whatever it is I may be writing for Paradigm or putting up on the Paradigm site.  

What was your major inspiration to start Paradigm Zine?

I’m a journalism major, so when I started Paradigm in college it was about me being able to exercise a muscle that I thought was becoming flabby from non-use as I was finishing up my general ed requirements. So, it was an opportunity to do interviews, write, create page layouts, and on. But, in addition to that, the idea was to start a zine that was focused on local, Southern California bands: no one trying to get famous, no one with a PR person or manager, no one necessarily trying to get anywhere and no reviews (because people can like whatever they want to like). It was just normal people having fun, regardless of whether they were being written about or not. Fast forward to today and that hasn’t changed. I’m more inclined to go to a backyard show than a “big show” with “big bands.” And none of this general framework that I’ve created for myself is because I’m against the latter. I just think there are plenty of zines that already have that ground covered and do it very well. At the same time, the mainstream media has never consistently reported on the DIY punk scene because the stories aren’t big enough – except when they go viral, they’re part of a larger narrative being pushed or maybe for the fashion when punk, the style, becomes fashionable – which it always does since everything is cyclical.

I’ve been a reporter since graduating from college, working at different newspapers and, now, digital news outlets, where I’ve covered beats that have spanned the subprime mortgage meltdown to West Coast streetwear for a fashion trade. It’s very different from what I do with the zine. In some ways, Paradigm is the truest expression of why I ever went into journalism. I’m not saying what I do with the zine is hard news or even follows the “rules” of journalism. It’s not. But, I only ever wanted to be a reporter because I like understanding what makes us tick because that’s when you find what the common threads are that connect us to one another – rather than only seeing what makes us different. Journalism has the power to do that. I just think with digital media, the business is driven by web traffic and, to a certain extent, a lot of hype and reporters caring more about their personal brands than the stories. The aggregate of all that can many times lead to misguided motivations for covering a story. I’m not beholden to the traditional rules in the media business necessarily with Paradigm and can create my own rules. Just like bands don’t need to wait for a record label or to be interviewed by someone to do what makes them happy or to legitimize the art they are creating.

If three Paradigm Zine issues were placed in a time capsule to be opened 60 years from now, which would you put in there, and why?

Maybe the very first issue and the very last issue I’ve done just to show the progression of the zine. And, the third? Hmmm, maybe I’d write on a piece of paper, which has everything there. When you’re only putting out four issues annually, each issue matters, so it’s pretty hard to spotlight any single one.

How would you describe the SoCal Hardcore Punk scene right now?

There’s definitely a lot of attention on L.A. right now, not as much on the rest of the region. I think part of it was the lockdown and people just couldn’t wait to go out and see live shows again. I think that’s also been aided by social media. So a lot of photographers and others are coming out and documenting these massive shows and it gets shared, which is a great thing for the bands that manage to get pulled into that coverage.

There are just way more shows each weekend than had been the case pre-COVID and they range from all-ages shows in backyards and other unconventional places, to bars and clubs. And, the activity is not limited to these big, blown-out shows either. Of course, that’s what’s getting photographed the most, but there’s plenty of action all over the place whether you’re talking Boyle Heights and South Central or Anaheim and Fullerton or Covina and Oxnard.

Are there any SoCal zines from the past that inspire you?

Before I started Paradigm, Skratch and Mean Street were the magazines I picked up at the record shops. And when I saw what they were doing, I realized I could also do my own thing (especially because I didn’t get far in my attempts to become a contributor for either of those pubs). I think what Slash did was cool; I was always excited when I could find an issue of MRR (when they were still doing print).

I’ve also been a volunteer editor for I don’t even know how many years now with Razorcake zine. They’re definitely not in the past since they’re still going strong, but I have tons of respect for Todd Taylor, who came from Flipside, and the well-oiled machine that he’s created with Razorcake.

Do you realize that what you are creating will have an impact on culture for decades to come?

I don’t really think of this zine like that. I just do the zine to let off a little steam; it’s more a creative endeavor than anything else and something to take my mind off the stressors of my day job. Some people play sports or start a band or sew in their downtime; I just decided to start a zine.

I know that Paradigm Zine is a labor of real love…How has your zine brought positive vibes into your life?

There are two answers to this. Like with any hobby, you have the opportunity to meet so many people and that’s exactly what this zine has done for me. Bands give me maybe an hour or so of their time and we talk and I get to hear how they grew up or how they stumbled on punk or what makes them angry or, sometimes, it’s just shooting the shit. I’m incredibly lucky because it’s opened my eyes to a lot and I learn something from every single person who has invited me into their practice space or wherever to hear their stories.

The other aspect is more personal, which are more symbolic things within the zine. For example, “Fountain Valley 1969” appears on every cover. Some people know what that means; most don’t. It’s a nod to my grandparents, my grandfather specifically.

What are three SoCal bands the world should be on the lookout for?

That’s a tough question. There’s no way I could whittle down a list of three bands to check out. No way.

I think every part of Southern California has local bands that are holding it down in their respective corner of the region and beyond. Self Sabotage, M.A.D.D., Yokai, and Rooftop Riot were in the most recent issue. I think Jr. from Countime and the whole family of bands that talented group has spurred is doing great things for what they call hoodcore and representing northeast L.A. here and abroad. There’s Watch Out from mid-city and their entire crew of friends and like-minded bands. I think Chris from Dead Punks and Taco Punks is doing really positive things in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond with the free shows he’s putting on, along with Noize Pollute, No Ma’am, Social Conflict, and Hungry Ass Youth. Deviated State is a mainstay in the Harbor Area, along with bands like Street Threat, Recoi!l, P.I.S.S., and Unexpected Fetus. You’ve got Highground and Mark from The Fag Hags down in OC, Civil Conflict up in Oxnard. There are just too many to even attempt to mention and I’ve left a ton out in this brief recap. 

Question motivations. Question trends. Question everything. Value people over paid experiences.

– Kari Hamanaka, Paradigm Zine
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