A Day In Decay: 1994-1997

barry mcgee twist 12oz. prophet magazine
1994-1997 were significant years in my life. I was stuck in the suburbs rotting away at a high school where nothing of interest ever happened. I spent my weekends riding the metro into D.C. to paint graffiti, go to hardcore shows, skateboard and generally cause mischief. (Remember that the internet was in its early stages, so finding a cool magazine that covered my interests was a rare feat.) 12 oz. Prophet was one of my main sources of inspiration. Primarily covering graffiti and what would eventually be called “street art,” 12 oz. was ahead of the curve. 12 oz. is still around, so if you need a graffiti fix check out their site. The issue pictured above featured a great interview with Twist (Barry Mcgee). Only a few of you know about this, but the name “Beautiful/Decay” actually comes from the last question in the interview: “Raven – You’re really into shit that’s all rundown and decaying, huh?” And Twist responded: “I love stuff that’s rundown, rusted, beautiful decay, a state of decay.” I didn’t start B/D immediately after reading the interview, but the phrase “Beautiful Decay” stuck in my head for weeks. Finally, after reading several ‘zines at shows and trying to find something meaningful to do with my time I decided to put the phrase to good use and start our humble lil ‘zine.

I stumbled onto Minor Threat completely by accident. I was skating in DC at Freedom Plaza (ultimate skate spot in DC during the early 90’s) when a few older skaters told me I should check them out. Later that day I went over to Smash Records and was poking around for Minor Threat tapes. I wasn’t even sure what genre of music Minor Threat was, I just saw the tape and bought it. While there, I also purchased NOFX’s White Trash cassette which had a cover of MT’s song Straight Edge. Needless to say, I was pretty confused about how I had bought two tapes by two different bands with the same song but after a while I sorted it all out. (Remember that there was no handy Wikipedia back then, so figuring out which band originally wrote the song involved several phone calls to friends who were more versed in underground music than I.)

That Minor Threat tape changed my life forever and was my gateway into the world of punk rock, hardcore, DIY, animal rights, ‘zines, and so on. ┬áTil this day Minor Threat continues to be one of my all time favorite bands. While they weren’t the best musicians in the world, their “build it and they will come” attitude and youthful angst struck a chord with me, and many other teenagers who were looking for a different way to live life. Listening to them has informed many of my life choices, including how I run Beautiful/Decay and the sacrifices we make to create company we stand behind.

This short documentary is “raw” at best, but there are some amazing scenes that may give you some insight into my longstanding admiration for MT. The scene where Minor Threat ┬áplays a show without a PA is amazing. Instead of canceling the show they played without a mike, taking away the barrier between the audience and band. The audience screamed out every single lyric and the show went on. When was the last time you let something small like a broken PA, money, or even experience in publishing (like me) get in the way of what you wanted to do? Next time turn on some MT, kick down the door and go for it. You’ll probably make some mistakes along the way, but as long as you learn from them you’ll be okay and will have lots of great stories to tell your grandkids on the porch.

Video Graff was another early discovery that exposed me to a new world that I never knew about. I first bought a copy on a visit to NYC at Scrapyard. If you were into graffiti on the East Coast, chances were you stopped by Scrap Yard at some point. Video graff was like finding a cool graffiti blog or youtube channel but without the internet. It kept me entertained for hours. I must have logged hundreds of hours watching various writers vandalize NYC. It may seem odd, but graffiti was what got me interested in art in the first place. I wanted to get better at graffiti so I took art classes. Somewhere along the lines I realized I loved making art just as much as I loved painting graffiti.

I’ll end this stroll down memory lane with this gem of a music video by KRS One. This video may be corny as hell now… but back then I loved it. Everyone I knew that was into graffiti was blasting this 24-7. KRS One was even down with a few graffiti crews in D.C. Check out the great backdrops! You gotta love it!

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  • That trip down memory lane reminds me of when I used to live in Virginia Beach. White Trash and Dookie were on heavy rotation in my Walkman while I would skate to my friends house. I first heard Minor Threat when a kid that sat behind me on the bus gave me a mixtape of punk. Remember when you had to send in $1-3 in to get a catalog? I used to order every catalog in the back of Transworld and Thrasher.

  • Don’t forget “On The Go,” “Andre the Giant has a posse…for more info send a SASE to…” ads in the back of Thrasher (though more on going back to 92-93ish) & trading pics with other writers & fans.

    Growing up an hour north of LA, for me it was about driving down to look at the Melrose alleys, the Belmont Tunnel, the Venice BBQ Pits and spot checking the freeways.

    Speaking of Barry McGee, it was an old interview with him in SLAP (maybe around 91-92?) that inspired me to move up to San Francisco to go to the SF Art Institute in ’99.


  • Amir

    Yea On The Go was definitely big around me but I couldn’t relate to it as much. Too much craziness in it for me. I did however send a lot letter art to Thrasher and order my fair share of stickers from skate brands.

    I had a great trip to NYC when I was 17 where we went to the Rock Steady Crew reunion and then met Revs the next day. He signed my black book. I still have it! One of my all time graffiti highlights. That dude is ill both in his work and
    in person.

  • Ha that’s awesome Dale! I think I may have actually been there around the same time when I was still in high school, I took some summer classes there, and I remember Saber was there melding these giant metal pieces of his name! Happen to remember a girl with bright pink hair? haha!!

  • Sasha, you must have been there right before I got there. I started fall of ’99. Saber was gone by that time. SFAI was a crazy party school back then. So much fun.

  • Ha small world! I only went for summer classes with a bunch of other awkward teenagers, so not much partying for me but it definitely was an awesome environment….to feel like a “real” artist haha!

  • I only did one summer class the whole time I was there. It was more of a seminar. A guest lecture by Don Ed Hardy. He’s SFAI alum, printmaking. Pretty interesting talk. Cool guy.

  • Back to pre internet graf mags: The West Coast premier mag: CAN CONTROL! I’ve parted ways with much of my old mags but I still hold onto the Can Control B&W Bombers Issue. Pure bombing, throwies, tags and ads for Can Control signature Loc shades. So, so, so good. Nothing but graf pics.