The Birth of Bitch King:
Transcripts of interviews are available on the stuff page.
There have always been voices of dissent here, artists who have some serious problems with Riverside’s seemingly shiny appearance. Our town, in order to lay claim to being an “All-American City,” has taken great efforts to ignore and suppress the underground art scene. Local artists and musicians have made an effort to create a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture in spite of this: creating music, art, and self-publishing. Despite our city’s best efforts, our little tribe has flourished, taking over venues, galleries, and businesses to collaborate on a sense of community cohesion. And we have always congregated Downtown.
Patrick Strong, also known as Uncle Daddy, terrorizes the populace with Rivercide.com. He remarked: “I’ve always wanted to have a site that reflects my love/hate relationship with the town of my birth and residence for many years. Rivercide is a weird place to say the least.”
Rivercide.com definitely captures the ambivalence and malaise of living in a suburb with a strange past that is kicking and screaming its way into the 21st century. Uncle Daddy explains it so much better than I: “Rivercide.com’s mission, if you will, is to flaunt the dark underbelly that resides in these hinterlands and causes many from outside its borders to gasp and turn their noses up in the air. ... YOU CAN MORE THAN LET YOUR HAIR DOWN IN RIVERCIDE, YOU CAN SET IT ON FIRE AND THE ONLY REACTION YOU’LL GET IS PROBABLY HAVING THE GUY NEXT TO YOU LIGHT HIS CIGARETTE OFF OF IT. The people who have lived here for a while have that blasé, gallows sense of humor that you find usually in more desperate situations, like battlefield M.A.S.H. units, and my website reflects that whole-hog-heartedly.”
Tina Bold, one of the strongest voices in our community, focuses her radio show “The Vinyl Hours” on promoting local talent and playing diverse genres of music: “It’s a complete roller coaster for the ears.” Tina told me “I think that this community is empowering in that I am surrounded by people who contribute actively to creating our own culture. These artists aren’t just making art and promoting themselves, they also make an effort to connect their talents to serving our art community/other artists.” In addition, Tina started a merchandising company called Sunrae Merch with local artist Dresden Carvalho and Submerge411.com, a website and e-mail list devoted to networking and promoting local talent. Tina told me that the “site is for bands, musicians, artists, event coordinators, and the people who love them. ... I also focus on events that might not have a lot of publicity, either the bands are on tour, or there is a last-minute show somewhere. The bigger shows that have ads in every magazine have the word out; this is for those who are in need of getting the word out. The site was also put together to enhance the weekly e-newsletter that I do for listings of events and shows. It is for the new bands or artists, or the old-timer, or the touring acts to find out where to book their event, who to talk to, etc.”
Tina Bold’s voice is one that has inspired me to use my talents to give back to my community, and I have taken her advice to heart: “Do. Create. Get the word out. Go to shows. Go to shows of bands or artists that you don’t know. Talk to people. Interact with others. Help others. Get involved.”
Fritz Aragon, founder of Ethospine Records and a member of the band Dogs of Ire, is as supportive of feminist ideals and women’s art as your average riot grrrl. When I asked Fritz what he why he started Ethospine, he remarked, “Well, the seventh straight day that the lords of rock parted the clouds and blasted the yellow beam of light through my bedroom window I had to give in. Not because it was annoying but out of fear. I was frightened that, like all the bands across the country that have moved me, including numerous awesome bands here in town that have scarred my mind at 13-14 years old, they would be forgotten for never being documented … There are so many good bands that I would love to share with others…the vision in general is to exceed beyond music and to some way collaborate with all mediums of art and to have more people involved in challenging what art/music/culture/existence means. I need all the help possible.” Fritz regularly asks local artists to collaborate with him on shows, reading poetry or helping organize, and Dogs of Ire has played benefit shows for piNOISEpop and Schools for Chiapas.
Fritz said that the Riverside Underground had a strong DIY ethic “because, like all DIY communities, people have challenged their surroundings and strived to create the things that were not available for them. I think a lot has been accomplished over the years. It’s a beautiful thing to see what is created out of nothing. ... What really irks me is the whole ‘it could never happen here’ slavery impulse. The whole ‘not now, not me.’ It’s always somewhere else, someone else with the magic powers. It’s not only contagious but fucking annoying. Here’s a shovel. Bury yourself already. I’m really lucky to have shared time and have learned from other DIY communities all over the world that anything is possible.”
Micah Stevens created 9250x.com, a community calendar for local arts, music, and social action events, because he saw a need for networking and promotion in the area. Micah explained, “9250x.com is a website that provides online tools to help people promote and find out about happenings in the Inland Empire…it’s focused on the arts community, and I support just about anything as long as it’s Inland Empire-centric.” He has offers some free web space, free email accounts, along with links, a bulletin board, and a front page to post flyers for shows. His aesthetic: a free information site “almost entirely run by the community itself.” Micah volunteers his work for 9250x.com while running his own web hosting and software development services at Raincross Technologies.
J.Roach and Kim Chi created the Eroda Ottra online art gallery specifically to showcase local talent. This was a space for anyone, really, but they seem to focus on local talent especially. Kim adds, “When we first started the art gallery site everybody seemed to be telling us to charge the artists ‘commission’. Well, fuck that. There are enough artists out there who struggle just to be seen, just to sell one piece of work for practically nothing. I know what that is like and I want to give these people some sort of a break. There is a lot of honor in working with and meeting so many talented individuals; the site is the reward in and of itself. The last thing we wanted to do was taint that experience by involving money. This is about exposure for them.”
Roach and Kim collaborate on helping the scene and still work on art separately. Roach created and maintains Infest Nation and is creating a clothing line. Kim is involved with the underground fashion scene here, a part of a network of women who throw fashion shows at the local bars and coffee shops. Kim told me, “Real art, raw art, the kind of stuff that comes from the source...all that shit is made by struggling people. There seems to be better art coming from the underclass because they are compelled by the future. When you have the security of money you can’t understand the desperation to get somewhere; you don’t have that need to find meaning in all this chaos and fear. As an artist, your lifestyle is shaped by communication. That’s what art is, right? So you have to be very creative in getting across what you have to express because often we have walls in front of us when others do not. Good. That makes us stronger, more evolved. When I did my fashion show, I thought, ‘I did this whole thing grassroots... No funding, no publicity, no agents. Fuck you Gucci, my shit rocked. I’M FROM RIVERSIDE AND I’M A GODDAMN NINJA.’”
These artists are just the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in Riverside culture, try checking out bands like Piano Drag, The Kassettes, Circuit Scarecrow, Clonehero, The Sess, Child Pornography, Hobo Jazz, Ruet Tape, Slave To Freedom, Squab (now in Long Beach), Last Blue Film, Quem Quaeritis; record labels like Silencio Records, One Cell Records, Nightpass Handmade Records, Ethospine Records, artists like Jeff Soto, Lola, Maria Castro, Jeff Ribaudo, Alison Sumner, Shaunna Peterson, Ken Stansbury, Bulletproof Junkies, Dan “Daino” Torres, George Campos, Marco Rached; galleries that host the monthly art walk like RCAA and Division 9 Gallery, media like Digress, Disposable Pop, Skratch, (909), The Zen Tone Viziers, Media Sheep, , and even the zine distributor Mad People Distro.
Working in this energizing environment, my zine was in many ways easy to put together—I had so much material to work with that content was never a problem. The burning question, though, was what to name it…nothing seemed clever or poignant enough to capture the mood and aesthetic I was going for: appropriately angry, appropriately tongue-in-cheek, appropriately powerful, but appropriately fun! Naming is an important act of social action, as it gives me the power to define my world, my perceptions, and my thoughts. And like all of my writing, the artistic community I work in shapes and influences my work.
Transcripts of interviews are available on the stuff page.