Interviewing Writer Dawn Anderson

Posted: December 9, 2011 in Other Key Interviews

Where to start.  I think Dawn may be the most talented music writer I’ve come across…and that goes beyond Seattle.  She’s conversational, funny, self-effacing, and informative.  She also provided one of the biggest connections between 1980s Seattle punk and suburban metal scenes.  Oh yeah, and she used to be married to Jack Endino.

During her career in Seattle, Dawn wrote for the Rocket, and started three fanzines: Backfire (1980s); Backlash, and Backfire (early 2000s).  “Can you think of any other names with the word back in it?” she jokes.

I interviewed Dawn by phone back in May of 2007 (and met her in July of 2011 at the Fastbacks reunion show.)  As we chatted, I learned how she pretty much crossed all the mini-scenes within early ’80s Seattle.  She liked the hardcore people, she enjoyed the noise bands (Mr. Epp, Limp Richerds), she loved the U-Men (who doesn’t?).  That was okay, but she also liked the new-wavy bands of that era like the Heats and the Cowboys…bands that weren’t cool enough for the punk people.

She also was one of the few punks who liked Kiss, and explored that passion when she began Backfire in 1983, openly combining her love for punk with mainstream metal and hard rock.

Seattle’s Eastside suburbs are separated from the city by Lake Washington.  For years, the ‘burbs had a metal scene that dwarfed the urban punk community.  While the metal music often eminated from West Seattle, the wealthy Eastside had a venue for bands to play…the Lake Hills Roller Rink.  Most of the urban punks had little time for Lake Hills, as much of the metal kids there sported the then stereotypical “big hair and spandex” look.  Dawn, however, ventured over anyway.  “Some of them were pretty damn good musicians,” she recalls, “But…at the time, it didn’t seem like very many of them were being very bold about originality.  A lot of ’em went up there and played Judas Priest covers and Black Sabbath covers and shit.”

In early 1986, Dawn’s punk/metal passion was vindicated with the release of the seminal compilation Deep Six, grunge’s opening document (although no one used that word, yet.)  The comp featured Green River, Malfunkshun, the Melvins, Skin Yard, Soundgarden, and the U-Men.  Dawn provided an overwhelmingly positive review of the record in the Rocket.  “There was this group of bands–and the Deep Six bands were some of them–that just took anything from everything they liked at all, and just threw it together and threw it in a blender,” Dawn says, “with absolutely no thought to whether it was cool or not.  And it really got some people’s heads spinning….It was just fucking great watching snobs squirm like that.”

“One of the points of her review of the Deep Six record was, ‘We need a name for this.  This is not like anything that’s come before out of Seattle,'” recalls Jack Endino.  “‘It’s not exactly metal.  It’s not exactly punk.  It’s something much sludgier and weirder’ ….So she didn’t coin the g word really, but she saw the need for it.”

Given the heavily male nature of the ’80s Seattle grunge scene, I asked Dawn about her place in it.  “There were always plenty of women in the audience,” says Dawn, “as well as women booking the shows, playing the songs on their college radio programs and of course, writing about the bands and starting their own magazines.  Green River even had a bunch of cute girls in mini-skirts at all their shows and you know it’s not because those guys looked like supermodels.  That’s one thing I’ve always been proud of when it comes to Seattle: the women aren’t afraid to rock–especially the smart ones.”

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