Screen Door from Issue #75
The last few days in the rush to deadline are always hectic. There’s far too much to do in too little time, and the candle gets burnt at both ends…but, truth be told, that’s also what has always made this work exhilarating, dating way back to my daily-newspaper days. There is a special thrill, watching ideas take shape into words, and headlines, and pictures, and eventually pages, rolling out of the laser proofer and finally off of the printing press. And there it is, the physical evidence of all the effort that everyone put in over the past two months.
This one started out busy as ever, and that was enough to keep the sentimentality at bay, for awhile. Just playing catch-up and trying not to have too many nights that ended at 3 a.m. was enough to think about, and to do.
As we’ve drawn to a close, however, the finality has seeped in. The last feature story arrived on Saturday morning. The last record-review drifted in late Saturday night. The last roundup of letters to the editor was finished off Sunday afternoon. And so many of those letters reflected precisely what this ending means to us, as well.
Let’s step back, for a moment, to the beginning. The picture you see here is of the modest one-bedroom house in Seattle where No Depression began, back in 1995. It was owned by Sandy Milne and Mary Schuh; you can’t tell from this photo, but there’s also a small garage-apartment in back, which Sandy and Mary rented to me when I relocated to Seattle from Austin in 1991. They moved to a bigger place in early ’95 and asked if I wanted to rent the front house. I did, and Grant Alden (who I already knew well, from his days at The Rocket) moved into the garage-apartment.
There’s a side door, over there on the left, where Grant walked through one summer day, toting a 45 from a band called Whiskeytown and saying we should do something on these guys in that magazine we’d been fiendishly plotting.
A few weeks later, as we were nearing completion of ND #1, Kyla Fairchild came to the front door, dropping off an ad for a band she was working with called the Crop Circles. She mentioned that she used to sell ads for The Seattle Times and wondered if we might need any help getting our little enterprise off the ground. As it happened, Jenni Sperandeo — a pal from the old AOL No Depression board, which played its own integral part in galvanizing this community — was already handling ad-sales, but Kyla gamely jumped in to handle distribution. And when Jenni left a year later to manage, yes, Whiskeytown, Kyla took over those reins as well.
Oh, and can’t forget the landlord — we got Mary Schuh involved from the start. She wrote about Seattle band the Picketts in ND #1, and she’s been the rock of Gibraltar in our business office (which is to say, in the basement of the house where she and Sandy now live) pretty much ever since.
Many others helped out with the day-to-day operations along the way, including Kay Clary, Tom Monday, Cindy Payne, Naomi Shapiro, Marcia Smith, Jon Maples, Larry Barrett, Diana Cardiff, and our Austin-based ad rep Trish Wagner, who’s been with us for the past five years.
And then there are the writers, photographers and illustrators, the people who made these pages sing, made ND an outlet not just for the surveying and reporting of art, but for art itself. That list would take up more space than we have; just know, all of you who took part, how much we appreciated how you helped us to shape the identity of No Depression.
As the clock ticks right up to midnight, there are a few, shall we say, hanging chads — things we wish we could’ve gotten around to in those 75 issues. Both Grant and I regret, for one, that Marty Stuart never graced our cover. Certainly he deserved that respect. I’m personally kinda bummed I never got to write at length in these pages about Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, though thankfully we did get them (or at least her!) on our cover, with Grant’s piece in ND #35, September-October 2001 (just before the planes hit). If Grant and I agreed that Buddy Miller was the clear choice for our Artist of the Decade, we were equally of the same mind that Welch’s Time (The Revelator) has been the decade’s finest album.
You could argue that point, and you’d be welcome to do so. After all, that’s exactly why we’ve been coming to these pages since day one: To talk passionately about the music we love.
One last thing about that old house. The “Screen Door” logo you see at the top of this page? It was made with actual wire-mesh screen, from a roll of it that we found over by the shed out back. Grant cut a piece off, then tore a little hole in it to give it that lived-in look, and laid it on the xerox machine over the letters.
And the rest, as they say, is history.