Released: 2010, Indie
This is one of the coolest fanzines, I’ve ever seen. What makes this special and unique to me is two-fold. One it has an industry theme and two, being a Canadian I have a long history with Banzai Records. When I discovered that this fanzine existed I knew I had to have it and support it! This month I’ve reviewed the first four issues. Please feel to check out the other reviews. Because of the similarity in each issue these four reviews are much the same and my apologies for that in advance.
A bit of background is in order for our international readers. Banzai Records was a small, independent Canadian label that would license Metal albums for the domestic market. They had local distribution and production through the major label giant, Polygram, so you could find these great imported Metal titles at local prices. Founded in Montreal, Quebec by Michael Meese in the early 80’s, the label was run out of a Metal specialty store and over the years released 112 titles. In the mid-80’s you couldn’t go to any record store with a metal section and not see a Banzai title. In Canada, Banzai is legendary and these days collectors like Jackie from Skullfist and Jason Decay from Cauldron pay handsomely for Mint Condition vinyl Banzai pressings! In Canada you can judge a man’s worth not by his hockey card collection, but by his Banzai vinyl collection!
By default I bought lots of Banzai cassettes back in the 80’s because they were cheap and readily available. As the 90’s rolled around and as I grew older and more knowledgeable about the music industry, to be honest, I found myself less and less thrilled with Banzai. Let’s face it, all they did was reissue albums. As I continued to collect, I thought, why would I want a local reissue instead of an European or American original pressing? Quite often Banzai made mistakes with these reissues. Track lists were changed, songs added, songs subtracted, song sequences altered from the original, artwork was altered, often the packaging was substandard (especially on the cassettes) and there were tons of little mistakes with typos and dates being wrong. At times it was pretty shoddy. However, it was the music that counts and there is an enormous amount of nostalgia about the quality of the bands being reissued.
After my enormously long and probably unnecessary introduction, I will actually talk about the fanzine in this review! Founded by Jay Van Deventer the BANZAI RECORDS COMPANION is a classic ‘zine. It’s printed/photocopied on nice thick, 8.5 x 11 paper. Each issue is 24 pages long with a colour cover. In one sense, in terms of production and design it’s pretty amateur. It’s straight cut and paste layout…but that is part of why it is so great, it’s homemade, made with heart and there is nothing wrong with the classic fanzine look. SLAYER fanzine looks much the same and look at it’s international reputation! The format of each issue is essentially the same, a chronological, album by album analysis of each release with a picture of the front cover, back-cover, inside vinyl label, track-listing, notes, trivia and a full review of each title from various contributors.
Issue #1 covers the following titles.
Venom-At War With Satan
Metallica-KIll 'Em all
Anthrax-A Fistful Of Metal
Exciter-Violence And Force
Raven-Al For One
Slayer-Show No Mercy
Venom-Welcome To Hell
Metallica-Ride The Lightning
Overdrive-Swords And Axes
Tokyo Blade-Midnight Rendez-Vous
MainEEaxe-Shout It Out
Grave Digger-Heavy Metal Breakdown
Tokyo Blade-Night Of The Blade
The ‘bonus features’ of Issue #1 are the introduction, a brief history of the label, some technical points on the labeling and packaging of Banzai releases, and a reprint of some Banzai ad flyers.
Check out these other great Banzai sites and feel free to read my interview with the BANZAI RECORDS COMPANION mastermind, Jay Van Deventer.