The Noise is going silent. The music magazine that began in September 1981 as a raggedy, five-pager, piling up in rock clubs and music stores all over Boston before switching exclusively to an online format more recently, will cease publication with its December issue.
The brainchild of its editor-in-chief and only paid employee, singer-songwriter-guitarist T Max, The Noise was, especially at the height of its popularity in the late 1980s, a must-read for music fans and musicians in and around Boston. On the cover of the first issue, which included gossipy coverage of what went down on opening night at the new club Streets, T Max (writing under the pseudonym Clark K.) vowed “to keep you up to date on Boston’s local rock scene.” The Noise kept its promise.
“The Globe and the Phoenix and Sweet Potato were giving local bands some coverage, but unless you were in the top echelon, you weren’t getting anything,” said T Max in a recent interview at a Jamaica Plain coffee shop. “I saw that the underneath [bands] needed coverage, so I took over that area.”
But the seed was planted earlier, when T Max, a New Yorker who has played in bands since he was 14, moved to Martha’s Vineyard as part of the trio Mr. Timothy Charles Duane, then landed in Boston in 1979, where he soon discovered who was listening to what.
“I remember going to The Rat for the first time, walking in on [the punk band] La Peste, then I would go to a different club, probably Cantones, the next night, and I would realize, ‘Hey, I saw that person and that person at The Rat.’ I started seeing the familiarity of people in the audience from club to club. I thought, ‘This is what you call a scene.’ ”
His fanzine was initially put together and distributed by the members of his own band the Machines, Bobby Combs and the late Teddy Virgin, with the help of local writers who worked for free because they wanted to be part of this new, hip venture.
“At first, we did live reviews, some CD reviews, and interviews,” said T Max (real name Timothy Maxwell), now a Salem resident. “But it all turned into something much bigger. In the beginning it was just Boston bands, but eventually we extended it to include New England.”
Of course, to keep readers interested, T Max had to stay on top of things.
“I started becoming aware that there were scenes within scenes here,” he said. “For instance, the ska scene would come up and go down. When it was up, we’d jump on it and do every band we knew, then it would disappear again. That was happening with every genre of music, and I would be paying attention.”
Curt Naihersey — a.k.a Mr. Curt — has been on the Boston music scene for decades, playing guitar in bands including Pastiche, Mr. Curt’s Camaraderie, and Fun Era Fifty. The Noise, he said, “was a true fanzine, and it was pre-social media. People would connect with other people at clubs and music stores. You’d tell people about bands verbally, and then people would write about them, and T would put it in The Noise.”
Saxophonist Ken Field, whose résumé includes stints with Skin, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, and Bad Art Ensemble said, “The Noise has documented the Boston rock music scene as no one else has, and in some ways cemented the Boston rock community. It’s been essential reading for anyone on the scene, to know what was happening, to know who was doing what, to see who the new people on the scene were.”
Carter Alan, assistant program director and midday announcer at WZLX, agrees.
“The magazine helped me see names of bands that were coming up,” he said. “I was in charge of local music at ’BCN in the ’80s, and I would know bands, but not necessarily the people in the bands. When they would move on to form a new group, you’d always get a heads-up from The Noise.”
T Max also made time to make music, playing in bands that included Art Yard and the Borg, then putting together the 11-piece Project Eno and, most recently, Sgt. Maxwell’s Peace Chorus.
‘I started becoming aware that there were scenes within scenes here. . . . That was happening with every genre of music, and I would be paying attention’
But The Noise kept coming out, with a slicker look and more pages, 10 times a year when it was a print publication, 12 times when it moved online in August 2015, with T Max assisted by a battery of writers and copy editors, all working gratis. And he’s kept it a free publication. Money came from ads. He recalls being overjoyed when he landed his first one.
“I think it was our third issue,” he said. “We got Syncro Sound, the Cars’ recording studio. They paid me $75 for a half page!”
But the absence of advertising today is the biggest reason he’s closing down. “I only had one major advertiser left, the T-shirt printer QRST’s,” he said. “We were speaking about how the magazine was doing, and I had to tell them that we were getting less hits these days. When they said they were going to stop advertising at the end of the year, I realized that The Noise was not going to have an income. I thought, ‘Do I want to keep doing it, or should I use all of my time to pursue what I’m loving doing right now, which is my own music?’ ”
So, the choice was made, and though The Noise will no longer exist, and T Max will devote more time to performing his “kind of a grungy R&B thing,” what was once The Noise will morph into something akin to a T Max website.
“I don’t really know what it’ll be,” he said. “It’s developing, and it’ll happen soon. The URL will remain unchanged, thenoise-boston.com, but it’ll be about me and my music.”
He paused, then added, “I might have a section to promote a small group of musicians that I think of as my friends. I’ll still want to give them coverage on my site.”Ed Symkus can be reached at email@example.com.