Between the years 2001 and 2006 in the small, inland city of Toowoomba, Bizoo Street Zine operated and published a free music and arts street press. By encompassing all genres and printing everything that was ever submitted, Bizoo helped unite a youth community, put on all ages gigs and inspired kids like myself to get involved. Five years after the last issue was released and with having had no final issue, the Bizoo crew has formed to produce Bizoo: The Best, The Worst and the Trash That Never Made It, a book containing articles that ran in Bizoo, interviews with those involved and a recount of the events, venues, bands and people that made the Toowoomba scene what it was. I caught up with Bizoo founder Dr Jerm, to reminisce about Bizoo times and get the low down on what this Best Of is all about.
- Angie Hurlock
Back in 2001 Bizoo or Bizo as it was called at the time formed out of a love for music and a lack of live music happening in Toowoomba. When Frenzal Rhomb and Day of Contempt were heading to town and there were no posters or press for the show, Dr Jerm knew that things had to happen. “Being someone like myself, who doesn’t like to complain about anything I started my own thing. I didn’t know how to do it; I didn’t have any skills needed to do something like this. I just rounded up as many cool people as possible and we just did it. We had no idea what we were creating and it sort of grew from that, lots of young bands and opportunities to promote regional shows and events and it grew and turned into something national with national bands and international bands and became a massive platform for a lot of people. It became their first opportunity to write something or create anything. That’s something that I feel most proud about is that it was an opportunity for anyone to express their view and I feel really proud that we printed everything we ever received. We became the magazine or the zine for the voiceless”. In 2006, Bizoo put on a festival in Toowoomba to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the zine. Despite being a great day, with fantastic bands, Bizoo lost a lot of money and the end was in sight. “With the festival we put on to celebrate the best of Bizoo we lost $30 000 if not more which was obviously a big kick. But we also did 25 issues and we never really had goals or intentions of doing anything and I guess over time they organically formed and we sort of achieved them. We were promoting local bands, bands were coming to town and I guess there was nothing else we could really do. In some ways it felt like it got too big for what we were doing. We didn’t know how to get marketing or advertising, none of that mattered to us. And it wasn’t something I enjoyed doing anymore”.
When issue 25 was published in 2006, it was not a final issue, but it did become so with no more issues of Bizoo being made. The Best of Bizoo not only acts as a document of the events which happened in Toowoomba during a particular time, but finalising the end of Bizoo. “I guess we are aiming to highlight what we achieved. Highlighting everything that happened, what everyone wrote, drew or whatever it may be. Highlighting the fact that a group of young kids that had no idea what they were doing, created the community that formed. It’s like the analogy, you can find 10 million books on the rise of punk in the U.K or the U.S, but in Australia you’d probably get maybe 2 books. The music of Toowoomba between 2001 and 2006 would have got lost and I’m really excited about documenting a part of that history. It’s not necessarily super comprehensive, but it also engages what else was happening in the area. What really excites me is the opportunity of telling our story to other regional towns and showing that young people can actually do something and create a community of like minded people and build something”. A sense of community more than anything is what was achieved with Bizoo, but from starting out as kids not knowing how to put together a street press, skills were honed and many of the Bizoo crew have gone on to continue with youth orientated and journalistic ventures. For Dr Jerm, it awakened a side of him that he was not aware of initially. “I guess I like promoting gigs, it may not be via a publication, it could be putting on gigs to showcase to other people things they’re not aware of. But I think Bizoo also provided that platform for, a lot of contributors. Jim Campbell works for the Toowoomba Chronicle and Gede Parma has released two books and won awards. I guess we have assisted some people along the way and some bands as well that are now growing to be large scale bands. I think getting down to it, we were assisting a beautiful community in a small town was really cool and I’m really proud of that. It’s never been anything that I wanted to be thanked for”.
Along with the articles that ran in the actual Bizoo issues, the book will contain the stories of what was happening in the Toowoomba scene at the time including ongoing exchanges between Bizoo and a local band. “ That argument went on for three or four issues, this band was even writing these satirical fairytales about Bizoo and why it was bad and making posters and stuff like that and. There were arguments that were ongoing and really funny. But I think what grew from it were the memories that were run on no money, it didn’t matter what type of show, punk gig, acoustic gig or rock gig, everyone came. It didn’t matter if you were into punk rock or metal or whatever, everyone was there. It’s great to look back and see these photos and seeing two or three hundred kids going crazy in these little halls or on The Shack verandah. There are lots and lots of crazy stories that came from Bizoo and we’re highlighting most of them, if not all of the good ones, all the ones that can be printed at least. I think its funny looking over this stuff because we did it as a really collaborative process and made sure that everyone who wanted to be involved in that process. Going through all those articles I can’t believe we printed all that stuff because some of it was pretty risky to print. I think there could be a little bit of a backlash but that’s half the fun”.
After five years it can become hard to motivate people, but Dr Jerm has been overwhelmed by the overall response to the launching of the book. “I think the Bizoo crew that were involved with it in the later years are totally on board. We’re going to launch it in July 2011, exactly a decade since we launched the first issue. The first issue was June/July 2001 so a lot of the crew that started it off no longer has any interest in being involved on any level. I think it’s going to open a lot of people’s eyes, but there has been a pretty good response, like when we actually updated the website after 5 years of nothing on there, people came out of the woodworks and it was really exciting”. Amongst these people who came out in support of the publication of the book was Russell Southwood from the National Hotel in Toowoomba. “Russell surfaced and wrote this massive story and we’ve done an interview with him for the book. He was such a crucial member of the community that assisted us because there was no one putting original live music on at the time and I dare say they advertised in every issue that we released. I remember fond memories of interviewing every band that played there because there were no bands in town so we had to interview the 3 bands that played that night and maybe even Saturday and Friday night”.
Since the end of Bizoo in 2006 and with many people crucial in the scene moving away, the dynamics of the youth community in Toowoomba has changed, but the city remains close to the hearts of those involved. “I moved out of Toowoomba nearly three years ago now and I still am an ambassador of Toowoomba in many ways. If I’m anywhere I make sure to mention I’m from Toowoomba originally and if there are opportunities for things to be brought to town and shown there I make sure I lock them in. Cooky who was running Bon Amici’s for a long time was putting a lot of shows on, now he’s doing stuff at the spotted cow and Arthur terrace and the new noise crew were always bringing stuff to town”. The scene may have changed in Toowoomba, but it is far from being merely a distant memory. “I think it [Toowoomba’s youth scene] comes in waves like any scene or community. Things there seem pretty healthy right now. They’ve got the Summer Riot festival which replaced Eidecan, which seems like its pretty successful and the zine shop. ‘Smells like Zines’ is the only zine shop in Queensland. There’s the postbox zine publication that comes out and is very similar to what Bizoo was doing in the early days”.
The launching of the Best Of begins in Toowoomba on the 23rd July and will be launched nationwide in the months following. “We’re going to make the launch a little exclusive event happening in Toowoomba, where Toowoomba is actually going to get the book a month before the rest of the state. It would be great for Toowoomba to receive something so exclusive and something they can feel proud of. Some people probably won’t be, because it’s not all positive and there’s some stupid shit in there”. What Bizoo has always been about is reaching youth in regional areas where a local music or arts culture in non-existent and this will play an integral role in the launching of the book as well. “With Brisbane for example we may be doing ten different launches in because Brisbane is so huge. We want to go to the ‘burbs where the young kids are bored out of their minds. We want to go out to the ‘burbs and engage with those communities”.
The launch of the Best Of will also bring with it a regional tour of workshops to encourage and inspire youth create their own arts community. “With these workshops that we want to do, we want to tell the Bizoo story. We want to have Bizoo crew on the road that were there and did the work. We want to do grassroots workshops that provide the skills to maybe put on an art show, a gig, make a little street press or put a blog online. Ideally what we’re hoping to do if we get enough funds is that we could actually go into these small towns, motivate these communities and even provide a bit of financial support to get things up and running which would be amazing to see. Its not just something we want to do in Queensland, we want to do this nationally”.
After the launch of Best Of and the following regional tours, Dr Jerm intends on providing more opportunities for the arts community to stay alive. “After this we are starting up something new and exciting which I’ve been doing for the last five years after Bizoo, I guess by researching avenues and a new model of publishing and working as a collective where people see how it operates from the outside and inside. Ideally it would be nice to start paying people and that, people are frowned upon in the arts sometimes when people start making money and people say you’re a ‘sellout’ and stuff like that but you know a piece of art won’t pay the rent or buy a carton of beer. So it would be great to start paying people”. With the release of the Bizoo: Best of, Worst of and the Trash that didn’t make it; it is sure to inspire people to get involved and become a part of the community either for the first time or reignite a passion they once had. “Inspiring people would actually quantify success. What this Best of is all about is not about selling anything or reaching any numbers. If we inspire or motivate someone to put a show on or something like that, it would definitely make my day”.