February 28, 2022


If you want to have a different world future, you’ve got to have different ideas. You can’t create that new future with the same old ideas and with that same old language which…is crippling people from creating a new future.

V Vale, 2019, in

We can still hear a voice that defined punk in the Seventies. Meet V Vale on his birthday, and hearken! Here:

His glorious work sings the worst possible I told you so. Punk’s amplification of futility, punk culture’s rejection of earth-plundering, commerce, and standardized notions of beauty . . . was the correct analysis that the world is just figuring out. A voice from that era that puts punk consciousness in service to visons of a better world, one that understands the utopian joy of pranks and tricksterism, is the voice of longtime publisher of RE/Search books, ‘zines, and broadsheets, V. Vale. Now in his 70s, he’s releasing pandemic music on his album Lockdown Lullabies, which kicks off with CORONA, a contemporary punk song written from the perspective of the virus.

He was born February 4, 1944, in a Japanese American relocation camp in Arkansas.  Originally named Vale Hamanaka by his parents  actor Kiyoshi Conrad Hamanaka [stage name Conrad Yama], and Mary Takaoka of the vaudeville group The Taka Sisters (Myrtle, Mary, and Midi). But we first start hearing about Vale in 1977. By then, he worked as a buyer at City Lights Bookstore—the center of San Francisco’s Beat culture. The owner, iconic Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg each gave him $100 to start his punk ‘zine, Search and Destroy. Search and Destroy was succeeded in the 1980s by the sturdier publishing venture RE/Search, which expanded Vale’s oeuvre from zines to more academic hardcover books.

Under the influence of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, RE/Search published Vale’s and Andrea Juno’s interviews with celebs like Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and Patti Smith. William Burroughs made regular appearances. In a turnabout, Henry Rollins interviewed Vale. And the RE/Search catalog abounds with books about Diane diPrima, J.G. Ballard, Robert Anton Wilson, and books about Burning Man, modern primitives, Incredibly Strange Films, Angry Women, and other underground topics.

RE/Search’s most popular publication, Pranks!,  includes articles and interviews on pranks and the Vietnam War, Situationism, and Pranks and the Avant-Garde. One learns of Joey Skaggs, who got NBC to cover his fake house of prostitution for studding out dogs; and Mark Pauline, who built a three-legged “walking machine” contraption and trained his guinea pig to drive it. The prank of the century may well have been the exorcism and levitation of the Pentagon in October of 1967. And Pranks! features interviews/articles with some of the more profound ideas of Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Karen Finley, John Waters, Frank Discussion, and Jerry Casale. This compendium was a critical source for my new book, Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love, and in it, you’ll meet some of these folks who have done just that.

Currently and besides his musical output, Vale is documenting Covid “no’s,” that is, …which aspects of modern life—notably, many of the capitalist institutions he’s railed against throughout his punk rock youth—have ceased to function seemingly overnight. “No one’s going to work in an insurance office. No one’s buying a car. I think high-rise office buildings are worthless right now. It feels like the civilization we spent decades building up is more fragile than we knew.”[1]

Vale describes the focus of his writing: (I have) “this weird theory that there’s only 1000 interesting people on this planet that I refer to as primary source thinkers. It’s my job to find them. I’m just after something that lasts longer, not ‘high sugar fluff’ as Henry Rollins put it. I want something I don’t get right away.”[2]

So happy birthday, Valhalla Vale!


[1] San Francisco Chronicle, Datebook ||| Emma Silvers May 21, 2020, Updated: May 27, 2020, 5:52 pm

[2] “V. Vale Interview”. Retrieved 11 November 2017.


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