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Graynoise: Music to Web Design

Graynoise: Music to Web Design

I previously wrote about the history of self-publishing and how it shaped what we see on the web today. I’ve written a bit about how layout on the web is influenced by print and how interactivity and responsive design has become the rule in how to create a website. Today, I want to explore a little bit of the history of Graynoise. The how and why.

Where do I fit into this? In the late 90’s I had some friends in high school who had been printing a punk zine for several years by the time I noticed. It was called Rats in the Hallway, and it was distributed nationally. It contained the usual fare. Articles, reviews, interviews, and sometimes a rant or two. To me, this was the pinnacle. I wanted in.

Young Punk

I mentioned in some of my earlier posts that I had always been interested in publishing. Writing, editing, design. The whole thing. Looking back, I looked up to the kid who printed it. So much so that I wanted to walk in his footsteps. I remember the nights after school. Brainstorm sessions with friends about names and logo designs. It was all very ambitious in a quaint, pat-me-on-the-head-and-send-me-away type of way. I had no idea what I was doing.

I started reading as many zines as I could. Zines like Maximum Rock n Roll and Cometbus are clearest in my memory. I liked the minimalist nature of MRR reviews and the long form story telling of Cometbus. It was a bit of a contradiction, but I ended up focusing on my writing and styled those burgeoning skills after what I saw and liked.

The older kid/role model who was the creator and editor of Rats in the hallway saw it in his heart to give me an excel spreadsheet with hundreds of record label contacts. As a sixteen-year-old, I started cold calling as many as I could. A kind man named Charlie at Epitaph Records helped build my confidence and bought ads in those first few issues of my own publication. He sent me cd’s for review. So, I built on that and decided if Charie would buy ads and send me stuff, I might as well call more. It set the ball rolling. A teenage salesman.


My baby. In that now distant sophomore year in high school, I printed my first few versions of my own zine, Extravomatic. I used my skills with a pair of scissors and my best guesses at how it should all work. I cut and pasted the inkjet printed articles, the reviews, first 2 interviews, and those first ads. In the style of Cometbus, I made my way to the cheapest photocopier and printed 50 copies of the first issue and handed them out to classmates. My baby.

I sent some off to the people that had bought ads as proof. I was so proud. If I remember correctly, it was around 24 pages and there was a small controversy surrounding an article I had published about the cool kids being so lame with their backwards hats. Really compelling stuff. Some names were named, and I had an angry teenage author yelling at me as word spread. It didn’t matter to me; I was in heaven. I had published something. I could hold it my hand and prove that I had some sales chops.

The ball rolled a bit. By the time I had a layout set for my 4th and 5th issues, I felt the pain of printing costs. It wasn’t a huge run by any means but 150 copies of 30 pages by my final issue was a bit much for what I could afford.

The Information Superhighway

During this time, I had also been enamored with the internet. My family was usually late to the party with technology. I remember when my relatives in New York had donated an actual PC. It wasn’t much. It really wasn’t. A Tandy from the 80’s that booted MS DOS with a giant floppy disk. Swapping those disks in and out to load different programs was archaic then. It makes me feel so ancient thinking back. I mention this because it’s important to understand that at the time, receiving AOL trials by mail was commonplace and it was old hat to several of my friends who had been hacking away in those chat rooms.

Fast forward a few years of pain with the torture of using that Tandy, we had a Windows 95 machine. A 75Mhz 8MB RAM Acer that we bought from a now defunct electronics super store south of Denver. I inherited that and the main computer became a 133Mhz Packard Bell. These two computers changed my life. With the Acer in my bedroom, I stayed up late learning how to make table layouts on ancient self-publishing company servers. Those late nights downloading music from Napster and Pirating software with Hotline. This all lead me to building websites. It felt so sophisticated to learn from tutorials I printed out about how to post HTML to Geocities.

Genesis of Graynoise

Punk Rock 101 was the name of the webzine that took over for the print version. I remember Charlie telling me how disappointed he was that I was moving over to the new medium. He told me it cheapened it, but he was still happy to buy banner ads, mail cd’s, and send me to concerts to ask bands about things only a kid could ask. Punk Rock 101 became Punx 101, became Graynoise. I was so proud when I bought my first domain name graynoise.net. I hit up another website called Fast Music. The owner liked what I was doing. Why? I still don’t know why so many of these people gave me a chance. I had a sort of confidence mixed with innocent wonder in those years.

Neal hosted my site for several years. I ended up meeting him at one of the Warped Tours where he gave me some merch. Not sure what happened to that man. We lost touch and I eventually moved the site over to other hosts and communities. The site was becoming a lot to handle by now. I had no database. I was working with what I knew. There were hundreds of individual HTML pages placed in folders. I was serving it all as best I could with Dreamweaver template tags and server side includes.


A few other webzines linked together by common purpose started a community called Brainchild which later dissolved as most people either lost interest or went their separate ways. A few survived. The ones that did, they were the best of us. They were a bit older and had a lot more sense. Better connections and not as much of that innocent confidence. In those days Myspace had taken over. It was a couple years before Facebook became the undisputed champ of social media.

Blogging was becoming a thing so what I was doing started becoming less unique. Everyone was doing it. The cool had been drained out. I burned some bridges and other interests took control. I held on through college but tools like Blogger had popped up and the term CMS was becoming a much more common topic of discussion. Cold Fusion had its days and was nearing the end of its widespread use as Macromedia had been bought out by Adobe a few years earlier. Sites like Punknews.org had popped up and stolen a lot of the thunder and actually got traffic unlike what my small-time publication had ever been.


In those late days, I decided to transition graynoise.net to a Shoutcast radio site. I made some playlists and had a relay server blast Punk and Hardcore as far as the internet would take it. I look back fondly on those days but realize now, that even after a decade I had no idea how to market and lost the plot. The one thing that stayed constant was making websites and how fascinating it was. I may have lost interest in the music business, but I never lost interest in design. It was a few years later that I really dug into web development.

Things like Cold Fusion and early CMS platforms like PHP-Nuke were always on the burner and I did build a couple iterations of Graynoise with them. What really caught my eye and got me to learn more about PHP was WordPress. I think it was around 2007 that I really took a hard look at what it could do and decided that I would, when I had time, focus on learning. In between World of Warcraft marathons was when I’d dabble here and there. Fast forward to 2010. I had made a couple WordPress themes in an attempt to start up Graynoise again. I was lost. Out of college with no real direction.

Sandwich Man

I had quit my job making sandwiches. An unemployed History/Political Science graduate who wanted to make my way as a web designer. I mean, why not? I had been making my own websites for over a decade at that point. Recently married and desperate for a few bucks, I used some of those cold call skills. I hopped on Craigslist and contacted anyone that looked like they could pay. I asked family and friends who had businesses. Luckily there were leads for a person like me with no formal training. I had a goal.

I found some success in those early years of Graynoise Media. It gave me motivation to continue. My roster of clients grew quite a bit and going into 2013 I was making more than I did at any of my previous jobs taking orders behind a counter or threading ancient film projectors.

Back At It

Now today. Here I am, back at it. The landscape has changed but the people are the same. I don’t think I could make it as a music blogger or an editor of a punk zine these days. Time changes things. The thing I will always hold onto, though, is the will to make something of my own. I want to be the editor in chief. I want to be the one who schedules my time. It’s not out of the same rebellious spirit of a young punk but, more I want to make the time my own. I want to make my work my own and I want it to work for me.

This started as an article about the history of the internet. I thought I would write a bit about my own experience and ended up with a biography. Yes, I skipped a lot. The gist of it is here. I wouldn’t trade away the experiences and the memories of all the people I met. All the aspirations and the confidence it brought me as a young man. It’s been quite a ride for Graynoise.

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