By Darrin Lautenschleger - Times Reporter Staff Writer
(THE ROC is probably the only publication ever to receive enthusiastic reviews in national rock, metal, punk and rap magazines alike (to say nothing of newspapers like SCREW see #1,120 special censorship issue) but one of the most well-done articles on R.O.C. to appear yet was a major "focus" piece written for the local daily TIMES REPORTER by Staff Writer Darrin Lautenschleger. Good work, Darrin. The article appears here:
Los Angeles, New York, London and even Cleveland are just a few of the cities most often associated with societal change and upheaval.
Better make some room folks, because Jewett is quickly moving up the pecking order. The Harrison County village is home to Rock Out Censorship, the grass-roots, anti-censorship group devoted to squelching the efforts of those organizations and individuals seeking restrictions on all forms of the arts. especially music.
And in little more than a year. ROC has crashed onto the scene with the force of a message-bearing brick thrown through the window of a quiet home. Wrapped around the brick is the group's newspaper, "The ROC," which has mushroomed from a photocopied newsletter to a nationally-circulated (9,000 Copies sent to 40 states) tabloid in only four bimonthly issues. "It has overwhelmed us as far as how fast it has been growing." said John Woods. a R.O.C. co-founder whose home in Jewett serves as the group's headquarters. "When we started, our intention was to put out a newsletter in Ohio. But after we got this publicity, it just kept growing."
The efforts of Woods and co-founder Randy Payton of New Philadelphia, who shares editing duties with Woods for "The ROC," have snatched attention for the group from all over the anti-censorship scene - most of it positive.
"The Source," a magazine devoted to rap music, had this to say about "The ROC" in a recent issue: 'This thing reads like a '60s 'Nuke the Establishment' handbook, yet it contains valuable news and information on the pro-free speech efforts.'
Other music magazines have featured similar comments and MTV news anchor Kurt Loder recently contacted Woods about future interview possibilities.
The group's rising popularity enabled charter member and "The ROC" reporter Mike Heck, also of New Philadelphia to arrange an exclusive interview with Jello Biafra, former vocalist with the band Dead Kennedys and a leader in the anti-censorship movement.
R.O.C. rarely backs down from an opportunity to spread its message, even if it means going to the opposition's territory.
"We're hoping to get a mention on the Senate floor," Payton joked in reference to copies of 'The ROC" being sent to noted foe Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina).
R.O.C. was formed in December 1989 in response to an out-of-state ministry - Frontline Ministries of Bloomington. Ind, -that was speaking out against rock music during a series of appearances at area schools and churches. After protesting a service at Conotton Valley High. Payton and Woods went one step further and R.O.C. was born.
"(Frontline) mainly attacked rock and metal music, but they said all music was controlled by the devil, too," Woods said. "That was the main catalyst to getting R.O.C. started,"
Woods and Payton each have had past experiences in community activism. Woods, who said he was in his "30's" formed a 17-county Ohio Human Rights Network during the past decade which fought federal cutbacks on several public assistance programs. He also sat on the board of Ohio Legal Services, is a past president of the Cadiz Jaycees and was arrested at a rally while demonstrating against the Ku Klux Klan in 1975.
Payton, a graphic artist who also is in his "30's", helped organize the local Earth Day activities last year and is publisher of "NOW!," a magazine devoted to promoting the local and regional "creative community."
Heck's biography reads like many of the group's members. A drummer in the band Carnival of Shame, he helped organize a R.O.C. chapter in Philadelphia and promotes the group while traveling with the band.
Despite the crush of publicity, R.O.C. members have not lost sight of their primary purpose, Payton said. That is why the third issue of "The ROC" called for the formation of a centralized, national anti-censorship organization.
"It's not just the music community we see the creativity being stifled," Payton said. "It's at the community level, too. Bands don't play or are not invited at many places anymore and the Mapplethorpe issue caused all kinds of problems.
"A lot of our notoriety came from (the call for a national organization)."
Some of the people and groups R.O.C. is allied against include Tipper Gore - wife of Sen. Albert Gore (D-Tenn.) - who leads the Parents Music Resource Center, Jack Thompson, the Florida lawyer who led the recent crackdown on the rap band 2 Live Crew; the American Family Association, Pat Robertson, the television evangelist; and the Recording Industry Assn. of America.
The recent decision by many record companies and stores to label albums that contain potentially offensive lyrics also has been a focus of R.O.C.
"There's a lot of confusion over why you should be opposed to the sticker on the albums," Woods said. "Our position is that it attaches a stigma to artists no matter what kind of work they produce in the future.
"One of the craziest instances of that was on Frank Zappa's album 'Jazz From Hell.' They slapped that label on it and it was all instrumental," he said.
R.O.C., which is in the process of organizing a formal membership drive, held a benefit concert Dec. 22 in a Cleveland club with six upstart bands playing. The show was a total success, Payton said.
It is those up-and-coming bands R.O.C. members most want to reach and aid in the future. Woods said.
"These are the bands that (restriction drives) are going to have the most effect on in the future," Woods said. "They need to be at the front of this (anti-censorship movement) with some of the big names helping out."
In the meantime R.O.C. and "The ROC" will continue their efforts to increase awareness.
"A lot of people think anti-censorship is over because of the 2 Live Crew, Judas Priest and Mapplethorpe victories," Woods said, "It's set those (pro-restrictive) groups back, yes, but it's going to get worse."
(For more information about R.O.C or "The ROC," write: R.O.C., P.O. Box 147, Jewett, OH 43986)