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Rocket From the Crypt
The recent union of the West Coast's two hoary music sheets -- BAM and the Seattle Rocket -- made barely a peep in the clamor of August's "merger mania." Still, the move has shaken up the insular world of rock ink. With a combined run of over 250,000 copies and a million readers, the BAM/Rocket tag team is claiming a third place in rock publishing, trailing only Rolling Stone and SPIN. (Actually, that boast ignores two retail-related publications with big numbers: Musicland's Request distributes nearly a million copies a month; and Tower Pulse! moves around 400,000. Those figures bump the West Coast's dynamic duo to fifth place -- still impressive for a pair of regional rags.)

As we know especially well in the local publishing pond, big-fish takeovers make the little fish skittish, but BAM's managing editor, Sally Engelfried, reports that she doesn't anticipate her magazine's enforcing any guidelines on the Rocket staff. That paper's longtime honcho, Charles Cross, says he, too, doesn't foresee wholesale changes. "We'll be as nasty and snotty as always," he stresses. "I'm still editor and publisher and have complete control."

In fact, Cross and BAM's top banana, Dennis Erokan, are friends whose combined partnership now blankets the entire left coast, from Vancouver to San Diego. "That's a lot of 24-year-olds," Cross says.

Given its 16 years of coverage in lumberjack land (mostly as a monthly, not biweekly), the Rocket holds the distinction of being the first paper to put Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Mudhoney on its cover. Cross jokes that staff alum make up "half the New York magazine world"; former SF Weekly music editor Ann Powers, now a senior editor at the Village Voice, started out as an intern at the Rocket, and hip cartoonists Lynda Barry and Matt Groening ran their first scribbles in its pages. The prestige has paid off: "We've had William Burroughs do a piece for us," Cross says. "I think we paid him $10."

Cross says the only changes he expects will be "behind the scenes." "Ironically," he adds, "we're in the process of redesigning the Rocket." The staff may postpone the new look to keep handwringing among its readership to a minimum.

Taster's Choice
If the future of hip hop is live music, MC Kofy Brown is already there: She can flow for days, and her backup band, Grove Hall, plays a warm, funky groove. Celebrate the release of their new CD, Live & Delicious, Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Elbo Room in S.F. DJ George will spin hip hop, acid jazz, and soul. Call (510) 763-6670.

By James Sullivan, Sia Michel

 
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