RE/Search History, 1980 to NOW
Publishing Iconoclast V. Vale, the sole founder of Search & Destroy and RE/Search, has a goal: provide “timeless” books while boldly charting new paths of discovery. His publications strive to embody optimism, dark humor and anthropological objectivity, while remaining unique-yet-universal. Eschewing academic language and shock-for-shock’s sake, he strives for clarity of detail while not dumbing-down content for gratuitous sensationalism. Yet, his books often are…eye-openers. RE/Search strives to inspire readers with all the Secrets of Creativity, to fulfill the (Punk Culture) goals of Do-It-Yourself, Anyone Can Do It, Everybody Can Do Anything, Rely on Yourself, Be Curious & Driven, Be Diligent & Persevere, Be Anti Authority/Anti-Status Quo, and Above All, Express Black Humor.
RE/SEARCH (1980 to the future) is an Archive, Publishing and Oral History Project that began in 1977 by V. Vale at City Lights Books in San Francisco. RE/SEARCH grew out of Search & Destroy (1977-79), which Jello Biafra, Dead Kennedys founder, called “the best Punk Rock publication, ever. It combined art and photography with in-depth interviews and articles.” V. Vale is the sole proprietor/sole founder of RE/Search, contrary to that erroneous, misinformation-filled Wikipedia! He has the original DBA on his wall to prove it.
Every RE/SEARCH book continues the International Punk Rock Cultural Revolution, but strives to provide permanent inspiration to artists/cultural scientists of the future, providing careful editing, reference sections, photos, art and anthropological history. Our books are printed in tiny quantities, are uncompromising in content (unlike books from a corporate publisher) — each one is a rare, limited- edition work of art. Look at our catalog — many books you see today will not be here tomorrow, so get them while you can (it is impossible to get $15,000 to reprint a book anymore). Our back list is NOT available in chain bookstores because they don’t order them. So PLEASE ORDER DIRECT, and help keep RE/Search going! Visit our “legendary” office! You can email me & get a personal response at email@example.com — V. Vale, founder of Search & Destroy and RE/Search Publications, www.researchpubs.com
* A good history of the early Goth, Punk, Industrial scene, as well as creepy one- shots, can be found in RE/Search publications.” — Goth website
The landing of the punk rock hydrogen bomb in San Francisco in 1977 kicked up enough radioactive dust to enact a countercultural resurgence in the Bay Area that had long since become dormant with the Beatniks and Hippies of yore. The torch was passed to V. Vale in the form of a few hundred dollars from his old City Lights boss, a fellow by the name Ferlinghetti and a poet friend named Allen. Seeking to provide a voice for the burgeoning movement Vale began publishing Search & Destroy, still infamous for its bluntly candid interviews and unrestrained artistry. Along with Punk magazine and the later creation of MaximumRock’N'Roll, Search & Destroy remains one of the truly independent publications that put regional punks on the map and established a unique facet of the punk ethos. Vale’s vision of the Punk movement, one that was shared by many of his contemporaries, went deeper than gobbing and finding fashionable new uses for safety pins. For Vale Punk represented the need for freedom, both socially and artistically, necessitated by the fuel of a “black humor” consciousness inherited through a long line of the disillusioned stemming from Dada and Surrealism through the Situationists directly to the morbid yet grandfatherly grin on William Burroughs’ face while wielding a shotgun or Mark Pauline’s Frankenstein hand powering a remote-controlled post-historic robotic dinosaur.
Building upon the success of Search & Destroy and rising to the challenge of pushing into the new territory opened in the wake of Punk Rock’s mainstream co-option, Vale started RE/Search publications. RE/Search’s mission is farther reaching than Search & Destroy. In the most general sense the aim is inspired by Andre Breton’s call in his Surrealist Manifestoes to explore the irrational shadow of official culture. While San Francisco in the last dying decades of the twentieth century is not Paris in the century’s infantile first, the project has been more varied while remaining decidedly on the cutting edge; the aim of shocking placid minds has never waned. Staying true to its roots in radical art and literature RE/Search has reprinted several hard-to-find classics of scandalous fiction while putting out volumes of original work. All RE/Search titles adhere to the same aesthetic principles: large format books with innovative layouts and original graphics and illustrations by Bay Area artists, replete with unpretentious urban anthropological investigations into the new subversive underground.
The books in the RE/Search library are a constant source of imagination, curiosity and challenge to all preconceived notions of the world. Vale’s love of literature and particularly his obsession with the novelists JG Ballard and William S. Burroughs, the prophets of the twenty-first century whose mission inspired Vale’s own, to, in Burroughs’ words, “Wise up the marks.” The paranoid visions of these two writers could never be more timely or accurate. RE/Search offers an excellent volume on Burroughs and Gysin as well as several on Ballard including the exclusive Quotes and Conversations books and the definitive Atrocity Exhibition, illustrated by Phoebe Gloeckner and Ana Barrado and annotated by Ballard himself. In this vein is the RE/Search Classics series which brought back into print Octave Mirbeau’s The Torture Garden, and The Confessions of Wanda von Sacher-Masoch. The infamous Pranks and The Industrial Culture Handbook not only stand in categories all their own but literally helped spawn such categories (need I say more?). An abiding interest in transgressive lifestyles manifested RE/Search’s best-selling volume Modern Primitives, as well as Modern Pagans and Angry Women, titles that virtually explain themselves. RE/Search also has its heros, the singular personalities and world views of those who are not only unrepresented but are unrepresentable save in their own words. The exclusive titles Freaks, Memoirs of a Sword Swallower and Bob Flanagan Super Masochist speak volumes because they are the rare instance where these subjects have been allowed to speak for themselves. The Incredibly Strange Music, Incredibly Strange Films and Zines double-volume sets are all fascinating for being as much about the sensibilities of the people who collect these overlooked and undervalued gems as it is about the inimitable personalities who produced them. In both instances they are extensions of an obsession to escape the boundaries of the status quo in order to discover different visions of the world.
The more specific and seemingly total the control apparatus that is placed on a society by those who are in power, the more outrageous, imaginative and ardent the modes of rebellion and resistance will become. As a publisher RE/Search hopes to embody as well as expound this principle. Seeing itself as fundamentally grounded in the counter-cultural community, RE/Search is not propped up by institutional grants or academia. The aim is to try to make a living by publishing what one is most impassioned about, no matter how antithetical that may seem to survival in George W. Bush’s America. RE/Search promises that so long as there is a thriving culture of resistance, it will continue to participate in chronicling that struggle.
J.G. BALLARD: “I’m glad too that you’re an admirer of Vale and his remarkable publishing house — he has produced an amazing series of books over the years and kept the flag of independent publishing flying during a very difficult time — the most consistently interesting publisher in America, without a doubt.” “Well, THANKS, J.G. BALLARD — you’re the most consistently interesting writer in the known world!” – V. Vale