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~ On Yoshi’s Island With Genesis Evans

https://www.sayyouswearpodcast.com/1828058/11036693-on-yoshi-s-island-with-genesis-evans

For this episode, I sent it to Brooklyn to record with Genesis and play a couple hours of smash!

Genny’s early YouTube videos, Lurknyc parts, and tricks in Johnny Wilson edits had such a huge influence on me coming up in skating. In high school, pre-917, Genny’s videos and personal skating showed me that skateboarding is truly about having fun with your friends and doing what comes natural!

Upon arriving to him and Caleb’s home, I gained a profound new appreciation of Genesis’s creative world. I walked into a house full of music, plushies, in-progress paintings, Caleb at their table recording a song, and their friend Marcus cutting out and sewing letters onto a polo. I quickly learned that skating is just one of many tools in Genny’s bag!

He said something that has since stuck with me because it was a feeling I’ve had, but I’ve never quite put into words.  As a kid, he thought that art/music were things someone was naturally good at and that it was like a superpower; you either had it or you didn’t. He noted that this ideology is one that deters people from trying new things. However, sometimes you suck at new things but that doesn’t mean you should stop or that you can’t be great at it!

We speak in-depth about Genny’s love/ear for music, deep musical roots, Blair, and venturing out into a solo career as genny!. This episode coincides with his first solo album release 8 SONGS, as Genny spoke at length about his creative process and work for this album. Go check that out!!! Oh and, as always, hope y’all enjoy.

~ Interview with Devon Turnbull by Bilal Mohamed

Photo by Isa Saalabi

Devon Turnbull, founder of Ojas, a high-end audio company, co-founder of the late menswear line Nom de Guerre, audiophile, designer, sound guru, amongst various creative titles and aliases, took the time to discuss in depth his obsession with sound and music, traveling the world in a World War 2 era German ambulance truck, and about his close friendship with the late Virgil Abloh, sharing many of the valuable lessons he’s learned from him.

Turnbull currently has an exhibition on view at Lisson Gallery in New York (June 29 – August 5, 2022) and his speaker systems are concurrently featured in Virgil’s retrospective “Figures of Speech” at The Brooklyn Museum (July 1, 2022 – January 29, 2023).

Devon Turnbull: My home situation is a little crazy right now with the show going on. It was kind of like a full takeover, you know, like I had to produce so much stuff in so little time the house just fully became my studio. 

Bilal Mohamed: I know that feeling. Well, how’s it going besides that? Everything good? 

DT: It’s going great. You know, it’s been extremely busy with the show up and I didn’t think I was gonna have to spend all of my time there. But yeah, my wife’s been teasing me because I have a full-time job right now. Like I just have fully committed to this. It’s just that I learn too much and I think the experience is too valuable to not be there all the time. So it’s been a unique summer, so far. 

BM: Well, it looks amazing, man. And then you got your work showing at The Brooklyn Museum as well, right?

DT: Yeah. And I’m excited to activate that as the Lisson thing mellows out because I really want to spend some time over there as well.

 

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BM: Hell yeah. Before we even get into anything, just for people who don’t know of you and your work, could you give a quick spiel about who you are, where you’re from, and what you do.

DT: Yeah. So my name is Devin Turnbull. I kind of operate creatively under the name of Ojas, which is sort of a creative pseudonym I’ve been using since I was quite young. It was sort of my graffiti nom de plume at one point. I had studied audio engineering when I was young, that was my major, and that was what I thought my career would be. But you know, I was just kind of fucking around with side projects and creative stuff that I didn’t think was potentially anything serious, you know? Like I started making some clothes when I was still in school under the name Ojas as well. When that kind of took off I wound up co-founding a brand called Nom de Guerre with some partners – Isa Saalabi, Wil Whitney, and Holly Harnsongkram. And so, you know, at that point, audio and music sort of just flipped from being what I thought was my career to then visual art. Visual art and design being my hobby, I kind of turned that upside down and for a decade or so, became a full time designer, for lack of a better term. Basically designing various things. And audio became kind of my passion project. I re-contextualized the way I listened to music from going out to listen to music and playing music for people in venues to listening to music at home, and then, listening to music at home became something I took very seriously. So I kind of organically grew this practice of building high-fi listening equipment myself, and that eventually matured into what my current creative practice is. For the last 10 years that has been my primary creative output, which is sort of bespoke audio, reproduction equipment – stuff that we use to listen to recorded music.

BM: For someone who might not be interested in speakers or audio equipment, why would you say the quality of sound is important? For example, what is the difference between using a $200 Bluetooth speaker and the speakers that you make and are accustomed to. 

DT: Yeah. I mean, that question is obviously something that we talk about a lot, and in context. Like perspective is quite important when having that conversation, because I get asked about that. Like what is unique about this stuff that you are building all the time? And I always need a little bit of background from the person as to what their perspective is before I can accurately answer or like, you know, answer the question in a way that’s relevant to them because the kind of equipment I make is, particularly in the United States, a very unusual approach to high-fi music listening. That specific kind of technology, not just using tubes, but using a specific type of tube called a triode, big high efficiency speakers. And it’s a unique sound compared to what you’ll hear if you go to a conventional high end audio showroom. So there’s one context, what attracts me to the kind of stuff that I build compared to high end audio, and then there’s what attracts me to just listening to music. I think to answer your specific question compared to a $300 Bluetooth speaker… I guess there’s really two primary components that I think are essential. First and foremost, you know, regardless of my sort of system versus someone else’s, is just creating an environment which is sort of like a shrine to music. Creating a space where listening to music is your activity, your primary activity, as opposed to something that you do passively, like in the background. You know, even Sonos, for example, who, and like I’m not here to knock on Sonos. I like Sonos. I work with Sonos, their whole thing that’s made them really successful is that what they do and other brands like them do is try to create an easy way of making a large multi space location have music playing everywhere. And it’s kind of by nature in that sense background music, right? Like the technology and in a lot of ways, this started with some of the Bose stuff that was introduced in the eighties where the idea was like, “Make this thing almost invisible.” And you know, by nature it is usually used for like background music and I think the same is true for a lot of the little portable Bluetooth things. You stick one here, stick one there. And it’s just like, it’s easy. I can have music playing and I can go about my day with music playing and it sounds pretty good.

BM: I remember reading a quote from you in another interview that basically said, “It’s the difference between watching a movie on your laptop versus watching a movie in the theater”.

DT: Yeah, that concept has even kind of evolved since then. And I know this is kind of an extreme way of putting it, ha-ha, but it’s like going to the movies to watch a film versus what works on Tik-tok. You know what I mean? Like, not to say that, like a pill speaker or whatever they are, is like the music equivalent of TikTok, but like that is a literal way that some people listen to music. And for a lot of people these days in popular music, that is the goal of certain types of pop music now. It’s like, “we want to be a viral TikTok video,” right? That’s like one form of success for a musical artist. That’s not the kind of experience that I’m looking for in listening to music. You know, most of the music that I listen to is like albums for one thing. Music was much different in the stereo era when pretty much everyone that considered themselves a music lover had a home stereo and a place to sit down and listen to music. And I think there’s a lot that’s happened in the 20 or so years that’s led to the way people listen to music now. But I think streaming is a totally valid way to listen to music. There are very high quality streaming platforms available now, and you can build an amazing system around that type of listening. But for me, it’s even just something about the action of sitting down with an iPad and searching all the music ever made and hitting play on something. I think that just even that in of itself has affected what people are listening to and how they’re listening to it. There’s something about the physicality, even if it’s just a CD, like sitting down with the album art. I mean, it’s pretty universally accepted that you could stream music these days at a higher quality than a CD, although there are some great sounding CD players. But I just mean that, there’s something about the physicality of the medium that I have a relationship with the music. 

BM: Even in that regard, I don’t think people buy CDs or buy records as much. So, naturally, musicians are probably making far less money. 

DT: Yeah, I think that these days, the name of the game in music is like merch and stuff because people don’t consume music in the same way and I think that’s a shame, you know?

BM: One hundred percent.

DT:  It just really takes away from making masterpiece music and encourages more brand building than music thinking if you know what I mean? 

BM: Yeah. I agree. I know this is kind of a bizarre question, but have you ever spent a long period of time without music, like without listening to music at all?

DT: For sure. I mean, just by circumstance. Like, if I go and I’m traveling. You know, obviously you can have great experiences listening to music on headphones, and sometimes when traveling, you have really cool listening experiences on a plane with headphones on, cause that again puts you in this, like – Anyway, that has nothing to do with your question. 

BM: No, no, actually that’s another question I had, like about listening experiences. Like musical memories you have where it’s like, you were in this specific place at this specific time, you know? 

DT: Oh yeah. Set and setting is like everything with music and music triggers so many things, including memories – and I’m not unique in this way. Like my ability to remember facts, numbers, names, things like that. And this is all people pretty much universally – like you can hear a song and remember lyrics that you would never remember word for word if it were not set to a melody. Like you can hear one song, one time. If it’s catchy, one time and you can remember the exact combination and order of words. Like if I just told you, “Tomorrow you’re gonna see someone and tell them, “The elephant walked through the Sahara and drank some water,” in those exact words. Tell them that tomorrow, you’d have to write it down. But if that were the chorus of a catchy song, you’d have no problem remembering it, you know? And it’s like the way our brains work. Music affects our brains in amazing ways. And I think of music often as being more profound than a drug. There’s a lot we don’t understand about the human brain and I’m certainly not a neurophysicist or know whoever would know more about it, but it’s just something incredible about how frequencies are just circling through the air, hit your eardrum, and make your brain feel certain ways. And then to just get even more trippy about it, it’s all mathematics and physics. Like the fact that when the frequency of that vibration in the air doubles, so when you go from 200 Hertz to 400 Hertz – in other words, there are 400 vibrations per second versus 200 vibrations per second. We perceive that as an Octave. Like that kind of stuff I just start to trip out on super hard. You know what I mean? Where like there are mathematical things happening with vibrations in the air that our brain perceives as harmonious or not. 

BM: Wow. 

DT: There’s just so much about the way sound affects the brain. That yeah, you hear a song and you think of an experience you had, you know? There’s not a whole lot that has that ability to reprogram your brain, and that’s why it’s so important, if you feel compelled to do so, to build a practice around listening to music. There are a lot of religious practices where singing becomes part of like your religious practice, like Vedic Hindu religion, where getting together as a group and harmonizing and singing becomes like a meditation. But, you know, I just think that with the way technology and music have gone, we’ve lost a lot of valuable experiences like that. So, not to say that I’m like a genius and I came up with a unique way of listening to music that’s gonna reprogram your brain, it’s just, make a practice of listening to music and in an intentional way. I think with the vast majority of our friends and peers within our creative community, it’s obnoxious to say, “oh, music is important to me” because music is the foundation of so many people’s creativity. So whether it’s an art studio or design studio, or you’re making food or whatever it is, for so many people music is an essential element. And I just try to encourage people to take that seriously.

BM: What are some things you’d say you’ve learned from being a multidisciplinary artist rather than – I mean, in some way you are specialized, but because you’ve done so many things at this point?

DT: Yeah, that’s definitely a fair question. I didn’t really understand what a multidisciplinary creative was at a point, you know when I was younger, and I guess very young, like in school – this is 20 something years ago. I’m 42. Going back 23, 24 years ago when you’re in school and you’re like, I have to pick a major, I have to do something. I gotta figure out what I do. You’re kind of programmed to think that. This whole multidisciplinary creative thing is sort of a new thing. For example, whether it’s like, okay, I’m going to commit to writing graffiti for a period of time and it’s like, people will think I’m a toy if that’s not all I do. Back when I was designing clothing, we started Nom de Guerre in 2003, I think I did get a lot of criticism for not being like, “I’m just a clothing designer.” You know what I mean? Like the, the industry was still not really ready for like, “No, this guy’s something else other than a clothing designer, he’s a creative and he’s making clothing. He didn’t go to FIT, he’s not draping.” The audio thing, I initially just wanted that to be my personal work and not make it into a public thing so much, because I was like, “I don’t wanna fall outta love with this.” I just wanted to keep doing this until I’m old and gray and I wanna make sure that it remains my passion and as people started getting more and more interested in it, I felt like I had to kind of hide the fact that I had all these other creative lives prior to doing that because people won’t take me seriously in this world, unless I’m just a dude in a lab coat. I’m an outsider in the audio world. I still am for sure. I’ve definitely managed to establish really valuable relationships with most of the people that I look up to in that world, but there’s no getting around the fact that if you read about me in the audio press, it’ll be like “This guy totally isn’t coming up through the usual channels that one has to come up through.” For a long time, I felt like people won’t take me seriously unless my other creative pursuits are sort of a secret. And it was definitely Virgil who – I mean, I told him I don’t know how much I wanna connect the dots for people. I feel if people are gonna take the audio work that I’m doing seriously, and for sure that is true of some kind of older, biased, conservative audio consumers, they’re going to discount my work based on the fact that I’m not whatever that is, but V was just like, “No, man, you’re going about this all wrong.” Like it’s all about building a layered universe of creative stuff, not limiting yourself to what your output can be and just putting them all under one umbrella. He just explicitly told me, “This is not your weakness. This is your strength.” Like you need to embrace the fact that you can design graphics, write about this, and design a circuit for an amplifier, and do carpentry and wire up an amp and do all these things. He’s like this just makes your work so much more interesting and you should embrace it. I think for me it kind of clicked at that moment because I realized that what I do in audio really is the perfect culmination of all these different things. Like I have a great team and a lot of consultants that I work with when I need to, in various ways when designing audio, whatever it is, whether it’s a speaker, an amplifier or a turntable or whatever, but I feel very fortunate that I have foundational skills like graphic design, for example, which you wouldn’t think applies to that, but I use it so often in any number of ways. So I feel like lucky that that has been my path.

 

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BM: Would you say you find it important to be accepted by the audio world? Because I feel like from the outside, it seems a lot of the people interested in your work are more so the fashion people, designers, the writers, or artists. But I mean, that’s just from the outside. Would you be satisfied with that kind of audience rather than, you know, the professional audio types? 

DT: No, I mean, I’m first and foremost interested in the way my stuff sounds. Like, although the aesthetic of it is important, it’s 100% form follows function.  And the thing that motivates me 100% of the time is the sonic effects of what I’m doing. So, you know, it means a lot to me that I have the acceptance of, for example, engineers that I look up to. And people who – for example, Mark Ronson, is an important customer of mine, or consumer of mine, whatever you want to call it. I mean, yes, he’s become a friend as well, but he’s someone with a very well trained ear that the way we met each other and developed a relationship was strictly through his attraction to the sound of my stuff. And he’s someone who’s not interested in HiFi for HiFi’s sake, and doesn’t follow HiFI industry trends. In fact, he had a system which was more on trend in the high end audio world. And what I do is in a lot of ways an antidote to people who are kind of exhausted by the way the high end audio industry continues to cycle through technology and try to make yesterday’s technology obsolete. One of the things that attracts me to the type of technology that I utilize is that it’s timeless. A lot of the stuff that I make is based on sometimes 80-90 year old technology. I’m much more inspired by, and just strictly because I enjoy the sound of mid 20th century audio technology – I just find it hugely relieving to listen to that stuff. Like when I discovered that as an approach to system building I found it as a huge relief that you don’t have to be on this hamster wheel of like new stuff all the time like, oh, now there’s a higher bit rate, now there’s a new speaker that can go higher or that can go lower. It’s like, oh shit, this stuff sounds amazing and this 50 year old speaker sounds so much more relaxing than the stuff that I’m hearing when I’m going to a lot of high end audio dealers, you know? And I am looking for a different kind of music listening experience than a lot of those consumers are. I talk a lot about posture when listening to music. And when someone comes into one of my rooms and listens, if they sit down and they look kind of like serious and are trying really hard to develop some kind of articulated opinion on how the thing sounds. I’m always like this guy’s not doing the same thing I’m doing. I want someone to come in, start listening, and if they’re gonna sit forward in their chair, it’s because they’re like, “Wow, this, this feels really sweet and I’m sparked by this”, but I really want people to just be relaxed with the music.

BM: Just let it flow through them.

DT: Yeah just let it flow through people and have them settle down. It’s like a calming thing. I wanna listen to music and I want, when the record ends, I want to kind of be stuck to my chair. I want to be like, I need to take a moment, I’m too relaxed –

BM: I think that’s something special, man. Because in my relationship with speakers or people who invest a lot of money in speakers, I’ll always think about my uncles and my cousins when I was young, who would buy these crazy speakers for their cars and talk so much about it, but you hop in and listen to it and it’s just painful to listen to. It’s just like this crazy noise, you know? 

DT: Yeah. I mean, I think the opposite to an extent, like car audio, for example – at least it’s people having fun with sound. You know what I mean? 

BM: Yeah I feel like people don’t anymore, Like it’s not that serious. 

DT: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Even if your whole thing is car audio, culture was for sure, when we were young and I’m sure in many places still is, just about making as much bass as you possibly can. At least through that practice. You’re learning about how sound works and kind of having fun with physics. You know what I mean? I wouldn’t call it music listening but at least its a really cool way of introducing people to the physics, acoustics, electronics of how sound works. I can think of worse ways to spend a Sunday.

 

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BM: Right, ha-ha. I did wanna talk a bit about your van life. Not sure if you’ve been into that lately, but I’ve always been super interested in it.

DT: Awesome, yeah, you never know, like sometimes it comes up and someone’s just like “You, what??” I mean, I love it. It’s definitely another passion of mine. I’ve been too busy for the last, well, through COVID just by circumstance, like when COVID set in a lot of people were like, oh man, you guys are all set up, you guys must be loving it. You’re just traveling around in your van or whatever. And it’s like, actually that was just by coincidence, that was not our situation. We had one fully built camper that’s in Europe and we couldn’t get to Europe for like a year. 

BM: Oh, that one’s out there? I didn’t know that.

DT: Yeah, so the main camper we’ve been traveling in the last four or five years is a Mercedes G class ambulance that I bought from the German army. 

BM: Yeah that thing is sick, so tight.

DT: Yeah. Thank you, I love that truck. I mean, it’s not in so many ways. It’s totally impractical. It’s super slow, it’s super noisy, but it’s fucking beautiful. And it’s so simple. And now we’ve done a lot of work to make it less underpowered but it’s just so simple that even I don’t have a great understanding of engines and how to make cars work, but even I can figure out how to fix most of the shit that happens on it. It’s just like a lawn mower, you know, it’s like a big lawn mower. It’s just a tiny diesel engine and is super efficient and super simple and has so few things that can break on it. And it really is like the purest type of vehicle. But yeah, I bought that thing from a salvage yard, more or less. A place in the south of Germany that was selling airport equipment and military stuff and they had these three army ambulances, and I bought one. And I just thought, like, I’m just gonna go full handmade, tear out the ambulance stuff in this box and make it into a camper, and it wound up being an insane amount of work. It was like, six months, pretty much hardcore working on this project. tf eventually got done and my wife and I drove it from Germany, made our way down to Morocco and spent some time in Morocco, just driving all over. Pretty much the whole country and then back up to Germany. We did a full replacement of the engine with a slightly more powerful eco engine. But that was the year before COVID where it was like having all this mechanical work done. And COVID hit and we got separated from it. I bought another truck right before COVID and left it in LA and I was gonna go back and forth and keep on fixing it up myself. But you know, during peak COVID you couldn’t go anywhere.

 

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BM: What would you say are some of your favorite places you’ve gone so far?

DT: Morocco is incredible. I mean if you’re just trying to experience the natural world, California, Baja California, and Mexico, like that whole stretch of the Pacific coast is amazing. I mean its obvious but like California just has so much biodiversity. From the north to the south, you’ve got the change in climate, the Sierras, you’ve got high Alpine, you’ve got the coldest and the hottest places in the United States. You’ve got places that are super fertile, you’ve got the desert, it’s very fun. But, you’re in California. It’s like, Morocco has that much biodiversity, but you’re in Africa. It’s a whole different culture. There’s so much more to just like getting food, you know? You’re gonna discover something new. I mean, we saw produce that we’ve never seen otherwise. Just little things like that. And also, for me, traveling is a lot about getting out of your head space. I like to just get lost – like we’re talking about, taking a week or two in August to go somewhere. And the G wagon is in the north of Germany right now. And I’m like, let’s just go somewhere. Because you know, Europe is so crazy during August. Like anywhere thats a tourist destination is a wrap. But yeah we’re talking about like, just go pick it up and go up to Scandinavia or go somewhere kind of like random. Because that’s one of the things that I love when I’m traveling is just looking around at the people around me and being like, where the fuck am I

BM: Yeah and then you come back and it just feels like, what even was that? Like, it doesn’t even feel real.

DT: Yeah and it makes you see your home environment differently, broadens your perspective. And I love having that sensation of being amongst people, but I’m like, man, I don’t know how these people are perceiving the same situation that I’m in right now – I can’t call it. I think a lot of people have that experience when they go to Japan. because the culture is so different. And I think Morocco is the only place I love. Also traveling in Latin America, but because the United States of America and Latin America are actually connected. And there’s so much Latin American culture in the U.S. as well. It doesn’t feel as much like you’ve gone to the other side of the world. 

BM: Really? That’s interesting.

DT: In my experience, you know, my wife is also from Puerto Rico. I spend a lot of time in Puerto Rico. So I’m around Spanish a lot. I would just encourage people as much as possible to just get out, you know?

BM: I agree, man. I agree. What got you interested in the first place? Like how long were you doing this for? You were doing this before COVID yeah?

DT: Um, what year was it? Let me look at – this is how I remember dates – I like go to my iPhone photos and just go to like a place that I know I was at a long time ago and I see when it was… So I guess in 2015 is when we really were going with it. So it was like 2015 to 2020 we were doing a lot of that kind of travel. You know, the way I got into it originally was like, cuz I grew up skating and snowboarding and surfing. So I have a lot of friends out west, and it’s a much more common kind of lifestyle out there, right? Especially nowadays, but even back in 2015, I think that was just starting to become a trend and most of the people that I knew of that were doing it were people who were doing it to access the outdoors. Like, you know, people that would chase a swell that’ll be like, I live in San Francisco, but there’s an amazing swell coming, but you have to be down in Southern California and they would just go down and post up. And I was just like, man, people are so lucky out there. They have so much more access to stuff. And here, there’s just such a high density of people that there aren’t very many places that even if you have a van, you can just go and enjoy in that way. So when I was young, my parents had a house out in Amagansett. My dad bought a place out there in like ‘83. So I kind of grew up my whole life spending a good amount of time out east on Long Island. And my parents eventually sold that house. And obviously like the east end, particularly like the Hamptons super un-accessible financially, if nothing else. So that was like, all right, that’s a wrap. That was lucky, but we’ll never be able to do that again. But I remember when I was a kid, always seeing campers driving out to Montauk and being like, where are those guys going? But in the fishing community, it’s always been a thing. There’s an association called the Long Island Beach Buggy Association. And basically I started digging in I’m like, where the fuck are those guys going? So there’s this organized group of short casting fishermen that have been accessing and maintaining the ability to access remote beaches out there with four wheel drive campers. And because a lot of fishing is a night activity, they’ve as a group, been able to lobby and maintain the right to drive on these beaches, remote places and just camp on the beach. And I was like, all right, I’m in, how do we make this happen? So I built the first camper we had in, yeah, like 2014 I guess. And just then by circumstance, we, my wife and I had, just because of the way things were happening for us professionally, we kind of had a lot of time. And instead of looking for new opportunities, we decided to kind of buy time and just travel that way a lot more.

BM: Yeah I was curious about that. Because it’s so easy to find a reason not to do something like that, you know? 

DT: Absolutely. 

BM: Cause you feel like you’re missing out, you know – the FOMO. 

DT: And even for me right now, like through COVID because our only camper was unaccessible due to travel restrictions I just doubled down and started working a lot, you know? And COVID was unique, my circumstances were really unique because my thing is really home audio. I didn’t even know, like, it was like week one of COVID, we didn’t know what was happening. We didn’t know if this was gonna last two weeks or two months or two years? Two years was inconceivable. It was like, “it’s gonna be a couple weeks, maybe a month.” And I remember, I think week one of COVID and I’m sure that Virgil was having a lot of meetings with smart, strategic marketing people, and they’re like, what does this mean? Like, what does this global moment mean? But he hit me up week one. He’s like, “It’s time.”

BM:Now’s the time.” 

DT:Now’s the time,” yeah. Now’s the time and I was just like, shit, yeah. I think you’re right. But you know, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. He’s like, “You gotta go, like, you gotta hit go right now.” This is a window of opportunity. And then I sort of conceptualized the kit building thing because I couldn’t really hit go as we didn’t have a team in place cuz everyone was staying home. And I was like, okay, we could probably make just parts with just one or two people. And the whole DIY thing was – think early COVID, you know, like people were baking their own bread instead of – 

BM: The bread, ha-ha. I remember the bread. 

DT: Yeah. Bread baking. And I was like, why am I making sourdough bread? Why don’t I build some speakers? And I’m like, I bet some other people would do this. And it just really took off. So you know, I’ve had a lot at a time when most people were, you know, when their practice was shrinking, when their businesses were struggling, I had a really unique moment of opportunity. 

BM: That’s beautiful. Yeah. I feel like that’s how it was for everybody. Like either things fell apart or they just skyrocketed. 

DT: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. And you know, you can only count your blessings. But you know, I’ve kind of gotten to the point now, too, where like we did one trip in the fall of last year. I went out, like I said, I had this big truck in LA that I was working on building and it was almost done. It was done enough that we could use it a little bit and I wanted to get it back to New York. So, my wife and I went out to California and drove from like San Francisco down the coast to San Diego and then drove back here from there. So that was our one trip in the last two years. And we were on the road for a few weeks and it felt really good. But it’s hard. It’s become harder for me to justify taking the time to do that kind of stuff. But I wanna make sure that it remains a priority. I was pretty dead set at one point on driving around the world, like, doing the whole circumference. 

BM: Damn.

DT: Yeah and like doing it in pieces is important cuz I’ve never stopped working. I’ve never stopped. Like a lot of people in that world they’ll like sell everything, figure out how to make money passively or remotely but I’ve never done that. We’ve only ever done like 50-50, at most, so it’s like, you know, we’ll drive, like we did a big trip in Mexico. I think we were in Mexico for over a period of six months, I believe. But the way we did it was to drive from New York to San Diego. Keep the truck in San Diego, come home, fly back, drive around the Southwest a little bit, come home, fly back, drive down Baja, take the ferry to Mazatlan, drive down to Puerto Vallarta, find somewhere to store the truck, come home, work, go back. We made it down like almost as far as Acapulco and it just got too hot. So we started coming back and we had some homies then that wanted to come down and do part of the trip with us. And, you know, it was a lot of surfing and it was awesome.

BM: Awesome. I did want talk a bit about Virgil. I know we talked a little bit already, but I’m just curious, as you know, he’s taught us so much over the years and I want to know if there’s anything you’re implementing or have implemented since he’s passed that is helping push his legacy forward or your own things that you’re trying to use in your own life that you’ve learned from him.

DT: Yeah, of course. I mean, he changed my life professionally, probably more than anyone ever has. You know, like I said, I mean, first of all, just his kind of contextualizing all of my different interests into one, like he basically taught me what a multidisciplinary creative was and that was a thing that you could be. I also burnt out super hard on the fashion industry at a certain point. And, I just wanted nothing to do with it for a long time. It took him like a couple years of like, “Come on, let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this,” before I was like, all right, you know, I can kind of get back into this. And he just made it so fun, you know, even before he had the LV thing. Even before, I had checked out. And when I had checked out, like, I mean, I really checked out, like I just totally stopped paying attention during the rise of Off-White. I mean, I was friends with Heron from like a really early age. So I was aware that these guys were doing something and that it seemed to kind of break through some glass ceilings, right. That they were achieving – they were doing the same practice, but they were gaining and accessing pop culture in a way that wasn’t possible when we were in earlier years when New York downtown street wear was still pretty underground. And then even men’s fashion industry wasn’t really a thing. Like when Nom de Guerre was trying to make menswear, we realized at a certain point that all the brands that we wanted to emulate, if we got into every single door we wanted to be in, you still wouldn’t be able to make a living doing that. And that had changed after I’d checked out. You know, I knew that that the business had grown immensely but I still didn’t know what his legacy would be. We just established a friendship and I don’t know where he sits in this whole thing, but he just is such a good person that he’s the one person that I’ll be willing to work with, you know?

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BM: Right, right. 

DT: And, when I came back into the fold with him, I was just like, this guy is a revolutionary because he’s so positive and genuine. And just open to sharing ideas and opportunities. And up until that point, I’d never experienced that in fashion, you know, people were really guarded. Like, I always said, early on, this guy’s ushering in a new era of the nice guy.

BM: Yeah, I remember you saying that in another interview.

DT: It’s just true, man, to me anyway, you know. So, I try to maintain and it’s not easy to do. Like, he had a unique ability to inspire people through encouraging them in a really great way. And just being open source. I think that’s currently the thing that I am trying to really tap into, especially in audio where, like you said, I think in the audio industry, I’m an outsider in a similar way that he was an outsider. I think one of the genius things that he did was figure out how to access a new market and then not just try to surpass all the people that inspired you to get to where you were but bring them with you and educate this new consumer base about who those people are. And so in the show at Lisson, for example, every thing that we built for the show that, you know, that I built, cause everything in that show is more unique and handmade than anything else that I do. I knew because of the context that people are gonna be like, is this art? What is this? Cuz I get asked that every day, what is this? What are we doing here? So I wanted to approach that whole system the same way any artist would approach sculpture making. Just so that at the very least my response to that question is like, I don’t see a difference between the way I produced this whole system and the way any of these other sculpture works were made that are out in the rest of the gallery. But you know, each of those individual components, I’ve made an extra effort, to like, if I want to make something, for example, the amplifier, the power amps that I made, there’s a single 300 B amplifier. It uses like a, a very common circuit topology. It uses a driver tube and in cascade driving the grid of the 300 B, it’s a very common way of building, like the most iconic kind of single ended triode amplifier. And it was important for me to tell the story of who inspired me to build this kind of amplifier. So I explicitly made it into a collaboration and based the circuit on a circuit design by one of my, sort of like heroes from within that underground audio world and, you know, as much as possible. I tell the story of Herb Reichert and why he’s so inspirational to me. And I feel like that’s Virgil, coming in my work, you know, of like his first little LV activation, you know, that being produced by Rob and making it into kind of like, LV as Alife 99, you know, like he didn’t have to do that. He could have even hired Rob to produce something for him and not told anybody about it, but that wasn’t his way. So as much as possible, I try to also. Man I channel him so often just like, “What would Virgil do in this situation?” Socially, professionally, creatively, but those are all ways that I think, and this is something that I learned from V.

BM: Yeah. I see that completely. I never met Virgil, but I grew up in San Diego and it’s crazy to think about how there’s so many people I know, just in San Diego who personally worked with, or were given opportunities by Virgil and they’re still getting help through him today. Like, there’s a guy I know who I skated with growing up with got boxes of shoes from Off-White, you know? Just cause Virgil saw him on Instagram one day and liked this style and tricks, you know?

DT: I mean, that’s another thing is when I met Virgil, I had kind of just gotten on Instagram and I just used it to share whatever, just like my friends, but he already had a huge presence on Instagram. And I remember he asked me, I was like “I don’t have much of a presence on Instagram, I don’t really do much.” And he’s like, “Yeah. Is that intentional?” And I was like, not really, like, I just don’t know how that works. I don’t know how to do that. And it’s incredible when that thing starts to happen and you start to of leverage it. I work with a lot of people I’ve met through Instagram and I know that that was also something that he did all the time is like, you know, somebody sent me something, it looked dope. And I have a bunch of people that I have really important working relationships with that it was just like homie posted something, tagged me. And I was like, oh shit. Like I need that. I need that in my mix. 

BM: What’s what’s your perspective on formal education? Um, cause you dropped outta high school, right? 

DT: I dropped outta high school and I dropped outta college.

BM: Oh shit. Ha-ha. I did not know that. 

DT: When I was in high school, I basically began to have a problem with the kind of authority within my school, after my junior year of high school. And I could just tell, like, it wasn’t gonna be an easy year. My senior year, I had a kind of running beef with the principal of the school. And I could just tell he was gonna try and make my life difficult. And my dad was just like, fuck it. Why bother, you know, like, what do you gain by going to high school for one more year? He wasn’t like just like drop outta high school and be a bum and do nothing, but he was like, drop outta high school, get your GED and just start going to college. I think even he was like, college is so important because like, my dad is also my my dad, but I think he has a really similar perspective as me on formal education. But you know, I’d say formal education or not, it’s important to always be studying, studying is super important and researching is super important. You know, for me anyway, the way I work, I think one of my strongest assets is that I have this like endless hunger to learn stuff. And that can be obsessive, right? Like with a single ended amp design, or like stuff that I learned. So anyway, I dropped outta high school. I got my GED and I went to a trade school to learn audio engineering. I did learn a lot in that school about the science of sound. And the one thing I did complete was an associate’s degree, at a technical trade school, basically. Most of the people that complete a program like that will go on to be an assistant engineer in a music studio. So I finished that, but it wasn’t really a goal of mine. It was just like, that was just two years of college. And then I moved into the city and I enrolled in the new school at a continuing education program. It’s like a bachelor’s program for people who haven’t fallen into a traditional school route. I started Nom de Guerre while I was still in that program at the new school. And then I just went into a very minimum, idle college mode where I was like, “I’ll eventually finish.” But I have to work, like work. Like I have these opportunities that are too valuable to not pursue. I started Nom de Guerre, I think I did like a year of Nom de Guerre taking a few credits at a time and I had one professor who was a super inspirational guy to me. He’s an artist. He taught like a contemporary art analysis class, or sort of a contemporary art theory class. And he was just like an unofficial advisor. At least I felt like he was an unofficial advisor to me. By that point, I was able to take his class like multiple times, you could just take the class over and over and over again, and I’d been in this class for like, I don’t know, probably 18 months or something. And he just kind of took me aside and was like, “You should just do what you’re doing.” Like you can keep going to school at any point, but he’s a New York guy as well. So he’s like “If I could go back in time and just do community more than school. That’s a trade off that I wish I’d made. You should just go and do that. And this will always be here for you if you wanna come back to it.” I think knowing full well that I wouldn’t, but yeah, so I never finished, I never finished a bachelor’s degree either, so I’m like a professional education dropout. 

BM: So mostly self-taught?

DT: Mostly self-taught. You know, the kind of audio that I do now, there’s a lot of foundational stuff, like I said, that I learned in school, but you don’t really learn the kind of audio that I’m attracted to. Its really sort of like an underground community, and it’s a culture that things are generally handed down, especially these days, like I don’t know of a school that you could study tube electronics. You have to have that obsessive research thing. And Virgil had that. Virgil knew because he was still a student when we were the same age, but he’s like one year younger than me. But because I started Nom De Guerre when I was 23 years old and I was doing Ojas, like I was out in the world as a creative and I was like 21 or 22. So he knew stuff about my career that I couldn’t remember, you know? So he had that like, you know, at 2:00 AM, he’s going deeper and deeper in some rabbit hole of some cultural musical creative thing. And I think a lot of people are just born with that. 

BM: I’ve been thinking about going to grad school myself, so I’m definitely picking up game right now. 

DT: I always wanted to. The cool thing about grad school is that it’s kind of the one part of your career in academics that is just like, “I’m gonna take a few years and just go super deep on something.” Higher education becomes more and more of that, where it becomes more and more specific and personal. Whereas you know, high school is the opposite of that. I mean, it’s important for sure. You know, you need to learn how to do math and you need to learn about physics and science. But it’s very broad. 

BM: I know Virgil would talk often about how his degree in architecture was his most valuable asset in pretty much everything he did. So that’s something I think about a lot for sure. 

DT: Again, everyone’s path is their own, you know, like I always try not to be like, “I know the best way to do it.” 

BM: Do you prefer more strategy and planning versus just trusting the process and being more spontaneous?

DT: I’m really bad at planning. I’m just kind of a go with flow kind of person. You cannot control anything in life. And I really try to obviously identify which opportunities seem like the best and go with them. But yeah I’m definitely not like “it’s gotta be this way and only this way.” You know, I have no strategy for what I’m doing in my career at this point. I’ve done literally, no paid marketing, advertising, brand positioning. I think for me, it’s like positioning is just who you’re with. You know, if you identify the people who inspire you and you can immerse yourself with them, then you don’t have to contrive opportunities. They’ll just naturally happen, you know? And I think another thing is, at any point I could be like, “Oh, there’s other people that I want to align myself with,” but if you’re not aligned with them, for one reason or another, you’re just not and you can’t force those things. Like if you start talking to someone about your work and they’re not interested in it, you can’t force that. And I think you also have to appreciate when someone’s enthusiastic about what you’re doing. It might not be your hero, but you have to appreciate the fact that that person’s enthusiastic about your work and if you can align with them and build something of value together, you gotta take advantage of those opportunities. Go with the flow, its a good strategy. 

BM: Beautifully said. Definitely leads to more fulfillment, I’d say. 

DT: Certainly. Yeah, hopefully. But you can get very frustrated trying to control everything. And the fact of the matter is that you can’t control anything. 

BM: Right, right. Before we end, I did want to share a few things with you real quick.

DT: Please. 

BM: So like, while I was preparing for this interview, just doing research and stuff, I was listening to, “Always Returning” by Brian Eno.

DT: Which album is that on?

BM: Its on Apollo

DT: Okay. 

BM: So I was listening to that and I just happened to be on Virgil’s Instagram page scrolling and I don’t know, just listening to that song, scrolling through Virgil’s page, there was like this crazy feeling of sadness, but like a overwhelming beauty, you know? 

DT: I love that. 

BM: It’s cool to just think, the title is “Always Returning” and you know, Virgil’s gone, but still here, you know what I mean? And that experience, I’d suggest just listening to it again with that in mind.

DT: I’ll do exactly that. I mean, I have so many conversations with him in WhatsApp and iMessage that its just crazy how you can relive an entire friendship nowadays through all of your written and visual communication. And I don’t spend a lot of time on his Instagram, but I wonder how it works. 

BM: He knew what he was doing.

DT: Yeah, his Instagram is so important. It’s a super important time capsule, and in a lot of ways is like, his greatest book, you know?

BM: I agree. I agree. That’s pretty much how he described it, I think. I don’t know the exact quote, but like, just documenting everything in real time, more than anyone.

DT: I remember the first time we spoke, he told me how he’s obsessed with the evolution of streetwear and that he wanted to write the book.

He wanted to be the one who wrote the book on it, and I think he did.

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~ An interview with Isaiah Barr of NYXO/Onyx Collective

NYXO logo taken from nyxorecords.com

I had the pleasure of talking to Isaiah Barr, a founding member of the avant-garde music group Onyx Collective and record label NYXO. For someone so young, Isaiah has already achieved much success and acclaim, nonetheless he remains level headed and approachable.  Sometimes life gives you the opportunity to meet tremendous individuals. Isaiah is without a doubt one of these special people. Brimming with vitality, but most importantly, with vision, and the discipline to achieve it, Isaiah is fostering  a community among the like-minded, talented and inspired. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

Santiago: So, you guys had an event recently, an album release by Nick Hakim and Roy Nathanson, called Small Things. Where did you guys do the event?

Isaiah Barr: We did at the old New Blues Space in the East Village. It was really, really cool. I’ve only performed at the new New Blues Space, up the block. The old one is a really legendary space within the downtown and avant-garde jazz community. A lot of great people played there back in the day  when it first opened. Now it’s renovated. To do something there is already a very cool setting. It was really intimate, a really nice local crowd. Our friend Sabio served acai bowls to people. another friend Pat, he owns a clothing company, Pat’s Pants, he was cutting coconuts for people outside. It was a really nice community event. We had the book on sale, as well as a couple of vinyl records leftover (from the album Small Things). Nick and Roy performed in the masks and moon suits we made for the video. That was kind of the highlight, seeing them, one more time in those suits, actually performing in them. I played a couple of songs with them.

S: Is this the first event for NYXO?

I: No, it’s definitely not. It might be the first event for the record label. There’s been many events that have been thrown under that name. There have been many NYXO related things.

S: Can you tell the audience about NYXO, about its roots in Onyx Collective, and the downtown avant-garde jazz scene?

I: Yeah. NYXO started in 2016 as a club. It was a vacant restaurant that we somehow got the keys to for free. In the summertime, We decided to activate the space. It was on West Broadway in Tribeca, which is an area which doesn’t have much activity for young people anymore, even though it once did. We just started hosting events and calling it NYXO. It was really not just jazz, it was open to everything. We had all styles of music and people were just able to come in and do their own thing, on this kind of a blank canvas platform. It was a really nice moment at the time, we were young, we’d just finished doing our residencies at No Wave Radio. We were stepping into our own lane of curating shows and having people meet each other through these showcases. That’s kind of how it all started.

S: Can I ask who were the people responsible for all of this?

I: They were the founding members of Onyx Collective. Mainly myself and Austin Williamson. My friend Stella Schnabel, she helped get us the space. As far as the performers, we had the John Benitez Salsa Band, we’re friends with John’s kids–that was amazing. Princess Nokia before she released her big album. A great noise and visual artist named Sadaf. Nick Hakim performed many times. A band called Jill, with a singer who performs with Onyx. Roy Nathanson performed with us, with Onyx Collective. Show Me The Body had their album released there. Okay Kaya. There was a lot. It was a big range of different styles. We would just be open for the night, and serve drinks. Since then, we’ve had some other events at some other venues. Our biggest one was in 2019. We did the East River Bandshell, which is no longer there because of construction. That was the biggest moment since: Duendita, Onyx Collective, Nick Hakim, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, the John Benitez salsa band. That was pretty incredible. Our friend Sabio, painted the whole bandshell with a graffiti mural. That was really the last big event before we started the label.

From left: Isaiah Barr, Mike Swoop and Austin Williamson of Onyx Collective. Photograph by Vincent Tullo for the New York Times.

S: So do you guys still have a fixed venue space?

I: No, that space was just one summer. So right now, after the pandemic, we’re trying to activate, and figure out where we can house these events, be creative and involve people, and have that same kind of energy that we did back then.

S: But you guys aren’t necessarily looking for a fixed venue space, right?

I: That’s a good question, I would take it if someone were to offer it. I’ve been reading Ornette Coleman’s biography. They talk about him getting a space on Prince Street, where he rehearsed. I don’t think it has to be a formal venue. I don’t think that’s in alignment with what we do. Sure, if there was an opportunity, I would take it. If there was a space, that would be a dream at this point. It could only be more refined and more structurally conducive to what we are really aiming to do now. It would be more like an artist rehearsal and happening zone, where multiple things can be workshopped. I would love that. It doesn’t have to be in New York. It could be, but it could be in another place as well.

S: What does the future hold for Onyx Collective music wise, and NYXO label wise?

I: Well, I would say that there has already been so much work that has been made over the past few years. The future consists of figuring out how to release some of that work in a tasteful way. I also think that for the record label it’s way more about trying to have events, re-establish a listening community on the radio that we’re engaging on our website, and just putting out music for core founding members of Onyx Collective. Ideally,  it’s really just to support like-minded people who are making creative music, and making things that don’t fit into the box of the corporate machine of the music business. That’s a big step right there. Continuing to make products, meaning vinyl, cassettes. Allowing it to just breathe, and exist how it exists and how it has already been, but hopefully with some form of routine, and consistency around the drops and curation. I think we’re nearing that. Last week we had two events. There is so much individual activity, a lot of things need to be released into the world for people to see and to hear. Whether it’s film, albums, or radio mixes. It’s about getting back into that consistency.

courtesy of the NYXO’s Instagram profile.

S: I feel like something tragic these days is that there are so many artists out there, but the attention is so badly distributed. A majority of people don’t even have the chance to be listened to or seen.

I: Yeah, I mean it’s tough, but I think that we just kind of have to encourage each other and focus, and get the muscle stronger at just releasing things, and not put too much thought into it. Also, it’s important to check out what other people are doing inside and outside of your sphere to remind you of the multitudes that exist, in terms of creativity. Personally, I don’t really consider myself an outlier. To me the challenge is more so finding the right people bureaucratically that can support an artistic project. It’s all about organization. Once you have a team, you can figure out ways to put out a lot of different things. That’s my vision right now.

S: Given the volume of material that’s put out these days, there has to be some kind of criteria which allows you to discern the stuff that’s worth the attention from the stuff that doesn’t. Good curatorial lines are of utmost importance these days. What do you think?

I: It’s definitely a challenge, but, I don’t know, man. I think there’s two sides to the coin. Because of the fact that everything is somewhat seen and heard once it’s posted on the internet, it means that things are over-saturated. But, that’s not gonna stop the people that are ahead from doing what they’re doing, so it shouldn’t stop the rest. No one is behind, no one is really ahead, some people have more visibility, because of various reasons that are way too complicated to dissect. I think if you want to be active, or prolific, there’s nothing there to stop you. It’s always gonna be a battle of convincing yourself that it’s the right thing to do. It’s always the right thing to do. Sharing work is important, and it allows you to make room for new work.

S: I do feel like your project does consider itself as an alternative to the mainstream to industry. Not necessarily in a “democratic” sense, but in taste and concept-wise, which I think is way more valid .

I: Of course. We spend a lot of time in a very specific manner, doing what we do. Even just the way we record, or just exist, as creatives, is not really parallel with the commercial world of music. But that’s OK, because that’s gonna change, the commercial world is gonna change, but I don’t really think the creative process changes. Everyone is different, but at least for us, there is a lot of connection between what we’re doing and what our influences, our heroes, were doing. It’s a similar road, just different difficulties based on the time we’re in. There are plenty of things that we don’t have to deal with that people who were great, that were pioneers, had to deal with back in the day. 

S: You lead me to my next question. Who exactly are your influences, which as you just mentioned, you consider to be following in similar footsteps?

I: Well, I think New York is an influence. I grew up here, a lot of my friends grew up here. The histories of the different neighborhoods, and what they embody is pretty big to me. The different energies. It’s not even an aesthetic thing, it’s really like a sensory thing. Frank Sinatra can connect with Nat King Cole, which can connect to Martin Scorsese, and that can connect to Brooklyn. It’s a sensory thing. That can connect to Italian food and a suit that you wear. A lot of these things get combined in my senses, but I definitely try to be open to learning from all the art forms. My brain works like that. I’m very influenced by creative and improvisational music from all over the world. How that came about in New York, within the social milieu, during different time periods. The loft-jazz scene, the happening scene of the 60s. All of that. It’s  kind of like crate digging to me. Endless. That’s all really influential to me just by nature of being like “oh man I wish I was there”. Then I find myself doing something remotely close to it. Let’s see how this relates or feels right now. That’s a kind of an interesting way of looking at influence in general. There is so much room for imitation. So much to learn, to assimilate. There’s so much great music, so many great theories and concepts out there. From that standpoint, it’s kind of like just using my environment around me, the people in my environment. They influence me in the present day in a positive way, which really kind of catapults the whole thing into fruition. It’s a combination of the past and the present, and what I want the future to look like for us. For me that’s where the influence is at work. 

This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Music Division.

S: You’ve said some really cool things. I have to say that just from a personal perspective, I enjoy the way in which the past, the present, and the future are coherent and aligned in your vision for your life and existence. Not many people can say that.

I: It’s tough. Survival takes us to different places. Overall,  it’s just what is our dream scenario, or our best moment, our shining hour so to speak. Containing multitudes is really big to me. I really used to really be influenced by a certain kind of style of jazz, of improvisational music. Bebop, and hard bop, the era of the fifties and sixties. Finding the love again, finding where that is, and digging deeper into the philosophies and concepts of these people, not just the music, but what they went through. Ornette Coleman is an obvious influence of mine. I’ve been reading his biography. It’s really interesting to read what he went through to get to the place he’s at, to see the parallels, but also to read about what he was interested in. His philosophy of life. Whether that’s Sun Ra, watching films, figuring out how that all connects. How the filmmakers who were hanging out with these musicians were also influential, whether that’s Shirley Clark, or Jim Jaramusch. I think that just having a community is a really powerful thing, because you build a catalog with your friends, your peers. From there it’s an archive. It’s a shared work. It’s not like “this guy just did this”. No, they were there, they experienced it, and made sense of it themselves, and did something I couldn’t do, whether it’s because I physically couldn’t because I was playing, or because I don’t have a camera and that’s not my forte. But I appreciate it, and in a sense, I’m enamored by that person, by how they document it and by how they see it. It’s a really interesting thing when your friends are influencing you and you can just come back to the things you love and share those things with others. That’s inspiring too; to pass on your love of the variety of labors out there, and to make evident the trajectory that led us to where we’re at. That plays a big part when paying homage to the past and remembering your growth…

S: You talk about influence in such a way, it makes me think about painting, my own painting practice, and how I’ll ask myself “why do people paint anymore, when there are so many other things out there that you could do?”, and it’s because you yourself want to keep the medium alive. Out of pure love of the medium, there’s a total lack of self-interest, you just wanna tend to the medium, keep it alive.

I: Mhm. it’s a meditation, there’s always been great gardens, no one’s gonna stop gardening. Again, it’s a meditation. It’s how to make yourself calm that is intriguing. Even if you’re going through turmoil, upset or pain or loss or whatever, you find that space of love again where you pacify yourself and make yourself calm, with any form of art or creation. I think that is like a real antidote as well as a tool that was there forever. You just have to keep tapping in, not question where it sits within the evolution of things.

S: Yeah,  talk about “tapping in”. I feel like that’s one of the fundamental views on creativity. It’s actually that you’re tuning into this wavelength that’s being broadcasted, regardless of you. If you can just get the frequency right, you’re in the zone, you’re making great art. I feel like in the visual art world, this idea isn’t so respected, or at least that’s my perception. Music tends to be more intuitive regardless…

I: It’s interesting, because it depends on what the individual is willing or aiming to tap into. That has to do with a lot of other things, which are kind of secondary to the music making, or the art making, it’s about the person and their experience, and how their channeling. I agree with you that the flow of music is very intuitive. But it can be very mechanical or superficial or even fake for some people, because they’re not doing all that much. It should be intuitive. I should be a song from your heart. I believe that’s when we’re at our best when we’re making music, whoever it is. That’s why you can just tell when someone really has a voice. That’s the intuition. It’s definitely OK to exist, to me at least, with people who are in different zones and try to create a fusion of the two. It’s not like “oh you don’t do what I do” so we can’t play together. I never had that mentality, and would never have gotten to where I’m at with that kind of mindset.

Photograph by David Brimacombe for Artforum.

S: There’s also a place and a time for basically anything…

I: Very true. There’s a place and time to experience it. And say: “Oh wow, this is what that is…”

S: I basically can’t listen to reggaetón anymore. But I know there’s a place and time for it.

I: I know what you mean, it’s a specific voice, a space. Maybe when you’re in Miami, or something…

S: Yeah, exactly, you’re on the beach…the alcohol is flowing. Have you ever seen that meme of that guy at the club and he’s like “there is much pain in the world but not in this room. The club is bumping. The ladies look good. The alcohol is flowing.” (laughs)

I: That’s the vibe. Everyone needs some of that. You can’t just listen to classical music. I mean you could…unless you’re like ninety-five. If you only grew up with that. I’ve been around some great musicians that are no longer here, that were from the original generation of whatever kind of genre that they were in love with. It was a pleasure to get to be around them because it was super real…they lived it. I think for the people in our generation the joy and the love comes from trying to see different perspectives and trying to add to them. 

S: For sure, it’s definitely more collage than trying to do something totally new.

I: Exactly, the collage becomes something new,

S: For sure, I guess our generation isn’t gonna have the pleasure of inventing new genres, as they did in early modern times. But there is something freeing about having all these tools at your disposal.

I: Yeah I like that. All the vibes are out there. There’s more to discover though, more to invent. That sometimes means stepping into the unknown. That involves being challenged, working with materials or tools that I’ve never used. Right there and then something can be invented. It’s still gonna be collage, don’t get me wrong. Unless I exclude everything I’ve done, and  just focus on that one thing. I think that I’m actually really inspired by different modes of creation, on tablets or phones. Synthesizers are their own thing. Combining different worlds of electronic devices to make sound. I think there’s a lot of really cool stuff that can be made there. Sampling now has completely different capabilities because of what you can do to morph sound. I think in the zones of sound scaping and creating more longform pieces, in that you are already gonna find new things that were not done within that genre, because in the beginning of that pursuit they were trying to do it as organically as possible, in ambient music specifically. I think there are many different things that can and will be done electronically. If you are really patient and devoted to the process, the possibilities are endless. Same thing Miles Davis said in the eighties when asked about electronics, he was like  “electronics are fine, you have to know…have a good ear, have some discretion in what you’re doing.” You can definitely just make stuff that’s instantaneous, you basically didn’t do anything, you just clicked a button. 

S: That’s just vulgar.

I: Yeah, that’s always gonna exist. It’s not new either. There are a lot of really cool techniques. Morphing, it’s like taking an image and cutting up and putting into a new image, and doing that over and over again. You can get a cool effect. I think “effect” is a good way to put it. But at the same time it’s like a new palette, that can be used in different and new ways. 

S: I’m not always so optimistic about technological progress, but that’s a positive way of looking at things. I like that.

I: Trying to make it childlike is the key. It’s not about mastery, it’s about expressing something, about experimenting. I think an audience will feel that. It strips away the layers of “performer-audience” and makes it more of an equal experience. Technology and electronic instruments are very peculiar, and they do have a mind of their own. You have to respect them, and let them do their thing, and finding the experimental zone. Then you end up doing stuff that can be hypnotic or related to rhythm in a way that’s really, really satisfying in a creative way. I think that’s part of the future for Onyx Collective.  We come out of such an experimental-acoustic spirit where it’s about playing different rooms, naturally reacting to each other, but I think that having the chance to do that now with electronics is really fun. I want to share music like that, and counter, so to speak, some of the narratives. 

Photograph courtesy of Onyx Collective.

S: What you said about having a certain reverence or respect for the electronics, as if they were more than inanimate objects, also collaborators… I really like that. It kind of reminds me of Shinto, the Japanese religion. Even dumb manufactured plastic objects are considered to harbor a spirit, it acknowledges that everything is rich with some metaphysics basically…So electronics aren’t at odds with improvisation, right?

I: No not at all, we’ve built such a language with each other, it makes it even more respectful when we bring in the electronics. We’re tuning our ears differently, and being just as careful with these instruments, and trying to create a dialogue that is coming out of the same focus, and still trying to incorporate the acoustics into it naturally, whether it’s drums or saxophone. I think that there’s a definite connection that I’m excited to explore. It comes down to processing things. Sending things through a pedal. That’s just a cool way of treating sound. I’ve always felt that. That’s just how we grew up. We weren’t indoctrinated by any super serious mode. We experimented with what we had. If there was a mixing board available, we would change the channels, change the knobs. Not even know what we were making until the end, and say “oh wow, that sounds really cool”. It’s kind of been that vibe, now it’s just accelerated by the fact that we know what we’re doing, and just having more tools. 

S: You mentioned happenings, you mentioned the sixties. I’m wondering if you’ve read Beatnik literature, if you’re into that.

I: Yeah  of course, Ginsberg and Burroughs. I’ve read a lot of their stuff. Yoko Ono, Lennon, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin. I try to educate myself more in those zones. Explore what people were thinking back then. There’s so much. La Monte Young, the guy who made all the droning installations. Yeah, I’m really influenced by that time. I love classic psychedelic rock from the early seventies and sixties. I like how they just recorded to tape, and psychedelia, and acid, and proponents of that, I think there’s a lot of really cool stuff to explore there. A lot of creativity in that space. 

S: I totally agree, the sixties and seventies were, like, the moment for art in general. Absolutely insane.

I: Even the late fifties, ’58, ’59. There were really crazy things going on. I really dig music from the forties too, 45, bebop started then…Duke Ellington. I have a lot of different zones that I really do love. I’ve definitely done my fair share of emulating certain things. Now I’m in a more balanced zone, doing what comes naturally. But, I think that anyone out there trying to do something is a bit far-fetched, because they haven’t done it before, or it has already been done so well. I think you should still try it. Like, “I’m gonna make a rock song” or whatever.  I’m not of the mindset of “no, you should just stick to whatever…” It’s fun to try to play different types of music. Usually, the coolest part is when the form, the structure of the song is made, and we’re just jamming on it. We’re all playing our instruments, and we’re away from the song. Then, something cool happens that would never have happened had that not been available, just from saying “I’m gonna just try this”. That’s not exactly experimenting, it’s more like venturing. Imitation. A really good mentor of mine said you have to imitate, assimilate, and then create. How can you, unless you’re just gifted, just make something out of nothing. It’s fair game. Coltrane listened to every saxophone player ever. I always try to be open, listen to whatever people send me, never shutting that curiosity off, embracing that more and more with an empty headspace. I feel like that’s really healthy. 

At this point the conversation went off the record, and shortly after we said our goodbyes. You can follow NYXO on Instagram at @nyxo.nyxo, and you can check out their website on nyxorecords.com where live radio is hosted 24/7. I highly recommend tuning in. Interview by Santiago Corredor-Vergara (aka Meme Admin). You can follow me on Instagram @pl0xi_the_arsonist. 

~ Kristiane’s Full Bloom

The FADER signed pop savant, Kristiane, saddles up to release her second EP, State Lines. The project is string heavy with unfortified lyrics that carry us through Kristiane’s full bloom as both a lover and a woman breaking through to tangible adulthood. State Lines will be available to stream and purchase August 3rd.

Separated by our own state lines, Kristiane sits across from me over zoom for this interview. But unbeknownst to the singer/songwriter, there is an elephant in the room. When one speaks to a twin for the first time, while being friends with the other twin, there’s a perturbed sense of deepfake quasi-familiarity. And my raised eyebrow continues its lifespan when listening to her two EPs, I Miss Myself Sometimes and State Lines. Cleverly sculpted, they both speak to the uncomfortable truths that lost people must face. And in finding a voice for quiet thoughts, Kristiane feels like someone we already know, twin or not.

Oona: Hi, how are you? Are you in LA right now?

Kristiane: Yeah, I’m back in LA. I was in New York for June. Yeah, I was there for work, music, etc. And now I’m back in my little apartment.

Oona: I just listened to the new EP. It’s such a new sound for you. It’s really good.

Kristiane: The evolution is strange. Sometimes I listen to my first EP, I Miss Myself Sometimes and I’m like, I can’t believe that’s me. I still love it, but it’s strange looking back at different chapters of your life and seeing you were a different person.

Oona: What got you into making music?

Kristiane: Growing up, my grandma sang in local jazz and cabaret shows in LA. So my sister Britt and I grew up going to see her at her shows and saw how she really just did it for the love of music. She wasn’t pursuing anything. She was in her seventies and just loved jazz music. I think seeing someone do it just for the pure, like love of music was so much more powerful than really being in the industry or pursuing it. Her love of music really stuck with me. That’s kind of what inspired me to start.

Oona: So what age were you when you started writing songs?

Kristiane: I started singing and playing the piano when I was like a baby. Yeah. Like probably two or three. And then I sang in choir and was in plays like my whole life and I didn’t start writing songs until I was 15. I remember like the first song I wrote, I was 11, but it was horrible.

Oona: Do you remember what it was called?

Kristiane: The one when I was 11, no, but the first song I wrote when I was 15, it was called New Song. Also horrible.

Oona: At what age did you think you wanted to pursue music as a career? Or were you trying to follow in your grandma’s footsteps of having music be a way of expression and something to just love

Kristiane: I definitely think that’s what made me stick to pursuing music. All the industry stuff is so hard, you know? When I was around 15, I was like, “I want to do this. This is my dream”. And I was spending like five hours in my laundry room, writing songs after school, every day; performing at school, performing around LA. But my parents were very realistic with me. Because I’m from LA, they were like that {realistic} because it’s so competitive. I think that made me feel like even if this doesn’t work out, it’s okay because I have this really pure love for music and that’s what continues to keep me safe.

Oona: That’s a good way of thinking about it. What does your songwriting process look like?

Kristiane: Usually it’s just me and my guitar and it’s either right in the morning, when I wake up and then I’ll bring it to my session that day. Or it’s really late at night. But it’s hard because I live in a studio with my boyfriend.

Oona: Does he ever get annoyed with you?

Kristiane: No he’s just like, “It’s music to my ears. Please keep going!”

Oona: That’s really cute. So, you were signed to FADER in 2021. How do you feel that has affected your songwriting process?

Kristiane: That’s an interesting question. Honestly, I would say FADER is so wonderful and I really mean that candidly. They really trust me as an artist and a writer, they don’t censor me and just let me have freedom of expression. But to give you an answer, like maybe having slightly more eyes on me in the industry has an effect. I do put a little more pressure on myself when the music comes out. But then I try to kind of tune it out because at the end of the day- so cheesy, but- writing really is therapy. So ultimately I just try to remember that.

Oona: You recently received a degree in Creative Writing from USC. Congrats! What impact do you think getting a higher education has had on you as an artist?

Kristiane: I originally thought in high school that I wanted to go to college for songwriting but I didn’t get into the USC songwriting program. But I’m so grateful. Hindsight is such a beautiful thing because I loved being a creative writing major. I think it strengthened my ability in all forms. I actually wrote a novel during quarantine. And it also made songwriting a lot less formulaic for me.

Oona: Are you reading anything right now?

Kristiane: I am right now. I’m reading the Idiot. Britt actually recommended it to me. It’s literally phenomenal.

Oona: No way. I think she just recommended that to me. <Laugh>

Kristiane: <Laugh> I also just read this book and it’s super under the radar. It’s called Cleopatra in Frankenstein and I don’t know why more people don’t know about it. Or maybe they do, and I don’t know anything. It reminds me of Sally Rooney, but more visceral. Really good.

Oona: Done. That’s next on my list. You have a really different feel in this new EP, State Lines. What changed in your life to take you from the melancholy of your debut album to the energized resonations in your second album?

Kristiane: I think honestly it’s such a reflection of my change in mental state. Because with the first EP, it was during this time in my life where I was so insecure. I mean, I still am. But back then it was crippling. So there was this softness and vulnerability. And I found a lot of freedom from expressing that. But then with this new project, there’s more of a catharsis because I let go of so much. I feel more assured with who I am and with what I have. And also the sounds that I’m really drawn to are either girl rock Anthems or very soft strummings on the guitar. The latter is honestly what I want to continue to foster and develop. Cause at the end of the day I’m a songwriter. But I really loved exploring this anthemic rock style because there’s something really freeing about it when I listen to the songs.

Oona: On State Lines, you worked with producer Cooper Holzman. What did your process together look like? And how did he help shape this new sound?

Kristiane: Cooper was the executive producer of this whole project. And he actually worked on my first EP, on my two favorite songs from it. We really connected musically. I think we really just understand what one another likes and have an unspoken language. So when I was going into making State Lines after having a first EP under my belt, I was like, “Okay, I just wanna work with one person now.” It feels really sonically cohesive. This album feels like me and another person’s baby. And also, Cooper is just so creative and thinks outside of the box. He understands the nostalgic; made this in a garage feel. That’s like what we both wanted it to feel like, you know? He’s an amazing musician. Not all producers are incredible musicians too.

Oona: Do you like collaborating with people?

Kristiane: Candidly, I prefer writing alone. Because it’s so personal to me and I find that since I’m doing it so often, I very much have a repertoire. I have built such a relationship with it and with myself. But I worked with Caroline Penell on Before The Night Is Over. She’s like my literal songwriter idol, so working with her was a dream. I do love learning from people like her and Cooper. And Cooper is so good with melodies, so in that way I think it’s really important to work with other people and to push yourself. So I guess I like both ways.

Oona: How do your two EP’s compare for you?

Kristiane: I would say I prefer State Lines. I mean, I love I Miss Myself Sometimes because when I listen to it, I feel for my old self so much. I’ll think like, “Oh my God. Like, girl, you are worthy of love.” And it’s not to say that I don’t still struggle with those emotions but now I know how to regulate them. State Lines also just feels newer because it’s indicative of everything that I’ve gone through in this past year. And now as I’m writing my next project, it’s this constant cycle of putting out what you were feeling a year ago but then having everyone experience it in the present.

Oona: What was your head space when you were producing State Lines?

Kristiane: I think I really struggle with letting go and self-identity and letting go of past versions of myself. That’s a theme, even in I Miss Myself Sometimes. The closing song <in State Lines>  is called I’ll Call. And it’s basically like, “I’ll call when I get myself back.” I was in the midst of graduating college and I was feeling stuck in a lot of ways. I didn’t wanna be there anymore. I was dreaming very much outside of where my life was and I just wanted to move to New York. There was so much that I wanted to do and see. There was this dual sense of hope and longing, but also restlessness. So I think that, and general feelings of depression really come through in my songs, Before The Night Is Over and I’ll Call. But then I was also in a period of very intense love with my partner and feeling really grateful for my life. I think that’s what is really different between the first EP and this one. I now get to talk about love in a more actualized sense. It was no longer, “Do you love me? Do you want me?” It was, “I love you. You’re my person.” You know? For the first time, I really felt like I was letting myself be loved. So that was really special.

Oona: What was it like filming your most recent music video for your single, State Lines?

Kristiane: Oh my God. It was such a dream, honestly. It was so cathartic and fun. But also terrifying. I’d never done a music video in that way before. You know, with a whole crew and have it be, like, a whole thing. But I felt so lucky and grateful that I had people that were there to actualize my creative vision. I kept thinking about how fucking lucky I was to be there in that moment. That’s truly how I felt the whole day. And my best friend, Kelsey, who plays bass for me was there and it was an all girl band. So we were just playing like Hole and Liz Phair and dancing with the directors Jeremy Reynoso and Silken Weinberg. I’d worked with them on, I Miss Myself Sometimes when we did the cover shoot. So it was really fun to do an actual video with them. They are just so talented. I felt so lucky to work with them and it was so fun.

Oona: How involved do you like to get in the visual side of your music?

Kristiane: Incredibly involved. I’ll literally make a PowerPoint of me with every song on it. I’ll get visual references from like Pinterest or Tumblr, or whatever, and create a whole world of what I want it to look like. And then my manager and I will like present it to FADER and they’re like, “Okay, sick. Let’s find the right people who can make this happen.” But it’s very collaborative. It’s definitely a collaboration between me, my manager, Sabrina, who does creative for FADER. It’s very collaborative, but ultimately it very much starts within me. Because it’s a direct reflection of my music so it has to feel really authentic. And I feel like this EP is a lot more indicative of my taste visually just because I had a clearer sense of what I want and how to do it. The first EP was very much trial and error. Not that I’m not proud of it. I totally am. It’s just, you learn as you go along, you know?

Oona: In your music video for, I Wish I Could Be Your Girl, your boyfriend was featured as your love interest and your sister directed it. It got me wondering if you feel like your songwriting is an honest reflection of your life and your experiences?

Kristiane: Yeah. I would really say so. I think, ultimately, the thing that I love so much about making music is that it’s storytelling. And I look back at it as different chapters of my life. The I Wish I Could Be Your Girl video was so special because when I look at that video, I feel like it’s such a pure encapsulation of what it feels like to fall in love and what it felt like to fall in love with my partner. Britt is so fucking talented. Like she just really captured my feelings of longing that I felt for my partner. And still do, but back then it was in an almost insecure sense. But yeah, I would definitely say my music is a very direct reflection.

Oona: And do you ever try to fictionalize your storylines? That always interests me with songwriters. Where sometimes they’ll, you know, watch a movie and then write a whole story arc that has no solidified connection to their personal life.

Kristiane: I definitely have done that. I used to write songs for my friends in high school. I would tell them, “if you have an experience, message me about it and I’ll write you a song.” And then I would send them voice memos. That’s how I got good at songwriting, I think. Like putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Especially with people I care so deeply about. I feel like writing songs for them was kind of my love language. Especially before I had any real love experience myself. Now I would say I can get inspired by books and movies. I’ll look for words when I’m reading and I’ll underline them. Or if I watch a movie, I’ll write down certain phrases. That’s always a really inspiring way for me to find the start of a song.

Oona: Are you going on tour with this album?

Kristiane: Yes. I hope we are. We’re in the process of figuring that out right now. I’m doing a release show for it. And I’m definitely going to do shows in LA and hopefully I’m gonna be doing a tour. I’m confident with the release but we’re kind of just figuring out the details right now. So everything’s a little up in the air. The release date is August 26th, so it’s right around the corner. I’m like, what the fuck? That is so, so insane.

Oona: Okay, excited. What do you hope people take from this project?

Kristiane: I really want people to feel less alone and feel more understood. And I want them to feel like somebody else understands them in their feelings of coming into adulthood. It’s a really confusing and really painful time, but it’s also really beautiful. But we’re all kind of in it together. Especially with this age group, we’ve seen things inevitably get worse, but they will also get better.

Oona: I was going through a breakup when I found your debut album and I listened to it so much. Like an embarrassing amount. You definitely have the ability to create things that people can connect with.

Kristiane: That literally makes me like… I’m gonna cry. I needed to hear that today.

Oona: Final words?

Kristiane: I hope people listen to State Lines, in order. On public transit or while driving.

Check out Kristiane on Spotify.

~ Project Mayhem With Lucien Smith

https://www.sayyouswearpodcast.com/1828058/11026368-project-mayhem-with-lucien-smith

I took the 6 to Chinatown, to the STP offices, to kick it with Lu!
There were many interviews out there covering Lucien’s past and early acclaim in the fine art world. However, I wanted this conversation to revolve around what would bring listeners more into the headspace in which he lives.

Lucien’s baby is STP, Serving The People, a nonprofit that focuses on bringing power back to creatives and pushes for collaboration. Obviously Lu describes this much better than I can! We speak in depth about how the organization came about, the steps that have come along the way, and where he/his team are working for it to go. Lucien speaks about his Seeds NFT project and offers his take on web3 technology/integration.

Having prior knowledge that he loved the film, we discuss the vast significance of Fight Club. He voices that there are several intricacies of the film that he has connected over the years to his personal life. Project Mayhem = STP. Furthermore, Lucien spoke about his personal work on short films, working on a full length film, and it being the medium that he has been pivoting into.

As always, there are a bunch of other goodies sprinkled in there! There are a few nice moments where we touch on mental health, the significance of it, and how beautiful times of hardship can be. You already know I love that 🙂

Thank you to Lucien for trusting me with your words and thank you to all of you checking it out! Much love as always!

~ Marcus Jahmal – Skulls – Interview by Tyler Glenn

Brooklyn-based artist Marcus Jahmal is self-taught while remaining deeply aware of the past, present, and future of art history. Tyler Nicole Glenn speaks with Jahmal to learn more about the inspiration behind his Skulls NFT collection debuting on the Lobus.

While this is Jahmal’s first foray into art on the blockchain, his paintings have been shown across the globe in cities including New York, London, and Paris. While typically working with oil on canvas, figurative exploration is a recurring theme in his work. Drawing from the aesthetics of Phillip Guston, Francis Bacon, and German Expressionist painters, Jahmal creates a fantastical realm that relates anthropomorphic beasts to the distortion of the human form. He has also been deeply inspired by his time working as a video game developer.

Each skull come in seven shapes: Sketchy, Hangry, Cheeky, Stoner, Drunko, Slimey, and Grimey; each is “made” out of a different material, including diamond and kryptonite. Hidden within the blockchain are 10 Sacred Skulls. Each of them is one of a kind and extremely rare! A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to Serving the People.

Tyler: Could you tell me a bit about your project with Lobus?

Marcus: The project we’re working on, Skulls, is taking the motif of the skull; an element that’s frequently used in my work, and converting it into a 3D unique object existing on the blockchain. It’s about inclusion on all levels. It also serves as an entry token to stay informed of future projects and news about things I have going on digitally and IRL.

Tyler: What inspired you to make the shift from painting to digital work?

Marcus: It’s not really a shift. Painting is the core of all that I do artistically. Stemming from my interest in Memento mori and art history, this project is an extension of an idea that was first conceived on the canvas. I grew up with video games. Starting from Nintendo and ending when I worked at a game development company 4mm games doing production when I was 20 years old. This was an eye-opening experience. Getting to be involved in the creation of a game from start to beta to the final. This is when I first became privy to the value of digital objects. I did not think it would come around full circle and that I would be participating this time as an artist releasing my own digital object. 

Tyler: Your work implies strong narrative. Could you describe the idea behind your skulls?

Marcus: To me it’s not really narrative, it’s more anti-narrative, although people may read it that way. Narrative usually has a beginning, middle, and end, and my work is more open-ended. Skulls are something I paint a lot. From Japanese ukiyo-e, seeing Cezanne’s skulls in Paris, and visiting the catacombs made up of human skulls. These influences further cemented my interest. I like painting skulls because it forces the viewer to focus on content and not context. I liked the story I heard about Buddhist monks and how they live with a skull in the corner of their room to always remind them of their morality.

Tyler: Not quite a question, but there seems to be something poetic about the fact that you’re a self-taught artist utilizing a medium as experimental as Web3. Do you have any related thoughts regarding how this might develop as an artistic and economical tool?

Marcus: I think being self-taught lent to me jumping into the Web3 world head first. Learning as I go and being experimental, the same way I did with painting. The only difference is now I am working with the team at Lobus who’s more privy in that world. They will help me realize my vision. In terms of it being an economical tool, it’s a great way to raise money for important causes and that’s something I plan on doing with this initial drop. 

Tyler: How does this project make sense within the larger scheme of your work?

Marcus: I’m not sure that it makes sense. I think over time it will take some kind of shape. It’s great for community building. It gives my supporters a bit more than a gallery exhibition and a chance to be a part of my digital community. Other than that, my concerns are in regards to painting and where it’s taking me.

Skulls is a NFT collection created by artist Marcus Jahmal on the Ethereum Blockchain. Inspired by the recurring motifs in Jahmal’s paintings. Each Skull correlates with a physical edition of each NFT to be announced at a later date. Skulls will be released in July 29 2022.

Click here to sign up for the drop. 

~ A DISCUSSION WITH LEO FITZPATRICK BY CASEY DORAN

Kids (1995)
I had a two and a half hour conversation with Leo Fitzpatrick recently. The thing I loved about interviewing Leo was that he wasn’t short about anything and offered more insight than what I had originally asked. Originally known for Kids, a story I didn’t want to have him retell for the hundredth time, I attempted to bring out more specifics of his time in this era.Now 43, seemingly unimpressed with what he has accomplished in a field he doesn’t necessarily identify with, he owns an art gallery between LES and Chinatown in New York, bringing a community of lesser-known artists together, instead of obsessing over popularity.Skateboarding at a young age seemed to lead to everything else Leo would end up being involved in. There are tons of interviews with Leo, but not a lot of them touch on the specifics of his skating, something I also did not really accomplish. We only got through about half my questions but the insight he brought was extremely inspiring, especially a story about having sleep paralysis in the room Gram Parsons died in.
Skateboarding
If that bike hadn’t been stolen out of your back yard when you were a kid, you probably never would have skated?
Where I grew up in Jersey, it wasn’t too rough. It was very low middle class suburbia, but if you ever had anything nice, it would get stolen. A skateboard was just something you can bring inside. It just made sense and I never turned back. This is what I do now. This is my personality. I played little league and I was on the swim team but skateboarding was for the weirdos. This is where I belong.
I’ve never seen footage or anything. Were you in any videos, even 411VM or anything?
No, I’ve been in some magazines. I was in Transworld, Thrasher (and Big Brother). I was medium level good. I had small sponsors but not anything big. I don’t think the idea of going pro really crossed my mind. I just enjoyed doing it and the culture of it and I think I got into it at a really sweet time period. It was still evolving and tricks were still being learned. It was still growing. One kid maybe had a video camera but it was the old school style, with the VHS tapes and that shit was heavy. He was lazy and he didn’t wanna drag it around. It wasn’t about filming. It was about going out with your friends. There was a lot of freedom with that. It’s kind of crazy now that we live in such a cancel culture era and I’m glad I didn’t film half the shit I did as a young kid. It’s just being dumb… but you learn from your mistakes. You’re gonna be stupid and you’re gonna do dumb shit. I knew everything was kind of a wrap around the Jackass era. A lot of fucking dumb kids were trying to be on Jackass and really hurting themselves. I’m glad that, by then, I was too old to participate in that stupidity. When I was young and stupid, the things we were doing were a lot more innocent. We didn’t have these heroes that were shooting themselves. I did grow up with Big Brother, then CKY which lead into Jackass. You have to be mindful of fucking up, which kids are going to fuck up. There’s just an extra pressure there. We’re all lucky to survive childhood and to grow into adults, if you were lucky enough to do that.
Skateboarding is so popular now. What’s a disappointing part of the progression of skateboarding?
It’s weird because as a skateboarder, you’re supposed to be all accepting. You don’t judge gender, race, etc but you’re going to judge the Olympics? Isn’t that part of it being a weirdo thing? Some people are in the Olympics. Who the fuck cares? It’s petty to hate on someone that you don’t know.Skateboarding is, like, a global community of people. At a certain point, if you went to Japan, England or Spain and you were wearing Vans and you saw someone else wearing Vans, you’d know they were a skater. A Fugazi T-shirt or some random music reference or whatever, well you’re one of us. You’re into the same shit. Now with Instagram and the internet, everything is so available, it almost becomes disposable. You don’t have the same sort of allegiance to certain bands or certain things. You only have to be in it for five minutes. You don’t invest yourself into it because there’s so much of it. The internet is a great resource but it’s also a huge distraction.
I know you lived with Berra and Koston at one point. What do you think about all the Steve Berra criticism?
I’ve known Steve since I was eighteen. I’ve talked to him about it. He says he gets legit death threats. They might be from fifteen year old kids, but who wants to get death threats? The Berrics, I was there from the beginning before it was a website when they just built this thing out in the valley. It became really well-known and when you become that well known, you become a target and people are gonna hate on you. I’m really good at not getting along with people and just ignoring them. That’s how you handle it as an adult. It’s not about talking shit and I’m gonna fuck you up. I’m not going to participate in that. I’m just going to do me and if I’m not feeling what this person is about, I’m not going to waste my energy hating of them. I’ll just not recognize them.
You were in CKY2K?
This kinda ties into the whole Steve Berra thing. Around that time, I met Steve through this guy Ted Newsome, who was the editor of Transworld Magazine. I was at Sundance, and for some reason, all these random skaters were there. Bam, Ted and Mike Vallely were there. That was my comfort zone so that’s who I was hanging out with. I didn’t want to do press. I just wanted to hang out with Bam and do dumb shit. We had a few rental cars and that’s when we were just destroying rental cars. You get insurance and just destroy them. We were flying into these snow banks and destroying the cars. I was only in it for a second but it kinda goes back to the east coast brotherhood. I think Bam was into me because he was into making movies. I’m sure he was interested in filmmaking and what I could offer him in that, like I might have some inside information, which I didn’t. Skateboarding videos and like, Spike Jonze, made filmmaking seem possible. I can make my own skate video and if I independently distribute it, I can make money doing that. That’s why Bam started doing those CKY videos. It was great promotion and eventually lead into Jackass.
CKY2K (2000)

Kids Era

Do you think Kids (1995) could be made today? I know people were suspicious of Larry Clark and there was a lot of other issues people would have.

I think there’s a million reasons why it couldn’t be made today. I wanna say Harmony put it best. “The reason why Kids wouldn’t happen today is because Jennie could just call Telly and tell him he has AIDS.” Oh! That’s actually pretty clever. The whole chase wouldn’t go down. As far as the sex, and all that, I feel something like Euphoria makes Kids look so tame. It’s like have sex, smoke weed, and hang out. (If it came out today), I don’t think it would have the same kind of shock factor either and skateboarding is a different thing now. I don’t even think it could have been made a year later or a year before. It was just that very special summer. Everything just worked.

I agree. I watched Mid90s yesterday and it just made me realize it could only have been made at the time it was made.

I really liked Mid90s. I thought that was a good representation of how I grew up. I didn’t grow up like the character in Kids. I grew up like the kids in Mid90s. I related to that movie more than I relate to Kids. I was sixteen when I made it so my mom had to sign off on it and the reason she did was because she knew it was all true. She knew this is what we do and obviously she had to meet Larry. She wasn’t trying to candy coat what we were up to. She was working all the time so she couldn’t be around to stop me because she was busy working, but she was aware that this was real shit that was happening.I would say if my kid was ever hanging out in the park, he better be skateboarding. If you’re just smoking weed, that’s not enough for me. You can’t just sit there and style out and smoke weed. You gotta be putting in some work.It’s weird to have done Kids and I don’t hold anything against it. It’s been so long, and it almost feels like a different lifetime ago. I guess it’s cool that people still watch it, if they do, and get something out of it. If it can still work after all this time and people still enjoy it, then that’s a pretty good film.

To that point, somebody uploaded it three months ago on Youtube and it already has a couple hundred thousand views.

It’s definitely weird. I look so different now and the thing that gets me is my fucking voice before they recognize my face. Like, “oh, you’re that guy because of the fucked up voice.” It’s still crazy to have been part of that, because I never actually was that guy but I was that guy by default. Everybody else was fairly similar to their characters, so it was weird for an already socially awkward kid to be put in that position with no real guidance on what to do after. It was just back to normal life. It came out and it wasn’t really being celebrated. People were just like, “that was fucked up! That was really fucked up what you did.” I didn’t do shit! It was a movie! I believe that was on purpose to blur the lines between real or fake. The cast never did interviews. We were never the face of the movie. It was always Larry and Harmony doing the press.I think the next time I’ll watch it is with my kid, and that’s going to be fucked, in ten years or whatever. I gotta show him before some of his friends do. I don’t think he really knows I’m an actor. He doesn’t know that part of me. The best thing about doing The Wire was that I was no longer considered the guy from Kids. I’ve done a lot of movies but that one just stood out so much that that’s all I would ever be known for. Acting was never my driving force, so it was never something I ever really put out there. I still do it occasionally but not really.

Leo and Harold Hunter in Kids

What’s the biggest piece of inspiration you’ve carried with you from Harold Hunter?

Thats a tough one. There’s definitely particular scenes of him that stand out. One thing I thought was awesome about Harold was that he was cool with everybody. I don’t think he really had any enemies. He was cool with rollerbladers, ravers, punk kids, hip hop kids and blah blah blah. He was accepting of everybody. His energy and personality, you almost felt like he was the mayor of Washington Square Park. The inspiration might be just to be welcoming to everybody and see what they bring to the table until they prove you wrong. I never saw Harold judge anyone.
Weirdest Larry Clark experience?
He’s not that unpredictable. He never put me in an awkward position or anything. There’s one thing that always boggled my mind while we were shooting Kids. “Hey man, I know it’s your birthday.” He just gives me a packet of bacon. “I know you’re really into bacon.” He just gives me a fucking raw thing of bacon. What’s fucked up is growing up, we were dumb poor so we always got shitty gifts. My family always gave food too. I’d get pigs in a blanket for Christmas. I would always get wack food for gifts because we didn’t have shit. So, here I am, working on a movie, it’s my birthday. Maybe I’m going to get a big party at a big night club or some shit. But I’m getting a packet of bacon for my birthday from Larry Clark. That was pretty peculiar and weird. I don’t know where he came up with this thing that I liked bacon. I definitely like bacon, but it wasn’t something I told everyone like, “bacon’s my shit.” Besides that, everything was pretty normal.
There’s a lot of parallels in the making of this movie and Gummo. One thing being a lot of the parents read the scripts and didn’t want their kids in it (at first), like Quim Cardona’s mom.
Personally, I think Gummo is a way better movie than Kids. I think they’re different but Gummo showed that Harmony was his own person and had his own vision. The other day I was watching Mister Lonely so I texted Harmony. “This movie is so fucking great. Thank you for making it.” I just like doing that type of shit. He’s like, “wait til you see the next one.” Damn, they’re still giving him money! I feel like the world needs more Harmony Korines, more Todd Solondz, more Gaspar Noé, just weird people that aren’t making mainstream movies. Gummo is kind of like Kids, where you could have only made that in that stretch of time, but Harmony continues to do it which is insane. Like, maybe you could have gotten away with that fifteen years ago, but not now, but he still does, so that’s genius in itself.
So, similar to Gummo, some people thought it was a documentary. In Kids for example, the guy with no legs on the bus and the subway performers. How much of this was real?
Kids is about 97% real, 3% improvised. It was all written out. Even the guy with no legs was written out. They had to find that guy. The subway performers; that was written out. That kid was casted. The one scene that was kinda famous that wasn’t written was the four kids smoking blunts on the couch. Javier, Nick, Gary and Lavar Mcbride just happened to be in New York and just showed up on set and that’s what they were doing. Larry’s like, “turn a camera on this shit.” Larry has to tell people that we didn’t give them weed. We didn’t supply anyone with weed. That’s the last thing you wanna do with a movie is to get people fucked up because then they can’t perform. They were just doing that and it turned out to be this magical moment. Other than that, there was so little that was unscripted. I think everybody was playing it pretty safe because they already knew it was going to be controversial just for what it was so they didn’t need to necessarily push it.In Gummo, there’s still really uncomfortable moments where you’re like, “this is fucked.” It really treads the line between exploitation and filmmaking. Harmony’s great at that. I can’t think of another filmmaker that pushes so many buttons and gets away with it, especially in this day and age. You need people that aren’t afraid and have their vision to do what they want to do. He’s aware of it. He doesn’t want to piss people off. He just wants to do things the way he wants to do things. He’s not necessarily trying to provoke people (on purpose).
(On acting in general)
The only reason I continue to act was because I felt bad that I had this opportunity to do something that other people wished they could do their entire lives and I was just throwing it away. It was like, damn I’m really an asshole if I don’t do this.Do I think having a life outside of acting brings more to acting? Definitely. Living a life that doesn’t just consist of being an actor will always bring more to whatever character you need to play. If you’re just in acting class all your life, you’re not out living. If you’re not out living how can you know anything?
Bully (2001)

POST-KIDS

You got arrested during Bully?

It was the wrap party for Bully, I wanna say. A bar opened for us and everyone was doing shots or what not. I was just drinking beer. We literally finished at 5 AM, so everyone started drinking at 5 AM. Now, it’s like 8:30 AM, and some people were saying, “let’s go jump in the ocean!” The girls went in in their underwear and no tops. For some weird reason, because I was drunk, I went in fully clothed. Some people who were walking their dogs saw us and called the cops. The cops called us out of the water. There were two girls who were with us that were grips on the movie. One of them kinda wasn’t as feminine, so the cops were giving her shit about her appearance. “Why do you look like a boy, blah blah blah.” I was like, “fuck you, man, who the fuck are you?” They arrested her first and I was like “fuck you! We’re all going down!” or something, just being wild. I just went to the drunk tank for a while. It wasn’t that big of a deal.That film set was so nuts, that getting arrested wasn’t a big deal. Brad Renfro had gotten arrested the day before. Brad was a bad drug addict. Larry Clark had to go to Kentucky or wherever Brad lived to drive him to Florida to sober him up, cold turkey. Brad, when he got to Florida, was somewhat sober, but he’s still a bad boy. The day before shooting, he finds this coke dealer to go jump on a boat to go do coke out in the ocean. They’re stealing this boat. They’re such geniuses, they forgot to untie the boat from the dock. They just put it in full throttle and the boat goes about five feet and gets stuck and some local hero jumps on board and holds them down until the cops get there. That was how the movie started.I know a lot of the actors were having sex with each other and couples would swap. They were kinda living their characters a little bit. I just kind of got to watch it from afar. What you see on screen is only half the story.

Leo in the back of his gallery, where he was for the second part of the interview.
Tell me about the research you did for the character you played in Storytelling?
I had auditioned for five parts in that movie. I got a handwritten letter from Todd Solondz. “I really like you. I think we’ll work together in the future. There’s just nothing in this movie for you.” I had never gotten a hand-written letter before. That’s a great way to be let down.Originally, they wanted to find a person with cerebral palsy to act in this part. He wanted this very specific type, because cerebral palsy ranges. Everybody is affected differently, so he had a very specific thing in mind. “We think you can do this as an actor.” I don’t even consider myself an actor so it’s weird when people think you can do things you’ve never even contemplated. So, they set me up with a coach who was a kid who had auditioned for the part. He was really into filmmaking and had cerebral palsy. I would basically go to his physical therapy sessions a couple times a week, and just kind of hang out with this guy. I don’t think I ever figured it out, and I think it’s the one movie I would take back. I don’t think I was good in that movie.I play a lot of people with disabilities. That’s sort of my M.O. My own agent, who I worked with for fifteen years, once asked me if I had ever been deaf because of the way I talked. “You know me! Don’t you think that would have come up in the last fifteen years?” I’ve been in speech class, and I know I have a weird voice but I’ve never had to relearn to speak because I was once deaf. That’s not what my voice is about. It’s just some weird Jersey shit.I can’t turn down the silent, strange weirdo parts because you don’t have to learn any dialogue and that’s great. You just show up and look weird. I’m not doing Shakespeare but I’ll do Law & Order all day. The reason I bring up Ice-T is the day my kid was born, I had to do a Law & Order. You don’t know when your kid is going to be born. You just book jobs and think it’s going to work out. So, I go from the hospital to Law & Order. Ice-T asked “how old is your kid?” “I don’t know, like five hours.” I played a silent, non-verbal character. I couldn’t turn that down. It was just too easy. Cool, I just had a kid and I need a check. All I have to do is look crazy, and I do look crazy because I just had a fucking kid! I don’t take offense to any of that. I don’t even necessarily care about my acting legacy.
Do you have any real life conditions, like the ones you’ve played, to any extent?
I grew up in a lot of special education classes and was always in school-appointed therapy, speech therapy and mental therapy. I went to a school for kids who got kicked out of school. I’m sure if I was a kid now, they could find something. Back then, you were just considered a trouble maker. Those things definitely existed. I was in class with a lot of autistic people, but there just wasn’t the terminology for it yet. I loved all those kids. These kids are the genuine weirdos. Like, you guys think you’re acting weird spray painting your hair, wearing army jackets? This dude is way cooler than you. I’ve just always been attracted to people who are themselves and aren’t trying too hard.

UNRELATED

Drugs compared from the 90s until now. Not that party drugs could really be safe, but with Fentanyl and everything now, you have to be more careful with it.

I’m just glad I aged out of doing drugs and partying like that. It’s a risk/reward thing and to me the reward isn’t enough to risk it. I would imagine it sucks to have to test your drugs and look around the room to make sure no one is dying before you take a bump. That’s the opposite of partying. That’s stressing out. When we used to do drugs, the worst thing you would get is a sinus infection and that’s just because the drugs were cut terribly. I don’t judge people for doing drugs. I just feel bad for people who get some bad shit and die. That wasn’t the intention.I live near Tompkins Square Park in New York and just in the last week, somebody wearing fucking flip flops kicked a needle and it poked their skin, then somebody found a needle in the kid’s playground. I don’t even want to pick that shit up to throw it away, with Fentanyl and all this shit. God forbid a kid picks it up.

Let’s talk about jacking off in the nineties, pre-iPhone.

I think there was a nice innocence to the way I came up. There wasn’t all this crazy porno shit. I can’t imagine somebody trying to figure out their sexuality right now. So, this is the most basic thing. If I live in a small town in Ohio and I watch Euphoria, I’m like “why isn’t my life like that?” I want my life to be like that so I’m going to try really hard to make it like that. That’s really difficult stuff. It’s not easy to have a life like Euphoria or like, pornography. It’s fantasy and it’s not meant to be real. I’ll take my nineties porno over today’s porno. I’ll take a paper mag.

I like asking people what they would do in hypothetical situations. What would you do if Tommy Wright III pulled up to your crib and started begging for mercy? How would you react to that?

Begging for mercy? I’d help him out! He’s Tommy Wright III! I saw some shit. I feel like he needed money or some shit. How is this guy not paid? He’s a legend. I don’t know the music industry but if I was Jay-Z or somebody, I would put Tommy on a song. Like, I wanna share that shine with this guy because he’s a true original. So, yeah, if Tommy Wright III showed at my house asking for mercy, I’d be like, “make a record first.”

During the five minute break, I was kinda talking to that box that’s on the wall behind you.

Oh yeah, he’s good people. You ever heard of Chopper Read? Anyways, Dustin Dollin once had the pleasure of meeting him. I was talking to him about it. Dustin bought him a drink and he was talking, then when he’d finish the drink, he’d stop talking. He puts another drink in front of him and he starts talking, then when he finishes that one, he stops talking again. This is what you have to do to talk to the guy. You keep buying him drinks, otherwise he won’t talk to you. Maybe this is motivation for my interviews, moving forward. It’s hard to just talk about yourself.

My piece, Leo on Zoom Premium (2022)

GALLERY, CURRENT

Link: ‘Kids’ Star Leo Fitzpatrick: Opening a gallery is like building a skateboarding team

A thing with your gallery is you value a cool show, substance, treating your artists right versus making a huge profit. You don’t mind breaking even if you have to.

That’s not even an option. That’s not a decision. That’s the way… it works. I would love to make money. I just don’t. I think even the biggest galleries lose a lot of money and they just hide it better. The gallery can feel like a selfish endeavor. Why do I do it? It’s like a form of therapy. I like to be busy. I just don’t think its necessary to the world. I don’t know if I’m changing anybodies lives.

It’s not that difficult to do interesting things. It just costs money and sometimes you have to be willing to lose money to do interesting things.

Maybe the money will catch up later. To drive to be profitable from the beginning is kind of insane. That’s not where my head is at. Again, it goes back to my kid. If in twenty years, someone tells my kid, “hey your dad did that gallery!” or “I went to that gallery.” My kid knows I did this thing and that makes me stoked. That makes me happy.

There’s a different kind of success that’s not about making a shit load of money. Other things can count as success.

Yeah, my kid seeing me bring a painting on a bus to my gallery, and I bring him too. We’re all in this together! This is art handling! It’s showing that you don’t have to be glamorous to be successful. I may have taken a handful of Ubers with my kid but it’s generally subway or bus. “Can we take an Uber?” “No, we take the train to Coney Island.” That’s part of the experience of going to Coney Island. You know how much shit you see on the train to Coney Island?We’ll probably wrap the gallery up in another year or so. The writing is on the wall. I just can’t afford to keep losing money but I don’t think it will be viewed as a failure. It will be viewed as an experiment. Some people will think it was a terrible experiment and some people will think it was a great experiment. I can’t let the idea of making money necessarily dictate whether or not I do things. That’s also kind of why I don’t give a shit about acting. I could move to L.A. and try to be on a TV show or something but my life is a little different. I think people do see that and understand it, and respect it. In the long run, it will make sense. It doesn’t make sense day to day. Not to talk about obituaries, but when you think about somebodies life being broken down into sentences – he did this and he did that that but these things could be ten years apart. A lot of sentences opposed to one sentence: “Oh, Leo Fitzpatrick did Kids then he disappeared.” or “Leo Fitzpatrick did Kids then he did this, then he had an art gallery for no fucking reason, then he DJ’ed for no fucking reason.” That kind of makes more of a fuller story.

What do you look for in the artists you book?

The art world is baseball and there are teams and people have star players and blah blah. I’m still skateboarding. I don’t give a shit about the art world or what’s happening in the art world, per se. I just like to do what I like. Certain things speak to me and certain things don’t. It has nothing to do with popularity or what’s good or what’s trending. I’ve been doing it for a long time so I know what’s good and trending. I know what’s popular or not but I’ve never let that persuade me in one direction or another. It’s what I think is interesting at the moment. It’s kind of selfish. It’s a weird business model just to be like, “oh, you’re a taste maker. Oh, you know what’s interesting.” I swear doing a show at my gallery is bad for your art career. That’s how I feel when I talk to artists. You probably shouldn’t do this. I’m not going to sell art. I never sell any art. My biggest hope is for you to get another show out of this. I’m more of a therapist for art-adjacent people where I can make people feel comfortable and that kind of thing. People who wouldn’t show in the art world will show with me because they know I’m kind of one of them. I don’t know if I work in the art world yet. If this collapses, I’ll just go back to curating shows at bars and pizzerias. That’s what always made me happiest, not working for a gallery. You can either worry about being a businessman or you can start a business.The IRS sent me a letter the other day and I was like, “put that in drawer of things to deal with later.” You can’t get blood from a stone. This is a money losing business from day one. I’ve never made a dollar from this gallery. If anything, I bank off the fact that I lose money. That’s my write off, it’s like, I lost thirty thousand dollars last year. It’s sweat equity or whatever. You put in two years of yourself for nothing and maybe it will be worth something later on. Now i’m totally talking shit. I don’t know what I’m talking about.

No one ever knows what they’re talking about. That might be a good way to end the interview.

I think it’s a perfect way to end it.

Unless you want to talk about sleep paralysis.

Yeah, I’ve had that. I don’t know when this started but whenever I was in L.A. and I had a day or two by myself, I would go down to Joshua Tree and I would sleep in the room where Gram Parsons died. Everyone thinks it’s room 11 but it’s room 13. I would just go down on a solo mission, on my own. One night I went down and I probably drank a six pack or a twelve pack, whatever. I was kicking it in the hotel room and I eventually fell asleep. I’ve had sleep paralysis before. It’s not a new thing to me, but this was the longest I’ve ever had it. A half hour or something. I was awake but I couldn’t move, blah blah blah. Eventually, I had to calm myself down to move again. You know how you have to talk yourself out of it? It could have been three minutes but it felt like thirty. It felt like a lifetime. It was four or five in the morning and I got up. I was like, “well you got what you came here for. You wanted the Gram Parsons experience, there you go. That was Gram pinning you to the bed, motherfucker.” I’ve never been back since. Nothing is going to top that experience. I don’t believe in religion but I have this weird soft spot for ghosts. Ghosts are cool if you’re down with them. Like, “you’re welcome in here. Fuck with me but not too much.” That’s what I feel like was happening. There was an energy in the room.That’s definitely the longest interview I’ve done. I hope we chipped away at something.

Also appearing on THESUNISFLAT.ORG

~ zines

a screenshot of https://pinsyt-nossub.arvo.network/zines

I made this microblog today:

clearweb link for now: https://pinsyt-nossub.arvo.network/zines

the idea is to liberate zines people might still have the digital archives for, and let others people print and distribute them.

i like the 8 page + poster layout a lot, since it can be created and reproduced very quickly.

you can post zines right here, right now on urbit by posting in this notebook: web+urbitgraph://group/~pinsyt-nossub/mind-dump/graph/~pinsyt-nossub/zines-2027

if you’re not on urbit yet, feel free to message me with printables + info and i’ll post for you.

i’ll award 1 L2 planet for anyone from the stp community not on urbit yet if they share a zine.

please note: content posted will be liberated through viral public licensing: https://viralpubliclicense.org/

~ Dylaby, Stedelijk Museum, 1962

Dylaby, the dynamic labyrinth—a cross between a sunny kitchen, a haunted house, scaffolding, grandma’s attic, a ruin, and a sublimated birth trauma, which somehow forms a unit where people can grumpily or cheerfully lose their way.

The participating artists—Tinguely with Niki de Saint Phalle, Daniel Spoerri, per Olof Ultvedt, and Robert Rauschenberg—cluttered the galleries with physical obstacles that required visitors to navigate raised platforms, climbing structures, and false stairways amidst a cacophony of noise. A celebratory atmosphere likely tempered any frustration generated by the deliberate lack of clarity in the exhibition layout, as visitors gleefully fired bb guns and danced in a sea of floating balloons.

Dylaby conjured both the time of childhood and a premodern era in which art spaces elicited ritual rites of participation and performance. Childhood was not just a metaphor in Dylaby: in the official publicity materials surrounding the exhibition, children were everywhere. They appear in installation photographs and in a documentary film shot in the galleries of Dylaby

In engaging children within museums, as well as Sandberg’s specific aims for the Stedelijk, children served as natural instigators of participation and play in Dylaby. They invited viewers to shed their adult inhibitions and travel back in time to childhood, but also to a mythic time when art was not exclusively the province of the eye, but tied to a body in motion.

Most of the material on view was from secondhand stores or had simply been found in the street. When the exhibition closed, most of it landed in the garbage dump. “Dylaby” was, for those days, an extreme exhibition that tested the borders of art and activated the audience.

 

~ THE RETURN OF THE HEADPHONE AESTHETIC

Many people worldwide use headphones for one purpose: listening to music. But recently in the past year, I have noticed more people use them as accessories to elevate their outfits. I first started seeing this trend revival during COVID Quarantine but now it’s become more prevalent as more people began commuting outside. Led by fashionable women, this has now become an aesthetic throughout social media for many headphone owners.

Like many other fashion trends, Kanye played a pivotal role in pushing the revival of this aesthetic. Amid his divorce from Kim Kardashian and release of his much-anticipated album Donda, Kanye was sighted outside multiple times wearing the Air pods max. With his face hidden behind a mask and wearing Balenciaga head to toe, this sparked many news outlets and fashion-forward social media accounts to report on his outfits. The AirPods Max & Kanye played a large role in the initial revival of this aesthetic but recently the Sony XM5 has been popping up a lot more with many posts/unboxings going viral on Tiktok & Instagram.   

I’ve been using the word revival because this is nothing new. In my early teenage years, headphones like Beats Studios & Skullcandy were outfit essentials during the “swag era”. The ultimate outfit usually consisted of a snapback, flannel, Cargo shorts, or skinny jeans with some Vans (I was living in SoCal at the time). If someone owned any Beats headphones, they could not step outside without having them around their neck. Especially if you owned a pair of the Studios! Unfortunately, after this era, the headphone aesthetic slowly died out with the introduction of new tech (wireless earbuds) and style trends.

So, have you found yourself purposely or subconsciously styling your headphones? If not, next time you feel like your outfit is missing something you might just need to add a pair of headphones!

~ The History of the Downtown Portrait


Downtown NY has always bred the most interesting characters the world has seen.

From Warhol’s Factory, to CBGBs, the clashing of cultures at Tompkins, Supreme on Lafayette, the hectic loud surroundings of downtown and many more. All providing a space and platform where artists, musicians, actors, chefs and weirdos from all different backgrounds blend together and create history.

These 3 pictures embody that.

From all the hand picked attendees, to the historical theaters they were shot at. They all play a role in the importance of downtown history.

The pictures are meant to capture and tell the story of the scene, movement, culture during those years.

It’s about immortalize every era of the city. A downtown portrait.

Since the first one was pre social media, invitations were made and personally handed out. Anyone was allowed to show up, all you needed to do was be confident enough to walk through those doors and know you could be a part of it.

The first one was made in the year 2000 at Jonas Mekas’s Anthology Film Archive on second ave in the East Village and shot by Kai Reagan. It appeared in AMP Quarterly which was an art magazine published by Aaron Rose, Ed Templeton and Brendan Fowler. A large format magazine that complemented the massive context of the photo.

Some of the participants brought chainsaws, bats, and axes as props it got wild, turning into a party which added to the energy of the photo.

Nobody knew what to expect, everybody was in their early 20’s and it was another excuse for hanging out.

The second picture was made at The Guggenheim and published in ID magazine in 2005. The historical, iconic significance of the first shot caught the attention of the museum and they offered their theater for the second shot.

The third picture was made in 2017 at the Abrons Art Center of Henry Street Settlement, one of the oldest theaters in New York City and published in Cultured magazine.

Through the years these images have become iconic. Some of the individuals in the pictures are also no longer with us, but these images serve as a tribute to their stories, their friends, and their influence.

It’s been 5 years and in honor of the tradition Gray Sorrenti will be shooting the 4th installment of the photos.

We will be meeting Saturday, July 9th at 1pm a tompkins square park by the Hare Krishna Tree. All are welcome.

~ Nick Atkins Interview by Maya Kotomori

As someone who conducts interviews in their free time, occasionally for money, there are rare instances when I go into a conversation unprepared. On this rather Mercurially-weathered Tuesday, I found myself profoundly struck by multimedia artist Nick Atkin’s disinterest in my questions. Don’t worry, this isn’t any writerly fodder: I’m not the plucky journalist who speaks to the brilliant artist who hates interviews; that simply is not how the story goes. No, instead I write this introduction to share the feeling of being on the precipice I felt when speaking to Nick in his studio, where structure didn’t matter for both our conversation and any writing that was to come from it, where we tipped into the personal, unafraid and unstandardized by a list of sample questions, or talking points. That’s what interviewing is, when you really think about it – please, do as Nick and I did, which was take our shoes off and speak about things that we felt that mattered beyond work, or anything quantifiable.

Maya Kotomori: What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever made? I know that’s like picking your favorite kid, but if you had to pick….

Nick Atkins: The one (artwork) that I got the most reaction from, both from audiences and for myself was this wishing well that I did, which was a sculpture that with this huge fountain was pumping, and all this religious iconography and all these different fruits and foods incorporated. It was very universal, and I wanted it to be very universal – people were invited to wish into the well, and I think they needed that – they needed to wish on something. That project was really satisfying to me – it’s not the easiest thing to get a lot of people involved in something, but this one really [accomplished that]. I want to focus on that, like the invitation to a universal viewer to interact. Those [installations] aren’t commercially successful because there’s nothing to buy, but who knows, maybe people will buy the whole thing. 

MK: That’s the thing too, what you’re talking about with the universal viewer and the well is an incredibly relaxing experience. So many people want to call installations experiences, but there’s something very daunting about that word – experience. It makes you feel like you have to experience, like “I’m looking at this artwork and I must get something very productive from it.” When you just have something that exists as an invitation, that’s an incredibly relaxing feeling, because there’s no expectation for you to feel any type of way – you can throw whatever you want into the wishing well. You could lose an eyelash and make a wish into the fountain.

NA: Absolutely, people threw all types of stuff in there, which was great. People threw figurines, they carved things into pennies; notes and stuff like that. Some people threw paper money in there. The interaction is an important part too. As a kid, they (museum attendants) would kick me and my friend out of every museum because we wanted to interact with the work. When you grow up, you realize that you actually can’t touch the sculpture, even though you want to run your hands over it so badly. That’s the interesting thing about ownership of a very valuable piece – that that person can touch it whenever they want. Not every person you could find off the street gets to do that. That’s why I’m like, okay, you’re invited to throw something into the well, you can change this work that I put here – I want you to do that. And maybe that’s a little bit of mischief too, you know.

MK: I personally support most trolling, there is a level in which it becomes dangerous, but that’s very much the world we live in.

NA: I’m a big fan of light trolling – I try to do it through misinformation or mischief. It makes me smile as long as nobody’s getting hurt. I especially troll on Instagram, people will see how big a square is and believe [the scale] instantly. So I try to troll with the simplest dumbest Photoshop, make the square big, make it look like there’s a big sign of mine outside of a museum or insert my artwork into high falutin’ showswhose curators don’t even know who I am – and people believe it. They’re like “Congratulations!” And that – that it in itself is the troll. You know, if people see it, they’ll believe it. A little kid could Photoshop themselves into a museum and people would believe it.

MK: You watch enough tutorials on YouTube, and you can troll infinitely.

NA: Yeah. Not even – you can do it on your phone now! You can make a fake whatever. There are so many scammers in the world generally, but I think it’s interesting, like art fraud. I mean, if people see something and believe it, what’s to say that that artwork shouldn’t be in that show, or it shouldn’t be in that museum. People like it. They want to see it there. They believe that it is there. 

MK: Oh for sure, if you hold a level of believability to something, like if you really believe Mao Tze Dong is reincarnated in Donald Trump, for example, then to you that’s real. That’s your reality because you willed it.

NA: Yeah, I mean we’ve seen that [idea] shape history in the past two or three years. I like the lighter hearted [trolling], to be honest. I like mischief. I like the old, simple type of troll. The dark stuff I think is a little too much of an exposé into the bad side of humanity. I prefer to skim the surface, but when it comes to the art, I feel like I try to go more into an emotional level, like basic things: sex, death, loss, relationships – just the stuff that I’m dealing with on a regular basis and the stuff that I’m interested in, and then just try to find a way to encapsulate that visually. I like to find an image that reminds me of these types of human emotions. And then reuse, reuse, reuse until I’ve explored my idea on that emotion at that time. And usually if I do it correctly, people will understand what I’m talking about.

MK: I’m not a fan of the superlative, so this is a very loose question, but what would you identify as the most mischievous thing you’ve made or done in the past week?

NA: What day is it?

MK: *Swashbucklingly* Today is Tuesday.

NA: Alright – trying to track back. I don’t know if this is mischief or just how people do it, but I go to work and I do what I think [it is] that people are supposed to do. I’m grateful for my job and it’s on the cooler, more artistic side of things, but it’s a job which is its own life. Then I come home, and I get up to some antics, or I sit here thinking about images that I want to use to express myself for my own art and wellbeing. I feel like I’m almost getting away with something, which is the core of any kind of mischief. It does feel like there’s a world, and then there’s my world – and I’m in control of my world. I have to be in the regular world most of the day, but when I’m in my world, I’m in control. 

MK: There is something mischievous about that double life. Even if your “home” is taking your shoes off and watching South Park for 11 hours, that technically is a completely different world than the real one, and it is mischievous that you’re able to get away with having a work personality and then having a private one. 

NA: I don’t know if I’d necessarily agree that consuming television necessarily fits. I think that [in the case of] the mischief maker, or the person getting [away with something] would be the creators of South Park, because their job is to make this insane show that people consume for hours, which gets them paid. Now, if someone’s coming home from work and watching South Park, and they have their partner in a cage with some sexual craze, that’s mischief. There has to be one more level for me to feel like it’s actual mischief – I’m not talking [specifically] about sexual deviance, I’m talking about something that’s not what they want us to do. 

MK: I never thought of it like that – you’re so right. Now Trey Parker and Matt Stone – I know they do some weird shit behind closed doors.

NA: They’re legendary. In my opinion, they are the epitome of doing exactly what they want to do to the point where they’ve [been able to] make a lot of money from it. They’re truly geniuses. They love mischief, they love chaos and they’re great at it. They’re actually the antithesis of the person I’m talking about – there’s society, and then there’s the people that are creators within society. If you’re successful enough, your creation becomes a part of society where it can get people to laugh. That’s huge to me, that’s like one of the biggest accomplishments. When people look at my work and get a kick out of it – that’s one of the most important things that could come from a visual image; laughter. 

MK: Oh, for sure. 

 NA: When I was a little kid, the big South Park thing was some Jesus and Santa Claus troll and people stood on their heads like “this cannot happen.” But everyone laughed at it – everyone loved it. 

Still from season 3 episode 15 of South Park

MK: You know? Well, that’s the thing – people  were so mad about that. They thought it was gonna cause chaos, but it didn’t cause chaos, it caused laughter. That laughter was chaos. One of the most rebellious acts is to laugh in the face of something crazy, and not to laugh in a way to ignore it, but to laugh at the absurdity of real circumstances.

NA: What I subscribe to is: if you have the ability, or eventually have the ability to laugh, then that’s healing – like, there’s nothing I can do. I think about that in my art too, sometimes you just need that laugh to start healing.

MK: Deep question. What are you (as an artist) trying to heal from? 

NA: I think for a long time as a kid, I thought life was a game. I’m talking a lot about life being funny, but I don’t think life is a game and I don’t think emotion is a game, but I thought [it was], and I thought it would be okay to die – I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. A lot of my idols in art and music were dead and they died young, and I thought that was okay. I chased it, I think, for a while. This isn’t like a main thing that I’m healing from, but I think this is a lot of what I’m reacting to (artistically), like understanding that I’m comfortable with death and that I don’t want to die now, but in this time of my life I didn’t mind either way, and I lived that way. Now when I look at relationships or conversations like this one, I’m just so grateful that I’m not trying to heal from [that time in my youth], I’m trying to basically recoup ideas, and if these ideas can help somebody else heal from something or just get that simple relief of a laugh, I think that’s what I’m looking after. I was actively interested in chasing death and now I’m actively interested in chasing life.

MK: That’s like the Trainspotting “choose life” bit.

NA: I think they nailed that. [The movie] comes down to a person negating their life and then realizing that they actually want to live their life. Yeah. And he’s (Renton) trying to tell people to choose to be a regular person. Unfortunately people end up looking at these sexy people doing drugs and partying and think like “I could do drugs and I can party and I can negate life.” I don’t think people are that dumb. rom a younger perspective, it is like that, but now I’m looking at it as a little more grown. [Choosing life] is the desired outcome of the movie, not the cosmetic outcome of that movie, which was people shooting smack ‘cus it looked so fun. 

MK: People look at that movie like “this is a game,” for sure. It looked brilliant. 

NA: When they package it all up in a Hollywood thing, especially a movie [like Trainspotting] that’s directed and shot so well…

MK: That was me too. When I first saw Skins (UK), I wanted to be Effy Stonem so bad – I wanted to be manic-depressive just like her because she looked so gorgeous while fucking her whole world up. I still think Skins (UK) is one of the most brilliant television shows to air, but that show was a game to me. I thought if I had the stones to (somehow) make myself as mentally ill as Effy then I could have that gorgeous life, and that was the game. I grew up and realized that wanting is the game.

 NA: Absolutely. It’s the opposite for me – my brain is firing at all times, so if I do watch or consume [media], it has to turn my brain off. I’m a Kung Fu Panda fan, I like a Pixar film. I like the shit that shuts my brain off. 

MK: What’s your favorite Pixar movie?

NA: I don’t know if Kung Fu Panda’s Pixar, but I also like The Incredibles. 

MK: What do you have to say about your childhood? Not on like any Freudian weird shit – I guess I’ll ask what’s something you would tell a stranger in your house right now about your childhood?

NA: I loved my childhood, man. For me,that wonder, excitement,intrigue and curiosity of being a child is something I’m trying to maintain in my life and in my artwork.

MK: I see that  joy and wonder in your jewelry. Why jewelry? Where did that come from?

NA: Well, some of the simple things that I’m looking for in my art don’t require  a rectangular canvas. In fact, it’s harder for me to achieve those things in a rectangular canvas. From a jewelry point of view, all the same principles apply – it’s wonder, intrigue, slight trolling and humor. Jewelry has also been really satisfying these days because you get a lot out of it – it’s shiny, neat, beautiful. People want it. And that want is also slightly mischievous in a way. Jewelry is also timeless – it has longevity which is important to me. People have family heirlooms that have lasted so many lives, it’s intriguing to me that a piece of metal and a stone from the earth can be handed down through generations and mean a lot more than just that piece of metal and that piece of stone. 

Maya Kotomori is a 23 year old arts and entertainment journalist and pre-modern enthusiast from Riverside, California. Her work is really fun and rated E for Everyone Read It. 

~ DO NOT RESEARCH IN ROCKAWAY

Do Not Research presents a screening of video works that explore niche internet subcultures and the strange experience of being online today; queer furry militias, UFO’s, conspiracy theories, anonymous message boards and memetic transmission. The program includes works by Dorian Electra with Weston Allen & Mike Diva, Dana Greenleaf, David Noel, Moodkiller with Weston Allen, Xavier Rotnofsky, and Nick Vyssotsky.

GATORADE by David Noel. 2021. 30 sec.
CALABASAS 1/26/20 by Xavier Rotnofsky. 2021. 11 min.
MY AGENDA by Dorian Electra, Mike Diva & Weston Allen. 2021. 3 min.
AREYOUWINNINGSON? by Dana Greenleaf. 2021. 11 min.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY by Mood Killer & Weston Allen. 2021. 2 min.
(COBWEBS SPUN BACK & FORTH IN THE SKY) by Nick Vyssotsky. 2021. 18 min.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/do-not-research-in-rockaway-tickets-374644069497

 

If you’re in NYC you should come out.

~ Welcome.jpeg Interview

Welcome has been a curated hub of design from its inception. Starting as an archival page in 2019, Welcome amassed a following of culturally oriented minds, seeking not just the latest drop or fad, but aesthetic brilliance wherever it exists.

With the launch of our editorial site, Welcome is growing into a media ecosystem offering a critical perspective on aesthetic and design, from the latest developments in the arts, to highlights in cultural history. Our team of writers and designers cull their fields of expertise for insights on cultural happenings past and present, and emphasize the power of design and personal taste not just as modes of self-expression, but as historical narratives perpetually unfolding. – Welcome.jpeg

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Dino: What’s your background, who are you and what you do?

Alex: I am 23 years old, I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California,  but my parents are Armenian. We fled from Armenia to Russia, then from Russia to LA.  I’m Armenian but I also can speak Russian. Growing up I was really interested in fashion design and art design and my parents kind of were against that and so they gave me three options. It was either to be adoctor, lawyer, or in business. Finally I graduated last year from USC with my business administration degree. I started Welcome as honestly just a personal mood board for myself. Back in 2019 I had a clothing brand and it was a place for me store all the research that I did online and also in the libraries. It quickly grew into what it is now, just based off a lot of people reposting early on liljupiter,  Virgil, ASAP mob. That definitely helped promote the page. At the time I was posting a lot of old Tumblr posts from Virgil’s Tumblr and a screenshot of an Instagram post. It was iconic to see Virgil’s Instagram at a very early point in his career and to see what he became afterward. It was very inspiring. I posted that in ASAP mob and a couple other people started reposting and it kind of blew up from there.

Dino: It’s really cool for young people to profile themself at such a young age. I mean, you said Virgil, ASAP and others saw your work, I mean it must of been an overwhelming experience for you as a 23 year old.

Alex:  What, honestly happened was once I saw that everyone started following me these, you know, notable figures. I felt the eyes watching me, I knew that the next couple posts, whatever I’m posting is gonna be viewed by the people that have been inspiring me for years. So it did feel a little nerve wrecking. Honestly, I think that helped me, develop my taste even more because I was more meticulous about what I let out. I took it more seriously because I saw that it was developing. That led to a lot more research and a higher level of curation.

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Dino: So you basically you had to dig up all that stuff, to post. It wasn’t ground posting, it was searching stuff, you wanted to share, right?

Alex: Yeah. I’ll be honest. I see most pages and most people structuring their pages around the consumer. And my goal was always to structure around the creative and show the creative, you know, different people’s work that they can get inspired by. For example i’d post a painter who’s showing a new technique of painting that I’ve never seen. That’s inspiring as opposed to just posting some popular painters work.

Dino: So you have a strong connection to art?

Alex: Whenever I started welcome, I was not too much familiar with art actually. I was pretty much more into fashion design, not gonna lie but over the course of running Welcome I got tired of fashion design and more interested in art. And so I’m relatively new. I would say 2019, I started looking and researching art.

Dino: Where do you find your posts? Is it Instagram, Reddit? Is it some other pages ?

Alex: Yeah, I typically explore Tumblr or let’s say I find an artist i like, for example, I’m really into this one artist Adrian Kiss. He’s making really amazing textile art. It looks motorcycle inspired, puffer blankets, etc… They’re really nice. So I’ll go on their page and I’ll click on the photos that they’re tagged in and then I’ll go and see which galleries have posted them or I’ll go on their hashtag and see what pages have posted them and I’m sure that anyone that’s posted Adrian Kiss will have similar aesthetic to me.

Dino: It sounds really interesting. It must take a lot of work for you to dig through all this stuff? What’s your screen time?

Alex: My screen time’s probably around 10 hours a day, 10 to 12 hours.

Dino: What is you favorite medium?

Alex: I don’t know if this counts, but my favorite medium would be technology. My favorite thing is learning about innovation. I find there’s real beauty in the simplicity of technology. If it works, it works. Seeing how tech is shifting our understanding of our reality. Especially with the blockchain technology and artificial intelligence, augmented reality… All these things are literally gonna change what it means to be a human.

Dino: What’s the purpose of your work? Where do you plan to go with it?

Alex: At first it was just a personal thing. For me, the goal was to kind of learn and discover. Then the next step was the following, so I wanted to provide people with knowledge and new perspectives and new inspirations. Now I’ve come to a point where the goal is working on technology ourselves. Apps and software. Innovate the creative space. We’re working on a video series as well. I think I’m trying to create more performance art videos. We filmed this series called senior Fest coming out where we have musicians perform live inside of senior citizen homes. The first one was this one rapper. So we are documenting this generational and cultural gap. Another project we are planning is AI interviews. Replacing human host, with AI.

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Dino: You are going to interview people with AI? I mean AI is going to do work instead of you?

Alex: Yes! The AI is gonna be from GPT-3.

Dino: How can your work affect social issues and dilemmas?

Alex: I’m having a difficulty definitely affecting social issues. Partially because I have an issue doing what everyone does which is just re-posting on my story. I want to use my work to help in a more effective way. Wether that’s through fundraising, or through creating a project or service that can actually make a difference.

Dino: Do you think art museums will move to digital and do people need live interaction with art they watch ?

Alex: I don’t think art museums are going anywhere. Like there’s no way you can replace the experience of going to a museum. It’s the same way you go to watch a movie in a movie theater. Yeah you can stream. But at the end of the day, nothing will replace the physical experience. Context changes everything. I think also just being surrounded by other people as well, subconsciously adds to the experience. I think the only way that would happen would be if museums were able to provide highly realistic VR experiences were say people who can’t
afford to goto the Louvre could experience it, but again that wouldn’t replace the actually museum.

Dino: What excites you?

Alex: Honestly I’m very excited about the current moment. Discovering things I enjoy is a very inspiring process for me. I’m get eager to post because I’m enjoy sharing my discoveries, and I want others to feel what I am feeling. I’m excited to share my apps and video series. That’s actual original content.

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Dino: Also I saw that you don’t have any pictures of yourself. I like that, the work you present is not about you, it’s there to serve others, am I right?

Alex: I’m posting other people’s work. I don’t feel like it’s important to show myself. There is no reason for people to know what I look like. The content is all that matters.

~ Sean Pablo talks to Casey Doran about his upcoming solo show and new Paradise NYC release

Sean from Converses Purple video.

SEAN PABLO INTERVIEW

Also appears on THESUNISFLAT.ORG

I hit up professional skateboarder and artist Sean Pablo on Zoom to mainly talk about his upcoming photo show A Season in Hell opening June 29th and his recent release with his brand, Paradise NYC. We also discuss focusing on art because of a skate injury, and some random shit.

PARADISE NYC

I just saw that y’all hit 66.6k on IG and I thought that was kinda funny. How do you feel about how your brand has progressed compared to other releases?

I guess it’s cool. We take it pretty slow. It’s pretty lo-key. We kinda keep it like that on purpose. It definitely has grown a little bit since it’s inception. I basically started doing it when I was sixteen and now I’m twenty four so we’ve been working it now for a while.The newer stuff is what we’ve always done. It’s usually graphic heavy. We did add some cut and sew this time. We have a few button up shirts.

You’ve traveled extensively for skate trips and you’ve seen different perspectives. This might have affected your take on fashion. Are you influenced by places other than New York?

I don’t really know, man. A lot of it is influenced by old New York strip clubs, old vintage t-shirts, New York City vintage shirts. Los Angeles plays a pretty big part in it too. We do a lot of recycling of pre-made graphics and found graphics pretty much. Really the inspiration can be from anything, any person, or place. It’s not necessarily all based on New York. It’s pretty all over the place in terms of the aesthetic of Paradise.

From the recent Paradise NYC release.

This place can be devastating sometimes with religious extremism. It gets worse and worse. It seems like some of the graphics are a critique. Can you expand on that?

I wouldn’t really say it’s a critique. All that stuff is really found imagery. It’s not as much of a critique as much as it is just drawing attention to something that’s already out there in the world. I guess the fact that we are drawing attention to it is why people would think we want to critique religion. It’s coming from a sincere place. It’s not necessarily making fun of anyone or anything. A lot of those motifs kind of just fit in perfectly with this idea of “paradise” and obviously that has some religious connotations. It’s hard to say because you obviously want to toe the line between sincere and satire. Pretty much all those graphics we make are already found that religious people have made and we pretty much appropriate it if that makes any sense. In a way you could say it’s satire or critique but I genuinely think those graphics are cool.

At the end of the day, is it significant aesthetically?Do you have a memorable criticism of someone who was misinterpreted your intentions with the graphics?

It happens all the time. It’s not really as easy to understand, maybe, as some other companies. I’m trying to think if anyone has ever specifically said something like that. I hope it’s understood it’s sort of like a joke and not meant to be taken too seriously. Sometimes I try to ignore that. Not to say I don’t listen to people when they give me criticism, especially when I’m in the wrong but sometimes people are easily offended and overly politically correct.

ART, SKATEBOARDING, UNRELATED What about film photography inspires you?

There’s a lot of people who have inspired me. With 35mm, the photos look beautiful when you first see them and you don’t have to do anything to them as opposed to iPhone photos which rarely jumps out at you the same way. I know that everyone shoots on 35mm so I’m not special in that way.

You participate in a lot of mediums: skateboarding, photos, etc. Is there anything else in the future you want to expand on? I feel like that’s on the way.

I want to go into filmmaking. That’s sort of what I’ve always loved. Making music also is something that I’ve always done. I’ll continue to do that. I think making films, doing directing, art directing. I think I’d be down to do more acting.

Do you plan specific fits for specific clips?

Specific fits? (laughs) I definitely have done that before. Anyone that says they haven’t is a liar. When you get dressed in the morning, aren’t you planning for your day?

Who has the best switch ollie?

I feel like Jerry Hsu. He kinda has the best switch.

Style and trick selection or hammers?

Style and trick selection obviously will always be the best. That’s pretty much all I got to offer. But that’s all that I care about anyways.

Who on the Supreme team smells the worst?

I don’t want to be mean. Probably whoever has been skating the longest that day.

Does Harmony let people take photos of him?

He’s cool with it, I think. I don’t think he loves getting his picture taken. He’s a pretty behind the scenes kinda guy.

You fuck with them pickled eggs?

No, I’ve never fucked with that. That’s fucked.

A SEASON IN HELL

Is this the medium thats prevalent in A Season in Hell? Mostly with your point and shoot?

Yeah, it’s a Contax T2 mostly. Well some of them are Yashica T4. (It’s pretty much all photos) but there’s other random stuff. For the most part, what I contributed was photos and directing the whole vibe, I guess. It’s basically stuff that I’ve put on Instagram. I’ve just never really printed my stuff before or shown anybody.

You shoot a lot of photos of your friends in the moment, documentary-type?Y

eah, I usually bring a camera when I go on a skate trip. It’s just been something to do since I was younger. I’m super stoked someone gave me the opportunity to showcase it. It looks a lot cooler when it’s printed out on the wall. Kind of a new experience. It’s not just my show, the Camera Club people really helped me bring it to life. All I pretty much did was shoot the photos.

So you’re injured currently?

I have a broken leg and I can’t skate so I’m just trying to focus my energy on random stuff. I was just in Atlanta. That’s how I broke my leg. It was at this parking lot spot out in the suburbs. It was like a circular brick bank to bank. I got smoked. I got hit by a car out of nowhere. I have a fractured tibia and tore a couple ligaments and basically just trying to not have to get surgery next month.

You’re making the best out of the time.

I’m trying to. I’m bummed I can’t skate. I think I like skating the most out of anything I do. I’ve been taking pictures and skating simultaneously my whole life. They kind of go hand in hand in some ways.

Sean’s gallery show A Season in Hell opens June 29th and runs until July 17th on the second floor of 17 Allen Street, NYC.

Further reading:

Sean on Instagram

Paradise NYC

Interview with The Bunt

Sean’s skate part in the Supreme video “Blessed”

~ AdWorld Interview

The following consists of the conversation I had with Santangelo, Pedro and Francis, the charming trio responsible for creating AdWorld: a multimedia, web3 masterpiece at the vanguard of digital artImages provided by the AdWorld team.

Santiago: Guys, can you quickly introduce yourselves, and what you do for AdWorld, for our audiences that don’t know?

Santangelo: I’m Santangelo, I’m the project lead, slash, like, I don’t know…

Pedro: The crazy man that came up with it!

SA: Yeah, the crazy man that came up with it, that’s me.

P: I’m Pedro, I’m the creative director of the project, the hammer and the nails. I do the freaking animation thing.

Francis: I’m Francis, I’m the project manager, and I help out with a little bit of everything,. I help out with the music element of things, and some of the narrative design.

P: Francis has picked every song for every video.

S: So I was thinking how we could approach a project like AdWorld in an intelligent way. Could you guys explain it in a manner for someone who doesn’t really know about NFTs, the metaverse, and all of the crazy stuff that’s going on right now? I want to talk to my dad about it. 

SA: I would say AdWorld is a narrative story, an interactive storytelling thing, or event. Basically an interactive story where you can participate, but also engage with communities that are centralized via music and gaming and all things internet, and all things contemporary. So it’s weirdly one part story, that you interact with and engage with, partially this game that you can passively play by just exploring and talking to people, and third part this community that you can engage with via music and games, and anything social online. I would say it’s reflective of early internet games like Gaia Online, if you know that one, or like Club Penguin, or Runescape.

S: So, I did a little research, but I could be wrong about this, I understand that at the center of it all is a music album?

SA: No you’re completely right. The jump-off point is my album AdWorld, which is hodgepodge of all things fucked up and contemporary. Whether it be everyone’s obsession with dance music now, or weird stock market tech crash crypto stuff. It’s kind of a catchall for all things contemporary and fucked up. Yeah, I think that this thing, AdWorld game project, is kind of an extension of that, it’s an art project that’s kind of grown into a Frankenstein. It grew a life of its own, but it’s also something that in that psychotic growth gave birth to something really beautiful. We have a really strong group of people who came together to talk and engage with each other, and just play, every so often.

S: So, tell me in what capacity is AdWorld a game, something you can interact with.

SA: It’s very ambiently a game…

S: Ambiently…explain that.

SA: I would say the interaction, the mechanics we have built out for the game, and that we are building for the game, are fully based in normal web browsing, and interaction with people and engaging with communities, things you would do regularly, just kind of retrofitted those interactions to tell a story.

S: I see… so this is not a game where you can walk around.

SA: No, not at all. You can walk around and talk in real life, and you’re still in the game.

S: That’s pretty conceptual. 

P: It’s pretty conceptual, yeah, definitely. There’s also a gamification aspect. The character creator was a game in itself, and the fashion show was also a creative game, and there was a reaction. The game to a certain degree is you’re making animations collaboratively, while listening to music, while talking to people.

F: The fashion show… the people who won, the people with the best designs, three were community picked and three were judge picked, and all of those designs, got added to the character creator itself, so people who participated got to contribute creatively, got to contribute the character creator, which will make it into the short film. 

S: So what ties everything together, the game, the collaborations, the music, there’s a narrative, a story being told. I think I’ve understood correctly, the people who own the NFT can participate in the direction the story goes, by voting, is that right?

SA: That’s an aspect of it. There’s gonna be community decisions that are made based off the characters. We also have story pieces that are just kind of more concrete, that are just us weaving in the story. It’s a kind of mix of all of those things. 

S: Did you guys write a grand narrative arc, before doing all of this, or are you doing it as you go along, building the lore step by step.

P: There’s a writer who’s been writing. There’s a big bible of things that have happened in the world of AdWorld. We’re in the process of making those things more tangible for the community, so they can access it. I feel like there was a first phase, which was very clearly, like “hey lets make the character creator”, and now we’re in a phase where there is all this writing about AdWorld. I wouldn’t call it a season 2, but as a creative director, I’m trying to work with different artists and illustrators that I like, now that we have the budget from the first mint, there’s the goal to solidify this whole story through a short film, more videos, illustrations, comics. We’re in this moment of production. 

F: We’ve kind of started the exposition for the lore.  We’ve dropped a few pieces of the prologue. The whole prologue is written out, but there will be elements that the community will be able to decide upon for what comes next in the short film. Like we said, we have a bible for the story.

S: So can you guys quickly explain the story, the narrative arc you guys are playing with?

F: So when it was first conceptualized…hm… it’s a bit of an Ocean’s 12, where there ‘s like competing rival heist gangs, in this dystopian/utopian metaverse space. San’s character leads one gang, another character named Nas, leads another. There’s this tech overlord monarch character Wally that’s like up to some really shady stuff in this place called AdWorld, which is a game that everyone logs into and plays. It’s kind of like, if you’ve seen Akira, where there’s a little biker gang that gets caught up in a giant military tech conspiracy, it’s kind of like that. The prologue is the story of AdWord, this game where all these heists and gangs exist, we’re telling how that came to be. And we’ll tell another story of crime and romance in the short film—

P: That happens within—

F: Within the world of AdWorld. In this prologue we’re giving exposition on how this has come to be, that’s what’s written out. The community will have more choices over certain interaction between these gangs, how certain fights go down, in the short film. 

P: I feel like AdWorld is in this sort of limbo, at least right now, but hopefully constantly, where the world keeps forming itself before your eyes, a videogame generating itself. That’s part of the story of AdWorld. There’s this language that’s found in these ruins, and it has a videogame within it, and the military, facebook, vice, are trying to sell it to the world. There’s also people that are like “dude, what the fuck is this ancient universe video game?”

F: In the prologue, there’s these competing interests who are all working on this project, what we call the Spirit Text–

P: And somebody designed the Spirit Text–the Spirit Text is designed already. People bring so much crazy shit—we have this moment where we have to pull back a little bit, and just collaborate with people and work with people. We’re working hard so that everyone can access this crazy idea, the Akira of NFTs.

S: So how did you guys meet, and decide to collaborate?

SA: It was something that, I feel like the inception of the idea started in January 2021, when I was in the midst of making the album, I started drawing this character Wally, which is not the character Wally now, based off of Walmart, weirdly (laugh). I was making this weird clown, demon character, thinking of this world in which the music lived in. Francis and I have been best friends for a minute, we lived together while all of this was happening. Francis was really into crypto, and subsequently got into the NFT space, observing it, and actively engaging with it.  I thought to myself how crazy of a medium NFTs were. I feel like it highlighted the insanity of capitalism, but on such a crazy scale, at such a crazy speed, it felt artful. It was this meeting place of all the things that are crazy about the world, where you have the fanatic mania of communities, and discords. Everyone is saying the craziest shit, trying to make you believe. It’s spiritual, it was really kind of a meeting ground, the town square of fuckery. It just felt like the right medium. I started building out this idea. I was searching for artists, looking on instagram looking for the best artists to bring this thing together. Also, it’s largely inspired by the movie Summer Wars. It’s this great animated film that came about right before the social media boom. I was looking for artists online, and fell in love with Pedro’s work, and I reached out and was like “hey, I have this insane idea, can we get on a call so you can hear it”, and Pedro is also crazy enough to fuck with the idea, and broke enough to try to do it anyway. Soon after, I thought, this is kind of a lot to handle. I bit off more than I can chew. Francis was the best trader, crypto head, and a really smart guy, an english major, we had worked on music together. I got us all tickets to LA, and we linked up and went crazy, went in on making it happen. Now we live here. 

S: Can you tell me about the aesthetic choices of the AdWorld universe and lore, can you guys talk about the aesthetic inspiration?

P: I’ve been using blender for only a year. I grew up on After Effects. I’m an illustrator, animator. I studied sculpture in school. The references are sparse, there’s a lot of it that just happens to be the fact that I’ve been making art for many years. It’s me throwing my practice into it. Being really open to collaboration, and letting people whose vibe I like, and work I like in music, come in and start building with me. People say GameCube alot. I grew up on GameCube. Sonic Adventure, our generation really fucks with it. I wouldn’t fully call it low poly. But it has elements of low poly. Heavy Cartoon Network influence. Kids Next Door is one of my favorite cartoons of that time. There was a character creator on the Cartoon Network website that I just remembered. The Kids Next Door game is one of the most influential pieces of art for me—that affected me as a kid. I would create the characters, I would print them, draw them, and make little boxes—you know how the Kids Next Door make their weapons? It’s very sculptural. 

F: Someone in the Discord made a comment about Pedro’s art being this combination of low poly stuff with newer animation tech. Like hi-fi, with newer lighting. AdWorld as a whole is a commentary on the development of this NFT metaverse space. There are a lot of older technologies that make you feel that this metaverse dream was already realized in Second Life. Now it’s revived with this new sheen, all of sudden it’s like, “this is the future”, and I think Pedro’s art rhymes with that in the sense that its low poly—it references old tech and new tech at once.

S: I have to ask, are there concrete philosophical/political influences behind AdWorld, because I know there are for some NFT projects, especially the “avant” ones. 

SA: I think there are, but it’s not for us to prescribe, to read those out. I think there’s a lot that people can take from engaging with the story. I don’t want to step on any toes with the storytelling, but there’s definitely a clear voice, a clear reading of the world. Both in the music and in the story, and how we engage with everything.

F: In the prologue there are competing perspectives and interest groups who are vying for control of this social technology. I think that those different interest groups will…AdWorld feels more like a mirror of this whole space, than something with a clear political take on it…do you know what I mean? We want to show this thing in the way we’ve seen it, rather than try to overdetermine what we’re making. Like San said, we don’t want “Oh yeah, it’s like blank, blank, blank…” and then people are just like “this is one of these things”.

You can follow AdWorld on instagram and twitter at @adworldgame. Watch a videoclip produced by AdWorld here: https://twitter.com/AdWorldGame/status/1506388415004127236

Follow Santangelo on instagram @santangelo.o, Pedro @pedro.tqm, Francis @brainofachild

You can follow me at @pl0xi_the_arsonist on instagram

The team wanted  shoutout the following people:

@neetworth (twitter) , the AdWorld developer

@thribing (twitter), the AdWorld writer

abelinegroup (soundcloud) the musician who composed the theme for the AdWorld  website

Special shoutouts to @lolo_barrientos and @brooskyes (both on twitter) for helping build out the AdWorld Discord.

~ Open Call NYC Exhibition

“O’Flaherty’s Presents “The Patriot” July 9th an Open Call group show:
If it can hang on the wall, we will show it. If it’s really big or heavy text or DM us. If it’s a sculpture, DM me and I will logistically try to make it happen. You MUST drop it off or pick it up yourself at the gallery. **It will be historical and totally worth it, so make it good.** One artwork per person. There will be no context or pretense to how we hang it. The opening is July 9th.

DROP OFF:
55 Avenue C
any Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday 3:00pm- 7:00 pm.
You have until July 7th to bring it over, and when the show is over, you need to pick it up”

Link to original post here

~ The Midnight Pub

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It’s late. You are seconds away from the main street in a small alley. It’s quieter here, but you can still hear the sound of chatter, footsteps, and cars from busy downtown. The city is buzzing, the streets are like arteries. You see an intriguing place in the alley, with a moon on its door. It reads “The Midnight Pub”.

The Midnight is a virtual pub that lets you write posts and create pages.

https://midnight.pub/