Crass’s Penny Rimbaud Doesn’t Care About Urban Outfitters Profiting Off His Band’s Name
A few weeks ago, Urban Outfitters, your cool little sister’s favorite clothing store, started selling a “vintage men’s punk leather jacket” for $375. The jacket had a bunch of crappy hand-painted logos of some of the most notable punk bands of the 70s: the Clash, the Sex Pistols, and Crass. That the company already peddles Joy Division and Sex Pistolsshirts to angsty teens of all ages is a given, and the commodification of punk rock has been going on basically since the invention of the phrase punk rock. But selling a jacket featuring the name of the most famous anarcho-punk band of all time at a price no upstanding anticapitalist could afford seemed, at least, a little problematic. (The jacket was the only one of its kind, and someone bought it.)
Hoping for an angry tirade, I called up Penny Rimbaud, one of the founding members of Crass, at his home in England. Instead he took the opportunity to tell me how much he dislikes the current crop of DIY punks.
VICE: Did you already know about this jacket before I told you about it?
Penny Rimbaud: I hadn’t actually seen the jacket in question, but yeah, I’d heard about it. I personally don’t have any troubles with it. I mean it amused me that Crass is sort of the main feature on it and the Sex Pistols and the Clash dropped down to the bottom. But they haven’t actually used the symbol so it’s not really an unacceptable use; it’s more of a naff artwork than an attempt to sell a Crass jacket.
As far as I’m concerned, if the wealthy want to spend $400 on a rather naff leather jacket and go to book launches and gallery shows and all the things that those literati and glitterati do, then that’s great because it means that we’re getting the name floated around in areas where it’s very difficult for us to penetrate. I actually quite like it when people like Angelina Jolie and David Beckham wear Crass T-shirts.
Do you think Crass fans might be pissed off, at least?
I know that a lot of the DIY punks and the anarcho punks are going, “Oh, bloody rip-off!” Well, they’re not being ripped off. The anarcho punks have been ripping us off since the beginning of time, doing rather pale reproductions of both our music and our art. So as far as I’m concerned they’re just in for what they can get, and that’s laissez-faire [economics] at its most extreme.
I’m quite sure some people who follow us will be pissed off. But they’re not looking at the bigger picture. The sort of people who will be pissed off are the sort of people that are very happy to be working on a very small, almost ghetto existence within a particular genre of thought, a particular genre of action, a particular genre of behavior, and particularly a predictable set of political ideas. Well, the world’s changed a lot in 30 years and I think we’ve got to get hip to that. I want to get out into a bigger outreach because that’s what I’m here for. My business is information and getting it out there. My job is to look for the best outlets, the best opportunities to promote ideas.
How to Work Hard and Not Pay Taxes
An undocumented Mexican immigrant who came to America when he was two, Wuilber has been in and out of both trouble and jail, but never convicted. After splitting a disc in his back working out five years ago, he could no longer continue working at the warehouse where he was on payroll with phony papers. Then, after slipping into a meth addiction, he lost his job as an oil lube technician. Now he’s out pushing an ice cream cart up to nine hours straight. He makes $50 on a good day.
"I just need money, and this is the way I earn it. Money goes, money comes," he says. "Transportation, food, sunblock… I wear a lot of sunblock. Shoes… This job, the bad thing about it is people get warts under their feet, so I spend every two weeks at least $20 worth of wart killers. Dr. Scholl’s for the cushions under the feet, they wear out. Hopefully I’ll just stick to this and not do drugs and alcohol. I’ll be sober. I’ll live sober. Because I do really want a house, a wife, and kids and stuff."
Steven, 23, costumed Batman, $10-$30/day
A couple months ago, Steven moved to Los Angeles from the Bay Area looking to break into film. He lives in Lake View Terrace with his aunt, who works at Warner Brothers. He’s got hopes to start acting, writing, directing, and producing. He says he can “do it all.”
Having spent just a couple of weeks on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, Steven says “Between me and the other Batmans out here, it’s like mine is a Halloween store costume versus their Comic Con-quality costumes. There’s no competition… It’s really all in the way you approach people.”
Ana, 50, Tita, 44, bottle collectors, $20/day
A couple of days a week Ana and Tita collect bottles from the recycling bins that are brought out to the curbs around their neighborhood for city pickup. Respectively Mexican and El Salvadorian immigrants, they say it only takes about an hour and brings in a little extra income.
It’s not easy or glamorous though. Says Ana, “There’s bacteria and broken bottles that will cut you.”
An Interview with the Woman Who Drilled a Hole in Her Head to Open Up Her Mind
There are plenty of ways to achieve a higher state of consciousness. Most of them involve ingesting some kind of psychoactive substance, or getting in a white tank filled with water, or sitting in front of a flashing light while listening to trance music. But as far as I know, only one requires you to drill a hole into your forehead.
Trepanation, a procedure where a small hole is drilled into the skull and left to heal naturally, can reportedly produce a prolonged positive effect on the trepanned individual’s mood and overall state of well-being. There’s little hard scientific evidence that doing this has any tangible benefits, but people have been doing it for tens of thousands of years, so there has to be a reason they keep coming back to the tried and true method of inserting pieces of metal into the front of their skulls.
Amanda Feilding is the director of the Beckley Foundation, an organization that for over a decade has been carrying out research into consciousness. Her work spans the entire mind-altering spectrum, from cannabis and LSD to Buddhist meditation, and she’s been looking into the physiological effects of trepanation for a long time. In the early 1970s, Amanda trepanned herself when she couldn’t find a doctor to do it for her, and has since become somewhat of an authority on the practice.
I visited Amanda’s home on the outskirts of Oxford, England, to talk about trepanation and how she carried out the operation on herself.
Amanda in 2012.
VICE: So Amanda, can you give me a short history of trepanation?
Amanda Feilding: Trepanation is the oldest surgical operation in the world, dating back to at least 10,000 BC, and has been carried out by independent civilizations in nearly every continent on the planet. From South America to Neolithic Europe, the practice has a rich and diverse history. Shiva, the Hindu god of altered consciousness, was trepanned; it was done by monks in Tibet and up to the modern day in Africa.
What do you mean by “modern day”?
The 20th century. I knew someone from Nigeria in the 60s who said that, when he was 13, the “hip” boys of the village went out with the shaman and got trepanned.
Inside the Free Syrian Army’s DIY Weapons Workshops
During my five months in Syria, there’s one remark I keep hearing from the rebels: we need ammunition and we need heavy weapons. The makeshift army fighting Bashar al-Assad’s troops may be armed with plenty of ancient Kalashnikovs, a steady stream of young men ready to fight and die, and an unshakeable belief that Allah is on their side. But they’re facing a regime equipped with Russian-made tanks and fighter jets, a regime that’s apparently happy to unleash huge scud missiles and chemical weapons on its own population to keep itself in power.
The rebels and Assad’s forces are locked in a particularly sticky, horrendously bloody stalemate; the rebels can hold the front lines but find it almost impossible to advance because they don’t have the weapons and ammunition to make a push. The regime is able to fire heavy artillery at the residential neighborhoods held by the rebels, occasionally picking off fighters while simultaneously destroying the homes of ordinary citizens.
That’s clearly not an ideal situation to be trapped in. So it was inevitable that, at some point, the rebels would stop relying on the West to ship over weapons, and instead work out how to make them themselves.
Mohamad’s Molotov cocktail factory on the frontline in Salaheddin, Aleppo.
I decided to root out one of these DIY weaponry workshops and started my search in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city and the center of the conflict since fighting erupted in 2011. On the front line, which runs through the city’s Salaheddin neighborhood, I met 17-year-old Mohamad. Together with two of his friends, he’s set up a Molotov cocktail factory in what used to be a little girl’s bedroom. Mohamad showed me how he fills glass juice bottles with oil, stuffs the tops with mattress foam and bits of ripped-up bed sheets, before lighting them up and flinging them towards the regime’s troops.
43 Is What a Skate Magazine Should Look Like
As skateboarding has grown in popularity and seeped into the lives of an ever-increasing number of households, the industry—and I’m painting with a broad stroke here—has morphed into a more family-friendly, watered-down version of what it once was, like MTV or domesticated animals. Which is why 43, a New York-based magazine that debuted last year from photographer Allen Ying, is a much-needed breath of clogged city air. A large-format quarterly that’s heavy on excellent photography and light on ads, 43 combines stories of late-night New York City skate missions with photos that wouldn’t be out of place on gallery walls anywhere in the city. Which is fitting, because on Tuesday night, in celebration of its third issue, 43 hosted a photo show at Temp Gallery in Tribeca.
While its previous issues have drawn praise within the skateboarding world, it’s probably safe to assume that this issue has received the most attention of any 43 so far, thanks to one of its photos body-jarring the internet a couple of weeks ago. The image above, of a gentleman by the name of Koki, ollie-ing a subway platform was spread far and wide not only on skate sites, but regular-people blogs like NYMag's and Gothamist, among others.
I caught up with Allen to talk about his new issue and the pretty things inside of it.
VICE: Let’s cut right to it. Who is Koki, the guy sailing over the 143 Street subway gap, and what is wrong with him?
Allen Ying: Koki is an MIA local, and he’s a beast! I only got to meet him that night. It was all pretty surreal, but he’s rad. Koki was the only one in our crew who thought he could do it.
I’ve heard some whispers around the ole water cooler that Gonz ollied that gap, or one like it, way back when. What do you know about that?
I heard that rumor recently too, but I haven’t heard someone definitively say, “Oh, he def did that.” It was just someone saying they heard he might have done it. I’d love to hear about it if he did; that’d be amazing.
A Sweatshop of Our Own - An Exploration of Post-Slave-Labor American Fashion
Monday’s shower-curtain dress. Photos by Jill Thompson and Courtney Turnball.
I’m Canadian, but if there’s one thing I know about Americans, it’s that they love buying products manufactured by impoverished foreign people. Hardly any of the clothing sold in the United States is made there; everybody knows it and no one really has a problem with it except for a few uptight weirdos who dress either really well or, more likely, like an incontinent grandmother’s shitstains. But what if, one day, the crap-manufacturing industry collapses, and all of the indentured servants the US employs there are no longer able to produce an endless supply of cheaply manufactured flashy garments? What sorts of atrocities would Americans be forced to wear?
To illustrate this hypothetical predicament, I committed to hand-making my own wardrobe from scratch and wearing a different outfit each day of the week. Like most Americans, I know very little about fashion design or sewing, so this process was overwhelmingly tedious and took approximately 5,000 times longer to complete than it would have taken anyone who works in an actual sweatshop (that’s why the system exists, duh). I did attempt to make decent-looking garments so that I had a chance of passing as a sane person. If one of the Olsen twins can walk around in a furry trash bag, what did I have to lose? So I pressed on and am happy to present to you a rough approximation of how shittily Americans and other spoiled Westerners will be dressing in a future where sweatshops don’t exist and we are forced to improvise our own clothing.
MONDAY: SHOWER-CURTAIN DRESS
I thought it was important to use as many recycled fabrics as possible in this experiment, so the shower curtain I selected to make my first outfit with had been hanging in the bathroom of my parents’ house for several years. This explains why the inside of the dress was coated with furry black mold, but I just pretended it was lined with rabbit fur so it wasn’t a big deal.
It took a lot of cutting and sewing (which, again, I had no idea how to do), but I’d say the end product was quite a success, especially if you happen to be into the whole Sears-maternitysadness type of look.
Speaking of maternity sadness, my mother invited me out to dinner the night I finished the dress, and when I walked in the door she insisted that I change. I told her that it wasn’t a possibility because it was “my job, Mom.” A family friend dined with us and told me that my shower-curtain couture reminded her of when she was pregnant. My mother, of course, chirped in and said that I looked like I was on welfare and that she was embarrassed to be sitting across from me.
TUESDAY: TURTLENECK/OWL VAGINA
I know people are divided about wearing realistic pictures of animals and animal prints on their bodies, but fuck those toilet bugs. To me, wearing animal-themed clothing is the same thing as wearing a band shirt, because I’m a big fan of animals—I want to be around them, I want them on me, and I want them inside me, all the time, forever. This owl-print pillowcase was also unearthed at my parents’ house, where it had been banished to the back of a closet. My grandmother bragged about how she had bought it before there was a Walmart in the city, which seemed appropriate considering Walmart goes with sweatshops like owls go with my vagina.
The combination of the turtleneck and the owl skirt worked really well and made me feel more confident than anyone probably ever should, although I did catch myself in a mirror and for a second thought I had a pillow resting on my lap. I wore the outfit to a nursing home, where I felt extremely sexually attractive (if you’ve never felt like you’re hot stuff around a bunch of old people, you’re really missing out).
Anyone with enough brains and balls can build their own rocket and fly it to space. Or at least that’s what the non-profit, open source space project Copenhagen Suborbitals wants the world to realize.
Last September, we scuttled out to Denmark to meet the pioneers behind this new wave in do-it-yourself space exploration to find out how these backyard space rockets are made. Founded in 2008 by Kristian von Bengston and Peter Madsen, Copenhagen Suborbitals is now comprised of a coterie of 20-plus specialists determined to create the first homemade, manned spacecraft to go into suborbital flight.
If successful—a manned launch is projected for sometime in the next few years—Denmark would be the fourth country in the world, after China, to successfully launch a manned rocket into space. What’s exceptional about such a feat, if completed, will be Kristian and Peter’s ability to do so on a shoestring budget of a few hundreds of thousands of dollars, versus the tens of millions of dollars it costs government-funded agencies and the rising tide of private companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, or Bigelow.
I Learned How to Make Artisinal Blow in Colombia
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Colombia is the world’s biggest producer of cocaine, providing around 80 percent of the whole planet’s supply. In true entrepreneurial spirit, mom and pop coke shops, or “kitchens,” pepper the countryside, churning out 345 tons of the white stuff last year alone. As a commercially-minded fellow who understands the pitfalls of a consumer-driven culture and the importance of production, I decided to spend a day as an apprentice with a cook in the Colombian village of San Agustin.
Although San Agustin is only 200 miles from where I was staying in Ecuador, getting there took me two full days. In true South American tradition, my journey was colored with confusion and mishaps, including rain, mudslides, three-hour immigration lines, lack of tickets, unpaved mountain roads, and chicken buses with no suspension that came very close to cracking my tailbone.
When I arrived at my destination, however, all of those inconveniences seemed trivial. I was about to make some artisanal blow.
Some of the wildlife on Pedro’s property.
The proprietor of the cocaine factory’s name was Pedro. He greeted me warmly on a portion of his property that served as a coffee farm, and told me our class would last about two hours.
After a perfunctory glance at Pedro’s coffee field, I was led up to his ramshackle house, and into his cocina.
A heap of fresh green leaves sat atop a canvas bag on the table. They were so fresh that the fields they were picked from must have been very close. Not wasting any time, Pedro put a razor sharp machete in my hand and told me to start chopping.
Over vigorous hacking, Pedro’s story was revealed. He had learned his trade during eight years of service in a cocaine kitchen—a kitchen once visited by Pablo Escobar himself during a casual pickup of 70 kilos of pure cocaine, fresh off Pedro’s production line.
After the leaves were sufficiently minced, I was told it was time to add a binding agent. If he had asked me to guess what this agent would be, I would have said an egg, or something equally benign. I would have been wrong. Pedro pulled out a bag of cement, sprinkled it all over our wonderfully chopped leaves, and began to knead the dough by hand.