MONDO MANHATTAN IS BEING SCREENED TOMORROW IN NYC
Mondo Manhattan is a film that was made over a decades-long period by the super-slept on NYC punk band Chain Gang. (Their one real album, also called Mondo Manhattan, was released at some point in the 80s and is a real gem. If you can find it, buy it, you won’t regret it. Also: Don’t confuse them with Ian Svenonius’ Chain and the Gang.) Anyway, the film’s being screened for what is only the second time tomorrow. We haven’t seen it yet (we’ll be there tomorrow) but, based on the trailer, it’s fucking nuts. We can’t wait! See you there?
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s Anna Wintour
"Pink is punk." Thus spoke Anna Wintour at the benefit gala that marked the opening of the exhibition, Punk: Chaos to Couture, held on May 6 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Wintour, the British-born editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director for Condé Nast, is a member of the board of the Met’s Costume Institute (for which she is reported to have raised more than $100 million), and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Apparently even the queen of England can appreciate the regal power of ad revenue and corporate expansion spiraling ever heavenward. “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm …” And yet the pronouncement, “Pink is punk,” which slipped so assuredly from Wintour’s perfectly thin lips, is both vexing and revelatory. While Wintour is not to anyone’s knowledge developmentally disabled, her remark is quite possibly the single most retarded thing any public figure has said in recent memory. Even as retardataire as the fashion industry may be, endlessly passing off the old as new, feeding on its history and ours, since vernacular style—how we dress ourselves in the every day—fuels the more vampiric elements of this industry, the remark is cause for concern. She made it, of course, to defend the dress she wore to the gala: Chanel haute couture, floor-length, flowery pink. It would not have been out of place had she strolled onto a manicured lawn for a tea party at Sandringham.
The Art of Punk
Bryan Ray Turcotte has been flailing around at punk shows since before you were shot into life’s first mosh pit, that great sperm race to the egg. He got into punk during the early 80s while growing up in California’s Central Valley, and in the 90s moved down to Los Angeles, tempted by the larger scene. He’s been there ever since, and managed to build his own punk empire (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron for you).
What started as a personal collection of punk flyers eventually turned into a book, Fucked Up + Photocopied,chronicling hundreds of show posters from the era. That interest in art and music led him into music supervision for commercials and films, as well as graphic consulting for major brands like Levis and Converse. Now, Turcotte and his partner, Bo Bushnell, are spearheading an exhibition of the artwork associated with the music from Turcotte’s youth through Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Yesterday, an episode of MoCA TV on the Dead Kennedys premiered on MOCA’s YouTube channel as a supplement to the exhibition.
I sat down with Turcotte to talk about growing up punk and the power of a flyer.
Darby Crash’s shirt and buttons.
VICE: What was your first punk show like?
Bryan: Oh, man. That was such a great show. It was a little show. It was Dischord, Grim Reality, and I wanna say Crucifix—although I could be wrong about that—at De Anza College in Los Gatos. It was one of those things, like, I got into the music and the scene, but I was much younger than the kids in my school who were into it. So that show was like my christening. I had shaved my head and wore a little punk bracelet, but they were like, “You’re going to this show.” So that was my christening, my first time being thrown into the pit and all that. I have the flyer around somewhere.
What do you remember about seeing the flyer for that specific show?
It was one of those life-changing things, like how listening to the Clash turned me around, musically. After I saw that flyer (and when I went to that show and saw liberty spikes and painted jackets and the whole visual of it), there was no going back. It definitely changed my life for the better.
How did the immersion into the world of punk work back then? It was probably a lot different than if punk had come out during the internet age.
I was schooled, you know? These guys were older. We were lucky because one guy we hung out with was from the UK, so he knew about the early generation stuff. “This is how you peg your pants. This is how you liberty spike your hair with the Knox gel.” I learned how to cut hair from that guy, and then I became the punk haircut guy. Your T-shirts were hand done. You’d go to thrift shops and find old clothes and alter them. It was a lot of work, but it was also the first time in my life I felt like I had a mentor. I still look up to those guys.
The Richard Hell Interview
Richard Hell—legendary punk rock iconoclast, intrepid novelist, poet, and now memoirist—is lounging on his couch in the cozy East Village pad he’s called home since 19 fucking 75. Considering how brutally forthcoming Richard is about his drug use in his new autobiography I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp (“Thirty years later, I still have the scars on my left forearm”), it’s a surprise that he looks significanty younger than his 63 years. His litany of feats since he escaped to New York are a total mind-blow.
In Tramp, Hell vividly recounts his gun-toting cowboy dreams as a young miscreant and his rabble-rousing school-dropout years before hitting New York City and altering its landscape. He helped create the punk template with a fuck you attitude, birthed anarchic style with tattered, thrift-store threads, botched hairstyles that Malcolm McLaren later swiped for the Sex Pistols, started Television with Tom Verlaine, put CBGB and Max’s Kansas City on the punk rock map, wrote era-defining tunes like “Blank Generation” with his band the Voidoids, survived life as a junkie, and penned Burroughs-level dirty sex ‘n’ track-marked novels and poetry.
Hell’s I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp is epic badassness. He hides little about his life’s trajectory and his disdain for Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, his undying love for Dee Dee Ramone and Bob Quine, the drugs, the music, and the debauchery. Just don’t ask him about being Jewish and what he thought of Marquee Moon. He’d much rather talk about his dick.
VICE: When did you start writing I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp?
Richard Hell: Right after my last novel (Godlike) came out in 2006. It’s been a long haul. But I did a bunch of things—other projects—as I was doing it, too. Still, it was a slog. It’s twice as long as anything I’ve written before. And also more confusing. It gets delicate to write about yourself [laughs].
I assume it’s much easier to write fiction.
Yeah, yeah. It’s easier to write fiction. You’re right. But it was a long process figuring out what to keep and what not to keep. Things are coming back to me that I forgot to mention [laughs]. Still, it hits you when you’re working on a book like that, that it will be easy enough to spend 600 pages describing one day.
But you kept journals over the years. Did those help in putting the book together?
I did, yeah, but I was never really systematic about it. They were really useful. But it’s not as if I could wonder what I was doing some month from looking at my journals. I’d go three months without writing anything in there and then just open it up and just write a page. But they were helpful. They did nail down dates and did also just show me exactly what was going on in my head.
When you started writing Tramp, was the book already bought?
Oh, I never do that. I’ll write the book, then I’ll go look for a publisher.
So, there weren’t any publishers on your ass to write an autobiography?
Are you kidding me? Noooo! In fact, I was turned down by probably about six or seven publishers. There were basically two offers. The book was in sloppier shape then. I did send it out because I was so tired of working on it. I really OD’d on it. I was nauseated and I just wanted to find a publisher—just to get a little charge goin’, ya know? [laughs]. But I got the ideal publisher for it, and it worked out great. No regrets, really.
Did you plan on Tramp being your next project after you were done with Godlike?
No, I had to figure that out. I thought writing Tramp was gonna be easy in comparison because I figured I had the… narrative… so that solves a lot of problems. Then I’d just try to figure out how to write good sentences. It sure turned out to be a lot more complicated. I kept getting turned around and all the fuckin’ internal turmoil figuring how to regard my own self… I mean, that’s really confusing.
Did you feel like by writing the book, you were penning a de facto obituary?
No, it’s nothing like an obituary. An obituary is just a really flattering curriculum vitae. That wasn’t the issue.
When you were writing the book, were you cognizant about other musicians writing memoirs, like Patti Smith (Just Kids) and Keith Richards (Life)…
I can’t see this interview in VICE magazine.
Why? OK, I’ll ask you some more provocative questions [laughs].
Yeah, you’re supposed to ask me about my dick or something.
Yeah, you’re right. Who’d you bang?
What is the story behind the Iceage branded knives you were selling?
Johan: [Laughs] It’s amazing what a crazy big thing these knives have become. It was just an idea our friend in the US had that would just be a strange merch thing to do. And we were like, “Yeah, that sounds like fun.”
You weren’t slightly concerned that somebody might get stabbed or an accident might happen?
Johan: Yeah. But if someone stabs someone, I don’t think they’re doing it spontaneously. They’re not just spontaneously going to stab someone with an Iceage knife.
Jakob: Also, those knives are really small. If I wanted to stab somebody, I’d probably use another knife.
Johan: You could still stab a person with it, but it’s not like you can’t get knives anywhere else.
But doesn’t it concern you to be associated with weapons?
Johan: I didn’t see it as a weapon. I don’t know, I can see the stupidity of doing it; it is in some ways kind of idiotic. But we haven’t sold many of them, and we didn’t make a lot of them.
Assuming somebody was stabbed, even if you have faith that your audience wouldn’t do that, wouldn’t you admit that it’s risky?
Johan: Yeah, but then I would also say that any fan of ours could take another knife that didn’t have our logo on it and stab someone. Are you referring to a situation where someone has bought one of our knives and all of a sudden thinks it’s a good idea to stab someone?
–Talking About Knives & Fascism with Iceage