“I’ve collected Air Jordan sneakers since 1984; there are 23 different pairs in plastic display cases in the living room. I’ve also got cereal boxes and movie posters: good design, you see.“
Ron Mael, ‘It’s the season for art-buying, but who would you buy if you could afford it?‘ The Sunday Times, June 03, 2008
Seeding programmes mean that all but the most keenest and corniest of bloggers and the most undiscerning audiences should care about whether an actor or musician under the age of 35 is wearing Air Jordans. The Hulk Hogan connection is one bad, nostalgic joke, but Ron Mael of Sparks, one of Morrissey’s personal favourites, being a Jordan collector is intriguing, unlikely and brilliant — something that seemed to crop up in interviews since the 1990s. Ron in Concord XIs and Chicago Is is something to behold — you might see hilarious dudes in Instagram trousers with the metre-long ankle cuff wearing these classic designs, and cool guys (especially the ones that use hashtags) just aren’t cool any more. That’s why the uncool guys have become the greatest brand ambassadors — you don’t see a Tinker creation and a toothbrush or pencil moustache in tandem too often. This is why Jerry Seinfeld’s epic stash became so mythical too — the less likely the connoisseur, the more credible the endorsement, and it gets no whiter than Mael. I want to see more pictorial evidence of this fabled horde of original shoes. (Both images jacked from Getty.)
It took me a while to finally tune in, but I’ve been enjoying KNOW-WAVE’s transmissions with increasing regularity over the last year and their new site makes navigating their world a little easier. Aaron Bondaroff gets things done when it comes to creating outlets for movements and the addition of a KNOW-WAVE UK transmitting from the Gimme 5 offices makes it extra relevant — some shows are pleasantly shambolic and discussion led (it definitely doesn’t step on the toes of the excellent NTS when it comes to soundtracking my work day), meaning there’s some defiantly British output during the afternoon here. Dependant on the day and time you tune in, you can hear Downtown gossip, rockabilly favourites, some dusty dub rarity, mumbled skate chatter, conversations between legends, Young Thug, obscure house re-edits from personal collections or just a friend of a friend playing whatever iTunes holds. There’s a lot of head scratching regarding ways of engaging communities and where things are meant to go, but there ain’t nothing to it but to do it. Now they’ve put out a magazine to bring a sense of permanence and edit to that mass of one-and-a-bit hour world views. Published by OHWOW, issue 01 provides new material and art, plus an interview transcription for some of the best guest spots so far — Piper Marshall with Julian Schnabel back in April, a colossal conversation between Jason Jules and Jazzie B as part of Michael Kopelman’s output from June and Kembra Pfahler with Lydia Lunch in July. Even if you’ve heard it all before, there’s plenty of extra bits too.
This SHOWstudio conversation with i-D founder Terry Jones is 52 minutes well spent. It’s good to hear Jones discuss his approach to art direction back in his early days at Vogue and any print head out there will get something out of it. This man’s publication taught me a ton when I stood and used WH Smiths as a reading room after school and his regulation pair of Chucks was a colossal inspiration on the shoes I choose to wear at least every other day as my age advances. Not a lot of time to talk about much else on here today, but time with Jones is better spent than anything I can muster. On the topic of magazines, this Daily Beast piece on The Source and its inexplicable survival while XXL was almost booted into digital form is a necessary read.
The recent talk of Drake appropriating London slang seems to be wilfully leaving out the fact that he hails from a city which, like this nation’s capital, has a substantial Caribbean community that passed on the dialect to subsequent generations. The whole Stone Island connection is still a mystery to me*, but I asked that question a couple of years ago. Another YouTube miracle occurred recently when Genie Madahar uploaded Fab Five Freddy’s visit to Sting 92 — something that became almost mythological in conversations with a friend for an interview with Supercat as well as a rare chat with the oft-discussed man like Dominick. As a white Londoner, Dominic Kenny was a curious case in outsider acceptance, a close friend of Paul Simenon, taking his love of dancehall to Jamaica as a journalist and becoming a DJ under the Dominick name. There’s a great piece on him here from 2007 here where he tell his story — another case study in this country’s connection to the culture — and the importance of black music, as well as its pillaging and dilution at the hands of white industry folks.
Dominick put out a few memorable records — Cockney & Yardie with Peter Metro in 1987 that follows a similar path to Smiley Culture’s (RIP) seminal Cockney Translation (the Ebonics of its time), complete with live performances where he looks like a taxi driver who seems to have stumbled onstage. Dominick would also record an un-PC track where he’d strenuously deny favouring Boy George over the Fresh Riddim (plus another track called No Shirt Lifter) as part of his self-titled, Sly and Robbie produced debut album — to end up getting produced by both them King Jammy was no mean feat. A second album, Ready for Dominick, followed in 1988 (the same year that he took to the stage with BDP in NYC on Christmas day), before this occasionally Troop-clad whiteboy with skills seemed to vanish. A testament to the power of putting in work and heading right to the centre of the action rather than merely covering it from the distance of a MacBook screen, it’s a shame that the book he promised years ago hasn’t manifested and it’s equally sad that the Junior Reid produced third LP mentioned in the Yo! MTV Raps piece that was set for a 1993 release never dropped either. Respect to Dominick for becoming part of the thing he loved**.
*Glenn just answered the Drake SI mystery by explaining the whole unpaid stylist scandal/Nepenthes/SI connection to me.
**Kish reminded me that there’s a follow-up to this story. Here’s Dominick on a 1994 Underdog remix of a Sabres of Paradise track. In 1999, Apeman Records and Apeman magazine were launched by Dominic Kenny, who’d already got connections to Mo’Wax and Major Force. Those who hoarded cut and paste records or were fans of Spine Magazine back in the day will be aware of some of the label’s output from the likes of DJ Bombjack.
I hoard books on certain subjects. Inevitably, I’ve amassed an amount of sportswear-related publications that’s a little embarrassing. Being a nerd when it comes to that subject I’d found myself discussing the lack of a solid tome on the subject of Reebok. After all, the brand that Joseph William Foster created was one that led during a lion’s share of the 1980s, and its cross trainers and basketball shoes circa 1987 were expensive status symbols that pushed me into the industry I’m in right now. Having missed out on the recent London Reebok exhibition, I assumed I missed out on something decent, but the brand book they put together with Tangent Design is excellent. Discussing everything that makes the brand interesting, I haven’t seen a lot of coverage on this part of the project, so I expected it to be underwhelming, but at 206 pages, it’s a good accompaniment to the vast 2012 adidas book (a serious precedent, that like this one, seemed to be strictly promo-only) and necessary if you geek out over old stuff and obscure logos. I’m jealous that I never wrote the ‘FOR THE MOTIONALLY UNSTABLE…‘ ad too. I’ve never necessarily associated Reebok with blue suede, but it makes for a nice cover fabric too. I’m guessing that, as is the case with several similar projects, image rights, names and all the other stuff that can slow a project down, means that this one is destined to be strictly promo. That means that there’s a decent book for all the key brands out there now, though I’d happily pay for a 300+ page history of Troop’s rise and rumour-led fall.
Malcolm McLaren is a polarising figure for his aptitude for making money out of any craze (I still want to see footage of him getting booed in NYC for the moment when he stood on stage and supposedly took credit for inventing hip-hop) and even having a damned good go at claiming genres until late in his life (remember his media appearances to push his discovery of ‘chip music’ in 2004?). But I remain a fan of a fair chunk of his life’s work (the whole Chicken saga falls somewhere between proto-Brass Eye satire and truly sociopathic behaviour) and see it echoed time and time again in quick thinking counter moves like this or hip-hop bosses and their frequent acts of cold-blooded hustle. During the early 1980s, he was such a bizarre, self-promoting character, that every interview I’ve seen with McLaren has been magnetic. A new YouTube channel has just upped a one-hour style history lesson with the man from late 1984. Looking like some publicity-conjuring pixie in his pink polo neck, hiked-up trousers and loafers, and setting off the conversation with a bizarre waywardness in his opening pose before he seems to regain some interest, it’s worth watching, taken from footage shot for an episode of the long-gone Rock Influence TV show. After this one, I recommend watching the excellent footage of fans in the parking lot before Lynyrd Skynyrd’s December 31 1990 New Years Eve concert in San Francisco. God bless the internet.
I sometimes do interviews, despite not knowing why anyone would interview me (it’s meant to be the other way around) and my respect for Silas and the Soulland squad is colossal that when he dropped me a mail about a Q&A, I couldn’t turn them down. So here’s a link to one of my favourite clothing brands out there interrogating me on the subject of shoes, collaborations and related stuff on their very beautiful website. Because of my camera-shy ways, the ultra talented Sine Jensen drew me hiding behind an iPhone and a spaniel, which might be my favourite thing of 2014 thus far. Shouts to Nikolaj Hansson. That intro makes me seem a lot more important than I actually am (though they’re right about me considering myself a fanboy) — I never co-founded CT, contrary to internet rumour. I just worked for them. If I didn’t deny that it would undermine the work of Russ/Steve/the two Christophers and the rest of those OGs. Trust me, if I was the co-founder, it would be looking a lot healthier right now, but I’m just a drone. Shouts to all at Soulland — Danish don-dadas who constantly inspire me with absolutely everything they do.