Long before A$AP and adidas crossed paths, the connection between Rocky and the three-stripes helped pave the way for hip-hop history. After Nike endorsed Stallone in 1982’s Rocky III, adidas had made friends with the Italian Stallion in subsequent years , leading up to the fourth chapter. Before the strange bit where it claims that he discovered Run-D.M.C. breakdancing in the mid 1980s (probably not true — b-boying was never their forte and they’d put out an album by 1984), Barbara Smit’s Pitch Invasion is a great source of information on “Mr. adidas” himself Angelo Anastasio. the entertainment promotion man behind that pioneering footwear deal. Anastasio went from a mid 70s pro with New York Cosmos to the Ferrari-driver schmoozing around Hollywood. From Paulie’s robot (after Paulie went from violent woman beating drunk to loveable oaf in line with the franchise’s increased shine) to Vince DiCola’s War — a composition capable of getting a pacifist pumped enough to put their fists through a kebab shop window —it’s understandable that this heavy-handed red menace tale is a fan favourite (I’m a Clubber Lang man myself). I can’t help but think that the only thing more 1980s than Rocky IV, is the thought of Anastasio making power moves around 1985 on the streets of Los Angeles? The world needs a documentary on that pre-Yeezy heyday of entertainment marketing.
Salutes to Charlie Morgan for putting me onto Jenkem’s post that highlighted the YouTube appearance of Concrete Jungle — a lost documentary on the link between hip-hop and skating. I’m sure I saw this on IMDB a couple of years ago and had a fruitless Google hunt film assuming that it would appear officially one day (I’m still holding out for the Harry Jumonji documentary too). But suddenly it’s online. Concrete Jungle feels like a more commercial companion piece to Deathbowl To Downtown, and where Deathbowl had Chloë Sevigny on narration duties, this one has her Kids buddy Rosario Dawson talking the viewer through proceedings.
Directed by SHUT and Zoo York co-founder Eli Morgan Gesner, and executive produced by QDIII (Quincy Jones’ son), it’s part of the lineage of straight-to-DVD releases that began with Tupac documentaries, the compelling Beef series and some genuinely insightful work like The Freshest Kids, Infamy and the Christian Hosoi bio, Rising Son. Sadly, QD3 Entertainment seemed to end in 2011, leaving Concrete Jungle in limbo. Beyond the unnecessary motion graphics and Gangland style anonymous hip-hop beats, there’s loads of good stuff in it — I would argue that more New Deal and Underworld Element talk (seeing as a mohawked Andy Howell is in it), some Menace, extra Chocolate, and Mike Carroll in conversation (who really joined the dots for me in Virtual Reality) over a little too much talk of the Muska Beatz album would have been a better move. But here’s the thing about critiquing a documentary like this — keeping everybody happy would be nigh-on impossible, and getting a dream roster of talking heads to sit and break it down would be a hellish ordeal of timings and shifting equipment from state to state. Plus the thing is supposed to appeal to the person who doesn’t know who Sal Barbier or the Fu-Schnickens are anyway.
Concrete Jungle really finds its form (and to judge a documentary’s pacing based on a rough cut would be unfair) as it approaches the mid-way point, when the early Zoo York footage appears and there’s some good information on the Tunnel’s legendary half-pipe. It’s a testament to the speed that things have evolved (see Wiz Khalifa’s recent ownage at the hands of Supreme LA’s staff) and the rise of Odd Future, Yelawolf (who can actually skate) and co, plus Weezy’s admirable but faintly doomed determination to be respected as a skater, that this documentary seems deeply dated in many ways — a good thing, because skateboarding is so multiracial and rooted in rap right now that, after just 8 years since filming wrapped on this project, its seems weird that it would be seen as anything different. In a world where Rick Ross and DJ Khaled might make a Vine appearance teetering on a skateboard in a You’ve Been Framed style tipsy dad on a Variflex one Christmas afternoon wave, things definitely done changed.
On the documentary subject, The Decline of Western Civilisation has been discussed here a lot — Wayne’s World director Penelope Spheeris’ trilogy is pretty much perfect, and part three is a perfect companion to Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark’s Streetwise (which I urge you to watch — especially after Mary Ellen Mark’s recent passing). Different generations of Los Angeles musicians and hard-living kids make it a set of films that are amusing and disturbing in near-equal qualities. For nigh-on 15 years, thedeclineofwesterncivilization.com has been promising a DVD release. I gave up hope, just as I abandoned the idea of Dr Jives’ webshop opening after four years of a holding page. But at the end of the month we get to watch Darby Crash and a tarantula, Black Flag before they became their own tribute band, Claude Bessy ranting, Chris Holmes from W.A.S.P. disappointing his mum while floating in a swimming pool, plus this absolute bellend, in Blu-ray quality. Part III (from 1998) is a rawer affair that’s been tough to track down, but Shout! Factory and Second Sight are putting it out as a boxset. When BBC2 showed the second film in late 1989 as part of Heavy Metal Heaven, hosted by Elvira (which also included Guns ’n’ Roses Live at the Ritz, a lost Zeppelin show and a show about thrash metal), it changed my life for the better. The prospect of bonus footage alone makes my hands shake enough to spill orange juice like Ozzy.
Documents of what built London’s street culture (for want of a better term) seem to be dropping as if an embargo on nostalgia just got lifted. You can expect a couple of films on the city’s role in creating fashion cliques that dipped into hip-hop, skatewear and high fashion with Zelig-like ease (well, the magazine coverage made it look effortless) and a couple of books on related topics too. Another series of spots I read about in The Face time and time again were the Cuts hair salons (that name seemed to switch with each successive move) — Kensington-based until 1984’s Soho opening, where shifted three times, resulting in its current Dean Street location. Cuts founder James Lebon’s contribution to the culture is colossal (this obituary offers an overview of his achievements) from celebrity hairdresser status to early retirement from the scissors to get behind the camera and make films and music videos (trivia: if you watched Channel 4’s Passengers, then you definitely saw his work at some point). Now there’s film made of archive footage of Cuts’ history — which includes a heavy role in defining Buffalo style and creating the much imitated and maligned ‘Hoxton fin’ in the early 2000s — with the in-production Cuts the Movie documentary by Sarah Lewis. Taken from 18 years worth of film, and with access to Mark Lebon’s archive, it should show the changing face of Soho (which managed to alter significantly in the few short years I worked there) and, with Crossrail’s Godzilla steps, seems to be rapidly changing for the worse. In Cuts the Movie’s late 1990s footage, it’s pretty much a different world (bar the invincible Bar Italia). I can’t wait to see this one and the obligatory crowdfunding appeal (this time using London’s Phundee) kicking off in mid-April.
I horde books on sports footwear for both work and my personal curiosity. Some are good. Most are wasted opportunities. Largely it’s down to the writer not knowing anything about the subject matter and covering what a cursory Google search would yield, or a lack of any cultural context and academic approach. As somebody whose vision of brands and their output is completely clouded by years of obsession, I’d love to read something that really told the history of the performance shoe from the beginning to the billion pound industry we see today. I’d go nuts for a 128 page book on the history of designer brands and their forays into sportswear to be honest. I know I’ll end up grabbing Out of the Box: the Rise of Sneaker Culture, which releases via Rizzoli this July for completists sake, but I’m expecting something a little better than the same old same, because shoes have been shot from Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum (where the original Out of the Box exhibition ran from April 2013 until June last year), the objects on display date back to the 1800s and it promises some all-important (provided you didn’t sign up to look at the same set of Jordans and Yeezys that everyone owns). As the writer of the best book on this topic ever, Bobbito Garcia knows and Elizabeth Semmelhack knows about footwear to a scholarly degree. As obnoxious as the cover is, it seems like a fair reflection of the horrible state of things right now.
Every time I’m looking for good quality imagery of golden era (2001-2005) grime style, it becomes clear that Ewen Spencer and RWD’s Simon Wheatly were some of the few photographers who took the scene seriously enough to document it. I reckon the majority were scared that they’d get taxed for their camera and Nokia 7600. That, plus a sense that early 2000s sportswear and oversized streetwear would never be something to get nostalgic about — especially with the “chav” tag being hurled around, and a tabloid-fuelled folk panic when it came to hooded sweatshirts at a point where people were in fear of getting slapped in public and recorded on a grainy phone video, with their ordeal shared on playgrounds across the country. It seems like yesterday, which is why I’ve always been perplexed that there isn’t an abundance of imagery online. Grime’s boom time preempts online’s total reign over print and it exploded and dipped before the iPhone era. Now grime is a big deal again (So Solid deserve a lot of retrospective respect for paving a way — last year, a North Face store I visited a few times in Tokyo seemed to be ahead of the curve, with Asher D, Romeo and company inexplicably on full blast), with those who never fully shook off their roots ready to make some coin. Fortunately, those who took the shots are getting their due alongside the cast of characters who called the shots. Ewen Spencer’s Open Mic is a great book and it’s 10 years old this year, so he printed 500 copies of a follow-up to celebrate that anniversary. Expanding interviews (the insight from Lord of the Mics’ Ratty is always welcome) from last year’s Channel 4 documentary in association with Dazed, there’s some bonus photos in there too. Go get Open Mic Vol.2 from right here and swot up so you can say you were into it from day when Kanye drops that inevitable BBK connected track.
Regardless of whether you have the slightest interest in genre moviemaking, you’ve ever worked on a project and seen it go to hell on so many levels that you just want to wander off into the wilderness to sulk, you’ll be able to identify with director Richard Stanley (I’m guessing that you might have seen Hardware and/or Dust Devil if you found yourself here — if not, they’re well worth watching). Full disclosure — I’m a huge fan of John Frankenheimer’s work and I like the 1996 adaptation of the Island of Dr. Moreau a lot. I may be the only person to ever say that, but the sense of threat, the claustrophobia in that jungle set, the makeup and the brutal nature of it make it a gem as far as I’m concerned — David Thlewis is great in his lead role and Marlon Brando is particularly peculiar in this one (though it’s not quite Missouri Breaks levels of eccentricity). I watched it having read shitty reviews because of a colossal crush on Fairuza Balk that had me watching her flicks unconditionally, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Despite being the film’s one fan, I know that there was a better version planned under Stanley’s direction and tales abound over the decades regarding the chaos around the shoot — tropical storms, plus the perfect storm of double-trouble egos in casting both Brando and Val Kilmer.
In the troubled production documentary stakes, David Gregory’s Lost Soul: the Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is up there with the superb Overnight, the uncut Wreckage and Rage: the Making of Alien3 and Heart of Darkness: a Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (in one colossal coincidence, it transpires that Stanley’s grandfather is Sir Henry Morton Stanley — an explorer believed to be the inspiration for Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, as reinterpreted by Brando in Apocalypse Now). Lost Souls also joins Jodorowsky’s Dune (as with …Dr. Moreau I love the resulting Lynch film, regardless of flop status) in the compelling explorations of the greatest films that never were. Worth watching for Graham Humphrey’s concept art alone, this film is sad, compelling viewing and an education on the way a studio like New Line was operating in the mid 1990s. It’s a shame that Thlewis’ name isn’t even mentioned (he wrote his own 60-page account of filming that I’ve been trying to hunt down for the last 8 years), there’s no Val Kilmer interview, and Frankenheimer passed away 13 years ago (had he been willing to talk about the experience, it would almost certainly have been quotable after quotable). Lost Soul is screening sporadically at the moment and it’s also available via VOD on Vimeo if you’re residing Stateside (or know how to make your browser think you are). Highly recommended.
Mr. Tom Scott put me onto this tremendous chat with William Gibson about clothes on Rawr Denim, wherein Gibson demonstrates an enviable knowledge of vintage and contemporary apparel, and reveals just how much of an ACRONYM fanboy he is. I liked the mention of “gray man” dressing to stay unseen — a survival and security term that represents the anti-flash polar opposite of peacocking for a mode of everyday camouflage. To be deliberately nondescript apparently requires a fair amount of thought, and isn’t just about chucking on a Superdry jacket and a top from Next.
I like this Bored of Southsea Stone Island-inspired graphic. I’ve heard a fair amount of gripes from associates regarding the love that Osti’s output is getting after the Supreme project, but hasn’t the brand always been aspirational? Do people shell out on expensive tech outerwear to wear it ironically? Still, most of the stuff I saw as a kid was very fake, and I was never an Armani Jeans kind of guy. Some skaters came up idolising Stoney, but I get the impression that a fair amount also experienced a fair amount of hassle from the kind of guys who donned the compass. Given Bored’s proximity to Pompey’s ground, it’s safe to say that the team have seen their fair share over the years.
You can launch a magazine, but if it’s just full of web-level content and articles that can be read in less than an average toilet break, what’s the point? That’s just putting WordPress content on paper and nobody wants to open a magazine and read blog content on the bog. If I pay more than a tenner for something and conquer it in a 40-minute train journey, I’m usually filled with an emptiness that gives way to thoughts of the book, burger or coffee beans I could have spent that money on. Yet I put myself through it again and again in some misguided bid to support as much print as possible. I liked the fact Nepenthes’ own magazine doesn’t seem to want to be found, much like the excellent Garmento ‘zine (whose editor is, coincidentally profiled in this issue), but I grabbed the The Garment District Journal from the store a couple of weeks back. In a post-Monocle world, everything’s a fucking journal or bulletin and a MacBook on the lap in front of Britain’s Got Talent is a bureau, but this is a very good publication.
The Engineered Garments empire has a tendency to overachieve, and their output is the sum total of so much that I like that they’ll always hover nonchalantly above any menswear booms, streetwear renaissances or heritage booms. In the kingdom of try hards, the genuinely well-dressed are a rarity. It ain’t cheap at $20 and with 56 pages, many of which are immaculately visual, it isn’t going to take up much time, but the amount of work that went in is evident — from the labeled cover with the binder rings that remind me of a tropical fish magazine I used to hoard as a kid (I have no idea why — I only ever owned goldfish but the colours on the cover were great), to the paper stock. The piece on wearable clubland artefacts by Steve Terry, the 3 PM shoot by JIMA, the education on Level Plane Records and Malick Sidibé’s photography all stand out. A glimpse of Kim Jones’ bookshelf reminded me that a book of photographs of people’s crammed bookshelves in a Selby style would be excellent (that is, if it doesn’t already exist).
That the editorial seems relevant to the Nepenthes universe but doesn’t resort to brand talk in its most obvious form is a testament to the depth of the store’s deeper notion of style. The Garment District Journal is available from Nepenthes in NYC, but I’m damned if I can see it on sale anywhere else.
Watership Down and Plague Dogs wrecked my childhood, but they’re still masterpieces. I’ve tried to watch both in recent years, and they were both still devastating. Another trauma without the candy-coated deception of animal animation was another book adaptation — Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now. The disorientating approach to cutting is key to the movie’s unease, and editor Graeme Clifford is the man behind it. Criterion’s YouTube channel is absolutely essential, and two recent uploads are the always articulate Guillermo del Toro talking about Watership Down’s effect on him, plus Clifford talking about his editing process on Roeg’s horror classic.
Dick Jewell is a gem in the pantheon of legendary British photographers and filmmakers. Resolutely uncommercial (even his commercial work maintains a sense of subversion), Jewell prefers to create work on his own terms — a vast archive that spans found photo booth shots and club scenes that are long extinct. He’s still as fascinated by the literal movements within movements, clusters of outsiders, tribes and the barely documented. Finally grabbing Hysteric Glamour’s compilation of his work from 2001 sent me to his website, with a great little archive of his video work — Notting Hill Carnival 83 > 86 and Skins are incredible. I’d love to see the Spats film in its entirety too. Before everyone had a camera in their pocket (and I’m sure we’re missing something regardless), Dick was there capturing this superior Super 8 footage for posterity.
The Manchester exhibition has finished now (but it’s heading to Paris), but the SPEZIAL project gave me a welcome excuse to chat with Gary Aspden — a man who bleeds adidas blue — on record, because I always fail to document our discussions. It was heartening to see the project succeed, because it’s a perfect case study in distilling a brand’s appeal and giving the diehards what they want rather than shape shifting the offerings to cater to a fickle customer. This interview ran on 032c.com (an appropriately Germanic outpost) a few days ago. Alongside the unveiling of the unreleased John Carpenter soundtrack compilation (complete with an excellent-looking website) and the trailer for the Music Nation Open Mic documentary by Ewen Spencer (based on his adidas-affiliated book), plenty of labours of love seem to be coming to life. It’s a good time to be a nerd.
Was the trip to a store in Argentina in the film more than just a video opportunity?
GARY: I was just beginning the look for the second season of SPEZIAL when we went to Argentina. Now I buy vintage pieces and archive them — there’s pieces I’m sitting on now that might not make an appearance for another four seasons — and I don’t know how long SPEZIAL’s going to run for either because the decision isn’t in my hands — but what Argentina was about was amassing products for research purposes, but also for finding interesting footwear to enhance what we were doing with SPEZIAL Manchester. What it does is enhance context — it helps to communicate the philosophy of the collection. It says a lot about the person curating the collection because, let’s face it, for anyone that’s a hardcore adidas fanatic, that trip is something we dream about. It shows that the collection has genuine roots, speaks for our mindset and if you’re going to say something’s archive-inspired, show me how you got from A to B. I wanna know! I don’t like to see stories attached to products unless they’re authentic. It starts and ends with product. The marketing stuff is the icing on the cake — the magic dust — but if the product isn’t fundamentally right, it’s unnecessary.
adidas was still broken into some rogue regional licenses until relatively recently — was Argentina the the last adidas license holder?
I think it was either Argentina or South Korea. Japan’s license ended in 1998. In Argentina the license holder held on to the death and when adidas started its three divisional structure in 2001, they needed to clear up adidas Originals. In 1999, when I started, there was no trefoil clothing available over here. They’d rinsed it out in the mid 1990s with Britpop so they just weren’t doing it at all, but they were doing it in America for some reason. So I was doing swaps. I’d go to adidas global marketing meetings looking out for people from licensee countries so I’d send them something signed by a band and they might send me a box of adidas New York made under license for Argentina.There was no system internally and you couldn’t order from the licensed countries so I used to do this bartering and trading.
Now you can buy the same thing everywhere. Those differences had a certain charm.
There weren’t global brands then like you see now. You don’t see so much branded clothing on people in the 1960s and 1970s. adidas was an early global brand, so licensees was probably a good way of getting out there. Then the money men realised that it wasn’t that cost-effective, so they wanted to centralise. I’m sure money men would see me as a hopeless romantic. There’s a generation who think that 1980s adidas was the ultimate sportswear — you had the ZX series, the city series…in adidas’s history it’s seen as a difficult time for the company. Karl-Heinz Lang, who worked as a developer for Adi Dassler, used to roll his eyes when you mentioned the city series. He worked on the development of the Marathon TR in the late 1970s and those city series shoes were just done to make money for licensees. adidas’s commitment to performance was way ahead of those gum-soled city shoes.Things like the adidas Waterproof and Zelda were pushing the envelope.
The rest of the interview is OVER HERE.