THE FUCKING GLOWING SCREEN OF NONSENSE



KENNETH CAPPELLO: What do you think of blog culture?

JASON DILL: That ain’t for me. To each his own. I still don’t like the fucking glowing screen of nonsense.
(From ‘SNEEZE’ #11)

Very little’s been impressive this week. From a personal point-of-view, videos of dogs doing the conga (led by a hound on a bike), Perec’s ‘Species of Spaces,’ whoever left the comment, “The Passion of the Davro” on YouTube in relation to the Bobby Davro faceplant, English Frank on SBTV, livestock auction chants, the prospect of a Caligula comic book, Grace and WAH! raising some substantial charity cash, the relative ease which which one could obtain an iPad2 online, the impending London Supreme store, Chris Law and Lisa having a a son, Andy Milonakis’s “Swag”: tattoo, Randy Shilts’s ‘And the Band Played On’ and Juicy J’s works have been the only things to liven up the last 168 hours. Oh, and that Jason Dill quote, because Jason is still the man.

Missing the Herzog talk in London was a personal failure though.

I’m sure I saw a picture of some dude with shorts, a side-parting and a toggled jacket staring wistfully at a lake as part of a new lookbook from somebody. It epitomized the mediocrity I’ve exposed myself to this week — everything seemed to lack crystal clarity and retread the same old shit. I hope the next generation doesn’t look to older generations for answers — I speak to younger, creative characters and feel significantly more motivated than I do ambling back from a grim, meandering “everything’s shit” session over a flat white. Age is no automatic conferrer of greater knowledge. You can be old as fuck and still be a toy. I hope young ‘uns ignore us burn-outs who get possessive because new generations haven’t studied some imaginary curriculum of sacred cows that suffered a bovine dementia outbreak years ago and ceased to be relevant.

But then there’s the Werner Herzogs (at 68 years old) and Yohji Yamamotos (at 67 years old) who are Teflon Dons in their respective fields through sheer creativity that defies solitary sentence definition.

As well as the Yohji exhibition at the V & A, the designer’s precision and thought process look like they’re being explored in the forthcoming documentary, ‘This Is My Dream.’ I like Yamamoto’s lack of pretense in Wim Wenders’s ‘Notebook on Cities and Clothes’ where there’s much discussion surrounding notions of individuality in a world laden with postmodernism – he simply creates. I liked the hookups with Wenders, Michael Nyman and Takeshi Kitano — while I never took note of his work in the underrated ‘Brother’ or ‘Zatoichi,’ he helps make ‘Dolls’ even more visually appealing. I didn’t care too much for the slimline adidas stuff or the Jean-Michel Jarre 1989 suits. Clothing to accompany bendy keyboards and laser harps was too much like Poindexter on the electric violin in the leopard waistcoat, but everyone could learn a lot from those the 1980s Yamamoto catalogues with the Nick Knight and Peter Lindbergh photoshoots. They’re still works of art and fortunately, they weren’t laden with images of wankers by water.

The Nick Knight/Peter Saville/Marc Ascoli chat that went online last week is worth your energy, but the stern, stark feel of it made me feel a little fidgity. Still, some excellent points are made regarding photography and art direction. I really liked the anecdote than ends with, “We source black staples.” I guess that’s the attitude that pushes you into bankruptcy — but what a beautiful attitude it is.







EVENT RAP

Motherfuckers are impatient. Really, really impatient. A couple of days ago, Pusha-T’s ‘Fear of God’ mixtape made its official online appearance and pretty much shut down select Twitter timelines for an afternoon. Reactions were online within least than quarter of an hour after a Mediafire link appeared. That’s crazy. We knew the moment it would drop (despite a rogue streaming site) and Pusha even hosted a listening party for the tape…MP3, whatever. It was event rap, and that’s the rapid route to a fast-tracked backlash.

On Googling the name, fiending (I’m sure the Thornton brothers would use that as a jump off for yayo-wordplay) for a download, I chanced across a mediocre review made by a forum user that had been made at 4:30pm (half an hour before the release). It deemed the project unsatisfactory with track-by-track commentary. I respect that kid’s journalistic turnaround, but this decision to elevate the mixtape into a social media flooding, forced moment of ground breaking, epoch-defining magnificence, rather than your favourite rapper enjoying royalty freedom with promo-only status is a harmful one.

Nobody expects good any more. They don’t want acceptable, or a slow-burner. They want their music free, fast and immediate. ‘Fear of God’ doesn’t match any of the ‘We Got it 4 Cheap,’ trilogy (thankfully they dropped before the Tweet-rap era, otherwise the excitement may have broken the internet), but any Pusha-T material is worthy, given us that cold-blooded coke talk, with the quirkier touches that he seems to unconsciously apply to a verse, with pleasantly dated cultural references (as I’ve said before, Ric Flair analogies will always earn points with me) as well as Based God nods. One day, references to Lil B cooking and Twitter will be as archaic as 2Pac’s tales of mobile phone envy, but we can get a kick out of them in the short term.

I’m glad that Clipse have maintained their buzz after the Jive fiasco and bullshit Re-Up LP. Hopefully Pusha won’t have a problem with former Jive nemesis Barry Weiss being the new man in charge at Def Jam. Unless you’re Jada, 50, Kanye or Shawn, rap’s in the hands of 21 and below, and at 33, Pusha’s pensionable…Malice is 38. The affiliations with Kanye and that constant Pharrell helping hand, plus a constant lyrical elevation just keeps the duo relevant.

When Pusha spits over Soulja Boy’s ‘Speakers Going Hammer’ he isn’t like dad at the party drunk — he actually sounds at home on it. That’s a rare thing. With some of their early years pilfered by the goons at East West who confined them to bonus CDs with Nicole’s ‘Make it Hot’ CD in 1998 and buried the brilliance of ‘The Funeral’ in 1999. Anyone else remember Pusha being called Terrar and appearing on a Kelis track? Philly’s Most Wanted caught a brick (insert powder reference here) and Fam-Lay ended up in limbo, Rosco P Goldchain has his own legal issues and Lee Harvey vanished as quickly as he appeared…somehow, Clipse beat that Neptunes-affiliated curse. ‘Grindin’ could have gone ‘Tipsy’, even though ‘Lord Willin’ was hard as hell.

The Timberlake hookup had Pusha and Malice spitting some corny lines — you could tell they were itching to talk homicides right there. I met them briefly in early 2004 and they were nice guys, but I assumed that their moment was over as they performed ‘Grindin’ and some appalling commissioned track for London’s ‘World B-Boy Championships’ at Wembley stadium. I was surprised to see how BAPED-out they were, after early press shots had them in FUBU.

The fact their manager went to prison for trafficking, gave Clipse that edge like BMF and Jeezy (though Jeezy’s refusal to to Tweet due to his belief it’s a form of snitching) may have edged him out the conversation lately) to indicate that they weren’t mere studio fantasies in those wild tales of county lines and lavish car seating. Using mixtapes to fill the label-limbo between albums was a shred move. People still haven’t realised how good ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ actually is — these things need digestion time which 2011 rap refuses to allow — but it was ‘Freedom’ from ‘Til the Casket Drops’ that sold the new Pusha-T to me, living up to the promise of “Hip-hop on steroids” with that verse. And he hasn’t looked back since.

I was more of a Malice fan once (still am, but Pusha took pole position) once with his gloriously monotone, “The boy’s such an author, I should smoke a pipe” line, ‘Kojak’ references and elegantly tasteless Amistad references, but Pusha-T is my current favourite MC. This tape confers that.

Watching Tyler and company shut down talk of Nas in a recent interview was fun to watch. Why should young ‘uns be in thrall of those who’ve peddled tin-eared mediocrity for so long is no real mystery, yet they’re still expected to revere old guarders who’ve squandered their legacy. They spoke of Jay-Z and 50 Cent as their choice of listening growing up (let that be the final word in who one that battle) and there’s a respect for Pusha as a favourite MC too. Ignore the hype. Let that mixtape slow-burn, log out of Twitter and stop expecting freebies to be classic LPs. Just kick back and enjoy deadpan nihilism done well and (illegal) substance that those Rapidshare rappers have yet to develop, despite the singular subject matter..

RIP to Michael L. Abramson — the skinny whiteboy who shot Chicago clubs like Perv’s Lounge and The Patio Lounge in the 1970s, resulting in his portraits of 1970s South Side blues club goers that filled the ‘Light: On the South Side’ book.

The Grey Skateboard Magazine ‘Grey Nights’ video is online and despite its short running time, there’s some offcuts available on the Slam City Grey blog. It’s a great video.

TYSON 2.0

My Tyson preoccupation is something that crops up time and time again here. That’s unlikely to subside as Mike’s career takes some curious turns. Bear in mind that I once turned down the opportunity to party with Christian Hosoi to attend a preview screening on ‘Tyson’ just in case the big man attended (my very own pop-cultural ‘Sophie’s Choice’). His Oscar season viral videos indicated that he’s got an innate aptitude for comedy, but I’m hooked on the Animal Planet ‘Taking on Tyson’ show too.

A pigeon-based reality show simply frameworks some introspective moments that complement Toback’s documentary perfectly. It’s also been hugely educational in explaining the appeal of racing these feathered athletes. Last week’s remark from Mike that people thought, “This guy is a dreadful, offensive cad!” on seeing his ‘90s antics matched the talk of stomping out Don in front of decrepit old white ladies. You enter Tyson 2.0’s entertainment outings with a smirk, expecting a freakshow, but you come out enlightened. I’m pleased to see a happier individual on my screen.

The Nintendo ‘Punch-Out’ game represents a fair amount of my late childhood, and I was amazed to see that a group of fanboys purchased the ROM of the mysterious and unreleased ‘Mike Tyson’s Intergalactic Power Punch’ a couple of years back. The rape trial and quality issues meant that this game never came out as it was meant to. Dropping in 1992 as the flop ‘Power Punch II’ without Don King and his hair and with Mike replaced with “Mark Tyler” (around the same time, Mike Tyson-alike M. Bison in ‘Street Fighter II’ would be renamed Balrog due to legal concerns), it just wasn’t the same. While it’s available as a free download, the $30 cartridge is what you need in your life. Tyson punching aliens is high concept stuff indeed.

 

Tyson’s ad-libs on Canibus are the sole highlight of ‘Bis’s career. Canibus is beloved of the kind of people who think a raspy-voiced rapper babbling about UFOs is Nobel-calibre. They belong to the same group who purport to have submitted essays on Ras Kass’s made-up history of mankind ‘Nature of the Threat’ as degree projects. Jesus Christ. Now he’s back, claiming Premier worked with Christina Aguilera circa 1998 and ethering himself with a bizarre attack on Mr. Christopher Martin. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I believe an ill-fated 2004 photoshoot truly destroyed Canibus’s career.

The Dismasters ‘Black & Proud’ cover, the Dre Wreckin’ Cru era images that Eazy used to wield, Weezy looking like he was being bummed by a cop in a condom ad and that pauseworthy XXL Soulja Boy/Boo-Boo cover seem downright sensible compared to these images.

Did he demand some “Bollywood ’97 steez” attire from his stylist? “Kraków nightspot ‘07 styles”? That belt, the jacket, the savage levels of boot cut…and that buckle. Did he refer to himself as “The black Richard Hammond” back then on a record? These pictures still perplex me. What the heck was going through his mind when he broke out these garments? For a notoriously tin-eared MC like Canibus to pop shots at Premier after these shots seems doubly ridiculous. I’ll take that same old scratched Nas line and plodding piano over some bloke rasping about supermathematical illuminati armies (I just made that up) or whatever he talks about any day.

I don’t care much for UK rap. I try, but it’s either some old shite sampling hit records from 1990 with a baffling level of immunity (this is because most people are pricks) or a slightly squalid clone of the southern rap in my iTunes library that — as UK rap has always done — wants my coin just because I’m meant to support my own. Fuck that. Where did I put those Waka Flocka MP3s again? It wasn’t particularly good during the last 18 years or so either — just lots of people with group names like Elevated Mindz (apologies if that’s a real group name) talking about how bloody British they are and how they devastate mics. That Skepta video with the tagged in but from a Ben Dover looking production is excruciating. It makes the post-watershed ‘How Do You Want It’ promo look like ‘Caligula’ by comparison.

The ragga crossover stuff gets a pass though — it still sounds hard. Shouts to Scary Éire’s DJ Mek for his ‘UK Ragga Hiphop Mix.’ For some reason West Indian culture permeated UK rap with a greater success rate (RIP SMILEY CULTURE) than those terrible ragamuffin moments that sullied decent US LPs and mixtapes (word to Mad Lion, Lil’ Vicious and Red Fox). This mix is a lot of flashback fun and a fair amount of it holds up better than what came next. Break out the suede Champions and have a listen:

www.djmek.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/remedy-for-the-black-ash-blues

The excellent Grey Skateboard Magazine (not to be mistaken for Grey fashion magazine) has reached issue #4, with a launch party happening right now, plus a screening of some nighttime skate movies, including ‘Minuit’ and Grey’s own ‘Grey Nights’ film. The teaser alone indicates why Lucien Clarke is a badman. I’m also liking Mr. Sam Ashley’s Palace Skateboards in NYC pictures a lot too.

 

 

ALEX COX: EDUCATOR

I like using holiday time to catch up on the pile of DVDs that I never mustered the inclination to watch since they were impulse purchased. It’s not that I never had time — rather that I knew I’d be disappointed on a repeat viewing of each film. 1987’s ‘Straight to Hell’ is a perfect example of a film I want to like. I really, really, really want to like it. I remember the murmurings around it on its release and I recall the critical savaging it got. For every extremely negative critical reaction there’s a cult following in the making.

Surely a western that boasts a cast that includes Joe Strummer, Dennis Hopper, Grace Jones and Shane MacGowan and Jim Jarmusch must be an under-appreciated gem? There’s certain seafood I try to will myself to enjoy. It’s not quite disgusting, but they make for a joyless anti-feast. I feel I should like it. Other people enjoy it, so why don’t I?

I don’t want to spit it out, much as I didn’t hit eject when I put the new ‘Straight to Hell’ redux, ‘Straight to Hell Returns’ in the player. Just as I find myself chewing the fishy offering into a joyless mush that dries out and won’t disappear, this remastered edition’s 90 minute duration feels at least 300% longer than other films. That episodic, willingly madcap narrative is oddly paced enough to evoke one of director Alex Cox’s old favourites, ‘Django, Kill,’ and just as all the king’s horses can’t put that film into an entirely comprehensible cut, the extra CGI blood, wandering skeletons and frugal handful of extra running time still leaves me cold.

The acting can occasionally resemble some kind of enforced young offender’s amateur performance (though Sy Richardson is amazing), but I still respect Mr. Cox’s decision to make it over the ‘Three Amigos.’ He even turned down ‘The Running Man’ to make ‘Walker.’

It’s the backstory, from Cox’s passion for the spaghetti western that makes him an authority on the subject to the aborted Nicaragua benefit that led to the excess of musicians in the cast that draws me back to ‘Straight to Hell.’ The documentary — ‘Back to Hell’ and the DVD’s commentary tell that story enough to make it worth picking up. When Alex is talking over it, this is a far, far better film.

It’s also worth noting that Alex Cox is my guru when it comes to films. He (alongside Kim Newman’s ‘Nightmare Movies’ and Danny Peary’s ‘Cult Movies’ trilogy) put me onto a number of under appreciated films as part of his run on BBC2’s ‘Moviedrome’ spot for several summers between 1988 and 1994. Cox presented double bills, dragged moaning from the BBC library, frequently themed, with comprehensive introductions and a genuine passion for the topic.

Post-Tarantino, everything’s a fucking “cult” film, but for weeks on end, sunday nights from 10am, which would now be filled with a ‘Gavin & Stacey’ re-run, or something equally shit, we got ‘Alligator,’ ‘The Great Silence,’ ‘Dead of Night,’ Two-Lane Blacktop,’ ‘The Hill,’ ‘Assault on Precinct 13,’ ‘One From the Heart,’ ‘Rabid,’ ‘The Parallax View,’ ‘Trancers,’ ‘Q – The Winged Serpent,’ ‘Lenny,’ ‘Grim Prairie Tales,’ ‘Day of the Locust,’ ‘Mishima’ and much more.

Each film made a substantial impact on me, supplementing a prolific diet of the era’s costlier productions. What could be perceived as trash cinema was lovingly contextualized to the point where its scheduling in the same slot as more cerebral, established masterpieces made utter sense. America got the Z Channel from 1974 to 1989 (as documented in the terrific ‘Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession’) and Jerry Harvey’s careful curation. We got Alex Cox — and for that reason I was happy to blindly shell out the coins to grab a DVD I knew I probably couldn’t make myself love.

Moviedrome came back in 1997 with Mark Cousins on presentation duties. The selection seemed to be significantly less obscure (though he gets props for screening ‘The Devil Thumbs a Ride’ and ‘Target), and while I enjoy Mark’s writing and critique, his eerie presentation style made me put my hand over my drink, in case he reached out the screen and slipped something into it. Alex was more of an infectiously enthusiastic oddball. I sent my £4 and got one of the lovingly made Moviedrome guides, which I promptly lost. I respected Mr. Cox’s humility in reprinting a particularly scathing ‘Walker’ review.

The fact Alex has upped guides 1 & 2 as PDFs on his site quells the gloom caused by my mislaid pamphlet and still holds up as a strong collection of must-see cinema. There might be some established favourites in the lounge TV festival’s lineups, but ‘To Sleep with Anger’ and ‘Tracks’ remain depressingly obscure and well worthy of revival. These are mediocre times televisually, and Film4 cannot and will never compete with what Moviedrome gave an entire generation on a weekly basis.

Salute the UK’s champion of the cinematic underdog — himself an underdog (albeit one of his own creation). I recommend everything on the ‘Straight to Hell’ DVD, bar the actual film in its unaccompanied form…


Not even the most fleeting mention of ‘The Parallax View’ can pass without including this video.

WATERPROOFED

Apologies for turning this blog into one of those stone-faced, wordless, image blogs for one night only. That wasn’t my avowed intention. This imagery was way too nostalgic and olde world to leave alone without spotlighting some newness down below. But it fell by the wayside because I got waylaid watching the Crufts 2011 finals (that boxer was robbed, yo) and reading about The Idler magazine’s new Idler Academy in west London. I lost concentration entirely.

All I can offer this evening is what was on my hard drive after I pillaged the ‘Backpacker’ archive for imagery pertaining to outdoor performance between 1973 and 1996. The project never amounted to anything, but I know a few like minds who might get a kick out of it. Hell, there’s plenty of right-clickers who might want to stick ‘em on their Tumblrs and claim them as their own. I don’t care, seeing as I borrowed them from a magazine in the first place.

The Columbia, Du Pont, Vasque, Marmot, Universal and Pivetta ads are particularly strong. In the current climate of outdoorsy one-upmanship (a trend that seems to have stuck), I’ll take this copy-heavy, utilitarian focus over the fey drivel that’s inappropriately applied to rugged gear throughout the blog world. I’ve been fixating on the Thinsulate labelling lately as one of my favourite pieces of branding. It’s democratic too compared to the steep price tags on steep incline wear that bears another personal favourite — the GORE-TEX tab.

Beyond the official North Face hookups, I loved Supreme’s woolly hat homage to the Thinsulate branding (not to be mistaken for the Thinsulate Supreme technology) in the vein of their Patagonia tributes.

Normal windy, wordy and pretentious service should resume next week.

BIGGIE VIA THE LAKE DISTRICT AND JULIO IGLESIAS

“Comin up on half a mil, we build/
Get real God, taking you on another one Son/
Uhh, Julio Iglesias/
Makin CREAM like that nigga.”

Raekwon ‘Criminology’

Yep. I’m aware that leading with a quote from a track taken from an album that fires barely concealed missiles at the late, great Frank White is a little odd, but I was hunting for Julio Iglesias references in rap. Funnily enough, Mystikal and South Park Mexican have used him in lines too, but I’m steering clear of the sex offenders. Kind of. Rap loves to grieve. If an MC or producer dies, we spend hours trading lines on Twitter, screaming to the skies, begging them to take Chris Moyles and leave us with our hip-hop hero for just one day.

Today’s been one of those days, being the anniversary of Biggie’s passing. And for once I fully understand. I love his wordplay, his versatility and his hunger for the hardcore. Had Mr. Wallace not been slain, rap would be different now – not necessarily better, not necessarily worse…but different. That’s an aura right there. Today you could get beat down for daring to wash your car when you should be listening to ‘Gimme the Loot.’ A murderer would be acquitted for stabbing you after hearing you hum ‘Hit ‘Em Up.’ My Facebook feed is riddled with the ‘Juicy’ video. Everyone’s copy/pasting lyrics in a bid to reach esoteric heights of fandom. But I don’t care, because, after Kool G Rap, Biggie Smalls was the illest.

But how do you blog about him without repeating yourself? You can’t. Everything he ever recorded is online somewhere. Except his appearance in Channel 4’s ‘Passengers’ in 1995, smoking blunts with Faith and wandering around Bed-Stuy, which somebody, somewhere must have ready to upload, I’ve actually posted the above image on my blog from when I used to blog at SlamXHype a couple of years ago. I actually posted it hours after being interviewed by ‘The Source,’ but when I told my mum, she didn’t give a shit, let alone smile.

But I think it’s remarkable that ‘Represent’ – a short-lived but excellent hip-hop UK-based fanzine – put the Notorious B.I.G. on its cover before anyone else. That’s deep. I read it in July 1994, and it contained (other than an ill-fated set of reviews that deemed Warren G’s LP better than the first Beatnuts LP) a feature on the big man based on a listen to the LP promo, declaring ‘Ready To Die’ as a successor to ‘Illmatic’ (released just a couple of months earlier).

I think the piece was written by DJ E-Legal, but I could be mistaken. ‘Represent House’ was based in Cumbria. We’re not talking London here – we’re talking Lake District territory. Matty C might have made his career-defining move, but it was a Brit-magazine – one that had Finsta Bundy on one of their covers – who made their own lo-fit but notable powermove during Biggie’s rise to fame.

Another key moment where strange gets stranger is the union of Biggie with then Jive upstart Crustified Dibbs aka. RA The Rugged Man. I never knew how this all happened, and an old email circulation of Biggie engaging in some kind of score sheet and claiming he wasn’t into the whole experience has floated around, but I don’t believe it — I’m sure I remember Biggie saluting just how Dibbs took it there in the misogyny stakes too. RA and B.I.G. work well together.

‘Cunt Renaissance’ is still one of the most offensive records I’ve ever heard and while the OG version is produced by Marc “Nigga” Nilez, matching the murky production I’ve heard on bootlegs of ‘Night of the Bloody Apes’ (I’m not a massive fan going on the tape-sounding leaks — I prefer the sound of RA from 1997 to the present day), I prefer the mysterious remix from a mixtape from a decade or so ago. I’ve never known the producer, but it elevates these depraved verses to almost epic status with a lavish loop.

The sample in question comes from another duet, albeit one less preoccupied with bodily fluids — the introduction to Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross’s 1984 hit, ‘All of You’ (the mystery producer even let Miss Ross’s voice make a brief appearance when he used the record). I love the duality between the discarded blunt guts sex talk and the cocaine mansion seduction that the tracks evoke. For all the gossip, cinematic depictions, partying and bullshit, there’s still a lot of depths unexplored in Christopher Wallace’s short, memorable career.

UNRELATED MATTERS:


I’m excited about Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ after the disappointment of Criterion not releasing the version of ‘The Thin Red Line’ that goes on for, like, a week with half of Hollywood in it. Yesterday, ‘Little White Lies’ upped an interview with the special effects team who promised that there’ll be dinosaurs in it. Then the interview was pulled down. I hope the dinosaurs remain in the final cut and don’t get the Billy Bob Thornton treatment. There’s an interesting new poster doing the rounds too.

On semi-related Criterion matters, go check Eric Skillman’s blog to witness his work. An occasional Criterion cover artist and designer, book cover designer and comic artist, he’s consistently excellent, and in an age where everyone’s a goddamn art director, this guy is the real deal. I love looking at his work (that ‘Wiseblood’ cover’s still a classic) and the design process section of the site is fascinating.

It’s not Eric’s work to my knowledge, but the cover for Criterion’s ‘Le Cercle Rouge’ (set for release in April) is a winner. A film this assured and stylish (the original promotional materials were good in the first place) can’t be an easy brief, but the gun element sets it off perfectly.

T-Shirt Party’s at an end. Nearly a year since I covered it here, and the mysterious Stan Still (who became less mysterious as the months progressed) fulfilled his mission to make 52 tees with accompanying videos. It ends with a black one, after 51 white shirts, plus a DVD of the visuals. I actually bumped into the man behind the project on a Supreme shoot when we were tasked with covering a backdrop with bricks of black box logo stickers. Time flies when you’re blogging gobshite.

I’ve never met anyone as dedicated to a singular subject matter as Scott (Bothan Spynet). He was doing the shoe-a-day thing a long time ago too. A nice bloke and someone with streetwear history, I stumbled across this little interview with him. Can’t remember if they were in that CLOT/ACU book a few years back with the alternate Stash BWs, but those samples of the 2003 Futura artist series Nike Blazer that Futura scrapped just before releasing the curry/Jedi version still kills me since they appeared on Recon a few years back. An amazing makeup that equals the unreleased Stussy Blazers from2001. They should have put out both.

And while I’m not a runner, I just freeload a lot, the Nike team in NYC recently instigated a masterplan that would even get me running. Training sessions with a hardcore mind-body correlator — Mr. John Joseph of the Cro-Mags. That’s serious. If you never picked up ‘The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon’ or ‘Meat is for Pussies,’ you should do. Training with a man preparing himself for this year’s Ironman tournament must be a pretty damned intense experience. He’s intense when he’s static and we’ve all seen him on stage so it’s safe to assume he’s pretty focused on the keep fit regime. Good work, Nike. Very good work.

INSANE: VERY BRITISH “STREETWEAR”

This blog was actually meant to be about British things. Back when Acyde asked if I wanted to contribute, it awoke some kind of blog-demon within me and I tried…really, really tried to keep it British as a point-of-difference from all the other blogs out there, but I got bored and my yankophile tendencies got the better of me. I’m not trying to be a flag-burner, but a lot of British stuff (note the fact I said, a lot — not all) at street level is fucking corny. If it’s good, the minute you’ve covered it, you’ve wrecked it — like one a well-meaning missionary introducing a remote tribe to western confectionary and soft drinks, and managing to destroy their way of life in the process. Of course, America and Asia is riddled with corniness too, but we’ve condensed corniness.

Plus – if we’re talking “streetwear” — the good, aspirational stuff is meant to be on the cool kids, not the gimps. But now the tough kids wear black hoodies, vast tracksuit bottoms and Fila F13s or Air Max 90s, not the eclectic, expensive garms that led me to my “career” path. Nerds wear all the pricey brands – hardrocks probably aren’t paying more than £25 for a hoody. I used to assume that if you saw someone in a Supreme box hat, they were — in some idiotic, cliquey generalisation — one of “us.” I don’t even know what constitutes “us,” but the box is so ubiquitous, that I and most wearers are estranged. We’d have nothing to say. Supreme is still one of my favourite brands, but I can’t assume that I share an affinity with each and every wearer any more. It’s probably a good thing.

So I can’t be bothered to rep the UK specifically any more. It’s too limiting. Alas, this entry was written on a PC, where Photoshop and something as simple as Grab don’t exist. Even the card from my camera isn’t compatible. As a result — until I visit a Genius — the imagery here is just pilfered from elsewhere (with credit, of course).

I don’t feel that there’s enough history on UK streetwear pioneers on the internet. There’s a certain Brit-mindset that’s keen not to blow our own trumpet too much, doubly downplayed by avoiding blasting those brass instruments in a realm where to enthuse too much is uncool. As a result, things just disappear. We had to get to where we are now somehow, but after the popularity of the raggamuffin style blog entry here last year, I thought I’d take a look at skate culture in the UK and a key brand. Brit-publication ‘RAD’ (that neon sticker that ‘SK8 Action’ tried to bite was kind of the box logo of its day) taught me a lot. it had me hunting for Slam City Skates and M-Zone (the UK’s Stüssy spot of choice, where jackets seemed to price hike from £50 to £200+ between 1987-1991), and it introduced me to some British skate brands like Poizone and Anarchic Adjustment, but it’s Insane Ironic Skate Clothing that evokes the fondest memories. Ged Wells is a UK pioneer.

Looking back at 1980s skateboarding, Americans seemed to be in two camps – the neon, hair metal rockstar idiots or the gnarlier, tattooed Santa Cruz kids. The British contingent seemed to have merged the two to look an awful lot like squatters and crusties. I find it hard to get misty-eyed looking back at old ‘RAD’s (BIG UP DOBIE and check www.whenwewasrad.com for scans of old issues) in terms of fashion, but Insane was something far ahead of its time. Skate style in the UK isn’t something that could come effortlessly — we’re not really a print tee kind of nation, so that look would always seem imported and as a result, extremely posey and awkward. Not Insane. It seemed to take few cues from the States and channelled that oddball charm that makes British skating so evocative with its cartoons, fluid, bouncy fonts. It was strange-good.

Insane was the forefather of Slam City affiliated brands like Holmes, Silas (with artist James Jarvis providing their unique character-led world) and Palace. The romanticized notion of all skaters as artists is of course bollocks, but Ged could switch from foot planting in a pair of Visions (or were they Pacers?) to creating these weird garments. I’m sure Insane was inadvertently responsible for a fuckload of awful clubbing-related brands too — the kind that would be bunched together in distributor ads at the back of ‘i-D’ magazine (with whom Insane actually collaborated for tees), but it’s not the brand’s fault that people were and are idiots.

Circa 1989, Insane seemed awesome and underground. Before Insane, there was talk of the Jim-Jams brand that led to the Ironic Skate Clothing’s genesis. It was on tees, bum bags, sweats, shorts, hats, jackets, videos (‘Mouse is Pulling at the Key’), stickers and tracksuit bottoms. The adverts in themselves were mini-masterpieces. There was even an Insane Skate Supply store in Camden in the mid 1990s. It could be displayed alongside Stüssy without shame or any allegations of lo-fi imitation — the strawberry graphic tees and shorts were particularly good. Insane was very much its own entity. How many other brands could claim that? Ged’s work was present on skateboards for Slam City, but they distributed Insane too, doing a fine job of getting it into spots like Glasgow’s legendary Dr Jives.

In many ways, Insane’s ascent occurred at the point where vert died and the freestyle kids got the last laugh (well, the ones with business minds anyway) so it’s popularity in 1991/2 ran adjacent to an exciting, progressive time for skating. Having launches at the Wag Club in 1989 just conferred the merger of the era’s most well-regarded spots and subcultures. ‘Face’ and’ i-D’ photo shoots placed the gear alongside Nike and Stussy too in a raggamuffin style. The surreal imagery even captured some of that Native Tongues hype of the time. Over a decade before Robin Williams got kitted out in UNDFTD and BAPE, he could be seen sporting Insane around the time of the underrated ‘The Fisher King’s release.

Nothing gold can stay and Insane ultimately left us, but Ged’s still active as an artist and designer. He’s exhibited fairly recently and remains progressive and innovative, but (refreshingly) he doesn’t seem to shy away from his Insane work. He has something to do with Trisickle magazine too, but I’m not sure what happened to the plans to resurrect Insane and retro key pieces in 2006 (was that inspired by the nostalgia tsunami ushered in via Winstan Whitter’s ‘Rolling Through the Decades’?). A Japanese audience obviously took Insane (and Slam City Skates) in as one of their own, embracing the overseas authenticity of these legit Brit reinterpretations of a Californian artform — just as that R. Newbold ‘Monster’ tee Slam City colab seemed to arrive from nowhere, it was refreshing to see Japan’s Tokishirazu team with Insane for an anniversary collection a couple of years back.

All the Insane images here are pilfered from Ged Wells’s Flickr account
www.flickr.com/photos/gedwells — go have a dig there for some classic ads, shoots and apparel, plus information on how some imagery came to be. His website is www.gedwells.com.

As a sidenote, ‘RAD”s letters page actually had an email address in 1988, using British Telecom’s complicated-looking Telecom Gold service: 72:MAG90459 from a time before @’s were the in-thing.

Slam City Skates logo designer Chris Long’s online portfolio (www.chrislongillustration.com) has an excellent ‘Relax’ cover from winter 1996 he drew that captures a very UK style.

NOSTALGIA OFFSET

Taking pictures from a Facebook account is a lowblow, so I’ll avoid it, but the homie Thomas Giorgetti (who knows more about sneakers and graffiti than you or I) is making power moves with the Bleu de Paname brand alongside partner Christophe Lepine. The line just gets better and better, defying the preconception that it could just be another denim brand, or another workwear renaissance. It’s far more than that. The pocket tees and sports jackets were killer and Thomas premiered a sample of a Comme des Garçons collaboration on his Facebook the other day. Great line and an astonishingly quick ascent in such a short time. Gun fingers to the sky for Thomas. That and ‘Crack & Shine’ #2 are two things worth looking out for over the next few months.

MARL STAYS IN CONTROL

On these pages I’ve talked too much about sweatshirts — about Champion, about the Dexys’ “Athletic Monk” phase and about how Einstein wore fleece jersey very well indeed. But I like to exorcise my preoccupations on this blog, so I’m happy to repeat myself. “Exorcise” was the intended spelling, because I’ll be damned if I ever wear cotton fleece to actually exercise. I love grey cotton jersey.

It can be worn with anything as an utterly neutral accompaniment. For me, it’s a wearable comfort blanket — I can remember growing up in bootleg ‘A-Team’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ (complete with a lurid Smarties stain) grey sweats, then becoming obsessed with the same colour in skate wear before getting myself some ludicrously oversized Carhartt hoodies in outmeal and grey that had the perfect imperfections that the marl meeting-of-faintly-differing-yarns guarantees.

Some days the repro slim fit feels right, and other days, I want some cheap boxy excess to my sweats. So I keep a stack at hand. It could be made in Japan, Indonesia, Canada, England or assembled in the Dominican Republic (from American components) — it doesn’t matter. Loopwheeled or straight from a sweatshop? Whatever. Raglan sleeves and side panels make for the very best examples of everyman apparel done to perfection.

Sometimes those excessive stitches externally can make the garment too fussy. Less is more, but I mourn for the mass of zig-zags and ribbed shoulders of my £9.99 Gap 1969 variation – missing in action since 2005 . Just as Gap seem to have missed the khaki boat of recent years, much of the year 2000’s 1969 collection was slept-on before it was reduced to little more than a tenner for each component.

Like my white t-shirt quest, each sweatshirt has a shortcoming somewhere that reveals itself during repeat wears and washes. Thus, I’ll keep adding to the pile until I reach my platonic ideal (though it’s worth noting that Our Legacy make a sweatshirt that veers toward my idea of a perfect fit after 20+ washes).
If finding a solitary sweatshirt that ticks the boxes is tough, finding the whole suit is an even tougher brief. Nothing beats the grown-up romper suit styling of the marl tracksuit (hood and zipper optional) for the last word in anti-formality. It’s you’re engaged in physical activity for a living, it’s the non-work suit . Patta’s underrated outfit with Reigning Champ last year has the best track pants I’ve worn in a long, long time. They’re heavyweight, but they’re not excessively ASBO baggy.

Despite working in an environment devoid of dress code, my plan to visit work in them fizzled out because a. They made me look like a mature sports science student who’s going to get kicked of his course and b. Because I didn’t want to associate loungewear with the workplace — that’s separate worlds colliding.

Still, the full tracksuit shouldn’t be confined to the sofa and the airport. It shouldn’t just be for the wifebeaters, shoplifters and crap degree seminar attendees. Executed correctly, it’s a work of art (Timberlands are optional). Just as the tracksuit deserves an open mind, marl doesn’t need to be grey. Pink and orange marl are strong looks. But the wings + horns Large Loop Terry Sweat Suit (a pretty late arrival, seeing as there’s only a month or two left of probable full sweatsuit weather left) as brought to my attention by Hypebeast, but available from Canada’s Haven are more proof that CYC keeps on running this sweatshirt game. It’s officially the best item of clothing I’ve seen this year.

Other good things spotted today:

The UK’s Beat Butcha producing Havoc’s pre-Prodigy release banger ‘Bang On My Bullshit’ (when P gets on Twitter, the current Sheen-mania will subside in favour of Albert’s trouble-making) is worth repeat listens. I don’t fuck with too much UK hip-hop, solely because our scene is corny as fuck, but Beat Butcha’s got beats for days and he’s had Sean Price and Tony Yayo (over the Hav beat) blessing his productions. UK stand up.

The terrifyingly prolific homie Maxime Buechi’s Flickr account is probably better than yours: www.flickr.com/photos/sangbleu

‘PORT’ finally hit shelves. Of course, it couldn’t live up to those breathless pre-release Vimeo testimonies, but it’s very good. It’s content-heavy without being oppressively dense with text, beautifully designed and well written. It still doesn’t feel fully formed — as is the case with any launch issue (and I always feel like an idiot buying anything billed as “Intelligent”), but the Commentary section is better than anything I’ve read in any other magazine lately. There’s a decent article on Nike’s Sports Research Laboratory and Innovation Kitchen, plus Margaret Howell extols the virtues to the duffle coat in here too. I hope it proves successful. There’s a decent Creative Review interview with guys behind the magazine here.

RETAIL

The hustle of retail is draining and I’m rarely surprised by anything on the shelves any more because everything’s either been blogged to death pre-release or is a global rollout that makes shopping abroad significantly less fun. So I ranted about it, and my friend Mr. Ronnie Fieg was kind enough to host my moaning on his blog.

Ronnie is that dude for a number of reasons — he knows his market as both a fanboy and as a retail veteran, he likes some weird shit and he’s one of the best E-marketers out there. Those qualities make him pretty fucking successful. I’m sure this is as close to a tangible collaboration as we can get because: 1. I can’t wear Ranger Boots, because they look wrong on me, 2. I can’t wear boat shoes without them looking wrong on me unless they’re those warship-size Visvim Hockneys and 3. Because I like mesh toeboxes and he rocks with nubuck.

Ronnie’s making ridiculous power moves with Sebago, and I’m in no doubt that a few more brands are going to be pleased they agreed to work with him too. It’s all about the relentless work rate. Plus his Clarks Weaver boots were — on the downlow — last year’s best footwear collaboration.

Again, go check that talk out on his blog. I want to just wander into a sports shop again and see that next shit on the shelf. I remember my small hometown (boogie-down Bedford) being home to no less than eight stores stocking an array of footwear circa 1990. That number of destinations was significantly amplified during London visits. Those experiences, often a simple case of window shopping, set me on the path to where I am now…sat on my arse, tapping away at a MacBook.

So here, out of sheer laziness (what can I say? I’m on holiday until tuesday) is the imagery I sent Ronnie for that piece, broken into bite size chunks. I really, really love the 1970 ad with the most remedial illustration of an adidas Superstar ever committed to paper, the $26 Campus, a shit Blazer picture and a store where you can buy rifles as well as Ewing Rivals and varsity jackets. I’m currently studying the world of store advertising before everything became ruinously slick. There’s merits in a cruder approach to marketing.

 

 

NOSTALGIA OFFSET

Mr Porter (not to be mistaken with Denaun or Charlie) is a good site. It makes me want to spend some cash, but I wouldn’t want to have to look after those journal features. That’s some high maintenance work right there, but they seem to be doing a fine job thus far.

My real gripe with online fashion retail is that the clothing has a tendency to turn up looking terrible. I’d sooner have someone take far too long folding up and bagging an object in front of my eyes than for it to arrive still in its plastic packaging as if it was “liberated” from a warehouse by a baghead acquaintance. They seem to be keen to break the spell of the aesthetically displeasing arrival with this much-hyped endeavor.

Mr Porter looks nice too…even if it ain’t hard to tell that ‘Fantastic Man’ was on the design moodboard. Selling Aubin & Wills isn’t a good look at all, but I guess that prick pound is a lucrative one. I just like gawping at brands like Marni one there — like Limoland (soon to arrive on the site too), it’s the sort of insider-favourite that crops up on the pages of ‘Monocle’ with pieces for the monied who seem to favour a certain restraint.

Two Tone Derbies and lambskin backpacks are some millionaire dress down styles, but the Contrast Front Panel Shirt is doubly ill for looking like a reverse version of Tré’s “Mr. GQ Smooth” comedy shirt in ‘Boyz n the Hood’ without the doubly bizarre circular detailing. That’s a strong look if you’re looking to engage in some Cuba-style gurning and wooing at daytime barbecues any time soon…

EFF A REMAKE

Let me start by pointing out that this blog entry is merely an excuse to post this Panther Books edition cover of Sol Yurick’s ‘The Warriors’ up here as some form of thug motivation.

That’s the only reason.

[[And before I commence rambling, big up Carri for the brief but brilliant Cassetteplaya show at Men’s day for LFW today – I thought I’d underdressed with the Polo, camo and AF1 Duck Boots, but her having ‘Bingo’ by Gucci Mane and ‘Salute’ by Dipset as a catwalk soundtrack (complete with models painted gold with gold hi-tops to match) vindicated my sartorial choice. The blazers, wood-handled umbrellas and leather holdalls around me were out-of-place, unless they concealed “Louie belts with the guns still tucked in ’em.” I doubt they did.]]

This cover just looks awkward — the gang member depicted looks about forty for starters, with a Mercedes badge and non-menacing font on the back. Where’s the sleeveless cut vests? If I started a gang, we’d rock the Undercoverism sleeveless hoodies (shouts to Acyde), the IronHeart black denim numbers, or — if we were hard up — prison fatigue jackets at £3.50 a throw. But then just as this cover hardly represents its content, the original novel bears very little resemblance to the final film. At least there’s a substantial resemblance between Richard Price’s ‘The Wanderers’ and the resulting film – both classics, even if some of the darker short stories in the former were excised.

Despite the whitey on the cover there, the main gang aren’t tactically mixed-race and they’re not even called the Warriors — they’re called the Dominators, and the Dominators are pretty brutal, making the book a far more gritty affair. While it’s still a trashy read, it’s not half as daft as the film. The same applies to Leon Garfield’s anti-vigilante novel ‘Death Wish’ and the subsequent “adaptation.” But I still love the films these books inspired, even if both authors were left fairly pissed off.

They still seem to be scheming a ‘Warriors’ remake with Tony Scott involved. This is a bad idea. His ‘Man on Fire’ was good (though I favour the Scott Glenn version — a onetime Sky Movies late night staple), but his version of ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ was insipid.

This remake could well be a repeat of John McTiernan’s dreadful ‘Rollerball’ remix of a few years ago. I’m still smarting from the director’s cut of the original (the comic book captions and “Sometime in the future…” concept are badly misjudged), but Walter Hill is still one of my favourite directors — I concur with this tribute here. Anyone who directs ‘Extreme Prejudice’ has earned the right to fuck with own his films to his heart’s content. At least the novelization came over a decade before the film itself — anyone else remember the 1983 Scarface novelization which opens with Tony getting his face cut in Cuba by a cuckolded love rival? That book even ended with Tony being blown to bits by his own rocket launcher. Liberties. Major liberties.

It’s nice to know that the more obscure ‘Warriors’ gangs have been named in recent years. The UK fansite is phenomenal. Not only does it let you know who was a Jones Street Boy, that those fucking mimes were the Hi-Hats and that the camp-looking Moonrunners repped for Pelham, there’s a whole thread dedicated to identifying every other gang in the film that’s just mind-bogglingly exhaustive. There’s even some replica vests being produced within that community of obsessives.

I hope the remake gets put on the backburner — despite some tough competition from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Luther impression during ‘Shame on a Nigga’ and Puffy’s prior to the ‘Flava in Ya Ear’ remix, I still love the ‘Crunk Muzik’ video…notwithstanding the rollerblade content. Isn’t that what a crappy update would end up looking like?

And ya’ll might know your ’80 Blocks From Tiffany’s’, but I still want to see more video footage from the 1971 Hoe Avenue Truce meeting which inspired the Cyrus-led park gathering that opens ‘The Warriors’ — there’s footage in Henry Chalfont and Rita Fecher’s ‘Flyin’ Cut Sleeves’…though apparently that was all strictly for show, with the real truce being a more thugged-out affair, worked out behind-the-scenes…

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