Not every new magazine is worth celebrating. Some just seem to be made by six people for another six people, some feature the same rapper on the cover because the editor has only heard three new hip-hop acts in the last three years. Some will only ever exist as one edition, gathering dust in sale or return limbo. But where there’s expertise and passion, there’s something worth reading. Graffiti obsessives are a different kind of obsessive — beyond letterforms and the act of writing itself, they’ll discuss defunct paint pens for hours, know station after station, and appreciate the very thing they obsessively love to scar more than people who’d rather it was left pristine. The most interesting print projects relating to graf provide a distinct perspective and, as is often the emphasis within its tunnel-like mass of connecting cultures, their own style. With his own architectural practise, Whole Train Press don Andrea Caputo, whose imprint recently put out an Italian translation of chase story compendium Getting Caught, has put his passions to work with Public Domain magazine. Issue #1 of this hardback bi-annual celebrates underground activity with The Tunnel Issue. Intended as ongoing research project with a single type of space as the driving theme for each edition, this 128-page project is an examination of social potential, politics, physical and theoretical boundaries and constructions, freezing some temporary habits and rituals within these places. Including Kafka, words on walls, artists using the tunnel as guidance or a hiding place, criminal activity, Parisian sewers, journeys, catacomb histories, crew shots, conceptual drawings, scholarly essays, police pursuits, and a networked dark realm that visits Moscow and Amsterdam, the content is varied. There’s very little graffiti in Public Domain, yet the hardcore mentality and abundance of intense, intellectual outlooks makes it seem steeped in the habit without resorting to the predictable. More a book than a magazine, with its ad-free editorial, this #1 is well worth a dig.
This 1989/1990 voxpop from outside the Astoria via The Kino Library is pretty amazing. Shoe-centric talk, as Chipie, knitwear and shearlings are twinned with ZX 8000s, 9000s, Stabs, Kickers and Timbs captures a moment in dress well. Another piece from the same segment features a giant mobile phone being wielded and waved at the camera.
The weekend’s work (more on all that at a later date) and my catchup with some documentaries and films I missed have completely ruined anything of substance going up here. I never cease to be a little freaked out to be involved with brands, objects and aesthetics I grew up obsessing over.
One day I’ll probably have to sell out entirely (I still don’t think I’ve sold out quite as much as I could do) and take on everything that’s sent my way, but for the time being, I get to pick and choose — it’s a beautiful thing. Notions of reviews, features and integrity get systematically abused in the blog world, but the minute you accept a freebie and say something nice about it, you’re a walking advertorial — that’s how it is. This blog is often brand affiliated on my own terms, but I’d like to think that I can bring a little of my own obsessions to dilute the PR speak. I’m too old to agonise over integrity — there’s not a lot of room for that if you’re obsessed with big company product and stricken with the cataract vision that brand preoccupation can inflict. It’s strange when an organization asks for the sort of thing I throw up here for commercial purposes, but if I’m into the company, I’m fully down.
Public Domain changed my life and that summer of 1988, I was obsessed with patterned Chuck Taylors. That black and white street skate segment is frequently mentioned her, so when my friends at Converse (on that subject, I’m sad for Pappalardo after this interview late last year) asked if I wanted to write a little love letter to the Chuck Taylor and skating for the Trocadero Days publication that Grey magazine put together to coincide with the video and push of the CTAS Pro, I was in full yes man mode. Pontus Alv is a genius and Grey is great. Naturally, we couldn’t talk about key Converse characters like Gator, Mullen and Mariano, but fortunately, Anderson and Jessee are on the team, so they could get a mention. This is available free at your local skate shop and I’m very pleased to have been involved.
This week was a good one. As a result, there’s no rants on here whatsoever. The highlight was meeting Ray Barbee briefly at the Vans OTW spot in Berlin. It’s not cool to fan out, but it’s a natural response if it’s somebody you looked up to as a kid. I’ve only felt the lurching out-of-body fan reaction when I’m speaking to my childhood heroes — it happened during a conversation with Big Daddy Kane a few years back, and it very nearly happened during throwaway words with Mr. Barbee. It’s that flashback during an interaction to watching something or gawping at an LP cover with a feeling of distant awe a few decades prior, then realising that you’re chatting with that near-mythical individual. In 1988 and 1989 I watched Steve Saiz, Ray Barbee, Eric Sanderson and Chet Thomas’s ‘Public Domain’ section on repeat. I even held a tape recorder up to the TV speakers to get an audio copy of McRad’s ‘Weakness.’
Barbee in ‘Public Domain’ evokes a summer of listening to Run-DMC’s underrated ‘Tougher Than Leather’ and being apprehended by local metallers who were at least six years older than me who saw my ‘Killers’ t-shirt and asked me what my favourite Iron Maiden album was — on claiming that it was ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ they said, “Fuck off! It’s got keyboards on it” and proceeded to rub crisps into my mullet hairdo. Traumatic times. I have strong evidence that one of the gang was Chris Law, formerly of Crooked Tongues, adidas Originals and now a Converse resident in Boston. I’ll have my revenge one day.
Other than the KP/hair incident, it’s a time I remember fondly, but Ray and his boys had style, flow and an aggression, fluidly merging vert and freestyle elements with something new that transformed everybody’s perception of the landscape around them as we rode like grems — barely able to ollie — while performing our best vocal impressions of the ‘Weakness’ riff. I was a terrible skater, but in my head I was in that sequence. The skating, soundtrack and black and white film was an epiphany moment for me — it never made me a pro skater, but it fueled my preoccupation with sub-cultures. My mum said that preoccupation would never get me anywhere…and she was nearly right. But it got me to Berlin to meet Ray Barbee.
Now Stacy Peralta’s ‘Bones Brigade’ has debuted at Sundance (according to Hitfix, “Bones Brigade” also features cameos from the likes of Shepard Fairey, Ben Harper and Fred Durst, whose every appearance earned loud and vocal derision from the premiere night crowd.”), I assume that I won’t be alone in this 1980’s skateboard nostalgia this year. Flicking through a book and finding a RAD magazine sticker reminds me of the stickers that preempted the quest for Supreme box logos. These things are as evocative of 1988 as Powell’s VHS effort. I’m no OBEY fan, but their ‘Who is Chuck Treece?’ video on that story behind ‘Weakness’s inclusion from 2010 was excellent, as was Slap’s Ray Barbee ‘Public Domain’ commentary. Ray Barbee seemed like a nice bloke.
Another of the week’s highlights was the news that Giorgio Moroder would score Kim Jones’ menswear show for Louis Vuitton in Paris on Thursday. My preoccupation with Moroder’s work has been made clear here many times. Donna Summer, his classic ‘From Here to Eternity’ and ‘Midnight Express’s soundtrack are implemented and bombers, sharp, slim tailoring and some more eccentric elements are perfectly deployed to the tempo. The shiny metallic details, PARIS belts and headwear evoke something very contemporary, with some cues from a time when McDonalds coffee stirrers were perfect for cocaine usage (I like how the long-cancelled 1970’s freebies are listed as McDonalds Coke Spoon on eBay) for those doing bumps on a budget. So we know about Giorgio’s Cizeta-Moroder supercar creation and that he was trying to put together a musical called ‘Spago’ but ended up giving the name to Wolfgang Puck for his restaurant, but there’s always time to re-up this image of him openly doing a hefty line of chop, with his yayo carrier looking on. Giorgio Moroder…legend. Salutes to Fast Fashion for upping the Louis, Kris Van Assche and Rick Owens shows.
‘Men’s File’ magazine has such a pleasant price point and a deeper level of content than any heritage cash in, that it’s more than a fad rider — the Uncle Ralph co-sign and frequent emphasis on motorbike culture, makes it seem like something targeted at those people who like to learn the history and profiles some of the individuals who seem to pull off past looks as if they never left, rather than looking like they just wandered off one of those sepia-effect wild west family photos at a theme park. With their pop-up opening the other week on Lamb’s Conduit Street, issue six of the magazine dropped too. Their The Curator online store deals in replicas, so if you can pull off a 1950s motorcycle cap without looking like a laughing-stock, you’re probably one of the chosen few who’d end up in the pages of the magazine. The new issue has dogs, vintage garments and profiles on bare-bones custom bike build pioneer Shinya Kimura and another hero of mine, Mr. Hitoshi Tsujimoto of The Real McCoy’s.
I also enjoyed this interview at ‘A Fist in the Face of God’ with Kick and Sindre of Nekromantheon that discusses the creative benefits of drinking corpse water.
Anybody else perplexed at Quentin Tarantino’s dismissal of ‘Drive’ in the “Nice Try” category of his best and worst of 2011 lists? Is there only room for one film in the wilfully surface level car movie throwback stakes? ‘Drive’ wasn’t ‘Grindhouse’ fodder, but it could easily have slotted into a 1985 video store themed sequel.
This third pick of a character that shaped my childhood, and in a roundabout way of which they’re pleasantly oblivious landed me in the “career” where I currently dwell came about through unpleasant circumstances; the death of Sinisa Eglia last week, the man who made Airwalk good prior to its crumble into the cut-price phantom zone.
I loved Airwalk for a few years – even the colourways were influential but in line with Syd Field’s ‘Screenplay’ which espouses a dated formula, his paradigm rings true for this fallen brand –in the beginning, it’s 1986, and Bill Mann starts a shoe company.Plot Point 1 sees Sinisa recruited from a skatepark. Plot Point 2 sees the brand flourish, implementing the young man’s ideas before the company changes tact after Mann leaves. The ending is the shoes entering the mid ’90s as the official shoe of ‘The Next Karate Kid’… Someone needs to make an Airwalk documentary.
I never got to meet Sinisa, but Mr. Wood at Sneaker Freaker confirmed that he was quite a character, and his interview for the magazine remains a fascinating cautionary tale for startups everywhere, shoe-orientated or otherwise.