Tag Archives: slash


Since Nick at Classic Kicks put me onto a video of Eli Bonerz showcasing the X-Large store in 1992 on MTV’S House of Style, I’ve had dusty adidas Campus and Conart on the mind. We have tendency to sidestep a few brands when it comes to street wear retrospect, sending graffiti-inspired brands into some kind of rap-addled nowhere zone that’s neither skate nor street enough for some folk. That’s bollocks of course, because Conart and Third Rail created their own lanes back in 1989 and 1990, respectively. Now, tag and burner covered cotton isn’t necessarily what I’m wearing, but flicking through old issues of ‘The Source’ and ‘Can Control’ I’ve seen ads that had me hastily researching (pre-internet) the world of international money orders to at least lay my hands on a catalogue and stickers.

Third Rail’s expansion into different elements of apparel (I don’t recall hearing the term cut and sew back then) and Conart’s spin on a classically west coast small front logo and graphic explosion across the back with the oval chest lettering belying the graffiti characters mean-mugging on the shirt’s reverse all blew my mind in my early teen years, and while I knew the legendary RISK from reading ‘Spraycan Art’ until the binding broke and was aware that he was a key mind in the Third Rail empire, it wasn’t until I read Slash’s autobiography that I realised that Conart’s Ash Hudson is Slash’s younger brother. It’s odd how some brands don’t quite get the shouts they deserve, but Conart and Third Rail cemented LA’s position as the birthplace of street wear as we know it. I’m sure every brand making gear elsewhere, be it New York, Tokyo or London, would concede the power of west coast labels inspired them to make their own power moves, fused with their local aesthetics, trends, movements and attitude.

These two brands made full use of the merger of style, airbrush custom culture, long legacy of Cholo style letterforms, technical flare and everything else that differentiated LA’s graffiti from other regions. As far as ambassadors for other coasts went, the moment Biggie wore a Conart tee to wield a machine gun, a certain immortality was cemented.

Conart’s current site seems to be down, but the above image of a 1989 ad from ‘URB’ is taken from their Facebook and RISK’s blog upped some old ads last year — this post is well worth your time.

Taken from RISK’s Third Rail post

This December 26, 1994 ‘LA Times’ article captures a certain moment in time (even if it seems to misspell RISK’s real name):

He once took spray-paint cans and made the city of Los Angeles his imagination’s canvas, but Ash Hudson has now turned a third-story Rampart Boulevard loft into a studio where L.A.’s biggest vandalism problem is a business success story.

A former graffiti vandal—or tagger, in the vernacular of the streets—Hudson turned entrepreneur in 1989 by founding a firm called Conart. He has turned it into a clothing distributor that designs graffiti images for T-shirts and caps and boasts of 1994 orders totaling $1 million.

Conart (convict and art) now employs half a dozen paint-can-wielding staff artists and provides free-lance work for others, helping to focus their creative energies into a lucrative business.

“We’re occupying so much of their time that they don’t have time to go out on the street,” said the 22-year-old Hudson, a native of Culver City.

Taggers have been dreaded and hunted in major cities since urban teens began vandalizing buildings, subways and freeways in the late 1970s. The term refers to the vandals’ tags, or personalized signatures, they attach to their handiwork around the city.

But out of this illegal pastime have sprung legitimate graffiti artists, claiming a niche in the contemporary art world as well as in the clothing industry.

Dozens of graffiti clothing companies have started in big cities throughout the country, particularly in Los Angeles and New York and mostly by former taggers, said Robert Christofaro, a graphic designer for In Fashion, a trade magazine in New York City. Many of the companies have found it hard to stay afloat.

“A lot of them can’t manage to stay open . . . it’s a hard marketplace,” Christofaro said.

But for many, graffiti has become an avenue to opportunity. The clothing designs have attracted a large following of young adults who grew up fascinated by the genre.

“All the people that are most successful in the graffiti scene have expanded but held on to their graffiti roots. . . . The whole thing is being innovative,” said Kelly Gravao, another ex-tagger, who now owns Third Rail, an alternative clothing company in Boyle Heights. Third Rail also began by selling graffiti designed T-shirts and caps, but has since expanded its clothing line.

Gravao, 26, was arrested on many occasions and even shot in the leg when he tagged “in the wrong neighborhood,” he said.

Third Rail has grown 300% in sales since it opened in 1990, not long after Conart, Gravao said. He has one retail clothing store, Crazy Life, and is about to open a second in Hollywood. He said his focus has shifted from graffiti to various other clothing designs, targeted at surfers, skateboarders and snowboard enthusiasts.

Conart, he said, is one of the survivors in the graffiti-clothing business, benefiting when many imitators fell by the wayside. Today it sells to 470 accounts at specialty stores across the United States and as far away as Japan, where graffiti designs have become very popular.

“In Japan they’re not doing Japanese letters, they’re doing American letter schemes,” Hudson said.

Conart does half of its business there, where its designs are sold out soon after they are sent out, he said. He has even heard of bootleg Conart T-shirts being sold around Tokyo.

“(Graffiti) has become a big thing now with rap. . . . In one week everything (in stores) is sold out,” said Ken Kitakaze, who has coordinated Conart’s distribution to at least 50 stores throughout Japan for the last four years.

Conart is “the original maker of the graffiti street-style T-shirt,” said Paul Takahashi, a buyer for Extra-Large, whose clothing stores in Hollywood and New York were among the first to carry Conart’s designs. The market was saturated with imitators as soon as Conart’s designs hit stores, he said.

“We carry Conart because we try to keep the more original stuff.”

Irma Zandl, president of Zandl Group, New York marketing-trend consultants, said that recently clothing targeted to young adults has been dull. In the clothing industry the time is right for visually exciting pieces, like the ones graffiti artists design, she said.

The T-shirt designs are colorful and mesmerizing, but at the same time they often touch on social issues—and take a controversial point of view.

One of Conart’s depicts a Ku Klux Klan member holding his infant son, who is also dressed in the white garb of the organization. At the bottom it says: “Future Police Officer.” Another shirt is a caricature of two black men, one holding a gun and the other waving a flag that says: “No Justice No Peace.”

Hudson, an African American whose dreadlocks dangle to his chest, didn’t expect any of this success. Big business snuck up on him and his “conartists,” as he calls them. It snowballed when he began selling graffiti designed T-shirts in front of high schools at age 16.

“(Conart) was a hobby turned business,” he said. “I saw the connection of putting the imagery on clothing.”

Dammit, internet. You’re supposed to keep me updated on everything that happens, yet the launch of Foot Locker’s Europe-only (allegedly) rollout of Nike Huarache LEs wasn’t brought to my attention until they were all over eBay. The Huarache is the shoe that changed everything back in the early 1990s (you don’t see kids embracing modern silhouettes any more on these shores), then had a second wave in the early 2000s at road level again alongside a swathe of monotone Huarache Trainers too. Apparently these Black and Tour Yellow 2012 reissues are just the start of a summer-long rollout. I can’t get down with this shoe when it’s sat on a Free 5.0 sole and while I’d prefer some mesh in that toe box rather than Durabuck type fabric, these are pretty banging.

If supplies had been more plentiful (thank you Tan for the hookup), I think the streets would have been flooded with them once again. Instead it felt like the Foot Locker Limited Edition hangtag days of old. I’d like to think that it was a connoisseur backlash to the Free editions that led to the re-release, but I think ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and Wiz Khalifa are the entities that got these signed off. Still, in an era where every element of sports footwear is previewed, given closer looks and even the opening of a box is broadcast, that a release like these could come and go in relative silence is kind of odd.

Drop 3 of Our Legacy’s Splash collection appears online tomorrow. Serious looks, animal print Cosmo Kramer style shirts and Riri zippered designs with constellations printed on them? As I’ve mentioned before, this brand is untouchable at the moment. Defining the rollover basics at ‘Rollover’? Good move. The Oi Polloi exclusives, contrast armed Great Sweats, tracksuit bottoms that bring a refined edge to the uniform of the unemployed and pretty much everything they make appeals to me without being mired in the beige pixel world that so many other upstart menswear lines are. Tres Bien also still have the best blog of any store, bar maybe the Hundreds.


We’re not grooving on the same vibes any more. We’re grooving on different vibes…ugly vibes.

Magazine editors can be a real disappointment. You want intensity – wild-eyed maniacs hurling submissions into the air in a rage, phlegm flying in the faces of critics taking potshots at the publication, interns beaten to a pulp for ballsing up the coffee run and artists ordered out the premises with fists raised. The reality is duller. Most of them are normal people – too normal in fact to inject their own personality across the pages. As everyone decides that they can create a readable rag on the regular despite rudimentary writing skills and life experience in regards to the lofty subject matters faked via Google, editors will become even more tiresome.

The first time I ever paid attention to the running of a magazine was back when I was left alone one in front of the idiot box twenty years ago, back when terrestrial TV scheduling was significantly better post-11pm. Not only was I faintly disturbed but impressed by the underrated and deeply eerie ‘Little Girl That Lives Down The Lane,’ but I got to see Penelope Spheeris’s ‘The Decline Of Western Civilization’ parts one and two over two consecutive nights on BBC2. That’s where I was introduced to the genius of Claude Bessy, whose wild-eyed rants, rockabilly dress-sense and out-and-out intensity as one of the main characters behind ‘Slash’ gave me the notion that being an editor could be an occupation worth pursuing, seeing as my wonky-handed illustrations were gradually deading my dreams of being the next Frank Miller.

Best of all, Claude would loathe this blog entry. He appeared to hate mediocrity and sycophancy, and was deeply critical of the music industry, and notion of a ‘new wave’ – payola, ad-money and all that other profitable stuff mixed with a lack of any in-depth know-how means that most of y’all bloggers aren’t saying a damned thing, and magazines are wall-to-wall advertorial. That wasn’t the Bessy way.

As an exported luminary of the L.A. punk scene in the late ’70s, Claude’s legendary ad-libbed rant tops the most memorable quotes from my other favourite documentaries like ‘Salesman,’ ‘The Animals Film,’ ‘DOA,’ and ‘Style Wars’ –

I have excellent news for the world. There is no such thing as new wave. It does not exist. It’s a figment of a lame cunt’s imagination. There was never any such thing as new wave. It was the polite thing to say when you were trying to explain you were not into the boring old rock ‘n’ roll but you didn’t dare to say punk because you were afraid to get kicked out of the fucking party and they wouldn’t give you coke anymore. There’s new music, there’s new underground sound, there’s noise, there’s punk, there’s power pop, there’s ska, there’s rockabilly. But new wave doesn’t mean shit.

The bile, the turn-of-phrase and the sincerity blew me away then, and it still resonates today, applicable to any fly-by-night movement, and the inevitable mass exodus to be down with it. The best part of it is, he really, really meant it. Brendan Mullen, LA punk promoter and friend of Bessy’s passed away last October, ten years to the month since Bessy died of lung cancer, but after Bessy passed, in his eulogy he wrote,

No one was sacred from his barbed wit, not even myself (and I liked to think of him as my favorite drinking crony), and certainly not the major record companies, who’d frequently find their full-page ads adjacent to an editorial review mercilessly trashing the record.”

That’s the spirit we still need. Relocating himself from Normandy to Los Angeles, Claude founded ‘Angeleno Dread’ – the county’s first reggae fanzine.That explains his choice to give himself the nom de plume, ‘Kickboy Face’ after Prince Jazzbo’s on wax attack on I-Roy; ‘Kick Boy Face,’ complete with a particularly bombastic face to foot interface on the record sleeve. Just in case that seemed too standard a career path, he also had a brief foray in acting, playing musician ‘Frenchie’ as ‘Claude Bessey’ in a 1977 Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew ‘…Meet Dracula’ crossover special. Yep, that is ‘Phantom Of The Paradise’s Paul Williams camping it up there – Claude is behind him, and that’s teen sensation Shaun Cassidy on the right. Elton’s boy Bernie Taupin is just out of shot. It’s a televisual oddity.

Entering the fray at ‘Slash’ he was a truly inspirational writer, unleashing elegant but brutal polemic like Rimbaud in a Seditionaries suit, lambasting the fly-by-night fakes and bullshit, and championing the Germs and X. The preoccupation with Lester Bangs is certainly justifiable, but while Bangs gets an affectionate portrayal in Cameron Crowe’s ‘Almost Famous,’ a dramatised depiction of Kickboy in the middling Darby Crash biopic ‘What We Do Is Secret’ is more of a sweary caricature. Both scribes are linked by a vitriol that’s the byproduct of the frequently disappointing quest to find the curious romanticism at the core of don’t-give-a-fuck rock’n’roll attitude. Finding true outlaw spirit is like hunting dodos, so you can allow the writer his frequent typewriter vents.

And then there was Kickboy. Slash’s main writer was originally from France; he had the deep, melodic tone of his countrymen, a lopsided grin, and eyes that found humor in the most mundane of things. There was also a grizzled quality to his face…one that spoke of long nights spent with friends, debating the ironies and paradoxes of life. Kickboy clearly did not suffer fools well, so it’s likely that the waves of hero-worship wafting across the waiting room in his direction just irritated the hell out of him.” Aimee Cooper ‘Coloring Outside The Lines: A Memoir’

Kickboy fronted his own band, Catholic Discipline, who, despite ‘Slash’ ultimately founding its own record label post-paper (bear in mind the magazine only lasted from 1977-1980) that once housed Faith No More, never made it to wax. In 2004, a CD of compiled live recordings was released. Showcased in ‘The Decline…’ they’re actually pretty good. Disgusted by Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, Bessy left America and moved to the UK where he took a role at Rough Trade as a minister of propaganda, penning press releases. Inevitably he also crossed paths with the Factory crew and worked making scratch videos for the Hacienda and appearing underground in FACT 125 – a 1984 VHS giveaway, and the ‘TV Wipeout’ tape of the same year, repping for IKON – Factory’s US-based video division. He evidently had an instinct for tracking the zeitgeist. What went down with Rough Trade remains a mystery, but he’s the voice on Sonic Youth’s ‘C.B’ on ‘Walls Have Ears’ where he’s recorded introducing the band before a show on the 30th October 1985 with a lengthy rant condemning the label for attempting to censor the cover of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ which has a collaboration with Lydia Lunch, who also worked with Bessy in 1989.

I’m the emcee, um… so I’m supposed to be saying “let’s hear it for Sonic Youth, all the way from the states”. Except uh… actually I’d like about two minutes of your attention. Shut your fucking face, I want just two minutes of your attention, I have a very interesting little story to tell you. Two minutes, not very long, right? And it’s a… it’s a very instructive little story. Um… Sonic Youth, um, are a band.. shh shh shh… Uh, they’re about to put out a record in this country except their record company has decided to put a no-no on the record. Because of, uh… the cover which is offending some people at Rough Trade. And now, it’s not.. I mean it’s not very offensive cover, it’s uh, it’s got a naked lady, a naked Puerto Rican lady, it’s not very obscene, she’s not doing anything weird. Uh… it has nothing to do with.. you know, in this day of AIDS, an uh.. and all that shit, uh, you would think the major alternative record company would have better things to do than worry about the shape of our bodies. So, I thought I’d let you know, uh, so… um… next time you go and buy a record, and you think you’re really alternative and groovy, and uh, everybody is in… is into the alternative charts, remember it’s just like the other side except it’s a bit, a bit stranger, you know… but just remember, it’s not uh… there’s no fucking culture there, you know. There’s just as much censorship among people our age, or you know.. than anyone else.

It figures that he’d continue his work within the video medium with one William Burroughs – the beat influence was all over his work in the most positive way – taking the root cause and making his own mark across a number of disciplines rather than becoming mired in clone bohemian-lite pretension. Still, the nomadic spirit continued and England in 1987, at its yuppie peak must’ve been as repellent as Ronnie’s new world order at the turn of the decade, so he left for Spain, where his life ended twelve years later at his home in Barcelona. The role of Gitane puffing, louche bar philosopher might be a hefty Gallic stereotype (shit, I even assumed the cigarette brand on account of Claude’s nationality) but it’s a beautiful one.

“First we had no intention of sneaking out of the back door like adulterers in the night, we’re not done with the incomprehensible propaganda yet and there was such an overload of information to lay on your frail intellects, such a gorgeous display of terminal confusion and unexplained phenomena to report and inflict on your village sensibilities as well as much local cliquey foulness to deposit on your elegant rug and offend your world-conscious sophistication (we welcome all types – even the proxy thrill seekers who go slumming thru our X-rated binges), there was so much to give and share and communicate (oh what a sense of duty) that even Jah Jah the old tea head himself couldn’t have stopped this cultural apotheosis. A man with a mission delivers the goods, and when many are involved and they all come thru (take a bow boys and girls) watch out, timber, the impact might kill you. Potent stuff everywhere, droogies, a panoramic scope without equal even if it occasionally blurs out, stunning absence of manifestos and editorial unity (meaning respect in the reader and a stand still at the office), obscure beliefs exhumed from the tomb, cover symbolism (Indian land and punk music meet with…) that doubles as a fashion exclusive. No one asked for it but we can’t resist showing off, there was more but you can only take so much of a good thing. And you ought to know when to stop. Like now?” Kickboy Face editorial in ‘Slash’ Vol. 3, No. 5 (The final issue)

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