There’s mileage in using the cult of personality to turn yourself into a brand. That means you have to be cautious about what you say, how you say it and foot in mouth disease. The benefits are a face to match the words in an anonymous digital world and — at least the facade — of integrity. Some of my friends are very good at self-branding. They’re not on Twitter effing and blinding. They interact with their audience and they quietly act as their own brand managers behind-the-scenes. Then there’s idiots like me. 2000 word rants that carry a certain whiff of hypocrisy, slow email responses, little emphasis on design beyond off-the-shelf fonts and layouts, plus plenty of c-words via social media. Oh, and a certain camera shyness. That leaves me in a rut of my own making. Every one of my favourite CDs has masterful brand management at the core — now musical brand management might be more focused on supply and demand, instigating the fever around that MP3 leak, deciding who hosts the free album and how the titles on the vlogging look, but that need to maintain an image is paramount. I’m late to the party on two books that focus on band branding — Dennis Morris’s PiL image retrospective ‘A BItta PiL’ (put together to coincide with last year’s exhibition of Morris’s work and Nile Rodgers’s (thank you to Deano from Real Gold for the recommendation) autobiography, ‘Le Freak.’
The clinical look of PiL’s early work was a deliberate riposte to the cut and paste Pistols era as well as a parody of the music industry, but it Public Image Ltd. also gave the group free rein (go check YouTube and witness John Lydon in a Junya-esque check blazer responding blankly to Tom Snyder with, “We ain’t no band — we’re a company…”) for a revolving door of musicians to come and go. Nile Rodgers discusses an epiphany on seeing Roxy Music’s (Lydon is a Roxy fan too) presentation and creating the Chic Organization Ltd. with Bernard Edwards that would allow for fonts and females to cover the visuals while they concentrated on the sonic side. Speaking to John Lydon in 2010, the character that came wading in was John in confrontational postcard punk mode, but on being quizzed about his PiL era attire — deliberate and part of the PiL branding strategy (check the book cover for a surprisingly sharp frontman) — he wasn’t happy that his rag doll reputation from his pre-PiL work still remained, but he was happy to talk about PiL’s branding, about he was inspired by the ICI logo, but getting angry when I asked if Terry Jones of i-D was involved in the logo’s inception. I wanted more of that information from him rather than the rehearsed sermons, but he was fun company nonetheless.
Nile’s story is even more staggering than the one told in Lydon’s ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs,’ and while both spent periods in hospital — Rodgers through asthma and Lydon through polio — Nile’s tales of beatnik negligence, rapist hitmen, Warhol encounters and his family’s astonishing liberalism with narcotics are a good reason to invest alone and he’s an engagingly candid narrator. It’s curious that Rodgers is so lucid for 200 or so pages before the final 50 pages cram in his brief death in an elevator, getting clean, Bernard’s actual death and 9/11, all of which could have justified another volume. Perhaps his cancer diagnosis (touchingly — and casually — discussed at the book’s close) meant that his attention was elsewhere. Still, few have had a life like Nile Rodgers and even fewer made it into the 00’s — thankfully he fought his illness and won. On his blog he mentioned that John Landis sent him the ‘Sexual Chocolate’ poster from ‘Coming to America’ (which apparently had a working title of ‘The Zamunda Project) as a Christmas present. There’s still lessons to be learnt in self-branding from both Public Image Ltd. and the Chic Organization Ltd. even if both corporations’ fanbases ultimately waned.
Offering some white blizzard detailing that doesn’t quite match Niles’s prodigious consumption but still manages to fire my imagination, White Mountaineering’s Pertex Digital Camo Middle Down Jacket is the outerwear object of my affections this week. Looking like something from ‘GI Joe,’ this design’s the peak of the digital camo fixation from this season. In other hands, camo can get a little too dog-on-a-string/Rodney Trotter opening titles, but that hood detailing and the way Yosuke Aizawa manages to merge real-deal performance and a love of fabrics and patterning is always on point. That dense, detailed pattern could be effective in blending in with Britain’s slushy streets over the coming months, looking better than USMC Digital Snow Camo or Pencott Snowdrift Camo. I’m interested in Pertex’s extra breathable properties and supposed resilience when it comes to rips over my beloved GORE-TEX. This jacket is at Oki-Ni right now if you’ve got the money quietly burning a hole in your chinos.
Another master of visual disguise is my comic book hero Bernie Wrightson. Bernie inspired me to draw as a kid. It was a shame I was shit. So I gave up. But looking at each panel in his 70’s work for ‘Creepy’ and the amount of hidden depth and genuinely freakish imagery is startling. His work with the likes of Bruce Jones made me sleep with the hall lights on as a kid. That mixture of the gothic tradition and a style that’s unmistakably Wrightson means short stories like ‘Jenifer’ still scare me. If you make a tit of yourself in public over dreck like ‘Paranormal Activity’ then I’m not sure if ‘Creepy’ would have any power over you, but the ‘Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson’ compendium is a bargain. Some stories in it are merely inked by Wrightson, but ‘The Pepper Lake Monster’ alone makes it necessary if you’re even vaguely interested in art, design or the faintly nightmarish. I was glad to see that the Warren comics obviously had an effect on the Stussy team last year, resulting in their ‘Creepy’ collaboration that was one of the standouts in a year when BAPE and Stussy went partner project crazy.