When it’s announced that a figure with a famed history is getting a biopic, it of course feels a. inevitable, b. secretly kinda exciting insomuch as it prompts internal dream-casting brainstorms, and also prompts the often very unmet hope that perhaps this could be one of those biopic that doesn’t suck, and c. mildly skepticism-inducing in that it probably won’t entirely un-suck. But there’s always that category of hope to keep us writing these announcements, apparently!
The latest such announcement is a biopic about German musician/model/personality /Warhol/Velvet Underground collaborator, Nico.
The dream-casting bit of this process is going to be cut short in the next sentence, as the star of this biopic has already been cast. Nico will, per Variety, be played by Danish actress/musician Trine Dyrholm (she’ll also perform her songs in the film), who won the Silver Bear for her role in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. According to Pitchfork, the film will focus heavily on performance, and the film’s director, Susanna Nicchiarelli, said they’ll “tell us more than any other dialogue or situation in the film.”
Many makers of biopics seem to have realized, thankfully, that the best formula for making one such film (supposedly done with immense success in two upcoming Pablo Larraín films — Jackie and Neruda) is not to try to capture the person’s entire life in one film, but rather to focus on a moment or particular period. (Such has increasingly been the trend, and the genre happens to be improving because of it.) This film, titled Nico, 1988, will, as it titularly states, do the same, focusing on the last year of her life (she died in July of that year after suffering a heart attack during a biking accident.) Apparently, Nico, 1988 will actually begin in 1987 as she embarks on a solo tour — with her son going around Europe with her — and attempts to get off heroin.
Nicchiarelli said in a statement:
Most people think, as Andy Warhol once said, that after her experience with Velvet Underground and the Factory —and after having had sex with most of the rock stars of those years — Nico simply ‘became a fat junkie’ and disappeared. But is this how her life really went?
Nicchiarelli wrote the screenplay based on interviews with Nico’s son, Ari, and her manager from the time.
“My art is a fabrication of reality – the way I see it in my mind. Music, culture, childhood memories, and the people in the environment that surrounds me influence it. When I pass by strangers or a situation taking place, my mind begins to create stories about them – imagining their lives, the triumphs, the tragedies, and the happiness or sadness they experience – which becomes the inspiration for my artwork. But, there is truth in my art. It comes from the way I am feeling at the time I am constructing a painting, and it is the feeling I am trying to convey.” –Young Chun
This piece was literally dictated to me in one to two hours. I don’t think I changed a word of the original text. It was not easy to get it published in 1979. All the magazine editors were frightened that it would raise the ire of the feminists. Although the girls who inspired this piece were among the strongest women I’ve ever known. Finally a bright editor at High Times, Bob Singer, chopped of the first five pages which made the piece more direct and easier to understand. High Times published its as cover story in May 1982, the same month the book I wrote with Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, ‘‘Making Tracks:The Rise of Blondie” was published.
I did not know Negative Girls had also been published in an underground magazine in London called The Fred, but when I had previously submitted it to a small magazine being edited by Richard Hell he told me he had read it there. I had sent it to them a year earlier but never received a reply. I liked the magazine, edited by Bryan Maloney and Colin Charles, so much I published another related piece, ”Memoirs of A Modern Slave Girl”, in a later issue.
Actually now I’m recalling Negative Girl’s history I remember my fellow writer Legs McNeil, who had a relationship with German Playboy’s New York Rep, Monica Kind, told me they would publish it if we re-wrote it down to make it easier to understand! I actually have the manuscript of this re-write. It was published in German Playboy as ”Minus Mädchen” in 1981. The High Times piece broke it open though and next thing I knew one of William Burroughs French critics and translators, Philippe Mikriamos, published it in French in Metal Hurlant, (Heavy Metal) in 1983. This translation was then republished in two issues of an underground magazine in New York edited by Ann Hemenway. I think it was the prettiest translation. Then in 2009, Mark Kostabi asked me to write a text for a book of his paintings called ”The Only Ones” . The text was much too literal. I really liked these romantic paintings and tried to literally describe them, which did not work so well, but sometimes when you’ve written something you cannot change it. So I added Negative Girl, which was a much better text. Mark appreciated it, telling me it reminded him ofhis own feelings. ”The Only Ones” was published in a bilingual edition in English and Italian. It was most recently published as a cover story in Night Italia 2013. Negative Girls is currently being published in a book by Robert Carrithers in Prague.
Writing Negative Girl was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I made a serious effort to turn it into a book in 1982 and on several other occasions. Oh, I forgot, after High Times published the piece I received a call from an agent at the William Morris agency, the most powerful agency in America. They wanted me to turn it into a Broadway Musical. They had everyone they needed to put on the show, directors, stars etc. I told them I would think about it. But by the time I lost my desire to complete the book, when the girl who inspired it told me she was getting married, I remembered talking to Viva, then at the height of her powers after publishing ”Superstar” and a fabulous book called ”The Baby”. She was telling me how she was making headway on her third book (”The Lover”?) when Knopf asked her to go on tour with ”The Baby” and how she never made it back to her book and never published again. I suddenly realized I was on my path and could not veer off it. It was the path that lead me to”Uptight: The Velvet Underground Story” and ”Warhol: The Biography”. Of course I think Negative Girls would have been a huge hit on Broadway and I often wake up in the middle of the night singing one of its songs. Negative Girls is a timeless piece of prose. Just as there will always be Bad Boys there will always be….
By Victor Bockris Mudd’s Club Girl’s Room 4-6 AM Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 22, 1979
The live of American girls terrify me. I cannot look.
BOYS TELL LIES, GIRLS TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS
Girls are climbing all over the living room furniture, and crawling out of my hair, girls are using my eyes, girls are slipping my checkbook into their handbags, girls can’t stop talking. Allergic girls. Detergent girls. Floating girls. Stolen girls. Girls and death. Girls defeated by hammers. The girls department. Girls and money. Girls for sale. Legendary girls. Insect girls, Inspect girls. Inject girls. Girls in the supermarket. Backstreet girls. Singing girls. Driving girls. Let me go girls. Walking girls running girls standing still girls. Hot and cold girls. Hot and cold running girls.
Cunts tits feet faces hair. Electric girls. Nominated girls. Financed girls. Jungle girls at the Mudd Club. Diamond girls at the Pierre. Cunts with shields and cunts with spears. Spy girls. All the same girls. All the time girls. Finished girls. Girls in the war. Girls on tour. Girls in the mens room. Inquisitive girls. Intuitive girls. Exquisite girls. Girls who live in the crotch of metropolitan life to illustrate what it’s like to be a girl in America today. Negative girls who say, “We are second class citizens!” White girls who want to be black, they demand to be recognized as dogs at war. They learn to say,
–“I had to be a prostitute!”
–“I had to do it! He would have killed me!”
–“He shot me in the chest from four feet and then spent half an hour cleaning up the apartment before he even called an ambulance. The cop thought I was going to die and held my hand all the way to the hospital.”
Negative girls are mirrors. They are seeking for the proof of their visions every day in every activity. They take photographs of boys telling lies then show them the photographs of their lies revealing the false structure of our sexual code, which negative girls aim to break.Most girls who get thrown down stairs, beaten up, raped, left, used, abused, slutted, whored, wined and dined close up like foul black flowers and become ugly dishwashers, but negative girls never fall in love, they rise in hate. They take their pain to the public. They exorcise disappointment with its photograph. They celebrate another moon. They chase gaiety and emerge purged. A negative girl only has bad news. A negative girl only tells bad stories. She likes to tell stories about every bad person she ever knew, and if you try to cheer her up by telling her something good she’ll turn down her mouth and say it didn’t happen to her. But most of all she likes to tell bad stories about herself.
-“Did you stuff blueberries up my cunt last nigh? I thought so! I told you not to! Now I have a swollen cunt. I hate cunts. I wish I didn’t have one. All it does is get me into a lot of trouble.” -“Well… I think you have a very nice…” -“Oh stop it! I don’t care what you think. I’m going to have my cunt sewn up!”
Negative girls know that the male’s primary impulse is to insert himself as far into the female’s body as he can possibly go and they don’t care. Negative girls pretend to be forced to have sex because it proves how negative it is, how negative you feel about them, and how negative their lives are.
-“Well you fucked me last night so you’re not going to fuck me again this morning. You’re not going to fuck me in the ass. It hurts too much! I’ve tried. You can jerk off into my mouth.” -“When did you last come?”
-“Ten years ago. What happened last night?”
-“Well I was fucking you, I was fucking you for a long time and…”
-“I don’t remember anything.”
-“Then you came.”
-“I NEVER COME WITH YOU! I’m sorry, but…”
-“Oh no, it’s okay. It’s okay. No, I know, but anyway you seemed to have a good time.”
-“Well, I don’t know.”
Negative girls are very annoyed if you suggest they enjoyed themselves too much. Negative girls are distinctly unhappy if asked by their partners to adopt a superior position during coitus. Little girl who really need help, vulnerability is their strongest suit. It always hurts negative girls when you fuck them. “Ouch ouch, you’re hurting me. Stop. Oh My God.” Negative girls are embarrassed about sex and don’t like to talk about it. If you start being passionate she will scream out, “I’m very drunk! I just want to get raped and fucked! Just fuck me! Rape me! Oh God rape me!” and expect you to rip her clothes off and fuck her like a savage from the realms of Tarzan’s imagination.Lawyers, book keepers and priests everywhere tell me there are a lot of normal reasonable girls around capable of leading a straightforward adult life, getting married, settling down and raising a family. I’ve never seen any and I don’t believe it.
Every girl I meet is just as crazy and remarkable as the one before her. It’s always bad with their wheedling and whining and little girls cries: “Sally wants presents. Sally wants ten presents. Sally wants more presents. How many presents does Daddy have for Sally?”
WARNINGS ABOUT NEGATIVE GIRLS
You take a negative girl out on the town everywhere in a limousine and keep giving her cocaine, you take her to exotic private dinner parties, then you ask her if she had a good time and she says it was okay, before going uptown to turn a trick for fifty dollars – just to make sure you understand how much she needs you and how much she wants your attention. A lot of attention. All of it. A night with a negative girl is fraught with danger and can be a nightmare. At any moment she may turn its tide, leaving you washed up on the alcoholic shores of morning. Flapping off of grey rocks you wake to find yourself fully dressed alone, a cigarette between your teeth, a pork pie hat stuck on your head.
A negative girl will never stay in one place for very long. A negative girl gets bored easily and if you aren’t running around with a feather stuffed up your ass or dressed in a chicken suit, or if you haven’t got any more funny stories to tell her or famous people to introduce her to, a negative girl will run off screaming “WHERE’S THE PARTY!?!” Negative girls are not interested in newspapers or politics. Negative girls do not like to think, although you have your substrata of intellectual negatives, really bitter bitches with whiplash tongues, regal snatches up on the higher floors who make men kill to fuck, snapping turtle cunts in Jaguar’s, all whoring for power.
Be very careful who you introduce a negative girl to because she will always collect any famous phone numbers lying around and then call up the famous person and say you told her to call. Negative girls will use your name and connections indiscriminately, but if you ever try and elicit a favor from a negative girl – an introduction, a place to stay, an invitation – she will recoil in horror and assume a superior, removed position.
It has been asked: are negative girls aliens? Negative girls were certainly given different orders.
FROM KNICKERS AND KNEE SOCKS TO SWITCHBLADES AND STILETTOS: HOW BAD GIRLS UNDRESS:
Negative girls don’t have many clothes because they spend a lot of time in bed, mostly just sleeping it off, although they do have to perform or else they wouldn’t be allowed to stick around. What they wear is remarkably uniform, depending upon the image the individual chooses to employ. When dressing, negative girls concentrate on what will be immediately recognizable to negative boys, except in the few cases where the girl doesn’t have to bother what she wears she’ll get fucked.
The majority of negative girls wear black. If they wear dresses the skirts are short over black stockings or knee socks, white cotton underpants are de rigeur, high heels (to push their asses out) bras (to push their tits out) and black leather jackets. If they wear pants the pants are black the boots are black the jacket’s black. The underwear may also be black. Some negative girls throw in a few colors, wear red shoes or pink feather boas and carry yellow plastic handbags, but only on the weekend or if they’re temporarily acting in a recording company office. Negative girls are too serious to get that fanciful about their outfits. A seminal costume for the negative girl is the Catholic School Girl dress. Variations run through most schoolgirl uniforms from China to Paraguay. An alternative is the little boy’s sharkskin suit worn over black high heel boots and under short spiky hair. Add tear gas gun and – Hey presto! You’re a negative girl!
Where do negative girls get their clothes? “We shop in other people’s closets!” A negative girl rushes into an apartment and heads straight for the closet to see if there’s anything she could wear you might lend her for the night. A negative girl will never return anything she borrowed and if you ever leave anything in a negative girl’s bed it will get lost before you remember where it is. I have lost a number of small items this way. Watches, drugs, credit cards.… Negative girls are jackdaws, but even the ones with the biggest noses and worst acne are always pretty because they dress up in ballerina clothes and wear black gauze masks and spangles around their ankles. Negative girls are confectionary. Their cunts taste like candy.
NEGATIVE GIRLS AND DRUGS
Negative girls are great in bed if they’re not too sick, but they’re sick a lot. Some negative girls are always sick because they never eat anything and take as many drugs as they can. But negative girls are quite particular about what kind of drugs they will take, and most of them abhor marijuana. Boys who smoke marijuana around negative girls always catch a lot of flak-
-“What a pothead!”
-“That stuff stinks!”
-“Oh God! More marijuana again…”
– because it makes them paranoid and paranoia is the last thing a negative girl can afford to have added to her afflictions.
Negative girls like speed and their mouths are always falling out. A lot of negative girls have to take quaaludes in order to get fucked because they’re too tense otherwise. They say all girls like to get smacked and negative girls concur, liking smack better than anything else. You can pretend heroin doesn’t exist, or only underworld stooges of the lowest order use it, but negative girls shout, “We’re going to get some smack as soon as we get to London! Don’t be a boring moralist about it!” While sociologists pout, “Many young girls who fear the permanent side effects of drug addiction accept bizarre sexual experiences in the belief that they are the lesser of two evils.” What sleazy liars they are!
A boy walks through a crowd of beautiful girls wearing a black bandage across his eyes. A negative boy walks through a crowd of beautiful girls he cannot see. He covers his eyes with a black gloved hand. The wind blows a boy in a black hat and coat over, a car veers around the corner, the streetlights go out. Two priests pull up in a limousine. A negative boy goes into another world he has the pictures of. A negative girl screams: “THAT ISN’T WHAT HAPPENED! WE WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE BIT WHERE HE TOOK HIS PANTS OFF!”
Negative girls only like negative boys and negative boys hate their girlfriends, so negative girls are always close to the flame of hate. This keeps them awake. Negative girls want to have sex with negative boys because negative boys match the desired sequence of pictures negative girls have superimposed on their sex screens. The negative girl sees the negative boy walking across the room, she appreciates his skinny ass his skinny legs his skinny head his skinny brain his skinny veins – all withered up and dried away, which is why he’s off the stuff for a while. They flip for his tight skinny mouth and his giant animal like member protruding from his pants like a rolling pin. How many times have I had to listen to negative girls describe their boyfriends’ cocks with the guy nodding out right next to them? I always think the guy is going to be embarrassed when his girlfriend says, “You can’t help the way nature made you honey, you have a beautiful cock,” but he just pops another quarter in the pinball machine.
Negative boys say, “Going to bed is really giving up. We never go to bed until we pass out. All imagination of the future is wrong and I am in a precarious position flying over unknown territory without control of my plane, so don’t bother me.”
How do negative girls deal with negative boys? Most negative girls are frigid. They can usually cover it up pretty well with their acting experience, but most negative boys are impotent, even after reading textbooks on the physiology of erections and this creates a problem. She tries to jump on top of him wearing a red knee socks and a tee shirt that says FETISH or ROCK AND ROLL HIGH SCHOOL on it, but he can only jerk off to her voice over the telephone. A negative girl will never masturbate her boyfriend.
-“Could I just ask you a favour that’ll only take two minutes. Would you just jerk me off?”
-“There’s nothing wrong with asking as long as you don’t try and force someone!”
-“There’s nothing worse than asking.” She is embarrassed if you mention masturbation.
-“Getting caught masturbating would more embarrassing than getting caught turning a trick,” a negative girl told me over a lunch which she ordered, stirred around and disdained at Mortimer’s. It is unwise to take a negative girl to a restaurant. She’ll make sure it’s expensive, then keep the waiter standing around while she bites her nails and asks what everything looks like. When it comes you realize why. She just likes to look at the food and push it around. (Unless she’s at DAVE’S LUNCHEONETTE, where she’ll eat everything on the plate and lick it.)
Negative girls communicate with their bodies as bait, but negative girls own their own bodies completely and can do whatever they want with them. The city is strewn with corpses of boys who thought they owned negative girls. Negative girls like to boast about how much they’ve been getting. They insist on their right to be debauched. Negative girls demand to get fucked. “I want to get fucked!” they scream at you over the telephone, and running into your apartment they hand you a rubber, wail “Wanna Fuck?” and dash into the bedroom. Negative girls demand control. Negative girls want to get excited. Negative girls like to seduce young boys. Negative girls like to be little girls and fuck famous old men. Negative girls like to fuck drummers, singers and guitar players. Negative girls look for cute boys wherever they go. Negative girls rip off straight men whenever they can. Negative girls have sex with giant insects. Negative girls are treated like garbage and they come. Negative girls are fulfilling comic book fantasies.
A negative girl would never think of getting married because she knows if she sits at home and watches television knitting and washing dishes and walking around the block with babies, she will become suicidally depressed, and her boyfriend will become incredibly bored with her ugly pan and will hardly ever want to see it, let alone touch her creepy flesh. Negative girls are smart. They keep moving.
Grab a negative girl by the wrist, fling her onto the carpet, drag her across the floor and throw her out the door into the corridor and she will threaten to sue and walk around with a bandaged wrist for a week, but all she really wants is an apology. Apart from photographs, negative girls like to collect confessions. They always make it seem like it’s you fault and they are very persuasive so you often end up apologizing to negative girls. This one girl was complaining about how her boyfriend wouldn’t even give her fifty cents to go uptown so she could be a model for Penthouse magazine and I said, “But he arranged for you to make two hundred dollars so that’s pretty nice of him,” and she goes, “Yeah, but because of that stupid jerk I met at Penthouse I went on the Scarsdale diet and consequently became a junkie and a whore again, so I don’t think arranging a photo session at Penthouse for me was really such a nice thing for him to do.” The same girl saw Quadrophenia three times and blamed its destructive influence on the boy who had given her his tickets. Intercourse is when she is “used” by her partners, pregnancy is when she is “ill” and childbirth is when she “gets better.”
Negative girls can be very violent very suddenly. The only way to handle this is to be equally violent. All negative boys have had to beat up negative girls. Zsa Zsa Gabor says, “I love it!” And most negative girls make a big thing out of getting beaten up. Bruises are beautiful
IS THERE ANYWAY TO TELL IF A NEGATIVE GIRL IS HOMICIDAL?
There you are. No. That’s what makes them so dangerous. Makes them change from being your friend into being your murderer in a second’s time. We all hate to a certain extent. You’d be surprised at the murderous daydreams that some sweet old lady is indulging in, but it’s only when hate is so damned up that it breaks out in murder. Imagine an infant enraged over some slight frustration like having a toy taken away. Then think of her with the strength and imagination of a negative girl. She would kill.
NEGATIVE GIRLS AND MONEY
SCIENTIST:”In order to maintain replacement fertility, financial incentives to encourage childbearing may eventually become necessary” NEGATIVE GIRL:”I’m a beautiful girl and I shouldn’t have to do that!”
Negative girls are irresponsible. They deny any demands. They don’t owe you anything. Try and find a negative girl on Thanksgiving Day. She shakes her fist at the sky and screams, “Thanks! Thanks a lot!” before running inside. Negative girls never have any money but they often “have some coming.” The mysterious source of their supply is not easy to discover. Negative girls spot friends in the morgue and identify them for newspapers, making an extra buck on the side. Sometimes their grandmothers back in Wyoming died and they got two thousand dollars, all of which they will immediately spend on shoes, airplane tickets and heroin. Some negative girls have families living somewhere else who occasionally send them money, like maybe there’s a baby in the background or they’re getting paid to stay away. Negative girls are brave because they always live alone. Alone she goes to the hospital in a cab to have her baby, paying with a jar full of change. Inside the hospital no one tells her anything. She screams, the brat is stuffed in an incubator.
Negative girls count their money and curse. They expect you to pay for everything and they expect it to be good or they will complain. A negative girl only reads the wine list to make sure the wine is expensive. She will not accept a house wine. She recommends prophylactics made from imported lambskin, ($6.98 for 3, but definitely don’t break.). If you ask her to pay for anything a negative girl will be insulted. If she does give you any money she will throw it at you, having taken fifteen minutes to extract it from her boot. If you expect her to pay again she will start to flirt with other men in the restaurant, or run uptown to turn a trick. Meaning rises out of what we don’t understand.
NEGATIVE GIRLS ON TELEVISION
Negative girls are nervous, irritable and excited. They cannot just sit staring at television, they have to get up and go out and do something. “OH GOD. WELL LET’S GO TO THE MUDD CLUB. FIRST ONE’S ON ME!” And all the girls run down the street for a drink.
Negative girls are much more interested in how horrible life is now than how terrible it was then, and this is, in my opinion, much to their credit. Did television come as voice-overs in your future? They rarely talk about the past. Of course you had a bad childhood, childhood is a bad time and people didn’t use to pretend they did until television put the alphabet in its grave.
Negative girls are appearing in increasing numbers on television. Look for these scenes: crying on the toilet. Beating up on their kids. Really pretty but always tight lipped. Must be the season of the witch. Sociologists say negative girl beating is widespread, but a negative girl always wants a negative boy to take care of her because she always has a lot of problems. It’s like a cop show on T.V.: a chick arrives with a problem. The policeman comes to her aid and helps her solve her problem. In the end, the chick is happy again. But then another chick arrives with another problem for another sucker. Negative girls spin out their mythological routines on television. Negative girls are Cleopatra. They want to live in electric times and quiver in the silver light of morning with the haunted duchesses of history where television is Shakespeare.
NEGATIVE GIRLS IN THE FUTURE
A negative girl will never be happy. A negative girl will never be satisfied. A negative girl will never be afraid to admit she is bored, tired, depressed, broke and has V.D. again. Every negative girl carries a camera in her cunt, a tape recorder in her head, a loudspeaker in her mouth and television in her eyes. Negative girls are agents. Sex with them is dangerous. They keep files. They hold conferences. A negative girl’s common complaint: I am a photograph fixed in the imagination of men. They are whatever they want to be. Negative girls don’t think about whether they’re happy or not. What a dumb thought.
A negative girl’s main ambition is to have fun, but in order to really have fun she is going to have to get a gun. I am putting forth a motion for all negative girls to be able to have licenses to carry effective handguns in their garter belts. They should all be allowed. Of course a lot of people would get shot but so what. If they want to mess around with negative girls that’s their prerogative. It’s par for the course to get smashed up by a negative girl. At some point she will do her best to bring you down crash. The trap in her magnet is honesty and pain. Sitting next to it you get hit.
A negative girl wears a shield on her wrist – her suicide scars: all negative girls have scars. All negative girls have abortions. There’s a little bit of whore in every negative girl. Sex is too dangerous. All negative girls have been raped and will admit it. But when you try and talk seriously to a negative girl about taking more precautions and not being out alone at 4 a.m. drunk and depressed she gets annoyed and says, “Well you make it sound like it was my fault.” A negative girl will not be intimidated. She appears in my room three times in the night crying, “I am dead. I am dead.”
A negative girl is a play. A negative girl is an abortion, a moment, a mirror, a mirage, a motor, a meat cleaver, a meathook. Negative girls are Queens of the Mudd, negative girls are bright and beautiful, negative girls walk grandly in regal splendor, negative girls always have a lot of cash in their voices, negative girls are demons and sorcerers and witches – messengers from a contorted night star. Negative girls rise like wraiths in a funnel of black silk over forests and disappear into fairylands forlorn. Negative girls go out of their bodies and have electric sex. Negative girls are all supposed to be good at pinball but this isn’t a magazine world. Negative girls read their schoolbooks and paint the cave walls and experiment with nitroglycerine. Negative girls are serious students learning the skills necessary to qualify They are invisible in your dreams.
I urge you to make a contact with them. They are the language. They will teach you how to fall over without hurting yourself and how to plan your itinerary with the doctors. Negative girls are the bottom line in girls. You cannot retreat or advance further. They are capable of blurring into the essence of adolescence and freezing in future frames.
Following my review of Andy Warhol’s biography by Victor Bockris, I was pleased to know that the author himself was kind enough to grant me an interview regarding the book itself as well as the recent deal that was made regarding the making of a biopic involving Jared Leto. The actor Jared Leto, the producer Michael De Luca and Terence Winter are teaming to tackle the life of Andy Warhol, the famed pop art artist whose blend of art and commerce made him a household name. Winter, the ”Boardwalk Empire” creator who wrote ”The Wolf of Wall Street”, will pen the screenplay, using the 1989 Victor Bockris book, ”Warhol: The Biography”, as a jumping-off point. Leto and De Luca jointly acquired the rights to the book, having had a desire to partner on a project for some time now and since it is now a done deal, I thought it was the perfect time for a little chat with the author of the well acclaimed biography which has been published in nine countries since 1989 and remains in print in several.
LAN: Do you remember how, where, why and under what circumstances Andy Warhol caught your attention for the first time?
Victor Bockris: Andy Warhol had a tongue in cheek “Retrospective” at the I.C.A. on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia in October 1965. (Tongue in cheek because he had only started showing paintings in 1962 and it usually takes much longer than three years to get a retrospective!)I had moved from my British boarding school Rugby to Central High School in Philadelphia in February, a week before Malcolm X was assassinated in New York. My transition from the one school to the other was fraught with the most extreme culture shock I had ever experienced in a life of shocks. During my first two months at Central I had a nervous breakdown, which I kept confined to the afternoons at home so nobody else knew about it. The trauma faded as soon as I started making friends amongst the cool kids who were all folkies. They were mad about Bob Dylan and took me to Convention Hall to see him on the early 65 tour he did with Joan Baez. My closet friend, Elliot Fratkin, invited me to go to the Warhol opening in early October.
As we approached the I.C.A that night walking across the lawn at the center of the campus I started seeing people standing around in small groups hugging each other and crying or lying on the ground like the victims of a nuclear attack in Peter Watkins famous film The War Games, which I had seen in the same place the previous week. As we got closer I could see and smell the aftermath of some hideous event such as a lynching or a riot.
I was right about the riot. Apparently when Warhol swept into the gallery with Edie Sedgwick, Girl of the Year and star of eight films Andy shot in six months, Gerard Malanga, superstar stud of the Factory, and Henry Geldzahler, curator of modern art at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the ecstatic crowd of students packed like penguins in the small space and spontaneously exploded in a riot that reminded Geldzahler of a Beatles concert. People were screaming and crying “Andy and Edie! Andy and Edie!” This was the moment at which Andy crossed over from being a famous artist to something more akin to a rock star, somebody who has transformed themselves from a person into a magician. Of course I was not there, but Andy Warhol’s essence hung in the air like the acrid smell of machine guns and wild horses.
LAN: What made you decide back then that Warhol was to be the subject of your next bio? Do you have similar reasons for the other biographies you wrote? Is there a link? How do you connect the dots (if any)?
Victor Bockris:I did not decide to write the Warhol biography. My agent, the young and ambitious Andrew Wylie just at the beginning of building his literary agency, suggested it in 1982. I was spending the summer writing ‘‘Negative Girls” into a book in Philadelphia. He called right after the girl who inspired the book phoned to tell me she was getting married, (to a rock star!) which drained all the desire and drive to finish Negative Girls out of my frenzied mind. We discussed the book for six weeks before I decided to take it on. There was much at stake, not in the least my friendship with Andy. I knew nothing about biography, which is a complex form one can only master by learning on the job like The Ramones did on stage. I decided to do it because Andy was the most mysterious figure in the vanguard of the American culture. Nobody knew anything about his childhood or the years before he became a pop artist. He was also a sitting duck for a writer who wanted to grab the attention of the country. Earlier that year Jean Stein had done just that with her bestselling book, “Edie” (Sedgwick). The most powerful part of that book was the long section about Edie’s relationship with Andy. According to Stein He was a verrrry bad man. His nickname at the Factory, Drella, summed up the impression. He was a monster, half Cinderella half Dracula. He never slept, he never ate, he drank blood. He wanted to be machine, he did not believe in love, and that was the tip of the iceberg. I had known Andy for almost ten years and I loved him the way you love a hero, like a comrade in a war. Believe me, stating your alliance to Andy Warhol could still ignite a bar fight in 1983 New York. He was still the most hated artist in America, but he was the most loved artist in France, Italy and Germany.
There are several links between all my books: I never wrote about anyone unless I knew them well enough to see how they got through the day; everyone I wrote about was a remarkable talker; everyone I wrote about played a role in the development of the Counterculture in New York in the 1970s. They were all living in William Burroughs Magic Universe.
As soon as I garnered good reviews for the Warhol biography I wanted to dash off and write my own biography. However my Dutch Uncle and mentor in biography, Albert Goldman, who published a masterpiece, ”Ladies and Gentlemen Lenny Bruce!” as well as first class biographies of Elvis and John Lennon, told me, “You’ve just mastered how to write a biography, don’t throw away what you’ve learned, do at least two more.” Keith Richards was a dream subject and ”Keith Richards: The Biography” was published right before the release of his first solo album. The book has been published in ten countries and stayed in print in the English language since it’s original publication in 1992. The third book in my trilogy of biographies, ”Transformer: The Lou Reed Story” was well received in the U.K. and U.S. in 1995 and did a lot to broaden his audience in the six countries in which it was published.
This biography obviously required an incredible amount of work. So many subjects, so many people! How did you manage to achieve such a complete story of his life without being drowned in archives of all sorts!? Did it require a different methodology than your other books??
Victor Bockris: It required a one hundred percent commitment for five years. At several stages I employed an editor to keep me on track. Writing a biography is quite different from writing the portraits I had previously published of Ali, Burroughs,Blondie and The Velvet Underground. Warhol was by far the hardest book I ever wrote, in fact it almost killed me. I have always been lucky with my timing. My first seven books were perfectly timed. Andy died two and a half years before the book was released. It was the first and remains the only real biography of Warhol. I started it by going to Pittsburgh with Keith Haring and meeting Andy’s oldest brother Paul Warhola, who was a lovely man and became a good friend who helped me out until the very end. Andy did not want me to write the book but he never told anybody not to talk to me. I think he realized that somebody was going to do it and he was in safer hands with me than with some hack who did not know him and would mess it up.
There are by the way two distinctly different versions of my biography. When Andy died in February 1987 my British editor, Paul Sidey, at Hutchinson (Random House UK) got in touch and played a strong role in helping me complete the book. This climaxed with an all expenses paid six-week visit to London during which I was given a full-time editor and copy editor. By the time Sidey gave me the retyped 721 page manuscript of ”Warhol: The Biography’‘ I was in heaven, because it had come out much as I originally envisioned it. The British were planning to publish in May 1989. This euphoria was short-lived. A week after I delivered it to my agent, word came back, or so I was told, from Warner Books that the manuscript was “unpublishable.” I never found out if this was actually true, but the long and short was Warner wanted a re-edit. At this point I was exhausted. I had given it everything I had. Finally Hutchinson published their version ”Warhol: The Biography” in May 89. It received wonderful reviews and was published in paperback by Penguin. Warner Books published their version, on which I worked for six weeks with an editor they had flown in from England, ”The Life and Death of Andy Warhol’‘, in October 1989. It was about one hundred pages shorter and much of the life had been cut out of it.
Whereas the U.K. edition did well and remains in print twenty-seven years later, the Warner edition was a fiasco. Although it was well reviewed it suffered very disappointing sales for the advance they had paid me. Today, the British edition is in print in the U.S. (with DaCapo) and in France and Poland. With the movie coming out in 2017 we are looking forward to seeing it in print in several other countries.
LAN:How do you perceive Warhol’s contribution to the literary world? I know you feel pretty strongly about a: A Novel…?
Victor Bockris: I think it’s a disgrace that Andy Warhol’s books have not been released in uniform paperback editions or in a complete twelve volume set. Starting in 1967 and continuing until after his death Andy published a series of between nine and twelve books. They are as vital to an understanding of his oeuvre as his paintings and films. There is much more interest in his writing in Europe than America. Language is the basis of all Warhol’s work. In his college years his confrontation with the American language distressed him so much it became the root of his artistic drive to portray America as a land of Deaths and Disasters. He is a conceptual artist. His first works like the Campbell’s Soup Can paintings and his first film Sleep were seen by few people, but their names became part of our culture. He published at least three classic books: ”a: A Novel;The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and The Andy Warhol Diaries.”His collected literary works are ignored by the Warhol Foundation because they do not make enough money to warrant even an investment of time. They appear uninterested in developing his literary reputation and have done nothing with the unpublished books in his archives. There appears to be nobody taking care of Andy Warhol’s literary works and nobody to defend the books against people who claim they wrote them. Andy Warhol’s writing is pure Warhol. I hope one day somebody will wake up to the fact that there is actually a goldmine yet to be discovered in the many unpublished volumes in the files of the Warhol Museum. Somebody should write a book called ”Andy Warhol: The Writer”, but they might have a problem getting permission to quote from his writing. There appears to be a determination to keep him down or out of print. I have published six essays about Andy’s writing in various sources, including the current DaCapo version of the Warhol biography.
LAN: You were obviously close to Warhol. What were the most valuable things you learned from him or about him?
Victor Bockris: The most valuable things I learned from Warhol: To grow my ambition higher; to realize works is the most important thing in my life; to simplify; to minimize and to recognize that most growth comes via connections to people who open doors to other people. To never let anybody take your work away from you. To collaborate. To do interviews without questions, to just let them happen. To connect to the power in yourself. To be a very tough businessman. To never lose your self-respect. To treat people well. To not get hung up on your problems. To discipline yourself to not waste your life on alcohol or hard drugs. To believe that you can transform yourself.
LAN:Do you feel you have resolved the enigma of Andy Warhol’s persona through this book?
Victor Bockris: Jared Leto told me my book was the only one who made him feel that he got Andy, got to know him and understood him. My original motivation for writing this book was to reveal Andy so that people could feel as if they knew him and liked him. So, yes I think I succeeded.
LAN: Do you feel that part of the enigma of Warhol persona is whether he was a psychopath or simply an oversensitive person who simply just couldn’t afford to deal with a heartbreak, betrayal or negative feelings of any sort?
Victor Bockris: This question is difficult for me to understand. Andy was not a psychopath in any way. That sounds like the kind of word somebody desperate to write something new about Warhol might come up with, but I can’t imagine anybody who knew Andy saying that. He was, much like William Burroughs, the opposite of his image. Andy was a supersensitive romantic who found it harder as he got older to be alone. He certainly denied his emotional distress, but there is no question that he became increasingly lonely as he got older. At the same time he was turning out an extraordinary stream of great paintings.There is something almost too poignant for words about his final works, The Last Supper paintings which regained the vitality of the Car Crash paintings. And the fact that when he died he had so much work to do but perhaps nobody to look forward to seeing. Nobody he could give his love to. He checked into the hospital under the name Bob Robert. In his last phone call to Vincent Fremont, Vice President of Andy Warhol Enterprises, he was full of energy and humor. Some people called him Superman some called him the Angel of Death. He was an otherworldly figure who gave us everything he had.
LAN: Do you feel Warhol’s works and ideas are still relevant today?
Victor Bockris: Much has been written about the Legacy of Andy Warhol. I think he will be relevant forever in the sense that Shakespeare is still relevant. I wrote his biography and it would be hard for anybody to write a new one because most of the sources on the first thirty years of his life are dead. However, I don’t think anybody has yet put together an understanding of the impact of his collected work, not in the least because nobody has recognized the importance of his writing in his oeuvre. A writer who could show us the overall influence of Warhol’s contribution, without being over influenced by the prices of his art, but saw the art the films and the writing as the triangular base of his huge body of work would be doing us a great service. Andy Warhol may be the greatest artist of the twentieth century because he harnessed the century’s theme of death. But we will not know until somebody emerges who isn’t frothing at the mouth about the money.
Andy’s brother Paul Warhola told me Andy never really changed. Sophisticated art dealers might scoff at that remark, but Paul is right. The Andy who drove his assistants mad by endlessly pushing them with his divine energy was the same Andy who as a child drove his brothers wild in the same way with his insistent, “What are ya gonna do now?”
LAN: How do you feel about your book becoming a biopic next year and Jared Leto with his very talented friends being so enthusiastic about co-producing it and playing Warhol himself?
Victor Bockris: I have seen several opportunities to make the book into a film come and go, starting with Gus Van Saint in 1992. I’m sure he would have made a good film, but I don’t think there was the large international audience for Warhol’s heroism back then. I hope we are going to see a film about a revolutionary culture hero who changed the world with his brilliance and his machine like drive. Something like ”Lawrence of Arabia” but with the desert being the streets of New York. Mind you this comes from a fevered brain in the middle of a hurricane. I am confident that Leto will be Warhol by the time he starts making the film and I imagine he will give us something we cannot even imagine until we see it. Something Magic.
LAN: I wish you all the best!! I hope you will finally get all the credit you deserve for the quality of your books and that the world will remember your name and that the movie will be an incentive to check out the rest of your work as well. You do have a very special place as the witness of an era, an author and as a very special friend, you most certainly had a huge influence on everything that went on since the 60’s. It seems it’s not about to stop…
Victor Bockris: Thank you Tobe for the opportunity to talk about Andy. It went well because you asked stimulating questions and I enjoyed answering them. I wish you all the best with Loud Alien Noize. And I look forward to contributing some of my favorite pieces to you in the future. I hope your readers enjoy with what we’ve come up with above.
“Hi, it’s Deb. You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself. I was always Blondie. People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry. I couldn’t be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry.”
It was in the early ’70s and I was trying to get across town at two or three o’clock in the morning. This little car kept coming around and offering me a ride. I kept saying ‘No’ but finally I took the ride because I couldn’t get a cab.
I got in the car and the windows were are rolled up, except for a tiny crack. This driver had an incredibly bad smell to him. I looked down and there were no door handles. The inside of the car was stripped. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up.
I wiggled my arm out of the window and pulled the door handle from the outside. I don’t know how I did it, but I got out. He tried to stop me by spinning the car but it sort of helped me fling myself out.
Afterwards I saw his face on the news: It was Ted Bundy. –Debbie Harry
It is actually the 4th book I have read that was written by Victor Bockris and the third one about Warhol. I have never been deceived by Bockris in the past but I have to say that this one, written in 1989, must have been a very hard and complex task that he managed to achieve with his usual amazing brio. Bockris has this gift of being able to cut the crap and swiftly reach out to what is relevant. Bockris for sure have learned from the best since it was Warhol himself who taught him how to make an interview. You will get the facts, don’t worry about it but you will also get, and that’s what makes all the difference in the world, all the surrounding facts; friends, events, traumas and personal victories. Bockris has this ability to be very thorough but also doesn’t make you feel like you are just showered with a timeline of events and facts. It is written a little like a documentary in which you get to hear the people who were implicated in the occurring events in turn, hearing from their mouth what they saw and what were their thoughts at that time, an ongoing non-stop interview in which people take turns to enhance Bockris’ interesting narrative until the very end. I must say that I thought the book ended a bit abruptly. Still it fits with the whole concept of this as it doesn’t pretend to resolve the enigma of Warhol’s persona and anyone pretending to do so would be a fraud because Warhol precisely was a living contradiction of himself. Being at the same time as authentic, even if detached and minimal, as one could possibly be while at the same time declaring that ”art is anything you can get away with”. This is the perfect example of perfectly working paradox! While some will say on one side he was just exploiting everyone else and letting himself be exploited if he felt it was ok, he clearly must had a very clear path in his mind of what was art and what wasn’t.
Reading the book you can clearly understand as he went through a lot of heartbreaks and traumas, and that led him to try to become a machine, a certain robot deprived of emotions and that feeds on pills instead of actual food, well, he certainly made an art of it! That right there is one essential part of starting to understand Warhol. This is why Warhol is such an important keystone in the history of modern art! Warhol made it possible for everyone to become an artist, he was the first to use multimedia coverage for an event, the Velvet Underground was not just a band playing, it was a multimedia event called the ExplodingPlastic Inevitable(EPI) !!
You get to really know Andy Warhol’s childhood, his relation with his mother, his first love, his first heartbreak, his friends, the ones that remained friends; the ones that became enemies and the ones he simply didn’t care about or apparently so.. Reading this bio, one really get to observe as Andy slowly, inevitably builds a fortress around his heart and his emotions. How can one manage to never lose it even after anattempted murder. This clearlyhad a huge effect on him, very palpable in the book but he managed to turn it around and live the most prolific happy period of his life. Another thing that is interesting is to be able to see how and why he started to be involved in writing, photography, music, cinema and why he would always come back to painting, his insecurities, why his apparent ”numbness” , you get all the naked truth here. While we are at ti, I would like to do something that only has been done on very rare occasions, (one being done by Bockris) I would like to underline the relevance of his novel a:a novel as well as some movies like Flesh , Trash or Beauty No. 2.
One look at the very essence of the modern USA in a time where everything was possible and more but at the very base of it today, you find the hope given by Warhol that everyone is an artist or in other words that everyone’s life could be a subject of art. Of course, it isn’t literally true but you get the sense reading the bio that if you really believe in yourself, if you work really, really hard, you listen to what others people say, you support some of them, associate with them or if you take some parts that fits with your ideas and/or most importantly if you have the talent, you will have a chance to being seen and/or even better a chance at success. Of course another paradox may be that Andy managed to create the first corporation that became a millionaire by creating an art factory ( literally) and made art a monetary valuable product. Andy worked really hard. He did all that but reading the book it seems the most difficult part is to find some people who were trustworthy and not too greedy. Luckily Andy was very stingy.
Today, you can be your own PR agent, you can create your own window in the world and run it yourself! What an amazing, uplifting thought it is also to know that no matter if you are good enough to have worldwide or even nationwide success, some people will get to know you, some people across the world will like your stuff for what it is, not because they are your friends, just because they like it!! It is such a shame that Warhol died before all the computer revolution he had foreseen… But he knew!!
It never ever took me such a long time to read a book but with experience you realise that reading a very good book for the first time is a very rare and unique experience. I made sure that I didn’t miss a line!! But even if it took me a really long time to read it and make sure I wouldn’t miss a thing, there is so much going on that for sure I will have to read it again. This is NOT the kind of book you just borrow from the library! You have to own it!! I got the amazing surprise just as I finished the book to see that Jared Leto has bought the rights to Victor Bockris’ 1989 book Warhol: The Biography and not only will he co-produce the new biopic but he will also star in it as Warhol himself.
I always felt I had this gift to sense what was to be ”in the air” or anything that is about to get important somehow, but Andy was creating art with nothing, he was only slightly influenced by the beat generation and maybe Dali (according to Ultra Violet) but he wasn’t Dada, It was something different, it was Pop Art, an art that has more or less the same criterias as today’s art. Like I said, reading this book, I also got to know the fragile, heartbroken, insecure artist and human being Warhol was. I could so relate when he tried to be a machine, not showing any emotions, no love, no trust, no friends, no compassion and maybe he managed to pull it off for a while but you can feel that this isn’t working for him, deep inside, I’m pretty sure anyone who knew him felt he was lonely and sad but mainly uncomprehended. So for all the future greedy psychopath-by-choice to be, know that it is impossible to really be happy that way mk? . You will get hurt, you will be betrayed, you will suffer, just like Andy, but you have to keep on going, keep trying, always and until your last breath, something will come out of it. If anything, understand that message he left for us. RIP Edie.
I really am shocked at the amount of people who don’t really know who Andy Warhol is. I’m trying my best to make him known to the present and future generations and this book is an essential part of your culture (including the creation of the magazineInterview). Meet the guy who made the impossible possible to anyone who has the talent and the will. You owe it to yourself to read this book. Of course there are autobiographies but the way this book is written gives you more objectivity I think. Add that to Bockris’ talent to cut the crap and go to the heart of what is happening and you will realize why Leto chose this bookand not another one, not even one Warhol wrote himself, to base the biopic on. This book is a must for anyone that reads and I clearly must mention here the 16 pages of amazing pictures that illustrates key moments in Warhol’s life. Andy Warhol must never be forgotten. I sincerely thank Victor Bockris not only for this book, but also for all his amazing work allowing those who weren’t part of ”it” in the 60’s and the 70’s to feel as if they were, to be able to really get a sense of what was going on back then in such a heartfelt way. In the end I would simply state that even if the biography is, Andy Warhol’s personality still is and always will be incomplete to me.
Just a little update. This is the comment I got by the author himslef. I was so stoked! The honor is all mine, trust me!
‘‘Thank you Tobe. This is the most comprehensive review of the book which has been published in nine countries since 1989 and remains in print in several. I appreciate your comments and insights regarding all of my work”.-Victor Bockris
For his series Couple Jam, Tokyo-based Photographer Hal visited underground Tokyo bars in the Red Light District.
These hidden places in Shibuya and Kabukicho, were more than influential for the photographer, as there he often finds models to pose for his perverse but interesting photographs. From strippers to businessmen, Hal invites whoever wants to take part in his projects, as long as they’re willing to share their tight set with a fellow model.
This type of work, that interferes with the models’ surrounding and inner world by testing their limits, can be perceived as a social event causing a beautiful artistic result, with the photo-shoots taking place in the models bathrooms. “I think of the bathroom as being one of the most private and intimate place in anyone’s home, this provoked a shyness in the models, and created a unique excitement and inspiration in the scene,” explains the photographer.
Hutter’s surreal works are as magical as they are strange. His work is pitched at that enjoyably nebulous zone which lies on the borderlands of fantasy, science fiction and surrealism, from which hybrid visions emerge that are never too defined in one direction or another. His paintings remember the works by Bruegel or Hieronymus Bosch.
John John Jesse is an illustrative painter from New York City’s Lower East Side in the Juxtapozgonzo-pop vein. He often shows with artists like Esao Andrews. A Punk rocker and former Catholic Schoolboy, John John’s work reflects the angst and trials of those two opposites. Self-taught as an artist, his visionary works of have the semblance of near-goth styles held in tandem with the acidic flair for . Only he can show us the worlds he has lived through, where the mistakes of our youth, sometimes can’t replace the wrong choices made. As the ethereal beauty of youth is depicted, we also witness the nonchalant behaviors brought on from oppressive environments, such as organized religion. These yield themselves to moments of self-destruction, substance abuse, and mockery, between what innocence should be, and what it tragically often becomes. He does this however in such obsessive detail and flair for originality, that the only hope beyond the tragedy of life, is the fact that he has survived it with his art.
He painted the girls he grew up with, citing the punk lifestyle of girls and drugs. Most of the people featured in his work are friends of his. They are generally nude or partially disrobed, in situations that are both fantastical and gritty. Jesse has, to date, two self declared series of renderings. The first consisting of black & white drawings he calls the “Baby Demonica” series (Baby Demonica gave birth to a black-and-white “Gorey-ish” character/limerick comic book with a dark, evil, and sexy cast of misfits from Hell and beyond written by both John John Jesse and Howie Pyro) and the second, full color paintings he calls the “Demonica Erotica” series.
Jesse also played bass in the New York Crust punk band Nausea and designed posters and album art for bands like Agnostic Front. He also is a former guitar player for the band Morning Glory.
In 2005, Vivian Giourousis interviewed the artist for Hoard magazine and asked him to define punk rock. He replied, “…punk rock was the world in which I entered at 14 years old because I didn’t fit in anywhere, not at school, not with friends, and not with my family. Back in the 80’s we were all serious misfits who didn’t belong, and together we were REALLY united. We all came from broken homes, we were victims of child abuse, we were angry, political, idealistic, drunk and proud. Basically punk rock music goes beyond the realms of just being a music scene. It’s a lifestyle and commitment. It’s my world, and honestly it’s all I know and it’s where I fit.”
William Linich (February 22, 1940 – July 18, 2016), the primary architect, foreman, lighting designer and archivist at Andy Warhol’s Factory, film-maker and photographer, who used his camera to immortalize its denizens, has died at age 76.
To look through the snapshots taken by Name in the 1960s is to dive into the epicenter of the Pop Art scene in New York, as he chronicled the rise of Andy Warhol from artist to the avatar of an art movement—the shifting of his studio from the place where he made silkscreens to the bustling creative hub known as The Factory. His photographs of Warhol’s “superstars” made that moniker real, and the covers he designed for The Velvet Underground’s classic albums—White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground, and the gatefold sleeve to The Velvet Underground and Nico—are all iconic. In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service released a stamp featuring a photo of Andy Warhol taken by Name. The album cover to White Light/White Heat is a faint image Joe Spencer’s tattoo, who played a hustler in a motorcycle gang in Warhol’s 1967 film Bike Boy. Reed selected the image from the negatives from the film, and it was enlarged and distorted by Billy.
After fleeing a dull upbringing in Poughkeepsie, New York, and settling into downtown Manhattan’s hotbed of bohemia—where he met Yoko Ono and John Cage at Fluxus events, and collaborated with La Monte Young in one of his drone performances—he met Warhol fleetingly at Serendipity 3, the fancy dessert joint where he was a waiter, and then later through his mentor Ray Johnson, who brought Name to Brooklyn Academy of Music. Name and Warhol became lovers. “We’d go to movies or art openings,” Name told Glenn O’Brien in Interview. “I was sort of like Andy’s boyfriend.”
Once Warhol saw how Name had tricked out his Alphabet City apartment in all silver, he asked him to come do the same to the Factory, which was then on 47th Street—silver foil from floor to ceiling, silver spray paint over everything.
“In 1962 or ’63 I had a hair-cutting party at my apartment, where the entire interior was silver,” Name told the New Yorker‘s website in 2012. “Andy came and loved it so much that he asked me to do the same thing at his new loft. I began installing foil, and it took so long I finally asked for keys so that I could come up anytime. Eventually, I just moved in, and I lived there from about 1964 to 1970.”
He soon became a jack-of-all-trades at the Factory, helping Warhol with silkscreens and arranging appointments. When Warhol started getting into film, he hipped Name to the pleasures of taking pictures, a hobby that lead him to produce dozens of indelible images of the era’s towering figures: Bob Dylan, Edie Sedgwick, Lou Reed, Nico, Jane Holzer.
“Andy decided he was going to make movies, and he gave me his Pentax,” he said in the New Yorker interview. “I got a manual for the camera and set up a darkroom in the Factory. It was so joyous! Really, the joyous part just overshadowed all the work. I was an artist before I worked with Andy, and while I was at the Factory I took photographs mostly for artistic purposes, but over time they’ve became more of an historical record of the time.”
Name obsessed over his photography, spending hours in the darkroom without any human interaction. In his diaries, Warhol noted, dryly, that Name lived in the Factory, but no one ever saw him.
“People would ask Andy where I was, and he would tell them I was in the darkroom out back, and Paul Morrissey would joke, ‘Oh yeah, he hasn’t been out of there for two years now,’” Name told the website Civilian Global.
Despite his obsessive work, the photographs were not recognized for their importance until decades later, and in 1970—two years after Name found Warhol in a pool of his own blood, shot by Valerie Solanas, and went to cradle him in his arms—he left a note for Warhol on the door of his darkroom in the Factory: “Dear Andy, I am not here anymore, but I am fine. With love, Billy.”
He had left for Washington, D.C., and then San Francisco, where he traveled and performed his poetry, but in time the world would come to treasure the images he had created in the Factory. In 1995, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise had a breakthrough Billy Name Billy Name show at its space at 558 Broome Street: over 50 of the black-and-white images that Name had slaved over, a definitive portrait of a New York that had, by the mid-’90s, all but disappeared. More retrospective shows followed, as the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh acquired a number of his works, and his photographs appeared in Warhol exhibitions around the world.
In recent years, Milk Studios staged a large show of Name’s photographs in conjunction with a publication called Billy Name: The Silver Age in 2014, and that year the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s store displayed work by Name to coincide with the institution’s regarding Warhol show.
At the time of his death, Name was residing in an assisted living home upstate on the Hudson. In 2012, he was named Duchess County’s artist of the year.
“I never would have expected it,” he said of the honor. “I’m 72 years old. It was a wonderful thing to happen.”
It’s time for the next installment in the Metal Injection artist series, Artists in Metal and it’s a big one! got a chance to speak with John Dyer Baizley, one of the most renowned visual artists in the metal/hardcore community and the vocalist/guitarist of Baroness!
Baizley recently completed work for Coliseum and Black Tusk, but has worked with several other acts such as his own band Baroness, Darkest Hour, Kavelertak, Kylesa, Pig Destroyer, Skeletonwitch, Torche, and even Metallica just to name a few. In this interview we chat about his beginnings as an artist, look into his process, and much more…
Michael: You’re a rare exception in that you are an established visual artist and in a successful band. What came to you first the visual arts or music?
John Dyer Baizley: When I was really young, I gravitated towards the visual arts first. I feel that’s what comes most naturally to me. I’ve always had an immediate proclivity towards making visual art and I was a really tactile kid. Both of my parents had a background in the arts; so that was a language both of them spoke fluently and as such, I developed my interests in art prior to music.
I should note: I think they both saw the creative impulse or drive in me; they tried to surround me with all of the tools that creative people would need in order to express themselves. At a very young age, I had access to a to many of the artistic implements which I continue to favor, and I was also given a guitar at a very young age. My parents weren’t musicians themselves, so I didn’t have anybody to help me work through those immediate musical issues, but honestly I’m glad that I didn’t. When I hit adolescence I discovered punk rock, where you didn’t need any training at all. I saw it as counterproductive in those days to have a formal or technical skill set.
Michael: Did you end up going to art school for college, or where you mostly self-taught?
JDB: At first I did teach myself and took the classes that were available to me, which were admittedly quite limited given my geography, in the Shenandoah Valley, southwestern Virginia. In middle school and high school I got the opportunity to develop a bit by getting involved in some of the local college courses. Once a week, I would drive up from my hometown of Lexington a half hour up to a little town called Staunton where they had life drawing classes. In Lexington, I took what art instruction was available. The importance of drawing and painting from life were impressed on me from a very early age.
Art came fluidly, so I was able to teach myself many of the things I thought were important by copying and mimicking my artistic idols. When I graduated high school I really had no other inclination other than going to art school. I ended up going to Rhode Island School of Design for a very productive three years, before dropping out in 2000.
Michael: RISD is a very established art school. Would you say it helped you a lot in evolving your art process, or did you gravitate towards you early beginnings from the DIY punk scene?
JDB: It’s hard for me to say what would happen if I didn’t go to art school. It wasn’t that I learned any specific painting or drafting skills at school that I felt I couldn’t have taught myself. However there is something quintessentially unique and important that you gain by immersing yourself in a scholastic and creative universe, and being held to certain academic standards while being surrounded by artists of varying disciplines. I think that the critical thing was to help me open up mentally and be exposed to a wide variety of artists with wildly different styles, mentalities, and processes. Through my exposure to such a diverse collection of artists I was learned to separate the artistic wheat from the chaff, and find the sort of things that would become useful to me in the future.
I’ll say it would have been a much slower process if I hadn’t gone to art school, but I don’t think it was critical towards my eventually becoming an artist. As far as I was concerned, that had already happened.
Michael: I’m not sure if this was during your time at RISD, but what got you into doing commission work for bands?
JDB: That’s sort of a funny thing. I was only in art school for three years, I dropped out because of some personal and substance-abuse related issues, and I stopped creating anything at all for about a year and a half. When I finally felt I was starting to get ready to re-enter the arts I moved from Virginia down to Savannah Georgia, where Baroness officially started. I began making album artwork out of necessity, though I certainly wanted to do it. Baroness needed merchandise, we needed covers for our EP’s and demos, so that started kicking me back into making visual art.
Baroness started out by sometimes playing 250 shows a year and, as it goes, we met a lot of other bands. They saw our merchandise and often said, “Would you be interested in working with us?” I also made a lot of friends on the road and always offered my help; it was just something that felt like an easy fit. I loved the sense of community, and I wanted to be part of it.
Several years down the line I realized that, whereas I had started out with an interest in becoming a fine artist, I now saw myself taking on commissions in the more proper role of an illustrator or designer, which I’ve never been entirely comfortable with. Through every path that I’ve chosen, I have tried to claim full authorship over what I make, so it can suit my needs as an artist first, and then, by proxy, the musicians and artists that I work with are happy with what they get. It’s a hard-line stance, but one which bears the most fruitful results.
Michael: Not entirely comfortable with commission work?
JDB: Not at all. I guess I’m skirting around the issue here, I hate art direction and the necessity to sell a product. It was one of the major hang-ups that I had with art school or art/design as a profession: that the idea that making a living off of making personally-driven art would at some point have me wrestling against art direction and commission-driven work. With that struggle comes the understanding that you’re ultimately trying to appease someone else with your art. That’s never been the impulse for making art. I must satisfy my needs as an artist first, and then if the message is good and the theme or the content is worthy, then the audience may find those qualities as well. I think that’s true of most good art, so yeah, I’ve always had this contentious relationship with doing commissions trying to “make other people happy,” or see their vision come to fruition.
Michael: With doing those commissions, I notice that you go back to a lot of bands. For instance you’ve done work for Skeletonwitch with two major releases, Beyond the Permafrost and Serpents Unleashed. Do you go out of your way to be a little more selective about the people you try to work with to allow a more artistic license?
JDB: Yeah, I think you have to. If you want to create something that’s worth doing you have to self-edit from the get-go. You really must be careful and selective with whom you work, you must constantly ask yourself the hard questions about your art, and you must set a nearly unattainable standard for yourself. If I’m in the business of making artwork that is designed on some level to sell a product, then I have to be very comfortable with the people I’m working with and I’d like to be proud of the end result regardless of its sale-ability.
I can say thirteen years into doing this full time, I really appreciate the artists I have had the chance to work with, even if it’s something slightly outside the box or something that’s very obvious, it’s what I want to do. I’m not going to put myself into a project that I’m disinterested in, because I think that the integrity of the end result will be threatened.
Skeletonwitch was one of the bands we hooked up with when Baroness first started touring, playing in basements, warehouses and anything just shy of actually playing inside a club. We’ve had this connection since the DIY days, they have changed so little in their enthusiasm, and that’s something I find myself gravitating towards, even though I’ve recently made a concerted effort to move away from focusing entirely on the punk/hardcore/metal community. Punk rock and metal has always been a home to me, it’s where I cut my teeth; and those are the friends that I have, and the bands that I love.
I really try to work with an artist who is trying to create a long legacy of quality rather than trying to jump aboard a trend. Frankly I don’t need to do that, but, and I can’t stress this enough, I’ve been fortunate in that I can eke out a living being this selective. A lot of my friends who are commercial designers and proper editorial illustrators often have to take whatever jobs are given to them. I’ve made a very strong effort to have the power to say no to something, and I think that’s a crucially important right for every artist. No one wants to be in a position where they are desperate for work; desperation breeds sub-quality artwork. I can’t say I love 100% of every mark that I’ve made, but more often than not I’m pretty happy, and I’ve learned the value of making personal improvements as a result of mistakes and missteps.
Michael: It really seems to me like you created this great situation with Baroness gaining popularity in conjunction with your artwork. Would you agree that’s what’s gave you the ability to be selective?
JDB: Oh yeah, for sure! They are both equally important projects for me, and I’m really lucky to be a part of both. I’m not like most album artists who have to create off of another artist’s pre-existing imagery. I make the music and the art simultaneously and there is really an elevated level of synchronicity happening, allowing me to be a little bit more personal. I don’t have to have conversations with the artist to find out what’s going on. I’m able to have that insight without a conversation; there is something nice about that; it streamlines the process as well. This ability to work on Baroness’s vision, has allowed me create and expand my style.
Michael: Would you say that it’s difficult as a commission artist to really take the time to do your own personal work, or do you feel that merch and album art of Baroness becomes that personal work, since you are involved in all aspects?
JDB: That’s a tricky question. For the better part of a decade I didn’t really delineate the difference between commission work and personal work, I just say “If I’m getting paid to do it, by virtue of that fact it is a commission; but I’m going to make it a personal work for myself, and I’m going to fulfill the need of the artist that I’m working for simultaneously.” It requires a little bit of pig-headedness and self-confidence to adopt that kind of stance.
I also get to create album art as a fan of the music, enhanced with the insight that the band gives me. Therefore, I know what they think it’s about, and as a fan I can make the artwork from the standpoint that I’m trying to figure out the music in a separate way. Concurrently, I have the insight of what it’s like to be the musician, the visual artist, and the listener. Working amongst these three tiers can offer a broader perspective on the work.
I think a lot of musicians have a very difficult time articulating what their music is about in a visual sense, and at the same time visual artists can have great difficulty taking something sonic and translating it to a focused visual work. There is such a great divide between the audio and visual. When the pairing works well it can open up new layers and insight for the music, and it makes the experience a much more rewarding one. That being said, when you miss-fire and when ideas don’t synchronize, things can be very confusing. No artist wants to have the weight on their shoulders of the failure or misrepresentation of a record, based on their visual content. Musicians are handing you their baby, this work that they have crafted and put all this love into, and you don’t want to fuck that up, you want to elevate it. You can’t honestly say your going to achieve perfection 100% of the time, there is always going to be that little bit of risk involved, which for me makes it exciting.
However, to get back to your original question, having done what I do in a somewhat linear direction for a while now, I’m starting to realize I do need to carve out some time and do something more personal, some art that that won’t have a logo and barcode attached to it. There is a space in my life that needs to be filled, concerning the purely visual side of things, where the concept for the artwork comes from somewhere other than packaging. I’ve started working on that recently, I’ve been lowering the number of projects that I take on, because I don’t want to become a market-flooding-ubiquitous -album-cover-artist.
Depending on labels release schedules, even if I try to space all of my projects out, sometimes three albums will come out the same month that will have a cover I have done. It’s not as if my work is incredibly dissimilar one piece to another; its all very recognizably mine. I know as a fan I will gripe about it whenever somebody seems to be ”too visible”, devaluing the individual pieces that they are doing. In light of all of this I have made an effort over the past two or three years to work with bands I am familiar with and pare back the overall output. I’ve also been quite busy with music.
It’s not like there aren’t good new bands starting; I just have limited time. I could spend all year just doing visual art and the same is with music. It’s become a difficult balancing act… For which I’m very fortunate! I am, however, an avid listener, and I’m always trying to find some great new artists to work with, as contradictory as that sounds.
Michael: Would you say you split the time you work on the visual arts and the time you work on Baroness, or do they sometimes have to happen in tandem with one another?
JDB: It would be probably be really nice if I could dedicate myself to split my time up evenly, but that’s almost impossible for me at the moment. The fact of the matter is that the average life span of a band is much shorter than that of an artist. Music is working well for me right now; it’s giving me what I need at this point in my life, and so I would say for the moment that it has become more of a priority. I realize that at some point the band won’t be there. I could become too old to play, or the well- spring of creativity will dry out more quickly than it will as a visual artist. On the other hand, I can’t stop making the art that I make, it’s important to me and to my sanity.
We schedule the band first, and we’re not active every week of the year, so whatever spaces open up I just schedule for art. It does sort of work out to be a nice balance, nearly 50/50. Sometimes there is scheduling cross-over, sometimes I have to make art projects on the road, or make sacrifices in order to meet a deadline.
I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where when I get tired of making art I can make a smooth transition into making music and vice versa. There is always something to do.
Michael: You mentioned you sometimes have to work on art on the road. Does the process become more limited in that scenario, for instance can you only work on drawings instead of paintings?
JDB: We were just in Australia for a couple weeks touring, I took a condensed but complete set up. I took pens, paints, paintbrushes, pencils, and paper, everything I would normally use. I spent a good deal of time in hotel rooms and in the back of clubs, working.
It’s definitely not the optimal environment to work, but sometimes you’ve simply got to get something done. I tend to overextend myself without really thinking through the realities of completing so many projects in a year, which generally means I’m going to be a little bit behind. I suppose that’s the nature of the beast.
Michael: So the road doesn’t stop you…
JDB: As long as the tour can support that. There are some tours where the entire day is spent working on tour-related issues. Some are easier and have more down time, and those are the ones where I can get artwork finished.
It drives me insane; it’s really draining to do both at once, so I try not to when possible. I do need to sleep at some point right?
Michael: What influences in your artwork? I do sense an Art Nouveau angle, mixed with heavy metal / hardcore punk art like Pushead, but you have a certain romance to your work with your use of female figures.
JDB: As I stated before, when I was young I was given a fairly comprehensive art history background. Both my parents, my mother especially, gave me that exposure. I was in museums frequently, and was exposed to the great masters from the Italian Renaissance, the Impressionists and the Northern Europeans like Caravaggio, DaVinci, Monet, Degas, Rembrandt, Bruegel, etc.
As a teen when I got into punk and metal and saw those record covers that changed me, Metallica, all the Black Flag records, that became my initial exposure to the importance of album art. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gained a broader variety of influences from other album artists, especially those from the 70’s. For example I’m a huge Roger Dean fan, very much into his Hipgnosis and especially Storm Thorgersonalbum covers. I have a preference for 12”x12” vinyl layouts, so I try to refer to those artists a lot.
The classical elements I spoke about before, work for compositions, referring to those old master paintings. The Art Nouveau thing works very well for album covers, those bold lines and bright, but not comic-book-like colors, allows the imagery to be graphic, colorful, and expressive all at the same time.
There also is a little bit of a comic book reference to my work as well, and occasional pop-culture references. I do like to add a bit of classicism and romanticism to the artwork that I do. It’s always about my particular visual vocabulary; I think asalbum artists we all use certain elements unique to ourselves, and I feel in some way we try to keep our lexicon limited in order to be recognizable as an artist, allowing us to get our message across over the course of different records by different bands.
Each band has it’s own musical language that you have to pay respect to, but what I like to do is then take those things that are direct, immediate, and obvious. I‘ll start with the obvious imagery and themes and work backwards, utilizing my style and technique along with less-obvious references: icons and metaphors from old stories, a lot of Greek/Roman mythology (if the project I feel demands it). Of course there is a lot of pseudo/quasi religious stuff in there from the types of images that I make, they require a very specific sort of imagery.
It’s my intention to make something stand outside the realm of album art, but it also feels comfortable to me to be in it. It’s tricky and definitely a requires striking a delicate balance. I take myself seriously and want my image to me more than just something aesthetically suited towards selling records. I find the most intriguing covers those that least heavy-handedly refer to the direct album concept or title. In fact, many musicians are the happiest when the artist and audience re-interpret or re-imagine the content of the songs. Drawing from art history and mythology allows me to connect with viewers in a familiar, yet loose visual framework. Blending disparate histories and themes can give the overall presentation a recognizable, yet unique flavor.
Michael: When you work on album artwork, do you work together with the artist/band or is it more or less give me the record and I’ll listen to it and give you my interpretation?
JDB: I’ve learned over the years how important it is to be really up front with bands that I work with. When I first talk with bands the set-up usually goes like this: “I want to do this album, I will put 100% of myself into it, my aim is to make this the best album cover that you have, but I can’t take art direction.” It’s just not who I am, or how I work. I have no problem if a band moves on to somebody else because of that stance. If they want to have more influence that’s perfectly fine, I respect a band being in total control of their visual identity. Similarly, I know how important it is for me to adhere to my method. I’d rather not waste everyone’s time getting bogged down in a situation I know to be artistically harmful.
It can be difficult to mediate a compromise between what I have in my head and what the musician has in mind, which is often 180° different when it comes to the finished product, so it requires that element of trust from somewhere. The point I make to them is “You’ve seen what I do, so just trust me and we will come up with something exciting.”
Michael: Referring back again to you working with similar bands over the years, that trust is already there.
JDB: The times I run into problems are when the musicians get stuck on those very little details that to me, as a visual artist, are inconsequential. Sometimes they want something like a portrait and they are unhappy with their likeness, or they want less red or less blue, those elements don’t really cut to the core of what we’re trying to achieve. That’s the kind of criticism I struggle with, in order to give the collaborator a finished product that I’m proud of.
Michael: What is your typical process like when it comes to image creation?
JDB: The first thing I do is research, as I talked about before, most of my work wants to have an outside reference point to it, so whenever possible I get the music or the demos from somebody first and then get the artist’s interpretation of what it’s about. Then I try to figure out what effect the music has on me, and try to find some old story, maybe from mythology or from religious or historical text, something that I feel can work in conjunction with what I think the album is about. From that literary standpoint I can then start to develop a set of images, subvert things, twist them around, use them in an obvious or a figurative way, all to help get my point across. After all that prep work I start sketching.
I draw everything from life, so I’ve got to find models and go out and take pictures, set up lights, all that sort of stuff. I work a sketch until its finished and I show the band that sketch and say “Now is the only opportunity you have to weigh in on anything, if this isn’t working for you I have to start from scratch.” The main reason for that final warning is that I work in permanent watercolors and inks. It’s not like oils or acrylics where you can paint over things; once it’s there it’s there. So the whole set up for the band is “This is how I see it going, it’s going to change, it’s going to grow into something totally different once the color and the line weight is put in, but if your cool with this sketch I’ll get going and show it to you when it’s all done.”
After that nobody hears from me in a month, and then, “here is your album cover I hope you like it.”
Michael: With your visual artwork, are you trying to work on one piece at a time or are you doing projects in tandem?
JDB: I usually work on one thing at a time. I get pretty immersive in the process.
Michael: You also seem to do a fair amount of screen print work that seems based mostly off your paintings. Do you ever do screen print work that is planed form the start to be a print?
JDB: Yeah, the screen print thing is nice because one of my goals, from the get go really, was to make things that were worthy of collecting but not prohibitively expensive.
I don’t actually silk-screen them, I work with my friends at BRLSQ of North America who do that. For the longest time though the only place where you could get my work was at a Baroness show, which for me was really important, to have that kind of connection with the people who understand the sense of community in the little realm of the music industry that I’m a part of.
Since then I’ve outgrown that because of a larger demand than I could satisfy by hand-to-hand art sales, so I’ve taken on bigger silk-screeners, and its not because I love silk-screen, I just want to make things that people will display that don’t have to be super expensive.
It’s been fun to continually have some prints going on and things like that; it’s just not my primary goal. It’s what people like, and it’s a great way to get the work out there.
Michael: It could be my bias as a printmaker, but I feel it’s a great medium for the metal/punk community. While some of us are doing well financially, the majority of the culture is working class, so having that accessible art is extremely important.
JDB: When I was younger I was impressed when I could actually get my hands on something that I wanted. It’s important for me to have different tiers of value for the art. Some of the silk-screens are really affordable, but I do have some high-end silk-screens that are several color layers and a little more expensive, and then I have the paintings that can get way up there.
Michael: I’d be remiss not to discuss this a little bit, but after the accident that Baroness was involved in during 2012 a lot of reports focused on your recovery to playing guitar. I was wondering if you were still able to work on visual art during your recovery?
JDB: For the first eight months of recovery I couldn’t do anything, I was just in too much pain, too bent out of shape, and just too broken to make anything. Once the acute/extreme stuff had healed or at least scar over, I found it pretty easy to pick up a pencil again and start working.
I was fortunate that the side of me that was destroyed was my left side, and I’m a righty, so that was working perfectly by the time that I needed it to. Guitar was more difficult though, because I needed both hands to do that.
I think the first thing I did after it was the Kvelertak ”Meir” album cover. That was a big piece, lot of paint, lot of stippling. It was nice to get back into making artwork with a band I have a good relationship with, and to work on an album I knew a lot of people would dig.
Michael: Did you find it even more therapeutic than before, seeing as it was a part of your recovery in a way?
JDB: It had always been very therapeutic before the accident, but afterwards even more so. I would say that I have a high level of gratitude to still have the ability to create art. It was very nearly not the case, and I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about how lucky I am to have survived, but I did, and I’ve got both arms still firmly attached.
There is an elevated sense of gratitude for that, its good.
Michael: You’ve done a lot of work in the metal scene and a little bit outside of it. Is their any artists you look at today that you would like to work with in the future?
JDB: Yeah, there are plenty of them. The thing is, I don’t want to mention any of them. I will stop making album art when there aren’t goals to me, or bands that I have yet to work with that I find important and they are still around. That’s in part what keeps me involved, I recognize that no matter how old I get, how many records I’ve done, or what the public perception of me is, there are still exciting things that I haven’t done. As long as that’s the case I will keep doing this.
Michael: What projects are you working on currently? I noticed your doing something with Coliseum.
JDB: I just did a re-boot of their self titled first record. Personally that was a fun project to work on. In fact, I remember back in the day when Baroness was coming up with Coliseum playing the first show they ever did. Ryan (Guitarist and Vocalist of Coliseum) and I have had that close relationship for many years. That makes it not just a passion project for me, but something that I can put a lot of history and a lot of weight behind.
Right now I’m finishing up something with Black Tusk that will be coming out on 7”, I got some big prints that are coming down the pipeline, and I’ve done some work on the new Baroness album.
Baroness records tend to be big, hundreds of hours, lots of research, development, and attention to detail. When I’m done with all those things I just don’t want to be seen for a week.
Michael: For sure, because it’s your representation on both ends, you got the full package on your plate.
JDB: It’s masochistic! I know it’s going to punish me and run me through the ringer. That’s the feeling I always get before getting into these things. I think it’s why I keep doing them, that demand of so much attention. The concept has to be strong, the heart, soul, and expression has to be strong, the presentation has to be strong, the music has to be awesome, the lyrics have to be good. It’s a total beast.
Michael: What advice would you give to younger people coming up in the art world that would like to do artwork for bands?
JDB: It’s the same advice I’ve given for years. If what you want to do is make artwork for bands, you have to love doing it because there is almost no money in it. In order to start doing it, you just have to put yourself out there, work for bands you love and for as little as possible to start, if not free, that’s what I did for years. Give your stuff away and if it’s good, people will come to you.
Do the work, and always ask yourself why, ask yourself what its about, be able to answer the questions other people will have about your work. Don’t try to make some overly pretentious statement, be direct and make your own shit. The important thing isn’t that your technically great, I think it’s the power of your expression. Speak with your own voice and be as unique as you possibly can.
This is a creative field and it’s all subjective, not everybody is going to love what you do, but you have to be yourself, that’s what’s most important. Bring it as hard as you can.
Interview by Johan Kugelberg, The Velvet Underground:New York Art, 2009.
Maureen Tucker had a front row seat to punk rock history being conceived before her very eyes. An average high school girl from Levittown, Long Island, her life was saved by rock ‘n’ roll when she heard the Rolling Stones on the car radio. From the Velvet Underground to Andy Warhol to Nico, Moe was there—making history herself as the first female drummer in one of the most revolutionary bands of all time. With Lou Reed by her side, they both share precious memories and a very sincere mutual admiration in this interview I chose amongst many others for its sheer authenticity and simplicity.
Lou Reed: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone go through so much trouble for a book about the Velvet Underground. Maureen , have you seen it?
Maureen Tucker: Yes! I have in front of me!
Lou : Is it a little goldmine of information, tell me?
Moe: Yeah! While I’m thinking about it, It says in it that you and Sterl’ you played together for the first time in 1963-1964 . I think it was earlier than that?
Lou : Well, we played in 1963 at Syracuse University , so it was definitely in 1963, not in 1964, during college.
Lou: I got my diploma in ’64.
Moe: Yes, and that’s where you met each other, you and Jim, my big brother, you both went to Syracuse in ’60 . Sterling was there too and you met him roughly a year after, maybe 2 years.
Lou: Yeah, because he lived with Jim!
Johan Kugelberg: Lou, is it true that the first song you ever played was ”It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” from Ike and Tina Turner?
Lou: I don’t know exactly, but it seems to be something we might have done. Many people think that Ike Turner was the first rock guitarist, so it’d be perfectly logical. But you know, me and Sterl ‘ simply adored this song! In fact I do not know anyone who didn’t like it. I’m pretty sure Maureen also loved it.
Johan: How did you discovered all those unbridled rock’n’roll albums that you were listening to before forming the band?
Lou: Well, I don’t know about Moe but in my case it was the radio, the radio or albums I heard because other people had them and were listening to them.
Moe: Yes it was on the radio as well, I lived in Levittown and there was not many … well, in fact, there was no record store apart of the supermarket, but they didn’t have anything interesting. Lou had a great collection of 45s! You remember Lou?
Lou: I remember, yes, I wonder what became of them……
Moe: The burglary on Grand Street! Don’t you remember?
Moe: Damn that was a blow!
Lou: You mean when we lost everything during our first concert at the Dom? While we were playing..
Moe: When the apartment was broken into and someone stole almost all of your 45s.
Lou: The first night we played there, someone knew there would not be anyone in the apartment because we finally had a job and they took everything we had.
Lou: Well, it’s not like we had a job we were getting paid for, but we were performing in an official way. And when we got back, there was nothing. I had ”Stay With Me Baby” by Lorraine Ellison and I had to go up to Harlem to find it because back then, no record shop in the center had that kind of stuff. At the time, John Cale and I were playing as streets musicians in Harlem. It’s amazing enough to imagine myself with my guitar and Cale with his viola da gamba, on 125th Street or St-Nicholas Avenue, or whatnot. God!! For my birthday Moe ”Bill” Bentley had given me the 45 original tower ”Outcast” by Eddie and Ernie.
Moe: Oh my God! It’s true!! Wow!!!
Lou: Yes, and it seems that they were from LA.
Lou: I don’t know which one was first but it probably had a huge influence on Sam & Dave. It came straight out from Eddie and Ernie’ world, who were pioneers, they were the first!
Moe: Yes, Yes! You still have it ??
Lou: Nah! Someone Somewhere, I dunno who, has in his stuff a sacred value.
Johan: There is indeed a little touch of Velvet Underground on that record from Eddie and Ernie. One can only guess to what extend you were immersed in the craziest of black music from the 50’s and early 60’s.
Lou: I personally think that you can take any Velvet track and if you scratch the surface a bit you will find blues and rhythm’n’blues, What do you think Moe?
Lou: Is this Maureen coughing ?
Lou: Well then give her a cigarette! Someone!
Moe: (Both laughing) Will you stop it?!! You’re making fun of me ‘cuz you stopped!?
Lou: I’m not making fun of you! I most sincerely empathize with you!
Lou: But yes, I stopped.
Moe: That’s good. You’re a good boy.
Lou: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that! I envy smokers every God-given day!
Moe: Did you ever play at Cafe Wha?
Moe: Was it not at Cafe Wha when Dick Gregory or was it…. a charity concert… or something like that? It Was Dick Gregory who had organized it all and they told we sounded like shit or something like that?
Lou: WOW!! But how can you remember that?
Moe: I believe that’s the day Dick Gregory said you weren’t worth shit, it was for the April Fool’s Dance and Models Balls with THE FUGZ at the Village Gate in 1956.
Lou: Wow! Yeah, that’s it! We are so shitty Allen Ginsberg himself came to dance around us with cymbals and all!!
Johan:Was it very frustrating for you that the album took so much time for it to be available?
Moe: It broke our heart! It was because if I understand … in fact there are 2 explanations, it depends on who you’re talking to but there is a version in which some Eric Emerson guy was on the photo at the back of the album and he wanted us to pay him 10 000$. So they erased it, and you will see when the album came out, it was no longer in the picture, though on other albums I’ve seen later on there he is again. The other one is that it took a year to find something ”Andy’s banana”.
Johan: We managed to get ahold of a Craig Brown. He was the person in charge of printing those album covers and he told us that it was a real nightmare having to paste the sticker with the banana on the cover of the album and that they had to rent a special customized machine to do it. It was very hard for them to put the bananas where they belonged.
Lou: It’s very funny, see, nowadays, of course, nobody makes bananas we can peel off, so it had to be to be some real technical feat back then!
Johan: Absolutely! It also was a huge cost for the record company!
Lou: Well, we never got anything from it anyway so I’m glad that at least it COST them something. (whom has rifled through the book) Ha! This is going to be a very expensive book!!!! You saw that Moe!! We’re going to be one of those huge coffee-table book filled with huge pictures!
Johan: I hope people will realize that this is the first time we do a huge artist monograph for a rock band, you even can put it next to a book on Marcel Duchamp or Magritte. The idea is to consider a rock band as an example of Great Art from the twentieth century as well as New York Art, because this exactly is how many people see you.
Lou: This wouldn’t hurt ..Right Maureen?
Moe: Yeah! That would be great! It would be fantastic!!!
Lou: A little late…
Moe: (laughing) Yep! Right on time!
Johan: You’ve both been active musicians and artists over the years ever since the time of the Velvet Underground, do you think, looking back, do you consider the V.U. as your debut as musicians?
Moe: No I don’t. I’ve never seen it that way. My debut… I can’t explain why, but no, it just never even occurred to me to see things under that light.
Lou: Well, quite often, in fact, as soon as I left New York! (laughs). Especially in Europe, much more in Europe than here. I think it’s always been the case for almost all types of music, such as jazz for example, that’s for sure. Europeans are simply more receptive to different stuff. I don’t know why. I’ve thought about it a lot and asked myself many questions…
John: I’ve always thought we could compare the way in which the Velvet was received, to the way we treated Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler in the 60s. Back then, they mostly played in France or Scandinavia.
Lou: Yeah, fortunately things have changed. Today Ornette has the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Award, and there’s the Lincoln Center Festival.
Johan: But it has been slow, it is still a common point. You were so ahead of your time it took a while before all these institutions finally wake up.
Lou: Yeah it’s been a good thing. It made me truly happy. I think that there should be a wing for the Velvet Underground, known as the ”Velvet Underground University” for those of us who are intellectuals. Personally, I would have liked for all of us, including Sterl’, to keep on doing small experiments. Nobody, no one among us could do alone anything that even comes close to what the Velvet Underground are like.
Moe: Yeah. That is true.
Lou: When you find other musicians and you feel there’s something going on, that something’s really happening, I miss that feeling tremendously.
Johan: I played a guitar solo that you did on ”What Goes On” for a friend of mine who was a jazz guitarist throughout his life and the first thing he said was it sounded like it was Albert Ayler playing guitar.
Lou: Now that was a very nice to say. I take it as a really great compliment.
Johan: And right away, I asked myself : Wow! Were you seeing your guitar solos as some kind of free jazz at the time but…heavier?
Lou: Absolutely! It goes without saying. That’s what I’ve wanted to do my whole life! That’s what I was intending to do back then, I’m still doing it today and will always continue to do so . It’s exactly what I have in mind; Albert Ayler, Johan Griffin, they’re fantastic but to be honest it’s mostly Ornette and Don. Period. I always thought that the sound of distorted guitars felt like a sax solo. I could play pieces for brass you know. It was more or less the idea. What I liked is that the note was sustained. I could take a note then modulate it to catch the next or make it an acute and sharp sound and if I could do that, then I could pretend to be Ornette and keep on going. Even today you know, I can sing solos of Ornette such as ”Ramblin’ ” from ”Change of the Century”. That’s the perfect example of Ornette playing the rhythm’n’blues. I learned from the best.
Johan: You also liked this rhythm’ blues’ way of playing the sax that we would hear back then.
Lou: A lot. Very much. Like that sax player character, you know …Mr Lee, Lee Allen …I loved all the Little Richard albums in which he did all these solos. Even today I am in awe of these solos. But this is not what I wanted to do! I wanted to do Ornette! I wanted to do Albert Ayler. That’s what I wanted to I do using all these rhythm ‘blues’ arrangements . It was misleading because we have could have gone right pass next without even realising they are these small rhythm ‘blues’ arrangements but it don’t care..
Johan: You were completely successful and everybody has been trying to catch up to you for 40 years!
Lou: You know Maureen has almost invented all alone the fact of playing the drums standing. A real African drum girl. Still no drummer in the world knows how she does it. Maureen is very talented, and I think it is invariably underestimated by people. They do not understand everything else this way of playing has brought ! But her fellow musicians know! I think they should make a coin bearing the likeness of Maureen or something like that. This way of playing creates its own kind of rhythm and we didn’t even recognize her the credit when it is actually being reused by absolutely everyone, especially the younger bands. When I was at South by Southwest, I saw so many groups which played standing EXACTLY like Moe.
Lou: Absolutely! I imagined you being there and seeing that, roaring with laughter, because it was so cool It was absolutely your style, the way you play drums.
Moe: I’m stoked !!
Lou: And they darn well know where it’s coming from I’m telling you, they know it and they pay you homage! You can hear it non-stop,constantly. It’s a very particular rhythm and she, for certain, is the one who invented it, and she found it thanks to her and all those good things she listened to and I think we do not give her all the credit she totally deserves..
Moe: That’s very nice of you to say so honey!
Lou: I really do mean it. I listen to people all day and I can’t find a single person that is able to play the way you do.
Moe: I understand.
Lou: It’s just impossible!
Moe: I see what you mean..
Lou: It’s impossible, it’s downright impossible, and once we understand the fact that this is impossible, we understand why some other things are impossible too.
Moe: What makes me very happy in what you’re saying is that now I can be 100% sure you loved the way I was playing and what I was doing back then.
Lou: But how could you even doubt it???
Moe: Well, I never thought you hated it!! It’s just … It makes me so very happy that you thought it was real good.
Lou: Sometimes I happened to put on a Velvet Underground album and say: ”Now, listen very well to what she does, and how she plays ” But people can listen for hours without hearing it. Some people just don’t get it.
Moe: You know, what I was doing … the drummer, Orville..I don’t know if you remember this guy from my band? That’s the only person I’ve ever met who… I took his cymbals away so he wasn’t able to reach/play them.
Lou: You know in these parts of those electronic beat box that we hear today, if you listen well, the first thing that we get rid of are the cymbals. This way, we get rid of that line of barbaric drumming that’s always been played the same way everyone has always been playing them since the beginning… and for one reason or another … I mean I’ve had very good drummers whom I tied one arm behind their back to prevent them from playing this way!
Lou: And when I took their hi-hat they would getvery angry and fly into a rage!
Lou: You know there are drummers that are very good at what they do but that should be told: ”Do not play the hi-hat, ever, ever, it is prohibited, it does not exist anymore, it’s just over!”
Moe: Yeah, eight or ten years ago, a friend of mine sent me a compilation he had done when I was about to make this girlie band-like album, you know and there were, oh there must have been 30 songs of girls band he had put in the comp so that I could reflect and see if there was anything I wanted to play and there were plenty that I had never heard and some that, of course, I had already heard and loved and after going through half of the tape or maybe more I’ve realized that I had not heard a single cymbal! It was like a revelation !! Holy shit!! I was right!!!!
Lou: You bet! And you know it eventually got to the point where you didn’t need them at all!
Lou: And it liberates the rhythm!
Moe: Yeah! That’s exactly how I see it. I always had the feeling that the cymbals were too much, like a nuisance. Drummers hit on them every opportunity they get and in a 3-minutes song, it can be done 3000 times!
Lou: Yeah they also blast over the sound of the guitar and there’s no good reason for them to be. It’s not the kind of music we want to play, we don’t need that.
Lou: There are lots of things we can do instead. But you know, to find a drummer who understands that is very, very difficult
Johan: Well, Now we will give Moe all the honors she deserves in our book through your own words. Have you ever played a duo? Just the two of you, guitar and drum?
Moe: Hum No
Lou: Maybe we should. I think it is important to say that Maureen has created a certain way of playing drums that should be called the Maureen Tucker Style. Understand? It didn’t go unnoticed amongst other musicians, they realised what she had accomplished and they are right for it.A friend of mine who happens to be a producer once told me: ”Listen to this beat. You know you should do your own album because you see, it’s you guys who have invented this kind of beat, and you should really do it because everyone is doing the same thing now.” And he made me listen to a load of albums and yes, we could hear it everywhere, the beat from ”I’m waiting for the Man”, basically.
Lou: BAM BAM BAM BAM!… This one. You know you’ve got to have muscles to play it, if you are too weak, you’ll just crumble down…
Moe: (Laughs gently)
Lou: Either way, I’m Lou Reed, President of the Society of Maureen Tucker’s Admirers.
Moe: You’re too cute!
Lou: Yes, my little bunny!
To end this well, I thought of posting a clip of After Hours, a song Lou wrote in 1969 especially for Maureen because as Lou stated himself, the song was “so innocent and pure” that he could not possibly sing it himself. She couldn’t do it at first in the studio with all the other bands member there, joking around. They had to evacuate everyone from the studio, except Lou who helped her to get it right. Tucker’s vocals are accompanied by acoustic and bass guitar. The style of the lyrics and the music is somewhat reminiscent of Tin Pan Alley songs of the 1930s. It is the tenth and final track on their 1969 self-titled album.
David Godlis was eyewitness to the 1970s New York punk scene. Here’s a very small sample of what you can find i his photo souvenir book on the CBGB with an intro by Jim Jarmusch who just did a documentary about The Stooges ”Gimme Danger”.
10 Ramones Clips You Need To Watch!
Just click on pic for the clips!
“When you boo the Ramones, you are booing rock’n’roll”; So said Supersuckers’ frontman Eddie Spaghetti. They could be the truest words ever uttered. Tommy Ramone, who died Friday on July 11th 2014 at the age of 65, was the band’s first official drummer and the cool, streetwise rogue in the shrunken black T-shirt and oversized shades staring out from the cover of that 29-minute-sprint-to-the-finish first album. An original member of the band, Tommy’s tenure in the group would last until 1978. During that time he played on arguably their three greatest records (Ramones, Leave Home and Rocket To Russia), co-producing each and underpinning the songs with a high-energy, no-frills style that combined with Johnny Ramone’s buzzsaw guitar to propel their music to thrillingly unhinged heights. And if proof were needed of the NY punk icons’ foundation status in rock’s edifice, one need only survey the video evidence corralled below. Strap yourself in, and prepare to break the sound barrier with the Ramones Mark I at their very, very best.
The Cannes Film Festival is going to be rocking next Thursday, thanks to the special midnight premiere screening of Jim Jarmusch’s Stooges-centric documentary, “Gimme Danger.” The film aims to “presents the context of the Stooges’ emergence musically, culturally, politically, historically, and relates their adventures and misadventures while charting their inspirations and the reasons behind their initial commercial challenges, as well as their long-lasting legacy.”
Jarmusch has commented: “No other band in rock’n’roll history has rivaled The Stooges’ combination of heavy primal throb, spiked psychedelia, blues-a-billy grind, complete with succinct angst-ridden lyrics, and a snarling, preening leopard of a front man who somehow embodies Nijinsky, Bruce Lee, Harpo Marx, and Arthur Rimbaud. There is no precedent forThe Stooges, while those inspired by them are now legion.“He added that the film “is more an ‘essay’ than a document. It’s our love letter to possibly the greatest band in rock’n’roll history, and presents their story, their influences and their impact, complete with some never-before-seen footage and photographs. Like the Stooges and their music, ‘Gimme Danger’ is a little wild, messy, emotional, funny, primitive, and sophisticated in the most unrefined way. Long live The Stooges!”
And Every Stinking Bum Should Wear a Crown!!
Iggy presence will be felt on the silver screen in a long term project with horror master movie director Dario Argento’s The Sandmanin which Osterberg will have the leading role playing THE SANDMAN HIMSELF!!
Iggy never ceased to amaze his fans, always hitting us with his best shot since the 60s! Iggy is a cockroach. If we were to live in a post-apocalyptic nuclear world, Iggy would still be very much alive AND kicking ass!
”I love to create worlds where the dark side of human nature is present. Life isn’t always good times. While in our youth we experience many things we would rather forget but this is what defines us. That’s why my characters have an adolescent quality to them. I’ve been very fortunate in experiencing and hearing many great stories in my life which now find their way into my paintings.”
Each time I see or hear about the tragic death of a young talented musician, actor, performer or artist, it reminds me of the cinematographic adaptation by Fellini of a short story by American author Edgar A. Poe, first published in 1841 ”Never Bet The Devil your Head–A Tale with a Moral” that is precisely about the sacrifice of those stars that we so freely create now and then, those who made it far enough to see themselves exposed to a decaying life, falling apart into superficiality and eventually totally lose sight of everything that really matters… You see guys likeLayne StaleyandKurt Cobain (both incidentally died on April the 5th) who were terrified, unable to cope anymore, feeling so alone and abandoned that they chose death. I won’t tell their kids or any kid at all that ”it’s better to burn out than to fade away” like it’s written to Boddha — Kurt ‘s childhood imaginary friend that later became his alter-ego — in Cobain’s suicide note. I know they will have to be either so pained by it all that they will chose to stay away from it all or either suffer more or less the same fate.As I was saying, I was talking about this Fellini’s movie calledToby Dammit, played here by Terence Stamp who gives an astonishing performance in this superb short from the collective ”Spirits of the Dead” (1968 – I was 1-year-old!) I never forgot that face, never will and I totally freaked out when I later learned that it was in fact THE DEVIL HIMSELF who was represented here! I had for sure seen it when I was young, I have no idea how old, but one thing is for sure, I never forgot it. It really haunted me; Fellini creates both haunting and magnificent visions based on our lives.. He resembles a child.. One second he can be so naive and full of a sense of amazement but in a flash you’ll be thrown in something very ”Tragédie Grecque” and he will bring you to a caricatured degree that is so satirical, surreal, maniacal and nightmarish that you will want to escape this bad dream where everyone looks and acts in such strange manners. Nope I never forgot it, I never could forget the first time I saw the devil’s face…
Here it is for you, the only horror movie Federico Fellini ever did, watch it here from Spirits of the Dead, TOBY DAMMIT!
During his later years in Kansas, Burroughs developed a painting technique whereby he created abstract compositions by placing spray paint cans in front of, and some distance from, blank canvasses, and then shooting at the paint cans with a shotgun. These splattered canvasses were exposed in various Galleries during the early 1990s.
In an interview with Gregory Ego, entitled “William Burroughs & the Flicker Machine”, as published in David Kerekes’ 2003 “Headpress (the journal of sex religion death)”, William explains how he made shotgun art painting, and others. Here’s a portion of this interview:
EGO: Are you still doing your “shotgun art?”
BURROUGHS: Oh, all kinds. Brushwork. Shotgun. Paint. Knife.
EGO: What exact process do you use for your visual art?
BURROUGHS: There is no exact process. If you want to do shotgun art, you take a piece of plywood, put a can of spray paint in front of it, and shoot it with a shotgun or high powered rifle. The paint’s under high pressure so it explodes! Throws the can 300 feed. The paint sprays in exploding color across your surface. You can have as many colors as you want. Turn it around, do it sideways, and have one color coming in from this side and this side. Of course, they hit. Mix in all kinds of unpredictable patterns. This is related to Pollock’s drip canvases, although this is a rather more basically random process, there’s no possibility of predicting what patterns you’re going to get. I’ve had some I’ve worked over for months. Get the original after the explosions and work it over with brushes and spray paints and silhouettes until I’m satisfied. So, there isn’t any set procedure. Sometimes you get it right there and you don’t touch it. The most important thing in painting is to know when to stop, when everything is finished. Doesn’t mean anything in writing.
EGO: It does rely to a high degree on chance — the shotgun art?
BURROUGHS: It introduces a random factor, certainly.
EGO: Just like the cut-up method.
BURROUGHS: Yes. But you don’t have to use it all, you can use that as background. There’re a lot of other randomizing procedures like “marbling.” Take water and spray your paint on top of the water and then put your paper or whatever in the water and pull it out and it sticks in all sorts of random patterns. And then there’s the old inkblot. [Ruffles imaginary paper] Like that. Sometimes they’re good only as background or sometimes you get a picture that you’re satisfied with at once. There is no certain procedure.
EGO: Allen Ginsberg proposed to me that the cut-up technique you developed with Brion Gysin is a sort of counter-brainwashing technique. Do you agree with that?
BURROUGHS: It has that aspect in that you’re breaking down the word, you’re creating new words. Right as soon as you start cutting, you’re getting new words, new combinations of words. Yes, it has that aspect, sure. But remember that all this brainwashing and propaganda, etc., is not by any means expected to reach any intelligent corners. It isn’t expected to convince anybody that has any sense. If they can get ten percent, that’s good. That’s the aim of propaganda; to get ten percent. They’re not trying to convince people that have a grain of sense.
Born in 1959 in Zaragoza but living and working in Madrid, Dino Valls is one of the Spanish representatives of the vanguard of figurative art. His painting, elaborating and expanding the methods of past masters, centers on the human psyche by using figurative techniques only as a formal support in which to project a conceptual content laden with profound psychic weight, where the most obscure pulsations develop in a symbolic process of intellectualism.
After receiving his degree in medicine and surgery in 1982, he decided to devote himself exclusively to painting; the kind of painting which would be influenced by the humanistic perspective that brought about the study of man. This kind of attitude is reminiscent of the creative climate of the Renaissance. His passion for ancient painting moved him to study seriously the techniques of the great masters in the major European museums and in 1991, Valls studied the art of egg tempera and the technique of the Italian and Flemish masters of the 16th and 17th centuries. Egg tempera remains his favorite technique for painting.
Art is the only medium which allows man to unite his logical thought and his magical thought, redeeming him from the profound dichotomy which exists between both. Curiosity incites us to step out into the field of logic, raising our gaze beyond what may be recognized. This may be the point of inflection which leads us unreality in Dino Valls’ painting.
One of the privileges by those dedicated to art is that related to a special form of possession. Although a person’s desire to grasp another may never be completely fulfilled, being able to create an image the possession of which begins and ends strictly in the actual creation, is an eminently artistic prerogative, that in addition to being much more satisfactory, accompanies another aspect which is not of less importance: he concept of endopathy, according to which, in order to paint a figure, one has to become it. Just as all paintings are self-portraits, only mirrors hang on the walls, which means an extension of the relation between participation and effect upon each other by the work of art, the author and the spectator.
On the other hand, the relation between the person who looks and what is being contemplated causes archetypes to appear and ends up by establishing an active communication between the work and the receiver, as it is based on the power of projection which the unconscious causes to arise in the person looking.
The gaze discovers the painting and this reveals what we only know intuitively: the irrational. It is during our attempt to rationalize it that the conflicts arises, originating in our collective cultural unconsciousness, which scientific research continues to try to unmask.
Just as dreams disguise themselves as reality to make themselves recognizable for the consciousness, Dino Valls’ painting conceives his artistic ideas based on the artist’s interior unreality. Neither realism as naturalism, nor a fleeting personal view of the real world concern him. It is not the exterior and its objective reality that attract him, but rather the contrary. This is a search inside oneself, plunging into the warehouse of what underlies everyday experience. In his work, the painter reveals these profound conflicts, and the spectator recognized them as part of his internal struggle, as they belong to the same human essence
Alicia Guixa, Catalogue, “Dino Valls“, Madrid (December 1993)
Music/Lyrics:Lou Reed Original Album:Loaded/The Velvet Underground
“Oh! Sweet Nuthin‘” is the final song off of Loaded, the last real Velvet Underground album (1970). It tells the stories of the disaffected, the poor Jimmy Brown, the homeless and depressed Ginger Brown, his fellow street person Polly May, and poor Joanna Love who finds herself in an endless stream of failed relationships. Between that and the chorus of, “Oh, sweet nuthin’/She ain’t got nothing’ at all,” you’d think this was a miserable song, one to listen to when you’re looking for that last bit of motivation to slash your wrists. That would be the easy approach. Rather, “Oh! Sweet Nuthin‘” is incredibly life affirming, especially in the end section where drummer Doug Yule – filling in for Moe Tucker who was on maternity leave – suddenly kicks the whole jam into overdrive. The guitars soar and the drumming continues to pound and it builds until it finally resolves to a reprise of, “She ain’t got nothing at all,” which suddenly feels like a reward instead of a lament. Who says that you can’t make something out of nothing? –Mark Toscano, David Steinberg
I’m Sticking With You!
One of the first generally available Velvet Underground bootlegs was an EP released around 1976 that served up four songs cut during the bridges between the band’s second and third (“Temptation in Your Heart”) and third and fourth albums — “Foggy Notion,” “Ferryboat Bill,” and “I’m Sticking With You.” All offered very different views on the band, at a time when the plethora of studio outtakes and oddities that we know today had still to see the light of day. However, even in this company, the plaintively swinging “I’m Sticking With You” (“cos I’m made out of glue”) came as a major shock to anybody raised on the delights of “Sister Ray” and “Heroin.” A straightforward duet between Lou Reed and Maureen Tucker, “I’m Sticking With You” was as sweet and unaffected as any classic pop duo (Captain & Tennille would have killed for this song!), its lilting melody and gauchely realistic sentiments all the more touching for their simplicity. Tucker would subsequently re-record the song with Jonathan Richman; the Velvets’ own version, meanwhile, finally made its official debut on 1985’s VU compilation. –Dave Thompson
Explosive New Evidence Suggests the Punk Rocker May Have Been Innocent
The murky half-light of a bleak New York winter’s morning had yet to penetrate the small rear bedroom of an airless apartment in the city’s bohemian Greenwich Village.
Stepping over empty bottles and half-eaten plates of spaghetti (the untidy remnants of the previous night’s party), two police officers from the tough 6th Precinct stood in the doorway and surveyed the scene.
Pushed up hard against the far wall was a bed. Lying amid the crumpled sheets, illuminated by the unforgiving glow of a single light bulb, was the naked dead body of a young man.
To Manhattan’s hardened policemen, it was hardly an unfamiliar scene. But the death of the 21-year-old in the messy ground-floor flat at 63 Bank Street did offer the New York Police Department a rather convenient solution to a potentially messy murder investigation.
Because the dead man, John Ritchie, who had taken his last breath just hours before, was better known as British punk rocker Sid Vicious – the prime suspect in the murder of his American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.
Now, however, the Sex Pistols bass guitarist, who was on bail charged with stabbing Spungen to death at their Manhattan hotel four months earlier, was dead and the file could be closed with the minimum of fuss.
He killed Nancy, they assumed, then died of an overdose. End of story.
But many of those who knew the couple have always questioned this official version of events.
And on the 30th anniversary of his death, a new film is set for release which presents the fascinating theory that Vicious was innocent of murdering his blonde lover.
Its makers claim to have uncovered evidence which reveals that a series of police blunders and apathy by detectives led the authorities wrongly to pin the blame on the star.
In fact, the film contests, medical tests carried out on Vicious at the time of his arrest showed the musician would have been incapable of the attack, because he was out cold at the time after taking so much of a powerful sedative that it would have killed all but the most hard-bitten drug users.
Instead, the film Who Killed Nancy? asserts for the first time that 20-year-old Spungen, the daughter of a wealthy middle-class Philadelphia family, was killed by another resident at the hotel – a shadowy British man named Michael, who spent that last fatal night in the room with the couple.
As the murderer robbed and killed Spungen for the huge stash of cash they kept there, Vicious, it is claimed, slept through the attack, only waking to find his lover’s dead body in the morning.
The documentary’s British director, Alan G. Parker, who has spent 24 years investigating the life and death of the star and has written a series of well-received books on the subject, tracked down more than 180 witnesses and unearthed previously unseen police reports.
He also spoke to several witnesses who are adamant that Vicious was innocent. Crucially, Parker says police found the fingerprints of six people who had been in the couple’s room at New York’s rundown Chelsea Hotel in the early hours, but none was ever interviewed.
One witness, who subsequently became a priest, tried to tell detectives that he thought Vicious was not the murderer, but was given the brush-off by investigating officers.
Meanwhile others pointed the finger of suspicion at the man known only as ‘Michael’, who one friend of the couple swears remained alone in the room with them during those fateful final hours. He disappeared after the murder and police made no effort to track him.
‘I have followed this story for over 20 years,’ says Parker. ‘The more I researched and dug around, the more I became convinced that Sid was innocent. The police thought they had their man, and when he died the whole thing could be put away and forgotten about.’
But just how much of the film’s thesis stands up to scrutiny and how much is based on the plethora of wild conspiracy theories that have grown up about the deaths of Sid and Nancy over the past three decades?
Certainly, Spungen’s killing did seem, at first, to be a routine murder investigation. A rock groupie who had turned her back on her genteel Jewish upbringing and become a heroin addict, funding her habit at one time by working as a stripper and prostitute, Nancy was found dead in her underwear in the bathroom of Room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel.
The monolithic Chelsea had once been a Mecca for writers and artists. Dylan Thomas, Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan had all once lived there. But by the late 1970s, it was little more than a sprawling drugs den populated by a seedy coterie of Manhattan low-life.
Spungen, who had been dating Sid Vicious for a year, had been stabbed once in the stomach by a hunting knife that London-born Vicious had bought days earlier to protect himself when he ventured out into New York to buy drugs.
It was Vicious himself who phoned police to say he had found her dead body, and an hour later on the morning of October 12, 1978, in a holding cell at the Third Homicide Division, Vicious famously confessed: ‘I did it because I’m a dirty dog.’
The police, it seemed, had their man. With his taste for violence, animal torture and swastikas, Vicious was, after all, the repellent face of punk rock in all its snarling ugliness.
His band, the Sex Pistols, had shocked Britain with their foulmouthed rants on TV and their anti-monarchy hit, God Save The Queen.
He had killed his lover, it seemed, in the ultimate act of rock debauchery while out of his mind on drugs.
But Vicious was later to retract his confession, claiming he could not recall anything about the night Nancy – dubbed ‘Nauseating Nancy’ by the star’s own mother – had died.
Hardly surprising, perhaps, given that the police report obtained by Parker reveals Vicious was dosed up on powerful sedatives at the time of her murder. Indeed, witnesses who were at an impromptu party in their room the evening before her body was found claim he took up to 30 Tuinal tablets – a strong barbiturate.
Few could survive such a massive dose, claims Parker, and even those who could would be put into a deep coma for many hours.
Certainly, several witnesses who passed in and out of the couple’s first-floor room in the early hours say Vicious was out for the count. And at least two say the previously unknown Michael, who lived on the sixth floor of the hotel, was with Sid and Nancy as late as 5am – around the time she was stabbed.
So what could have been a possible motive for the killing? In a word: money. Vicious, who had quit the Sex Pistols nine months earlier after a bitter fall- out with the group’s lead singer Johnny Rotten, had gone on to have a Europe-wide solo hit with a tuneless version of the Frank Sinatra classic My Way.
Just days before Nancy’s death, he had received $25,000 in cash – royalty payments from Richard Branson’s Virgin Records.
Witnesses say that on the night before Spungen’s death, the room was awash with money. The following morning, however, the cash was gone, and Michael was later seen carrying a large wad of cash secured with one of Nancy’s purple hair ties.
So just who was the mysterious Michael? Details of the alleged killer are sketchy, but he was described by witnesses as a young, slim, blond man with a penchant for alligator shoes. He spoke with a British accent and had moved into the hotel recently, befriending Vicious and Miss Spungen.
Several of the couple’s friends remember seeing him with them in the days before Nancy’s death, and one, musician Neon Leon, who had been with the couple on the night of the killing, says he rang Nancy shortly before the time that she is estimated to have been stabbed. He says he could hear the man he knew as Michael talking in the background.
Another resident of the Chelsea, Victor Colicchio, also stopped at the couple’s door shortly before the stabbing and says Michael was inside.
But none of the witnesses knew Michael well, and his last name remains a mystery. Only one hand-drawn picture by the couple’s friend, singer Steve Dior, offers any evidence of what he looked like: slimly built, with shoulder-length hair.
Dior is adamant that this is the man he believes killed Nancy and who disappeared soon after with the bundle of the couple’s cash.
Another resident at the sleazy Chelsea Hotel was a would-be actor called Rockets Redglare – who had been born ‘Michael Morra’. Interestingly, within days of Nancy’s murder he allegedly confessed to a friend that he was the real killer.
Redglare, who was raised in a tough district of Brooklyn, had been an unofficial minder and drugs dealer to the couple. He was a well-known figure on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and went on to star with Madonna in the Hollywood movie Desperately Seeking Susan and with Tom Hanks in Big. One English friend of the couple, Zoe Hansen, met Redglare after the killing and says he admitted to her he had been in the room that night and told her: ‘I did it.’
Redglare, himself an addict, died, aged 52, in May 2001 of a combination of kidney and liver failure caused by his years of drug use.
But despite his mysterious confession, witnesses insist that Redglare – who was American, dark-haired and 25 stone – was not the man they blame for Nancy’s murder. That Michael, it seems, vanished without a trace.
And so, with no other suspects to hand, the police charged Vicious with Nancy’s murder. He was remanded in custody, but his manager, the colourful Malcolm McLaren, hired a top New York lawyer called James Merberg to win him bail.
Within days, Vicious was free on a $50,000 licence which had been put up by his record label boss, Richard Branson.
A little more than a month later, however, Sid was back inside the maximum security Riker’s Island jail after glassing a man in a fight in a New York club. He spent nearly two months behind bars in the prison’s detox wing before he was again released on bail.
By then, Vicious had a new girlfriend, a would-be actress called Michelle Robson. On the day of his release – February 1, 1979 – Vicious, his mother Anne Beverley and a few friends went back to Robson’s apartment for a celebration meal.
After eating spaghetti bolognese, Vicious asked his mother – herself a hopeless addict – to find him some drugs. He complained that what she brought him was not strong enough, and another friend was dispatched to get some more.
But unknown to Vicious, this second batch of heroin was more than 95 per cent pure and nearly three times stronger than most of the heroin sold on the streets of New York. After taking it, Sid collapsed.
He was revived by his girlfriend and mother, but they decided not to call an ambulance because they feared he would be thrown back in jail for breaking his bail conditions. It was to prove a fatal mistake.
Later that night, alone in the bedroom, he injected more of the powerful heroin. The following morning, he was found dead.
A pathologist who examined his body said the star’s tolerance to the drug had been weakened by his period behind bars. That, and the potency of the heroin, had killed him.
Police quickly announced they were not looking for anyone else in connection with Spungen’s death.
Meanwhile, Anne Beverley discovered what appeared to be a suicide note in the pocket of her son’s jeans. Written some days earlier, Vicious told his mother he wanted to be reunited with ‘his’ Nancy.
The discovery of the letter led some friends to speculate that Nancy’s death had been a suicide pact that had gone wrong, and Spungen had administered the fatal knife wound herself.
In fact, ten days after her death, Vicious had attempted to slash his wrists, and just a few months earlier the couple had told a British music magazine of their plans to take their own lives.
After his death, the punk rocker’s mother requested he be laid to rest in the same plot where Nancy was buried, but her parents refused. The following week, Anne flew with her son’s ashes to the Philadelphia cemetery and secretly sprinkled them over Nancy’s gravestone.
His mother, who committed suicide in 1996, remained convinced of her son’s innocence until her dying day.
‘Before she died, Anne told me to clear her son’s name,’ says Parker. ‘Everything I have found out since makes me believe that Sid was innocent.’
It is unlikely we shall ever now know for sure. But could it be that the undeniably unpleasant and violent Vicious really was the victim of an injustice after all?
Sad thing is that nobody seems, even to this day to care to know who killed Nancy Spungen. Even if they would would have found a way to accuse Sid and get him to court for that, which I’m pretty sure they would have, they would have had a real hard time convincing a jury that he was guilty. So if we take into consideration that the option that he was most probably not the killer than who is it?? I think some guy tried to steal their money and Nancy caught the guy and used Sid’s knife that was always planted in the wall in their room at the Chelsea to kill Spungen whom without the shadow of a doubt would not have let him take the money without doing anything. She wasn’t strong but she had been through some tuff shit in NYC, enough to be absolutely certain that she would have done everything in her power to try and stop that guy. That evening everyone remembers that Sid was totally out of it and he just never heard anything, he must have felt aweful discovering his beloved soulmate dead on the floor under the bathroom sink, I bet it’s an image that followed him for the rather short remaining of his also very short life. He died from an overdose after being bailed out for the second time for hitting Patti Smith’s brother with a beer bottle in a NYC bar. He was clean when he got out of jail and he was with his new girlfriend and his mother and some friends. What a sad story.
Spungen was so fucked up back then in New-York that a friend told fer she should move to the UK, that she would be able to relax there because unlike the US they were treating the drug addicts good there so she could have a ”normal” life. So when the New-York Dolls were called to tour with the Sex Pistols she decided to go mainly to try and get with Johnny or some guy from the Dolls and by hanging out with the Dolls she met Sid who was like a ”fish fresh out of the water”. He was anything but Vicious. Everyone agrees on that one.
Southern California artist Brandi Milne was born and raised in Anaheim. She grew up happily, surrounded by a wealth of inspiration as a child, taking pleasure in classic cartoons, crayons and coloring books, Sid and Marty Kroft creations, toys, candies and kitschy fabrics and notions of the times. Self-taught and emotionally driven, Milne’s work speaks of love, loss, pain and heartbreak in the first person. She decorates it oddly with a wink of humor and a delicious candied-coat finish – a combination that can be considered highly addictive to viewers around the world. Milne’s work is celebrated and supported in fine art galleries across the US, and has been featured in both print and online publications such as Hi-Fructose Magazine, Babyboss magazine and Juxtapoz. She published her first book “So Good for Little Bunnies” in 2008 with Baby Tattoo Books and Milne has collaborated with notable companies including 686, Hurley and Billabong.