INTERVIEW : JOHANNA JACKSON

Johanna Jackson, a treasure of the West Coast and of the universe, introduced to most of the world through Beautiful Losers, has six hand-knit sweaters and a blanket strung up at the new Portland Museum of Modern Art, a makeshift gallery inside Mississippi Studios on North Albina in Portland, Oregon. Her show, The Big Fig, reflects her roots in street and folk art culture, and celebrates craft, feminized mediums and the psychically, physically and philosophically dynamic metaphor of weaving and knitting.

You still have a few more days to catch the show in Portland — it’s up through Saturday.

I’m curious if other textile artists like Sheila Hicks or Lenore Tawney provide you with any inspiration. Hicks has a book called Weaving as a Metaphor the pages of which hold all of her miniature weavings she’s done over the last 40, 50 years in Paris, Mexico, Florida, wherever. Each one is like a poem — how the weft expresses the way the wind was moving that day and the deep blue ribbon was a man she’d spoken with on the corner. Do you feel like your sweaters are part of this sort of kinesthetic storytelling tradition?

I do feel influenced by Tawney and Hicks, but more influenced by people way outside of the professional art world, like Bertha Gray Hayes and Martha Stewart. Still, I love Hick’s poetry, and I feel the cyclical loop within loop motion of the knitting process mimicking a kind of narrative impulse — it turns the formless enormity of time into fabric the way a story turns the infinite succession of events into a finite chain of events, looped one to another.

Does art have to be useful? These sweaters are real and will keep animals and humans warm. They could even insulate tomato plants or reupholster the driver’s seat of a car. Does it feel different to make art that can be useful in real life?

I don’t think that art has to be useful. I mean, it’s all dust.

It seems like you and your partner Chris have strong feelings about not worrying to much about shit and just living the good life. What is there to learn from letting go of the label of “artist” — or conversely, spreading it out to encompass everything you do?

Life is the best thing that I have. I don’t want to block it by labeling myself, limiting my creativity or prioritizing some of my life work (say painting) over others (brushing my teeth). I want to be here for all of it, who knows where the art is?

Images via Portland MoMA


INTERVIEW : OUR OLD PAL MICHAEL CAVADIAS AKA LILY OF THE VALLEY

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Though you would never know it by the title or lead image of this post — actor, singer, DJ and performer Michael Cavadias is not, in fact, old. He is young, he’s fucking beautiful and he’s FULL OF LIFE. Michael aka Lily of the Valley (to some from a certain era) is one of New York’s most treasured gems, and we’re honored to both know him and host him on the decks in our lobby on a regular occasion. Never were more seductive tracks dropped mere inches below such a winsome mug. At long last, we asked Mister Cavadias to tell us a bit about his life story and his work. Catch him tonight in the Ace New York lobby and come bask in his glory yourself.

I spent a few years in the 90’s performing and working as “Lily of the Valley.” This name came from an improv when I was living with Antony (of…and the Johnson’s) when were were at NYU theatre school back then. Lily was a delusional woman who believed that dozens of angels were living on her toes and giving her messages. But the character changed considerably after that and Lily became an umbrella character for many different creative pursuits. She performed weekly at the Blacklips Performance Cult at the Pyramid in dark little plays and then at Squeezebox with a rock band many many times. It wasn’t traditional drag in any sense but a bit of a natural femininity and etherial presence. It was a great time exploring that character and working with so many inspiring people like Antony, Page (who passed away in 2002) and Dean Johnson (passed away in 2007). People who taught me so much about how to be your authentic self.

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As an actor my favorite job would have to be working with Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr. & Tobey Maguire in Wonder Boys. I played Tony/Antonia Sloviak who was Robert’s date to a faculty party but he ditches me for Tobey and then I have a couple scenes with Michael Douglas. It was an amazing experience. I learned so much and met some wonderful people like Jane Adams (Happiness, Hung) who is one of my closest friends to this day.

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I can’t say I’ve had any truly nightmarish auditions — I suppose just times I was called in for things I just wasn’t right for. In the past few years, I’ve been concentrating on producing more of my own work. A show I wrote called “The Mystery of Claywoman” (directed by Rob Roth) finished a successful run in 2012 at Abrons Art Center and I performed as Claywoman at The Meltdown Festival in London in August, which Antony curated. Rob and I are also finishing a film called “The Doctors” where I play an evil physician. Other than that I’ve been working in other people’s projects a lot lately. There is a great scene of performers and actors, writers Downtown right now like Cole Escola, Erin Markey, Stephen Winter, WIll Janowitz, Antony & Rob Roth. All of whom I’m really excited to be working with.

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DJing is actually a great way to tie everything together. I’ve always been obsessed with music. I’ll fixate on an artist and play their songs over and over again like a meditation. I’m fascinated by the progression of artists through their careers and how they change.  I love looking at a DJ set as almost a score for a historical documentary on music, trying to weave the songs together so that the relationship between different songs of different eras and artists can sort of comment on each other as though there’s a narrative flowing throughout the night. Not that the listener would necessarily pick up on that, but it’s a fun way to put it together in your head.

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We love you Michael, Lily and everyone else on your toes.


INTERVIEW : EMILY BAKER OF SWORD AND FERN

Emily Baker’s an OG jewelry designer, universe-maker and inspirational mover-shaker we’re lucky enough to call a neighbor and a friend in Portland, Oregon. Her line of jewelry, Sword + Fern — and the shop where it grows as thick as moss — acted as a catalyst for Portland design back in the day. We love watching her world expand — with sweetheart, Lovers synth-programmer and performance artist Kerby Ferris — into a life-giving and electro-sparked atmosphere in a league of its own.

Tonight, Emily takes over room 205 at Ace Hotel Portland for Content 2012, creating a sound installation with Kerby that will blow your fucking mind. Tickets can be picked up at Ace Hotel Portland, and $5 of each goes toward New York Cares to aid in hurricane relief efforts. Below, she gives a glimpse into what’s in store for us and talks about her new F/W collection, Memorizer. 

The new jewelry collection, Memorizer, is inspired by the ancient Pacific Northwest First Nations myth of Copper Woman, the First Mother of civilization — her warrior training traditions, wisdom and the power of intuition. I let my senses rule my process; my most beloved way to work is gathering materials by happenstance and sponteneity, messing up and leaving it, then coming back to it again. I found fluidity, the concept of water logic, and the secret world of my own tiny joys came to the surface while I was working on Memorizer.

The alchemic imperfections of hand-cut copper, hand-dyed wood in ombre chakra tones, engraved graphics on leather, silkscreened scarves, cast concrete and cut mirrors all blend together to tell the story of a secret society’s traditions and their visions of women’s ancient wisdom, power and strength, taking the wearer on a joyride to the space alive inside their own personal landscapes.

YOUJOY in room 205 will be a sensory exploration of shape and sound. Kerby’s bandmate Emily has been immersing as of late in Shambhala Buddhist teachings from Pema Chödrön and Chögyam Trungpa — and her current mantra, YOUJOY, emphasizes these principles of finding happiness just by being yourself. Kerby will create an interactive sound installation that will weave in and out of the new Memorizer pieces as well as the new Sword + Fern sculptural line, Water Logic — mobiles, wall hangings, textiles and other jewelry for the home.


Bobby Bonaparte founded LiFT Label on a wing and a prayer in Portland, Oregon — we like anyone who’s a sucker for a leap of faith, with the creative chops to make it work. Bobby’s launching his new collection at this year’s Content at Ace Hotel Portland, presented by smart. Steer yourself our way this Sunday — $5 of all tickets go toward Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
I started drawing “LiFT” with an upwards arrow for the “i” on my skateboards when I was in the 8th grade. I hoped writing “LiFT” would give me more height or ‘lift’ when I was ollieing. Always seeking to progress, I found an ancient silkscreen that belonged to my aunt in my basement and taught myself how to silkscreen LiFT concepts.
I loved the creative freedom silkscreening gave me, I could put anything I wanted onto a shirt. I soon found that shirts and clothing generally were an incredible means of self expression. I began getting my message out and it seemed to resonate with people.  
After interning at Weiden + Kennedy in Tokyo, I took a job in marketing causing my creativity to lagg. After about a year, I got inspired do a line of tanks for summer with a new mission to connect with the community in a positive way, a commitment to the environment, philanthropy, pushing the envelope of design and manufacturing in the Northwest and maintaing an overall positive perspective.


That summer, the line of tank tops sold out and it became clear that I could make a living doing what I love. I left my salaried job to follow my passion for LiFT. Over a year later, LiFT is carried by rad shops in Portland, San Francisco and San Diego and has been featured in local media and on Portlandia and Girls.
I’m incredibly proud that my new line is sewn entirely in Portland. I pattern out the shirts and pants. The crewnecks with Pendleton pockets are knit here by Columbia Knit.  My chambray button up is made of organic cotton/hemp blend and my collaborative shirts with Foster Huntington and Mao Kudo are printed on organic cotton. It’s my goal to use more sustainable and eco-conscious fabrics moving forward, and it’s important to me to give back to the community by donating time, money and supplies to some amazing non-profits like Ecotrust, Salmon Nation, p:ear, The Listening Archive & Focus the Nation. LiFT is a member of 1% for the Planet, an organization founded by Yvon Chouinard, and we donate at least 1% of our total sales to an non-profit of our choice (Ecotrust).
The company has evolved immensely since it’s conception. I’m happy that “LiFT” and the “STAY LiFTED” mantra have remained a constant in my life. On days when things are especially overwhelming, I take a moment to breathe and remind myself to stay lifted.
And, yes, I am related to Napoleon. My father’s father hired a genealogist to trace back the lineage to Corsica and the man himself. We share a similar nose, stature and drive.
It’s obvious, however, that Bobby has that chip that Napoleon was missing about everyone working together for the greater good. Evolution! It’s a beautiful thing!

Bobby Bonaparte founded LiFT Label on a wing and a prayer in Portland, Oregon — we like anyone who’s a sucker for a leap of faith, with the creative chops to make it work. Bobby’s launching his new collection at this year’s Content at Ace Hotel Portland, presented by smart. Steer yourself our way this Sunday — $5 of all tickets go toward Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

I started drawing “LiFT” with an upwards arrow for the “i” on my skateboards when I was in the 8th grade. I hoped writing “LiFT” would give me more height or ‘lift’ when I was ollieing. Always seeking to progress, I found an ancient silkscreen that belonged to my aunt in my basement and taught myself how to silkscreen LiFT concepts.

I loved the creative freedom silkscreening gave me, I could put anything I wanted onto a shirt. I soon found that shirts and clothing generally were an incredible means of self expression. I began getting my message out and it seemed to resonate with people.  

After interning at Weiden + Kennedy in Tokyo, I took a job in marketing causing my creativity to lagg. After about a year, I got inspired do a line of tanks for summer with a new mission to connect with the community in a positive way, a commitment to the environment, philanthropy, pushing the envelope of design and manufacturing in the Northwest and maintaing an overall positive perspective.


That summer, the line of tank tops sold out and it became clear that I could make a living doing what I love. I left my salaried job to follow my passion for LiFT. Over a year later, LiFT is carried by rad shops in Portland, San Francisco and San Diego and has been featured in local media and on Portlandia and Girls.

I’m incredibly proud that my new line is sewn entirely in Portland. I pattern out the shirts and pants. The crewnecks with Pendleton pockets are knit here by Columbia Knit.  My chambray button up is made of organic cotton/hemp blend and my collaborative shirts with Foster Huntington and Mao Kudo are printed on organic cotton. It’s my goal to use more sustainable and eco-conscious fabrics moving forward, and it’s important to me to give back to the community by donating time, money and supplies to some amazing non-profits like Ecotrust, Salmon Nation, p:ear, The Listening Archive & Focus the Nation. LiFT is a member of 1% for the Planet, an organization founded by Yvon Chouinard, and we donate at least 1% of our total sales to an non-profit of our choice (Ecotrust).

The company has evolved immensely since it’s conception. I’m happy that “LiFT” and the “STAY LiFTED” mantra have remained a constant in my life. On days when things are especially overwhelming, I take a moment to breathe and remind myself to stay lifted.

And, yes, I am related to Napoleon. My father’s father hired a genealogist to trace back the lineage to Corsica and the man himself. We share a similar nose, stature and drive.

It’s obvious, however, that Bobby has that chip that Napoleon was missing about everyone working together for the greater good. Evolution! It’s a beautiful thing!


INTERVIEW : ROMAN & WILLIAMS

Celebrating a decade of incredible work, Roman and Williams' Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch signed copies of their new book Roman and Williams Buildings & Interiors : Things We Made with some friends and a gallery of shots in the lobby at Ace Hotel New York last week — you can grab signed copies of this beautiful tome on our shop. We’re old friends with Robin and Stephen, and our studio director, Eric, and interiors maestro Loren worked on the Roman and Williams team when Ace Hotel New York was taking shape. They had a chance to sit down with Stephen and Robin amidst the mayhem to ask about the book, their work together and the subconscious.

Robin and Stephen, you still appear from time to time in Eric and Loren’s dreams. Do you find that creative collaboration spiked with a sobering dose of real business tends to dye the subconscious in this way, and do all the collaborators and team members you’ve had continue to affect your psyche?

Well everything that’s difficult tends to dye the subconscious and work itself into dreams, and we are and always have been difficult. We are proud of that tradition. Easy things are forgettable and have no impact –- no staying power. No dream or haunting qualities ever came from something easy.

The title Things We Made speaks to a sort of portfolio of finished products, however we know how important the process of design is, and how imperfections in that process go into your work, aka “fucking things up.” Will readers get any insight into this rebellious stance?

We hope so! We really put so much work into creating a book that would give insight into our ethos –- where readers could get a sense of us as people, not just our projects. We included hundreds of drawings –- we even drew on the drawings. And the text is a series of conversations, rather than just descriptions.

The book celebrates a “decade of design” — what do you hope the next decade will bring in terms of your studio and practice?

Even more humanistic, careful and unpretentious design. We hope to spread the warmth that the Ace embodies. We’d love to design an airport or a hospital in a way that would move people. The International Style, and what it has bred, and benign contemporary design have made for boring, dreary places that need to me be made more interesting –- interesting for everyone, and not just for architects and designers.

We love your beautiful spot in Montauk — how did the garden do this year? For the green thumbs out there, what’s your favorite vegetable to grow?

It was a hot summer and the garden was absolutely prolific. This year, we built eight-foot tall towers for our tomatoes and we grew eight different varieties. We have been harvesting them well into late October. We never thought they would grow that high – but they did –- they could have grown another few feet even! Our peppers also did well this year because of the heat.

We love growing cabbages, artichokes, and brussell sprouts -– vegetables that take two years to harvest. It is fascinating to watch the process -– how the vegetables grow over one summer, how they retract over the winter and then explode the following spring into super vegetable power.

We’ve also love growing medicinal plants like Angelika, Wormwood and Echinacea, which we like to use. We could go on …

In the act of making things there are many people involved in the process, especially with international projects internationally. In your experience, are Americans still good at “making things”?

Absolutely. American manufacturing almost disappeared — another price of the post-war obsession with cheapening architecture and design. It focused on zero craft and lack of detail. American manufacturing is known for being meaty, strong, simple and good. Things we love. We try to support American craftsmanship as much as we can. It is hard to convince developers and owners to pay more for things made in this country, to pay for things that last longer, but we do the best we can. Whenever we build something for ourselves, this is always the case.

We blessed to call you family and we’re honored to call you friends — excited to see what the next decade brings.

We feel the same about the Ace team. The world is a better place with Ace in it. Thank you. So proud to have had our book party in the Living Room! It’s the project that’s closest to our hearts. Thank you!

Photos from the Billy Farrell Agency


INTERVIEW : JD SAMSON OF MEN

MEN is a Brooklyn-based band and performance collective that focuses on the radical potential of dance music. They’re touring the Pacific Northwest this month and we asked member JD Samson to present us with a photo essay from the road.

+ The first song you fell in love with.

+ Your role model.

+ Favorite thing to see in the audience from onstage.

+ Who is Pussy Riot?

+ Your best tour memory.


INTERVIEW : BIG FREEDIA THE QUEEN DIVA SENDS HER BEST WISHES TO NY

It’s not quite clear if New York will have to weather the Sandy aftermath with or without Big Freedia — who we realize needs no introduction here. The Nola Bounce Queen Diva’s scheduled Halloween show at Brooklyn Bowl is looking likely — but nobody can make any promises. We got in touch with her Monday in the Crescent City via phone, where she chatted with us about the music and politics of bounce and sent her prayers from storm country.

There’s been a couple darker records to come out of New Orleans post-Katrina — like Juvenile’s Reality Check comes to mind. But overall New Orleans music is pretty joyful — especially for having been through something like that. Why is that? What makes it so resilient?

Well, definitely Bounce music is more of a happy music, and then you know we have all other other types of music here in New Orleans — the Jazz and Brass bands and even the Hip Hop, some of them keep it positive. We have a lot of versatility here and we use that. 

Yeah, it seems like that can’t-keep-it-down energy is just engrained in the musical culture, sort of like a jazz funeral. How do you feel about the term “Sissy Bounce”? The piece in the New York Times a couple years ago said the artists didn’t really like it — not because of the word ‘sissy’ but because they just didn’t want to be separated from Bounce music in general. 

Right, we don’t separate it here in New Orleans. It’s all bounce music. There’s no such thing as Sissy Bounce. We have some gay artists who do this music but we don’t separate it. There’s a lot of straight artists, [many who came before] the gay artists who feel offended when people be saying Sissy Bounce because it’s not Sissy Bounce, it’s Bounce music in general — New Orleans is really open to all artists.

Does it ever get competitive in Bounce? Are there battles like there are in other genres of Hip Hop?

Oh definitely (Laughs). We get competitive in many ways. When there’s a hottest artist all the other artists are trying to get to that point and they’re definitely gunning for that artist. 

Any battles you’ve had you want to talk about?

No, but I’m always battling. That’s why I’m always on stage. 

Are you still doing interior decorating?

Yeah, every chance I get I am.

As you tour more does it get harder to do that?

Yeah, it does. I’m touring a whole lot more and it’s been a challenge to try to decorate and perform at the same time. When I’m not here though I send out my staff and they go take care of it. 

The more you tour and do shows around the country, is the vibe at a Bounce show becoming more similar to the way it is in New Orleans?

Yeah, it’s changing a lot. They’re learning the music. They’re jamming even more. They’re learning the dances. It’s feeling more and more like home everywhere I go.  

How do you feel the rebuilding effort in New Orleans is going at this point? 

I’m very excited with the way that the city’s coming back. It’s amazing what they’re doing. It’s an uplift on the whole city — it’s a slow process but it’s definitely changing.  

Do you feel like the music scene is back in full swing?

I would say yes. It’s gotten back to where it needs to be at. It can always get stronger and bigger and better.

Quintron mentioned you in his shortlist of New Orleans artists when we interviewed him a few weeks back. Have you played with Quintron and Miss Pussycat?   

Oh yeah, definitely. We’ve performed together before. When I first started touring a lot, Quintron was a big help with that. Yeah, he’s very familiar with me and I’m very familiar with him.

We have our own storm situation here as you know. 

Yes and I’m very disappointed. I’m praying for you guys that the best happens, that God takes control over the whole situation. We’re a storm city here so we’re definitely praying that you guys will be safe.

Photo by Bon Duke for The Block Magazine


Polica — probably our very favorite new band — spun records in our New York lobby this month during a tour to celebrate their new album (as illustrated in Fig. 1, below). The band’s ecstatically bleak and revelatory sound has gained them a fast and rapt diaspora of fans. As you can see in this short documentary from Pitchfork, it’s all been very fast and furious, so we were blessed to get a few moments with frontwoman Channy Leaneagh to ask some of our most pressing questions.

As listeners, we experience your music for the most part as a finished product, whereas you’re along for the ride from the start. Where and how do you work and what is your collaborative process like?            

To conceive the song I love lots of quiet solitude. I like an empty house and to be able to experiment and try without another ear to listen in on. In Poliça, Ryan Olson is the only one who I give a pass to since he’s the other half of the song. That being said, some of my favorte songs are ones that just came with a room full of people at a studio…the unpredictability of songwriting is the best part.

Paul Valery wrote that “a poem is never finished, only abandoned.” The point at which humans are pencils-down on creative work is so subjective and instinctive — how do you decide when a song is ‘finished’?

I decide when a song is finished lyrically because it captured the emotion or the moment it set out to at the time….after months of performing it, the song can find a new identity. I don’t know honestly if I know when a song is done…it may not be but the final recorded document will haunt you for the rest of your life if it is in fact not complete.

What and who inspires you?

The human condition inspires me more than anything else I suppose. Understanding myself but also the people around me and beyond. I am also inspired to write because it makes me feel good. Writing a feeling into a melody and than singing it is the most effective drug against depression and hating life.  

What was the process of evolving form Gayngs to Polica together? They are two very different sounds — how was this new direction found? 

Polica came out of Ryan and I meeting in Gayngs and also the vocal processing came out of my work in Gayngs (I used the same pedal in both bands). Gayngs and Polica are both part of the “family tree” of Ryan Olson’s many projects and bands…they are two different sounds but they are both very much a part of each other.

Tell us about a new friend you made on tour.

I didn’t really become friends with anyone in my band until we started touring together.  So that’s four new friends. And our tour manager Robin, she’s a new friend.  The best thing about touring is seeing old friends that have moved to LA or New York, etc., that I see more now that I come to their cities to play.

Listening and creating are equally trippy experiences. Do you have any synesthesic imagery or associations when you’re playing music?

No, I should get some.

Fig. 1


Tavi Gevinson and Anaheed Alani found a quiet spot in Room 1015 before our Rookie Magazine First Anniversary Party during Fashion Week at Ace New York to talk sophomore year goals, grown men, Taylor Swift and the gift and curse of contending with high expectations. 

Thanks to all who shared snapshots of your unforgettable #bitchface with us for our Rookie Yearbook One contest. Y’all are fierce like Sasha. We’ll be in touch with our winners shortly for their Tavi-signed copies. 


INTERVIEW : BEN SWANK OF THIRD MAN RECORDS

Ben Swank is a former Soledad Brothers drummer, cofounder — with Jack White and Ben Blackwell — of Third Man Records and sometimes Rolling Record Store truck driver and vinyl slinger. He was circling our block at Ace New York in the Third Man Rolling Record Store as our CMJ shindig Notes From the Underground got started — looking for a spot to land for the weekend and shill wax — and he kindly double parked for a moment to chat with us about the state of music and stuff. Catch him in the shop outside Ace New York today from 5pm til around midnight.

Do you have any insider info on the Blunder-Blue vinyl recipe?

It’s a mixture of polyvinyl chloride (CH2=CHCI), salt, oil and polymerized chlorine resin mixed with MK Ultra Blue Tab 25 disco dust.

You’ve been a pretty outspoken advocate for musicians placing their livelihoods over 90s style concerns about indie street cred. Is there anything you’d consider going too far? Would you advise an artist to license their song so that it’s activated by the opening of Big Mac boxes? 

It’s all what the artist is comfortable with. It’s an individual choice in the same way a person may enjoy the disgusting endorphin rush of a Big Mac over the smug self-satisfaction of a nice kale salad. I think it’s pretty difficult to “sell out” these days. It’s tough for up-and-coming bands to get by. It’s probably weird for fans to hear The Strange Boys in a computer commercial or Eddy Current Suppression Ring hawking AT&T… but I just think, at least they are paying some bills. The corporate landscape is different now. There’s rock’n’roll kids working for advertising companies. Sounds silly, but seriously that’s ridiculous. You wouldn’t have heard Tad in a Pepsi commercial (despite having THE BEST song about Pepsi) because in the 90s slackers didn’t work at ad firms. Or work at all. Cause it was the 90s and everyone was depressed and serious. 

Has somebody ever given you a demo when you totally thought the conversation was not leading to giving you a demo, but then it did, but it was cool ‘cause it was actually really good?

That hasn’t happened… but some kid posted on my Facebook page the other day with his band and at first I was pissed about it — the flagrant self-advertising. But I listened to it and it was really good and I kind of learned a lesson that day.

Has the Third Man Rolling Record Store ever gotten a flat? Does it carry a spare and a jack?

Not a flat, but it’s on the road a lot so it has had some issues pop up. Usually, it’s finding a cool mechanic that can sort it out right away that just wants to work on a cool truck. But usually they’re just like, “What the hell is this thing? You sell records?” And then they shake their heads in disapproval at us and shame us.

Will rock’n’roll ever die?

Yes, please.

Photo of Swank in his office by Jo McCaughey on Nashville Scene.


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