INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART II
Our interview with creative director John Jay, recognized this year among other legendary creatives George Lois, Louise Fili and others. See part one here.
There’s a lot of magic in the client/creative relationship, and sometimes a lot of tension. The typical origin myth for that dynamic comes in the form of assuming business needs and creative needs are fundamentally opposed. But it can’t be that simple.
These days clients are under so much pressure. They’re like baseball managers — they last maybe two years. You have to have empathy for them, put yourself in their shoes. Creatives love to complain about the client but unless you can understand what sort of pressure they’re under you can’t solve their problem. This is why, as a creative, you have to also have a business mind — so you can solve business problems in a way that means something, that has substance.
When you sell a company, or go public, that culture dissipates. This “culture” we keep talking about, it starts with the independents. In the Northwest that’s the secret sauce, that we’re wildly independent. We’re not in the shadow of Madison Avenue, we don’t have the pressure of our immediate surrounding industry and community saying “that’s how everyone does it, this is how it’s done.” Wieden didn’t germinate in a big city, and that allowed us to grow as a team in this independent environment. How do we live up to that responsibility? By standing by a truly creative culture, in an open studio where we encourage the unexpected and that which questions ideas at their core.

What are you looking for when you’re building a team?
With team building we use our own people, we send people all over the globe either to work or to find like-minded and inspired people to work with. Sometimes it’s the influence of a very young person with fresh talent, passion and a unique point of view. Talent combined with craft is a huge deal. The industry pendulum swings so far, so now everything is about the idea — well, of course everything is about the idea, but you have to activate the brain cells that connect your hands to actually make something.
In TV marketing and culture, you have the luxury of hiring the makers, but chefs don’t just sell their recipes, they actually use them and make them and get their hands in it.
Wieden + Kennedy has acted as a sort of unwitting catalyst for a kind of “failure-positive” philosophy and culture in advertising. An emphasis on that which can come out of being willing to fail, by whatever standards, and discover something unexpected — to “show up stupid every morning” as WK12 put forth. It seems like this culture is both a result and source of some of the generative tension between creative and commerce. It involves doing shit that scares you, really, which is not a very traditional business model. How do you seek out stuff that scares you?
Well I’m not sure we actually seek failure or seek what scares us, but you know when the alarm goes off. If an idea seems perfect and just right, like all our work is done — if you can tie a bow on it, that scares me. An alarm goes off. And you have to have the experience to know you’re not pushing it enough.
We pitched a client recently and were watching other agencies leave after their pitches with their envelopes and tubes full of work they were presenting in response to the brand’s brief. And we had to say, you know we don’t really have anything yet because we don’t feel your brief is right. And yeah, maybe you’re going to blow it right there, but you have to lay it on the line: “We don’t believe in your brief. We believe you want to be successful and we don’t think this is the right path.” They’re hiring you for your point of view. There were mostly senior WK members there, but some newish members as well, and they were sort of mortified before we went in, like “You can do that? You can say that?” The newer members had come from other agencies, and after that experience, they were like, “I can see now that this is what WK is all about.”
So it’s a risk, but what if you win an account based on work you don’t feel good about or that’s based on something you don’t believe in, then you have to actually live it out! You know — if we’re going to get fired, let’s just get fired now. You might as well get fired for what you believe in.

There’s a quote by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “What I’m proudest of is having a life where work and love are impossible to tell apart.” In a way, it’s a very old school idea — not very synchronistic with modern day capitalism. But somehow it feels like more of a human birthright that a luxurious form of freedom.
You have to do work you believe in if you’re going to really be able to solve someone’s problem. It has to feel right — you must do work you’re proud of. When people ask me, so John what do you want to see from such and such a photographer or artist, I say, “I don’t even know you! I don’t know what I want to see! Show me work you’re proud of!” Sure, you might have a photograph on the cover of TIME. I don’t care about a TIME cover, I care about a great image. If it happens to be a great image that’s on the cover of TIME, that’s fantastic, but it has to be something I respond to emotionally. I’m not overwhelmed because someone was on the cover of TIME. If I feel their agent has been editing their portfolio or trying to show work that will somehow appeal to me or our team, it’s not what I’m looking for. I want to see what the person is most proud of. If that ends up being vacation pictures of his two-year-old daughter, then so be it.
That’s where the energy comes from. Standing behind good work, always wanting to be better — this is just a part of being a human being. I don’t get off of work and think, “Oh now I get to finally rest, or I guess I’ll go look at something interesting.” If I’m doing my job well, I’m experiencing something inspiring and interesting each day. I’m active and inspired and the boundary between work and not work doesn’t exist. When you can’t tell if you’re working or playing, then you’re onto something.
Life is all about change through an evolution grounded by our values. Change without values and values without a willingness to adapt can both become an emotional and intellectual trap.
This is an exciting time. It is the most creative moment perhaps in our history. Evolution is inevitable, it happens with or without you, so embracing new people and new ideas, all fearless of the future, is actually my job. Embracing this moment of creative opportunity is the first step.

Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman

INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART II

Our interview with creative director John Jay, recognized this year among other legendary creatives George Lois, Louise Fili and others. See part one here.

There’s a lot of magic in the client/creative relationship, and sometimes a lot of tension. The typical origin myth for that dynamic comes in the form of assuming business needs and creative needs are fundamentally opposed. But it can’t be that simple.

These days clients are under so much pressure. They’re like baseball managers — they last maybe two years. You have to have empathy for them, put yourself in their shoes. Creatives love to complain about the client but unless you can understand what sort of pressure they’re under you can’t solve their problem. This is why, as a creative, you have to also have a business mind — so you can solve business problems in a way that means something, that has substance.

When you sell a company, or go public, that culture dissipates. This “culture” we keep talking about, it starts with the independents. In the Northwest that’s the secret sauce, that we’re wildly independent. We’re not in the shadow of Madison Avenue, we don’t have the pressure of our immediate surrounding industry and community saying “that’s how everyone does it, this is how it’s done.” Wieden didn’t germinate in a big city, and that allowed us to grow as a team in this independent environment. How do we live up to that responsibility? By standing by a truly creative culture, in an open studio where we encourage the unexpected and that which questions ideas at their core.

Ace Hotel Wieden Kennedy John Jay Interview

What are you looking for when you’re building a team?

With team building we use our own people, we send people all over the globe either to work or to find like-minded and inspired people to work with. Sometimes it’s the influence of a very young person with fresh talent, passion and a unique point of view. Talent combined with craft is a huge deal. The industry pendulum swings so far, so now everything is about the idea — well, of course everything is about the idea, but you have to activate the brain cells that connect your hands to actually make something.

In TV marketing and culture, you have the luxury of hiring the makers, but chefs don’t just sell their recipes, they actually use them and make them and get their hands in it.

Wieden + Kennedy has acted as a sort of unwitting catalyst for a kind of “failure-positive” philosophy and culture in advertising. An emphasis on that which can come out of being willing to fail, by whatever standards, and discover something unexpected — to “show up stupid every morning” as WK12 put forth. It seems like this culture is both a result and source of some of the generative tension between creative and commerce. It involves doing shit that scares you, really, which is not a very traditional business model. How do you seek out stuff that scares you?

Well I’m not sure we actually seek failure or seek what scares us, but you know when the alarm goes off. If an idea seems perfect and just right, like all our work is done — if you can tie a bow on it, that scares me. An alarm goes off. And you have to have the experience to know you’re not pushing it enough.

We pitched a client recently and were watching other agencies leave after their pitches with their envelopes and tubes full of work they were presenting in response to the brand’s brief. And we had to say, you know we don’t really have anything yet because we don’t feel your brief is right. And yeah, maybe you’re going to blow it right there, but you have to lay it on the line: “We don’t believe in your brief. We believe you want to be successful and we don’t think this is the right path.” They’re hiring you for your point of view. There were mostly senior WK members there, but some newish members as well, and they were sort of mortified before we went in, like “You can do that? You can say that?” The newer members had come from other agencies, and after that experience, they were like, “I can see now that this is what WK is all about.”

So it’s a risk, but what if you win an account based on work you don’t feel good about or that’s based on something you don’t believe in, then you have to actually live it out! You know — if we’re going to get fired, let’s just get fired now. You might as well get fired for what you believe in.

Ace Hotel Wieden Kennedy John Jay Interview

There’s a quote by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “What I’m proudest of is having a life where work and love are impossible to tell apart.” In a way, it’s a very old school idea — not very synchronistic with modern day capitalism. But somehow it feels like more of a human birthright that a luxurious form of freedom.

You have to do work you believe in if you’re going to really be able to solve someone’s problem. It has to feel right — you must do work you’re proud of. When people ask me, so John what do you want to see from such and such a photographer or artist, I say, “I don’t even know you! I don’t know what I want to see! Show me work you’re proud of!” Sure, you might have a photograph on the cover of TIME. I don’t care about a TIME cover, I care about a great image. If it happens to be a great image that’s on the cover of TIME, that’s fantastic, but it has to be something I respond to emotionally. I’m not overwhelmed because someone was on the cover of TIME. If I feel their agent has been editing their portfolio or trying to show work that will somehow appeal to me or our team, it’s not what I’m looking for. I want to see what the person is most proud of. If that ends up being vacation pictures of his two-year-old daughter, then so be it.

That’s where the energy comes from. Standing behind good work, always wanting to be better — this is just a part of being a human being. I don’t get off of work and think, “Oh now I get to finally rest, or I guess I’ll go look at something interesting.” If I’m doing my job well, I’m experiencing something inspiring and interesting each day. I’m active and inspired and the boundary between work and not work doesn’t exist. When you can’t tell if you’re working or playing, then you’re onto something.

Life is all about change through an evolution grounded by our values. Change without values and values without a willingness to adapt can both become an emotional and intellectual trap.

This is an exciting time. It is the most creative moment perhaps in our history. Evolution is inevitable, it happens with or without you, so embracing new people and new ideas, all fearless of the future, is actually my job. Embracing this moment of creative opportunity is the first step.

Ace Hotel Wieden Kennedy John Jay Interview

Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman


TBA INTERVIEW : KATHLEEN HANNA of THE JULIE RUIN
Kathleen Hanna is the fairy godmother of punk feminism. When she started Bikini Kill in the 90s she started a unquenchable fire in every girl’s heart that burned through the brush to a clear place where girls could see each other and themselves more clearly. How other people saw them — who gives a shit. Kathleen is now back on stages and on tour with the second incarnation of her group The Julie Ruin, and they’re bringing their irreverent and joyful noise to the opening ceremony for PICA’s TBA Festival this Thursday. Here, an excerpt from NPR Music's Jacki Lyden interview with the woman in question.

Girls like us like cotton candy, plastic handbags, alcohol. Girls like us sometimes ignore people on the street, even other people that we know. Girls like us sneak breaks at Wendy’s and girls like us invented jazz. Girls like us have no foundations, creation myths are so passé. Girls like us.

Tell me a little bit about how this song came to be. What’s going on here?
You tell me. The lyrics are really kind of random. It’s like, girls like us eat salt for breakfast, girls like us stand back to back. They’re kind of an anthem for the people who there is no anthem for. You know, it’s meant to be kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing of like, we’re all different. I thought that song was a really playful way to say there is no girl like us. You know what I mean? There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.
You were forced to take a long time out; this is your first album in nine years. People were wondering what had happened. And recently, it came to light that you were suffering very seriously from an undiagnosed illness. Would you tell me more about that?
Yeah, I have late-stage Lyme disease. And I still, you know, have good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. And I’m still in long-term treatment. It’s been a tough nine years. And I didn’t think that I would ever be performing again. And that was a very bitter pill to swallow along with the other 84 pills I take every day, ha.
Are you on good terms with the woman who started Bikini Kill?
I think I am now. I’ve kind of made peace with the mistakes that I’ve made and also feeling proud of what I’ve made. I think that people who are involved in community activism, it’s like, don’t stand out. We’re all equal, you know, especially if you come from a punk rock background that’s anti-hierarchy. And I always had this thing of, like, don’t be a leader. And I think that fed into me not being able to say: Hey, wait. That was really cool what I did.
I had to, you know, downplay the interesting things that I had made, kind of even to myself. And I’m still as pissed off as ever before. I think I’m just a little bit more directed. I have a better direction for my anger. It’s less kind of loosey-goosey all over the place. And I’m more apt to look at a larger world view than just, you know, what’s going on inside my apartment building. And now I think both the 21-year-old and the 41-year-old are pretty happy with each other…

TBA INTERVIEW : KATHLEEN HANNA of THE JULIE RUIN

Kathleen Hanna is the fairy godmother of punk feminism. When she started Bikini Kill in the 90s she started a unquenchable fire in every girl’s heart that burned through the brush to a clear place where girls could see each other and themselves more clearly. How other people saw them — who gives a shit. Kathleen is now back on stages and on tour with the second incarnation of her group The Julie Ruin, and they’re bringing their irreverent and joyful noise to the opening ceremony for PICA’s TBA Festival this Thursday. Here, an excerpt from NPR Music's Jacki Lyden interview with the woman in question.

Girls like us like cotton candy, plastic handbags, alcohol. Girls like us sometimes ignore people on the street, even other people that we know. Girls like us sneak breaks at Wendy’s and girls like us invented jazz. Girls like us have no foundations, creation myths are so passé. Girls like us.

Tell me a little bit about how this song came to be. What’s going on here?

You tell me. The lyrics are really kind of random. It’s like, girls like us eat salt for breakfast, girls like us stand back to back. They’re kind of an anthem for the people who there is no anthem for. You know, it’s meant to be kind of a tongue-in-cheek thing of like, we’re all different. I thought that song was a really playful way to say there is no girl like us. You know what I mean? There’s just as many different kinds of feminism as there are women in the world.

You were forced to take a long time out; this is your first album in nine years. People were wondering what had happened. And recently, it came to light that you were suffering very seriously from an undiagnosed illness. Would you tell me more about that?

Yeah, I have late-stage Lyme disease. And I still, you know, have good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks. And I’m still in long-term treatment. It’s been a tough nine years. And I didn’t think that I would ever be performing again. And that was a very bitter pill to swallow along with the other 84 pills I take every day, ha.

Are you on good terms with the woman who started Bikini Kill?

I think I am now. I’ve kind of made peace with the mistakes that I’ve made and also feeling proud of what I’ve made. I think that people who are involved in community activism, it’s like, don’t stand out. We’re all equal, you know, especially if you come from a punk rock background that’s anti-hierarchy. And I always had this thing of, like, don’t be a leader. And I think that fed into me not being able to say: Hey, wait. That was really cool what I did.

I had to, you know, downplay the interesting things that I had made, kind of even to myself. And I’m still as pissed off as ever before. I think I’m just a little bit more directed. I have a better direction for my anger. It’s less kind of loosey-goosey all over the place. And I’m more apt to look at a larger world view than just, you know, what’s going on inside my apartment building. And now I think both the 21-year-old and the 41-year-old are pretty happy with each other…


INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART I
Does John Jay need an introduction? Recently named one of the top most influential art directors of the last half a century — next to George Lois and Louise Fili — he’s also one of the top most wonderful human beings we’ve ever met. John’s philosophies on making, collaborating and creating beauty in the world are a beacon in a plasticine era. With the launch of his new lab GX at Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland flagship, he’s pushed his canoe off into thrilling new creative adventures and relationships — fueled by his many nocturnal and extracurricular endeavors over the last few decades.
How do you reconcile beauty with advertising?
You can design a product beautifully, or you can design a product and be half-assed about it. You can art direct, write copy and concept with beauty and craft in mind. The world is a better place when there’s beauty, but beauty is most certainly subjective. In the sense of wabi sabi, the most fucked up, destroyed version of beauty is best — but of course, in that regard, nature is the best designer there is.
In advertising, we’re hired to solve a problem — a business problem. We’re really storytelling, with music, film, typography, graphics… elements that add beauty. I do believe that creating beauty is a contribution to society, it’s a way of giving back to the world.

You’ve spoken about GX as a means by which you can get the best work from yourself — it’s been formed from two decades of work with Wieden, and all the experience you’ve carried forward from other endeavours. Talk about your role as a creative director, and what GX means for you as a beacon of creating and doing.
My job is to be inspired. It’s not my client’s job, or my employer’s job or my team member’s job. It’s my job to stay curious. To be ambitious. The first job of a CD is to inspire. You might have this fat Rolodex with numbers from all over the world — well, what are you going to do with it? I was talking to a client in Berlin and he was asking about GX, what had motivated me to create GX, and I told him that selfishly it was so that I could work with him again myself. I’ve been orchestrating these connections between people and brands and artists, but what if could actually activate those connections myself? To actually do something, physically and creatively, with those relationships and ideas.
Dan [Wieden] asked me if they were still getting the best out of me — he asked how they could set me loose. His advice, “Free yourself.” To be honest, the way to get the best out of me is not for me to sit in meetings for eighteen hours a day. You know, I was co-executive creative director of the whole company globally — it was, and is, an absolutely incredible job, but it was no longer really the right fit for me. Every W+K office in each city also has two executive creative directors, and each account has a creative director team who then manages all the creative work for the account. I loved the IDEA of my job on the Global Management Team but truthfully… I wasn’t really making the kind of impact that was important to me.
I’ve always had a version of Studio J [John’s independent studio with his wife and creative partner Janet]. When I was at Bloomingdales, I still had a studio where I was working in publishing, restaurants, graphics. No matter what my day job is, I’m always creating a night job for myself, always creating these opportunities for myself.

I wrote a piece about George Lois the other day and I was talking to him about his Esquire covers — I said, “Not only were those covers masterpieces, not only were 30 of them just shown at the MoMA, but that was your night job!” You know, that was what he did after dinner.
You make your own energy — you have to be “selfish” in that respect, to figure out how you can generate your own energy. But somehow, when it’s done with authenticity and wonder, it always seems to become a more universal source — everyone working to keep themselves at their most inspired, their most energetic.
W+K Tokyo was like a dress rehearsal for GX. When we were recruiting for the team in Tokyo, I offered to hire all the management, but as I was giving this spiel about why Tokyo would be such a great job I thought, “Why would I give this away?” So I decided to open the Japan office and it ended up being an extraordinary time for me.
At the time, Dan said about Tokyo that we should make it the “hothouse” — a place where we could do experiments that no other company was able to do. Eventually, he asked me to bring that energy back to the mothership [in Portland]. And it was great, but you know, the air changes, you change, and you have to continue to feel actively creative. How can I continue to inspire people?

And how does GX allow to you relate to your clients differently?
At GX, and at Wieden + Kennedy as a whole, we get to really make a choice about who we’re working with. Each brand expresses itself in a unique and personal way so to be in a position to choose clients, to be independent, to make our own decisions — this freedom is at the core of being able to do good work. To be able to say no is one of the most powerful things in the world.
When you’re running a business, you have to think about — yes, we need money to keep the company going, but you also need to be able to say “This would not be a good situation for us, creatively, morally, spiritually.” If you’re a publicly-held company, if you’re owned by the bank, you don’t have the power to say no to a poor fit. We can think selectively, as independents, and we can say no. Though you do have to be careful who you say no to — it’s a small world.
When you say no to something that isn’t right for you, that’s 10 more minutes of quiet, peaceful sleep you get to have each night, knowing you are doing work you believe in. That’s powerful.
Stay tuned for part deux, planted soon.
Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman

INTERVIEW : JOHN JAY, W+K GX : PART I

Does John Jay need an introduction? Recently named one of the top most influential art directors of the last half a century — next to George Lois and Louise Fili — he’s also one of the top most wonderful human beings we’ve ever met. John’s philosophies on making, collaborating and creating beauty in the world are a beacon in a plasticine era. With the launch of his new lab GX at Wieden + Kennedy’s Portland flagship, he’s pushed his canoe off into thrilling new creative adventures and relationships — fueled by his many nocturnal and extracurricular endeavors over the last few decades.

How do you reconcile beauty with advertising?

You can design a product beautifully, or you can design a product and be half-assed about it. You can art direct, write copy and concept with beauty and craft in mind. The world is a better place when there’s beauty, but beauty is most certainly subjective. In the sense of wabi sabi, the most fucked up, destroyed version of beauty is best — but of course, in that regard, nature is the best designer there is.

In advertising, we’re hired to solve a problem — a business problem. We’re really storytelling, with music, film, typography, graphics… elements that add beauty. I do believe that creating beauty is a contribution to society, it’s a way of giving back to the world.

You’ve spoken about GX as a means by which you can get the best work from yourself — it’s been formed from two decades of work with Wieden, and all the experience you’ve carried forward from other endeavours. Talk about your role as a creative director, and what GX means for you as a beacon of creating and doing.

My job is to be inspired. It’s not my client’s job, or my employer’s job or my team member’s job. It’s my job to stay curious. To be ambitious. The first job of a CD is to inspire. You might have this fat Rolodex with numbers from all over the world — well, what are you going to do with it? I was talking to a client in Berlin and he was asking about GX, what had motivated me to create GX, and I told him that selfishly it was so that I could work with him again myself. I’ve been orchestrating these connections between people and brands and artists, but what if could actually activate those connections myself? To actually do something, physically and creatively, with those relationships and ideas.

Dan [Wieden] asked me if they were still getting the best out of me — he asked how they could set me loose. His advice, “Free yourself.” To be honest, the way to get the best out of me is not for me to sit in meetings for eighteen hours a day. You know, I was co-executive creative director of the whole company globally — it was, and is, an absolutely incredible job, but it was no longer really the right fit for me. Every W+K office in each city also has two executive creative directors, and each account has a creative director team who then manages all the creative work for the account. I loved the IDEA of my job on the Global Management Team but truthfully… I wasn’t really making the kind of impact that was important to me.

I’ve always had a version of Studio J [John’s independent studio with his wife and creative partner Janet]. When I was at Bloomingdales, I still had a studio where I was working in publishing, restaurants, graphics. No matter what my day job is, I’m always creating a night job for myself, always creating these opportunities for myself.

I wrote a piece about George Lois the other day and I was talking to him about his Esquire covers — I said, “Not only were those covers masterpieces, not only were 30 of them just shown at the MoMA, but that was your night job!” You know, that was what he did after dinner.

You make your own energy — you have to be “selfish” in that respect, to figure out how you can generate your own energy. But somehow, when it’s done with authenticity and wonder, it always seems to become a more universal source — everyone working to keep themselves at their most inspired, their most energetic.

W+K Tokyo was like a dress rehearsal for GX. When we were recruiting for the team in Tokyo, I offered to hire all the management, but as I was giving this spiel about why Tokyo would be such a great job I thought, “Why would I give this away?” So I decided to open the Japan office and it ended up being an extraordinary time for me.

At the time, Dan said about Tokyo that we should make it the “hothouse” — a place where we could do experiments that no other company was able to do. Eventually, he asked me to bring that energy back to the mothership [in Portland]. And it was great, but you know, the air changes, you change, and you have to continue to feel actively creative. How can I continue to inspire people?

And how does GX allow to you relate to your clients differently?

At GX, and at Wieden + Kennedy as a whole, we get to really make a choice about who we’re working with. Each brand expresses itself in a unique and personal way so to be in a position to choose clients, to be independent, to make our own decisions — this freedom is at the core of being able to do good work. To be able to say no is one of the most powerful things in the world.

When you’re running a business, you have to think about — yes, we need money to keep the company going, but you also need to be able to say “This would not be a good situation for us, creatively, morally, spiritually.” If you’re a publicly-held company, if you’re owned by the bank, you don’t have the power to say no to a poor fit. We can think selectively, as independents, and we can say no. Though you do have to be careful who you say no to — it’s a small world.

When you say no to something that isn’t right for you, that’s 10 more minutes of quiet, peaceful sleep you get to have each night, knowing you are doing work you believe in. That’s powerful.

Stay tuned for part deux, planted soon.

Photos by Wieden’s own, Hope Freeman


image

WARM UP INTERVIEW : KIM ANN FOXMAN

Kim Ann Foxman performed last weekend at MoMA PS1 Warm Up 2013 in Queens, NY. Enter now to win a pair of passes to this Saturday’s Warm Up shows. Make sure to be quick, they’re a hot commodity round these parts.

What’s the song, producer or moment that propelled you from being a fan of house to a maker of house? What drew you to that culture before you became one of its producers?  

Growing up on stuff like technotronic and freestyle tuned my ear to love electronic sounds. I always gravitated towards that. Later came the rave scene, which was really exciting for me: it was so underground, so wild and so much fun. Moving from Hawaii to San Francisco, I really dived into that scene and I got really into DJs and started collecting vinyl and mixed tapes. I always loved to dance so much. One day in San Francisco, at a party, I took a break from dancing my ass off and I somehow got into a conversation with this guy. He mentioned that he made dance music, I thought that was really cool. He invited me over to see how we could collaborate if I was interested. So I went over to his studio a few days later. Eventually we started working together, I got my first sampler and drum machine. After that, I was hooked: we ended up as a  two man electronic band. We had ten shows in San Francisco… and then I moved to New York. 

American house music has its roots in New York, from the Paradise Garage, and in Chicago. Now that house is moving to the foreground of dance music in the United States in a sort of unprecedented way, people tend to associate the genre more with New York. What do you think of the current, possibly less appreciated, house scene in Chicago, and do you draw any inspiration from that culture in the past or present? 

That is true but I think that although there is now much less of a “scene” in Chicago for house music, people everywhere else are still inspired by the sound and acknowledge it, and there is a lot of respect. It may be a really small scene but the tiny part that is left of it is proper. And you can see that the roots are deep down in there although current trends may have shifted very much. I get a lot of inspiration from classic Chicago tracks and I play a lot of that sound in my Dj sets as well. 

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If you weren’t making music, what would you do for a living instead — in an alternate reality?

Something creative and fun. I am pretty open to creative possibilities: design, or have a brand of some sort. Maybe have a quirky venue, even. I also always thought it would be dreamy to do something adventurous, like documenting exotic places, new species and discoveries for something like National Geographic. At least I think that would be really exciting anyway. 


Erin Garcia : Whatuuuup professorevans.
Lucy Rose: Oh hey.
Erin Garcia : It’s Erin.
Lucy Rose: I figured as much — ha, Professor Evans.
Erin Garcia : PHD status
Lucy Rose: I like it.
Lucy Rose: I know this is the laziest way to do an interview ever, but it just makes editing so much easier — besides, we get to erase all the umms before we even say them. It makes us both sound so much more intelligent.
Erin Garcia : haha
Erin Garcia : Works for me.
Lucy Rose: (I’ve done this before)
Lucy Rose: Ok, shall we start?
Erin Garcia : Let’s do it.
Lucy Rose: Ok, so you’re from Ohio, right? Tell me a little about where and how you grew up.
Erin Garcia : I’m actually from North Carolina.
Erin Garcia : ha
Lucy Rose: Forgive me, I’m from New Zealand and am still working out the whole US geography thing.
Erin Garcia : I grew up in Winston — Salem which is a med-small city in the middle of NC.
Lucy Rose: What was life like there as a kid? What did you spend your weekends doing?
Erin Garcia : As a kid it was rad, lots of riding bikes and playing in the woods.

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INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART III
Do you recommend to “beginners” that they be fearless about putting work out there to be judged, as long as they know it’s going to be a learning experience?
Yes. It was interesting to me these last two years watching Mike Birbiglia turn himself into a movie maker and at every stage he both had the arrogance of believing that he could do it and the humility to know that he wasn’t any good yet. He had a rough script, and it was okay, I guess, not quite there and he got into the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and they paired him with Mike White who’s an amazing screenwriter who gave him notes, but then he also went out to talk at length to Miguel Arteta and Noah Baumbach and other filmmakers, and he showed the script around to lots of people. David Wayne is another filmmaker. He showed it to Lena Dunham. He really just got input from a lot of people and got them to explain to him: “Okay, here’s how to handle this or that.” I just had incredible respect for it, and when we started to put the film together, he hired this amazing cinematographer who could teach him that world, and we had this amazing editor.He knew what he didn’t know and then he used other people’s expertise to pull him forward. I feel like that’s how you get there. I think so many of us are too shy to. We don’t want to be a bother to other people. We don’t know how to approach other people, and I think that’s a huge advantage that he had just in terms of his personality — he wasn’t self-conscious about that somehow. He knew he needed the help and he was secure enough to just ask. In a way that, for most of my life, I haven’t been so able to do. He was much bolder than I ever would be.[[MORE]]
Right, you came with $50 bucks. He just asked. Do you think that most people are willing to give advice? That people do so much work toward reaching a pinnacle in their career or their lives, learning all sorts of things, but might not get asked — if someone would only ask them, they’d be willing to open up and share what they’ve learned?I think it’s a really delicate thing and people have to be approached in the right way.Does it depend on the level that they’re at or just the way in which they’re asked?It depends on all those things. It’s really just like a human connection you’re trying to make. With Mike, I think he was performing his one-man show and some of these people would come and see the one-man show and the one-man show is amazing and he’s so talented. They would come backstage and chat with him afterwards and he would get to know them that way. They have respect for him even though he was not a filmmaker yet.They knew he’s got something on the ball, I guess. He had that going for him. Occasionally, I’ll be giving a speech or something and somebody will press a CD in my hands who has never done anything and a lot of people are like, “I’m busy. I have stuff that I’m supposed to be getting to that I’m not even getting to,” and they don’t feel they can take on fifteen minutes of listening or half an hour of listening and write somebody a note. It’s a thing. They’d have to be pretty convincing or make the story seem compelling. The best thing that would get me into it would be if the story they were telling on the CD had some promise for me where I felt like, “Oh that just sounds good. Even if they can’t totally execute it, I kind of want to hear that.” That’s the thing that sells me.In your Goucher College commencement address you said to students: “You will be stupid.” I’m curious if that ever stops, the whole being-stupid thing.If you’re lucky that never stops. Ideally, if you’re trying to do creative work the worst thing that could happen is that it gets too easy and then you’re doing the same thing over and over. If you’re successful what’s happening is you’re constantly setting new goals for yourself and inventing new things and trying things that are really hard. That’s been one of the great things about doing the radio show is that we can constantly reset what we’re doing to make it hard again, and I have to say, it’s really hard. It’s easy for me to write a radio story. I know how to write a radio story, but making a show is really difficult still and I feel like that’s a sign that we’re doing the right thing. It’s like we’re constantly trying to invent stuff we’ve never done.Thanks, Ira.

INTERVIEW : IRA GLASS : PART III

Do you recommend to “beginners” that they be fearless about putting work out there to be judged, as long as they know it’s going to be a learning experience?

Yes. It was interesting to me these last two years watching Mike Birbiglia turn himself into a movie maker and at every stage he both had the arrogance of believing that he could do it and the humility to know that he wasn’t any good yet. He had a rough script, and it was okay, I guess, not quite there and he got into the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and they paired him with Mike White who’s an amazing screenwriter who gave him notes, but then he also went out to talk at length to Miguel Arteta and Noah Baumbach and other filmmakers, and he showed the script around to lots of people. David Wayne is another filmmaker. He showed it to Lena Dunham. He really just got input from a lot of people and got them to explain to him: “Okay, here’s how to handle this or that.” I just had incredible respect for it, and when we started to put the film together, he hired this amazing cinematographer who could teach him that world, and we had this amazing editor.

He knew what he didn’t know and then he used other people’s expertise to pull him forward. I feel like that’s how you get there. I think so many of us are too shy to. We don’t want to be a bother to other people. We don’t know how to approach other people, and I think that’s a huge advantage that he had just in terms of his personality — he wasn’t self-conscious about that somehow. He knew he needed the help and he was secure enough to just ask. In a way that, for most of my life, I haven’t been so able to do. He was much bolder than I ever would be.

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PART III : LINDA GERARD & DJ DAY

Dear faithful readers — if you know us and love us at all then you know who Linda Gerard is. And you know that we love her beyond reason. And you know that she is currently facing off with the asshole named cancer — and we’re hoping everyone can chip in to help her out. Coin, vibes and kind words all matter.

Above, you’ll see Linda’s brief chat with Andrew Andrew during Desert Gold 2010 — the fifth edition is fast approaching this month. And below is part three of Linda’s interview with DJ Day — you can grab Linda’s Sissy Bingo t-shirt and her latest record, a compilation of greatest hits, Fabulous Selections, on our shop — all proceeds go to Linda’s Kick Cancer’s Ass Fund.

Read on for more from this right-on woman — you can also catch up on parts one and two while you’re at it. Light a candle, sing a show tune and dress everyday as though for paradise, in her honor.

Next up in our interview series: Ira Glass!

Can we talk about Funny Girl?

Well what happened with Funny Girl — I was with William Morris, and the pianist for Funny Girl was a guy named Peter Daniels. Peter Daniels was my accompanist. He was also Barbra Streisand’s accompanist and Lainie Kazan’s. He worked for all three of us and when Funny Girl opened, I went to opening night with my husband at the time, and I remember nudging him and saying, “It’s going to be me up there someday.” I knew that role was written for me.

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PART II : LINDA GERARD & DJ DAY

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Our friend, fashion idol and philosophical guru Linda Gerard serenades devoted fans every Monday night at Sissy Bingo at Ace Palm Springs — a storied songstress of Broadway and Follies fame, she also peppers random lunches and dinners at King’s Highway with show-stopping belters, raising her bejeweled hands to the sky as she slays the final notes of Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart to thundering applause, having, each time, gained a couple dozen new groupies.

Recently, we were shaken by the news that Linda is in the process of kicking cancer’s ass. She was diagnosed earlier this year and is currently in the process of treatment and recovery. We love her dearly and would bend over backward to help and support her. This Monday, join us and her massive posse of friends, family and fans in the Commune for a festival of positivity, love and posse-rallying, with DJ Day, Alf Alpha, Giselle Woo, JP Houston and others. Donations at the door enter you to a raffle with damn good prizes, and proceeds from drinks go toward Linda and all rooms booked for that night at Ace with code FABULOUS are not only 25% off but go toward Linda’s support fund as well. See more about the event on our calendar.

Find here part two of three chapters of DJ Day’s interview with Linda about life, love and Lawrence Welk. DJ Day’s ridiculously great new record Land of 1000 Chances is up on our shop, as is Linda’s Fabulous Selections — which we released recently — and, you guessed it, proceeds from her record and our Sissy Bingo shirt go toward Linda as well.

Read on, show the love and stay tuned for chapter three, forthcoming soon.

Talk about the Rose Tattoo time…

What happened was, when my girlfriend broke up with me in ‘87, I needed a new beginning. I bought the Rose Tattoo in ‘88.

This was in West Hollywood and obviously huge at the time. I mean, Barry Manilow?

They all came. They all came to the Rose Tattoo and it was very, very exciting.

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ARMORY INTERVIEW : ERIC SHINER

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Eric Shiner is the man behind Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. He’s also this year’s Armory Focus curator, turning the Armory Show spotlight — now in its 100th year — to US-based artists of the now. As a curator, he has a very strong voice — he’s commissioned an on-site tower of Brillo boxes in tribute to Warhol by Charles Lutz, and light sculpture by Peter Liversidge — and he’s also orchestrating an installation and performance at Ace Hotel New York we’ll tell you about soon… Another distinguishing facet: if you Google Image search him, you find a lot of guys named Eric with black eyes. We recently talked with Mr. Shiner a little bit about the centennial and these last hundred years of art.

Is the centennial of the first Armory Show an inspiration or a long shadow that it’s hard to get out from under? If the lead-up to WWI was the catalyst for the revolutions that were going on then in art, should we just be happy our own malaise are tame by comparison? Does art benefit from adversity and how much adversity is enough/too much?

I can safely say that the first Armory Show is just one of the countless change agents that have occurred in the art world over the past 100 years, although it is certainly an important one. For me, it was simply a point of reference for the Focus Section of The Armory Show, and I am including one installation that makes a direct reference on Marcel Duchamp, whose work at the 1913 Armory certainly ruffled many feathers. War and political upheaval do indeed act as a major influencer on the art being made in that period, but it’s important to note that the Armory was in 1913, with World War I starting a year later in 1914, so there is no connection to that specific war, but more broadly to the cataclysmic social change that was unfolding on a number of fronts in Europe at the time. Art always benefits from adversity, and so too does art present a fair amount of necessary adversity to its audiences. I think that great art should always make the viewer somewhat uncomfortable, challenging them to think in new ways. So, in the end, too much is never enough.

As curator of the Focus section, the country you got handed was the United States of America. That’s a big, rich country. How do you even start to narrow it down?

Yes, indeed. America is a very big thing, both in terms of geography and in more importantly in terms of its psychographic presence in the world, both within and without its borders. It’s true that it is a big, rich country… for some that’s very true, but I think it is critically important to always remember that for many, it is a very poor country with millions of people facing actual need on a daily basis. America is nothing more than a continual series of juxtapositions, from Big to Small, Rich to Poor, Liberal to Conservative. One might even say it is a series of never-ending internal strife and conflict — something that keeps it alive, if nothing else.  This being the case, I didn’t narrow anything down at all. I simply addressed some of the juxtapositions that make up this nation, and selected artists who make a career out of always questioning the powers that be, in one form or another.

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INTERVIEW : LINDA GERARD & DJ DAY

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To many, Linda Gerard needs no introduction. She has a cult following of devoted fans who journey to sunny Ace in Palm Springs to catch a glimpse and an earful of this self-described — Older, Wiser Lesbian. She’s everyone’s femme idol, the apple of our eye and one of our favorite human beings. She’s also a ridiculously talented woman with many an industry notch on her belt. That she’s decided to settle down with us in the desert, hosting Sissy Bingo every week and otherwise wowing those in the know as well as virgin ears and eyes, makes us incredibly blessed. Linda’s voice carries the oceanic vibrations of every great Broadway star before her, and she lets it ricochet ‘gainst the walls of King’s Highway when the mood is right. Her penchant for show-stopping eyewear and envy-inducing collection of let-your-light-shine sweaters and blazers leave us swooning.

We recently released a vinyl-only limited edition of Linda’s greatest hits, Fabulous Selections on our shop, and for our mutual dear friend DJ Day — another Palm Spring legend — we also present his first album, Land of 1000 Chances, on the shop. Day and Linda sat down recently to thumb through a bit of Linda’s life story — the stuff of big dreams, massive love, brave independence and a woman from whom we all have a lot to learn — entrusted to a confidante half her age but who’s definitely dancing to a similar drummer.

Find below the first of three chapters — you’ll see more in the weeks to come. And check out Linda’s and Day’s albums on our shop.

Let’s start from the beginning.

I was born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1938, to a very orthodox Jewish family. Kept kosher, did the whole bit. I was always a performer. I always got up in front of people and sang. So, when I was old enough to get on the train my parents would let me go by myself to study in New York. I studied singing, dancing, acting, elocution and all that stuff. My parents wanted me to go to private school, but I said, “No, no, no. I don’t want to go to private school.”

I went to Trenton High School and I was in all the plays and the musicals and that was fun. Then when it was time to go to college and my parents wanted me to go I said, “I want to be in show business, but I’ll go to college if I can go to New York City.” There was a college in New York City called Finch, and it was on 78th Street between Park and Madison. I knew that if I got in I could sing on the weekends because that’s what I wanted to do. I got into Finch and on weekends I sang at 1 Fifth Avenue. I was always singing. I didn’t get great grades but I didn’t care. My parents cared, but I didn’t care. So the following year I didn’t want to go back. I said to parents, “Let me audition for the American Theatre Wing,” which was a very good school, for musical comedy.

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