places that Musset, Byron, D’Annunzio and Henri de Regnier had the decency never to visit

June 5, 2013 § Leave a comment


Flipping through the imposing art book that accompanies the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s spring exhibition, which explores punk rock’s influence on fashion, is like hearing your favorite Screamers song played in a mall. First, you feel bad—it’s more proof that everything gets sold out. Then you suspect that it’s some kind of dada trick. How else to explain sentences like this: “In punk’s spirit of revolution, Moda Operandi is the first online luxury retailer to offer unprecedented access to runway collections from the world’s top designers.” In punk’s spirit of revolution, my first instinct was to set the book on fire.

But arson isn’t the most fun you can have with the fashion world’s latest depredation of counterculture. Curator Andrew Bolton captured the spirit of the show in a video interview: “Even though [Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld] is playing with the idea of the aesthetic of poverty,” he says, fingering a Chanel jacket riddled with carefully hemmed holes, “it’s still very much about luxury.” Deterioration has never looked so good. He says that punk’s defining trait, DIY, “is almost beyond couture,” because when you customize your leather jacket, it’s one of a kind. With this plaudit, Bolton neatly dissolves DIY’s political aim of anticorporate self-reliance and reframes it as high fashion’s favorite titillation: rarity.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Gleb Garanich

We’re old not retarded

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment


Last night, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosted the 2013 Met Gala. This year’s theme was “Punk: From Chaos To Couture.” For many celebrities, this was the first time they had used the word “punk” in a sentence that wasn’t “Have my assistant get me Daft Punk tickets.” It was also an excuse for them to spend $10,000 to spike their hair up…

“I’m embracing the punk. There’s so much punk style in everything we do and wear everyday; we just never have the chance to do it all the way.”
—Hanneli Mustaparta, former model/current dummy  read more


Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff

February 7, 2013 § 1 Comment


Unsound was a magazine published in San Francisco by William Davenport of the band Problemist. There were about eight issues published between 1983-86. Unsound is one of the earlier US based publications with any longevity that covered the industrial/noise/punk/experimental underground.”

The issues include interviews with Blixa Bargeld of Einsturzende Neubauten, Negativland, Boyd Rice, Sonic Youth, Remko Scha, Michael Gira/Swans, Genesis P-Orridge/Psychic TV, John Balance & Peter Christopherson/Coil, articles on Whitehouse, Art Radio, Soft Cell, Kronos Quartet, an overview of the Los Angeles experimental electronic scene of the time, and much more.  download

PHOTOGRAPH: Egor Shapovalov

Fiction is a branch of neurology

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

When I started making records, the model of economic exchange was exceedingly simple: make something, price it for more than it costs to manufacture, and sell it if you can. It was industrial capitalism, on a 7″ scale. The model now seems closer to financial speculation. Pandora and Spotify are not selling goods; they are selling access, a piece of the action. Sign on, and we’ll all benefit. (I’m struck by the way that even crowd-sourcing mimics this “investment” model of contemporary capitalism: You buy in to what doesn’t yet exist.)

But here’s the rub: Pandora and Spotify are not earning any income from their services, either. In the first quarter of 2012, Pandora– the same company that paid Galaxie 500 a total of $1.21 for their use of “Tugboat”– reported a net loss of more than $20 million dollars. As for Spotify, their latest annual report revealed a loss in 2011 of $56 million.

Leaving aside why these companies are bothering to chisel hundredths of a cent from already ridiculously low “royalties,” or paying lobbyists to work a bill through Congress that would lower those rates even further– let’s instead ask a question they themselves might consider relevant: Why are they in business at all?

The answer is capital, which is what Pandora and Spotify have and what they generate. These aren’t record companies– they don’t make records, or anything else; apparently not even income. They exist to attract speculative capital. And for those who have a claim to ownership of that capital, they are earning millions– in 2012, Pandora’s executives sold $63 million of personal stock in the company. Or as Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek has put it, “The question of when we’ll be profitable actually feels irrelevant. Our focus is all on growth. That is priority one, two, three, four and five.”

Growth of the music business? I think not. Daniel Ek means growth of his company, i.e., its capitalization. Which is the closest I can come to understanding the fundamental change I’ve witnessed in the music industry, from my first LP in 1988 to the one I am working on now. In between, the sale of recorded music has become irrelevant to the dominant business models I have to contend with as a working musician. Indeed, music itself seems to be irrelevant to these businesses– it is just another form of information, the same as any other that might entice us to click a link or a buy button on a stock exchange.  read more


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