Oh, La Gaule: An Interview of French 'Gaule Wave' Band Faire

text by Agathe Pinard

photographs by Kealan Shilling

FAIRE are very serious about not taking themselves seriously. Their shows are infused with a raw improvisation that makes every performance a completely unique experience. They just play with the vibe given by the audience and then do their best to push the limits of that relationship. The images from their shows speak for themselves, filled with overflowing energy and rage. Romain, Pierre and Simon make up the French trio Faire, a band emerging from the Parisian underground music scene. Self-labelled as “Gaule Wave,” the band mixes opposing sounds, from ‘80s synthesizers, to punk power chords, to the lyrical stylings of pop chanson.

We had a chance to chat with Faire just before their highly anticipated second show in Los Angeles. They play tonight at Madame Siam in Hollywood, catch them live at 10:00pm for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

AGATHE PINARD: First of all, how did you all meet?

FAIRE: We met at school, we were about 12 years old. There we were, the only guys listening to rock, wearing leather and boots. So we easily found a subject of discussion. 

PINARD: What’s your first experience with making music?

FAIRE: A basement in the center of Paris where we experimented with lots of anger, love, a few cries and lots of laughs. We took it very seriously, being musicians. We were rehearsing between class at least twice a week and started playing live shows pretty early on. 

PINARD: Have any of you ever had any ambitions outside of music?

FAIRE: Not really, except the fact that we love to customize/make clothes, and making videos, drawing, painting and writing. 

PINARD: What’s the meaning behind the name Faire? Did you have any other names you were also considering?

FAIRE: First we thought about “la GAULE” which is the old name for France and it also means to have a boner. It ended up becoming the name of our music: “Gaule Wave.” But we wanted to explore a maximum of different musical horizons. We thought that with FAIRE (meaning “to make” or “to do”), we could mix all kinds of music that we like, surfing between rock, yéyé, Eastern music, trap, techno and more. Also it’s a simple way for us to make music without thinking too much, and just go with the flow of our spontaneous ideas, like a manifestation of sorts. 

PINARD: Do you have any major musical influences?

FAIRE: Yes! We started playing music together while listening to Led Zeppelin, Steppenwolf… and the Motown Records really inspired us when we were younger. Later we let go of the stigma that we had of drum machines and were really inspired by ‘80’s cold wave, and especially Martin Rev of Suicide. French Pop culture influences us too, think Michel Polnareff, or all the old ‘50s songs with those incredible lyrics. Swinging by the US, people like R. Stevie Moore just transcend us. But for real, the list is really long, we’re not even talking about all the African, Indian or South American influences!

PINARD: Are there any non-musicians who inspire your work?

FAIRE: We met the incredible Charlie Le Mindu, the French hair designer who also does exhibitions of clothes made with an infinity of hair. His work is absolutely amazing. 

PINARD: What’s your personal process of creating an album like?

FAIRE: We like to be really isolated in a countryside or on a rooftop in Mexico, as we did with “Le Tamale.” Notice that we never really put out any albums, it was only EPs that we self recorded in our computer. Now we are preparing the recording of our first album, which we want to record live with someone capable to catch our live energy, because that’s where our potency lies.

PINARD: You seem to like using old women’s names as titles, Mireille, Sisi, Christiane, Marie-Louise, is there any particular reason?

FAIRE: We just love our grandmother’s stories and the era that they lived. 

PINARD: You released a very psychedelic video clip of Noizette a month ago, what’s the story behind it?

FAIRE: Some student from l’ECAL, an art school in Switzerland, asked for a song to do a video clip, then pitched the idea and we liked it! For the first time we just let them do what they wanted and received 6 different versions. We had the luxury of choosing the one we thought was the best. This battle between our faces and the Prince was exactly the kind of trip we liked.

PINARD: Is there a show you gave that you will remember forever?

FAIRE: Wow, when we released our EP « Le Tamale » in a Parisian bar people were so excited, and it was so overcrowded that the public was making waves falling down every two minutes on the little three-by-three-meter stage that they kept us from playing long. All our machines got disconnected and fucked up at the same time (it was also because of some spilled beer.) And we had 20 kilos of confetti flying around everywhere. It was two years ago, but we still have some in our synthesizers. It was definitely the best show/non-show. 

PINARD: You’re all super wild and insanely energetic on stage, how do your rehearsals differ from your live performances? 

FAIRE: (Laugh) that’s a good question. We take it really easy and chill, the exact opposite of our live shows.

PINARD: How do your audiences affect the performances?

FAIRE: We started being crazy on stage after some shows in Mexico where people were getting totally crazy, and thanks to them we took that energy, and it morphed us into these uncontrollable beasts. Now even if the crowd is really chill we get into them with all our passion and love, and push them to dance by jumping into the pit.

PINARD: What was it like to play in LA for the first time?

FAIRE: Really great, people were really into the fact that we got the mosh pits going. They weren’t accustomed to it or prepared for it at all. So we were kind of exotic with our craziness. 

PINARD: How was your experience with the city of LA, the American culture?

FAIRE: Pretty interesting, lots of cool vibes and a beautiful mix of various world cultures over there. People were lovely with us, and we met great artists there. Also Simon’s dad is from LA so we had a good introduction to the city. 

PINARD: It’s been more than a year since the release of your last EP, C’est L’été, what are you working on at the moment? You said there is a new album in the making?

FAIRE: Absolutely, we are now preparing new songs to record our first album. It will be released next year, but the date is still a secret. 

PINARD: What are you listening to right now? What was your summer ’18 soundtrack?

FAIRE: Escape-isms, HMLTD, Lil Pump and les Charlots.


Go see Faire play tonight at 10pm @ Madame Siam in Hollywood. You won’t regret it!


The Importance Of Being Earnest: An Interview Of Essayist And Poet Kris Kidd

 photograph by Cameron McCool

text by Keely Shinners

 

What does it mean to be honest?

For Kris Kidd, it might be the unadulterated, self-deprecating persona he projects on social media and in his essays. The day we meet, he posts a picture of himself in a studded choker and a t-shirt ripped to shreds, an ashy cigarette hanging from his lips. The caption reads, “i guess i’d have to say the greatest thing about being me is that i can show up an hour late to meetings & interviews, unshowered & w/ starbucks in hand, bc i literally have no reputation to uphold.” But if you think this is the honest Kris Kidd, you only know half the story.

Kris is not an hour late for our interview. In fact, Kris is fifteen minutes early, texting me that he’s showered and walking over before I’ve even gotten in my car. When we meet, he wrapped me in his thin, freckled arms offers me coffee and a Marlboro, jumps right into the interview as if we’ve been friends for years, just catching up on creative projects and intimate endeavors. When I’ve reached my final question, Kris says, “Let’s just talk.” So we do. We smoke, drink iced coffee, and talk about deconstructing masculinity. Our interview is cut short by a homeless man asking for a couple bucks to buy coffee. Kris jumps up, says, “Let me buy it for you,” and drops $6 on an Arts District iced latte for this random stranger.

What does it mean to be honest? Am I being honest if I am painting Kris as a “Punk with a Heart of Gold”? Still, I am withholding the complexity of what is real. Kris is not a slew of archetypes; he cannot be categorized or branded, not as a punk dream boy, an addict, a spokesperson for the millennial generation, an LA kid with a dark past and bright future.

If I can say anything truly honest about Kris, it is that he is open. On the page and sitting across from me, Kris is shedding the layers of self-preservation that weigh so heavily on our culture of self-absorption and individualism. In his new book of poems, Down For Whatever, he lays heart, mind, and body on the line. Kris’s poems blend hazy nostalgia and deep love with sharp, exigent issues like drug abuse, eating disorders, and sexual disenfranchisement. The book is a multi-faceted read, both dark and hopeful, unfeigned and well-crafted, entertaining and deeply moving.

Down for Whatever might capture a sliver of what it means to be honest. Not an honesty that is clean and shallow, but an honesty that is messy, contradictory, difficult to articulate but so, so sweet.

Kris Kidd and I sat down to talk about shedding bullshit, embracing the ephemerality of writing, getting addicted to control, and finally letting it all go.    

KEELY SHINNERS: In your new book, Down for Whatever, Poems and Bullshit, which are poems and which are bullshit?

KRIS KIDD: The bullshit was more of the blog posts. We wanted it to be four different sections, because I think I’ve grown a lot since I Can’t Feel My Face. It started out with the thought that blog posts would be a good division, because they’re all different years of my life. That’s the bullshit. There are some life lessons in there which are kind of just weird, drug-abusing things that I’ve learned. Yeah, it’s a good mixture of poems and bullshit. Some of the poems are bullshit.

SHINNERS: Is there something about having a physical copy of everything curated together that is important to you?

KIDD: That’s a part of it. I know the print industry is dying. In a way, we’re doing this print to publish. We’re not killing any trees. Well, we are killing trees, but we’re not wasting anything. I didn’t know that was an option. I’ve always wanted my first collection of anything to be printed. I want to hold it. I think there’s also something to be said about closing yourself off for a while, working on something, and getting the collection. I still post shit to Instagram all the time, like short poems. But I try to hold onto everything that I have until I have a collection of work.

SHINNERS: So you could do a little bit of both.

KIDD: Absolutely.

SHINNERS: Did you write all the poems together, or were you compiling a bunch of material at the end of a certain period?

KIDD: It started off two years ago, when I started compiling all the poetry I had written. I was so secretive about it. I didn’t really post any of that. I always thought poetry was over-emotional. With the essays, it’s really comedic and kind of jaded. I almost caricaturize myself in a way. I was scared of being that vulnerable. Once I got all of those together and read through them, I realized there was a lot more I wanted to say about what I’ve learned since. So I spent the last two years writing the other half of the book. It’s half and half.

SHINNERS: You include blog posts from 2009-2013. They are very haunting, like ghosts from your past self. Are you including those blog posts to contextualize the rest of the poems in a kind of reflectiveness?

KIDD: I think it’s reflective, for sure. Also, it’s so weird to look back. I started that blog not knowing if people were going to read it. It was more of a journal for me at the time. There’s an honesty in that that’s hard to replicate now that I know that people are reading what I do. They’re haunting for me too. It’s weird to see where my head was at those moments. Like I said, they’re really big time stamps for where I was emotionally.

SHINNERS: Are you nostalgic, or do you think, thank god that’s over?

KIDD: Both. I know I wouldn’t be this person without that kid. I wouldn’t ever do it again. [Laughs.]

SHINNERS: Why poetry rather than prose? What can you say in a poem that you can’t say in an essay, a story, an Instagram post?

KIDD: It’s kind of the opposite. The reason I was so afraid of poetry was that you can’t bullshit anything. With the essays, I can make a joke. I can talk about my father’s suicide. I can talk about drugs. I can talk about eating disorders. But I can spin it comedically so that no one’s super uncomfortable. My biggest fear with poetry is that I would be inviting people to some kind of pity party. The interesting thing about poetry is that you can only say exactly what you need to say. It’s like packing for a trip. You can’t take everything. That makes it more… I hate the word raw… It makes it more vulnerable and intimate. That’s terrifying, but I wanted to challenge myself in that way.

SHINNERS: You kind of have to put it on the line.

KIDD: Yeah. Poetry is just very different. I wanted to work on that for myself. I still see a lot of the voice of I Can’t Feel My Face in these poems, but I stripped away a lot of the manipulative behaviors that were in that book.

SHINNERS: Historically, the central distinction between poetry and prose (before they were written differently) was that poetry was meant to be performed and enjoyed in the community, kind of like theatre. Is there a sense of performance in your work?

KIDD: I only read some of these poems last year when I only had rough half of the book. I used to read the essays. Reading poetry is different. Essays are performative too, but it’s kind of like a stand up comedy routine. Again, with this being more emotional, more vulnerable, you slip into it. Especially because it’s my life, the performance does transport me back there. It becomes a performance of self.



SHINNERS: Going along with the performative aspect of poetry, poetry was a historically communal space. Like, you would go see Homer perform the Odyssey on the street. Is there acommunity that you’re thinking about when you’re writing? Or is it more individualistic?

KIDD: I think it started off as individualistic. As the blog got bigger, and as I released I Can’t Feel My Face, it really sent it somewhere else. People all over the world were reading these things. I would get messages from kids in Russia who say they can’t be themselves. It’s really amazing to hear--not even in a narcissistic way, though I’m sure that it is--it’s really amazing to hear what these kids get out of that. That became, I think, a sense of community. Now, I think I owe that vulnerability in a sense. Things that I wouldn’t have said before, I found myself saying in this book. I know there are things I have experienced that other people will gravitate toward and relate to. I want to be open for them.

SHINNERS: You reference things like the hazy glow of your iPhone screen in the middle of the night, or facetiming a friend in your poems. Even though these technological apparatuses are ever-present in our daily lives, they aren’t so often included in poetry. Why do you think it’s important to include them?

KIDD: I’ve never wanted to create anything timeless. What makes our ability to write about now powerful is that it’s right now. We’re experiencing this generation. We were the guinea pigs for things like social media. All of the digital advances have been within our millennial age group. I don’t care if twenty, thirty years from now all my shit is outdated. I think it speaks to its time. The Internet and technology have influenced all aspects of my life. I think that’s true for a lot of people. I get that people don’t want to date themselves; I totally respect it. But that’s never been a worry for me.

SHINNERS: If it’s ephemeral, you want it to be powerful while it can be.

KIDD: Yeah, and we’ll always know what the iPhone was. We’ll always know what Facetime was. Even when it becomes the rotary phone of the next generation.

SHINNERS: Addiction plays a huge role in your poems, not just drug addiction, but addiction to things like intimacy, nostalgia. What are things that addicted to writing about?

KIDD: Addiction is a weird thing. Because I write so openly about using drugs for a long time, I get labeled a drug addict a lot. I combat that, because I don’t think I was ever addicted to drugs. I definitely abused drugs. But I’ve always been addicted to control. Down For Whatever finally comes full circle with that, because I included aspects like sex, love, and intimacy. And all of my personal issues with that. I’m addicted to writing about drugs, for sure. That’s always going to be an issue until it’s not, you know? We need to talk about it. I’m addicted to writing about body image and eating disorders. Especially for young men, it’s not addressed often enough. And just sexual intimacy. This is my first time writing about my issues with that. But so many people in my life are going through the same things that I am. It’s incredibly isolating. We tend to replace sexual intimacy with sexual violence. That’s fine, but it can get dangerous. It can really hinder you from any emotional growth whatsoever. I think addiction in all forms. It does go back to control though. That’s always been my issue. Control with food, men, drugs, whatever.

SHINNERS: Feeling a lack of control?

KIDD: Something will hit me, and then I don’t have control over a situation. But I know I can control my body. If I do this, I know I can get high. When I stopped using drugs, men became like that too. I knew I could get them to sleep with me, that sort of thing. Which is not healthy. It’s all a power play. But we’re learning.

SHINNERS: You write a lot about things like cheap motels and smoking cigarettes all the time. I think that’s really authentic to you, but for a lot of people, it’s this whole American Apparel aesthetic. Like, “Oh, that’s edgy. That’s romantic.” Those places and objects are romanticized. How do you grapple with that? Is it romantic for you? Or do you want to talk about it because it’s true to your life?

KIDD: The motel reference, that was just one specific night. We had nowhere else to stay. We couldn’t afford anything else. There is something romantic about that. People tend to romanticize any sort of tragedy. Tragedy is glamorized. Poverty. Any sort of struggle is romanticized. That’s a cultural thing. We have Sofia Coppola making depression the hottest thing in the world in all her fucking movies. Lana Del Rey. These artists are great, but we are romanticizing really dark things. I hope I’m not included in that. I’ve never tried to romanticize any of it. I’ve always tried to speak on it honestly. If people glamorize it, that’s more on them.

SHINNERS: The book includes a few “Life Lessons,” which kind of poke fun at the idea. But if you had to share a life lesson, what would you share?

KIDD: An honest one?

SHINNERS: Yeah.

KIDD: The biggest thing I’ve learned in the last year is how important honesty is. And how specific honesty is. Somebody just told me recently, “Even if you’re saying the truth, if you’re omitting other things to get a certain reaction or endpoint, that’s not honesty.” I think I’ve struggled with that my whole life. Like, “I’m telling you my story. I’m not lying.” But there was still a manipulative aspect to everything that I did. In the long run, it doesn’t help. Even if it gets you what you want, that’s going to be fleeting. There are a lot of gaps. That’s hard. I’ve been struggling with that for a year. But it’s paying off.

SHINNERS: It’s hard to be honest, but people end up loving it.

KIDD: People crave honesty. It’s just rare that it ever gets that way. Because we’re all scared. It was actually a psychic who told me that. That’s such a white girl LA thing for me to do, see a psychic, but I was at a place where I needed some sort of guidance. It really hit me. That’s something that I’ve been working on.

SHINNERS: When you think about honesty, what do you imagine?

KIDD: Just totally letting go.

SHINNERS: Putting everything you have out there.

KIDD: Especially in intimate relationships. I’ve always developed really close relationships with women. I’ve always been terrified of relationships with men. I have this really close circle of girls, and those are my best friends. We’re all honest with each other. There’s nothing to hide. It’s all on the table. And I realized that’s why those relationships work.

SHINNERS: Even with guys who have supposedly undone their masculinity, do you find there’s this lingering feeling that they need to be a certain type of person? Especially when they’re with other guys? And that’s what it’s harder to be honest?

KIDD: Absolutely. I see what the masculine ideal is, and I feel like I’ve strayed away from it as much as I can. But there’s something to being socialized as a boy, as a man. You can feel, but hold it in, don’t emote it, don’t talk about it. That, as a social construct, is really interesting. That’s something I’ve always worked against. But I do feel like there’s repercussions to me being that honest because I’m a boy.

SHINNERS: I notice it in the relationships that I have with men. I don’t really have friends who are jock bros, but even my friends who are feminists and are trying to recognize masculine constructions, you get to thresholds with them every once in awhile.

KIDD: It’s so ingrained. It’s a lot to undo. It will take time. We’re making progress, but it’s such a slow burn, on all fronts.

SHINNERS: Right. And sometimes it just shifts. We think that it’s over, but really it’s the same power structure using different language.

KIDD: This reminds me of Orlando. We think we’re such a progressive country. We think that we’ve made changes, but we’re not that far from where we were. It’s great. We’ve been making strides. But we need to keep going. It’s so easy to fall back and come up against that threshold.

SHINNERS: There’s so much supposed widespread support in the mainstream media for the queer community when something like this happens. That’s really cool, and it maybe wouldn’t have happened decades ago. But there’s also so much rhetoric about, “Oh, this one stray homophobe. Our culture isn’t actually like that.”

KIDD: As beautiful as it is that queer issues are now in the mainstream, it’s also trending. We have to push past that. Trends die. And this shouldn’t be a trend.


You can purchase Kris Kidd's new book of poetry Down For Whatever here. Text and interview by Keely Shinners. Photography by Cameron McCool. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE


Get Your Strength Through Oi: An Interview With Punktrepreneur Toby Mott

text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper

Toby Mott owns one of the largest collections of skinhead and punk ephemera from the halcyon days of anarchy in the UK. A punk himself, Mott has turned his youth in revolt into an enterprise with the Mott Collection, which recently was released in the street edition of Skinhead: An Archive. Punk historian or punktrepreneur, Mott is intent of preserving the legacy of one of the most misunderstood subcultures. Skinheads, although some had nationalist or Nazi leanings, were not all rabid and racist xenophobes. Some, in fact, were gay. Some were Jewish. Some were jocks. Some were women. In fact, the skinheads were the working class alternative to a posh Swinging 60s London, with Cockney and Jamaican roots. Mott acquired much of his archive in real time, collecting posters, patches, posters, zines and more. In the 70s, he was the founder of the Anarchist Street Army, which tried to toss over the establishment in the Pimlico area of London. In he 80s, he lived in squat with the likes of boy George and made appearances in films by Derek Jarman, and was included in Gilbert and George's 'Existers' series. Mott was also the founder of Grey, an anarchist art collective that would vandalize areas of London, spraying grey paint on windows. His involvement in that group got him arrested and banned from the U.K. Today, Mott is more a gentleman than a punk, but a punk at heart. He has shed his leather for a clean, crisp dress shirt and a sharp blazer. We met up with Mott one sunny day by the beach during his recent trip to Lost Angeles to discuss skinheads, his collection and what it means to be punk in the digital age.

 

OLIVER KUPPER: Skinheads have this association to neo-Nazi culture. Putting out something related to skinheads, people might think that it’s related to Nazi culture. How do you clear up this confusion?

 

TOBY MOTT: People jump to the conclusion that I am, or I was, a skinhead. But this is a neutral overview of a culture. Most people more readily associate skinheads with fascist, neo-Nazi culture. But one of the reasons for doing the book is to show that it’s much more diverse. There are all different kinds of skinheads. In London, now, if you saw a skinhead, most people would assume that they’re gay. So you’ve gone from a threatening, aggressive, neo-fascist to gay culture. Apart from that, there’s the whole S.H.A.R.P. (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) thing, which came from America. It was pretty multi-ethnic in the UK, with The Specials and the whole 2-tone thing. I think it’s the same with most things. The most aggressive aspects get the most press, because they’re newsworthy. But it’s certainly not the dominant element of skinhead culture.

 

KUPPER: There are multiple subcultures within skinhead culture.

 

MOTT: Yeah. Within skinhead culture, you get into scooter skins, skinhead girls. When skinhead culture mutates and travels abroad, say, in Eastern Europe, it’s must more militaristic and nationalist. It’s kind of evolved from the original British skinhead. It’s become more uniform. In Russia, there’s a big skinhead culture, but it’s more nationalist.

 

KUPPER: Were you part of this culture?

 

MOTT: No. I was a punk. I was actually a victim of skinheads. Skinheads, initially, were born in the late 60s, early 70s. It turned into something called “suedeheads” and then “bootboys,” with the whole football violence, football hooligan thing. The fashion changed and evolved. They were into glam rock, and the reggae thing kind of brought it out. But then when punk came out - say, in ‘76, and the high point in ’77 – there were bands like Sham 69 who were called “street punk.” Somehow, that initiated a skinhead revival. As a sort of look, this was much more developed than the original skinheads. That’s where the uniform evolved and became fetishized – the Fred Perry, stuff like that. They would also attend the same kinds of gigs I was at. Often, at any random point, they would just attack you. That happened to me – which I write about in the book – at a Sham 69 gig. There was just a general level of intimidation between the punks and the skinheads. It wasn’t a happy unity, although we shared the same music. This was before the white power thing. Around ‘78/’79, Sham 69, Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects and other punk bands were adopted by skinheads. But punks would also be at the gig. There was an uneasy tension.

 

KUPPER: What do you think was in the atmosphere during that time that was creating these subcultures?

 

MOTT: At the time, there was a recession. It was pre-Thatcher; Thatcher was elected in ’79. There was the Cold War. The Labor Party was Left Wing. There was a kind of crisis, especially for young people. There wasn’t really an economic future. That has often fueled youth cultures in Britain, which are often political, not just fashion or music things. Everyone, pretty much, was a part of some kind of subculture. You had goths, punks, skinheads – the whole flamboyant, romantic thing. And then you had football hooligans. But there was never really a passive kid. You always had to be something or other.

 

KUPPER: Who were the football hooligans?

 

MOTT: They were the white working class. They got their thrills out of violence. They still exist. But that’s all across Europe. They fight each other. The police have really come down and sent people to prison, but it’s still big. It’s a subculture.

 

KUPPER: It seemed like punk had a soundtrack, with a lot of bands coming out. With the skinheads, it seems looser. It seems way more personal.

 

MOTT: Well, there are all different types of skinheads. The white nationalist skinheads would go for things like Screwdriver, No Remorse. There’s a whole culture with these bands – Rock-o-Rama Records. They have a record label, a whole culture, a whole identity. Putting that aside, we also had the whole 2-tone thing, with The Specials and Selector, which are multi-cultural, anti-racist. The look was less aggressive. Later on, in the 80s, you got bands like Bronski Beat, which appealed to the gay identity of skinheads. Then there was the street punk thing, which was referred to as “Oi!” So there’s no one musical influence. Whichever type of skinhead you were, you had your music. Then, you have a sentimental figure like Nicky Crane, who was on the cover of “Strength through Oi!” album. He was a prominent neo-Nazi, but he had a whole secret gay life. He was to die of AIDS later. In a way, he symbolizes the whole story, the whole contradiction within these cultures and identities.

 

KUPPER: Where does Bruce LaBruce tie in?

 

MOTT: Bruce LaBruce obviously fetishizes the whole skinhead thing. He’s from Canada. He’s interested because he sexualized it. In a way, if you look at those so-called neo-Nazi skinheads, it’s very homoerotic. The mosh pit thing…

 

KUPPER: Taking your shirt off, lots of fluids…

 

MOTT: Yeah. And then to find that some of the most celebrated heroes of that actually have this whole gay, secret life – it’s kind of obvious, right? At the time, though, it was big news. It was in the newspapers. But LaBruce adopted the skinhead look. I’m not quite sure how it’s viewed. Some of the original skinheads don’t appreciate this imagery, I’m sure. They write to me about my book, “How fucking dare you?” They don’t even want to acknowledge it.


KUPPER: When did you start collecting this material?


MOTT: I collected punk stuff as a punk. I was always fascinated by the skinhead element that was around me. I always collected the political pamphlets, from the both the Left and the Right, which were being circulated. The skinheads were the people circulating the extreme Right Wing stuff. It just added to my punk collection. Then later, in my discussion with the publisher, I stripped out the skinhead part of my punk collection, and it made the book.


KUPPER: Was there a Penthouse article that explores this material? What was that about?


MOTT: Weirdly enough, that features Nicky Crane. I think the media has always been fascinated with skinheads because they are violent. Although, as I’ve said, they weren’t all violent. The one the media concentrates on are the violent ones. American Penthouse did an article about British skinhead culture. But they don’t really have a say. In opposition, there are all these anti-fascist groups. But that story isn’t always as newsworthy.


KUPPER: You had a confrontation with skinheads at a venue. Were there any other terrifying moments in your experience?


MOTT: In my foreword to the book, I write about being surrounded by skinheads. There were some notable events. There was this thing called “Rock Against Racism” in 1978, to combat the rise of fascism. They very cleverly had bands like The Clash and Sham 69 to play these concerts. Everyone would go. On the way to one of these events, we were cornered on the top of a double decker bus. I was with my two sisters, who were punks. Because they fancied my sisters, the skinheads, we got by. It was another close shave. The interaction with the skinheads was aggressive. That was their mode of communication. Punks are much more articulate. Skinheads were never adopted by middle class kids like punk was. Punk was pretty much all-inclusive – race, class, whatever. The skinheads were always working-class. Not always white, but the majority were.


KUPPER: I don’t think a lot of people realize that punk was more temperate than skinhead.


MOTT: Skinhead was rigid. The uniform was rigid. Punk was inventive and creative.


KUPPER: Like hippies with mohawks.


MOTT: Skinhead was all-formulaic – these clothes, this haircut. It was militaristic, like a uniform.


KUPPER: That was all new at that point. Now, we have this completely different perspective of what punk is, just because it’s been commercialized and sexualized. Is it an attitude?


MOTT: Yeah, punk’s an attitude.


KUPPER: You don’t need to dress like that. You can be a punk in the way you look at work, at life.


MOTT: I think the book fair is punk, because it’s got that whole DIY thing. It’s not punk to look like a punk from the ‘70s or ‘80s. That’s not punk; that’s retro. I think the book encapsulates the whole ethos of do-it-yourself. The Internet is a gateway to that. But the Internet might be too easy. It depends on how you use it. What is punk today? Punk is an attitude. A creative attitude.


KUPPER: Going back a little bit, to the idea of skinheads shaving their head – what do you think the symbolism behind that was?


MOTT: I think the main thing about skinheads even from the late ‘60s was they would lose the identity of being working class. The manual labor was being lost with the rise of technology. By the late ‘80s when it was revived I think it was a safe place if you were lost, white, working class, and your whole future was being eroded. They fetishized the workman’s uniform. I think that’s what happened.


Also, some people like a code, like wearing black. That appealed to some people. Then they also had the camaraderie and the whole homoerotic thing.


KUPPER: I had always heard that the shaved head had to do with lice from working class individuals living and working where they were getting scabies and lice – that it was just an easy way to avoid that.


MOTT: A utilitarian thing. It also means you weren’t a hippie. The thing about the ‘60s skinheads is that their hair wasn’t as short as the later skinheads when what you wear became much more defined. There’s that book – The Skinhead Bible – which maps that out. But yeah it comes from working on a building site.

 

KUPPER: In terms of outsider culture going on today, do you notice any prominent subcultures that are making an impact?

 

MOTT: There’s always elements in hip hop culture. In the UK we have a thing called Grime, which is an underground thing. Then there’s the trans culture, sexual identity thing that is very outsider. It’s hard because now everything comes to the floor so quickly, nothing has time to become anything before it’s either exposed or picked up by a celebrity. I think for people who don’t find their place in the world how it is, they gravitate towards each other.

 

KUPPER: It’s interesting what’s going on in terms of the trans community and the gay community. Especially with fashion.

 

MOTT: I come from a world where gender is very clearly defined with expectations, but now it’s much more fluid.

 

KUPPER: Where did you grow up?

 

MOTT: I grew up in Central London.

 

KUPPER: What did your parents do?

 

MOTT: My father was a professor, my mother was a social worker. I was a middle-class punk. My parents met at art school so I came from a bohemian or what’s called the intelligentsia background. My emersion in punk was from making fan zines and that whole creative area, I went to art school.

 

What I find really fascinating about skinhead culture is that none of that culture was created by people I meet. A lot of what punk is supposed to be about is the kind of clothes, which came from these deprived backgrounds, whereas in fact it came from art schools. Skinhead culture is not from art schools. None of them went to art school, hardly any of them went to school. So it’s amazing there’s these artifacts. It’s less informed than punk. People who were involved in punk are informed about Dada and stuff like that; skinheads aren’t. It’s got a raw uniqueness to it. Some of this stuff comes from towns in Scotland and fucking nowhere. Deprived places.

 

KUPPER: Yeah, industrial towns.

 

MOTT: Yeah.

 

KUPPER: Where does Joy Division fit into all of that? It seems like they’re in this in-between place.  

 

MOTT: Joy Division is from Manchester but they’re not related to skinhead culture. They’re too sensitive. They’re articulate and sensitive but they’re also from the same kind of background so they could have been skinheads. There were always kids who were more into music and girls than football and violence; they became punks like Joy Division. If those weren’t choices, then you became a skinhead.

 

KUPPER: So just fate?

 

MOTT: It was kind of predetermined. If your family members go to prison, you’re going to be a skinhead. If your family members go to art school, you’ll probably be a punk. I think in America it’s different so I can only talk about the British experience.

 

KUPPER: Americans seem very inspired, though, by the British.

 

MOTT: I get the idea that some of the people I’ve met here that were in skinhead gangs could possibly be from middle-class backgrounds. That really didn’t happen in the UK. There is a class structure there, and even in the subcultures it powers through. Apart from punk where everyone goes. But like I said, that was the more creative and rebellious kids.

 

KUPPER: I think that the white power thing in skinhead culture is a very American thing. It’s very difficult to find non-racist skinheads in the US.

 

MOTT: I think they just get more attention. And they’ve murdered a few more people. There’s always psychos right? But also they’re organized like the whole Tom Metzger thing and get more press. In Britain we have white power skinheads aligned fringe Neo-Nazi groups.

 

KUPPER: In terms of where the book is going – there’s a second edition that’s out now. Will there be a third edition?

 

MOTT: There probably will be a third. What’s interesting is that we always add something new. Who knows!

 

KUPPER: We live in such a digital age now, how do we collect this ephemera that’s alive today? What’s your advice?

 

MOTT: A lot of it is in the music world. I don’t know because I’m not sure how information circulates now. In my day you would be informed of a gig or an event on a piece of paper. Now it’d probably be on a PDF. Who wants to collect PDFs?

 

KUPPER: Who wants to print a PDF? (Laughs.)

 

MOTT: I don’t know, it’s just something else. Luckily for me most of my projects end with facture in ’90 or ’91. That’s the beginning of rave and the whole dance, hip-hop scene. Once it goes digital and online it’s different.

 

KUPPER: But now with the book fair it seems like zine culture is very much alive.

 

MOTT: Yeah there’s this whole analogue culture driven by the internet. It’s very exciting.

 

KUPPER: It is very exciting; we’re trying to explore that right now.

 

MOTT: I’m very pleased to be a part of that. I think it’s very important that things have an actuality rather than just an online presence. The book fair is amazing, it’s not even a retro thing. It’s real.

 

KUPPER: It is. I don’t think people are using it in a derivative way where they’re trying to recreate something from the past.  It’s definitely very new, and I love what Printed Matter is doing.

 

MOTT: And it’s global. It’s all over Europe. These books are also beautiful objects, it’s not like buying a book on Amazon. It’s almost like some sort of art thing.

 

KUPPER: There’s a lot of freedom in DIY, you’re not really censored by anything specific.

 

MOTT: And it’s not economically driven. It’s not a money thing.

 

KUPPER: No one’s making money.

 

MOTT: No one’s making money, and everyone knows there’s no money to make so it’s kinda cool. (Laughs.) There’s a few people in it who want to make money, but that’s why I always say to them that there’s no money to make. So do something else. In a way it’s kind of pure; the fact that there’s no money other than being able to cover the cost of doing the project.

 

KUPPER: That’s why you have your day job. What do you think about magazines like Richardson magazine outside of the scope of everything else?

 

MOTT: Andrew [Richardson] is a good friend of mine. I don’t know if it’s a parody of a porn magazine or if it’s a way of being a porn magazine for a new audience.

 

KUPPER: Interesting. Because he doesn’t really say it’s porn, it’s a sex magazine. It’s not a porn magazine even though there’s only porn stars on the covers of every issue.

 

MOTT: I think to do that kind of thing it’s got to be away from the male gaze. I don’t know enough about porn, it’s a massive culture. It’s the biggest thing. He plays around with that but he’s really created a clothing brand.

 

KUPPER: That seems very punk in and of itself what he’s doing.

 

MOTT: Yeah I guess so. He’s taken something that most people find offensive and some people find acceptable, but not all people do. It’s a fine line.


You can follow Toby Mott on Instagram here. Purchase the "street edition" of Skinhead: An Archive on Ditto Press Text, interview and photographs by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE