Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Vice February Literary

My February Vice literary reviews including an interview with scary Oxbow guy Eugene Robinson.

Unseen UK
EBS Publishing

For our ‘Heroes?’ Issue waaaaaaaaaay back when we sent a Polaroid Land Camera out to every single contributor so that they could take a photo to illustrate their piece in that months magazine. It went from person to person and the shots were pretty great and massively varied. We felt pleased with ourselves. Not in a smug Donald Trump way. More in ‘well that worked out ok’ uncle John Peel way. Someone at the Royal Mail must be keeping tabs on us ‘cos they totally pinched the idea for this here book. It’s ok though. We forgive them. You know why? Because this collection of photographs taken on single use cameras by working posties on their early morning routes is quite simply amazing. It’s like putting the Viking hat on in that show Knightmare and seeing the suburbs, cities and countryside with a new set of eyeholes. If I started describing the shots I’d ruin how great it is. Trust us. Go order a copy. All the cash goes to Help the Hospices anyway so even if you are a tasteless amoeba you will have at least done one good deed in 2008.


Schapiro’s Heroes
Steve Schapiro
PowerHouse Books

Steve Schapiro was one of those photographers who existed in the golden age of photojournalism. A period that existed for a brief moment after the creation of the cult of celebrity but before it’s all consuming, maniacal egotism caused it to draw up barricades separating itself from the very public which had birthed it. What makes Schapiro’s striking black and white photographs so ridiculously, eye-poppingly good is not the call sheet, the names speak for themselves, but the access. You don’t get Muhammed Ali sparing in the gym, you get Muhammed Ali playing Monopoly with his kids. You don’t get Andy Warhol pouting in the Factory, you get him feeding his rabbit. You don’t get the only fucking shot ever taken of Samuel Beckett not looking like he was carved out granite, you get him gazing absentmindedly at his goldfish bowl. Can you imagine a photographer capturing Lindsay or Paris mucking out their chihuaha beds unless it was for $500,000 and an OK! spread or an episode of The Real Life? And what have any of those people ever done to even have film wasted on them? I wish I was back in the golden age. Schapiro sure makes it look fun and more than a little mysterious.


Min Gronlandske Family Ilaquttakka Inuggit
Camilla Stephan
Milik Publishing

We ran a selection of intrepid Dane Camilla Stephan’s unpublished photographs from her time in Greenland back in ‘The News From All Over’ Issue last year. A lot of people had a lot to say about them. It’s easy to see why. Living in Greenland is about as far removed from 300 freeview channels and Dominoes Pizza being delivered directly to your mouth via a single synapse wriggle as you can get. Up there on top of the world it’s -40 degrees, you have to go out and catch you own narwahl (totally nuts whale/unicorn beast that looks like it was invented by Dr Seuss to scare small children into bed) for breakfast and if you are looking for anything you are as likely to go scavenging the town dump as the non-existent Tesco Metro. Camilla knows all about all of this because her Grandma is Greenlandic and moved to Denmark because she had fallen in love with Camilla’s meteorolgist grandfather who had been stationed there. In this collection you get a heap of photos from Camilla’s trip back to Greenland to find out how her grandparents lived and it is in turns sad, happy, harrowing and beautiful. Pretty much all the things a life well lived should be.


Paperback Issue 1

Shh. I’m going to tell you a secret: I know nothing about art. Nada. Zip. Nichts. It’s a big scary thing and I have no frame of reference. It makes me feel like a little ship bobbing away in a massive ocean whenever I’m confronted by it. I wasted my whole formative youth listening to records and reading magazines about records. I can happily hear a song and mentally place it into a box and file it with all the other songs in my head but show me a painting and I will just say yes or no. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like art. I like it lots. I go to openings and actually look at the work as well as drink all the free Becks and everything. I have plenty of friends who ‘do’ art as their main thing. They are all fun people who like life and their work tends to make me laugh or at least giggle in enjoyment. The crushing inferiority complex created by the people who wrote the press release for this forthcoming magazine made me hate art all over again. I wanted to walk down Brick Lane on a Thursday evening with a nailgun and get them all for destroying my innocent appreciation of the stuff inside their publication. Apparently if I’m not aware of the “famous” wooden toys produced by the Swiss manufacturer Naef I won’t ‘get’ a piece of the work they cover. I was angry for about 12 seconds about all this then I looked at the nice pictures, photos and words inside and got all happy again like my god daughter when you put the Tweenies on. Bring on Issue 2.


Live At The Masque (Nightmare In Punk Alley)
Brendan Mullen
Gingko Press

CBGB’s will forever be remembered as the venue for making shit happen. Fair enough. Take Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Voidoids and The Ramones and you have a bunch of bases covered. However, if you take a look at the other notorious shithole right on the other side of the country where things were happening night in night out and you have a pretty strong argument for the birth of hardcore at the very least. The Masque, off Holywood Blvd and Selma Av, was run by a rowdy Sot named Brendan Mullen and played host to The Dils, The Weirdos, The Screamers, The Germs, Plugz and the Mau Mau’s countless times. It was these inner city freaks, fuck ups and drug casualties who offered the alternative to New Wave that the angry kids out in the suburbs of Hermosa Beach and San Pedro came into town to see every week. It is fitting that Black Flag played their first and only Masque show at the venue’s closing party in July ’79 as if to usher in the new era that would go a lot faster and a bunch angrier than their effeminate, smacked out, kohl eyed elders ever thought possible. A valuable document of a city about to explode.


Fight (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Ass-Kicking but Were Afraid You'd Get Your Ass Kicked for Asking)
Eugene S. Robinson
Harper Collins

How did Eugene get this shit put out by Harper Collins? We’ve been getting regular visits in print from everybody’s favourite radical thinking former body-builder, ultimate fighter, bouncer, singer and all round loveable loony tune since he wrote the ‘Vice Guide To Getting Beaten Up’ for us way back when for our UK Launch Issue. That seems like a million years ago and ever since Eugene has been doing what he does best: fighting, fucking and living to tell the tale.

And not just living to tell the tale to a few buddies over a pitcher down the bar but ripping and roaring and howling the tale at anyone who’ll listen as part of his Oxbow stage show, via spoken word appearances and now collected all in one place in print.

A book might just about be the best way to digest Eugene’s unique take on the everyday. Actually experiencing it first hand pretty much necessitates confrontation. Oxbow performances generally end in nudity, degradation and glass shattering violence. Even via the written word Eugene’s wild-eyed intensity comes pouring off of every page. But at least you can close a book. It’s a little harder turning off a naked, bicep bulging, tattoo’d hulk who’s just jumped on your back and thrust his cock in your face.

It’s been a while since we caught up with Eugene so we decided to give him a call and see how the whole beating up and getting beaten game was treating him.

VICE: Hey Eugene, how are things?
Eugene: I am, as ever, staving off the states of total internal and external implosion and explosion.

How do you tend to keep the mist from descending?
I try and maintain states of deep breathing and counting to ten. But you know, drink drugs and whatever narcotics and opiates are available. Maybe church?

When was the last time you went to church Eugene?
My church is wherever I chose to be at any given time. I am always at church.

Hang on, are you driving and talking at the same time? In England you’d totally get a smack on the wrist right now.
We still have certain freedoms here. If I was in Texas I could be drinking while driving. And shooting a gun of course.

Since we’re calling about a book which is about fighting I guess I better ask you about fighting. What is the worst beat down you’ve ever taken?
Brian ‘The Fury’ Johnstone once called me out over an article I’d written in GQ saying he’d been choked out after 7 minutes. He came at me and it was like being in the jaws of a force of nature. Absolute pain and A&E time.

Yikes. And what is the worse dusting you’ve ever handed out?
When I was living in New York I took out someone who had raped a friend. That motherfucker is lucky to be alive. He was very close to death indeed.


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