Interview: Roger Gastman
Roger Gastman talks about everything, but the one topic he's most interested in at the moment is the underground D.C. graffiti culture of the late '80s into the '90s. Here, we discuss his vast collection of memorabilia from the time, his personal love of graffiti , and what he's doing next (which I hope includes throwing another party).
Interview by Ally Mullen and Maddie Flanigan Hi Roger, can you give me a brief description of Pump Me Up: The Subculture of the 1980s, the show you just wrapped up at the Corcoran Gallery of Art?
It’s a collection of the D.C. subculture in 1980s: punk rock, go-go, hardcore, gangs, graffiti, and underground culture. A lot of rock culture from D.C. that has never been documented. What got you interested in the whole subculture depicted in the show?
I grew up in D.C. and in the ‘90s, was running around writing graffiti, and I was always interested in what came before me. What was there before? Who did something first? I kept digging up more and more information over the years and I met someone who was doing graffiti a few years before me. I followed them further downtown—probably some places I shouldn’t have gone—and met Cool Disco Dan
, the focus of my documentary The Legend of Cool Disco Dan
. He wrote graffiti and opened my eyes to a lot of what the D.C. culture was in the ‘80s, especially the black subculture.
How was your style of graffiti different from what Cool Disco Dan was doing?
For me, graffiti was about punk rock and hardcore. I went to hardcore shows and everybody wrote graffiti, especially during this time. Dan came out of the go-go graffiti community and his was graffiti was completely different from the type we were doing. He had crossed over.
What brought you together?
All of the go-go graffiti writers who were writing their names in the ‘80s stopped in 1987-’88. The crack epidemic came and they started hustling. Dan was never into crack or hustling—he just wanted to continue to write his name. He figured out people in the hardcore scene were writing their name and Dan taught us a lot about downtown, a lot about going out and the culture of downtown and showed us what sparked this kind of graffiti.
Do you think the underground movement of graffiti affected the city at the time?
In D.C. at the time, there was much more dangerous going on. When people are writing graffiti in places like Georgetown, DuPont Circle or heavily trafficked tourist areas, they were more aware of you. If you got busted, something was going to happen to you. But for the most part, the city didn’t care about graffiti. Until the late ‘90s.
How does D.C. compare to other cities when it comes to graffiti?
Cities like Philadelphia, L.A. and New York are much richer in graffiti history, leading back to gang graffiti in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Where did graffiti begin?
Traditional graffiti as we know it today, writing your name over and over again for the sake of it, started in the late ‘60s in Philadelphia and NYC. People argue about who started it. Philadelphia can win that argument by having a more defined graffiti scene through the ‘60s that was more stylistic, but New York made graffiti famous by the subway trains that they were starting to put out in the early ‘70s.
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I am a collector, a hoarder, a curator—whatever you want to call me. In the last several years I’ve been putting out magazines, books, documentaries, doing museum shows, gallery shows, working with artists. I am a fan and I’m interested in a lot of this subculture, mostly the subculture that spawns out of the ghettos: graffiti, music, etc. I’ve been able to put together good collections of ephemera and artwork and probably saved a lot of things before they were destroyed or dug up things people didn’t know still existed.
You don’t write graffiti now, right? Would you ever go back into it?
Sure. I know plenty of people that had second or third graffiti careers in their late ‘30s or ‘40s and did just as much graffiti as they did in their teens. I guess you can’t count me out yet, but I’m not active. What was your tag and what’s the story behind it?
“Clear” and there’s no real meaning.
Roger tagged my notebook
Where do you think graffiti is today versus where it was in the ‘80s?
In the ‘80s, graffiti was a huge movement. It was in the galleries and it was getting a lot of attention. In the late ‘80s it died out, the trend stops, but in the mid-‘80s it was everywhere in the U.S. and across Europe. In the last ten years, give or take, it’s turn into a multi-million dollar business. It’s not a subculture anymore; it’s its own culture with many different subcultures that have come off of it. It’s the fastest growing art movement in the last 40 plus years. What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on distribution for The Legend of Cool Disco Dan
. I’m working on a film Wall Writers
that we just finished about graffiti in 1967 and 1972. John Waters did the voiceover for that. I am also working on a couple other books and working with Sanrio
on a couple of projects too.
Who are a few graffiti artists you think everyone should check out?
(NYC—the Freedom Tunnels ended up being named after him.)
(L.A.) What was your last purchase on your credit card?
Emergen-C at the airport in Phoenix. What are you watching on Netflix?
I just finished watching all of this really horrible TV show that was amazing called Blue Mountain State
. It’s about a football team and every other thing is like a dick joke or getting drunk.
What’s the best party you’ve ever thrown.
There’s been everything from a Christmas party a few years ago with male strippers. At a birthday party last year we had this big fat man baby bartending. A sword swallower. We had Angelyne
, the original ‘80s version of Paris Hilton, come over. She drives a pink corvette. It was a win. What do you play most on your iPod?
I still listen to the same things that I was listening to when I was a teenager: Naked Raygun
, Cock Sparrer
, and ‘80s D.C. bands. What’s your screensaver?
OJ Simpson wearing gloves.
If you could wear one clothing brand from back in the day again, what would it be? Cross Colours
! I never wore it but I wish they’d bring it back so I can wear it. Where do you get the images for your blog, Roger Gastman Talks About Everything…
I get a few dozen emails a day from my friends, or from some random person I met of fucked up, weird images and links if you can imagine. Or it’s three in the morning and I can’t sleep so I type in crazy searches into Google images and see what pops up. I have folders and folders of thousands of ridiculous image people send to me everyday. What’s on the blog is PG-13 compared to what I’d like to post, but I have clients I work with… but if you get on my personal distribution list you get some real gems.
Record Store Day 2013
Record Store Day is THIS Saturday and I'm so pumped! There's a ton of cool releases this year including yet another weirdo 7" from Ryan Adams and friends; a 10" from Brian Jonestown Massacre; a cute, heart-shaped 7" from Kate Nash; a 7" from Hanni El Khatib; a triple cassette reissue of classic Kill Rock Stars samplers; an MGMT cassette tape (this comes with a digital download, don't worry); and a gazillion other rad releases. On top of the releases, local record stores usually do other fun things on Record Store Day (for example, a.k.a. music here in Philly will have live performances & free Narragansett pounders, hollllla), so ask your local record store workers if they have anything else planned. It's a super fun day and you're bound to walk out of your local record store with some awesome things, even if they're not RSD releases. —Katie
Find your participating record stores here.
From New York
So, in April, Marvel is relaunching the X-Men series with a new #1 issue and an all-female team of X-Men. Yes! This has the potential to be so, so awesome, and it would be amazing if something like this took off. While the series is still being written and illustrated by men (Brian Wood and Olivier Coipel, respectively), it should prove to be one of the more interesting reboots in the comic world. Even though three of the six ladies in the illustration above may be wearing sexy catsuits, at least half of them have on sensible, ass-kicking outfits. As long as this series doesn't revolve around crying over men, I'm totally on board. (via Wired)—Katie
Kyle Hilton Paper Dolls
Kyle Hilton's Paper Dolls are fucking amazing! We can't wait to print them out, cut them out, and play with all of our favorite TV characters at our desks. Oh, ermm... we mean keep working.
House Visit: Brigid Andrews
Venture into the living spaces of our Urban Outfitters employees! This week we visit the apartment of Brigid Andrews, the women's branded collections buyer.
Tell us a little about yourself!
Hi hi! I’m Brigid Andrews. I’m from Melbourne, Australia and I live in Center City Philadelphia. I have the very awesome job of being the women’s branded collections buyer (like MINKPINK
, Cheap Monday
, and Around The World
). I also buy the chic’s graphic tees and sweatshirts.
How long have you been living in your space?
For about two years. I got my place through a friend in the buying team who also lived in the building. It seems like everyone at Urban home office has lived here or has a friend in this building.
What's your favorite part about living in that area?
The location! I don’t drive so I can walk everywhere and the subway is super close. Some good local spots are Good Dog
(ask for Zach), Mcglinchey’s, and Oscar's
. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll go to Dandelion
or Village Whiskey
for their killer burger. How would you describe your apartment?
It’s a giant wardrobe filled with clothes, shoes, jewelry, art, magazines and pictures of my mates back in Oz. Do you collect anything in particular in your apartment?
Art, books, skate decks, and post cards from my travels.
Do you skate?
The skateboards and decks are collectables. My “real” skateboards are in storage in Australia. My friends work in the industry so mate rates always help. I think I have about 150 decks now. Back in the day I could skate (not very well, so my friends tell me). I really do wish more girls would take up skateboarding. I secretly love watching skate videos. Boys + Skating = HOT.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop for home products? The Chapel Street Bazaar
in Melbourne, the Lost & Found Market
in Collingwood, and the Camberwell Sunday Market
. In the States: the Brooklyn Flea
, the Rosebowl Flea Market
and Urban of course! What are some of your favorite knick-knacks and pieces of furniture you have around your apartment?
My Danish coffee table, which came from Australia with me to Philly—you can use the cushions underneath as seats. Also my three vintage folding chairs that my bestie Sam sold to me for four dollars when she moved to NYC. The things I love most in my apartment have come from my friends.
You have tons of art, books, and magazines in your space, who are a few of your favorite artists? Favorite magazines? Books?
David Griggs, Sean Gladwell, and Ben Quilty
are amazingly talented young Australian Artists. I read Jalouse
, and French Vogue
. As for my favorite books, there are too many to name! I’m currently reading about the works of Ryan McGinness
and Making it Up As We Go Along
, a book on the Founders of Dazed & Confused Magazine
. What's the most sentimental thing you own in your apartment?
It’s totally sappy, but definitely the framed photos of my beautiful friends and family around the world. I have missed four weddings, one funeral and maybe seven babies—seriously! My photos are perfect for the short spells of homesickness.
We spotted Grimes in your record player. How big is your record collection?
My record collection is random much like my taste in music. Give me some Biggie and a dance floor and I’m happy. My records are second hand or from Urban.
You have quite an extensive closet. Where do most of your items come from?
“Extensive” is one way to describe it. I’m lucky that buying has enabled me travel to many places (like London, Stockholm, Paris, Copenhagen, Tokyo, New York, and Sao Paulo) so my clothes usually come from everywhere.
What are some of your favorite pieces of clothing?
1. Red Shoes from Swedish brand Rodebjer
2. My camo jacket. It’s vintage from American Rag
3. My Mickey Mouse sweater. It’s vintage from Urban.
4. My Isabel Marant dress.
5. My silver coat.
6. My white studded boots. They’re sassy, cheap, and cheery!
Where do you find most of your jewelry?
I have also been a jewelry buyer so I accumulated most of my trinkets then. Most of my jewelry is vintage but the pieces I’m wearing a lot these days are from Joomi Lim
. The fingers broke off my Astrological Jewelry Stand
when there was too much jewelry stacked on it and it toppled over. I think that’s a bad sign! If we walked into your apartment unannounced, what would we catch you doing?
Dancing in my apartment to Biggie while trying to figure out what to wear, or sitting with my computer trying to find new iPhone covers
online (my current obsession). Nerd alert! Shop Home
From New York
My new favorite pastime is browsing Mantiques Modern for all their new vintage Goyard. Not only do they regularly have pieces from this legendary French luggage house, but keep an eye out for assorted jewelry, bags from Hermes, and Vuitton trunks too. This is what my flea market dreams are made of! X - Jen
From New York
Bad Day #13
Turn that smile upside down and drag yourself to Bad Day #13's release party at Printed Matter (195 10th Avenue) tonight. Mick Barr is gonna speed shred on his guitar while you flip through the pages and read interviews with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jim Drain. There will be a photo story by Peter Sutherland, and more features. The design is great and Bad Day only comes out twice a year. -Maggie Lee
LemKa Leather Tassels
We love all of the colors options for LemKa's leather tassels! Whether you're adding them to bracelets, necklaces, or your keyring, they will give you that extra oomph you've been looking for. It's about to get tassel-crazy up in here.
Olympia Le Tan Book Clutch Magnets
If there's anything I love more than books, it's Olympia Le Tan's book clutches. So you can imagine how stoked I am for a Dracula or Great Gatsby book clutch magnet! X - Jen
From New York
Decathlon Books at Printed Matter
Wiggle yer little book worm tush over to Printed Matter (195 10th Avenue) because it's T.G.I.Friday. Tonight marks the launch of Padraig Timoney's book, which is also the last piece of the Decathlon Books puzzle we have all been waiting for. Risograph posters of the artists' work will be exhibited, eee! -Maggie Lee
From San Francisco
Brandon Chuesy "Can I Call You Back?"
Brandon Chuesy's newest zine, “Can I Call You Back?”, is filled with all of the colors and almost blank faces we've come to love from the artist. Limited to 30, each cover is hand painted and each one is hand bound, giving it a personal touch and making you feel like your copy is one of a kind. Find this zine and more at Brandon's Tumblr.
From New York
Welcome to Baby Peach, my new mini-zine. Pick it up and flip from baby page to pipsqueak page. But make no mistake, Baby Peach is no small fry, it's highly psychedelicized and will cause major eye romp! -Maggie Lee
Dill Pickle Plush Food
These Dill Pickles from Plush Off are our new favorite things ever. We know it's a little weird but just look at their happy little faces pushed up against the jar! It gives us the same feeling as seeing pets in cages at the local SPCA—you just want to take them all home.
We love the idea of this Minimergeny Kit by Ms. & Mrs. It's filled with 16 girl essentials that we might need in case of emergency. We want one for our car, bathroom, best friends house, work, and anywhere else it might come in handy.
Handmade Romance's Bow Tie Boys are exactly like the kind of guys we go for—they're cute, soft, well-dressed, and won't bug you when you're out dancing with your girlfriends.
From San Francisco
Stamps of Disapproval
The Stamps of Disapproval are what your teachers have been wanting to say to you for all these years, but didn't know how. Since we're out of school, we're thinking of all the other situations you can use these in. For advice on how to improve yourself check out these pencil tips.