You’ve won a lot of Grammys. "(My Beautiful) Dark (Twisted) Fantasy” and “Watch the Throne”: neither was nominated for Album of the Year, and I made both of those in one year. I don’t know if this is statistically right, but I’m assuming I have the most Grammys of anyone my age, but I haven’t won one against a white person.
But the thing is, I don’t care about the Grammys; I just would like for the statistics to be more accurate…
Lou Reed About Kanye West "Yeezus" for The Talkhouse...
Kanye West is a child of social networking and hip-hop. And he knows about all kinds of music and popular culture. The guy has a real wide palette to play with. That’s all over Yeezus. There are moments of supreme beauty and greatness on this record, and then some of it is the same old shit. But the guy really, really, really is talented. He’s really trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet.
People say this album is minimal. And yeah, it’s minimal. But the parts are maximal. Take “Blood on the Leaves.” There’s a lot going on there: horns, piano, bass, drums, electronic effects, all rhythmically matched — towards the end of the track, there’s now twice as much sonic material. But Kanye stays unmoved while this mountain of sound grows around him. Such an enormous amount of work went into making this album. Each track is like making a movie.
Actually, the whole album is like a movie, or a novel — each track segues into the next. This is not individual tracks sitting on their own island, all alone.
Very often, he’ll have this very monotonous section going and then, suddenly —”BAP! BAP! BAP! BAP!” — he disrupts the whole thing and we’re on to something new that’s absolutely incredible. That’s architecture, that’s structure — this guy is seriously smart. He keeps unbalancing you. He’ll pile on all this sound and then suddenly pull it away, all the way to complete silence, and then there’s a scream or a beautiful melody, right there in your face. That’s what I call a sucker punch.
He seems to have insinuated in a recent New York Times interview that My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy was to make up for stupid shit he’d done. And now, with this album, it’s “Now that you like me, I’m going to make you unlike me.” It’s a dare. It’s braggadoccio. Axl Rose has done that too, lots of people have. “I Am a God” — I mean, with a song title like that, he’s just begging people to attack him.
But why he starts the album off with that typical synth buzzsaw sound is beyond me, but what a sound it is, all gussied up and processed. I can’t figure out why he would do that. It’s like farting. It’s another dare — I dare you to like this. Very perverse.
Still, I have never thought of music as a challenge — you always figure, the audience is at least as smart as you are. You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they’ll think it’s beautiful. When I did Metal Machine Music, New York Times critic John Rockwell said, “This is really challenging.” I never thought of it like that. I thought of it like, “Wow, if you like guitars, this is pure guitar, from beginning to end, in all its variations. And you’re not stuck to one beat.” That’s what I thought. Not, “I’m going to challenge you to listen to something I made.” I don’t think West means that for a second, either. You make stuff because it’s what you do and you love it.
That explains the jump-cuts that are all over this record. Over and over, he sets you up so well — something’s just got to happen — and he gives it to you, he hits you with these melodies. (He claims he doesn’t have those melodic choruses anymore — that’s not true. That melody the strings play at the end of “Guilt Trip,” it’s so beautiful, it makes me so emotional, it brings tears to my eyes.) But it’s real fast cutting — boom, you’re in it. Like at the end of “I Am a God,” anybody else would have been out, but then pow, there’s that coda with Justin Vernon, “Ain’t no way I’m giving up.” Un-fucking-believable. It’s fantastic. Or that very repetitive part in “Send It Up” that goes on five times as long as it should and then it turns into this amazing thing, a sample of Beenie Man’s “Stop Live in a De Pass.”
And it works. It works because it’s beautiful — you either like it or you don’t — there’s no reason why it’s beautiful. I don’t know any musician who sits down and thinks about this. He feels it, and either it moves you too, or it doesn’t, and that’s that. You can analyze it all you want.
Many lyrics seem like the same old b.s. Maybe because he made up so much of it at the last minute. But it’s the energy behind it, the aggression. Usually the Kanye lyrics I like are funny, and he’s very funny here. Although he thinks that getting head from nuns and eating Asian pussy with sweet and sour sauce is funny, and it might be, to a 14-year-old — but it has nothing to do with me. Then there’s the obligatory endless blowjobs and menages-a-trois.
But it’s just ridiculous that people are getting upset about “Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign”? C’mon, he’s just having fun. That’s no more serious than if he said he’s going to drop a bomb on the Vatican. How can you take that seriously?
And then he’ll come out with an amazing line like “We could have been somebody.” He’s paraphrasing that famous Marlon Brando line from On the Waterfront, “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charlie.” Or he says “I’d rather be a dick than a swallower” — but then he does a whole chorus with Frank Ocean. What he says and what he does are often two different things.
“Hold My Liquor” is just heartbreaking, and particularly coming from where it’s coming from — listen to that incredibly poignant hook from a tough guy like Chief Keef, wow. At first, West says “I can hold my liquor” and then he says “I can’t hold my liquor.” This is classic — classic manic-depressive, going back and forth. Or as the great Delmore Schwartz said, “Being a manic depressive is like having brown hair.”
“I’m great, I’m terrible, I’m great, I’m terrible.” That’s all over this record. And then that synthesized guitar solo on the last minute and a half of that song, he just lets it run, and it’s devastating, absolutely majestic.
There are more contradictions on “New Slaves,” where he says “Fuck you and your Hamptons house.” But God only knows how much he’s spending wherever he is. He’s trying to have it both ways — he’s the upstart but he’s got it all, so he frowns on it. Some people might say that makes him complicated, but it’s not really that complicated. He kind of wants to retain his street cred even though he got so popular. And I think he thinks people are going to think he’s become one of them — so he’s going to very great lengths to claim that he’s not. On “New Slaves,” he’s accusing everyone of being materialistic but you know, when guys do something like that, it’s always like, “But we’re the exception. It’s all those other people, but we know better.”
“New Slaves” has that line “Y’all throwin’ contracts at me/ You know that niggas can’t read.” Wow, wow, wow. That is an amazing thing to put in a lyric. That’s a serious accusation in the middle of this rant at other people: an accusation of himself. As if he’s some piece of shit from the street who doesn’t know nothing. Yeah, right — your mom was a college English professor.
He starts off cool on that track but he winds up yelling at the top of his voice. I think he maybe had a couple of great lines already written for this song but then when he recorded the vocal, but then he just let loose with it and trusted his instincts. Because I can’t imagine actually writing down most of these lines. But that’s just me.
But musically, he nails it beyond belief on”New Slaves.” It’s mainly just voice and one or two synths, very sparse, and then it suddenly breaks out into this incredible melodic… God knows what. Frank Ocean sings this soaring part, then it segues into a moody sample of some Hungarian rock band from the ’70s. It literally gives me goosebumps. It’s like the visuals at the end of the new Superman movie — just overwhelmingly incredible. I played it over and over.
Some people ask why he’s screaming on “I Am a God.” It’s not like a James Brown scream — it’s a real scream of terror. It makes my hair stand on end. He knows they could turn on him in two seconds. By “they” I mean the public, the fickle audience. He could kill Taylor Swift and it would all be over.
The juxtaposition of vocal tones on “Blood on the Leaves” is incredible — that pitched-up sample of Nina Simone singing “Strange Fruit” doing a call-and-response with Kanye’s very relaxed Autotuned voice. That is fascinating, aurally, nothing short of spectacular. And holy shit, it’s so gorgeous rhythmically, where sometimes the vocal parts are matched and sometimes they clash. He’s so sad in this song. He’s surrounded by everyone except the one he wants — he had this love ripped away from him, before he even knew it. “I know there ain’t nothing wrong with me… something strange is happening.” Well, surprise, surprise — welcome to the real world, Kanye.
It’s fascinating — it’s very poignant, but there’s nothing warm about it, sonically — it’s really electronic, and after a while, his voice and the synth are virtually the same. But I don’t think that’s a statement about anything — it’s just something he heard, and then he made it so you could hear it too.
At so many points in this album, the music breaks into this melody, and it’s glorious — I mean, glorious. He has to know that — why else would you do that? He’s not just banging his head against the wall, but he acts as though he is. He doesn’t want to seem precious, he wants to keep his cred.
And sometimes it’s like a synth orchestra. I’ve never heard anything like it — I’ve heard people try to do it but no way, it just comes out tacky. Kanye is there. It’s like his video for “Runaway,” with the ballet dancers — it was like, look out, this guy is making connections. You could bring one into the other — ballet into hip-hop — they’re not actually contradictory, and he knew that, he could see it immediately. He obviously can hear that all styles are the same, somewhere deep in their heart, there’s a connection. It’s all the same shit, it’s all music — that’s what makes him great. If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring…
Why the name Zebra Katz!? I’ve always wanted to change my last name to Katz and Zebras are my power animal. So while working in nightlife during college - the name just came to me.
Where did you grow up!? I grew up in West Palm Beach - Florida and then moved to NYC to attend college.
How would you describe your style!? Vintage Blipster Couture.
Has your background as a performance artist influenced your style at all!? Very much so, throughout art school I’ve managed to have full access to the theatre departments custom closet - so I’ve always had the opportunity to express myself stylistically and explore how the characters I was creating or designing for did as well. You attended a lot of shows during LCM in London, did you have a favourite!? KTZ and Astrid Anderson were my favourite shows.
What is it you like about London!? Getting away from New York.
London or New York!? Paris.
Is fashion an important part of your performances or just an added extra!? Yes, I believe that my style or fashion is a very important part of my performance. I think that ZFK is the point where Fashion and Music collide.
How did your friendship with Rick Owens come about!? Rick reached out to me to use “Ima Read” for his collection soundtrack and then Dazed and Confused flew me to Paris from New York so we could finally meet. Rick is a sweetheart and I’m beyond thankful to have met him, Michele, and the rest of his team.
Is collaborating an important part of what you do!? I believe strongly in the power of collaboration and its a very important part of my creative process.
Whats next for Zebra Katz!? Since March of 2012 I’ve been on a non-stop creative high and the only thing I’ve set out to do is to keep creating and pushing xx
“Lou Reed ist ein komplett verkommener Perverser und ein erbärmlicher Todeszwerg und alles andere, was man möchte, dass er sein soll. Lou Reed ist der Typ, der Heroin, Speed, Homosexualität, Sadomasochismus, Mord, Misogynie, trotteliger Passivität und Selbsttötung Würde geschenkt hat, Poesie und Rock’n’Roll…”—Lester Bangs
“For 2014, we welcome to the adidas family one of the most influential cultural icons of this generation, Kanye West. Well known for breaking boundaries across music, film and design and partnering with our history in street wear culture and leading innovations in sport, we look forward to creating a new chapter. Details to follow…”—Adidas
I have early recollections of Damon Dash calling me and forcing me to put you on Def Poetry Jam. I knew your record, ‘Through The Wire,’ but I didn’t know much more. When you took the stage on Def Poetry Jam that night, and spit those genuine, heartfelt words, I witnessed your specialness that Damon had emphatically told me about.
From that moment on, you became a poet who has inspired the poets. I have proudly watched your career since then, and in case someone has missed the obvious, you are making a historical impact on music. Your life story took a tough turn with the passing of your mother. Although we grieved with you, we never really knew how much pain you were in. We witnessed your moment at the MTV Music Awards and many of us dismissed it as, ‘oh that is just Kanye being Kanye.’ The hard part of all of this, is that we have all had moments in our lives that have been challenging, painful and hard to overcome, however most of us just hide our emotions and never deal with that inner-struggle that we face on a daily basis. As an artist, Kanye, you have always looked inside for your inspiration…always exuding emotions that are in us, but that we never expose. That is what artistry is about…to look inside for what is unique. With your journey towards a higher level of consciousness, a journey that we all are on, you have shown through your art a commitment to greatness.
The thirty minute film you most recently made was beyond brilliant. Brilliance is not a word that can even begin to describe your ability to paint vibrant, vivacious, colorful yet muted paintings of poetry, music, costume, art, design and most important, passion. The passion you put into your new album is why I stayed up all those nights in the early 80′s trying to get DJs and radio stations to play our records. I knew this day would come. Actually, maybe I didn’t know, but I really, really hoped it would. I didn’t work this hard when I was your age to watch the culture go the wrong way. And you, my friend, just took us to another level. I am simply in awe.
With this power, as you know, comes great responsibility. I am saying nothing you haven’t heard before. When you spoke about President Bush during the Katrina telethon, it was not the particulars of your words that mattered, it was the essence of a feeling of the insensitivity towards our communities that many of us have felt for far too long. It was the image of the President, our President, the President of the United States Of America, peering out the window of an airplane, as the people on the ground were drowning, that hurt us the most. For centuries, our people have relentlessly tread water as hard as they could to stay afloat, and here we were, literally drowning, and it felt like the President was insensitive. There is no need to apologize, Kanye. You spoke from your heart and that is all we will ever ask from you. Don’t be afraid of the press, as your art is your blueprint, thanks to Jay-Z, your big brother, we will always carry our destiny in our own hands. You are are an artist whose art is masterful. You are a servant to this world who no matter how hard it gets, keeps on giving. Giving gifts that inspire us, challenge us and motivate us to be better family and friends.
Keep on, Kanye. Keep on. We love you. We cherish you. And we will always have your back.
-Russell Simmons”—Russel Simmons
Ursprünglich kam das Lied 1993 über das Label Black Male Records heraus. Nach den rund 14 Remixs und Re-edits, wagte sich 2012 der deutsche Dj und Produzent Steffen Berkhahn aka Dixon an den Track. Das Resultat ist Episch…
Helmut Lang Interviewed by Filp Motwary for Dapper Dann Magazine...
You have shredded several hundred of your archival clothes in order to recycle them into an art piece. Are you severing your bonds with the fashion world!? The intention was not to sever my bonds with the fashion world, no. Actually, between 2009 and 2010, I donated a large volume of my fashion work to the most important fashion, design and contemporary- art collections worldwide, in order to give back to fashion and culture at large. After a fire in the building where our studio in New York is located, which could have destroyed the rest of the archive, and after going through the pieces for months to see what condition they’re in, I became intrigued by the idea of destroying the remaining 6,000 pieces myself and using them as raw material for my art. I wanted to dedicate my time to creating something new, following the idea that the past is never static, but undergoes continual metamorphosis and transformation. It was a cathartic experience to accelerate that process and make it my own. After all, the fight against entropy and decay is always going to be a losing battle, so I thought, why not make of that destructive energy something new. In the autobiographical sense, the material of artists’ lives has always been the subject of their art. The only difference here is the public’s level of identification and investment in that material. I think the story has changed because the human body is not the centre of attention any more. It is more the human condition that is taking centre stage. I became interested in working with forms and materials that were not restricted by the human body and its needs.
Although it has been several years since you moved from one medium to another, the fashion industry still considers you one of the most important designers in its modern history. Why do you think that is!? It is really not about my opinion, but rather the collective verdict of the fashion industry. It would be hypocritical to say that it makes me feel bad. I am proud that I was able to formulate a body of work that is still contemporary and influential. While I was working in fashion, I read everything that was said about me, until I stopped in 2005, but I think I never fully realised the impact of my work until I stepped back and saw its continuing influence on the fashion world.
Do you follow the evolution of fashion nowadays!? I do, but not as a priority. I follow all important developments and contributions to culture and humanity at large.
Do you feel any responsibility to those who idolised your clothes and cannot find them any more!? I don’t think it is a question of responsibility. It is a question of appreciation for the past and, for me, the excitement and evolution of something new. I feel fortunate that I’m able to work in art now, and able to contribute to the cultural landscape as I did before with fashion.
Is there a complete archive of your work anywhere!? The archive, in its near entirety, is kept in digital form. I recently donated my visual archive to MAK in Vienna, which encompasses all graphics, images, Séance de Travail videos, press material, advertising campaigns, architecture and so on. They will develop a virtual database of my work that includes all silhouettes and locations of the pieces, which are in museums around the world. MAK will also create a dedicated space where, on request, students or other interested parties can study my work.
Often, the way critics interpret one’s work has little to do with the creator’s own viewpoint. How would you describe your art!? I am not so much into interpreting or analysing my work, as I don’t want to impose my own thoughts. I think it really depends on who looks at the artwork. Every person will form their own opinion and have their own experience and emotions, which is part of what makes art interesting. I just do what I feel is part of me, as I did with fashion. Time has to pass in order for a collective opinion to be developed.
How did the desire arise to create beyond the boundaries of fashion!? Was it about the corporate fashion industry, or a personal choice!? It was more a premonition of a changing world. Also, I did not want to stay in fashion until my death. My instinct was to contribute on a different level and within a different set of circumstances. Fashion is extremely complex in its requirements, and if these requirements change substantially, one possibility is to be brave enough to question the expected and re-evaluate personal needs. I don’t think many people walk away from fashion—it is very addictive.
How can someone who loved fashion so intensely abandon it!? Thirty years in fashion is a pretty good run. I did some art projects while working in fashion and I was always interested in pursuing them full time, before it was too late.
Was it difficult for you to detach your heart from the company you once owned!? Once I made the decision, it was not difficult.
How have Paris and, later, New York shaped your personality, your likes and dislikes, your character, after you left Austria as a not-so-happy young person!? Paris is really the place where I have been the most, for private and professional reasons. I travelled for nearly 20 years between Vienna and Paris, and later between New York and Paris, and I also lived there for two full years, and it really became my second home. I still feel very attached to the place and all the people I know there. Paris has profoundly shaped me into the man that I am today. New York probably did this later, in a similar but very different way, as I was much more mature and experienced, and I also arrived in New York already well known and successful in my profession. I decided to move to New York in late 1997, when I relocated and established my company headquarters there and also got my apartment in the city and place on Long Island. I felt less driven to look around for a “better” place to be—it seemed that I had found the place that worked for me. I had also found my perfect relationship at the time, and it seemed right to pay the same attention to my private happiness as to my professional life, and to start to create a home. In a way, I had never desired that before.
Do you feel you have achieved a harmonious state of mind!? Yes, I do. Definitely.
What is your ultimate goal in life!? I always want to be my best and I never expect it to be easy along the way. In that sense, it does not matter what I do. I think I apply this approach to everything.
What are your aesthetic obsessions!? I like when things are in the right context within their surroundings, and I like them a little bit off at the same time.
After many years of intense exposure, you have managed to retain an enigmatic personality. Have you never been tempted to succumb to the cult of celebrity!? I think you answered the question yourself. It was a personal choice. I don’t like fame to get out of control, so that you are not able to live the life you want to live.
I wanted to ask about your late friend, Louise Bourgeois. I have read that you think of her every day. Louise was all or nothing. Intense, warm, embracing and straightforward. All qualities I treasure. There was nobody like her.
You embarked on some lasting, even legendary collaborations whilst working in fashion, with Jenny Holzer, Melanie Ward, Juergen Teller… are you still in touch with them!? Yes, most of them. With some of them, I am even closer than before.
Do you have the same kinds of friends in art!? Yes. Some of them I’ve known for a long time; others are more recent.
If life moves in a series of cycles, will there be another cycle for you after art!? At the moment I cannot imagine that there will be another cycle, so to speak. Also, we live in an environment where, increasingly, people don’t just do one thing, but work across creative disciplines in a more open capacity.
What is art about, then!? It is something the critics and the public are discussing and interpreting constantly, and that is how it should be…