Tag Archives: soho

THE UNKLE ERA

wesfootpatrol2005

There’s lots of nostalgia for Mo’ Wax at the moment, now that most people have let some bygones be bygones (a superb unpublished article I read that was written a decade or so ago was significantly more negative). It led to some excellent celebratory moments last year, and I’m glad that Mo’ Wax Please have reupped a student documentary entitled The Man From Unkle from 2005, because I was convinced I imagined it after it was on YouTube a few years back. It’s not perfect: it has a spectacularly hungover James Lavelle interview, teases Will Bankhead and Ben Drury interviews that never happen, has a typically earnest student film voiceover (I’ve recorded a couple in my lifetime) and showcases some terrible Futura knockoff motion graphics that look like a pisshead Yoda. But there’s loads of good stuff during the 11 minute duration — Swifty being brutally honest is great and there’s a few trips to stores like Brighton’s Triage, DPMHI in its heyday, Foot Patrol in its old location with Wes at the counter (I miss sitting in the store to mutually moan and watch him terrorising idiots) and Offspring, before catching up with Craig Ford in the pub rocking a full zip BAPE hoody back when Hong Kong kids would sell their spleen for some red camo. A lot has changed, but plenty has stayed the same. I never expected to see any of the brands I was jocking back then putting out a PUMA Disc though. Things seem — somewhat paradoxically — friendlier, yet more full of hate than they did 10 years ago.

SNAPSHOTS

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LAW magazine’s visual direction and approach to the oft-undocumented everyday makes it one of my favourite magazines. The confident design and vision of Britain beyond the target areas delivers something that’s probably going to hold some cultural value in years to come; an antidote to any delusions of life in 2015 perpetrated by glossy aspiration bi-annuals. The new issue covers a few topics, from toilet attendants to Leicester streetwear and Scott King to tape-pack don Slipmatt. The magazine has also undergone a drastic price decrease of late—from around 12 quid to being completely free. Issue #6 is in a few of the city’s best stores, with Goodhood and Foyles carrying copies last time I looked. Nina Manandhar’s shot of a rabbit and Lacoste combination alone beats any look book concept I’ve seen this year. You don’t need to hear me rambling about it again, so I recommend just going on a hunt for it. If it wasn’t for LAW, I wouldn’t know about this Instagram project documenting corner shops either. On the topic of documenting shops, it’s worth dipping into 2 Berwick Street before Monday evening to check out the History of Vinyl in Soho exhibition that charts the 120 or so record stores that have opened and closed in that area—anyone who made the pilgrimage to Central London to be scowled at when asking for hip-hop twelves or reggae sevens, or those who recall that Berwick Street seemed to be home to a healthy amount of music stores until as little as a decade ago, will want to check it out. And yes, it coincides with national buy your one record of the year for eBay day, but if you’re tactical about it, you can avoid the foolishness, and anyway, Gang of Four are playing outside on Saturday, which should make any ordeal worthwhile anyway. The Price Buster Records bag is a personal favourite, but there’s plenty of other great designs on the wall there too. In times of change it’s essential that documentation from the likes of LAW and British Record Shop Archive exist to create a credible snapshot of the ephemeral.

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"SERIOUS STUFF FOR TODAY'S SERIOUS PLAYERS"

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Nothing to see here tonight, but if you’re strange like me, you should head over to Jonathan Gitlin’s Flickr account and look at the tenth anniversary Bond International “magalogue” from 1997 for a little primer on how things were in London back then. The product offering at the 10 Newburgh Street (pre 17 Newburgh Street) spot was ridiculous — Pervert, Gimme 5, Droors, Pervert before it exited the shelves, Union and their forgotten Polo tribute, Union Sport plus some brand with a box logo — phoning up back then to ask about the box tees and good Zoo York stuff always used to be fruitless, because that stuff seemed to fly out. With the passing of The Hideout, this is a welcome throwback to time when Soho was a destination to take that student loan money for the purposes of spending it on things that were two sizes too big and I wanted DC Clockers as much as I wanted some Humaras. Shouts to Mr. Gitlin for taking the time to up those images.

KNIVES & CHOPSTICKS

While there’s a frighteningly comprehensive movie firearms database, there’s no decent movie knife database and it’s a shame. I’m currently researching some classic cinematic blades for another project and while this Wiki was set up, it never really took off. I’ve noticed that people take knives as seriously as I take other things and why not? They’re beautiful, tactile items, provided they’re not sticking out your body. I never knew that Rutger Hauer’s switchblade in ‘The Hitcher’ was a custom Jeff Harkins Triton or that Emilio Estevez wields an extremely rare Bali Song butterfly knife during one of my favourite scenes in my favourite movie (check the thread here).

My two favourite knives, wielded by two genuinely scary characters, but unique enough to become an extension of the villain themselves, is the Night Slasher from ‘Cobra’s spiked knuckleduster knife (custom-made by Herman Schneider and later stolen, but seemingly turning up in ‘New Jack City’ 5 years later), a weapon so awesome it made me like the movie, despite the rest of it being dire and ‘Geraldine’ as wielded by Alan Arkin’s sleazy Harry Roat in 1967’s ‘Wait Until Dark.’ Geraldine is a gravity knife set inside a small statue of a woman, made in Italy as part of a run of 5 for the movie. Roat’s goth-beatnik look, with the sunglasses and leather jacket (in fact there’s a few great coats in the film on the villains), plus that final leap, makes him a memorable protagonist, but it’s Geraldine that really sets him apart from other bad guys. I can’t buy an official replica of Geraldine to keep as multiples in the cutlery drawer, but you can buy a Night Slasher repro.

It’s the switchblades that inspire the most dedication though, with this forum thread pretty much covering every screen blade to ever pop out with a satisfying click — it’s good to know what Polanski slashed Jack’s nose with in ‘Chinatown’ (a Rizzuto copy apparently), but oAROWANAo’s multi-part ‘Switchblades in the Movies’ series on YouTube is insane, covering the weapon’s appearance in movies between 1920 and 2009…89 years of slashy cameos, from backstabbing sneaks to cocaine testing from its tip. There’s a certain beauty to this device and its presence onscreen as silencer, negotiator and executioner is unbeatable.

Oscar from 1992 blogging Educated Community ‘zine covers reminded me of the couple off later issues I have in black bags somewhere. The whole New York for a Japanese visitor demographic was pretty unique and while it never came back after a #15/#16 double issue. Salutes to Yuka Iwakoshi (former X-Girl manager), Atsuko Tanaka, Hiroyuki Hatakeyama & Masaki Matsui Inada for putting in the work and documenting something genuinely interesting before the variations on a theme and global community aura deaded that aspirational downtown clubhouse mystique and made everyone feel involved. This site is promising an archive book and it’s something I’m keen to see — the fanzine’s end in 2005 feels timely, with the blog rising at that point as the new mode of education. Still, what made noise between 1999 and 2005 seems to be slowly disappearing from the internet as hosting bills aren’t paid and Google finds new ways to put the last week’s content at the forefront of a search.

Mr Chris Law sent me this video of the story of the Rip City Black Flag skateboard that fascinated me when I saw it in ‘Skateboard’ magazine a few years after that original release. The wrongly screened bars and the spray paint solution is amazing. As David Markey’s ‘We Got Power’ gets an official UK release in January, there seems to be a brief tie-in, with Jordan Schwartz involved in both the board and the book. The 1984 ‘Thrasher’ ads were pleasantly low-key and lo-fi — a Hosoi and Black Flag crossover is nice moment as bluesy misery sludge meets the aerial master’s long-haired kamikaze look.

Now that a decent burger is as ubiquitous in central London as a Starbucks and that for a few hours there was an In-N-Out on these shores, I’ll stop moaning about a dearth of the ultimate foodstuff. I don’t care about a lack of reservations or that everywhere is manned by mustachioed men in scoop neck tees with hand tattoos, just as long as their burgers are good. So what about the ramen? I wanted an Ippudo in London, but it looks like their spot’s being covered on the tonkotsu front. For years I yearned for bowls of pale fat-flecked cholesterol for lunch but could only find other ramen variants. Nagomi did a decent version but booking and peculiar opening hours put me off. Then a restaurant that called itself Tonkotsu opened up, but a Japanese friend recommended somewhere else for a non-porky variant having been disappointed by their noodles.

I’ve had my eye on Bone Daddies on Peter Street (opposite Supreme, to create an axis of food and noodle hype) since ex-Nobu head chef Ross Shonhan displayed an obvious enthusiasm for tonkotsu in this interview. It didn’t disappoint (and was half price for the opening weekend too), with that salty complexity in the broth and an egg that was boiled properly rather than neglected until it’s white and beige (Shonhan understands the importance of the egg to a good bowl or ramen. As time goes on, that bowl should get better and better (Bone Daddies had barely been open longer than the 20 hour pork bone boil when I visited). The killer application (figuratively and literally) was the extra pipette of pork fat I added to mine for 50p. All dishes should come with the pipette option. When I fall to the ground, clutching my chest, you can blame the tonkotsu and that greasy, clinically applied optional extra, but I regret nothing.

BRITAIN

In the UK we’re all feeling pretty bloody patriotic at the moment because we haven’t made a fool of ourselves on a global platform for once. Zipwire publicity stunts by men masquerading as buffoons, Ocean Colour Scene fans becoming sporting heroes…this summer’s been eventful, but last night’s proceedings even had me hopping aboard the athletics bandwagon. I’m unlikely to start wearing wild Colin Jackson-esque contrast seam suits any time soon, but you’d have to be pretty bandwagon resistant to not get swept up in it all. You can thank multicultural Britain for that sense of self-pride — Muslims with spectacular distance skills and ginger chaps that can jump made you feel good about yourself for once. A vast curry feast was the only way to commemorate the victory. And to wander to the takeaway, why not throw on a jacket that’s made in Italy? CP, Stone Island and a curry are practically British anyway.

‘Stone Island Archives 982-012’ is on Amazon as a pre-order for £109.99 (a 1p saving on RRP) and supposedly set for an early September release, but if 654 pages of SI wasn’t enough, the Massimo Osti Facebook account has been dropping gems (Dennis Hopper in CP? Alain Delon in Stone Island?) and it’s now clear that the mooted Osti book is officially happening via Damiani books — ‘Ideas from Massimo Osti’ by Daniela Facchinato is happening and it’s up for order on Amazon now. Like the Stone Island book, with its special edition slipcase and tee for the early birds, there’s a special edition of the Osti book for order here for €290 that’s packaged in archive Osti fabric (which could mean you get camouflage ice fabric around your copy) plus 150 extra loose leaf pages on top of the existing 412 pages. As special editions go, that’s not bad and the book’s website is pretty special too. If you’re prone to throwing “iconic”, “innovation” and “genius” around like a hot spud, you need this to get a little perspective.

Considering we’ve long cherished the handful of English-language articles on the brand that shed light on Osti’s processes and only the lucky few have the original books and magazines the Massimo-affiliated brands put out, we’re about to get blessed.

www.ideasfrom.massimoosti.com

Julien Temple’s ‘London: the Modern Babylon’ looks fun and I’m looking forward to the BBC it screening next saturday. Let loose on the archives, Temple seems to be throwing everything at the screen to see if it sticks in capturing the brilliant mess of different cultures and movements that makes the city great. I still find Temple’s ‘Absolute Beginners’ difficult, but at least it has some ambition. Whatever your opinion, you’ve got to concede that the lengthy retro Soho tracking shot at the beginning is still pretty staggering. Missing working in Soho and loving Colin MacInness’s book may also contribute to my lenience toward this notorious flop. Nobody payrolls this kind of madness any more and it’s a damned shame, because Julien is far more than just a documentary maker (he also directed 2Pac in his final film role as Tank in the forgettable ‘Bullet’).





Watching the incredibly grim ‘The London Nobody Knows’ again (discussed here a while back), we Brits should also be proud that our street drinkers were pioneers of the purple drank movement by swigging meths back in 1967 — long before slurring southern rappers lay claim to coloured beverages.

GERALD KERSH WAS THE FUCKING MAN

Working in the area, with its plethora of designer coffee spots, high-end fast food and concerned looking meeeedja types pacing the streets talking LOUDLY into BlackBerry Bolds, it’s difficult to concieve that London’s Soho was once so seedy. I used to listen to my dad’s tales of being robbed in clip joints by burly characters after being promised a superior striptease experience than Raymond’s Revue Bar, including the crudest sting i ever heard of, with a friend’s old man conned into entering a satin curtain into a piss-smelling alleyway where he and his boys were promptly knocked to the floor and relieved of their wallets.

There’s still an undeniable edge, but the overt seediness seems to have made like Le Corbusier and gone upwards, marked by crude signs and grimy doorbells, operating above those respectable retailers. The sleaze that gives Soho character seems to be in full effect, just 10 feet above your head.

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