First, congratulations on your book release!
Before we move on and take a closer look at "Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace", we'd like to introduce the driving forces behind this impressive volume to our readers.
How did the two of you meet, and how did the project come about?
Andi: I went to graduate school for jewelry design (no less) with a goal to create goth jewelry. I did do that and wrote a thesis on Baudelaire and melancholy and quickly realized I loved researching more than anything... researching 1980s goth to be specific. During my research, I felt that there wasn't enough on 1980s goth - there was plenty on 1990s through 2000s but the 80s seemed to be lacking. Why not do it myself? I then convinced Marloes, because of her blog "Now This is Gothic" to help me with the photo archive.
Marloes: Andi started talking to me on Tumblr about her interests in 80s gothic. We both had in mind we want to make a book about and we decided why not do it now? I’d not have done it on my own and thought of it as a good opportunity to use the research I already did out of own interest and for my blog.
When I unpacked your book, I was immediately impressed with the chosen format: In its size, the book looks quite similar to a vintage vinyl single record – literally an "outsider“ in terms of its look when being placed among its future fellows in one’s personal library, even though I have to admit I own quite the extensive collection.
Was this "musical“ size and vintage look intended from the beginning, or something that naturally evolved from the work-in-progress?
Marloes: We wanted a "luxury photo book"-size, but we slowly released that old photos can’t be spread out over 40cm by 30cm and that it wasn’t realistic. The publisher came up with this size without consulting us, it was decided for us, but I think the square actually was a suiting shape and size to work with. Also, because of the compact size the book is more affordable for customers. The choice for white and a minimalistic design were on purpose and a special wish of mine – I wanted the book to look very different from all those cliché black goth books with dark imagery.
Andi: My intentions when beginning the book was to make something as visually beautiful as Valerie Steele's Gothic: Dark Glamour as she is an inspiration of mine. However, it turned out differently and I'm happy with the result. The white contrasts well against other goth books.
With this book, your main focus remains set on the nursery ground of the post punk and goth movement, and follows its evolution from a kind of local community club phenomena in the late 70s to a commercial mass frenzy, "gothic for the masses", in the early 90s. More than 30 years later, many of the protagonists from this golden era have literally plunged into darkness or, in their extreme, disappeared into the other world.
Was it difficult to locate the last remaining witnesses of these times and places, get them to speak about the past and even convince them to open up the archives of their youth to you?
Andi: Yes, it was very difficult... this is one of the main reasons why the project took so long to complete. Gathering high quality images from the 1980s was no easy task. For every 10 requests we got one - needless to say, there were many dead ends with photo gathering. However, when we did receive an amazing photo, it was like a tiny miracle happened!! The strangest part, and perhaps a real show of age difference, was that many original goths didn't own or know how to use a scanner.
Marloes: Their goth youth are not their number one priority these days and even though they were interested and wanted to help and send you stuff, they didn’t get around to it. And yes, there were also some (obscure) bands that I was not able to trace back in time or via internet which is a shame.
You must have had hard times choosing which authentic materials to use in the end. Besides the first generation goths and their personal treasury chests, which sources did you use, which obstacles did you have to overcome on your way – and how long did it take you to compile it all in the end?
Andi: We also sourced photographers that had documented the scene, store owners such as Manic Panic's Tish & Snooky and NOIR Leather, authors, band members and even designers like Nettwerk designer Steven R. Gilmore. My life motto is "It doesn't hurt to ask" and in this case, it worked a lot of the time. It took 2 years of interviewing and about 6 months of writing to synthesize all the material I gathered. The way it came together was quite magical.
Marloes: Technical faith decides for you: lots of things don’t make it in the book because they aren’t high quality enough to get printed in that size.
The assortment of winklepickers on the last pages of the book appears like a cabinet of curiosities to me – you chose to present them like pieces of art in a museum, pictured prominently against a white background, while original clothing from that time isn’t staged like that and remains exclusive to the original photographs only.
Why did the shoes need have to have a chapter of their own?
Marloes: I never wanted the shoes to be at that prominent spot in the book, but only merged in a style/clothing chapter. That the photos were photographed like a catalogue type of way, was planned though. I like the minimalist way to display and I also think the shoes are so very typical 'goth' for the 80s version of goth there had to be more than 2 photos of them in the book for sure.
Andi: The idea of having mini sections was something planned for a while and the shoes were something we had obtained. Everyone loves winklepickers and I think it's one of the most recognizable attributes of original goth style but they are otherwise hard to see in photographs because they are on the feet!
With the dawning of the 80s, a vivid culture of goth-toned festivals, underground magazines and even music videos had developed. Why did you decide to only briefly touch upon these events (even early festivals like Equinox, London 1983), and remain focused on the club scene instead?
Andi: We touched upon a few aspects of the festival scene and included some pictures in as well. But I felt like, from my research, goths that I interviewed really found home in the club scene since it was a place to gather often. Clubs were the place where they found others to relate to... sure, some did mention festivals but there weren't festivals around the world like there were clubs.
Marloes: Decisions like this have to do with which material is available in a period of 2 research years. I planned a section on the "Dominion" video by The Sisters of Mercy, but that didn’t find its way through because it was hard to find photographs. The interview with the director of the video for this section also didn’t make the book because of shortage in supporting photo and fact-material. I wanted a photo section of Pandora’s Box festival (Rotterdam, NL) or Nosferatu Festival (Denmark) but these photos were hard to acquire. For British goths it might feels like that we left out so many of their events, but the book isn’t just about England.
The book is a marvellous montage; visual puzzle pieces of the part are set against the fragmented, spoken word. Taken from the visual richness of more than 200 pages, could you choose, name and describe one quotation and one picture that are your personal favourites from this volume, and why?
Andi: Wow what a hard question! There is a photo by Miguel Trillo from Spain of a girl's hands... she has stickers of Robert Smith, Dave Vanian and other goth heroes on her fingernails, amazing rings and bracelets! There is also a photo montage of headshots of Myriam from 1983-1991, which is a great representation of the transformation of the goth look. My favorite quote would be Sean Chapman's: "Any fear was overcome with the desire to present myself to the world as some sort of unique living work of art!" Talk about a modern-day dandy! It's quite inspiring...
Marloes: Thanasis Zlatanos of Nekropolis, the man with the synth photographed at a greek temple – it kind of x-rays a more raw and down to earth postpunk style. At some point Zin-Francois from Madame Edwarda says their [Japanese] version of goth wasn’t different from the Western (British) version, except that they sung in Japanese. I disagree, since I believe that for instance the rhythm of your language already influences the way you compose.
Goth is dead, long live the Goth: When it comes to the music, looks and events of today’s goth community and its state of mind, what are your personal thoughts on these implementations of the original spirit, and do you think it will possibly be reborn somewhere, sometime?
Andi: From an American perspective, it's hard to see a lot of spirit from my personal experience. There is a small resurgence of bands and kindred spirits out there who love and live the music but there is a lack of DIY. In the final chapter of the book, I (and others) say that it's too easy to go to a store and find that "goth look"... however, I do know people who make the commitment to the subculture. Goth is a commitment and it's not quite prevalent in the US visually. I do see it more often in Europe and South America. Sadly, I do not think it will be reborn in the same way - our daily lives are way too busy and the internet has basically ended subcultures altogether. Many think that just wearing black constitutes one as a goth - hence the "healthgoth" trend.
Marloes: The original spirit - be cool, dress to impress and do-it-yourself - never went away, but it didn’t maybe ‘look’ like the original 80s spirit past decades?. I’d say the rebirth (more like 'copy') of the 80s version of this ‘spirit’ is going on for a while now. The modern minimal dark postpunk isn’t far from the style and mindset of ‘back in the days’. The only thing that is weird is that people from the 80s used the newest instruments and products, while everyone now is trying to be retro and true with their vinyl, tapes, ancient sounding recordings and analogue synths. I guess playing from just your MAC give us too many '90s and '00s cyber flashbacks?
Reading "Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace" in style: Just for fun, could you make up a small picture on how the perfect reading situation would look like in terms of surroundings, music, whatever?
Andi: I know my perfect situation would be red wine, maybe some good background music like The Sisterhood's "The Gift" album and a cat by my side.
Once you’ve tasted blood, you usually want more: You digged up valuable sources for this book; can we expect to see further projects of this kind from both of you in the near future?
Marloes: I’ve been thinking of an online archive that isn’t a blog for a while now, one that shows worldwide bits of the dark side of new wave. Sometimes I wonder what Andi and I will do with all the cut-out material of the book that is still in our archive… There are no plans now. For now, my academic studies evolve into a MSc in history and philosophy of science, but I also plan to continue with photographic research.
Andi: Yes, definitely. I figure this to be the first of many great contributions to the scene. I have been working with Fred Berger of Propaganda Magazine for a year now on a book of his photography. Alongside this, I have a few similar projects in mind - all too early now to speak of but they are definitely brewing.
|| INTERVIEW: ANTJE BISSINGER | DATE: 01.12.2014 | CONTACT | [GERMAN TRANSLATION]
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