Malcolm McLaren

A few years ago I was given a bunch of cassette tapes and told to turn them into a story for Swindle magazine. The tapes contained hours of interviews between Shepard Fairey, Roger Gastman and Malcolm McLaren, who sadly passed away this morning.

Here's an excerpt:

Who is Malcolm McLaren? The white, English eccentric who formed the Sex Pistols? The art -school anarchist who lost his virginity to fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, married her, and opened a punk boutique in London where “nothing was for sale”? The cultural alchemist who was asked to “re-brand Poland”? The egomaniacal marketing Svengali who claims he swindled the record industry?

Viewed with reverence and disdain in equal measure, Malcolm McLaren is, at the very least, one thing: a magnificent failure. Magnificent failure, he believes, is the only real means of effecting change in the popular culture. One could view McLaren’s life as a series of cleverly orchestrated disasters. Some of his experiments have changed the face of pop culture (the Sex Pistols). Some of them haven’t (Bow Wow Wow). Some of them may do so in the future (8-bit music, bootlegged from old-school video games, which McLaren is currently championing).

Through out his career, McLaren has enjoyed taking the artistic spectrum, bending it backwards, and forcing its opposing ends to fuse. He merged waltz music with techno in Waltz Darling; layered square dance calls over hip-hop scratching in “Buffalo Gals”; and dressed the New York Dolls in Communist -inspired fashions, provoking the outrage on which he thrives.

Bu tall of his obsessions (including his la test, the rise of the child intellectual) are, like himself, fueled by one thing: the power of the amateur. McLaren, now 59 years old and based in Paris, France, believes the amateur to be a creature capable of the most magnificent failure. And with Western popular culture split into a dominant, over-produced mainstream and a hidden, independent subculture, remaining an amateur is, for many, the only true path to self-expression available today.

Like him or hate him, never before has Malcolm McLaren made so much sense.

You can read the story in its entirety here...and I'm pretty sure I still have those tapes somewhere!