ARTIST PROFILE: NEON MUSIC - PUNK ROCKER, MILLINER & PERFORMANCE ARTIST
Neon Music (real name ‘unknown’) is holding court in his Brooklyn parallel universe. Think Warhol’s factory reimagined, in kitsch miniature, by Sid Vicious. A shrine to high and low culture, every square inch is either adorned or defaced. A bedroom filled with clothes appears bed-less. (No surprises if he doesn’t sleep — his multi-faceted output suggests otherwise — .as well as creating hats and his music, he acts and DJ’s). The kitchen shelves sigh under surrealist millinery, artworks in their own right. He is otherworldly and extraordinary; in his words, an alien; ‘being a human is the hardest thing — gender and age are not an issue – I don’t think about them’. Anarchist and aesthete, dandy and rebel, inherent conflicts define him.
The Barbie-like Hollywood singer, Angelyne. She’s an actress and a model who is admired by him, and other transsexuals’, plastic surgery. ‘They say “Look, this is how I view myself…you can be what you want to be”.’ Would he do surgery? ‘Maybe someday I could get my ears removed and cheekbones around my head!’ For now, bodily mutilation is restricted to a self designed tattoos — one based on the 1920s Vogue fashion illustrator Erté, and a ‘pirate baby — because it reminded me of me!’
Musically, his heroes are dandies or ‘aggressive female rock stars — Marc Bolan, Adam Ant, Wendy O’Williams, German punk singer Nina Hagen and Soo Catwoman; he is obsessed with Courtney Love and wears dresses she gifted him. He has high ambitions for YouthQuake, of taking it to ‘a big place’. Standing for ‘liberation, being yourself, not buying into what culture is trying to sell you’, he does their logos, styling, photography, shoots and edits their videos. True to old school authenticity, their recent album is analogue — ‘warm and fuzzy’; Neon listens to only cassettes, and maintains vinyl is making a permanent comeback.
On their sound, they are ‘classic punk rock of the future’ — familiar and fresh, timeless formulas and upbeat rather than dreary — ‘being morbid is so played out’. The collective are busy preparing for the camera — his wife Alessandra (an artist, stylist and photographer) and muse Christian (his ‘adopted pandrogyne princess) play-fight over a black kohl pencil. Henry the drummer arrives — classically trained in jazz, he is now punk obsessed thanks to Neon. Anna, his bassist and back up vocalist, who he met at ‘that shit-hole dive Mars Bar’ after days working for Patricia Field, morphs in front of us from retro hipster into a Jane Mansfield/Dita von Teese hybrid.
Patricia Field’s influence is elsewhere. The trophies he won for avante-garde costume at her transgender beauty contests, along with a legion of of bric-a-brac (his ‘chatskis’) dominate the shelves. An ice cream scoop from when he was a baby or nineteenth century Colgate metal shaving container here. Although he insists his ‘kitschy stuff means nothing to anyone else’, there is a deeper subtext in the talismans collected from woods around his childhood home. His town was founded by Christian missionaries, and the first bible was written there. ‘It’s very native American… where my sense of conflict and anti-establishment comes from. There are a lot of spirits there — they guide me.’
That relationship with a higher purpose has taken several turns. He dabbled in Satanic philosophy; he even married Alessandra in a satanic ceremony on 06/06/06. Now faith is what inspires his millinery. ‘It’s a religious thing. I love tribal culture — those people look like gods…’ He refuses to see his hats as fashion, and doesn’t adhere to the seasonal calendar — ‘it’s bullshit and political’. Millinery for him is about styling the body to become closer to something higher than yourself, transforming into another creature.
He has grand plans for his fashion repertoire—including his ball gowns, accessories and fragrances. I ask what his world would smell like distilled into perfume and he responds with “The smell of a new car, lipstick — or vinyl handbags”. For now his everyday fragrance is typically ironic — a TK Maxx ‘impostor product’ called “Casual”. ’It costs ten dollars. He tells me he likes to smell like a Guido dad and that he doesn’t take himself seriously.
He lives in his own mad world, no wonder he doesn’t take himself seriously. His complexity, fresh vision, core philosophies, and relentless conviction have no boundaries. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Neon Music was a brand, or even an unique movement. Keep your ears open and eyes peeled and remember you heard it here first.
Photos by Andrew Boyle