On line magazine spring/summer 1998
This interview and on-line magazine are no longer on-line as far as we know. The URL we had no longer works, so here are the bits of that interview we were able to salvage from an on-line archive service.
S@S Tokyo: In Japan the motivation for our creativity often involves reinterpreting, emulating or reacting to great works of art from foreign cultures. What we call "being creative" is based on the way we reinterpret or the way we react to non-Japanese art. Do you think this kind of concept is uniquely Japanese or can it be seen everywhere in the world?
Glen E. Friedman:I've never actually noticed before, but perhaps only the japanese would see this as being creative (I only say this based upon YOUR analogy). In deed in other parts of the world the experiences to that which I have been a part only seem to point to those activities in which one partakes that don't start from within' the individual, are in fact only an interpretation. Not to say that if you are not the originator that you can not be creative, because of course you can. It just depends on what your goal is . . .
S@S: What does 'punk' mean to you?
GEF:Well obviously PUNK has many meanings literally and figuratively to many people and many of these in fact are valid. MY personal interpretation of what is PUNK may vary from time to time, but generally it's an intense obligation one has to themselves regarding honesty and truth to their inner most feelings. Part of this is also to be able to express those feelings without any concern over what peers, authority, corporations or others trying to sedate/control society and individuals, may think. To feel confident in expressing your ideals freely without concern of negative repercussions. Punk is not a fashion- it is in fact ANTI FASHION. A real punk is someone who is trying to change the society and world we live in through the practice of their ideals, those that set an example for others to take note, ( those "others" who are caught up in mass consumerism and sheep mentality the corporations and their puppet governments want us to follow) . Punks' fight this with all their life's blood every day of their punk life. When you give up the fight against these forces and old traditionalists you are no longer a punk.
SAS: My first encounter with Japanese "Kogals" (controversial trend-setting high-school girls) really blew me away. It made me so ecstatic because I thought God had finally created a clearly defined alternative scene in Japan. But not many other people looked at them the same way I did. It wasn't until some keen foreign artists and journalists recognized and documented this new species in Japan that a lot of people started devoting themselves to understanding what they're really about.
GEF:I know nothing about this, and you really have not said what if anything really sets these girls apart from everyone else so much. They may in fact be interesting to you for one reason or another, but how much of what they are doing is actually changing the ultra-conservitive society you are living in? It may seem different but does that mean better? Or are they really just playing into the hands of those that want them only to conform in other ways in their later lives like most others? But perhaps even more strongly, after having practiced this mass conformity of their own group? You tell me ...
In my opinion this is one of the more interesting things going on in Japan now. Is there anything you find exciting and trendy here that Japanese people are not showing the slightest bit of interest in? (Personally speaking, I recommend checking out the Japanese ero-scene.)
GEF: I have no idea what you are talking about. Sorry but maybe you should not use this interview as a forum for your interests, rather to find out what I think some interviewers miss: those interests and concerns of the interviewee . . .
S@S: What is essential for one to be free?
GEF: This word can be interpreted on so many levels and in my opinion only a shallow idiot would be so bold to try and answer that in a short interview or anything less than a book . . .It reminds me of how funny the world is sometimes . . . How people can ask any question in the world . . . but it's always easier to ask with authority than to answer with it . . . no question is wrong, but many answers can be . . .
S@S: This idea almost seems to have become extinct in modern times, but back in the day the Japanese thought that every sport could lead us to religious enlightenment. Figuring out how to defeat your counterpart provided one knowledge of how to survive and live one's life. Sorry to simplify my question here, but do you think it's possible for us to reach that kind of spiritual and religious enlightenment through American sports like surfing and skateboarding?
GEF: Well unless you're some sort of extreme capitalist that's got some really fucked up ideals, i don't know why one would equate "defeating your counterpart" in a game as some kind of freedom. . . don't you see how caught up in the stupid world money game you are, or those that believe that defeating another sets YOU free. . . this is utter stupidity. Defeating another is placing yourself in some kind of social Darwinistic world where our minds don't separate us from those without them. Now don't get me wrong here, I don't think that we are necessarily better than any others in the animal kingdom, but i do believe we as humans are different, and within our species all capable of similar feats, only racists would believe otherwise. But fight or defeating or winning OVER another is not something I aspire to do. I do the best that I can in what I do and I hope others do as well. Give it all you've got, don't half ass . . . We've got a mind and we all need to use them more often and stop allowing others to use them for us. Individuals need to make more of their own decisions in life. It's laziness and irresponsibility that will be the downfall of all human kind . . . it's this laziness of spirit that will keep people from fighting the corporate powers of the world that only want to create consumers not thinkers . . . Thinkers are a threat to their control and money, because if you really thought about it probably 90% of what you buy as a middle class citizen you certainly can easily live without, but if you did this these corporations would be out of 90% of their profits . . . remember they really don't want you to think, that's why they support television programming, professional sports, alcohol and drug abuse, it all makes you tame and numb, keeps you occupied with the mundane ... instead of changing or challenging their rule for the better of all not just an elite few.
SAS: How do you explain what it means "to live?"
GEF: Another silly question from someone who does not want to take the time to think for himself before he asks such a question. . .This is something that some one learns over and throughout a lifetime . . .
S@S: In America when an artist blatantly endorses a product or company it's considered blasphemy, while in Japan it's standard procedure. Musicians write jingles for soft drinks, liquor, cars, then include them as tracks on their actual CDs. Western artists who avoid "selling out" in their home countries often come here to endorse various products. There have been recent ad campaigns featuring Jodie Foster, Winona Ryder, Harrison Ford and Kiss to name a few. What's your take on this situation?
GEF: They are all FUCKING ASSHOLES, or they are just completely ignorant and greedy . . . ANYONE who allows their art or name or likeness for that matter, to be used to sell product is the exact definition to the extreme of a sell-out. Now it just may be so ingrained in your mind that capitalism is good, but to me it is not, and in fact I believe it may be one of the main roots of all evil in the word today. Wasn't it MARX who said "Capitalism creates false appetites" . . .. think about that and then get back to me . . . Particularly people who already have sustainable livings, I am disgusted by them becoming puppets of Multi-national corporations. The greed is something to despise!
S@S: In your opinion, what's the best/worst influence Japan has had on world culture and media? (for example, in terms of video games, electronics or anime.)
GEF: Video games or anime? Is that what you consider an influence on world culture? WOW do you have a warped perception . . . Well this may be a bit hard to answer accurately at this exact moment but those things that come to mind first: Historically speaking the traditional japanese diet has had some good influence on culture around the world, too bad fewer and fewer Japanese are following it everyday . . . and negatively the throw away culture and nuclear electric dependency of the Japanese, everything has a cost in the world. The goal of a righteous person is to expound the least amount of "cost" to the environment, the entire planet and each of its' inhabitants, to live otherwise is to be greedy and selfish.
S@S: I noticed that you photographed the Tokyo rap group, Scha Dara Parr for Super X. Did you have a chance to hang out with them when you shot them?
GEF: Just a little bit, they were friendly and really I was just shooting them as a favor to a friend, because in fact I had never heard their music, but they seemed very cool.
S@S: During your travels in Japan, what differences have you noticed in the Japanese approach toward skating, surfing, hip-hop, punk and graffiti/tag art?
GEF: Well you must understand my travels in Japan have not been that extensive in my opinion, but as far as difference in approach, I don't really know since I can not really communicate with everyone here that well. It seems that the interests are intense, but it's the motivation that i am not sure about, and indeed this is important. But generally I feel most people who are involved in these activities do have a real authentic devotion and interest and i think that's important .
S@S: What's the best thing you've noticed recently coming out of Japan musically or visually?
Honestly I have not noticed that much coming out of Japan unfortunately. I can tell you one of the worst things I have noticed is these horrible photo books by young photographers thinking they're artists, it's like the emperor's new clothes to me (and that mother fucker is naked! showing me nothing but that they're are a bunch of followers out there not really thinking for themselves), and that's not to say that it's only here in Japan that I see this horrible trend of shitty photographers passing there work of as art, it's in the U.S. and U.K. as well, and i think most of it SUCKS!
S@S: Probe your memory. I'd like to hear a story that you've never told anyone before. Something out of character, touching, funny, weird or stupid that you observed or experienced with one of the following:
Doug E. Fresh
the Fat Boys
Erik B. & Rakim
LL Cool J
(or anyone else who comes to mind)
GEF: Are you crazy? Who the fuck do you think I am? Why do I want to tell you? Most of these people I consider friends, I wouldn't want them sharing one of my personal moments with some interviewer they don't even know, just to get a little more press, FUCK THAT! that's exploitation! of your friends no less. I do not do that, and those who do are jerks . . . I may tell a story or two about all of these people that would probably interest some of your readers but in such an impersonal format I refuse to share my personal moments with those people, including you I don't even know.
S@S: Share some of your recent reflections on the Internet as a medium.
GEF: Wow you guys certainly can dish them out can't you? The internet is good for mass communication i think, and now that it has become a way more powerful tool than any of the corporations or governments envisioned, they are surely coming up with ways to start to limit those freedoms we do enjoy over this medium, so get ready to fight to keep it as open as it is . . . Also remember this is just another tool, and there are no tools that we should become totally dependent upon (as unfortunately I am with a camera) but use it as you would any other tool. If you are a well meaning individual, I think it can be very good. (but always remember 'big brother is watching').
S@S: Although I'm sure you've related this information countless times, I wasn't able to come across it and I'm really curious: How did you develop your technique of cropping film before printing your photos?
GEF: I do not know what you are talking about, all I can guess is that I don't like any kind of waste, particularly on my canvas, that of film, I value each frame and I shoot all shots to count, I do not waste it, and I try to fill each frame to the best of my ability with the composition and character that pleases my personal aesthetic, and filling the frame, shooting shots as full frame not intending to be cropped is part of that . ..
S@S: How do you feel about digital photography?
GEF: I think it's great for all those people who just like snap shots or THINK they are photographers, they should shoot only digitally. The impact of all that wasted film and shitty photographs of non-digital on the environment is tremendous. But for real photographers or photographic artists the technology is not even close . . .
S@S: Give us your opinion on the best and worst social or political trends in Japan.
GEF: ARE YOU FOR REAL? Just off the top of my head besides what I've mentioned above:
The best social: Peoples interests in other cultures.
The best political: That shit is about to hit the fan over here once again.
The worst social: How poorly women seemed to be treated by all over here, that disgusts me.
The worst political: How feudalism runs everything, this is pathetic to me for a "civilized" society.
S@S: Tell us about your trip to Hiroshima.
GEF: It was only for about 6 hours but it made an interesting impact, and I learned some things too. But if you think it taught me something new about the horrible things my own country is capable of, think again. I've known the horrors of governments and politics around the world for many years before that . ..
S@S: What do you think about the current state of rap music in the US?
GEF: It can be fun but nothing really kicking me in the ass, nothing really exciting in Hip-Hop to me right now besides old records . . .
S@S: You witnessed and documented the development of various movements which had a strong impact on the world. Tell us about some potentially significant trends which you've noticed that are currently developing in the US.
GEF: The most significant new/continuing trend developing in the U.S., that I think is and will continue to have the greatest impact around the world, particularly due to our dominance in entertainment and communications is IGNORANCE. This indeed is an unfortunate circumstance but unless more people start to think for themselves it seems to be the biggest trend going. And you can bet i'm trying my best to stop it.
S@S: I saw the web preview of your new book, "The Idealist - In My Eyes Twenty Years." Could you give us some background information on this book and explain your approach to compiling and editing it?
GEF: It's a book covering 20 years of my work as a photographer of all things in that which I have an interest in capturing on film, for one reason or another, it's a good representation of my life's aesthetic. No doubt to me FUCK YOU HEROES is the most important book I have made, that was my social document, this is my artistic one. Both are me with all my heart.
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