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Q&A: Aaron Rose

Highlights from 20 Interviews (2007)

Aaron Rose / Photograph by ALEXIS ROSS


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Aaron Rose is the founder of the Alleged Gallery. His museum exhibiton, Beatiful Losers, is compiled in a book of the same name, and the subject of a forthcoming documentary, directed by Rose

The complete interview with Aaron Rose appears in 20 Interviews. For more on this issue, click here

Below are a few unpublished exchanges, exclusive to Stop Smiling Online

Stop Smiling: So what do you call yourself these days? A renegade curator?

Aaron Rose: Post-renegade. I’m the establishment now.

SS: Do you want to talk about the healer who screams in your heart? What was that about?

AR: I go to a healer named Kadea who is a psychic. I see her once a month. It's like supercharged therapy. She can see everything, so she just cuts to the chase. Sometimes she tells me things about myself that really piss me off, but after a few days I know she's right. After our psychic session, she lays me down and screams into my head and my heart. She's removing negative energy and things that hold me back from being the best person I can be. She's really changed my life.

SS: So many artists you worked with years back were doing work for the sake of doing it, and throwing their work on the wall, expressing themselves any which way they could. Now that a lot of them have their own shoes or designed whatever product and anyone can buy it, is it hard to figure out what’s special anymore?

AR: Well, that’s what happens when things get popular and people find out about it. That’s great that these artists can have comfortable lives. There’s always going to be a new, fresh crop of underground artists. I know so many now that are awesome 21-year-old kids who were exactly in the same spot we were when we were 21: busting ass, doing their thing, having art shows in their garage where just their friends show up for the opening. It’s still there. That energy is always around — it’s a cycle. One thing becomes popular, and another thing comes along and pushes it out. This is a musical reference, but I was watching cable TV a couple of weeks ago and it had a commercial for “The Hits of the Eighties” box set — brought to you by Time-Life — and I was thinking, “You know what? Pretty soon Time-Life is going to put out a punk rock box set and it’s gonna feel like classic rock, and kids will say, ‘Oh that’s my parents’ music.’”

SS: That’s gonna be awful.

AR: That’s just how life is. There’s a fresh crop of kids who will hate everything you did and think its whack and I love that. Fuck it. Put me out of business.

SS: So relating to that notion that the kids won’t give a fuck about you and what you’ve done: What was one of the first things you believed in, and do you still believe in it?

AR: One of the first things I believed in was the truth, and I know that’s a really broad answer. But I remember when I was a teen listening to late-night radio, because I had a hard time sleeping. I listened to this political conspiracy show. I remember hearing things that were way different than the stories I was being told by my parents and at school. Whether or not those things were true or not wasn’t important. What it instilled in me was to always look for the truth: Don’t take what people are telling you at face value. Always look behind the scenes at what’s really going on. To this day, it’s a value I cling to as much as possible. I realize that everyone has different versions of the truth but I stick to my truth. Research. Look deeper. “Don’t believe the hype” is a big one, because it’s a hype-fueled world right now. I have to look into hype and watch where it goes before I sign on the bandwagon.

SS: Do you ever look back and think, “What did I do?”

AR: Sometimes. There are times when I'll pick up one of the books (Beautiful Losers or Young, Sleek and Full of Hell) and think, "Why the fuck did somebody pay to make this?" I can't imagine that anyone would be interested. But then I'm holding the evidence in my hands, so I'll be proud that the things I've made are out in the world. At times, though, I do feel like other people have to tell me it's important, because I don't completely believe it myself.

SS: What projects are you working on for the future?

AR: I have a band called the Sads. It’s myself and David Scott Stone from the Melvins and Unwound; Aska Matsumiya, who is this amazing classically trained pianist; and Dan Monick who is our drummer and a photographer who used to play in the band Lifter Puller. The group came together organically. I love playing music. I wish it was all I did most of the time. We put our records out on this label called Teenage Teardrops that’s run by my good friend Cali Dewitt.

SS: Has it been hard carving out your identity by promoting others? Does it ever bother you?

AR: It’s always hard. I found myself in the shadows for many years and that was okay, because the payoff for being part of a scene is so big. A big part of being in the Sads, especially as the singer, is about putting myself up front, because I think I’ve always been afraid of it. Still, I love building scenes. It’s so awesome when a bunch of people get together and work toward something. It’s the greatest gift one can get.

Interview by Joey Garfield


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