Purple Magazine
— S/S 2010 issue 13

Jefferson Hack

Jefferson Hack photographed by Rankin

interview by OLIVIER ZAHM
portrait by ROGER RICH and personal pictures

JEFFERSON HACK was only 21 when he and the photographer Rankin started the magazine Dazed & Confused in 1992.He went on to launch Another Magazine in 2001 and Another Man in 2005, CREATING THE ONLY BRITISH INDEPENDENT PRESS GROUP OF HIS GENERATION. His love for magazine publishing transcends his passion for fashion and photography, and even for art — because his agenda is actually a social one. The two decades of Jefferson’s activism have never been compromised by glamour or success. It was high time we met the man to whom Bono said “Jefferson, you’re a guy who’s always at the right place at the right time with the right spirit.”

JEFFERSON HACK — It’s interesting to see your office, Olivier. I think one’s office environment is as telling as one’s home. I love this picture of Serge Gainsbourg. I’ve always seen you as someone who keeps the spirit of Serge alive in contemporary French culture.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Ah, Jefferson, I know you’re used to interviewing people, and I’m sure you do it better than I do, but now I’m supposed to be the one interviewing you!
JEFFERSON HACK — I know, but I saw that picture of Serge and I just jumped right in!

OLIVIER ZAHM — I got it when I was working for the French newspaper, Libération, which has a huge archive of press material from the time.
JEFFERSON HACK — I have two very important images in my office that remind me why I do what I do, one of Hugh Hefner, and one of Che and Fidel together: inspirational figures who give me a sense of freedom and energy. Che and Hugh represent the spirit of publishing that I inherited from the counterculture radicalism of the ’60s — the spirit of creating and owning your own media.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Speaking about inspirational material, the stylist Camille Bidault Waddington gave me this issue of Oz magazine. [Holds up an issue of Oz] Do you know it?
JEFFERSON HACK — That’s such a coincidence because Oz was such a great inspiration for me. When we started Dazed & Confused I came across a secret cache of Oz magazines in this woman’s basement. She was a receptionist or an editor at Oz. Oz looked like it could have come from San Francisco, like Rolling Stone did, but it was British. Felix Dennis was the brains of the magazine. He’s since become a really successful publisher. Richard Neville was the soul. The two of them encapsulated the spirit of the sexual revolution and they made their magazine a beautiful object. I always tried to emulate the Schoolkids Issue [Oz, No. 28, May 1970]. We finally managed to do it last year. Oz recruited a group of teenagers to contribute to an issue and let them do everything — the illustrations, the photography, the interviews, and the band reviews. The Schoolkids Issue was meant to be the voice of the new generation. One of the illustrations was by a 15-year-old boy named Vivian Berger. He collaged parts of a Rupert Bear cartoon from Daily Express with a pornographic image by Robert Crumb, so that Rupert the Bear ended up with a huge hard-on. The cover was controversial because it featured a drawing of a nude girl showing a bit of pubic hair and a suggestively phallic-like rat’s tail coming in around her thigh. The issue instigated one of the biggest obscenity trials in recent UK history. Bobbies in big helmets took the magazines off the shelves of all the newsstands and the editors were arrested. There were sit-ins and demonstrations against the trial. The cartoons were held up in court and the whole story played out in the British media. I hadn’t even been born at the time — I was born in 1971. But looking at the footage you see a very fearful establishment, a very fearful middle class, and young kids expressing themselves. The magazine was seen as a threat and it was going to be shut down. It all paved the way for us to be able to create our kind of media. Every generation inherits the freedoms earned by the struggles of the previous one.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What did you learn from this older generation?
JEFFERSON HACK — I need to respect the freedom I have and not use it vaingloriously to exercise my ego. I’m paying respect to what they did, by continuing their legacy and by exploring new ways of telling stories and creating freedom. Oz was a huge watershed in independent publishing. I had the privilege of meeting Richard Neville and Felix Dennis and talking to them about that period and I learned a lot from their story, their experiences, and their work. I’ve also met Jann Wenner [the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine]. He said, “Shit, man, you’re freaking me out! Has anyone ever told you look just like Pete Townshend?” I said, “No, but I’m happy to be here!” [Laughs] Rolling Stone was another breakthrough. But then, it’s easy to cite my influences. Esquire is always cited for being a postmodern magazine. George Lois hired Jean Paul Goude, the graphic designer, and their team created those incredible covers with Mohammed Ali, Warhol jumping out of the Campbell Soup can, and so on. Magazines like Esquire created the first postmodern look of media. That’s what the photographers wanted. Esquire had the power and money to hire a team. It’s a corporate culture, one that needs to be new, to reinvent itself. So they hire radical thinkers and reinvent publishing. George Lois hired the best team. They created a revolution in magazines, which influenced advertising. The same thing happened in the ’90s with magazines like Loaded. But I’m less interested in all that. Rolling Stone and Oz were a different story. They started up from nothing — a bunch of kids with very little money, working in a room. They succeeded by default, not by design. Esquire was successful by design.

OLIVIER ZAHM — They had money.
JEFFERSON HACK — Yes, money, and creative people packaging what was happening. Oz and Rolling Stone magazines didn’t package what was happening, they were what was happening. They surfed the revolution of the open spirit because they were the only places where people could hang out and be open. From what I understand, Oz’s and Rolling Stone’s offices were the communication centers of that revolution. They were places that connected like-minded people — pre-Internet. The purity of their expression was the scene itself. It’s like Harvey Milk’s story: he became a revolutionary not because he wanted to be a leader, but because no one else would do it. There was no other choice. Something had to change, so people did things themselves.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What do you like about Hugh Hefner, who has become a total cliché?
JEFFERSON HACK — He always gets mixed out, because he’s not cool. But he also started a magazine with hardly any money. He had one big idea. He wrote a 20,000-word manifesto about the modern man. He started up Playboy in 1953 and went on to publish writers like Salinger and Nabokov, the greatest writers of contemporary fiction. Playboy had great illustrators, great art projects. It interviewed the biggest names in politics, sports, media, and literature. Playboy turned the sexual revolution into a way of life, one which then became mainstream. Oz was somewhat of an equivalent, but for a different time. If Oz were a band it would be like The Velvet Underground. If Rolling Stone were a band it would be a bit like The Rolling Stones — cool, edgy. But Hugh Hefner was like Elvis. [Laughs]

OLIVIER ZAHM — That’s a good one!
JEFFERSON HACK — No, I’ll tell you what — Elvis was the biggest breakthrough ever in contemporary youth culture. We had a ’50s rock and roll scene in England. All our musicians copied American rock and roll, thereby creating British independent rock and roll — The Beatles, The Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Were it not for American R&B, blues, and rock and roll, there wouldn’t have been a British music explosion in the ’60s. Elvis paved the way — he took black American music and made it white. He took sexual provocation and showed it on television and he scared people. He created teenage freedom and rebellion. He made young girls want to fuck dangerous guys. He made dangerous guys cool. Elvis and Hugh were American and America was, and is, a very conservative country. They took independence and alternative thinking and pushed it into the mainstream. Elvis was the first musician to create a brand and extend it into television, movies, all of media. Hefner did the same thing. Playboy became a brand, with nightclubs, television, and movie productions — like all the Monty Python movies. Playboy Productions. Merchandising. Nightclubs all over the world. The Monterey Jazz Festival. Hefner created the idea of a magazine as a brand way before Interview, before Warhol, before anyone. And in the ’60s and ’70s it just grew and grew. But, like Elvis, Playboy got fat and ended up in Las Vegas, tacky and naff. A lot of that had to do with a shift in American thinking — when things get too big they become too commercial.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Too established.
JEFFERSON HACK — Yeah, like a Las Vegas revue. Elvis ended up a caricature.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is it true that Hugh Hefner saved the Hollywood sign?
JEFFERSON HACK — Yes, absolutely. It was made of wood and was being destroyed by the environment. The city was going to tear it down. Hugh had a fundraiser at his Mansion to raise money to remake the sign in metal. People could bid on a letter and have it made in their name. I think Jack Nicholson bought one. So, in a very benign way, Hefner saved the icon of global entertainment. He’s a pioneer. But because of entertainment, culture has become a caricature. I call it the Springfield Existence: people become so much of a caricature they exist in a Simpsons-like context. Their iconography lives on forever in Springfield. The greatest minds of our generation live on in beautiful episodes of the Simpsons. I made this funny trip to the Playboy Mansion. I was with Kate Moss. We did a shoot with Craig McDean and Tabitha of her hanging off the Hollywood sign, for the cover of Another Magazine. This was before [Hack and Moss’s daughter] Lila was born. Kate and I had a terrible argument the night of the shoot and I decided to go out. In the morning she went to the shoot before I came back to the hotel. Then I went over to the shoot, which was going really well. We were shooting all over Hollywood, including at the sign. I was art-directing it with Craig and every time there was a break, Kate would say to me, “You better make up for last night. You better think of something fantastic and make me like you again.” So, I straight away said, “Why don’t we go hang out at the Playboy Mansion?’ And she said, “Oh yeah, like you could actually make that happen.” — with the English sarcasm, of course.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Can you tell me more about that night at the Playboy mansion with your girlfriend at the time, Kate Moss?
JEFFERSON HACK — I called up a connection, and they made a call. Hugh Hefner was flying to New York that night, but he cancelled his trip. Kate, Tabitha, Craig, and I all drove over to the Playboy Mansion. A bunny greeted us and gave us a tour. We took pictures of myself and Kate and Craig all around the grotto, which was completely empty. Then Hugh welcomed us and turned it into a family night. His ex-wife and two kids were there. We were in the room in which John Lennon stubbed a cigarette out on a Matisse — we saw the hole. They gave us vodka. There are archives of all the parties Hugh has thrown. He talked us through everything. He offered Kate a million to do the cover of Playboy. But she said, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t do it. I have serious obligations to other things.” She was very sweet with him. Then he took us to his office and we had a moment. He said to me, “I think what you do is really amazing. I have a lot of respect for Dazed & Confused.” I was so surprised.

OLIVIER ZAHM — That he knew of your magazine?
JEFFERSON HACK — Yeah. I think someone must have showed it to him. He said, “I respect aE publisher who makes a cultural moment happen and reflects it in his work.” I said to him, “Show me how you work. How do you sit at your desk?” So he showed me how he sat and held his phone and his pen. Then I copied the exact positions he works in at his desk and Craig took pictures of me, emulating Hugh. I had those pictures framed.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You like to assume the position of an editor — I mean, that’s what you’re doing now, sitting at my desk.
JEFFERSON HACK — Yeah, we’ve swapped roles. I don’t know what that says about me, Olivier. You’ll have to work that one out yourself.

Jefferson Hack on his father’s boat

OLIVIER ZAHM — Tell me what you think about Interview magazine.
JEFFERSON HACK — Interview magazine is hugely important to me. I bought my first copy of it when I was 13. It was a special issue about the future. I had no idea. I read comic books. I was with my dad at an airport and I asked for a couple of dollars to buy a magazine for the trip. I saw this magazine and flipped through it and it spoke to me. On the plane I read the whole thing inside out, every credit, every page number. It introduced me to a world I never knew existed. That issue had excerpts from J.G. Ballard’s Crash. It had architects who were given a challenge — you know, projects like we do in our magazine now. They were asked to draw a model city of the future. I realized that the magazine harnessed creative energy. It mixed sexual politics with forward thinking and a kind of intense interdisciplinary crossover of art, fashion, music, and film. It all hemorrhaged together, creating something that felt completely radical to me. Interview was a window through which I saw a world I couldn’t experience through any other medium. There was no way I could have seen it on television or at school — or through my parents, because my parents weren’t interested in those things. My home life was a loving one, but I had none of the cultural influences that many readers of Purple might have had at home — no books or magazines or music or art on the walls. I had an Abba album and an Andrew Lloyd Webber album. There wasn’t any exposure to culture. So for me, Interview was transformational.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Immediately?
JEFFERSON HACK — Yes. I immediately understood that this magazine could have the power to make a kid living in the provinces, a kid who feels different, who has trouble with the bullies at school, feel like he’s not alone in the world. These days other things exist that can do that. But back then Interview was a lifeline to a world beyond.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Beyond this one specific issue of Interview about the future, was Interview an inspiration for your future activity?
JEFFERSON HACK — I remember going to New York for the first time. I really wanted to meet Tibor Kalman, the art director of Interview. He’s the first industry person I actually met and he became my first mentor. I met Ingrid Sischy then, as well. But Kalman taught me a lot of things. He left Interview and set up Colors magazine. He was a socialist. He was able to put value back into people’s lives through humor. He took consumer culture, advertising, and magazines and created a double-edged, visual philosophy. It was entertainment, but it made people feel their lives were richer by giving them content. His packaging ideas were socially responsible. Kalman was ahead of his time. He did what he did in an incredibly amazing way. At Colors he turned the Queen into a black woman using digital retouching. He had heart. He taught me that you can have a social consciousness and still be engaged in entertainment culture. The thing I always wanted to do, and what I still think the power of a magazine is capable of, is to give people a sense of freedom, to make them feel like they’re not alone, that they can be empowered, and through that empowerment they can create a better, more interesting, and vibrant society. Now, you can see this very clearly on the Web, but before it wasn’t so clear. This gets back to Oz, Playboy, Interview, and Colors — those magazines mattered for me. They weren’t the ones with the largest circulation. Nor were they the most commercially vibrant. But they gave people freedom. So when I started I took them as models for my revolution — a combination of Che Guevera and Hugh Hefner. A cultural and political manifesto of using a magazine to help a young generation in the UK feel empowered. Give them a platform they could share, help them network, and basically, like Oz, help them surf their moment in time. Bono wrote me an email that summed it up. He said, “Jefferson, you’re a guy who’s always at the right place at the right time with the right spirit.” Robert Evans, the great Paramount Pictures producer, said, “There’s no such thing as luck.” The crucial point is where opportunity meets preparation. I think we were open and ready when we created Dazed. England at the time was engaged in ecstasy, the way Oz was engaged with acid. We had acid house music. They had acid. Everything is connected to a music scene.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What was your childhood like?
JEFFERSON HACK — My parents were middle class. My mother was Swiss, from the mountains. My dad worked in the tobacco industry, smuggling cigarettes into South America. I was born in Uruguay. We never stayed in one place for more than two years. We lived in Brussels, in Hong Kong, in Singapore, all over the place. I had a nomadic gypsy upbringing — following my father around. But my parents were very loving, and made a very comfortable and beautiful home life for me. But when you grow up always on the move, always in a new school in a new place, you look and listen and you imitate others, in order to be accepted. I was always very comfortable with people of other ethnicities.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You were comfortable in different contexts.
JEFFERSON HACK — Yes, because I always hung out with the minority kids. I loved to be with Asians and Indians. When I first came to England I went to a park to play football. I ran over to a group of Asian kids to start kicking the ball around. They looked at me like I was an idiot, like I was mad — like, how could I try and cross the class barrier? Now, in the 2000s, the situation is different. But in the England of the ’70s it was considered taboo. But for me it was totally normal. Those kids accepted me because of my innocence and I knew then that my innocence was something I never wanted to lose. Crossing cultural, class, and race boundaries can open your world. I never wanted to be a product of one identity. Besides, I wasn’t a citizen of any country. I had a non-identity.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You didn’t feel British?
JEFFERSON HACK — No, I felt nothing. That’s why club culture was so important to me. When I came to London I was 19. Club culture created an identity for me.

OLIVIER ZAHM — When was all this?
JEFFERSON HACK — In 1989, 1990. I wanted to be in Andy Warhol’s Factory. That to me was a spiritual home — a group of people from different backgrounds and with different ideas creating a new way of living. I was a part of a scene that pioneered living in squats — people trying to find a sense of freedom. We moved to England when I was 12. I went to a comprehensive school, a local state school. I fell in with some bad kids and I was on the point of being expelled. My parents wisely said, “We need to send you to a boarding school to give you some discipline.” I went to the only military academy in the UK, a naval college called Pangbourne, when I was 13. There were parades every day. The older kids were officers. They ran the place. You had to stop in the corridor and salute them when they walked past. The teachers disappeared after class and the kids took over.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Was there a lot of violence?
JEFFERSON HACK — It was all based on a very strict code of naval discipline. I learned by talking to people in the military that it’s like being in a tribe. As a kid I always wanted to be part of a tribe and I saw the military as a way of doing that. When I was 13, I thought of the navy as a means of escape — to travel the world as part of a tribe, to be part of something. But in that context, the worst elements of institutional behavior came out, in an almost anthropological way. I was always bullied a lot. But I was also cheeky, because I came from the street.

Jefferson Hack photographed by Rankin

OLIVIER ZAHM — But you’re not a macho guy now — you’re a sweet and charming guy. Were you rebellious back then?
JEFFERSON HACK — My way of showing my independence was: the harder you hit me, the more I’d smile. I took the hits because I didn’t want the other guys to win. That made them very angry. Also, as a kid I had a face that looked responsible for what someone else had done. So I would make friends with the toughest guys in the school, and they’d offer me protection, to a certain degree. But situations like that really put me off the military. Later I found out that the military actually works the other way around, that there’s a lot of camaraderie and people really work together. But my own experience was only of power-crazy young men taking out their frustrations on the younger kids.

OLIVIER ZAHM — You went to The London College of Printing. What is that, exactly?
JEFFERSON HACK — It’s a journalism school. I left Pangbourne and went back to Ramsgate, the grammar school. I didn’t do very well in my A-level exams. But I wanted to be involved in media and thought I should take a journalism course. I was refused admission by every university in the UK, because I didn’t have the grades. But The London College of Printing offered a one-year certificate in journalism. You didn’t need to have university-acceptable grades to get in. They also offered courses in design and photography. It was the only place that accepted me and it was an escape from home, so I went. I didn’t know what to make of journalism. Halfway through the course they said, “Jefferson, we need to speak to you. We think you’ve got a drug problem. You wear a bandana around your head. Your clothes are disheveled and you smell. We’re really worried about your health.” I said, “You don’t understand — I’m making the student magazine!” And they said, “Really?”

OLIVIER ZAHM — The student magazine?
JEFFERSON HACK — Yeah. In my first month at college a guy named Rankin walked into a class I was in and said, “I’m part of the student union. I’m recruiting people to make the student magazine.” He was going around looking for a team. He was doing a BA in photography and had taken a sabbatical to become a member of the student union. He did the student magazine for a year.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What was his agenda for the magazine?
JEFFERSON HACK — He wanted it to say something about the creativity of the colleges. The student union was actually for St. Martins, Camberwell, Chelsea, and The London College of Printing. So the magazine was for a whole group of colleges.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So it could draw on the creative energy of all the schools.
JEFFERSON HACK — Yes, but I think Rankin went around to all the colleges to recruit people for the first issue and I was the only person who showed up. I went to the meeting and I was the only person there. [Laughs] I sat in a chair in the café, barefoot, waiting for him to show up. I had a crystal and a piccolo and I was playing flute music. I had long blonde hair — a total hippie. He arrived, looked at me, and said, “You’re here for the magazine?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “What have you done?’ I said, “Nothing.” He said, “What are your ideas?” I said, “Don’t have any.” He goes, “Shit. OK, you’re going to interview somebody tomorrow morning.” I said, “Are you kidding?” He said, “No, I do the photos, you do the text.” I said, “Great. Who are we interviewing?” He said, “These artists, Gilbert and George. They’re ex-St. Martins students.” I said, “Who are they?” He said, “Shit, you don’t know who Gilbert and George are? Well, we’ve got to be at their studio at 9 A.M.. I believe in you — you’re going to do an amazing interview.” That night I ran around asking the first-year art students, “Does anyone know who Gilbert and George are? I’m interviewing them tomorrow.” They said, “Are you fucking stupid? They’re the most famous British artists alive. You’re really interviewing them?” I said, “Yeah. I need a crash course.” These three guys had all the books — they knew everything. I stayed up all night with them. They helped me out so much. Rankin had total faith in me even though I had no qualifications for the job. He gave me the confidence to take it on. Without him, I would have never done it. He took amazing pictures of Gilbert and George — amazing to this day. Afterwards they asked me to be in a photograph of theirs. I was very young, and they were photographing a lot of young boys. I was really flattered, but also really nervous because, you know, I was very naïve. I said yes, but then I didn’t do it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Were you scared by the fact that they were gay?
JEFFERSON HACK — I was scared of a lot of things. Like of being photographed for something that was going to become a document. I wasn’t used to modeling or anything like that. I was scared of being out of context. I completely chickened out. It’s one of the things I really regret. It would be amazing to be in a picture by them. It’d be an honor. Anyway, Rankin and I did three issues together. We started interviewing all these great ex-students, like Neville Brody, who started Arena, and Tony Elliot, who started Time Out. We did stuff on the college and on fashion. Every year The Guardian newspaper gave an award for the best student publications. We won Best Magazine and Best Design and Rankin won the Guardian Media Award for Best Photography. We won the top three awards. Suddenly we were like the shit! We had no idea we were any good at it. So we learned about print, we learned about production, we learned about everything. We had no means of production, no real means of making the magazine. But we did it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The student union didn’t have a lot of money?
JEFFERSON HACK — They had one Macintosh computer which everybody used during the day for everything — administration, everything. On Friday night at 7 o’clock the caretaker — whom we paid — unlocked the office and let us take the computer out the back door in a blanket. Back then a desktop Mac cost about £10,000. It came in three parts — the screen, the base, and the keyboard. We’d bring it back between 5 and 6 A.M. on Monday, before anyone came in.

Jefferson Hack photographed by Rankin

OLIVIER ZAHM — Where would you work?
JEFFERSON HACK — In our flat. It was all done in paste-up. You would print everything out on the computer and then put it on a duratrans machine. It was all black and white, cut out by hand with scalpels, pasted up using spray mount, and then photographed in a duratrans machine. So it was kind of half digital, half analog.

OLIVIER ZAHM — That was the transition period.
JEFFERSON HACK — Yeah. I’d spent the whole weekend on it. The process was so labor intensive back then — even making a small magazine took an incredible amount of time. So I was up all night and obviously looked like shit. That’s why they thought I had a drug problem. And you know what? I quit the course. I failed. I didn’t finish. But I’m happy I went because it introduced me to everything I do now. I had the opportunity to learn how to make a magazine.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Were you actually kicked out?
JEFFERSON HACK — No, I left voluntarily because I wanted to start Dazed. I thought there was no point in learning what they could teach me when I could just go out and make a magazine myself. I was very idealistic. The first issue we did was a three-poster magazine: three pieces of folded paper that made a poster, in black and white. Totally self-distributed. It was like a manifesto. When you opened it out, you had editorial on one side and a whole poster image on the other. The idea was that kids could paste it on their wall. But it took a long time. It was a year between the first and second issues, and then another three months before the third. We started using staples in issue four and to perfect binding in issue 20. I was personally bankrupt by issue 20, because we couldn’t sustain the debt. I had no assets. I became a ward of the court for three years.

OLIVIER ZAHM — How did you make a living?
JEFFERSON HACK — I didn’t make a living until I was about 30. I lived hand-to-mouth. We created parties and events and a weekly nightclub. I lived off the cash from that. Rankin and I lived in an apartment in Peckham, which was a cheap place to live. We had a one-bedroom apartment. The kitchen was used as a darkroom. You couldn’t prepare any food in it. We stored chemicals in the bathroom. It had no heating in the winter — we had a little stand-up gas heater that we dragged around between the rooms. But we didn’t care. We believed in freedom. And the process of making a magazine drew us into a community of people. In retrospect, I believe the reason that we did it without questioning it had a lot to do with acid house. There was a feeling in the air.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, you threw parties…
JEFFERSON HACK — Which people paid to get into. We did things with some of the earlier big house DJs, like Danny Rampling. Then we moved more into the trip-hop scene with James Lavelle, pre-UNKLE, and Howie B and people like that. Those people were hugely creative.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Then it all went commercial and became so awful.
JEFFERSON HACK — Yeah, it went commercial really quickly. But it was the time of interdisciplinary artists like Pam Hogg and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Lee Bowery performed at one of our nights with Minty, with his band. Real high-low culture. Sean McClusky was doing stuff with young bands. The Brain Club with Wigan, who was like the Keith Haring of the UK then. Designers like McQueen were coming out, and so were artists like Jake and Dinos Chapman. It was totally underground. Everyone was just out of college. There was no other place like it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — And there were no famous people hanging about.
JEFFERSON HACK — No. There was no V.I.P. booth. Famous people didn’t even know about these places. There wasn’t the integration of creative people and society that you see today. What was important, on a philosophical and cultural level, was the black economy we created. It supported the DJs, the independent record labels, the guys who made the fliers for the clubs, the designers who created the record sleeves, the people who sold the t-shirts for the clubs, and the places like Sign of the Times that hired young designers to create clothes for the people who dressed up and went to the parties. Sign of the Times was something like Dover Street Market is now. But back then it wasn’t really commercial. Like, Björk would go to Sign of the Times and buy young designer stuff. It had that kind of vibe. We learned that we could survive without the validation of the establishment, without having to get a job — you could create a job for yourself. It was the first time our generation had a real feeling of that. The first person who really proved to everybody that it could be done was Damien Hirst. He set up Freeze, the first non-gallery art show. He came out of Goldsmith College. He and Sarah Lucas and Angus Fairhurst and a bunch of other artists saw that the only way new artists could get recognition was to wait for a gallery in Cork Street to give them a show. And the only way bands could get a record released was to wait for Warner Brothers or Sony to offer them a deal. These artists stopped doing all that. They started creating their own shows and selling their own work. Musicians pressed their own records and put them out. Freeze was launched at the same time as Dazed & Confused. And at the same time as Frieze magazine, with Matthew Slotover and Amanda Hearst — they were part of the same moment and the same energy. Damien Hirst proved that you didn’t have to wait for someone to say you were great — you could communicate what you did to your peer group and somehow a validation would come down the line. It was all about just not giving up. It was about creating content. It was such a creative time. Hirst found a venue, and sponsors — and this was a period when nobody was sponsoring anything! There were no beer companies or wine labels going around sponsoring everything. You had to really hustle and be like Che Guevara to get a party going. I think Dazed was very good through the ’90s in pioneering youth culture sponsorship and bringing brands to areas of culture, from the music scene to the fashion scene. I mean, we did the first sponsorships of fashion shows, sponsorships of events with mobile phones, and other things — and I’m very proud of that. Sometimes it gets abused and sometimes it’s done well. I think we pioneered a good way of doing it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Who else was important to your becoming an editor?
JEFFERSON HACK — There are a number of people who taught me what it means to be an editor, Rankin being first among them. Katie Grand, Katy England, Phil Poynter, Emma Reeves, and some of my early editors, like Claude Grunitzky and Wendy Ide were all important to me. Because we were all just kids, we all listened to each other. We argued and loved and played and partied and did everything together. But I didn’t create Dazed — what happened in the culture created Dazed. We did it together, the way a band does it — the way a band creates a sound. And it was very much like a band. We were the Velvet Underground, the Sigur Rós, of our time. I’m a product of all these people.

Photo by Autumn De Wilde, courtesy of Icon International

OLIVIER ZAHM — It sounds like the way you described Oz magazine — a way for a generation to express itself.
JEFFERSON HACK — We created it in a very positive way. We wanted it to be an anti-magazine. The Face and i-D were the big players. I never looked at issues of The Face or i-D when I was making Dazed. I only looked at old issues of Oz and Interview. I think people at Dazed, like Katie Grand, brought in copies of French Vogue from the ’70s. Katie England was bringing in old Nova magazines. No one gave a shit what i-D and The Face were doing. It wasn’t that we didn’t like them. We just didn’t feel like we understood what they were about. We were a very small group of people making something that referenced a cultural moment. We had a small office, one room near Carnaby Street. Katie Grand once borrowed Hussein Chalayan’s student collection for a shoot. He was still just a graduate at that point — he hadn’t even done his first solo show. We bonded over the experience and still talk about it today. Anyway, the following morning I went in, a little bit tired, and there were three vans with TV crews, from BBC, Channel 4, and someone else. There were about 20 journalists and photographers. I was walking towards the office door, thinking that maybe someone had died or there’d been a murder. When I got to the office they all surrounded me. The night before, President Clinton name-checked Dazed & Confused as one of the magazines responsible for heroin chic.

OLIVIER ZAHM — When was that?
JEFFERSON HACK — It was ’95, I think. I had no idea that the work one did in a small London office with three or five people could even considerably be on the radar of the president of a country. But it was because of the work we were doing with Corinne Day, Juergen Teller, and other photographers.

OLIVIER ZAHM — President Clinton said Dazed & Confused was one of the vehicles responsible for heroin chic?
JEFFERSON HACK — Yeah. As if we were also responsible for a lot of other things. But this weird kind of validation was gratefully accepted because we sold more copies of that issue than any other. It was like my personal Oz obscenity trial moment. We went through about three months of defending ourselves, of being interviewed, and all that. It gave me a taste of what Oz went through.

OLIVIER ZAHM — But how did you feel personally about it all?
JEFFERSON HACK — It made me feel like shit. I wish I were better at convincing people that what we’re trying to do is give them hope and freedom and confidence and power — and that we’re actually part of the solution, not the problem. But the establishment sees independent media — which it can’t control — as scary, even when the independent media is putting out positive images. We followed that issue up with things like the disabled cover, with Nick Knight’s photograph of Aimée Mullins. That went on to be one of our biggest-selling issues ever. It changed a lot of people’s attitudes about fashion — they saw that fashion could actually have a sense of social responsibility built into its imagery, that it could relate to things that need to be talked about politically and socially. It proved that fashion can be used to further political and social change. That issue was even debated on television, on the British equivalent of Oprah Winfrey. It was discussed in every national newspaper — why disabled people are marginalized in culture, why they don’t have similar rights. There hasn’t been a 180-degree change. But I think the issue created a significant discussion. Your friend Terry Richardson shot supermodels giving blood for the cover of Dazed. When that issue came out we were contacted by The British Medical Association. They wanted to buy the pictures for an advertising campaign to encourage young people to donate blood, because there was such a shortage.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What do you think about the market for magazines today?
JEFFERSON HACK — Everybody’s putting out a magazine these days. The Last Magazine was just launched. Kaleidoscope was just launched. There are more magazines being launched now than ever. There’s more brilliant print in design and magazines and photography than ever. I just saw a brilliant magazine in New York, Woo magazine. In the ’90s, there was only Dazed in London, Purple in Paris, and Interview and Index in New York, along with a few others. Now blogs cover certain subjects so there are fewer singular dominant cultural zeitgeist magazines. But, still, there are many more magazines out there than before. And that’s brilliant. This is what we wanted to see happen when we started — the revolution of “You can do this, too.” This moment in culture isn’t exclusive. It’s democratic: publishing is a democracy now. The means of production are cheaper with the advent of desktop publishing, and even cheaper with digital communications. Anyone can do it and everyone is doing it. Everyone is in the media now. What’s happening in publishing is the same thing that happened to Hollywood. The old Hollywood system was like the big publishing company system of Condé Nast and News Corp — dominated by the big guys. I don’t know the equivalent in France. The big Hollywood studios owned the script, the director, the actors, the cinemas, the distribution, the marketing, and the products derived from it all. The whole process was a single ownership system. It wasn’t a monopoly because the studios competed against each other, but the means of production were the same. Everyone has a wage so everyone felt comfortable. That was the Fifties, The Golden Age. It ended, and it ended for a reason: it became cheaper to make films. Independent service companies, b-to-b companies, independent directors, independent production companies for content, for services — for everything — started springing up. It was a challenge to the big studios, an economi challenge, because the means of production became cheaper. They tried to fight it. They created laws, unions, all kinds of stuff, because they thought it was the end of their system. People thought it was the death of storytelling, the death of acting, that it would kill the greatness of the medium of movies. But how are movies doing today? Are they any worse? No. There’s more movies being made now, there’s more choice. The difference is the democratization of the ability of people to get involved. Not just those people chosen by Cecil B. DeMille. Anybody can do it now. The same thing is happening in publishing. We’re at the tipping point. The old business model doesn’t work anymore. Magazines are downsizing. Publishing companies are running scared. What’s brilliant is the rise of independents, of individual voices. None of the big digital players were part of, or were founded by, corporations. Maybe they were bought up by corporations later on, but everything from Google to MySpace to Facebook to Twitter was started up by a few guys doing their own thing.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I agree that these is a boom in independent publishing, although the new generation is totally into the internet and blogs. Do you think all these new, small titles will last as Dazed or Purple has been able to for almost 20 years?
JEFFERSON HACK – It’s a question of spirit and energy, not of money. Oz and Purple are like Easy Rider. You’re the Dennis Hopper of publishing because you created a magazine that has had an influence. You’re the Wong Kar-wai, the Lars Von Trier. Maybe I’m the Scorsese. Maybe V magazine is the Coppola. This moment is very similar to Hollywood in the late Sixties, or like the Nouvelle Vague. The Nouvelle Vague didn’t make any fucking money, did it? But it gave rise to people who, through changes in independent financing, made viable independent films. One of the first to break the mold was Steven Soderbergh, with Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989). Maybe this is still the relevant model for the next generation.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I believe that the new generation is orienting itself more toward the Internet than creating printed magazines. They find a bigger audience through the Internet, and don’t have to spend money on expensive printing.
JEFFERSON HACK — Everyone uses the Internet. There’s no difference between print and digital anymore. You’re asking me if there’s a future for print. Yes, there is. Digital and print will combine and work together. Some magazines will only be digital, some will be print and digital. The good ones, those with a real point of view, will define the next 20 years, whether they’re newspapers, magazines, free sheets, or whatever. But the only ones that will make a massive difference, and be commercial, will be the independents. I’ll tell you why. MTV was independent. Hugh Hefner was independent. Google was independent. Twitter’s independent. Dazed is independent. The next thing to break through will very likely come from an independent scene.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you think it will come from print or from the Internet?
JEFFERSON HACK — It will come from both.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s optimistic to think that print culture will continue to be a vehicle for an independent creator.
JEFFERSON HACK — I think the next big print and multimedia empire will challenge Condé Nast and MTV. And that Lady Gaga will make a magazine and a TV channel that will bring together fashion and music. With her millions of fans, she’ll create more programming and content and fashion shoots and stories than Condé Nast and MTV put together. All the advertisers will support her and she’ll create the next independent revolution in print and digital: there you go.[Laughs]

END

[Table of contents]

S/S 2010 issue 13

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