HST INTERVIEWS MEL AND HIGH – www.thatsacrazyone.com

by Horror Sleaze Trash on September 1, 2016

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HST catches up with Mel And High, the inspiration behind Larry Clarks film “KIDS” to talk about Harmony Korine, How life and New York have changed in 30 years and to discuss the up and coming “Thats a crazy one” photography book.

www.thatsacrazyone.com
The VICE article link – http://www.vice.com/read/a-real-look-at-the-crew-of-kids-growing-up-v23n5
INSTAGRAM – @thatsacrazyone


 

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HST: Hey Mel, you guys are in Hawaii right now right?  Big difference from the streets of New York I’m guessing?

MEL: I made the great escape over ten years now, High still lives in NY.  After 9-11 it all changed so much.  I was raised in South Brooklyn working class cops and firemen neighborhood.  So many families left, just couldn’t deal with the grief -and Brooklyn changed.  Opportunist came, money came, people got pushed out, the character of the neighborhoods got lost.  I was over it.  I would be sitting at a bar and someone would say ” Where you from?” and I’d answer Brooklyn.  Then they would say ” Yeah, but where are you really from?” I knew it was time for me to go. Hawaii was the only place where the energy is just as extreme, but just from a different source.  There is nothing mediocre about it here.

HIGH: I still live in NY. My mother still has the tenement apartment I grew up in and that we all crashed in over the years.

 

 

 

HST: How much has New York changed since its hay day before Giuliani and what does it need to wake it back up?

MEL: It’s a different world, we were the kids of NY during the worst crime – murder rate the city had experienced in decades.  Cops weren’t looking for us, so we had free range.  But I also think that when times are bad, you don’t particularly look to make them worse.  You are not looking for attention, so you just do you.  Now I go home and I get these hipster rejects  reckless eyeballing me, and think – God Damn NY needs a fucking crime wave so these bitches can fix their faces.  They would have never looked at anybody like that back in the day – get your grin smacked right off.  NY got soft and complacent to too many people that grew up watching movies about how you are supposed to act in NY.

HIGH: NY is not the city it was in the 90’s. For the most part it is due to the neighborhoods becoming gentrified pushing out people who had lived there for generations in favor of people who transplanted to NY and could pay more. There was an anarchy back then that allowed you to roam the streets and go where you wanted. We went to clubs at 15, we could buy or steal liquor without an issue. Everything has been whitewashed now that while theoretically you are free to do what you want – but there is now nothing to do. The punk scene and clubs are dead, clubs are dead. The parks have curfews. The bars are filled with frat kids. NY is now a strip mall like the rest of America.

 

HST: Haha! The whole hipster influx has been insane right? It’s kind of like these dudes want a part of the street culture without ever earning their bones, right? It’s funny you mention watching movies how it’s supposed to be. Do you think Larry clarks film KIDS inspired youths to be more brutal?

MEL: You can’t make up being from the streets, its not a style or trend – it just is.  I am a big fan of people being themselves and embracing reality.  That whole scene in KIDS where they were in Washington Square calling that couple “fags” just for walking by was nonsense.  I think Larry would hear the guys call each other fag and misconstrued it into some sort of homophobia.  Or he thought it would add to the whole AIDS storyline.  It was just embarrassing to me because the the guys we rolled with were more intelligent and exposed than that.  They would never had done that to some randoms.  The other guy they beat up with skateboards might have happened.  But never a group beating, only a few step ins or back up if needed.  It probably did unfortunately inspire kids to be brutal, cause they thought it was real….once again coming back to these kids are re-enacting a movie – not reality.

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HST: How long has it been since “Kids” and what was the level of information/writing/process that you were involved in with the making of the film?

MEL: It’s been over 20 years, and I think the way the info/ writing evolved into Kids was from an observer and was a very imaginative process.  I won’t take away from what it is, but I will say this – it was not documentary but it was perceived as that.  Larry was a documentary photographer, and captured a very intimate portrait of his life with his friends, so when KIDS was directed by him – people just assumed the same.  He and Harmony did listen in, did paraphrase, ate our slang up like a dick etc. but the storyline was Hollywood bullshit designed to sell a film.

HIGH: 20 years I believe. We were not involved in the writing except to help harmony with the girl parts when he was writing them talking about sex. He needed a female perspective. Larry followed us around a bunch before the movie – which now we know was part of his information getting process.

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HST: Did you guys know at the time that you were doing something so ground breaking, something so sincerely beautiful?

MEL: I loved photography, and had a great high school teacher that would give me rolls of film for free as long as they came back the next day exposed.  Apparently he knew better than me.  High started shooting too, it was just fun.. there was no posing, so it was just us being ourselves.  Looking back at our film was so emotional because it was such a specific time in your life when you are becoming you – and it only happens once.

HIGH:  No. There were parts that were so untrue when we first saw it screened we felt a little betrayed.

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HST: So you’re not a massive fan of how the film ended up? As a film?

HIGH: I understand what Larry was trying to achieve but he had his vision of what it was that was not necessarily our personal reality so no I was not a fan.

MEL: Not particularly.  I had not watched KIDS since the premier over 20 years ago until about 2 years ago.  I appreciated it in a nostalgic way I could take away the realness of my friends, but as a film I think they were going for shock factor.

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HST: What was Larry Clark like?

MEL: He was a old weirdo that brought bags of weed to try and hang with us, he had a mission and we were just pawns. We would take the weed, roll a bulk of fatties and then jet on him. It was a big joke for the longest.   That’s probably the biggest reason a lot of the core characters in our crew were not in the movie, we were just weirded out by him  – in reality he was a 50+ rolling with a bunch of teenagers.

HIGH:  We were teenagers- he must have been in his 60’s at the time – it was very odd for him to be hanging out on my stoop or in my house with a bunch of kids. We knew through Justin he wanted to make a movie and for him we let him be there.  There was not much love by him for the females of the group which can be felt in the movie based on how they were portrayed.

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HST: So Larry was a bit of a chump? Is that a fair assumption of how the kids respected, or didn’t respect him?

HIGH: I can only speak for myself – he was a strange dude. But he had money and access to things we didn’t.

MEL: He wasn’t a chump, he was just trying to buy his way in.  It’s like giving a homeless on the street $5 so you can photograph him.  What was there to respect?  They knew he had $ and connections and maybe could hook them up in some way.  He rolled with dank, it was a helluva a lot better than the Jamaican dirt weed we were affording.

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HST: Did you guys ever meet Harmony Korine?

MEL: Harmony was cool, but he wasn’t part of our main crew – just came to Washington Square park and hung out.  I think he genuinely thought our energy as a group was interesting and dynamic and wanted to write about it.  He was so stoked on making films and was never a documentary filmmaker – he was a creator so he made the KIDS script eccentric because that’s who he was.

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HST: What is your option of the career Korine has carved himself since writing kids?

MEL: I think one of the toughest things about being an artist is peaking too early.  In all honesty, these amazing shots I took as a teenager, and have been trying to top it since.  I think for Harmony, he’s been trying to attain the same reception he got from KIDS, but once people expect something from you it is extremely difficult to move away from it.

HIGH: I think he has done what he wants and that’s fucking awesome

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HST: How close did the film “kids” reflect your lives?

MEL: Some, the scene, the settings, the deviants.  The hardest part for me was the female roles, and how herbed out he made them all.  These boys were portrayed as pussy obsessed psuedo – rapists.  Trust me, these guys were more interested in popping an ollie than a cherry.  Besides they stank because half of them had no place that they really lived.  High and I were homegirls, family – so there really wasn’t any characters written for us in KIDS.

HIGH: Certain aspects did. We stole forties, we got into fights, we used recreational drugs (but not fucking whippets) however we were a family. We all came from broken homes of some sort and we loved (still do) and took care of each other. The guys were not obsessed with fucking pre pubescent virgins (so gross- then and now). The love and family aspect we had for each other – how we all had each other’s backs day in and day out was not shown at all. Our reality was much more dire if you took into account what our family lives were and what we had stacked against ourselves going into the future.

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HST: In a vice interview you said that Clark never exposed the”true beauty of your world”. What was the true beauty of your world?

MEL:  I liken it to Island of the Misfit Toys – we were all broken, in different ways – and when we found each other we formed this bond, this trust, this knowing that we had each other’s backs – this was profound.  Most of us met at 14 or 15, and grew up together, hustled together to eat, drink and be merry – and we shared. I mean we literally fed each other.  We were poor kids, and everyone threw in whatever they could manufacture for the day to make a non-literal meal. That was why our energy was so powerful and quite frankly why people were attracted to us.

HIGH: Love

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HST: What are you working on right now? A compilation of the photos you have taken growing up, is that right?

MEL: We are working on publishing ” that’s a crazy one” which encompasses the early 90’s before KIDS was a thought and through it till everything started to falter.  Thousands of negatives.  It is a really intimate portrait and as a collective it is outstanding.

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HST: When you were taking these shots did you ever expect that they would be the counter front of a generation. Or was it more just point the camera and shoot the shit?

MEL: No never, it wasn’t like having a disposable and we got lucky.  We both loved photography and just happened to be living there – then.  It is almost weird to think that we imagined that we were so normal – that this is what kids did – yet everyone was so shocked…yet the kids now feel so aligned and simpatico to it.

HIGH: This was before cell phones and digital cameras. Mel started taking pictures and had access to a darkroom. I followed suit cause well our lives were a little crazy and why not shoot that shit.

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HST: Teen angst so often is rebellious just for the fuck of it. You and your crew transcended that somehow. What was different ()if anything) from your “family” and other hood rat dudes that roam the streets these days?

MEL:We weren’t being rebellious, we were distracting ourselves from our reality and creating a new one.  We weren’t angry, we were hungry.  I think skateboarding gave these guys a purpose beyond the hood, an escape by sport.  It was just a street sport, there was no money in it, they just loved it and they could roll away whenever.  Thats what sucks about it now, no passion – just paycheck.

 HIGH: Well the time and place helped- but what was different was that it wasn’t angst for angst sake. We all had situations that were difficult that we were trying to escape – and the beauty is we did it together as a family with an amazing amount of love that hasn’t changed 25 years later.

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HST: Skate or die, right?

MEL: Thats it.

HIGH: Def

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MEL: All proceeds from the book will be donated to NYC Public Schools Photo program.  BECAUSE so many people ride the gravy train of the magnificent spirits of our departed and we refuse.  We are paying it forward.  Say Word.

HST: Word as fuck dude.

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