by Shawn Vinson
DIFFERENT TRAINS GALLERY Director/Partner
Chris Pig: If, since your move to the states, do you feel neither fish nor fowl, neither truly English any more, or integrated into American life?
Kosmo Vinyl: Since moving to the U.S. full-on in the mid 1980s, I have very much enjoyed a sort of "no man's land" status, but having said that I feel very much integrated into New York life. I don't really consider New York a part of the USA , but a nation unto itself and capital of the world. I also think that London is detached from the UK in a similar way, but it is not the capital of the world. However, since the election of Donald Trump, I feel that it is time to become part of the bigger picture of where I have lived most of my life and so I plan to take up U.S. citizenship - for me it's time to sign up and stand up.
CP: Do you think your accent carries with it a certain cachet that it wouldn't have in the UK?
KV: My accent definitely carries a 'cachet' and always has since I first visited the U.S. with Ian Dury in 1978. That cachet is that I am clearly English, not that I am from working class London stock - most Americans just hear "Englishman" not even "Londoner" - it seems to make me exotic. What amuses me most is hardly any one in New York believes I've lived there for over 30 years and no one in London believes I don’t still live there. "Live in New York ? Pull the other one mate".
CP: Can you draw?
KV: Right now I cannot draw, although I'm pretty good at hand lettering. I've never really attempted to learn and my experience at school was I did not try and I was not encouraged to. Drawing was looked upon as a gift - you either had it or you don't. Now I look upon it as craft that could be learned, that doesn't mean anyone can be Michelangelo, but everyone can draw something if they tried hard enough.
CP: What do you feel about the changing paradigm in politics, getting further and further away from a political standpoint we once understood, ie. anti-Thatcher et al?
KV: Didn't know what paradigm means so just looked it up, still not sure I get it. Over here we have a fascist or at least fascist sympathiser for President and he has many supporters. We are not where we thought we are. Millions of people are racist, millions are misogynist and policemen shoot and kill young black men on a regular basis. Those of us who are against this have got to find a way to band together and get these people out of power. To me, Trump's America is much more dangerous than Thatcher's Britain and as far as I can tell the repercussions of her reign are still being played out now. Is that an answer ?
CP: Where are your politics in relation to Joe Strummer's?
KV: The last time I heard Joe speak in person on politics was in Prague in the early 90's, he told a journalist there that he no longer saw himself as a radical but that he certainly leaned to the left. He was certainly aware that he had become accustomed to a lifestyle that was "comfortable" even if he was far from living large - he always had a few quid in his pocket, bills paid, regular holiday etc. I'm not that comfortable, without my wife's job and it's health insurance I would not be able to pursue Art as I am right now. I think of myself as a socialist that would rather everyone did well, rather than a few do fantastic. When I grew up in the 1960s people could get by in London, they didn't all have much but they nearly all had enough to get by and the ones that worked or hustled harder had a bit more.
CP: Where do you think you’ll be, and how will you be living in old age?
KV: I'd like to be an artist and I would like to live in the apartment we have now in Manhattan, but it's a 3 flight walk up, hopefully the legs will hold up. In the winter months maybe we could swap/exchange it for some place warmer.
CP: What frightens you most?
KV: Politically the amount of people who let Donald Trump say and get away with what he's doing right now frightens me. Personally, cynicism frightens me. I think I would be over if I became cynical, the same way I thought I would be dead if I got into hard drugs when I was younger.
CP: What is the most exciting thing you ever did?
KV: I tried to answer this at my Artist's Talk at Different Trains , so I'm going to let Shawn repeat whatever it is I said. But before he does let me tell you that Stanley Kubrick said the only thing worse than being misquoted was when they put down exactly what you said - for then everyone can see what an idiot you are!
SV: This was a difficult one for Kosmo to answer, which is not surprising when you consider that his music career started at Stiff Records in the 70s, he worked with Ian Dury & the Blockheads, he worked with The Clash, he turned down the Rolling Stones, and he's had Martin Scorsese's mom's home cooking. I can't recall his entire answer, but “a night on the town with Christopher Walken” was on his short list! Not too shabby.
CP: What is your greatest achievement?
KV: My greatest achievement is being the father of my two sons: Jack Atticus, age 26 and a Public (i.e. state) School Teacher in Brooklyn and Charlie Paris, age 21, who is in his last year at Hunter College NYC and works 3 days a week in Urban Planning.
CP: Whom do you love? (actual relationships that is).
KV: My wife Jennifer who is a writer (Jennifer Houlton) who also holds down a steady job. We have been married 27 years and I cannot imagine life without her.
CP: How do you see yourself in relation to other artists?
KV: I'd like to see myself as a welcome addition to the world's other artists, but welcome or not, I'm in. I've had an interesting life and I think I have a valid perspective on the world we live and have lived in. Provided my art says something about my life, my world or my observations I think I am worthy of the title 'artist;. Also, they need a couple more snappy dressers in their ranks.
Kosmo Vinyl's Cisco Kid vs Donald Trump exhibition continues through March 3, 2018. Gallery hours are Thursday - Saturday: 11 am - 5 pm + by appointment anytime.
Life is Art.