To put it simply, Erik Brunetti is the Black Sabbath of streetwear. Having created his Fuct clothing line in the early nineties, Brunetti immediately changed the paradigm, or should I say, he created a completely new one. Fuct took the corporate iconography of the time, and twisted it into a subversive message that is more relevant today than ever. Having been a fan of his work for years, I decided to chat with this underground american icon in these most dire times, to see just how fucked we really are.
HAMMER SMASHED JAZZ: I did some research, and I still see no story about the name Fuct. It's so fucking perfect. Do you remember when and how the name came to you? Was it Fuct all along or did you kick around any other names?
ERIK BRUNETTI: It was meant to look alluring, offensive, and corporate all at the same time, to fool people into thinking it was pronounced a different way, I wanted it's presence to be and become very ambiguous. I did not think of other names prior, I thought of FUCT immediately- it was a creation of a new word at the time.
HSJ: So once you're set to go with Fuct, how did you originally go about getting the shirts out there? Before the internet blew up, I had a friend who followed the Dead around and he'd bring back stuff like Fuct and Seedless and trade/sell the shirts for nugs or pipes or whatever. I really miss that shit, as it added a real aura of mystery to the product, like it had a life of its own before I got it. But back on point, did you have some guerrilla operation to get the shirts out there, or did you just head to the shops and see if they'd take em?
EB: I worked very close with James Jebbia and his shop in NYC called "UNION". James brought FUCT into UNION and it branched out from there. I believe the mystery of the product is the simple fact that it cannot be pinned down to a certain or particular genre. Yes, it certainly has a life of it's own, the social climate predict the look of the product and vice versa.
HSJ: T-shirts with subversive messages go back before you, but until then it was more home-brew type of shit. What made you think you could found a company on it? Or did you care about success at all?
EB: FUCT was never meant to last very long, I never thought it would last more than a year, given alot of the earlier graphics were based on extreme nihilism; We honestly did not care what people thought, I still have the same aesthetic today. When I started, I was very aware of the subversive messages on garments/ and art in the past. (i.e. 1970's) However, FUCT was the first company to market it to a larger market across the board, yet still remain grass roots to this very day.
HSJ: I find "streetwear" to be a complete joke nowadays, and really can't find anything "street" about it at all. What was the tipping point? When did it become so palatable and safe? Also, is there any designers out there who give you any hope, or give you that feeling of true grittiness?
EB: I believe most brands (currently) actually care about what the consumer thinks of them, what the banker who gives the line of credit will think of them, and so on. They have infiltrated it for profit by any means. When FUCT started, we were more-less skateboard culture, the term "streetwear" did not exist- It became palatable and safe the moment rappers and celebrities decided they wanted to "buy street credibility", instead of earning it. Combine that with the current "sneaker guy -toy collector" craze and presto!...you have "safe." That was the tipping point. Fashion statements are disposable; Art of all types, including music is disposable; it all changes every 6 months, it's a reset button to re-invent yourself, and your offensive behaviour from prior seasons and projects. I have stopped doing FUCT in the past when I become disillusioned; I will probably stop again.There are no designers that give me hope- Honestly, I never followed what other designers are doing. I have no interest in androgynous males dressing like women. The entire industry is boring and piled to the ceiling with scum bags. I have met more honest people in the drug trade.
HSJ: I already know your feelings on Sheperd Fairey, but beyond the issues of appropriation and plagiarism, how scary and/or disappointing is it to see so many kids that THINK they are changing shit by SUPPORTING the US government and president? Not just in streetwear, but in punk/metal music as well, it was sooo fucking disheartening for me to see the whole "fuck the system" message turned on it's ear and perverted. Also, is this a battle you'd like to fight, or are they all a lost cause at this point?
EB: It's flashy and edgy to talk about politics, but 90% of these people don't really know what is going on in the world today. They are still buying the "Terrorist" scam perpetuated by the Bush administration. The child killing politicians are revered as heroes, and everyone accepts it, in fact we pay for it. We pay them to kill children, via our tax dollars. Concentration camps still exist today- the largest camp being the Gaza Strip, exterminating women and children in vast numbers for years- denying them basic human rights. Meanwhile, America's news feeds lies to the world. The entire western world believes the tasty dessert that is fed to them via the western media, informing them that Arabs are evil and so forth.
AIPAC is pushing for war with Iran- which sadly, would result in WW3. They pushed and lobbied for war with Iraq. I advise people to do their research, and see what is taking place on the planet as a whole. It's frightening. That being said, making pretty silk screened posters will not "change" a thing. All this political poster art bullshit is for self gain and adoration. If you want to make change start a real revolution, sell drugs, learn to heal yourself off the land, never be afraid to speak the truth. We have a war going on right now (Iraq- Afghanistan) and 80% of the public do not know why? That war will have a lasting effect on the chain of life, on our children's physic as well. Art should not be safe any longer- it should be used as a platform. I work without a safety net. My art comes in many forms. Images, music, drawings, painting, film, walking, running, breathing, fucking. I am my art.
HSJ: I know you got burned out on the whole streetwear scene and bailed for a few years, but I have to say that your shit you've done since the break has been leagues beyond in my opinion. I know your legacy was pretty much established by then,but did you ever say to yourself " I'm gonna come back and light these fuckers up"?
EB: I feel a certain duty to keep what I created pure in the worlds eyes. My mind is my weapon, my words and knowledge are my ammunition.
HSJ: Its not a new theme to Fuct by any means, but you've now taken the late-sixties Nam Biker Street Fighting Man aesthetic to the nth degree. Is it a product of the (war) times we live in, or is it just more where your (design) head is at right now?
EB: It's what I have always been into- The situationist Ideal. I feel it is even more appropriate today, given the fact that Afghanistan is our new Vietnam. It's "Vietnow, Afghanistan Next ". In the 60's the media focused their attention on "Commies" now it's the "Terrorist". Both are clever tag lines made up by the government to perpetuate war. Outlaw culture represents pure freedom. It's a natural progression of the times. I have chosen my side years ago, and I am comfortable with it.
HSJ: I'm pretty sure you're more a fan of music from the sixties and seventies correct? So what do you find to be worthwhile nowadays? Have you followed the explosion of doom or black metal at all?
EB: Yes, I dig all types of music, primarly early 60's to late 70's.
I believe Doom and Black metal is the only true DIY left. Punk Rock is no longer rebellious, it has become package and safe for MTV. It has no message to offer anymore. I feel black metal and doom have a clear message as to what they want. I do not condone destroying or vandalizing anyone's place of worship or ceremony, however I understand that particular subculture's wanting to destroy Christianity when it is being forced upon people of nordic culture; whom were raised to worship Norse gods. I feel some of the bands want to believe they are more evil then they actually are. I respect the fact that they will not accept colonization of their land and true culture. I admire black metal and doom bands that will stand up against their government to save nature. Nature is our friend. Drugs are our friends.
As for bands I dig, some are new, some are old- WITTR , Boris, Possessed, Darkthrone, Burzum, SUNNO))), Sleep, OM, The Grails, Electric Wizard, The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Sacrilege U.K. (Early Sabbath era) Iron Claw, Peace Pipe, Ice Cross, Budgie, Jerusalem, Zepplin, Witch...and so on. You get the picture.
HSJ: It's almost 2010. Be honest, just how fuct are we?
EB:Read the predictions of Albert Pike.