Billed as a “journal of American fact”, CABLE showcases personal archives of rare and unpublished imagery from the past 50 years of black culture. “We’ve seen a suffocating consolidation of our collective approach to urban culture over the past several years,” says creative director Lee Harrison. “We wanted to introduce some documents – cables, as it were – to get some additional perspective, ideas and visual language out, especially to the youth.” The first edition (billed as #070413) includes Kanye on SNL, A$AP Rocky candids, Gil Scott-Heron’s memorial service programme and a host of unknown material presented on glossy A3, all sourced from personal archives. It’s a poignant and often hilarious read.
Take a look at this exclusive gallery of spreads from the first issue and read our exclusive interview with the creative team.
DD: Can you summarise the 'CABLE mission'?
Knox Robinson: In the digital age there's an illusion that everyone has access to everything, so we wanted to present a facts-only experience of information that existed primarily in hard copy in our personal archives but for whatever reason was outside the general cultural conversation.
Lee Harrison: By contextualising a wide range of imagery, artefacts and info together in this way, perhaps CABLE can be slightly disruptive to the narrow framing of black culture in popular media. Each edition is a 'cable' for the reader, for the youth especially, intended to be a jumping-off point for further searches and critical thought. And by producing a tangible document ourselves, we hope to be a link in a greater, fuller narrative that’s been being constructed by other publishers, writers, musicians, DJs, filmmakers, photographers etc for a very, very long time. The CABLE mission is also a New York one, as we want to represent a cultural understanding and speak for a hard-edged, no-nonsense aesthetic that’s been particular to our city since the 70s just as the creative voices here are increasingly homogenous and politely non-confrontational.
DD: How long has this first issue been in the making?
Lee Harrison: This is a real labour of love, so it was two years of linking between jobs to reduce down the 'what and why' of the original idea. Now that we know what CABLE is and isn’t we’re ready for the next one.
DD: The issue has such a distinct style. Did you have any publications you used as inspiration?
Adam Squires: Overall, I think we just wanted to keep things simple and let the images speak for themselves, not be too fussy about it. There’s no real specific references, but I really like the way Apartamento works with images.
DD: Why did you choose to open the mag with an Othello quote?
Knox Robinson: The quote speaks directly to our mission. 'Speak of me as I am' rings so true in a time when so many people are likely to speak about you or for you when they aren't you.
DD: Why did you choose to dedicate this first issue to Gil Scott-Heron and Adam Yauch?
Lee Harrison: They each passed during the making of this publication and their loss was felt very heavily. They were both iconic New York artists; very much a part of the soundtrack of living here. And their stories and recordings are deeply woven into the fabric of black American music; both were vital to the evolution of the modern art form of hip hop. They were rebels, evolved spiritual men and honest artists who understood the power of words. Two very unreasonable men.
“We have a responsibility not just to honour the artists or thinkers or revolutionaries that came before us but to keep their ideas and work alive in the present day” – Lee Harrison
DD: What's your favourite spread from the magazine, and which one has the most interesting backstory?
Lee Harrison: At the end of the memorial service for Gil Scott-Heron at Harlem’s Riverside Church, Kanye West performed 'Lost in the World' for a rather intimate gathering of family, friends and fans, like myself, that came to pay respects. And when the song concluded with Gil’s sampled voice at the end there was a powerful emotional release for everyone there. It was a heavy spiritual shared moment. We ended up scanning the programme from the service and printing it with some of Gil’s poetry as our tribute. Part of that experience spoke to me about the obligation we have to those that have brought some truth to our lives. As creatives especially, we have a responsibility not just to honour the artists or thinkers or revolutionaries that came before us but to keep their ideas and work alive in the present day.
Knox Robinson: My favourite is the spread of classic works from black American and African diaspora literature. These were being thrown out by a community centre in my town that had lost its long-term lease even as a quick eBay search showed that selling one or two of the books would've made several thousand dollars. It's not about the money, of course, but rather about the idea of value in our culture, when we see it and when we don't – and, of course, how easy it is for information, documents and records to simply disappear.
DD: What's next for Cable?
Lee Harrison: We’re going to bring the music in the issue to life with legendary DJs playing in gallery spaces and intimate settings. We had these beautiful metal plates still covered in the CMYK inks shipped from the printer with the idea for an installation of some kind. And one of our DJs is cutting together mixtape-style the video clips and archival film footage that informed the issue for a kind of pirate video projection, realising this idea of 'secret cable tv'. And we’re already curating a second edition.
For more information and to order a copy of the first issue visit Secret Cable.