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Christopher Shannon

The menswear designer on his obsession with cult musician Leslie Winer

Leslie Winer’s new album, ‘&c.’, brings together tracks from two decades of the cult musician’s work. This is an artist who all but disappeared from public view after her debut ‘WITCH’, surfacing years later for guest spots on Bomb The Bass and Mekon records (1995, 2000), putting out a tape, ‘& That Dead Horse’ in 2010 and EP in 2011 as Purity Supreme, with Christophe Van Huffel. Winer works creatively, away from the pressures of throwing out discs left right and centre to do what feels right – when it feels right. Over her career she’s collaborated with names such as Palais Schaumburg’s Holger Hiller, whilst her songs have been recorded by Sinead O’Connor, Boy George and Grace Jones. In the 80s, Winer reluctantly found herself a ‘punk model’, photographed by the likes of Mondino and Helmut Newton. She gained a fan in Helmut Lang, more of a renegade than any fashion designer of his time, releasing her album ‘Spider’ in “a very small way”. Christopher Shannon is such a fan of Winer that he harassed her record company until they sold him the last copy of ‘& That Dead Horse’. Here he tells us about his love for music’s quietest hurricane.

"I think I was ambling around the internet, when I first encountered Leslie Winer. I’d been watching Love Is The Devil and that great Arena documentary about Francis Bacon, I was trying to watch all of the early John Maybury videos. Leslie’s name came up a few times and I remembered I'd read somewhere Helen Terry mention her music. I stumbled across the video to ‘Dream 1’ which was just an image then later the video to ‘John Says’. Her website is more like an abstract journal and that also had a few tracks kind of hidden in it. It went on like this until I decided to buy a copy of ‘WITCH’ on import from France – once that arrived it didn’t stop getting played in the studio for the whole season.

After that I discovered ‘& That Dead Horse’ which was a limited edition cassette. It was sold out but I got in touch with the record company and moaned until they couldn't take it anymore and sold me their last copy. I really needed to hear something that would stop me feeling a bit jaded and that’s what it did for me, it reminded me that you have to make work for yourself, and that is about the process with yourself more than anything, building a brand or becoming a name isn’t really that important. I think Leslie has a real integrity that I hadn’t experinced in a long time. I’ve always been curious about all the great music and drawings and ideas that are out in the world that don’t get seen because the people who make them aren’t motivated by the current idea of success, they make work regardless of those things, straightforward creativity.

Even on first listen of ‘WITCH’ you realise how rare it is now to hear someone with a point of view. Also the use of sampling is really unique, I can’t think of anyone else who can use samples like that, they aren’t hidden but they just have a different quality.

Her new album, ‘&c.’ is a total joy to behold, I was so excited when I realised it was going to be a physical release too, I can’t remember the last time I was so excited about a CD. I love the art direction – the packaging and design looks incredible. I was so eager to hear it I think I received a copy before Leslie got hers. I was walking home with it on and ‘When I Was Walt Whitman’ came on, it sounded so good through my headphones I just kept walking around the house with my iPod on going about my business. The tweaks to these older tracks are great, and that’s hard when you love a song and might be aversed to it being tampered with. They're more like rethinks than remixes… kind of like cooking and tasting as you go, rather than aiming for the big, flashy Gordon Ramsay finish."

Leslie Winer portrait by Sebastien Chou