Label founder Jean Baptiste Guillot pays homage to old school Hells Angels aesthetics through his 12Mail expo, featuring a few controversial themes
Jean Baptiste Guillot is the founder of cult rock label Born Bad Records, famous for its bold productions of synth punk, garage rock and punk rock. 12Mail gallery, a space that encourages intersections with other creative fields, such as their recent show of outrageous Vava Dudu, has given carte blanche to Guillot. The producer has chosen to present an homage to the book ‘Le Cuir et le Baston’ by Maurice Lemoine (‘leather and punch-up’), about the French Hells Angels in the 60s and 70s, who the author befriended, followed and analyzed. Dazed Digital met up with Jean-Baptiste in Paris hours before the show and talked teenage boys, rebellion and leather.
Dazed Digital: Why was the book interesting to you?
Jean Baptiste Guillot: It is by Maurice Lemoine, who is a sociologist, and later went on to become the editor in chief of Le Monde Diplomatique. It’s funny to see how he got immersed in this world, but looks at it in an anthropological manner. He knows these guys are too much, but is almost touched by them because there is something slightly pathetic about them: sure, they’re dickheads but if you look more closely at the pictures, you see that the jackets are home-made and the swastikas are drawn with coloured pencils.
DD: Talking of swastikas – weren’t you worried about showing Nazi symbols in an exhibition?
Jean Baptiste Guillot: There is only one photo where you clearly see a swastika, and yes, it was a fight to show it.
But I did it because I felt it was important to their culture: it was the provocative aspect they liked. At the time, Nazi folklore terrified people. But most French Hells Angels were in fact North African, and it was a way a denying where their origins.
DD: These photos could well be a contemporary fashion shoot...
Jean Baptiste Guillot: I know, rock 'n' roll is chic, it’s ultra-glamorous these days, a million designers put leather jackets on the catwalks. But we are light-years away from the fashion pages in Jalouse, where the model poses with an electric guitar. You know what - these leather jackets have nails punched into them? It’s not for the look, it’s because of you fall on your motorbike, you slide on the nails, and it cushions the fall. These guys had actually made lifestyle choices, decided to live alternatively. It wasn’t about making money, it was just a refusal to fit into society, which is something extremely rare today. They constructed their tribe on a mode of exclusion, of saying, 'this is you, and this is us, telling you to fuck off'.
DD: You’re no Hells Angels, what abut them appealed to you?
Jean Baptiste Guillot: Today, I definitely don’t aspire to be a Hells Angels. But growing up, as a boy and teenager, it was a fascinating imagery. The first time I watched The Wild One with Marlon Brando was a life defining moment. I thought, that’s what I want to be, a decadent urban cavalier. It’s the myth of the beautiful loser – because these guys are ridiculous and terrifying at the same time.
DD: And do they still exist today?
Jean Baptiste Guillot: No, not like that. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of them; they have an entire tower to themselves in the States and 50 lawyers working for them. So selling coke, putting girls on the street and rob people is over. They ride in motorbikes that are 25 000 Euros, miles away from the shitty chopper customized in your back yard.
BORN BAD RECORDS "Désordres"
From 11/17/2010 to 01/14/2011
12MAIL : 12 rue du Mail 75002 Paris.