Ausgang interview By Skylaire
Alfvegren, june 10, 2008
Skylaire Alfvegren: Okay…so, why cats?
Mr. Ausgang: Well, I don’t really know exactly, I don’t really know why cats; it’s one of the most momentous decisions I’ve ever made and I made it off the cuff, ya know?
S: But you’ve really stuck with it over the years… I mean, I know that’s not all you paint…
A: I started getting known for painting generic animal cartoon characters that were mimicking human behavior and people kept wanting the paintings with cats in them, so I was sort of financially forced into doing more of them.
S: Have you ever gotten any requests? Portraits?
A: Yeah, but I won’t do those. There’s people who do that and even people who actually airbrush their cats to look like dolphins or dogs!
S: What if it’s a cat that’s taken a lot of acid?
A: (laughs) You mean I’m supposed to do a portrait of one that’s done a lot of acid?
S: Yeah, like it was in its water… I'm just kidding.
A: I went to a shrink for a while, and one of the questions he asked was “Why cats?” And I couldn’t answer it, so he began asking questions about my mom. They always start with your mother, right? And I said, well, my mom was Nordic. Dutch. And she believed in the power of the fist, and survival of the fittest and all that. And we’d get these cats--they’d come to our door--and my mom would feed them, and at the same time she’d be planning to take 'em to the vet to have them put down.
S: That’s … kind of sick!
A: Well, she was doing the best that she could. She thought she was doing them a favor.
S: Prolonging their stay of execution.
A: Yeah, I don’t know exactly what… but the shrink said, well, maybe you’re trying to give all these cats that your mother put to sleep, maybe you’re trying to give them a life. So… I thought that’s a good reason. Then again, one art dealer said that I paint cats because I like pussy!, Even so, they do seem to echo the human figure better than any other animal.
S: What about the meerkat?
A: The meerkat, yeah; just another Dutch cat.
S: So… Mick Taylor, and Rolling Stones live bootleg albums. Did your love of the Rolling Stones precede your painting career?
A: Well, not really, no. I always liked alternative stuff, so I thought the Rolling Stones were bullshit, because they were successful, therefore there had to be something wrong with them. (laughs) And I always liked something that was just weirder than that, you know? Like some off band like Silverhead. Weird cut-out bin bands. But once I found out about Mick Taylor, I got interested in him, because his story is like a Greek tragedy.
S: I don’t know the story.
A: Well, he became the lead guitarist for the Stones after Brian Jones died, so he was with the Stones for what were probably--what I think--were their best years from 1969 to '75.
A: And then he left the band.
S: Of his own volition?
A: Of his own volition. So it’s almost a Greek tragedy that this guy had it all, and then through a misinformed decision of his own, he left the biggest act in show business and now he’s nothing.
S: Does he still play at all?
A: He still plays mostly Guitar hero-type blues concerts in northern Europe.
S: That’s really sad. I wonder what prompted his decision…
A: Drugs, just drugged out. Heroin. They were all heroin and coke freaks.
S: Do you find that painting to different music affects your output?
A: Oh, yeah, definitely.
S: Do you ever paint to aggressive music, for instance?
A: Yeah, sure.
S: What do you tend to get out of that?
A: It just keeps me amped up and painting fast. But other times I listen to ambient music, or just dub. And that’s a whole different thing. I paint slower and I’m more relaxed.
S: More fluid…
A: Yeah. When I put on something that’s gnarly, like gangster rap, or hip hop, I tend to paint faster and frantically.
S: What would you say are your five top albums right now that you paint to or just listen to?
A: Well, I like the Chemical Brothers “Surrender” since it reminds me of some great X experiences I had while it was playing; the music just brings it all back.
S: “The Private Psychedelic Reel”…
A: Yeah. Yeah, they’re great, they’re really fun.
S: I saw ‘em in NY with Thirlwell And I saw 'em on acid like ten years ago, Glenn Danzig was there, and he’s shorter than I am, with the giant blonde Amazon. And I saw Glenn Danzig's face turning into a kaleidoscope, you know…
A: That’s a nice vision! But usually I listen to online stations.
There are stations that have, like, ten hour play lists, and the songs are
all mixed together, so it’s basically one long track. It’s
the same thing that I like about the live Stones bootlegs: it’s a live
concert and there’s no space between the songs, and in fact, the recording
becomes one big fucking song, that’s just an hour and a half long. And
some of these online stations that I listen to go for ten hours and there’s
never any gap except the station I.D. I like that because it puts me
in a weird space where, at least when I’m listening to the mixes, time
is passing, but without any markers.
S: Right. All of a sudden an hour’s gone by. I like that, that’s a good one. Well, time is all existing at once, like, once William Burroughs was asked what he thought happened after we die, and he answered, ‘how do we know we’re not dead already?’ Like, who defines reality, and maybe we’re just the dream of some sick god, or something.
A: Yeah, right?
S: What’s new that you’re listening to?
A: Well, one thing that I do like, one of the reasons I like listening to the Stones bootlegs, is that there is this moment in time, that’s been recorded. Like a show in Australia, in 1973, and all of a sudden, you have this section of time; an event. So it’s kind of like taking this hour and a half from the seventies, and bringing it up to the new Millennium, and being able to listen to it. So I like that; it’s a Post Modern parlor trick, you know?
S: Exit Stage Left, over and over and over…
A: But it’s also… I get a familiarity with it. Completely, like I know every scream, I can hear the chick, now the chick’s gonna yell…
S: And you can picture her…
A: Yeah, yeah.
S: Also, too, there’s usually a lot more energy to live albums than studio albums because they’re usually more spontaneous, you get that energy of the show, in addition to the music… that may be enough. Do you want to throw out any particular album titles? I have to admit, what you said about the Stones being too popular, I totally understand, I totally thought of the Doors like that, I still haven’t heard a Doors album in its entirety… Hey, what were you on when you painted this?
S: (The painting) It’s all unifying, and like, one of those Chinese finger torture devices.
A: Well, the process of sitting and painting is tortuous, really.
S: Is it?
A: Yeah. Because I have to sit in one spot for ten hours a day, and for months on end. And it gets really… freaky.
S: Do you find yourself getting into funny head spaces?
A: Oh, Yeah. Really weird. They’re times when I go web surfing porno, just to totally get my mind onto something else completely. When I’m lookin' at a bunch of naked chicks, or something I'm not thinking about the painting, obviously! So it goes for a while and then I get bored, or I go, this is too fuckin’ weird, I shouldn’t be doing this… so I go back to the painting.
S: Any particular weird fetish that gets you back in the right space to paint? This is my personal curiosity; it’s off the record.
A: Ahhh… no.
S: No bukaki for you?
A: No. (laughs) Some things can’t be spoken!
S: Right. Are there any bands you enjoy listening to besides the Rolling Stones, or things that you can listen to on a regular basis, pull out, music that you know is going to put you in that place, where you can keep on working?
A: I’m a rotten consumer because I don’t buy CDs or pay for downloads. I use a program called Audio Hijack to download streaming audio from internet stations.
A: So I just record stuff off the Internet since the choices are infinite. For example, there’s all kinds of Dub now, its become a worldwide genre; I check in to a station called "Ethnotechno," which plays, say, mixes of Asian Techno and Spanish Dub; its really fuckin' freaky shit that I seldom hear out in the so called real world.
S: That’s fun stuff.
A: But you know, what happens is that I record an one hour-long chunk of the dub station, and then I’ll listen to it, like, fucking six times in a row! And it gets to a point where I no longer hear it, you know? In a way, because I've heard it so many times, it just kind of disappears, but at the same time, it's there filing up the audio space in the studio.
S: Kind of echoing out from inside your head?
A: Yeah! Exactly.
S: That’s a fun place to be… (referring to the painting) Is that a phallic symbol?
A: Yeah, that’s the male and that’s the female. People say, ‘are you gonna tie the knot?’ Get married? So I decided to research all these different weird kinds of knots. And the ultimate knot is this one, it’s called the Monkey’s Fist.
S: That’s crazy. Does it have any practical application? It looks like those Chinese decorations with the red knots that hang down…
A: The practical applications are for tying a knot at the end of a rope that
will not, under any circumstances unravel.
S: Do you know the artist that did that hour-long bit that you like? Basically, you just put it on as a little backdrop, maybe. So, if you want to throw out any names of artists, I dunno, it’d be cool, if you can think of anybody else… or records.
A: That mix includes Jah Seal, Zomby, Jah Batta & Bullwackies All Stars, Ustad Sultan Khan & Sunidhi Ch, DJ DimmSummer, Duel, Kid Gusto, Sanchez Dub and Phat Boy Singh. But what’s funny is the whole relationship between music and work. I talked to one friend about it and he asked me if I listen to music when I paint so I said, yeah, I listen to all kinds of music. Well, he lust rolled his eyes, “Oh, boy…” This guy can only paint in complete silence. Because he really does feel, that music has a big influence on what gets painted; just what you were asking about earlier.
S: So he wants to be untainted?
A: Yeah, so the artistic process will be untainted by outside influence.
S: That’s funny. It’s funny how you said that painting
is really tortuous… This guy asked this writer, if he enjoys writing,
and he said he enjoys having written. It’s kind of similar, perhaps.
A: That’s nice!
S: So, how many paintings do you do a year? Do you do commissions
A: No, not anymore. At this point I would rather have less money in the bank account and less hassles; there’s always some fuckin’ hassle that comes up with commissions. See, people will lay out what they want from a painting but then somewhere between their expression about they want and the delivery of the goods, something else has gotten in their heads, and they want it in there. So it’s much easier for me to do the paintings the way I want and then sell them to people who like them as they are.
S: How many would you say you paint a year?
A: It depends, I’d say at least 25 or 30.
S: Wow, that’s great. (I answer phone; turn off recorder. Obviously I ask about Ausgang’s artistic inspirations…)
A: You know the whole history of art provides different motivations for me. There are certain artists, like German expressionists, with whom I have nothing in common, technically, but I love what they did because they were completely free. So what I try to do is emulate the freedom that they had. But I want to evidence it in a more precise way.
S: Do you ever sit and wonder, gee, I wonder what he was listening to when he painted that? Wagner…
A: (Laughs-sort of) Yeah, Wagner.
S: “The Ring Cycle,” over and over and over. 90 days and I wonder what’d be produced!
A: I love listening to music while I paint because otherwise the silence can lead to mental claustrophobia. Restricting the audio environment while staring at the painting is like the video feedback you get if you point a camera at the monitor, Don Bolles loves that shit. I feel that some monster is gonna appear if I don’t have something else going on in the studio besides my staring at a painting for hours on end. Music and Painting have completely different ways to get into your mind so, after a while, its kind of nice having information coming in from here (points to ear).
S: Right. Unless you’re a victim of synestesia.
A: Then you… taste it.
S: Keith Richards tastes like Freon.