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Victor Gastelum Weighs In On Morrissey

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 4, 2008 02:10am | Post a Comment

I wrote about Victor Gastelum several months back when I first starting writing for Amoeba.com. Victor’s iconic art has been used by Calexico, Culture Clash, Greg Ginn, just to name a few. Victor is currently showing in a group show called ALEX STEINWEISS: CREATOR OF THE ALBUM COVER at the Robert Berman Gallery in Santa Monica. Victor is one to show his appreciation for any artist that inspires him. I got him to share his thoughts on Morrissey, his Mexican following and Morrissey's supposed anti-immigrant remakes he made last November.


What makes you a fan of  Morrissey? How did you become one?

I started liking the Smith's right when they were breaking up.  I was starting to make my own art and I found Morrissey’s lyrics inspiring. Not that I wanted to draw what he was describing but that he was telling his own stories.  You got the feeling that he was talking about what he knew.  He along with other artists that I admire made me look at myself, and draw from what I knew about, what I had to offer.  The music was the first attraction to the band though.  I like pop music, especially with clever lyrics and hooks.  The band was tight and at the time there didn’t seem to be anything like them.


Why do you feel that Mexicanos identify with him?


For me I think it might have to do with his outsider, nerdy loser
image.  He made being square and dorky really cool.  He is into all these obscure English pop artists, television shows, and movies that he would make references to. I think it made you place a little more value to the things you liked that most people didn’t know about or thought were lame.  Also the Manchester bands seem to have this thing where they are all homeboys.  Not so much pride or shame, but just an acknowledgement of where they are from.  He put a lot reference to where he was from, places and buildings.  I like seeing that, (for instance) like when an artist is from San Pedro or Long Beach and they throw that influence into their work.


What do you think of the song "Bengali In Platforms"?

I don’t think that Morrissey is what I would consider racist.  Things are never black and white.  I think you dwell on things for years and gradually you realize where you stand on something.  I think that was his view on immigrants at that time.  I’ve had people from all races express this side of the issue before.  I grew up with many immigrants so I know the other side of the argument.  When he sings that “life is hard enough when you belong here”, he either has no idea or doesn’t care, that life is way fucking harder where he thinks they belong.  The whole thing of Bengali being in platforms I think is the immigrant experience of not knowing what’s hip, like the “wild and crazy guys” SNL sketch played by Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd in the 70’s. People are all flawed and I think Morrissey is showing that about himself in this song.  I’ve read that his parents were immigrants and I’ve seen this attitude before from descendants of immigrants.  There’s an expression that goes something along the lines of “The last ones to come
 through the door are the first ones who want to close it”.


Do you feel Morrissey is anti-immigrant or just nostalgic for how England used to be?

He’s definitely nostalgic about all kinds of shit.  I think his occasional monkeying around with nationalist imagery is kind of like when I use Cholo iconography.  I know about it and I like saying things with it. But at the same time I’m aware of the negative connotations that come with it.  I have friends that hate it and have commented about a specific image, “how about (making your art) less "cholo"?” To which I respond with, “I know what you mean, but NO.”  I don't think he is anti-immigrant, I think he is trying to be sympathetic.  He thinks that things would be better for them where they came from, but I think he is wrong.

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Morrissey (34), Victor Gastelum (3), Chicano (17)