Culture Talk – Travis Keller of ‘American Primitive’ and ‘Buddyhead’

Travis Keller (pictured above in a photo by Ollie Promblemas) is an American creative director, writer, publisher, record label executive, manager, skateboarder and all round artistic whirlwhind. Travis got his initial start in the art game as a photographer and skateboard video maker in his teens. Skills which took him to LA in the mid 1990s were he promptly founded cult culture website ‘Buddyhead’ with his best-friend-at-the-time, Mr. Aaron North.

Through ‘Buddyhead’, as well as his personable nature, friendship with ‘The Icarus Line’, writing, and photography skills; Travis spent the late 1990’s and 2000s immersed in the global music scene – running the ‘Buddyhead’ website, releasing records through ‘Buddyhead’, being a journalist, accompanying bands such as ‘Nine Inch Nails’, ‘Ink and Dagger’, and the aforementioned ‘Icarus Line’ on tour, hanging out with ‘At the Drive In’, getting wasted with ‘Oasis’, collaborating with Raymond Pettibon, and living life as a general cultural roustabout.

Through it all Travis has remained committed to art above all else.

Travis’ latest project is ‘American Primitive’ – an art crew that so far consists of Travis as creative director, as well as musician / producer / engineer Joe Cardamone, and filmmaker Jacob Mendel. Importantly, through Joe, ‘American Primitive’ have direct access to top of the line recording / performance facility ‘Valley Recording Company’, located in Bourbank, California.

A combination of people, skills, and equipment that allows ‘American Primitive’ to do pretty much anything art wise: shoot video, record music, edit, host concerts, plan events, and engage in the usual marketing, sales and hustling.

So far ‘American Primitive’ have released records, merchandise, videos, ephemera and more. With notable releases being Joe Cardamone’s post Icarus Line solo work ‘Holy War’, collaborations with Annie Hardy, releasing Italian musician Nero Kane‘s debut LP, as well as LA electronic goth group Hide‘s ‘Castration Anxiety’ LP, The Great Sadness‘s 2017 LP ‘Weep’, and Travis’ ‘Past Lives’ photography book.

(American Primitive logo, below)

Taking it back to the beginning, Travis centres the ‘why’ of his artistic drive and culture hustling skills with an origin tale baked in American small-town desolation and DIY ethics:

My first art, like on my own will….  outside of school, was at 13 years old – living in Northern Idaho – and making skateboard videos of my friends and I. The local cable company in my hometown had a non-linear Super VHS editing system that people could use for public access. I taught myself. They would play them on the local cable access channel and we sold a couple thousand copies outta my parents garage for $7 a copy.

Oh and the why? Out Of sheer boredom, ever been to Northern Idaho? It’s a cultural void. Which I think, at least for me, made me create my own world and survive it. Until I could move to Los Angeles. So… outta boredom, survival and it was fun.

So with Travis having recently launched his debut photography book ‘Past Lives’, and ‘American Primitive’ on the boil big time – now is the perfect time to get to know Travis, and ‘American Primitive’ by reading the Culture Talk below…

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Culture Talk – Doug aka ‘Dougo’ aka ‘Iron Fist Doug’ of the Cave Clan

Draining aka The-Art-of-Exploring-Stormwater-Drains is a unique Australian past time – made possible due to the fact that unlike most countries in the world, Australia separates its fresh-water drains from its sewerage. This means the adventurous can explore the drains of Australia without worrying about walking through the usual human excrement found in most drains. You may instead, however, have to contend with eels, spiders, birds, bats and the occasional drain-dwelling vagrant.

Whilst humans have been exploring the drains of Australia ever since they were first created, there is one group that turned an erstwhile hobby into a vibrant culture – that group is the Cave Clan. Founded on January 26th 1986 by three young gentlemen by the names of Dougo, Sloth and Woody.

Soon after their founding, The Cave Clan promptly began activities that would come to define the group, win it many fans, media exposure, and the occasional blood enemy. Activities such as holding drain based concerts and parties, hosting large multi-people exploring sessions, spreading their pro-drain exploring propaganda around public places, tricking the Australian media into covering a fake story about gangs of deviant-social-security-receiving-drain-dwelling-menaces, publishing zines, creating art, and engaging in general larrikinism.

Whilst Sloth and Woody have stayed virtually anonymous – ole Dougo quickly positioned himself as a major scene builder and spokesman for the Cave Clan, a position he still holds today; even if he has stepped back a bit lately due to family commitments.

Listing his pivotal life moments, Dougo mentions a childhood filled with dream-time escapes to dark subterranean hidden worlds, the death of his father when Doug was only 7, and the relaxed attitude of his mother when it came to Doug’s childhood exploring.

Commenting on the beginnings of the Cave Clan, Dougo states:

Google will tell you that the Cave Clan was started on Australia Day, 1986 although co-founder Woody was a socialist so we called it Invasion Day. I had been trying to start a group that explores mines, caves and drains for a couple of years with no luck.

It wasn’t until I’d finished school and I decided to catch up with Woody. ‘Want to go up the darkies?’ I asked, referring to the small pipe that ran under Northcote Tech.

Woody got his torch and a marker AND his brother Sloth. ‘This is my brother Sloth’ and off we went.

The idea of the Clan was always to form a social circle of people that had one main thing in common – exploring the underground. I had always thought that with more members we would also gain local knowledge (hey, there was no Google in 1986).

(Some recent Cave Clan propaganda below)

With Dougo having stepped back from front-line service in the Cave Clan, but importantly still actively exploring and creating – now is the perfect time to get to know the history of the Cave Clan, and gain some insights into one of the men behind the most unique Australian sub-cultures ever, by reading the Culture Talk below…

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Culture Talk – Richard Masters aka Richard Wolstencroft

Richard Wolstencroft aka Richard Masters is an Australian director, nightclub owner, writer and general provocateur. In his mid twenties during the 1990’s Richard gained Nationwide fame as a result of establishing the ‘Hellfire Club’ – The first S+M / kink based club in Australia, which Richard ran from 1993 to 2003. Originally beginning in Melbourne, and later expanding into other territories such as Sydney.

Importantly, with ‘Hellfire’ Richard not only championed outsider sexuality and fashion, but also music – with musicians as diverse as Ollie Olsen, Andrew Till and David Thrussell regularly DJing their experimental electronica at the night.

(Richard and friend photographed back in the ‘Hellfire Club’ days)

Whilst gaining fame, fortune and infamy with the ‘Hellfire Club’, Richard also found himself establishing the ‘Melbourne Underground Film Festival’ aka ‘MUFF’ in the year 2000. This was established – like ‘Hellfire’ – out of Richard’s sheer will, desire and need.

In this instance as a result of one of Richard’s own films not being selected for the more mainstream ‘Melbourne International Film Festival’. Instead of complaining and wallowing, he started his own competing festival to champion underground and emerging film of all type – gaining international recognition for himself and many of the directors and creatives involved in the festival over the years since.

Indeed, Richard is so committed to artistic freedom that he is willing to put his own safety and freedom on the line – which he did in 2010 by screening the banned in Australia film ‘LA Zombie’ from infamous American director Bruce La Bruce. An act which resulted in his very home being raided by police.

And as Richard has been at the forefront of Culture creation, he has also been making movies himself since his teen-age years. Most notably ‘Pearls Before Swine’ (1999), ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ (2008) and the documentary ‘The Last Days of of Joe Blow’ (2012).

However, Richard’s lifetime of personal creation and support for the arts was recently challenged when he made an objectively shocking, scientifically wrong and simply hurtful Facebook comment on the eve of the successful Gay Marriage campaign in Australia late last year. As a result of his comments, Richard became a pariah – seized upon by the social-media-outrage-mob-mentality. He was attacked – both verbally and psychically. A series of events which culminated with Richard publicly resigning from his role at ‘MUFF’ and making a very sincere and open apology.

Richard was seemingly another tragic case of a man’s worth being judged on a single instance of public discourse, as opposed to a lifetime of action.

BUT Richard, like the zombies in the aforementioned Bruce La Bruce film, just can’t be stopped – as he admits in his Culture Talk below, he has re-taken the reigns of ‘MUFF’ and has many other projects on the boil.

Read all about them and much more, below…

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