PEOPLE DOING THINGS WEARING BROOKLYN TAILORS #1: David Matthew King

WELCOME TO EDITION ONE OF OUR NEW EDITORIAL SERIES, "PEOPLE DOING THINGS WEARING BROOKLYN TAILORS." THIS SERIES WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR US TO CONNECT WITH OUR FRIENDS and NEIGHBORS, AND PEOPLE WHO INTEREST AND INSPIRE US. WE'LL TALK ABOUT THEM, WHAT THEY DO, AND IF WE HAVE TIME, MAYBE A LITTLE BIT ABOUT BROOKLYN TAILORS AND HOW OUR CLOTHES FIT INTO THEIR EVERYDAY LIVES.

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HEY EVERYONE, DANIEL HERE. SO, TODAY I'M HANGING OUT WITH ONE OF MY BEST AND OLDEST FRIENDS, DAVID MATTHEW KING. DAVE AND I MET IN SANTA BARBARA, BACK IN 2001, WHEN I TRIED OUT TO PLAY GUITAR IN HIS NEW BAND THAT HE WAS FRONTING. WHILE THAT BAND IS LONG-SINCE DONE WITH (ALONG WITH PLENTY OF OTHER GROUPS WE'D LATER FORM TOGETHER), I'M GLAD THE TRY-OUT WENT WELL BECAUSE IT WAS THE START OF A LONG FRIENDSHIP.  

COMING BACK FROM LONDON, WHERE HE WAS ATTENDING THE OPENING FOR HIS SOLO SHOW AT THE DOT PROJECT GALLERY, DAVE CRASHED WITH US IN BROOKLYN FOR A FEW DAYS BEFORE HEADING BACK TO CALIFORNIA. It was the PERFECT CHANCE TO SIT DOWN WITH HIM AND TALK ABOUT HIS ART, HIS FIRST BROOKLYN TAILORS SUIT, AND SOME OTHER ODDS AND ENDS.

DANIEL LEWIS:  SO, DAVE.

DAVID MATTHEW KING:  HEY DAN.

DL: WHEN I MET YOU, I WAS AN ARTIST MAKING PAINTINGS, AND YOU WERE A MUSICIAN. NOW, 15 YEARS LATER, YOU'RE AN ARTIST MAKING PAINTINGS, AND I'M A CLOTHING DESIGNER. WEIRD, HUH?

DMK:  I BELIEVE IT WAS A FAMOUS QUOTE THAT SAID, “LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF CHOCOLATES.”

DL: HA, SO TRUE. MUSIC WAS WHAT INITIALLY BROUGHT US TOGETHER AND WHAT WE BONDED OVER. PLAYING IN A BAND TOGETHER, IT WASN'T ONLY ABOUT MAKING MUSIC, IT WAS ALSO SO MUCH ABOUT HOW YOU PRESENTED YOURSELF TO THE WORLD AND HAVING A COHESIVE AESTHETIC AS A GROUP. I THINK THAT BAND WE WERE IN TOGETHER WAS THE FIRST TIME I WORE A TAILORED JACKET, SHIRT AND TIE BECAUSE I WANTED TO, AND BECAUSE I THOUGHT IT LOOKED COOL, RATHER THAN BECAUSE I HAD TO FOR A WEDDING OR FUNERAL. WHO DO YOU REMEMBER BEING SOME OF THE PEOPLE WE LOOKED TO BACK THEN THAT INSPIRED US TO WEAR SUITS?

DMK: I WAS STILL WORKING IN THE RECORD SHOP BACK THEN, AND EVERYDAY I’D COME IN AND SEE THESE ALBUM COVERS AND MUSIC MAGAZINE PHOTOS. THE INTERNET WASN’T WHAT IT IS NOW AND THERE WAS NO SOCIAL MEDIA. PHOTOS OF 1977 UK PUNKS IN RIPPED UP SUITS WEREN’T AS UBIQUITOUS AS THEY ARE NOW, BUT I USED TO STUDY THOSE PHOTOS AND THINK, “I WANT MY BAND TO SOUND LIKE THESE PHOTOS LOOK.” THE CLASH WAS DEFINITELY AMONG THE FIRST. JOE JACKSON. ONE DAY I TOOK HOME A VHS OF ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE ATTRACTIONS MUSIC VIDEOS. I WATCHED IT, WENT DIRECTLY TO THE THRIFT STORE, AND CAME INTO WORK WEARING A BLAZER AND SKINNY TIE. THE BLAZER WAS LIKE An XXL YOUTH SIZE BECAUSE GROWN-UP SIZES FIT ME LIKE A GARBAGE BAG. I RECALL WE WORE WOMEN’S SIZES AND BLOUSES INSIDE-OUT AND SPRAY-PAINTED AND ALL KINDS OF STUFF. IT WAS A GREAT TIME. WE COULD REALLY TAKE CHANCES. THERE WAS NO STORE THAT SOLD CLOTHES THAT HELPED US LOOK LIKE OUR HEROES. WE HAD TO DO IT OURSELVES. I THINK WE BOTH LEARNED A LOT ABOUT WHO WE ARE THROUGH THAT PROCESS.

DL:  HOW WAS YOUR SHOW ON LONDON?  ANY GOOD STORIES OR OBSERVATIONS?

DMK:   SOME VERY GOOD STORIES, SOME VERY GOOD OBSERVATIONS. AT THE MOMENT, THOUGH, I THINK I’M STILL PROCESSING THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE. IT WAS MY FIRST SHOW AND I FEEL IT MAY BE TOO EARLY TO TELL WHETHER SOME EXPERIENCES WERE GOOD OR BAD. I LEARNED AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT ABOUT THE ART WORLD AND ABOUT MYSELF AND ABOUT MY PLACE IN IT. CONSTANTLY TRYING TO MOVE FORWARD AND NOT GET STUCK IN A SINGLE MOMENT THE WAY I DID SO OFTEN WHEN PLAYING MUSIC. I WILL SAY THAT THE IMPROMPTU MEET-UP WITH YOU AND BRENNA IN PORTUGAL RIGHT AFTER THE SHOW WAS A TRUE DELIGHT. I HAD AN ACTUAL PROFESSIONAL CAREER THIS TIME LAST YEAR--ONE THAT WOULDN’T HAVE ACCOMMODATED SUCH A TRIP. SO ALL OF THIS HAS REALLY BEEN A GENUINE THRILL.

DL: ITS BEEN GREAT HAVING YOU STAY WITH US FOR A BIT, ESPECIALLY SINCE YOU'VE BEEN REALLY PRODUCTIVE IN THE PAINTING DEPARTMENT AND IT’S A PLEASURE TO BE LIVING AMONG YOUR LATEST CANVASES, ALBEIT TEMPORARILY. HAS OUR PLACE BEEN A GOOD STUDIO-AWAY-FROM-HOME? AND, HOW DOES YOUR WORKING ENVIRONMENT SEEM TO AFFECT YOUR WORK? I HEARD YOU MADE A SERIES OF PAINTINGS WHILE YOU WERE IN LONDON. BEFORE THAT, YOU WERE WORKING IN YOUR HOMETOWN OF SANTA BARBARA. AND NOW, HERE IN BROOKLYN.

DMK: MY PAINTINGS ARE REALLY JUST HOW I FEEL, SO IT’S HARD TO SAY HOW MUCH THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT INFLUENCES THE WORK. I THINK THE FACT THAT PEOPLE OPEN THEIR HOMES TO ME AND SUPPORT THIS LIFESTYLE AND ENDEAVOR PLAYS AS MUCH A ROLE BECAUSE IT’S A GOOD FEELING TO HAVE PEOPLE BEHIND YOU WHO BELIEVE IN YOU AND EXPRESS THAT WITH MORE THAN JUST WORDS. SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE THE PAINTINGS ARE JUST THANK YOUS TO THOSE PEOPLE. OF COURSE, BEING ABLE TO SPREAD OUT IS NICE. THAT WAS A PRIVILEGE OF WORKING IN YOUR APARTMENT AS IT IS IN CALIFORNIA. BUT THE RESULTING IMAGE ON THE CANVAS COMES FROM THE PARTY IN MY HEAD, SO YOU WON’T SEE YOUR GUITARS OR PLANTS OR BOOKSHELF IN THE PAINTINGS. YOU MIGHT SEE SOME WARM REDS AND BLUES GETTING AWFULLY CLOSE. THAT’S A LANGUAGE TOO, FOR ME, AS MUCH AS ANY OTHER RECOGNIZABLE FIGURE.

DL: OKAY, NOW FOR THE QUESTION THAT ALL ARTISTS HATE TO BE ASKED: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK? 

DMK:   I WROTE A SONG YEARS AGO THAT HAD THE LINE, “IT’S GONNA TAKE MORE THAN A CRANE TO LIFT MY HEAVY, HEAVY SOUL.” THE LINE WAS MEANT TO BE TONGUE-IN-CHEEK, BUT I HEARD IT RECENTLY AND REALIZED THAT’S MAYBE THE BEST DESCRIPTION.

DL:  GOT IT.  OR DO I?  WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS FOR YOU? THE PLANNING (IF THERE IS ANY), THE EXECUTION, OR THE COMPLETION OF SOMETHING?

DK: I THINK THE BEST PART IS BEING SURPRISED BY WHAT HAPPENS. HOPEFULLY IT’S SURPRISING IN THE “I WANT TO SHARE THIS WITH THE WORLD” KIND OF WAY RATHER THAN THE “OH, NOW I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO” KIND OF WAY. HARD TO SAY, THOUGH. WHEN SOMEONE SAYS THEY LOVE IT AND ASKS HOW I DID IT AND THE ONLY ANSWER I CAN GIVE IS “I DON’T KNOW,” MAYBE THAT’S THE BEST PART OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS FOR THE NEXT PIECE.

DL:  ANOTHER QUESTION ARTISTS HATE TO BE ASKED: WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR IN YOUR WORK? IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WANT US TO BE GETTING OUT OF IT OR SENSING OR FEELING? I THINK THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME WITH ARTWORK THAT IS COMPLETELY ABSTRACT OR NON-REPRESENTATIONAL, BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT SURE HOW THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO EXPERIENCE IT OR WHAT THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO LOOK FOR IN IT.

DMK: YEAH, IT’S REALLY A DIFFICULT QUESTION. SOMETIMES PAINTINGS ARE LIKE A WINDOW--YOU CAN EITHER STARE AT THE GLASS OR LOOK THROUGH IT. I’M NOT TEACHING ANYMORE SO I’M TRYING TO NOT INSTRUCT PEOPLE HOW TO READ THIS OR THAT, BUT I CAN SAY THAT ANYTHING THAT SEEMS DELIBERATE WAS ACCIDENTAL, AND ANYTHING YOU SEE WAS UNINTENTIONAL, BUT DELIBERATELY SO, AND IF YOU’RE CONFUSED BY ALL THIS DOUBLESPEAK THEN WE’RE ON THE SAME PAGE. MAYBE DON’T TRY TO UNDERSTAND THEM WITH INTELLECT, BUT RATHER WITH THE PART OF YOU THAT TAKES PLEASURE IN BEING INDOORS WHEN IT’S WINDY OUTSIDE.

DL: "UNINTENTIONAL, BUT DELIBERATELY SO" IS A VERY ILLUSTRATIVE STATEMENT I THINK, NOT ONLY ABOUT YOUR WORK BUT IN GENERAL, THE IMPORTANCE OF ALLOWING THINGS TO HAPPEN ORGANICALLY, WITHOUT ABSOLUTE CONTROL, IN ANY CREATIVE PROCESS.  DELIBERATELY ALLOWING THINGS THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT TO HAPPEN TO HAPPEN, AND THEN READJUSTING AS THEY HAPPEN, EDITING, TAKING ONE STEP BACK AND ANOTHER STEP TO THE SIDE.  ANYWAYS WE COULD GO ON ALL DAY.

I CAN'T QUITE REMEMBER, BUT YOU QUITE POSSIBLY MAY HAVE BEEN BROOKLYN TAILORS’ VERY FIRST PAYING CUSTOMER. THE FIRST SUIT I MADE FOR YOU DIDN'T EVEN HAVE A BRAND LABEL IN IT--IT WAS EFFECTIVELY "PRE-BROOKLYN TAILORS." A PROTOTYPE, I GUESS.

DMK: I WORE THE HELL OUT OF THAT SUIT. I STILL HAVE IT. WORE IT TO A GREAT FRIEND’S WEDDING MANY YEARS AGO, NOW IT HAS A BUZZCOCKS “LOVE BITES” PIN THROUGH THE LAPEL. WORE THAT JACKET ON MY FIRST DAY OF TEACHING AND WHEN OUR POP GIRLS ETC. BAND PLAYED THE VH-1 SAVE THE MUSIC BENEFIT AT THE OLD CBGBS. IT’S FUNNY HOW CLOTHING CAN LINK TOGETHER THESE MONUMENTAL MOMENTS IN OUR LIVES.

DL: YOU'VE PICKED UP BROOKLYN TAILORS PIECES OVER THE YEARS SINCE THAT FIRST SUIT. IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR PIECE THAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE?

DMK: FOR ME, CLOTHING HAS BOTH A SYMBOLIC AND UTILITARIAN FUNCTION. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT AESTHETICS. THAT SAID, THE SYMBOLIC AND UTILITARIAN FUNCTIONS CAN BE HEIGHTENED I THINK IF YOU FEEL CONFIDENT IN THE APPEARANCE OF WHAT YOU’RE WEARING THE SAME WAY A GUITAR ALMOST SOUNDS BETTER AND YOU ALMOST PLAY IT BETTER IF IT LOOKS COOL. I HAD A HEAVY, ALMOST CORDUROY NAVY DRESS SHIRT THAT I WORE EVERY DAY DURING MY FINAL SEMESTER OF TEACHING. I KEPT IT IN MY OFFICE AND PUT IT OVER WHATEVER T-SHIRT I HAD ON. IT WAS A STATEMENT, LIKE, “I HAVE X AMOUNT OF DAYS TO MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND X AMOUNT OF CONCEPTS. THERE’S WORK TO BE DONE, THIS IS MY UNIFORM, IT’S OK THAT WE DON’T WORRY ABOUT OUTFITS TODAY BECAUSE THERE’S OTHER SHIT THAT REQUIRES OUR ATTENTION AT THE MOMENT.” IN THE RECORDING STUDIO ONE-DAY STEVE [GRYWALSKI] WAS DIALING IN A COMPRESSOR. I ASKED IF HE’D HAVE TO ADJUST IT THROUGHOUT THE SESSION AND HE GOES, “NAH, SET IT AND FORGET IT.” THAT’S HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE BROOKLYN TAILORS STUFF. PUT IT ON AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT. I CAN FOCUS ON WHAT’S NEXT.

DL: HOW OFTEN DO YOU PUT ON A SUIT AND TIE THESE DAYS?

DMK: WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS, MY MAN. BUT SOMETIMES I’LL THROW ON A SUIT AND TIE JUST TO TAKE A LOOK THROUGH AN ART BOOK FOR REAL.

  

PHOTOGRAPHY:  Daniel Lewis & Brenna Lewis
ITEMS PICTURED:
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON DAVID MATTHEW KING'S WORK:
July 19, 2018 by Daniel Lewis
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