The Last Interview with Jason Mclean

June 28, 2015

I met Jason Mclean at the Kellogg’s Diner in Williamsburg. The last time I was there you had to walk through a convenience store to get into the restaurant. They got rid of the bodega and redid the outside but thankfully it’s still the same crappy diner experience inside. I grew up going to greasy spoons that were rough around the edges with chain-smoking waitresses and bottomless cups of coffee. Most importantly, one could loiter at these places for hours – a perfect place for drawing and talking. Jason was already there when I arrived. He had a lime green rolley suitcase full of CDs. I sat down and turned on the recorder.

Sto – What are you gonna get?

Jason – Something healthy…umm, tuna club? Black and Bleu Burger?
where’s the salads? where do you get a salad in this town?

S – Its a burger town. No, wait, there’s a whole salad section…the Greek, the Ceaser..

J – My stomach doesn’t take the onions very well….i’ll get the tuna melt.

waiter – What kind of bread? white, rye, whole wheat…

J – Rye would be great.

waiter – American cheese?

J – ummm, cheddar?

waiter – cheddar cheese. you want the deluxe with french fries?

J– Ummm, no, no…I’m on a diet.

S – you can have some of my fries. I’ll get the portobello burger.

– it has no meat, just mushroom, a vegetarian dish.

S – yep, that’s great.

waiter – You want the deluxe?

S – oh yeah. And a chocolate shake.

Waiter – Any drink for you?

J – Umm, I’ll have the peppermint tea.

“Untitled (mad)”, collage and drawing on paper, 2015

s – What’s up old man. How old are you?

J – It’s calming. Its good for an interview.

S – Are you nervous?

J – Nooooo. So, I been hocking CDs all day.

S – How much money did you make?

J – 10 bucks.

S – 10 dollars!?

J – 5 dollars and a Cometbus.

S – Oh, well that’s pretty good.

J – My hands are really dirty.

S – Here squirt some lemon on them, they’ll feel clean and refreshed.

J – Really?

S – Yeah. Its a wonderful natural cleanser, feels good on the skin.

J – I’ll put it all over my skin.

S – Yes! I squirt it all over my body.

J – I had to wear a hat today because I put coconut oil on my head.

S – ohhhh haha

(Jason takes off his Vancouver Grizzles hat)

S – It looks…well, healthy and really greasy.

J– I feel kinda like the Fonz, eh?

S – How much did you pay for it?

J – Umm, my mom gave me some. and I bought some from an expensive health food store in Carroll Gardens. The guy there is really great and he was telling me that older Indian women put it in their hair. Yea you know, when my dad’s health was really bad, when he had first got diagnosed with colon cancer, my hair started getting really dry and seemed like it was falling out because of stress but the coconut oil really helped and now its growing too much! I’m going to become like an ape man.

S – Yeah just rub it all over your body and you wont need clothes again.

J – The tea kind of smells like weed.

S – I saw you wink at the waiter when you ordered, you know that means you want the “special” tea, right?

J – Oh no.

S – I’ll have to interview stoned Jason now…

J – Nooo! I can’t even do yerba mate, it makes me feel like I’m levitating off the ground. No I don’t like to be stoned…

Jason in his studio, Brooklyn, NY

The cole slaw arrives with pickles and the shake.

S – Intense shake.

J Good pickles in NYC, eh? They take their pickles seriously here.

S – Pickles, bagels, pizza…

J – Bagels? Yeah I guess so…

S – Come on we got the best bagels in the world.

J – You can get a good bagel in Montreal.

S – Really? But its different, right?

J – They been making bagels for a long time. They have funny little ovens.

S – Still haven’t been to Montreal, I really gotta go,

J – There’s supposed to be a good place there called Bethlehem XXX, its a theme restaurant and every night is a different dish. I’ve never been to but I heard its the highlight of people’s trips. If you go, a good place to stay is above Casa Del Popolo, its like 40 bucks a night. They have a kitchen downstairs and you get free entry into the club. Felix and I stayed there.

Soft Circle, 44″ x 32″, ink and acrylic paint on paper, 2014

S – Do you know Chloe Lum and Yannick from Seripop?

J – Oh yeah, I met them at the Emergency Room in Vancouver.

S – the ER?

J – No its a noise club. I did a mural at there, it was a pretty wild club. It was an old fish-packing plant and it got so rough around there they had to shut it down. They got their door ripped off and they had to sleep inside it on Christmas Eve and guard the gear. Yeah you always had to walk through addicts and prostitutes to get there. It was right near my house.

S – When was that?

J – Probably about 8 years ago. The Mutators and the Shearing Pinx would play there. Bands from the Smell would come up and play there. When Felix was teething I went to see a lot of noise music, it was very therapeutic. Nu Sensae, Twin Crystals, White Lung… I was kinda like the old guy in the room, they had a really young crowd. I did an art show there though, it was like my farewell to Vancouver show with a fellow grant that I got. The kids all played basketball in the gallery and I had breakfast cereal and there was a little stage with a fake TV so the kids could pretend they were on TV. I had a lot of treats.

S – So how long did you live there?

J – I lived in Vancouver for almost 20 years, I grew up in London Ontario and lived there until i was like 21, then moved to vancouver in 90, 91…right when grunge hit Seattle.

Spoiler Man, 8″ x 10″, letterpress print, marker, 2015

S – Yeah Vancouver is really close to Seattle, did you see all of those bands?

J – Oh yeah. I saw Nirvana with Mudhoney and Screaming Trees at the Commodore, I liked Mudhoney better though. Supposedly early parts of grunge was started in Vancouver, like Green River was really influenced by the fashion of Slow, who was on Nettwerk Records, the same label as Skinny Puppy at the time. In BC, there were also the bands D.O.A and No Means No influencing the counter culture.

S – Oh man, I bet you got to see D.O.A a lot!

J – No! I never saw them, but I’d see Joey Shithead hanging around… I also would see that guy from SNFU, he used to work at this punk club on main st. I never really knew him though. I used to work up at Discorder Magazine/CITR where Nardwuar worked, where he still works..

S – You worked with Nardwuar!?

J – Yeah, I got to know him a bit. He used to come to my art shows.

S – How different was the Nardwuar you worked with and the Nardwuar radio host?

J – He was a pretty quiet guy. I was on his show a couple times with Robert Dayton. We got to talk about July Fourth Toilet. That was a while back…

S – I can hardly imagine how funny you three hanging out would be…

J – We would take the bus up there from art school. One bus ride Robert popped chocolate espresso beans to the interview and got so wound up. Also around that time Robert was a guest on David Wisdom’s CBC show. He was with Julian Lawrence, and talked about hurting himself on his bike seat, it was really funny. David used to play with the Uj3rk5 along with Rodney Graham and Jeff Wall, an important early punk band from Vancouver, they used to play out with the Pointed Sticks. they were pretty influenced by talking heads and devo…a photo-conceptual band.

Jason at his show at Cinders, 2015

J – One of the guys from Black Flag was living in Vancouver…

S – Ron Reyes! Yeah i hear he’s a born again Christian now…how’s that tuna melt?

J – Its good. you know, Warhol liked Tuna Melts..I’ve always had this fascination to live in Pittsburgh, its so cheap, like 30,000 for a house.

S – yeah I know and everytime I’ve been I had a good time.

J – I haven’t been since 94’. I took a Greyhound bus across the country from Vancouver to New York to see the Oldenberg retrospective and then stopped in Pittsburgh to see the Warhol Museum and Carnegie International, and the Mattress Factory

S – Oh man I love the Mattress Factory, I saw Yayoi Kusama’s work for the first time there, such a good space…

J – We should move to Pittsburgh!

SJacob Ciocci lived there for awhile.

J – Yeah i know, I think he owns a house there.

S – We should move into Jacob’s house…

J – We could just ask to stay for a couple days and then never leave.

S – I think he’s moving to Ohio anyways. He got a teaching gig…

J – Oh whoa, what a teacher.

S – Can you imagine Jacob as your teacher? that would rule.

Lettuce Legs Exhibition, Cinders Hausclub, 2015

J – I went to a golf tournament in Ohio, in Toledo, it was sponsored by Big Boy’s. I got a lot of golf autographs…on golf cards.

S – So the autograph thing is not new? (ed. note- Jason has hundreds of Pezs autographed by famous people and his 2 kids started a museum for them) this is has been a long-standing problem?

J – No, its not new. Its gone through phases..

S – Do you feel like you are at your peak?

J – Its gotten to be the biggest problem I’ve had in awhile. I got some the other night.

S – Who did you get?

JGenesis P-Orridge, performance artist Michael Mahalchick – he knew a lot of people I knew from Canada. We kept talking and I think the gallery people wanted to throw us out. Then I went to Brian Belott’s drawing party.

S – How was that?

J – It was fun. I got pretty lost trying to find it. I had a chance to chat with Adam Green for awhile, I like his artwork a lot.

S – He’s making a live-action film version of Aladdin, did he tell you about it? I saw pics of the set and it looked pretty amazing and lo-fi.

J – I like his soft sculpture a lot and his cut outs. i was telling him about Fat Feet.

S – What’s that?

J – This Red Grooms film he did with this lady, maybe his wife? Amy Lockhart recorded it for me years ago form some place in Calgary. It’s not on You Tube or anything, its giant cut outs of shoes and people, firemen and buildings on fire, its all stop motion. I got it on VHS. He’s still alive, eh?

S – Yeah I know! He was a big inspiration on my paper mache sculptures.How old is he now?

J – I dunno, gotta be in his 80s. Have you seen his book of Ruckus Manhattan? Its got a soft sculpture of the statue of liberty on the cover. And it’s got the subway people.
I first learned about his stuff through my art teacher in high school…
Have you ever heard about the Pez Outlaw? He collects cereal boxes and I’ve been thinking of having a sideline interest in collecting cereal boxes. I’ve been reading about the history a lot recently. oh do you know about the Kellogg’s Family? They were really messed up. I think in Michigan there was a psychiatric hospital that was across the street from the main Kellogg’s factory and they used to give people at the hospital Kellogg’s breakfast cereal because the owner of Kelloggs’ brother was a doctor at the hospital. And the brother used to do lectures that were like anti-masturbation and he was like really religious.

S – It’s fitting that we are talking about this here…but shhh, don’t say anything too loud! Its a powerful family. They have ears everywhere.

Little G, collage, 2015

J – There was this movie called King of the Hill I saw recently all about the racial tension in the major leagues, it was really good. The clothes from the 70s were so wild. Its a good film. Not like the TV show but I did hear an interview with one of the writers for the King of the Hill show on Marc Maron’s show and it was right before he died of cancer..

S – It must be crazy to interview someone right before they die, like “the LAST interview.”

J – ha yeah you say that as we do my interview..are you gonna off me or something??!

S – I’ll have the LAST recording of you…haha. I’ll push you in front of a bus after this..

J – and I’ll still be alive but I won’t be able to speak anymore.

S – yeah you’ll be the only one who knows the truth but meanwhile i’ll become your caretaker and control your estate, hahaha.

Jason Mclean is a Canadian artist currently living in Brooklyn. Looking at the prolific body of Jason’s work is to enter the artist’s mind. His paintings, drawings and collages are road maps to his life and surroundings, full of subtle messages and clues to find the various pirate treasures of our daily existence. Be it on huge pieces of paper, napkins, little bits of trash, or a smart car, Jason’s subconscious spills out through his hands on whatever is in front of him.

See some of Jason’s available work HERE