Guest Playlist + Interview: Alex James of PLEASURES
When LA-based label PLEASURES launched in 2015 with a controversial t-shirt and cap combination referencing two infamous musicians, media speculated as to whether it was an opportunistic stunt or the arrival of a new streetwear provocateur. In 6 years, founders Alex James and Vlad Elkin have definitely proven that it was the latter. In that time, music has remained integral to the PLEASURES camp, even if it’s hard to tell sometimes whether their references are irony-laced jabs or evidence of deep reverence. But that’s part of the fun. With his label’s holiday collection dropping shortly, Alex James made a playlist for Double Double and spoke to us about his personal music history, educating the next generation, and future PLEASURES musical projects.
What were you up to around the time you made this playlist? Were there any particular inspirations behind it?
I was on a train from Naples to Bologna. This was my first time in either city; I was taking it all in. I curated the songs to help you feel like you’re somewhere else when you listen in.
Though pleasures builds a lot on the history of punk and hardcore, it’s interesting that a number of your biggest supporters—particularly when the label was in its early stages—have come from the hip-hop/rap world. What do you make of that?
Hip hop is punk rock. The crossover is real. A word of advice: if you only like one type of music, please broaden your horizons and stop being one-dimensional.
You grew up very much embedded in the Tri-State area punk and hardcore scenes of the early 2000s, right? What was the relationship between hardcore and hip-hop at that time?
We grew up going to shows that blended punks, hardcore kids, and hip hop heads together. NJ/NYC always brought this energy.
Aside from a Pixies live cut, Bowery Electric’s ‘Without Stopping,’ and The Sea and Cake’s ‘Bird and Flag’, the vast majority of these tracks are very recent. What does your engagement with local music scenes in your current home of LA look like?
Music has become a digital discovery but still has that word of mouth element. I participate in a few music share networks and I always learn about someone new each week. When you hear something unique and fresh, you want to tell a friend.
What does it mean to you to see the adoption of Pleasures by young people involved across a wide range of musical and other subcultures?
I always intended the brand to be an educational platform. Everyone was put on by someone; we want to put on the next generation and teach them about music, art, fashion, & subculture.
I recently started going to shows again. Went to Kamasi Washington and Earl Sweatshirt; that was really something special. It reminded me how much I love live music.
The list of past Pleasures collaborative collections with music groups—the most recent of which was with Factory Records and New Order—shows no particular boundaries regarding genre. How, in general, do these collaborations come about? Are they artists you seek out because you think they fit well with the Pleasures philosophy and aesthetic, or are you the ones receiving requests for collaborations?
Collaboration is a two-way street. We only work with people we genuinely listen to. Nothing ever feels forced; it always happens in an organic way.
Obviously, the influence of music on Pleasures is far from restricted to these collaborative capsules; every collection features myriad references to music, from the playful to iconoclastic. Could you tell us a bit about how different musical references make their way into Pleasures collections?
It’s really based on the current season of life that we’re in. In the summer, we listen to more happy stuff, then at other times, it’s Radiohead for a week straight. Reference is based on feeling.
You’ve mentioned before that with the Pleasures label, you don’t by any means feel constricted to clothing. Are there any formative experiences to which you credit this sense of limitlessness?
We just have the outlook that our design can reach beyond the body. We are working on some really special projects for 22/23. Stay tuned!!
Do you have ideas for how you might want to expand your work with music beyond collaborative apparel collections?
We are working on our first instrument. I will say that it’s a three-way project between an artist and his label, a musical instrument company, & PLEASURES. Very cool stuff.
The vast majority of Pleasures musical collaborations are with established, if not iconic, musicians. Most of the music on this playlist, however, is from smaller, independent artists; what do you see in the future for Pleasures in terms of the label’s relationship to independent music and musicians?
We are expanding more into putting on shows and highlighting local artists in various cities across the globe. We did a show with Viagra Boys, Panama Blue, & Gum at the end of 2019 in London. It was such an epic night. We have to have fun around the world and present the best music for everyone to enjoy.
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