Posted at 10:23 AM on August 23, 2006
by Euan Kerr
The "Sound Unseen" festival presents a wild little film tonight and tomorrow about an obsessive miscreant in LA, who has both changed the look of people's record collections and, to a certain extent, the art world.
"The Treasures of Long Gone John" starts with the man born as John Edward Mermis, who renamed himself as an act of rebellion. The film then spirals out through the weirdness of indie labels music industry and ends up waterskiing through the demons and mutants of the LA lowbrow art scene.
It's a fun ride.
Long Gone John started his label "Sympathy for the Record Industry" in the early 90's just to help a group he liked get a record out. Once he got on that train however he couldn't get off, and went on to release some 400 vinyl singles and a whole bunch of albums and CDs. He claims its about 750 in all. Many of the bands disappeared without trace, but "Sympathy" released the White Stripes first three albums, as well as early work by Courtney Love and Hole.
Along the way he began hanging out with the artists he hired to create the covers for his releases. By getting their work into the hands of music heads he launched a bunch of careers. Long Gone describes himself as an obsessive collector who has filled his house with thousands of weird objects he has gathered over the last four decades at swap meets and garage sales. So it comes as no surprise that he's now following his compulsive desire to collect stuff by buying and commissioning paintings from local artists such as Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr and the granddaddy of them all Robert Williams, painter and founder of Juxtapoz Magazine.
On top of that John then created a company called Necessaries Toy Foundation which creates high end action figures out of characters created by his artist friends.
You are not likely to learn a great deal from Gregg Gibbs film, but it is a visual treat, verging on overload. There is just a lot of bizarre stuff, created by folk who seem to be part of Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar's extended adopted family. Gibbs takes things to another level by animating many of the artist's pictures. Some painters might well object to such sacrilege, but here it's all part of the fun.
Gibbs uses the creation of a monstrous oil painting (both in size and subject) which Long Gone John commissioned from Todd Schorr as a frame work for the film. It's called "A Pirate's Treasure Dream" and it not only depicts Long Gone John and the world he seems to live in, it also gives an idea of the amount of work behind the creative process.
This movie is likely to mystify some, and delight others. I am in the latter group.
And I say this without any sarcasm...
Thanks for the flag on this Euan, it sounds like something I'd like.