O – So it wasn’t your plan to conquer the New York party scene.
MA – No, I was studying psychology and architectural engineering! But one of my roommates was dating Keith Haring, and at the time Keith wasn’t huge, but he was becoming a star in the art world, and because of that he was invited to all these parties at Area, which was the big club back then. So we would go with Keith, and we met Andy Warhol, and Grace Jones, and all of these other people in that little clique.
O – It must bewildering to look back and realize you were in the presence of these people.
MA – Right, and Keith would come over to our apartment, and he painted the refrigerator, and the toilet, and the wall—the entire apartment was painted with these squiggly bouncing boom boxes, and the radiant babies and everything. He was just coming up at the time, and was still thought of as just sort of a graffiti artist, not very fabulous. We thought it was cool and everything, but I remember times when we thought the room was just too busy, we had to paint over some of that trash! And then look what happened.
O – That’s hilarious. So what led to you becoming so prominent in the party scene, was it your charisma, your hard work?
MA – I think it was my German Protestant work ethic. Coming from the Midwest, you’re taught there’s no sloughing off, there’s no being lazy, you have to work work work work work, and make sure everything is done perfectly, and do it enthusiastically. Also, feeling like an outcast in high school made me boost the wattage of my personality, in order to make friends. The combination of those two things.
O – It’s interesting, because the public perception of the club scene is the “play hard,” not necessarily the “work hard.” But those who are making a lifestyle and career out of it are putting in a hell of a lot of work.
MA – I think so, and it was difficult for me to understand this in the beginning, but it takes a lot of work to make something look spontaneous. I learned that all these things that seem spontaneous are actually planned behind the scenes to look like they just happened.
O – As you embark on a new phase of your life, what are you doing for work? What serves as your office?
MA – Well especially in New York City, it’s possible to have your office anywhere. And there’s a saying that if you love what you do that you’ll become very successful, and that’s another New York thing. In the Midwest, people never associate work with enjoyment, it’s always something you dread going to. I was so enthusiastic about my job that it didn’t seem like work at all to me, whereas when I was in school, learning theology, studying for an English test, that was work. That’s why I had to drop out, because I didn’t enjoy that kind of work. Right now, I’m throwing ten thousand different projects at the wall to see which ones stick. I have a single that came out last week, and another coming out in a month. I’m working on Aligula, my autobiography. Me and my roommate Ernie Glam are working on a webcast called the Pee-Ew, sort of a satire on The View and all those shows, it’s a short form talk show where we discuss daily happenings and celebrity gossip and what’s going on in our lives. Then I’m painting, I’m looking for a gallery to have my first art exhibit. What else am I working on? Oh, a line of clothing, Lunatic Fringe, featuring designs from me and three artist friends–Ernie Glam, Andrew Barret Cox and Flloyyd.
O – All creative pursuits, then.
MA – All creative pursuits, yeah. Also I’m running my Facebook page, Vining—all of which takes up so much time, I don’t understand how people have the time to do these things these days. It is a full-time job! And we have something called Alig Mart, where we’re selling lithographs, wristbands, keychains, magnets, paintings, T-shirts, and oh my god, I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.
O – It can really be a lucrative and successful career to manage a personal brand online now. The Internet has changed so much during your time in prison.
MA – I know, the Internet changed everything. But all roads lead back to Andy Warhol. In the early ‘90s we took what he was doing and magnified it a little bit. There’s an NYU and Columbia professor, Victor Corona, he does an entire course on fabulosity, and the lineage between Warhol, who discussed branding oneself, and turning the unlikeliest people into superstars, to the Club Kids, to Lady Gaga, who took things even further. It all goes back to Andy, to one person. He said everybody can be famous for fifteen minutes, but now it’s looking like fifteen seconds!
O – The Internet has also allowed so many so-called “outsiders” to band together, and not be a minority anymore.
MA – Right, the minority has now become the majority. What’s even more interesting though, is that when we were kids, we thought we were trying to subvert the establishment, but you can’t do that, because once you become large enough, you become the establishment, you are no longer cool. It’s a big mind-fuck. The establishment is like the Borg, it assimilates anything that is trying to be used to subvert it.
O – You see it happen with so many artists and musicians, they start out with something great, and as soon as it gets popular it rots.
MA – It’s so hard to walk that line, you have to be cool enough that you are edgy, but not so cool that you offend and shock everybody, and scare them away. Which was always my problem, I never could straddle that line. Whenever I found that balance I had to go one step further, because I couldn’t stand not shocking and offending everybody, so I would have to go one step further and ruin everything. It’s self-sabotaging, but in a way to save yourself from becoming a sellout.