By his own admission, Mr. McInnes is an asshole and ostracizes himself from everyone he meets. Partly this is by design, to create a character; partly this is because he really is an asshole. Brandchannel tracked Gavin down to see what he had to say about brand building.
He did not disappoint. And while the language might not be entirely work-safe, be sure to stick around for the end.
Brandchannel: Can a brand like the latest incarnation of Vice, or Street Carnage if (and when) it becomes far reaching enough, stay true to its roots? Or is the charge of “selling out” an inevitable growing pain of anything that starts small?
Gavin McInnes: Of course it’s not inevitable you ass. “Selling out” is when you censor yourself to make money. As someone that primarily writes jokes, I can’t afford to have someone over my shoulder telling me what I can or can’t say because comedy is a delicate crystal egg of a thing and to fuck with it even a tiny bit cracks it in two. Sarah Silverman talks about this a lot. She says the only thing in her head when coming up with bits is, “Is this funny?” If anything else creeps in there like “Is this offensive?” or “Will this lose us money?” the joke is marred.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean any corporate interest in your thing ruins it. I put out two books on Warner and they didn’t change one line. In fact, they actually had me remove some black bars from people’s eyes.
BC: Your new project Street Carnage is all online. So, Print: Dead?
Gavin: Print has its place. People don’t like to bring their computers into the shitter with them so there will always be magazines and books but print is obviously never going to be what it was. We’re going to be putting out book-sized magazines that will be Best-Ofs from the site as well as some new content. I’m putting out a book of Street Boners (on Warner, again). And we’re doing some other photo books that will be specifically designed for people who are taking a poo. That’s basically the future of print—the bathroom.
BC: Is that a good thing?
Gavin: Yes. The thing I always hated about magazines is, you write something and you have to wait a month or two to see it in print. And most magazines are even worse than that. With the website, we get it off our chest that day. You also get to look at the site and say, “There’s been too much dude shit this week. Let’s girly it up a bit,” and you can fix it immediately. The whole thing becomes this malleable, organic beast you can polish and hone to perfection, live.
BC: How does it feel to go from being a critic of culture to a creator of it?
Gavin: When [Vice] first moved to New York I used to follow [infamous graffiti artist group] Irak around a lot and mooch pictures off of [Irak member] Ryan McGinley for the magazine. It was really fucking fun but I remember [artist] Dash Snow once said to me, “Why are you always running around, reporting on what other people do? Why don’t you just do your own shit?” He’s not a wise old sage by any means but that question really stuck with me.
BC: The Vice brand grew very organically. Do you have a similar strategy for Street Carnage? And do you think that now that you’re a “known” personality it’s easier or harder?
Gavin: Wait, how do you go from “atop the heap” in a past tense to a “known personality” now? Am I a washed up child actor or a celebrity?
BC: What are a few of your personal favorite brands or brands that you admire?
Gavin: All the old skinhead gear. Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, Baracuta – all Harringtons actually – Crombies (any make), Loake, Clarks.
Also, Built by Wendy jeans, white Chuck Taylors, Red Wing boots. Gatorade, medicated Gold Bond, Adderall, Ultra Max Arm & Hammer invisible solid antiperspirant deodorant. Biffy bidet changed my life. Oooh, and I swear by my Passport 8500 fuzzbuster [police radar detector]. I wish I could fuck it. I honestly feel like taking it out of its little holster and making out with it.
As far as the way they’re run, I’ve always been a huge fan of [candy maker] Mars. Forrest Mars drove a Honda Civic to work and his desk was in an open floor plan with all the other workers. Bloomberg does that too. It’s crucial to running a business because it shows employees you’re one of them and you have no secrets. I’ve always kept Mars in mind when working with other people.
BC: You're a new father. How will you explain "what daddy does?”
Gavin: By the time my kids are old enough to see what I do, you will have babies doing heroin and staying up all night listening to a new kind of noise metal that's made by crashing cars into dead planes. I will look like Norman Rockwell in comparison.
Gavin: I just realized I did an interview with brandchannel and didn't really mention branding. One thing about "brand building.” I never want to hear those two words again. I always hated the idea of someone building a brand. It sounds so affected. Like marketing companies and “Cool Hunters" sending CDs and shit to "tastemakers." People can smell that bullshit from a mile away. Just be yourself. Pinky and I are old and Canadian and not very attractive but we are the faces of the company because that's who we are. Anything else would be a lie. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing people marketing works. It doesn't. People only buy what their friends tell them they should buy because that's the only thing left they can trust.
The internet really gave this idea a boost. It made the idea of a meritocracy a plausible business model. You can spend all the money you want on print and TV ads and even get editorials written about your product but it won't make one iota of difference. Nobody's going to buy what someone else tells them to unless that person is their good friend. End of story.