Cynical And Southern: Michael Alago
Michael Alago has had an interesting life. He is the gay man responsible for discovering Metallica. He spent the 1980s as a behind-the-scenes driving force in the illustrious New York City music scene. More recently he’s helped out Cyndi Lauper with her two most recent releases.
In the last decade Alago has stepped out from behind the scenes and gotten behind the lens. His new book, Brutal Truth, is a pictorial examination of the brut gay male body. Alago’s work is erotic, thought provoking, and tastefully distasteful in the best way possible. One photograph will leave one hand scratching the head with the other hand heading south.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak to Alago about his life and career. Enjoy.
The New Gay: You’ve had quite the colorful and varied creative life and career. Clearly, it’s been a passion for you as much as a job.
Michael Alago: Music has informed my life as long as I can remember. Listening to AM radio, watching Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and going to my first concert when I was 14 and seeing Alice Cooper all that changed my life forever.
TNG: You were instrumental in the careers of Metallica, White Zombie, and Johnny Rotten. Was the fact you are gay ever an issue with these “macho” acts?
MA: My sexuality was never an issue with any of the artists I worked with. I worked hard and did my job well and that was the most important thing.
TNG: You’ve been operating out of NY for decades. Is the city as magical now as it was for you in the early 80s? Were those times really special or just glorified by time and memory?
MA: I am 52 and have lived in NYC since I was 17. For me beginning in the late 70′s the city was magical. I was a curious gay teen that visited the art house movie theaters. Went to Max’s Kansas City. CBGB’s, the Anvil and the Mineshaft (a few times with Mapplethorpe) as well as the porn theaters and the abandoned piers on the west side highway looking for sex. It was a glorious time for a wild child like myself exploring Manhattan and all it had to offer. In the 80′s AIDS changed the landscape of our lives and how we lived and moved forward. Today the city has been gentrified and I feel list it’s edge but it is NYC and it still has all the best things a major city has to offer.
TNG: Your new book is a photography book called “Brutal Truth.” With its photographs of gruff and uber “masculine” men I see where the word “brutal” comes from. Explain why you used the word “truth” in the title?
MA: I use the word “truth” as part of the title of my book because I feel when I take a photograph and it works and the audience responds to it both the subject and I have completed our job and we have revealed a bit about the man in the photo and there lies the “truth.”
MA: Both. I was an A&R executive for 23 years and discovered and worked with extraordinary artists. At some point I noticed the overall change in sales or lack of sales and everything was shifting and of course the Internet was very powerful and record companies were not paying attention to all the changes so I thought it’s time to leave and start a new career.
TNG: You work incorporates the concept of the gay “daddy.” What is it about the bodies of brut men that is enthralling to your creative eye?
MA: I love a big daddy for his overall strength size and masculinity.
TNG: What would you like the viewer to walk away with after seeing your book?
MA: I like that the viewer walks away with a sense of erotic excitement and that I am an artist with an edge sharing what excites me and I hope it excites the audience too. So I guess a sense of passion lust and accomplishment.
TNG: With being gay more acceptable in the mass culture, is it easier to operate as a publicly gay artist than thirty years ago?
MA: It is easier to operate and be open about the erotic work these days in one sense but in another there has become less and less venues to showcase work and the little boutique shops across the USA like A Different Light are closing down so we must be resourceful and continue to find alternative spaces to show our work.
TNG: You were a fly on the fall for some of the most outrageous behind-the-scenes rock and roll times. Give us one fun accolade you’d like to share.
MA: There are so many stories. I remember moments like sharing a drunk kiss with Johnny Thunders of the NY Dolls at Max’s and when the punk group Chelsea came to the states taking their singer Gene October home with me for a roll in the bed. [Laughs.] One infamous night at the Ritz when I booked a PiL show that turned in to a notorious disaster. It made all the international newspapers and we were backstage laughing and snorting all night long and ready to do it all over again. All the other fab stories will be in my memoir.
TNG: You helped Cyndi Lauper with publicity on her last album “Memphis Blues.” Lauper has always been a gay icon. Did you know Cyndi in the early Blue Angel days?
MA: I was the A&R executive on Cyndi ‘s last two records “Bring Ya to the Brink” and “Memphis Blues.” I met her when I was the booking agent at the Ritz and booked Blue Angel there but only got to know her years later and absolutely adore her.
JG: With such a varied life and career. What can we expect next from Michael Alago?
MA: You can expect more erotic photography from me. I am currently writing a new book of poems and observations once again with Keith Mina Caputo called “Today Is The Day” and am working on a memoir about my crazy wonderful years in the music business and what I am doing now. Thank you for asking. Bye for now.
Find out more about Michael Alago here.
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