Mitch Schneider Founder of and President of The Mitch Schneider Organization Talks Rock 'N' Roll, Leather Jackets, and More
Tue, 09 Aug 2011 12:19:57
Rock 'n' roll has so many more moving parts than most people realize.
It's an intricate, enigmatic machine that runs off the tireless efforts of not only the musicians playing it, but also of the blood, sweat, and tears of the people promoting it. In that respect, Mitch Schneider—president and founder of The Mitch Schneider Organization (MSO)—is one of the most crucial cogs in the music industry's well-oiled machine.
During his extensive and remarkable career thus far, Schneider devised brilliant and groundbreaking PR campaigns for everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Korn to Alanis Morissette and The Black Crowes, always thinking of new ways to bring the public closer to the artists he worked with while preserving the mystique of the music. His current roster includes Aaron Lewis of Staind, Smashing Pumpkins, Slash, Jane's Addiction, Deadmau5, David Lynch, Ozzy, Dolly Parton and Coachella, to name a few [See the full list here.]
Schneider is well-versed in another facet of rock 'n' roll—fashion. In addition to being a true PR guru, Schneider is also a leather jacket aficionado. For this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com, he told us the tales behind some of his coolest leather jackets. They each have a story, and you'll have to read on for more…
Photos: Sorrell Schneider
In your opinion, does a leather jacket toe the line between elegance and attitude? Is that middle ground attractive to you?
Yeah! The thing about leather jackets that I happen to love is the attention to detail. If you look at the '70s leather jackets, the stitching, the placement of zippers, the cut, and the longer collars all stand out. I always felt that to look badass was the essence of rock 'n' roll. Truth be told, a lot of those '70s leather jackets were worn in Blaxploitation films such as Superfly or Across 110th Street. Even in that Diana Ross movie Mahogany, Billy Dee Williams is wearing a great leather jacket. I used to go to the movies just to see the jackets. I grew up in New York City, and my whole fascination with vintage clothing started when I was about 14 or 15. I would take the train from the Gun Hill Road stop in The Bronx down to Astor Place. I'd get off and walk around the East Village with my friends. I'd go in these stores and see these cowboy shirts with amazing stitching. I'd see Hawaiian shirts with great rayon material. They had so much style as opposed to some of the clothing of the day in the '70s. Except for those amazing leather jackets, I wasn't that inspired. My vintage fascination started back then.
What attracted you the most to the jackets?
There's something ridiculous about those '70s jackets with the long collars, but there's also something so badass. In those Blaxploitation movies, a lot of the pivotal characters were pimps. Like rock 'n' roll, they were anti-authoritarian. That was my leather jacket fascination in terms of the '70s stuff. Going back to what you were saying about the elegance, wearing a leather jacket is like putting armor on before you go out. If you look at some of the modern leather jackets being made by rock 'n' roll companies now, it's almost as if they looked at those '70s leather jackets and refined them. It's a combination of having the vintage jackets and the new styles as well. That's what really galvanized me. One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is you can wear these jackets virtually eleven months out of the year. We're known for our cool summer nights here so you can wear a thin leather jacket during that time as well. When I put on something vintage, I think about who wore it before, who they were, what they did, and what they were like. It will take on another dimension and life. I get really into this. I'm a collector so that stuff really stands out in my head.
What's the correlation between leather jackets and rock 'n' roll?
There's that outlaw iconic image that runs in America, whether it's Marlon Brando or James Dean. They're people who are viewed and celebrated as outlaw heroes. I think it starts there. Obviously, motorcycle jackets carry that perception as well. There will always be a fascination with people living on the fringe of society. There's something about a leather jacket that connects to the outlaw image. You think of Steve McQueen in a leather jacket. You can look at a photo of Brando in a leather jacket, and that's rock 'n' roll right there.
Mitch Gives Us Peek at His Own Collection
That jacket came from Wasteland on Melrose, Ave. in Los Angeles. There's something about white leather that's almost far-fetched and ridiculous. When you walk into these stores and pick something up, you start to pray rabidly that it's going to fit. Then when you see it fits, it's like winning the lottery. It means a lot. That's a funny jacket. The leather is not very high quality, and that's the case for many of those '70s leather jackets. However, the style is so great. It's such a noisy jacket to wear. Whenever you move, it makes a sound. The jacket carries a bit of its own drama that way. I also dug the pockets on there. It's almost like a leather shirt. You have to be in a certain headspace to put that on because the collar is bigger. If you go out in a crowd, you instantly look different than everyone else because it's a fashioned look that comes from another time. I personally think, "How can I make this look current at the same time?" That jacket was a real find.
The interesting about this jacket is I purchased it in New York City at the Hugo Boss store. I loved it instantly. That's just a fantastic shade of red, and it holds its own alongside what I consider the great '70s leather jackets. The jacket actually almost had a death. I was at the Sunset Strip Music Festival when Ozzy Osbourne headlined. My associate Marcee Rondan and I were in the photo pit with the photographers. She looks at me and goes, "Come on, Ozzy is not going to foam the crowd during the first couple songs." He usually does that after the photographers are gone. However, because his set was shorter that night, he began to foam the crowd and the pit where I was standing during the second song. The jacket was completely covered in that wet foam. When I got home, I thought that was the end of the jacket. Marcee told me to get this Nivea moisturizing cream and put it all over the jacket. A couple of days later, it was like the jacket came back to life. I told Ozzy, "You knew we were in the pit. You aimed for us." He just laughed because he loves to play pranks. I will not be wearing that jacket to future Ozzy shows [Laughs].
I just got that a few months ago at Squaresville on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz. When I picked it up, I thought, "If this fits, that would be incredible!" I love '70s country rock, and this is similar to the style that the bands would wear whether it's Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, or The Flying Burrito Brothers. I love that music and I really cut my teeth on it. When I saw the jacket, I couldn't believe it. It's a remarkable piece. I actually wore it to the Buffalo Springfield reunion show at The Wiltern. I ran into Clem Burke, Blondie's drummer, in the lobby and he said, "Mitch, that is a great Neil jacket." He was referring to Neil Young, and that's all I needed to hear. It was the perfect compliment for me.
I got that jacket at American Rag. I think it was like $65 or $70. There were no rips in it or anything. That was one of my ultimate scores. I loved the collars--they were big but not overly big—and the braided stitching over the pockets. That's a pièce de résistance of the collection for me.
It's great. The tag says something interesting. It reads, "The man from California." When you're a collector, the tag is part of the charm. I had to have it. This one is interesting because it's not leather; it's pleather. There's piping that runs down the front of it, and I was captivated when I saw it.
This is another favorite. It's from Sorum Noce, and it had that distressed leather. They made a few of them. The inside was rough suede. I loved the quality of the leather and all of the different buttons. It gives that jacket a military feel but not quite. It's got that beautiful brown color. The jacket always proves to be a real showstopper. When I wear it out, people come up to me and ask where I got it. I say, "Well, there used to be this great store on Melrose called Sorum Noce that Matt Sorum [Guns N' Roses, The Cult, Velvet Revolver] owned and then the recession came and took it away.” That jacket is historic for me because it points to the beginning of the recession.
This is another Sorum Noce jacket. The leather is so butter soft. I could wear that on a July night. It has a bit of a gothic look to it. It's like a second skin when you wear it. You feel regal while wearing it. Whenever I see a leather hood, it has the feel of an executioner's uniform.
I was coming up on my 25th anniversary with my wife, and we had a big party at the El Rey. I've always wanted a custom leather jacket, and I told her my friend—designer and stylist Karen Dusenbery-- I wanted something a bit mod. She came up with these Edwardian-styled collars. There are lots of buttons that go up and down the side. That jacket is paper thin leather. I've worn that in August. There's something very British about it. It's amazing.
I love that photo because my daughter Sorrell and I went downtown one day. Her interest in photography really started to flourish. She stopped me and said, "Your jacket matches where it says Union Station." She got that shot, and it really captures my love for Los Angeles. I love the city, and I could work for the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, one of our accounts is The Sunset Strip Business Association. They're the whole collection of clubs, restaurants and businesses on the Strip. As a kid growing up in New York, I always dreamed of the Strip. To have a chance to do PR for that is a true honor. I mean, I lost some of my hearing at so many great gigs at the Roxy and Whisky over the years!
What's the most rock 'n' roll piece of clothing you have?