Mick Rock's Guide to New York

Grandlife interviews

Mick Rock's Guide to New York

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From Bowie to Blondie, Talking Heads to The Ramones—legendary photographer Mick Rock, aka “The man who shot the ’70s,” photographed rock and roll’s biggest players. Mick was born and raised in London, and it was there that he picked up a friend’s camera and started documenting the local rock scene.

The rest, as they say, is history. His work is the subject of frequent exhibitions, many of which take place in his adopted home of New York. Here, Mick talks to GrandLife about his early years exploring the city with Lou Reed and shares his favorite local spots.

What would the title of your autobiography be? 

Mick Rock: SHOT! The same title as the feature-length documentary that Vice Films and Straight Up Films made about me, currently available on Netflix.

What can’t you travel without and why? 

MR: My light and sound meditation machine; been using it for 20-plus years. It keeps my body relaxed and my brain focused.

Do you have a favorite travel destination? What is the main appeal? 

MR: Tokyo, Japan. I’ve done three big exhibitions there since 2003: a Mick Rock retrospective exhibition, a Kabuki Theater exhibition, and a David Bowie exhibition. I love the way the traditional and modern cultures meld there. And its streets and public places are super clean!

What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon? 

MR: As little as possible; sleep as late as possible and spend time playing with my delightfully beautiful Maine Coon cats, Razor and Bellini.

If you could choose one person to show you their New York City, who would it be and why? 

MR: In my early years in NYC, it was my dear friend Lou Reed. Nowadays, it would be my friend Jesse Malin, a great musician and club-bar owner, and a true New York gentleman. In both cases, for obvious reasons.

Who or what has inspired you recently? 

MR: Just returned from Mexico City and my Queen exhibition at the Foto Museo Cuatro Caminos—a fabulously presented affair with 130 prints, many of them 30×40 and 40×60, at the biggest photo museum in South America. In 2018, I did an even bigger David Bowie exhibition. In 2020, they’ll be presenting a Mick Rock retrospective. All three presented by my South American art producer Sebastian Alderete.

What is your favorite NYC restaurant? 

MR: Souen on East 6th Street. I love their macrobiotic food. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 40 years.

What is your go-to spot in NYC for drinks? 

MR: I don’t drink alcohol. Never did. Whatever the sins of my youth were, they did not include alcohol. If I want to get high I’ll smoke a marijuana pen.

What are some of your favorite NYC brunch spots? 

MR: I rarely do brunch—slows me down. But if I’m in the city on the weekend, I’ll take my wife to the Roxy Hotel. They do a superb brunch!

Where do you get your art fix in NYC? Do you have a favorite artist? 

MR: MoMA and the Morrison Hotel Gallery, which specializes in music photography. I love the work of Man Ray, a true genius and photographic inspiration, and of late Edvard Munch the great Norwegian artist, best known for The Scream. I’ve been discovering the sheer breadth of his work, which is very underappreciated… 

What are some of your favorite late-night hangouts?

MR: Anywhere that my dear friend Nur Khan, the King of NY nightlife is operating.

What are some of your favorite NYC stores?

MR: Any John Varvatos store; amazingly sharp clothes for any hip gentleman, and a longtime friend and rock ’n’ roll connoisseur.

What music are you listening to these days? 

MR: I listen to a mixture of music. Lately, I rediscovered the great deceased reggae artist Peter Tosh, who was one of the original Wailers. Listen to his version of “Downpressor Man.” A track for the ages…

What album or song would you consider your personal soundtrack to New York? 

MR: Dirty Boulevard by Lou Reed.

When you think of NYC, are there any particular memories or emotions that come to mind? 

MR: My first session with my friend the delightful Debbie Harry in the summer of 1978, at the time of Blondie’s breakout single “Heart of Glass.” And the session I did with Joan Jett at 3am for her I Love Rock ’n’ Roll album cover.

PHOTOGRAPHY Simon West 

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