All photos by Vlad Sepetov
Word that PAPA's singer and drummer Darren Weiss was running a minor league barber shop out of his home caught our attention slowly. First it was a bandmate, then it was his girlfriend and next Sarah from Superhumanoids wouldn't stop raving about the job he did on her do.
We know Darren as a musician, poet and artist, but never a hair stylist. Our interest plenty piqued, we tagged along while Darren gave our buddy Ben Usen of Princeton-fame a trim and asked him a few questions about his new hobby.
PAPA plays our Something Good party at the Echoplex on Friday, Nov. 27, with Astronauts, etc., Maxim Ludwig, and a special GROUPLOVE DJ set. Get your tickets now.
So, who's hair do you cut?
Oh, anybody who asks really, as long as I don't hate being around them. I cut my own hair, everybody who passes through PAPA, my girlfriend, my friends, my family.
How long have you been cutting hair?
I started cutting my own hair as a child. So probably close to 15 years, now that I think about it.
Why or how did you first start?
I began cutting my own hair because, as most curly headed people know, a hair cut can look completely different at the barber shop than it does at home, once your hair has dried, or once it grows out. Curly hair is a wild beast. Not everybody knows how to tame it, and straight haired barbers don't always understand the subtleties that can be the difference between a great hair cut, and a very unfortunate afro.
Is cutting hair hard?
No, being a lonesome sheep herder is hard. You have to climb mountains with undomesticated animals, and most of the time, without the gear, or food necessary for the trip. Also, being a trapeze artist is hard.
Do you have a masterpiece?
I really do try to make every hair cut my best one yet. Even though this isn't a professional path for me, I would feel really terrible if I made somebody look worse than they did when they came to me. I want people to feel good about themselves when they walk out of our "session".
The first time I cut my dad's hair, I cut the hair too short over his ears, exposing his hearing aid (which I didn't realize he was trying to conceal with his hair) and he got really upset, which made me feel pretty bad. But then my mom pulled me aside the following week and said, "Dad told me not to tell you, but he says it was the best hair cut he's ever had." We have a complicated relationship...
Why do you even do this?
Well, firstly, because people ask me to. I've never asked to cut any persons hair, they always come to me. Now, this is not exclusive to cutting hair, but anytime I engage in a project that requires some kind of artistic focus, but has no long term goal-driven objective, I get an enormous plump of private and precious satisfaction. I just love to make sounds, or drawings, or give hair cuts that give me pleasure.
The other night, I saw Patti Smith give a talk, and in the question and answer portion of the evening, somebody asked her about balancing several artistic aspirations at once, and how she views success in light of this balancing act. She said simply, "I think, success is when you do something good; when you can look at something you did or made and regardless of outside approval say, 'Hey, that's pretty good.'" I agree with her. It gives me joy to give a hair cut, and to see it go out into the world, making it all a little better looking.
What have you learned in doing this?
Well, I can be a bit of recluse, and I like my alone time to read, or write, or listen to records. Spending time with a person one on one, especially in a private setting (which is obviously how my sessions are conducted), you immediately get past a certain level of superficiality. I feel grateful for this person's trust, and they appreciate my time and effort, so there is just a mutual and intimate nature to what passes through us. I think, honestly, I get more to be more empathetic and human while I'm cutting hair than I do when I get into other creative mental spaces.
Does cutting hair feel like more of a creative or technical process?
Like any art, it's a really nice combination of the two. This leans a little more heavily on the technical side because there is symmetry and razors involved.
I feel like you can trust a barber's barber, who cuts your hair?
You're interviewing him!
Tell me something poetic about cutting hair.
Come to me
how beautiful you can be
a snip here
a trim there
"Wait not so much, I still want hair!"
have some faith,
you'll be a looker
trust your neighborly beauty butcher!