In Bulgaria They Call Him The ‘Male Lady Gaga’. But Living In NYC Now, Singer Alek Sandar Wants More

Alek Sander

Above: Alek Sandar in New York, October 2015. Photography by Jacob Brown

If you happen to regularly watch the morning shows in Bulgaria, you’ve probably seen Alek Sander, a frequent guest on the country’s radio and TV shows. Sometimes it’s good to be the big fish in a small pond, and Sandar has managed to parlay his hometown success into a burgeoning presence on the New York scene.

Growing up in a musical family, Sandar has a range of instrumental and vocal styles to draw from. His music has pretty solid roots in the EDM-oriented club spaces of Berlin and eastern Europe—but it’s really about a pop sensibility for him, particularly now as he connects with newer, larger American audiences.

Recently he released a song and video in collaboration with icon of the gay scene Amanda Lepore. The track has been tearing up dance floors at gay clubs across the city and gaining viral traction internationally online. So we thought we’d catch up with this Alek Sandar guy and see what he’s all about.


Alek Sandar

How did you get started with music?
It was always happening from when I was five or six. When I was six, my dad—who is an opera singer—brought a synthesizer from the West to Bulgaria. This was when there was economic crisis and we had to wait in line for two hours for food. So having a synth was a big deal. Back then I was playing the piano already. I pushed the button and started playing the beats. At the same time, I was on Bulgarian TV in a famous singing competition, when there were like only two channels on TV. It was the TV show to be on. Then we moved to Germany when I was seven or eight and started doing opera festivals—doing things usually a female opera singer would sing, a soprano. When I was a teenager, I continued being on stage but I couldn’t sing anymore because of my voice changing from puberty. I was on stage as an actor—I did stage theater—and then I moved to Berlin…at 20, the perfect age to move to Berlin. Everyone has to move to Berlin at some point in their life. So I was in Berlin and I was doing remixes for a couple of artists because when I was a teenager, the computer started becoming available to everybody and I had studio software on the computer and taught it to myself—from the synthesizer to the computer to the professional home studio that I had created in Berlin, from then I moved to New York and everything started happening.

Do you make pop music or more EDM or how do you describe it?
It is very interesting because I see myself like a typical artist who likes to reinvent himself. First I started very underground. The first song “Creature of Me” was very avant garde, sonically and visually—we had a lot of artists from New York in the video. We sent it to a lot of TV channels back then and they said it’s great but they can’t play it so we got a lot of publicity in Bulgaria, saying ”no one has done something like this”, but the TV channels were not playing it because it was not commercial enough.

So you were back in Bulgaria then?
Yeah I came from the New York art scene and then the last couple of years I was mostly in Bulgaria. I was going back and forth.

And that’s when you got the Lady Gaga comparison?
Yeah exactly, from “Creatures of Me.” I don’t think its necessarily me anymore. But you know when they put something on you and it stays with you forever? Basically for a long time, people would know me as the male Lady Gaga in Bulgaria—which was fine because maybe it was a way to be recognized easily because I was not one of these people on TV for a talent show with backing behind me to be famous so it was pretty nice to release something and it was on radio and TV and you get recognized for it, and not just for being on TV.

Alek Sandar

So what’s this new song with Amanda Lepore about?
Amanda, in my eyes, is the perfect character to represent this hunger for attention that we all strive for on social media. I’ve known Amanda for a long, long, long time but on her birthday, it kind of clicked in my head—at this moment she was the center of attention anyway and she stripped to the bone, completely naked. I just realized then that this woman can never get enough attention. When I was doing the song “P.O.R.N.,” I was thinking of a way to move from my place in Europe to having an identity in America. Since Amanda is an American celebrity, I thought, “wow, it would be great to include her. There was no song more suitable for Amanda from my songs than “P.O.R.N.”

Ok so am I hearing you right that this song is kind of a critique of problems in society, and maybe a little bit of a critique of Amanda? And maybe of yourself for being part of this all?
Yeah completely, but also in a way I’m supporting it. Or accepting it. Like this is the way it is, you have to be a part of it or you can’t be a part of anything.

Ok, I see that. 
It’s kind of a trait of our society. I think in a way, I’m proudly making people more aware of it without giving them too much a job of what to think of it. Everyone can think their own thing. In the end, if they’re in a more positive mood, they can think, “oh, it’s funny” or, if you’re more critical, you can be like, “What the fuck? He’s kind of right.” We’re still inventing history at this point. Who knows if in 50 years from now if people are still going to be using social media? Maybe then there will be something new. But for now, this is how the 2010’s are going to be remembered.

Ok you don’t have to answer this, but your music is really hitting big in the gay scene. It’s almost fair to say it’s born of the gay scene. And yet you have a girlfriend. What’s your relationship to the gay community?
Very interesting question – yes, in the gay world, it’s big. We did an exclusive with Out Magazine – I don’t know if I could mention it. But Out Magazine was great to us. But how do I answer this question? I would just say I don’t separate by gender. I don’t separate by sexual orientation. I don’t separate by color. And I don’t separate by tit size or dick size. We don’t discriminate.

I think that’s probably a good answer!


See the video for Alek Sandar’s hit single “P.O.R.N.” here:

Vogue Crowns The Winners Of Paris Fashion Week — Watch The Shows Now

When earlier this year it was announced that would be absorbed by the newly formed Vogue Runway as part of, fashionistas the world over (including a lot of serious professionals who used it as a resource….stylists, photographers etc.) became very worried that their trusted source of runway coverage would no longer be with them.

Well, the first full season of fashion weeks is over, and that worry seems to have been quelled, with Vogue churning out the must-know coverage at an incredible pace. And with the end of the shows in Paris, we can all rest easy knowing who is in and who is out. These are the shows Vogue deems the best in Paris.


Saint Laurent

Alexander McQueen



Louis Vuitton


Also in the top 10 were Vetements, Paco Rabane, and Céline.

OMG. Elliphant and Big Freedia Just Dropped a Single and Video Together

Elliphant and Big Freedia

It’s hardly a surprise that a crazy Swedish pop gal like Elliphant is a huge fan of the one and only Big Freedia, creator of the New Orleans bounce. But the best part is that Elli tracked down Freedia like a groupie, staking her out at a show:

I hunted the ‘Queen’ down in DC! By far the most top notch and coolest collaboration I could ever dream of! I waited by the merchandise stall like a real groupie. Freedia responded warmly and said ‘I’ll look out for you girl!” Three weeks later, the seed I planted that night popped in a studio in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles and that is where we made ‘Club Now Skunk’!!!

The track, “Club Skunk,” was produced by Carli Löf and Tommy Tysper and will be included in her forth coming album Living Life Golden.

Here’s the insane video in which Elliphant and Big Freedia reallllly go there:

Digital Art Revolution. Or How To Buy An Ai Weiwei for $599

Al Weiwei Panda to Panda

As Internet art’s influence grows (both within the fine art world and as a pull on culture in general) it will become a more and more common thing to see “hanging on the wall.” It’s no surprise the New Museum has a rotating selection of digital art, but that Guggenheim has an online collection and a growing list of other institutions do as well.

The EO1 by Electric Objects may be the future. It’s a heavy duty, serious art world version of a digital picture frame, a twenty-three-inch, HD screen designed from the ground up to make digital works—static images, video, and browser-based pieces—look really damn good in your home.

And that’s where Ai Weiwei comes in. Electric Object is launching a series of limited edition EO1s that come preloaded with limited works by groundbreakers in the medium. And just this morning, Ai Weiwei’s work “Panda to Panda” (which debuted earlier this year at the New Museum) launched on the site. Called the Panda Edition EO1, a portion of the sales price will go to support Rhizome, the New Museum-associated organization promoting contemporary art and its “Seven on Seven” program.

So yeah, buy your Ai Weiwei here.




The Knocks and Matthew Koma Want To Get REALLY Romantic With You: A Playlist

Mathew Koma

Producer and co-writer to the stars Mathew Koma (pictured above) and rockers The Knocks really wanna help you heat things up as the weather cool down with this playlist.

Their advice: make this your default “Netflix and Chill” playlist over the next couple of months.

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Mathew Koma, it’s cause his music is brand new, but he has been working for years with iconic pop megastars like Britney Spears, Hillary Duff, Kelly Clarkson, Gavin Degraw, Tom Odell, Tinashe, Giorgio Moroder, Brooke Candy, and Shanaia Twain. Now standing on his own as an artist, he just teamed with BlackBook favorites The Knocks for this killer remix of his song “So F**in’ Romantic.”

“So F**kin’ Romantic isn’t these guys first collaboration though. Viral hit “I wish (My Taylor Swift)” is also a product of their musical partnership.

And about that playlist, if you’re curious as to the why of the songs, Mathew and the guys in The Knocks have some pretty specific reasons for picking the songs they picked:


Matthew Koma’s Picks:

Jai Wolf  “Indian Summer”
The end of the day orange sky soundtrack while you’re thinking about that girl who gave you the look at Starbucks that made you breathe out a little heavier when you asked for whipped cream on your chai.

Brandon Flowers “Between Me & You”
Beautiful & simple. I think Brandon is one of the classics of our generation. In our hyper-distracted-what’s-next world, it’s special to hear music and see a career evolve with patience, purpose and heart.

Whiskeytown “Avenues”
Always feels like an end of summer song to me…something about it is tentatively permanent and keeps me re-listening for years…

Kygo & Dillon Francis Feat. James Hersey  “Coming Over”
Can’t get enough of this one.

Talking Heads “Once In A Lifetime”
Here Comes The Twister…


The Knocks’ Picks:

Shunkan “Wash You Away”
Perfect song if youre moving on from a summer relationship or trying to get over someone for the new season.

Dej Loaf “We Winnin’”
Walk into school or into any building or structure for that matter bumping this song and you feel like you own the place.

Cheap Trick “Surrender”
This song always felt like a rebellious teen anthem, something kids would yell riding in the back of a pick up truck on the way to a field party somewhere

The Knocks Ft. Fetty Wap & Powers “Classic”
Are we allowed to say our own song? This song helps makes you think of all the memories you had over summer and feel nostalgic for all those good ol’ times.

Panama “It’s Not Over”
Another good nostalgia causing record.  Screams end of summer and super 8 memories

Nadia Bedzhanova: A Young Filmmaker Who Will Change Your View of Youth Culture

Nadia Bedzhanova is a Russian ex-pat now living in New York where she creates emotional films and photographs focused on the international unification of youth culture. And while the fashion world and photographers and filmmakers all obsess with the young, creating endless images thereof—Bedzhanova somehow stands apart from the oversexed crowd of youth worshippers. Here, she explains to us why and introduces some of her work.


So you’re a Russian filmmaker living here in the States. Can you tell me a little bit about how and where you grew up, how it led you to be interested in film, and why you moved to the US?

I was born and raised in Moscow, not in the city center but not in the suburbs either. I studied in gymnasium for my middle and high school, in a class advanced in humanities. It cultivated in me ability to enjoy and analyze literature work, that later led to do the same with films, photoseries and other genres of visual arts.

In my teenage years I got my first camera. It was digital and it was more for fun than for pretentious artsy shots. However, there were times when my high school girlfriend and I tried to take some “conceptual” pictures, and our classmates often made fun at us. I am laughing at my old photography too, but doing it and practicing all the time helped me to develop a sense of composition, lighting and just whatever makes the picture look good.

Afterwards, I went to university for BA in journalism (major in photojournalism) and kept improving my skills in visualizing and documenting a specific moment, as well as working with models / actors, thinking through the concept and the story.

In some time I felt like I wanted to expand my stories beyond one frame, or a series of frames: I wanted to have a movement in a shot, along with the camera movements. I started to try myself in videomaking and got accepted at School of Visual Arts in NYC, where I pursued my masters in film directing. The US is the place with the most developed film industry, and this is one of the reasons I moved here. My Moscow background juxtaposing with my five year experience in NYC brought me to where I am now, creatively, mentally and physically; with the help of the great teachers in Russia and the US: Leo Sobolev, Alexander Lapin, Amresh Sinha, Michael Holman.

In a few words, photography and literature led me to filmmaking, and a long time experience shooting in the US, Russia and Europe made me who I am now. And this is how the ball got rolling.


Were there any Russian film makers or artists who influenced your growing up?

In my very early twenties I started to read film history books and watch all the first Soviet movies and experiments in montage. It sure influenced on me as a filmmaker. I might not be original saying that Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, short films by Maya Deren (although she lived in the US but she was born in Kiev, Ukraine), all the work of Andrei Tarkovsky are made a huge impact on me, while I was still developing my personality as a filmmaker.

However, there are two contemporary cinematographers, whom I got lucky to know personally, who inspired and helped me at the very beginning of my movie making journey: Igor Kropotov and Alexander Khudokon. They are extremely talented people, also from Russia and based in NYC. They were the first who introduced me to New York scene of young filmmakers when I just moved to the city. I admire their work, and it was an example for me at the very beginning.


You’re really interested in the universality of youth culture, which is in large part a phenomenon of the Internet and our new found connectedness. What do you hope to convey to people who see your latest photos and films in this regard? Why is “youth” an important aesthetic for people of all ages and walks of life to understand?

Youth is the first period of life that everyone consciously lives through: when you think of yourself as an adult and try to behave accordingly. Although sometimes it doesn’t look like it – everyone has their own experience, and it is surely one of the most important milestones in person’s life.

Thankfully, my generation was the last one who had a chance to grow up without being stuck 24/7 in a posting / choosing filters coma, checking amount of followers and throwing dust in everyone’s eyes with their virtual alter egos. I’m not saying I’m not doing it now – we all want to show only the bright side of the moon – but I didn’t care and didn’t even know about it, while studying algebra or philosophy of Age of Enlightenment. But “Generation Now” is basically born online. I don’t even want to start talking about teens in 15 years from now, who were literally born with their logins and passwords – thanks to their moms who had already made them profile pages in every social media possible.

But what inspires me, is that in this total chaos of chasing popularity and useless information, there are a lot of amazing young individuals, whom I wish I were in the past. These people are the ones who make me want to create. And they are everywhere, all over the world – and because of this easy online connectedness we can see them and admire them.

The idea of global connection itself is also one of the motifs I like to expose in my work. First, it appeared in my short film Wasteland. Then in my new upcoming photoseries, that I took in different hotel rooms during my business trip shoot: sexy selfies and the screenshots of the comments I got from a person I was sending them to. This series is full of self-irony and a hint of narcissism. The phenomenon of emojis, stickers, selfies and photos replacing the actual words and lively communication makes us don’t care about it’s etymology and even the language the person originally speaks on. Lastly, the composition of my first feature script consists of a few different stories set around the world portraying different characters with a specific mental problem, speaking different languages and meeting each other online.

The idea of youth is one of my main sources of inspiration is also because still being in my late twenties I had a very bare idea of what happens beyond it. Sometime I am also missing being a teen, especially a bad one, because I was always nerdy and wasn’t allowed to party with my mates. By working on these stories I was living it myself again, exaggerating the moments I lived through. Youth is the only age when you are allowed to be confused or too self-confident.


What are you working on right now?

Right now we are on a post production of an experimental short film featuring Paz De La Huerta, which I did in collaboration with a photographer Alexey Yurenev. We are finishing the editing and working on a distribution. Meanwhile, I’m writing a feature script, the one I’ve mentioned before, – five different stories set around the world portraying different characters with a rare OCD issue, speaking different languages and meeting each other online; I’m very familiar with this disorder myself. I also keep exploring and looking for characters for my Diary series.


Tell us about your film Wasteland.

I’ve been doing film and photography with the prevailed motifs of intimacy, uncertain sexuality, confusion, digitalism, attraction, endorphins. My recent film Wasteland is about the universal waste of time, state of texting coma, internet surfing, forever hanging out. There is an ensemble of characters loitering around the locations of Paris, Moscow and NYC, chatting online and sending pictures to each other in a global location of internet. Space and time shrink, and despite the time difference they still waste it together.

WASTELAND from Nadia Bedzhanova on Vimeo.


And about Headlong?

Another film of mine, Headlong, is about the ephemeral relationships between two teenage girls, set after-school in a swimming pool with Post-Soviet entourage. Teenage sexuality and confusion in today’s Moscow, Russia, is the subject I really care about. There is no freedom left for people who are “not like the others”, sexual minorities are being pressured. With this story I wanted to show that everything is formed and acknowledged in the age when you don’t understand much and don’t fall for forced rules of society. You only fall for attempts to figure yourself out.

Headlong was premiered on Brooklyn Short Film Festival 2015 and was published on Snob, one of the biggest Russian magazines. There were no international premiere yet.

Глубже / HEADLONG Trailer from Nadia Bedzhanova on Vimeo.


The still photos from your diary project are so emotional, so cinematic. Could you tell us a bit more about some of your favorite subjects?

Of course!

I met Hector in Paris last January, when I was producing Parisian part of Wasteland. A few days ago he came to NYC for a weekend – and it was the most amazing time I’ve spent in a long period of time. These pictures were taken then, on 35mm film, along with a short digital video that I’m currently editing with a lot of screenshots and texting etiquette.


Bruna and Jaq
I first shot these twins two years ago – I did a video featuring new faces for one fashion magazine. Two years after, I chose to do a shoot with Bruna and Jaqueline for Muse Management. We chilled for a little bit in my friends loft, I didn’t really want them to do anything – just relax, get into almost dreamy condition. The pictures turned out to be very fragile and intimate, full of sensuality – this insecure, very naive and innocent state of mind, but in the meantime there is something insanely sexual about it. I love the girls and enjoyed shooting them every time.

Bruna and Jaq

Ashley Smith is the queen of everything. She is open-minded, crazy fun, extremely charming, and probably one of a few girls I am very attracted to. I took these pictures in Cape Cod during the vacation every person can dream about. She is dating a very good friend of mine Charlie Himmelstein, and I just adore all our gang and glad that they exist in my life. They bring so-called lightness of being, but not the unbearable one.

Ashley Smith

Nastya is my little sister that I never had – a girl from Moscow whom I met in New York and with whom we just speak the same language. Not just literal, but visual too. These pictures were taken on her rooftop in Bushwick. I wanted to juxtapose very sensitive and fragile female body with a brutal construction: some kind of a visual symbolism.



How did your recent collaboration with Gosha Rubchinskiy come about? How does the two of you’s interest in youth culture overlap?

Gosha is an amazing artist and designer, who’s theme is very close to me: young people in Russia, their surroundings, influences of society with the certain rules. I was very happy to have his input on Wasteland – although the whole film was done by myself, but having the characters self styled with Gosha’s garments clearly emphasized the motifs of wasted youth and world’s universality. I’m very proud that Gosha’s name is known worldwide – it makes me proud for Russia and the artists from my country as well.


I love when you talk about sensuality in your work (in other interviews). Would it be fair to say that where so many people portray youth culture through hyper-sexuality, your work portrays hyper-sensuality?

I’m trying to keep myself away from hyper-sexuality and portray hyper-sensuality simply because I know the second one better. How Joseph Brodskiy said: “Я любил немногих. Однако – сильно.” (“When I loved, I loved deeply. But it wasn’t often.” – poem “I sit by the window”). Also, everything now is hyper-sexual, we see nudity literally everywhere. More asses, more bigger asses! Let’s all learn how to twerk! I do know how to twerk too, but can I please not post the video of it to my instagram? Sorry, I got less followers than you.

Everything is exposed nowadays. Let’s all be feminists and not shave our armpits and legs for ages – and let’s definitely take thousands of selfies of it for public. What is that feministic about it? We live in the post-porn era, where absolutely nothing can surprise anymore. We see nudity every day, naked men, women and transgender people, celebrities and friends; so images of nudity for us are like pictures of cute cats or food. I’m not saying that I don’t like it, but hyper-sexuality shouldn’t be the major theme that can sell everything nowadays. However, I’m trying to explore sensuality, which is more honest and genuine way to show a person’s inner self without exposing too much. I think it turns on even more.

Premiere: Swedish R&B Star Erik Hassle’s Psycho Sexual New Video for Aptly Titled ‘Natural Born Lovers’

Erik Hassle Natural Born Lovers

We pretty much spent the summer grooving to Erik Hassles’s disco banger “No Words” but yeah, fall is here. Need something new. And this dark as hell new video for his track “Natural Born Lovers” (get it? as in Natural Born Killers) fits the bill.

The song continues Hassle’s recent evolution in sound….the soulful voice is still there (after all, Erik Hassle has more soul than any Swede ever), but his production muscle has really expanded. Where “No Words” saw him layering disco beats to create a killer dance vibe, with “Natural Born Lovers” it’s the pop stylings that are getting layered in: a chill, slowly growing beat underneath catchy flourishes.

And then there’s the video, which we are premiering here exclusively. The video finds Hassle lurking in a middle-of-nowhere American highway-side motel, complete with neon “No Vacancy” sign, rusty old gas pumps, and flickering lights. Within the rooms of the motel, a variety of rather suspect couples get ready to do the dirty deed—though it’s unclear whether that’s gonna be sex or slitting each other’s throats. Eventually of course, Hassle quits lurking/stalking in the parking lot, gets his girl and drives off in a vintage convertible.

Woody’d be proud.

Check Out The Most Stylish Recycled Denim You’ve Ever Seen

HM Recycled Denim

Above: a piece from the new kid’s collection of recycled denim pieces from H&M

Because eco is great, but it’s stylish recycled denim we’re really after…

The clever Swedes who run H&M are trying to get everyone to turn in their old worn out tee-shirts and skirts and jeans so that they can be recycled into new pieces. The company’s CEO, Karl-Johan Persson calls this “closing the loop.” Old clothes become new clothes become old clothes become new clothes, ad infitum. He explains it in the company’s latest press release on the subject:

“Creating a closed loop for textiles, in which unwanted clothes can be recycled into new ones, will not only minimize textile waste, but also significantly reduce the need for virgin resources as well as other impacts fashion has on our planet“

H&M has been at this a while, and achieving not insignificant results. According to them, they are currently able to use 20% recycled fibers in their garments, and are actively researching ways to increase that percentage. They don’t say what share of their total production is actually made of recycled-fiber-containing textiles, but do claim that they will be increasing the share this year by 300% over last year.

Truth be told though, for everyone except a certain subset of crunchy, woven-hemp-poncho-wearing types, a recycled garment’s eco credentials take a backseat to how stylish the piece is. And on this front, H&M’s new collection of 16 recycled denim pieces is killing it.

Like…we really want to wear this stuff now and being forced to wait until September to buy these pieces seems unreasonably cruel, even for the calmly patient Scandinavians. Then again, September is almost here, so check out a few of the stand out pieces below, and get ready to queue in a few weeks.


For her… a lined denim jacket, and a particularly fetching denim jumpsuit.

HM Recycled Denim HM Recycled Denim


For him… a gathered-at-the-ankle pair of jeans, and a zip-up bomber.


HM Recycled Denim HM Recycled Denim

Whacked-out New York Art Space ‘Vector Gallery’ Decamps West. Los Angeles, Prepare to Not Know What Hit You


Downtown gallerist and provocateur JJ Brine first came to most people’s attention on one of two occasion: when he began appearing in tabloid photos with messy ex-teen star Amanda Bynes, or when images of one of his artists Lena Marquise charging cellphones in her bodily orphices went viral after he helped her exhibit her performance at Art Basel Miami.

Sadly for New York’s Lower East Side, his space Vector Gallery collapsed out of existence under its own spooky, post-Internet, occult-laden weight. But it turns out this was just part of the plan, and tomorrow August, 8th at 8pm (that’s a numerologically significant 8/8/8 for those not paying attention) JJ Brine will open the new Vector at 3217 Beverly Boulevard.

With him will be a few of his more outre artists, some announced, some secret. But one of them is a particular favorite of ours. Going by the name Cultastic, her work is about “appreciating the value of art as separate from the art market and applying that idea to all facets of life,” she explains over Facebook chat. “Does that makes sense?”

Cultastic photographed by Alex Nguyen

Not really, but we’re intrigued. It helps that we like her music.

Evidently she became a part of the JJ Brine demimonde quite by accident. “I was walking down Clinton Street on the LES and I saw Vector 1.0 from the outside and it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. So cool that I decided to move to Clinton Street so I could live 2 blocks away from the galleryThe first event at Vector I attended was a birthday party for Nico of the Velvet UndergroundI moved out of that neighborhood when Vector switched locations. That’s where I met Julia Sinelnikova, the Oracle of Vector, who is now my roommate,” she says, adding, “I mean coincidentally tbh.

Get deep into the world of Cultastic at one of her many URLs.

Or just check her out tomorrow at the opening.

Here’s a peep at what you’ll see: