Kenneth and Mads, better known as Cockwore & Macho, are a Copenhagen-based DJ duo-cum-apparel gurus. The two have been providing the nightlife with uncompromising disco tunes for eight years and on the side they’ve achieved great success in the queer environment, both nationally and internationally, creating t-shirts, tote bags, caps and much more, all with a mix of 70’s tackiness, idolizing and provocation. Oh, and they’re married. Cathrine Egelund Christensen met Cockwhore for Loverboy to talk t-shirts, cunts and relationships.
Hey Cockwhore, your brand is very popular in the queer environment all over the world, but still, it’s not mainstream. Why not?
I don’t see us as a fashion brand like that. I mean, I would never do a fashion show for example. To me, fashion is something else – we just make t-shirts and other apparel. Also, I think our brand is too much “in your face” to be mainstream.
Fair enough… So basically you have no ambition of selling your designs in stores?
Well, we actually do have some of our stuff in shops, but it’s very important for us as a brand to choose stores that are a good match for us. And there honestly aren’t many of those. I mean, just our name would never be accepted in the mainstream environment. We pretty much committed professional suicide just by having that name. Actually we’ve been asked to change our name multiple times for DJ gigs. Those have been more commercial events – now, I won’t mention any names, but there was a man, who was hosting a party for diversity at an embassy, and they told us, we had to change our name if we wanted to play there. Pretty ironic when you’re hosting a party to celebrate diversity, freedom and a space for being yourself, and then we have to change our name because it’s too forward. We are very stubborn when it comes to that – what you see is what you get, and we’re not going to change that to please anyone.
Now, I know you told me, you didn’t identify with the fashion industry, but is there anyone from there who inspires your designs?
Yes, of course. I’m extremely interested in fashion. There are a lot of brands I find completely amazing. But they don’t inspire me for the clothes that we make. Well, of course you could say our logo is a rip off of the Versace logo. We actually had some graphic designers make us logos, when we first started out, but nothing really fitted us. I mean, we’re called Cockwhore & Macho – it takes a little more than some headphones and a play button, you know? Then we had to come up with something else and found inspiration in an old legendary gay club from New York called Paradise Garage. It was a crazy place – they didn’t have permission to serve alcohol so they just had acid punch. Their logo was very 70’s-ish and tacky. It was also a cool match cause we play a lot of disco in our set, which is the epitome of that club. There and then I came to think of the Versace logo, which is iconic and just a perfect fit to our brand. We needed a logo that represented disco and queer at the same time. And then I like the fact that the logo is recognisable but still mixed with queer-cultural stuff that people know.
Did this remix element come to life in association with you being DJs?
You could say that. That does make sense. Maybe we should use that explanation in the future. But no, I mean, we started as DJ’s and then the t-shirts came along. We just started with the logo t-shirts and found out they were super popular. The Madonna t-shirt came to life because Macho is an old Madonna fan and I wanted to make him a birthday present. Then that started selling like crazy, and then I thought; okay, maybe we’re on to something here.
How did you get your brand out there?
It has exclusively been through Instagram. We’ve been lucky that some queer artists have been very supportive about our brand and helped us push it foreword. We’ve given them some t-shirts and then they’ve shown them off on their Instagram profiles. I like how you can help each other out like that in the queer community. But Rihanna hasn’t answered us yet…
Who would be the absolute coolest person to wear your t-shirts on Instagram?
Definitely someone, who’s on our t-shirts. It would be fun to see Madonna or Grace Jones wearing their own t-shirt. And then of course it would be cool to see Rihanna in one. I like her style and she is definitely one of my fashion icons. But of course you have to be careful as a celebrity wearing a t-shirt with another celebrity with the word cunt on it, could spark some controversy. It could be misunderstood.
Talking about cunt – why do you use that word so much on your t-shirts?
To us, the word cunt isn’t negative. To us, the word means that you’re the shit. It’s extremely important to us to reclaim something negative and give it some power. But it’s also fun that the word has two meanings – it’s very in your face to walk around with a word like that on your clothes, but that’s what makes it fun.
Tell us a little about the “cunts” you chose to put on your t-shirts? Why them?
The idols on our t-shirts are all cool personalities we can vouch for. We often get requests to make t-shirts with Rihanna or Beyonce, and I love Rihanna, I just don’t think she fits in to this context. I don’t really think she has anything to do with queer or gay culture, to be quite honest. Or at least not in the same way as Leigh Bowery or Divine.
Then what are the criteria to become an idol on your t-shirts?
You have to have had a worldwide meaning for the queer environment. You have to be an icon in some kind of way, but the most important thing is, that we like them. We don’t care if people like it or not. All icons are people we’ve looked up to and who in some way has had a meaning for us in our upbringing.
Can you reveal who will be the next queer icon on your t-shirts?
I don’t know who will be the next. We have so much stuff going on right now, but I would love to take the old t-shirts out of production and then update them. Maybe make them from another era, like how our Madonna shirt it her from the 80’s I like the idea that it’s the same and that there’s a template for our t-shirts making them recognizable.
You and Macho are partners in business and in life. How do you combine the two?
A lot of people ask us how we’re able to do it, but we’re good at dividing stuff. For example, Macho doesn’t have anything to do with the clothes. I take care of that part, and then he takes more care of the music. And we just don’t take our relationship too seriously. I mean we take it seriously but we don’t give it that pressure that now it has to be picture perfect 24/7. We make room for each other without being completely hippie about it. We’ve been married for five years now together for 8 and we’re very realistic about the relationship we just take it day by day. We are not like ”now we have to be together forever because we made this commitment”. I just think we’re really good for each other. But of course we can get annoyed with each other too. We both have big personalities, but we’re good at telling each other to calm down.
What would you advice our readers to do for an afternoon in Copenhagen?
I’m probably the worst person you could ask that question. I’m so bad at using the city. I don’t drink coffee and I never go to bars. Because I rarely go out during the day I am a nightperson. My best tip is probably; get drunk and get lost. Actually I think that’s the best way to meet people from Copenhagen – to get wasted with them. Then we love everyone. If there’s no alcohol, we don’t want to talk with you. Oh, and don’t rent a bike, if you’re a tourist! You will get hurt and you will piss off everyone around you! Luckily Copenhagen is not that big, so you can easily walk around.
And the mandatory question: What is your favourite Mariah Carey song?
I’ve never really been a fan of hers, but I do actually like some of her songs. I mean, I think she’s completely crazy. To me, she’s kind of ruined her own brand. Now you only hear about what a crazy diva she’s is. And she can’t really sing anymore, which is sad because of her legacy. But if I have to choose something, it has to be some of her old songs. Honey is pretty good.