Intro & Interview by Shanon Weltman
You might know Ojay Morgan by his stage name Zebra Katz. From the moment I met Ojay I knew he was born to be a star, like David Bowie “I’m an instant star, just add water and stir.” I’ve known Ojay since our days at DSOA high school and it seemed like he always found himself as the creator and leader of several dance and performance troops. That natural leadership and ambition only quadrupled once he moved to NYC to attend The New School. Although Zebra Katz is currently taking the music and fashion world by storm, Ojay is constantly in the process of creating new characters and projects. CLAW CLAW has the honor of showcasing one of his over-sized Polaroids in our upcoming art exhibition & party on 10/12/13 at The Living Gallery.
SHANON WELTMAN: Do you still consider yourself a performance artist?
OJAY MORGAN: Yes. I like to consider myself a multi-media artist or interdisciplinary artist. I tend to mix a lot of mediums and I think it’s the juxtaposition of those mediums that make that said art so interesting sometimes. Whether it’s, like, stage performance, producing and using sound clips, or working with a set medium, like champagne. It’s just an idea, a theme, a concept – an idea and expanding it in the realm of visuals to celebratory performance of, like, shaking a bottle and spraying that onto an audience. Or making cork pieces out of it – grinding up the cork from said champagne bottle and using that cork to make black face. It’s definitely multidimensional. Yeah, performance.
SW: How has making it as Zebra Katz influenced your creative process?
OM: I think it gives me the opportunity to continue to grow and experiment and experience new things, so I’m constantly growing as an individual and an artist. It reminds me to challenge myself, because this may not be the set field I sought out to be doing creatively, but it’s a new experience and I’m enjoying it trying to continue the artistic movement of the creation [the project].
SW: Biggest inspirations artistically?
OM: I speak a lot about Nina Simone, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill. Visually, sonically. I draw from a lot of pop culture. Nomie Simone from Showgirls as a tragic hero, as a character. I’m inspired by really random things, but I think they all contribute to a greater cause in whatever piece. If it’s a sound clip or a hat or a mask, they all sort of lend themselves to other influences. Or things inspire me just by the performance or what they mean.
SW: What have been your favorite and least favorite cities internationally?
OM: I would say Moscow is pretty crazy. It was a good crazy. Going there and realizing that I had an audience or fan base there was just shocking to know. It was a little surreal being there not knowing much about Moscow or Russia at the time. What a lot of those kids are going through and they were listening to my music and it was something they were really into at the time and still they are. I guess it was four weeks after we left the whole thing with Putin starting happening and there are all these anti-gay rights that are happening. So it’s just crazy to think about how I relate to that performance and the kids that were there, and how they are dealing with the city that I visited, and thought was great, but there’s all this really crazy shit going on there at the same time. That was insane.
Going to Kiev was amazingly crazy in the Ukraine, which is not that far away. I recently went to Poland. I think it’s hard to break these cities up by worst place and best place because I’m usually only there for like 72 hours max and you really don’t get to go out that much. You really only go there to do the show. Rest up, do the show, maybe go see someone else play, socialize for a bit, then back to the hotel, and the next morning you’re gone. I’d say the least favorite city would be… Geneva, but only because I lost my passport. That’s it.
SW: Do you know how Rick Owens found your song?
OM: He found it on the internet.
SW: Totally by himself?
OM: Mmm hmmm. On the Mad Decent website, checking out some music. He used the track for his runway show and that kind of just sparked the trajectory of Zebra Katz.
SW: Do you pick out the outfits you’re wearing in your photos you post online, or is that advertisement?
OM: Yeah, usually. If people send me clothes I’ll wear it because I can’t afford to go out and buy clothes at the moment, because I have to pay for other shit. [haha] So, a lot of times I’ll see a pair of shades and I’ll like it on the brand’s page and they’ll say “oh, we’ll send you a pair”, just because they probably know I like to do the whole Instagram thing and show friends what I’m doing and what I’m up to. Mostly I dress myself, but sometimes in the videos I work with stylists. I still pick what I want to wear and how I want it to fit and all that.
SW: What do you miss about not being on tour?
OM: I don’t really miss much about it. I think the only thing is the stability, if anything, but I think you find stability in other things you do that you make ritual. That’s the only thing, not really knowing where you’re going to be, if you’re going to like it, if it’s gonna be crazy, if you’re going to be in the country in the next few days, if you need to find a subletter, if you can afford to go on tour for that long, who you’ll be touring with, are you going to bring someone on tour with you, who’s your tour manager. You think about a lot of things that I necessarily didn’t think about before or care to know that I do know now. Just try to apply to it and just better myself. I think you make a lot of mistakes and you learn from them and grow and then by your fourth or fifth year as a performing artist you get the ropes. You get to know how stage shows go, and booking festivals, and how to release tracks. By doing you learn a lot. So I’m learning at a rapid speed.
Yan Sze Li
SW: Tell me about your Polaroid series.
OM: So, I’ve been taking Polaroids since my senior year of high school. I kind of just fell in love with Polaroid photography. I found a Polaroid at a vintage shop and then found some film and went at it. Just documenting things and working with with mixed medium on that little 5”x6” frame. I started to take photos a lot of my friends, so the collection sort of started there. I have 1,000+ Polaroids now archived that I’ve been trying to make a book out of for the last six years. I even started a publishing company to do so, but it never really got off the ground. I probably have to get a lot of signatures [haha] of people I probably haven’t spoken to in a while. I still have a lot of people I do know and I did grab some signatures at the time for most of those events. I also continue to take pictures while I’m on tour. They’re really great, I miss them. I have a lot of Polaroids about just parties and living in NYC, the experience.
The photo that I’m showing in the [CLAW CLAW] show is from “Moor Contradiction”, which is the solo piece that I did in 2007 at LaMaMa Theatre. It’s me on the corner of 13th St. & 6th Ave., right by the New School. I needed an image for it one day and called up my friend Yan Sze and was like “omg I need you to come to the street and take this picture of me. I’m about to take my shirt off, so I need it to be really awesome and crazy and striking.” She took it in one shot, and I turned around and she took another one, put my shirt back on and went upstairs. In a week I did that show and created those characters. Zebra Katz is one of the characters in that show, so it’s great to see how all these other things interact.
I’m also working on a performance piece titled “Black House” which I hope to premiere in the fall of 2014. And then start touring. I helped create the menu and the concept behind the theater/dinner performance which is hosted by Zebra Katz. I’d like to share more details soon.
SW: Celebrity crush?
OM: Um, I have a lot of them. [silence] I’ll just say follow my Instagram [haha].
SW: You can’t name one?
OM: I can’t.
SW: Favorite bad habit?