in conversation

For Tommy Cash, Rick Owens Is Daddy

Tommy Cash is one of a kind. In fact, the 30-year-old musical artist is a weirdo. Cash was first let out of the cage in 2018 with his sophomore album ¥€$, which included features from hyperpop royals like Charli XCX and Caroline Polacheck. Since then, the Estonia-born Ukrainian-Russian artist has been raising a ruckus with his experimental post-Soviet rap sound, subversive fashion designs, and provocative sculptural works.

Cash’s transgressive taste has drawn him into collaborations with everyone from Maison Margiela and IKEA, to Diplo, 100 Gecs, and Boys Noize. But for all his creative mind-melding, there’s one person that Cash keeps coming back to. Rick Owens has become the artist’s creative confidant, partnering with Cash on “The Pure and The Damned,” a collection of the pair’s raunchy large-scale paintings exhibited in Cash’s hometown of Talinn; appearing on Cash’s song “Mona Lisa;” and co-producing a series of NFTs. Owens—or “daddy,” as Cash calls him—has established himself as both muse and mentor for the Eastern European ingenue. So, it’s no surprise that, as Cash wound down the North American leg of his Biggest and Strongest World Tour, he made time to check in. Here, the pair discuss the importance of making art in trying times, staying sane on the road, and a mysterious tank of Parisian sperm. – ERNESTO MACIAS


TOMMY CASH : Hey, daddy.

RICK OWENS: Hello, handsome. Look how your pretty hair is. I’m glad you’re not cutting it.

CASH: You know, I have moments in my life where I think about it, but it’s only for, like, a millisecond. I’ll keep growing it.

OWENS: Well, whenever you consider it, think of me and whether or not I will approve.

CASH: I’m always thinking, “Rick has had his long hair for such a long time. I should keep going.”

OWENS: “How can I please Rick?”

CASH: That’s right. You’re the dad you know, so I’m trying. Where are you?

OWENS: I’m at my factory in Concordia, Italy.

CASH: So, straight away after fashion week, Rick doesn’t rest at all?

OWENS: Well, I did. My show was Thursday, and for the rest of the week, I just went to museums. Michele [Lamy] and I  had a party, and we went to some other parties. Two weeks before the show, I went to the Dolomites, and I was in the snow for three days. That was great. My life isn’t really as stressful as you might think. It’s always rolling along and everything’s kind of organized, so I don’t need a lot of time off. Oh, and Michele and I went to Egypt last month for 10 days. I definitely take plenty of unplug time. Where are you— in a hotel room?

CASH: I’m in D.C., and I have two shows left in America. Tonight in DC is sold out, and tomorrow in New York is also sold out.

OWENS: Congratulations. Michele saw you in Los Angeles.

CASH: Yes, yes.

OWENS: Did you see her? You were at the pool at the Chateau [Marmont], right?

OWENS: Yeah we were by the pool the next day. It was very nice to see her there, and she also came to the concert before. I was fresh then. Well, I’m fresh now too, but my body already feels—I’m going to need a break for three weeks after this, because my body needs it. It’s stressful to do so many gigs.

OWENS: I can’t imagine how grueling that must be, it must be so exhausting. Do you eat well?

CASH: Yeah, I eat well. I actually lost like eight kilos in America, because I’ve been eating very well. We’re eating only clean stuff after the gigs—salads and stuff like that. I’ve been maintaining my sanity because I do a lot of cardio on stage. I can’t do what I usually do, like swimming or weights. I think my muscles have compressed because of all the jumping and sweating.  This tour has basically been a fitness bootcamp.

OWENS: But you must look really good, though. You must be pretty defined right now, right?

CASH : Yes. I was the strongest I’d ever been before I came to tour. We were going hard in the gym, and now my body has transformed the body I need to have on the stage—light enough, fast enough, you know, like a statue.

OWENS: What’s your favorite song to perform on tour?

CASH: I think maybe “X Ray.” It’s the first song. I love to talk. I don’t talk much between songs, but it’s always fun—“Hey guys, how are you feeling?”—weird stuff like that.

OWENS: Do you do a monologue?

CASH : My favorite part is when I say, “Hey, my name is Tommy Cash,” and people go “Whoa!” and that’s it.

OWENS: It must be very satisfying.

CASH : Yes, that’s very satisfying.

OWENS: I would love to do that. I would love to go, “Hey, It’s Rick Owens” and just hear cheering.

CASH : But why do you never talk after your shows? Why?

OWENS: I do talk.

CASH: You storm off, really.

OWENS: Well, backstage, I talk. I mean, I’m not gonna stand there and start talking at everyone right after my show, that’s kind of weird. What designer has ever done that?

CASH : That’s what I’m asking. Why it isn’t common?

OWENS: Oh, I should try it? I feel like you just don’t want to ruin the magic of a show. I try not to smile, because when we’ve done a beautiful, serene show and then I come bouncing out smiling at everybody, then it ruins it. So, is there a new album coming?

CASH : Yes, definitely.

OWENS: Do you know the timeline? Or you don’t want to define it.

CASH : You know how we musicians are. We take our time. But I love that in the fashion world, you have to have a new collection every six months. Maybe it should be like that with music?

OWENS:  I love it. It gives me a sense of purpose, it gives me cycles, and it gives me a sense of consistency. If you had all the time in the world, it would be hard to make decisions. What I love about this is that you have a certain amount of time, a certain amount of resources, and you have to make something convincing.

CASH: I’m gonna try to use this— the structure—I think I need it.

OWENS: Is traveling good for your creativity, or is it bad?

CASH: I think it’s good.

OWENS: I think there is something about being in motion, it gives you a sense of momentum, but also there’s kind of nothing else you can do—it releases you from any responsibilities of having to do anything else, except move forward. I never told you my favorite song of yours: its “Dostoyevsky.” I want more of that sound, I want a whole album of that—what do you call it?

CASH: I don’t know, it’s very hard punching sounds—it’s very aggressive.

OWENS: Very aggressive. A whole album of that, or give me a 20 minute remix of that song. Your music has a lot of humor, but there’s also some menace in it, we love a little bit of menace. There’s a balance to hi. You walked the runway for Marine Serre, and you looked great, you had a very scary look. How was that? You’re a runway model, wow.

CASH : It felt good. I was so angry. You know, because of what’s going on in the world—I felt this anger. I’m being a bit pressured because I’m both Russian and Ukrainian. I feel like a lot of people are, so I have to listen to my parents. My DJ is Russian and my mom is Ukrainian so I get both sides, and my fans are demanding, everyone is—it was like this tornado. I was walking, I had all this kind of anger about everything. Well, also because of what I was wearing, I felt like I needed to put some emotion into it. It was kind of coming out of me.

OWENS: Everybody is expecting you to say the right thing. It’s very tricky being a public figure right now, I would think. Your role, though, is to contribute your creativity to the world. That is the most valuable thing to you can do.

CASH: It is.

OWENS: You know, our culture needs creative expression like yours, and here you are creating it. You are contributing a very valuable service to the world. I think you’re great.

CASH : We are, we are, yes.

OWENS: [Opens a box] Ooh, fun things for me. It’s samples of this Aesop collaboration I just did.

CASH: Tell me about this new collab, because all my friends were asking me about it.

OWENS: We’re doing this travel kit—all my favorite Aesop products but re-branded, and we did a perfume together called Stoic.

CASH : How does it smell?

OWENS: It’s like incense, vetiver, and elemi, which is some kind of tree. So, did you have a chance to check out the sites while you were in L.A.?

CASH : Not really. I think I’m more a fan of the weird cities, like Seattle and Detroit.

OWENS: What did you like about Detroit? I’ve never been to Detroit.

CASH : It’s a little bit like Eastern Europe, a little bit empty and people are rougher, I feel. I feel at home there, and I also love Pittsburgh. I went to see Andy [Warhol’s] grave in Pittsburgh. I went and talked to Andy. I love weird cities—I don’t like the main characters all the time, I love the weird characters. Do you go to the Chateau Marmont whenever you’re in L.A.?

OWENS: For the past couple of years, that’s where we stay in L.A. I only recently started returning to L.A. to visit my mom, but before that I hadn’t been to L.A. for 27 years or so. It just felt like it was in a state of decline. When are you going to come to Italy?

CASH : Your next show is in six months right?

OWENS: It’s a men’s show in June in Paris. It’s gonna be a fun show, you should come for that one, provided that the world isn’t over by then. We’ve got to keep working and doing our very best. What’s happening in Estonia? You live mainly in Estonia, you haven’t thought about living somewhere else?

CASH : No, but I’m thinking about buying this old post-Soviet commune, an old concrete building. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but I’d love to rebuild it and have my own base there.

OWENS: Sounds great. I’m so jealous.

CASH : You and Michele are very big inspirations, and your world is like that— the architecture fits with the creations.  I’ve been always honest about my passion for post-Soviet everything, so I’ve been dreaming about finding a house like this and  making it my own. Like a Batcave, let’s say.

OWENS: You know, I thought about you all the time last week in Paris, because I walked past that tank of your semen every day.

CASH: [Laughs] That is so cute. I think of us all the time, too.

OWENS: For the readers, you should explain the tank of semen. You should explain how I came to have a tank of your semen in my house.

CASH : I think it’s cooler if I don’t explain why. [Laughs] But it’s an art piece protected by this bulletproof glass—it’s funny, because I saw you had this big party during fashion week with Dave Chappelle, Kanye, Pusha T and whoever, and there’s a photo them posing with my tank of semen in the background. You know what’s better than being in the picture? Having your semen in the picture. It was so cool.

OWENS: You should have been tagged in all of those. Oh my god, that’s so great.