Scott Lipps: Joining The Dots
Scott Lipps is quite a story. Drummer in Courtney Love's band, Hole; street artist and photography fanatic; and founder and CEO of one of the cutting edge modelling agencies, One Management. So how did that happen, then? Gary Spencer caught up with him in New York City to find out.
GS: Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
SL: I remember telling my dad I was going to attend PIT, the Pittsburgh Institute of Technology. I did, of course, but it was the Percussion Institute! [laughs]. I grew my hair out and became a drummer in local rock bands, then in the late '80s, I was with a band called Black Cherry, who at that time were one of the biggest bands on the live circuit, especially on the West Coast .
While playing drums for these bands, I also took over the marketing, and sometimes management - and remember, this was 1987, so it wasn’t a case of posting to your Facebook or Instagram wall. We were trying to compete on LA's Sunset Strip with big bands like Poison and Guns N' Roses, and our fliers had to stand out better than not only those bands, but also the thousands of other bands that were gigging around.
And what led you down the modeling agency route?
Well, when you are a drummer, and not involved in any of the songwriting, you are easily replaceable; I really enjoyed the bands I played for, so to make sure I earned my worth, I learned to become their management, basically. I tried working for labels, and actually setting up my own record label, but it just didn’t work because clients couldn’t see past me being a drummer, so my mother suggested that I get in touch with my cousin, who owned NEXT models. Initially, I was driving the models around, and being a general help; and everyone seemed to enjoy my different perspective on the fashion scene, so I progressed to becoming a booker, and then in 2001, was able to set up One Management.
What do other agents think about you, would you say?
I'm certainly not the first agent to try and take the organic route and shoot my muses that may lead to bigger and better projects; and I also know that there are many agents that have creative outlets. But I love the whole vision and branding process. I feel that through being around successful musicians, actors, and models, I understand what it takes to get a talent from A to Z, and that whole process is what I love to do. I work my arse off every day doing it, but its an amazing buzz when I see our development ideas come to fruition.
But it's funny... When you look at social media these days, it's like a greatest hits; you never see the hard work behind the scenes. The hustle, you know? It's all about the 30 seconds it takes to produce the one shot that’s worthy of a post. Everyone has ADD these days, including me, but no one wants to see someone sitting at a computer putting the infrastructure together; it's just not exciting enough. I’m always looking for ways to develop and grow the agency and the divisions within it. In the last year, I have been really focusing on our social media division, as it's such an important part of the industry nowadays; even some campaigns go straight to digital and skip print altogether.
So many of my top girls are now shooting magazines such as Vogue, and it's all because of social media. Then it starts to cross over, and all of a sudden it gets quite interesting; for instance, Rocky Barnes just shot a spread for Vogue with Patrick Demarchelier for Sam Edelman.
Who would you say are your top girls?
When we started the agency, we wanted to brand girls as supermodels or represent girls who already were supermodels, but to name some would be Iman, Bar Refaeli, Kristen Owen, Hailey Clauson, Claudia Schiffer, Eva Herzigova, and Karolina Kurkova. We are fortunate to have some amazing girls within the agency.
You were probably the first model agency to represent celebrity and talent...
We were certainly one of the front runners, yes; we have been open now for 15 years, and when we started, that really wasn't happening. Now, others have celebrity divisions. The film agencies had endorsement divisions, but we really were leading the field as far as a model agent. I see the company as a celebrity/entertainment agency, but use the modelling as the base for everything, because that has always been our starting point.
The Huffington Post said: “If any actor is connected to Kevin Bacon in less than six degrees of separation, anyone in the fashion industry must be connected to Scott Lipps in less than three.” True?
[smiles] Hmm... How can I answer that without sounding weird? My network now has become very extensive, and the fashion biz is connected to so many people, plus I also have my music and those guys within that. And on top of that, my managerial stuff. So much of that is behind the scenes, and I do rely a lot on my network with that: for example, I know X from an ad agency who knows Y, who is a photographer, and Z is my musician/actor/celebrity, who is perfect for the project. Managing artists or celebrities is really a lot of the time just connecting the dots.
Do you have a mental rolodex?
Well, when a client gets on the phone and they need an actor, musician, model or celebrity for a brand, it's really important that you listen to exactly what it is they want, and plug them into the right people. I’ve heard in the past of other agencies that just fax a whole list of talent over, whereas I try to make the interaction between client and agency as personal and targeted as possible.
What is your fascination with street art?
The whole street art thing for me and the photography is a creative outlet; I love taking pictures, I love getting inspired. I get inspired by beautiful people, by great street art as scenery, and just by New York City or travelling. As great as New York City is, after a while, there’s only so many times you can take a photo of one world trade or food. New York City does have some amazing street art, so I got into photographing that, but I can't tell you how great it feels when someone comes up to me and says, “hey man, I saw your shot on Instagram; I love what you do”. That to me is so rewarding.
How long did your recent tour with Courtney Love and Hole last for, and would you ever consider being a full time rock drummer again?
We just did over a month on the road with Courtney and the band; the good thing for me is, Courtney would rather play certain shows and festivals. We did a tour a couple of years ago where we were playing theatre venues which were a little smaller, but this latest tour was amazing where we played shows like the Hollywood Bowl and Red Rocks, and most of the crowds were around the 20,000 mark. Supporting Lana Del Ray is quite a buzz every night, also. But would I consider it full time again? [pauses] It’s a wonderful way to earn a living, but again, I only post the best bits on Instagram; no-one sees the travel delays, the bus journeys, the bad hotel beds - or no hotel beds and sleeping on the tour bus!
Music has changed so much, especially rock music; it's so tough for that genre of music right now, as it's all about hip hop and DJs and EDM. But hey, I'm a rocker; that’s my soul. Because of my diverse careers, I go from sitting in a model agency office to banging drums in front of 30,000 people... It’s a weird disconnect! And yes, I was really nervous, pacing corridors and so on. I like the edge that nerves give you, but I also like the calmness of knowing I’m up to the task too. Playing the earlier shows there were smoke machines and low lights, so I couldn’t really see the crowds; and then you walk out at Hollywood Bowl and the lights are up, it's still sunny, and I’m like: “holy fuck!” [laughs] But nothing compares to that hour rush when you are on stage.
What Drummers Inspire You?
Well obviously John Bonham from a rock stand point. He’s the classic rock drummer; the best ever, as far as I’m concerned. And from a jazz perspective, Billy Cobham; and that whole jazz thing is on another level, drumming wise. I love Mitch Mitchell, who was with Jimi Hendrix; and currently I love the Nine Inch Nails drummer, Ilan Rubin. He blows me away; the best I’ve seen in the past 10 years. I obviously love Tommy Lee for his energy and the way he hits so hard, and is so into it, too. So a lot, basically!
What is a typical day for Scott Lipps... If there is such a thing?
[smiles] I normally have around between three and 10 meetings per day, and in the evenings, I normally have a bunch of work-related events that I like to or need to attend. I still get on the phone and negotiate deals for the models, but at the same time I am trying to build and evolve constantly, so I try and delegate the booking table the best I can. I really want to grow One Management further again in 2016, and the only way I can do that is by letting go of the reins now and again.
Young, and still with lots of drive and ambition. What's next?
Oh, well, I'm not that young! [laughs] I don’t even know. Obviously I want to continue to grow the company, open up more divisions, and develop those further. I Would love to progress and do more photography, and hopefully continue to do more music with Courtney. Let's wait and see.