Soho-based hairdresser and artist, Nelson Loskamp, does a very strange thing indeed. As part of his Electric Chaircut routine, which he performs at various venues around New York and beyond, he ties volunteers from the audience to a chair, blindfolds them, and then — using amplified electric clippers that are run through a series of guitar effect pedals — cuts their hair. It’s something to behold. A mesmerizing art meets noise meets music meets avant-garde barrage of sensory expressionism. And at the end of it all, a handful of people emerge with a dashing new look. So where did the idea come from? ‘Some ideas come to you and others are thrust upon you’, Loskamp says. ‘I originally started cutting hair to support myself as a painter. Much of what has become Electric Chaircut started as requests and demands from former friends and customers: “do you mind roughing me up a bit? I think I need to be taped down while I get my hair cut. Can we do this in public, like with an audience? I think the scissors and clippers should be louder”, and so on’.
Has it evolved over the years or has it always been pretty much the same act?
‘I’m always trying new things. There is the standard Electric Chair cut and then I collaborate with other musicians sometimes; have live mixes while I’m cutting; and also do a piece with seven people doing amplified cutting at the same time’.
What’s been the most extreme reaction you’ve had to a Chaircut?
‘Once, during an outdoor performance in France, I was accosted by a metal TV tray wielding street musician who was outraged by my sound, calling it Trerre-bol and complaining that I was ruining his business. My audience stepped in, removed the TV tray from him, and sent him packing’.
The clippers create an interesting sound. Is it music? Is it noise? Is it a mix of the two — muise?
‘Muise, that sounds good! It’s definitely experimental. I’m influenced by some of the ideas of John Cage and the fluxus artists who were his students, so it has some basis in music. But in a higher sense’.
How would you describe Chaircut to a stranger?
‘It’s an interactive electra-sonic hair happening. I take victims from the audience, tape them down into my chair, and give them the haircut that they really want. Oh, and the scissors and clippers are amplified. It’s like a car wreck in a beauty parlor’.
When are you performing next?
‘July 1 in New York at the ABC No Rio Benefit. This time it will be a little different. I’m doing a duet with the experimental lap steel guitar player Kurt Gottschalk from Ecstasy Mule‘.