As a kid, Avi Spivak’s dad took him to see the Ramones. At that point, maybe he could have recovered. But not long after, young Avi caught a train to New York City by himself to see the reunion of much-loved proto-punk band the Dictators, and ended up staying up all night in Times Square with the streetwalkers and hustlers, barely making it back for high school Monday morning. (Without any sleep at all, either.) After that, he knew he’d never quite go back to normal. Now, he’s an artist whose work transplants the heart and humor of George Herriman’s surreal comic strip Krazy Kat to a fantasyland version of punk rock New York, alive with the night-world romance and grit both the Ramones and the Dictators, who fell in love by the soda machine and fell asleep with the TV on.
In 2011, of course, most of what’s left of the spirit of that dirty old city—itself redeveloped almost to oblivion, with storied dives like Mars Bar and CBGB’s awaiting reincarnation as gourmet artisinal walk-in humidors or something similary loathsome—is probably in the offices of Norton Records, arguably North America’s premier label for real-deal rock ‘n’ roll from every decade since the ‘50s. Founders Billy Miller and Miriam Linna have crossed paths with every wildman ever to cut a 45 and live to tell the tale. They were there with the Cramps, the Stooges, the Ramones and more at the very beginning, so naturally Spivak and Norton would find themselves on the same path.
Now, after years of informal shit-shooting and office work between shelves of priceless memorabilia—like the original Andy Warhol soup can that untamable one-man-band Hasil Adkins cracked open for dinner one night—they formally teamed up for a comic book chronicling the strange-but-all-too-true reminiscences of Norton-ian history, featuring the Flamin Groovies and Roky Erickson and Gene Vincent and more all at their bestial best. (“All my favorite guys,” says Spivak.) Although Spivak has self-published two issues of his essential rock ‘n’ roll fanzine The Human Being Lawnmower, Norton’s new Kicksville Confidential is his first official full-length—his debut LP, if you wanna call it that. He speaks now from a tiny apartment where the trains rattle by outside—one thing about New York City that hasn’t changed.