Lessons from the Boss

I was looking for a four-letter word

Masoud Golsorkhi, founder and editor in chief of Tank teaches Lisa Farjam a thing or two.

Bidoun: Why Tank? Do you think one-name magazines are better than others?

Masoud Golsorkhi: I was looking for a four-letter word. English has a tradition of having very effective four letter words.

Bidoun: I can think of a few right off the top of my head.

MG: It also refers to think tank, tank as a container, but it also one of those words that actually has no translation — it means the same thing all over the world.

Bidoun: Our issues are themed around a central topic. This issue is themed around hair. And so I wanted to ask you a few questions related to hair.

MG: Well, I’m very pro-hair, so that’s fine with me.

Bidoun: Great. What was your hair like as a child?

MG: I had very straight black hair, like most Iranian boys. But when I hit puberty, it all went very curly. It made me very unpopular. You know, in Iran, there is a slight prejudice. If you look too much like an Arab, it’s not such a good thing. People used to call me “the Arab.”

Bidoun: Who is the biggest hair icon in the Middle East?

MG: All I can think of is Googoosh. Before Madonna, before postmodernism, she was so capable of reinvention and reinterpretation.

Bidoun: What would you consider the ugliest thing on earth?

MG: I have to say I can’t think of anything uglier than the Rumsfeld, Cheney, neo-con militarist #*$! that’s in power in America at the moment. They are the biggest threat to survival of humankind, and to peace, safety and security to most people in the world. They are the ugliest thing since the Cold War, since the Gulag and Stalin.

Bidoun: Agreed. Why all the hair in the last issue? Do you have spies infiltrating other magazine enterprises?

MG: Well, facial hair has been a kind of feature for the last couple of years — we did a big feature on mustaches a while ago, an article which took me almost a year to write because the first idea came up as I was listening to a radio program about Turkey, and it was a kind of small line in it which said that in Turkey you can always tell someone’s politics by the shape of their mustache! I thought that was kind of true, so, there it is.

And as for the Cousin It shoot, well, that is my daughter, she’s a bit of a gremlin, a bit of a monster… but there is of course the pun on It girls, and so on… I haven’t had more compliments on a shoot in Tank than this one for about 5 years…

Bidoun: What does it take to make “it” in your opinion? Besides good hair?

MG: I think in almost any area, ambition. You need good hair, and ambition. Ambition will get you further than almost any other quality I can think of.

Bidoun: What was your favorite issue to make?

MG: It’s always the next one. I really enjoyed making “Arabica” in ’98, because people just didn’t understand, they thought we were sponsored by a coffee company, there was a real degree of bafflement. That was a landmark issue because we worked on the theme. And I am very proud with the issue before last, with the Prada cover — I really loved that one.

Bidoun: Are you hairy deep down?

MG: No, I’m more hairy on the outside than on the inside. People think I am quite fearsome, but I am an absolute pussycat.

Bidoun: What advice would you give me at Bidoun as a starting magazine?

MG: First of all, I enormously admire what you have done so far. I love the look of the magazine so far, and I would just advise you to be more ambitious than you thought to be and don’t be afraid of approaching things that you think are bigger than you. In school, or in prison, you need to pick a fight with someone to make a name for yourself. Pick a fight with someone twice as big as yourself. Because whatever happens, you will always win.

Just be shamelessly ambitious, and don’t listen to anyone else. It’s always better to make a coherent, strong mistake, than a bland, run-of-the-mill product that “pleases” everybody.

Bidoun: Do you ever wish that you had done it differently? Did Tank come out as you imagined it?

MG: I suppose when you imagine it as always a collective effort, where everyone gets along all the time… but I guess I never imagined it would last… I think in the beginning there was tremendous support from everyone, but as soon as we kind of showed that we were here to stay, people were a little less helpful…

Bidoun: Would you ever consider having a column in our magazine? Defect and work with us?

MG: Well, um… I am very honored… how ’bout next issue?

Bidoun: Sounds good, we’ll do lunch then…