Extremely Behind the Scenes: MATT LAMBERT’s “BUTT MUSCLE” Zine for Rick Owens
Last month, filmmaker and photographer Matt Lambert premiered the music video for Christeene’s “Butt Muscle,” a kaleidoscopically erotic black-and-white video made in collaboration with Rick Owens. The video is a fully-lubed parade of ass play, one that climaxes in Christeene kissing Owen’s partner Michele Lamy while peeing in Owens’s mouth — a scene that Owens dreamed up in a sketch he emailed to Lambert. The collaboration between the designer and the photographer began after Owens approached Lambert about his VITIUM zine, and now BUTT MUSCLE is being released as its own zine, soon to be available gratis in Owens’s stores in an edition of 2000.
032c’s Thom Bettridge spoke with Lambert and the video’s stylist Rich Aybar about fisting outfits, celebrating intimacy, and the making of BUTT MUSCLE.
Thom Bettridge: I’m curious about the conversations that led to this video. Was it a eureka moment, or was it a concept that built over time?
Matt Lambert: It built over time. I first chatted with Rick a while back because of a zine I made with my husband, called VITIUM. Which lead to us deciding to work with Christeene. Then I met Rich in Berlin, and we started to develop what the thing would look like a bit more.
Did you guys visit any sex clubs together?
Rich Aybar: I went shopping at some. In Paris.
Lambert: I think we’d probably both done enough personal research before this project.
What drew you guys and Rick to Christeene?
Lambert: I first saw Christeene perform at Ficken3000 about five years ago in Berlin and had been kind of obsessed ever since. And then it seems she’s been a part of the Rick fam for a long time as well.
Was the shoot itself improvisational? Or was there a set agenda?
Lambert: Scenes were pretty set — Rich, Rick, Christeene, and I had developed prior. Some of the set-ups were pretty complex and took some planning — like the Michele flying and Rick pee drinking shot, or the Rick’s hair in Christeene’s ass moment.
Who came up with the pee-drinking?
Lambert: Rick! He emailed me this sketch.
And how real was that?
Lambert: The actual piss wasn’t, but it came from the heart and has been a theme of Rick’s.
What do you think the emotional draw is there?
Lambert: I can’t speak for Rick, but the entire video was a celebration of intimacy and vulnerability. It was about taking queer sexuality that’s perceived as taboo and humanizing it. It was a way for Rick to channel his intimate connection with Michele via the vessel of Christeene. The set was a warm and playful space. It all starts with the way people feel and are treated.
Rich, something I wanted to ask you about is the way that clothes intensify or play off of sexuality, as opposed to just nudity. For example, how do you pick an outfit for being fisted?
Aybar: Well, Christeene is all about the peekaboo — showing the right bit. I also wanted to show some more abstract pieces from the archive and give them a fisty life. The harnesses, for example. They frame the ass crotch perfectly.
Do you think fisty life is something that’s already in the collections? Or is that a new meaning you imported into it?
Aybar: “Sex” life is already in the collections implicitly, or explicitly at times. For example, there have been penis key holes.
Tell me about Michele’s ostrich feather dress moment.
Aybar: Well, Rick and I were keen on maintaining a level of elegance — a good mix of glam and trash. The ostrich feather capes came with four kids from the press office who showed up with this giant box to detangle each strand and make sure the cape was treated with respect. Like a true star! So seeing them sopped in lube, dodging a fake piss stream was a real moment of smiles.
Was there any inspiration in terms of music videos that you guys were looking at?
Lambert: We kind of stayed on the creative bubble. Between Rich, Inge, Charlie, Rick, and Christeene, there were endless ideas. But I was into subverting some sexual imagery often used in rap videos. It’s been interesting to look at the double-standard in relation to exploitation of female bodies versus queer bodies, and how one is totally acceptable and the latter is “obscene.”
Aybar: For the back-up dancers we were talking about Paris and Nicole in Season One of The Simple Life.
Was this something you always pictured as becoming a zine?
Lambert: The zine happened organically after showing Rick some of the pics I shot while we were film. It made sense too, since we first started chatting because of VITIUM. Perhaps we were just meant to make a zine, but it got out of hand and Rick let us go wild.