Adam Lehrer was born in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA during the the tale end of the 1980s. After a fairly typical childhood for artsy kids, he spent his early adulthood exploring the world of fine art – Primarily working in the mediums of photography and collage. He also spent much of this time writing about art and culture for publications such as Autre Magazine, Numero Berlin, Mute Presence, The Quietus and i-D; to name but a few.
Recently Adam decided to branch out on his own. Founding both the Safety Propaganda conceptual blog and the System of Systems podcast to much acclaim and interest. Projects Adam uses to explore and promote art, culture and creatives he loves – No matter what it is. Who they are. Or how controversial it all may be.
In addition Adam also released his debut fiction novel in 2021, Communions, published by Hyperidean Press. Cementing him as a man of many talents.
Wanting to get to know him better we sent Adam some questions to answer over email.
Explore his world below…
Name + D.O.B?
Adam Lehrer, October 22, 1987
Please describe some memories – such as art, music, friendships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, crime, religion… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Your childhood:
My childhood was idyllically middle class during the last gasp of post-War American prosperity.
My parents were incredibly young. My dad was 23 and my mom was 21 when I was born. Though it didn’t seem like it at the time, looking back on on it they seemed like kids.
This had both positive and negative outcomes.
Some of my finest childhood memories I can recall were “R Rated movie nights with dad” in which my dad would treat my very young brother and I to an assortment of his favorite violent cinema: Alien, Predator, Terminator, Halloween, and more.
I know now that it was through the trauma of those images that my aesthetic sensibilities sharpened faster than most young boys.
We also loved music in our household. REM was my dad’s favorite band, and the alt rock of the early ‘90s seeped into my head early, just before I did my due diligence and rejected his taste all together as I started developing my own singular taste.
Spin Magazine and little later into the ‘90s, Terrorizer Magazine became my bibles.
Magazines were big for me.
* Your teenage years:
Living on Cape Cod was a double edged sword. Summers were hazy and beautiful, parties on the beach and an illusory freedom that was intoxicating. Winters, however, were brutal and deeply depressing.
My hometown was very white working and white upper middle class, and there wasn’t much interest in culture. Though I was a good looking and athletic kid, I often joke with my friends about how in the New York culture industries we are undeniably macho comparatively to everyone around us, while in our hometowns our passionate interests in art stood out like sore thumbs.
My hometown friends definitely called me “faggot” quite often, especially after in an AP English class I gave a book report on Genet’s Thief’s Journal.
I didn’t live that down for god knows how long.
The other main development in my teens was drugs.
I grew up during the most raging but still totally media ignored portion of the Opioid Epidemic.
I was a drug interested youth from very young. Who can blame me? Cobain. Trainspotting. Early enthusiasm for Burroughs. OxyContin was the most available drug only secondary to pot, and thus the normal drug experimentation route (weed to psychedelics to coke/ex) was subverted.
The drug was too expensive to get hooked but I used it as much as I could and showed addictive tendencies very early on, I would use 30 MG percocet for my track meets and ended up pushing my body to levels of strength I never thought possible.
The drugs also caused me heartache early on, and cost me the trust of my first love. She couldn’t deal with me. This would be a repeating pattern for some time.
* Your 20s:
What’s to say really? College in Arizona, studying photojournalism. Knowing that I would do something in the arts but no clue what really. Grad School at NYU.
And, until I was 27, an on/aff again opioid addiction. Heroin, mainly. But basically every other drug as well.
My photography would eventually get more conceptual and studio-based, and I ended up getting a couple shows towards the end of the decade. That burst of energy however quickly stamped itself out, and I ended up working shitty tour guide jobs.
Writing was a thing that I had always consistently done, and I started taking it very seriously during this period.
Writing on my phone during work and late into the morning when I’d get home at 11 Pm from those shitty jobs. I started getting published, and realized this was something I could do.
I got off heroin at 27.
For three years, I remained entirely sober.
Now, I indulge in red wine and psychedelic drugs. I think I also replaced that void that dope left open with sex and love, and I made great use of the dating apps as I went on a rather epic sex bender for a few years.
I also had a tendency to need to be loved, and ended up in three successive horrible relationships with women, not their fault and not mine exactly, just bad matches that only made me more sad.
It was also during that decade that I became interested in Marx and the class struggle. And though I still use Marxism as an analytical tool, I simply cannot abide leftism in any capacity.
I now consider myself a conservative liberal Marxist, and vote right wing for actually existing politics.
(Two works of art by Adam.)
* Your 30s so far:
My 30s have been terrific.
After being canceled from polite publishing society, I’ve committed myself to nothing short of ruthless honesty in my work, and I feel more in command of my craft than I ever have.
I fell in love with a woman several years younger than me, and we are getting married in June.
The Bernie Sanders campaigns and my involvement with them was my final formative experience. It made me see how hollow leftism is, how bourgeois and fraudulent, and I swore off any association I’ve ever had.
I support Trump now, and any conservative politicians who might be able to slow down the disintegration of social bonds being perpetrated by the left.
No, these politicians don’t perfectly align with my politics. But I am realistic about this. Vote republican until revolution, I say.
The first decade without any addiction and the first taste of success has been its form of delirious intoxication. I’m proud of what I’m building, and can’t wait to see what else this life has in store for me.
After being bombarded endlessly by road-safety propaganda it was almost a relief to find myself in an actual accident.
– J.G. Ballard, from his 1973 book ‘Crash‘.
Writing, Art + General Creativity Questions
When and why did you first become interested in art, writing and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
Well, Jesus. This could take forever.
Since I was very, very young, my enthusiasm for arts has been schizoid and kinetic. Diving into one rabbit hole leads to another leads to another.
Those early film experiences with dad were my first influences. Violence. Surrealism. Ideological demystification. It’s all in there.
But eventually a more formed consciousness would learn those movies were made by people like Cronenberg and Lynch, and there goes a rabbit hole into all manner of cinematic and art influences.
Cronenberg is probably still, all things considered, my favorite artist.
Music would be even more kinetic. You listen to Nirvana then you learn who Butthole Surfers, Black Flag and Half Japanese is.
My brief enthusiasm for nu-metal introduced me to Terrorizer Mag, which brought me to death and black metal.
I am consistently questing for the most extreme and upsetting content I can find. I was listening to harsh noise and power electronics when I was 15, skateboarding with Merzbow or The Grey Wolves on my headphones. It never stops.
That said, I temper this tendency with an attraction and need for beauty. You can’t enjoy noise without Motown.
You need Van Gogh to mediate engagement with the Viennese Actionists.
My favorite writers in high school were Bret Ellis, David Foster Wallace, Burroughs and Lester Bangs.
My initial exposure to visual art was magazine photography and music videos. Chris Cunningham’s Aphex Twin videos and Francis Bacon paintings I see as intwined in my mind. A struggle of the body against modernity, or whatever.
Maybe this question is too open ended because it’d be too hard to narrow on a single experience while looking over the power of so many aesthetic influences.
I’m currently writing something actually about my “recruitment” into what I call (metaphorically, mostly) The Counter-Agency of the Avant-Garde, which tracks my kinetic journey into the arts.
I will say this.
I’ve had several religious experiences through engagements with the arts. Seeing Francis Bacon’s Met show on LSD. Watching British noise rock band Skullflower play on a large dose of Ketamine.
These experiences are fleeting and impossible to explain.
The feeling defies language.
If you had to explain your creative endeavors to some recently crash-landed aliens…
What would you tell them?
I am a conceptual artist and writer that uses all manner of media — books, blogs, podcasts, videos, photographs, performative gestures, social media — to demystify and counter hegemonic ideology.
This is what the “Counter-Agency of the Avant-Garde” is.
For those at home who may be unaware – Please tell us the what, who and why regarding your System of Systems podcast, and Safety Propaganda substack / website?
Safety Propaganda is the sum of my projects. It started as a Substack, but has since become the conceptual umbrella of all of my projects. Everything I do, is counter Safety Propaganda.
It is also now a publishing company and, soon, a magazine.
System of Systems is a podcast, but also the “audio misinformation arm” of Safety Propaganda and provides my audience a way to hear my ideas and my real persona without the character I’ve constructed before them.
In writing, I’m Counter-Agent Adam Lehrer, on the podcast, I’m Adam.
Have you totally abandoned your art practice since you veered into writing and podcasting?
… and if not – Where are you currently at with it?
No. Not totally.
While I don’t do a photographic practice I still make collages and video montages, and I’m curating a show at a friend’s gallery this year.
I also don’t see writing as separate from any other creative production. It is the medium I have the most command over, and there are moment that I legitimately think that I might be one of the best out there still doing it, but still one arm of my output.
Writing makes me feel legitimate, basically.
Who are some of your favourite artists, writers and musicians?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
1. JG Ballard: the best chronicler of the rapid shifts in social structure and political economy as modernism broke for postmodernism.
2. Norman Mailer: Very influential on me.
Journalism, literature, it’s all one, metaphysically expansive thing in Mailer’s writing.
3. Michel Houellebecq: I could have included countless writers here but I’ll go with a writer who is still working. Houellebecq understands the spiritual malaise of modern life better than anyone. His words are beautiful and ugly, spiritual but also deeply materialist.
4. Burroughs: Pulp fiction fractured and disoriented in a million pieces and reassembled as theory fiction. All postmodern avant-garde stars and ends with Burroughs.
5. Arthur Machen: I wanted to have at least one writer emphasizing my enduring fascination with horror and gothic romanticism. Since Lovecraft gets too much praise these days, I’ll say Machen, whose short story The Great God Pan is the most hair raising fictionalization of coming into contact with forces beyond our perception.
6. Céline: The reactionary giant. His visceral contempt of bourgeois liberalism has been installed into me, writing dripping in pessimism and malevolence.
7. Beckett: Reading Beckett presaged the psychoactive dissociative effects of Ketamine usage in high doses.
(I’m going to instead of just posting my three fave bands talk about five artists I love that describe the way I engage with music writ large.)
1. The Velvet Underground: They are everything. As Good as people know and say they were, they were better. A uniting of the avant-garde (Cale) with the minimal stylings of doo wop rock n’ roll (Reed) that forever changed music history. Because of them, the avant-garde no longer belongs solely to the academy, it is to be discovered and experimented by any kid with an instrument and a recording system.
They touch everything.
They are, undeniably, perfect.
2. Royal Trux: My arguable favorite band ever (them, The Velvets, and the Fall) but more importantly a band that bridges my two musical modes: feel good cock rock and funk, and extreme atonal noise and the avant-garde.
Royal Trux is the postmodern theory manifest as rock n’ roll. When you understand them, you realize that there is no contradiction in loving Aerosmith, or Abruptum, or Funkadelic, or motherfucking Wu Tang Clan. Let it all wash over you, it’s yours for the taking!
3. Sun City Girls: An Arizona punk band turned into the world’s premiere avant-garde institution of cultural imperialists. Artists should steal from everything. Nothing is sacred.
4. Wu Tang Clan: The first record and the first four solo records, not to mention my favorite rap LP ever, Ghostface Killah album Supreme Clientele, manifests hip-hop as an ideal medium for theory fiction. Imbuing tales of urban crime with symbols, mythology, slang, samurai honor codes, and an undeniably appealing visual aesthetic, the Clan are a compelling case for the late 20th Century’s best conceptualists.
5. Hijokaidan: Japanese noise was the first truly outsider art form that I immersed myself in, and Hijokaidan perhaps did more than any other act to codify noise into a genre and subculture. Undeniably classic records.
6. Beherit: What makes Finnish black metal icons Beherit even singularly interesting amongst the genre is that while they are one hundred percent totally and completely black metal, they also are perfectly easily to put on a mixtape with some of other favorite artists, whether it’s Beefheart or Albert Ayler, and with this quality they reveal black metal itself as an avant-garde tendency within rock n’ roll.
For “artists”, I am going to break this apart into three artists and three filmmakers, thereby crossing off all the various visual material that shape the Safety Propaganda imagination.
1. Cronenberg: The first filmmaker whose name I sought out after watching the Fly with my dad. My most enduring influence. He disintegrates the boundaries between genre and modernism in a way that few artists ever will.
Dead Ringers. Videodrome. Crash. Scanners. The man is a titan.
2. Lynch: I watched the Twin Peaks DVDs with my mom when I was about 12 and had my wisdom teeth out, not knowing it was a serious art work by a serious artist named Lynch, but instead just knowing it was a show that my mom liked. I immediately knew that it was something special, and soon bought Mulholland Drive and Lost High Way on DVD. Life changed.
Twin peaks the Return is the greatest artwork of the 21st Century so far.
3. Fassbinder: A man with so much imagination that he cut his life in half. A peculiarly pessimistic but not insensitive sensibility coursing through otherwise generically diverse films.
A fiercely difficult and intelligent man.
1. Francis Bacon: essentially painted the same image repeatedly, finding thousands of variations in its themes. A Francis Bacon exhibition is totalizing, those images become tattooed to you brain.
2. Giacometti: Those sculptures I imagine look like Europe felt in the first half of the 20th Century.
3. Caravaggio: Financed by the Church but beholden to no one. Those paintings pop with violence.
If people wanted to read your works, listen to you, check out your art, work with you or buy some of your wares – where should they visit and how should they get in touch?
Safety Propaganda Conceptual blog: safetypropaganda.substack.com
System of Systems podcast: www.patreon.com/systemofsystems
Instagram: @adamlehreruptown, @safetypropaganda
Twitter: @safetypropagan1, @SystemofSystem3
Odds and Ends
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
Paris in the 1920s, to be both inducted into and kicked out of the Surrealist movement by Breton.
Yes, I would have been living between two wars. But those wars had meaning.
I’d die to fight for meaning.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Oh man, until age seven I was an action figure aficionado.
My mom jokes that she could leave me along for hours with ninja turtles and Todd McFarlane figures and I’d be perfectly content, creating grand narratives in my head.
If you could change / create 6 laws for America.
What would they be?
And why would you change / create them?
Well, granted I think we are past the point of reform in this stage of economic development, if I’m forcing myself to be realistic these are laws that immediately need to happen.
1. A law that would make mainstream media declare itself as a propaganda apparatus and not a neutral arbiter of the news with penalties of fines for every failure that a broadcaster makes to announce himself as a PAID SHILL OF BIG PHARMA, TECH AND AMERICAN LIBTARD GLOBAL HEGEMONY!
2. A REINSTATEMENT OF THE FOURTH AMENDMENT that would (and should) declare the Covid Vaccine mandate unlawful. It is absolutely sick what Pfizer has done to engineer the Covid psyop.
3. Affordable housing for law abiding working people and higher arrests of lumpenprole drug using element. This, I believe would reverse the process of cities like San Francisco, in which working class people are forced to live far outside the city while drug addicted killers get to live in free houses in communities walled off from the super elite down the street.
4. Legalization of performance enhancing drugs. Everyone in sports uses them, if they became illegal we could again see what athletes will truly rise to the fore. Also, I’ve used HGH in the past and will say that its health benefits VASTLY outweigh their negatives.
5. Mandate of SEX and not GENDER IDENTITY being used to distinguish between men and women. Gender ideology is the most dangerous aspect of today’s liberal hysteria, a total erosion of reality itself that is already causing cultural havoc.
I am not rude, I’ll call anyone whatever they want to be called. But on the political level, there is a reason we use biological sex to determine law making and legal status and not gender. Also, parents who allow their children to be put on hormone blockers should be imprisoned. It is child abuse encrypted in ideology.
5. Abolition of Big Pharma. It shouldn’t exist but it owns everything and can’t be stopped.
Does sex change everything?
When I was in high school I thought it would, but as much as I love and crave it I was horny as fuck before sex and horny as fuck after.
What are the top 3 items you own?
Oh man, you’re killing me! I have so much stuff!
My signed HR Giger Necronomicon book.
My painting by my friend Aleksander Hardashnakov.
My painting by my friend Darja Bajagic.
In a fight between the following 2 icons of America: Ronald McDonald (the mascot for the fast-food empire McDonalds) Vs. Ronald Reagan (actor and 40th President) – Who would win?
…and why would they be victorious?
Abstain on this.
My imagination won’t go there.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
My dreams always fade and I can never remember beyond 20 minutes after I wake up. I remember something about encountering the singer Tinashe and there was horniness involved.
Of everything you have done, what would you most like to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as someone who thought for himself at a time when barely anyone else did.
- Adam Lehrer – Website
- Adam Lehrer – Instagram
- Safety Propaganda – Website via Substack
- Safety Propaganda – Instagram
- Safety Propaganda – twitter
- System of Systems podcast – Patreon
- System of Systems podcast – twitter
All images supplied by Adam or sourced from his website.