YOUR LIFE CURATED between artists, musicians,
MeLo-X / BLIND BENNY / ASHLEY DRAPES / BODY LANGUAGE/ KENRICK MCFARLANE/ ERIMAJ / DANIEL KORNRUMPF / CONRAD RUIZ / ANGELA O’BRIEN/ J*DaVeY / CHARLOTTE TAYLOR / NINA ABNEY
VOLUME 1 / FALL 2011
AT A GLANCE ART Daniel Kornrumpf
Nina Chanel Abney
“NINA’S WONDERLAND of ART”
“THE O.G. RADICAL”
“ART: DEFINING THE UNDEFINED”
“YOUNG, DARING AND CLASSY”
“GOING BEHIND THE DRAPES”
“THE DESIGNER & WAYFARER”
FASHION Angela O’Brien
MUSIC Blind Benny
“MUSIC WITHOUT BOUNDARIES”
“THE MODERN RENAISSANCE MAN”
Angelica Bess from Body Language
“A TALK WITH THE LADY”
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR I’ve always dreamed of being a luminary painter filling the walls of museums with loud, offensive art; a soulful songstress touring alongside of the artist formerly known as Prince trying to upstage him; and designing obtrusive couture fashions alongside the likes of the beloved Alexander McQueen. None of those visions manifested into a career, but more so revolving hobbies. But, I’ve always had a drive for language and writing. It wasn’t until two years ago, I thought to combine these loves to create Dirty Dozen— a curated independent print and online publication geared towards showcasing emerging, progressive leaders of tomorrow, while supporting the artists currently projecting the same movement. This quarterly publication features musicians, designers and visual artists. These hand-selected individuals provide an artistic approach to each craft, injecting originality back into the entertainment industry.
Dirty Dozen serves as a vessel to transmit and disperse the pioneers to the masses. For the first issue, a series of conversational, in-depth interviews were held through various modes of technology—phone, Skype, email and in-person, to dissect the genius behind their craft. -Heather Liggins
I’ve never seen anything like this before. Daniel Kornrumpf’s embroidered realistic, three-dimensional images of random portraits found on social networking websites have been, ironically, swarming the web. At first glance, from afar, you would think these are typical miniature paintings staged on a large canvas, but examining the piece up close, its threads are revealed. I have never witnessed an intense combination of realism appropriated through embroidery to illustrate faces. Reminiscent of Chuck Close’s tightly cropped portraitures, Kornrumpf’s work embodies a heavily distinctive style through sculpting picturesque faces through an alternative medium rarely found in the art world. Though he admires Close’s work, his primary choice would be Alice Neel. “I saw a Retrospective of [her] work when I was 14, and it’s probably my number one influence when it comes to painting,” Kornrumpf confesses. Aside from creating labor-intensive needlework portraits, 28 year-old Kornrumpf isn’t limited to this medium. He also makes large-scale figurative oil paintings. Originally from the suburbs of North Philadelphia, Kornrumpf now lives in the rural area of Massachusetts balancing the roles of practicing and teaching art. With new embroidered pieces underway, Kornrumpf goes into depth about the layers behind creating these miniature portraits, unraveling this individualistic approach to producing art.
Dirty Dozen: What was the pivotal moment that led you into pursuing art? DK: I was actually really fortunate. I showed an interest in painting and drawing at an early age. My parents actually put me in private art lessons ever since I was about 5 or 6 years old. DD: I think I was still drawing stick figures at the time. What were you painting at such a young age? DK: I remember the first drawing I did, it was a drawing of a clown on an unicycle and I remember my mom freaking out over it. Ever since then my parents put me in art classes. DD: Were you working with oil or a variety of mediums when you started taking art classes? DK: No, it wasn’t even that professional. It was colored pencils and maybe acrylic paint. I switched to oil in college and can’t go back to acrylic. DD: How would you describe your transition from oil to needlework? DK: That happened in graduate school. I was painting friends and classmates from life in the studio. I have this old fashion approach to painting and protested against painting from photographs. I like painting from life, the actual act and psychology behind it, rather than looking at this little photograph of an image that already exists…ok, I’m getting off track.
I was in graduate school painting friends, wasn’t working and was just in school painting 24/7. When I was painting with live models, I would only get two to three hours per day, and usually they don’t want to come back two days in row. So, I had all of this free time and was really in the mood to work. During this downtime I would get on my computer and draw portraits of Facebook or Myspace pictures, this was back in 2006, when Myspace was more popular. I would sit in front of my screen and draw these little exercises, using colored pencils on Mylar, which has a translucent, plastic feel to it that
gave it a computer screen look. I like that aspect of it, but I felt like there was disconnect between the contexts. I was flipping through a book on craft in the studio from a friend of mine one day and this guy had machine embroidered a landscape. I liked that idea of everything being connected and on the flip side of it, of how we’re usually on the computer alone, by ourselves. I wanted to situate those embroideries with a lot of empty space around it, that non-space, to give a context of where the image came from. DD: Are your embroideries by hand or machine? DK: No, they’re all hand embroidered. I print the image out on t-shirt iron-on paper, cut the image out and iron it onto the canvas. Then I stitch through the image, using it as a map to help me see the color relationships a little better. There’s probably three to four layers of these puzzle pieces of color trying to blend those to give a three-dimensional photorealistic quality. DD: That sounds very time consuming. How long does a portrait take to create? DK: At that time, I was really rushing to get these done for my thesis show. I would literally wake up at eight in the morning only taking breaks to eat and would embroider until ten or eleven at night for thirty days straight. After moving to Massachusetts, I started teaching and trying to combine a work schedule while making another embroidery it took about six months. DD: What was your audiences’ reaction when you first showcased the series of embroideries? DK: People think they are paintings, which I really like, and when they get closer they realize that it’s threads. It’s funny to see people tell their friends, “come and see this. It’s all threads.” I have gotten the criticism that they are pretty generational, meaning they exist for a certain audience age.
Daniel Kornrumpf Brooklyn Bobby, detail 2007 hand embroidered on linen 50 in. x 44 in. courtesy of artist
DD: That’s arguable. People could say the same thing about Chuck Close or any other artists when they first emerged. DK: I think the context to where the image came from speaks to that age range, where the majority of people are 18-30 something-year olds. But I don’t want them to exist only for that. I wanted them to speak to the history of painting while still referencing it. DD: You also construct large-scale oil paintings. Is there one you prefer over the other? DK: They’re so different. Whenever I’m doing one, I want to be doing the other. When I’m painting it’s fun and there’s so many things I love about painting. Embroidery is safe, meaning I don’t have to worry about if I’m mixing the right colors. Painting is permanent. If I don’t like it, I can’t take the canvas back. But after I embroider for four to five hours, I can’t have a conversation with anyone, my brain doesn’t form sentences. I’m trashing it now, but it’s really fun. DD: Sounds like a love hate relationship. So, how would you categorize your art? DK: The thread that runs through all of my art is figurative. I’ve always been drawn to depicting a figure in someway ever since I was little. I remember in high school, I was super into Chuck Close and I would just copy his paintings. There’s something about the portrait and faces that I’m really drawn towards. DD: Figurative? I view your work as having a hyperrealism quality. DK: Yeah, definitely in the embroideries. When I’m looking at work that I really like by other artists, there’s a quality of the handmade or the accidental quality. I like Alice Neel, David Hockney, or Dana Schutz, who have a certain authority or uniqueness
to the way they paint. Where in hyper-photorealism, you don’t see the hand of the artists’ work, just the artist representing or depicting something from a photograph. DD: Going back a little you said you admire Chuck Close. Your embroidery echoes that same portrait style. DK: It’s one of those things, for example, where you like a band in a certain part of your life and as you get older your taste changes, but there’s a little nostalgia for that band. I think my work still has that quality, though I don’t look at him that much. I do appreciate what he’s done in terms of color theory and how our eyes perceive color and color relationships. DD: What are the projects you’re working on today? DK: I have a few ideas for the embroidery works of doing multiple images on one canvas as one portrait and continue that idea of everyone being connected. Having a portrait of a celebrity from the 1930s coupled with a 14 year-old on Facebook living today. DD: Would you like to known as solely an artist or an embroider? DK: I have a hard time with that term. It’s weird word and occupation. Being called an artist has this weird air to me. When I was in school I liked being a student of art and didn’t want to graduate because I didn’t want that title of being an artist. I still see myself as a student of art, but I feel more comfortable being called a painter.
â€œBeing called an artist has this weird air to me.... I still see myself as a student of art, but I feel more comfortable being called a painter.â€?
Daniel Kornrumpf Dena Haden, 2010 oil on canvas 72 in. x 54 in. courtesy of artist
Daniel Kornrumpf diamonds on my neck. diamonds on my grill, 2007 hand embroidered on canvas 42 in. x 36 in. courtesy of artist
FILL IN THE BLANK ART MAKES ME FEEL
WITHOUT ART I WOULD BE
IN MY SPARE TIME
working in retail
I spend way too much time surfing the internet
NINA’S WONDERLAND of ART
There’s a gravitational pull towards the disturbing and provocative paintings of emerging artist Nina Chanel Abney. The bright, vivid colors are inviting and attractive to the senses, but near-at-hand, the imagery embedded in the artwork is graphic. Perhaps this is what seduced me into her paintings—the unexpected. They’re loaded with symbolism, as Alice in Wonderland scenes are illustrated with offbeat characters, or Siamese twin men sit wearing a unitard, while another man with mismatched skin tones sits parallel to each other in New York City’s subway seats. These bizarre scenes are socially and politically charged, strecthing the minds to envision strange narratives in life. Hailing from the south suburbs of Illinois, 30 year-old Abney now lives and is based in New York. For Abney, this love affair with art did not fully arise until her college years, and thereafter while pursing a fine arts education at The New School in New York. It was then, the notion of being an artist transformed into a vital craft for life. After coming from her New York-based art studio and settling down into her home, Abney talks about her connection with art, while deciphering the meanings behind these elusive paintings.
Dirty Dozen: When was your first moment you knew you wanted to be an artist? Nina Chanel Abney: In my mind I always wanted to be a famous painter. But, it really wasn’t until I went into graduate school that I really understood how artists make a living and it can be a valid profession. DD: What did you draw growing up? NCA: I use to draw from the Berenstain Bears books, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and other Disney characters. I also made a comic book. I was really into comic books when I was younger and thought I would be a cartoonist. DD: What kind of comic book did you make? NCA: It was called “Brother and Sister.” I was into Mad Magazine, and other comics where two characters would do mean things to each other. My comic book was kind of along the lines of that—brother and sister that would get revenge on each other in every comic. DD: When you first started painting, your medium was watercolors. Now it seems that you use acrylic as a primary medium. Why did you switch? NCA: In undergrad you try everything. It [watercolors] looks amazing on large scale but it also takes too long to dry. I don’t have the patience for that. I like the fact that acrylic dries fast. It’s easier to work with, not messy, and if I don’t like something its easier to change it. I work with acrylic professionally, but I still do watercolors mainly for my larger paintings. DD: Are there any artists that you admire? NCA: When I was younger, I didn’t know as many artists. Honestly, I didn’t know any contemporary artists. Prior to that it was Picasso, like everyone
else. Then I remember learning about Basquiat and, when I got into grad school, it was another world. That’s when I got introduced to artists like Kara Walker, Mickalene Thomas and others through going to art openings. DD: The Tea Party/After Hours was inspired by the Alice In Wonderland book, can you talk more about that? NCA: Yeah, that’s how the idea sparked. I read the book Alice in Wonderland for the first time a few years ago and I was amazed. I probably would’ve been scared if I read this as a kid. But after reading it, someone said in reference to my work, “I feel like I fell through the rabbit hole and entered another world.” With the Tea Party/After Hours piece, I collaborated with an artist I show with in the gallery. DD: Who’s the other artist you collaborated with for that piece? NCA: Sydney Chastain-Chapman. We kind of have similar ways of working so I thought she would be a good person to collaborate with. We painted each other in that piece—she painted me as Alice and I painted herself as Alice, then I painted her as the Rabbit and so on. DD: Do you think you would have another collaborative painting? NCA: I would collaborate with Charlie Roberts, who’s an artist represented through the same gallery [Kravitz/Wehby Gallery] space I’m in. I really like his work, and would want to be in the studio with someone who has a similar work process. My work process is casual, not structured. Actually, I want to do a project where all of these artists would be in a gallery space, all at once and cover the walls with whatever we want.
Nina Chanel Abney and Sydney Chastain-Chapman Tea Party/After Hours, 2009 Acrylic on canvas 75 in. x 89 in. Courtesy Kravets/Wehby Gallery
“ I w o r k v e r y i n t u i t i v e l y.
I don’t sketch anything out, so I have no idea what I’m going to paint while working.” DD: Every artwork you create there are layers of embedded symbolism through numerology and other silent vehicles. What’s the meaning behind these indicators? NCA: I want viewers to be able to take different things from the paintings and put together their own meaning. I work very intuitively. I don’t sketch anything out, so I have no idea what I’m going to paint while working. So far it’s these weird relationships that have some type of connection. DD: Ideally, what do you want viewers to take away from your paintings? NCA: Whatever they want. There’s nothing specific. Sometimes I have specific things I’m addressing but I don’t want that to completely define the painting. I try to keep it pretty general and current. DD: How would you describe your artwork? NCA: Easy to swallow, hard to digest. That would best describe my work. My work is very approachable but, when you start to look at it closer, it’s not as nice as you thought it was. I would compare my work to the T.V. show the “Family Guy.” Since it’s a cartoon, they can touch on all types of issues that would normally get them kicked of the air from some of their jokes. I like satirical cartoons. It makes it easier to touch on issues that are more uncomfortable. My paintings talk about politics, race, gender and religion. I just paint about whatever at this point, anything that sparks an idea. 18
DD: How do you think you’ve grown as an artist from 2008 to now? NCA: Visually, I think I’ve evolved as a painter. I experiment with using different subject matters. In the very beginning, I felt obligated to focus on race issues and I’ve totally evolved from that. It’s inevitable because I’m a black woman, but that’s not the main focus of my work. I’m just a person and I deal with all issues. DD: Do you have a favorite artwork you’ve created thus far? NCA: No, I don’t. Once it’s done I always feel that there’s something else I could’ve done. I’m never completely satisfied with a painting. There are times when I see a painting that people purchased in their home and I feel very removed from it. DD: Plans for the future? NCA: To have my work exposed to more people and follow along the footsteps of really successful artists. But, success really depends on the person, if I could be like Damien Hurst I think that would be really successful.
Nina Chanel Abney Behind Every Good Man, 2010 Acrylic on canvas 61 1/2 in. x 39 1/2 in. Courtesy Kravets/Wehby Gallery
Nina Chanel Abney Ivy and the Janitor in January, 2009 Acrylic on canvas diptych 54 in. x 60 in. Courtesy Kravets/Wehby Gallery
Nina Chanel Abney Veronica, 2007 Acrylic on canvas 62 3/4 in. x 66 in. Courtesy Kravets/Wehby Gallery
FILL IN THE BLANK ART IS weird
MY FRIENDS WOULD PROBABLY TELL YOU
I’m nothing as I appear
IF I WASN’T AN ARTIST I WOULD BE A jazz pianist. I studied Classical music when I was younger, and if I wasn’t doing art that’s something I would do.
THE O.G. RADICAL
Explosive, sci-fi and masculine: these revolving themes are found in paintings by West coast artist Conrad Ruiz. At the age of 28, Ruiz has been creating lifesize watercolor paintings that straddle gender, race and social issues through modes of fantasy and satire. Culminating inspiration from various boy-zone realms—video games, comic books and so forth—Ruiz creates this territory where women are almost non-existent. Using a diverse range of subjects from President Obama riding a giant corgi to squad teams engaged in war mobilized on Segways, Ruiz positions each person into extreme, fantastical environments, allowing ample room for interpretation. The epiphany to focus on art occurred during his undergrad studies at California State University. “I was not trying to do art at all,” Ruiz says, “I was graduating and was 20 years old, but as soon as I took a painting class I knew that was exactly what I would be doing for the rest of my life.” After completing his MFA at California College of the Arts in 2009, Ruiz currently practices art and lives in his hometown, Los Angeles, California. Ruiz and I talk about his massive watercolor paintings and a new creative battlefield he’s eager to take over.
Photo by: Bentito Barco
Dirty Dozen: Your paintings focus primarily around men. Will there be a time when you incorporate women more in your work? CR: I started making this exclusive male universe because I was really interested in the psychology of an eighth grade boy to the first year in high school where pre-sexuality takes place. A lot of my work is influenced by past experiences, when my friends and I would hang out only worrying about each other. My goal is to harness this awkward, sexual energy that hasn’t been expressed and make these charged works that are extremely sexual but at the same time very tamed. DD: No nudity. CR: Yeah, it’s conservative to a point. In grad school, my paintings were called Orgasm paintings. But recently, I have been painting a lot of athletes. I just had a solo show in Mexico City where I included several female athletes as participants in these fantasy sci-fi battles between China and United States. Instead of taking a literal battle, I made it with sports. Some of the athletes were women. But, I admit the women that I paint aren’t very feminine. DD: They aren’t. But then again, athletes have a fit, strong body. CR: When I paint I’m really interested in solid, expressive forms. DD: You’re work reminds me of artist Kehinde Wiley. CR: Our work is similar and he’s in conversation. But, I’m more interested in this Canadian artist named Tim Gardner, when it comes to painting. A long time ago, he made these paintings of frat boys using delicate watercolor. That’s what got my project going. It’s good to always find your art relatives.
DD: Does culture influence your paintings? CR: I think everything comes full-circle. I’m more interested in expressing intensity. What’s around me—news events, books that I’ve been reading— they have small influences on the finished product. Since I’m always painting, I have my head down and those things trickle in through my friends who love hip-hop culture, or from people I talk to who might be cool. Other than that I don’t know what’s going on. Then again, I read the Wall Street Journal, but they don’t really talk about underground hip-hop. DD: Outside of celebrities or popculture icons, how do you pick people in your artwork? CR: The earlier work was always about finding an ideal male—people who were successful, actors or athletic. These days I’m less interested in painting celebrities or recognizable people. I paint more of my friends. It gives a true perspective or diary of whom I would choose to paint. Usually they start off as drawings and from there I keep adding to it. I would compose it with Google images that I would find, project it, and sit down and paint it. I like appropriation. DD: You take images from the web and re-appropriate them into your own vision, but are there any narratives behind your works? CR: They have different stories. With my painting Go Go Love Don’t Go, I was watching The Lord of the Rings and I noticed there weren’t any black Americans [actors]. They were not really included in most of these knight movies. I wanted to make something that was never seen before, and that painting was dedicated to that.
Conrad Ruiz Pacific Theatre, 2011 watercolor on paper 42 in. x 63 in. Courtesy of the artist and Silverman Gallery
DD: What do you want people to take away from your work when they look at these sci-fi fantasy scenes? CR: I’m interested in entertainment. These paintings are snapshots to movies that I will never make because I don’t have the money or time. I like things to be entertaining. I welcome any interpretations. DD: Indeed. Each artist has their meaning within their work and it’s up to us, the viewers, to decipher it. CR: I don’t want too much of a straight read into it. DD: When you say entertaining, do you want people to find your work humorous or satirical? CR: Things could be entertaining if it’s terrible, offensive or ridiculous. When I look at other people’s work there’s nothing specific I’m looking for. I’m not drawn particularly to paintings or sculptures. I want you to give me something. I don’t want to look at an art theory piece somebody wrote about and then look on the floor to see it’s just a piece of wood. What was the question again?
[Laughter] DD: Well, let’s talk about some of the current projects you’re working on. CR: My paintings are starting to become geometric abstraction. I’m also doing paintings where I’mpainting men’s abs. I dated someone and she really liked Abercrombie and Fitch, the store with all of these banners of men’s abs. I really don’t like this store. There’s something dorky about and, I also want to rip them off. Besides that, I’m interested in doing advertisment pictures but I haven’t done that yet.
DD: Let’s talk about the “World’s Largest Watercolor” painting you created. CR: That’s a commissioned piece for a collector in San Francisco. Karl Briullov’s painting The Last Day of Pompeii inspired me. It was a really fun project, but seriously it took a lot out of me. That’s the hard thing about painting, trying to fit in a life around it— how do I work out, how do date, how do I get enough money to drive to a show? And with painting I build momentum. I feel like if I just had nothing else to do, I would be able to pump it out within weeks, but it took five months to finish the piece. DD: What are your plans for the future? CR: I want to make movies. I don’t know how I’m going to fund it, but it’s possible. It’s another direction to keep this project very new for me.
could be entertaining if it’s terrible, offensive or ridiculous “
Conrad Ruiz Flugruger, 2011 watercolor on paper 42 in. x 33 in. courtesy of the artist and Silverman Gallery
Conrad Ruiz Multiple Peaks, 2009 watercolor on canvas 80 in. x 80 in. courtesy of the artist and Silverman Gallery
FILL IN THE BLANK ART MAKES ME FEEL excited about everything WITHOUT ART I WOULD BE IN MY SPARE TIME
bored, a little bit
I work out 29
ART: DEFINING THE UNDEFINED
Just shy of 21 years old, budding fine artist Kenrick McFarlane is one to keep an eye on. Presenting an abstract, contemporary perspective of social issues, the anatomy of his paintings resonate a commanding aesthetic through blurred lines of imagery. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, art has always been an overarching form of expression for this young artist. Still cultivating his artistic signature style, â€œbeing a student and painter you spend time trying to find oneself,â€? McFarlane explains. Amid the countless young artists in pursuit of claiming a white wall in any acclaimed art institution or gallery space, McFarlane, is fulfilling this universal dream among artists. In 2010, McFarlane debuted his first series of paintings in the lobby gallery at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. Since then, McFarlane is slowly taking over the local galleries, and is already plotting to expand internationally with oil paintings illustrating hazy, esoteric images that will tap and arouse your imagination. In the midst of wrapping up his sophomore year in undergrad at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I was able to talk to him about coming into an artistic style, new projects ahead and the meaning of art.
Dirty Dozen: What’s your earliest memory of drawing? Kenrick McFarlane: Probably around 4 years old. I stayed at my grandmother’s house with my cousins and we had an option of reading or watching television—I didn’t want to do either. So we would draw Sonic the Hedgehog and other cartoons in competition with each other, but I was the most horrible drawer. I wanted to get better and eventually I did surpass everyone else. I was very interested in drawing. That’s all I did. DD: I viewed some of your earlier work and there seems to be an anime influence. KM: I was really into Japanese culture and had dreams of going to Japan when I was younger. I was a huge, huge anime fan of Dragonball-Z, and I still am. I was really attracted to any kind of art that triggered the imagination, had an interesting technical look to it and the craft was really good. DD: You started drawing at a very young age, but when did you consider yourself an artist? KM: At first I wanted to be a game character designer for illustration, but after doing different things I realized I wanted to become a fine artist. The moment I started taking it seriously and wanted to commit to it was after a conversation with my life-long mentor, Mr.Higgins. In sixth grade, he exposed me to the world of art. He was very strict, didn’t take any b.s. and had a lot of confidence in me. DD: Can you describe your first exhibition, “Face Off Art Show” at the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2010? KM: It was an amazing and blessed experience. Everything that I wanted happened. I sold 2 of 17 pieces at the show opening night, and all of my friends and family came to the exhibition. DD: There were many pieces in that exhibit that caught my eye like the I Don’t Spit, I Vomit painting. KM: I made that painting at the end of high school. I saw how much my friends worshiped Lil’ Wayne, this role model, and I wanted to capture and translate his character through the painting. DD: Does history and pop-culture influence your art? KM: They definitely do influence my artwork. When you think about the history of art, it’s always interesting to make a work that has a dialogue with previous artists. DD: What are you working on currently? KM: I’m trying to become more intimate and build a stronger connection with the concepts behind my work. In the past, the images were very graphic, very gory and dark. These days, I want to make art that speak about my life and experiences. This inspiration came from looking at David Hockney’s artwork, he is very true to his subject matter. I’m always in conversation about how I was only the black student in class, even up until now. For the project I’m working on now, I want to visually express two different upbringings—one being from the suburbs, which I’m familiar with, and the other from the South-Side of Chicago, an area I’m unfamiliar with. I’m going to elementary schools to help reference the paintings to show the different environments, what they [kids] do, and situations I’ve been through growing up. 32
Kenrick McFarlane Hysteric, 2010 Oil on Canvas 54 1/2 in. x 112 in. courtesy of artist
“When you’re painting it’s a never-ending journey with questions and ideas.” DD: With your latest project do you hope this will help develop your signature style? KM: It is a step closer, but I can’t say this is going to be it. When I’m 50 or 80 years old, I’m still going to be saying “damn that’s still not right.” DD: Are there specific subject matters you prefer painting? KM: It’s hard to make work out of the blue. As a painter, you have to go through hundreds of experiments to find out what you really enjoy. It’s not a challenge for me to paint realistically, but it’s more of a challenge to paint in a way that really says, “this is a Kenrick McFarlane painting.” DD: Then, how would you describe your artwork? KM: If you look at painters when they were starting out, a lot of different styles that they’re making their work. When you’re painting it’s a never-ending journey with questions and ideas. DD: Do you have a routine while you’re painting? KM: I start with an image that visually stimulates me. Usually, I would play some music and eventually turn it off to concentrate on what I’m doing. I use to listen to hard-core rap music, but now I’m getting super soft music like Sade, Coltrane and indie artists. I enjoy music you can listen to and still hear your own thoughts. That helps me work. DD: What is art to you? KM: Art is everything. People might say that’s a very strong statement to make, but art has no facts, just opinions. If something has the ability to inspire, that is art. Once I start saying “this is art, that’s not art” then I’m creating a boundary in my mind and I don’t want to work like that. DD: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you would be doing? KM: It’s my only option. If not an artist, I would be miserable and cursing people out. DD: What are your plans for the future? KM: To be honest with myself and not get off track. I want to continue making the best work I can make. And I want to do as many art shows as possible, and exhibits national and internationally. kenrickmcfarlane.com
Kenrick McFarlane I donâ€™t spit, I vomit, 2009 oil on canvas 29 1/2 in. x 36 in. courtesy of artist
Kenrick McFarlane Fashion Study, 2010 Acrylic on Masonite 10 in. x 10 in. courtesy of artist
Kenrick McFarlane Untitled (ear figures in Landscape), 2011 Oil on Canvas 41 1/2 in. x 50 in. courtesy of artist
FILL IN THE BLANK ART MAKES ME FEEL BEST ARTIST ALIVE
MY FRIENDS WOULD PROBABLY TELL YOU I’d rather stay in and paint than party
YOUNG, DARING AND CLASSY
Stumbling upon this emerging fashion designer was a happy accident. UK apparel designer Charlotte Taylor debuted during London’s fashion week in 2010 showcasing her Autumn Winter collection, and is now infiltrating the US. With lively, bold prints that feature cascading, repetitive silhouettes of robots, penguins, ants, elephants, or other figures, Taylor forms a signature look behind the brand. Contrasting the abundance of designs, the sleek cut of the bodice balances the element of youth with femininity. “I am a creative soul who loves the weird, random, unexpected, old and elegant,” Taylor explains. Taylor, who is only in her mid-twenties, is among the rare, young fashion designers to reach such stature without the slow ascent to international visibility. Fresh out of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design—fostering legendary avant-garde designers such as Alexander McQueen, Zac Posen, Gareth Pugh, Riccardo Tisci, Matthew Williamson—in 2008, Taylor followed suit in this lineage. She worked within fashion houses Marcus Constable and Frost French gaining priceless experience. Thereafter she joined the creative team Luella but bowed out early in 2009 to launch her label, Charlotte Taylor. Though she’s based overseas, Taylor and I exchanged emails over the summer to talk about the underpinnings of Charlotte Taylor, from straying away from reading current fashion publications to the inspiration fueling these novel designs.
Dirty Dozen: Can you please introduce and tell me more about yourself? Charlotte Taylor: I am the creative director behind our eponymous label that I run with my brother, Ben. I’m originally from Lancashire, and I studied fashion design at London College of Fashion, followed by a BA at Central Saint Martins College. To start the label I left London and moved in with my parents at their new home on the Isle of Wight off the South coast of the United Kingdom. I have been here for two years and we are moving up to London, which is exciting. Both my brother and I base ourselves on our very grounded backgrounds and honest attitude towards life – this is something we engrain in the roots of the business at all times. DD: What’s the origin and meaning of the label Charlotte Taylor? CT: It was a tough decision calling it my name as it felt a bit vain. But after a lot of thought I actually came to the conclusion that it’s the perfect one for the label. It represents a few of our core messages—being of English heritage and simplicity, which I think my name illustrates. DD: In a prior interview, you mentioned that you were a painter at an early age. What made you decide to pursue fashion, as apposed to becoming a fine artist? CT: I have a business head as well as a creative one. I love math weirdly. I don’t think I would have been fulfilled as a fine artist. I love the diversity and challenge of running a label, and the technical aspect of making clothes. I have a low attention span so the more variety for me, the better. DD: Describe your fashion designs in 3 words. CT: Random, endearing and unexpected. 40
“I don’t read any magazines or blogs really. You are subconsciously influenced no matter what anyone says.” DD: Do your designs reflect your personal style? Or reveal an alter ego? CT: I bit of both. I love clashing colors and prints, like the collection, but spend a lot of my time in casual clothes or sports kit. I’m a bit of a tomboy at heart but I love to get dressed up too. I buy a lot of my clothes second hand and customize them. DD: Can you share your creative process behind designing? CT: Yes of course – it’s quite simple and I do tend to stick to a format. I generally pick up little obsessions over time and I store them away until there is a time to put them to use. When I start designing a new season I develop these ideas, researching them endlessly, and then everything goes on a huge corkboard in the studio. I literally sit in front of the board; get in the zone and design. I do hundreds of ideas for shapes and print, pushing the ideas further either on the computer for the prints or on the mannequin for the clothes’ shape. After that, I create the ideas properly through pattern cutting and then sew them up. These are usually pulled apart and re-done again and again.
Autumn/Winter Collection 2011, photo by: Claire Pepper; Stylist: Holly Chaves.
DD: What designers influence you? CT: No one influences me. But I respect Marc Jacobs, and I have always loved Sonia Rykiel for her fun, whimsical approach to design. I saw one of her shows in Paris when I was young and I was blown away not only by the clothes, but how happy all the models were. I loved it. DD: Many fashion designers stay away from reading or looking through fashion magazines? Do you follow the same practice? CT: I am exactly the same. I don’t read any magazines or blogs really. You are subconsciously influenced no matter what anyone says. We read industry magazines like “Drapers” to keep up to date on the market, but that’s about it apart from the paper. DD: How do you want your consumers to feel when they wear your designs? CT: Most importantly the clothes are about having fun. They are for girls who love to live life. DD: What are the challenges you face as a fashion designer, especially during these unstable, economic times? CT: There are too many to write down. Obviously as with any sales it is trickier when people have smaller budgets due to a recession. They will buy labels that guarantee sales and won’t take risks on new labels. It’s tough managing the business side of things, but having my brother come on board a few months ago has completely transformed the label. It’s massively important to have a strong business foundation, as buyers want to know that they will get what they ordered on time and at a good quality. There is not that much help out there for young designers. We have been very lucky that we have had some amazing advice from people with different levels of experience within the market. It is vital to take as much advice as you can and not to be stubborn. DD: Plans for the future—where do you see yourself and label in the next 5 years? CT: We would love to have a strong international presence and diversified product ranges. We feel that the prints could be a fantastic covering for a number of things and wallpaper is a big development of ours at the moment. I would also love to be involved in a sportswear collaboration, being a bit of a keen on sport, with a great British Brand like Fred Perry.
Available at www.youngbritishdesigners.com www.coggles.com http://charlotte-taylor.blogspot.com
Charles / Chazza T
FASHION MAKES ME FEEL
WITHOUT FASHION I WOULD BE unemployed!!!
Autumn/Winter Collection 2011, photo by: Claire Pepper; Stylist: Holly Chaves.
GOING BEHIND THE DRAPES
Accessories can define and transform a simple outfit into an attention-grabbing ensemble. For designer Ashley Scott of Drapes, the same can be said about her handmade accessories. This twenty-something-year-old creates amplified, powerful statement pieces. “When I first wanted to start doing accessories, my dream was to create accessories for a couture designer. That’s why my stuff is so big and exaggerated,” Scott says. From earrings to headwear to necklaces, every piece seamlessly reflects this constant aesthetic in each collection. Currently living in Chicago, Scott has always been surrounded by fashion, but originally aspired to be an arts educator. Impulsively, Scott changed majors to pursue a career that was somewhat fueled at a young age, design. It wasn’t long after this transition, renowned fashion stylist and designer Agga B. found and placed one of Scott’s signature tassel earrings in an editorial spread in 2008. Since then, Drapes has been penetrating the fashion world making a statement of its own. Now three years later, Drapes has expanded into an assorted collection with expansion in further accessory designs underway. Sitting outside a coffee shop, during the onset of a heat wave in the West Loop of Chicago, Scott and I talked about the creation of Drapes, her interest in the visual art scene and Pop art inspired designs for the upcoming collection.
Photo by: Kyle Lamere; Refinery29
Dirty Dozen: How did the name Drapes come about? Ashley Scott: I really loved big earrings, but they’re always really heavy. I started making them out of fabric keeping it exaggerated but not heavy. That’s how Drapes came into play. It was draping fabric with accessories. DD: Was being a designer something you’ve always wanted to do? AS: At first I started off really into art. I went to college to be an arts teacher and then I dropped out. I wanted to go to a fashion school and combine both of my loves. I went to the Illinois Institute of Art and, that’s when I started messing around with fabrics and doing my own thing. DD: Accessory design wasn’t your first calling? AS: Well, I grew up in a creative realm. My mom was a designer for wedding and prom dresses and was also a teacher. But, she was pressuring me to become a teacher, get an education, something to fall back on. DD: Since you’re mom is a designer, did she teach you the tropes of sewing, pattern making, all the basics of design? AS: Yes, but she didn’t believe in it [fashion design] being a real career, but I did it anyway. She tried to teach me the basics of sewing but I was like “ugh forget this.” I’m more into accessories. I use to take my moms’ appliqués used for the bridal designs and started creating accessories for myself. DD: How was stylist and designer Agga B. instrumental in helping you expand Drapes? AS: She gave me my first press. At that time in 2008, I had some of my earrings in the accessory store Silver Room, and Agga was pulling pieces for a photoshoot for an editorial spread. The next day I came in the store and they told me that she’s using my designs for a photo shoot. Ever since then we had a great relationship. She has bought pieces from me and put my pieces in the Fashion Focus campaign a few years back. That was big. She’s my mentor—she always believes in me and loves my pieces. DD: Let’s talk about your first collection. AS: The first collection was called the MJ collection in 2008, which was inspired after watching old interviews and videos of Michael Jackson. The collection was about eight pieces with earrings and a broach with shield tassel. With that collection, I got into the store RSVP Gallery. That’s my first, and still the most popular collection. DD: Your latest collection, A Pivotal, showcases a variety of accessories. AS: I usual do tassels, embroidery and fabrics with my designs. I wanted to break out and show people I can do more things. A Pivotal was all metal pieces. One day I bought all of this metal, and started bleaching the metals to see what would happen to it. I wanted it to look worn out, like a warrior girl who went through this war. I want Drapes to be the accessories make the outfit. They can be used for different things. DD: How would you describe your collections? AS: I want to have a collection that means something, instead of having seasons. With accessories, you can wear them anytime. I’m trying to step out of that box and just have a theme behind the collection. Being called a jewelry designer puts you in a box. I would rather be called an accessory designer. I think my pieces are too elaborate to be called jewelry. It’s made from unexpected materials and, eventually I want to go into everything—hats, belts, armor and handbags, I would go crazy with them. 48
“That’s what I want to hear, accessories being respected as what they are— more important than the outfit.” DD: What kind of art inspires you? AS: I like Pop art a lot. My next collection is going to be inspired by that. Lately, I’ve been going around to different galleries, getting a color scheme for this upcoming collection. It’s different with each collection. With A Pivotal I was experimenting with bleach, but this collection is going to be different. DD: How would you describe your designs in 3 words? AS: Valiant, I can’t think of any other word. It sums it up to me. It means courage and going against the norm. But, it’s definitely unique and pivotal. Whenever girls get my pieces they always put their clothing around that piece. Now that means a lot for an accessory designer. That’s what I want to hear, accessories being respected as what they are—more important than the outfit.
FASHION IS everything
WITHOUT FASHION I WOULD BE dead
IN MY SPARE TIME I go to galleries. Iâ€™m a gallery freak.
Earrings from A Pivotal Collection 2011, photo by: Dean Paul
Shield Tassel Earrings from MJ Collection.
A Pivotal Collection 2011, Headband. Photo by: Dean Paul
THE DESIGNER & WAYFARER
“If you had to choose between handbags or jewelry, what would be your preferred option?” I posed this question to Angelia O’Brien, owner and founder Cleobella. Her response, “a handbag that’s a conversation piece. I think that’s what Cleobella is, conversation pieces and works of art that you can wear.” Nomadic, modern wildflower child-esque sums up the design scope of LA-based handmade accessory line, Cleobella. Angelia, alongside her husband and business partner Jim, officially launched this assortment of handmade statement pieces in 2008 after traveling the world for a solid year. During their stay in Bali, Angelia was inspired by the culture and lifestyle, which catapulted Cleobella into being. Enter 2011, and the name has reached celebrity-status with the likes of Jessica Simpson and Halle Berry wearing the artisan handbags. “It’s really a compliment. I know a lot of these celebrities have a lot of options and they choose to wear ours too. It never gets old,” Angelia says. Between managing Cleobella, new motions of motherhood, and spending time with family, Angela was able to take some time to share the inner-makings of Cleobella. Beyond growing iconic status, there’s an ethos centered, philanthropic mission driving the continual growth.
Dirty Dozen: The name behind Cleobella was inspired by your mom’s name Cleobell. Angelia O’Brien: Starting from the beginning, my husband and I love to travel. In 2006, we quit our jobs and decided to travel around the world for a year. We ended up spending a lot of time in South East Asia, specifically Bali. My mom and dad came to visit us there and while I was walking in the streets with her and I said, “I think I want to start a business and I’m going to name it after you,” she said, “You’re crazy.” She knows my spontaneous ideas. There wasn’t a lot of thought put into the name; it was very organic. I think that sets the stage for Cleobella—a travel inspired line. DD: That’s an inspiring story. AOB: To be honest, the first clutch I designed I used it for myself; it was 100 percent hand-tulle made by artisans in Bali. My husband and I were moving to Hawaii for a year. I wanted to have a job there, and decided to import some of my designs from Bali and India. I had a pop-up shop at the local flea market in Maui, Hawaii in 2007 for a year, and that’s where Cleobella started. When we moved back to California in 2008, I officially decided to create the brand.
DD: Was your interest always in the fashion world? AOB: I was always interested in fashion. I modeled when I was 12 years old, which introduced me into the fashion industry, and I’ve been painting with oils since I was 6 years old. I wanted fuse what I knew from fashion events and art. DD: You were making oil paintings at the age of 6, that’s amazing. AOB: My grandmother is an incredible artist. She introduced me to oil and I’ve been painting portraits with her forever, along with taking art classes too. My other grandmother has an incredible style, loves shopping and coordinating outfits. I’m fortunate to have two grandmothers who have inspired me in my career now. DD: Describe the “Cleobella girl.” AOB: Someone who loves to travel, loves to mix and match and have fun with their wardrobe. But, also a conscious consumer who appreciates the story and where it comes from. Cleobella speaks to a large audience. I have a lot of family and friends from different generations who wear our bags.
DD: What role does your husband Jim play with Cleobella? AOB: He has a background in business and finance, so he works on the back ends of Cleobella. It allows me to have more time to be creative, and involved in the marketing and production side of things. He’s the rock that keeps us together. We are the Yin and Yang. It sounds so cliché, but we really do balance each other out.
DD: Can you walk me through the creative process for designing handbags and jewelry? AOB: Basically, we start with an idea and build a story around it. The new collection for Spring 2012 is Africana inspired. My husband and I travelled through South Africa and spent a lot of time in Cape Town. I have this vintage print fabric that has elephant and geometric shapes for it, and it’s the vinyl for the all of handbags. That color story kind of flows through each style of the bag and that creates the story.
DD: Sounds like a perfect team. AOB: At the end of the day, we created a lifestyle for ourselves that we could dictate for better or for worse. We’re growing in a tough economy and staying true to what we believe in.
I start sketching the handbags and get on a plane to Bali bringing all of my ideas to my patternmaker. We sit down in the factory and look at the fabric swatches. I go to Bali with so many different ideas and often times it completely changes its course
“There wasn’t a lot of thought put into the name; it was very organic. I think that sets the stage for Cleobella—a travel inspired line.”
while I’m there. Whatever happens, I kind of just go with it. We always have great results. DD: I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my list of places to travel. Aside from Bali, what’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled? AOB: Hands down, India. It’s is my favorite place in the entire world. It’s a really powerful and beautiful place that everyone should visit before they die.
DD: Any plans for the future? AOB: To sell more globally. We’re selling a lot more in Europe, Australia and many stores in Japan. Our clothing collection is kind of in the works now. Really to create a lifestyle brand around Cleobella would be my dream.
DD: Are there any designers you would like to work with? AOB: I’m very inspired by Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang; those two men have done great things in the fashion industry. Also, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. I love their style and would collaborate with them too. But, many artists inspire me on different levels. DD: A lot of celebrities have been spotted wearing your handbags. Did you ever expect Cleobella to reach such an audience? AOB: No, I’m a dreamer and I put it out there thinking maybe it will happen. The first time we ever had a celebrity wear our handbag, was Ashley Simpson. When I found out I screamed and probably woke up the neighbors. I get excited when I see a celebrity wear our handbag; it’s really a compliment. I know a lot of these celebrities have a lot of options and they choose to wear ours too. It never gets old. DD: Outside of the celebrity-status, Cleobella has a lot of philanthropy behind it. AOB: We work with Care, a humanitarian organization and give a portion of our profits to them. But we’re involved with many organizations. We just partnered up with Outreach in Tanzania and on a local level we’re involved in a lot of organizations. It’s important to us to give back. I believe in Karma—what you put out there is what you get back.
Mahala clutch; image credit: Cleobella and Quang Le
Beads handbag; image credit: Cleobella and Quang Le
FILL IN THE BLANK FASHION IS
WITHOUT FASHION I WOULD BE I’M TERRIFIED OF
MUSIC WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
This duo, Blind Benny, has been around for years but under a different alias. Vocalist, Jade <3, first penetrated the music scene as a solo artist in 2009, with the EP “It’s My Heart Cookie.” I was first introduced to Jade <3’s blend of powerful yet gentle tone while living in Brooklyn, New York early in 2009. My thenroommate, was blasting the single “Up and Out” in the kitchen and I’ve been attached to Jade<3 since that moment. It was not just the melodic blend that captivated my interest; it was also the messages conveyed through her lyrics. The combination of all these elements creates an unparalleled, deadly artistry. Now, teaming up with her long-time producer and guitarist, Jonathan Carmelli, these two formed the group, Blind Benny. Fusing pop, rock, soul and other indefinable sounds, their music is enchanting. “There’s no formula. There’s nothing that we’re trying to follow,” Jade says. This indie band, free-flowing musical style with “no roadmap” as Jonathan describes, ushers in a freedom for listeners to discover their own relation to the different stories within each song. Before they formed Blind Benny, band members had surpassed countless hurdles in the music industry before the boom of the DIY and indie culture. Currently working on their first project under Blind Benny, we discussed the creation of group, musical style and new projects underway.
Photo by: Antwan Duncan
Dirty Dozen: How long have you been involved in the music industry? Jade: I have been singing since I was little in the shower. I started dance when I was younger, and didn’t start learning theater or jazz until I was in high school. I got signed when I was 17 years old, but then I started doing my own thing for a while. During that time, I met John and we started a band a few years ago called Blind Benny. Jonathan: I really didn’t start playing guitar until I was 17 years old, I think. I was always good with music, never really did anything with it. I started playing with different random bands. Then I met Jade, and we started playing under her name. Only recently, maybe within the year, we decided to switch to Blind Benny. DD: How did that name Blind Benny originate? Jade: Well, Benny is my father’s name. He’s a pastor and I’m always made fun of for running our team with morals and integrity. So we decided to call ourselves Benny. It also means “blessing” in Creole. The other name, Blind, comes from not knowing where we’re suppose to go but still doing it anyway. We thought it was very self-suitable. Jonathan: Yeah, we have a multi-cultural mix of people we work with. Our drummer and percussionist is Haitian, our other drummer is Chinese, Jade is Puerto Rican, our bass player is white/ Irish and I’m white/Jewish/Israeli. We’re like a United Colors of Benetton ad.
[Laughter] DD: You have a diverse collective of people you work with, but the two of you make up Blind Benny, right? Jade: We are the writers and thinkers of the group. We do have our band members who’ve been playing with us for years come up with ideas and throw them in the mix, especially when we’re playing live. Most of the arrangement is by ourselves, but we like to collaborate with different artists. We wanted it to be about the band, instead of focusing on myself as a solo artist, which can easily get exhausting. We didn’t want to be in the pop field where it’s mostly twenty percent talent, eighty percent image. We wanted to thug it out. Jonathan: Oh yeah, we really wanted to thug it out. We decided a year ago that there are only two places where you can exist in the pop world. You can be Lady Gaga or be part of a list of long people that nobody knows. We wanted to be proactive in our music and handle everything. If we fail its our fault. If we succeed its our fault. Jade: We didn’t want to be limited. There are fans that love our live stuff and others who love the produced tracks, the pop aspect of it. We have more legroom with our music, stretching and honing in on our own sound from folk to pop to juke music. We have our own sound. It’s recognizable. DD: Describe your music in 5 words. Jonathan: A Haiku? This is going to be amazing. Jade: My first word is loyal, thoughtful—
(Right) Photo by: Connie Zhou
Jonathan: —New York, edgy, and soulful. DD: Let’s talk about “It’s My Heart Cookie.” Jonathan: Jade and I wrote— Jade:—most of it. We had a couple of other producers we were working with at the time. Jonathan: “Precize” who is now Alejandro Chal. Jade: We worked with him and Inglish from Cool Kids. I’ve been working with Inglish years before they were Cool Kids. We still write music together but most of the album was Jonathan and I experimenting with different genres in the studio. DD: Do you have a favorite song from any projects you’ve produced so far? Jonathan: “Blessed Memory,” that’s my jam. Jade: I can’t pick a favorite, that’s not fair. I really like all of them. DD: Are you guys working on a new project as Blind Benny? Jade: Yeah, it should be coming out soon. I don’t want to reveal too much, but it’s a very short project, with a specific direction. Jonathan: This is our first official release as Blind Benny. There are still a lot of people who are fans of Jade and don’t know about Blind Benny, yet. DD: How is this story different from your other album? Jade: Production wise, every song tells a story itself. The first EP, “It’s My Heart Cookie,” the songs came from different places without a specific direction. This album has more continuity. The stories are still from the heart, but more from a mature perspective. The execution of the emotion to approach of telling the story is very different. It was a challenge to look at things differently. Jonathan: This particular project has a concise feeling. Everything is more streamlined from song selection to the arrangement of the songs. We never have a shortage of good ideas, just too many good ideas. DD: Where do you get your inspiration for the songs? Jade: Life experiences. I’m very socially observant. I’m obsessed with human behavior to the point where I just want to write about it, and melodies just come in my head. Jazz was the first type of music that I was really drawn to, and then it was Rock. I’m such a fan of the White Pony’s “Deftones” and “System of a Down” album. I took these dark ideas, and was conceptually inspired. Jonathan: I don’t have inspiration. I just wander around. I’m not going to come up with things out of thin air. I’m like the editor, where I try to make ideas come to life. DD: During the creative process, do you guys bump heads while working together? 62
Jade: Yes, we argue like a married couple. It makes people uncomfortable and awkward, but that’s how we function. Jonathan: We bicker a lot like the movie Grumpier Old Men. We’re both very strong-willed people, with set convictions about things. When we really feel strongly about something we end up clashing, but when it comes to music, at large, we don’t argue. When we do its about little things like where instruments should come in for example, but other than that we’re pretty much on the same page. DD: Does that impact your work? Jade: Sometimes, but it’s for the benefit. We speak two different languages. I use colors and adjectives to describe my music but Jon understands that. Jonathan: I understand that more than most. Sometimes the arguments help clarify direction. DD: What do you want your audience to take away from your music? Jade: We want them to feel good and enjoy it. Jonathan: I agree. DD: How would categorize your music? Jonathan: That’s a difficult question. A lot of people who hear and try to explain us have the same difficulty. I wish there was some way, but we still haven’t found it yet. Jade: It’s rock, pop and soul. That’s the best way to explain it. Jonathan: It’s all of those things and somehow none of those things. DD: Are there any artists you would like to work with dead or alive? Jade: Radiohead, Jeff Buckley and Miles Davis. That would really make me happy. Jazz in the 1930s and 40s was about the soul and reiterating how you were feeling through your instruments or voice. Jonathan: Kanye West, Jay-Z, Jimi Hendrix, singularly the unique artist. DD: Are you signed? Jade: We are not. Maybe we would if the deal was really good, but it really depends. Jonathan: Ideally, we just want the best situation. DD: Future plans for Blind Benny? Jade: More shows. More consistency. I want to be recording more frequently. It takes a lot practice to get a band tight. Just keep doing what we’re doing. We want to continue giving people music on a consistent basis, rather than waiting for it to be perfect. Jonathan: I think this upcoming project is going to attract a lot of new people to our music. I think we have the kind of music where anyone can really like it. 63
“We never have a shortage of good ideas, just too many good ideas.”
FILL IN THE BLANK JADE
WITHOUT MUSIC I WOULD BE
PETER (Gordan Ramsay)
FILL IN THE BLANK JONATHAN
WITHOUT MUSIC I WOULD BE confused NICKNAME
JD / Jon / Carmelli
Cradling artists Robert Glasper, Beyoncé Knowles, Jason Moran, Scarface among many more musicians—Houston, Texas is a reputable music-saturated city. Prodigy of this culture is emerging musician Jamire Williams. Founder and creator of the band ERIMAJ, Williams stages a platform where the mash-up of jazz and soul collide, birthing a hypnotic, melodic sound. After taking flight, leaving Houston to pursue higher education at the New School for Jazz Contemporary Music in New York City, where he now resides, Williams has not lost momentum in his effort to penetrate the music world. Williams is constantly experimenting with different sounds and genres. Though it may not be outwardly apparent in his first, EP “Memo To All,” its purpose was to “send out a message to everyone to stay tuned for more music coming soon,” Williams explains. Williams is a rarity within the music world. He flawlessly intertwines different genres of music from rock to soul, while keeping the distinctive tone of jazz alive. I was able to catch-up with Williams while he was on tour in Montreal, to talk about his journey as a musician, the life as an indie artist, and ERIMAJ’s latest project, “Conflict of a Man.”
Photo by: Grace P. Poon
Dirty Dozen: Can you introduce yourself? Jamire Williams: I am “Drummer Extraordinaire” “Mr. International” also known as, Jamire Williams. DD: Being from Houston, can we talk about your upbringing in this musicdriven environment? JW: My early childhood was spent following my mother around. She’s a musician, pianist, singer and counselor. I was always involved in the arts at a young age from going to jazz shows, church services to being in theater, visual art and music of course. I had a very creative childhood. DD: Being born into a music-based family and city, what was your earliest memory of wanting to become a musician? JW: Between junior high and high school. I went to The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a performing arts school in Houston. I started playing in the band at school. That’s when I became more focused and it was also a prep course for college. Half the day would be academics and the other would be studying music, or whatever art you studied. DD: Did you experiment with other instruments, aside from the drums? JW: I played the piano, but wouldn’t say I’m a piano player. I know enough to write and get ideas out from different concepts in my head. But my mom played the piano and was my teacher. I wish I kept up with the piano when I was younger. DD: Is jazz music your primary focus? JW: I’m more of an all-round musician. I grew up in the age of hip-hop and alternative-rock, and always listen to that music. But, junior high was when I started really listening to jazz and became something I really got into in high school. I was a diehard jazz-head. I have an “old soul,” as they say down South. 68
DD: Can we talk about your first EP, “Memo to All?” JW: It was really spur of the moment when I got the idea. We did a live show the end of last summer , and it was such a magical night. Everyone was saying, “Damn, that was a good show.” That was a rough demo, and the birth of “Memo to All.” I listened to the live recording from the show and started mixing it with other tracks I had. I wanted it to be one seamless idea—no-stops, no-starts. It paints a picture for the listener. The music we play has a cinematic feel, like a movie. DD: What’s the inspiration behind your band’s name, ERIMAJ (pronounced: ere-maj)? JW: It’s my name spelled backwards. If you can pronounce it right, it has a little swing to it. DD: Who forms this band with you? JW: Corey King is my right-hand-man in the band. He plays the trombone but also writes some songs. The other guys are vocalist, Chris Turner, Matt Stevens on guitar and Vicente Archer or Burniss Earl Travis II is on the bass guitar. DD: That’s a nice collection of artists. Your band, ERIMAJ, is working on another upcoming album “Conflict of a Man.” JW: Yes, it’s going to be released sometime this year. The name of this project came to me after doing the single, “Conflict of a Man,” a very vague story that is universal for any situation man or woman. The title coincides with the album. It’s a movie, a journey of a man’s life dealing with different things he goes through in life, where I’ve been and want to go. DD: Your first EP had underlining contemporary jazz mixed with soul. What’s the tone of this album? JW: I want to break down the whole genre concept. “Conflict of a Man” is going to be a head-buster.
“That’s one of my tasks as a tastemaker for music—to bridge the gap between our generation and the one before us.”
Jamire Williams performing in New York City. Photo by: Jan Scheffner
It’s a mix of rock, heavy drums, jazz, and vocals. The album starts off with instrumental and flows into vocals, while the writing and lyrics will grasp your ears. DD: What do you want your listeners to take away from your music? JW: I want them to listen to the music as a complete body of work, play it straight down, and visualize the feature film [the album] as their life. They can reflect on the things they’ve gone through, understand the different journeys and put it into context. DD: Do you think you’re bridging the gap for people who don’t listen to jazz? JW: Absolutely. That’s one of my tasks as a tastemaker for music—to bridge the gap between our generation and the one before us, having an audience of all ages. DD: What’s your creative process? JW: It varies. Sometimes it’s spur of the moment, sitting down at the piano or fumbling around with melodies or finding a weird sample. DD: How would you label your sound? JW: It’s still untitled, but maybe a mash-up. DD: If you could work with any artist, who would it be? JW: Prince, Mad-lib, Quadron and Thom Yorke. DD: Who influences your style of music? JW: I’m more influenced by other forms of art. During the production of this upcoming album, I was reading James Baldwin, which was a big influence for it. I live in uptown Harlem, and arguably during the most creative period of his life, Baldwin did too. There was a collective of black artists in every category from writers, musicians and directors at
this time. Now, it’s just a regurgitation of what’s going on then—different communities of people who are fashion designers, visual artists, and so on. I wanted to get that feel of a Renaissance our day and age within my music. Another artist is Jean-Michal Basquiat. I remember seeing his last documentary, Radiant Child, and it was such an inspiration. I want to put a stamp on my body of work at a young age too. DD: Do you want to be signed to a label? JW: We’re searching for an indie situation. There are enough people out there who want to get good music out. It’s cycling back to 1980s when hip-hop was coming out. We are controlling our own destinies now. DD: Plans for the future? JW: I’m looking forward to getting into more writing, composing, scores and film. I want to expand and go on tour to get the music to the masses.
Photo by: Grace P. Poon
FILL IN THE BLANK NICKNAME Buddy Red
WITHOUT MUSIC I WOULD BE nothing
BEST SONG EVER MADE
“Wake Up And Be Somebody” by Brainstorm
LA-based band J*DaVeY has been spearheading the roaring indie movement since 2008. This duo’s commanding presence is visible through their style and, moreover, through their synthesis of pop, rock, funk, electronic and hip-hop music. This admixture is best described as “Pop-fusion” says lead vocalist Jack. Composed of Brook D’Leau and Jack Davey, the band offers music-goers a steady accession of innovative and unconventional sounds that will always leave you wanting more. “Music is a drug, music is a release” Brook D’Leau says. Having creative control in all aspects of producing music is the pulse keeping the ingenious alive for this group. For both artists, music was introduced into their lives at a young age, and has manifested into a refined craft that formed J*DaVeY. Despite the influx of unsigned artists guiding their own future, J*DaVeY remains an indestructible force today. Just wrapping up their New World Culture tour, and now back in LA for the time being, we spoke briefly to discuss the break-up with Warner and the explosion of the indie music culture and their full-length album in the works, “New Designer Drug.”
Photo by: Moses Mitchell
Photo by: Moses Mitchell
Dirty Dozen: How was J*DaVeY formed? Jack Davey: We met in high school actually at my senior prom and from there we became friends. Then a year into our friendship we both discovered we were pursuing music. It was really that simple. We worked on one song, and that one song turned into a long career. Brook D’Leau: It was though. There was never a heavy, well thought out process behind it. DD: What’s your earliest memory of wanting to pursue music? JD: I’ve been performing since I was a kid and knew that I wanted to perform in some capacity. Music chose me. It wasn’t a plan, just something that materialized. We are just more so creative people and music is the one creative asset that took over. BDL: My dad was always a musician. There’s baby pictures of me at 1 year-old reaching up and trying to touch his equipment, or at the piano doing God knows what. I didn’t know this was something I was going to seriously pursue. When I was fifteen I
started doing stuff production wise, but didn’t start taking it seriously until I went to college. A friend of mine had a production set up and he allowed me to use his stuff, which was kind of a mistake on his part because I was using it more than he was. I wasn’t going to class but I was always producing. So I figured, why don’t I go into this full-time? DD: How did the name J*DaVeY come about? JD: We were on the hunt for something androgynous. It’s also a hybrid of my name Jack Davey and this name of a transvestite we came across, oddly enough. We kept it from there. It doesn’t really have a rhyme or reason. DD: How would you describe your sound? JD: Our music is a fusion of everything we’ve ever been exposed to and a little bit of everything that we like. It’s a fusion of jazz, hip-hop, rock, a lot of electronica, just a sound clash. But, ultimately, it’s intended to be pop.
“Independent music is always very necessary— it starts the trends and determines where the music is going.”
DD: How would you do you think you’ve grown as an artist from 2008 with the EP “Beauty and Distortion” to your recent release “The Great Mistapes”? BDL: Anything becomes refined as you work more. With “The Great Mistapes,” we took our time with it a bit more and it comes across more precise. With the stuff we put out earlier, it was a compilation of the greatest stuff we had done over the course of four to five years previous to that. “The Great Mistapes” is a more focused project and I think that comes across. DD: What’s the method behind your creative process? JD: We don’t really have one. We throw ourselves into the process, not really guiding it and allow ourselves to be vessels. We sit back and let things happen as they want to. DD: What’s the chemistry when it comes to writing and producing? Is it a team effort? JD: I’m the writer in the band and Brook is the producer. BDL: We’ve shared duties on a couple of occasions. It’s never anything where we only just wear those hats. When I first met Jack, she was making beats. She possesses those qualities just as much as I possess qualities of a vocalist. DD: Where do you draw your inspiration for your music? JD: All factors of life. Everything that I see, feel and hear. It’s not one person or people I can attribute inspiration from. BDL: It’s pretty much life. I think people expect us to have a list of musicians or artists but shit just waking up in the morning and talking to friends, meeting people when we travel is inspiring. We just 76
got back from our European tour and it’s as simple as looking at the architecture in Berlin. We absorb through our eyes and ears. DD: Now, you’ve recently split with Warner Brothers. How does it feel to be back in complete back in creative control and indie artists again? JD: We’re able to do more and be in control of our musical destiny. It feels pretty great. We always felt independent in spirit and I don’t think we shifted too far. Independent music is always very necessary—it starts the trends and determines where the music is going. DD: When people listen to your music, is there a revolving message you’re sending? BDL: Freedom has always been the message. I’ve never been a fan of boxes or creating new boxes. I feel as if over the past fifteen years people are making music a specific way for a specific purpose or person. This limits the possibilities of what music naturally does, for musicians as well as labels. It’s an art form that’s ever evolving. DD: What are your future plans? JD: Making and releasing art.
Jack from J*DaVeY performing in Washington, DC show at Black Cat; photo by: Danielle Scruggs / www.daniellescruggs.com
FILL IN THE BLANK JACK DAVEY
MUSIC MAKES ME FEEL alive
BEST SONG EVER MADE hasn’t been made yet
WITHOUT MUSIC I WOULD BE dead
FILL IN THE BLANK BROOK D’LEAU
MUSIC MAKES ME FEEL
BEST SONG EVER MADE
is a song made with sincerity
WITHOUT MUSIC I WOULD BE Brook: uninterested
Brook D’Leau from J*DaVeY performing in Washington, DC show at Black Cat; photo by: Danielle Scruggs / www.daniellescruggs.com
THE MODERN RENAISSANCE MAN
Bred in Brooklyn, New York, MeLo-X amalgamates original, innovative beats with old-school tracks and adds his lyrics with this mash-up, creating upbeat to mellow, body-moving songs. Outside of this, MeLo-X holds many titles—producer, photographer, visual artist, chef, alongside others—he is a modern day Renaissance Man. “I want to do everything. I want to push my creativity. Now it’s reaching its peak.” Initially breaking into the music scene as a producer, MeLo-X is returning to his first devotion—MCing. Now, MeLo-X has been rapidly gaining attention both nationally and internationally from his eargasmic music. With his second album still circulating in high demand, MeLo-X made a stop in Chicago for roughly 24 hours to perform some tracks from his EP, “More Merch.” I was able to sit-down and talk with MeLo-X before his rehearsal session to discuss his evolution as an indie artist and wayward plans for the future.
Photo by: Rog Walker
â€œI feel free when I create music.
People should have the same freedom in whatever they do in life.â€?
Dirty Dozen: Please introduce yourself. MeLo-X: My name is MeLo-X, and I’m a creative-mind, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. DD: What’s your earliest memory of wanting to pursue music? MX: When I was about 7 or 8 years old. I played with my toy piano and set-up toy boxes as drum so I could have my live sessions, by myself. But I didn’t start taking performing and recording seriously until I was 13 years old. DD: Is that the age you had your first performance? MX: No, the first time I performed was the first or second year in high school and it was nerve wrecking. I just got into the mind-state [of performing] and I could not turn back. All I remember was not moving, just rapping and standing up straight.
[Laughter] DD: Let’s fast-forward and talk about your latest project, “More Merch” and the meaning behind the title. MX: The title behind the album came from my friends who would call all of the jewelry that I wear “merchandise.” I took the word merchandise and used it for my album. I was giving more of my craft, more production and more soul in this particular project. DD: What’s your favorite song from this EP? MX: That’s hard. There’s always the politically correct answer, “I can’t choose one.” Every song has a different vibe. Sometimes “Where’d You Go” with Kendrick Lamar and Mickey Factz is my favorite. It’s mad personal, this song shows that I’m actually a rapper. And then there’s “Cooked Food,” which is really reggae inspired. DD: That’s one of my favorite songs from the album. What’s the story behind the song “Cooked Food?” MX: I am a food-lover and a vegetarian working on being a vegan. I was singing about the first thing on my mind—food. The song was freestyle. I was in my room, playing with a program where I could loop my voice and if you listen carefully you can hear my voice being looped during the chorus. DD: Your parents are Jamaican. Do these roots influence your music? MX: Yeah, Jamaican and reggae culture influences everything I do. DD: You’ve had two projects released prior to “More Merch.” How is this album different from your previous music? MX: This album shows my growth as an artist. It’s myself in my most comfortable place in life so far, where I can do what I want. I don’t have to prove myself anymore, and I’m able to give myself to my audience and supporters uncensored. When I released my first mix, “Time Warp Vibes,” it was an instrumental project. During that time, I was blowing up as a DJ and producer in New York City and I wanted to keep up with the momentum. “Mustfa’s Renaissance” was my first stamp as an all-around musician—I MC’d, sang, produced, created blends and mixes. It was a statement of everything I do in one. It showcased everything I do.
DD: “Mustfa’s Renaissance” was the first album you were rapping on. Why did you make the transition from producing to MCing? MX: I found a new style of Mcing and I wanted to showcase that. It was time to get back into my true passion, my first passion, creating my own music. DD: Could you breakdown your creative process? MX: It varies. Either I listen to a track first and hear what the track wants me to say. Or I have an idea of where I want to go and would create around that idea. It’s kind of free-flowing. Sometimes I might be DJ’ing or walking down the street, and a line or a melody would spark. I’m just a scatterbrain. It’s never one way. DD: What do you want your audience to take away from your music? MX: Freedom. If you listen to every song on each project, there are always different subjects. I feel free when I create music. People should have the same freedom in whatever they do in life. DD: There’s a buzz about another project releasing soon. Is there any truth behind it? MX: I’ve been working on mad projects. I’m always working on mad projects. But I’m currently working on this threepart beat series titled “Sonic Intercourse,” that’s being released on a French label. It’s three different projects with all of my favorite sounds and genres over the past three years coming together and making love to each other. DD: Are you signed? MX: No, I’m super independent. I have my own label. DD: Do you have any other artists under your label? MX: Yeah. There’s two artists—female rapper, NTU Fara she’s an artist and another rapper by the name of Lil’Friday. I keep a close-knit family around me. DD: Is there any artist that inspires your music? MX: Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, and J-Dilla. Jimi was ultra, ultra into his instrument. I watched a documentary where his brother said Jimi would fall asleep with his guitar, and while he was sleeping his hands will still be playing. Someone who is into their instrument, who reached a worldwide audience off of his passion, has always inspired me. For J-Dilla, his sound has shaped music. A lot of people don’t understand how deep it goes into his creativity. My mixtape, “Time Warp Vibes,” was an ode to J-Dilla. And of course I chose Bob Marley, he’s the best Jamaican artist of all time. DD: What are you listening to these days? MX: I’m always listening to my own music on the go. But when I’m home I listen to a lot of beats and instrumentals. Artists like Little Dragon, Computer Jay, Flying Lotus and Drake, sometimes. DD: Where do you see yourself ten years from now? MX: I will definitely have a family, a wife, nice house and doing more community and charity oriented things. I want to be a philanthropist. DD: Philanthropy? Is music temporary? MX: I will be doing music my whole life. Wherever it takes me, it takes me. My real plan is to make a statement outside of music alone. 86
MeLo-X performing at the Beauty Bar Chicago, Photos by: Mitch / firstname.lastname@example.org
FILL IN THE BLANK MUSIC MAKES ME FEEL
WITHOUT MUSIC I WOULD BE
MY FRIENDS WOULD PROBABLY TELL YOU I’m a funny character
from Body Language
A TALK WITH THE LADY
Body-rocking crowds with their music, the quartet Body Language, has mastered the technique of marrying electronic and pop. Comprised of Matt Young, Grant Wheeler, Ian Chang and Angelica Bess, the chemistry of this indefinable music serving audiences music “from disco, tribal to jazz. It’s extremely crosscultural,” Bess explains. The only female in the band, this 25-year-old is the lead vocalist and keyboardist of Body Language. Though Bess has been performing since the age of four, being a musician wasn’t her first pursuit. When Bess met Matt and Wheeler during her years at the University of Hartford, they recruited her into their band. “Once that set in, I realized this was something that I really wanted to do,” Bess explains. From there, the band organically formed along the way adding Ian Chang to the mix, completing the group. I caught up with Bess—a New Jersey native now residing in Brooklyn, New York— and during our phone conversation, we spoke about her role in band, ups and downs of being the frontwoman, and Body Language’s latest project “Social Studies,” their first full-length album.
Dirty Dozen: Have you always wanted to become a musician? Angelica Bess: I’ve always liked playing music and performing at the house for friends and family. In the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to work on music. I didn’t really have an ultimate training or resources. As I got older, I was performing at school and became more comfortable. But, I loved performing so much that I eventually developed a good pitch and ear to sing. It was a stepping-stone in building confidence.
DD: How would you describe your music with 4 words? AB: Very wild, joyous, diverse and electronic-pop.
DD: How did the name Body Language originate? AB: We actually had another name but Matt pulled this name out of nowhere. He wanted to have something that defined our music, which is a variety of genres that sounds and speaks to everybody. Listening to our music, watching us perform and how we connect on different levels, it was communicating without talking. We did heavy research around that name and no one has ever used it before.
DD: Can you describe your journey from your first EP, “Speaks” to your first full-length album “Social Studies”? AB: Our first EP “Speaks” was testing out the waters and what people actually grasped more. From there we had more of an idea of where we wanted to go. With “Social Studies,” it’s an elementary school term that defines of all of our feelings towards music. It has this dark, R-N-B feel in the introduction, but the second track is an explosion of reggaeton and loopy sounds. DD: What’s the sound you’re going for, as a collective? AB: We still don’t know. We were in a meeting with our booking agent listing some of the bands we would want to tour with, and we all gave completely different genres. None of them had anything to do with our sound, Matt said Modest Mouth and I said Janelle Monáe. 90
DD: The band is a collaborative between three guys and yourself, the only female in the band. Are there any pros or cons in this role? AB: The only pro is that I’m the only female. The con is I’m out numbered when I have an idea and it might be too sensitive.
When I’m with them, I don’t see myself as the power female figure. We are all on the same equal level. When we’re working together, we are one. DD: Is there any artist you would like to work with? AB: Probably David Bowie. But, everyone that I would really love to work with is dead. On a different level, I would like to work with Animal Collective, Santogold and Karen O from Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Angelica Bess performing with Body Language.
“When I’m with them, I don’t see myself as the power female figure. We are all on the same equal level. When we’re working together, we are one.”
(Pictured above, left to right) Body Language Angelica Bess, Matt Young, Grant Wheeler and Ian Chang. Photo by: James McDowell.
DD: When listening to the band’s music, how do you want your listeners to feel? AB: A strong connection, and to know it all comes from the heart and the love for music. I want them to dance and groove. At our shows we have everyone moving, even if they don’t want to. DD: What are you listening to these days? AB: Harry Belafonte. A couple of my friends of mine did a cover for one of his songs and ever since then, I can’t stop listening to him. Also, Digable Planets and my friend just gave me an unreleased copy of Prince called the “B-Sides,” all original low-fi recordings from 1977 to 1979. DD: Are you [Body Language] signed? AB: Yes, at first it was a little scary. When you’re signed to a label, it’s like you’re selling your soul for “x” amount of years. But, it’s about building a team with people who believe in your music and want to work with you. That’s the most exciting part. 92
DD: What can we expect from Body Language in future? AB: Traveling all over the world spreading our music. Hopefully, have a full-length album out in the next year. Each song is like a chapter, and there are some pages we need to fill in.
Photo courtesy of Body Language
FILL IN THE BLANK MUSIC IS
I’M TERRIFIED OF the dark MY FRIENDS WOULD PROBABLY TELL YOU I’m crazy and loud
THANK YOU LIFE IS CURATING YOUR ART