THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER KAREN GILLAN - ERICK THE ARCHITECT - WALT DISCO DAISY WORLD - KAELEN OHM - HALLAN
KAREN GILLAN ERICK THE ARCHITECT - THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER - WALT DISCO DAISY WORLD - KAELEN OHM - HALLAN
ERICK THE ARCHITECT KAREN GILLAN - THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER - WALT DISCO DAISY WORLD - KAELEN OHM - HALLAN
WALT DISCO KAREN GILLAN - ERICK THE ARCHITECT - THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER DAISY WORLD - KAELEN OHM - HALLAN
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Julian de la Celle
CREATIVE DIRECTOR Tina de la Celle
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Jon Rizzo
CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Charlie Gray, Kristin Gallegos Ben Cope, Wanda Martin Weronika Sikora, Blair Inkster Amber Toman, Simone Kidane
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Natalie Gott, Jessica Fynn
ADVERTISING Ankita Tawar firstname.lastname@example.org
SPECIAL THANKS Romilly @ DDA PR Matt & Alexa @ Narrative PR Jordan @ Quincy Jones Productions Tom @ SATELLITE414 Sarah @ The Initiative Group Eric & Pat @ Nice Work Sam @ Brutalist Managament Matthew @ Super Cat PR
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WALT DISCO ARE
VOCALIST JAMES POTTER AND GUITARIST AND KEYBOARDIST FINLAY MCCARTHY REASURES US, VOICES PURRING OVER THE GARISH PUB SCENE. WE MEET UP WITH THE GLAM ROCKERS, PRE-SHOW, IN LONDON TO SWAP NOTES ON BAD TASTE, GREAT CLOTHING, AND LIFE SINCE THE RELEASE OF THEIR YOUNG HARD AND HANDSOME EP. Words JESSICA FYNN Photography WERONIKA SIKORA
1-35 Coate Street. East London -- one of those areas into which a generation of onceoutcasted twenty-somethings have settled like pack animals. The cool kids have won: they huddle on side streets, filling ashtrays and knocking back half-empty pint glasses with the kind of nonchalance that catches you off-balance. Walking through them to the doorway of the Sebright Arms, it’s as if I’m back at high school. Except no one pays the slightest mind or cares what length my skirt is. A tall person in a tartan kilt and clear-framed glasses, greets me warmly. This is Tom, the band’s publicist. ‘Today you have James and Finlay!’ Two-on-one. Tonight is the second birthday of promotions company and underground taste-makers Never Heard of Ya, and Walt Disco have been invited to play a set in celebration. Not only is it their first live performance in a year and a half, it’s also their first time playing as signings to Lucky Number. I’ve not seen them play before, but I’ve heard stories: wedding dresses, crowd-surfing and too much eye contact. Songs that have been tarted-up to the point of melodrama. “Well, it’s just rock-n-roll with lipstick on, isn’t it?” said John Lennon in conversation with David Bowie, on the topic of glam-rock. The band have had some car troubles on the trip down from Glasgow, but they seem to have made it here in one piece. They almost look better for it. A little mussed up, good, mellow energy. Walking over to me at over six foot, with all the grace of a catwalk model scouted by Hedi Slimane, is James, the band’s resident Freddie Mercury. Over to the right, in a pair of white cat-eye frames, is Finlay. Shy smiles. I’m graciously handed a gin and tonic. I follow a pair of silver platformed space-girl boots and shiny black brogues through a western-style doorway and into the backroom, where the four remaining members of Walt Disco have laid claim for the evening. Various clothing and make-up items are strewn about. It’s like a girls slumber party. James and Finlay take a seat at a corner table, tucking long, dainty legs neatly into the small space. Even though I have seen many of their videos and press photographs, as soon as I’m sat in front of these artists, I am struck by how they seem far more bashful than I had expected.
Even with the gloriously lurid colours of their outfits, graciously gifted to them for the evening by Charles Jeffrey, they somehow appear inconspicuous, owning their space, without demanding anything more. I had intended to say something else, but I find myself blurting out a series of ideas, and asking them to somehow connect the dots: “Attitudes, self-expression, fashion, rebellion– how do all of these elements intersect with your music and performance?” James speaks first, seeming to, I think, not mind this sudden outburst. “The people that we really idolize, whether that’s David Bowie or Grace Jones, have all been multifaceted artists. They do music, they’re in fashion, they do films.” As an afterthought, “I want a hand in every creative industry that interests me.” “It all links up. Music videos are essentially short films.” Finlay adds. I comment that the music video to ‘Selfish Lover’ has all the camp and kitsch of a John Waters film. “It’s outrageous and ridiculous! We wanted it to look like the Power Rangers or something, with all of those ridiculous planets exploding in the background.” They laugh, e xplaining that the short-timeframe on the video complimented the “fun, naff-ness of the animation.” I ask if they’ve heard of Polyester Zine, surprised when they shake their heads, no, they haven’t. “I love that! Have faith in your own bad taste.” James nods, quoting their tagline back to me, satisfied. Since the monochromatic video editorial that they shot with i-D in 2019, Walt Disco appear to have undergone some changes, and not only in the aesthetic: one band member replaced with two others, longer hair, more femme clothing. Some talk of a rock opera. “It was an editorial at the end of the day…” says James, noting that they all still love wearing an all-black outfit. “At the time we were embracing the post-punk side of our formation as a band, but that new-romanticism and classic look has changed with members. This current line-up will hopefully be the last change that we ever do. We’re all very young. Two years of self-discovery is a lot of time.”
Even with the gloriously lurid colours of their outfits, graciously gifted to them for the evening by Charles Jeffrey, they somehow appear inconspicuous, owning their space, without demanding anything more.
It’s hard to hear what they’re saying under the opening riff of ‘Brutal’ by Olivia Rodrigo but I push on, mentioning that in that i-D editorial, Finlay says the best decision they ever made was dropping out of education. Lewis says the best decision he made was to stay in education. James looks over at Finlay, explaining that four out of the six of them were college drop-outs. “You and Jack dropped out of music college…to do music.” Amused by the irony in this, I tell them that I’ve been playing around with the idea of dropping out of university myself. “I am not, by any means, encouraging anyone to drop out of uni.” James punctuates, carefully. “But now I want to hear your story.” “Tell us your story.” Finlay agrees. Now I have two pairs of eyes looking at me expectantly. I give them the abbreviated script: not finding creative people that I really gel with, more writing opportunities in London, that kind of thing. “I suppose aren’t you…if you’re doing English to get jobs in writing that you already have…do you really need to waste another year?” Fair point. I look to Finlay to explain their choice. “I guess I saw it like this: if I say no, I won’t have the chance to join this band [Walt Disco] that I really love. I will be able to go back to college.” “And you’re only twenty-one!” “At the time I was nineteen. I was always asking for college off to go play with my old band anyway. This is what I wanted to do. I might as well bite the bullet and do it.” In another lifetime, James could have been a marine biologist. “It’s kind of like the passion science. It’s a lot of research and volunteering because you want to save the oceans. I would love the oceans not to die, but I don’t think I was the person to do the saving. There is more change that I could make for myself, and for the world with what I’m doing now.” “Like wearing a wedding dress onstage?” I ask. “Yeah, exactly that.”
The way that Walt Disco get ready for shows is similar to the way that they make music. It’s a precision-tooled process which begins with the sublime, and ends with the hysterical. Tonight they’re in full Charles Jeffrey regalia, but “before, we’d bring a sack of our favourite clothes and just wing it every night.” “We’ll be in the dressing room, and say ‘oh! You’re wearing that? I have a thing that would go with that!’ We’re six best friends. It’s the same as getting ready with your six best friends for a night out. ‘Ooh, you look cute!’ ‘Can I borrow that lipstick?’ That kind of thing.” Making music as a group follows a similar narrative, even after their lockdown adjustments. “Often we’d have this completely electronic song, made from all of the sounds that we love, from hyper-pop to ambient music, to fucking pure experimental electronica. Then we’d have a sit down and a listen. We’d think, ‘that’s nice, but we don’t make that sort of music.’” “Let’s stick a fuck-off guitar over it!” Finlay cheers. “What’s the verse? What’s the chorus? Cool. I’ll sing over that.” James chides. “Having this fleshed out instrumental that has emotion, I could ask ‘what does this make me think of?’ and then the lyrics would come.” “It’s never painting a precise picture, but slapping colours on a canvas. That sets the scene.” “Like a Jackson Pollock” James adds. Something about Walt Disco’s merging of high-art and low-art is very attractive to me. On the subject of their debut EP Young Hard and Handsome – the title of which was generously lifted from a porn mag, James and Finlay talk about the double entendre. “I suppose there’s taboo in the fact that it’s a really bold sentence. It can be as grotesque as you think—fullon sex. There’s that graphic element. But it’s also a really nice thing. Everyone has been young, aroused by someone, and felt pretty.
“‘Hard’ can also mean feeling powerful or tough.” Finlay agrees. “Feeling fearless. Fearlessness is hard! We all struggle with it. I struggle with it every time I leave the house. You just have to take a deep breath and say ‘I think I’m going to try and be fearless today.’” In The Guardian, there’s a wonderful interview between Kathy Acker (avant-garde American writer and academic) and the Spice Girls (no explanation needed, really) where Gerri Halliwell – Ginger Spice – says: “We were all individually beaten down… Collectively, we’ve got something going.” I think out loud. How does the group dynamic play out in Walt Disco? Could they do it alone? “You wind each other up to get better.” James answers, tucking hair behind ears. “If one of us shows up to practice in full outfit, full confidence, house down, boots on, and you’ve just shown up looking a wee bit boring that day because it’s just practice, you start to think, ‘I want to leave the house like that every day.’ Sometimes you just don’t feel strong enough. But if all my best friends are doing it…” “It helps when you’re in a pack” remarks Finlay. “Was it you who was talking about how bands are like pack animals?” Who was saying that?” “I didn’t say that, but I wish I did.” James retorts. “It was Alex Kapranos. From Franz Ferdinand. He way saying that in a podcast. How bands are like pack animals. They travel together, they help each other out.” “We don’t have an alpha-male. Maybe an alphafemale?” “The Matriarch.” Finlay. “The Matriarch! I like that. It has a ring to it.”
I watch Walt Disco perform later on that evening and I see the true wonder of this pack mentality. Walt Disco come alive on stage. It’s like Night at the Museum but with a greater taste for hedonism. Up front, Charlie – who when wearing a black fitted cap, reminds of a young, blonde Robert Mapplethorpe strums on a hot pink guitar. His has a curious face. Like a cherub. It turns more and more militant with every ‘Hey BOY! You’re One of Us’. From different positions across the stage, Dave and Jack deliriously wear the same expressions, shouting in chorus. As a pack, they run to the beat of Lewis’ guitar solo, flying around the stage, playfully embracing each other. For their final song, James graces the stage, dress hanging loosely off one shoulder. With one hand touching the low ceiling, they lean backwards, almost like a statue cast in marble. Chest glowing and bare, underwear peeking out on top, James reaches hands to heart. I go home that night thinking about Freddie Mercury in that Queen encore, slowly stripping off his kimono to ‘Hey Big Spender’. “It’s a persona” says James on the topic of performance art. “It’s who you really want to be in your head, but isn’t realistic in day-to-day life. I want to feel like a Hollywood movie star, a stadium rock-star, a fucking queer dance hero and pop star all at the same time! If you carried yourself like that when you went to the fucking coffee shop, you’d feel exhausted. It’s the fullest aspect of everything. On stage, I sing about every aspect of my life, so I can bring in all the characters I have and see in my head.” Musing together on their first live music experiences, Finlay remarks: “when I go and see an artist, I want to be wowed in a sense that they become Gods and Goddesses. They’re untouchable. Look at them up there and I’m down here…” His voice trails off, seeming to have struct a perfect chord. I wonder what stage Walt Disco will be playing next year. I wonder what Gods and Goddesses they’ll turn out to be, what legacy they’ll leave.
ACTRESS, MUSICIAN, AND ALL AROUND CREATIVE POWERHOUSE
KAELEN OHM TELLS US ABOUT HER JOURNEY FROM GROWING UP IN A SMALL TOWN IN THE MOUNTAINS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA TO LANDING HER FIRST SERIES REGULAR ROLE IN THE NETFLIX SERIES
HIT & RUN. Words JULIAN DE LA CELLE Photography BLAIR INKSTER
Julian de la Celle: You seem to dive in and out of a variety of different artistic endeavors, whether it’s music, dance, or film. Did you grow up in a creative household? Kaelen Ohm: Yeah, definitely. I was raised in a town of four thousand people in the mountains of Fernie, BC and grew up in the woods skiing, hiking, and a lot of outdoor activity. But music was a huge part of our household. The radio was always on, and my parents played vinyl throughout my whole upbringing. My mom was a part of the selection committee for the local folk festival. So we would get all these CDs from bands around the world submitting to be a part of the festival. We’d listen to a lot of jazz and world music and folk music and rock music. I grew up listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and Bruce Coburn and Joni Mitchell, all those folks. My dad was always in bands, jamming in the garage. So I think that informed music as being a part of my life in some way. And then I started dancing when I was ten. And obviously, music is a huge component of that too. I think I always knew I was going to go into film and music, but I just grew up playing sports and being outside. When I graduated from high school, I went to film school in Vancouver, and I shifted out of my body and into my brain and started leaning into art. Nature and music, and quietude have always inspired everything that I’ve made. Julian: When you got to film school, when was the moment that you felt like acting was the thing you wanted to pursue? Kaelen: Apparently, I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was two years old. I was living off the grid in a tiny cabin with my parents, like, literally in this — a forest with no running water or electricity. My parents took me to a drive-in movie theater, and I guess I was completely enraptured by the whole thing and told a relative who inquired what I wanted to be when I grew up that that’s what I wanted to do. For me, film school was, I think, an approach to understand the filmmaking process from a technical and creative perspective and also as a backup knowing inherently that acting was a bit of a gamble career. Growing up as an athlete, I was in a ski accident when I was fifteen, and I broke my back pretty severely. That changed my trajectory. I knew with acting that it relied so much on the physical body and your appearance that, if anything else were to happen, at least I could still make films. So that was my rationale for going into film production. But I think I was probably just terrified of trying to be an actor. 21
Kaelen [con’t]: It just took me on this path of directing, and producing and editing, and shooting my own stuff for years. Then I got into my late 20s and realized I hadn’t pursued acting, but I’d thought about it every day of my life. In some way, I had been putting all of my energy into it, but without actually doing it. So I put all of my efforts into learning the craft and trying to get work. I moved to Toronto and stepped out of touring in bands and stepped out of directing as much as I had been, and went to this self-curated, boutique acting school around Toronto with a bunch of different classes and different methods. I had so much experience on set already, that I think it was just a matter of going into myself and understanding what it meant to act, which is more challenging than I ever thought it would be. Julian: With the role of Danielle in Hit and Run, you’re using a lot of those past dance experiences. How do you feel that your dancing experience has helped you in your acting? I always think about how James Dean would take ballet classes to feel more in control of his body and his movement as an actor. Kaelen: Yeah, I think acting is such a physical craft. Understanding how you look on camera, how you’re carrying yourself, and then stepping into a character, understanding who they are and where they come from, and how they spend their days will inform how they move. Film is so different from theater or stage work of any kind because you have this little box, and you’re creating a composition. The knowledge of what the screen looks like, what the shot looks like, has really challenged me as an actor. I tend to be result-directed in my physical approach instead of just surrendering into the character and letting the camera capture what it will capture. It’s been excellent practice for me. The more in your body you are as a human in general, the more present you can be, the more authentic you can be. When you see incredible performances in film, you know, people like Joaquin Phoenix or Philip Seymour Hoffman, these people that are just so physically in their characters, I’m inspired to go into that level of craft.
Julian: Yeah, I mean, Philip Seymore Hoffman, man... I recently rewatched The Master a few months ago. Kaelen: Oh, dude, that’s like the best movie, the two of them... I was thinking of that dark scene of them sitting at the table together. They make you feel like you’re sitting at that table, you know? The first song I ever wrote for AMAARA was right after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. That was such a crazy thing. He was just such an anomaly of an artist. He just brought his whole heart into everything that he did. It’s people like that that you watch and think, “Why would I ever be self-conscious? Why would I ever bring my ego into this work?” That’s what happens when you leave it all at the door. That’s been one of the biggest challenges for me; dropping that self-consciousness. Like, having awareness, but without this idea that you need to prove yourself as like, you know, Kaelen, or Julian, or whatever. It isn’t about me, and it isn’t about the world seeing how interesting or smart or dumb or out of touch I am. It’s about bringing everything I know and have experienced into this work. And it’s hard. You get to know your ego in such an intimate way. Julian: Can you tell me a bit about the process you went through auditioning for this project and ultimately booking the role? Kaelen: Yeah, booking this gig was one of those crazy life-changing stories. I was in a really interesting phase of my life filled with a lot of change and uncertainty. I ended up in New Mexico, where I had always wanted to go. That was in the early summer of 2019. I dove into this crazy portal of medicine work and healing and meeting new people. Then the tape came along for the show. I tend to visualize my goals and try and manifest those things, and I had written in a journal a few weeks prior that I was ready for a show with a really good network. I wanted to work overseas, and I wanted it to have something to do with dance. And this audition came in, and it just said Netflix, series regular role, dancer, American living in Tel Aviv, shoots in New York and Israel. And I was like, What? [laughs] How is this possible?
Julian: That’s so cosmic! Kaelen: It was! So I managed to get the tape out and forgot about it as you do because you have to. And a week later, my agent said that the casting director wanted to have a zoom call with me. So I had this amazing call with our casting director Julie Schubert, and we just got to know each other. Later they told me the show had decided to put out an offer for the role to an A-lister. Then some weird things happened in New Mexico, so I flew back to Toronto, and when I landed on the tarmac, my agent had written an e-mail to me that said Julie was wondering if there was any way you could happen to be in New York on Thursday, and it was Tuesday night. She had a gut feeling that this offer wasn’t going to go through, and if the team met me, she thought it would work out. I was definitely not swimming in cash, but I decided I would somehow get myself to New York. I got there and went into this chemistry read for a role that had been offered to someone else. In some ways, the pressure was all off; it was like, “Well, I get to be in a room with all these incredible creators and artists. Let’s just play!” Auditioning is not my strong suit, and I often find I have the most nerves in those types of scenarios. It just immediately felt like there was a camaraderie there. But again, I was like, thanks so much for having me and good luck with the show, you know? I went to Calgary to make a record; the whole thing was made in nine days. Then I got a call on my birthday. It was my agent, and she said, “I’m calling you because you’ve got the job!” It was so surreal. These two months of meetings and throwing it away... it was a great practice of not having expectations and just letting things roll out how they’re supposed to. Julian: That’s so cool that you manifested that too! Kaelen: Yeah, the power of visualizing what you want. It can be a shocking thing if you get specific and suddenly realize that you’re standing in the middle of the detailed environment and circumstance that you had painted out for yourself months or years prior.
AS AN ACTIVE MEMBER AND PRODUCER OF HIP-HOP TRIO
ERICK THE ARCHITECT
HAS BEGUN TO EXPLORE ANOTHER PATH AS A SOLO ARTIST, HAVING RELEASED HIS OFFICIAL DEBUT EP
IN JANUARY OF THIS YEAR.
Words JULIAN DE LA CELLE Photography BEN COPE
Fashion ERIN KOBRIN
Grooming CAMILLE ARIANE for EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS using KIEHL’S
plaid suit VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, hat NICK FOUQUET, bracelet NIALAYA, ring MATTHEW READY OBJECTS
coat DRIES VAN NOTEN, necklaces NIALAYA, ring MATTHEW READY OBJECTS, boots PSKAUFMAN
rick the Architect is a musician of varied taste. “I‘ll listen to Johnny Cash and then to Billy Joel and then put on Eminem,” he laughs. “Like, what the fuck? How is this guy’s iPod full of all of this different music?” At a young age, he was exposed to a variety of different genres of music that have all shaped his current musical palette. Erick is someone who loves music, it’s in his blood, and he isn’t shy to step outside of the conventional box that others may feel they can’t escape from. He’s humble and down to earth, someone you could easily chat to for hours about music, but also about the state of the world and the lessons he’s learned that have been instrumental in his becoming a man. We chat about his time with Flatbush Zombies, his move from New York to Los Angeles, and his new venture as a solo artist. * * *
Julian: I’d love to know a little more about your upbringing, the kind of music that was being played, where you grew up, all that kind of stuff. Erick the Architect: Well, my dad is Jamaican, and my mom is from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, but her family’s from South Carolina. My brothers are from New York too. So I had three different pockets of music that I was being exposed to. I had reggae from my dad; Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Yellow Man, the whole dub culture. Lee Scratch Parry, Buju Banton, all that stuff came from my dad. Then my mom introduced Motown and soul; Al Green, Otis Redding, Ray, Goodman & Brown, The Temptations, David Ruffin. Julian: All the good stuff. Erick: Yeah, I was raised on the Berry Gordy era of music. Then my brothers, who are ten and thirteen years older than me, introduced me to hip hop, which at the time was like Wu-Tang and Rass Kass and Helta Skelta, Lost Boyz. All the pivotal New York hip hop shit. It was like a melting pot and then growing up in Flatbush, it’s highly impacted by Caribbean culture. It was different in the 90s. There was no internet, so people were playing tag and hanging out and having block parties. So people would open sprinklers, and we’d have these big ass speakers in the street; I’m talking big like a car. You had Jamaicans and Trinidadians and Haitians; the whole Caribbean was literally in Flatbush.
Julian: What was it that ultimately shifted your focus to making your own music? Erick: It was probably right before I got to high school. I was always into poetry, and I always liked to write and read a lot. I was interested in music as a consumer. I would always try to figure out how this person came to this... how they got this feeling, and what the song was about. Like, damn, what is a chord? What is a piano? What is a guitar? What does all this shit even mean? Once I got to high school, I started a rap group with my friends. We took that journey together to kind of figure out how to make music. I always wanted to produce it. Writing seemed so natural to me, but production was so intimidating, like, the aspect of how to manipulate sounds and make things make sense. It was so interesting. It’s still interesting to me, but it almost feels like the most humble times in my life were when I didn’t know what I was doing. You reward yourself so much more when you know less. You take it for granted when it becomes your job. Those innocent moments were when I started to fall in love with that idea. Learning how to play piano and just hanging out with some friends. I initially made music to make my friends think it was dope. That was it. Julian: How has your music taste changed or stayed the same since you were a teenager? Erick: I think the older I got, I still had those roots, the soul music, and stuff, but I got a lot more into rock music. My mom would play The Beatles and always told me that they were the best of all time, and I was like, I’m gonna listen to The Shins, I’m gonna listen to The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes. I think once I started to listen to The Gorillaz, that’s when it really changed for me. Damon Albarn and Blur were impactful because of how unique they were. They didn’t sit in one genre. I’ll listen to Johnny Cash and then to Billy Joel and then put on Eminem. Like, what the fuck? How is this guy’s iPod full of all of this different music? [laughs]
Julian: Yeah, I think, especially nowadays, music has landed in such a genreless zone. So you’re an East Coast guy, but you live in LA now. What drew you out here? Erick: Music. [laughs] I was coming here for about ten years, man. I was staying downtown at the Ace Hotel. That was like my camping ground. I would always come out here for work... 30
suit SUPREME, necklace NIALAYA, ring MATTHEW READY OBJECTS
suit SUPREME, necklace NIALAYA, ring MATTHEW READY OBJECTS
Erick [con’t]: I started taking more sessions over the past couple of years, and I’d always be sad when I had to go home. People would be like, “I wish you could stay, man. Just stay a couple of days, man.” And I’m like, I have to go home, I gotta feed my fucking animals, or whatever the hell I had to do at the time. [laughs] Eventually, I just took that little leap of faith. Unfortunately, it was because my mom had passed. I had come to terms with feeling like I was a bit complacent. Things weren’t progressing. I felt like I was just a mouse on a wheel or some shit. It’s just like, you’re moving, but where are you going? You’re t ranscending but very slowly. You’re becoming a man, or whatever. I’m developing into a more mature human being, a well-rounded person, but I think I was doing it too slow. And you don’t get age or time back. So I just decided to take a leap of faith, and my girl was totally with the idea of coming here. I wanted to buy a house. I was just tired of being around that energy and not doing anything with it. I felt like I was stagnant. Julian: Do you feel like since you’ve moved here, it’s inspired you in different ways, musically? Erick: Yeah, man. I built a studio in my basement down here. I think it just improved my quality of life. It’s very natural to feel like you have to rush in New York. There’s so much going on and so much competition that I think it felt like a very different lifestyle when we came to the West Coast. Nice weather all the time, and I think the palm trees and the energy here make it easier to tap into your inner self. That’s what I needed. After you turn thirty years old, things slow down. It takes three days to get over a hangover, but it also takes like ten minutes to be, like, I think I know what I want to do. I think I know who I am now. I think I’m over the bullshit. I’m over hanging out and wasting time. I think I’m ready for some real grown man shit, you know? I feel more at peace with who I am as of late. Coming here helped that discovery happen a lot quicker. Julian: And you don’t miss those New York winters? Erick: I do not. [laughs] But, the holiday songs don’t really make sense in California. It’s so weird. 37
Julian: I wanted to talk a bit about Architect’s Corner, how that kind of all came about. Erick: Yeah, I started doing that right at the beginning of the pandemic. I just was on YouTube, and I bought a GoPro. It was my manager who was like, “Dude, what are you going to do? You love making music, and you love playing video games. I bet there’s something you could do. We don’t know what it is, but like just put this camera on and try some shit.” I was like, “This is so fucking weird, bro.” I never imagined myself doing something like that. But I gave it a shot. And I did it a couple of times before I decided to move to Twitch. By the time I moved there, I already started to build a foundation for something that I felt would offer people a sense of togetherness and community that wasn’t there during the pandemic. What other artist is giving us a piece of his personal life and a platform to express ourselves and feel comfortable? I wanted to be the ambassador for a story like that. It became something that people were treating like when a T.V. show comes on every week, like, “Oh, you’re not streaming today? I need my fix!” I’ve met so many great people through the platform. It started to become something that I really thought would benefit my career, development, and personality. I didn’t even know that I was good at talking to people until I started to do that. [laughs] Julian: That’s great! So then going back to Flatbush Zombies. When you guys came out, the group was really original and had and still has this rapid cult following. What do you feel like it was that separated you guys from other groups at the time? Erick: I think... shit, I don’t even know what it is! I don’t believe in recent times anybody had seen anything like that. I’m not even a person who does psychedelics; everybody has their experience and how they find reawakening, but we were trying to preach the death of the ego. It wasn’t necessarily about drugs. The first project we did, “Death and Reincarnation Under God’s Supervision,” was what “D.R.U.G.S.” stood for. I think that on the outside, people might have thought it was just about acid. But to me, as a person who didn’t identify with that, I was the orchestrator of the music; it was essential for me to have a foundation.
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lace shirt PSKAUFMAN, pants HARDEMAN, necklace NIALAYA
plaid suit VIVIENNE WESTWOOD, hat NICK FOUQUET, bracelet NIALAYA, ring MATTHEW READY OBJECTS
Julian: You just put out this EP Future Proof in January and had a bunch of artists remix the track “Let It Go.” It’s cool hearing all these different ways that track can be reworked. What was it that drove you to have these specific artists take this on? Erick: I did this virtual Future Proof Festival in February and the song “Let It Go” was the first song that I’d put out as a solo artist, one that had no curses. [laughs] I never wrote a song without any curses. It wasn’t even intentional. It just felt right. The words kind of just streamed from the pen. I made it right before the pandemic started. My friend had come here and played me the track, it just had a chorus, and I was like, man, this chorus is so sticky. I wrote my verse in like 15 to 20 minutes. This was before Loyle Carner was even on it. I later found out it wasn’t intended for me at all; he wasn’t even supposed to play it for me, it was for Loyle, but I guess he wasn’t in the headspace to write that kind of song. Then he heard the lyrics that I put on it, and he really liked it. I knew him through Instagram, I’d always been aware of his music, but I didn’t know him as a person yet. So we got on FaceTime, and he’s like, “Bro, I’m writing my verse right now. You inspired me. I want to talk about some shit too”. So the song came to be. The song started to do well, and I thought this might be an opportunity to take the track and ask some of my friends and some people I didn’t know to reinterpret the song in different ways. The song has a message that I think has the same potency but even more independence and self-awareness when it’s played at different tempos. Julian: I find it super interesting to see how something can change drastically with just a remix from a different artist. Riffing off of that, I’m someone who comes from more of a rock ‘n’ roll background, and when it comes to collaborations musically, there isn’t that much of it in rock ‘n’ roll. Why do you think that is? Erick: That’s a great point. I mean, you’ve got Aerosmith when they did “Walk This Way” with Run DMC; Rick Rubin orchestrated that. As much as we know the song is amazing now, and it’s sold all these records, I know people were like, “What the fuck is this?” Hip hop people and rock ‘n’ roll people. But, it’s like anything else, the risk and the reward.
Erik [con’t]: We’ve seen Jay-Z do “Numb/Encore” with Linkin Park, and even that was like, “Okay, well, is this really a thing?” You’ve got Rage Against the Machine. You’ve got one of my favorites, The Red Hot Chili Peppers; Anthony Kiedis is a rapper to me. I never looked at The Red Hot Chili Peppers and said this is not anything hip-hop-related. If I was to make rock music, that’s the kind of rock music I would make because he’s vocalizing, but the intonations and the way he’s saying stuff is rapping. Hip hop has its own umbrella and tropes of things that you can and can’t say and all these stupid ass rules. I love rock music because it includes a story the same way hip hop is derived, but everybody playing their instrument left less room for someone else. A vocalist that’s not playing an instrument is still a member of the band, but we’re just so used to the guy playing the guitar being the singer too. Julian: Right. Erick: You see these people referencing or taking the style of some of these rock artists and interpreting it into hip hop; it was only a matter of time before it became normal. It’s the same story, bro. Like, I didn’t have shit. I’m poor. I’m mad at my parents. I hate my dad. Like, that’s hip hop. [laughs] We all had that in common. Julian: There is that essence of punk rock in a lot of hip hop these days too. Erick: Yeah, you can go to a punk show or a metal show and have a Lil Uzi t-shirt on. You could have ripped up jeans and go to a jazz concert. I think a pioneer is probably the most uncomfortable person. They set the precedents for what people will feel in the future. But at the present moment, they’re crazy. We need more trust and community with each other. I haven’t always been confident, but I had to stop listening to people’s opinions about me and care about how I felt before I started to show people my art. Whatever it takes for you to have happiness, that’s what matters the most. Everybody is different.
lace up top & pants VREDE 919, necklace & ring NIALAYA, bracelets MATTHEW READY OBJECTS, boots PSKAUFMAN
ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES Photography WANDA MARTIN
Fashion MARK KISS & OTTO HORVATH
Production & Creative Direction LENKE ANNA BARTHA
Hair LASZLO PASZTOR
Make-Up ESZTER DOMONKOS
Photo Assistant Production Assistants Models
VIRAG VANYA & MARK FOZI
AKOS (SUCCESS), KUDA (VISAGE), KITTI, RICHARD, & LILLA (SYMBOL), VIRAG, PETER, VIVIEN, BERNADETT, & TALLULAH
(left to right) dress VERSACE, cardigan MAX MARA, caftan ERDEM, boots, PHILIP PLEIN, jewellery VINTAGE CHANEL / VERSACE, jacket BORI GYOROK, suit PRADA, shirt GUCCI, glasses MIU MIU, corset KISSMARK, dress VERSACE, glasses D&G, boots ALEXANDRE VAUTHIER, suit KISSMARK
(left) dress ESCADA, necklace VINTAGE VERSACE, earrings ISABEL LENNSE (right) shirt RALPH LAUREN, trousers MISSONI
two-piece suit KISSMARK, shirt & loafers GUCCI
(left to right) female two-piece suit KISSMARK, stockings WOLFORD, boots GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI bra D&G, cape KISSMARK, pants VERSACE, giraffe print shirt & pants KERENYI VIRAG sandals SALVATORE FERRAGAMO, jumpsuit KISSMARK
(left) caftan ERDEM, earrings VINTAGE CHANEL (right) dress ESCADA, necklace VINTAGE VERSACE, earrings ISABEL LENNSE
(left to right) suit & harness VINTAGE STEVE MCQUEEN, shirt CALVIN KLEIN, pants YOHJI YAMAMOTO, glasses MIU MIU, shirt RALPH LAUREN, pants MISSONI
bodysuit KISSMARK, two-piece suit BORI GYOROK
(left) jumpsuit KISSMARK (right) turtleneck LANVIN, suit BORI GYOROK, earrings ALISON LOU
(left to right) two-piece suit BORI GYOROK, turtleneck LANVIN, trousers KISSMARK, turtleneck LANVIN,suit MARNI, two-piece suit KISSMARK, belt ISABEL MARANT, stockings WOLFORD, gold dress ESCADA, glasses GUCCI
cardigan & skirt MOSCHINO, shirt BOTTEGA VENETA, bag AMBUSH
(left to right) young girl’s gloves PRADA, young girl’s dress MICHAEL KORS, gold dress LANVIN, men’s suit KISSMARK, woman’s suit KERENYI VIRAG, shirt YSL, cowboy hat NICK FOUQUET
(left) jacket BORI GYOROK (right) dress VERSACE, cardigan MAX MARA, hat KOLOS SCHILLING
(left to right) suit KERENYI VIRAG, faux fur VINTAGE MIU MIU, shirt BORI GYOROK, two-piece jumper KISSMARK tank top YSL, suit KERENYI VIRAG, jumpsuit KISSMARK, turtleneck BOTTEGA VENETA, cardigan MOSCHINO suit KISSMARK, shirt KERENYI VIRAG, bra D&G, cape KISSMARK, pink suit KERENYI VIRAG, glasses MIU MIU
men’s suit KERENYI VIRAG, woman’s two-piece suit KISSMARK
suit MARK POWELL, shirt OSAL STUDIO, tie JOSHUA KANE
THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER IS FRESH OFF HIS FIRST EMMY NOMINATION FOR HIS ROLE AS BENNY WATTS IN NETFLIX’S
THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
AND IS ALSO NEARLY FINISHED SHOOTING DANNY BOYLE’S SEX PISTOLS MINI-SERIES, PISTOL, WHERE WE WILL SEE HIM PORTRAY THE INFAMOUS ENGLISH MUSIC PROMOTER & MANAGER MALCOLM MCLAREN.
Words JULIAN DE LA CELLE Photography CHARLIE GRAY
Fashion JAY HINES (OSAL STUDIO)
Grooming BRADY LEA at Premier Hair and Makeup using Elemis Post-Production Mammoth Retouch
suit & tie JOSHUA KANE, jewellery SAINT LAURENT, shirt OSAL STUDIO
know when to put my input, and I know when to shut up,” says BrodieSangster with a laugh and a grin. This year marks two decades that the actor has been working professionally, from acting opposite Colin Firth in the cult-classic rom-com Love Actually to playing the character of Jojeen Reed in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Brodie-Sangster brings a humanity and depth to the characters he portrays, a palpable passion and excitement for the craft that illuminates his performances. Having played Whitey Winn in Scott Frank’s series Godless back in 2017, Brodie-Sangster reunited with the team for The Queen’s Gambit, starring alongside Anya-Taylor Joy. The series has garnered 18 Emmy nominations and is Netflix’s most-watched scripted limited series to date. We caught up with the actor to chat about Benny Watts’ impeccable style, his work in the upcoming Sex Pistols mini-series, and how music plays a part in his artistic process. * * *
Julian de la Celle: Well, first off, congratulations on your first Emmy nomination! Where were you when you found out? Thomas Brodie-Sangster: Thank you, man! Well, I’m filming this Sex Pistols thing at the moment, and we’re on our last week. I was on set, so I couldn’t properly pay attention, but my phone was going crazy. I don’t like having my phone on set, so I ignored it. And then I got back, and it was all my agents congratulating me, but I wasn’t sure on what. [laughs]
Julian: I mean, The Queen’s Gambit was hands down my favorite series of the year. It was the kind of show that when it ends, you feel like you have to say goodbye to your family, which is a testament to how real these characters felt and how strong the relationships you all shared on screen. Did it feel like a family while you were shooting? Thomas: Yeah, it did, actually. I’d worked with that whole team before on Godless. So they were already family anyway. I love that team. Scott [Frank] surrounds himself with talented, nice people who are just really good at what they do. So when you walk on set, you want to make yourself better.
Julian: Did you have any part in Benny’s style for the show? He had this great rock ‘n’ roll western look; that leather trench coat was so good. Thomas: Yeah, the trench coat was really cool. They definitely wanted me in a trench coat. Something about the way it moves when [Benny] walks. [Scott] wanted me to be a cowboy. I think Scott only ever sees me as a cowboy. [laughs] But yeah, when I got there, I had somewhat of an input. We had rails and rails and rails of clothes, and we just went through trying things on. Our costume designer was fantastic in terms of the details and everything. I mean, even the lining of that coat was checkered to look like a chessboard. And the necklace had a square on it. We decided to then go for squares everywhere, so it’s like a chessboard. Even my knife handle was black and white all the way down, and my belt buckle was square as well. So there were all those little nuanced details. It really helps bring the character to life when you put on the boots, when you wear those flowing shirts. Julian: Do you usually get input on that kind of thing? Thomas: I like to. I definitely offer it up now. I know when to put my input, and I know when to shut up. I mean, Scott creates an environment where everyone’s just able to flow and move and bring what they’re good at to the table and talk and communicate. I think that’s imperative in order to make a good show or a good movie. It’s all about collaboration. Julian: What was the most challenging thing about playing Benny, and what do you look for in a character before accepting a role? Thomas: Initially, it has to be truthful, it has to be real. I have to see this character as a real person. I have to see the humanity in them. I have to see myself being able to do that, or at least see where I might be able to go in order to do that, and then go on a journey to find myself there. But it has to come from good writing. It has to come from someone who knows about human beings, how they work, and how they talk. I mean, most of that was there in the script. The challenge was incorporating the technical side of chess. And not just learning it, but looking good doing it, like you really know what you’re doing.
jacket JOSHUA KANE, shirt & trousers OSAL STUDIO, boots SAINT LAURENT
coat JOSHUA KANE, jewellery SAINT LAURENT
suit MARK POWELL, shirt OSAL STUDIO, tie JOSHUA KANE, glasses QUAY
Julian: Especially with those speed chess scenes. Thomas: Yeah, speed chess is really fun. Me and Anya [Taylor-Joy] got competitive with it, which was quite good. Like, who could be faster, who could learn the sequence quicker. We just sat there, and the amazing chess wizards that we had on set who taught us everything would come up, and they’d start telling us why you move that piece there or this piece there, and both Anya and I were like, we don’t play chess so just say that black one goes there, and that white one moves there, and we’ll memorize it! [laughs] And then we would bang it out, cut, reset and learn a new sequence. Do that one, cut, reset, another sequence. So it’s challenging, but I really enjoyed that. We both did. Julian: I read somewhere that [Anya] started carrying around her own chessboard with her everywhere. Did you do anything like that? Thomas: I bought a chess set when I first got the role, just to learn [the game] and to feel the pieces in my hands, the weight of them all, and to get used to moving them around. But, no, on set we didn’t play much... the people who played the most chess were actually our DOP Stephen Miller and Scott Frank, our director, they were both really good at chess. I think they just love the psychology behind it. I know a guy who’s pretty good at chess, and he played someone that was not quite Grandmaster, but she was very good. And for some reason, she thought that he was a Grandmaster, which made him win the first game. And then when he told her that he wasn’t [a Grandmaster], she just beat him every single time after that. Julian: It must just be the anxiety. Good to know for future reference. Thomas: Just say you’re a Grandmaster. [laughs]
Julian: You mentioned before, you’re filming Pistol, Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols mini-series, playing the infamous Malcolm McClaren. You could say he was one-of-a-kind. Did you know about him before taking on the role? Thomas: I didn’t know much about him, actually. I mean, I knew Vivienne [Westwood] and The Sex Pistols, but I didn’t know about Malcolm. It’s been an incredible journey finding out about this mad character that was just so spontaneous in what he chose to do and would come up with these crazy ideas, and sometimes they’d work, and sometimes they’d flop. He didn’t care. And the way he saw the world, he’s just absolutely fascinating. Some people see him as a baddie, some people love him and find him hilarious; he’s a bit of an enigma. He was so effortlessly himself, and yet he also would put on characters. Like, it’s quite weird trying to figure out his voice. Sometimes he sounds really American in press interviews because he wants to come across as acceptable to the American audience, and sometimes it comes across as quite posh. Then when he talks to the band, he sounds like he’s from South London. So he ends up with this strange-sounding, transatlantic accent, which was really fun to play with. Julian: That sounds really fun to dig into. I don’t know if you ever read about when he was working with the New York Dolls, and he came up with that whole red patent leather communist idea for one of their later records, which did not work out very well for them. Thomas: Very ballsy, yeah. He just thought about what would piss America off the most. Julian: For something like that, I mean, if you’re playing someone that may be a lot of people don’t like, you have to find the positive things in there. Thomas: Yeah, you have to. You have to be able to relate to them. But again, I mean, this script is also very good. So it’s all just on the page there already; every character is written so well. That just makes it so much easier.
suit JOSHUA KANE, rollneck THOMAS’ OWN
Julian: It’s funny. I actually know Jacob [Slater], who used to be in the band Dead Pretties; he plays Paul Cook in Pistol. Thomas: Oh, yeah, I knew Dead Pretties too! I loved them, even before I met Jacob. He’s the only actual musician in this. [laughs] Julian: Well, speaking of other bands like that, I know you did the music video for Hotel Lux’s “Ballad of You & I,” which is another band we’ve been listening to quite a lot. How did that come about? Were you just friends? Thomas: Yeah, just friends. Similar pubs and similar music, and just same circles, really. That South London scene. Julian: And you play music as well, right? Thomas: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t been in a band for a while, but I love music. I love guitars. I’m a bass player primarily. Bass is the bit you dance to, that bit in the background that no one pays attention to. But they ARE paying attention to it, and they don’t realize it. Julian: Well, that’s what it is. Once it’s wrong, they pay attention. Thomas: Yeah, exactly. [laughs] Julian: How much does music help you when it comes to prepping for a role or getting into a certain mindset before a scene? Thomas: Yeah, I mean, I made a whole playlist for [The Queen’s Gambit]. The 60s is the best era for music, I think—late 50s, into the 60s. And then again in the 70s too. It’s when music was just in its prime, and it was in the charts as well, so it was popular music. It was making money, and it was good. I’d never done anything in the 60s, so I got quite excited about that. 1967/1968, these two years that in terms of cars, fashion, architecture, music, all of it was kind of untouchable. So yeah, I imagined what my little hovel of a place in New York would be like as Benny and tried to think about what records he’d play. We listened to that quite often.
Julian: You seem to be close with your family, especially your mother and your sister. My mom and I run this magazine together, and I saw you used to play in a band with your mom. Were your parents always very supportive of you wanting to get into the creative world? Thomas: Oh wow, cool. Yeah, I mean, we grew up with them being creatives. My dad’s an actor, and he was also a drummer when he was younger. So we always had keyboards around; we always had guitars around. There’s an old picture of me with what looks like a giant Stratocaster in my lap just because I’m so tiny. [laughs] I’ve always had music around, and my mum was a ballerina, and then I got into acting. I mean, we never saw it as a way of making any money at all; we were quite poor. [laughs] My mum and dad never really had much of a job. But it meant they were always around; they were always looking after us. So it was great. We had both our parents around, always. Whatever you wanted to do artistically was always encouraged. Julian: I’m always very curious as to how other actors break down a scene or the preparation that comes with forming a character. What are some of your initial techniques when you first attempt to become someone else? Thomas: I mean, it all depends on the scene and the project, really, and the feeling, the vibe of it all. When I was reading, I would put on 60s playlists and think about how people moved back then, how people danced—imagining how he would be sat on a sofa, body language. I mean, they’re just words on a page, but I do like to play around with them a little bit and add bits and bobs. Then when you start working on an accent, that also changes the shape of your mouth, and you start working on the physicality of your mouth. It’s something that just comes organically, and every actor would have something different to add to it. There is no right or wrong thing to do. Julian: What are you looking most forward to in your life or your career right now? Thomas: It’s always hard as an actor. You never know, you might never get another job again! [laughs] I’m on my last week shooting Pistol. I’ve just moved into my house, so I’m going to focus on that and get settled. Keeping open and seeing what life throws my way and making sure to pay attention to it when it does and flow with it. That’s all I ever do, really.
coat JOSHUA KANE, jewellery SAINT LAURENT
jacket JOSHUA KANE, shirt & trousers OSAL STUDIO
THIS PORTSMOUTH-BASED FOUR PIECE HAVE BEEN MAKING WAVES IN THE U.K. MUSIC SCENE, HAVING JUST RELEASED THEIR NEW EP, REPORTING LIVE FROM THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR. REMEMBER
H A L L A N , AND RUSH TO YOUR NEAREST AUDIO LISTENING DEVICE. AFTER THE INTERVIEW, OF COURSE.
Words JULIAN DE LA CELLE Photography AMBER TOMAN
Julian de la Celle: You’re from the port city of Portsmouth. What’s it like there, and did the city inspire you in any way creatively? We’ve lived here all our lives in the South of South. It’s an interesting place. I like to think of the Island as being the last place in the country anything gets to. If something is popular or there’s a new trend you know full well, it will take an age to reach here. Although we’re not exactly like the Isle of Wight, our community still feels somewhat separate from everything else. Just like every other relationship in life, you have your ups and downs with the place, but I can certainly say our music wouldn’t be what it is without it. Julian: How did the band all meet? We all met when we were beamed down from the ethereal cosmos, landing on Southsea common with the only memory in our minds being an omnipotent voice repeating the word “Hallan.” Since our arrival onto the Island, we’ve been a circus act, janitors, an indie band who sing about fish, and that was all up until we f inally morphed into the four beings you see and hear from today. Now we just yell with older tonsils, continually propelled in nature and habit by the force of Hallan. Julian: You guys just released Reporting Live From the Living Room Floor, I’m really digging that song “The White Boys,” what was your process when writing the track? It all started with a little riff I came up with using an open string. The open note drone got me thinking about other instrumentation we could introduce on the EP. I had a harmonium in the corner of my room that had been there for years, and it clicked. You can’t get more droney than a harmonium. I think I was listening to “Straight to Hell” by The Clash at the time, and I just had a vision of an Apocalypse Now-style meditative track. And that’s exactly what happened.
Julian: I read that you guys put on this Halloween show called Hallanween. Can you tell me a bit about how that started and what inspired you to put them on? A couple of years ago, we were ready to put on our own headline show. We organized it all ourselves, and it happened to land just shy of Halloween night. The name came up as a sort of joke, and we just rolled with it in the end. When we were starting out in the early days, there wasn’t much alternative music going on in our city, so it was fantastic to book the bands ourselves and give bands that were being neglected a bit of a spotlight. We ended up repeating the night the following year but unfortunately couldn’t do it in 2020 due to obvious reasons. Perhaps in years to come, it will return? Julian: What are a few records you couldn’t live without? Over the lockdown, I’ve got massively into two albums produced by George Harrison. The Radha Krishna Temple (London) being one and Chants of India by Ravi Shankar being the other. Those two albums provided some peace from the weird lockdown world outside, and I recommend them to anyone who has anxieties and doubts about life in general. Other albums close to me are Sandinista! by The Clash and Bob Dylan’s New Morning. Julian: Who are some other newer bands you’re listening to at the moment? There’s a load of underrated bands rising out of the last year’s worth of ashes at the moment. Deadletter are fantastic and lovely guys, and our label mate’s Sprints are just as great. Sinead O Brien and Document are also frequently in our earbuds.
Julian: What’s next for the band? With the EP having just recently been released, Julian: Riffing off that EP title, how did you guys keep we’ll be swimming in a pool of praise, carrying creative in lockdown in your living rooms? our egotistical and ever-inflating brains through One thing has become clear during my time in my the coming weeks. We have a UK tour planned for living room: the state of modern television. I’m not sure the rest of the year so if you can make it to that, why we all pay for these endless channels because you then see you there! We have some plans to get into flick through them, and it’s bleak as can be. I’m not the studio and get back at it, but I don’t want to going to lie to you and pretend I’ve made my way through bring forth some negative cosmic energy by jinxing all of Nietzsche’s books or something like that. Lots of something and ruining the surprise. Anyone who TV, lots of CNN (the US election was the best bit of knows us knows we never rest, so it won’t be too entertainment last year), and lots of YouTube. long before you are hearing from us again. 94
IT’S A SCORCHINGLY HOT SUMMER DAY IN LOS ANGELES WHEN WE MEET WITH SCOTTISH-BORN ACTRESS/WRITER/DIRECTOR
ON THE RELEASE DAY OF HER NEW NETFLIX FILM
GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE. THE ACTION-PACKED FILM BY DIRECTOR NAVOT PAPUSHADO ALSO STARS GAME OF THRONES’ ALUM LENA HEADEY, ANGELA BASSETT, AND PAUL GIAMATTI.
Words JULIAN DE LA CELLE Photography KRISTIN GALLEGOS Hair BOBBY ELIOT
Fashion JORDAN GROSS
Make-Up KARA BUA
t was like, ‘What is Gunpowder Milkshake?’. It’s catchy, and whatever it is, maybe I’ll be in this movie regardless of the quality of the script,” laughs Gillan. “I felt like one of the luckiest actors. I was surrounded by amazing, talented people, and I was extremely passionate about what we were making.” Perhaps you recognize her as Doctor Who’s Amy Pond, the companion to Matt Smith’s Doctor, or maybe it’s from Guardians of the Galaxy where she sports blue skin, a shaved head, and black eyes as the character Nebula. Soon, she will be in Judd Apatow’s The Bubble, Riley Stearns’ Dual, and Taika Waititi’s next Thor film, as well as James Gunn’s third installment of the Guardians films. She’s a busy woman but still finds time to write, direct and star in her own short films between major projects like Jumanji and The Avengers. She’s warm and cracking jokes during our cover shoot, rightfully quite happy with the direction her life is going and the opportunities she’s being given in her career. We spoke about her work in Gunpowder Milkshake, her directorial debut, The Party’s Just Beginning, and how she deals with stress, anxiety, and those moments of creative block. * * *
Julian de la Celle: Are you having the New Beverly screening tonight? Karen Gillan: Yeah. I’ve never been there. I’m excited about it. They’re going to show it in film print; they had to create one for this movie. Julian: Well, speaking of the movie, today is release day for Gunpowder Milkshake; congratulations! How does it feel to have it out in the world finally? Karen: I’m so excited! I filmed this [about] two years ago, and had the time of my life. I felt like one of the luckiest actors. I was surrounded by amazing, talented people, and I was extremely passionate about what we were making. It was such a brilliant summer in Berlin, where we all just had a great time. Then we had to wait for ages for it to come out, but now the day is finally here! 99
Julian: Berlin, that must’ve been fun. I’ve still never made it to Germany. Karen: It was really fun! You have to go to Berlin. It’s a really artistic city. Julian: So, when you got the script, what was it about the character that drew you in to accept the role? Karen: First of all, the title just really captured my attention. It was like, “What is Gunpowder Milkshake?”. It’s catchy, and whatever it is, maybe I’ll be in this movie, regardless of the quality of the script. [laughs] But then I started reading it, and I think I got to the second action sequence, and I was like, “Oh. My. Gosh.” I’ve never seen anything like that on-screen before. It felt like it was new territory for an action movie. And it’s a scene where I lose the use of my arms and have to fight three guys without my arms which results in a really, kind of like, cartoonish and ridiculous, absurd fight sequence. And I remember thinking I had never seen anything like that before. I would love to do something like that. And that’s when I put down the script and rang my agents. And I was like, “I really want to do this.” Julian: It seems like you and Lena [Headey] had a great time. I kept watching those comedy skit videos you were both posting on Instagram. Karen: I know! When I look back on my time making this film, I think of that, and then I remember that we made a film in between all of those Instagram videos. [laughs] We just had such a good time, both of us loved a silly video, and then it just went out of control. Julian: Had you guys known each other before you started filming? Karen: No! We met on set, and it was an instant connection.
Julian: When you were reading the script, did it give off a bit of Tarantino? It has those ultraviolent moments, but also these kickass women. Karen: Yeah, definitely Kill Bill vibes! I don’t know if it felt Tarantino while making it. There’s a lot of Western film influence, like [director Navot Papushado] was playing a lot of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly soundtrack while we were all staring at each other. Just really getting us in the mode. [laughs]
Julian: And you’re still doing short films today! I watched a couple; The Hoarding with Jamie Brewer and Conventional; they were both really great, especially the latter. Karen: Thank you! That one is probably my favorite so far. I just love the world. We’ve written a feature script for it, but yeah, it’s just me still doing the same stuff. Just getting a little bit more money to work with, but not that much more. [laughs]
Julian: So growing up in Inverness, Scotland, when do you feel you first connected to the world on a creative level? I read that you used to make short films, much like you do now, about a murderous young girl? Karen: I remember my dad giving me a karaoke machine -- [one of] these things where you could sing through them, but you could also record onto tape. That was my first introduction to this idea of recording something and then [being able to] listen to it back, and it’s there forever. I remember becoming so obsessed with this; it was unreal. I had these little diaries from when I was a kid, and every day, I wrote “Record, record, record...” I don’t know what I was recording. I was just talking into the microphone and recording myself talking jibberish. So, that, combined with my dad’s massive interest in music, introduced me to the world of performance. And then, I graduated from a karaoke machine recorder to a video camera. My parents got me a secondhand video camera for my birthday, and that was my new prized possession. I would make horror films all around my house. And then that was cool because I had the visual, as well as the audio. That’s when the obsession really began. So it makes total sense that I’m now working in an industry where I mainly do that.
Julian: Well, so then going back a bit to when you booked the role of Amy Pond on Doctor Who, you were twenty-one, I believe? What was that like to have your world change in such a drastic and overnight way? Karen: Yeah, twenty-one! I was a baby. It’s one of those life-changing, instant things that happens. Like, you go to sleep one night, and then you wake up in this role, and it just changes everything. I remember when they announced [that I had booked the role], there were journalists at my parent’s house in Scotland within an hour! I don’t know how they knew where I lived or anything like that! My parents were like, “What’s going on, Karen?” It was a wild thing to happen. But also, so exciting. I had been building up to that for such a long time. So I felt ready for it in a way I didn’t feel overwhelmed.
Julian: When you were making these short films, were you starring in them too? Karen: I was, yeah. I remember the first one that I made. I watched back, and my acting was rubbish. [laughs] And I was like, “Oh, my God, you’re supposed to be good at this! Everyone else should be bad at this because they don’t have an interest, but you’re the bad one!” It was actually quite good because at least I could recognize it and fix it.
Julian: I watched your directorial debut, The Party’s Just Beginning. It was a really impactful movie, with so many layers. It just really got in my head. Tell me a little about the process of filming that in your hometown? Karen: Oh, you did? Sorry, it was so dark! [laughs] It felt the same, in all honesty. It felt like, “Oh, yeah, I’m still running about, throwing different clothes onto myself as quickly as possible, doing my own hair and make-up at one point. We only had a skeleton crew. So it really did feel the same. Just more people were willing to do it with me. [laughs] I was staying in my childhood bedroom when I was making this film. So I’d be directing during the day, and then I’d come home, and my mom would be on my back about my laundry!
Julian: Did you end up working with any childhood friends on that film? Karen: Yeah, all my friends are extras in the film. They’re all just loitering drunkenly outside the chip shop, which is precisely how I remember them. It was very authentic. [laughs] 104
Julian: This film shines a light on the suicide rates in Inverness; you are an avid supporter of suicide prevention and work with a charity called Mikey’s Line. What drew you to this specific charity, and how can we help spread the message? Karen: So, how that came about was, my friend heard about the subject matter of my film. And she was like, “Have you heard about Mikey’s Line?” And I hadn’t, so then she told me the story of how it came about. It just made perfect sense. Everything came together at the same time. I was going up to Inverness to show my film. I went into Mikey’s Line and visited the office, and I was just amazed by everything they’re doing. I knew I wanted to help because it’s such an issue in that part of the world and many other parts of the world. So I got involved, and I’m so pleased I did. Julian: Bouncing off of that, you’ve been a part of Marvel Universe for quite a while now; in comparison to The Party’s Just Beginning, it must be such a different way of acting, mainly because of the way it’s shot, green screen acting as many say. Did it take a while to get used to that kind of thing? Karen: I’m so used to it now. It was weird at first, though. We did a lot of that on Doctor Who. Like, there would be a stick with a ball on it, and that’s the monster, and you have to be really scared of it. So, by the time I went into the Marvel Universe, I was like, really, really used to it. If anything, I was like, “I could show you the ropes on this!” [laughs] But it is surreal, and it is weird. You just have to get used to it and use your imagination. Julian: There must be moments for you where you get burnt out or lose that creative imagination; how do you get back in the groove when you aren’t feeling it?
Karen: That’s a great question. I mean, I’m a firm believer in rest being the way to get through all of that. I’m pretty good at getting a good night’s sleep. It doesn’t always happen for me because sometimes you’re too overwhelmed with things even to sleep. But, I’m always IN bed, that’s the main thing. I may not be sleeping, but I’m in there trying to! [laughs] I know that when I’m feeling burnt out or feel like the creative juices aren’t flowing, it’s good to walk away from it and then come back to it later. I don’t have hobbies outside of this profession because this is my hobby. I just love it. But I’ve recently gotten into gardening! Julian: Was this a lockdown thing? Karen: No, it was over the last few weeks! I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I’ve been growing all sorts of herbs and carrots. I don’t know if that’s going to work, but I’ll let you know! [laughs] Julian: So, you have some really exciting things coming up; Judd Apatow’s The Bubble and Riley Stearns’ Dual, where you play two different characters. Karen: Yeah! Apparently, I love to play opposite myself. [laughs] Weirdly, it’s something I’ve done a few times now. What the hell is that type-cast? I don’t know, but I’m happy to do it! It’s challenging. It’s something you have to really think about, like how am I going to do that and how could I get that across to the amazing actress who’s there to read my lines back to me, etc. It’s a weird, weird thing. And the Judd Apatow movie was so much most fun! A lot of improv, which I’ve never really done before. I always see it as a sort of superpower, like, whenever I watch a show [where an actor is improvising], I’m like, “You’re amazing!” Then I got thrown into it in such a way; I had to improvise in an American accent, which was a massive challenge because there’s always a split second before you say a line where you’re wondering if you’re saying it the right way. I got it most of the time, but some words came out WAY wrong. [laughs]
Julian: You also have the new Thor movie, directed by one of my favorites, Taikia Waititi. That must have been so fun to work with him. Karen: He’s fantastic. It was such an incredible experience to have on one of these blockbuster-style films. It just felt more like a really improvisational indie film; you can sort of say or do what you want, and then he shouts things out in the moment. He’s just like a mad professor running around coming up with ideas left, right, and center. Julian: Have you ever seen his first short film, One Night, Two Cars? Karen: No, is it great? Julian: It’s beautiful. I would recommend it. It explores first love from the perspective of a young boy, which Taika is ridiculously good at. So, the show Calls on Apple TV+. That is a trip! It’s all audio, none of the character’s faces are ever shown, but that first episode you’re in is pretty fucking terrifying. Was that something that was recorded in the pandemic? Karen: Yeah. We were all stuck at home, and then they sent all the recording equipment, and I had to set it up; they taught me over Zoom, and then we recorded it. It was just a cool thing to be able to stay creative during that time. It was like nothing I’ve ever done before. Voiceover stuff is always fun.
Julian: I always say if you’re not stressed, then you probably just don’t care enough. Karen: Well, that’s it. And if you don’t care, are you going to put in as much effort? I think it’s essential to learn to harness your anxiety and use it as an energy source, converting it into something positive. That can be really, really hard sometimes. And I thought about it all the time, and honestly, it just gets worse the older I get, the more I do, it doesn’t make any sense! [laughs] This is the worst advice I’ve ever given. “It’s just gonna get worse; save yourself!” But, no, no, I would say, with anxiety, it’s like, just do it. Just force yourself to do it. I mean, for me, when I’m nervous about something, my default reaction is like I’m just going to work so hard on it that, no matter what happens, at least it’s ingrained in my bones, and I know every word backward. Julian: Essentially just being prepared. Karen: Yeah. So it’s like, even if I get scared, at least it’s like, the muscle memory is there. And I could rely on the other things. So for me, that’s how I convert it into something positive. The amount of preparation that goes into it is probably beyond most people. And that’s because I’m so terrified! So then I can say I did everything I could; the rest is out of my control.
Julian: Well, I guess the last thing from me would be if you have any advice for those just starting in this industry, especially now with things being so different, particularly about dealing with stress or anxiety or nerves. Karen: Anxiety is something that most people experience at some point, especially in this line of work. I would say that if they’re not, they probably aren’t very good. [laughs]
DAISY WORLD DEBUTS HER SOLO CAREER WITH TWO SINGLES, “SUNDOWN” AND “SIX TWO,” TRANSFORMING THE BLURRY LINES BETWEEN PAIN AND LOVE INTO TWO PERFECTLY TEXTURED TRACKS.
Words NATALIE GOTT Photography SAMONE KIDANE
ogether, the singles are a full-bodied Daisy Hamel-Buffa experience, with powerful vocals that deliver tones of jazz, pop, and everything in between. They may be better understood less as a debut and more so as a tease, gracefully exposing no more than the hem of all that DAISY WORLD will create. For an audience, the two tracks are heavily varied to create a boundless listening experience. Between featuring on Tyler the Creator’s latest album, CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, fronting the five-piece jazz band DAISY, and spearheading a clothing brand, Daisy respectfully refuses to pick a lane. During our chat, she reveals her recent experiences, digging into the emotion that fosters creation and laying her ground as a woman in the music industry.
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Natalie Gott: What was it like to release the tracks “SUNDOWN” and “SIX TWO” and launch your solo career? Daisy World: It’s the first time I’ve produced my own music, and I was producing it with my very close friend, Albert. But that is such a good question because that’s the big difference for me; I’ve always worked on other people’s music. I’ve worked with my band, DAISY, and collaborated with them, but I’ve never been in control of the process completely. It was such an incredible experience because I didn’t know if I could do it or not. I’ve wanted to do it for so long and to see what my brain would do. If I could [execute] every idea that I had, what would it feel like? I didn’t know if it was gonna be good or not, like if that was a skill that I had, and it ended up being so rewarding. I did a good job. Albert is so crazy and so talented. Working in the room with him was so much energy and so much excitement. So it was pretty incredible. I feel like the song fully sounds like me, which I’ve never experienced before in my music. When I listened to it, I’m like, oh, that’s Daisy in there.
Natalie: What were you feeling when you wrote these? Daisy: During “SUNDOWN,” I was very sad. I was sad when I wrote both of them, honestly. But I don’t want it to be a “boohoo” thing. It’s as if I wrote them to release that feeling of sadness so I could move through it. Especially with “SIX TWO,” I feel like that shit is very vulnerable. And I’m saying to people that this is a dark little feeling in me; nobody could love me, and nobody wants me, and that shit is so hard to verbalize and talk about. I just had it all come out of me. When that happens as you’re writing music, it feels like you’re a little magician, and you don’t know what the fuck is going on, and you’ve just disassociated. I just let myself see the shit that I was really feeling; I wrote that song for myself. I didn’t even know I was gonna release it. And usually, when I’m writing music, I feel like I need to be playing my cards closer to my chest, just because I know that everyone’s going to hear them. That goes for “SUNDOWN” as well. I was having a moment. I was in love. It wasn’t working out for me, and every night I would get really sad about it. The crazy thing about that song is that when I first started writing it, I wasn’t writing about this love relationship that I was having. I just started writing about how I was feeling sad at night and trying to really get into it and not run away from it. And through writing the song, I realized what it was that I was feeling sad about. It ended up being a purely cathartic therapy situation where I was able to get into my subconscious by writing the song. I figured out why I was so sad all the time, and I was like, oh shit, I’m in love. Then I ended up changing the song to be about this specific situation. Acknowledging that I feel fucking sad is so healthy for me because I feel like I’m a person. Usually, I’m happy, I’m good, everything’s cool all the time. And so when I’m in it, I feel like I really need to write something to acknowledge that, like, Daisy, you’re feeling fucked up. Let’s get out.
Natalie: Do you feel as if you’re writing for yourself or an audience? Daisy: When I’m writing, I feel like I’m just expressing myself. I don’t really think about the audience very much. But I think that by expressing how I’m feeling and explaining the situations I’m in, I’m able to explain everything. I think that all humans have the ability to sense genuine expression. And I think that because I’m talking about some shit that’s going on in my life, other people going through it will hear it and connect to it because I’m just writing about my own experience. I try to tap into my own shit because even when I listen to music, I can tell this person is really going through this. You know what I mean? I feel like I can connect to that so much more, even though they’re writing about specific details from their own life. Because they’re feeling it, it makes me feel it as a listener. So I think that just by purely expressing myself and not trying to hold anything back, or trying to act like I’m too cool, I don’t care, and as if none of these things can affect me, then I’m just genuinely being like, I’m feeling fucking affected by this. By tapping into myself, I’m tapping into other people as well. And that’s just the sickest thing about music, to communicate with people. Natalie: What was it like to have everyone in a room working on a project intended just for you? Daisy: It felt so good. I think that the music industry is a place where women don’t really get recognized as leaders very often. It took me a long time to feel comfortable being a leader. And being like, I want to do this thing. It’s about me, and I’m allowing it to be about me, and I’m in control. It feels really good to have people you like say, “Oh my god, I can’t believe you asked me to be a part of this.” I’m sitting over here being like, “Oh my god, you respected me like that? I didn’t even know that.” I think I had this idea that because I’m a woman, people didn’t respect me. Even being in a band, people will come up to me after the shows and be like, “Oh, did you write that? Did you write that little song, little girl?” You know what I mean? They don’t assume I’m writing the music. And they don’t believe that it’s my shit. I think that beat me down a lot. Having so many men try to tell me what to do, it’s been hard. It’s hard to feel that you have the agency to say what you want. To have these people that I respect and admire so much come through and be like, yes, I want to be a part of this; it’s inspiring. 119
Natalie: What was the experience like featuring on the track “RISE!” on Tyler’s recent album? Daisy: Just phenomenal. From getting the text message that he wants me on it, to the fucking session where we were writing together, to the release where I was bugging out that I’m on one of my favorite musician’s albums. The whole fucking thing was unreal. It was emotional for me because Tyler’s just a person that I respect so much. And working with him was a literal life goal of mine. In my brain, I was like, “Maybe in ten years I’ll get to work with him.” And then it happened out of nowhere. I honestly got so excited that I had then convinced myself that I was just going to be part of a choir. I was like, “Daisy. You’re going to be disappointed because you’re so freaking excited. You’re probably just going to be part of a choir of a bunch of people. And it’s like, not that sick.” And then, obviously, it was incredibly sick. I had another interview a couple of days ago where I explained that I’m a perfectionist, especially in front of someone like him that I really want to impress. I was trying to write all these melodies in my head before they came out of my mouth in the studio. And that’s not really how I work. Then I started singing out loud. I was just improvising. And he was like, “Daisy, go in the booth, we’re gonna put this part on loop, and you’re just gonna improvise over the whole thing.” And that’s scary for me because I want to sing perfectly. I want to do it so well. I don’t want to fuck up; I don’t want to sing a bad note. So I went into the booth, and I just laid my shit out. I did all the weird rhythms that I was hearing; I was singing all the weird sounds that I was hearing. I went full Daisy on him. And he ate that shit up. And then he ended up like — he’s crazy. He took all these improvisations, this whole improv thing that I did, and pulled out the pieces that he liked the most and made the melody through that, which is a process I had never experienced before. And now it’s so cool because I can be like, oh, that’s a sick way to write a song. Let me take that process and put it into my little backpack of ideas. It was just incredible. Natalie: What was it like, for someone just starting their solo career, to feature on an album that features so many other huge musicians, like Lil Wayne and Pharrell Williams? Daisy: It’s honestly so sick that I can’t comprehend. I just feel like, what’s happening? What’s going on? I really feel like I’m in a whirlpool where I’m just like, this shit is so crazy that I literally cannot compute.
Daisy [con’t]: But it also just makes me want to do more. I really love collaborating with people, and releasing solo shit just makes me want to collaborate with everyone. I’ve always wanted to be that bitch that sings every bridge of every rap song. I just want to do that. I want to be on more people’s albums. It lit a fire under my ass. It makes me feel really motivated. I know I can do this now. I put myself in the scariest session that I could be in; I wanted to do my best, and I was so nervous. And I killed it. Now I know I can do it, and I want to do more. Natalie: Let’s talk about fashion. How did you get into creating clothing? Daisy: I started making these hats because I wanted to create a way to donate to places during all the protests for George Floyd. My mom is a very paranoid person, and she didn’t want me to go to any of the protests. I was like, “I want to go protest; I want to be a part of this. I don’t have any fucking money, so what can I do for the movement? I’m gonna make all these fucking hats, and I’m going to sell them, and I’m going to donate $5 from each hat.” And I ended up raising a lot of fucking money. It’s been really cool to be able to donate that. I’m still doing it with every sale, even though I don’t advertise it as donating anymore. Like $5 of each hat still gets donated, always. And so it started like that and ended up being incredibly fulfilling. People also just really liked the hats. As for the clothing, my mom is like an O.G. denim painter from the 80s. That was her business before she had me. She’s crazy talented; she made pants for Madonna. Like, it was poppin’ off in the 80s. Denim was always a thing in my life. I have a ton of jeans that she painted. I painted a pair of Levi’s myself, I just painted some cherries on them, and my manager posted them on his Instagram, and Benny Blanco follows him. Benny DM’d me immediately and was like, “I want to commission pants from you.” And I was like, “Okay, like sure you can, I guess, you can do that, of course.” But now that’s my whole business, people just commission jeans from me. So literally, Benny Blanco started my business. The first jeans I made are one of my favorite jeans I’ve ever made, the hot sauce pants. They started my whole business; god bless Benny Blanco.
Natalie: What is it like to simultaneously have these two art mediums, fashion, and music? Daisy: If you were a fly on the wall of the studio while we were recording “SUNDOWN” and “SIX TWO,” you’d see me painting jeans the whole time. I’m at my little desk painting jeans, and Albert is over at his little desk playing shit. And I’ll be like, oh, I really like that, as we’re producing together in the room and I’m painting shit. It’s nice because I have insanely bad A.D.D., so I can’t just sit in a studio. It does not work for me. I’m always like, I have to be drawing, I have to have this glue that I play with. I’m just painting while listening, and then I’d go in the vocal booth and sing some shit and come back to painting. It’s like the perfect situation. Natalie: Are you working on any upcoming releases or other projects? Daisy: When I say that there’s a fire lit under my ass, I mean it. My entire days are scheduled. I’m doing so much shit. I have had so many sessions; I’m writing so much. I have so many plans for the fashion brand, for DAISY WORLD, for my band, DAISY. The band is about to release an EP, and we’re about to go on tour. I’m working on myself, working on the EP. There’s just so much. So much opportunity that I want to tap into. Right now, I’m about to release a live acoustic video of “SUNDOWN.” I’m also working on a documentary music video. Natalie: Before we finish this off, is there anything you want everyone to know? Daisy: I want everyone to know that the support I have gotten from this release has just meant everything to me because it was really scary. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for so many years; I just never felt confident enough to do. So, the fact that people are reaching out to me, all my fucking DMs are people just being like, this shit is amazing. I see all of that, and it means absolutely everything to me. I guess I want to say thank you to everybody for supporting me because I need that shit. I need that validation, or else I’ll crawl back into my hole. And also just for everyone to keep their eyes peeled because I want to do everything and make as much content for people as possible. People keep being like, don’t stop, and I’m like, bro, I’m not. I’m not, don’t worry.