Foreword We live in an age of extraordinary access. Where knowledge floods though myriad portals to create a seemingly infinite pool of possibility. But while it’s almost a cliché to dismiss our contemporary reality as intrinsically shallow and hark back to the simplicities of a golden age, where we lived in Arcadian harmony with nature, it is important to stop and consider the implications of how our templates of reality actually work. Are they designed to increase our efficiency as mechanical beings or to wring every last fragment of experience out of our lives? Humans create systems. The history of our development is punctuated by attempts to manage our environment and the construction of logical matrices to understand and harness the world around us. But while those systems have proved spectacularly effective on many levels, they have also served to divorce us from the fundamental rhythms of life. Take three core examples – alphabets, time and money. Alphabets by their very nature are a form of coding – a semantic formula that we use in an abstract cognitive space to filter all our expressions and understandings of reality though. With organic associations like onomatopoeia subsumed in the cold codes of the alphabet, we learned to understand every aspect of the physical and psychological world through arranging symbols that had no underlying relationship with the essence of ‘things’. Time – a uniquely human construct that not only developed a linear narrative to our existence that allowed us to make sense our lives in the three dimensions of past, present and future, but commodified them into mathematical, economic units. And money - that broadened the scope and possibilities of the barter economy in stunning fashion but rapidly became a commodity in its own right rather than a means of exchange. These systems allowed us to fortify our ivory towers of progress and add abstract layers to the natural world. Western culture in particular took this baton and accelerated away into precision measurement and financial complexity yoked to an ever decreasing symbiosis with nature. That self generated algorithm went freebase during the industrial revolution, and the twentieth century saw this evolutionary crack smoking double up with a massive injection of technological steroids. And so here we are – masters of coding and pattern recognition. But masters of reality? Human consciousness – on a surface ‘ego’ level at least has become astonishingly adept at manipulating reality through the prism of abstract codes. We can process vast quantities of data on a minute by minute basis. But just how much does processed data translate to raw experience? Does our computational power give any more depth or beauty to our experience or does it actually diminish it? On an average day online we will see thousands of profoundly special pieces of art, knowledge, music, photography, creativity and socio-political insight. But as someone’s latest painting or a band’s latest track snakes its way down our news feed, we see it, we appreciate it – we instantly pick out quality and beauty, register it , file it, process it and move on. But if twenty years ago we might contemplate a painting and immerse ourselves in it – now our brain instantly edits it into a highlights reel. Are we becoming more shallow or are we are allowing our evolution to be dictated by a model of ‘progress’ that views such developments as a desirable uptick in ‘efficiency’?
None of this is leading towards a Luddite indictment of technology. Nothing is that simple. Technology is a wonderfully kaleidoscopic thread in the fabric of reality and against all the odds has allowed systems, like the internet, buck the trends of centralization and corporatism that the mercantile vision of the world have brought us to. Naturally both those giant magnets are present, but so is the rise of individual empowerment and a new definition of possibility – a new democratization of power and voice in the virtual arena. In the late 60’s a fascinating strand opened up in quantum physics where parallels were drawn between the cutting edge of science and the age old tenets of Eastern spirituality. As the psychedelic revolution unleashed new portraits of reality’s elusive face, scientists attempted to break free from linear ideas of progress and unite reality in a new yin/yang model where ultra modern and primordial danced in fluid union. It was never a question of whether Lao Tzu could have run a particle accelerator, but an intriguing vision of technology and ancient wisdom feeding back into one another. Can we take the best from the breakneck digital world around us while living those windows onto wonder through an analogue headspace? Not allow our experiences to be broken down into the mathematics of binary code? Not endlessly resample reality into a compressed picture of that experience, but to soak up every last intangible drop? Can we break creativity out from its current role as something to be consumed and reassert it as a portal to the sublime? If we want to cast off the mechanical strictures that Western ‘progress’ has imprisoned us within – if we want to experience life on a level that represents true full spectrum engagement, should we not temper our thirst for information with a deeper, slower, more perma form of culture? Bringing those two poles into something that actually produces a current could be the real challenge of our volatile age. Otherwise we may well be conditioning ourselves into high functioning robots. Evolution and human experience cannot be viewed as a linear process any more than they can be seen as purely cyclical. Perhaps the most accurate visual metaphor for how our human experience works best is the spiral. Where our journey flows on a natural trajectory, iterating ever outwards into new territory while turning back through archetypal truths and eternal bedrocks of wisdom . Balancing the ancient with the modern – the virtual with the tangible – the abstract with the earthy and the tribal with the individual. Charting vivid new horizons while orbiting our core. Ultimately, experience is all we really have on this mortal coil – it is the essence of our existence and sacrificing that on the altar of quantity and quantification must surely be a woeful betrayal of life’s potential. Can we hack our way through the jungle of saturated data and coded complexities to wire the best of those worlds through natural rhythms and heightened sensitivity? Can we hack a new circuit of consciousness?
Wayne Anthony (Class of 88) + Sirius 23
For more on these themes - see our interview with Douglas Rushkoff
Contents Don’t forget that if you are reading this online to go full screen and if you are reading on a pdf to press the automatically sized double page view - it’s in the view menu
Made 514 - Spiralling into the vortex 9 Congo Natty - Original Junglist 27 Infiltrating Integrity - Subverting a Living 38 46 Adnate - Tribal shades of Spray 59 Ed Solo - Eyeballs deep in Bass 71 Present Shock - Douglas Rushkoff - the nexus of Now 86 Mobstr - Caustic commentary ; Mordant Minimalism EDM - Simon Shackleton - Mind Body and Soul? 101 110 El Niño de las Pinturas - illuminating Innocence Post Graffiti - RSH - Corporate deconstruction of essence 126 Datsik - Dark Side Frequency Onslaught 133 Martin Ron - Through the Looking Glass 144 166 Freefall Collective - Sunshine skanks; Rudebwoy Roots 180 Ask Auntie - Jackboots and Petticoats 189 My Dog Sighs - Free art and priceless pathos Darius Syrossian - Substruck menace in the House 206 217 The Male Nude - Prem Nick - Fig Thief 219 Bonzai - Vivid Vectors; terminal Velocity Public Enemy - A chat with Chuck D 237 254 Page 51 - Digital Creativity on the Fly Fat Heat- Freestyle Phantasmagoria 266 287 Sub Slayers - Rolling out the Thunder Queueman and Sketchy - Sirius 23 Supermarket superheroes 304 Tasso - tantalizing Twists on Rampant Realism 313 Harry Belafonte - Julian Vigo - Towering Humanism 337 356 Caravan Palace - Gypsy swung euphoria Nowart - The French Flowerman and his sublime organics 368
Saint malachy - Prem Nick- Let Us Spray 385 387 The Tower of babel - Jesus Greus - Primeval Language On the Internet’s Future - Wayne Learmond - Hardwired 399 Nanci and Phoebe - Urban Harmonies with Attitude 405 412 Lush - Graffiti Arsehole and General Wrong Un 428 The Reluctant Traveller - Edzy - Achtung Berlin Askew One - Penetrating perspectives 447 Hudson Zuma - Globetrotting 467 479 1001 Nights - Jesus Greus- That Literary Ghost 498 Featured Artists - Artists featured in our Gallery Pages THANKS TO TEAM LSD Shrinechick / Busk / Andy Cam / Elate / Ix Indamix / Old Dear / Dominic Spreadlove / Freddy Phitness / Simon Carter / Gay LawlorCoco Edwards/ Cain H Dhyani / BB / Tyree Cooper / Madeline Williams / Debbie Griffith / Stray Wayward / Bobzilla/ Lauren Hood / Sonia Akow / SP23 Front Cover / lsd ads : Coco Edwards - cocoedwards.com And Thanks to our Photographers Hilt - www.flickr.com/photos/hiltgraffiti Walls of Milano - www.flickr.com/photos/wallsofmilano Micky Mook - www.flickr.com/photos/micky_mook Nine-O - www.flickr.com/photos/paulo2070 Claude London - www.flickr.com/photos/claudelondon/ Isaac Cordal - www.flickr.com/photos/isaacordal/ John1970 - www.flickr.com/photos/35888947@N05/
Delete 08 - www.flickr.com/photos/delete08/ Ebee - www.flickr.com/photos/ebeegraffiti/ @Necdot - www.flickr.com/photos/anecdot/ Mark D Baynham And Big Love to anyone whose shots we hijacked - let us know and we’ll make it up to you
Swirling through dimensional meltdown and abstract planes of polished organics, the impossibly clean lines and bulging physics of Made 514â€™s work are simply breathtaking. Tornados of texture spiral into quantum helixes and tease perception through the stillness of furious movement. Vast geometries bristling with razor sharp edges shred perspective as the whirlwind spins clear off the walls and through the cortex.
Hailing from Padua and entirely self taught there is something profoundly sculptural and solid about Madeâ€™s work. Deconstructions of letter and form throw up frozen incantations and the bold weight of his outer lines scream graphic illusion. Vortices yawn open and snap shut, characters pop mischeviously out of the angles and the overall experience the physical force of his work is stone cold stunning. We spoke.
What were you early experiences of graffiti
to learn and to develop a very flexible and versatile attitude. Lately I’ve been devoting Definitely something extraordinary. I didn’t myself a lot more to what I do, and the weight live in a big city, so graffiti was something out that it has for me is substantially different. of the ordinary – something I had no reference At the moment my attention is much more points for. The imagery and sensations that focused on a certain type of shape and letters, opened up in my mind about graffiti and the but I know it is a phase of a path. culture that revolved around it was infinite and seeing as I didn’t know a single thing when I started, every little idea, fragment of information, or word that I heard became a truth, and I contributed in making that truth real through practical application When you don’t know anything, the right thing is to take action. How did you first start to develop your own style I have always had a very open approach to painting. I never planned much of anything I did except in a few rare cases. I would draw a lot on paper, but when I came to the actual wall, I would end up painting something totally different. It has to be said that using that approach led to a lot of very bizarre tangents, but I think it allowed me both
What were your early experiments in 3D like It was fun, I enjoyed doing the letters and approaching the design aspect made you actually think and see things in 3D. Obviously I tried to make the letters stylish, but doing 3D characters as well as the lettering was not at all easy in the beginning and it’s still a massive challenge to this day.
golden proportions. It is an organic whole that projects character and symbolism through dynamic harmony, rhythm and a choice of visual references.
The act of writing a tag produces turbulence in the air that is directly tied to its motion and its movement; a sort of three-dimensional derivative of a negative. When we utter a word – and especially a name (that ideally represents a whole person’s being in a limited Tell us about the symbolism of spirals in your number of letters and sounds, a bit like the concept of Kanji, but cubed*), you do it with work a plan, and speak it with a combination of The spiral comes into my work as a harmonic mouth movements, vibration and channelled structure. I follow certain rules and methods air pressure. Through those vibrations, ejected to construct the letters and the piece and I air will create turbulence and generate a mainly refer to three points – call them images physical ‘thing’ that did not previously exist. or visions. We rarely pay much attention to the unseen, but even something so simple and so taken for Calligraphy and especially graffiti writing granted is a physical manifestation of intention has never really been about a ‘font’, but the and expression – free will. Cosmic choices and graphic representation of an organism with moments of manifestation.
Show the dimension in which speaking a thing’ through handwriting alone can be visualised and you can crystallise a flash of expression at a moment in time. In some ways you have to see the lettering as a break dance in full flow – where you can no longer see the dancer clearly, but through his movement – through those spins and dives you can perceive the essence of something beyond his physical form. Looking into the ‘aesthetics of chaos, there are mathematical rules that govern harmony and perceived randomness, where the empty space is filled with latent potential and where a line that goes in one direction corresponds with another in the opposite direction. Each line created in nature refers to the golden ratio, and the spiral that spins through it. These lines are moving in time and space on different cycles and in different sizes, and their existence and direction is determined by moments of “choice.” * (I think what I do with my graffiti is draw the kanji of a name) There is almost a DNA feel to a lot of your pieces – how intentional is that Looking for inspiration is like sending a spy satellite into the universe of imagination and primal organics, so subliminal references are always transmitted back – depends if you consider that as intentional.
What does the letter form mean to you The name as a vehicle, free will and bifurcating moments of choice as a movement. As the letters form; perhaps the soul travels What techniques do you use to create dynamics and movement I try to visualise what I want to do sometimes I make rough sketches of the movement or of the whole piece, sometimes I have a complete draft of what I want to do – but distilling it down, essentially paper and pencil, some basic rules of thumb and a sustained commitment to watching how things move. Your textures are very distinct – clean and almost unearthly – tell us a little about the feel of your surfaces I like representing visions of things on a wide range of scales, so I like my pieces to have that ethereal appearance. I do something similar with the backgrounds and I often use things that seem psychedelic so as not to give away too many points of reference. If you want to enter the vision you get into everything on every level Did early science fiction on TV and film have any influence on you
Some of my favourite films are science fiction, though alas the majority are extremely trivial and based only on the special effects. I love it when something can give me a point of view that most people haven’t considered as it reforges your perception and adds new filters and windows into it.... having said that, I think that reality is often far more interesting and far more bizarre.
Does geometry have a primal magic I think the geometry is the only ‘real’ thing, and mathematics is what lies above How much do you pre-plan a piece and how much do you lose yourself in the moment I love to lose myself in the piece, but the doors of good inspiration don’t always open. . Having very clear ideas about what you want to do methodologically helps a lot, but it takes a lot of freshness and instinct. I try to plan as much as possible not just to play on the wall but to keep the flow. Many of your pieces either seem like a whirlwind about to burst out of the wall or a vortex about to suck the viewer in. How important is it to break the barrier of a 2 dimensional wall and interact with reality beyond it Warping the space on the wall is a way to increase involvement, it helps to define a space in which the subject belongs, and that the viewer can share, and then encounter a different experience. Are there more than 3 dimensions and we are just unable to see or understand them
I think that physics assumes that there are at least a dozen, but unfortunately I do not think we have the tools to even imagine them. We can but speculate. How do you approach sculpture I’ve done a bit of sculptural work, and it is a world that fascinates me so much, I know what I like, and now I’m working on the prototypes. For the moment, I’m keeping them under wraps - they are small things that help me to make evaluations and calculations for when I’ll be ready, because I do not want to go out with something I’m not 100% sure of – but I assure that I can’t wait until that moment comes.
Your paper work has a very different identity â€“ where did that caricature feel come from As I said, I really like gestural calligraphy, and often use the technique to display images. Putting the two things together, I find myself sitting in front of the paper where I draw the expressive signs complete with dirt stains, all the while trying to keep my head empty because as soon as you seize on intention, you lose the true thread. Itâ€™s about seeing something inside and letting an image form slowly and independently. Itâ€™s almost a kind of training for the right side of the brain ... I enjoy it, and I definitely need to detach from what I usually design.
How did working with a Calligraphy pen change the way you look at drawing I think that the study of letters in the largest and most complex pieces must necessarily put have anchors in the tag written with a marker or a brush, because I believe them to be derived from the archetypal expressiveness of the letter.
Do you still do illegal walls or do you not have the time to express yourself creatively in the time frame. I’m not doing illegal walls now, not at night anyway.
Are you constantly learning Yes. And I hope that my battle against inertia allows me to keep on going How do you feel about nuclear power
When do you use figurative characters in your pieces and when do you keep things abstract Painting characters is great fun for me, but as an outer ring. I consider it a decoration for the letters within what I’m writing. Design requires more effort while sketching character is a good laugh. How do you see the power of colour In all honesty, I’m pretty colour blind. That doesn’t mean I see in black and white, but I think I have a problem there. Nor am I very good at colour matching, but I’m getting away with engagement. I think all colours act on emotions and are a little bit like musical notes filtered through execution and interpretation. How much international painting have you done I’ve been doing it more recently and I hope to do more and more - it’s very exciting. I’ve never been to Asia and I’d like to paint there in the near future.
I think it’s a great business for people who build and invest in reactors. I think that energy in general has been utterly manipulated since we invented the very need. Everything in this field was done with purely economic ends in sight. There is some important energy research happening right now, but anything
concerning the holy grail of ‘free energy’ is systematically censored. On the other hand there is the total lack of interest of the masses; both ill educated and brainwashed. I think if you want to change something you have to battle our own automatation. How often do you paint more political pieces
Art is trying to peek through the keyhole of ‘God’ – no matter who your god happens to be. At the human level, art is an elevated form of communication where the artist is able to share an indefinable but interpretable message.
I think the function of “social” art is to provide opportunities for reprogramming or Almost never, I think it’s wrong! harmonizing society. Many of those who are I think painting subjects that are explicitly “political” or rooted in social protest is nothing dedicated to creating art do so as a result of the need to get rid of a mood of unease. more than rhetoric. You will not get anything To do this, they begin to investigate within more than the consent of the fools who will themselves – consciously or not in a bid to be able easily ‘consume’ your art. You can offer them discomfort and reinforce their fear find a way to override that discomfort or to and anger, but they’ll just turn around and go transform it. So it invents its own expressive language, which materializes as a code written home with nothing in their head. Something into the universal program. It’s a metaphor, different can happen if you suggest solutions in an intelligent way, but the abyss of banality but I think a little cyber twist works. is one step away. Making a complaint is liberating and it is convenient. Stimulating change through complaining is a paradox. Quote: “If everyone understands what you say you’re probably not saying anything,” What is the essence of art for you
What does the future hold for you I hope to continue to paint and to do great works - once you’ve had a taste – it’s hard to go back. I have no fixed plans, other than to continue ...
Junglism. The perfect storm of roots culture, reggae’s sun kissed soul, breathless energy, raw power, pulsating urban pressure and the multi-ethnic maelstrom of the UK. Ever since it exploded out of the furious melting pot of styles that soundtracked the social revolutions of the early 90’s, Congo Natty has been a relentless force in forging the junglist spirit.
Stripping back the beats, abstracting the frequencies and many would say, sacrificing the soul, it was a critical moment and Congo Natty stepped up and held the line for a nascent culture.
Storming the barricades with a tempestuous flow of releases and performances, Congo Natty defined the junglist spirit. Record after record pushed the sound deeper into cultural consciousness as the crew went renegade Rebel MC was one of the pioneers fusing reggae strains and turbo charged dub grooves driving their message through the shifting sands of stylistic fashion. Bursting with a with the ever quickening breakbeats that spiritual celebration of Jah, rastafari mantras, erupted out of hip hop and into rave. In an era defined by influence upon influence fired rudebwoy rise up and the voice of a new tribalism, Congo Natty flew the standard as through the matrix of electronics, he was the years rolled through the bass bins. at the forefront of the new sound. As the tempos pushed higher, junglism owned 93-95 Legend of the jungle, iconic figure in UK as the beats turned backflips and the MC’s music, musical warrior and embracing the let dancehall fly through the tower blocks. new generation with artists like Nanci and Just as sound system culture was building a lasting crossover with the rave scene, drum n Pheobe (featured in this issue), we caught up with the conquering lion of London town. bass entered the equation.
Tell us a bit about your early years
today are getting a solid education, which is why sounds like Channel One and Shaka are so important.
Early years were all sound system vibes, from being in a little sound system at school to having my own system in Tottenham. We’d be doing house raves and weekend parties all over the manor and that was what defined me How much is there sense of family within a sound system that keeps relationships strong going forward. over the years Looking at the kids growing up with club culture today, how much more depth do you think sound system culture gave you Tell you the truth – without that grounding and that foundation, it would have been like just another music fad. It would have been something you drift into, have a bit of this, enjoy a bit of that and drift straight back out again the other side into a new trend. I class sound system culture as my true schooling. Obviously I went to what is considered ‘proper school’, but the only things I ever learned were what they drilled into me to memorise rather than feel or understand at core. It wasn’t until I started moving with the sound system crews as a young youth that my true education began and my learning curve really began to kick into gear. I can’t speak too much to the club kids, but what I do know is that the youths involved in sound system culture
You have two families. You have your blood family and you have your musical family and the musical family has always been tight. Just today I was talking to Tipper Irie about this tune we’ve got coming out with Tipper, Sweetie Irie, Top Cat, Tenor Fly, General Levy and Daddy Freddy all on the same tune. It’s
called Jungle All Stars and it’s born out of the fact that we’ve all been around for more than 20 years. It’s the first time that we’ve done something all together on this kind of level, and it all comes from those original roots.
the crews, all the influences were on one dancefloor. Was that the genesis of what is now being called Multi Cultural Britain
I would definitely say that. When my dad’s generation had a blues dance, it would be a predominantly black and Jamaican crowd. But you had my mum in there too, and she’s That’ll be one serious bit of history. So if your Welsh. So you had sprinkles of English, Irish, early days were reggae driven, what changed Scottish and Welsh, but ultimately, it was very musically in the Double Trouble years. much a black thing. When I first started doing sound systems in Tottenham, it was exactly It wasn’t even a change you know. I’m from a the same. The dances were full of Jamaican reggae background, my dad’s Jamaican, and I grew up in a yard surrounded by reggae music. youths with a few English youths dotted Growing up in the UK, we were the generation about. But when hip hop landed and the breakbeats started dropping, everyone started of youths that got into hip hop; with hip hop to gravitate together regardless of those old came the whole breakbeat vibration, and tribal realities. The barriers broke down and that was where Double Trouble found its everything began to integrate. voice. There was this vibe in the UK to make our sound and there was a transformation as those hip hop influences landed and we put When you started to put out stuff like Tribal our mark on them. I see it as a growth more Base – how receptive were people on the than anything else. rave scene, and how much negativity was there Between 88 and 92, it really felt like styles It was a twofold situation. On the one hand, were being born in the moment and all the youths loved it as they loved Wickedest
Sound and Coming on Strong, so by the time we got to Tribal Base with Barrington Levy, the Jamaica meets the UK sound was a serious vibration. At the same time though, there were a lot of purists that didn’t like it. It was always like that, and jungle is only now being truly accepted across the board. For all the positive things that were happening around jungle in 94, there were always voices dismissing it as a fad and a rip off of reggae that would be dead in the water the next year.
And how about the reggae community – did it split into purists who thought it was corrupting reggae and more open minds who wanted to explore this new sound Absolutely. There were people like Dennis Brown, Junior Delgado and Prince Lincoln who took to the music with open arms, and I featured them in my music along with Barrington Levy of course. But there were elements even within the UK that were permanently out there criticizing to such an
extent that I ended up being dropped from my label. Despite the fact that all these tunes had been successful, in conventional career terms, they were anything but. Breaking something new is always going to split people down the middle, and while the whole experience was a double edged sword, I chose to always follow the positive. But Jamaica and reggae music has definitely embraced Rebel MC. It’s going to Jamaica and working with reggae artists that totally reinforces the fact that what you’re doing is powerful – in them studios making music together that everybody’s feeling is when it all comes home to you that this is a special journey. Jungle has always been about paying homage to reggae music while trying to awaken the world to this new sound that comes straight from the cultural mix of the UK.
How did Congo Natty originally develop as a concept Having been in the music business as Rebel, I learned a lot about the workings of the
industry, and the seminal lesson it taught me was the importance of independence. As much as it’s good to dop business with labels and larger companies that have (or had) the resources to promote and support you, there is no substitute for owning your own music and not having to go cap in hand for your living to someone else. Dependent on the record industry is no trade off for independent. And that’s what Congo Natty was about from the start – an independent entity where I would makethe tunes in my house, take em to Music House, cut a dubplate, get them played out, press them and then sell them from my house. That took away all the middle men and all the critics and all the people who want to lean on you in whatever way. Congo Natty meant
– forget about what I look like or what my name is – here’s some music. Which is why so many tunes came out on white labels - so they weren’t pigeon holed by name or even a picture – all the things record labels use to brand themselves. The music had to be its own force because that’s what it’s always been about.
During this period where the nature of the label was a statement in itself, how important was it for the music to actually be about something Pointlessness is by definition, not having a point to what you’re doing. When you grow up within a system and talk about the oppression
that you witness in your music, that is the first awakening. Rastafari gave me the focus to move beyond that into an ongoing message – an ongoing point. And that for me is to praise Jah and spread his love though music. That is I. And it runs through everything I’ve ever done, everything I’m doing now and anything I will do in the future. It all came through Haile Selassie and his vibrations spread all over the world. His music is here, they call it reggae music, and from reggae came hip hop, from them came jungle and from jungle came dubstep and grime. It’s a lineage.
How important is it to have a solid family core and a tight crew within Congo Natty We wouldn’t be who we are without that family core. It makes things stronger and it makes things deeper. When you’re just a solo man, it can be strong, but it won’t be as powerful as a tight collective working together and pushing toward the same goals. Man like
Tenor Fly has been at the forefront for years – one of the top dancehall MC’s coming from the sound systems and to see him doing big shows in 2012 and 2013 when he’s been going since the 80’s is truly a blessing and gives weight to everything he does. Something’s got to be special for someone to last so long.
You were absolutely killing it in the mid - late 90’s – totally defining that reggae / ragga jungle sound. How did that era unfold for you If you go back to 96, we did a tune called Junglist Man. Now when that came out – that was a statement because the music had started to diverge and mutate into what’s now classified as drum n bass. When I made that statement in 96 – ‘I’m a Junglist’ it was the start of the war– and the years that followed it were a pure battle zone. As the sound and the culture behind it was building momentum into drum n bass – I wanted to stand proud and say that I made jungle music, that I was going to spread jungle wherever I could and spread Jah’s message wherever I could. That was a critical moment in the evolution of jungle and a lot of good work got done in those years because the stakes were so high.
Is it even possible to be a proper dancefloor musician if you’ve never been a raver If you’re not a raver and you’ve never been a raver – then most definitely – you gotta sort it out. Coz something’s gone wrong. The music is about the dance and the experience. Forget rave culture for a second
– think tribal gatherings where members of the tribe gather and celebrate to music and dancing. Raves are our tribal gathering and the essence is exactly the same, so to be able to make music on the kind of level that gathering will truly feel, you need to have lived it in all its unity.
How did you weather the digital revolution? With dubplates meaning so much, were you resistant to it – did it take a while to adapt to it?
real message, and by keeping things solid, the new youths coming up like Nanci and Pheobe come up real and not tripping into this whole X Factor thing.
Speaking of Nanci and Pheobe – as we were saying earlier Congo Natty has always been a tight unit and then suddenly these new girls are on the firm – how did you find them and how did it work bringing them in.
Everything is always brought together by a higher force. The Father is always guiding what’s happening. They’ve come in and We just incorporated it. This musical warfare embraced jungle and jungle has embraced and you have to have up to date weapons. them. They represent the youth culture – the Every few years you have to upgrade your next generation and the youth of today are operation. So that’s exactly what we did into many things – not just strictly limited to when digital hit – just never forgetting the one. When I was young, unless you gave me roots. Because what is happening now is dub with a hard b-line – it just wasn’t working that they are trying to cut out the analogue for me. But hard dub and a hard b-line come roots and turn music into a virtual thing in many forms now and Nanci and Pheobe that is consumerist and disposable and the represent the full circumference of music. equivalent of going down McDonalds. So it They are genuine musicians and so while becomes a balance. You can’t just ignore the they are walking the junglist path, they are changes because you’ll get left behind, but our job is to keep putting out real music with a channeling hip hop, jazz and every other style.
Where does your creativity come from – is it coming from Jah – is it coming from a spiritual dimension It’s 100% coming from the Creator. Without the Creator I wouldn’t even be alive right now. The times we are living in are so dread that it is difficult to stay positive when you have so much negativity going on around you. The Creator is that light – that positive energy and love and it’s only because of those vibrations that I can go forward with this music. And right now it feels like I’m at the start of something, not down a road I’ve been on for a long time.
Is that what gives all truly powerful protest music its identity – the fact that it’s not just against something – it’s also for something – there’s always a smile in there – always love in there. Do things have to have a positive element to carry real weight All powerful music comes from a source and you can call that source what you like – Jah, God, Allah – the name simply doesn’t matter. The Father isn’t partial and he’s got many
different children in many different nations who call him by many different names. But without that energy – without that force your music won’t inspire the next generation – it will die off with your generation and your time specific issues.
So what’s coming up in the future for you At the moment – we are locked into this illusion of the future. We’re constantly making plans to do this or that. Right now – I’m getting through today and tomorrow will deal with itself. There are many things that I’d like to do but before I get there, I’m going to appreciate today and know that it was a good day.
Is commercialization a more potent weapon of control than straight up repression and if so, how do we reconcile ﬁnancial realities with the idealism that underpins any form of radical creativity? Control systems mutate and adapt to their environments. Where once jackboots and truncheons were the default setting of any power structure faced with a perceived threat to their ideology, in the West at least, such frontal assault tactics have in many ways been superseded by the inﬁnitely more pernicious trinity of attempted suppression, grudging acceptance and ﬁnally … assimilation. ‘And so they were gradually led into the demoralising vices of porticoes, baths and grand dinner parties. The naïve Britons described these things as 'civilisation', when in fact they were simply part of their enslavement‘ Ever since Tacitus penned these damning lines in the 1st Century AD, ‘soft power’ has been an integral part of any successful imperial machine. You can oppress people for centuries, but they will employ every last
drop of ingenuity to keep their culture, their traditions and their identities alive. Convince them to surrender to your temptations voluntarily though, and you move into the realms of genuine control. When someone wholeheartedly believes that speaking English, wearing jeans, listening to Beyonce and guzzling Big Macs is intrinsically superior to their native customs, they become a lifelong recruit to the imperialist cause. Private industry has long been in the vanguard of American cultural and economic hegemony, and as an increasingly uniform culture descends upon the extraordinary diversity of our world, we need only look at the fallout of clumsy military adventures to realize which form of power is the more virulent. Diving out of the grand sweeps of socioeconomic history, and burrowing into the micro – the question sharpens up into the eﬀect of money, exposure and popularity on underground movements. It’s no secret – ‘street art’, ‘urban art’ – call it what you will is currently riding a wave of extraordinary trendiness. Leaving heartbroken pioneers in its wake and introducing whole new swathes of hipsters, money men and ﬂimsy PR ‘gurus’ into the equation, a pirate movement is in
serious danger of being co-opted wholesale into the mainstream and losing its essence in the process. No profound creative matrix was ever built on ﬁnancial calculations and marketing strategies, which is of course what gives it its identity and its integrity. Pure love is pure art. Hijacking accepted notions, ram raiding unquestioned pillars of ‘truth’, tearing out of existing patterns and channeling a headspace through revolutionary new vectors – all these subversions of received wisdom ﬂood conviction with raw power. Illegality, a heady breath of danger, systematic sidestepping of material motivations and a single minded refusal to conform all distil together to forge a social and political context for a new creative nexus. Therein lies the genesis of true underground dynamics. So illegal and free for ever right? No quarter given? Fuck em all? The bottom
line is that we live in a completely monetized society, and one way or another – we all need money. Do we live oﬀ the state and see ourselves as a sort of Robin Hood pumping oﬃcial resources into subversion? But the state coﬀers are ﬁlled by working families and the last scraps of tax corporations can’t avoid, and whether those billions get spent on weapons and obscene international adventures or not, does being ﬁnanced by the state make you a hero or utterly dependent on it? There’s another problem. The paradox within an illegal creative movement is that at some point, the creativity begins to evolve past the possibilities of illegality. You start out as a writer, bombing the streets and tunnels sixteen shades of midnight with blue ﬂashing lights rapping out your pulse. But will there not come a point when what you want to express cannot be done in the time it takes for the security guard to walk round the yard. You want to do massive, intricate pieces with some longevity built into them – not the arrogance of permanence – just a lifespan of sorts. Look at illegal raves – once you’ve done everything you can within a 6 hour setup time before the riot squad steam the place –
where do you creatively go from there? How do you blow people’s minds with sound, light and performance without budget and set up times. And that’s even before you acknowledge the right of artists to make a decent living out of their talent. Surely the deﬁnition of success is getting by doing what you love. Should you be on the dole or working in Babylon to keep your art true? The day you make a calculated decision with anything other than your art in mind the slippery slope has clearly begun, but what’s to stop a certain corruption seeping in through osmosis once money rears its hydra like head even if your intentions stay solid? There is no right answer, just a perilous path guided by integrity. There will always be purists brandishing phrases like ‘sellout’ and there will always be slippery executives assuring you that by painting their corporate mural, you are ‘widening understanding of your medium’. There is a middle ground to be straddled, but no hard and fast rules whatsoever to help chart a course and at the risk of sounding nauseating, it’s all about your heart. Forget the Hirsts and the plastic artists who
do one stencil then start schmoozing. Forget the militants who scorn measured compromise in favour of stagnant creativity. Surely one can play the forces of assimilation at their own game â€“ cherry picking out the compromises that feel right to stay on the edge of imagination while never ever forgetting the lifeblood of that imagination by going out and bombing the fuck out of an illegal space to keep your instincts honed and your debt to the underground square. Have we not reached the point where we are sophisticated enough, pure enough and
switched on enough to manipulate commercial forces into being our servants rather than either denying their realities or surrendering abjectly to them. As the nuances narrow and shades of grey illuminate the landscape, will the underground falter between corruption and its own dogma, or mutate to survive and shine brighter than ever. These are our worlds, our lives, our movements and make no mistake â€“ swerving all the assaults, played right, and with the spirit burning brightâ€Ś.we can always own the night.
Symphonising rich classical strokes and piercing graffiti edges into unspoken narratives and frozen moments, Australian artist Adnate has been carving a tantalizing path.
beautifully current matrix. His portraits have an ethereal feel - often disembodied into the urban mists - melted into their setting and bursting out in an explosion of colour and feeling.
Exploring themes like identity, oppression and the subjugation of one culture by external forces - be they a direct aggressor or the wider forces of globalisation, his work drips with pathos and punch. Going back to the source of humanist art, he has incorporated the techniques that define texture, form, figure and physical expression and transported them into a new and
His work with the AWOL crew has built and extraordinarily powerful legacy as his spellbinding figurative work is licked all around by the flames of liquid writing. From primal tribalism to plays on the aesthetics of beauty - from twisted faces screaming in silence to the majesty of humanity unbound - from electric dreams to withering comment, his work is simply superb. We caught up.
What were the creative influences bouncing around you in your early years I read a lot of comics as a kid and was obsessed with really intense sci-fi films like Terminator and Aliens.
How did you originally get into writing and what was the environment in Melbourne like at the time I was exposed to some amazing graffiti writers in my early teens. Seeing the ridiculous work
along certain train lines in Melbourne made me realise what was possible with graffiti and I never looked back.
How long was it until you felt you had genuinely started to express yourself Probably when I started getting loose with my letters. I started doing abstract things like opening my letters, having outlines with no fill, using paint rollers in the piece and incorporating drips.
How did you start to move away from writing into more figurative work and develop into the dynamics of human emotion I’ve always been into creating emotion or attitude with what I’m painting. I got told by a mentor that style writing was all about attitude, whether it be funky hip hop, aggressive wild style, etc. Now when I paint portraits, I can be more direct with what emotion or attitude I’m trying to portray.
What is the essence of a portrait for you There is a certain level of depth, within different layers, visually and emotive. The essence lies within this.
How much did you go back to classical and Renaissance roots to hone techniques like chiaroscuro I lived in Florence in 2011 and got to stare right into the eyes of some of the most amazing Renaissance paintings ever produced. These pieces capture a huge level of emotion that I’ve never experienced in other art before.
How do you create movement and drama within your pieces Chiaroscuro is a huge part, which is the contrast between dark and light. This is
what a lot of the old Renaissance artists used. Painting only sections of the face, incorporated with the backgrounds can often put flow into an otherwise still portrait.
What does the interplay of graffiti forms and figurative painting bring to your work The graffiti elements that I incorporate are a solid representation of my history. I want to always keep my tagging, the most purest form of graffiti, a part of my art.
How much has travelling changed your artistic perspectives
Was an exploration of calligraphy a natural step for a graffiti artist
A LOT. Travelling for me made me see the limits that can be pushed with spray paint, with detail, scale, speed and concepts. Each continent in the world has a few special writers/artists that are at the forefront of the scene and its completely mind blowing to see their work in person.
Even if graffiti artists donâ€™t realize, they are all exploring their own form of calligraphy through tagging. Calligraphy has been practiced for thousands of years, and tagging is now the biggest form as it is done by more people than ever before.
Tell us about your focus on Tibetan and Persian culture I’m very interested in cultures that are the most different to the West, particularly those that have been suppressed. In its time, Persia was but I’m very focused on Tibet. It’s incredible how the world’s most peaceful country was annihilated and the world just watched. I feel that painting some of these issues publicly will help bring awareness.
You have painted several highly emotive pieces that highlight Aboriginal issues. How would you describe their current position in Australian society – has anything improved Statistically they have the lowest life expectancy of any other Indigenous population in the world, in one of the richest countries economically. Science has now realized that they are the longest living civilization that has ever existed. There is obviously something very wrong there and their situation is not getting any better.
Tell us about the AWOL crew Formed in 2006, We are 6 members, Slicer, Deams, Li-Hill, Lucy Lucy and Itch. As the years go on, our styles become even more different than each others, which i think is the driving force behind the crew.
How much pre planning do you bring to a piece and how much do you lose yourself in it The only preplanning that goes into most of my works is the colour choice and which photo i am going to reference. Apart from that, the rest just comes as i paint it.
How do you adapt to the contrasts of collaboration By creating as much of a juxtaposition between styles, whilst maintaining a strong flow within the piece as a whole.
How much do you enjoy playing with the existing textures of a wall It depends, some are very difficult to work with, but then Iâ€™ve painted on some that make a piece so unique, that it would be impossible to replicate on canvas.
What does the future hold for you Only the future knows.
Buried in his laboratory somewhere in subterranean Brighton and knee deep in downright dangerous frequency, Ed Solo is cooking up a relentless storm of dancefloor gold. Extraordinarily prolific and one of the finest engineers in the dance music business, Ed honed his skills as a junglist before ducking and diving through every style of broken beat going. With a sublime ability to make whoever heâ€™s sat next to in the studio sound shit hot, a precision ear for sonic good times and an instinct for heavyweight tunage, his stamp on electronic music runs as deep as some of his subs.
His longtime partnership with Nick Deekline has thrown up some of the most memorable tunes of the last decade. Possibly the finest remixers in the business, they have torn through some serious bad boy biznizz, heaving funk, outrageous cheese, garage grooves, soulful symphonics, G strung booty, quivering menace and disco slick. Quite frankly - if you want your crowd to go mental, if you want a hook so massive it could land a blue whale and if you want your basslines dripping with warmth and menace in spectacularly equal measure - then Ed is ya man. We caught up with him as the new album, Bounce and Shake started to hit the shelves.
Tell us a bit about your early days and how you originally got into the music I’d always been into how things work as a kid – loved my technology and my electronics. I was forever opening up old radios and had bits of circuit board scattered all over the place with all kinds of different music on, soundtracking my experiments with screwdrivers and wiring. As school was finishing up, I didn’t really know what to do with myself, so I figured why not combine music and technology and head into sound engineering. I applied to Westminster College, but there were only 30 places for 300 applicants so I ended up going on a youth training scheme course which funnily enough, Shy FX was also on. Off the back of that, I got a work placement in 93 at the jungle label, SOUR records and started engineering there after about 6 months of assisting and the odd bit of tea making. I always had a little keyboard stashed somewhere in the studio and I was permanently playing about making bits of music, but I never for a second imagined that I would make a career out of it. I thought I was headed purely down the sound engineering route. But as the months rolled on, I ended up making a few tunes with Dave Stone, the label manager under the name Click and Cycle and that was really how the production started.
It’s interesting that all this happened in 93, because of course that’s just when jungle was starting to evolve out of hardcore Oh absolutely, and it was brilliant for me because there were all these different people coming through the SOUR studios and of course they all had their own individual ways of working so I just soaked it all up. We were based in a complex with a really nice, high end studio upstairs and if I’d have been up there, I’d have spent a year on reception and another year adding milk n 2. But because I was in this little ghetto studio and things were breaking awful lot and I will forever be grateful for that down quite often, I was straight in at the deep experience. end and had to pick up quick. I learned an
Was it really inclusive without a stream of egos walking through the door? This sense of all being in it together
So it’s 93 – the breakbeats are chopping up more and more, the sub bass is deepening, junglism is starting to evolve – from an engineering perspective, what were the Well there were definitely a few egos knocking production techniques coming in to help about – especially with MC’s coming through! define that sound It was funny – I used to work with MC Det quite a lot back then – partly because none of At the time, we were primarily using the AKAI the other engineers would go anywhere near S1000 sampler, which was industry standard him. I think they must’ve been threatened by and pretty much all there was at the time. him, but I used to have a right laugh joking I don’t even think it had resonance on the about with Det and if he started to piss me filter. Then suddenly DJ Ron comes in one day off – then I’d front him out about it, and he with a brand spanking new S3000 proudly respected that. I don’t think the other guys tucked under his arm. It was all slimline and were used to that kind of vibe, but I really had high pass filters and shit and that was a enjoyed getting on an engineering mission huge boost because obviously drum n bass is with him. a very technology driven style of music. I even
remember Grooverider on the radio making a special point of announcing that the tune he was about to drop was made on an S3000, so there’s all us producers and engineers sat bolt upright with the analytics out and waiting for something really special.
SOUR, but it was a massive confidence boost to get a reply like that from such a respected label when to be honest – I hadn’t even expected to hear back.
And all running through an Atari ST
How fundamental was pirate radio both to the spirit and the spread of the movement
Yep. Original Cubase on the Atari ST with a little black and white monitor all linked up to the outboard. Which actually reminds me. Before I even got that work placement, I did a little tune with my keyboard and the Atari ST – so no samples. I stuck it on a cassette, sent it off to Moving Shadow records and to my surprise, I got a reply from them 2 days later. They were really encouraging – said Rob Playford had listened to it and was very impressed considering the limited facilities I had access to. They said that he was knee deep in an album with Goldie which must’ve been the “Timeless” album, but to keep sending stuff over as and when I made it. I never got round to it as I started working at
Totally fundamental. There’s me and a million other 13 year old kids and all we really knew was pop music and rock n roll. Until you start tuning through the frequencies and stumble across all the acid house stuff on pirate stations and think ‘what the fuck is this?’ I didn’t even know what DJing was. I imagined some guy sat up in a tower block surrounded by equipment and flashing LED’s pushing buttons and making bleeping noises live and direct to my radio at home. Pre internet, pirate radio was key to spreading the music – especially as I was too young to be going to the raves and it was incredibly important to a whole generation
How much raving were you doing through the SOUR years. Hardly any to be honest. I didn’t have that many friends who were into it and er – we sort of got mugged outside the first couple we tried to go to! Went to a World Dance at Lydd Airport in 95 or something and that was pretty cool. And we came through it unscathed!
How did you start working with Brockie then It was just as I moved to Brighton. He had just bought a studio but didn’t have much technical ability and so he asked Det if he knew any engineers. Det suggested me and so I jumped on a London train, went round there and the first tune we made was Represent which hit number 1 in the drum n bass charts. On the first week of release, I tuned into Fabio and Grooverider who did the charts, hoping we might get a decent position, but by the time they were at number 3, I’d given up and thought fuck it. Went to make a cup of tea, and when I came back, there it is on the radio – straight in at number 1.
Speaking of moving to Brighton, what the hell was going on in that building with you upstairs, Krafty Kuts downstairs and god knows who else in the basement and in the attic. Dave Stone and I were installing ourselves down there and we bumped into Krafty Kuts who had a record shop in The Lanes. We put the studio upstairs from the shop, and then a few years later we all moved to another gaff where Krafty and Lloyd Seymour set up Supercharged and Adam Freeland was beneath us with Marine Parade. It was great because you had this one place with all these different strains of the same movement running side by side and an endless stream of people coming round, mad characters dropping in and out and an awful lot of good music being made. People would pop downstairs to the record shop, check some
tracks, bounce some feedback and having that community element created a genuine sense of connection.
So how did you and Deekline hook up Lloyd introduced us and it basically started with me doing a few mixdowns for him. We worked together on that basis for a while, and before you knew it, we were getting bang on and decided to have a crack at making a few tunes together. He was working with Wizard a lot back then, and while I thought Wizard was a good engineer, he sometimes didn’t quite nail the mixdown, so Nick would come to me. Wizard probably got a bit pissed off thinking his mix was better, but that’s just how these things go. But the bottom line was that he worked less and less with Deekline and I worked more and more with him. So you could say that I used to be the mistress and now I’m the wife.
How did the Defkline Red Polo thing come about alongside Deekline and Ed Solo Well there were a couple of reasons we won’t go into, but that alias covers the classic remix side of things. It did kind of backfire as a lot of people didn’t make what we thought was a pretty obvious connection between the two names. It can get confused on stuff like youtube and when people go looking for a track with a specific search term. It’s amazing how that kind of thing can happen, and you learn the hard way. For example we’ve done a tune called Bad Boyz for the album and it looks better spelled with a ‘z’, but then if you’re just hearing it spoken like on the radio – you may go searching for it spelled with an ‘s’. You actually have to think about these things in the information age – it’s not just a font on a record any more.
How do you approach remixes of older tunes – are you looking for a hook or a vocal or anything specific – can you visualize a new bassline sat under something – how does that work.
Well either Nick (Deekline) or myself will find something and bounce it off each other before we decide what to go with. We try to enhance the original rather than just take on little sample off it. We build around it, make sure all the keys fit, put a lot of effort into the production and the mixdown and really go all out to make it the best it can be. Which is probably why we’re successful with it, as we don’t just knock out a half hearted rip off. We’ve been doing this for years too, so things like an old funk record that may not be perfectly in time, I have no problem with spending a few hours chopping up into little bits and nudging them right on the micro edit.
Obviously you’re a great technical producer and have been doing it for years – but do you still find that an accident in the studio can sometimes spin a tune into something that hadn’t occurred to you In general – not so much anymore, although saying that, it has happened a couple of times recently. With the technology as it is and with endless narrow tracks running down
the screen, it is easy to put something on the wrong track by mistake and then suddenly the massive delay you had lined up for a stab on that track suddenly hits your vocal or something. Just the other day, Brockie and I were doing a tune and we were looking for a couple of little samples. We settled on one and I dragged it randomly into the Logic arrangement to place later, but it sounded so good where it landed that we just left it there
On a similar note, do you always pass the morning test these days – when you wake up after a heavy night session and it sounds like you thought it sounded the night before , or do you still have ‘what the fuck was I thinking’ moments That’s an interesting one… Music is subjective by its nature, but it’s amazing just how subjective it can be when you’re starting out. You get people who have a fantastic taste in music, they know a good tune when they hear one and they know a shit tune. Then they make their own tune…..and it’s rubbish. But they just can’t hear it. If you could wipe their memory and play their tune to them, they’d go ‘oufff – that’s a bit shit innit’. Over the years, you learn to look at your own music more objectively and you just know
what’s working and what’s not pretty much instinctively. Takes a while to hit that point though.
How much outboard analogue have you still got going on Quite a bit. I don’t use it that much, but I’ve got a few keyboards and a valve EQ. Tell you what though – I am seriously excited about the Arturia Minibrute coming out and I haven’t been excited about a bit of kit for ages. It’s a little analogue synth made by Arturia who usually make plug ins and I think it’s the first time a plug in maker has done an analogue synth. It looks brilliant and they can’t make them fast enough – I heard they had to hire some more people in China to make them or something. I’ll be using that a lot I think – sampling it back in, playing it live – the works. I do love my hands on toys – effects units, but I do get slack sometimes as it is just so easy to have everything in the box and plugged into Logic. But that’s all a lot of people’s studios actually are – a computer, 2 monitors and a keyboard. I couldn’t do that – I need my toys and buttons around me even if I’m not using them all that often on tunes. They make the studio feel like home and they are a constant source of fun and inspiration.
How important is leaving space in production Massively so. I remember listening to Dr Dre’s 2001 album and really hearing what wasn’t there. That was the beauty of it – it was so bare and stripped down and the little tiny gaps allowed a groove or a mood to fill them instead of actually sticking a sound in there. When me and Brockie were working together, I’d be adding more and more breaks over the top to try and make it louder when of course it works the opposite way – the less going on, the louder it can go. I think the key is to make your music quickly and make it loud – if you look at the Roni Size and the Full Cycle lot – I ‘m sure that’s how they did it which is why it sounded as good as it did. It was simple and it worked. If they’d got all technical and analytical about it, they probably would have overdone it and lost that edge. I’m aware of all this but it can sometimes be hard to put it into practice – sometimes I can bang out a tune fast, but a lot of the time I have to chip away for a while.
Speaking of simple – a lot of the dubstep you do is stripped back, low, rolling and menacing. How do you think so much dubstep turned into a sort of ‘check how massive my Massive is’ and ‘look how many chops I can stuff into a bar’ ego trip
I first got into it around 2007. The crystal ball was out and it had a lot of gnarly, chopped up edits in it. Then everyone started doing that until Skrillex came along, did it really well and became so successful that everyone else thought they better start doing it too. There���s been a lot of good tunes in that vein, but so many terrible ones where people have blatantly tried to copy Skrillex and it ain’t worked. It’s spilt really – you have your commercial high energy stuff that all sounds the same… and then you have what I call proper dubstep which is one bass and one note wobbling darkly all over the place. That can get boring though and the killer tunes are the ones somewhere in between – a little bit cut up but rolling and loaded with menace.
To be honest, I’m not into the dubstep as much these days. I still like it, and I enjoy the production values, but I don’t play it out as much. Obviously we still have our Sludge label I could always see it going that way from when with other artists releasing dubstep on it.
You and Deekline do a lot of stuff that sails very close to the cheese frontier and mostly stays on the right side of it – where is that line for you
How much work does running all those labels entail and how much sort of post production do you do with the other artists
Something’s happening pretty much every It’s always hard. Sometimes we’ll be sat there day. We’re either writing our own tunes, and Nick’s doing something that I have to pull doing a bit of admin on the releases or I’ll be working on someone else’s tune. Sometimes him up on as being a bit too cheesy – his line is definitely further out than mine! But I’m the mixdown won’t be quite right so I’ll mix not afraid of a bit of cheese. I want to make it back down and occasionally make a few people dance and enjoy themselves, and a arrangement changes. I really enjoy that side little bit of cheese does help do that. of things and I’m good at seeing potential that’s nearly there but not quite and helping sculpt it into a finished version. I think that’s How into stuff like the physics of bass and the why we do so many remixes too. I do find it hard to start with a blank slate and it’s so mathematics of frequency are you handy starting with some parts. Instantly I love all that - proper love it. For quite a you’ve got a key, a tempo, a few ideas and you while, I had a keyboard with notes like A, B , hit the ground running. C, D replaced with 33 Hz, 65 Hz and so on. I kept adding on stickers so I knew what bass frequency I was playing at.
So what’s the score with the new album – Bounce and Shake
every aspect of life. I could make a tune and we’ve released it 2 weeks later, so I’m in Russia or somewhere about to pull it out There’s a lot of tracks on there so it’s great the bag as an exclusive and the guy before value for money – something I think you have me drops it because they’ve already got it. to do these days. The CD release has 21 tracks Compared to the drum n bass heyday where on it while the digital version has 25 tracks dubplates would do the rounds for 6 months and we’re doing to do a deluxe version with all to a year before getting a release (to the the remixes and an instrumentals, acappellas dismay of the punters), that is pretty mad. and parts version for producers who want Now it’s almost like things happen too quick. have a go at remixes or mash ups. And we’re just keeping it moving…. There’ll be a fair few styles – quite a bit of www.junodownload.com/artists/ breaks, some drum n bass, couple of bits of Ed+Solo/releases/ dubstep and a touch of house. The majority of it will be vocal led and it will be very much the kind of album you’d happily put on in your front room as well as something that would go down well in a club.
How do you see the dance music scene in general evolving over the next few years Everything is speeding up exponentially in
When we first spoke to author, commentator, media theorist and profound thinker Douglas Rushkoff in Issue 7, we took a very broad approach to some of the themes in his work. He now has an intriguing and penetratingly current book in the pipeline that addresses our worrying relationship with time, information saturation, short termism and our increasing disassociation from fundamental natural forces. This interview discusses the questions within ‘Present Shock’ and takes an overview of the book’s central thesis. As data floods through our circuitry at an ever quickening rate, contemplation, genuine engagement and experience have been put to the sword of immediacy. We have become expert at summarising experience
and in doing so, lost much of our ability to truly live it. Our ever widening schism with natural rhythms and a sense of our own narrative has resulted in a frantic culture of instant gratification where finance gambles our future on rapid profit, fame comes in 15 second rather than 15 minute bursts, our perception is edited into abbreviated soundbites, and the need for perpetual growth infects every recess of our body politic. How did we reach this point, how do we define our relationship with time and the essence of experience, how do we reconcile our light speed, data rich existence and our shifting value structure with the planet and our own biochemistry? Present Shock is published fittingly on the Equinox - 21 March.
What was the impact of Future Shock on you when you first read it Well I read it 20 years after it was written, and while it served as my introduction to the ‘science’ of Futurism, I was already living in the future that the book described. At that point, Alvin Toffler and his wife were being championed by Newt Gingrich in the United States. Gingrich was (and still is) a right wing politician who was at the height of his power and looking toward a new, technology-enabled hyper-capitalism and the ‘long boom’ that was being trumpeted by Wired magazine as internet stocks began their original bubble. I viewed Futurism less as a science and more as an act of propaganda where futurists didn’t attempt to predict the future but rather worked to create it. So perhaps inappropriately, I lumped the book in with ideas like the ‘long boom’, Wired, Nicholas Negroponte and even to some extent people like Ray Kurzweil and Kevin Kelly. The common thread was a vision of the future where the things futurists and their corporate clients cared about most took centre stage - and that vision seemed extremely consonant with the
values of laissez faire corporate capitalism. Technology was just part of the myth of infinite economic expansion. And that simply wasn’t the future as I saw it. I was raised by R U Sirius, High Frontiers magazine, reality hacking;Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson.So the technologyenabled future I saw before us had a whole lot less to do with the NASDAQ and a whole lot more to do with people connecting in new ways: A future where people experienced reality and one another in profoundly more meaningful and far less commercial contexts. So I saw Toffler and the futurists through sceptical and slightly jaded eyes – almost as if they were on the ‘other side’. That perception had as much to do with the way he was brought to my and much of America’s attention as the books themselves. But what was fascinating was the whole futurist meme – their style of seeing and talking about things, which was very much a product of an earlier era. I remember a television show that used to be on just before ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’ called ‘On the 21st Century’ which used to wax excitedly about things like
monorails and jetpacks, video phones and kitchen robots that we might have within 10 or 20 years. Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s in America at least, there was this palpable leaning of society and culture towards the future that was very exciting. By the 90’s though, when I was emerging onto the scene,this leaning felt as much like a cultural prejudice as an accurate view of where things were going. There was a strain of millennialism in the air as the year 2000 approached, and a requirement for stock markets to continue expanding even after the global limits of colonialism had been reached and global resources had almost all been tapped. It seemed like futurism was a by product of a need for a continued growth that was ultimately doomed. Just because the universe keeps expanding doesn’t mean the markets will. And as we discovered – the universe isn’t actually expanding forever, but undulating, so this suspect projection of economics onto infinitely expanding physics was one of the first futurist casualties.
Looking back through ’human’ time – and especially the last couple of hundred years – it very much seems like there’s been a quickening. Do you think that there’s an exponential algorithm built into the changing human experience. No. I think there are moments of exponential change but there are other things going on. Certain things are changing exponentially while others are changing logarithmically. Some changes are on a linear trajectory while others are undertowing us backwards. If you examine things from a single perspective and break it down into a single line then it might
look like that. But I’m not looking for progress in the relentless growth model that corporate capitalism has laid down as a template for all reality. I am interested less in the relentless unidirectionality of things than in cycles, returns, and retrievals. Right now, for example, we’re seeing the retrieval of medieval concepts of peer to peer value exchange. We’re revisiting older P2P forms in new contexts, like the rise of LET (Local Exchange Trading) systems, Kickstarter, peer to peer authentication and even things like Square which is a mobile credit card reader than you stick in your iphone and allows an individual to accept card payments. Far from following the patterns of increasingly centralised corporate dominance that laissez faire economics would have us believe is the only route to ‘development’, these are retrieved ideas from a distant, pre industrialised past. Stepping away from socio-economic dynamics and looking just at the brain’s relationship with reality – do you think that information and consciousness are locked in this feedback loop where increasing volumes of information push the brain to develop the ability to process them and in doing so, create a matrix where the brain generates yet more. I no longer see it that way. I would argue that the kinds of data that are emphasised in this processing feedback loop are actually very limited. What we’re doing is finding a particular point on the spectrum of information, focusing in on it and letting that run faster and faster like some kind of Bernoulli effect. It certainly feels like that; but when you stop and think that 98% of human experience is being negated by this concentration on a very specific kind of information that can be measured in a very particular way, you start to see it very differently. Agriculture companies tell us with immense pride that we are growing food faster and faster. OK – we are in literal terms, growing food faster and faster. But, wait a minute – broccoli and spinach today only contain 20%
of the magnesium that they used to when we had a nutrient-rich topsoil. So are we getting more broccoli or less broccoli? The answer is that we are getting more of a particular kind of broccoli and more when measured in a certain way. Broccoli on steroids. But it no longer is even broccoli and humans are walking around with magnesium deficiencies. So I see it as a tightening rather than a full spectrum quickening and the tighter you go, the more pressure there is.
The broccoli analogy is very interesting. Can’t we extrapolate that to more abstract experience? So say 15 years ago you would see a painting or hear a piece of music and it would be a major event in your day. You might spend a couple of hours appreciating it, thinking about it, revelling in it and probing its layers, while today, you register it as a ‘good’ or ‘beautiful’ or ‘interesting’ as it flies down your news feed nestled between a huge range of other incredible things – but really only give it 30 seconds of undivided attention. Is our experience of things that enter our reality far more superficial than when we were less saturated with wonderful things and time had a different feel? That is exactly what the book is about and perhaps the easiest way to understand Present Shock. We are getting better at experiencing the gist of something very
rapidly, there is no doubt about that. Kids today will read Hamlet through SparkNotes (or York Notes in the UK) and try and get the gist of it that way. Now if you buy that reality is fractal and self similar, there is a possibility thathoming in on one specific point in Hamlet will unlock the wider themes and meanings – the gravedigger scene or the play within a play or ‘To be or not to be’.
On one level those crux moments do encapsulate the wider experience of Hamlet, but on another level they simply cannot have the intangible depth of immersing oneself in the entire play, its language, its imagery and symbolic motifs. You can, to use Robert A. Heinlein’s term, ‘grok’ the Mona Lisa in a stamp sized Facebook photo, but you have to ask yourself what it is that you are getting from it. Are you engaging in mere pattern recognition or are you experiencing something at a deeper level? By engaging with things at that level, how much do you imbibe and how much do you miss? I can listen to a song in MP3 format and I will get the informational gist of it. But until I have heard it in wav format or ideally in analogue format in an acoustically designed space with full frequency response speakers, I haven’t really experienced it. We’re getting very good at understanding increasingly sophisticated symbol systems and learning how to categorise things, but we don’t reinvest the time surplus and the cognitive surplus (as Shirky would call it) that we get from those abbreviated experiences to take advantage of other, real experiences.
In a perverse way – is access inversely proportional to value? We were always told that ‘knowledge is power’, but now that we have access to previously unimaginable levels of information, we somehow make less of those possibilities than we did before. It almost seems that the more we can know, the less we value or at least use that knowledge. Knowledge is only power as long as it’s leveraged in some other way. Knowledge plus power are power. You can be stuck in jail knowing you’re going to be stabbed all you like; but unless you have some way to prevent it, knowledge has given you no power at all. The government can operate all the clandestine Big Brother surveillance operations in the world, but without the back up of gun toting agents and black helicopters, they can’t actually use it against you in any meaningful way. So just as state knowledge requires guns to have any effect on an individual, an individual’s knowledge about the machinations of the state requires action to have any hope of change. Knowing the government is illegally monitoring you in some way or engaged in corrupt practices only translates into power if you are prepared to do something with that knowledge.
There is a cynicism and disillusionment that accompanies knowledge acquisition that is very hard for people to deal with and get past. That was why I was so impressed by the Occupy movement – they didn’t let the cynicism of the moment throw them into despair and it has been really encouraging to see their activism be about action instead of reaction. There is a sense that when you have access to all information or all knowledge, it somehow overwhelms you, but then you look at somewhere like America where a third of people don’t even believe in evolution. Huge swathes of the population think that climate change is some kind of conspiratorial fiction. So in spite of unprecedented access, we are still living in a country where a large proportion of people are living with a 17th or 18th century awareness of the fundamental facts of life.
So if we take that 18th Century world view as a starting point, how much did industrialisation and technology change our relationship with time and how much did it commodify it? I think that time is a technology. Our experience of time has always been dependent on the media and technology we use to record and measure it. Text and writing more than anything gave people a way of experiencing the concept of time in the modern sense. The first written documents were contracts – and what do contracts do? They create agreement in the present on something that will happen in the future. The ability to write something down actually created the idea of the future as we understand it. Suddenly you could have the Judeo- Christian religion where the will of a creator could be realised. Suddenly you had
linear ideas of ‘progress’ where there was a clear ‘now’ and a clear ‘later’ and the human relationship with time suddenly became a lot less circular.
Then came the introduction of clocks, which opened the door to the industrial age by allowing us to measure people’s time. There was this shift away from the value inherent in a ‘thing’ to the value inherent in the time it took to make it. So rather than having my day’s pay pegged to the number of units I produce, my skills or my collaborative effort, it was set by the number of hours I worked and the clock became almost an analogue of labour. Then, when clocks went digital, our perception of time was changed again. ‘Real’ clocks moved fluidly through time with the sweep of a clock’s second hand. Every moment in time was connected to every other through that representation, and time was an unbroken progression that we could plot our relationship to. But with digital clocks, you are either at one minute or the next. You are either on the plateau of 23:22 or 23:23 and time has become a series of units – a series of pulses. It’s like the difference between an analogue recording and a digital recording - where the digital is sampled at a discreet rate with little blank spots between the audio information. Digital technology implies that we are living in a very different version of time and that is something I think we are only just adapting to.
If Future Shock dealt with Futurism – tell us about the concept of Presentism in Present Shock In contrast to Futurism, Presentism is about considering where we are now rather than where we may be headed. There are really two kinds of Presentism. There’s the false presentism of trying to catch up with the now represented by Twitter feeds, live updates, Google Now. It’s trying to stay abreast of data in real time and give and receive instant feedback – the pervasive, relentless need to stay current and stay simultaneous. We are almost chasing our tail to catch up with something that we never fully will or probably even should.
Then there is the ‘real’ now or what I call a positive presentism which acknowledges the biological and even astronomical cycles that inform your mood and your body. Most people aren’t even aware of what phase of the moon we’re in from one week to the next – and if you don’t know that – you don’t know what’s going on. That’s not astrology or mysticism – it’s what affects the tides, the neurochemistry of your brain, your ability to socialise and the mood of a planet. If you become aware that on one week everyone is swimming in dopamine and the next they are swimming in norepinephrine, then you can plan what you do according to those rhythms. In a digital reality – these things seem like superstition and we become completely unaware of the more cyclical, periodic nature of time and by subscribing to a digital chronology we become increasingly incoherent because the human body simply isn’t digital. If analogue is a representation of the real and digital is a sampling of the real – that still leaves the real! And that is where your body, mind and soul are and that is the now that we need to return to.
But it seems that almost all of our current existence is serving as a dissociative force. Even urbanisation is a huge factor in hermetically sealing us off from these rhythms. No one cares where food is grown – meat appears clinically under cellophane in the supermarkets, we are cognizant of retail but not production and there is almost nothing linking someone in a major Western city – or pretty much any other city for that matter into those basic natural truths. How positive are you that we will be able to unite the best of technological ‘progress’ with the more primal elements of existence Not only am I not positive about our ability to reconcile these things, but I think that it’s very unlikely that we will. I’m glad to be able to leave evidence for future civilisations that there were people here – the people I write about and engage with in the book – who understood some of this. That there were coherent humans living in this era. But I don’t believe that there will be enough of us or that
we will have enough energy and fortitude to bring us back from this brink. I think that we’re going to go over it and that the only way we’re going to reconnect with some of these fundamental rhythms will be through necessity when the systems we are using to avoid nature break down.
Is global warming looking like the most likely candidate to bring it all to a head It’s looking that way, but it’s never the most likely candidate that does it. It’s the one that gets you in the back of the head. My guess is that it will be some form of pollutant or toxin that disrupts the genome. They have started to find evidence that women who have been exposed to too much plastic are having children – and especially boys with major biological problems.It’s called Phthalates poisoning. I’m not pointing to that specifically, but as an example of the kind of thing that could suddenly reap consequences.
Global warming, while it’s very real is also a slow process. OK, we may lose some coastal cities and there will be displacement and hardships – more skin cancer, homelessness, poison mold -- but the vast majority of people will get through it without necessarily having to change their ways too radically. I wonder if our real reckoning might not come from something smaller and more insidious, but whatever it is, I think it’s almost inevitable that it will be a product of industrial corporate capitalism.
Speaking of corporate capitalism, isn’t what’s happened over these past 5 years the object lesson that we just don’t learn. Short termism in the markets has been exposed as a diabolical factor, naked gambling dressed up as investment has been seen for what it is, the absurdly complex systems of imaginary commodities that allows markets to invent money out of real commodities by multiplying the ways they can be bought and sold has been laid bare. And they’re all still at it. Apart from some political chest beating about reform that dissipated away – nothing much has changed. Yeah.................. And a lot of the time when people try to become more long term in their
thinking, they end up doing something equally silly like disappearing off the grid entirely and trying to escape culture altogether. It’s like what happens to some people when they take LSD for the first time. They look around them at society and at culture, are appalled by its plastic, superficial artificiality and suddenly want to move onto a commune and grow potatoes. They want to divorce themselves from all the trappings of first world culture in one fell swoop. Yet because that in itself is a form of short termism, they don’t have the frameworks to do it properly and the next thing you know, you have a cultlike environment or a similarly unforeseen outcome.
You have to slow down slowly, and in general, radical sudden shifts are unadvisable. I think what’s needed is for people to gradually change course and examine their lives for small positive changes they can make and how they could best contribute to a greater good. Even with the Occupy movement – when they were in Zuccotti Park it was a little too dramatic. It worked well as a showpiece, but for the long game, we have to learn to Occupy reality and to treat even our small decisions in that frame of mind. Where do you buy your food, which company do you give your money to, are you supporting worthy organisations with your consumerism?Once you begin, it’s much easier to do it in an incremental fashion than try for an overnight personal revolution. And it all really boils down to that. It is just more rewarding and more fun to live this way. Forget trying to change to save the planet or such huge overarching reasons. Supporting local producers, maximising your experiences of life, and achieving basic coherence is just a better feeling. We don’t always have to do things for things – that’s how you end up in that futurist, movement based, heroic journey, ends justify the means reality. The war against
stupidity is still just another war. The war against pollution is still just another war. We may respect their endgame on a certain level but the pattern of thinking in seeing things that way also contributes to disconnection and incoherence. Making changes in our life for their own sake is not only more fun but a more probable path to humanity reclaiming balance.
And ultimately – isn’t that the ‘moral’ of the book. That it’s all about experience – be it positive or negative - without an agenda or a timeframe or a label or a retweet. And that’s a shock. That is Presentism. That is the real thing. And to take it a step further, I honestly don’t think that the great existential horror is fear of death. I think it’s fear of life.
www.rushkoff.com Order Present Shock HERE
Defiantly stark, caustically cutting, bitingly irreverent, supremely witty and laced with a hint of nihilism, Mobstrâ€™s penetrating urban haikus are just plain fucking brilliant. His textual art is a shadowy social commentary out on a subversive heist of observational truth. Bold, black and ingeniously incisive, they slice through layer upon layer of accepted patterns, systemic conditioning and entrenched hypocrisy with a precision sledgehammer. Adressing issues like control, corporatisation, and the souless grind with languidly acerbic turns of phrase stripped to a spartan aesthetic, his spins and angles are invariably spot on. Plays on plays on words. And just so fucking funny
Within street art, he is also the voice of your sardonic mate who keeps you grounded as you get carried away on your own self importance. His satirical, mocking barbs are deeply heartening as a correcting conscience to a movement that is at once so special and yet prone to a lazy mediocrity as its fashionabilty snowballs. But while his mastery of the written uppercut is so utterly arresting, his art extends way beyond the word alone. Figurative silhouettes and half spoken scenes, CCTV trees, and injections of questioning amongst the concrete temples of bland are all part of his quizzical wander through our streets. And he had a pet lobster called Mobster.
How much does advertising dictate values and how much does it reflect them
Can the written word cut to ideas with a directness that a visual image doesn’t have
All I will say is this: If everyone walks around wearing shoes made from gold then you will probably start to think “why the fuck aren’t I wearing gold shoes?” The immoral implications of values set by advertising work on this ethos
If you write “smiley face” opposed to drawing a smiley face it is interpreted differently. Sometimes words are more direct than an image, sometimes not.
How differently do you approach figurative stuff to word based stuff
What initially got you into painting and writing. I think just being a human being. What’s the pull towards shadows of the human form. It leaves some of the information missing. If you paint in all the expression then everything can be interpreted pretty concisely. That, and when you want to paint the form of a human illegally in a busy part of town, a simple shadow is a lot quicker than anything else.
Thinking in words and thinking in images is different. Sometimes the words interact with an object and then the two modes of thinking start to combine.
How important is the unexpected in arresting attention and provoking thought
Do you consciously go for desperately grey, feelingless bits of wall
Probably very. It is easy for our surroundings to blend into nothing through repeated experience. It is exciting when you walk down the same old street and there is something new. Even better if it makes you laugh or makes you think.
The answer above sort of applies to this question as well but the wall itself is very important. Even if this is because the brick work is a little lighter so that what is painted on it punches out more. There are many factors to a good wall.
How important is it to hijack corporate mediums of communication such as billboards I am not sure if I can comment on how important it is. However, it is hard not to hijack such things. They are everywhere. If you take an interest in your visual surroundings, in fact even if you don’t, you can’t help but realize they are a significant part of it. If you enjoy painting on your visual surroundings it is impossible for them to not come into play. How site specific is your work Incredibly so. Half the work is finding the locations. Sometimes the perfect spot is so due to the direction of traffic flow. Other times it is because it is next to an art shop.
Why did you settle on such a stark aesthetic for the subversive slogans I used to hate minimalist art. I thought it was bullshit. But there is a charm in making things so basic. I eventually admitted to myself that I just like simple bold shit. Other factors had a part to play, for example: time. I have a large desire to paint, paint, paint but not a lot of time to do it in. I get no satisfaction from painting the same image over and over. Yeah, it’s always words but the message it carries is different. I strive to make things which have an impact. All these things and more made me go down the direction I did. How important is humour – however black and dry in getting a message across. Does it help circumvent people’s defensiveness to being ‘told about an issue whether they like it or not’ No doubt laughing lightens the mood. Maybe my work isn’t trying to be funny and its deadly serious but people just aren’t getting it… haha,..
How much have certain aspects of street art turned into a form of advertising. This is a confusing question and my thoughts jump around to all sides of the argument. I could probably write pages on this and it would all contradict itself. You could see it that everything is an advert. Clothes advertise our body. Hair styles advertise our taste. With this way of thinking by putting your work up in the street you are advertising it. When you sell a version of it on canvas you could be seen to be the same as the corporate advertisers. However, there is a difference. The corporate advertisers only have one aim: to sell, sell, sell. They donâ€™t strive to entertain you unless it ensures you buy their product. If they found out that making you depressed sold more product they would do just that. I would like to believe this is not the case with artists putting work out on the street. It is with some but not all. The main ambition is to make some good art; to bring some visual joy to the general public, to engage, captivate and inspire. Yes, they may make some money off the work but this is to fund putting more work out on the street. This theory probably doesnâ€™t stand up to reality, however this is how it is for me.
How dangerous do you think the increasing commodification and trendiness of street art is to its power Mainstream kills things. Once a creator reaches mainstream his art is clutched away from him and diluted. I have a love for Jungle as it somehow always stayed underground yet still has a massive following. In doing so it never got tainted. As street art becomes trendy a lot of bullshit comes with it I sort of feel that I would never like to become well known enough to become mainstream because then a whole lot of other shit will come with it that I donâ€™t want to be involved with.
How much has the internet amplified your messages and how much does the 3 second attention span of the average Facebook user make it more fleeting and disposable than on the street The internet is like putting your work into God’s stereo and pumping it down to Earth. It is nice for people around the world seeing it but ultimately I just want to paint on walls and that is what is important. When I started out I had no website and I didn’t sign my work. It was present but I did not take credit for it. I enjoyed that feeling thoroughly. With corporations already getting in on the graffiti style advertising mural, do you not think that if graffiti / street art - whatever one calls it, was legalized – it would instantly be subject to saturation and a co-opting of the medium by the very forces it subverts Loads of it is legal now anyways. There are no rules, rights or wrongs to what it should be. However I generally find the illegal stuff a lot more captivating. It adds a whole new dimension to the work. Not only may you be impressed by the skill/ message/ art but also in thinking “how the fuck did they get away with that”. There is the art and then there is the cunning.
Do CCTV cameras just have something about them that makes them perfect for parody. They are weird. You look at them and you think “is there some other person sitting miles away looking at me through a screen?” That is a creepy thought. Knowing that in some abstract way they have an awareness gives them the illusion of sort of being alive. This is why they are an interesting subject matter. CCTV is the visual indication of how little faith we have in each other.
How is your work perceived in Newcastle Not a fucking clue. How optimistic are you that creativity and expression will always find away through – no matter how tight the lockdown It is ingrained in us as much as the desire to have sex. Some people have empathy towards creativity and expression more than others but it will always remain.
Where’s the balance between staying pure and earning a living Fuck knows. Staying pure is hard. It means you will spend the majority of time doing something you don’t want to. It will mean you have to sacrifice chunks of your life so that you can make art. What does the future hold for you Painting on as much as possible. To keep on going.
EDM Music that moves your mind, body and soul?
“House Music, as defined by the original creators is music that moves your mind, body and soul.” [Afro Acid Trax] It’s 1997. I’m sat at Heathrow airport with my bandmate Howie, and our manager Graham and we’re about to embark on our first ever trip to the US. We sit there dumbstruck as the early morning TV reports flash up on the screen. “Princess Diana killed in high speed road crash in Paris”. I’ll never forget that morning, and I’ll never forget those first tentative steps into the seemingly alien musical landscape of America in the late 90s. This was billed as a fact-finding mission, a chance (at the record company’s expense – ie. ultimately our expense) to research this brave new world we were entering into, to grasp the mettle, to ‘press some flesh’, to return
full of wisdom, vitality and then to return and take the US by storm. As it was, we wound up twisted as hell in New York, wasted in LA, then in an act of crazy we hired a Cadillac and drove to Vegas where we partied like kings. Two weeks later we flew back to the UK where the mass hysteria of Diana’s death was slowly subsiding, and there in the relative calm of home we digested what we’d seen and heard in the States.
The most striking thing was that you just didn’t hear dance music. The radio stations were breathtakingly conservative at the time, sticking to tried & tested Hip Hop, Soft Rock and Country playlists, and stations like KROC and Grooveradio were seen as rare beacons of light as the internet was slowly taking its first baby steps. We’d come from a country with a rich base level of knowledge, where dance music wasn’t just accepted, it was about the biggest thing in all our lives. Ever since Acid House revolutionized our lives in 1989 and politicized the art of dancing, we had had our heroes – Underworld, Orbital, Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, and then subsequently the likes of The Prodigy stepped up, crossed over and became national treasures by the end of ’97. In the US it felt very different. Music is all about tribes, all about a sense of belonging, a sense of shared history. It felt like there was no common ground, no continuity of purpose, of sound, no tribe to belong to … the only people who were doing really well out there were The Crystal Method who were trailblazing their way around the country on tour after tour, filling a massive void where there should have been a hundred acts of their stature doing the same each year. What
was interesting was how they got their music heard & how they made their connection – through a series of movie & game licenses and then crucially an advert for Gap which was the one thing that took the music national overnight … and that, as Malcolm Gladwell would say, was most likely the Tipping Point that made for a million-selling album.
Fast-forward to the present, and let’s look at the gulf of change that we’ve seen & what impact that’s had on the music people are making. There’s been an exponential BOOM in the past 5 years in dance music in America, and most especially in the past 2-3 years where the likes of Ultra Music Festival and EDC have created behemoth-brands. The likes of Deadmau5, Guetta, Avicii, Tiesto and Skrillex have all become household names, no longer having to rely on Gap adverts to spread their musical message. They tour stadiums, their music is widescreen, their visuals & production values are stunning … and by the very nature of appealing to such vast audiences the scope for depth and subtlety has been quickly eroded. The music itself has quickly veered towards the binary –
POP HOOK – air punch – MASSIVE BASS – air punch – SYNTH HOOK – air punch - REPEAT. To work on that scale, the dynamics have changed. Dumbed down for added directness, to unite the enormous numbers as one – terrace chant vocals – terrace chant basslines – terrace chant synth hooks.
DJ Line-ups at these massive festivals have become a scramble to book every A-Lister under the sun, and in doing so production size and scale has expanded whilst set lengths have decreased. The acronym EDM has become synonymous with this mainstreaming of the music, and in many circles especially of the old guard, there has been no shortage of disquiet over the brickwall culture we’ve so quickly moved towards. It’s not hard to see why. Where underground club music has for years been about an intimate journey and a direct communication with people through music, played and consumed with soul, it’s increasingly becoming the preserve of the mega-rave, and without these personal connections to the DJ, to the music, we will lose a huge slice of experience. Meanwhile The Crystal Method no longer have to rely on a chance clothing advert to spread the word about a new release. None of us do. The internet and global high-speed
broadband has brought the music to all of us instantaneously; in a parallel to the musical developments this accelerated delivery mechanism has had its own savage effect on the industry. We no longer have to source our music, to look to those with knowledge and expertise. We no longer have the filters in place to strip the wheat from the chaff, so we gravitate more towards grabbing bushels of wheat, for nothing if possible, and sifting through it in our own way. We no longer truly feel ownership over the music we buy, or more likely download for nothing. The value has been stripped from the having, and people’s tolerance of waiting has decreased exponentially.
The net effect on the music? Has it lost some of those core virtues (“moving your mind, body and soul”), especially when it comes to DJ sets? Do producers care enough about ‘finishing’ the track, mastering it, ensuring everything is perfect? Is the networking, the immediacy, the dissemination of the music the override here? Is there time for the music to sit with people, for them to live with it? Do the DJs care about the promos they’re sent, given the whole world has access to those same promos at about the same time? The answer for me to all those questions is a resounding no, and the net effect is a driving down of standards in all aspects of the industry.
So look, I’m not here to argue against this new music, although I can’t say I’m a fan of many of these ongoing ‘industry’ developments. It’s not for me to argue against anything that people do musically, although I have to confess to feeling increasingly disenfranchised from it. I’ve never liked pop music, and I’ve never been a fan of the LCDapproach, of reducing an art form to its lowest common denominator to appease the legions, the masses.
What I am saying though is that in this increasingly ADHD business, I think there is more than enough room for alternatives and there’s no shortage of people who love their electronic music and crave the diametric opposite to the fast-food McMusic culture we’re increasingly seeing at every turn. In many ways this popularism ferments the underground. It inspires people to create alternatives and it’s a big part of why I’ve chosen to launch my own alternative take in The One Series with One Room, One DJ, All Night. These long sets allow for range, for distance, for depth and for story-telling on a much broader canvas. As a DJ you are setting
to out to tell a story in a number of chapters, not in bitesize soundbites. You are the warmup, the peaktime, the closer, and the feeling the whole crowd have at the end of these sets is far greater than the sum of its parts.
A big driver of this passion is the simple notion that when it comes to DJaying, it’s all about the context – how you set moments up, how you create curves in your sets, of the peaks and the troughs, the deliberate breathers, the space to listen, to move to engage with the sounds on a deeper level. It’s how you present a track that makes it grow, that makes it hit home much harder than it could ever do in isolation. If we lose those skills, and people become disassociated with the concept of movement and context in a set, we wind up with what we’re edging ever closing towards – a monochrome landscape of brickwall noise, where there’s no scope for growth, for exploration, for creativity.
Whilst EDM continues to gather pace in a staggering rush of gluttony and the perennial pursuit of ‘the dollar’, let’s not forget the music’s roots and its core purpose. Too much music, and too many events seem locked into a race to the bottom, in search of the lowest common denominator. Now this music’s being heard far and wide, let’s not lose sight of those core values …. music that moves your mind, body and soul.
Simon Shackleton AKA Elite Force www.facebook.com/TheOneSeries www.stereophoenix.com www.facebook.com/djeliteforce www.twitter.com/eliteforce
El niño de las pinturas
Welcome to the extraordinary world of El Niño de las Pinturas - The Child of the Paintings. Etching a dreamscape onto the the hallowed streets of Granada, his astonishing creations sing soft harmonies with the city’s warmth, creating a sublime symbiosis between art and architectecture, still life and poetic movement, favela and funk, the real and the ethereal, history and timelessness. Profoundly lyrical and penetratingtly beautiful, Raul Ruiz’s art is a flowing stream from the source where the collective consciousness and artistc subconscious dance in primal unity. Children whisper forgotten memories of innocence and wonder - but with none of the laboured metaphors we have grown so accustomed to in street art. It is never quite so simple as big bad world vs untarnished innocence - no there is
something much deeper at work here - at once painfully personal and universal in a way you just can’t pin down. Suspended in another world yet dancing the Anadalusian rhythms of Granada, his figures fade in and out of the terracotta walls and sun ravaged corners. Music pours forth from freehand as inscriptions envelop a soul in flux - where image, word and a panoply of triggered senses illuminate the recesses of unfinished stories unburdened by time. Courting no publicity or sailing any of the usual channels - he is his work - set back from the cycles of daily life and embracing the enchantment of shimmering pathos. We finally caught up with him for a far shorter interview than we would have liked, but then the art sings for itself.
First - a little history in his own words There was once a little boy lost. He looked under rocks and behind his shadow but could never find himself. He played with the stars and whispered secrets to the clouds that the wind would always keep. He asked the highest mountains and the oldest of the old, but no one could give him an answer. One day, he was jumping from planet to planet collecting dreams when he tripped over a tin can that tinkled like a little bell He picked it up, pressed it against his head and suddenly, a coloured flame washed over everything. The earth was no longer earth and the sky was no longer sky. Everything was colour and colour was everything. He looked deep into it and was blinded. Enraptured. Suddenly a glow made him close his eyes, and when he opened them he saw a little boy looking at him. â€˜Who are you?â€™ he asked. The little boy smiled and touched his hand.
‘I’m your smile’ he said softly while he transformed into pure light and melted away his armThe little boy lost sighed, looked up, smiled and heard the wind say something beautiful From that day onwards, the little boy lost jumped from planet to planet, chasing dreams and colouring his path. And he thought to himself. He who seeks will find ...................................................................... Tell us about the spiritual elements of your work Art and painting are languages - tricks of reality even that give a voice to those aspects of ourselves that would not otherwise be seen or heard except in dreams. Bearing that in mind, I try to remain completely spontaneous and stay in the moment. I suppose you could say that it is my conscious attempt to leave the door to my subconscious open and do everything I can to let it break through and represent what I am really trying to say. Not sure if that answers the question, but there you have it.
A lot of your pieces paint music â€“ how interchangeable are the senses â€“ how much does sound paint a picture and paint play a sound Music is one of my favourite art forms and I hammer it as much as I can. Even when I am unfaithful to the musical muse and head out painting, she still accompanies me, forgives me, plays alongside me and in the end we are all as one and party together into the night. I have been lucky enough to paint with many musicians and I believe that even though music has a much more potent language, the exchange of ideas and spirit between music and the visual arts is hugely important. Both languages have the same roots and both in many ways speak of the same things â€“ just in different tongues Yes, you can paint a sound and a sound can paint a picture .... all painting has its music, and its sculpture, its dance and its poetry. There are as many languages as there are people, as many perspectives and perceptions as there are moments in time and it is never just from one form of expression that something is born but from everything.
There seems to be something of a South American feel - a funk, a colour, a favela feel to your painting – are we imagining that? Yes there absolutely is and that’s what it’s all about – people’s interpretations and understanding of the paintings. Nothing is complete until you yourself – whoever you may be has come and seen it.
What do children symbolize for you That connection with everything around us
and that headspace that sees the world as something to play with.
How much are the pieces you paint defined by the landscape they are set in Massively so, in the sense that any environment is half of any piece. Sometimes those surroundings are only half finished though and need embellishment or life brought to them to feel complete. And in the natural order, when a space fells truly complete – very little graffiti actually appears afterwards.
There is a touch of sadness woven into much of your work. Is there a certain lonliness in painting Hahaha. A friend was telling me that my lifelong punishment was to spend my life facing the wall (like they do to you in school) and the other night I wrote ‘In the solitude of a wall..... I find myself’ But then it’s a false lonliness as while I remain just me – that wall will be visited many times
How much do you consciously address social and political issues and how much do you just suspend ideas in a dreamscape I try to be very conscious with my problems, and these are often social and political so it is inevitable that they end up reflected in my work â€“ sometimes very clearly and sometimes less so. What I love the most is when you can intuitively convey or understand something that isnâ€™t spoken or heard.
How important is it to interact with the city as a living organism As much as that interaction is really what keeps the city alive. Ultimately - what is your dream? My dream is to stay awake
POST GRAFFITI In 2012 graffiti died. As the wholesale selling off
of the graffiti subculture was brought into sharp attention in 2012 the last gasps of its relevancy in terms of its original purpose was finally over.
Between blockbuster films, guest appearances on the Simpsons, and the Apprentice, and the thorough marketing campaigns of t-shirt brands that pretend to be ‘street artists’ the commercialization of graffiti is now complete. But the value of this form of art, the inherent radicalism born into vandalism as a form of expression, still exists. It exists despite the aesthetic culture grab of big money, the branding of resistance and the trade-marking of writers tags. It exists despite the corporate world opening its arms and filling its pockets with whatever «street artists» it can latch onto, as cities extend legal walls and permission zones (sponsored of course by sports brands, soda companies and media conglomerates) and those who stand at the forefront of public attention to this form of art have become the brands
and corporations they once spoke out against. It exists because there will always be the need to reach out when you have nothing. To express ones self even in the worst situations, to fight back against the imposed limitations of society and the censorship of art forms. But graffiti is dead, have no doubt. Yet from its ashes something new is rising, a new artform that takes with it that one thing that graffiti had that wasn’t co-opted by capitalism, that soul with which graffiti was invested with all of its power - crime. Vandalism as a form of expression. This new movement is already in the world, already born. Yet it is just now taking its first tiny steps toward actualization. It has no name. Its language is yet undefined, but it is here. This new art form is a creative attack on the world. A full and frontal exposition of creative expression unfolded on the world for all to see, without permission, without license, without sponsorship.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, lets talk about why graffiti died in the first place. It has to do with something besides money. Something besides capitalism. It has to do with pride. With conceit, and with ignorance. The fact is that as graffiti developed out of the 80s and spread the world by the late 90s its practitioners began to have thoughts of ‘serious art’ and the desire to be taken ‘seriously’ by fine art establishments. No longer did they aspire to ‘get up’ on trains and bridges. They saw themselves as having a lineage from Picasso and Matisse, from Rauschenberg and Johns. But mostly, and importantly, from Warhol. Soon ‘street art’ had become a movement distinct from graffiti (whose writers defined themselves in less auspicious terms). Wildstyle was abandoned for cookie cutter shapes, stencils and masking effects. Computers allowed any image to be converted into simple lines without the need for drawing skill, simply cut out the holes and paint by numbers and you too could be the next Banksy™.
This generation of artists spent a great deal of time trying to distinguish themselves from their forbearers. And as the buyers caught on with the growing trend hundreds of ‘‘street art’’ galleries sprung up in the world’s majors centers. By the time MBW was making noise on the silver screen the bigger galleries (who pander more to the fine arts) started snooping around. Street art tours, print on demand photo collections, graffiti branded tote bags bought in Bricklane and Williamsburg. In their attempts to be «taken seriously» this generation of street artists sold themselves to the highest bidder. Contracts, trademarks, merchandizing, and distribution had replaced can control, fades and stencil cutting. In their haste to prove themselves this group never managed to actually capture the attention of «serious» art critics, other than in passing. No major arts magazine was rushing to review the print release of whatever fashionable illustrator had started branding themselves as street artists. No real art critic was speaking positively about graffiti as an enduring part of the history of art. It had moved too quickly, and become fashion. It had advanced in the direction of attention without the thought for its
true roots. It had abandoned its very soul, that power of insurgency found in real vandalism, and in exchange gotten attention and wealth. But it still was not being taken seriously by art history. Street art had sought to be the next big art movement, but had instead become this season’s fashion, a trend to be discarded once something new happened along. In co-opting the aesthetics of graffiti subculture and mixing it with an over seasoned Warhol influence street art has become a parody of graffiti culture. Name brand graffiti paint? Just think about what that means for a second. That the majority of writers and street artists use a paint made specifically for what they do says a lot about the scale and popularity of graffiti. If there is a reason Motip (who make Montana) would tailor the branding of their product to your subculture, it is no longer a subculture. When that vulture capitalism comes snooping around it means it smells the last gasps of life in a subculture it will immediately market to death. So pride killed graffiti. What can you do? In places like Miami we see the use of graffiti as a way of force gentrifying a neighborhood (one that just happens to be next door to a wealthy district, one that just happens to be full of an ethnic group easily pushed from their homes). We see gallery owners collaborating directly with property developers, inviting street artists to come and draw attention to this place with
their art. Pushing up rents, pushing out the poor. Graffiti being used against the very cultures that gave birth to it. Street art as the bait, as the tool with which capital can be raised, with which stars can be made. All of this marketing, this monetization and commercialization of graffiti has left behind something important. That facet of this form of creation that has to do with permission. Those big brand name artists aren’t sneaking out at night to do those ads. They are sending their crews out with the right paperwork and planning permissions in hand. Having paid to be in those spots, or more likely, having been paid. In the words of Shepard Fairey’s wife when asked if he still does his work in the streets ‘‘It’s been a very, very long time.’’ So what we have left, that value that could not be monetized, is vandalism. In history there have been countless people who have had nothing, and yet had something to say, something that needed to be said. Scratching, carving, painting, staining, etching the surfaces of the world in order to feel that they have some power. That they can, for that one instance, take back the public space from those who control the cities, regain something lost by the dominance of commercial advertising over our environment, fight against a society that continues to allow themselves to be herded like sheep through their lives. Or sometimes just to fuck with people.
There is an inherently democratic essence to vandalism. A willfulness that posits the individual against society, yet in a way that is accessible to any individual. I may write on your property, you may write on mine. You may write on someone else’s property and I may do your piece because you’re a toy. Everyone can have a go, it is the very nature of the game. Public space is that in which we share each other’s lives. The streets and parks and intersections through which we travel. This space is a gallery of aesthetic crime, a museum of pigmented expression. Despite countless efforts to deter the would be vandal, despite the continued coopting of graffiti culture by commercial interests, vandalism still runs rampant in cities throughout the world. Against a backdrop of graffiti styled fashion ads and ultra hyped marketing sensations there is something growing. A realization that this
sudden popularity in urban art is somehow an infiltration of ‘‘straight’’ culture and its corporate overlords. Around the world a handful of artists are becoming increasingly skeptical about the attention and the money. They are waking up to the fact that they can take back the streets, that there is nothing that can stop them from free expression but the law. Everyday they think ‘‘Something has to change,’’ and it is. The urban landscape as gallery is not a new phenomena. For countless centuries man has displayed art in those public forums in which the greatest amount of eyes would travel. Town squares once featured statues and frescos where now only adverts and banners exist. But this concept of bringing art into the world, of imposing creative expression on one’s environment without permission, is central to this new movement. What is new is the way in which architecture is playing an increasing role in the development of this art form.
Graffiti naturally manifests as a subjugation of its context. By imposing itself on the existing architecture it radically alters the landscape of our environment - changing our perceptions of that environment. Where architecture and urban planning go to great lengths to protect us, to make us feel safe, graffiti pushes our psyche into dangerous territory. Reimagining a once safe neighborhood as filled with crime, affecting the value of property, changing the pattern of urban policing in response to its presence. With just a can of paint an individual may alter a neighborhood, giving expression to underlying emotions felt in a community that are too often left unspoken. It is this relationship between the buildings and the paint that is the greatest advancement to happen in art in more than a century. This radicalization of painting, turning the painter into modern day anarchist, threatens the existing pattern of society. Because even in their greatest attempts to neuter graffiti corporations will never completely have control over how art and vandalism are becoming something new. Evolving into a new language of expression beyond the confines of the existing art paradigm.
The big question is if this new hybrid of criminal art will be fertile enough to give birth. Many of the late 20th centuryâ€™s art movements were beautiful hybrids, exotic yet sterile. Incapable of being part of the evolution of art, merely evolutionary dead ends in the shape of art history. Will this new movement grow to inform the 21st centuryâ€™s art in the way that Dada did almost a century ago? Will the democratization of art and its insurgent practitioners reshape the dialog between the public and the artist? Only the perspective of time will decide, but in the meantime this new movement is upon us, whether the world is prepared for it or not - it is here. RSH - Jan 1 2013
Raymond Salvatore Harmon is a conceptual urban artist, the author of BOMB: A Manifesto of Art Terrorism and a regular contributor to LSD. Get BOMB as a free download here:
16-30 MAY 2013
284 Portobello Rd London W10 5TE graffikgallery.co.uk
Diving hard into the liquid circuitry of the dark side and sending frequency assault screaming through the cracks, Datsik is a man on fire. Carving a radical groove through seas of sinsister bass and piercing melodics, his menacing soundscapes of neuron drilled precision have rocketed him to international acclaim and respect. Post apocalyptic sonic wastelands thunder with synthesised plunder as all enveloping floods of chrome wrongness suck solids deep into a slamming abyss.
Balancing a futuristic warp against an irresistibly glitching funk, his music is almost built to ring through a shaolin temple of maurading gangster cyborgs. Gleaming minimalism tears through the matrix as space meets vibration, skanks up a scratch and goes fucking nuts. We caught up with Datsik in the midst of a punishing tour schedule as his new 7 track EP dropped onto unsuspecting dancefloors.
How did your early studio experimentation come about? I was always playing around in Fruity Loops and I was hugely inspired by old school RZA and Wu-Tang Clan beats. So I would always try and make what ever I was working on really dark. In Fruity Loops I would basically make a drum beat and mess around with the synthesizers, but somehow always come up with these really dark and evil kind of sounds, I guess that kind of created the sound and foundation of my music today.
What sort of impact did dubstep have on you when you first discovered it? Coming from where I was as a hip-hop head it was great. As soon as I started making hip-hop it was starting to die out a little. The 90s era was the best for hip-hop and it was starting to fizzle out a bit into this newer stuff, so when I first heard dubstep it totally blew my mind. Music that didnâ€™t need an MC, that was dark and was really bass heavy just made perfect sense to me.
Do you see dubstep as - an evolution born of previous styles, or something completely new? It’s based on UK Garage, and kind of like a cross between hip-hop and breaks, so it’s definitely stemmed from other genres. Right now it’s totally its own thing and it has been its own thing for a while. Now things are starting to stem off dubstep like trap music and other types of twisted genres, but I think dubstep is its own root at this point. How important is the shape and geometrics of wave frequency to creating dubstep soundscapes?
Hip-hop has a raw earthy soul to it – how do you see soul in dubstep?
I think soul in dubstep comes from the deeper stuff and that was kind of the start of dubstep in its deeper, true minimal form. The main emphasis was around the sub bass of the track The sound design in dubstep is very complex and just the minimal elements would carry it and unlike a lot of other acoustical genres, dubstep is based around synthesis. When you through with tones of reverb, and making it take a synthesizer and experiment you usually all spacey. When you hear that at nighttime in a club with no lights it just blows your come up with these crazy soundscapes and cool sounds and that’s what dubstep is based mind. From there its progressed, changed and on – it’s totally experimental. I think that is the morphed just like any other genre and now it has become this entirely new thing, you foundation to dubstep, you can’t really take an acoustical instrument and make a dubstep can play it on the dance floor and kids will go crazy… its crazy to see how far its come. sound with it.
What was the experience of putting together an album like – was it a holistic concept from the start or more a collection of various tracks
to write an album, I’m going to need this, this, this and this in terms of variety’ I’m definitely going to have a totally different approach to my next album.
Originally I was planning on doing just an EP, but I kept adding more and more tracks and I kind of pieced it together and the way it sat felt like it could be an album, so at that point I thought I should turn it into an album. I waited and I made a few more tracks, I picked out of I think 16-17 tracks the 12 best ones in my opinion, and just moved forward with it… that was my thought process.
For my ‘Cold Blooded’ EP, the first part dropped January 22nd, it’s a 7 track EP and I’m basically doing some stuff for the old school heads who fell in love with me in the first place for the dark music I was making. The whole EP is really dark – hence the name ‘Cold Blooded’. The second EP is going to be called ‘Hot Tempered’ its going to be quite similar, but just different. I’m probably going to have a greater variety of tracks on there… it should be exciting.
I think my next album its going to be different, I’m going to sit down and be like ‘OK I’m going
What is it about the dark side of music that is so euphoric to you? It reaches back to where I started from. I’ve been making dark music since I can remember and I think I’m just better at it then I am making happy music. I’m more inspired by it, its cool, I like being able to play an evil track on the dance floor and have everyone freak out; it’s a good feeling.
How important is collaboration to keeping things fresh? Very important, I’ve done so many collaborations now and at this point I think it’s beneficial in a few different ways. You can sit down with a producer and write something in the booth, for example I wrote a couple tracks with Diplo and one of them was over the Internet and one was in the studio. When we did it in the studio I learnt a lot of tips and tricks from him that I now use in my productions. With collaborating you gain a whole new set of ideas and knowledge that you didn’t know
before and it’s only going to help you later on if you’re still a producer at that point. You learn from loads of different producers and it all gets mashed into one melting pot and then you spin it out with your own style and your own flavour. It’s definitely important, it helps you progress.
What are the upsides and the downsides as you see them, to the huge popularity and commercialization of dubstep and ‘EDM’ in general The upsides are that the shows are bigger and better with more sound, more lights and all that kind of cool stuff. I think the downside is that you get hipsters who do anything to hate on the genre. They’ve been into it a couple of months and they just move onto something else. That kind of sucks, for the people that make it their lives and are obsessed with dubstep and always have been, to then have these 14-15 year old kids out there who just troll the shit out of the
genre and basically go on the internet to talk about how shitty Skrillex is all the time… its just stupid and it sucks, it sucks for everyone in the genre that care about it, that’s my two cents.
How far can bass keep getting pushed and reinvented – is it infinite? I think that any genre that didn’t have bass before will have bass now, and I don’t feel like it’s going to stop any time soon. There are some elements that needed time to evolve and now that it has I think that it’s going to get introduced even more into different styles of music.
Tell us about Firepower and the ethos behind it? Firepower is about releasing good music that’s worthy of playing in sets. Quality control is number one, and I’m a strong supporter of all these new kids that are making bangers that aren’t getting enough recognition. Its really cool to be able to be like ‘Yo you haven’t cut a break yet, how about I sign an EP from you and down the road I can bring you on tour with me and hopefully get your career started.’ Its cool, that’s why I started Firepower.
You never sacrifice groove for the sake of over slick, over chopped, over production. What is it that keeps you centered and in the groove when the temptations of endless edits must be there Let me see, when I first started, the stuff I was making was a lot groovier. Then about a year ago I started to get a lot more into the technical side of it and at that point I started
to lose grasp of what was important in a dubstep track for me. This year I’ve started to move backwards, with tighter production and less edits and more about just getting a really solid groove and getting that wicked flow happening but also using the things that I’ve learned along the way. I’ve started to go back to a more minimal form I guess, in terms of edits, and keeping it simple but really, really groovy and I think that’s kind of what I’m doing going forward. What is your set up when you play out live, and how do you keep the live experience fresh – for yourself as much as for the crowds I started on vinyl, I moved to CDs, I went to vinyl Serato, I went to CD Serato and now I’m on Ableton. Ableton has opened up a lot of cool opportunities and ideas to do cool stuff while playing live. So I have a pretty simple set up, I use DJM 900s, Nexus with a launch pad from my computer and I have the DJM 900s & Nexus remapped to my own custom FX in Ableton - because you can use it as a mini controller. So I am basically using all four
channels on the mixer with just the launch pad launching clips, but all the FX are coming off the mixer. So it’s a really weird set up but its very simple and very effective and in doing that, and using all four channels at once it allows me to make really cool and complicated string mixes, so its really fun for me at this point. Is life crazy for you at the moment – even with all the traveling and tiredness? Yes! I’ve been touring straight for the last nine months, constantly, every weekend, or doing full on bus tours. I finally now have a month off and I’m going to get in the studio and at the end of the month I’m moving to Los Angeles.
What does 2013 hold for you? I’m planning on moving full steam ahead with the label, we have so much new music that’s going to be dropping on Firepower and its all so good, I’m really excited… I think this years going to be huge for the label. Come fall time I’m going to do another massive bus tour, and try and put as many artists on this tour as a possibly. Things have really blown up in the last 6-7 months with the last two tours and this time we’re going to try and do a mega tour and try and blow it out of the water so I’m really excited!
ELATE - NOSKOOLISM
As dazzling realism melts into stunning surrealism, the lucid lunacy of Martin Ron peels off the walls and goes for stroll through realityâ€™s folds. Humanity tinged with abstraction on an epic scale wrestles with dimensional space and surfs the elusive line between image and existence. Medieval machinery bulges out of a subliminal synthesis with the organic, bold splinters of fragmented colour whirl into portraiture and meaning slips in and out of focus and away at the final grasp.
Lighting up Argentinaâ€™s streets, Martin has not only set some sizzling standards in mural art and fought his corner in a message saturated landscape, but he has collaborated with local councils in an ongoing project to beautify the community and create genuine artistic engagement free from the strictures of propagandist patronage. As classicsm twists through the non linear narratives of the random and ambiguity floats through precision lines, we had a chat.
How did you initially start to paint
How did you start painting murals
Well I entered a few painting competitions during my teens and while I won a few award, others didn’t go so well as hyper-realism is not that ‘accepted’ in most art competitions. I had no intention of changing though. I began to consider other non traditional media and started to move my paintings on to walls where I realized that I had an instinct with large formats. Beginning at home and continuing at friend’s houses at the age of 16, I kept testing large scale works until I felt it was time to hit the street and some public What were your early influences walls. What better place to introduce my work The first influences I remember are the and contribute to public art without using classics. My parents had a collection of ‘artistic the formal art circuit and reach people in a genuises’ in the library, and I would spend different way. So I started painting in programs hours looking through the works of people like run by the municipality “February 3” through Leonardo, Raphael. Rubens, Caravaggio and policy initiatives that provided spaces to artists Velázquez. I really admired their realism and it to improve the quality of city life, and I just left a profound mark on me. The impressions went from there. made on a child are fundamental and define your path, so to this day, I love to paint with classical technique. The monumentality of these geniuses also somehow conveys onto the street. Murals are basically monuments in the street. As far back as I can remember, I have always loved painting and drawing. I began drawing at around 7 years old while I was still in primary school and my parents enrolled me in an extra-curricular art school. My teacher there always drove home the point that talent can be expressed through a broad range of techniques and by the age of 10, I was already pretty competent with oils.
What memories do you have of the period before 1983 when military rule was still dominant Almost none. I was two years old when democracy was reinstituted and my childhood memories are mostly family related. As soon as the junta were overthrown, people felt free again and new forms of expression began to manifest. I believe in evolution - everything is a product of the past and freedom to paint or exhibit any ideas in Argentina has come at a very high price. It’s what we do with it now that matters.
How did that period affect Argentine art Drastically. Any new idea was persecuted. Many artists and thinkers had to flee the country because the expression of an idea contrary to the official line was enough to “disappear”. There was a systematic plan to decapitate those who had those ideas and attempted to influence others. It was bad for art and freedom of expression amongst thousands of other horrors. How did your personal style evolve and develop its own identity My creative identity is still evolving. I have been painting for eight years and it’s a path that will continue to mutate and grow.. I love not knowing where it will end up no matter what I do to try and influence it. It’s the balance between my decisions and the unexpected that guides the evolution. I try to develop or perfect a technique. Then another. Then combine them and reinterpret them again There are always fascinating results and when things go wrong, you just learn the lesson and keep moving. I try to incorporate new concepts and lines to avoid consolidating a style and pigeonholing myself. It’s good to be a little self-critical to keep you on your toes. I always look to Castaneda when thinking about paths and try to remember that the destination is less important than the journey.
How does the nature of a specific wall affect what you choose to paint on it It’s the cornerstone of any mural. Some artists design in the workshop and then go “hunt” the wall that best suits the design. That has pros and cons and I actually do the opposite. I find a wall and it tells me what I should paint. It’s not just about shape and texture, but the surrounding environment, and how people pass by it. I examine everything from access routes to the number of cars passing, before starting to imagine what would work on it. What layout would work best, what would interact best and what would arrest the most.
How do realism and surrealism interact in your work I use surrealism as a concept and represent it with hyper realist technique to try and give the impression that ‘it’ really might exist. Most of my compositions incorporate a scaled human figure which guides the overall scale of the piece and somehow that is the magic touch. I like to incorporate many elements of everyday life taken out of their traditional context and inserted into new ones. I also try to avoid suspending it in a separate plane of reality where it is a fully immersive individual space, but try to make it interact with the ‘reality’ beyond its edges. I look for ways to suggest that the scene in the mural could be happening in real life.
How do you approach the balance between 2 and 3 dimensions
By creating a surreal atmosphere that is somehow unreal while avoiding metaphysical or dreamlike compositions. Combining elements that exist and are part of everyday life, but decontextualizing or oversizing without neglecting their essence That leads to very interesting dynamics that seem to come alive and detach from the wall.
How much is unzipping reality in El Mago a metaphor for life This is the shortest answer of this interview. I could write two whole pages but to do so would totally betray why I paint. If I really wanted to explain how I felt or what I meant, I would, instead of painting. The reason I do this is to see how other people interpret the painting I put up. They are only cards in a deck. How do you want to play with them?
Is consciousness a physical dimension We perceive the physical world through our five senses. That creates a reality through the organised abstract thoughts in our heads that combine with the feelings aroused by the physical world to determine our personality, our deeds and the way we move through the world. All this generates consciousness that leads us down the path of our true self - the judge that measures our actions. Consciousness exists on another plane but interferes with the physical world. As does painting. An artist materializes what happens inside, he modifies the world around him and interferes in the rest. Changing consciousnesses.
How vital is a sense of magic in your work Magic, fantasy and illusion is what takes us back to the innocence we had when we were children. We perceive the world differently as children and we need that magic to dream. As adults we need that magic to keep dreaming and longing for other possibilities in life. Dreaming of a better world. Anyone of any age has dreams or desires like flying, dominating the world, generating global peace, being a superhero or finding a suitcase full of money. We live because we dream, and if we can realize a dream or a great painting that is the evidence that there is something magical at work in the city. That is making magic.
Several of your murals have this amazing sense of fairy tale machinery â€“ where does that element come from It is perhaps a reflection of ourselves. We are, at core, organic machines and organized society functions as a complex machine which works with varying degrees of positivity and negativity. Sometimes you have to add and replace parts and when any complex set of moving parts are used and reused it begins to lose its form. That in turn creates more and more problems and new methods of regeneration and short term fixes lead it almost to the verge of collapse. My works somehow parody the system. I construct forms of human machines performing some action. But the observation
of a complicated, operational and yet ultimately meaningless system is an interesting demonstration of how things could be so much simpler.
Do you enjoy creating ambiguities in your work and opening your paintings to individual perception It’s what I enjoy the most and what I am always trying to evoke. I love hinting at a message that may or may not actually be there and creating ambiguous situations to make the viewer question what the hell is going on and why? The world is saturated with advertising messages telling us what to do, what to buy and how to dress. Painting murals in metaphorical shades of grey helps people to think beyond those absolutes It’s fundamentally bizarre that we all accepted and got used to the relentless bombardments of advertising. This routine creates a reality and because people are so used to the clarity of advertising, when they come across a piece of street art, they need to find a similarly direct message. It’s almost like a sickness –
‘Tell me what this MEANS’. And the simple answer is ‘NOOOOOO’. This is here for you to do what you will with – give it the lifeblood of perception and make it mean whatever you want or nothing at all. This is not advertising. This is art.
How much do you plan a piece and how much do you allow instinct and the moment to play a part I don’t dwell on the planning of a piece – it’s almost like if I listen closely, the wall will tell me what to paint. I look at the wall, watch the landscape and try to abstract myself until I get an image or an idea. At that point, instinct and experience kick in to guide my hand and my head alike as I paint the first strokes. When I start a piece, I know I have 50% of the painting sorted, and the rest is just letting myself flow.
How aware are you of your murals interacting with their surroundings after you have finished them and how often do those screen so I try to take that into account. And I interactions work out differently from what am still surprised that it transcends geography you were expecting and cultures. Like this interview which travels with my work. It’s like everyone who looks I am aware of the effect that I’m looking for. at it from anywhere in the world becomes a I don’t so much want my work to be enjoyed passive collaborator in future works because as to provoke a deeper and more complex the comments on Facebook drive me to work reaction. I hope that people will take photos, on new concepts and keep going. reflect on the piece over time and in doing so, discover new elements in much the same When you paint a work it belongs to everyone. way as 3D optical illusions often look different Everyone can interact as they wish. Even cover at different times. I hope to excite people, it, or damage it. Take pictures. Criticize or awaken the desire to share these photos and admire. Conduct interviews or want to know make the experience transcend a moment the artist. etc. etc. There are countless ways in time. Today’s technology allows people to that people can interact with the paintings appreciate art from a distance and through a from countless places.
How important is humour and the absurd in your work I once read that we laugh at jokes or absurdities because our brain is so predictable. So when something unexpected takes it by surprise, it reacts with laughter. That is the essence of the joke, confuse the brain with an “error” or “something unexpected” and use the reaction to create positivity and joy. I work from that premise and try to infuse my works with humor, absurdity and surprise – after all, it should be fun This feeling is so important in the street where predictability is locked in by the billboards of obedience. In a place where everything is grey, to play with humor and absurdity is to play with the mood of the people. 30 seconds of joy and happiness that break the routine. Where a mural is that ‘’Error’’ in the daily routine, I feel I have really achieved something. Watching the world go by and smiling at the work they stumble across on the commute, seeing that ‘ERROR register truly makes me happy.
How do you feel about the concept of ownership in art
honouring heroes. In any portrait we try to recognize the subject and find some characteristics to give us some insight into Well I do street art. I can’t roll up the wall their personality – whether gesture, clothing, and take it home. From the moment you or abstract clues woven in. Although they are decide to paint a wall, you know that it may mute, they speak volumes and we want it to have a lifespan of 24 hour, months or years. tell us it’s story. I use the portrait a lot for this. It all depends on the circumstances. It may And for the effect it has by being oversized not be well received, it may be covered in the street. Sometimes I paint friends or by other work, it may be trivialized, or it family and include them in my compositions, may be decalred part of the city’s artistic other times I just perform a literal portrait of heritage. But that doesn’t matter as I have no someone important or a popular idol which illusions that the work is ‘mine’. Street art is always goes down well on the street. And I ephemeral and circumstantial, so when I finish mean popular idols who have made some it effectively belongs to everyone to do what positive contribution to our culture. We’re they will with. Ironically, many local people go used to seeing monuments on the street, to far more trouble to preserve the work than but many of the historical sculptures depict I do – not least because I would rather paint people who may have played a significant over an old piece than try and restore the role in the national story, but that role is cracks often tinged with blood. The visual impact of a giant scale portrait is very interesting – and something that you can’t really achieve How do you see the essence of portraiture with any other idea. The portrait is the most popular and if the goal is to popularize art Portraits have always been currency in through urban painting – it plays a huge part. the history of painting – from models to
How important is muralism in a corporatized visual world
murals were an interesting political tool that sought to strengthen the community by connecting artists and property owners in In a world where visual pollution and a bid to improve everyoneâ€™s experience of advertising saturation is so extreme, the mural urban life. But it was informal and sporadic. is a breath, a pause. When I started to participate (10 years ago) Millions of posters with imperative messages. I took it really seriously â€“ so it was more than just an excuse to meet up, but actually All telling you what you have to do. How you should dress. What fizzy drink to have. Where paint to make a mark, to create a work that parking is permitted. Where you can turn and is truly appreciated and respected as art. At that point it really took shape and laid lasting where to cross the street. foundations â€“ all with a budget approved by Encountering a mural is to stop taking orders. the mayor. They invite reflection. They invite you to The mission is to reclaim spaces through dive into your own inner world. In those few artistic expression using cheap resources seconds there is a stop and your head has a (sometimes donated by companies). Hiring moment to reflect, to stop taking orders, and start asking itself questions. That moment that local artists to not only to paint and beautify neighborhoods, but to create a space for their changes the life of people who interact with professional growth and a meeting place for a mural is enough. And it is as critical as the all artists who want to participate. silences in music.
Tell us about the Programa de Embellecimiento Urbano
What is the attitude of the authorities to your work
The urban beautification program is a product of years of experience related to mural painting in the February Third district (Buenos Aires, Argentina). A few years ago
It always depends on which ones. The more switched on, like the people behind the Urban Beautification totally support street art as they recognise it as a channel for promoting art and community growth.
To be honest, most of the people who don’t really understand it still respect it in some way, but then there is a minority who regard it as a waste of resources and just don’t get it at all.. There is a bit of everything. What I have learned from experience is that when you do things better and better you win many friends and many enemies. It could be jealousy, vanity or closed mindedness, but ultimately 95% of people are positive and want to see more.
How much creative freedom do you have on official commissions and how much do certain power structures try to influence them It all depends on the work and who you’re working for. I’m now at the point where I can do whatever I want and they trust me to deliver something interesting. It’s very different from being hired to paint a specific set of interests. I always lean towards those that give me the greatest freedom and the key is not to impose anything heavy handed but to apply paint on a wall in a certain way that generates positive feelings. And to leave a footprint
Can you give us some insight into Argentine street art in general It’s hugely varied. Argentina is a very culturally diverse place and street art is a relatively recent tradition that is increasing in popularity. The millions of tourists who are amazed by the number of works that in our streets is testament to how vibrant it is. And I go beyond painting. Street art is manifested in many ways - from dancing tango in a corner, doing aerobatics at stoplights or living statues. That same diversity is found in the paint medium too. There is a boom in urban painting and as new artists come up and inspire yet another generation, the movement begins to build exponentially. In Argentina there are many muralists and each has a very personal and particular style. You very rarely see the same aesthetic reproduced by different artists. There are stencil artists , graffiti writers, muralists and a ,lot of freedom and opportunity. As long as you have permission from the owner of the wall, you can take all the time you like and the state has no authority to penalise or censor your work. The difference here is that street
art is not perceived as vandalism or seen as a threat, so the environment is very receptive and you have the time and space to paint really searching pieces on all kinds of scales while experimenting in a way that you simply couldn’t in an illegal context.
You do a lot of teaching and community work. How essential is it to open doors for young people beyond consumer culture It’s vital to plant seeds today that will give fruit in the future. I am surprised at how many people need an explanation of something that is just to appreciate, interpret and enjoy. I am surprised how many people do not understand a service that asks for nothing in return. Or that they see you as “chosen one for having a talent of divine origin” when behind it all is hard work and a willingness to learn,. Unfortunately these are the constraints of the era in which we live. Where everything is obedience and pleasure and happiness are rarely the reward of a hard day’s work. Where most of the things that make people open their minds are already diluted and the law of minimum effort is applied to thinking. There mindset is already closed I’m very interested in young minds. The younger they are the more seeing creativity
and beauty impacts them and they suddenly make the connections between work and positive result. That’s not a giant poster made by a printer. Not a billboard. Not a giant screen transmitting thousands of messages of obedience. It is real, someone is doing it. Knowing that someone gets that message is half the battle and it is hugely rewarding to hear kids saying ‘I want to paint like Martin Ron!’
What does the future hold for you A lot more work - opening new doors and seeing new places. Each painting is a new adventure. It is a door that opens. And my job is like a bunch of keys. What most interests me is the challenge of new horizons. I know there are many great achievements left to reach for, many new friends to meet, maybe a couple of enemies and a lot of headaches. But ultimately, I have no idea, and that is the best bit!
www.facebook.com/martinronmural With thanks to Buenos Aires Street Art for some of the photos
As one of the most magnetic acts in the bassline business, Freefall Collective have consistently set new standards both in live performance and roots driven dancefloor magic. Forged in the volatile flames of live performance, their sunshine soaked synthesis of styles ebbs and flows through hip hop, all enveloping dub, old school euphorics, and jump up rudeboy breakbeat. With a timeless warmth woven through the prisms, they perpetually defy stylistic orthodoxy and distil wonderfully diverse elements into a deeply individual sound, perhaps best defined as the very essence of modern festival culture. It is difficult to overstate the importance of their identity as a live band - and when we
say live - we mean every element and switch up on stage being born in the moment rather than the dry mathematics of pre sequenced formula. The organics and intuition of the live experience feeds back into their studio work in feel and texture as well as generating a vivid catalogue of the unexpected. As soulful mysteries and impassioned skanks through reggae’s subconscious roll furiously into all out peak mayhem, their new album, Sounds Out of Time has just dropped to critical acclaim. With throbbing live gigs doing breathless in style and the epic soundscaping of the one and only Arcadia Spectacular’s show, big t’ingz a gwan for the Collective as they freefall through the eternal sunshine of the raving mind. We caught up with James and Gareth for a chat
Can you give us a little insight into your backgrounds Gareth – I played in various bands through school until I caught the production bug around 2000 and started buying a few bits of hardware. Getting hold of those first bits of kit rapidly turned into a bit of an outboard addiction and I’m now sat here looking across 3 Akai MPC’s. Things really spiraled from there as I got deeper into the electronics, kept feeding my hardware habit and started to produce with James. James – I’ve been playing a variety of instruments since the age of 6, so music has always been a part of my life. I also played in a few bands during my school years, but it wasn’t until I went to university and started a funk band that I actually began writing music rather than just playing it. When my family moved to Dorset, fate took a bit of a hand and I ended up joining a band that Gareth was in with a name so cool it’s probably best to keep it under wraps. I’d done a bit of raving in Malta of all places and come back with a Roland MC 303 rather than a hangover and a
dodgy hat, and Gareth ended up buying it off me for his growing collection. We both started to get more and more into that side of things and when we realised that you could use computers to not only make your own music but burn your own CD’s – that was it. The revolution was in full effect. Gareth – So when James got himself a desktop, we began to combine his computer with my studio equipment and even when I went off to do a sound engineering course, we continued to send each other tracks until in about 2002 we came up with the name Freefall Collective and started a band.
Did you actually have a collective at the time or was it just you two and a dream Gareth – We most definitely did have a collective – of about 13 people in the band in late 2003 / early 2004. It was quite hip hop and downtempo to begin with but as we started to embrace the breaks sound in about 2005, we began to pick up the pace and push up the tempos just at the moment we met
Manic. Things were getting pretty unwieldy on the collective front, so we pared the band down to a core and started gigging out with Manic. James – Having had a lot of experience in bands where you rehearse, jam and try to write a song between six people, I learned quite quickly that it was almost inevitably one or two people in a group who really drove the songwriting process. When we realised that we could write music for a specific band or a certain format at home on the computer, it was a game changer. It suddenly meant that you could put together every aspect of it, take it into the rehearsal room and let the musicians bring the music to life. Gareth – And because you already have the template for a tune when you approach the band, it makes the whole process that much more focused.
been a drum n bass MC since he was about 15. I remember going to a club where Aquasky were playing and the night hadn’t exactly caught fire yet. What really struck me was that Manic got up on stage with a room of people loitering at the bar and within 25 minutes, he had them all dancing. He’s got that talent, that ability to bring a crowd to life, read a room and be a Master of Ceremonies and when he injected that spirit into our live show, it really lifted everything to a new level. Gareth – I saw Kristy singing in a local Bournemouth band and approached her to see if she might be interested on working on a few bits……and then announced shortly afterwards that her first gig with us would be on the Glade stage at Glastonbury.
James – Simzy, Gareth and myself are all multi instrumentalists, Jon and Kristy have always been singers, so music has been a passion for all of us throughout our lives. It was a great James – Simzy, our drummer has been experience to harness that and put together involved since the very beginning. We wanted a band out of Bournemouth who were going a drummer who could play to a click, play with somewhere. And it’s been loads of fun samplers and be a solid metronome against any program that was running. Jon Manic had
How much did the two of you write with a live context and the band in mind – leaving spaces to be filled organically by the vocalists and bearing in mind how the tracks would engage with a crowd without going through the filter of a DJ Gareth – Whenever we write a tune, we are envisaging how it will go down live, and always trying to write a track to end the set on. Other tunes will get shifted forward as the latest trouser flapper goes into the setlist as the finale. James – It was actually quite odd when we got signed to Resin and our first singles came out to suddenly find ourselves as part of this DJ scene when we’d always been a live band. We’d written for a live band, and when the label started asking for 12 inch versions of a certain track, we weren’t all that sure how to translate what we were doing into that tighter framework. It was an unexpected push into the deep end of the dance world which has taken a while to adjust to. I think writing for the band gave us a uniqueness that set us apart from the traditional DJ / producer, but it’s limiting at the same time as you have a
defined vocal identity rather than a constant flow of guest vocalists. Now we try to do a bit of everything with live stuff, instrumental bits, remixes, band releases adapted to a single form and branch out a bit more. But
absolutely – when we started, the brief was to be a live band and rock the festival scene. Meeting Atomic Hooligan and touring with them was a great formative experience too, as we’d only really been together for a year when we hit the road with them, and it did wonders for our confidence on the bigger stages.
What was the state of live dance music when you started to emerge. Was it pretty unusual to be a live band on the dance music scene? Gareth – Very much so. There was a definite gulf in that you either went to see traditional live bands playing rock or folk or ska or whatever, or you went to a dance night that was DJ orientated with maybe a singer or a percussionist. It was only really at festivals that you’d see dance stuff being played live, because the big stage dynamic lent itself to more of a performance element. There was very little of it happening within the club world. We approached it by synching our drummer to the electronics and trying to do as much as possible live.
James - There was the Freestylers, Red Snapper and The Prodigy but that was about it. I remember seeing Leftfield headline The Other Stage at Glastonbury and Chemical Brothers on the main stage in 2003 I think. You had these massive stages completely covered in hardware and two guys buried behind it. If they weren’t just pressing play, they were taking a massive risk that one midi lead somewhere in that jungle of cables not working.
Well this is it – you had all these vast towers of equipment on stage, and a well informed suspicion that all that was really going on was pressing play and twiddling the filters. As a live band – how did you feel about that? Was it all just a con job? Did you have to respect it? Gareth – There’s always going to be a compromise between maximizing the possibilities of technology and keeping those live elements. We’ve always used the MPC’s as the foundation of our live sets with all the sequences loaded up in the sampler going
live and bringing elements manually in and out of the mix. So the tunes are being built totally live – yes the electronics are already in time and the notes are already in, but you are mixing all the elements on the spot. James – These days, you don’t need to go out with all the hardware – you can just go out with a laptop which has all the same functionality. Back then, that’s what their studios were – a load of hardware with a sequencer in the middle of it. In some respects, it was live – depending on your definition of live. Are we talking guitarists going off on solos and that kind of thing?
it live. That’s an entire studio on the stage jamming and the production happening on the fly. But how do you tour that? And that was another factor in shaping our live strategy. How much gear do you want to carry around? How flexible do you want to be? How many people do you really need in your band? How much money do you want to make after logistics costs and a 15 way split? These are all critical questions and you do have to balance those realities against what you are trying to achieve.
But then a lot more people are doing things like that these days. I saw some feedback from a major record label recently who had signed an act precisely because they didn’t use technology, but sounded like they did. No – I don’t mean recreating every sample I look at guys like The XX, they write in the live on stage – but say a bassline drops or a leadline comes in – a button has been pushed drums live on the MPC, and I’m thinking – well – why don’t you just sequence it, especially as or a fader has been nudged in real time to make that happen. That you actually change we all know that if one hit is out of time, the quantize function will knock it back in. I think a drum pattern and mix its constituent the difference between the general public’s elements rather than have preprogrammed conception of what live is compared to those changes after however many bars. in the know is a very interesting grey area. Gareth – That’s exactly how we approached it with the pattern based framework. Everything would be looping and you bring channels and sounds in and out – so in some ways – it’s a live mixdown rather than actually writing the music live. . The problem with being up against DJ’s is that they are playing fully mixed and mastered tunes with all the detailed action pre written into the peaks. When you go on after that and mix everything live, it’s never going to sound as fat or well produced, so there will always be this trade off where you should at least get all the bass and drums pre processed so they don’t swallow one another and you are that much closer to the perfectly mixed tracks the DJ’s play on either side of your set. That risk factor is always there though James – The live question is a funny one. The extreme of that equation was Reprazent I think. You had a whole band, DJ Die and Krust on workstations and Roni Size with a 32 track mixing desk in the middle, literally producing
Gareth – To be honest – no-one looks at me anyway –all eyes are on Manic and the guys up the front. I could be catching up with a few emails and no-one would notice. James – One of the reasons we work with people like Manic is that you can sit in the studio and make a great track, but as 2 producers on stage, unless you have a really good live front to your act or can pull off something unexpected and impressive, it’s simply not going to work. Performing on stage to 5000 people is an entirely different skill to writing the tracks. It’s something we’ve worked on for years and it’s what makes Manic so essential, because he really holds a crowd and that is something neither me
nor Gareth can do. That is the key to a live performance. Look at Dub Pistols – they always have a really charismatic front man – they had Rodney P and now they have Darrison. Without that – they may as well just DJ.
So breaks was kicking off hard as you were connecting up with Manic and taking Freefall in a new direction. Did you find that it was a great framework to juggle lots of different influences from dub to hip hop to jungle. Gareth – We were instinctively drawn to infusing our music with dub elements so that worked very well around an upbeat breakbeat.
It’s always been a very open genre that allows for crossover and it felt like we had a lot of freedom to chuck in all kinds of influences while keeping it dancefloor friendly. James – There’s two camps in breaks. We came from the hip hoppy, dubby side of things rather than the housier, more techno origins. I’ve always been into reggae, dub and hip hop and it seemed like a great opportunity to channel everything in, as well is it having an ideal tempo to work well live..
You have a very individual background texture to your sound that puts an almost trancey, technoey spin on dub effects and gives your music a very specific feel – how conscious was that, or am I reading too much into this James – I do know what you mean. I think one reason for that may be that we used to write a lot of chillout music, and I do think that feeds through into some of the textures of our current stuff. And if your references are perceived by the public as coming from roots culture, then they’re behind you all the way.
Everybody loves a bit of reggae! Gareth – We use a lot of delays. Almost everything has a delay on it which in itself creates a certain soundscape.
How do you strike that balance between loads of delays and dubby flavours that inherently have a slowing effect and keeping things pumping and upbeat – is that tension between the 2 key to the feel James – It just happens…….. For example, if we’re writing a new tune with a big b-boy break on it, we won’t be averse to getting a trance pad out and seeing what that sounds like. I think coming from a band perspective rather than a straight production perspective, we’re more inclined to try weird things and see how they develop. Gareth – I do enjoy the challenge when writing a dancefloor track of putting in a chilled pad and then trying to modulate it to give it some movement and shape it into the rest of the track. It’s not like we set out to do it intentionally but it does seem to happen organically.
Gareth – It’s a combination of both. You start off with a rough brief and you start off with a few soundscaping ideas to try and nail James – We got booked to do a show on the right vibe for each section of the show. their Afterburner stage at Glastonbury in I do quite a lot of sound design making FX 2009. That for us was the best gig we’d ever for sample libraries, so I’ve got quite a lot of done, and then the following year, we got a software for creating atmospherics, so that phonecall from them saying that they were got put to good use for the collaborations with putting together a show and wanted a live Arcadia. It starts off pretty loose so we can band as a focus – were we interested. So we see how the performance and the music work ended up working with them on the show that together overall, and the tight timings come was Glastonbury 2010, though it started out later. as about an hour long. They loved our music and felt it really suited the stage and the vibe, James – It gets really fiddly at the end as they work out how long it takes to move a crane a and we’ve worked with them ever since. It’s definitely been quite a mad ride getting asked certain distance, or how long it takes for an acrobat to get down a cable, and the aerial to do soundscapes and sound effects and choreography is always a difficult dimension playing on that stage. to nail down with precision. By the end of it, you’re splitting hairs over a second here or a second there, but it’s totally worth it in the You soundscaped their 2012 show at end to have a seriously tight show. Boomtown recently – is it a fantastically creative process working with flames and acrobats and being able to think visually, or is it insanely fiddly as you keep having to adjust to endless lighting, pyro and performance cues How did you guys initially come together with Arcadia
You’ve been quiet on the release front be hearing new music, so now that we’ve had leading up to the new album – what have you a few months off getting the backlog of stuff been up to out, we’re ready to crack back on. Gareth – We’ve been getting a lot of tunes together, and spent a lot of time in talks with various labels. It got quite frustrating as people tried to have their say in what we should be doing musically, and after getting mucked about a fair bit, we decided to go our own way and set up Supafrequency. It’s taken us the best part of a year to get everything in place, but now it’s all clicked into gear and we have a bank of tunes ready to go. James – You get an offer from a cool label, send them the tracks, and the next thing you know you have a list of changes they want in your inbox. So doing everything off our own back did become a priority. We’ve also taken a step back from the live stuff since New Year 2012 partly because we wanted to get our heads down in the studio and partly because there was no new material out on release to support it. There’s a point at which your band doesn’t want to be playing the same tracks night after night and when your fans want to
Speaking of what labels want – you have managed to systematically avoid the current fashion for filthy dubstep basslines – how tempting was it to go down that road Gareth – The thing about chasing genres is that by the time you’ve caught onto a trend and figured out how to produce it properly, you’re out of date anyway. We’ve never seen the point in going down that road – but then nor have we ever tried to avoid anything consciously – we just do what we think sounds good. James – We’ve had a lot of chats about this and seen a lot of other acts that we know pursue what’s popular in order to keep the DJ gigs coming in. But we’re not really doing this for that reason – we just love writing music. But we have a lot of tracks at 140 bpm and Ignition is 147, so there is definitely scope for DJ’s to mix it in with a bit of dubstep. I found
the shift up to 140 really exciting as suddenly there’s jungle at that tempo, breaks are getting faster and faster and there’s the half speed 70bpm option that dubstep is made at. It’s been a really inspiring development to see the genre walls coming down within DJ sets, as people won’t just rigidly play one style any more. We’ve done a few gigs recently where the crowd is a whole new generation and they don’t mind whether you’re playing Congo Natty or dubstep or breaks or whatever – they weren’t going out to hear a specific style or be part of a closed scene. There was a time when it was almost like being in the playground at school with the house crowd in one corner, the breakbeat guys in the opposite corner, the techno crew in the shadows and the junglists shaking their heads at the lot of them. Nowadays, everyone’s a bit more open minded and you hear that in people’s DJ sets – in fact you even expect it.
On that note, how important was it for the album to be a bit of a journey through vibes, tempos and flavours rather than a collection of straight up bangers
Gareth – It was very important. As we said, we started out doing hip hop and chillout, so we wanted to give a full spectrum view of what we’re about rather than just the dancefloor friendly stuff that we’ve previously put out on other labels. Putting together an album does allow you to take chances and give a more rounded view of yourselves and what you’re about.James – When we were actually putting it together, selecting tunes and deciding where to focus our time and effort, it was vital that you could come home from work, stick it on and not have to turn it off after the third track because it was too full on for the front room. There had to be a track on there for everyone and it had to be a bit of a journey.
How’s the reception been Gareth – We’ve had some fantastic feedback from people we really respect and it’s been really encouraging. We weren’t sure how any of it was going to go down, and we did feel that we had stuck to our guns for better or for worse through the process, so it’s very reassuring to get feedback like that and know we did the right thing.
James – We also had the realistic concern that because it had been a fair few months since some of those tracks were finished, it would be out of date. The dance scene does move that quickly, but we had an edge on it precisely because we were a band rather than a production unit that may feel more pressure to genre chase. Being a band somehow gives you more freedom to put out your music on your own terms rather than having to consider which DJ’s are going to play your tunes. And we’ve had comments back like ‘this is old school vibes with new school production’, people like Crystal Method and Freq Nasty love it and it is very fulfilling to know that people are so positive, not least because it was hard to stick to our guns.
of releases flowing for the moment and put a new live show together for the end of the year to go out and smash.
James – I feel that with the album, we’ve released our back catalogue and we’ve gigged all the material hard. Though we will of course gig it again where appropriate, right now feels like a clean slate from which to start building. Now that we are set up and independent with the label and our profile is back out there with the current releases, we are in a great position to open up another front. We’ve kept our hand in with the DJing over the course of the year and kept our names on the bill, and that’s been a great experience in its own right, even if we are gagging to get the full live show fired up again – possibly with a new look to it. Ultimately – as we’ve said – we are a band before anything else and having got our heads So what’s the plan at the moment and for the round our crossover with the dance scene, we next year or so really want to get the live aspect and the band dynamic rolling again and do some killer gigs. Gareth – We’re in the studio doing a lot of writing, we’ve got some stuff lined up on www.freefallcollective.co.uk other labels as well as a couple of EP’s on our own label. We want to keep a steady stream
My Dog Sighs
Melancholic cries of silence echo through abandoned metal as the mundane and functional sigh deep into a raw pathos. Crumpled cans of fleeting convenience past take on new life through the haunting characters in My Dog Sighsâ€™ work. Everymen and women fade into forgotten, concrete nomads as his characters sing trampled identity through the maelstrom; begging an empathy that may never come and only you can manifest. A superb innovator and a wellspring of creative ideas amongst the refuse, his focus goes well beyond his cans and his rainbow
everyman. Coining the term and the concept of Free Art Friday, he has driven new systems of artistic interaction, pushing purist ends through inclusive means. Systematically putting free art out on the street every Friday for over a decade, the innocence and passion of this urban treasure hunt have made him a cult figure. Restlessly opening new windows into humanity through his painting itself, his community projects and the poetry of an accidental find, he continues to change the fabric of the world - one tiny glance at a time. We caught up with him.
How did the name My Dog Sighs come about? When I started working on the street about ten years ago I was quite late into the game at thirty. I was doing things maybe a respectable teacher and father wouldn’t normally be doing. I was paranoid I’d get caught and lose my job so I wanted a name that had no link to me. I also wanted something that would be instantly memorable and that would add another layer of interest/confusion to my work, less a name and more a tag line. Ten years prior to that I had seen a phrase scrawled on a door in Barcelona. In the split second I saw it, it had stuck in my mind... My dog sighs. I didn’t own a dog, it was definitely confusing and if I could remember it for ten years after seeing it for only a split second then I guessed it would work as a name. It’s funny. Walking into the pub now I get “Oi! Mydog!!’ shouted at me. It causes all sorts of confusion.
It’s clear you’ve been around for some time now but what initially inspired you to produce art for the streets... As a kid in the 80’s I remember seeing graff hit my town and spent many a happy hour covering my exercise books. I regrettably never picked up a spray can back then but did follow a career that led me into teaching art and always followed the graff and emerging street art scene. When I started producing work on/for the street I wasn’t a kid with a need to territorial piss but I did like the beauty of the urban decay, the peeling paint and rust and the landscape that street art was set in. I wanted to produce work that interacted with a wider public and used the backdrop of the street but without damaging property. I had a home I worked hard for and didn’t want others to deface so it would be hypocritical for me to go defacing others’ property. That’s how freeartfriday came about.
Tell us a little about those early Free Art Friday days and the purpose behind the project… I used to catch the train to work on a Friday to do my bit for the environment. Each week
I’d arm myself with a bit of painted cardboard or scrap of wood I’d been working on and find a little spot to leave it. I didn’t have much spare cash so I used materials I could find, often bits of rubbish left lying round on the
street. I liked the idea that I wasn’t really littering if I found the rubbish on the street first. I had no idea that people like Adam Neate were doing similar things in London at the same time. I got a massive buzz from leaving the work behind, leaving it to fend for itself, wondering who, if any, would spot it. Whether anyone would want to pick it up, love it. Give it a home. It was this ‘wondering’ that led to my work developing in the way it has. The melancholy that can be found in both my ‘Everyman’ and my cans. More and more I considered how the work must be feeling having been taken from the street, created, and then left to fend for itself. Abandoned, waiting. Lost. Desperate for someone to take notice. To see it. For me, that moment, between me leaving a piece and someone picking it up is magical. My upcoming show at London’s West Bank gallery is called ‘Walk, by. Ignore me. Forget you ever saw me’ purely because so many people choose not to open their eyes and see the things around them. Things that could so easily bring joy but maybe involve a bit of participation and action
Free Art Fridays are being founded in many cities around the world, and personally speaking it can only get bigger, how do you see the future of FAF? It’s mad. I literally coined the phrase to tag my work as I uploaded it to my Flickr account (it was the days before Facebook). People responded favourably and a community of people both locally and internationally began to grow. Splinter groups set off on their own paths and before I knew it there were literally hundreds of groups across the globe putting out free art and arranging free art street exhibitions. Early last year the BBC heard about it and we got a feature on the Culture show. That went global and now it’s massive. It’s a great vehicle, tied into the whole social network sharing, to get work to a wider public audience. As far as I can tell there’s nothing illegal about it, especially if you’re using materials you’ve already found on the street. The altruistic act gives you a pretty warm feeling too!
How different was the art you were producing back then to the art that brought you fame today?
I’ve worked in a range of styles over the years and depending on my mood still jump between some of them. Illustrative character based jellyfish. Chromatic cyber fish but more recently my Everyman and the cans. The Everyman was stolen from a five year old I was teaching. He came up to me and said “sir, I’ve just drawn you”. I’d spent my life trying to draw the nuances of emotion in the figure and here was this tiny kid with this stick man, giant flower hands and massive great smile clearly portraying a state of pure bliss. I shamelessly stole it lock stock and barrel. The cans developed slowly, first as a vehicle for cartoon like characters then onto a more refined melancholic figure. I love it. A piece of rubbish found on the street. Discarded by a throw away society. Given a little bit of attention by my brushes and then left out in the big world to fend for himself.
You gave away free art for over a decade how does it now feel to get a little back in terms of financially from all the hard-work you’ve put into the industry? I still give it away. Every Friday almost without exception I’ve left a piece out. Often more than one. I’ve kind of lost count but I think it’s around 1000 paintings. It’s what makes me tick. I’ve had to change the way I put them out now after seeing one of the cans on ebay for £200 within an hour of leaving on the street. I may as well have sold it and put the cash out for someone to find. I’d much rather someone who knew nothing about my dog sighs found it and loved it for what it was rather than what it’s worth. But, hey. They were happy, I enjoyed painting it and putting it out and whoever bought it must have felt it was the only way of getting hold of one. I’ve never done it for the money. I had a good job and it was just something I loved. Having said that, as much as I loved teaching, being in a position that I wake up every morning knowing I’m going to spend the day in the studio splashing paint around is beyond belief. I literally do pinch myself every morning.
Do you think the nature of street art has changed much since you first started putting out on the streets? Ten years ago it seemed you were either a graffer or did stencils. I remember painting at one of the early Upfest events feeling
so nervous about using a brush. It seemed almost frowned upon. Now you look at street art and everyone is using everything. Scales are changing too. I love the way things seems to be either going massive or minuscule. I seem to spend my life walking with my eyes as wide as I can get them in order not to miss anything.
Share with us your philosophy on why you choose the tin can in your recent projects… It’s free. It’s waste. It’s served it’s purpose. I can reinvent it, give it a soul and release it back. This time with a chance that it might not get overlooked again and may well receive some love. (That and the fact I’m not very good at paintings the outside of faces - its great, the can does the whole body thing for me! well, that and the viewers brain filling in all the blanks)
So what comes first the idea or the tin? It’s all about that moment. The can left alone. With a few exceptions where I’ve had some fun, the cans are outsiders hoping to be accepted. Ok, sometimes you just can’t ignore a can. Iconic brands like Lyles golden syrup cans are stunning and I’ve recently got hold of some very rare Campbell’s soup cans released in the US by the Warhol foundation in Warhol colours. Real beauties.
I’m working on a series of outsider women cans too. Inspired by my burqua can I’m extending it to include tattooed Maori women, African tribeswomen. Women outside the Western accepted norm of beauty. I’m playing with scale too. It’s great fun working on oil drums although their not as easy to stamp lol.
Tell us a little about your tour of Israel and how are folks responding to your works… An amazing experience. A chance online meeting via freeartfriday, and the next thing I knew I was flying off to Tel Aviv with a suitcase full of squashed baked bean tins (that was fun to explain at security!!!). The people were so open to my work. The show was an amazing success and I got to paint some key locations in Jerusalem with some amazing Israeli street artists. You know, their work has a real tenderness to it. I loved it. If you get the chance I’d seriously recommend it. I’ll definitely be going back.
We noticed your involved in various projects please share some of the concepts with us… I’ve run a whole range of collaborative projects in the past from ‘I got wood’, to ‘the tag tree project’ and a whole bunch of others. I suppose my teaching background leads me into things that are inclusive and encourage everyone to take part. Freeartfriday is a great vehicle for people who want to get involved in the art scene but don’t have a vehicle to share their work with the public.
What would you like to be doing of in the future? My work has kind of exploded here in the UK and is gaining momentum in Israel and after a recent feature on Japanese TV there too so it would be cool to take it further afield. So many people moan at me for not dropping freeartfridays in their town or country so maybe a chance to paint some cans and drop
some free art in different locations would be cool.
Anything you’d like to say to readers... I’ve just released my new film ‘lost and found’ which you may want to check out. It’s like a canman love story. http://vimeo.com/59334337 And if you haven’t seen it yet you might like ‘A can is born’ http://vimeo.com/42646240 I’m also going to shamelessly plug my upcoming exhibition at London West Bank gallery. It opens on 21st March and runs for ten days. For details visit the Facebook event page https://www.facebook.com/events/14 9711788511334/?ref=ts&fref=ts or the gallery website http://londonwestbank.bigcartel. com/exhibitions
Ever since the hideous phenomenon known as EDM sold the culture born from house music downriver, the role of the purist has never been more critical. House music has always been about an intangible depth of soul - a spirit of communion and tribal celebration locked in a vibrating moment of hypnosis.
Stripped back, understated flows bristle with warmth and menace as steely rythmic mantras surf sub bass into the next wave. Slinky shuffles, serpentine stabs and raw tribal percussion drill into the soundscape, hustling the gleamingly clean into the down n dirty, low slung beats of the basement.
His mesmerising trips through chrome tinged, darkside funk, moody atmospherics and Week in and week out - across continents and worldwide dancefloors, Darius Syrossian liquid moments of dubwise bass have seen him riding a heady peak. As it becomes more is representing, chanelling and driving that and more difficult for the casual observer original groove; that timeless feeling at the core of an underground revolution. Since his to recognise quality in a corrupt morrass of early days running record shops in the 1990â€™s, autosync pop, Darius sparkles with radiant authenticity. We were delighted to catch he has risen to international prominence up with the man himself for a fascinating through his releases, his role in VIVa Music interview that probes the profound levels and his journeys through frequency from behind the beats. behind the decks.
Tell us a little about your background and your early days? I got into house music from a very early age. When I was at art college my neighbours were older and friends with my older brother. They took me to an outdoor rave and since they were security it didn’t matter that I wasn’t 18 yet, but I was instantly hooked on the music and the whole vibe of it From very early on I was always into the dubby end of house, the deeper darker twisted stuff, back then it was all about piano anthems in the UK , but I was drawn more to the darker U.S sound, of Tenaglia, Vasquez and so on. What was your first seminal experience of dance music? As I said, an outdoor rave, at York racecourse, but as I write this, I have goose-pimples when I remember the feeling I had walking out of the van my friends drove to get us there. It was like this dark groove was playing, it was pouring down with rain and you could see the rain slamming down through the fog lights of the parked cars, in the mud, and steam from the cars, but people were losing it dancing in the mud, and it was like an instant feeling Fuck I love this shit!
How much did you feel part of a movement rather than a fashionable scene and how much has that been a thread in everything you’ve done since? So much I can’t even explain. It was like a free feeling, I remember we were a crew of friends and all went to raves in convoys of cars, and it sounds cheesy but we were really all about the love, and not about clothes and fashion and all that. We weren’t hippies, I mean the guy who always drove us, James, had a great job, the rest of us were students. But it was more like a movement, a way of life, the music and the way people partied was more of an attitude, it was like we all went to everything together, crews from Yorkshire, Lancashire, Manchester, and would all meet mid-week and talk about the next planned rave. Sounds cheesy but trust me it was so much better than the attitude you see sometimes now in clubs, hahaha. I’m laughing now remembering, I used to wear my Fila hat and I was always first on the floor, because the earlier stuff that always got played in the night was the deeper dubbier housey stuff rather than the uplifting anthem stuff, and I needed my fix of house music. I think this is why I have this no b*llsh*T attitude these days and people don’t understand me sometimes, but I always wanted the scene to be about the music and nothing else. And I still think it should be that way.
Thanks to Oh My Gosh for the photo
How primal is the instinct for rhythm, dance and mass celebration? I think that house music is the only form of music that isn’t about the instant gratification of say listening to a single song and feeling good. It’s more like you say, a primal instinctive thing, the beat and the bass. Humans instantly are drawn to the drum beat, and the way that can take you someplace else, and put you in a trance like state, put you into a frenzy. I know this because when I first went to raves I would dance for hours and be totally lost in my own world, lose all my friends, and be on my own in a corner by a loud speaker, totally lost and on another level in my mind, but feeling totally free. If you look back at History, the Africans and Nomads from back in day all had a way to lose themselves and it was through the beat of a drum. I think it’s to do with when as babies in the womb, we were relaxed by our mothers heart beat. And it’s the same instinct happening when we listen to house music. Having said all this, there are forms of house music that move away from this, and it’s all
about the melody, and the song and all that, I could name a few labels and parties that have gone this way. Thats not the same, but tribal house and techno and the ROOTS of house music the reason why we as humans like it so much are what I have explained here. Tell us about your connection with Steve Lawler and how much of a game changer it was for you? Well I’m going to be totally honest here, I was involved in house music everyday for 15 years selling music and vinyl in a record shop. But when the recession kicked in in 2008, I started producing and wanted a way to be involved in what I loved so much, just in case the shop closed in the digital age and the recession and so on. By chance I did a gig with Steve Lawler who loved how I warmed up for him. We hooked up and he seemed very supportive. I had seen what he had done for careers of people like Simon Baker, Audiofly, Tiefschwarz, and loads of others, he had really given others a platform to show who they are.
He told me he saw my passion and enthusiasm for it, and said he can help me get it out there if I worked hard, and only if I worked hard. I remember the shop was closing so I went for a job interview in design as I have a degree in it and all the time I sat in the waiting room wearing a suit, I could only hear Steve’s words down the phone and his voice saying “look bro, you have it in you, if you work hard i can help you get it out there”. I just thought what am I doing here in this interview waiting room, wearing a suit? This is not me, and just got up and left - didn’t even do the interview. I came home and did nothing but work hard producing for the next few months. From then on, every step, he guided me, what I had done right, what I had done wrong, and then one day I decided I’m going to not make music that people want out there at the time, I want to make what is in my heart! The first track I did like that was ‘Stay up dancing get in Monday’ it was about me loving to dance and lose it, and it was from when I went from tech-house to just house music. Steve said to me, ‘this is now where you have your own sound, now go do it There is not a day goes by where I am not thankful to Steve for what he did for me, I mean the guy is one of the biggest DJ’s out there and didn’t need to put so much time and energy into me.
How much did record shops play a critical role in defining a community spirit? So much, sooooo much. I ran a vinyl record shop from the mid 90’s to 2009, people would come in, talk music, swap contacts, go to each other’s parties and discuss the state of the scene in a friendly way. Now it’s done online and on forums, and this is where the negative people come out, they hide behind a computer and instead of talking about positives, they focus on the negative and attack DJs or parties or labels.
Believe me we have argued, and we have argued a lot. He’s always trying to keep me from putting myself in the firing line for being too honest about things, but I honestly can say This is a massive shame, with record shops I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am doing gone, a lot of positivity has also gone in the now if he didn’t give me the platform to do it. scene.
How much do you plan your sets and how much do you lose yourself in the moment? I never plan a set. I only know my first three tracks, and from the vibe of the track I can work out what direction I have to go with my music that I have with me. The secret to a good DJ is reading the crowd. Everywhere I have played recently, the atmosphere has been awesome and had a great energy. I always take a lot of music with me, and if anyone has been to see me play and noticed me spend a lot of time between tracks looking at what to play next, that’s because I haven’t planned it out… To what extent did DJing shape the way you looked at production? A lot. Having spent nearly 15 years running a vinyl shop and listening to house music every day it taught me a lot of how people like house music. I applied what I learned there to how I DJ, and now when I produce, I again apply what I have seen on the dance-floor and how people work with house music. One of the reasons I have not done an
album is because I don’t make songs, I make dancefloor tracks, tracks for people to lose it too. My stuff isn’t made for listening to in the kitchen while you cook, it’s made for when your letting off steam at the weekend in a club. I want people to forget about any problems they have and for that moment let loose and enjoy themselves. It’s about understanding house music. Do you have to have spent some serious time on a dancefloor yourself before being able to create music for it? Absolutely, I’d say so yes. It helps massively. It’s the small things in the tracks that make a massive difference on the floor. At the DC10 opening in Ibiza I completely lost myself on the floor to Dan Ghenacia who is a personal favourite DJ of mine. Also Kerri Chandler, and Dyed Soundorom, people kept coming up to me saying ‘are you? Darius Syrossian? we never seen a DJ dancing like this’… hahaha I said yes, today I’m not a DJ!’ But yeah sometimes at gigs I play and then hit the floor myself, if I’m feeling the music, why not.
Thanks to Justin Gardner for the photo
How do you feel about the separation of roles between DJ’s and producers and their different crafts evaporating into the digital age? Ah well I try not to focus on how other people do stuff, and concentrate on how I do it. I just played Watergate last weekend and I was spinning vinyl and CD’s. Not a laptop in sight and there never will be as long as I DJ. In fact when I produce I use hardware and a PC. No laptop. I don’t make music on the move, I need to be in my studio to make my tracks. I’m not attacking digital laptop DJs at all, each to their own. I’ve seen Kink use a laptop with his kit and he was one of the best people I have seen live. How difficult is it for a DJ who does not produce to get recognized these days? Very, and understandably so. Look at it like this - you can be an amazing DJ and play the best set ever in a club, how many people saw you? 500? How many will remember it? Now look at it like this, if you made one absolute
killer tune, everyone from Tokyo to New York and in-between will know who you are, and from your production, they will know your DJ sound too, and you will get the gigs.
How much are you still influenced by the vibe of the early 90’s in your music? Hugely, because it was more innocent, more about what house music is to us and why we like it, rather than trying to be the latest fad or be different. My recent set at DC10 for Paradise closing I played a few very old tracks, vinyl and so on, people kept asking me what that was. Some of them were 16 years old! I see music as art, and good art doesn’t age. You don’t bring down an old painting off a wall do you? Same thing with music, good music doesn’t age. Only FAD music ages and sounds dated.
and vibe, strong rhythm, a strong groove and heavy influences on the bassline, the bass is the soul of the music. Where is the balance between menace and softness in your sound? Erm, well take my track that’s about to drop on OFF Recording. the bass is twisted dark bass, acid sounding almost, but then listen to the bass, very mellow, sub bass, bubbles underneath and not in your face at all, and the percussion just glides and long and plays with the snares, this track is a fine example.
How much do you like to mix depth and playfulness in your sets?
What do you look for in your vocals – abstraction, rhythm or melody?
Loads, I go up down, deep, harder, slower, techno, house, and always mix it up but it all has to have that trademark Darius sound,
Depends how I use them, a lot of the time abstract, like my side project, but then again, I use shouts and chopped up vocals to work as rhythm and melody a lot.
How do you inject soul into what you do? The BASSLINE in a track is the should of the track, always, that’s why bass is so important! What does pure house mean to you? Music that can be almost like a therapy to someone, relax someone, make them be able to lose it and be at another place when listening. That’s what house music is to me, it’s about a feeling. What is your reaction when you hear the acronym EDM? I feel it’s ruining what house music is, taking elements of it and taking the SOUL out of house music and offering what’s left behind. Awful stuff. People keep saying well its massive in America and it will soon filter down and the guys over there will soon be into real house music, hmmm I hope so. But you see, as I said before, house music is a feeling and can take people away from their problems, that’s why I think house music is so big in a lot of poor countries. It’s a release for them. In the USA now, and in Australia where
people are quite opulent, they don’t really have a strong house music scene do they? Is this a connection? I don’t know, but I do know house music came from the U.S in the 80s, and it came from 2 groups of people who at the time had a lot of hardship, black people and gay people. Look at all the early pioneers of house from the states, they were all nearly black or gay, now EDM in the states is manufactured, sponsored, about money money money, and the DJ’s are like pin ups, and it’s about celebrity. Absolutley NOTHING to do with what house music is about to me. How do you feel you’ve evolved at VIVa music – both as a producer and as a DJ? Well, people keep telling me, your sound isn’t very VIVa MUSiC, and my reply is, what is VIVa MUSiC? It’s a label made by Steve Lawler for house music that is hedonistic, and that’s what my music is. A strong element on rhythm and groove, that’s what VIVa is - there is too much pigeon holing going on sometimes. But I have my own sound. Don’t try to follow what is supposed to be the biggest sound at the time out there. I do what I am feeling and make that.
Thanks to Teknicolour for the photo
How much is there an international language of house and how much do you adapt what you’re playing to different cities and countries? It’s a universal language. I honestly see the same reactions to the same music everywhere around the world and it goes back to what I say about house being a feeling. The one exception, haha maybe is the States, they seem to be so caught up in this EDM thing.
Travelling, doing gigs all over the world. and I’m not going to lie, I’m having a great time. But although there is some serious fun being had, there is also 18 hour shifts in the studio, you can only play hard if you have been working hard, hahahah. What does 2013 hold for you?
Lots, it’s crazy. I have just put pen to paper to sign with Paramount, the DJ agency. They How important is it to throw the unexpected look after artists like Carl Craig, Nina Kraviz, Radioslave and so on which is great. My diary into a set? is absolutely full, and there is talk of an Asia tour, South America tour and so on. I have Depends if the crowd will get it, if you read the crowd you can work out whether they will. loads of studio work for some very big labels, so full steam ahead. That goes for tracks as well as sets - listen to the break in Freaky D..that slows down into a www.facebook.com/pages/Dariuship hop 70’s style beat for about a minute and Syrossian/178416312190425 then slams back in. I love doing weird curve balls now and then, toward the end of a set a few times lately I have dropped Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime, works well. hahaha
Just how much of a laugh are you having at the moment? I’ve worked for years and years and really hard to get to where I am right now with things.
The breakneck dynamics of Bonzai’s incandescent pieces crackle with gleaming electricity as they hurtle through abstract dimensionality. Heisting old school timelessness and furiously remixing it into the light speed rides of sprayed up science fiction, the movement, the energy, and the diamond edged gobsmack of his art is simply breathtaking. Vivid bursts of piercing colour fly down sublimely warped geometrics, lines accelerate away to terminal velocity and burned curves oscillate into awesomeness
as ethereal hints of the figurative dart in and out of the angles and bad boy characters ruff up the attitude on the funky cutback You’d be well advised to get some shades on before losing yourself in Bonzai’s art. Rifling through space, tearing out of walls, liquifying the industrial, and turbo charging pattern with dazzling intricacy, his scope, his technique and his restless switch up through styles make him one of the most exciting writers and artists out there. We had a chat.
Tell us a little about your original pull into graff
movement that went beyond the writing aspect
I’m sure it’s pretty much the same story as most writers my age. Hip hop was still relatively new to the UK and quickly becoming really popular. In the 80’s it seemed everyone was into it. Graffiti started to appear around more and more (or maybe I was just noticing it more) - add Subway Art and Spraycan Art into the mix and that was me pretty much me hooked. I would also travel around as much as possible on the train to check tracksides and halls of fame.
Graffiti is just one element of the Hip Hop movement. Everyone I was hanging around with was into hip hop back then and all its different elements. Knowledge was being passed around about the latest album, b-boy crew etc.. So growing up at that time I felt very much part of the hip hop movement as a whole even thought I was still young. I think what you’re into as a young teenager kind of moulds what you are for the rest of your life. And it certainly has with me. It was a great time because it was the beginning of something new and exciting in the UK.
How much did you feel part of a wider
Why is the letter form so powerful within graff Letter forms have always been the most important part of graffiti. It’s what it’s all about. But, that said, it’s also about pushing the movement forward. I love seeing pieces with dope letters, and just because I don’t always necessarily do readable letters that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. In the past, I’ve done pieces that are totally unreadable. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me I always want to try different things, learn new techniques and not just paint straight up letters.
When did you start to paint characters and how did you have to approach them differently to letters I’ve been doing characters for a long time, although I tend not to do them that often as I love doing styles. For me painting characters and letters isn’t that different really. I’ll use
similar techniques in both. More recently, if I paint a character I want to put a whole day or more into it, that way I can focus just on just that, and not have to worry about anything else.
How have your styles evolved over the years I’ve painted lots of different styles over the years and every so often totally change it. I constantly want to evolve and try new things. I think it’s because I get bored very quickly of painting one style and have to move on, push myself in different directions, but at the same time take aspects that I›ve learned in the past with me. If you look at my work, each piece is I paint is slightly different from the last but hopefully still recognisable as mine.
How important is a sense of history in graffiti I think it’s very important to know the history of the movement. When I was younger I wanted to know as much as possible about graffiti, not just the history, but everything that was currently going on within the scene, and still do.
How did the idea to remix old school characters in a new context come about. I’ve always tried to inject an old school feel into my characters. But the idea to play with recognisable old school character came about when I was painting in Cambridge and I was chatting to another writer about Bode characters. I hadn’t done a Bode character for years, so, I thought it was about time I did my version of one using the techniques I’ve learned. I went on to do a few more and I have plans to do some in the near future.
How much planning do you bring to a piece and how much do you let it take you with it I went through a period of free styling a lot of my pieces, but I wasn’t always totally happy with the result. I now feel to achieve the best results (for my walls anyway), I need to plan the wall before hand, even if it’s just a rough sketch it helps. Each time I paint I want to produce the best work I can so it seems only right to be prepared. The only thing I don’t plan is the fill on my pieces, I never really know what the fill is going to look like until I’ve started. I tend to paint one full letter and then I can get a general feel for how the fill and overall piece will look.
How do you play with dimensions in a piece I love playing with dimensions and depth in my work and it’s become an important part of my style, Along with movement. I like my pieces to have a feeling of coming off the wall in some sections, while other sections feel as if you can put your hand inside it.
Tell us a little about the squares – the building blocks in your recent pieces The squares started when I painted a piece early last year in the south of France. I painted a very basic version of it as part of my piece and I’ve been working on it since, both on walls and in sketch form. It’s something I’m still working on and as soon as the weather gets better and the days longer I’ll be having a bash at painting some big walls using this style. How much do you like to smuggle figurative bits like abstract faces into your letters Some are added in consciously as part of the work but a lot of these happen by complete accident, and I don’t notice them until a couple of days later or people point them out. I really like that people can see all sorts of things in my pieces. I was painting once and a child came up and asked if I was painting a helicopter, then straight after someone asked if it was a cricket.
Is there a moment when you just wake up and think fuck – I’m getting older, I’ve been doing this for years and I really need to be able to earn out of it somewhere along the line
movement within my work. The more movement the more energy i think. Using Astro caps helps a lot as they create big flares with creates the feeling of movement. I try and make some of my work look at if it’s travelling at speed.
It wasn’t so much I need to earn from it, it was more about following my passion. But yeah, I do this full time and it’s the best decision I’ve How much of an artform is it to blur certain ever made. parts of a piece while other are crystal clear What techniques do you use to inject movement and energy into a piece For me, it’s important to have a lot of
Again, it›s all about the Astro caps (extra wide caps). It was just a matter of experimenting with them figuring out how they would benefit my pieces, and not getting too carried
away as this just ends up looking like a mess. I tend to paint all the tech details first then add the loose ‘blurred’ effects after, then go back in and tidy up. I want to create big areas of blurred colour coming into small areas of intense detail. How much do you shift your colouring when you’re shifting styles I really like mixing all sorts of colours together. When I’m getting my paint ready Ill take a few different shades (light to dark) of a main colour and then just add a load of random colours, then when I›m at the wall I can experiment with mixing colours together. I’m a big fan of dirty colours next to really vibrant colours. These no real specific colours schemes for separate styles.
Can you appreciate your own work in its immediate aftermath Yeah, I’m normally pretty happy when the piece is finished. I normally won’t look at the photos of a piece once its finished until the following day. That way I’m looking at it with fresh eyes as it were. It’s then later that I start to see the places I could have improved on. But, I’m sure this is the same with every artist. I normally just want to get out and paint the following day to try and better myself.
How do you balance confidence with self doubt Haha, I always used to get a little uncertain while painting, worrying about the outcome of a piece and putting pressure on myself. But nowadays I’m a lot more relaxed while painting. I’ve realised that my walls take time and can’t always be done in one or two days. I think it helps to not try and worry about the outcome of the whole piece in the early stages and concentrate on one section at a time. What have been the really influential collaborations for you I’ve been really lucky and had the opportunity to paint with some amazing artists from all over the world. It been pretty well documented that painting with Nash from LoveLetters was a big turning point for me as I learned a lot from him. It’s always great to hook up with my good friends from Ghetto Farceur (France) as they really opened my eyes to new ways of painting. And of course, painting with my good friends and crew (SMUG, DEAD, KAK and EPOK) Infamous Last
Words. Its always a great to see these guys and paint with them as they really push me to produce my best. 4 of the coolest guys you could meet and each one of them is super talented.
What goals do you have set for the upcoming year At the start of each year I set personal goals for myself and my work. 2013 is a big year for me, I have a lot of plans and want to travel as much as possible. So all I’ll say is watch this space.
A word with Chuck D
A nation of millions didn’t even come close to holding them back. Public Enemy are a force of nature - a channelled whirlwind of visceral energy that tore through every skewed reality entrenched within social, cultural and political spectrums. As the gains made in the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960’s began to slip back into the status quo of flagrant injustice, and the collective consciousness burnt into the soul of that era began to fragment, Public Enemy stepped up to the barriers and made some fucking noise. Education with serious attitude ripped a new voice through the streets as rebellion and an explosive militancy of purpose primed the charges of fightback and took on institutional repression at its core.
have recently released 2 slamming albums - The Evil Empire of Everything and Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamp. Artistically, they are as innovative and pure as ever, and their convictions burn dazzlingly bright amongst the corrupt morass of lucre fuelled commercial hip hop.
Despite the terror of middle class white America when these loud, proud, educated and fucking angry black folks opened up a direct line of communication to their But it was never just their scorching intensity children, those children helped vote a black man in as President. Somewhere deep in or the raw power they radiated that carved the circuitry, pumping rapids through the their place in history. As the shards of currents was Chuck D’s unique voice opening divide and conquer rained down on black their eyes to the injustices they wanted no communities, Public Enemy not only blew part of. Public Enemy were never just about a hole in white America’s comfort zone, but being black - but about being human. Their forged a new generation of black pride. A legacy opened white eyes, fought for black new spirit of black identity built not only identity from US streets to apartheid South on outrage, but history, unity, community Africa and helped shape the self knowledge and an overwhelming sense of positive self realisation. Ferocious lyrical flows crystallised of a post Civil Rights generation. And all the profound concepts against a pulsating wall of while setting new musical standards and staying true to the primal idea of art actually sonic assault that has now been etched into being about something. legend. And with all the steel edged theatre and hard as nails realities of Professor Griff and the S1W’s - enter Flavour Flav to balance Still wrestling with the original themes of Public Enemy, Chuck D has gone on to throw out the yin yang dynamics into a torrid flow down to the corporate hijack of the world of perpetual motion - breathtaking for its around us and pioneer independent spaces in sheer volatility. a shape shifting digital reality. We caught up with him, not to rehash a 25 year old history Nearly 25 years on, Public Enemy are still pushing boundaries and keeping the original that has been so superbly told elsewhere, but to try and get a picture of Public Enemy right spirit alive. Evolving through decades of now and discuss some of the issues in the experience and the changing face if not mix today. the changing essence of the issues, they
How has black identity in the US changed in the decades since It Takes a Nation of Millions and Fear of a Black Planet? Black identity to WHO? To African Americans themselves. To their wider role in US culture. And in terms of opportunity Well, a lot of self confidence is certainly there. The recognition of opportunity has lessened a bit, but that’s a conflict issue. To be honest – there are complexities to that question that could have us here all week, so I can only really scratch the surface right here, right now. Black identity in terms of who you think you are hasn’t really changed at all – but who you know you are may have changed. You have to remember that the obscuring of black history has impacted today’s social realities by blurring the link between our past, the possibilities of our present and the hope for the future, so instantly there is a disconnect there that makes it a conflicted question. Black people have always recognised ourselves for what we want to be – it’s just that wider awareness has increased and the rest of
society knows more about black culture than they ever did in 1988. But that comes with inherent dangers in itself. It’s always deeply problematic when external forces claim to know more about you, analyse more about you, and conclude more about you than you do yourself, and I think we have started to see that pattern emerging.
You were instrumental in forging an intensely strong voice for a new generation of young black people who had missed the awakenings and the struggles of Civil Rights, and woke up a generation of white kids who had previously been oblivious to black realities. Near enough a quarter of a century on, that profound voice that hip hop smashed down barriers with has turned to bitches, money and jets – at least in the US. Do you think that the commercialisation of hip hop stripped it of its power in a way repression and censorship never could have done. Stripped it of its power in those circles, yes. But hip hop is always expanding, teaching and touching new heights as a worldwide, untamed force. So when you say commercial – you’re talking about major record labels, radio outlets, TV stations and the mainstream press. But that is, always was and always will be the same old bullshit. Corporations may as well be the government, so whatever hip hop is portrayed as or sold as on those levels has absolutely nothing to do with its true essence as a grass roots movement. So to be honest, instead of buying into it or railing against it, the best thing anyone can do is not to give any of that manufactured shit any kind of credibility at all and just straight ignore it. I don’t know if that’s detaching yourself from reality, but that’s how I feel.
Did you go through a period of frustration seeing what you and others had built turning into this tacky, meaningless sideshow before reaching that point where you could just say – fuck it – I’m going to focus purely on the positive aspects of what’s going on elsewhere Yes of course – but you have to hit that point. Look...it’s just such a ridiculous premise that because someone is signed to a major, that makes them somehow better than a serious
artist with musicality and something to say . All that being signed to a major means is that the corporation in question feel they can profit from who they’ve chosen to sign. It’s got so, so bad in that sphere at this point, and I see so many people doing great things with the art form that it’s almost a joke to pay any attention to what some corporation says is ‘best’. I say almost – because there’s nothing funny about it. So I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating here and now – but if I were to limit myself to corporate output and to that world – then it most certainly would be.
So this new digital reality we’re in. On the one hand it’s allowed people to sidestep the corporate stranglehold and release music independently far easier than ever before. But has that democratisation of public access also made it more difficult to get heard as the internet saturates with new artists? I think the fact that technology has allowed artistry in whatever form to be seen or heard by more than one person is a wonderful thing. Look at the world of sports. A lot of people get a chance to put on trainers and shorts and be like their heroes, but that doesn’t
mean that they get the chance to play for Manchester United. But they can dress the part. Well people can get a drum machine or a guitar and play at being musicians too, but that doesn’t necessarily have to hold back the truly talented. I believe that genuine artistry will always find a way through. The thing with sports though is that talent always has a great chance of recognition by a solid infrastructure built to evaluate and maximise talent no matter where it comes from. We don’t have an infrastructure in place to judge, navigate and process all the dynamism and forward thinking in the arts right now.
Very few people want to do the elbow work of finding artists wherever they may be and giving them a chance to push themselves further. And that is a key difference between the two worlds. That level of infrastructure is something professional music has yet to reach. Just look at what you guys are doing with the magazine. How many people are actually out there doing that? We need a thousand times that number to be able to cover everything thatâ€™s going on out there artistically. I think there should be at least a thousand podcast style shows a week to help get new artists and new projects out there. But the reality is that thereâ€™s only a handful of people who are able to do a radio show correctly, so it stays limited.....but that doesnâ€™t change the fact that the artists continue to metastasise. Something needs to cover art. To look at it from the outside and uphold it or maybe critique it. To weigh it against the art of the past, help generate the momentum of the future and bring it to a wider focus. The laziness of record companies have always led them to either jump an existing
bandwagon or look in their own back yard – be it London, New York or Los Angeles. And occasionally you get something that pops out of Chicago...or out of Liverpool.... Who would ever have thought of looking for a band in Liverpool in the early 60’s? So this is something that the internet has really achieved. It is a fantastic vehicle for proper research into what raises the bar and what has the potential to set new standards in a corporation free landscape. The negative element is that the new dynamics have thrown people’s realities out of order. When you sit down to create a piece of art and then want to move it to the
retail stage – to try and sell it, it is critical to think one sale at a time and never to think bulk. That’s how companies think. They have a mass of people working for them and enough of a marketing budget to convince people their product has value – however illusory. Everything they do is guided by mass sales. Once independent artists start to think beyond the one by one approach to their market, they’re full of themselves. I don’t care who you are.
Is that something that we’ve lost as a wider culture. The idea that art is about a personal connection with a listener or a viewer. About an experience shared between the artist and that person rather than anything that can be quantified into units. The individualism of artistc experience Yes – thinking in terms of sales is a conversation independent artists should never have...especially with themselves. The day you create 20 paintings with a view to selling them all, you’re thinking like a corporation. Art is about the experience, and while of course there is nothing wrong with selling your art to make a living off of it, it should never, ever become an assembly line.
Does thinking that way fundamentally corrupt you as an artist Yes it does. It doesn’t corrupt you as a person as ultimately you are just trying to make a living – but as an artist.... in my opinion...yes. It’s the first step into saying or doing anything just to meet a number. It becomes very difficult – no matter how successful you are to say NO. The ability to say no is the strongest weapon an artist has. It’s the mark of an artist who wants to create genuine art for a lifetime. You have, HAVE to be able to say no.
That’s interesting, because despite the incredibly strong identity Public Enemy have always had – there you all were as young guys riding an extraordinarily heady wave. Even with all the social struggles that defined you and all the force and the fight within you, you were having millions of dollars hurled at you and golden whispers in your ears without the benefit of the kind of experience you now have. How did you deal with that lure. How did you say no when all that was coming at you at such a young age Fame is always a slippery one. But I was in a
group, and the group neutralises the fame, any sign of ego and reinforces itself internally against those kinds of influences. You aren’t famous to your group and you aren’t famous to your family. I think that the group dynamic really helped strengthen us all to deal with all that shit. And while we never set out to be rich or famous, we did set out to be exposed and if you are going to aim for that – you have to be able to process everything that comes with it. You have to take it tongue in cheek. You have to take it day by day, month by month, year by year and you just keep each other in check and focused on why we were all doing this in the first place.
So sat here in 2013, how do you feel that both your music and the messages within it have evolved over the years. Well every time I write a song – it’s meant to stand the test of time. Equally I write songs that don’t care what people think about
them. They’re born of principle and thought. I am a little defensive about some of the things I’ve done, but I think that for the most part, the songs speak for themselves, define themselves and protect themselves. And I can live with that. You don’t want art that’s frozen in time, but the messages, themes and the agendas are always omnipresent even if they change superficially or the names and faces representing the issues come and go. If Public Enemy had never been able to leave the United States on a more than regular basis, I would have been far more subject to the radiation of America. Because we always
have travelled so much, I can just throw my middle finger at the USA and leave, but you always come back to it wanting to make it a better place.
How long does that optimism of trying to make it a better place last when you get back before you end up demoralised again You can’t get demoralised in a fight. You’re only demoralised if you stop fighting. And I never really saw myself as an individual in that fight either – I always tried to incorporate team spirit into everything we’ve done and everything we do. We always shared similar beliefs – not exactly the same beliefs, but tight enough to take everything on as a team – and that’s always been fundamental to who Public Enemy are.
Speaking of beliefs..and fights... a lot of the stuff that Public Enemy did was perceived by middle class America, the mainstream media and the authorities as very extreme. But do you need extremes in a fight – do someone need to push those barriers really fucking hard before the ground is level enough to start thinking about long term solutions and compromise In America – we were born extreme. It only
seems shocking to middle class America because their definition of extreme was a product of a privileged, safe environment. And extreme 25 years ago is not extreme now. But we were just saying the things that were totally normal to us as black folks. And you know – black people were the extreme for white America, especially in the 1960’s. That’s where we were coming from – that was our starting point. We were born extreme.
Yes....absolutely..... Now you have two albums out this year – and we’ve heard you refer to them as fraternal. How does the interplay between them work Well The Evil Empire of Everything talks about some of the serious issues coming at people today while Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear On No Stamp deals with the agenda that we’ve always been about as Public Enemy. And they will be talking to each other. Evil Empire is a little bit more eclectic and takes
chances while Heroes is straightforward banging. But you know – there’s a song out right now..........and I’ve only done a handful of these songs in my career that almost seemed to appear by divine intervention. It’s probably one of the hardest hitting songs I’ve ever done and it’s called I Shall Not Be Moved, which happens to be a defining phrase of the Civil Rights movement Know it so so well..... We Shall Not Be Moved – it doesn’t run any deeper or more symbolic than that Absolutely. Myself and Gary G-Wiz who produced it have only really accomplished this kind of record maybe no more than 4 or 5 times over the years.
Is there a headspace with records like that where all the planning and calculating in the world kind of melt away and it just organically happens – just writes itself
It totally wrote itself. But you got to be lucky and you have to come into it with some skill. But the skill is there to harness the inspiration – by itself it’s dry – those kinds of records are all about being lucky. Of course as a songwriter you plan, you design, you shape, you mould and you really enjoy the process of creating something that makes people stand back and go ‘Wow’. But sometimes you have that record that you really can’t explain – and you really shouldn’t explain or even try to. And you know that if you die tomorrow, this will stand on its own – with or without you.
Isn’t that art at its purest – can’t explain – shouldn’t explain Pretty much. And you know – some people don’t get it at all. I’ll give you an example... Rebel Without a Pause was that record for me..........Bring the Noise wasn’t. Welcome to the Terrordome was. No on my 1996 solo project was. Harder Than You Think was...but in a different mode. So probably 5 times in my career it’s happened like that. Special, special moments.
A lot of hip hop is neighbourhood based – a lot of heart and soul – and deals with direct
experience with huge honesty and passion – but the issues kind of stop at the frontier of that neighbourhood. Government stops at the police, race stops at local discrimination – and it’s very much a microcosmic world. From the start, Public Enemy was taking on huge issues that dug deep into history, wider themes of race and universal social threads. How important was it to think global from the start. I certainly wanted to talk about something more rounded than my neighbourhood. I’m from Roosevelt, Long Island, but I’m read. So you look at lines like ‘South African government wrecker’ from Timebomb – and back in 87 I knew that and wanted to be taking it on. But it comes down to 3 key
elements...... People, Places and Things. In that order. Things are a far distant third, but talking directly to people about their issues – their lives and their histories in the places you happen to go. And so much of what seems like a local issue is in fact much bigger than that – it’s just felt most directly in the place that a person is experiencing it in.
This is why I don’t buy so much of the hip hop rhetoric around today. It sounds childish. After you’re 16 and you’re hitting 26, you have to be able to say something that reflects where you are at that point in your life and to have moved on from where you were at 16.
So you take that order – People, Places and Things. The problem our society is permanently dealing with is the reversal of that order, where Things have been pushed to the forefront. Places if you happen to be stuck in one area – and way down at the bottom – People. From the very start – Think Globally and Act Locally was the theme. To be able to still think globally and act locally, think locally and act globally as well as think globally and act globally is the epitome of how art should develop as far as I’m concerned. Artists have the opportunity to travel almost as a modern day nomad, and learning and changing and evolving through the people you meet and the places you go is what it’s all about – it’s never about being on tour and isolating yourself in your comfort zone with all the trappings of familiarity. Top - By Mear One
Some of your defining beliefs and attitudes to life may have been shaped at 16 – that’s natural – but they need to have developed, refined and opened up to 10 years worth of experience. And if you find yourself at 36 giving up songwriting altogether, then you’ve really got to check your soul and your shallowness, because it’s all about that ongoing relationship with people, places and things that makes you a better songwriter.
Do you actually approach things any It has a breakbeat. Not a good one – a great differently these days or does that growth manifest in the lyrics and some aspects of the one. It has a great arrangement, a great topic, a great voice to it, but it has passion and it musicality almost subconsciously has conviction. Now I’m not saying that there I do a lot of songs that cover a lot of terrain isn’t passion and conviction in my other songs, and a lot of influences – which is the way it but that combination in a hip hop manner should be, but when I do a real straight hip is something that really doesn’t look for hop song like I Shall Not Be Moved, it’s real opinions or plaudits or even a result – except simple. if that result is to smack your face half off.
Isn’t that what hip hop was always about at core and where it’s gone wrong – at least in the circles that claim to represent hip hop today through their label’s marketing budget. As soon as you start to count your results – that’s when you’ve lost. My opinion and criticism might not be at Jay-Z and Kanye as rappers – I think they’re great rappers. It comes down to don’t hate the player – hate the game. And I hate every aspect of that fucking game. I hate that game of what they think is great. I respect their rap ability, but I can’t respect where they’re coming from. I don’t expect them to change – why should they?? But I ain’t changing either.
Doesn’t that run through pretty much everything? People love to put a face on a problem and project all their dissatisfaction onto an individual. George Bush for example. Isn’t it always systems rather than individuals however rich or powerful that individual might be Of course it is. But you know – systems will always have a face and you should at least
enjoy the option of smacking the face off that system. Set it up like a piñata and smack fuck out of it.
How the fuck did we get into this cycle of exploitation. Corporations selling skewed perspectives of the street back to the street.
There’s a lot of serious talent out there, though a lot of the skill is un-nurtured and misdirected. Hip hop is still performance art. The bottom line is real simple – people want They wait for a new generation. If you don’t to go out and lead their regular lives and be have the older generation directly connected entertained. They don’t want to feel that to the new one coming through and teaching they’re better than the entertainment they them what to look out for, you end up with are paying huge sums of money for. They want a fresh batch of gullible consumers in every a certain escapism. But you can tempt human 15 / 20 year cycle. It’s not young people’s beings into supporting you even while you’re fault. It’s that older generation who detach taking from them – that is the nature of the and individualise themselves and therefore complex forms of mind control out there. pass none of that knowledge back down. So But even without getting too deep into the you’re 15 and the media is your world. What matter – as far as practical solutions go, myself chance do you have? This is what corporations and my partner have started an aggregation rely on – and who the hell wants to educate group called Spit Digital where we take care of a consumer. Educate a consumer and he’ll getting stuff into retail outlets like iTunes and turn round and say ‘Well why the fuck am by helping artists with distribution, we can I supporting you?’ They need people to be encourage them to start their own labels. And naive and gullible and unless the community that independence, that self reliance outside steps in – who is ever going to help them see the corporate stranglehold is what it’s all past the glitz. about.
www.publicenemy.com How optimistic are you about raw young talent taking ownership of their lives and their art outside the mainstream. How much great stuff are you seeing.
WE MADE IT!!! Mind you, jobs a good’un considering the apocalypse is and indeed WAS a product of human design, and the loose but integral fact that we as a race will always be too pussy to have one anyway: yet again we are free to roam, consume, destroy, propagate, and constantly complain. Back to the hummus debate anybody? Ok. Venice Marco Polo airport, and there’s 300 Chinese people clamouring over the only place I can sit down on a Sunday , an Internet terminal. I’d better move: one of them has whipped out his own USB keyboard and is waving its cable with intent to supply..... Fuckin hell they LOVE plastic round here: I’ve never seen the flysafebag.com guy so busy on the day of rest in a predominantly catholic country. Mind you, to save face, (his),he’s thankfully not from round these parts either, but the devils dirt is always fashioned, never dug, or so they say.....oh hang on I just made that up. Possibly not true either but then, I was never one for clinical analyses....
What kind of psychopathic FREAK came up with the name “deadline”, and equated it to the finalization of any human project that merits an outcome? Even in the creative sense? Ok OK it WORKS yeah....but then, I think this is the biggest problem I have with such a concept. Whoever subscribes to the view we were put here in order to WORK is definitely barking up the wrong tree, or is utterly convinced that in the bigger picture, these multi-coloured meal tickets are the be all and end all of the survival of the human race. For as long as we are prepared to let a system be our guide, the logic stays thoroughly intact, but from experience we all know that there’s no place for people in today’s society. If there was, nobody would be late for work would they?
Well, I for one am sick of having one of these hanging over my head and believe me I have several: it’s time I made a run for it I reckon, and this leads me to the personal revelations I’m having due to a properly practical paradigm shift: making it up as you go along...... 2013 is the year of the mobile gigger. The data cloud is actually capable of sustaining the hopes and dreams of many a travelling gadget addict. My first mission this year is to create, produce, and distribute an EP’s worth of music and a couple of supporting video clips conceived entirely on a tablet,( is that what you call them? I know it works in France with a nice little effeminate “e” on the end), a video camera, and a mobile phone. I think the software is finally in place for such an exploit, and no project should be even contemplated without a sense of adventure, this being the 21st century and all.... Ahhh, latte macchiato: that feels better, and next time you order coffee in Italy, make sure you ask for a glass of water on the side: the
ensuing “trending” that follows is reminiscent of a “babycham” advert in the early 80’s! Behold the effect you have on others queuing behind you. Revel in your time: smiles make you live longer. Proven scientific fact! “Hey, I’d love a glass of water”..... Tee hee fuckin hee matey. If I remember rightly the character concerned was wearing a dark plastic puffer jacket and sunglasses far too big in a dimly lit indoor environment: the producer must have been some sort of latter day prophet because from where I’m sitting, everyone and their MUM’s sporting the same attire..... ‘Spot THAT dodgy filler’ : in your FACE, cassetteboy. Back to the point (kicking and screaming all the way)
Ok, here’s how it works, or should if I play my cards right. The first thing I did was purchase a heinous amount of online storage: dropbox. com offer up to 150gb of cloud space for the paltry sum of 10€ a month. Compare this to the 16gb Apple’s “iCloud” for waaaaay over and above, and the fact that any and EVERY mobile device can be synced up to the former, well you can start to see how this makes a lot of sense. This won’t go down well with the more paranoid amongst you, but your contacts, emails, photo’s, videos, playlists etc etc ad nauseam can all be stored here: it’s reassuring to know that you can swim the Nile, walk the Hindu Kush, even put in some overtime at Guantanamo Bay, and still get back the fragments of your pre traumatic or self discovered life the minute a cyber cafe trundles into view. Which leads me to the next step: insurance.....
As any sensible traveller knows the importance of being covered should the unforeseen deal you a bad hand, insure your phone and pad/tab/kindle either upon purchase, or extend your health/travel policy to cover your personal effects too. This may sound a bit anal coming from a so called ‘closet anarchist’ such as myself, but experience will always have the last word on anything connected to your fate: I’m on my 3rd smartphone and 2nd ipad in 365 days and haven’t had to pay a cent for the replacements. Your device can be programmed to upload all your bits soon as ‘wifi’ becomes available to you, meaning you don’t lose a thing, except the waiting time, and for all those environmentally aware who wish to cast the first stone, SHIT HAPPENS. You KNOW that, or you wouldn’t be the person you are today. Just a lil bit more crack papering over the Swiss cheese sized holes in my current diatribe. I would like to thank the rest of my crew for inspiring me to hold it down on the recreational consummation front. It’s so much easier when there’s a bunch of us doing it, and whereas I’m not quite the toga wearing diamond water drinking, lithotherapeautic sandal clad and hovering several feet above the ground voice of the people character my stage name suggests, thanks to the people I love the most, I certainly have that much more time to get on with pursuing my never completed works: a full belly on a Sunday is a brand new concept to me, and I think I like it. Right. Now, in the immortal words of ‘look around you’s ‘ “ Synthesizer Patel “ , Here is the fun part........
Installing “photo transfer” on both devices is a convenient way of moving those mobile phone films (come on, the Samsung galaxy camera is superlative and more than adequate for YouTube purposes) onto your tablet device. For easy editing should you be caught short high up in tree branches avoiding hungry lions in the Serengeti. An “ad hoc” wireless hotspot can be conjured out of thin air by either one of these machines, making a multimedia version of your last will and testament a breeze to compose. And if a “p.s I love you” message is all that’s called for, Bluetooth is adequate enough.
parallel one, right? Meanwhile back to the here and now...... The tablet device is a multitasking secretary that seldom sleeps, even if you take her to bed with you (if sailors can get away with calling useful materiel their livelihoods depend upon a she, then so can I so stuff it up yer nose if you got a problem with that!) Once you get your head around the fact that everything you do is condensed into multiple apps that serve specific purposes rather than one program that does it all, you start to understand new ways of working that don’t involve being tied to your desk with a workstation chained to your ankle. I am in the process of adapting my working creatively routine around the things I experience that inspire me in or as close to the moment these things happen.
I was recently inspired by a gadget ad (I forget for which device) that showed a lady photographing an apartment block, copying the content, and pasting it onto a pair of high heels she’d designed the outline of with a few deft strokes of the index finger: the resulting sheepish grin was shiny as television fools gold. And as for this sort of thing becoming reality, maybe we really are closer to flexible LED displays than we thought: wearable app jacket anybody? The thought of spreading your coat over a coffee table, pinching its collar to stop the screensaver and carry on your masterworks by dragging your finger across the workspace facilitated by its back panel is tantalizing indeed! And you could always scrawl off a quick love note on the inner lining, zap it off to your sweetheart and the general public would be none the wiser..... Well a dream in this universe could be real in a
The idea of the “app”, in itself means that you can fully concentrate on the specific elements at any given moment while amassing the data necessary to complete your final project. The benefits here are exemplary, as we now have the freedom to leave multiple apps on the go, swiping from one to the other as soon as the urge takes a different direction. Anything from a coffee break to an 18hour flight delay can be turned into positive production time. Rather than twiddling your thumbs, reading
the newspaper or magazines that cover waiting room tables worldwide, or simply staring into space, we can zap off a quick ditty, edit the tone of someone’s eye colour, or cut out that offending tourist that almost spoiled a perfectly good shot of a submarine leaving harbour for example. The file handling seemed barbaric at first, but there are a multitude of apps that let you get right down to the file system level of your tablet or phone, and now of course, there’s audiocopy........ Composing entire works of music is now realistically possible due to this particular concept: a variety of music apps support the protocol and the list is growing daily. There are quality synthesizers aplenty and powerful drum computers too, either modelled on classics or totally innovative, and most of them feature their own sequencer of some kind. Each of these will let you export an audio rendering of what you’re working on to a pattern or song length of your choosing either to a static file in your iTunes or equivalent library, as email, direct to your soundcloud, your Dropbox account, or straight to the clipboard which is the method I prefer and
is by all means the fastest. There are many choices for a host DAW on the ipad now, “studio HD,”and “Auria” being among the best for laying chunks of audio out as a song and adding effects if necessary, I’m currently checking out Steinberg’s “Cubasis” as I was familiar with its siblings in the computer world. Here, is where you can paste from the clipboard and drop it in. One major thing on my wish list is an audio editor that supports BPM capable time stretching, as this would appear to be a bit of an evolutionary “missing link” at the moment having scoured the App Store in order to find one and coming up empty handed. Where I want to be getting to is creating at least the rhythm track as an entire song file and exporting that and using
it as the basis around which to work the rest, one element at a time, rather than getting a whole bunch of stuff and drag copying around in a kind of “suck it and see” manner as I would on a ‘heavy’ computer simply because the screen real estate is more suited to one major task at a time. Training myself to work this way has advantages: the workflow will speed up as
it becomes classified into a set of realistic tasks management, all the while having the option to flip from one app to another should I feel my input lagging in a certain area, and condensing the rhythm section down to one track will free up screen space, processing power, and audio headroom as everything else put in around it should never be set to blank it out making the mix cleaner, punchier, and easier to whack out of proportion weight wise
once it goes to mastering. I never did explore the song side of most hardware sequencers like the Korg “electribe” so I may learn a thing or two about good music writing along the way. For those of you who need some proper audio inputs for recording and quality outputs for playing on stage, a number of audio interfaces are now ipad compatible at least. I opted for the Alexis I/o dock as its not much bigger than the ipad itself, has mic/line/guitar ins, jack outs, headphone socket, USB, midi, and a coaxial video output feed making it a Swiss Army knife for when the need arises. It’s also light as a feather, and has a tabletop angle making it comfortable to use either on a desk or table, or in your lap. The other option if you don’t mind the latency involved is to “AirPlay “ to anything connected to Internet and a pair of speakers meaning pretty much any set of monitors are available to you anywhere you go. Great for checking mixes out in clubs, car stereos, or even pro audio shops while posing as someone who has a burning desire to splash out on incredibly expensive studio
speakers. I know I’ll be trying to blag it at least once this year, and to have the freedom to adjust things on the fly while listening back makes it irresistible.... I saw someone the other day who had a mixer plugged in on stage with a band sound checking into it, small venue by the way, but the sound guy was stood right in front of the rig doing the mix on his ipad, gets it right, hits save, plugs the ipad back into a slot on the mixer, and pulls it out again when the concert is on to make adjustments if necessary, absolute genius. So, graphics, and photo editing. I’m still hunting down that elusive Vectorial graphics program like illustrator but am very satisfied with the ease of getting stuck in Adobe’s “Photoshop touch” provides. It’s certainly more hands on than my experiences with the mouse, and the zoom and erase functions are persuading me to invest in one of those specialized tablet pens that have been doing the rounds for any delicate editing and indeed if I ever have to draw anything myself.
There’s a bunch of specialized camera apps for certain tasks like “retro”, or fake 3d but I tend to avoid many of these for being too cheesy. Saying that though, there are many that give you the option to record still, or video, and cycling through the filters in video mode can yield some nice experimental footage. I tend to do both now if I film; get a straight version, and one where I go mad with the various effects in real time, to save me lots of tedious filter applying later. I chose Pinnacle’s video studio over “iMovie” simply because I’m
more used to working to a horizontal timeline rather than one that snakes down the left side of the screen, but they pretty much do the same thing. I’m still yet to find a way to blend multiple video sources and fade them in an out of each other on different tracks but I’m sure we’re not far from that happening. One thing you need to consider is setting a backup/sync time for your devices, mine’s on a Monday night when I’m sure to be somewhere with wifi, power, and asleep by 3am. If you’re
travelling, either a wireless backup drive or when you get your next bed is normally a winner. The worst you can do is via 3G using your phone as a modem, it may cost a bit on your next bill, but at least your work is safe no matter what. Well, thats enough about all that for now, the bell has sounded, the announcement is being badly pronounced, the people are queuing, and I’m nearly at the end of this article, isn’t it all syncing up properly today, fantastic! Recent reading list includes The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M Banks, Distrust that particular flavour William Gibson as a human being rather than an author, and The Revisionists by Thomas Muller. Lionel asbo by Martin Amis was mildly
amusing but over rated for any awards it might have won. Ok, better stop writing now, it’s my turn to walk the plank. Thanks for reading, see you next time. Yours, excited about this “brave new world”.....
From deep within the shadowy recesses of imaginationâ€™s dark side comes the stunning art of Fat Heat. Twisting and turning through primal phantasmagoria and science fiction alike, he has created a bulging universe of subliminal dreams. Mutant skulls, suspended moments from remixed mythology and transformational lunacy all come together in his work to dive into the discomfort of caged psychological mystery. With an elemental beauty and a rich vein of the graphic novel running through his pieces, his strange visions of a spray soaked parallel dimension ripple with otherworldly rhythms and a wonderfully comic edge that gives them an extra spin of intrigue.
Growing up in Hungary, FatHeat honed his skills entirely on his own without any kind of formal background or training. Forming the Coloured Effects Crew with fellow artists and friends, they have been setting the Hungarian landscape alight with a unique blend of madness and creative integrity. His bizzare menagerie of cosmic creatures are often genetically engineered together with spray can DNA to throw up wonderfully imaginative incarnations of very fat caps. Riding through oceans of understated colour that add filtered layers of inangibility then bursting into electric volume on the schiz side we are loving his stuff and caught up with him for an interview.
How did you initially start in graffiti
to Western Europe to try their luck. Some of them who came back brought stolen One of my classmates in elementary school trainers some of them drug addictions, but copied the No Fear logo in his exercise book, some of them brought back graffiti in the form I really liked it, so I tried to create my own of crappy styles and photocopied magazines. little signs in the same style, while ruining a Hungary is really a capital centric country, so couple of history and math books. I went to the hardcore side mainly started in Budapest high school in a slightly bigger city with some in the early 90’s, but as time goes by I stumble real graffiti in it and I instantly fell in love with on more and more stories from smaller cities it. Luckily I met two guys who were already claiming that writers there started even painting trains, and to make this short story earlier. The golden age for trainwriting were even more boring and predictable: the final 95’-00’ as far as I see it. Since there are not hook into addiction came when they lent me a that many yards or layups here, it is getting VHS copy of Style Wars. harder and harder to paint trains just like anywhere else in the world. Tell us a little bit about the history of the Hungarian scene First of all, Hungary is a small country, with a pretty small scene. After the wall came down in Berlin and our political system became democratic, a few young Hungarians went
On the legal scene: we only have 1 officially legal wall (which is going to be demolished this year), and due to a law introduced in 2010 you can go to jail for even one tag if you get caught.
How much do you think being self taught opened your mind I always felt like that at the end of the day you can only teach yourself. What I mean by that is that only one’s passion for creating can make a good graffiti writer, musician, shoemaker or whatever. You can go to a school, you can have the best teachers, the best books, the best tools but if you don’t put hard work and countless hours of drawing and thinking into it, you won’t progress. Going to school might make things easier for some, but I want to deeply understand every goddamn bit of my knowledge, so I can really own it. It doesn’t mean that I will always “super-structure” and over-think everything I draw or paint (though I do that sometimes!) because this knowledge has really become a part of me. In time, it becomes instinctual so I think about it less How did the Colored Effects Crew come together On our first visit to Poland as CFS one of the guys from there asked us, if the Colored Effects were put together, or had it’s members
selected by someone. We laughed out loud. It was very simple - we were a few young kids with a shared interest in creating big colourful things on walls. The lucky bit was that we became really good friends, and since then we share our knowledge with each other while painting together. The crew was founded in November of 2000 with Böki, Mr.Zero, Bush and myself. Than came Hepi, Breakone, Obie and Sior.
What is it about the darker side of imagination that attracts you Many think (especially my mom) that there must be something wrong with me, if I am painting such aggressive, strong imagery. Years ago I read an interview with Keith Flint (Prodigy), who was asked pretty much the same question. I cannot recall his exact words, but he basically said that creating this kind of stuff is exactly the way to exorcise it. This is my therapy, my meditation. The people close
to me can tell you that I am a really chilled and folk stories, which I’ve just started to guy, and by no means aggressive, so it must be really value. Last year I painted a huge “Busó” working! monster which character is related to a beautiful way of saying good bye to the winter the Hungarian way (see above) Plus it is not just me, I was really surprised when I realized how many people were hooked on evil grungy stuff, I think it is because western society surrounds us with minimal clean visuals, objects to get their message through as fast as possible, and people are subconsciously looking for the antidote to balance it out. I try to keep in mind that there is always two sides of a story, I just usually happen to tell the darker one.
How much are you drawn to primal themes and mythological imagery The fun part about this, is that you can have the lamest theme like a skull or hand holding a spraycan, but if you can make it interesting with style, you won. People love stuff that they can somehow relate to, and what is closer than our guts, bones and instincts. Hungary has a lot of entertaining mythology
How much do you like exploring the ideas of identity and madness
What does a skull mean to you as a symbol.
It is just a state of mind, most of us are only enjoying life if our mind-state is at a certain level which is considered normal by most of society. I‘m sure that most of us have experienced moments when he or she recognized that his or her actual way of thinking is different from the norm. That’s the point where most people really freak out, and just want to get back to normality as quickly as possible, and I do understand the reason for that.
It is a symbol of fear rooted in decay and the passing of time. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t got some kind of phobia, it is one of the primal instincts that have protected us since ancient times. It is absolutely okay to fear, the problem comes when we try to avoid situations that address our insecurities.
On the other hand I just love to explore these situations. I love the fact that my mind follows another path today and I usually try to make good use of it. Anyway, here is this thing called reality, we perceive it somehow, but who the hell are we to say that this is the right way to do it? Plus just think about it, humanity has always tried to alter reality with alcohol or any other drugs.
I wouldn’t necessarily divide the two. I was thinking of possible definitions of ‘style’, and the best solution that I came up with was that style is the way you abstract something. All art is just abstract alteration of the world surrounding us (totally made up sci-fi hyper crazyness is somewhat based on reality too). So when you paint or sculpt a figure, what you are really doing is getting rid of unnecessary details and emphasizing the important
Where is the balance between abstraction and figurative for you
characteristics. It is valid for photorealistic stuff as well. Because that also gets rid of details, since you just can’t zoom in endlessly. How do you create energy and dynamics in a piece The absolute classic way: at first I think of it as one big thing and try to give it a good direction and flow, from there I continue to the main elements working my way down to the smallest details. Keeping this in mind I try to use as many fatcap lines as possible, it really makes me think differently, and because of the amount of the paint that’s coming out I have to paint things quickly which is quite handy if you are about preserving energy.
Did you reach a point in your work where you didn’t have enough time to do what you wanted when painting illegally. I used to think that I have, but lately I have realized that way much more can be done in a certain timeframe that I previously thought. Thank you astrofatcap, you are great! :D
Do you miss the feeling of illegal painting Obviously I don’t do as much illegal stuff as I used to, and I am missing commuter trains. It is still possible to do it, though for me 10-15 minutes is usually not enough. But lately I’ve found a new “love” which provides enough time, so I started to do some little this and that again, and boy, it feels good.
How much lettering did you do before you started more character based painting and how much do you still do. From 98 to 2005 I was only into lettering. Right now I am obviously more focused on the character based stuff, but every now and than I get back to letters. I am thinking of getting back to them more seriously this year, but with a little bit of a different approach. I learned the basics of light and shade through lettering, then moved on to characters, but now I’ll try to turn it backwards and apply the knowledge that I’ve gained through characters to lettering. How much has your style changed over the last 10 years It is incredible to look back at photos from 2003. For me it is a clear path, and I know every step of it, and I also know the reasons for the steps, but if you choose two photos far enough from each other in time, you most likely won’t be able to tell that it is the same guy. So I have to say my has style changed a lot and I know it will keep progressing and mutating as long as I paint. How does the location of a piece affect what you paint A good piece for me is a piece that somehow is in dialogue with its surroundings, whether it uses the advantages of the actual location or
confronts it. The best part is if I can manage to use some kind of damage or decay on the wall to be the essence of a painting. It has always been important to our crew, for example Böki usually paints on rusted metal, which really becomes the piece itself, since with time the rust changes and grows. Mr Zero also loves to use cracks in the wall to do his little tricks. How much are illustrations at the core of what you do Totally!
A couple of years ago I found myself in deep and true love with comics and illustrations. That is exactly what I want to do. I think that many hardcore heads wouldn’t even consider me as a graffiti writer since I mostly do illustration or character based stuff, but that is absolutely fine by me, and I don’t care much about labels. I’m just trying to create as many fresh things as possible.
How much do other influences like music affect your visual art Music is the single most important inspiration for me, or I’d rather say energy source. I’ve always been surrounded with music and musicians, and most of the crew is involved or has been involved with music. I’ve been playing guitar pretty seriously for 8 years, but then graffiti came. I’m not too picky with the genres but I’m definitely picky with good music. I mean I listen to hip hop, rock, minimal Jimi Hendrix through the Gaslamp Killer to techno, drum and bass, even dubstep if I find even things like Stimming’s Liquorice album. the right energy in it. My selection goes from I just try to find the right music for the right moment. Tell us about the Black Duke project It was the best project that I took part in during 2012 - organized by lovely people, fighting against corruption. She is such an enormous piece of metal! The photos and videos are just simply not able to illuminate the feeling of standing next to her. In advance we saw some photos of Kiwie’s work, we knew that she’s at least a D cup, but when we arrived, we were shocked! Plus what I really appreciated was that the organizers never wanted to control what we painted, they only asked us to do something related to the ship, or corruption. Despite the freaking hostile weather (heavy wind, and rain in November), Maurice (the organizer) stood shoulder to shoulder with us late into the night! (See first page of interview for image)
Tell us a little about your inclusion of spray cans in a lot of your pieces I guess I see them too much! Honestly, I usually don’t give too much describable meaning to my pieces, they are more about the mood, or a feeling, but there were a couple where I really meant something, like in the one called “Dead Kings”. There I used the spraycan to connect the piece to the (Hungarian) graffiti scene. I wanted to show the way I saw my childhood graffiti heroes at that moment. I know it sounds strange. I don’t want to get into details with this, some people might get offended. Tell us about ‘Pissing on Street Art’ and the meaning behind it
Well we were at the Bratislava Street Art festival with Mr.Zero, we really enjoyed ourselves, but we both finished too early with
comes to the visual arts. Not necessarily for creating finished products, because sometimes you end up with something that is just too clean, but it is a great tool for experimenting with absolute freedom. Trying things out that you might have never tried on a wall. You don’t have to waste paint and it is super fast in the right hands. There’s no drying time, there’s no mixing time, just pure fun. Tell us a little about the glowing eyes Nothing too deep about them! I was focusing more on the structure of the actual characters when I started to paint eyes like this, and the main reason was that I realized it is too easy to “sell” any garbage to the average viewer with two well painted eyes with pupils and fancy highlights. At that point it was more important to be able paint the planes correctly. How do you build your otherworldy colours In the beginning, because of the limited amount of paint I was able to get, I really wanted to make sure that the colour selection worked. That meant that there were no space for experimentation. Usually simple, classic gradients. For me the key was more about understanding how light works. As soon as I understood that it is enough to use 2-3 tones plus a highlight I realized that I don’t have to use the same colour’s different tones. As long two big walls at the same spot, so we asked the organizers if they had any other spots that as they are different tones you can create any 3D like objects with them. The fun part is to were still possible to paint before we moved to the festival’s other location. So they showed think about the colours of an object and how us this incredible piece of metal in the middle a certain colour might change in warm or a cold light, or with a certain camera filter. of a busy bus station (I think it was a water boiler), we instantly fell in love :D It was done in 3 or 4 hours and the meaning, uhhhm, I’d like to leave it to the viewers imagination.
How do your digital and your painted work influence each other Photoshop and Illustrator are the best things to happen to me since spray paint when it
How much does playing with different mediums – watercolour / acrylic, spray, computer etc keep things alive and fresh I like playing with different mediums but I don’t feel that it’s that important, because no matter what are you utilizing at the end it all comes down to the fundamentals of drawing and painting and the idea itself, and I think my favourite medium always going to be the almighty spraypaint. Such a versatile tool!
How was painting on cellophane Loved it! First of all it is super easily applicable almost wherever you like, it is inexpensive, and most importantly transparent, therefore without too much effort you can interact with the surroundings. Right now my focus is on “classic” walls, but I have got a couple more interesting ideas for this kind of surface which I am planning on painting in 2013.
Is your imagination always ahead of the ability to express it or have you found a balance. My imagination is always ahead, I will even admit that I’ve had to throw out really good ideas because technically I wasn’t able to execute them. Fortunately with time, that situation has grown increasingly rare. How deep does your addiction go Caffeine and nicotine, but first and foremost drawing and painting. I get ridiculously impatient with people when I don’t get my daily fix of creating, and if I somehow end up not creating something in a day things can easily start looking negative for me.
Tell us about the project with the Hungarian National gallery Well it was kind of weird to be honest. In the first place we were really glad to be
able to paint a wall at the National Gallery, on the other hand we had a couple strange experiences during the process. When I started to paint (illegal) graffiti many years ago I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would take part in such an exhibition.
the internet really changed the pace of this game. It is a great thing to be virtually connected with almost all the worlds sprayers and to watch how the whole culture evolving. Using the internet also has its flip side, since let’s say 15 years ago certain cities really had a recognizable direction of styles, but now thanks to the digital era, this phenomenon disappeared. The other aspect is the tools that people are using: using high quality paint makes things so much easier.
The basis for the exhibition was a good cause – to raise awareness for disabled people. But in the process the sponsor of the exhibition wanted us to change a couple things on the wall.We stuck to our balls and we said that What are you doing in 2013 either you cover the whole thing white or let it be as it is. Luckily they broke first, we haven’t Drawing, painting and traveling changed anything on it.
How do you see the current state of graffiti I think it is incredible. Right now it is probably one of the most innovative area of contemporary art with so many insanely hard working and talented writers. There are certain aspects which will always remain the same, but as with many other things
Whipping together a furious, bass heavy fusion of disparate elements into a signature sound that has taken dancefloors by storm, Sub Slayers are in the place.... Wotch yer bass bins. Label boss Jay Cunning has long been a pivotal figure in the breakbeat scene, using his influential radio presence to help steer the breaks sound through its peaks and innovate its troughs into a new wave of speaker shattering momentum. Harnessing aspects of breakbeat, dubstep and raw junglism into a blazing new dimension, Sub Slayers have been in the vanguard of the ‘future jungle’ movement that is currently tearing a ruffneck trail through bassline consciousness.
Helping found a new style of dance music bursting with untamed energy and a distinct roots flavour, Sub Slayers have pushed the 140 bpm matrix into half speed, double speed flows of sonic assault while anchoring deep in a reggae soul. Stripped back sunshine vibes resonate with sub bass menace one minute as tearout filth rattles ribcages the next and rips out into weaponised tribal mystery. A tight crew of producers and outrageously inventive DJ’s where the styles and vibes switch up on the fly, they have been setting some serious standards from studio to decks. With a hefty double album - Bass Selection 1 + 2 just released, the Sub Slayers Sound System coming alive and soundclash EP’s licking up a raggamuffin spin, we caught up with Jay for a chat.
How did you originally start raving?
so on that basis alone, I’m pretty sure that I’d have been captured by it on a purely Well we had some friends down on the south musical level even without the wider sense coast with a holiday home on Hayling Island, of revolution in the mix. Even before that first and there was a night up the road in a club night at Sterns, I’d been heavily into pirate called Sterns. Sterns was this huge mansion radio and had been listening to Sunrise and on top of a hill in Worthing, and it must’ve the other London based stations since late been 1991 when a mate of mine took me 89. There’d be people like DJ Hype and DJ Rap down to a party there. I was 16, and walking playing back in those very early days and we’d in there transformed every last preconception all be sat in the back of a car, smoking a few I had about clubs and going out. Witnessing joints with the stereo whacked up loud and the togetherness and seeing just how deep loving the tunes, so I was already captivated people were into the music was a phenomenal by the music. Taking it into the club arena experience. It wasn’t about rolling up to some was the final step – when it went from just club after a few drinks and checking out a listening to it to experiencing in its full glory few tunes any more – this was full blown in the environment it was ultimately designed immersion in a lifestyle and in a culture, and I for. So I don’t think I’d every have been able was hooked from that day on. to escape that pull even without the added dimension the party gave it. Do you think it would have had the same degree of impact on your life if there hadn’t been this overwhelming sense of love, unity and being swept away on a movement? I think it would have done to be honest. Musically, I’ve been into pretty much every style of dance music over the last 20 years,
So when did you start to make the transition from raving and messing about on the decks to taking a more proactive role in mixing and the organizational side of things D’you know what……it was years and years later. A friend of mine who I was living with back in early 92 sold me a pair of wooden decks. One of those creaking jobs where the decks and the mixer were all built into one without so much as a sniff of pitch control. It took over virtually my entire bedroom and what with no pitch control – the only way I could try to mix was by speeding a record up by hand to try and get it in time – even for a split second. Meanwhile, my mate had upgraded to a pair of Soundlabs so we’d all pile round his place for a session, but we were really just playing about with spinbacks and clumsy cuts – none of us had a clue. Pissing about and scoring new bits of vinyl was a right laugh, but it wasn’t going any further than that. Then suddenly, at the end of 1992, my family
moved lock stock and barrel to New Zealand. And bizarrely enough – that was where I learned how to mix. Didn’t even have any turntables! I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was as much about understanding the concepts behind it, the techniques and the art of creating a flow than actually practicing. I had all these mixtapes and I would listen to them so, so intently, as apart from anything, they were my link back to the UK. My mates would keep me connected with a steady stream of mixes by post and I would spend my time breaking them down and dissecting them into a template for how to mix. And by the time I got back in 1994 to find my mates turntable skills pretty much where I left them, I could somehow just mix. All that tortured time spent analyzing mix tapes bar by bar just flooded out onto the decks and I was suddenly in the groove. From that point, not much changed for a while. I wouldn’t say I was shy, but I certainly found it difficult to break out from the
bedroom. We’d make mixtape after mixtape and then set about micro analyzing them into oblivion. We phoned up Dream FM and Weekend Rush radio stations, talked them into a meeting so we could give them a demo and then bottled it completely. So I basically stayed a self critical bedroom DJ for years, though always keeping my vinyl habit firmly fed. I started playing styles from old school & jungle to techno to house and on into UK Garage and somewhere around 97, a mate of mine pitched up with a proposition. ‘My mate runs this station, it’s local, and he’s heard one of your mixtapes and wants you to come play on the station’. Well, that station was Lush FM, run by DJ Luck of Luck and Neat and I started off playing the 6-8am show on the Saturday morning. That was my first real step out of the bedroom. I got into breakbeat in 98 / 99 and began incorporating it into my radio sets at which point I got in touch with Alex – King Yoof who ran Breaks FM and from there it began to spiral into something more serious. How did that then progress into the Kiss years Well I’d been doing a lot of internet radio on Breaks FM, Groovetech and Ministry of Sound. And whenever Tayo was on tour or off for whatever reason, they would get me in to cover for him. When they announced that he was moving onto Radio 1, they did a load of demo shows and I got the call a few weeks later to say the slot was mine. Pirate stations tend to be more about mixing with a few shouts – how was the transition to not much mixing at all but showcasing new tracks and doing interviews It wasn’t that hard for me. Back in the Lush FM days – it was exactly that – head down in the mix and the occasional few words. But when I was doing the Menu Music show on Breaks FM with Terry Hooligan of Atomic Hooligan (Menu was our label) – we just used to piss about and have a laugh while playing a few
records. It wasn’t so much ‘let’s get serious and do a mix’ but more have a few drinks, get some guests on, get some banter going and then let the guests crack on with the full on mix bit. And it was massively successful. I remember – at its peak, we had 220,000 downloads in a 4 week period. And that was in 2004/2005 when internet radio wasn’t as embedded an idea as it is now. Moving onto Ministry – we felt we had to step up the professionalism, and so the format and the approach changed again and we added our good friend Katie into the mix – so by the time I got to Kiss – I had pretty much done radio shows from every angle. That allowed me to distill those experiences into the best elements and structure a professional show without it being too stiff. I would always try and maintain some mix elements in there too – yes I’d promote the music, play the track, give the artist and title and any other info, but
I would slip in a short mix where I could and have a little 20 minute mix up at the end. Before anything else I do in music – I’m a DJ. That’s what I’ve loved since I started and that’s what I’ll always love until I die. That period is now what’s referred to as the ‘golden age of breaks’. Fast forward a few years and the tombstones were being fitted. Why do you think it got to that point? I think tombstones is a bit of a harsh word, but there was an undeniable lack of interest in breaks compared to the levels it had hit in the early 2000’s. It’s a very hard question to answer and there certainly isn’t one stand alone factor that led to that happening, but rather a combination of a few different currents. There were a lot of people at the top of their game in the breaks scene and that
left very little room for new talent to move on up, which then restricted it from being a permanently evolving medium. If you look at drum n bass, there is a constant flow of fresh artists coming up and being nurtured by the big guns and the big labels that showcase them and push them into the limelight. That didn’t really happen in breaks. I’m not taking anything away from the big guys – they were out there week in and week out, plugging it, but the scene did miss those ongoing injections of new angles and new sounds. The other thing that didn’t help the breaks scene was overdosing on bootlegs. People realised that they could make a few quick quid out of rinsing an old tune and next thing you knew – the market was totally saturated. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll drop the occasional bootleg and they are a great tool to give your sets a cheeky edge, sweeten up crowds who might be a bit resistant to breaks and bring the flowers off the wall. The problem came when you walked into Vinyl Addiction, Know How Records or Dexterity, and half the tunes in there were bootlegs. At which point of course, new music just got pushed to the side
and again – the upcoming wave of originality didn’t get a chance to breathe.
How much was that dip an opportunity for new strains like what’s now known as future jungle to emerge? Well – one of the other problems with the breaks scene was its breadth. The last thing I want is for range to sound like bad thing, but there were so many sub genres all grouped together under the one banner, that it got potentially confusing to people who were into
one side of it and not necessarily another. You had the Elite Forces, Meat Katies and Dylan Rhymes doing the tech funk side of things –breaks bordering on techno, you had Olly Wood and Hardcore Beats, you had the tearout high energy style from people like the Breakfastaz and then labels like Finger Lickin taking care of the funky end. Essentially we were all one family, but I think that the problem comes when you like Elite Force or say Deekline and then go to a breaks night at Fabric where it’s all tearout mayhem. You’re stood there thinking – this isn’t the breakbeat I know – what the fuck is this???? So it got to a stage when it almost needed to be broken down a little bit into sub genres. On one level, genres are meaningless – it always comes down to music I like and music I’ll play, but from a clarity perspective and from the perspective of clubbers and people buying and listening to music, it does become important so people know what they are getting and what they are looking for. Especially with so much stuff out there to wade through. And now with clear sub genres like say, psy breaks and future jungle – styles have room
to develop a specific identity and get out from under the blanket of straight up breaks. So we’re using this term ‘future jungle’ – but we’re seeing a genre being named in flux – how surreal is it watching a style you’re so heavily involved with go through all these different names and permutations. And it’s still doing that – future jungle seems to be the current favourite, but it is still developing both a name and a musical identity. Sub Slayers came out of wanting something to push breakbeat forward – that was the sole mission. When I was doing the Kiss show, I was getting sent stuff like the Noisia remix of Prodigy’s Omen and Pixel Fist’s Speaka Freaka – 2 tracks which really stood out for me. I loved the way they had taken breaks and dubstep and morphed them into one sound, and I was thinking to myself – if we could just add an extra bit of energy to that….. Jungle wasn’t really part of my conscious thought process when I started Sub Slayers, but all knew was that I wanted to take all the good energy from
It was very important for me to have that. What I always respected about labels like Finger Lickin and RAM Records was that family feel they had to them. All the artists knew As it started to break through, there were a lot each other, they helped each other out and of names for it – Nu Jungle, Future Jungle, 140 there was great consistency and continuity Breaks, 140 Jungle – and to be honest – I don’t as a result. I loved that and I really wanted to really like any of them. What made ‘future bring it to Sub Slayers. jungle’ stick was that EP DJ Fresh had out I really started from the ground up and there on RAM a couple of years ago called Future was no-one on the label that I’d worked with Jungle – and even though it wasn’t 140 bpm before. That wasn’t a conscious decision in and more like 155 / 165 – that was the first example of a high profile artist using that kind any way – but the fact was that I was chasing a sound rather than specific artists. So when of name for it. Personally, I’m sure there’s a much better name out there – and ultimately someone put me in the direction of High Rankin and he started sending me bits and – it falls under bass music. But it’ll get called pieces of dubstep like only High Rankin can what it gets called, and future jungle doesn’t do – with rolling breaks synthesized into it, I seem to be going away – though I’m holding found this tune that was absolutely perfect out for a better name… to launch the label with. As soon as I heard it – I had to have it, and I’m glad I jumped on it straight away, because I know Herve wanted So you’ve had this idea for Sub Slayers and fusing those 3 elements – breakbeat, dubstep to smack it out – and I just got in there ahead of him. and jungle – how did you start to build a family on the label – because you do have a Then Gella came aboard with Twinkle. That tight crew. was due to be released on Fat, but never was breaks, the raw dubstep basslines and have that naughty drum n bass energy all shaped together into a new whole.
for whatever reason. Again – that track didn’t fit any of the conventional moulds and totally hit what I was looking for. Awesome tune. Listening to so many demos, I was just starting to go mental, when I came across some stuff from ID and Schema which again totally fit. I’m not a producer with a crystal clear image in my head of the sound or an exact map of how the tunes I was looking for would unfold, but as an A&R person for many years – I do know the vibe and the feel of the music I’m looking for – and the second I find it – it’s a lock. All of the artists I’ve brought on like Rack n Ruin, Schema, Gold, Toronto is Broken – I’ve worked with very closely on tweaking the track. It’s very rare that I get handed a track and it goes straight out as it is.
And I love that process – they respect my feedback and my vision with the label while I respect their talent and ideas and that creative bouncing back off each other is critical to honing really strong releases with a really strong vibe behind them. And even 5 releases in – terms like future jungle still hadn’t emerged and our sound still hadn’t been pinned down into anything beyond the Sub Slayers sound. Without having my head too far up my arse – I’d say that Sub Slayers was central to the creation of what is now called the future jungle sound. Of course there were other artists and labels contributing, but I genuinely don’t think anyone was pushing the sound as early and as hard as we were.
Looking at your releases it does seem that there’s been a definite new direction emerging – especially through Yoof and Gold – this stripped back, almost minimal, rootsy vibe. Was that a conscious direction or did it just organically start to move that way? A bit of both really. 2012 has been a very ear opening year for me and I’ve been hearing a lot of new flavours whether it be reggae, dub, uk bass, moombathon, or nu 175 jungle and I’ve felt very inspired by all of them. You’ll see those influences coming into the upcoming compilation, and in 2013, Sub Slayers will be becoming a lot broader in its genres. The first 18 releases have been mostly dedicated to pushing that future jungle sound, but there have been dips into future garage and drum n
bass, and from here – we’ll be moving towards becoming a genre defined UK bass label while still promoting the future jungle sound. I’ve been telling all the artists to lower those genre barriers and get experimental with the tracks they’re working on. Talking of outside the box – Spirit Song. It came out as track 4 on the first Toronto is Broken EP – and a few months later it’s soundtracking Arcadia’s show. How did you react when that iconic, ethereal vocal came across your desk? Well it’s called Spirit Song 2012 because there was actually an original that came out 2 years ago called Spirit Song. He sent me
that when he was sending me other bits and pieces and I instantly thought that vocal was phenomenally beautiful. As iconic goes, it was up there with Smack My Bitch Up (in a very different way of course!) But the original was very much set in the mould of 2010 breaks, so I asked him to do an updated version to make it totally current and forward thinking. It did very well when it came out and got some great reactions with Sub Focus playing it live on Radio 1 and Netsky playing it in NY – if that wasn’t enough of a compliment they had sourced the track themselves as we didn’t send it to them! But the playing of it for Arcadia’s show was like the ultimate second wind. We were meant to be playing the Saturday, but King Yoof and a couple of other guys were at Boomtown on the Friday and he rings me up at midnight saying ‘Jay – you’re not going to believe this, but they just played Spirit Song as the centerpiece of their fire, laser and performance show’. I came down on the Saturday and it just blew me away. What I’ve found very interesting is that because we are doing something a little bit
different, sales don’t follow the usual digital pattern of peaking for several weeks then tapering right off. The consistency of sales has been amazing – and I’m talking decent amounts of releases from 2 years ago. So the fact that 9 months after release, Arcadia are picking it up for the festivals and huge DJ’s like Paul Oakenfold are playing it in their September 2012 podcast is brilliant because it demonstrates the longevity in the tracks.
So where did this idea for the Sub Slayers Sound System come from – have you actually got a sound system or is it more about a tight DJ crew and a unified vibe It’s not a physical sound system in the sense of actual speakers etc. People like Yoof and Gold have deep sound system roots and have been on the reggae scene for many years. Gold currently DJ’s for UB40 and tours with them regularly, and they are heavily immersed in reggae culture. The Sub Slayers sound system is still in its very early stages with me and Yoof kick starting it. I’m on a 4 deck Traktor S4 controller, 3D Midi Fighter and an iPad running
FX and one shots while Yoof is on 3 CDJ’s. We’re not taking ourselves too seriously – we want to make it a bit of fun, find the right MC to host, buzz off the music, showcase what we’re doing, and get some cheeky samples in there. It’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t be out of place at somewhere like Carnival. We want to start involving the other artists on the label and get people to say play keyboards, or get a live synth going or whatever – it’s a totally organic project. You never know – this time next year, there might be 13 of us on stage with harmonicas and klaxons. Having seen you and Alex play together – there was a serious dynamism to it with stuff flying in and out of the mix at different tempos on a minute by minute basis, and the whole thing well on its toes. Without taking anything away from anyone else, do you think there’s a lot of monotone shit about as producers started DJing to make a living. As I said earlier – I am a DJ first and foremost, and I think that comes across when people see me play. Producers have been forced
by financial necessity to become DJ’s as the ability to make a living out of releases alone fell away over the last decade. And it doesn’t always work. There are phenomenal producers out there who are just no good as DJ’s – they aren’t showmen, they can be
very single minded about picking tracks and they can’t read crowds. And equally, you get amazing DJ’s who are just no good in the studio. They are both highly skilled in their own right, and it is very rare to find someone who can do both very well. Elite Force is someone I always cite as being a technically extraordinary producer and highly successful with it, but he’s also an insanely good DJ. Very technical but very into the crowd and a brilliant performer. He’s a bit of a fucker our
Shack, because he’s also very good at all the other aspects of running a label - promotion – the works. A true one man success story. While slipping in a load of gardening and 10k runs on the side I honestly don’t know how he does it. But there aren’t many of him to the pound, and on the other side of the coin, you’ve got the David Guettas going out there and pressing play on a whole set. That is just fucking bollocks. I don’t get that at all. At least if you are going to perform your own tracks, make some kind of an effort to make some part of it live, even if it’s the most basic transition mix. It’s really quite sad that people are commanding ridiculous amounts of money just to wave their arms about. Speaking of being good at promotion and looking at these new Soundclash EP’s and the Sound System concept, how important is it for labels to keep coming up with new ways to present themselves and innovative ideas to keep themselves from disappearing in a digital sea.
Absolutely. The beauty is that I speak to all the artists at least once a week. I vibe a lot off the artists and they come up with creative ideas all the time. We work together as a unit, and in fact it was the 2 Alex’s – Yoof and Gold who had the soundclash idea. It was a natural fit as they both work so well together and share such common musical backgrounds. In a digital world where there is so much on the virtual shelves, if you want to make yourself stand out, then you’ve got to be going that extra mile. Just getting your mate to do some basic artwork and slapping a release up on Beatport is not enough. You have to keep adding to the release and we spend a lot of time and money on things like artwork and our newsletter and thank god we did, because we now get comments all the time on how much that’s appreciated. Imagery and image is vital because it helps embed things in people’s minds and people always want to feel that they are supporting something concrete and with depth. The Soundclash EP’s help reinforce that family feel and the togetherness of the artists. And there’s going to be a lot more of that coming up as we have taken on Hugo as our label assistant and he’s going to be focusing on keeping that side of things slick and fresh. Watch this space
So you’ve just released two mix albums – tell us a bit about them and how they play off each other With the first album, I really wanted to have a compilation of Sub Slayers stuff with a load of tracks on it, get it up everywhere at a reasonable price and use it as a promotional tool to get the artists and the label exposure. As I was starting to put it together, two distinct directions started to emerge. One was to compile the defining musical moments that made Sub Slayers what it is today, and then an eye on the future and a taster of where the label is going. That’s where the idea of 2 DJ mixes came into it, and at the time of going to press, there will be 30 tracks on the first mix and 17 unreleased remixes and original tracks on the second – so 47 tracks in total. I want this to be a no brainer for anyone who has even the slightest interest in the label so they can get a snapshot of where we’ve come from and where we’re going. It’s all still at the early stages of development, but the title is looking like Bass Selection Volume 1 and with no doubt in my mind that it will be successful, there will be a Volume 2 next year and we’ll be keeping that in mind as 2013 develops.
With the digital landscape turning over tunes like there’s no tomorrow and DJ’s consistently under pressure to play only the freshest cuts – how important is it to bring pieces of music back into the limelight? Hugely so, especially with everything that has been going on around the building of a new genre of music. We’re not peaking yet and if you look at something like dubstep that has crossed over to such a mental degree, it’s been around for years. You’re talking early 2000’s when club nights like Forward were kicking off and Hatcha, Skream and Benga were knocking their heads together down in the Croydon to come up with the name. It took years before they were all over the airwaves and touring the world. Drum n Bass started evolving out of old skool hardcore in 93 and it was years before it got the kudos it deserved. So I do think that it’s insanely important to dip back in time and say to people who are liking the music ‘Boom – there’s a whole back catalogue’
Finally – there’s a lot of old school influences to Sub Slayers stuff – a lot of hardcore and 94 junglist themes. How essential is it to keep musical cycles turning with an ongoing interplay of older influences and totally modern sounds and styles? Music is cyclical. It doesn’t matter if you’re a jazz musician from the 70’s or a drum n bass producer from 2012, everyone is always looking for inspiration and feeding it back into what they are doing until eventually it turns full circle. And that is a beautiful thing. What is important to me is that you take whatever had such character and such impact from a certain era but you make it sound like right now. Music has to be pushing forward or you end up regurgitating stuff without actually contributing to it, giving it a new lease of life and spinning it into a totally contemporary context. It is important to look back, and it always will be, but ultimately – it’s even more important to keep looking forward.
Queueman and Sketchy
Dawn trickled hesitantly over the towering chimney stacks. Spiking off the vast bullet grey factory, they whispered an industrial ode to transience. Deep in the bowels of faded engineering’s haunted silhouette, the morning bassline chorus ripped through the psychedelic fabric of synthesis and danced into the echo chamber of mind, body, soul, and large, fuck off warehouse. It was officially on top. No two ways about it. An urgent meeting was in session behind the amp racks to hammer out a solution to a problem that had now taken on crisis
proportions. There was no booze left. Or food. Or tea. Or tasty treats of any kind. Sound man Gary who had appointed himself chairman of the Oh Fuck What Are We Going To Do Committee, largely due to his misguided professionalism in staying sober all night and consequently being the most distraught at the abject lack of supplies, was frowning bitterly. ‘Honestly – you’ll be fine driving’ he reassured Frank. ‘Take one for the team’ ‘What part of no fucking way are you having difficulty processing’ replied Frank belligerently. ‘Don’t come it with the holier
than thou – I’m so on it and together and sober when you don’t know how to drive. You’re a grown man for fuck’s sake. Get a bloody license’ ‘I thought we were all for one and one for all. My eyes have now been opened and the picture ain’t pretty’ chastised Gary in his most betrayed voice. ‘Listen Gary’ piped up Jane. ‘I don’t think you have quite taken on board the sheer wickedness of the acid we’ve all been munching on all night. Contact with the real world – especially in fluorescent supermarket conditions is just out of the question. We’d all be perched on top of the biscuit aisle gibbering for dear life if we even set foot in such deeply disturbing normality at this stage of the game. And you know it’s true. You fucking know it’ ‘Do you think we could call…………’ Frank hesitated. ‘You don’t mean’………….’ gasped Jane – wide eyed and fluctuating violently between raw emotion and shining rays of hope.
‘YES’ yelled Terry. ‘If ever there was a job for any superhero, this is a job for Queueman and Sketchy’ An awed silence descended upon this renegade band of ravers. Legend had it that these two fearless warriors had been raised by a pack of shamanic llamas deep in the Peruvian badlands after falling into a large cauldron of DMT at birth. Queueman and Sketchy had dedicated their lives to saving the sanity of those immersed in altered states when they simply had to brave the trials and tribulations of the consciousness sapping evils of that grim dimension known in the scriptures as the supermarket. Many had tried to endure the terrors of yelling children, 2 for one meal deals, zombie checkout girls and the robotic ‘customers’ who patrolled the linoleum flooring, sucking out every last drop of spirituality with their blank, pasty, hypnotic faces. None were ever the same again. The entire foundations of the wormhole into the realms of rarified consciousness seemed ready to collapse as mental sustenance battled the siren call of
physical sustenance and the death star of the supermarket seemed destined to break a spirit no amount of authoritarian repression ever could. Until Queueman and Sketchy rode to the rescue that is. Scourge of the veg section, doughty heroes of the bakery, conquerors of the condiments and champions of the cold meats, they boldly went where no fragile, sleepless raver dared go if he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life dribbling in a chair moaning incoherently about the horror of the checkout queue. Gary’s fingers trembled as he typed the secret number into the phone. A decidedly sketchy voice answered. ‘Sketchy here. What is the nature of your emergency? Please note that this number will be blocked to you if this is a false alarm and you’re just too lazy to go to the shops. We only deal in genuine crisis’ Gary impressed the dire nature of their predicament on the sketchy voice at the end of the telephone.
‘Just need a few more details’ said Sketchy in a businesslike yet noticeably strung out manner. ‘What kind of acid, do you really need food or can you soldier on, and how urgently do you require alcohol to take the edge off things?’ Gary’s voice shot up an octave as he drove home the hopelessness of their situation. It worked. ‘Hold tight. We’re on our way. To the Rapid Response Trolley, Queueman’. Our two heroes slid down their UV poles and dived into the costume pod. It span at light speed for a nano second before they came charging out ready for action. Sporting
Sainsbury’s orange headbands and matching legwarmers, Asda green lycra bodysuits, red white and blue bloomers a la Tesco (and Superman) and of course – the magic capes of mystery, alchemically stitched out of plastic bags by the Three Wise Women of the Car Park. Emblazoned across their chests in neon, glittering pink was the QS logo – which looked suspiciously like the Quicksilver logo but a little less swish and a lot more swoosh. Underneath it was the magical mantra. ‘This is not just a mission – this is an on top mission.’ Queueman fumbled in his jumpsuit for a one pound coin, cursed the untrustworthy nature of the modern shopper and his propensity for trolley theft that had forced this need for loose change upon the world, finally found one, slotted it in, liberated it from the chain gang and leapt into it sort of nearly gracefully. ‘Let’s go Sketchy. To the returns desk and beyond’ Passers-by, out for a Sunday morning stroll gasped with wonder as Sketchy ran panting uphill pushing Queueman in the Rapid Response Trolley. There was no doubt that the multi packs of crisps they had cunningly fashioned into trolley wings gave them an
air of sublime, inspirational mystery. As Queueman took the order via the ‘This Product doesn’t Seem to Have a Barcode’ phone, Sketchy juddered the Trolley round the final corner and burst into the intergalactic oblivion of the Car Park. The Three Wise Women cackled ominously. They crept stealthily in past the flowers and rainbow assault of the fruit and veg. Shoppers dropped their baskets in awe as they twitched through the tinned goods, mercilessly hunting down the booze section. As the Rapid Response Trolley began to bulge with Sunday morning goodness, Sketchy suddenly skidded behind the Fair Trade and soya milk section, slammed them up against the organic Quinoa (for the discerning middle class do gooder) and hissed at Queueman conspiratorially. ‘It’s Shelfstacker. FUCK’ The evil Shelfstacker was their arch nemesis. Raised in Wolverhampton by a pack of middle management badgers, his mission in life was to create a spider’s web of brainwashing banality within the white walls of consumerism as he sped from supermarket to supermarket ensuring any signs of character or personality were ruthlessly subjugated
into numb acquiescence. Yin to their Yang, honey to their jam, economy range to their finest range, own brand to their known brand, they danced the eternal whirlwind of dualism as good and evil battled it out over the household cleaners. And here he was. Shit. This mission just got a lot more dangerous. And there was a lot more at steak….sorry – stake. Shelfstacker made his opening move. As if from nowhere, an impromptu tasting suddenly sprang up in front of our two heroes. A crowd congregated, blocking access to the mixers as a hideously bored looking teenage acnefest plastered on a sickeningly rehearsed smile and began handing out cocktail stick skewers of some sort of lukewarm new bacon and goats cheese taste sensation. Grunts of feigned interest in a purchase to assuage the guilt of them. Reaching into their pockets for their tucking heartily into the freebies rang out on secret weapon – a stack of supermarket ear shattering frequencies as the mumbling loyalty cards – they hurled them like throwing reached fever pitch. stars at the swirling masses– ninjas in plastic clad lycra and legwarmers bringing down Queueman spotted a crack of light between silent Armageddon on the aisles of the Death the rices and the pastas. A young, mop Star. As the loyalty cards bounced deceptively wielding drone was limpidly strolling towards off the milling hordes, they were instantly it to cut off their escape. ‘Quick’ he shouted struck into a momentary trance as they and they burst through the gap as the first weighed the benefits of extortionate interest drops of cleaning fluid hit the ground before
against reward points. Seizing their window like a pair of unlikely panthers – they swooped shakily into the alcohol aisle for the final coup de grace and made hell for leather towards the checkout. Sketchy began to tremble triumphantly. But Shelfstacker was not to be thwarted that easily. Hoist by his own tasteless tasting petard, and hemmed in by the mumbling melee, the criminal mastermind created a skillful diversion by knocking over a display stand of Easter Eggs, bolting through the mayhem, and shooting towards the checkout in a furious bid to head them off. And only then was the true, diabolical nature of his genius revealed. Pressing the magic walkie talkie to his lips which had hacked into the tannoy announcer of all the major chains, he closed all but 2 tills in a split second. And just as Queueman and Sketchy reached the promised land of bleeps, to their stomach churning dismay, they saw a phalanx of trolleys forming around 2 very narrow bottlenecks to an increasingly elusive freedom. They were both approaching the pain barrier – that moment where you just want to hang yourself from the nearest strip light and surrender your sanity to the shopping experience. Where the sweet release of brainwash finally seduces you into nothingness. Vanquished by the sweets at
the height of a child’s eye. Trapped forever in perpetual women’s magazines. But these are the moments that set apart true superheroes from mere wrong un’s in dodgy outfits. Queueman took a deep, determined breath and steeled himself for the final battle of wills. ‘This one’s mine Sketchy’ he bellowed in his most epic voice. She looked at her partner in derring do with something that may have approached admiration if somehow she hadn’t ended up as the one pushing the Rapid Response Trolley. She’d always wondered how the fuck Queueman had talked her into that. But now veiled resentment gave way to solidarity as Queueman stepped to the fore and began the longest endurance test of his heroic life. As the queue crept forward at a Paleolithic rate, he began to feel the crushing weight of utter hopelessness cut deeper and deeper into his soul. He wanted to crack, he wanted to abandon ship and retreat to the car park.
He didn’t want to be a superhero any more. Why not just accept the inevitable and join Shelfstacker’s minions. But with Sketchy whispering moral support from beyond the mind vortex of the queue itself, he broke through the barriers, pulled himself up to his fullest height, waggled his plastic cape majestically and braced himself for those sweet, sweet words of victory. ‘Next please’ Shelfstacker frantically tried to direct a neutron ray onto the bar codes, shutting down the inevitability of the conveyor belt and throwing chaos into the matrix by compromising the automaton warp drive. If thinking had to enter the equation, our dynamic duo would be done for. He waited breathlessly in anticipation of a look of mild confusion settling over Sharon at till 23 and that charged moment where she reached for the phone to call over a manager. That would be Game Over. No-one could survive that no man’s land where time stands painfully still; where keys are jangled and uncertainty reigns. Not after that queue. But Queueman was way ahead of him. He twitched harder and harder, almost like a neurotic dervish and flowing out of the ether, the subatomic, quantum twitching began to build a forcefield around Sharon and the computerized external brain before her. Shelfstacker’s proton ray bounced off the twitch field and fizzled into broken dreams. Shelfstacker was a defeated force.
supplies and the edge taken off, that made it all worthwhile. Suddenly there was a whole new lease of life – the vibes could keep on flowing – safe from the soul sapping adversity of the outside world. Just as Frank was going to invite them in as honoured guests and give them each a slightly broken throne from which to savour their achievement – in a flash of trolley on lycra bamboozlement, they were gone. Onto the next mission no doubt. Their’s was an in demand niche in the superhero business. So just remember. When you’re on a good one. When you’re gloriously out of your nut. When your buzz is so fragile it needs to be nurtured with sensitive, loving care. When you’re low on supplies, you’re staring down a serious sketch unless your stomach is lined and the drinks are a flowing……….
Queueman and Sketchy burst out of the Who ya gonna call??? sliding doors and vaulted their treasure Sirius 23 into the Rapid Response Trolley. As Sketchy took the helm with a touch less resentment, Queueman began yelping siren noises as they Cooked up one seriously sketchy morning in a French supermarket with Ix Indamix flew through the streets – headed for the low sub bass rumble in the distance. Arriving at the rave in a blaze of something resembling glory if you were on enough acid to truly appreciate it, they were cheered to the broken rafters. It was that gorgeous moment of utter relief which meant the rave could move into Phase 2 – Sunday daytime - with fresh
Seducing his extraordinary photo realism through the fractured mirrors of imagination, Tassoâ€™s work oscillates between flawless representation and deliciously elusive perception. His range is inspirational, reworking the concept of graffiti lettering through wood and psychedelic fly agaric mushrooms, while his faces sing raw poetry to the deceptively mundane. His iconic chrome spray cans take self reflection to a new level, his site specific works play with context in superbly inventive ways and his experiments with underwater faces are simply astonishing.
From suspended pop culture stage sets of the bizarre to poignant portraits of Chinese children: from lonely painted windows to little green men, his work is mischeviously laced with the unexpected. His celebration of the mature female alone is both joyous aesthetic and proud subversion of airbrushed constructs of beauty and his intriguing ability to spin convention - be it through subject, interpretation, medium or perspective play make him one of the most spellbinding aerosol artists out there today. We caught up with Tasso for this wonderfully up front and revealing interview
How did you initially begin as an artist The question for me is this: At what point does something which is painted become a work of art? For many years I wore a selfmade shirt with the printed message: I am not an artist! I really didn’t care for a long time. I also thought to myself that just because I could paint a little bit doesn’t all of a sudden turn me from being a butcher into being an artist. I always believed that it would be up to the people to decide. This question was not relevant for people for whom I painted a commissioned mural of a landscape, a steam engine, or their deceased dog. I believe that I became an artist when I began to identify myself with my paintings, when a message was included in the images, and when I
began to share my thoughts and my fears in my pictures. My paintings became art after I realized that it isn’t art to merely copy a photograph perfectly (which might have even been made by someone else). In my workshops I realized how quickly I was able to teach this to willing students. Art is a matter of perspective! One can have differing opinions about art! Indeed, two of my paintings allude to this and were therefore titled: “Über Kunst kann man geteilter Meinung sein!” (“One Can have Split Opinions about Art”). Most of all, art should be unique, original, beautiful, critical, informative, contemporary, provocative, funny, shocking, and not merely a pastiche of something that has already been done.
Tell us about your memories of life in the GDR. (German Democratic Republic) In retrospect the GDR appeared muted, subdued, and grey. Colours were, for the most part, associated with the West. One could beautifully witness this in the western TV programs. Everything was prettier, more colourful, modern and elegant. We lacked sufficient consumer goods with quality, but ours was a world of lasting friendships and unity. When one can buy anything, children will not experience the same feeling of joy when they get their hands on a matchbox car, a Smurf figurine or a comic book. As kids we learned early on how to deal with the inadequate management of all consumer goods, by trading almost everything with one another. An ABBA button, T-shirts, BRAVO (German youth magazine), stickers, chewing gum, everything was tradable. Everything was a tradable commodity and trades were necessary to obtain things from others that we wanted to have. As a youth I just wanted to be different and show, through my appearance, that I wasn’t part of them, the communists, the system, the complacent.
My rebellion started with the music of the “NEUE DEUTSHE WELLE” (The New German Wave). When that slowed down I continued with punk music. I coloured and shaved my hair, wore safety pins and a toilet chain around my neck. Finally I did not have to worry about finding the latest hip clothes, which our stores wouldn’t carry anyway. One could permit creativity to run loose. Even at this time I ended up making pants with a graffiti look, using textile markers. After that I switched to the New Romantics and remained, almost until unification, a convinced “Gruftie”. Being so different, we had a lot of fun in the east. We simply claimed so many liberties, which the generation of our parents would not have dared. Certainly, there were problems with the police and the Stasi (former GDR secret service) were watching us. Nonetheless, this was never a reason for me to leave, and escape to the West. I always believed that escape wouldn’t make sense. If one wants to change something, it should be done where one lives. Fortunately many thousands agreed, which ultimately led to the peaceful revolution of 1989.
What did graffiti mean to you when you first discovered it? I first noticed graffiti while watching a documentary with my dad on ZDF (a major public German TV station). I believe it was Style Wars or Wild Style. I didn’t understand a thing, since the subtitles were moving way too fast. Besides, I was much more interested in the images than in what was said. It was simply awesome!!! The characters from my comic books came rolling into the city. Crazy lettering, which I would sometimes draw of my favourite band’s logos, adorned walls and houses. I was all over it! I didn’t know what that was, but I knew one thing for sure: THAT was me!
When did you first develop your photo realism? The first time I had the idea to precisely paint a photograph with spray paint, occurred when my buddy BART copied an image of the comic figure DRUNA, at a meeting with other writers. Druna was very sexy with strong curves, and was very realistically drawn. He painted her in black and white, with very few precise details. Nonetheless, I was completely fascinated. Every time he painted cartoon characters he messed up the proportions slightly, so that the results would look a bit shaky and toylike. The realism and the tight butt of the lady seemed to somehow hide these mistakes. I immediately thought to myself: I could do this even a touch better. For my next piece I therefore chose a decorative plate, which depicted a painting of a native American chief, as a reference. This was no accident, since I wanted to top him, and do it all in color. Besides ochre and orange, I had no clue which colors to use as skin tones. So painting a “redskin“ made perfect sense. I impressed myself so much with the final result that I knew from that that point on: THAT is it. This is what I want to pursue in the future. THIS can be done even better. I wanted to learn how to paint white
skin, water, hair and so on. During the coming years a fascinating world of experimentation and discovery unfolded for me. The whole thing had the positive side effect that regular people liked it and were willing to pay for it. Within no time at all I was able to finance my paint. This was important, because one thing quickly became obvious to me: At least ten colors, or more, were needed for one photoREAList eye.
Where is the balance between real and surreal for you? Surrealism, to me, is an art movement that is clearly associated with names like Dali and Magritte. When I paint a photoREAL apple on a table it simply is just real. If I paint the same apple, making it appear to have the size of a football stadium as it hovers over a city, dripping seeds from within, then it becomes surreal. In this sense, I believe the difference is mostly a matter of composition. If you are a little whacky, it is easy to paint surrealistically. Nevertheless, except for some, not so satisfying exceptions, it was never really my thing. I am too grounded in reality.
Besides that, I feel that surrealism isn’t timely anymore, especially since the aforementioned artists practiced it to such perfection, that it seems vey unlikely that anyone can contribute in an original manner to it.
How much do you work from photos, and how much from imagination? Well, my process is like this: First comes fantasy. I will make up something or see something, and then create an image in my mind, a story. Then I’ll make notes about it to myself. There must be hundreds of them by now. At this point most artists will start the sketching phase, whereas I will start arranging everything for a suitable photograph. The right person in the right clothes and the right accessories, in precisely the lighting I envisioned. With my colleges the work on the computer follows at this stage. Since I was lacking those skills, I had to laboriously collage the segments the old school way, or arrange them directly on the wall or canvas. In FotoREALism the objective isn’t to freely create, as the name indicates. The more imagination one accepts, the further one veers from this art form. One simply has to know what one’s goal is: To copy a photograph perfectly, or to create new worlds.
start painting after the spot has told me what would be perfect for it. Something that is tailor made for it. This comes with some downsides: It makes it nearly impossible to work with other painters, since you need the entire spot alone for it to carry the message. A good example is my painting: ”Es ist nicht leicht jeden Tag ein Künstler zu sein” (“It isn’t Easy to be an Artist Every Day”), which I painted in Quangzhou/China, on the wall of a gallery. This picture would have lost it’s entire meaning and appeal had there been styles painted next to it. Aside from that I need a little “warm up time” to think things through, which is why such pieces happen mostly in my homeland. The painting “HelpHand” was painted over one year in advance, in order to create the perfect photo, by taking advantage of the annual floodwaters. Would I have painted the same image in Rome, this piece could have never come to completion the way it did here.
How has your style changed over the years? How important is it to use the wall or the location to help tell the story I love to be inspired by the location. I only
After a long journey of perfecting my style, I ended up at a point where I didn’t want to be a copy machine anymore. Additionally, many new and good PhotoRealists had entered the
game internationally. One paints a rooster, the next one, a guy with an elongated neck and a clown’s face, the third, the obligatory baby or female portrait. It simply started to bore me, and to copy photographs had lost its draw, at least on canvas. I could also see that my colleagues AKUT with his partner HERA and, by then CASE as well, had a firm grip on the market. I didn’t feel that I had too much to contribute. In order to develop, I should have painted more. I had to focus on painting commissioned walls for almost 10 month per year. Since I earn my living predominantly with these wall designs, it is difficult to find sufficient time to paint canvases. As an example, I have to add that I was working on the two under water pictures, for almost two months each. Thus I didn’t really develop significantly during the last few years. In the summer of 2011 I realized that I had lost all my desire and motivation to paint (photoREAList) canvases. So I decided to simply stop painting canvases all together, and stop pursuing gallery shows. Instead I decided to focus on painting buildings and commissioned walls. The newly gained free time did wonders for my health, which had been affected by stress. It was a great feeling to have a day off now and then and to enjoy it without the self-imposed pressure to spend it in the studio wearing a respirator and being
suffocated by spray fumes. The change, or more accurately the new beginning, happened when the organizer of “HALLENKUNST” asked me to participate in the show for the second time that year, during the December exhibition of 2011. In the previous show I had exhibited my Graffotos, but this time I wasn’t interested in purposefully pressuring myself just to measure up with my MaClaim colleagues. I had an idea in mind, which did not require paint, nor spray paint, nor photoREALism. On the day of the opening I was in India, but spent most of the day wondering how my colleagues would react to the new paintings. In the evening I received an SMS from my crew member RUSK, who congratulated me to my change of style in the new work, and so it continued...ANDY K, SONNE, TSHUNC...and finally AKUT as well, who’s opinion I value very much. Everything was good! The decision to travel new paths was right and has been rewarded. Let’s see where this new path will lead from here.
How do you get that amazing mirrored chrome effect? The easiest way is to take a good photograph of a chrome effect and simply copy what you see. There are no tricks or secrets to it. Simply paint what you see. In general this rule applies to photoREALism. Paint what you see, not what you know. Less accomplished photoREALists use colors to paint skin, but skin also reflects the light and the color of it’s surroundings. Therefore skin can look greenish, red, white...
Do you still do much lettering? I own several photo albums of styles I did. Of course I started with tagging and letters. A couple of years ago I began once more to do some styles. It served me as a balance to the very concentrated, focused discipline of copying photographs. The letters were pretty standard, but sought to convince through their arrangement, varying sizes, and displacements. For that reason they were only painted in white with a thick black outline. At this point it isn’t too interesting for me to paint my name on walls. Except......,-
Tell us about the older women in your paintings – the celebration of their beauty. Is this a conscious comment on society’s false ideals of beauty? Partly. But, in addition, it represents my personal ideal of beauty. My friends and colleges know that I always had older partners. Women with style that act ladylike. For me it’s not a topic worth discussing. Beauty is not the consequence of a model figure, or the age of an individual. I have criticized this belief in many paintings, and made fun of Botox lips, anorexia and beauty oriented plastic surgery.
There seems to be a powerful theme of feminism in your work – the raised dildo for example. Can you give us a little insight into that? There is a funny story behind the picture “Inte gjort för män!”.I was invited to visit Ronneby in Sweden to paint a wall, which is
painted by a different artist each year. Right from the start I knew that I wanted to paint something that wasn’t just nice and pretty, something that people wouldn’t walk by and say: awesome!...and 100 meters down the road would have forgotten it. It was supposed to be an image that had a connection to graffiti and a sexual content. None the less the picture was to remain unobjectionable if viewed by children. On top of all that I was really into sidewalk paintings at the time, where you get the impression that a giant hole is opening up in front of you, a deep cliff or a shark or whatever. These paintings play off optical illusions, which are most pronounced when the painting is viewed from one specific point of view. All this I wanted to be present in my piece. The concept behind the work was to induce a misperception, and learn to what extend one can control and direct that with a painting. The success exceeded all of my expectations. Swedish feminists crossed out the piece with feminist symbols and slogans, just days after I left. There were passionate debates in the press about if and what art is allowed to do in the public domain. In the heads of those women spray cans turned into penises and milk into sperm! I had achieved my objective and began to realize the power we could have with our art. Still, the most important thing remains to write one’s name on walls, over and over again in colorful letters. Back home again, I wanted to say a special thank you, in my way, to the ladies from the feminist club, and painted the canvas “Inte gjort foer maen!” For that, I used their symbol for female, connected to a hand making a fist. I polished the fingernails and gave her a sparkly little bracelet around the wrist, and placed a dildo in her hand. Those are (usually) used by women and are made specifically for them. In my opinion, these people lack confidence, and they project their hate for men onto anything that resembles a phallic shape. All forms of fanaticism are unacceptable to me and I will defend myself with the weapons at my disposal: Sarcasm and art!
Tell us a little about the elongated, horizontal faces and their composition I assume you are talking about the faces from “We all are Chinese”- Trilogie Man Frau- Kind. (We are all Chinese-Trilogy Man – Woman – Child.) 2010 I was invited by Akim Walta to participate in the Germany –China – Project at the EXPO in Shanghai. One of the highlights was the possibility for participating artists to exhibit canvases of their work at the evening reception of former German president Horst Köhler in Red Town. I definitely wanted to paint something which was related to China, and which would be both, very timely and humorous, something which could connect the people with one another. I remembered, as kids we would pull our eyelids to the side to look Chinese. No bad intentions, it was just a fun thing kids do. This gesture was supposed to show, we are like you, we all are people on this earth, no matter what we look like. That
alone seemed a bit simple to me. I wanted to include the reason for our being there as well and therefore chose the German Pavilion at the EXPO, an impressive building with a very unique, futuristic Facade as the uniting element for this work. This form was then used to deconstruct the faces of the depicted people into separate geometric plains, in a Bauhaus-like style of Feininger, which I then proceeded to paint out individually.
What do you look for in a face? I don’t look for anything. A face either fascinates me or it doesn’t. Young smooth faces are less interesting to me. Youth is no accomplishment. No skills and no knowledge are needed to attain it. Everyone receives it and therefore I believe that it is only rarely worthy of depiction.
Are cultural references to communism relevant in your work?
I regard communism in the GDR to have failed. Today, based on human nature, I see it as a delusion. One doesn’t have to pay a lot of attention to it. I think that only one of my paintings refers to it: “Die Kapital”.
Do you like to play with perspective and perception? I love to shamelessly alter them in the urban space, or cause the viewer to be confused by making things look odd or out of place. Size relationships play a big role in this. In any case, one can really attract the interest of pedestrians by presenting them with unusual perspectives and ways in which they see things.
Do you change your color feeling according to what you are painting? I believe that this has never played a significant role in my work, being a photoREAList. When I used colors, that were different from those of reality, it was
if my paintings create an emotion when you look at them, rather than being boring. I believe there is more than enough of that type of art around...
How many of your paintings have a story behind them? If I am not painting animals, plants, landscapes or commissioned works, you can generally assume that there is a story behind every painting, which will often deal with very private things, or which were painted while I attempted to digest impressions or experiences I had.
for symbolic reasons. Today I paint almost exclusively in black and white. If I use colors at all, it is as glazes. I think I’m just done with it, after years of color saturated graffiti walls.
How important is the unexpected and the bizarre to what you do? I know that many of my paintings are shocking to the viewer, or even threatening. Most of the time I don’t intend to do this, and I am surprised when I hear this from viewers. Obviously it is much more preferable for me,
Has the Fly Agaric mushroom had an impact on your creativity? Well, if I would have continued to paint styles, after I completed the painting of the Fly Agaric mushrooms, I probably would have continued in a similar direction with them. Drawings and many such notes to myself still exist in my sketch books. I have also been collecting photos of the arm rests form from different airline companies over the years. Every time I’m in an airplane and glance over to my neighbor’s seat I discover perfect building blocks in them to construct a T, an A, two S’s and an O...
Tell us about the Ma’Claim Crew. Ma’Claim is an important period in my life, but a predominantly completed one as well. If it would have been up to me, I would have disbanded Ma’Claim around 2006. I always look at the situation similar to how it is with a band. What John Lennon did with Yoko Ono also had nothing to do with the Beatles. Nonetheless, I stood alone with my opinion back then. We now witness an embarrassing lack of productivity of the crew, which has nonetheless created four individual’s identities as artists, and as a businessman. Figuratively speaking, I just would have preferred to have us officially die as a group, in order to live eternally as a legend. The most famous stars are those who die early. That is the only way to become a legend. Legends are not born if everyone at one point says ”those guys did better stuff in their day....” In this sense it is probably best, if the four of us, as a group, never paint another wall together. I think AKUT and his partner are doing very impressive things, and CASE has found his way as well. Nevertheless, everything that I saw, which was painted in a two or three person combo in recent years, caused me to feel that I should quickly turn the page.
How close are you with your artistic visions, and as friends? That’s in the past. Each of us has gone their own way, and we all have our own visions. Furthermore, we all live in different cities which are very far apart. You just don’t get to hang out in the evening over a beer, and that didn’t really happen, on a personal level, back then either. Due to my age, and my completely different group of friends, I was never fully integrated. One should not forget, the other guys all knew each other longer, and were part of the same social group. I founded the crew and as a result, I slowly got to know their social surroundings. I got invited to parties or birthday get-togethers, but friendship is something else. We probably have some differing views, as far as that is concerned. As an artist I avoid looking at my college’s work. For instance, I have yet to see the images in a HERAKUT book, nor do I know what’s happening on CASE’s website. Nonetheless I value AKUT’s opinion about my work, as being one of the highest standards. A compliment from him is always honest, and if he says nothing I know what’s up. Every now and then we experienced the problem amongst each other, that it was
suggested, that one had copied another’s ideas or techniques. That’s how I protect myself from the risk of such accusations. I have to say this though: It was an awesome time that I wouldn’t want to have missed. Thank you, AKUT, CASE and RUSK for that!
How much creative independence do you have on your commissions? Is it sometimes more interesting to be given a theme to work with than to invent your own? You must clearly separate my personal artwork from my commercial activities. When I do commissioned art, I function primarily as a contractor of sorts. I have to keep the client’s wishes in the forefront of my mind. So when a mobile phone producer contacts me, I most likely won’t be able to offer them a piece of my personal art work, since their commercial needs will differ from the artistic concepts I deal with privately in my work. Nevertheless, I can do something original for
them (as long as they have an open mind, and don’t think that they already have it all figured out perfectly.) I obviously have to watch the financial aspects closely. I live in a relatively rural area, even though Leipzig and Dresden are not far away. Here it would be even more difficult to support myself adequately with my canvases alone. This is especially true since I don’t have a management that deals with exhibitions and sales. As a consequence, I now take the liberty not to paint FotoREALism in my spare time, since this has lost its enjoyment for me. As a result all my personal works are completely free, and far away from financial interests.
What does the future hold? I am very curious about that myself.
www.ta55o.de With huge thanks to Tim Clorius
An afternoon with
I caught up with Harry Belafonte at a press conference at the Locarno Film Festival. Mr. Belafonte spoke eloquently about the very important role that art plays in politics, his roots in social activism, music and theatre, and about our common humanity: Could you start by talking about your background in theatre and the social role of the artist.
from the Second World War where I had served in the United States armed forces with absolutely no idea where I was to go and what I was to do with my life. I worked in a very menial, unskilled job: I was a janitorâ€™s assistant. I did repairs in the building, I cleaned the hallways, I cleaned the windows, I repaired faucets. And in such an adventure, I was once given two tickets as a tip, as a gratuity, to go to the theatre.
A lot of people like to put me into a context that is easy for them to deal with. One thing people should understand is that I am not an artist who became an activist; I am an activist who became an artist. It was my good fortune to discover the world of theatre quite by accident before I was twenty. I came back
I had never been and I was very curious to see what it was all about. I went into the theatre, a small place in Harlem, in New York, where I was born, and a whole new world opened up to me. I saw the artists came on stage and I saw the magic of words, the magic of lighting, the magic of drama, the
power of the playwright. I just knew it was an environment where I wanted to be. I wanted to belong to the people who were doing this work, who were trying to say something to the world. I saw it as a platform where I could speak about my own desires and hopes. So I stayed, first as a member of the audience and then eventually I hung around every day and I would come back every day. I would do anything to be part of this culture and it was in there that I would be for the rest of my life. I had no idea what would become of it, I had no idea what it would turn out to be--it was just an adventure. There was much to learn and much to understand that would help enrich me, my knowledge and my spirit in this magical thing called theatre.
Brando, Walter Matthau, Rod Steiger, Tony Curtis, I can go on and on--this remarkable young group of actors who had no idea what would become of our lives. Because of the teachers we had we were embarking on a journey. One of the most important was Marlon Brando. He was to the world of acting what Picasso was to the world of painting--he was very dramatic and very inventive and he inspired the rest of us. I grew up with this and he and I were very close friends.
I was very lucky. The most important part of this early part of the journey was to meet a German named Erwin Piscator who had fled the Nazis and come to the United States. All the universities wanted to get hold of him as his name went before him. He had come from the world of Bertolt Brecht and Max Reinhardt and was known for incredibly powerful and realistic drama. Through his teachings I saw the deeper meaning of what it meant to be in the dramatic arts. It was very fortunate for me that my classmates--people like Marlon Bottom left - Erwin Piscator
The reason why I am here today is not only to give tribute to Otto Preminger but also to show Sing Your Song. I started to make this film when Marlon Brando passed away. I was very sad when we lost him, but I was even sadder by the fact that people said very little about who he really was. They talked about his fame, his philandering, his adventures as a human being, but they never talked about his soul, his heart, they never talked about his social vision. And it was in that context that I admired him and was inspired by him as he was very dedicated to the human family. He was very committed to doing films about the lives of people that he thought we should know about. It was no accident he did the films he did--he made those selections out of great consciousness. He had a belief that there was a purpose to being an artist. There was a great mentor to us, Paul Robeson, who once told us, â€œArtists are the gatekeepers of truth and when our voices are silenced civilisation will have come to an end. We are perhaps one of the most important instruments in the experience of global humanity.â€? In this rather august thought came the belief that the gift of art had a purpose, not just for fame or economic reward, but the
purpose to instruct, to inspire people to know things about other people. This is a wonderful, wonderful place in which to reside. Everything I ever did in my life was always measured in this consciousness: what do you want to say, why do you want to say it, and why do you think it is important for people to know? And with this anointing, this sense of purpose I set out to do what I did and the gods smiled on me: people liked the songs that I sang, I tried to do pictures that made statements about experiences that I had as a human being in America and I also found the opportunity through that fame to become very instructive I found that the audiences were very generous and responded when I sang. The first question I asked was what do I do with this generosity, with this much power, what do I do with this much extension, this desire to know--that my task is to fill that space with information that I thought would inspire people which would make them smile at the world in which they lived. Frantz Fanon, a social philosopher once wrote about the people whom he called â€œthe
Bottom right - Paul Robeson - Top left - Otto Preminger
wretched of the earth.â€? To live among the wretched of the earth, to live among the poor to among those who have had to struggle for human truth and human dignity is the place I most enjoy being. I have spent my life in the midst of that social strata because to be inspired by them is to be inspired by a greater use for my life and the opportunities which I was given. This is who I am and that is how I came to be. I would like to ask since the Preminger Retrospective is the centrepiece of this festival and since Carmen Jones was your first major film, did you sense in Otto Preminger this kind of purpose you have just been talking about? When he stepped out to do Carmen Jones, he didnâ€™t just think it was an idea for a wonderful Yes, I did sense that in Otto Preminger, that film, it had a historical and social purpose. he had a purpose in life more than just In most of cinema history, people of colourthe pursuit of fame. He had a deep social -particularly people of African descent--had sensitivity as he came from Austria, he had an always been pictured as sub-human. We experience with Hitler and the Third Reich and were never considered to be individuals with he came to America in the quest for freedom dignity, with a history, with a culture, with a and opportunity and he found the chance to story to tell. We were always looked upon as become an artist. And he used his platform a burden to humanity, as people who always to tell stories that he felt touched a deeper had to be helped, who had to be benevolently humanity. treated, that we should be instructed kindly by those who had power. But those who defined us as such failed to realise that long before they came to be who they were, people of African descent and people of colour had experienced thousands of years of civilisations and the development of civil society and done remarkable things long before Europeans came into their moment of glory and their moment of power. Most of how we were judged was measured by slavery. They found these people who were just a little bit better than the beasts in the jungle: white benevolence, and came to rescue us, to help us find our souls and our dimensions as fellow beings. Of course, that attitude, that view, of Africans led us to be always viewed as such. But Otto Preminger came to know us and understand us and he decided to take another
approach. When he did Carmen Jones, he saw in that film an opportunity to treat us as anyone else in the world would have been treated who were telling a story of interest, of tragedy, of drama, of humour, a story of humanity. And instead of seeing us as we were always seen--as servants, as buffoons, as mindless people running around the jungle waiting for Tarzan, the great white hope to come and save us--we were given the opportunity to show our own strength, our own dignity, our own spirit as a people. In Hollywood at the time, that was considered a very dangerous thing. First of all, there was a large part of our society that never wanted us to be envisioned as a people of a certain purpose and history – people who even today, are trying to force us to a subhuman place. But there were others who said to try to do this, to change the norm, would be a reckless expenditure of resources. Anybody who would want to make an all black film was doomed to failure because there was no audience for that, nobody would believe that, nobody would understand that. And Otto Preminger said, “I disagree” and he stepped up and used his own resources and with the
alliance of Darryl Zanuck and the distribution of Twentieth Century Fox , these men reached out to some young people who were quite famous in their communities to step to the table to become part of this adventure. This wasn’t a picture that was very political-it wasn’t a picture that tried to show us emerging from oppression. It was a picture that tried to tell a story that was far more fundamental to our common humanity: it was a love story, a tragic love story. And what you saw on the screen for the first time in Hollywood was a beautiful black woman. Most of the time what you saw on the screen were black women who were fat, who were servants, who were stupid, black women who were always servile and bowing; you saw black men who were always butlers, always taking care of the horses and doing all the cleaning, and buggy-eyed and hence they were a source of humour for the white master. Otto Preminger saw a very different kind of humanity. So getting Dorothy Dandridge and putting her on the screen. He put other artists-
-Pearl Bailey, Dihann Carroll, a great dancer by the name of Alvin Ailey--and he went and got Harry Belafonte who at that time was just starting to peak in his popularity. They knew who I was and Twentieth Century Fox thought I was a good way to insure their investment because I already had an audience. And when they put us together in this film, Otto Preminger did the impossible--we filmed in ten days. Everything you see on the screen we were required to do it in ten days for the budget. We worked very hard and it was extremely complicated--a cinemascope picture, we had to lip sync to the music. One of the problems that Dorothy Dandridge and I had was that the voices you hear in the picture were not ours. Someone else did the singing because the estate of Bizet from which Gershwin made an adaptation, one thing the estate insisted on were that the origins of the musical as had been written by Bizet could not be altered. And both Dorothy Dandridge and I were not classically trained--we didn’t have operatic voices so we couldn’t sing that great range, those notes. We could have sung it using other styles and interpretations but they did not allow us to have that artistic license. We had to stick strictly to the score as it had originally
been written. So both Dorothy and I who were singers said that for the benefit of the project that we thought it was important for us to go along with the idea. So we had Marilyn Horne who was a great classical singer--and still is today--at the Met. She loved the opera, she was a great Carmen and she loved singing Carmen Jones. She did Dorothy Dandridge’s voice. And a man by the name of LeVern Hutcherson did my voice. So we had to learn how to lip sync and it was quite strange to be on set singing and making love to each other with someone else’s voice [laughter] and we had to look like we believed it. But we did the film. And when it came out, to everybody’s delight and reward, the world fell in love with us, fell in love with the film. Otto Preminger was vindicated and he went on to do other films dealing with subject matters of black life, of black humanity, as well as other films. That to me was the earliest indication that the theatre allowed you to say things, to change the way people perceived their own society and neighbours and to see the correct way to live. I have been rewarded by that fact ever since.
In your book, you discuss among many things, going to the Havana Film Festival and you talk about going to meet Castro and how impressed you were with him. Can you talk about the role of film festivals and what makes them valuable? I think, like others, I enjoy the anointing, the opportunity to be praised given the generosity of the audiences. But there is an agenda for me--that is to take advantage of the moment since the audience is willing to hear my voice and to make sure that when they hear that voice I am giving them something that they can think about, something that might inspire them, something that might help them understand things they donâ€™t understand. I was born into poverty and the fact of that experience made me understand why the people in my family--namely my mother--were treated so cruelly because of their station in life. It was extremely difficult. And because of race, it was extremely difficult to get equal opportunity and I thought very early that
if I never did anything else, I would use my life to change that reality, that I should fight against poverty and racial oppression and that I should fight against all oppression. And therefore anointed with this mission everywhere I went and everything I did seemed to be touched by the fact that this was what I wanted to do. The earliest time of my life was influenced by three people. One was the great woman by the name of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the president of the United States of America, who was a woman of enormous qualifications: she had a great intellect, a great humanity, and she had inordinate power as the wife of the president to do things to change the plight of people. She felt nobody deserved to be oppressed so she fought for our equality. When she saw in my young life how I used my life as an artist, she asked me to come and work with her and be part of her mission. And with that opportunity I engaged in her mission for healthcare, for a productive way
of life. Then there was Paul Robeson, a man of great force within the African American community who was absolutely stunning--not only did he have a great intellect but he had a great capacity for language. He spoke, wrote and could read twenty-two languages among which were Swahili, Zulu, Fula and Susu and many tongues of Chinese dialects. People always loved him for coming to their countries and singing their songs.
who do not see us as worthy of our space. I found that whenever we went anywhere in the United States of America where it was against the law to sit some place, to sleep some place, to eat some place. It was the United States of America that created the rules of apartheid. South Africa didn’t invent that--as a matter of fact those who created apartheid in South Africa learned from the United States. We invented the rules of the separation of colour and the separation of class. So we always spoke to those we felt we needed to convince to change their belief that we should be oppressed.
When I met Dr. King, who was the third person, he was two years younger than I was--he was 24 when he led the movement in America and I was 26. That was very I saw how effective this concept was when young to take on such a large responsibility. I first met the Kennedys, when I met John But I admired him too: he had a PhD, he and Bobby Kennedy. They were not friends studied theology and he was a great religious philosopher. But he was a liberation theologist and he saw religion in the service of humanity, not as a force to command people but to inspire people. He used religion to teach us about the goodness in one another. From the very earliest moment when I joined him in the cause to liberate us in America, people of colour, he said, “The thing we must remember is that we need to talk with our adversaries. Our friends do not need to hear our voice--we need to talk to those who don’t understand us, to those who would crucify us, to those
of ours to begin with. They were gracious, they tolerated us, but they didn’t see us with passion. They saw us as something they must do as an incident to their lives, not as a cause in their life. We saw them as a cause in our lives and we had to reach out very deeply to them to convince them that they had to service the greater humanity which was to see the world in terms of equality. Wherever I went I found there was a social distinction that separated people, that separated ideas. In dividing and conquering us, I don’t really come to know you and you don’t really come to know me, you’ll never understand that I am really you and you are really me. Once we truly come to understand and appreciate that is when we can look towards developing a civilisation that is much more harmonious and much more rewarding. Sometimes you can be punished for that idea. So I went to places in the world where one side would not talk to the other and I said, “That is precisely where I need to be.” Wherever I went both sides called me
a traitor: the ones on the left saw me as a traitor, the ones of the right saw me as a traitor. And because of that fact I knew I was doing my job. When I went to Germany for the first time, I did not want to go. I had come fresh from the experiences of the Second World War. I understood much about the cruelty of “Deutschland über Alles,” the superior race, the blonde, blue-eyed Aryan, the alienation between cultures and theology, the hate of the Jew--all these things that made up that system and that crushed our common humanity. I felt somewhat reluctant to go to that place to sing, to bring the instruments of joy to a society that had been so cruel to the rest of the world. But that did not sit comfortably with me. It was precisely the place of my own base belief: that you must reach out to those who don’t understand you, to that community and make a difference. And because of certain friends that I had, a man by the name of George Merrick who was an Austrian Jew who became the head of RCA,
the most powerful record company in the world--he ran that company. And he saw in me and others of colour, a chance to make a statement. He gave us the opportunity to record, to bring our voices to the audience. He said, “Let them hear your art and it will change the way they think of you.” He did that for Leontyne Price, he did that for me, he did it for Duke Ellington… He signed all these black people while he signed all these great white artists on the label. He was also a social philosopher--he is the one who said, “You will go to Germany, you will go to Austria...you will understand who those people are and they will understand who you are. That is the real purpose of your mission.” So I went to Berlin, it was 1957 and I was one of the popular artists from America to go to Germany. When I arrived, there was a law that only a small group of people, no more than five, could congregate in one place. This was martial law so when I got to Germany there were not great crowds at the airport. So when I came, everything was segregated and separated. I came with this sense of darkness.
When I got to the hotel I heard a noise outside and the musicians came to my suite to ask if I had heard the noise outside. It sounded like this: “ah ha--ah ha--ah ha!” One of the men in the group said, “I think they are saying “Sieg heil, sieg hiel!” I told him, “I don’t think that’s possible.” So we went to the shutters in the hotel room and we looked out, and against the law, there were in the street below the hotel hundreds and hundreds of Germans who were in the streets screaming, “Har-ry, Har-ry, Har-ry!” And I got extremely emotional. Much to my amazement were these young people I didn’t even know who knew me and they were giving me this chant and they were expressing their humanity. And in that very moment I saw what I consider to be the future of Germany--of young people reaching out for another time and space, to do something very different from the history they had come from, the history they knew. Even in Germany as in the United States, the children still do not know enough about the history they had come from, the history they knew. They were looking for another place. And
therein sat the great opportunity to the artist, to bring their songs, to bring their films, their stories and art; to transcend cruel laws and violate everything--to make everyone listen. From that moment on I knew I would go forever to Germany as long as there would be an audience. But the most touching moment came at my concert. I sang a repertoire that was filled with songs that were quite popular by the time I came to Germany. One song in particular I always sang which I didn’t sing because I was in Germany, I sang it because I always sang it: the “Hava Nagilah.” [Belafonte begins to sing this song] By the time I got halfway into the song, they were singing. [Belafonte continues singing.] In the end it was like being in a beer hall. What fascinated me is that here I was with all these young Germans in1957, singing the song of the Jews who, just a few short years earlier, had been the victims of one of the cruel mass murder attempts known to civilisation. And now instead of crucifying, we were singing, “let us have peace, let us have love.” And all these Germans were singing this. And here I was, coming from America as a black American, having experienced severe racism, having even then, under the law--
there was a written law--that said I couldn’t sleep certain places, I couldn’t vote. All the things we talked about human rights and I didn’t have them. And here I was a black American singing to Germans the song of the Jew in the land of the Jew. We were all family
in one moment and that was an epiphany for me. I said I have now seen the clarity of the power of art and what my mission was to do. And now to get to the point of your question. [Laughter erupts] I took a long time to explain this because as my relationship with German and Austria grew during the Cold War there was a great strain between the East and West: we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was East Germany and West Germany and there was this division in ideology. There was the build up of nuclear arms everywhere and the death of civilisation was very close: nobody was talking to anyone except in great belligerence. They always said, “You can cage the singer, but not the song.” So when the people of East Germany called and asked me to come to sing there, I understood the social difficulty of accepting with the press stating I was a Communist sympathiser and that I was betraying the Democratic principles of the West. I said, “You can call me what you want but I know what I am and I know what I must do. If I can sing for the Germans in the West then I can sing for the Germans in the East. I do not accept this division because it is an unjust law that says we must not talk to one another. But I was doing the exact the same thing in
the United States of America, I just didn’t talk with people who loved me--I talked with people who disliked me intensely. I sat at the table with members of the Ku Klux Klan and with Dr. King talking with people who religiously condemned us as an inferior people, as the instrument of the devil. And through Dr. King and others we always spoke with the enemy because it was the enemy you had to convince: you can’t convince the enemy unless you talk with the enemy. You can kill the enemy but we had centuries of illustrations of that kind of behaviour and it never succeeded in making our civilisations whole. So when I got the opportunity to go to East Germany because of this cruel law in America, I said, “No, you cannot do that. I don’t accept this...If you want to send us to jail, there are those of us willing to pay this price. But I will not have my voice snuffed out because you think it is inappropriate that I talk with someone who needs to hear what I have to say and I need to hear what they have to say.” Cuba, which is a big thorn in America’s side, gave me an opportunity to go to that film festival and to meet several kinds of people. There are many artists--great artists--who are not permitted to come to the United States because they were members of
the Community Part or members of the Communist Socialist belief and the laws of the United States would say, “You cannot come to America.” And some of them were the most powerful artists of the day, great writers like Gabriel García Marquez, not permitted in my country--he won the Nobel Prize. So the only place I could meet him was in a place where we could celebrate art. So Havana said, “Come to the film festival and you can meet each other here.” So I went. I met Jorge Armado and there were so many other likeminded artists. In that environment I found movies I never saw being shown in Havana, arts from all over Latin America, things I had never seen. How did you come to know Miriam Makeba? The year I came to Germany, I had gone to England first. While there people were enjoying the afterhours party and I came back from my hotel. There was a priest who came from South Africa and he had been waiting
for me all night. He came with three young Africans--three black Africans--and he said, “I am sorry to disturb you, Mr. Belafonte, but I have come here in a crisis. And I am here with three young Africans who are political refugees from South Africa who will be deported to South Africa. And if they are sent back they will be sent to prison for life all because they dared to come to Europe to speak out about the Apartheid system in Africa.” They did a film called Come Back Africa done by a young filmmaker by the name of Lionel Rogosin. It was a remarkable documentary which for the first time gave us a look into what the Apartheid government was doing. In this film there was a young woman, as part of the story, who was singing a song and I loved the way she sang--her voice and what she was singing. And when they showed us the film in this private viewing room, they brought in these young Africans and she was one of them. And the South African government
said these people when they go back to South Africa would be put into prison for having spoken out against the South African government. So these men asked if I could help get them visas to stay in London and perhaps help them get to America. And that is what I did as a political service. I also knew if Miriam Makeba was able to come to America that I could help give her the platform so she could speak out on behalf of the African people. When she came to the United States she was concerned that Americans would not understand her: she spoke in a different language, she sang in a different language. And so I told her that music is universal they won’t understand the language that you speak, they will understand the language that you sing and there will be many of us to help you interpret what you do. “You speak fluent English and the Americans will understand. So we gave her the platform and she was able to speak out about Africa in terms people understood. She went on, of course, to become one of the great voices of music--she has influenced so many artists in America alone: Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, many
other Africans we brought to America, and the students who became artists. You see, I have always believed that one of thing that I must do is share the space of power: find the artists that deserve to be heard and give them your platform, let them stand where you speak, let them stand and speak to the audience that has came to hear you. The audience will love it and think it rewarding… And that is what happened.
Actors like you, Dorothy Dandridge and Sydney Poitier were able to pave the way for black actors today. Still there is debate about the place of black actors in Hollywood. What are your thoughts regarding the opportunity for young black entertainers today? One thing Paul Robeson taught me was never to compromise the responsibility that the artist has to expose the truth. That was the earliest mandate we had in that day. As has happened to the rest of culture, money has pre-empted life, money has pre-empted values, the things in our lives which are important. Artists have yielded to the dictates of money. The very pieces of silver we have taken to give up our right to be the purveyors of truth. What most troubles me is that we have more black artists than ever before-not just in the world of cinema--in theatre and certainly in music, more black artists are famous and known all over the world. And what is deeply disturbing is that most of those artists have never used that platform to inspire or instruct to take the focus of their constituency towards understanding the deeper humanity and to understand the world in a greater context. But that is not just â€œblack America,â€? that is the global.
What I think is happening is that money, the pursuit of money, has touched something very deep in the human DNA. We are creatures of greed, we have become extremely selfish as a culture. Our humanity has been blurred by our need to become hedonistically filled with constant pleasure: more, more materials, more goods, more space, more power. So that power becomes an end in itself and it destroys everything else in its path. And there I think we see that instead of seeing black artists singing songs and making pictures about the tragedies of what goes on in the world today-the stories of the Sudan, the rape of women in the Congo, and the stories of the millions of people who live in squalor in Latin America. Now people make films to satisfy the bank
who says: “Here is what we will pay for. We own the studios, we own television, we own the press and they will do our dictates.” And most of us capitulate and we say “fine.” They give us our thirty pieces of silver. Consequently we are on a journey in our time and global space where unbridled capital from the bank will lead no longer to a great overthrow. So I think because since the Soviet Union imploded since Communism could not work, we are now in a time where we see how power corrupts absolutely--we see how it corrupts Wall Street, it corrupts Switzerland, it corrupts culture, it corrupts religion, it corrupts civilisation. It corrupts. It does not enhance. What we need to replace when these things self-destruct is art, what the artist creates. We are the inscribers of history. You would know nothing about the world in which you live without these songs, these books, those stories. Who told those stories? Artists told them. I once sat with the Archbishop of Edinburgh, a liberation theologist, and we got into a
discussion of religion and mythology of the written word, the scriptures. He said, “I settled that issue years ago, Harry. I will tell you this: when you read the Bible forget the science and enjoy the poetry.” I really believe that we have yet to come to a deeper understanding of what we must do. I really believe that we have yet, as a species, to come to a deeper understanding of what it is that we must do. So that in this time in which we live, I think that if we do not change our choices, we are likely to feed the weapons of our own destruction.
Julian Vigo lubellule.com
Caravan Palace - the gloriously bonkers sound of gypsy swung festive groove with a twist of uplifting chaos and a gramophone fetish.. Ransacking the Bacchalian archives of stylised shimmy, turning the Charleston inside out and turbo charging jazz with dancefloor beats n bass, they are known as the originators of Electro Swing and the pioneers of a burlesque trimmed cultural movement. When Hugo, Arnaud and Charles initially united to soundtrack the naughty nuances of silent French porn, the gypsy jazz flavours they were already hooked on synthesised into something seductively huge. Harnessing all the debonair panache of the swing age, delving deep into the mischief and irreverently fly atmospherics of speakeasy symphonies, they forged a mesmersing new sound that remixed a libertine age and let rip on the 21st century. The fusion was pure potency.
Pulling together a seven piece band they unified a strong sense of musical depth with an irrepressible energy that radiates through both their music and their live performances. Twinkling, freestyle melodics trip the light fantastic across brassy Balkan riffs, intoxicating slapped up bass and driving electronic rhythms. Taking in a musical whirlwind of uptempo influences, winking homages to a noir et blanc past, raw gypsy passions and the jazz state of being, they built a breakthrough platform of joie de vivre laced with comedy and vermouth. Since their first album in 2008, the electro swing screne has exploded. Burlesque clubs and nights themed on the Roaring Twenties have sprung up all over Europe as the carnival spirit took on dapper decadence and let rip on exquisitely costumed mayhem. With their second album recently dropped in the UK, we caught up with Hugo - who we have to note - is a lovely bloke. Read on!
rebels in that sense, but that unusual way of How much were you already swinging when thinking fits us musically. you were commissioned for the silent porn project and how much did that sense of black and white illicitness help shape the idea. How did you strike the balance between nostalgia and pushing new frontiers That commission went pretty well, I have to say. We were already playing in a gypsy It was a fixation on the first album, but a lot jazz band at weddings and in bars around less for the second one... We just wanted to Paris, and thinking about how to make that crossover between our two passions. The song have fun with that crossover! The reality is that we’re not really nostalgic at all!! We make we wrote didn’t sound exactly like Caravan Palace today, but the idea, lightness and spirit our music in a “contemporary” way, i.e. we use computers to sound like a gramophone!! were in it. It’s difficult to weigh up the film’s influence on us, but it certainly gave us the boldness to do what we wanted! Is there something fundamentally mischievous about the swing sound Of course! You can’t forget the historical background of the music’s rise in America and Europe. People wanted to let go and have fun in traumatic times - when Nazis were occupying Paris, or when the Depression left millions unemployed. The Zazous were seen as rebels in Paris, purely because they were dressed in an uncoventional way, with beards and long hair when that was socially unacceptable. We can’t consider ourselves as
What were your backgrounds in terms of music and parties None of us was a DJ before Caravan Palace. Some of us have done a few DJ sets since then, but certainly never before. So, we only had a “clubber” experience of parties. As musicians, we all had a very different and strange road... Our meeting was one of those mystical twists in life, even if we shared a common thread of computer based music production. I (Hugo) met Arnaud, who was an old friend of Charles, about 12 years ago. Arnaud wanted to learn the guitar through playing gypsy jazz, and he called me in to play violin with him. We needed bass so we called Charles who bought a double bass and started playing with us. None of us had ever played jazz before, so why we went down that road is still a mystery - especially to us! How much of your early stuff was sample based and how much was live instruments, and how has that balance changed We had a 50/50 balance for the first album, but it was too limiting to be totally spontaneous. We decided to just let the samples breathe, and not be drowned in
the mix. So sometimes, we didn’t record a violin, or a clarinet on top of it, as we did systematically on the first album. And even when there is a synthesizer in a song today, it has been played live in our studio!!
How do 4 producers working separately hone a finished, unified track – do you each creatively control certain tracks or do the initial ideas get heavily reshaped through collaboration Even if we work separately, we communicate a lot via internet. And the “solo period” is only really the bare bones, and we spend a lot of time in the same studio (often Charles’), looking for progressions and answers. The evolution of the tracks depend a lot on the individual tracks themselves, but it usually has a certain “lift” when it moves from a computer to another, and the one who started it off usually tends to recognise it as such and embrace the progression. How important is instinctive synchronization between you – both on the production front and on stage
After all the concerts we’ve done and the years we’ve spent together, we know each other quite well. Our music evolved with our own knowledge of each other’s personality. Some are more comfortable with the dancefloor aspect, others with the melodic aspect. It’s the same on stage, as the other musicians we work with are all very talented, and able to bring something different into the live dynamic. Is jazz a state of mind and a medium or a musical style It is said to be a state of mind, but in fact, it has become a “soundtrack” to many people’s lives over the years. It has lost its “elitist” niche as it plays on the radio or supermarket speakers. Loving heavy metal and being a fan of Miles Davies because Daddy listened to him are no longer mutually exclusive
How much room for improvisation is there on friends in Beirut or Cape Town telling us that they’re listening to our music in a bar! stage Unfortunately, not enough... That’s why get fed up with playing our own songs on stage so quickly, and search for new structures, or new passages within them. We still have some very heady moments when we can really improvise, but it’s often too brief to be “technically” interesting!!
It’s extraordinary how the electro swing sound has developed a whole subculture – burlesque clubs, a whole fashion sense and imaginatively themed bars, clubs and even restaurants. How blown away have you been by the impact of the ‘swing movement’ We didn’t expect it at all!! At the beginning, we thought that our success was just a French affair, but the movement grew very quickly and now, people listen to it all over the world! It’s always a pleasure to receive an SMS from
How do you view the evolution of the sound since you started It has become a lot more aggressive and edgy. That’s a good thing, because five years ago, most of the “electroswing” DJs just put together a one minute loop of Ellington and a pre sampled beat, and called it a track... Now, there is a real culture of sound production in electroswing. We recently discovered a singer, Alice Francis, whose songs are really well produced, with interesting and original ways to interpret the sound. That’s evolution.
How do you see the differences between the French and the UK scenes
Does the UK festival scene have a unique identity or are we kidding ourselves ;-)
I can only speak of it from our perspective because our experience has been very different from what other French bands might encounterthere. It’s totally incredible to see that flame - that spark in the eye of the public that we recognise from when we started as unknowns in France. We’ve met a lot of crazy but warm people in the UK, and we felt both welcomed there and somehow - expected. We will be coming back in May, and we hope to find that same flame again!!
Not at all! We’ve played in hundreds of festivals, but our most incredible memories are of Boomtown Fair, or the Secret Garden Party! You just find the craziest things in festivals like that from people in insane costumes to huge explosions in the middle of a forest, and from carnival style attractions to huge, flaming, apocalyptic stage sets! I think we may have lost that spirit in France... if we ever really had it.
Tell us about your love for old school robots When we worked on the first album, our graphic designer asked us to give him a direction. Problem was, we didn’t even know exactly where we were heading with this project. Arnaud had the idea of the robot listening to a gramophone and that seemed to fit, but it’s ‘look’ was very important, so we bought endless books and visited an awful lot of toy shops!! We eventually chose a robot from a 50’s sci-fi movie, half kitsch, half cold as steel can be. You have always embraced the gypsy vibe – both musically and as an aspect of your name. It’s become far more common now, but at the time – how concerned were you about the community’s reaction to your taking elements of their traditional style We did our fourth gig at a very famous gypsy jazz festival, in the very place where Django died and was buried, so yes, we were concerned about it!! But everything went very well, and we were even invited back to play again two years later! The only people really unhappy with our music are neither gypsies nor musicians, but purist jazz fans.
How do you feel about Sarkozy (and now apparently Hollande’s) crackdown on the Romany culture Fortunately, they can’t touch Romany culture, only their presence on French territory... Unfortunately, there’s a whole population who suffer from repressive politics: Romanies, yes, but also “French/Belgian” gypsies (Django’s community, officially French for centuries!!) and “Spanish” gypsies! People don’t understand the difference between all of them, and nobody’s ever told them, because it is politically useful not to.
Never forget that every gypsy is a danger, for they are living proof of freedom.................... How important is a sense of comedy When you have the chance to do this job, you meet a lot of people who take everything incredibly seriously. But our job is anything but serious: I just have to think how many times my grandmother has asked me what my REAL job is!! We have the opprtunity to get paid for being ridiculous on a stage and to jump as high as we can in front of thousands of people. It’s not a duty - nobody’s forcing us to do it and so of course we have a huge amount of fun!
What makes a truly special live performance for you Sincerity and authenticity in what the artist gives to his public. It is not an obligation to make everybody dance or shout, but people must feel that what you give them comes from inside your heart, not from what you think
they expect from you. I remember a really boring Björk concert in a huge venue, and an unforgettable performance of Camille (a famous french singer) at le Café de la Danse, a very small venue in Paris. And that says it all - there is something intangible that makes a performance special.
How do you feel about remixes Strangely, DJs don’t seem massively engaged with our music, and we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to remix or to be remixed. So we do it ourselves! We’ve already released remixes of Clash, and will remix a few tracks from the two albums in an EP released next year. But if you know some interested producers, let me know ;-) Why did you stagger the releases of the new album between France and the UK There were a lot of parameters outside our control! When you release an album somewhere, you have to be ready to do interviews, concerts, and so on in that country. Caravan Palace is not Madonna (yet!) so we have to take it country by country. But I know it’s totally absurd when you see that the day we released our album, it was available on youtube worldwide!! It is not up to us, that’s all I’m saying!
How do you feel you have evolved with this album We didn’t want to do the album everybody expected us to do. And having honed our technique a lot more than when we did the first album, we could do exactly what we wanted: a new approach to electroswing, with various tempos and moods, making music to listen to as well as to dance to.
With such a revolutionary first album – were you nervous about the follow up
by what happens and we’re like kids in a toyshop every day!! Sometimes it’s difficult, because you never know what will happen next, but living on the edge of the unknown, Absolutely not!! We didn’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves, and we thank the and being able to keep doing what we do is a wonderful way to live. And the best thing? label for understanding that and trusting us It’s not finished yet! in our artistic choices, when they knew that it would disrupt their bottom line. Everybody felt that this album was necessary to keep the What does the future hold project going without losing our soul, and still The end of the world has passed, so enjoy playing it out! everything is back on the table. Next year will be very busy for us gigging all over the world, How much do you feel swept away on an and working on our third album. So I hope there isn’t another end of the world planned, adventure looking back on the last 5 years because we won’t have time for it!! It is so rare in a career to be able to say www.caravanpalace.com that you contributed to the beginning of a musical style... We always are surprised
Arnaud ‘NOWART’ Rabier, the French Flowerman is a man on a blossoming mission. Taking flowers as a symbol of peace, unity, universality and innocence, he has embarked on a global journey through disadvantaged communities with none of the patrician condecension so often seen in ‘artistic outreach’ - just the enchanting simplicity of the humble yet joyous flower.
NOWART is also notorious for his extraordinary blend of the figurative and the abstract in his faces. Extraordinarily complex geometries twist and turn through graffiti forms and three dimensional blocks of movement. Eyes pop out on stalks and are sucked back into the mix as bulging teeth ramraid two dimensional space and cackle knowingly.
Embracing the legacy of Vincent van Gogh, Arnaud has lifed an evolutionary artistic mirror to the old reprobate’s vivid trail. Pulling some seminal portraits of VVG out of the bag, he has consistently paid homage to van Gogh both through location and imagery.
As painted eyes reverse notions of a one way viewing of art in an often uncomfortable way, dazzling rainbow colours illuminate the anatomy of psychological complexity. Paradoxes and contradictions swirl together into wildly evocative pieces of arrested reflection. We spoke to Arnaud
What was your initial motivation to paint Originally I was a straight up breakdancer, and then, when I saw Futura 2000 painting live and Keith Haring on the TV program ‘HIP HOP’ in 1984, that triggered the ‘peace, love, unity and having fun’ that has been my motivation ever since.
What does the hip hop movement means to you At the time, when Zulu Nation were representing, it was a form of artistic freedom and above all a multi-disciplinary cultural revolution with a positive message for young people in disadvantaged communities.
How did you begin to really express yourself I started by using a marker to copy Keith Haring’s dancing men on the train and the bus. I progressed into a few some tags nowos, beast and nonoone until I painted my first wall in 1985. I have done nothing but paint since 1990, and I made my first video in 1991.
What is it about you Vincent Van Gogh you find so timeless and magnetic The psychological strength of both his portraits and landscapes, his absolute commitment, his love for humanity, art and paradoxically, life.
How do you see the relationship between the Impressionist and Post Impressionist revolution and the graffiti / street art movement They were the first artists who got out of the studio and began painting in the street and in the countryside. In doing so, they paved the way for the next movement: graffiti, street art ...... and in addition, there was a collective dimension within Impressionism that built momentum through collaboration that was a fundamental strain in hip hop.
Tell us about the project in the footsteps of Van Gogh Superflower in the footsteps of Mr. Vincent
Several components of the ‘Flowers of the World’ project are tributes to Van Gogh, and stem from my interest both in his life as a man and his work as an artist. 1887: The Parisian period – ‘The beginning’ of industrialization, paint that came in tubes and Impressionism. Vincent Van Gogh painted the docks of the Seine at Asnières and the factories at Clichy and St Ouen. 1987: The decline of industrialization. I’m not the first French graffiti artist to discover abandoned factories behind my house. In 1990, a hundred years after Van Gogh’s death, I painted inside the very same factories he had
painted on canvas and co-produced a video documentary on the their demolition in 1992. In 1995 I discovered a picture of Mr Vincent that was either the warehouses at Clichy or St Ouen (according to the books and catalogues) .... and began tributes on walls and canvases. In 2001,with a studio 2 km from Auvers, I participated in a theater production which tells the story of his Arles period. I refused the role of Mr Vincent but did a lot of live painting at the Espace Van Gogh in Arles, the former hospital where Vincent was committed. I have been invited to exhibit works at the Salon des Independent which was founded by Vincent’s friends more than 110 years after him.
Since 2003, I’ve plant, paint and glue superflowers wherever he had lived or placed his easel and often try to incorporate poetic and symbolic acts (sometimes in collaboration with other artists) In 2010 as part of ‘Heritage Days’, the mayor of Asnière asked me to set up an exhibition of flowers and performance on the trail of the Impressionists, where he painted the factories of St Ouen.. a full circle ... but the adventure continues ..... exhibition, performance and street art
How cyclical is art I think it is always the result of what others before us have done and to a large extent, what we have done ourselves. We are always connected to the past and we will always have precursors .... and perhaps, one day, followers How did it feel painting the actual surfaces of the warehouses Van Gogh had painted on canvas I only really understood a few years later ......... but I said “this is our History of Art ....”
Tell us a little about your international projects Since 2003, I have been running “Flowers of the World” an art and social project divided into several modules. This led me to work with different peoples and socio-cultural structures in various parts of the world (prison centers for the disabled, the streets of Soweto, disadvantaged neighborhoods in Santiago, and in Ouakam). The idea is to develop a symbolic language in an urban context that crosses generations and cultures to build a relationship of imagination and sensitivity with our environment - a poetic exercise of “living together”.
Tell us about the project in Soweto – how it came together – how the experience unfolded and how the community reacted to it It was at Kliptown that the Freedom Charter was signed and the ‘People’s Congress’ took place during the apartheid era. I travelled there 50 years later - in 2005 with two theater companies to film and paint for the play we staged with the kids. The play centred on children looking for flowers everywhere they went, before realizing that they themselves were the flowers and singing the Flowersong at the climax. I also painted flowers on hundreds of people’s houses and despite the fact I don’t speak English, it was wholeheartedly communicated to me just how much people loved them. I often found myself weeping for joy witnessing such love among the hardships of no water and electricity. UNFORGETTABLE!
What do flowers symbolize for you The flower is a universally positive symbol (childhood, ecology, and unified diversity) It is the central motif and essence of “Flowers of the World” and acts as a trigger for events and connections. This project is in perpetual evolution as it questions contemporary society and our world while using artistic creation and human exchange as gateways to possible answers.
The idea is to meet people and social workers- work within cultural communities and integrate the actions already undertaken by local people into a symbolic intervention through the poetry of art – by the people for the people. Improvisation and adaptation (an integral part of my work) are key to the success of the project, which exists in everyday life and therefore depends on the energy and involvement of the people in any one place. Sometimes it is multi-disciplinary (theater, music etc) and is aimed at a wider audience, and often collaborative with artists from other mediums as well as painters. Video recordings have been made throughout for ongoing documentary projects.
What is the essence of portraiture for you Although the body says a lot about a person’s being, a face for me says so much more while at the same time, hiding underlying issues. But emotions cannot ultimately deceive – even if they squeeze through the subtleties of a grin or a wink and I am able to build a deeper psychological picture though people’s faces.
How do you compose the complex textures of your faces On canvas, I work with a little acrylic for my foundations and a little spray for the effects, gradients, drips, and other tags. I especially like acrylic marker pens for contours, filling and textures and I do occasionally use felt tips and biros.
How much do you pre plan a piece and how much are you guided by instinct and the moment I never work exactly the same way sometimes it is total improvisation guided by my state of mind and the need to allow my subconscious to express itself. At other times it’s more realistic and guided by the thought, I’m going to paint a photo that I interpret in my own way according to what I am trying to say. And sometimes it is a mixture of everything at the same time
Some of your faces look like an abstraction of muscle layers and a lot of your work has 3D graffiti forms woven into an organic whole. Where did that idea evolve from I am often told that my characters or portraits have an anatomical quality to them. For me this blend of form between graffiti 3D drops and filaments, atoms and molecules are the constantly changing construction of human form and experience. Human life exists in a precarious balance of imbalance, fragile and strong at the same time, and those forms speak to the complexity of character. I often fill in the outline of a face with words in graffiti lettering I’ve made completely unreadable and the composition of words behind the words or ineffable thoughts is almost like an unspoken secret.
What does the use of such strong colours bring to your work I’ve loved colorful things since my childhood, so it is natural to bring a lot of colour to my work. Each express one or more feelings and
multiplies it with complementary emotions to create combinations where colors speak. I especially use the colors of the rainbow for spiritual reasons
What do eyes represent for you These are the mirrors of the soul , and unlike words, they do not lie. Within my walls or paintings I like the viewer to feel like those words themsleves and have the concept of being looked at reversed back onto the viewer – sometimes in a friendly way and sometime in a more interrogative manner.
A lot of your work seems to explore madness and conflicting personalities locked into one being and the relationship between madness and beauty. Can you tell us a little about that It is certain that madness and ugliness, beauty and wisdom are sisters. Sometimes I think that the human is a living paradox and it is made up of contradictory elements which often
exceed the whole. A quiet person can be a deadly killer and vice versa through all kinds of dimensions. It is also reflected through context and situation - joy / sadness - love / hate - a multiplicity of unity is what I try to express in my work.
Where do abstraction and realism meet In every second of life. One does not exist without the other ....in our heads, in our hearts, in the universe and thus in art.
How do you see the magic of geometry I think everything can be magic it is a matter of perception - “psycho-magic” Art, in every shape, color, texture, sound provokes something in us and contains one or more forces that our unconscious returns in the form of energy, feeling or emotion
What are your upcoming projects In fact, I’m answering part of this interview in Paris and the rest of it direct from Ouakam in Senegal where I set up an art project, building social solidarity by and for the people. I
have organized and invited friends from all disciplines (painting, theater, singing, music, video to come work with me and other friends and activists “living together” planting trees or helping create an artisanal framework . I’m in Oukam for several months and on my return I will organize an exhibition (in Paris and perhaps New York) with all the materials and people from Oukam. To be continued ......
The Tower of Babel
In the 4th century BC, the Chinese poet Chuang Tzu expressed a concept worthy of modern linguistics: ‘Things are made by the names they are given.’
sound vibration of the word corresponded itself with the energy vibration of the object. As explained by the Christian anthropologist Arthur C. Custance: “The description where Adam gives names to the animals presented to It was believed in antiquity that the first him is much more significant than we usually languages of humanity were not mere systems assume, as the names he gave them were not of arbitrary signs. ‘Ancient languages - writes mere designations but a summing up of their the theosophist René Guenon- originated from characteristics.” a sacred tongue composed by inspired men, and their words express the essence of things In short, and according to Guenon: ‘All ancient as well as their logical relationships.’ traditions agree in explaining that the real name of a creature is one that encapsulates its Genesis in turn confirms this intimate nature or essence.’ relationship between the object and its name (II, 19-20): ‘Because Adam had received from Still nowadays, according to Custance, ‘it God the knowledge of the nature of all living can be stated that, in almost all other nonbeings, he could give them their names.’ Western societies, someone’s name is not Again we find this classical concept stating merely a useful designation for the purpose that the names of things were not capricious of identification, but represents the personal in their origin, but a direct response to the identity of the individual. This identity essence of the designated object. That is, the principle has its origin in antiquity.’
The Sefer Yetzirah, the Jewish Book of Creation, states that the 22 fundamental letters of the alphabet have a power over the elements as well as over the planets and the parts of the body. Therefore the ancient Science of the Letters, the Kabala, established a relationship between those letters and the various parts of the manifested world, which were then used therapeutically. Because the letters corresponded to different parts of the body, they were used to heal diseases. The Arab historian Ibn Khaldun adopted this same premise. He theorised that written formulae are made of the same elements as the living beings, and thus have a certain power over them. From here arose the notion that the name is the expression of our nature and so also has a power over it. Even today the Moslem faqihs, or doctors in the Koran, practice, or so they pretend, the healing of certain diseases through the intonation of Koran suras. That is, healing through sound vibrations.
Consequently, it was not difficult for Picco della Mirandola to conclude in the early stages of Renaissance science, that, since the universe is constituted by letters and numbers, men could control it by knowing the mathematical laws of the cosmos. But that is an entirely different question
THE TONGUE OF THE ANGELS In ancient times it was believed that, as Sacred Scriptures were a divine creation, there must have been an original language for the whole of humanity that predated the Babel myth mentioned in Genesis (11, 1): â€œThe whole Earth had one language and the same words.â€? Looking around ancient cultures, this is virtually a universal tradition. In Indochinese folklore, for example, it is said that early humankind inhabited one single town and, because they wanted to have the moon shine forever, they built a tower in order to get to the moon.
Which language was the original one, if it ever existed? Almost all the ancient languages, dead or dying today, claimed this title and professed to be the tongue given by God to men so they would understand each other: Sanskrit, ancient Greek, Pahlavi or ancient Persian, the language of Babylonia, Hebrew and Arabic. Today it is rather the languages that preceeded them that arouse the most interest: proto-Semitic, proto-Indo-European (source of all Indo-European languages), IndoIranian, etc. In the 6th century, Guillaume de Postel (linguist, astronomer and cabalist) came to the conclusion that if there was one only God, there must be ‘a holy tongue, divinely inspired and handed down from on high to the first man.’Like Saint Augustine, Origen and other Christian thinkers, he naturally settled on Hebrew - a view encouraged by later cabalists such as the French mathematician Francis Warrain who wrote: ‘The Cabalistic hypothesis is that Hebrew was the perfect language taught by God to the first man.’ The mystery of this original language, the Lost Word as it was called in antiquity - and the less romantic ‘mono-genetic origin of language’ today - preyed on the mind of
countless sages through the ages. They all fervently devoted themselves to etymological studies to try and resolve the question from their own perspective - the Jewish Abulafia (13th c.), Dante (13th -14th c.), Ramon Llull (13th -14th c.), Nicolas of Cusa (15th c.), Athanasius Kircher (18th c.). To quote just one example, the naturalist Conrad Gessner (16th c.) traced a parallel among fifty-five languages in his work Mithridates. Numerous hypotheses emerged through the centuries to try and trace that Lost Word, the tongue of the angels’ and of Adam’s. Umberto Eco beautifully sums
up this age old quixoticism in his In Search of the Perfect Tongue as a ‘chimera’
It is said that King James the 4th of Scotland repeated that experiment in the 15th century, with uninspiring results. And the same test Things nearly came to a head when a wild was again reproduced, at the beginning of the child was found in 1797 in Aveyron, France. He 16th century, by the mogul Emperor Akbar had somehow grown up in the wild, isolated Khan. According to the chronicle written by a from all human contact, and etymological Jesuit father, a group of children brought up scholars leapt on this exception that might without ever hearing a human language were prove the rule. Surely they thought, being ultimately unable to pronounce a single word. uncorrupted by modern vernaculars, he must The Emperor thus concluded that the original speak the original language - would it be language of humanity was silence. Hebre or something still more ancient? The case caused a sensation, but reality was rather disappointing as the child could only howl like an animal. The same had happened centuries before, in Egypt, where according to Herodotus, the Pharaoh Psamtik of the 26th Dynasty made an experiment: a child was brought up never hearing a single word from anybody. One day, as his guardian took him his bread, the child run up to him shouting “bekos, bekos”, which in Phrygian means bread. From this the Pharaoh concluded that the Phrygian tongue was the first language of humanity.
THE ADAMIC TONGUE René Guenon goes beyond all this: ‘As for the primitive tongue, its origins must not have been human but of the primordial tradition itself - every sacred language is still a part of that spirit - a reflection of that primitive language.’ Islamic tradition tells us, for its part, that Adam spoke the tongue of the angels before the Fall, as he was still a spiritual being. But what could that angelical language have been? Immanuel Swedenborg states in his work Wisdom of Angels: “Angels’ thoughts, as they are spiritual, cannot be reduced to natural ideas. They can only be expressed and described by angels themselves, in their tongues, words and scriptures.’ That is, their language exists a=on an alternate plane to human expression. Turning back to the Islamic tradition, the Koran (27/16) throws some light on this seraphic tongue: ‘And Solomon was David’s heir. He said, “We have been taught the speech of birds, and on us has been bestowed a little of all things: This is indeed grace manifest from Allah.” Birds were identified with angels, winged beings.
The mystic Jacob Bohme confirms this idea in the Christian tradition: ‘In the tongue of the birds Adam spoke to the birds in the air and to all animals in the fields. After the Fall, the tongue of birds was revealed again to Solomon, who transmitted it to the Queen of Sheba and to Apollonius of Tyana.’ Conrad Gesner went so far as to state that some legendary beings were gifted with two tongues – one to speak the language of birds and the other one to speak human language. According to Islamic texts, Adam’s tongue was none other than the Syriac language, although
there is no connection to present Syria or to any of the known dead languages, but to a mythical Syria (that according to Homer was an island) as well as to a language unknown to us. Syriac is considered today as an ancestor of Aramaic, a language that preceeded Hebrew and the language of Abraham.
THE MYTH OF BABEL Whatever that original language might be, the universal myth known in the Biblical tradition as the Tower of Babel refers to a Confusion of Tongues. Apparently, the groups of humans were from then on unable to communicate in one single language. This legend reflects, of course, a linguistic evolution that must have taken centuries. As for the Semitic languages, it is estimated that this progression took place about 3000 years before Christ. The archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe writes that before the Mesopotamian dynasties, there were already three linguistic lines: “The Japhetic, only indirectly known through some names of places; the Semitic people, who spoke a language related to Hebrew and to Arabic; and the dominant Sumerians.” As the first dynasty from Ur dates back to 2700 b. C., that splintering of Semitic languages referred to in the myth of Babel must have happened before then. Biblical scholar S. R. Driver, however,
has it that the confusion of languages has been dated too late. The European Hermetic tradition, as it slowly turned into a science, ceased to believe, as early as the 17th century, that Hebrew was the original language. Leibniz settled the question when stating that Adam’s tongue is absolutely unrecoverable and that ‘nobis ignota est’, it is unknown to us. Studies had moved on from speculation based on legends into attempts at scientific method.
THE LANGUAGE OF HOMINIDS What does science tell us today? According to Emilio Garcia Gomez, ‘The age of human
language is older than 130.000 years if it has a mono-genetic origin, and 100.000 if it is polygenetic, originating in at least ten lineages.” And he adds that ‘it is impossible, at least so far, to attain irrefutable evidence of the real profile of the language of our most remote ancestors and its later evolution.’
communicated by gestures. The Homo Habilis (1’9 to 1’6 million years ago) shows signs of optimal neural connexions, but not the physiological capacity to speak. It is Homo Erectus, who died out 400.000 years ago, who initiated a spoken language. Much later, the Neanderthal displayed a still more evolved brain capacity, but it is the Homo Sapiens It is in fact difficult to specify when a first form (who appeared 150.000 years ago) that had of language was born. The Ice Ages and the evolved an oral cavity more suitable for the landscape changes they provoked turned most articulation of sounds and, thus, developed an of the African forests into big savannas. This articulated language. drove mutations in hominids that developed their cranial and brain capacities so as to give Can we then suppose that there was a first rise to the faculty of speaking. common language for all the disparate groups of Homo Sapiens? Custance, despite his Following the palaeontology, the determination to prove that Semitic was the Australopithecus (4 to 2 million years ago) first language offers us a sensible description: ‘If real small families of scarcely human beings were scattered in terrible isolation around the globe and developed their embryonic forms of speech with total independence in long timeframes – then it is absurd to assume that humanity has ever shared one only form of language.’ This seems to wipe out any possibility that there ever was a common language for those scattered and primitive human groups.
The linguistic Derec Bickerton, who has made a huge contribution to research on the origins of languages, states that ‘the human language was developed in two phases. There first appeared a proto-language consisting of symbols without any structure; then, much later, the syntax appeared.’ This contradicts Noam Chomsky’s hypotheses (not at all proved by modern biology) that the apparition of language was not the result of an evolution but of a spontaneous mutation. On the contrary, according to Bickerton, language originated out of practical necessity, ‘and it played a primordial role in obtaining food.’ Those first individuals of the Homo species thus developed the capacity to pronounce brief sentences without any grammatical structure. It is likely that they combined words with gestures, including “direction marks”. The development of language was thus a result of the need to communicate, in a hostile environment like the savannah, to guide tribe members toward specific food (wild fruits, roots or a dead animal), or warn them of a predator or competitior. The later introduction of syntax may have been a consequence of a mutation in Home Sapiens’ brain development ‘The syntax,’ Bickerton concludes, ‘emerged when the brain
had enough “free” neurons not devoted to specific functions. Nobody knows yet why the brain grew that much, although theories abound
AN ANCESTRAL PROTO-LANGUAGE In 1903, the Danish linguist Holger Pedersen called Nostratic the common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, the Afro-Asiatic and a few others. This hypothesis was later backed up by the Russian school of linguists, although it is questioned today. Later, the North American linguists Greenberg and Ruhlen formulated the Euro-Asiatic hypothesis which was a tad less ambitious as it excluded the Afro-Asiatic family.
universal deluge) many antediluvian cultures were destroyed along with evidence of old Nostratic written in petroglyphs. At any rate, it is extremely difficult to reconstruct any language older than five or six thousand years, whereas when dealing with a hypothetical universal protolanguage, we must head back to between 50.000 to 100.000 years ago, the time when Homo Sapiens spread around the globe scattered genetic diversity. The great German specialist of the 19th century Max Muller observed in his work The Science of Language: ‘If we want to state that languages had various foundations we have to prove that it is impossible that they had a common origin.’ But this has yet to be proved. That is why the anthropologists Ralph Beales and Harry Hoijer concluded: ‘Although Through the 20th century one of the methods it is possible that all human languages stem used to research the origin of languages was up from one single source, their present paleolinguistics -a discipline that combines divergences are so deep that they do linguistics with human genetics, palaeontology not provide us with any evidence of that and archaeology. Such is the method used by relationship.’ the celebrated paleolinguist Merrit Ruhlen, However the common origin of certain who sustains the hypothesis of an ancestral families of languages have been traced. language. This ancestral language is inferred from the DNA study, which has proved that all human groups stem up from a common ancestor, the Homo Sapiens Sapiens, who originated in Africa 150.000 years ago. From there he spread around the globe, never mixing with the Neanderthals or with Homo Erectus.Then, 20.000 years ago, he was left as teh sole species. Using the “massive lexical comparison” method, rejected by some linguists, Ruhlen has deduced 27 almost universal roots present in numerous families of languages. He is positive that all of them stem up from one common origin in one only language that was spoken in East Africa 50.000 years ago. The intermediate languages, that of the Homo Habilis, the Homo Erectus or the Neanderthal disappeared along with those who spoke them. At the abrupt end of the last Ice Age some 9.500 years ago, a process that provoked dramatic climatic changes (and the flooding that led to the legend of the
As early as 1800 the Jesuit Hervas, considered the father of comparative linguistics, demonstrated in the six volumes of his Catalogue of Languages, through a comparative list of desinences and conjugations, that Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, Caldean, Ethiopic and Amharic are all dialects of an original language and constitute a linguistic family: the Semitic.
Jesus Greus was born in Madrid. He graduated in English from the London Institute of Linguists and has contributed to several Spanish newspapers and, recently, Liberation du Maroc. He has worked as a translator for various publishing houses in Madrid, and as a lecturer, he has sthe Institute du Monde Arabe in Paris; the Sorbone University; the association Le Monde Autour du Livre, in Bordeaux; the In short, neither comparative philology nor Center of Arab-Portuguese Studies, in Silves, historical linguistics have so far been able to Portugal; the Fundacion Arte y Cultura in Madrid trace one only language as being the source and many more He is also a musician who has of all languages and dialects spoken in the world. Between 3000 and 5000 languages are played in a range of fusion music groups. He has reckoned to be spoken today, some of them by been cultural director of the Cervantes Institute in Marrakech, where he now belongs to different a tiny smattering of people. All of them have cultural foundations. He is the author of two been grouped in 300 or 400 families â€“then scripts and has published several novels and grouped in macro-families or super-families short stories. (from Eurasia, from Africa, from America Asiatic-Oceanic and Asiatic-American).
That there ever was that language of Eden lyricised in the Scriptures â€“a language predating and giving rise to the story of Babel is mired in the shadows of time. Despite the best efforts of scholarship over the centuries we are still no closer to that holy grail.
Thoughts on the future of the Internet
The Internet and World Wide Web continues to grow at an amazing pace. Every part of society is touched by it and affected by it. No one could have ever envisioned, in those dark and distant days of 1969 - the year when the Internet was created - just how big it would grow. And, for that matter, just how much we within society would rely upon it. There is no doubt that it has turned out to be the greatest invention since the creation of the wheel. Our reliance on the Internet is so deep that it now controls every aspect of our lives, through laptops, desktops, mobile devices and games consoles. But as one year passes into another, what then for the Internet? Will we still continue to rely so much upon it? The answer has to be yes. The future of the Internet is indeed, very secure, because we simply have not created anything else that comes anywhere near it.
Society will continue to use the Internet in the future, but in ways that some people may not have envisioned. Indeed, a time is fast approaching in which human beings will actually have the Internet embedded within them, or within the material of their clothing. There will come a time in which we will no longer need to carry around mobile devices, laptops or â€˜padsâ€™, as those things will become defunct and obsolete.
With embedded Internet, this would greatly enhance the capabilities of the human race beyond all recognition. it is said that by the year 2020, embedded technology will become the ‘norm’ and not the ‘exception’. This would then be known as the ‘Hybrid Age’, in which the relationship between man and machine becomes even more entwined then it is now. The road to this ‘Age’ has already begun, with biometric machines that measure everything from our heart rates, blood pressure and sleep patterns. This is the first step and such computers have already begun to take over. Soon, there could be biomedical/biometric medication. This would mean the patient swallowing an ‘intelligent’ pill for whatever ailment they suffer with. This pill would then be able to send daily updates of the patent’s state of health or sickness through regular updated emails, instantly.. Indeed, the merging of the Internet/ computer technology, with our biological make-up, would make us like virtual cyborgs.
If information we seek is super fast now, just imagine how fast it would be with it integrated within us? It is because of this future technology, which would merge the Internet within our bodies, that our lifespan will gradually grow to 150 years of age - or even far beyond that.. How would this ‘merging’ take place? One idea is that the Internet, would eventually become ‘ingrained’ within our skin. picking up information instantaneously. This would mean that the way our surroundings and property integrate with us, will be even more immersive than it is at the present time.
We are, right now, within the ‘Technological Age’, within this ‘Age’ the beginning of the next one is happening. By the time the Internet is fully integrated within our own bodies - biologically - there would already be ‘Smart’ Cities. These ‘Smart’ Cities will connect with us - not unlike our possessions - as they will integrate in a way that we have never experienced before.
We, as human beings, will be able to interact within our cities in a way that will transform our lives. The cities of the future will all be run by a super-intelligent, super fast Internet network. However, because of this, ‘interaction and information will be instantaneous.By this time, the ‘cashless society’ so often spoken about, would be the rule and not the exception. Fingerprint and iris detection will be the norm, when making transactions and purchases., When entering and leaving our cars, homes, and places of work, iris and fingerprint detection will be common. Locks and keys, as we know them, will have become obsolete, and a thing of the past. The rise of ‘Smart’ Cities and, biomedical/ biometric technologies that will be ingrained within us is going to happen. This is the way the Internet will take shape, enhancing our capabilities to learn to gather even more information at the blink of an eye, and to make us feel even more ‘secure’ then ever before.
But there are dangers. Who will have overall control over the information we receive? Who will be the one who will be responsible for collecting sensitive data about us and where we live? And, as in the present, so too in the future, how will hackers approach these new technologies? All of those issues, and more, will have to be addressed as the technology molds, forms and takes shape over the years. This is the future of the Internet, and the future of mankind. It is an Internet that will eventually embed itself deep within our biological bodies. Eventually the lines between man and machine will become blurred. Blurred to such an extent that the next stage in the progression of the human race could very well be that of cyborglike humanoids.
Wayne Leon Learmond With thanks to www.helium.com
N達nci and Phoebe
Carving a gorgeously individual groove through harmonic shakedown, N達nci and Phoebe have been taking junglism by storm. Sending melodics surfing down the cutting edge of sub bass, their urban edged tribal notes vibrate with a concrete edge as they skank soul through hints of hip hop, grime reggae and the intangible. Their first single, Notorious exploded out of the cutting room to huge acclaim as the fusion of inner city electricity and hip hop flows crackled with a subversive tinge of melancholy. Repesenting the legendary Congo Natty on stage and in the studio, their ability to span worlds, cultures and generations make them a devestatingly potent vocal team.
Reshaping a spectrum of ideas and emotions; injecting a fresh new energy into the jungle, their lyrical awareness and dancehall dangerous take on melody strips sultry softness back down streetside and into a new sphere of emotional complexity. We caught up with N達nci for a word
Can you tell us a little about your background and your musical heritage
influence in my life and it was the greatest honour to be accepted and trusted with something so valuable and also important I was born in Lisbon, grew up in London and as the music. The support is immense, I feel lived in South America for a year when I was like Phoebs and I have a whole new bunch of around 5 years old where I sang my first solo, uncles and aunties, brothers and sisters. The and began my musical quest. message is very clear and it’s almost our duty as part of the family to continue spreading it while all the travels and shows leave us How did you meet Rebel and the Congo Natty feeling immensely blessed. crew? I was working for Outlook Festival, Vagabondz & Pack London in Brixton, upstairs from the Jamm. There was a studio there where Rebel mostly was and also others like the Alabama 3 lot and a few other offices. There was a hub of events and music coming out of there and everyone just became a little family that year.
How much did you feel like you were being brought into a family and given structure and support? We are a family, we always will be a family, they are people that have been a huge
How much were you thrown in at the deep end on stage and how did the learning curve roll? You can’t really learn how to host a set or be told how it’s going to go, so yeah very deep end. Phoebe picked it up a lot quicker, bravely performing for the first time with Rebel at Glastonbury. She has that ability to capture anyone and make them listen to her. For me it was stepping away from the personal side of singing and having to let people in because I tend to want to block everyone out in a crowd, it’s very intense for me to sing to people but after shows and the opportunities we’ve had, you learn to appreciate the role you’ve been given and it becomes an extremely enjoyable experience that you wouldn’t trade for anything.
What is the essence of hosting a night to you? I believe it’s a mixture of the people that turn up and the music, which means a sound system and the right promotion, you HAVE to
have a good and loud sound system or don’t bother.
How does the interplay between you work – both in the studio and on stage When I first met Phoebe she used to play these great little songs she wrote with her twin on the guitar that used to get sung at parties and we still use some of them today on stage. Notorious used to be one of those party songs once our friend had shown both of us it. Until one day Phoebe recorded it with Rebel at the studio in Jamm and I got called in from across the hall to sing it with her and lo and behold our single! Other than that we’re always writing at our own pace, performing is just an excuse to try out new bars and lyrics. We both know most of each others’ lyrics well as we love and respect each others’ own styles.
How important is a sense of melody to your sound For me it’s all about melody because that’s where the feelings can be expressed, but that goes hand in hand with a beautifully booming bass line.
How important is it to work off different musical ideas and bring them back into jungle to keep it fresh It’s surprising to find out how well Hip Hop and Jungle combine when bars fit to double speed perfectly. As a singer who loves Jazz & Blues it’s being able to create a melody mostly using only the beat and bass to pitch you. It’s not really something you plan, it’s more the personal preference of the person. I’m sure Phoebe and I come across very different to each other when it comes to styles.
Tell us about your lyrical content and the balance between content and flow for you
What are you ultimately trying to say with your music
Lyrical content in our eyes is most important. It’s less about image and more about quality of the music because I believe if you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say it at all! The content and flow is where you gain respect for originality and how they’d separate you from the rest, so they’re equally important. Music is food for the soul so feed it well is what I believe.
Love, honesty, family, friends and their importance. Respect is lost in our society and so is the beauty in life. Most intentions aren’t so pure and I spread the gospel of good intentions; it really is a battle between good and evil.
How much do you feel that you are on a mad adventure My life has been one fantastically, mad adventure but every piece fits in perfectly. I know there’s a plan for me so I love seeing how things grow and we change, wondering what the next challenge will bring and anticipating the next peaking moment that’s always so rewarding.
What is the plan for the future Albums, more singles and a long journey ahead of us..
mural. If itâ€™s totally wrong and throughly suspect - heâ€™ll paint it - and then probably try to hump it. Taking the piss out of pretty much everything - especially other artists and anything to do with the street art scene, his artistic philosphy seems to consist of finding imaginative ways to draw a massive cock and So Lush. Well he is the scourge of decent folk, balls over any surface that is unfortunate enough to have him stumble into it. a blood sucking satanist and very likely an immigrant who is stealing your dole money. But what us being serious journalists and He is well known for eating children while all, we have uncovered the horrifying truth molesting pensioners and rumour has it being the legend. We can exclusively reveal that he once attempted to drive a mobility that Lush is in fact a teetotal evangelical who scooter up Banksyâ€™s back passage. campaigns against drugs and vandalism while spanking himself with the New Testament. Taboo is just a red rag to a drunken and Furthermore he respects women thoroughly potentially violent bull. And red rag can and pursues an inclusive vegan outlook on be taken literally as he has been known to life. Here is his confession. knock up the occasional tampon flavoured Boys and girls - meet Lush. He is a very naughty man. Some call him the bad boy of graffiti. We prefer to call him a complete cunt. For the satirically challenged - that is a backhanded compliment and you should probably fuck off anyway.
When did you first start to express a creative ambition to be an asshole
Why are you not more famous – we have barely heard of you
Sometime just after the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 I was hit by shrapnal from a kraut hand grenade. Lost in the void, I awoke in this body i currently inhabit someone in early 1998 right around when Starcraft was still a big deal.
I blame the Jews, illegal aliens, people who have sagging pants revealing their underwear, reptilian shape shifters, Barack “ISLAM HUSSIAN AL MOHAMMED” Obama, Fourloko and atheists on youtube.
Are you actually a wannabe street art tour guide who couldn’t make it in the big time so took up writing
Why do you think there is such a shortage of politically themed stencils and should the UN intervene
No I’m actually a wannabe historical society blacksmith who just couldn’t cut the mustard at the western theme park here so I took up writing.
I think there is a shortage in barely legal followers of my work, oh wait that’s a lie.
Is graffiti fun or is it dumb? Or both? Sorry to go deep on this one
Please explain the Graffiti cycle to us. Does it involve lycra
I’m over graffiti to be honest, it’s beyond dumb. Almost everyone I’ve met who takes it beyond a laugh has deep seeded issues or some form of mental illness. Not even a funny ha ha look crazy man Lush make ha ha funny joke answer right here.
I didn’t know bike companies are making graffiti cycles now, do you put a can where you’d put your water bottle on the frame?
Graffiti is full on retarded. I›m talking drooling profusely in a mouth steered electric wheelchair doing circles with Michael Jackson shorts on from a flea market.
What’s next a - Krink TM dildo?
Is being shit the new cool
Which particular media outlet do you use to tell you what’s cool
Maybe being shit at graffiti is a cultural reaction to the 200 can mega burner thing www.godhatesfags.com the paint company shill writers are pumping out daily. I can see the kids now, “TERRY FUCK www.foxnews.com THAT PIECE IS SHIT YOU DIDNT USE 40 SHADES www.stormfront.org OF RED IN THE FILL.” www.seasamestreet.com Are you in fact gay
Why yes I am silly. Quince anyone?
Is graffiti in general lacking a sense of humour Yes, it’s quite a serious business you know Aerosol art. How do you get naked women to stand by your pieces? Blackmail or chemicals? Neither, I’m just a well endowed and can speak French and Greek fluently.
Will haters in fact always hate or is there a psychological paradigm of misplaced love that nips out for a burger and returns cloaked in the archetypes of hate that questions the hatefulness of the haters hate? Humans are just animals, as an animal you see a threat, you bark at it till it goes away. But I won’t go away because I want that old bone mother fucker it’s my mother fucking bone RAWWOUF* RUFFF RUUF* GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
Have you found our Lord Jesus Christ At seedy motels yes. So if graffiti is deemed obscene by society – is it any worse if that graffiti is a cumshot I think the definitive answer here is, who cares.
Have you been stabbed 5-6 attempts so far, just sad junkies or even sadder kids who are going to become god botherers or junkies in a year or two.
How the fuck did human interaction turn into something called ‘tweeting’ We have the attention span of a goldfish now, who the fuck wants to read anymore then 140 letters of the alphabet at any time. Reading is for fags.
When can we expect some merchandising I’m waiting for that Neckface money.
Do you give even the remotest fuck or is Lush the best hipster marketing campaign ever Sometimes I write vivid heartfelt entries in my personal diary on how much I deeply care.
What’s with all the porn I like vagina, that’s pretty much the short answer.
Has anyone actually parodied you yet Men have gone to their early shallow graves for less.
How do the other graff crews respond to you. Is there flirting? We are penpals and I send them mix cds for them to play at their legal walls on the boombox. Do you get much free booze and free drugs Dont do either. I rather pussy.
THE RELUCTANT TRAVELLER (PART EIN)
Story | Edzy (Unique 3) / Photography | Sam Collins
Iâ€™ve always had mine, his, hers and probably your share of dark days. And sadly, the older (and wiser) I get, the more often these dark patches wash over me, consuming me whole, like a toxic black oil slick. Luckily for me, I have my best pal at hand to help: she is called Sam. Sam is my beautiful wife and, over the many years we have been together now, she has perfected a more firm grip on my far too often man-handled fankles (fankles = fat ankles editor). Sam is now expert on pulling my heavy, depressed head, smartly out of my ample arse, wherever and whenever necessary. No matter how messy the violent tugging threatens to get, she knows just what to do. The last few months have been really hard for me. I knew what was coming. Iâ€™ve been really struggling. Struggling with lots of daft little things that, all added up, have conspired to unite and work against me in one great big, foul and badly timed, endeavour to break my tired addled brain into two crumbly, dry parts.
So here I am, with my big bald head in my hands, in an all too familiar damp, dark pit. I know that I have to find the strength again from somewhere to clamber out of the gloom and, if I can manage to do that whilst scaling these near impossible vertical walls, I also have another frayed end to tie up ... to finish the new Unique 3 album with whatever bit of flair and imagination that I can manage to muster up. Everyone has a mate who makes music now, go ask them, they will tell you that putting an album together is cruel and painful fun. The whole embryonic process of turning an initial idea into a working new track, then forcing that piece of music or song along the route it will take, up to the point you feel it is finished and ready for general consumption is mind grating, exhilarating and heavily depressive stuff but massively rewarding all the same. But try pulling twelve or more pieces of music out of your tired arse, well! ... THATâ€™S a whole different animal! If you DO get to the finish line with a bag of tracks that you feel you should share with the world, THEN try giving each track a semi interesting name, a name that has not been used this year about a thousand times or more already. Try coming up with an original theme for the artwork for your new album, art that you can wrap up over a yearâ€™s creative work in, art that conveys your message as an individual artist, the message entrenched in your music, art that attracts the attention of potential buyers to your music.... I suppose that if all that was easy, EVERY fucker would be doing it! (they are! - editor) So, I was only just holding off a rapidly incoming bout of depression, frantically trying to finish the new Unique 3 album, before my will gave in and I took to a darkened room with only a half full brandy bottle for fun. I was so very near, yet still so very far away from that elusive finish line (the finish line that I had set myself 18 months previous, it being twelve completed tracks - this, I had decided, would be audio enough to actually CALL a next album)
The more I sat down in the studio, ready to do battle with the last two unfinished tracks, the less creative I felt and the more pissy the demos I was working on, began to sound ... I tried working nights, when no-one was around to bother me and the phones were quiet. I tried early mornings when the new day was dawning, hoping that early morning caffeine rush and the day’s new rising sun would bring me the energy enough to crack the last two remaining pieces of my self inflicted puzzle. But nothing .... So, after too many fruitless trips into the studio, ultimately I had to submit to defeat. And as I unfurled the white flag and admitted to myself that ‘Writer’s Block’ had firmly entrenched itself into the narrow pathways of my mind, that unpleasant taste of creative failure filled my throat again. No sooner had the flag gone up, those all too familiar dark clouds appeared, setting up a makeshift bar at the front of my mind, proceeding to mix themselves a heady cocktail of two free poured shots of self loathing and a mockingly sharp citric twist of self doubt. Sam, the depression scout (I mentioned her earlier) had already noticed the dark clouds, looming on our collective horizon and had decided, this time, to head them off at the pass ... “Pack a bag Sasquatch, we’re off to Berlin on Friday” - it was a calm declaration!
“BERLIN?!!!!” I replied, (It was Wednesday night and I was midway through my favourite TV show - Man Vs Food) “I can’t go to fucking Berlin!” “I’ve got .... (thought for a moment) stuff! ... to... do ... and ... things ... and...” (really reaching) ... ... (Ah!) “Fuck knows where my passport is!” (I relaxed back into my chair as if I had just thrown the killer punch) - the look on her face told me otherwise. I continued ... “and .... and ...” (shit! I really needed my asthma inhaler RIGHT NOW) “AND??” she enquired with a look on her face that made me nervous ... (got it!!! - I thought to myself ) “I’m QUITE sure that we have got something in the diary for this weekend!” I blurted all this gobshite out, really rather unconvincingly, fumbling about for a ‘get out’ that we both already knew that I was not going to get. “Edz, you haven’t been out of the friggin’ house for TWO WEEKS! get a grip man!” She flung her words, back at me with very little mercy, her North East English accent sounding a little more pronounced than usual.
She’d been here with me before, several times. She knew just what to expect. It was going to be a great, big uphill struggle to get my fat arse off my couch, but her will is usually stronger than mine. We both knew that.
obviously determined to win. Despite my obvious deep shock and lamentation, she made herself just nearly enough room to sit down in. I must admit, I did very little to help her achieve her spacial goal.
We were now in confrontation. We were at a stand off. Changing tact, she softened a bit. Maybe seeing me stunned and flapping about like a floundered fish, gasping for air, was making her feel a little sorry for me (maybe I could use that to my advantage, in this sudden war of wills?!, I thought) Making a move towards me and my couch (we have separate couches - they are the only two things that have kept our marriage so healthy and so happy for so long) like a Ninja, she eyed up the empty space to my right. I followed her gaze to the exact same space she was now homing in on. My upper lip starting to create a slight protective snarl, you see ... the space she was planning to occupy wasn’t actually empty! That space had all my important man stuff in it!
I wasn’t very happy! I was doing ‘the eyes’ and ‘the frown’ thing, I thought that I was making my feelings quite obvious! I had only just arranged those necessary ‘man tools’, laying them out, one by one, by my side, all in order as if they were my own private army, recruited for the sole purpose of this evening’s entertainment. Each tool was an essential cog in my evening’s tv viewing plan. My elite squad had been ready, willing and able - half to be in service of my evening’s delight of pure pre-recorded TV bliss, the other half: to keep me in constant necessary contact with ALL my social networks and EQUALLY important: to keep me up to speed with the latest ‘Breaking News’ on Sky News and The Daily Mash (God forbid I should miss something!)
Like a well oiled cat and totally unexpected by me, she made her move. She shifted her centre of gravity and positioned herself to sit down next to me, and, like swatting irksome flies away from lovingly prepared picnic food, and to my abject horror, she swept my collection of 3 TV/DVD remotes and two beloved Apple products to one side, without a care! My ‘stuff’ scattered like insignificant skittles, in some power mad game she was
Sam scooched up to me, shimmying her rather delectable rear end, rather boldly into my ‘personal space’ - I won’t lie, I had mixed emotions at this point. It was a very pleasant sight indeed, that I cannot deny but I had neither issued her a formal invitation to sit there NOR had I even thrown her a ‘come hither woman and know me better’ look. There was much confusion, at this point, mainly on my part.
Her voice softened a little as she readied herself for the next line of her well thought out argument ...
Placing her hand gently on my knee...
She chose to use one of the sharper tools that every woman possesses, it was time, she had decided, to unleash that ungloved magical ‘upper cut’. That blow that every single member of our female species INSTINCTIVELY know how and when to throw (usually reserved for the more ‘intense’ or emotionally charged negotiations, known to us fellas simply as ‘the game changer’) It went thus: “Babe, I thought that we could hit up some 24hour Berlin Techno clubs” (she had used the term ‘hit up’ - damn! she was still down with the kids! - I made a mental note of that) Among the white noise and screaming banshees now possessing my brain space, I still had grip of my senses enough to realise that she was talking ‘music’ to me. I instantly recognised that she had changed up a couple of gears and was now appealing to that other, equally troubled, side of me, the musical half-wit .. damn! She IS good... (I thought to myself )” ...I was floored, she knew that and continued on ... “It might just give you the inspiration you need to finish that friggin album of yours that’s been hanging over this house, for the last 18 months, like a bad stench!” I hadn’t heard that last bit of what she had said, a cruel dig at my creative side it might just have been, for I was already upstairs, sorting my ‘going out’ underpants from my ‘no one is seeing me naked in these ones today’ ones. Berlin .... Ihr wir cummen! Look, Sam is lovely but tends to exaggerate a little. I actually HAD been out! I’d read
the hurried note she’d scribbled one morning, on her way out to work, the one she’d stuck on my studio computer screen. I had duly done as directed by her bossy missive and emptied the bins AND put the bottles out for recycle. But more than that, I had also been out to get some CDs from my car, a few days before that. Jesus! It’s not like I’m some sort of mad recluse! .... I suppose that she was mostly right though, there hadn’t been much outside my protective four walls lately that had interested me very much. I considered that last paragraph for far too long as I emptied my favourite travel bag onto the bed again. Weighing up the pros and cons of leaving the perfect setting of my couch, my home and my recording studio to purposefully make myself ultra uncomfortable for far too many hours, in a trek across many miles to a foreign speaking country. Despite the usual pre-trip thoughts on how two vegetarians could possibly survive the next few days, I realised that I WAS actually excited for Berlin and even weirder, despite our MANY horror stories abroad previously, I couldn’t wait for another road trip with my best mate, but slightly more than that, I was looking forward to that perfectly acceptable double brandy for breakfast in the airport bar! Very unlike me, my bag was packed in record time and, for once, without much drama (I have a bit of a problem packing to go away, always finding it necessary to
check my bags 10, 20 times then once again before we actually leave the house, then maybe I’ll pull up at a services en route, just to check again (she shouts OCD! I reply ‘Careful Traveller’) I also have a major problem leaving a hotel room to check out but I’ll save THAT for another story. Actually, come to think about it - I am pretty much the same with my Record Bags when leaving for a gig and I’m a bit crazy when locking my house front door - OH CRAP!!! It was odd for me, but this time, I was quite calm. How could I NOT be?! - I had consulted my iPhone Evernote app and ticked off the items on my ‘Going Away’ note, packing the essentials in order: cash, card and passport, plus my little travel audio set up - Macbook Pro, Logic, (my loudest) headphones from my collection of headphones and Native Instruments ‘Maschine’ The plan was simple: get through the horrible check in, manoeuvre through the monstrous airport security checks, endure the low fare flight and the customary overweight goon sat next to me (not the wife!), bumble our way onto German public transport, overpay, as usual, for 6 sets of tickets because we couldn’t negotiate the foreign ticket machine well enough and eventually arrive at our cool little boutique hotel destination, both in near marriage ending foul moods and worryingly both desperate for a rapid alcohol top-up. Once at our destination, my plan was to set up a little ‘beat factory’/temporary recording studio in the hotel room, soak up loads of local alcohol, nab as many afternoon disco naps as I could possibly get away with (without pissing Sam off of course) get shit-faced every single day and stay out late every night (like the hardcore clubber I used to be) soaking up as much inspiration as possible from Berlin’s seedier sights and sounds and eventually apply that inspiration to finishing my now cursed new album ... SIMPLE ..... ........ We set off for the airport at daft o’clock, for a very early morning flight. The house was now militantly alarmed with a new all singing, all dancing alarm (no coming home this time to a robbed out recording studio and stolen car, like our last trip abroad!) Because of the luggage, we decided to take my car. My car is bigger than hers and the stereo is much, much sweeter (it also meant that I didn’t have to listen to the Foo Fighters latest album AGAIN that had been belting out of her motor for the last 2 months solid!) After checking that I’d locked the door (for the eighth time), I did one last mental check then pulled away from the house - Hey! Hey! We’re on our way... (she sings back: ‘We’re On Our Way’) As we joined the motorway I realised that I was very relaxed, odd for me but bloody good!
Maybe THIS trip, unlike the last few, would be drama free and we could actually have a relaxing break for once. We had plenty of time to get to the airport, loads of time to check in and to make sure that we bagged two seats next to each other. God forbid that we didn’t get adjoining seats! The prospect of having to sit apart, Sam reminded me, was .... well ... just awful! We had been in the car about 40 minutes, my mind was wandering as usual. I was already starting to have doubts about this whole ‘going clubbing’ thing. Could I REALLY admit to myself, Club Owner, Promoter, DJ and Music Producer for 25 years that the last thing that I REALLY wanted to do was to be going out to all-night Techno raves in Berlin. I don’t think I was anywhere NEAR ready to admit THAT to myself, I CERTAINLY wasn’t ready to admit it to the wife! I continued to ponder on what kind of state our relationship would be in if she was to realise that the fun-guy that she had once married, the guy who used to go clubbing for a week on end and get into more naughty tangles than a 1970’s Children’s TV Presenter, was now more inclined to be tucked up in bed by 10pm watching some food addicted fat fuck munch his way across America, rather than be gallivanting around nightclubs, dressed up to the nines, having it right out! I continued to ponder and reflect on that until my pondering was cut dramatically short. Like being dragged from a deep and peaceful comatose state, I was yanked from my reflective musing by a very shrill sound. The cause of this almighty alarm? - it was sat right next to me: an octave higher version of my wife’s usual voice. She was screaming and screaming something at me that my mind just couldn’t process... The screaming went something like this: “Edz, you’ve got no friggin diesel !!!! ... You F*CKIN’ IDIOT!!!”
My stomach turned over twice. I had hell on just to control a bowel movement trying, cruelly, to present itself. The alarm I’d set on my phone, the post-it note I’d left on the studio computer, both with the very same message, all screamed “IDIOT!” at me, in unison with her. I had forgot to do one simple thing on my very short holiday ‘to do’ list to fill the motor up with fuel to get us to the airport and back!!! .... “SHIT !!!” I shouted loudly, the car swerved slightly. In my panic, I remembered that the big, glowing orange fuel light had been on ‘empty’ the whole day, LAST TIME I drove the damn motor and that was over a week ago!!! The warning light glowed like a beacon to a fool. It seemed to be enjoying the power it now exercised over me. It was mocking me, of that I was quite sure. We were in serious trouble! Correction ... I was in serious trouble!!! Inside the car was deathly quiet now. You could almost hear the fuel pump sucking the last dregs from the bottom of the fuel tank. The promise of good times and fun in a foreign city were dumped, unceremoniously, by the side of the road, some miles back. I shot a quick side glance across at my lovely wife, recognising that familiar look on her face. It quite plainly said: KNOB-HEAD! I squinted through the darkness at the upcoming motorway sign, my whole body rigid with fear. All my hope was pinned firmly on this sign and that it might just hold a personal message for me, some words of comfort to tell me: RELAX EDZY! YOU’LL BE OK. THERE’S A SERVICE STATION JUST AROUND THE NEXT BEND BIG FELLA. The sign flew by, Fucking Nothing! .... I had to think and think quick. Her silence was deafening me.
I scanned our surroundings, it was sort of familiar, Iâ€™d deejayed in these parts years ago, yeh! I was pretty sure of that. I recognised these parts and was quite confident that there WAS a petrol station not far from here. FUCK IT! I made my move and darted down the slip road, cutting across two motorway lanes as I went. We were the only idiots on the road at this time in the morning so I was pretty relaxed about my careless driving. Hitting the off ramp, I remembered to freewheel as much as I could to conserve the pitiful amount of diesel fumes we had left. We were now off the motorway and into the damp gloom of the unlit back country roads. I immediately asked myself if that was a good thing. Those back roads were eerily dark, buildings appearing out of nowhere like long forgotten monuments in a post nuclear ghost town. Every building we passed was lifeless and hours since bolted up. The lights were all off and everyone had gone home. If only theyâ€™d known the trouble that lay in store for us this evening! SURELY they would have stuck around to help?! An absolute eternity went by, then, what seemed like ages later, even more time trundled past.
I’d been avoiding looking at the dashboard. That bastard fuel light had been trying to catch my eye for ages. Eventually, I had to give in, glance down and check the time. It seemed like hours but we’d only been off the motorway for five very long minutes. By now, my guts had twisted into a proper tangle, cold sweat ran down the back of my neck. I had failed her once again. I no longer had the right to be the Captain of this ship. I decided: it was time to concede and give HER the Captains armband. Maybe if SHE was in control, she could get us out of this shit. She’s double smart that one is, and ... ANYTHING was worth a try right now. I took a deep, manly breath, as if it were to be my last. It was time again to admit failure as a man and as a husband and to concede to the wife, the wife who is always, ALWAYS fucking right, In my next breath, I would have to admit that: No! this ISN’T the place I thought it was, and YES DARLING, YOU ARE RIGHT, maybe I HAVEN’T Deejayed around here before, and OK, YES, I AM sorry, you are also correct ... in that ... there IS NO FUCKING PETROL STATION AROUND HERE !! ... OK?!! I’d picked this road, not her,
and I gathered from her tightly crossed arms that she wasn’t about to take control of this cluster-fuck of mine. All I could do was drive and then drive some more. We were both losing hope that someone’s God was watching over us. We were both quite sure that we would run out of juice, any second now, end up missing our plane and because of that, waste a shit load of money because I was too busy packing and unpacking my bag 20 times to remember to go and put some fuel in the fucking car! My guts were cramping under the stress of the situation. I clenched my butt cheeks even tighter and pressed the accelerator to the floor. Sam had long since turned my music off and this had sent a VERY clear message to me: ‘Concentrate. Keep Quiet, Don’t Fucking Look At Me ... and ... GET US OUT OF THIS MESS, PRONTO, you big faced bastard! Avoiding her glare, I picked a point in the blurry distance and looked straight ahead. The miles rolled by. I was nearly choking from the foul smell of hate in the car.
I don’t mind telling you - at this point, I was crying inside. I didn’t want to get on a plane now. I didn’t want to go to Berlin anymore. I didn’t want to go to a club and pretend that I still loved clubbing. I didn’t want live for the next four days on just French Fries and bottles of Riesling wine because that’s all I know how to order in German. I wanted to go back home, go back to my couch or go back in time 2 hours at least and to not be just about to run out of fuel on a freezing cold back road to nowhere. I certainly didn’t want to be in the bad books with my wife again but, most of all, I wanted someone up there to do me a favour and put a petrol station somewhere in reach and equally as important just now - a cleanish service station toilet seat
firmly under my heavy, aching arse. More miles rolled by. The car coughed and spluttered. We looked at each other, despite my instincts having previously warned me not to make eye contact with her. The look she shot me burned its ‘you’ve let me down again’ image onto the back of my left bloodshot eyeball. Shit! I was NEVER going to see her naked again, of this I was certain! The car spluttered again ..... the end was near, we both knew it. I think that it was at this point that I pee’d a little. I pressed on, neither of us daring to take a single breath. 1 mile, 2 miles ... then, as we turned the next left hand bend ... It happened ...
... A miracle! Someone up on high HAD thrown us a frikkin bone ... In the distance ... stood the welcoming glow of an upcoming service station. We were going to make it!!! WE WERE GOING TO MAKE IT BABY !!! I fought my natural instincts to ‘hi-five’ my co-pilot. Now wasn’t the time for celebrations, I knew that! ... The ray of fossil fuel hope was like a Stanley Knife blade cutting through the tension in the car. I limped the motor onto the petrol station forecourt and, without a word, jumped out, taking the diesel nozzle firmly in hand like an arcade shotgun. I felt full and manly again. As the valuable liquid poured from the giver to the taker, I took my first proper lung full of damp, diesel fumed air. It tasted so damned sweet. I was back in control of our
shared destiny again, that orange warning light was now relieved of its temporary power over us. Stuffing the nozzle as deep into her as it would go, I proceeded to fill the old girl up with the very best, premium diesel on offer. I pumped her ‘til she could take no more. She’d fucked with me for the last 30 minutes. I was symbolically fucking her back. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to swap pleasantries with the service station guy, as smiley as he was. It was the middle of the night for fuck’s sake. I needed the loo. I had a marriage to heal and a plane to catch. Not sure in what order. ...
In the airport bar, I thankfully sipped my drink quietly, grateful just to be sat in the warm and not sat in a cold car waiting for a recovery vehicle to find us. I was still very much in the bad books with Sam but as she went through her usual pre-flight sorting and checking of our travel documents, I guessed that the worst part of this trip was behind us now and that we were going to be alright. I’d bought a bottle of wine for her to have a go at, in two large glasses time she would start to forget our troubles thus far, I figured. By the time we took our seats on the plane and after all the self inflicted drama, I was absolutely shattered. It only took 2 mini bottles of wine from the stewardess, plus two Nytols that I had secreted away in my wallet and I was out cold - snoring, farting and slavering my way through European airspace. I’m a class act me. ...
Babe! BABE!! Wake up! A familiar hand was on my knee. “Here”, (she hands me a wetwipe) “wipe that drool off your face!” I sat up straight and sorted myself out, the best I could, for landing. The middle aged couple across the way shot me an unhappy stare in unison ... I guess I’d snored and spluttered my way into their lives at some point over the last two hours. Shame! The flight neared its completion as Captain Pilot unceremoniously ‘dumped’ the aircraft onto the tarmac. Despite the less than textbook
landing, he still received a round of applause from my fellow passengers. I have to admit, I got caught up in the moment too,
clapping along like a Sea World attraction performing for fish treats. How COULD I hide my OWN delight to be back on terra firma?! ..... As I pushed our overladen baggage trolley towards passport control, I realised that I had to perform again, man up and get us across a city that I hardly remembered. I was still a bit raw, obviously, from the first part of our trip. It was time for a bit of male cunning. I needed a plan. Maybe (I mused) if I faked a bit of travel sickness, Sam might feel sorry for me and might take control of the maps, the foreign currency and of this particular leg of the trip in general, saving me from letting her down anymore. While she was in the ladies loo, I rubbed my eyes until they were red and sore and practiced a few ‘ill poses’ that I might bust on her when she returned. 20 minutes and a few strained coughing bouts later, my plan was working like a charm! Mrs Woman had managed to get us the correct tickets from the machine, direct us, without
issue, to the right train platform and all in perfect time to meet the next train into Berlin. I allowed her to shuffle me onto the train and then to our seats like a naughty schoolboy on a school trip, no more dramas today for me! The wife was in charge. I sat in the window seat and, like clockwork (unlike back home), the train departed the station on time. To my complete elation and totally unexpected, a Graffiti Lover’s slide show began in front of our very eyes. We both sat and marvelled as Berlin’s street artists and taggers unfurled their beautiful wares out in front of us, bringing so much light, colour and depth to an otherwise drab backdrop of pre-war housing and marl grey Communist rule. Sam grabbed my hand and snuggled in against me. We both sat silent, admiring the beautiful art. From the sight of the very first tag, I knew how this trip was going to pan out and I had a feeling that she knew too! “Are you OK Babe?”, she asked “You look a little troubled” ..... I gave her my ‘no! nothing is wrong Babe’ look
“You don’t want to go clubbing, do you?” she probed, the tone in her voice very serious, the look on her face more so. I couldn’t lie, not to her. “No Babe, I REALLY fucking don’t” I replied. I squinted my eyes a little and held my breath, waiting for the tell tale signs that I had ruined her life again. “Thank Fuck!” she replied, at the same time exhaling what seemed like a lifetime’s worth of pressure. “Nor do I” ... I squeezed her hand tightly as if to reaffirm with her that we were one and the same. Suddenly the public announcement tannoy overhead crackled into life. OH CRAP!!! - listen, we’ve got to shoot. It’s our stop next. Edzy & Sam x The NOW finished Unique 3 album ‘Picture, No Sound’ is available soon on Rocstar Records www.rocstar.com Find Edzy on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/edzyunique3 On Twitter here: @edzyunique3 Unique 3 DJ Mixes & Back Catalogue here: www.funklabs.com
New Zealand born and shred, Askew One is both a graffiti pioneer in his own right and a constantly evolving artist whose dedication to exploring new styles and possibilities shines consistently bright. His graffiti pieces bulge with a bold dynamism as fluid curves heave through twists of abstraction and windows of the figurative. Hijacking comic book elements and bending them through the prism of the street, he rifles through searing lines of colour and swoops through dizzying turns of frantic. His work has always been socially and politically conscious - and yet never so 2 dimensional as to preach outright. Plays on symbols and motifs of control, injustice and power ricochet into new angles, using aesthetic spins and twinkles of humour to comment on core issues.
But Askewâ€™s graffiti is only half the story. As a graphic designer, illustrator, video director and fine artist, he is consistently experimenting with the nuances of new experience while maintaining an overarching creative whole. Conceptual serieses such as Smoke Signals and Relics of a Modern World explore the alienation, cultural evolution and symbolic language of a world where identity is torn loose by the conflict between tradition and globalisation. Today he is a truly multi disciplinary artist. Squaring the circle between graffitiâ€™s lifeblood of environmental interaction and the intimate reflections of fine art, he can be found painting anything from a wall to a canvas to illuminating huge industrial tanks with penetrating poetry. We caught up with him for a word.
What were your early years like?
How immersed were you in a comic book world and how much did that infuse your My parents were teenagers when they had me artistic development? so I didn’t grow up with 2 parents in a family home for quite a while. The first 7 years of Comics provided my early art tuition. I learned my life we lived in flats with an ensemble of how to draw mainly from copying, drawing my crazy and interesting young people that were own renditions of things from my favourite into punk music, pop culture and drugs. I was comics. Obviously as I mentioned, Batman fairly aware of what drugs were at a young had a huge impact on me, especially the Neal age which is funny. When my mum tells me Adams/Dick Giordano era of the late 70’s and some stories about some of the people that early 80’s. Later on I turned to a lot more of were around, situations that went down while the British comics and writers like Alan Moore I was around it’s crazy because I was always and artists like Simon Bisley really stood out. protected and extremely happy as a child. She Obviously I discovered them via 2000ad but did a good job. From memory she was the later on both did Batman stuff as well. Frank main person always encouraging me to draw. Miller’s Dark Knight Returns was a real pivotal All my parents including my step parents can comic for me then of course the Hard Boiled draw really well so I thought it was normal. graphic novel done with Geof Darrow was My grandfather on my dads side was the first something I read when I was about 16 and the I can remember buying me comic books - late illustrations blew my mind. 70’s and early 80’s Batman comics mainly but a few old Ghost Rider comics were at their house, maybe they were my dads old ones.
How much of a scene was there in New Zealand as you were coming up and how much did it develop its own individual way of doing things? There were distinct eras of New Zealand, but more specifically Auckland graffiti that I remember. There was that initial Hip Hop/ Beat Street/Style Wars inspired craze of the early 80’s - that’s like everywhere in the world - the first wave outside of New York. It was hard and fast though and things had really faded out by the late 80’s. That’s when a new wave came through which was the most distinct and prevalent movement of graffiti in Auckland. It was more of a LA inspired tagging culture that drew from the attitudes and imagery emanating from America’s West Coast during that time. That was the birth of what’s referred to as ‘Straights’ here. It’s the generic hand style that everyone can do and is one of the most distinctive things people notice when they visit. There was a 3rd wave of writers that were either from or inspired by the Sydney scene and then there was my generation a few years after who came up inspired by all of the above. A lot of people from my era still paint today and make up a lot of the names synonymous with New Zealand graffiti.
When did you first start to feel like you were genuinely expressing yourself? There’s been a lot of stages/phases with my artistic development through the various eras of graffiti and how my work as a graphic designer, illustrator, video director and fine artist have informed my approach. As far as really feeling in my own lane and like I’m doing 100% my own expression informed only by my own journey and message - that’s kind of recent and just beginning in the grand scheme of things.
What does the eye in the pyramid symbolize for you? The same as what it probably means for many others. A graphic representation of the idea that there are a very small group of people on this planet with immense wealth and power that dictate a lot for the majority of people who have little. The maintenance of the status quo regarding class systems and the subsequent inequalities that result, the manipulation of the masses via popular media, both news and entertainment and the value of material wealth over life are all things that I think about a lot. But I also believe that it’s not an entirely helpless situation and that’s why I adopted that character in such a comical or faux Disney-esque treatment - almost as an affirmation of the ridiculous reality of it all. How important is it for you to address geo political injustices in your work and how do you feel it is best expressed? If you want to understand a lot about the world, look at a map. Even today, simple Geo-political realities dictate who has the power when it comes to trade across oceans and access to resources. Even in this digital age, archaic systems like this still determine a lot. Maybe this is already obvious to a lot of people but to me it was a revelation when I really started to think about it.
A lot of even your most serious pieces have a playfulness to them – how conscious is that paradox? I’m very conscious of my voice as an artist and one thing I don’t want that voice to be doing is complaining constantly. I feel like that is self-defeating and so although there are things about the world I live in that annoy or frustrate me, often times those things also have a charm to them too if you step back and appreciate them objectively. Living in New Zealand is frustrating as anything a lot of the time but it’s still a pretty awesome place on so many levels, especially the things we do out of wanting to feel much bigger and metropolitan than we are. There’s so much humour in that space. Tapping into that has been really key for me as an artist because it has resonated with people, not just here but through the wider Pacific and even some surprising places like middle America or the UK. Tell us a little about the halo like circles that keep popping up in your pieces. The Halo’s a literally a stylistic hat tip to Stayhigh 149, from his Saint character on the end of his tags. It’s a graffiti-ism that has been absorbed into the symbolic lexicon of the movement but we often forget it’s origin. I liked placing it angled and flared with an Astro cap above my Pyramid guy or over my pieces as a play on the concept of morality - something that everyone has their own definition of.
How much do you like to hide characters, faces and abstracted figures in your graffiti.
How do you feel about the relationship between graffiti and public space?
I don’t often intentionally hide anything in my pieces but I like the idea that my letters or other embellishments in my work have the flow and movement of something more figurative. Imposing the character and movement into letters is how you allow them to have maximum personality.
Ultimately you can’t sincerely have one without the other. Graffiti loans it’s context and impact from it’s surroundings and furthermore how, in say a photograph or in person, a viewer can make assumptions about how that work was achieved in that space. It’s a time and place thing.
What does the power of the letter form mean How do you feel about how the way the to you? internet has made an ephemeral, site specific art form permanent through documentation? The letter form is just the parameter that exists in the graffiti writing movement that It’s like anything, there are positives and creates a distinction between us and artists negatives. I love the overwhelming amount practising other art forms. You have the of documentation of anything you may have basic letter form as the skeleton to build in interest in that is accessible because of the from and an individuals skill and approach to net. I miss the robust, get out and kill your manipulating that form is how we, as peers kicks and graze your knees mentality and determine what is good and bad. As I get older experience though. I don’t like to be one of and start to think more individually about those whining, overly nostalgic people though what I’m trying to express as an artist in the - the ones that just harp on and on about how broader sense, I don’t want to restrict myself good things ‘used’ to be. Shit changes, evolve to that parameter all the time. The skills and or die. That’s the nature of existence. mediums I’ve learned to work with have a different type of power when applied to other things.
How much do you see the detail of your pieces as little microcosmic worlds within worlds? While I’m creating a piece of work, I am absolutely absorbed within it’s own mircouniverse and al the questions that present themselves whilst finding an endpoint. After I’m done, I reflect on them for quite a while, assessing the next step or direction. Then I move on. How much do you feel you have had stylistic phases – especially recently - and how much do different angles feed back into an ever expanding whole? Well essentially I think I can track every phase and skill set developed in those periods into each next phase. Being creative is a perpetual thing to me, to anyone I reckon. You have to make one work in order to make the next. Tell us about the development of the new style of lettering you’ve been using such as in the LA pieces. Well, the stacked typographic works go back
to about 2006/2007 and a series of drawings and T-shirt designs I was playing with. That’s when I first started dabbling with those kind of S.O.S statements like ‘Help Stuck On This Crazy Island’ etc. The main revelation with those was in Miami in 2011 when I began painting the first layers with really heavily applied bucket paint, working it while it was really wet and running down the wall and creating all of these ripples and waves and subtle gradients of colour - then outlining them in very spitty/ half-pressured lines. It really re-defined my whole approach - I created a whole body of work that way for my Smoke Signals show but have now moved into a mixture of that technique juxtaposed and intersected with very flat and perfect elements. Also I’m doing a lot more figurative work and abstractions inspired by the greater Pacific region too. You seem to really connect with an ice cold silvery blue in a lot of your pieces – how much does colour translate to specific emotions for you? It’s not as much about the emotion that I’m feeling personally but trying to give a piece a sense of greater depth and expression. I love playing with hot and cold in all my work.
Tell us about the painted flashes of light in your pieces – what does that bring to them? That’s pretty much an extension of the same idea. I just like making my pieces feel really expansive and beyond the surface they are painted on. Where is the balance between confidence and self doubt in driving your work? Both are very vital factors. I’m an outwardly confident character but I have always battled with immense self doubt and to be honest I’m very hard on myself. When I was younger I had a longing to belong to something and it really drove me in good and bad ways but ultimately it was the motivation I channelled to strive so hard. Is over thinking a dangerous game for an intelligent artist? Only if it stifles you to the point where all you do is think and talk about things and don’t commit to actually doing anything. It goes back to what I said earlier, you have to make one work to make the next. I believe that. Making bad work is just as important as making great work.
How much planning do you bring to a piece and how much does it develop its own momentum as it goes up? I’m reasonably spontaneous to be truthful, a lot of thought goes into things but I don’t think saying that I plan things thoroughly would be very honest. The next body of work I’m starting on is going to require me to change a lot in that regard, in order to really take it to that next level I need to plan things pretty well.
How much is art about aesthetic and how much is it about message for you?
It’s an overwhelming history and something to marvel at and appreciate.
For me personally, where my own art is concerned, both are important. I like some pretty glossy shallow things and I like some pretty conceptual work with less aesthetic refinement too. Just when it comes to my won stuff I need a balance.
How did you learn to adapt your approach to walls for a gallery environment?
How do you adapt your style and subject in different countries and cultures. Not a lot really. I am becoming much more Pacific focused though, I think my group of friends and I in general all are. For some because they are of Pacific Island ancestry and for people like me because this is my home. I’ve grown up detached from any ancestral links and I identify with Pacific culture - it’s the norm for me. The day I really appreciated that Auckland has the largest Polynesian population in the world, followed by Honolulu - it made me really look a map of the region and appreciate what that means. It means Auckland is kind of the capital city of one of the most expansive and diverse regions on the planet. This is a region with this huge array of cultures that seem unrelated but they actually share one amazing history via the migration of people from Asia and throughout the Pacific.
I’m still learning in that department everyday. I just had a feeling that what I do in the gallery confines needs to be way more refined because of the obvious difference in scale and also the commercial realities too.
How do you feel about the rising popularity of graffiti and especially street art – is it always a double edged sword? It’s another thing that comes in waves. I think there’s a huge surge in mainstream popularity every decade. How much do you find that you grow together in a crew and how much do different directions, motivations and goals emerge? We were all very different people when TMD started, we have definitely grown a lot since our teens. People change of course and responsibilities just grow and grow making things like graffiti become less central in our day to day. Fortunately we have all grown closer though sharing this and there is an overwhelming sense of family in encouragement in our crew. I’m pretty new to MSK but I feel like theres a lot of kindred souls there too, a lot of people I’m on a similar page in life with and the talent level is so high it’s humbling to say the least.
Tell us about Relics Of A Modern World Pretty much didn’t hit the ground running with that concept as fast as I should have and now I see there was a show in SF with pretty much the same idea. I was just thinking about after humans are extinct and if aliens were to sift through the rubble of this modern world and make some assumption of the society we lived in - what conclusions would they make? I think Revok’s current works actually make a really profound statement about this. He is literally doing that, sifting though ruins in Detroit and making something new from it. What does the future hold for you? I couldn’t say bro. Hopefully something great!
It has been a jam packed few months with great street art emerging from the throes of the end of the world. As the rapid changes to our society threatened to end in collapse and the New “Word” Order looked ready to jump off, galleries were scooping up street art and bringing the streets to indoor walls. The controversy remains constantly heated, especially with the recent furore surrounding Banksy and the exhibit at Art Basel Miami’s “context” venue. Leave it in the streets I say - leave it in the streets or wherever it was intended and site specific. If it has been made for indoor walls then so be it. Get it in a cool joint like the Boulan South Beach, but let’s not try to remake the creation for the convenience of a few people who don’t want to crawl out of their holes to see some real “art” … In the interim on my many travels around the globe, I have discovered some great things out there. First we hit up SIN Stencil, a French artist based in Angers
Hey SIN - When did you begin your work and did you start with stencil or another medium I have been drawing since I was little, but I was 17 years that I started doing graffiti at a youth space in workshops which were animated by “Amod”, I went by the nickname SiN is 3 letters and it’s my favorite to paint. It has been 4-5 years that I started to stencil, so I graff less these days-.
I notice that many of your subjects are musical artists - what meaning or significance does that have on you?? Is there a reason you are choosing them as subjects to work with? And what brought this on? In fact nothing special brought me to this series I do have one, then 2, 3, but most of the time I like to paint lesser known personalities that no one would think I would actually set out to paint, as opposed to those who one Did you have any formal training in your could build a career out of painting drawing, or I should say did you “learn” to create your work, or did it come from sheer creative flow? Have you ventured out to any other countries I’ve never taken a drawing class and I had no to exhibit your work or stencil any murals? training. I’ve submitted work twice to the Fine No, I have not yet. I almost went to Arts competition in the city of Angers, and Luxembourg this summer for a festival of made it onto the waiting list the first time, but urban art but it didn’t happen, though I hope alas not the second. to be able soon. How about the stencil scene in France? What kind of avenues are there for French artists specifically doing stencil or street art? The stencil is not that readily recognized by the French public and for most, street art is related directly to graffiti in most people’s minds. And yet many people do seem to appreciate it when they actually stumble across a stencil. The democratization of street art though heralds what I hope will be a bright future here and there are some excellent artists like Jef Aerosol and C215 pushing it.
So it’s a sheer flow. What’s your plan for the future concerning your art work? Where can we see your work in the future, My future plans are to participate in collective exhibitions such as the International Festival “Artaq” at the expo Mythiq 27, exhibit abroad, participate in outdoor mural projects and one of my paintings will be on display in Paris in March 2013, I continually exhibit at the gallery Bréheret Angers Street Toussaint (France), but nothing else is in the pipeline at the moment .
SIN Stencil Art exhibit March 1st 2013 Salon Cunonsky, Angers
Now weâ€™re off to Miami for Art Basel and landing in the hottest spot for street art and grafitti with a week long audience of immense size. The streets do in fact become the canvas with works from many of our favorites like Chor Boogie from the west coast, Shepard Fairey and Mear One, just to name a few while Wynwood Arts District runs the game! Here are some of the works happening in Wynwood. I managed to get a bit of time from the art-fair to jump over and shoot with Chor Boogie and one of my favorite artists Wulf Treu at Studio Garage 69
Next, on a tip from Wulf I managed to head over to the Boulan South Beach, where DK Johnston and the crew from the Arts Fund in San Francisco are giving a home to some of the most amazing street artists (and artists for that matter) of our times. I ran into some pieces from Blek le Rat, Hush, D*Face, Lebo, David Leroi and Mindy Linkous for the penthouse 7 exhibit. What’s happening there is each penthouse, pool area and lobby is engulfed with an infusion of art street, art, and installation style pieces, creating a unique atmosphere. It offers a great space for the artists to not only exhibit but to work and become one with the space and it’s elements. It’s a great thing they are doing over at the Boulan and and I will be back to bring you full report on them. You can check out all the happs at the Boulan South Beach and what the arts fund is up to in the links below. Also a couple of vid’s from Hush and D*Face courtesy of the Boulan as well as some info about SIN Stencil and the Wynwood arts district. For now, stay chill and catch you on the flip side as I cruise the streets of Paris! www.facebook.com/BoulanSouthBeach www.facebook.com/ArtsFund www.thewynwoodwalls.com/
www.facebook.com/pages/SiN-Stencil-Art/1 82558861851122?ref=ts&fref=ts Wynood photographs courtesy of Deborah Charles (c) Arts Fund Boulan South Beach photographs courtesy of the arts fund, Sin Stencil photgraphs courtesy of Sin Stencil Art
THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS That Literary Ghost
Simply mentioning The Thousand and One Nights instantly recalls scenes of archetypal Arabia: tight urban labyrinths of minarets, domes and rolling rooftops, desolate sands of endless deserts, emaciated oases where temperamental camels graze - and of course flying rugs, turbaned magicians, genies springing from lamps and odalisques secluded
in harems. In short, the classic Arab aesthetic. It is viewed today as an Arabian as well as an Islamic work and is indeed often called The Arabian Nights in English. But is the origin of these intertwined tales actually Arabian? For as the scholar Borges aptly noted â€˜kingdoms and centuries have collaborated in the 1001 Nightsâ€™
The genesis of this collection of Oriental fables has been lost in the mists of time, though they clearly derive from an ancient oral tradition. Centuries before they were compiled and pinned down in writing, they were sung under Eastern night skies. But which particular corner of the East are we talking about – near far or middle? Since the 18th century, when the book was discovered in Europe, different theses about the origins of this peculiar collection of tales have been proposed and passionately debated. Nevertheless, its strategy as well as its magic, lies in skilfully linking together the tales, and guiding the plot through a hall of mirrors where the audience lose themselves in the echoes. ‘With tales inside tales’ Borges warns us ‘a strange effect is produced, almost infinite, and tempered with a strange vertigo.’ Interestingly enough, The Thousand and One Nights shares some features with the Sanskrit compilation of tales, Kalila and Dimna which uses similar narrative devices through animal characters. King Shahryar, to whom the tales are told is described as ‘Lord of the islands of Al-Hind’. ‘Al Hind’ refers to India and Shahryar
is a name of Aryan origin. According to Cansinos Asséns, in his ‘Critical-literary study of the Thousand and One Nights’, ‘Everything fabulous in the book comes from India, from the fantastic tapestries of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, where we already find that theological array of angels, devils, fairies and genies that stroll about the Nights, as well as that fauna of fish-men, monkey-men, and wonderful creatures described in them. The landscape and the atmosphere of The Thousand and One Nights resonate with Hindu imagery .’
WHY THE NIGHT AND NOT THE DAY? Why wasn’t the collection called ‘The Thousand and One Days? Why wouldn’t Sheherazade have told the stories in the long summer afternoons, sheltered from the stifling midsummer heat and the punishing sunshine? To take Cansinos’ evocative description: ‘Everything in the East remains drowsy during the dazzling and ardent day; it is by night when nature and men revive and really start to live. It is in those sweet and quiet hours, refreshed by a fragrant breeze, when women come out of the harem to amuse themselves, drink perfumed sorbets and to tell each other stories while the men assemble in the public squares to weave convivial stories’ Anyone who has travelled through the torrid Indian night will bear witness that, even in the most miserable village, people get together by gas lamp and chatter until the dawn. It is the natural essence of the culture that those tales were told under the panoply of darkness, sheltered in the lush, aromatic gardens of the Maharajas. Ironically, there is actually a book called The Thousand and One Days, also of
uncertain origins and a parody of the Nights. In it are Persian, Indian, Turkish and Chinese tales, translated into European languages in the 18th century by a few orientalists who sought to reproduce the extraordinary success of the Nights in Europe. And the number. Why precisely 1001 and not 950 or 1300? Again, according to Borges, ‘The superstitious fear of even numbers induced the compilers to add one digit, and this one suffices to suggest the infinite.’ Not for nothing is the palindrome a symbol of infinity. It thus refers to an unlimited series of stories; a labyrinth without an exit.
THE ARYAN-PERSIAN THESIS The French philologist Louis-Mathieu Langlès, one of most eminent 19th Century scholars of Sanskrit and Indian literature, was the principal proponent of the Aryan-Persian genesis of the Nights. According to him, the first Persian tales were inspired by a Sanskrit original, though this remains conjecture as no ‘orignal’ has ever been found. Langlès then refers to a Persian work, called Hasar Hafsanah or The Thousand Tales and written in Pahlavi, as the oldest version. Its author is anonymous and again, no copy has ever been unearthed. The only trace we have of it, like a fragile line written in sand, is its title and a brief allusion in a book entitled Golden Prairies and Mines of Pearls by the Arab polygraph Abu Al-Hasan Ali Al-Masûdi, who lived in Basra in the 10th century and travelled through Syria, India, Ceylon, China and Indochina. Al-Masûdi states: ‘Like the book entitled The Thousand Tales, it is commonly called The Thousand Nights and contains the story of the king, the vizier, the vizier’s daughter and her nursemaid and the names of these women are Schirzad and Dinarzard.’ The similarity with the names of the main characters of the Nights is clear. Hammer Purgstall, a 19th century Austrian orientalist based in Turkey, speaks of confabulatore nocturni or night storytellers and an old Persian text which suggests that the first monarch who got together these purveyors of fable to entertain his insomnia was Alexander the Great. This is backed up by a certain Mohamed ibn Ishaq, a hagiographer at the service of the Abbasid Caliph Al Mansur, who states that Alexander was accompanied by an entourage of narrators throughout his campaigns in India. But as Cansinos says, ‘In India, everything was already old when the young prince burst in with an army of warriors, poets and philosophers. Well before Alexander, the Persians, neighbours and blood relatives to the Indians had already absorbed much of their culture’
It doesn’t seem likely that Alexander was the first king to be accompanied by storytellers. Much earlier, the Hindu maharajas whose extravagant palaces that dripped with marble latticework, wall paintings and thick perfumes had brought narrative into their midst. Furthermore, their own ministers occasionally took on the role of teller with the hidden intent of influencing the king’s thinking through metaphor. As time passed, some of those maharajas had their favourite stories immortalised in writing as the The Panchatantra, which means ‘Five Discourses’, and a later compendium the Hitopadesha or ‘Useful Teaching’ from about 300 BC. The first man to translate the Panchatantra
from the Sanskrit was the Persian poet Roodegui or Borzuya who was born in Samarkand around the 6th century AD. Roodegui was blind and loved to sing his own poems while playing the lute, and he gave it the title of Kalila and Dimna.. The later Arabic version, was translated from the Persian by 8th Century Iranian scholar, Ibn al-Muqaffa. Taking all this under consideration, it would not be surprising if the Persians were also the first to compile the other collection of Indian tales to which they gave the name of Hasar Hafsanah or The Thousand Tales. In Cansinos’ opinion, ‘the Persians are the middle ground between the excessive grandeur of India and the less creative Semitics.’
THE PERSIAN THESIS
Burton argues that the contents of the revelations made to Balukia by the angels Francis Burton, the great British orientalist, concerning the mysteries of the Universe linguist, inveterate traveller and author of are derived from Persian cosmogony; that the first English version of the Nights, was an the Sheik of the Ocean met by Sinbad the ardent supporter of the exclusively Persian Sailor during his travels is already present in thesis. His 17 volume version with its joyous the Persian romance called Kamaraupa; that emphasis on salacious detail provoked quite Saif-ul-Malook’s story (nights 422 to 437) is the scandal in straitlaced Victorian England. In a copy of a certain Persian love novel of the his prologue, Burton warns that his translation 9th century, and that that the various tales is in the spirit rather than the letter of the about mischievous women, included in nights original ‘writing as the Arabs would have 344 to 365, are a transliteration of the famous written in English.’ Burton presumes that the Persian book entitled The Book of Sindibad Arab work we know under the title of The or of Sendebar. But Burton’s arguments for Thousand and One Nights is the Arabisation of exclusively Persian origins are not conclusive a Persian original. He believed that the text of enough to dismiss the possible Indian origins the Nights, when translated into Arabic, was of, at least, some parts of it. And that is before inevitably Islamicised in the same way as Kalila considering the later Arab additions that are and Dimna was filtered through a Christian today an indelible component of the book. prism in its European versions. This was an Cansinos insists on the other hand, that ‘it is inevitable by product of crossing cultures in unquestionable that there is a background the same way that the ‘Gesta Romanorum’ of a very old Aryan tradition, verging on the which influenced Chaucer, Boccaccio and Shakespeare was adapted to the Christian and prehistoric where Indo European mythologies were shaped as a crucible for later Indian, chivalric style of the Middle Ages. Persian and even Greek traditions.
THE MISSING LINK There never was any Scheherazade that told stories to a ‘neurotic’ king. Her name is, of course, a literary subterfuge designed to concentrate a spectrum of old Oriental fables, anecdotes and tales in anthropomorphic from. The names of the original poets have been forever lost in the oceans of time and the bustle of translations. Nevertheless, this fabulous old book was called to a universal destiny by Arabic voices. Around the year 651, when the expansion of Islam was at its peak, the Caliph Omar defeated the last Sassanid King, Yazdgard the 3rd. The conquest of the Persian Empire would have profound consequences. In Cansinos’ words ‘the Arabs collected as bounty not only a vast territorial empire, but the rich spiritual patrimony of the ancient Iranian nation, and a part of those treasures was the famous book.’ He means The Thousand Tales. And thus, apparently, the book passed on to the hands of translators who phrased it in a ‘florid and eloquent’ Arabic tongue. The Persians, the missing link in this story, were, thus, the first intermediaries between the East and the West, a role that the Arabs would now have to play. And so they did during Europe’s ‘Dark Ages’, by relentlessly collecting knowledge
from China, India, Persia and Greece, and retransmitting it in Arabic through Al Andalus (Muslim Spain)
The key to this cultural transfer from the East to the West was the House of Wisdom, Dar al-Hakim, founded in Bagdad in the 9th century by the Abbasid Caliph Al Mamun, son of Haroun Rashid, the poet king praised in various tales of the Nights. Legend has it that one night Aristotle appeared to the Caliph Al Mamun and advised him to study the philosophy of ancient Greece. And so the House of Wisdom was born, where the Caliph assembled the great sages of his time, and built a library where many works of science and philosophy were translated into Arabic from originals in Pahlavi, Sanskrit, Syrian or Greek. This was one of the great contributions of the Islamic Empire: the transmission of foreign culture and wisdom. However, according to Hammer-Purgstall, the translation of the Nights into Arabic was completed earlier: ‘Everything induces us to believe that the original of The Thousand and One Nights was translated into Arabic while Al Manzur was Caliph, thirty years before Haroun Rashid, who would later play such a prominent role in these stories.’ So on that basis, some tales must have been added later
to the first Arabic translation. Purgstall made his German translation, published in 1823, from Arabic manuscripts found in Istanbul and in Cairo. The next year another German version appeared by a certain doctor Max Habicht, who took his original from a Tunisian manuscript. Burton reckons the drafting of the first Arab manuscript happened in the 14th century. Other authors state that the first Arabic compilation was made in Cairo at the end of the 15th century. It is, in fact, difficult to ascertain any date, as Arab record keeping is notoriously sketchy. Only the mention in a tale of certain historical characters, like the Caliph Haroun Rashid or the musician Ibrahim al Mosuli (both from the end of the 8th century and the beginning of the 9th) allow us to date it with any accuracy. Silvestre de Sacy says: ‘The tales where the Caliph Haroun, a contemporary of Charlemagne, plays such a prominent role cannot have been added until at least two centuries after the death of this prince, as the narrator speaks of him through the mists of time.’ De Sacy also observes the mention of a certain Egyptian sultan who
reigned in the second half of the 13th century. And in perhaps his most perceptive remark: there is not a single mention in the book about coffee or tobacco. Therefore, De Sacy dates ‘the last draft or the last edition of the compilation’ about the beginning of the 14th century. It seems that the beginning of this process of assimilation and writing the Nights in Arabic began around the 7th or 8th centuries and must have ended about the 17th century. Be that as it may, the book, when rewritten in Arabic, was now called Alf lila u lila, One Thousand Nights and One Night, a title that would later be generally translated in Europe as The Thousand and One Nights. Inevitably, its contents were Arabicised in the process: the names of the characters, of its fabulous Asiatic cities, of landscapes; and also the habits, the food, the clothes, the architecture, the music. The Persian kings or the Hindu maharajas were now called caliphs and sultans; the satraps, viziers; the pariahs, beggars. And tales were added. The Arabs thus became in turn, authors of this “literary ghost” and under this new disguise, all traces of the past were erased and all possible remnants of its dubious origins were forever clouded.
THE ARAB THESIS One of the greatest orientalists of the beginning of the 19th century, the French baron Silvestre de Sacy, became the main proponent for the exclusively Arab origin of
the book. In 1829, the baron read before the Academy of Inscriptions and Fine Letters of Paris his Mémoire sur l’origine du Recueil des Contes, intitulé Les Mille et une nuits, where he rejected, with a profusion of data, all possible Persian or Far Eastern origin. He highlighted the significant fact that the Arab manuscripts in circulation were not written in classical Arabic but in dialect. This induced him to suppose that its drafting was done at a time of Arab literary decadence: ‘It betrays a modern drafting whose homeland is Egypt.’
It would be too long to enumerate in detail all his reasons that relate to location (most of the tales are set on the banks of the Euphrates, the Tigris and the Nile); to characters and names, landscapes, sciences, mythology, religions, magic, etc. In short, everything belongs to the Arab, Muslim, Jewish and Christian world. As for the delicate subject of the mention made by Al-Masûdi, he argues: ‘All we can conclude from Masûdi’s text is that there existed, under the title of The Thousand Tales, a book of Persian or Indian origin, later translated into Arabic, which is unknown to us and from which the author of the Arabian Nights borrowed perhaps the names of his principal characters.’ This argument however feels unconvincing. De Sacy sums up the origin of the first Arabic manuscript as follows: ‘My opinion is that it was written in Syria in the vulgar tongue; that its author never finished it, either because death prevented him from doing so or for any other reason; that the copyists tried to complete it, either by inserting already known tales that did not belong to this collection, like Sinbad the Sailor’s Travels or The Story
of the Seven Viziers, or by composing others themselves, with varying degrees of talent’ The added tales were inserted, in his opinion, at different times and probably in Egypt in the 15th century.
In 1899, a French doctor, traveller and orientalist born in Syria, called Dr Mardrus produce a ‘verbatim and complete’ translation before proclaiming himself the authentic discoverer of the Nights. Mardrus supported De Sacy’s Arab thesis, denying any borrowing from the Indian or Persian traditions. Mardrus included tales he had heard in the souks of Damascus and Bagdad, in the cafes of Cairo and in villages of Yemen, so the oral tradition was still thriving in his time. The British orientalist Edward W. Lane was another who succumbed to the temptation of offering his own version of the Nights, albeit abridged and censored and described sarcastically by by Burton as ‘intended for the drawing room table’. He would have no place in this story but for his book Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians that stated that in the middle of the 19th century there were some fifty storytellers in Cairo. So the oral tradition is nowhere near as buried in antiquity as we might imagine, and even in our own times there are still a few storytellers in Marrakech who incorporate tales from the Nights into their repertoire.
And yet despite undoubtedly strong Arabic elements throughout the tales, does that really disprove the idea that the origins could have come from earlier traditions? Could they not have been altered and supplemented by their dalliance with the Arab world?
THE JEWISH THESIS A Dutch scholar called Gaeje, postulated that the paternity of the book is neither Indian nor Persian nor Arabian, but Jewish and rooted in the Old Testament. He pointed to The Book of Esther, where many of the same plot twists appear and we can see the predecessors of many characters: the Persian King Ahasuerus, the overwhelming treason of the beautiful and arrogant Queen Vasti, as well as the search and capture of all the young virgins in the kingdom in order to choose a new queen. And that a young woman called Esther conquers the heart of the King with her beauty as her only weapon and makes him forget his first wife, who is repudiated. She may not tell stories but the parallels are there.
The author of The Book of Esther is anonymous, although it was attributed in legend to the prophet Ezra. We know that it was written at the time of the Maccabeus, 2nd century BC, but just as with the Panchatantra in India, The Book of Esther consolidates a far older oral tradition in written Hebrew . Cansinos, despite favouring the Aryan Persian origins of the Nights, confessed that’ among all the hypotheses, Gaeje’s seems the most plausible and could lay the way to attribute the Nights to one of the many Jewish authors in the service of the Eastern courts.’ He adds that Scheherazade ‘is made up of fragments from Esther and Judith.’ The tale of Ali Baba significantly starts on a biblical note as the jealousy between two brothers harks back to Cain and Abel. Cansinos notes that a lot of “edifying anecdotes” included in the book have their origin in the Talmud. Given that The Book of Esther is older than the Arab versions of the Nights, he concludes that ‘there are thus plenty of reasons to accept the hypothesis of the Dutch orientalist.’ Such a consideration is just one more bloodline in the multi ethnic book we know today.
THE MYSTICAL THESIS There are still more pieces to this fascinating puzzle. We must address the esoteric interpretations of Theosophists like Mario Roso de Luna and Madame Blavatsky despite the potential dangers in wading into those realms. For them both, the book has a much older Aryan origin, from at least 11.000 years ago, about the time of the lost Atlantis. According to them (as might be expected from Theosophists), ‘The Thousand and One Nights hold a deep occultist revelation. De Luna has it that its stories are Aryan or Parsee in origin, later defiled by the Semitics, with their sexuality across numerous centuries.’ He explains that its title ‘is phonetically equal to Veil of Isis, it means: a book wherein certain initiation truths are hidden.’ ‘It is true’, affirms Cansinos ‘that The Thousand and One Nights have an esoteric dimension; but this is not exclusive to the Indian Gnostics could also come from Hebrew occultists.’ I leave it up to the reader as to whether they wish to pursue such a path, tempting though it unquestionably is.
THE BOOK ARRIVES IN EUROPE Probably as early as the Middle Ages, fragments of the Nights arrived orally in Europe, alongside parts of the Hindu epics. Experts have identified aspects of the Nights, in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, in Juan de Timoneda’s El Patrañuelo, and in Calderon’s Life is a Dream. Nonetheless, the book as a whole was not yet known, as its first translation would not reach Europe until the 18th century. In 1670, the French diplomat Antoine Galland was sent by Louis XIV to the French Embassy in Constantinople. Galland travelled through the Middle East, learnt Arabic and Turkish, and gathered a collection of old coins that astonished his fellow countrymen and would later be exhibited widely in museums. Subsequently, Galland was commissioned by the government and by the French Company of the East Indies for different missions to the Middle East and gained the title of royal antiques dealer. On his travels Galland apparently found in Syria the Arabic manuscript he would later use for his translation. As he himself confessed, he didn’t acquire the manuscript himself but, once back in Paris, he entrusted certain agents to get it for him. It is suspected however that
the original used by Galland only contained 208 nights and that the rest of it was written from tales he had heard from storytellers, including a Maronite Christian resident in Turkey. This poses a large question mark over this first European version. It is also true that the later version by Mardrus collects, as we said, tales he took from oral tradition, and not from original manuscripts.
The first part of Galland’s translation was published in Caen the year 1704 under the title of Les mille et une nuits. Contes arabes d’un auteur inconnu. It was a version adapted to the tastes of his time, ‘civilized’ according to Cansinos, ‘but not completely devoid of its exotic air.’ He did however, suppress the poetry. The rest of the work appeared gradually in 12 volumes until the year 1717. It must be pointed out that Galland’s adaptation was far from literal as the translator considered it his duty to censor all erotic and violent scenes. Besides, it only comprises a quarter of the complete book. His translation was soon lambasted for diverging from the Arabic versions that circulated in the East and even included tales that were nowhere to be found in them. Be that as it may, the success of the book in a baroque France, thirsty for oriental extravagances, was enormous, and the translation soon found its way into other European languages, each one in its own style and manner. Borges wittily reflects: ‘That of Lane’s comes with an encyclopaedia of Islamic custom, Burton’s anthropological and obscene version is written in odd English - full
of archaisms and neologisms and is difficult to read though not devoid of beauty. Then the licentious version, in both senses of the word, by Dr Mardrus, and a German verbatim translation stripped of all literary charm -that of Littman. Now, happily, we have the Spanish translation of my master Rafael CansinosAsséns, which is perhaps the best of them all.’
TOWARDS A FINAL CORPUS? It is thus clear that we cannot establish an ‘authoritative version’ of a book so worn out by numerous and dissimilar pens. Cansinos skilfully observes: ‘Nobody contents himself with being a mere copyist instead of a writer. There is scarcely one single story of The Thousand and One Nights of which there aren’t at least two versions, and sometimes more. Even the ending is at times different.’ In fact, there are today some twelve Arab manuscripts scattered through European libraries which do not correspond with each other. He is positive that a canonical and definitive corpus cannot and will not ever be established.
Burton rejected two apocryphal tales that would become among the most famous of all – Aladdin’s and Ali Baba’s. It has long been suspected that Aladdin comes directly from Galland’s pen while Arabists like Silvestre de Sacy, have questioned the authenticity of Sinbad the Sailor and several other tales. There are even anachronistic references in some tales, to events related to the Crusades, which demonstrate much later additions to the first Arab draft of the Nights.
Juan Goytisolo reminds us that this work is ‘a continuous exchange between the oral and the written, the written and the oral.’ And he sums up: ‘This is the wonder of The Thousand and One Nights, which is anything but the foundation stories of the monotheistic religions – they are in no way a creed. On the contrary, it is inclusive, permissive and spans cultures and philosophies. There cannot be an ‘apocryphal’ manuscript because everybody adds or removes something.’
There is today, a certain consent amongst experts that the oldest and thus most ‘authentic’ tales are those included in nights 406 to 421. All the rest can be questioned in some way.
Ultimately, we may be exploring a literary work which is even now, unfinished
Jesus Greus was born in Madrid. He graduated In conclusion, the lack of historical documents in English from the London Institute of Linguists and has contributed to several Spanish obfuscates the origins of this “book of books”, newspapers and, recently, Liberation du Maroc. accurately defined by Cansinos as an “orphan”. He has worked as a translator for various A collection enriched along the centuries publishing houses in Madrid, and as a lecturer, by innumerable anonymous narrators and he has spoken at the Institute du Monde Arabe storytellers, it’s parentage can be traced in Paris; the Sorbone University; the association through the Hindustani, Aryan-Persian, Tartar, Le Monde Autour du Livre, in Bordeaux; the Afghan and, finally, Semitic traditions, even if Center of Arab-Portuguese Studies, in Silves, it’s final hue is distinctly Arabic Portugal; the Fundacion Arte y Cultura in Madrid and many more He is also a musician who has In Cansinos’ words: ‘Nobody doubts the played in a range of fusion music groups. He has rhapsodic quality of the book, which been cultural director of the Cervantes Institute crystallsises through the heterogeneous in Marrakech, where he now belongs to different nature of its elements and its constituent cultural foundations. He is the author of two styles born of different eras’ scripts and has published several novels and short stories.
Featured Artists An index of all many artists we could identify who are featured in our gallery pages. Please see the contents page for artists interviewed in this issue
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