Category Archives: IN COVERSATION

THUNDERBIRD GERARD: MAKING MUSIC AT 4AM

Thunderbird Gerard is the new project from New Yorker Trevor Gerard- the former frontman of London-based EzraBang & Hot Machine. Since splitting the band, Gerard moved to Berlin and hasn’t looked back. Berlin. A country seeped deep in history, matched with a bubbling underground culture and alternative ways of thinking. Currently in the studio recording his first album as Thunderbird Gerard, he muses on what went on in those initial days of making music in another country:

“The first time I came to Berlin wasn’t actually by choice.  I did a show in Amsterdam and was refused entry back into the UK. The border guards took my passport and escorted me on to a ferry back to Holland. I was terrified. I sat down on the cabin bed and cried.  Luckily, an old friend from Liverpool had just moved to Berlin, so I bought myself a very expensive ticket and got on the train.  To be honest, I decided to move here from the first moment. I fell in love with the city… the high ceilings, the alt-bau design, the sprawling streets… the faded grandeur of a dictator’s vision never realised. Months later, when my girlfriend Carina was offered a job here, we jumped at the opportunity.

The first year and a half was rough.  The language barrier meant that I hardly spoke to anybody.  My girlfriend and I bought a little street-mix terrier from an animal shelter and she became my only friend.  I quit my former band, set up a studio in the basement of our little house and this is where the Thunderbird Gerard project was born.  During the winter, I’d wake up at 4 a.m. and record until the evening.

Berlin’s a big party city, between Berghain and the whole club culture, cheap rents, cheap food etc, there’s a lot of room to get distracted.  I have to confess, I still haven’t been to Panorama Bar. We live in a little house tucked away in a hinterhof in the middle of Kreuzberg.  We’ve gained a bit of a reputation for our epic BBQ’s during the summer. We know all our neighbors and their kids.  When it’s warm, we can hear them having sex.  I think Berlin’s best, when you come with really clear goals. We’ve said yes to things we would’ve never before.  Worked with people we wouldn’t have before. “Leave It All Behind” was Carina’s directorial debut and to me it encapsulates both of our times here.  We built a home and any success we should find now, I owe to that.”

photo by Reuben Wu

http://www.facebook.com/thunderbirdgerard

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LONDON: A look back at MACHINE-A

Machine-A was a platform for emerging talented designers and concept store based in Soho, London. Designers were selected to showcase their work with a dynamic approach, using window spaces, and gallery space. Meet Stavros Karelis, the Creative Director of the now defunct MACHINE-A who explains why the of-a-kind MACHINE-A kepts pushing the boundaries of the fashion industry

Machine-A was the name of the wildly unpredictable store and was one of the few independent hubs for London creativity. The designers the brand worked with were presented in different ways, and in early 2011 Machine-A completed window installations for SELFRIDGES. MACHINE-A also operated as a PR- consultation agency for young designers with a great team of creatives focusing on how the designers can create successful brands. Stavros Karelis, Creative Director, gives us an insight into the brand:

Please give us some insight into your personal background within fashion/ art/ trade…

I started working in the fashion industry during my college years. I started as an assistant stylist then moved to fashion editor, then to fashion journalism before then consultant for different labels and shops. I then moved to London to complete my MA; that was the period when I started thinking to create a platform of young emerging designers. I was working with MACHINE-A for two years, and at the same time I joined a selection panels in different fashion show organizations and lectured for CSM.

Did you have a team of creatives who worked alongside you?

It was team work. I often say that no matter what is your vision if you don’t have the right team players you cannot achieve what you want. After a very hard process I considered myself lucky that I have created an amazing team of creatives, such as Anna Trevelyan the uber cool stylist that consulted for the store, and PR machines Ella Dror and Ashley Smith. Richie Kuncyusz was web developer for our online shop. Even the store assistants were one of a kind- such as Millie Cocton- an amazing young designer who’s collections were one of the most wanted- Aaron Frew- a model who recently did the campaign for Calvin Klein and Yasu, a Japanese fashion blogger.

What was the initial starting point for Machine-A?

To create a platform and push the boundaries.

What was your favourite event or highlight of the store’s history?

Each one of our events was completely different from each other, and as result I enjoyed them all. From Charlie Le Mindu’s infamous pop up salons, Anna Trevelyan’s graveyard, Craig Lawrence’s V.I.P. party, Dominic Jones’ ‘save the planet’ amazing window installations, Asger Juel Larsen ‘The Welding Man’ where we presented his s/s 11 collection with live performance from models for three days, and the Piers Atkinson exclusive pre-collection together with PLANarama.

Who were your favourite visitors at the store?

The curious, the ones that are willing to explore a different way to dress, they ones that they have a unique dress code. And of course, Lady Gaga.

Why did you choose to create the space within Soho?

I love Soho. Berwick St. Is one of my favourite streets in London. You have the buzz of Central London, you have the cool people, and still this street reminds you of how London used to be. Every corner used to be a hidden treasure.

Describe a typical day working with Machine-A…

There were no typical days at MACHINE-A. Usually it was a meeting point with all the creatives of London. New designers showcased their work to me, or we had PR meetings with our designers, consulting meetings with Anna, assisting clients, preparing and planning new events and window installations, meetings, and lots of emails!

What kept you and your team creatively driven?

Our passion for fashion.

Above: Karelis in Machine-A London store

What role do you think Machine-A played in London life?

To my understanding, it was a vital one. Many people in the beginning didn’t understand what we were doing. Some others told me that it will never work just with emerging designers. I had the feeling that I had to go against the usual, and create my own space within fashion. And it worked. After people seeing that it worked for us, they were more willing to take emerging designers seriously, and give them the opportunity that they need. Many shops after MACHINE-A opened, had a focus on young designers. When designers telling me that they wouldn’t exist if MACHINE-A didn’t take a chance on them I don’t need to say anything else because this is my biggest achievement. It was great that many fashion experts considered us as trendsetting boutique, and has give us more gravity to do what we do.

Do you love the new and ever-evolving face of London, or do you miss some of the more independent fashion boutiques/ concept stores shutting down?

We have to look in the future. Having said that I miss the independent fashion boutiques where things used to be differently. And this is not just a dreamer’s thought. It is vital for the economy as well. Government and financial institutions should create specific projects to help independent people to create their own space, and business otherwise London will lose its creativity, its unique identity, and as result tourists, and people who move in London to feel this energy will choose to go somewhere else. That happened with New York in the past. So I hope that the representatives are aware of this and they try to resolve this matter. It is sad to see that in the street that MACHINE-A was in the last year more than 5 shops had to shut down.

What books and music are inspiring you at the moment?

Anything goes. It depends from my mood, the time of the day, and the people that I am with. Lately I enjoy 90s rave – club music because I remembered when I grew up and the dreams I had. This makes me happy. Also a couple of weeks ago I watched again the movie ‘Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo’, that I haven’t seen for years and I really enjoyed it and started to read the book again. But my all time classic is ‘I AM A BEAUTIFUL MONSTER’ of Francis Picabia.

Shop online: www.machine-a.com

WOOF WAN-BAU: EXHILARATION AND KABUKI

Woof Wan-Bau has directed music videos for Mogwai, Fourtet, and The Duke Spirit amonst others. The London- based creative discusses his film-making process, being inspired by difficulty and kabuki music…

What were your reasons for becoming a music video director?

After I graduated from art college I wanted to learn how to make films and animations.  I thought maybe I could learn by working in the industry and picking it up as I went along, and making music videos was one of the more interesting ways to do this.  I started making music videos for very selfish reasons, in that I just wanted to mess around and learn the crafts – I didn’t really see it as a career.  I didn’t know what would become of this period of messing around, so I thought I’d adopt a moniker and call myself a silly name. My idea was that I would treat the work I did as Woof Wan-Bau as a separate project, a playground that would inform in one way or another what I wanted to do in my own film work, and I still maintain this structure..

Would you say you have a particular style, or signature which you apply to your work?

I probably have some sort of approach that runs through the Woof Wan-Bau stuff, but stylistically I’ve always tried to play around as much as people would allow me to. I’ve always seen each project as an opportunity to try things, rather than something to create my own signature. I guess it’s different with my short films where it’s a bit more nuanced.

Above: still from Duke Spirit ‘Cut Across the Land’ music video, directed by Woof Wan-Bau

What has been your favourite project to work on so far, and why:

In terms of the music videos, I would say the Four tet video ‘Sleep Eat Food Have Visions’. When I used to watch MTV, I always liked the otherworldly stuff they played late at night, and in my mind that video came closest to the kind of videos that I wanted to see on MTV… although it’s not the most popular video I’ve done. With my short films, ‘From Nose to Mouth’. I had no idea at the time what I was doing technically, but it was exhilarating to try and make a film like that.

What is your favourite type of music?

The kind that makes everything seem like Kabuki.

Much of your work takes the viewer on a little journey. Is that a reference to any travelling you’re done yourself?

Well, however abstract, film is always some kind of journey.

Colour is a strong point- what are your favourite palettes?

I would describe my use of colour as ‘classical’ fighting with ‘garish and baroque’ and losing quite badly.

Do you collect props, objects or furniture that could inspire your work?

I collect penguins, but I’m not sure they inspire me.

Do you have any future projects planned outside of the commercial/ music world?

I’ve just finished writing a new script for a film. The Woof Wan-Bau work I do basically subsidizes my film work, and this allows me not to be pressured into making the films financially sustainable. This is very important to me. I mean I would love it to be sustainable, but I would hate to tailor my films into money generating projects. Right now I’ve been developing a new film, and I’ve also been working on a graphic novel which I’ve been chipping away at for some time now.

Does being based in London help you creatively?

Yes. In both positive and negative ways. I don’t mean it in any romantic sense, but sometimes things being difficult in London can be helpful.

What are the most inspiring places to be in London?

Just as I was getting bored, I recently discovered the Cinema Museum in south London. It’s a wonderfully eccentric private collection of cinema equipment and memorabilia. I love how these hidden gems pop up every now and then.

Above: still from Mogwai ‘Friend of the Night’ music video

http://www.woofwanbau.com/

 

THE RODNIK BAND: Phillip Colbert

Who are The Rodnik Band? They’re not a real band, as the name suggests- but a cut-and-paste London fashion label with a tongue firmly in cheek. Meet Phillip Colbert- the man behind the brand who once marched Pied-Piper style into the National Portrait Gallery followed by a harem of models wearing his creations and bowler hats. Fast-forward a year from a cobbled band performance featuring a certain Geldof girl, a series of larky Youtube music videos, and a diffusion collection with Italian brand OVS to join us in the present. We caught up with The Rodnik Band tucked away in their Whitechapel studio preparing for another London Fashion Week…

 

Hello Phillip, tell us about how the label was started:

 

Seven years ago I started a label called Rodnik and was later inspired to create The Rodnik Band label. Fashion is very oversubscribed by people doing similar things and it’s quite a tough business as well. It is very different in the art world, in the way in which modern artists re-invented the genres slightly. I feel with clothing, even though people would push the boat out it can get quite ‘samey’ in the sense that people were pushing the technical aspect of the clothing with cute, form etc but I didn’t feel like people were reinventing what it actually is and how people look at the clothing.

 

Why did you decide to create a concept brand?

 

The idea of the Rodnik Band was to create a fashion label that was also a satirical pop band. For me, the most interesting thing about fashion is the sense of escapism and the absurdity of it all. Obviously, there is the most classical side of fashion which is interesting depending on what you are dressing for- whether it be for a lunch or a date- but I guess I am interested in a more developed and artistic statement. A sense of expression and fashion in a more high-end sense. In the same way that early Moschino had a similar ‘anti-fashion’ humour in the statement, I worked on a classic template of wearable and sophisticated shapes- that somehow played on the humorous nature of fashion. I think humour is a great way of expressing humanity somehow. Fashion sometimes takes itself too seriously- it’s made in cheap factories abroad- and sometimes I think: where’s the spirit? Some people just want to follow the fashion magazines.

Above: model in The Rodnik Band fashion video  

It’s a bit like the way in which bands like the Sex Pistols came to represent a cultural spirit by becoming associated with fashion and change. As a brand, I quite like the idea of (at least in a post-modern sense) of bringing a few of these genres together and creating a sort of satire collection. You get the idea that my work is an art gallery hanging on hangers, with a twist. With my music videos, even the idea of a designer having a microphone and having whole audio creates a sort of phenomenon which is a different approach. It’s about spirit in the end, and I think that spirit can become too formalised and too dry, and lacks that emotion… that spirit of freedom of ‘anyone can do anything’. This is why much of my work is quite naive, for example one of my dresses has a Picasso face which actually just a lino block. So this is a naive interpretation of art, and similar to Outsider Art, it has the same appeal.

That’s why to help cement that I looked at trying to develop a line of accessible ideas like Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, Wesselmann- very obvious icons of art. I translate it to clothing in a direct way that would retain their obviousness in the art world. I say my style is ‘with a spin’ as I recycle old imagery, re-inventing it to create a new genre. I’m basically playing on pre-conceived ideas.

 

Are there any pitfalls of being a concept brand?

With high end brands, you can make a humorous statement but it is still well-made clothes in a competitive market- so you have to back that up with making sure it’s translated in a sophisticated way, so it’s still luxury.

What defines British style for you, and since The Rodnik Band is based in London- does the city play a part in this vision?

British style for me is that mixture of humour and grandeur. There is a rich cultural language of association here in London; for example the more immediate rock history and punk phenomenon. The Sex Pistols and The Clash are obvious symbols of London. I love all the images of Beatle mania, plus things like telephone boxes, West-end musicals and double decker buses- all the obvious iconic locations of London’s surface. These almost animated symbols of London are all that makes it such an international attraction. I think there is something fantastical about that and captures the imagination of everyone across the world. Other aspects of grandeur in London are seen in the amazing architecture in the 16th and 17th Century. There is also the West End musical. There are so many inspiring things about London in terms of style.

Above: Colbert and model in The Rodnik Band

 

I launched with Italian brand OVS for my last collection. I really pushed the basic styles of other things like brick leggings, fish and chips t-shirts and union jack jackets. They were a mish-mash of artistic, spiritual and cultural statement pieces which were mixed together with lots of fun references. So it’s bold, but not tacky. That’s why I love humour references in contemporary art; the way in which you can make it a sophisticated reference point- but it can be communicated in a way to make people understand it.

 

With fashion, some designers take inspiration from more abstract things and the inspiration is quite hard to see in the clothing. If a passer-by in the street sees a prettily-dressed girl, it quite hard to read into the clothing, to get anything from it. You can see there is something pretty about the clothes- but there is not much of a message or a strong brand concept to pinpoint. It’s more of a literal sense of communication. There is always room for variety and a pretty dress I a woman’s wardrobe, but at the same token, it would be very boring for me if all a woman’s wardrobe was just prettiness and no communicated ideas.

 

What British designers do you admire?

 

Vivienne Westwood is amazing and inspiring. Her brand tied in so directly with a strong cultural movement (punk) and it was so interrelated with The Sex Pistols and exciting political messages. In today’s times it seems like statements and movement have been diluted down into pastiches of past movements. Alexander McQueen was definitely an artist who was pushing fashion as a genre and an art. I like Moschino too, a very anti-fashion brand who are always humorous in an intelligent way that quotes artistic reference. I like to think I am going in my own direction with a similar feel to some of these people.

 

Let’s talk music. The Rodnik Band is quite music/ art driven. Do you have a musical background yourself?

 

I don’t have a musical background, but I just like the idea of it and find myself doing vocals for The Rodnik Band projects. My new songs are a homage to Venus in Furs, it’s playing again on the mechanic of associated ideas and trying to spin them into one cemented idea. I love The Sex Pistols and the Clash (my last song was a spoof on London Calling)… Johnny Rotten’s Public Image Ltd was another great band that came out of that too. I love Devo and the way in which their style is quite ironic and aware of itself. I am still drawn to classic eighties sounds like Spandau Ballet and Gary Numan- ideas that were in line with kitsch/ fashion/ music.

Above: model and Colbert in The Rodnik Band

 

Do you dream of one day dressing a real-life rock band?

 

I’m friends with the band The Kooks and we are in talks of doing various things together in the future. At the moment I do promote the band from the Rodnik label as myself, but I am thinking about making the band more of a moving vehicle, either getting other people to perform whilst I disappear from the forefront a bit. There is an obvious cross-over between fashion and music. I like the idea of an amalgamation of the two, rather than doing the PR thing and just dressing a cool band.

 

We love the witty approach to fashion, it’s about time the industry lightened up. Do you have any more guerrilla ideas in store for 2011?

 

We are looking at doing a guerrilla show in the Louvre during Paris Fashion Week, rather like the one we did in the National Gallery. We’ll have some kind of funny installation by the Mona Lisa or something- and make it a big wacky.

Have you learnt any valuable lessons since you first launched?

 

Yes. Fashion is a difficult business. It’s easy to get over excited when people to lift you high but it is hard to maintain longevity. You have to be careful to take little steps, and to be level headed and tough. At the same time there is a lot of goodwill and passion, and there is a lot of fun to be had.

 

http://www.therodnikband.com/

 

 

STEPHEN WRIGHT: PROCESSING THE SMITHS

Stephen Wright, photographer of iconic sleeve shots for The Smiths’ 1986 studio album ‘The Queen is Dead’ talks to us about shooting the most iconic musicians of the 80s. The damp dark day in Manchester outside a rough working man’s venue- Salford Lad’s Club- with a shivering Marr and a smirking Morrissey- remains forever ingrained in his memory. Today, he gives a recount of his special moment…

“Everyone seems to know this photo of the Smiths – what you may call a Marmite band ….you love or hate them. I for one was and 26 years later still am a massive fan..

When I was first starting as a photographer in the early 80’s everything was happening in Manchester  – a city of rain, sex and rock and roll The Hacienda had just opened and Manchester music dominated the Manchester music scene. I met some ver clever talented people and was luck to shoot some great musicians from the older established stars to the new pretenders. Factory bands led the way in terms of mystic and whilst New Order were kings of the patch it was the Smiths that took the crown of the Manchester music scene. 

Trying to describe the Smiths live is a tough one, as it was always just such a great show . An adoring crowd and Morrissey in total command of the whole audience!

I shot them live several times and sent the shots down to Rough Trade, The first show was at the Free Trade Hall and was truly magnificent. A riotous moving audience meant taking photos was hard and I only had 2 lenses and 1 roll of film. Later voted as a famous Rock sot was an image of Morrissey’s rear with flowers hanging from his jeans . But my favourite is one him flaying the flowers above his head shot from side stage.

A year or so later I had a call asking me to do a session with the band for a possible album sleeve- what an honour!

 It really should have gone to a  big time photographer – Anton Corbijn , Pennie Smith or Annie Liebovitz. Instead it went to a fan with his first Nikon. The shoot itself was in November in Salford on a damp dark day – it should have cancelled really as it was so poor for photography!  We spent a bit of time at a couple of locations but the Salford Lads club was the key one. You can even see Johnny shivering in some of the images. Somehow the casual poses and the grim weather give the photos certain natural and gritty character and I love the way Morrissey stands there arms folded and smirking. Every time I look at that photo it still makes me smile too

Years later that photo seems to have taken on a life of its own. For years fans have gone back to the Salford lads club and its become a shrine to the Smiths fans who pose for their own version of the photo. All a bit like people posing on the Abbey road pedestrian crossing. 

I’m rather proud that this image is enjoyed so much years later. I find it all a bit funny that the film was processed in a darkroom set up in my bedroom and in old pop bottles yet there’s a print in the National Portrait Gallery collection , The Manchester art gallery and the Salford Art gallery.  I love the fact that there are now signed prints as far afield as Australia , Japan Los Angeles and Bolton. 

From Manchester with love…….”- Stephen Wright, photographer

http://www.wrightphoto.co.uk

www.smithsphotos.com

FELDER FELDER: “JUMP INTO THE COLD WATER”

Identical twin duo Annette and Daniela Felder are the dynamic pair behind fashion brand Felder Felder. The sisters inject a little rock and roll personality into everything they do, whether it’s skipping the barriers to watch a YSL show, listening to Led Zep from their studio stereo or keeping up with the new via blogging and the internet.

Annette and Daniela Felder are Felder Felder. Since launching their debut collection whilst still at Central Saint Martins back in ‘06/’07, this double dynamite duo have cemented a global reputation with their signature tomboy stylings and love of opposites. Here they discuss the testament according to Felder Felder…

You have come a long way since you first launched the brand. What lessons have you learnt on your career journey so far? 

Learn quick from your mistakes and try to make it better. Also, always listen to your heart and not to too many other opinions, as nobody cares about it as you do.

Was it always your ambition to be designers?

When we were small we wanted to be singers as we love music. We quickly realised that it was hopeless, so we started customising clothes as we come from a small village where you couldn’t get anything. We soon realised that this is where our passion is.

Your collections have been seen on a wide variety of music stars such as Florence and the Machine, Rihanna and Alison Mosshart. How do you feel rock and roll dressing for female musicians has changed over the times?

On the one hand, musicians were dressing up much more in the rock’n’roll style before but I don’t think they were using stylists that much. Nowadays, rock stars whether don’t dress up that much and just go on stage in their casual clothes or they make proper stage appearances with costumes etc, which becomes more interesting for us, as you can do quite a lot .

Who are you favourite musicians- new and old?

The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins,Florence& the Machine, any of Jack White’s bands, Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit , Band of Skulls, so many more. We also love Disco and House Classics.

Why did you decide to launch FF whilst you were still at Central Saint Martins- did you feel well prepared and ready to shape the brand? 

It was more like playing around while still at college and learning from it. On the one hand, we learned quite a lot and it helped us to get an early following , but we are not sure if we would do it again like this, as it was quite a jump into the cold water.

What do you think of digital fashion reportage such as Twitter, blogging, Facebook etc- and has it aided your brand in any ways? 

We are big fans of digital Fashion reportage. It just opens the door into the fashion world for anybody, even for people with no excess or money , can see what is going on, which is so fantastic. Felder Felder is on Twitter and Facebook, plus we have a blog on vogue.co.uk , so we are right in there.

We like your sense of fun. In a blog posting back in December, you revealed that you managed to sneak into a Yves Saint Laurent show by pretending to be models running late. It got us thinking about high fashion versus the mainstream. Do you feel like the fashion industry should have a ‘no barriers’ approach, or keep in a self-contained world- only manifesting itself commercially via diluting itself on the high street?

Thank you! Yes that was a pretty funny story. In general, I think high fashion should be approachable via the designers who want to be approached. Felder Felder, for example , has an entry price point at around sixty pounds, so that we can reach our younger customers , but as well much higher priced high fashion pieces for true fashion lovers who don’t mind to spend something on a special piece. In this way you open your brand to a wider audience but still stay true to yourself.

We would love to know how you work and develop ideas for the brand. Please describe what your work environment is like… 

We are inspired a lot by music, so in our studio there is always music as we can’t get started without. We love fabric manipulation and combine contrasts, things that compliment each other, which maybe stems from being twins.

If you had a choice between embracing old fashion trends, or looking to the new- which direction would you take?

New Fashion is more attractive to us, but then we always find really inspiring Victorian vintage pieces, which always look so modern. I guess it runs hand in hand in a way.

What do you envisage this year to be like for Felder Felder?

Hopefully a very successful year. We would love to establish our brand more internationally.

What is interesting to you, right here- right now?
InLondon there is always something inspiring happening, a great exhibition, a great dance, a cool concert. The notice that when you have a lot of friends in the creative field, it is always the best to go to a friend’s event.

 

http://www.felderfelder.com

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