Q&A with Greg Wilson

Greg playing at the Haçienda 30th birthday party, shot by our very own Anthony Mulryan.

Greg playing at the Haçienda 30th birthday party, shot by our very own Anthony Mulryan.

From being the first DJ to mix live on British TV, to holding the first dance night at Manchester’s Haçienda nightclub, Greg Wilson has proven himself to fans and critics alike to be one of the greatest DJ’s of all time. Though he retired from DJ’ing back in 1984, he returned in December 2003 and for just over a decade he has been playing his disco and electro funk edits to the new wave of young music fanatics.

1. Your sets are almost entirely made up of music from previous decades yet your audience appears to be a mix of young and old. Does it surprise you that you have such a varied audience?

I’ve watched the audience get younger year on year since I started up again at the end of 2003. In a sense it doesn’t completely surprise me, many of the records I play are classics or cult-classics (tracks that may not have made a mainstream impression at the time, but were big underground tunes). However, that wouldn’t be enough on its own – what really enables these tunes to connect on a contemporary level is that they’ve generally been respectfully updated via re-edits / reworks. It’s this re-framing of the past, in a manner that suits the present, which allows DJ’s to present these tracks a new context, without the baggage of nostalgia to put off a younger audience.

2. What is it about the post-disco period and electro funk that captured your interest in the first place and still influences your work today?

It was such a hybrid of styles and directions. Disco had been declared dead by the US media at the end of the 70’s, but people were still, of course, dancing, and with Disco now re-branded as ‘Dance’, this led to a return to the underground. Artists and producers began to concentrate more on the dancefloor and less on the dollar – for example, when Afrika Bambaataa made ‘Planet Rock’, despite it’s title, his primary focus would have been localised to New York, and specifically the Bronx, where Hip Hop had evolved. All these various flavours were still played together, we hadn’t got to the stage were DJ’s split the music into sub-genres, and concentrated on ever-narrower strands. Because the mainstream focus was elsewhere, Dance music became increasingly experimental, the early 80’s a golden age of creativity, which led to the development of the subsequent Hip Hop, House and Techno movements.

3. You have been pushing for today’s society to sit down and listen to music properly through ‘listening to music’. Why do you feel this to be so important and what album out of any do you feel to be the greatest as a complete piece of work?

If you went to the cinema to watch a film you wouldn’t be nattering away to people, or busy texting, or looking at something on your computer – your total attention would be on the movie. Yet music has become something that’s there around us, rather than something we set aside time to listen to. In this way we’re diluting the gift that music brings. If I had to pick one album, I’d probably plump for ‘What’s Going On’ by Marvin Gaye – a truly remarkable work that not only spoke to the time in which it was recorded, but translates right through to today. Albums like this, and ‘Sgt Peppers’ by The Beatles, have that special quality of not only being exactly of their time, but also timeless – this is why they’ve so often topped the critics lists of greatest LP ever.

4. Do you feel there will ever be another punk or rave musical revolution, or do you think that we have seen the last of the musical underground movement?

It’s usually at the very moment people begin to feel that everything’s already been done that our minds are freshly blown by something new and unexpected. Music will always find a way to help us make sense of the world around us, we just have to sometimes dig deeper top discover the right stuff.

5. What is it do you think about the North West that has seen it play such a crucial role in not only rave scene and the bands of that time but also the club culture that came before it?

City’s like Manchester and Liverpool are not only important nationally, but globally when it comes to musical innovation. It’s surely down to their cosmopolitan nature, Liverpool as a sea port, Manchester a hub of the industrial revolution. There’s also a grittiness in Northerners, a willingness to go against the grain if they feel the situation demands this. When, in the early 60’s, the Merseybeat scene was developing, with the groups, including The Beatles, looking back to the Rock & Roll era for their inspiration, they would have initially been viewed as behind the times by the Southern based music media, harking back rather than looking forward (although looking forward in their eyes meant following the bland path of Cliff Richard & The Shadows, the major UK pop force prior to The Beatles blowing the old order apart).

6. What are you working on now and do you have any exciting plans for the future?

It’s a massive year for me, with a particularly important new venture – the setting up of my new record label, Super Weird Substance, which is launched at Dry in Manchester on Record Store Day. I’m also busy working with my remix partner, Derek Kaye, we have a number of releases either just out or imminent – Blancmange, Gilberto Gil, Joan As Police Woman and Steve Mason included.

Q&A with Darren Nicoll

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Next in the Q&A series is Darren Nicoll, the founder of Nelly Globe, a charity dedicated to aiding victims of trauma via various creative projects. Funds are raised for the charity by various events, including art auctions in order to “promote positive life change.”

What led you personally to set up Nelly Globe?

Nelly Globe was initially part of my own recovery from cancer. It was a way of re-establishing my own identity. I didn’t want to be known as the bloke who had cancer, but someone who set up Nelly Globe and did their bit to help others.

What does Nelly Globe mean to you?

Nelly Globe means life, love, passion, optimism, community and obviously creativity. The name is a tribute to my wife Helen who helped maintained a level of normality for our kids when I was ill. She is an inspiration and one of the strongest people I know. So I guess roughly translated Nelly Globe means ‘Helen is my world’.

What are you aims for the future of Nelly Globe?

The main aims for Nelly Globe is to maintain its integrity. We want to continue to work in collaboration with other organisations and charities to deliver our creative journal project and develop new and exciting creative projects with the main goal being to help people to process and understand their journeys.

Personally I found it difficult when I had recovered from cancer and I struggled with the meaning of it all. I found keeping a journal helped me to come to terms with my experience and I hope that the projects we are currently doing or planning help people to not only cope with their experience but to have some fun. The Nelly Globe art auction was a national event this year with art auctions in manchester, London, Birmingham and Leeds. We would like to take this globally and work with artists all over the world to make a fundamental difference to victims of trauma.

We are also starting to evaluate our projects which hopefully will strengthen the evidence that fun and creativity are both helpful coping tools for getting through life. 

How do ambassadors help you?

The role of the ambassadors is essentially to share the vision of Nelly Globe and promote our events. We have grown through word of mouth and knowing that people support us and are behind what we are doing is amazing.

What developments or events do you have coming up?

Currently we have an auction of artwork at outlaws club in Leeds on Saturday the 8th march. Then we have an event called ‘spring daze’ in Manchester bar the Whiskey Jar on 19th April which will involve local dj’s playing amazing tunes.

We are also currently have a few creative journal projects going on and are collaborating with cancer charity Callplus and the Stroke Association, plus journal projects planned with mental health charity ARC and a manchester based youth project.

We have some very exciting projects in planning involving ex-military personnel and asylum seekers.

All funds we raise go directly to implementing these projects. We also want to showcase up and coming artists by holding exhibitions and selling their work on our website.


Q&A with Andrew Tunney

Our latest Q&A is with Andrew Tunney, whom we discovered through the excellent Girl & Boy, which we featured a while back. We are really thrilled that Andrew took the time to give us an insight into his inspiration and creative process.

Who is your biggest inspiration?
This is hard because I think, like most artists, I have a long list of inspirations and it’s constantly shuffling but here are three;

FUTURA – I stumbled on his work when my friend got me into DJ Shadow around about the time UNKLE’s PSYENCE FICTION album came out. FUTURA has something that all my favourite artists have, this ability to straddle multiple mediums and make work that is recognisably theirs in each. That UNKLE album ended up being my gateway into a whole lot of things; vinyl toys, street art and street wear when they were all in their ascendency in the late 90s/early 2000s.

AKIRA KUROSAWA – As someone who tells stories with words and pictures I’m naturally a big film fan. I have a few favourite directors now like John Carpenter, Michael Mann, Hitchcock, Sergio Leone, but catching a Kurosawa marathon on channel 4 at about 15 really was the first time I saw what film could do. Yojimbo knocked me on my arse.

TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE (1986) – That’s not a person obviously but seeing that film as a child kicked me in the stomach. I try to avoid the nostalgia that the world of comics is steeped in (and possibly drowning in) because I need to look forward to creating new things, not constantly trying to live in the past. But as formative experiences go seeing that film definitely sparked off my love of animation, particularly Japanese animation… although I didn’t know that at the time. There’s a pretty simple time-line you can draw from me loving that as a child, to discovering AKIRA in my teens, to loving Satoshi Kon’s films now. It set me on my path for sure.

What is your process? Do you start in pencil or digitally?
I can work entirely traditional or entirely digital but usually everything I do starts off as a pencil drawing. Sometimes that will be inked over, sometimes I’ll just use the raw pencils, then that gets scanned in for digital colouring. My process isn’t complex and I stay quite flexible; it’s a bunch of very simple steps and I keep it open to experimentation.

How does your approach differ between your own personal work vs freelance work?
My approach doesn’t really change that much, physically I put the same amount of steps in to actually creating the piece and I research everything that I do almost obsessively. The only things that differ between personal and freelance is the time I’m able to spend and the subject matter. Generally with freelance work you’ll be tied to a brief or your client’s wishes and working within them can sometimes be frustrating and that’s not a concern with personal work. But sometimes creativity really thrives under limitations, so it’s a mixed bag. I guess the main difference with personal work is I know I can always put as much of myself in there as I want, in the way that I want.

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What awards or industry recognition have you received and how important is it to you?
In 2006 I was part of the Final Showcase of NOISE FESTIVAL, in 2007 DIGIT MAG featured me as One To Watch In 2007 and in 2008 I was sent to Downing Street as a Role Model For Creative Youth. Most recently I was nominated for Best Comic in the 2012 British Comic Awards for GIRL&BOY.
I am competitive, so if you put me in for an award I want to win it… but winning awards isn’t what drives me.

Do you have a favourite piece of work?
I get over my work pretty quick after I finish it. Once the initial buzz of accomplishment wears off my head is already working out what I did wrong or where I can go next. Eventually I’ll look back after 6 months or a year and realise it was actually pretty good and I was being too hard on myself. Or y’know, I wasn’t and it sucked. But a few pieces I’m still really attached to.

GIRL&BOY is important to me as it’s probably my most successful body of work thus far. I managed to say everything I was trying to say and push my skills up a notch, while also finding an audience that really responded to it. It’s probably always going to be a personal milestone for me.

The other one is the piece I did of pro-rollerblader JEFF STOCKWELL. I drew eight different icons of the rollerblading scene for the documentary BARELY DEAD but this probably is my favourite of the bunch. All the things I was going for just kind of came together in this image. Blading has been a huge influence on my work and life so this is kind of symbolic of all of that I’ve gotten out of it and put in to it over the years.

What are you working on now and what are your plans for the future?  
At the moment I have some shows in the pipeline and more comics, either ones I’m working on with other artists or ones I’m writing and drawing myself. I keep a regular sketchblog going on my tumblr just for fun that I’d like to keep going, maybe start a travel sketchbook too?

For the future I just want to do more of what I’m doing, but better, and find new areas to expand in to as well. I’ve mostly been focussed on comics recently so I’d like to get back to doing more illustration or fashion-related work too. As long as I stay busy, it keeps me out of trouble :)

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Q&A with Stanley Chow

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1. Who or what are your greatest inspirations?

Mr Robin Hidden. He was my sixth form Art teacher at King’s School Macclesfield. He was a truly great illustrator himself, so god knows why he was teaching. Anyway, he gave me the belief that I didn’t have to have a normal mundane job after I left school. He gave me the knowing confidence that if I worked hard enough, I’ll be an illustrator when/if I grew up.

2. Describe the process you go through when producing an illustration, do you start with the good old pencil and then move on to the computer?

Depends on the job… sometimes you need to sketch it out if it’s a complex idea… but usually I work directly on the computer.

3. Out of all the illustrations you have done, can you pick out any personal favourites?

I tend to hate most of my illustrations the minute I’ve sent them to the client… but wading back through my back catalogue for the sake of answering this question I’d say ‘Listening at Home’… (attached) It was for an exhibition at Cornerhouse in Manchester a few years ago.

4. Your print shop at http://www.thestanleychowprintshop.com has some great iconic people and landmarks in there, who is there you still want to draw?

I’ve been recently reading about a lady called Gloria Steinem, she was political activist in the US during the 60’s and 70’s, and I guess she still is.. she intrigues me.

5. Is it a challenge to balance the commission work that you get with drawing for pure enjoyment – or is it all pure enjoyment??

It’s an absolute challenge… There are some clients that are absolute pain in the arse; there are some jobs that pay well, but are as boring as fuck and you wished you said no to the second you agreed to doing them… To balance this out, I usually do something for myself for the sake of my own self-indulgence and enjoyment in between commissions, and sometimes during commissions just to remind me that I illustrate for the love of it.

6. Little Woody was really good, do you plan animate more of your illustrations?   

I’ve recently added an extra member of staff… his main interests is animation, so we’ve been exploring in this area… plus we’ve recently just finished our first full animated infomercial for Transport for Greater Manchester, which will be aired in the coming weeks.

7. What are you working on at the moment, what’s next for you?

At the moment I’m working on a pretty big project for a rather large company that sell hamburgers (apologies for the ambiguity!!). Also I’m doing some branding for the soon to be launched ‘Get me There’ Manchester Travel Card scheme, the animation we’ve just finished is part of this. I’ve been commissioned by the New Yorker magazine to illustrate all their writing staff, whilst working for them on quite a regular basis anyway. In April next year, I also have an exhibition at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (fka The Chinese Art Centre) in Manchester… so yeah, I have my hands full for the next few months.

 

Q&A: Artist – Mark Lloyd

Following from our post about Select at Marburae Gallery, one of the artists exhibiting, Mark Lloyd has been short listed for the Griffin Prize 2013. We caught up with Mark to ask him about his career and about industry recognition.
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OMG Its Full Of Stars; convergence of the three registers of human reality’. Mixed Media on Canvas.

Following from our post about Select at Marburae Gallery, one of the artists exhibiting, Mark Lloyd has been short listed for the Griffin Prize 2013. We caught up with Mark to ask him about his career and about industry recognition.

You started out as a graffiti artist, how did you progress from there and how did that experience impact on your current work?
Yes I started making art as a graffiti artist in 1984 during the first wave of ‘Hip Hop’ culture to hit the UK. I used to write the name ‘Icon’ and ‘Icon one’ on walls throughout the UK. I filled many sketchbooks with drawings and collected images, and it was these sketchbooks that interested the lecturers when I applied for art school. At art School I studied a BA and then later an MA in fine art. I learned firstly very traditional fine art practice methods and then later more contemporary practice techniques. My work has always been about synthesizing all these various practices to form my own style and methods. I have been labelled as a contemporary artist, meta-modernist, post-post modernist and recently as a nascent artist, I am not sure which, but I am most defiantly not a graffiti artist anymore. However deep within my practice elements of graffiti are still there. For example I use found objects as stencil apparatus, and I still use spray paint and marker pens along with other more traditional and new exciting mediums.

Who or what are your greatest inspirations?
My inspirations and influences are vast and broad from; artists, writers, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, performers, philosophers, political figures, and sportsman; far too numerous to mention.

What are the underlying themes that run throughout your work?
Primarily the underlying themes that run through my work are; philosophy- predominantly post modern philosophy, science fictions, science, and conceptions of faith and higher powers both spiritual and technological.

You recently exhibited at the Marburae Gallery in Macclesfield where we saw your work, how did that come about and was it an enjoyable and successful show?
The exhibition at the Marburae Gallery happened in a very organic manner. I heard some good feedback about the Gallery from friends in the area who had visited previous exhibitions, and I started to do some research and really liked the ethos of the gallery’s intentions. Then through the magic of the internet and social media platforms a dialogue began between us and the show just kind of happened. The show was successful and I am honoured to have been part of this exhibition, I am grateful to all at the gallery for their help and support and hard work. The show was also  important to me because in a strange way it was a sort of home coming after leaving the area in 2006. Leading on from the Marburae Gallery show I am currently working on an exhibition in central Manchester featuring small paintings and drawings, sometime in 2014.

You are short listed for the 2013 Griffin Art Prize, how important is industry recognition to you?
I am so honoured to be shortlisted for this important award, and excited, and yes industry recognition is very important for me. How is the award important, well what many don’t realise is that behind my artwork there has been years of hard work and sacrifice that has gone into its evolution, development and manifestation. The award would provides one element of validly and affirmation to inspire me to create further brave and ambitious projects.

I believe that my artwork is not only valid and relevant, but important culturally and in the post-postmodern world of unlimited hubristic technology, my work questions the future possibilities and catastrophes  that it promises.

 

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