Chui Wan is a four-piece experimental psychedelic rock band from Beijing, China who will be invading the United States this summer at Psychfest in Austin, TX. Inspired by this concept of seeking the infinite from the mundane, the core of Chui Wan’s sound is formed by the improvisational compositions of multi-instrumentalist Yan Yulong and guitarist Liu Xinyu. Their lush arrangements of guitar, keyboard, viola, other assorted instruments and random sound samples often eschew reliable melodies and vocal harmonies in favor of occasional passages of minimal drone or maximal sonic layerings. So, what is their creative process, do they like anime, what do they think about the vinyl comeback in music? We got you covered. Read the full Q&A below with the bandmates!
Yan Yulong: Vocal/Guitarist/Keyboardist
Liu Xinyu: Guitarist/Percussionist
Li Zichao: Drummer
Wu Qiong: Bassist/Vocal
Can you give our readers a brief history on how the band was formed?
Liu Xinyu: At first, Wu Qiong and Yan Yulong met on internet and then they started playing together. I joined them after and gradually got some motivations. When we had the drummer, the band just formed naturally.
Li Zichao: I joined last. They were already together at that time.
What was the recent tour like? You guys played everywhere from Paris to Denmark to Helsinki! Any cool stories to share?
Yan Yulong: The tour was great! Our first stop was NIUBI FEST in Helsinki. BO NINGEN played after us. Their performance was very interesting. In the last stop of the tour, we four had a mushroom trip in Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It felt awesome!
Liu Xinyu: My favorite is Amsterdam. Weed, mushrooms and prostitution are all legal there. When we saw police car driving by on the street with alarm on, we were wondering that what is illegal there on earth?
You guys are playing at AUSTIN PSYCH FEST (Levitation)! How did that opportunity come about?
Liu Xinyu: I think we are invited by the organizer. We are quite excited to play at such great music festival. When our label Maybe Mars told us that we are going to play at a music festival in America. I thought “ok, whatever”. But when I saw the lineup, I was totally astonished. Those bands I’m going to play with are all my favorite bands!
What can a fresh audience expect from your live show?
Liu Xinyu: Our songs may be not good for shaking your body and head. Hope the audience can listen attentively.
Since the origin of your bands name is based off the relationship between nature and human life, how would you describe your music within that connection?
Wu Qiong: Be natural, we don’t try connect them.
Yan Yulong: Yeah, leave space to let the audience imagine.
What is the creative process like when creating a song? Is there more of a challenge when composing detached sorts of sounds and surreal song structures that are featured in your bands psychedelic vibe?
Liu Xinyu: We created most songs by jamming together in rehearsal room. Arranging the structures afterwards and fill the lyrics at last. We don’t try to compose “detached sorts of sounds and surreal song structures” now. Not like our debut album, we try to make our recently recorded second album with less mixing and producing work. Now we want to be natural and won’t keep ourselves under “Psychedelic” on purpose.
Li Zichao: We like to get inspiration from all kinds of genres, and express it by our own ways, then mix the four ideas together. No direction at beginning, but let the song complete itself little by litte from practising it. Sometimes it doesn’t work, then we drop the idea. Certainly, everyone wants to play some special tones and structures.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or Anime?
Yan Yulong: I have many favorite ones. I have watched many Japanese animes since I was in middle school, even like Hayate the Combat Butler.
The U.S. is just now catching up with the vinyl craze. I know vinyl fever has broken out in Beijing years ago. How will your band embrace this and are you happy that people are gradually moving away from strictly MP3’s?
Liu Xinyu: Of course I’m happy. I even think vinyl will save the record market. From the difference of the medium, MP3 is the digital file in a metal box, but vinyl is made one by one and played by phonograph circle by circle. Compares to MP3, vinyl carrys much more historical and personal feelings, and the quality is way better. But I download MP3s, because vinyls are too expensive, [laughs].
Wu Qiong: I will buy the vinyls of the albums that are meaningful to me.
What can people expect from Chui Wan in 2015? Any new albums or music?
Liu Xinyu: We will release our second, self-titled album “Chui Wan” in April and bring it to Austin Psych Festival. We will tour in US with some American bands and then tour in China (maybe in Europe too). We will keep writing new songs in 2015.
Yan Yulong: Yes, we will release the new album in April or May and tour in North America…
What is the first thing you guys ate when you came back from tour and landed in Beijing?
Liu Xinyu: Luzhu ( traditional Beijing food, boiling pig guts, pig lung and tofu in soup)! Chaogan! Big kidney BBQ! And lamb spine hot pot!
Wu Qiong: Rice and noodles.
Yan Yulong: I think Beijing food is nothing special.
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Black and white photograph used within article; credit: Fang Zhou
Jay Oliva is an American storyboard artist, a film producer and animated film director working for Warner Brothers Animation. We talk to Jay about the success and creative process behind Batman: Assault on Arkham, and his work on the new Dawn of Justice (Superman vs Batman) film. Don’t forget though, Mr. Oliva doesn’t sleep so catch his new film out on April 14th. Batman vs. Robin is based on the Court of Owls storyline, revolving around a secret society housed in Gotham that pulls the strings of the city and raises kidnapped, brainwashed children as assassins to carry out their dirty work. Read below for the full Q&A…
Batman: Assault on Arkham often distances itself from the video game franchise upon which it’s based. When this film was in the stages of conception, what was the creative process like?
You’d have to ask the writer, Heath Corson for this one. The director is brought on once the script is ready. Usually it’s the producer, in this case it would be James Tucker and Alan Burnett who would work closely with the writer at development stage. I am brought in once we start pre-production, design, storyboards, etc.
It’s a bold move to direct a Gotham-set film that focuses on someone other than Batman for a change. Were you nervous about crowd reception regarding this?
Not really. It’s actually more flexibility when you are not focusing on Batman. everyone knows Batman so there is always a certain expectation when you do a story around him. When your story is about a character or characters that isn’t too well known, you are able to try different things.
How did you feel Ethan Spaulding handled ‘Son of Batman’. Do you think you would have took a similar approach?
Every director is different. I think Ethan did a great job with the film and when we take on the director reigns we try to make it unique to our own tastes. There are a lot of things I would have done similar to what he did but there are also a lot of things that I would tried something different. It’s great to have so many talented artists at the studio so that all of the various projects we do all feel different.
Could you give us your take on this particular Harley Quinn, her move to the printed page and the evolution of her character through various media, including this film?
Harley in the film is a little bit of the classic Bruce Timm Harley and the more edgier Arkham video game version. I added a bit more hurt/scorn to her character because she had just taken the fall for a botched Joker plan and she’s hating him for it. I kept it open to interpretation whether or not breaking Joker out of jail was her plan all along… She is insane after all and I think that’s one of the things we love about her. She’s unpredictable.
With 76 minutes to play with each time how do you balance action scenes and strong characterization? Was it hard at first and now you’ve pretty much figured out the right formula?
I’ve worked in both tv series and film over the past 19 years and I’ve gotten pretty good at gauging how long something is when I read the script. My main goal is to make sure that the move plays out with the right amount of action and character moments. I have to still work within the confines of the 76 minute format but I try to map out the highs action moments with the equally important exposition scenes. I basically try to make movies that I want to sit in a theater and see.
Some people would be happy just being able to direct and be involved with animated films but you also double as a storyboard artist for many motion pictures. Why do you continue to work both jobs? Does storyboarding help you in constructing your animated films or do you just love working on live action films as well?
I just love storytelling. Whether it’s live action or animated, I’m a story teller at heart. When I work on the live action films, I’m following the lead of the director and its a great collaboration. When I get to be the director, I have a bit more freedom to do things that appeal to my own personal tastes since I’m involved with not just the storyboards but also in the character, background and prop designs, as well as the music, sound effects, and editing. When I get to be the director I have much more flexibility and freedom to mold the movie to what I see in my head. Both mediums of live action and animation has its pros and cons but ultimately I’m more interested in telling the stories that I am passionate about.
So with 4 months of pre production on your animated films, compared to your live action films. Do you create any differently having more time to work on a project?
Live action and animation are very similar in the sense that sometimes the schedules are very tight. Having more time is always a luxury and I rarely get that with my animated films since once we get the script, we have to hit the ground running. Live action can be just as crazy but I’ve noticed that there are a lot more people involved so you can delegate some duties that we don’t do in animation. For example, in live action, the second unit director is usually the one who works out the action sequences in a film. Doing storyboards for live action I still have to work out the shot and setup but I don’t really have to go all that in depth with the choreography. In animation, the storyboard artist not only has to draw the shot but also the choreography and camera movement. Since the animators are following what we lay out in the storyboards, we have to be very meticulous.
Both mediums are a collaboration of many different people but in animation I’ve noticed that we have a much smaller crew and therefore have to do multiple jobs.
What are your favorite Anime films?
My favorite Anime includes a lot of old classics like Akira, Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Otomo’s “Memories”, Street Fighter the movie, Ninja Scroll, Bubblegum Crisis, Macross/ Robotech, and Ghost in the Shell. Of the newer stuff: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Naruto, Soul Eater, and I’m obsessed with One Piece. The last movie, “One Piece movie Z” totally blew me away with the action and choreography and I hope to bring the same kind of energy to my DCAU films.
Bouncing between the Justice League and Batman franchises, what other DC properties would you love to animate in the future?
I’ve got a long list of characters I’d love to do. It really depends on the script/story. I enjoy doing adaptations but I also look for really good original stuff.
This one is probably a bit hush-hush, but what can you tell us about working on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Should we believe the hype?
[Laughs] Well I can’t say anything since it’s still two years out. It’s gonna be a huge film and it will definitely be a movie event everyone will look forward to. I had a great time working on the film and I hop Zack calls me to come back for the next one!
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Nolen Niu is an American Industrial Designer recognized for his holistic approach to design and clean, provocative aesthetics. Beginning January 2015, he will be featured as a judge on Spike TV’s highly anticipated show, “Framework;” alongside furniture designer, Brandon Gore and hip-hop artist, Common. “Framework” is the first ever furniture design competition series. The show features 13 emerging furniture designers who will compete over the course of 10 weeks for a $100,000 cash prize and the opportunity for their work to be sold by a major manufacturer. After receiving his Bachelors of Science in Industrial Design from the world-renowned Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, Niu developed private furniture lines, custom one-of-a-kind pieces, mass production furniture, residential and retail spaces for corporate, private and celebrity clientele. Read below for the full Q&A…
It’s one thing to be a furniture designer/builder and quite another to be mentoring people; the latter requires a totally different skillset. How did you decide that you wanted to be in a position of judging other designers on Framework?
When I was asked to be a judge on Framework, I was extremely honored with the opportunity. The decision itself though was an easy one. I’ve been an instructor at my alma mater, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, for the past few years, so mentoring people was already something I was comfortable with. Judging, however, was a completely different experience altogether since I had to take my personal beliefs out of the equation and be completely objective based on each competition’s challenge criteria.
Framework has the potential to be to furniture builders what reality TV has done for tattoo artists and chefs in the sense that they took an existing occupation that has been around for years and made them into rock stars. Do you feel it is now time for designers and industrial engineers to have more of a spotlight on them?
I absolutely believe now is the right time for furniture designers and builders to be recognized for their expertise. People take for granted how much of their lives are completely surrounded by design. From the car they drive, to the clothes they wear, and the furniture they wake up and go to sleep with everyday. The design world works around the clock, behind-the-scenes, improving the daily quality of life we all live. Furniture specifically creates the right ambiance at a restaurant, sets the mood at a night club or a relaxing environment at home. We sit on our favorite sofa or armchair watching TV or enjoying a book, forgetting that there was ultimately someone who was the designer and builder of that piece.
As we observe the contestants on the show some have their own specialty, such as exclusively building furniture from steel, etc. Whereas InkMaster tries to push all contestants to be efficient in all areas of tattooing; does Framework expect the same out of their contestants? Would a niche designer be at an advantage or a disadvantage on the show?
Yes, Framework does expect the same level of versatility. As designers and builders we might have our particular strengths in certain areas, but it’s extremely important to be adaptable to any challenge, just as one would have to do with real world clients. No one client is the same as the last and we are often asked to do things that might be out of our skill set or comfort zone, but we still have to come up with the right solution in order to deliver. The only disadvantage a niche designer would have would be the lack of problem solving skills or willingness to work through their shortcomings.
As a designer, how do you blur the line between a statement piece with bold color(s), and a comfortable piece? Is the balance between aesthetic and functionality difficult?
The balance between aesthetic and functionality is only difficult if a designer or builder chooses not to acknowledge and work through it. I’m a firm believer that any sofa or armchair needs to be comfortable. With my personal collection I wanted to create that balance of comfort with striking aesthetics. When I first started out, I had a hard time understanding why sofas and armchairs we so antiquated visually. I would ask myself, “why does it have to be big, brown, and frumpy?” We certainly don’t dress like that, so shouldn’t a home be something representative of our fashion stylistically? At an early age we start to develop our fashion sense, but as far as furniture or interior design is concerned, our biggest influences come from the home we grew up in. Our first experience with furnishing our own place tends to be a hodgepodge of things, since we haven’t really developed our interior style sense like we were able to do with fashion. This is where I feel furniture needs to be fashionable stylistically so that people have more options to express their true character and persona within their home.
A good example would be the ZERO Chaise Lounge you designed almost 10 years ago that STILL looks modern to the touch. What are the initial creative processes that go into a piece that promotes practicality and creativity?
It’s important for designers and builders to ultimately try and create something that is timeless in aesthetic and built to last for years to come. Before I even put pen to paper to start sketching, I spend a good portion of time researching what’s already out in the market, which pieces are the hit makers and the failures, and how I can contribute to a particular category that’s not just piggy backing off of current trends that are hot. Designing something that’s too trendy is risky in my opinion, because the shelf life of that piece is limited to what people want at that moment in time and won’t have the same aesthetic appeal once the trend is over.
We are getting better at understanding what needs to happen to develop great products. The product/service development tool kit has expanded greatly in the 15 years since you graduated. What design research do you apply today that differs most from your old way of thinking back as a recent grad?
The biggest difference has been the use and integration of technology. When I was a student, they were barely introducing 3D modeling programs and machines that could automate the fabrication process. Now there’s software that can produce digital models for 3D printing. 15 years ago our biggest weapon was how well we could sketch or render by hand. Photo realist renderings have pretty much leveled the playing field in terms of presentation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there are good designs being presented. As far as the creative process is concerned, my research now of course is done predominately online, whereas in the past it would be expensive stacks and stacks of magazines I would have to look through.
Do you remember the first “product” you designed? What was it and how do you feel about it now upon reflection?
The very first product I designed was a plasma TV stand for a local manufacturer here in Los Angeles. It was very simple in shape and design with a total of 4-pieces all together. A sheet of glass cantilevered over a wooden base with two metal “U” shaped legs between them. It wasn’t earth shattering in design but it did get knocked off by a few different companies which was my first taste of what it felt like to be ripped off. Many companies forget that most furniture designers don’t make any money upfront when they are producing licensed designs. So when they blatantly copy someone’s creative work, it literally cuts in to any potential income from royalties. In my case, it basically killed my product from the market since the copycats were using the same design and undercutting the price, robbing my piece from any potential sales.
Designers are striving to answer larger questions and calling on a broader set of specialties. In today’s industry, what advice do you have to a budding designer that they need to keep in mind to achieve success in our present time?
My advice to budding designers would be to always keep the word “timeless” in their mind. They have to think about the surroundings they live in today and strive to design a piece that will still look great and people will want for years to come. That’s responsible design – when a piece doesn’t end up in a landfill after a year or two because it was too trendy. I’m finding more and more designers these days are simply recycling from the past, literally using vintage and antique aesthetics. I’m all for looking to the past for inspiration, but not simply reclaiming and reusing them and then calling it something new. In my opinion, that is not design – that’s called decorating.
Lastly, what are some of your favorite Asian films?
Growing up I remember watching Chow Yun-Fat films. The ones that stick out the most are “A Better Tomorrow” and “God of Gamblers”.
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Catch new episodes of “Framework” on Tuesdays at 10/9c on SpikeTV! Don’t worry if you miss one: you can watch full episodes on the Spike App!
The 3-shot of Nolen (with co-judges Common and Brandon Gore) is “Courtesy of Spike TV”
Additional shots used in this interview credit to photographer WILLIAM COLE
Hazuki is a LA based Japanese actress born and raised in Saitama, Japan. She came to San Francisco when she was 18 years old, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream to become an actress. Hazuki started her career as a professional model for fashion shows, magazines, music videos, and commercials. Her big break was when she was selected by the former super model Janice Dickinson as a regular on NBC Oxygen’s Reality Series “The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency” in Season 4. Hazuki was the first Asian model to appear on the show. Currently you can see her acting alongside Michael Jai White and having scenes in Terrence Malick’s new film, Knight of Cups, hitting theaters this year. Read our exclusive Q&A below…
A few years ago you set up the foundation to be a model aiming at publications such as NYLON, VOGUE, ELLE, etc. Now that you have made a more transition into appearing in films, how open are you still to modeling and balancing out your career?
I do love modeling and I would love to continue doing it if I receive offers. But for now I put most of my effort in pursuing my career in acting. I’ve always had a passion for film since I was a high school student in Japan. I loved to watch American movies and tried to learn English from them. I never imagined being an actor at the time, because it was too unrealistic for me to imagine being in film. I was just a normal student in Saitama Prefecture with a dream, and I had no acting experience in Japan.
However, my dream at the time was to be part of a team working on a film set and to create something awesome. So I decided to move to the U.S for college and major in film to study directing and special effects make-up. But fortunately, I got a chance to star in a modeling TV show when I was in college, and realized how fun and exciting it was to be in front of the camera, and I got more confident about myself. I never planned on modeling before but once I started modeling on a professional level, I started to take acting classes and accent reduction class as well. This is because I’ve always known that I have more passion in acting than in modeling. But my modeling experience definitely helped my career and gave me lots of confidence and opened the door (broke my shell) to the acting world.
I did a bit of research and found out that a lot of actor that have come from Saitama end up being voice actors in anime or performers at the Saitama Gold Theatre. Why do you think there are a lack of film opportunities there?
I don’t think there is necessarily a lack of film opportunities because a person is from Saitama. However, generally speaking, I think it is very difficult for Japanese actors who are from Japan or grew up in Japan, to get film opportunities here in Hollywood, especially if you are not already famous in Japan. This is because most studio film/TV casting opportunities for Japanese actors go to Japanese celebrities first. Then, even if you do have a descent acting career in Japan, it is still difficult for Japanese actors to break into Hollywood. I think the biggest reason for this is English. Acting in a second language is very tough, especially on camera where you really need to speak English clearly and at the same time nail your acting. There are a lot of Asian American actors who can speak English at a native level and act well. So it is a very difficult and competitive environment. So, I need to work harder than people who were born and raised here, in order to even go to that starting line to get called in for these studio project casting auditions. But I also believe that being born and raised in Japan can be one of my unique strengths in the Hollywood film industry. So I am always thinking of turning this disadvantage into an advantage.
Was the move from Japan to the U.S. at 18 difficult?
I entered college in San Jose after graduating high school in Japan. I could not really speak or understand English at the time so the first few years were pretty tough. But in my first year I lived with my host family who was a very kind old American couple and they treated me like their granddaughter, so I was lucky to have a very safe and warm environment in my first year in America, which helped my English a lot. Also, I was eager to learn English and study film at school so I’ve never regretted or missed Japan at all. And I talk to my family on skype almost every day. Thank you technology!
What was it like being apart of a Michael Jai White latest film ‘Falcon Rising’. Did you learn anything in particular on the set?
It was awesome! I am a huge fan of action films and I’ve watched many of Michael’s action films before so to get a chance to be in an action film with him was incredible! How awesome is that?! He was very professional and I learned from him on how to act on and off the set, and how to act professionally. I was honored to play a mysterious Japanese Yakuza/ assassin in this movie as well. Yakuza is one interesting aspect of Japanese culture; it is very unique, traditional and deep. There are many international films that have Japanese Yakuza characters in them but they are sometimes played by non-Japanese actors. If I had the chance, I would love to play a Yakauza woman again!
What are some of your own personal favorite Asian films?
I’m a huge fan of director Wong Kar-wai!! I love all his films but my favorite film of his is “Fallen Angel”. This is one of my inspirations that made me want to become an actor. I love his cool visual art work and unique storyline and characters. I recently watched “The Grandmaster” and I loved it too. I’ve been practicing Wing Chun for several years but his way of shooting action film was so really cool! I would love to work on a visually cool action film! The Japanese film that impacted me the most was “Battle Royale” by Kinji Fukasaku. I was a kid in junior high and the film shocked and excited me at the same time. I think my current taste in acting was greatly influenced by this film.
What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed working on the set of a television production versus a film?
As I’m still a new comer in the world of acting, I personally cannot really tell the difference between TV production and Film production. I think as an actor there is no big difference between acting in film or TV. You always need to act professionally wherever you are on the set and make every effort to create a great film/show. Now, demand for TV series is becoming really high in Hollywood and they are many high quality TV series and original web series nowadays. I am very interested in these as well and would love to work on these series someday!
The big thing that I’ve noticed about you is for the Terrence Malicks newest film ‘Knight of Cups’. What was it like working on that film? As the biggest role to date, were you a bit nervous working with such A-listers?
I was just a featured model in a party scene and it was a small role but it still was a very exciting experience for me. As an actor, experience can be one of the most effective lessons in ones acting career. I could see with my own eyes the world famous Terrence Malicks directing A-list stars such as Christian Bale and Natalie Portman right in front of me…WOW… that was a precious moment for me. And one day at shooting, we made the party scene all from just improvisation. Christian Bale acted, interacted and flirted with the models in that scene, and I was lucky enough to have a chance to interact with him. It was so exciting and it was the most fun improvisation I’ve experienced in my life lol I hope they use that shot in the movie!
Then, I was able to watch the A-list stars acting from a very close distance and study how they acted live on set. I was observing them and I tried to learn anything I could from their acting. They all looked so relaxed and natural and seemed to enjoy their moment on the set. I would love to act in this kind of environment! I’ve been working very hard to improve myself as an actor to get more opportunities for bigger roles in Studio Projects. Step by step, I am working to get closer to my dream.
What is next for you in terms of roles?
At this moment, I am preparing to participate in an independent Dark Sci-fi fantasy film called “The Godly Wilder”. I’m performing in both Japanese and English for the first time and will have a very interesting Martial Arts action scene as well. We will start training and rehearsing the action choreography next month. I am a native Japanese speaker and I can speak English fluently as well so this is my advantage, and I am excited to act in Japanese for the first time on film because most of my past projects I’ve performed in English. I would love to try any kind of role/character right now in comedy, dark intense thrillers, sci-fi, or any other genre that presents itself to me. I am very curious in the acting world and would like to expand my acting possibilities. I’ve also been seriously training Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, Kali, and mixed martial arts for the past 4 years. As I always loved female badass action characters, I’ve always wanted to play these characters in an action film! As more international co-production film/TV projects are being made, I would love to work not only in the US, but internationally as well.
Lastly, any advice you have for anyone chasing their dreams?
I don’t think I’m in a position to give any advice yet, but I can share what my current philosophy is in order to achieve my own dream. I am still chasing my dream and my goal of my dream is still far away. Yet, I can feel it getting closer and closer every moment since I started acting 4 years ago. I could not imagine what I am doing in Hollywood right now when I was a high school student in Japan ten years ago. I am still in progress, but I am proud of myself of being an actor from Japan who has a huge vision of a dream, career and life. I’ve always had a vivid image of what I need to achieve every year. It is easy to just say” I will get an Oscar one day.” But it won’t happened magically. You need to think if what you need to do in order to get an Oscar. You need to calculate backwards from the time that you get an Oscar, to now, to find out what you need to do realistically to achieve that dream. I always think positively and never think of what I would do if I fail. I never have a backup plan. Because whenever I believed in something very strongly and worked hard for it, I’ve always been able to realize it. If you can’t imagine your success, I don’t think it will ever happen. So I always fill my head with excitement and positive energy, and work hard and do the best that I can so that I can pursue and achieve my dream.
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Dansonn Beats is a man, a music production company, a workhorse…just an all around talent. Based in Los Angeles, over the last few years, he has worked with many clients, including major artists, brands, and companies. Legendary MC’s like M.O.P., Kool G Rap, and major companies like ESPN and Vossen Wheels. We sit down and talk a bit about how production and leasing works, films, projects, and more! Read below for the full Q&A…
I’d like to get an idea of how to maximize the most money per beat made. How do ‘leases’ work and is there ever a conflict between an artist wanting to buy a beat that has been leased out previously?
A lease essentially allows an artist to make a song on my beat and then sell that song, whether it is a single, on an album etc. Since the basic leases are non-exclusive, there is not an issue of multiple licensors for the same beat. I do offer exclusive licenses and custom production as well for people who want to be the sole owners of a beat!
If you listen to a Neptunes beat, or a Timbaland beat, they have a very distinct signature sound. How would you describe your unique take on production?
I would describe my sound as a mix between classical and hip hop music. I come from a classical background in the cello, so I have a particular bias in using orchestral sounds in my production. While my melodies are not necessarily “classical,” they utilize a lot of the elements of a real orchestra that help me get my sound. I’m also a HUGE fan of movie scores which influence my beats to being very cinematic and epic.
With professional quality music production software available from $99, anyone with a computer can record and produce their own catchy singles, EPs, or albums. Do you feel that it cheapens the craft somewhat, having this process so accessible to anyone? Or do you embrace the fact that this could breed more and more producers in the future?
I can’t say that having the production process so accessible is a bad thing, because if it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t be producing. Obviously, I completely embrace the fact and along with the tools of the Internet and social media, most people have the tools to be successful. While there is the issue of oversaturation with “cheapened” music quality, these technological advancements allow way more talent to shine.
What was the creative process like hooking up with MC Jin on his new album? I have to say ‘Call me David’ is one of the best beats on the project. Was this specifically made for him?
No, this beat was actually just a regular beat I was working on and was very close to releasing online. However, I thought this beat was special and had the potential to be used for a different project, so I decided to save it. About a year later, I decided to send it to Toestah, another rapper at The Great Company, who heard it and ended up sending it to MC Jin. Jin liked it and that’s how “Call Me David” was created.
I know you credited him as a big inspiration to you as an Asian American. Speaking about you from a cultural standpoint, has the road to success been harder to achieve because of where you and your parents came from?
I don’t think being an Asian American negatively affected me in anyway, it was more of a mental obstacle I placed on myself. In the music industry, especially in hip-hop, there is a lack of Asian American representation. This lack of representation made it seem like it was near impossible for me, an Asian American, to be successful in the music industry. However, I realized that my culture did not negatively affect my career and that if anything, it helped me stand out more.
When we interviewed Wu-Tang they loved Pro-Tools. When we interviewed Glitch Mob, they swore by Ableton Live. You currently use FL Studio. Are you finding it suiting your needs or are you trying other programs?
Ultimately, I realized that it all comes down to preference. Different software work better for different people and processes, and you just have to find out what works best for you. Personally, FL Studio is all I’ve ever used because there hasn’t been a real need for me to try other DAW’s yet. However, it is something I am open to in the future.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
Actually, the only Asian films I have really watched have been thriller and horror flicks. I’m a big fan of thriller and horror, which eventually led me to Asian films, most recently Korean films, like The Chaser, The Man From Nowhere, and New World. I’m still exploring and definitely open to any suggestions!
You are also a musical figure that shares other aspects of your life besides just music. What kind of connection does this allow with your fanbase and help your overall brand?
By showing other aspects of your life, whatever that might be, you build a personal connection with your audience. What you share does not have to be profound or anything that important, because anything helps build that connection. Besides it being more organic and fun for you as the artist, building a personal connection into your brand makes it that much more powerful. People connect with you as a person more than as a business. Building my identity as Dansonn, the producer, instead of Dansonn, the beat-selling-website, is a stronger connection and helps differentiate me more from everyone else.
In your own experience do you find people who buy your music prefer hooks already established into the rhythm or without?
It’s definitely a mix, but no doubt that beats with hooks sell much better. Some people prefer beats with hooks because it aids their creative process with a concept and general sound. However, some people may find this limiting for their own creativity. It’s fun for me to make both though, as I approach the production process a bit differently between the two.
What lies ahead for you this year? Any projects you can let us know about?
Just recently, I collaborated with RZA and Faulkner to remix their track, “NY Anthem.” The track was featured on The Source. Besides that, I’m working on creating a new brand with The Great Company. Essentially, we’re putting together a team of music producers and creating a lot of unique content from there. There’ll be more updates coming soon!
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Mixing hip-hop beats with feel-good vibes, this is the kind of music I like to put on the background while I work on this very website. Naturally, positioned in an area I take a great deal on interest in, I reached out to Saul Goode and Black Moss, two of the rappers behind Part Time Cooks, who have gained a consistent following through their dynamic performances and songs that transcend language barriers. Questions were answered collectively by the two with Mr. Joe Rollins. We explore their latest music ‘Necktie’, their EP “Midnight Snack”, anime, and other goodies. Read the full Q&A below…
I have been fascinated with the relationship between Hip Hop and chess for years. What is your guys’ skill level and how often do you play?
Saul Goode: [Laughs] Dope question. We are all pretty into chess I’d say. None of us are on GZA’s level yet… But I’d say we are above average as far as a rap group goes, with Joe claiming to play every other week. Saul beat Joe one time, and Moss beat Saul when we played on tour. So, for the time being, Moss has the crown.
Black Moss: I have been playing chess since I was ten but on a very social level. I enjoy the game whenever an opponent steps up but I wouldn’t consider myself a serious player.
We usually only feature Asian musicians and rappers but I think you guys are in a really unique situation. Why are you guys rooted where you are and why take on challenge of acquire fans that transcend language barriers?
We all met here in Seoul a couple of years ago. We originally came to Korea to teach, but were welcomed into the hip-hop scene pretty quickly. I think that living here and just traveling over the past few years in general has really added a lot of depth to our music. When we write songs, we have to keep both our English speaking and Korean audiences in mind by making songs that transcend language barriers. I think it’s made us focus more on melodies as opposed to only focusing on bars and made our music a lot better. Hip Hop music on its own also seems to be a universal genre that tends to transcend language and cultural boundaries.
You guys rely on your talent alone day-by-day, but as you guys get a bigger fan base, do you see yourself eventually having someone answer your e-mail, booking your gigs, assisting with your schedule, etc. or do you like being involved in the process?
Definitely. In an ideal world, all we would have to focus on day to day would be making music. I think that as we continue to expand our team, however, we will always all have a hand in the business side of things.
I know Black Moss has a background in rap battling. They say that being a commercial (or successful) rapper and being involved in the rap battle circuit are two different animals and usually you can’t obtain success in both fields. Was making the transition as hard as they say?
I would say being a battle rapper in today’s format is an entirely different animal on its own. It’s not easy. I came up like many MCs in my city freestyle battling and hosting a lot of battle rap events so I’m really not a stranger to battle rap however the fact that I also devoted a lot of my time to songwriting n the past 8 years has mad the gap between the two elements smaller in my case. I would say the transition is really dependent on how well you immerse yourself into both fields. Fortunately I have found time to do both consistently and it’s proved pretty fruitful so far.
Could you tell us about the EP you guys released a few months ago. How did the creation of 7 songs over 6 sessions come about?
Part Time Cooks was originally supposed to be nothing more than a little side project between Black Moss and Saul Goode. We were both working on solo projects at the time, and just wanted to release a couple tracks together from time to time. However, when we all got in the studio alongside Joe Rollins, we fell in love with the sound we had come up with and wrote everything in three back to back weekends. The themes and stories in all the songs were things we had been going through together around the same time so they all resonated with us and writing came so easily.
What are some of your favorite Asian films or Anime?
Black Moss: To this day The Bodyguard from Beijing is one of my favorite movies of all time. That movie made me a Jet Li fan for life. I don’t watch Anime but my favorite Asian Cartoon is a Japanese cartoon called Captain Tsubasa. You wont believe how famous that cartoon was to the kids of the South African Townships in the 90’s.
Saul Goode: Old Boy is definitely my favorite Korean film. My knowledge of anime is limited to say the lease. I loved that Avatar cartoon though. I want to get a Last Air Bender tattoo [laughs].
Joe Rollins: One of my favorite all time anime film would have to be Final Fantasy 7 Advent Children.
You guys went on record saying there are fewer obstacles for an emerging artist where you are versus the U.S. Can you elaborate? Is it cultural?
Saul Goode: There are just fewer English-speaking rappers in Korea in general. That makes it a bit easier to stand out. I think living here makes our story stand out a bit internationally as well. I don’t know of any other American/South African rap crews living in Asia.
I heard there is a show on Korea’s popular music channel Mnet that is a survival music program centered solely on hip-hop, titled “Show Me The Money.” You guys ever consider going down that route or do you guys prefer the local shows?
Saul Goode: Yea! I was asked to audition for that show before it started. Didn’t know how big it would end up becoming. Looking back, I probably should have tried out. The show got tons of exposure. We have had the pleasure of performing with a lot of the guys on that show; Garion, Vasco, Snacky… All those dudes kill it. We are working on some music with a few of them this year. Should be dope!
I gotta say, I love the laid back 90s hip hop vibe. After the EP simmers down are you guys dropping the full length? Can we look forward to a vinyl release?
We are currently working on a full length called Baker’s Dozen. If all goes well, we would like to have a full-scale release… vinyl and all. The project is coming along really well. We can’t wait for y’all to hear it!
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Akiko da Silva is an amazing creative currently living in the town of Karuizawa in central Japan. She is a multi-faceted artist experienced in brand development, advertising, and print campaigns for clients ranging from small startups to multinational corporations. We talk about her passion for creative communication, her admiration for Wong Kar-wai, and her 2015 calendar that is making waves online. Read below for the full Q&A…
What were the early instances in which you found yourself engaged by great design?
I think my earliest memories of being hooked in by design are all food related! Without understanding it was “design”, as a kid I remember being fascinated by packaging and logos. The classic polka-dotted wrapped Calpis bottle, the Coca-Cola logo, the Milky candy and Morton salt girls, the shape and wrapping of Hershey’s iconic kisses… it’s incredible how design can be so interwoven in memory and personal history!
How did you latest project, an illustrated 2015 calendar featuring the daruma, come about!?
A little south of where I live now is Takasaki city, which is the capital of the Daruma doll. The Shorinzan Daruma Temple there is where the doll originated. We got some dolls at the huge Daruma market they hold there every year and I found that having this physical embodiment of my goal was really helpful as a constant reminder to keep working at it. I became really fond of the tradition and thought it would be a fun challenge to put my own spin on it.
Yet, Japan is known for a lot of New Year customs and traditions. One of my favorites is eating soba buckwheat noodles to wish for a life that’s as long as the long, skinny noodles they’re eating. Are you going to explore other customary trends surrounding different holidays?
Hmm, I do love Children’s day and seeing all the colorful koinobori carp streamers swimming in the wind across rivers and in people gardens. Never thought about it before, but it would be pretty cool to design unique koinobori.
So you are given an assignment for a small startup, and an assignment for a huge corporate company. Both involve brand management. Do you treat each assignment differently or do you dive into them with the same creative process?
I think I do approach every project, whether for an individual or large company, basically the same way and using the same process. Every client wants to connect with an audience and I see it as my job to help form that communication. I feel that a message is embodied in every fiber of a brand, from the smallest icons to the typeface used in the humblest of communications. The design process refines this message until the client and I, as a team, have arrived at a solution that hopefully elevates their company and engages their audience in a meaningful way.
A few years ago you worked as a Senior Graphic Designer for Forever 21 which is primarily a United States based company who wanted to reach an international audience. How were you able to successfully take an existing brand and marketing towards an entirely different group of people?
Forever 21 has a pretty defined identity, and that’s all about youthfulness and having fun with fashion. Luckily in the markets I worked on, all big cosmopolitan cities, there were already large populations of consumers open to the idea of shopping as a means of self-expression and as entertainment. I wanted to make sure we stood out among the competition by presenting an image of a unique retailer that was really fresh and fun while highlighting the great variety of fashion the store has to offer.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
I love just about everything from my favorite Asian directors Koreeda Hirokazu and Wong Kar Wai. Koreeda’s films are beautifully understated and have a very quiet aesthetic that can nevertheless profoundly shake your soul. Nobody Knows is simply stunning. Wong Kar Wai just creates magic, doesn’t he? In the Mood for Love is just impossibly beautiful.
What would you say are the aesthetic common threads that communicate your style brand to clients and customers?
Modern minimalist design is really appealing to me, but I naturally tend toward the colorful, exuberant, and playful. I have tried to fight this tendency of mine in the past, but I’ve just come to accept it now. Incorporating more of my illustration into my work is part of that. I think clients come to me now wanting to incorporate these qualities in their projects, so it’s a good thing!
What is it like working with your husband? Good times?
[Laughs] Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to work with my husband, who’s a photographer, just a few times. I would really love to be able to collaborate with him a lot more. While I can take any kind of commentary from a client, I find it really hard to take critique from my own husband! It’s a little problem I’ll be working on.
Ok, so, it’s January 1st, 2015 and you have a Daruma doll sitting in your lap. You fill in one of the eyes. What is your first goal you are setting out for yourself?
Ooh nice question! I’ve been working on developing my surface design skills— basically patterns and graphics for textiles. Developing a surface design portfolio is definitely a goal for the new year. If I could successfully sell a pattern collection, that would be just awesome, and I would fill in Daruma’s other eye and give thanks for his help!
Digital ad spending, up 17 percent year-over-year in 2013, continues to grow at a fast rate. Are you still a firm believer in print? Or do you look to the future?
The digital universe and particularly smartphones are undeniably changing our culture in really exciting ways. I enjoy designing for web and am actually working on icon designs for mobile apps. Good design is definitely essential to good digital experiences. That being said, I’m also looking forward to a future where print and the unique tactile and sensory experience it offers is still very much desired!
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With episode #375 we feature a definition of hustling, motivation, and talent. After majoring in International Economics and working in finance for a few years, Trebles and Blues started making music. If you follow his musical journey you can literally see the evolution of his progress. ‘From My Father’ is a journey that takes you through the life of Trebles and Blues father. He intermixed jazz with samples of Korean folk music that his father used to listen too. If you take a look at his current project, Seasonality, dropping on Tuesday, it exclusively uses Brazilian music as its source. We chat about his life before music, his involvement in community music programs, his new sound and more! Read below for the full Q&A…
A few years back Sessions LA no longer had the financial means without crowdfunding to continue. Why do you think community music programs always seem to be hard to maintain?
Before I delve into your question, I just want to state that Sessions LA is still going on, but the details of its duration are still being explored. I’m currently a music production instructor for an 8-week long, once-a-week collaboration between Sessions and Inner-City Arts (another great non-profit organization here in LA), but from my understanding, Sessions as a standalone program will continue once again in early 2015.
That’s great to hear! Do you feel creativity isn’t rewarded enough in formal education?
In regards to your insightful question, I think art as a whole is just not fostered as much within our traditional educational system. Math and science continue to remain top priorities at the high school level, with music, graphic design, and fine art all falling staunchly into the “extracurricular activities / hobbies” bucket. If this is the structure that our youth have to fit into, the role of community music programs is to expand that foundation and reaffirm our students’ beliefs that their passions are indeed important. Programs such as Sessions LA exist to emphasize the fact that growing your artistic craft teaches you just as much (if not more) about the principles of dedication, persistence, and patience, as being a student of any other subject matter. I think formalized education still has a ways to go, but I feel that our current generation of entrepreneurs, musicians, and other independent/creative minds are being rewarded for their efforts. I hope that this can eventually be an agent of much-needed change within our educational system.
And you are another brave soul who worked and ventured out into a career but decided it wasn’t for you. Did it take a certain amount of courage for you to transition to music full time or were you pretty gung ho?
At the time, it really seemed like a no-brainer. I do want to preface that I currently am working in finance once again, but when I decided to make that initial leap about three years ago, I just knew that it needed to be done. I was in a place where I was unsatisfied with the pace of work and how purposeless it all seemed, but my passion for beatmaking was so prevalent. After realizing this, it wasn’t a move that was done with courage, but more so out of necessity.
The interesting thing is that the risk of making that sort of move is essentially one thing: the concern of money. The rewards, however, are countless. I originally left finance to do just one thing: make music. During the process though, I met so many incredible people and made some good stuff all at the same time. I joined Sessions LA, connected with the youth, worked on From My Father, performed in Japan, worked with Absolut Zero (an independent Japanese label), executive produced an album with Gowe, toured colleges with him, and so much more.
In the end, it’s ultimately all about balance. I think that for some, the lack of money really motivates them to make better art, but for me, I didn’t like the fact that I had to focus on selling my stuff. I’m not sure how my views may change over the next few years, but as of now, I’m working on balancing my work as a finance professional with my work as a musician.
So, you worked in finance for three years, and its been slightly over three years since you’ve released your debut project to the masses. Comparing each three year life event, what do you think is the biggest contrast between the two in how it has affected your life?
Being a musician has really taught me what it feels like to be empowered by your art and of the artistry that surrounds you. I am fortunate to have found an artform that I’m passionate about, and I am so thankful for that. However, I feel that as an artist, it also becomes easy to doubt yourself because art is such a subjective thing, and knowing what its worth is at any time (both monetarily and emotionally) is very challenging.
When it comes to areas like law, medicine, finance, things of that sort, the value of your profession is pegged to a hard value, whether it’s in the form of a salary, bonus, benefits, whatever. Things are much more defined and structured in that realm, and many of the roads have already been traversed. Music has allowed me to go on this wonderful path of self-discovery, where I long to stay determined and continuously build my identity as an artist, regardless of the challenges that lie ahead. The opening up of this gateway has been the largest effect that it has had on me to this day.
Is ‘Days of Contrast’ a peek into a bigger project for you? Perhaps a gateway into the direction of how you want future projects to sound?
It’s interesting you ask me this, because No Alias (the other half of Days of Contrast) and I just got back from a “beat retreat” in Joshua Tree this past weekend, which means that new music is on its way! Days of Contrast is simply our way of linking up as an official duo to have fun and release music together as a collective. I’ve made music with No Alias for a little over four years now, and everything that we’ve made together has been part of an ever evolving, organic process. I honestly think that we put out an amazing project in March titled When Life Was Simpler, which also has some beautiful artwork that was created by my girlfriend.
In regards to your questions, since Days of Contrast is not a solo effort on any part, I personally don’t know the precise direction it’s going to go in because we kind of just go with the flow. It’s awesome because we’re amazed at just how different our stuff is when we compare it with our individual work. I would like to say that we have a certain style, but man, the stuff we created this past weekend is sounding great, and has a really different tone than what we have made in the past. Hopefully we will get to share it with everyone soon!
If people follow your Soundcloud they are given daily offerings of some sweet instrumentals. Will your next full length album be using Kickstarter as well or will you go another route?
My next project, Seasonality, will be released via my Bandcamp on December 16th (next week Tuesday), and it will be a digital-only release. As a result, I won’t be using Kickstarter for this project. I’ll touch a bit more on Seasonality later!
As a fan of Nujabes who contributed heavily to the OST of Samurai Champloo, we wanted to ask you if you could construct a soundtrack to any anime of your choice, which would you choose and why?
I actually don’t watch much anime; the only one I was ever really into was Dragonball Z (and just the manga, the TV shows were just way too slow for me to follow regularly). However, you bring up Nujabes, and I have seen some episodes of Samurai Champloo. I remember watching this scene where they played “Counting Stars”, and it just fit so well. Nujabes was really somethin’ else man. It’s funny, I hardly listen to his music now, but when I first heard his stuff back in 2008, I immediately fell into this deep phase where I connected with his music so much. To be honest, I really long for that feeling again, where I was so enamored with someone’s art that it became the soundtrack for my life. There’s a lot of good music out now as well, but I don’t think I’ve ever connected that much with an artist’s music like I did with Nujabes’ artistry a little over six years ago. So with my limited knowledge of anime, I’d answer your question with Samurai Champloo and try my hand at it. The only other thing I’d say is Dragonball Z, but I’d probably have to find a ton of psychedelic rock samples to make songs for the million times they need to power up before they finally fight the dude.
How do you approach a remix, taking an existing tune and putting your own spin on it while keeping the integrity of the original?
I usually would already be in the process of making a beat, then I’d listen to it and think, “Hey, this would sound dope if so-and-so was rhyming or singing on it.” I did that for the Biggie remix I put out a few months ago because the beat I was working on had this really dark tone to it already, so I thought that putting one of his acapellas over it would sound great.
The only time I remixed something purposefully was a lagrima track by DJ Phatrick, which was fun to do.
To be honest, I don’t really do too many remixes; I enjoy listening to them, but I’m not an active participant in creating them at this point.
As a fan of 9th Wonder, Dilla, 60s and 70s soul music, etc. How important is crate digging to you? Also your thoughts on the renewed interest in the vinyl medium?
Digging in the crates for samples is very important to the longevity of hip hop culture, and is something that I enjoy doing as well. However, I’m not one of those purists that believe that you need to find your samples in the form of a vinyl record, because at this point, the resources are so vast that it would be a shame not to tap into what technology has been able to provide to us. I enjoy digging for records, but a majority of what I sample has been obtained online.
I think the renewed interest in the vinyl medium is awesome! I either read or heard someone speak on how music was consumed before the Walkman came out; since vinyl was the primary method of music consumption, people would actually set time out of their day to listen to the record, from start to finish, in one sitting. It was really an experience for them. When the Walkman came out, music became portable, so it kind of became just background/ambient noise for other primary activities, and everything changed. Now that vinyl is having a resurgence, I think it allows people to just sit down and simply listen to the record as one great experience.
Looking back on your career, do you think ‘Blue Note’ will ultimately be your ‘Illmatic’? Are you not so much concerned with outdoing the last record as you are crafting a new experience?
Each project is essentially a snapshot in time of what I am feeling, what I am inspired by, and where my life stands. The Blue Note was a culmination of all my primary influences at the time, from Nujabes to 9th Wonder, and it was my way of personifying that through my own art. I don’t think that The Blue Note will be the benchmark of my work, as I continuously strive to do different things with my music because inspiration arrives in so many different genres and formats. Even with Nas, he has made phenomenal music outside of Illmatic, and it isn’t Illmatic alone that has moved his career forward for so many years. I know Nas gets a lot of flack for his music “not being as good as his first album”, but I think it’s a little blown out of proportion. I mean, what about “If I Ruled the World”? “Nas Is Like”? “Ether”?!?! These are career-defining songs he has made well after Illmatic. Anyway, without getting too off-track [laughs], I feel that my own craft has definitely evolved since 2011, and I am proud of where It is going.
In regards to your second question, at this point in my career, I really want to craft unique experiences with each project. The Blue Note (2011) was my homage to that soul/jazz vibe that initially captivated me to make beats. From My Father (2013) was a very personal project that allowed me to use a completely different medium (Korean folk music) to create an experience about my parents.
My next project, Seasonality, which comes out in a week, is completely different. It is constructed solely using Brazilian samples, with an emphasis on that funky and groovy vibe that makes you want to dance. It’s really my first venture into uptempo music, and it sounds nothing like my first two projects. It’s interesting also because I know folks have flipped Brazilian samples before, but I think the way I approached them is quite different. I dropped a single titled “Your Move” it last Tuesday, so you can get a taste of what to expect!
Lastly, any advice for any aspiring beatmakers?
If you truly love making beats, then be really grateful that you have found a passion. It’s something that goes a long way, and something that will act as a great outlet to channel your emotions and experiences you have throughout your life. With that said, there will be challenges to face too! You might have creative blocks, doubts, and uncertainties as to where this will ultimately go (which I do as well), but the only thing I can say to that is to keep pushing. I’m also trying to figure it out too, but as long as I keep creating, I think clarity will develop as a result of that effort. Keep at it!
Thanks to Marcello from Japan Cinema for the insightful questions. Remember, Seasonality drops on Tuesday, December 16th, at http://treblesandblues.bandcamp.com. I hope y’all enjoy it!
This week’s first episode of the Creative Spotlight shines on Wishcandy, or Sashiko Yuen, a fresh Portland resident whose work is essentially a sassy candy-coated horror show. It’s full of compassion, eroticism, violence, and the search for true freedom. Inspired by retro culture, street fashion, kitsch, beauty, and the grotesque. Currently building up a world of paintings and illustration, as well as looking for gallery shows, we thought now would be the perfect time to hunt Sashiko down and beg her for an interview. We talk about films, art, her upbringing, and more! Read below for the full Q&A…
As a kid how did you gain exposure to kitschy pin-up girls and why do you think your mother was OK with the nude aspect?
[Laughs] My mom was definitely okay. She just worried what my dad would say if she found my nude and pin-up girl drawings. She understood the importance of artistic curiosity and studying the human form, because she was an artist too! Studied fashion design for a while at the Fashion Institute of Technology for a while, but left when she got married. As a kid, i’d sit on the sofa with her while she was watching runway shows and old movies. We’d spend hours at a bookstore or library. I’m pretty sure she showed me Vargas and Elvgren, as well as plenty of fashion illustrators she loved. Now my mom tells everyone and anyone she can about my work. She’s proud and a few of her co-workers have become my clients.
It seemed it was your own self-confidence and your teachers who motivated you to persue art and not your parents. Do you hold any resentment towards your father in that regard?
Both my parents became supportive by the time I reached college age. They supported me, though they wanted something more stable for me. Believed when I graduated I’d go on to work for the government, doing art as a hobby. They’re both incredibly proud of me now. I don’t resent my father at all. At some point most of us realize our parents are people. They did the best they could raising us and come with their own set of issues/ insecurities. I discovered they mean well, but it’s my life and I’m going to do my own thing. They respect that now. Me and my dad are closer than we’ve ever been, and have lots of laughs about our disagreements. With him and I, I think it comes down to how he was raised and a general generational difference.
Tell us a bit about your participation at “Post its X” at Giant Robot. With such a small canvas how did you approach your design(s)?
In college one of my old drawing professors, Donna Hepner, gave us a challenge. She made Drawing 2 students do 50 drawings. The intent was to experiment and not over think. We had two weeks. When we went on to Drawing 3, we had to do 100 drawings in two weeks. I treated the Post its the same way, basically improv.
As an artist that loves to tackle duality — beautiful and the grotesque/colorful and dark — what avenues can you explore as an artist. Does the subject matter deal with your current mood or simply your curiosities?
Usually I’m responding to a mood or event. Sometimes I just think the idea would be funny (I don’t always take art super seriously). Events I respond to are deeply personal things that happen to me or things going on politically. I don’t usually tell people exactly what each piece is about unless it’s a close friend or I’m in a rare sharing mood.
As for the duality, nothing in the world is as black and white as it seems. Growing up I’d see hearts and unicorns plastered on girls’ things OR something action/ violence packed for boys. Or something to encourage a boy’s intelligence. I can’t stand the gendered marketed socialized view of our world. Wondered why I couldn’t find something to relate to. So I’m making it. Doesn’t have to be separate. We’re multi-faceted.
A lot of your subjects involve women with multi-colored hair. Do you shy away from illustrating men and the topics explored therein? What is the creative process behind that?
There are plenty of women depicted in art. But there aren’t too many that depict how women really are. Tons of men paint or write about women in such a flat way. Women are incredibly strong, and fierce. However those words need to be redefined. Someone who is strong may still need help, they cry, they make mistakes, they’re not perfect. The girl who quits university for her mental health is strong. The woman who works multiple jobs and is completely lost but holding it together, is strong. The woman who cooks, cleans, runs errands, and helps her family is strong.
We don’t need more depictions of men. They are everywhere, in books, on screen, in music. They’re well rounded people/ characters. Often enough, women aren’t granted the same respect. (Forgot to mention, women who are into fashion are seen/ depicted as vain. It’s unfair. In a world that judges you on appearance. She is being self loving. She is taking control on how the world sees her and how she sees herself. She can reflect her own definition of beauty. Beauty and brains! Suck on that, world!)
What are some of your favorite Asian films or anime?
There are a lot! The Vengeance trilogy by Park Chan-Wook, Love Exposure, Battle Royale, Dumplings, and Hausu. Anime? Sailor Moon, Haibane Renmei, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and any Hayao Miyazaki film.
How is Portland nurturing you as an artist compared to California? What prompted the move and what kind of things do you have going on?
I grew a lot as a person in California; more fearless, learned more about self care, and learned to communicate better. Went through a lot of drama in my living situation, flew back and forth between coasts, and underwent a health crisis. Discovered a chronic illness. This summer I visited Portland and it just felt refreshing. Visited an online friend and it felt like we’d known each other all our lives. What I’d now call my platonic sweetheart. Met up with a few artists I’d known from online too. It’s exactly what I need right now. A close friend and an art community. Some time to get my shit together after the trauma I endured in California. Though I should tell you after like three years of constant sunshine, as a non native, I needed to experience seasons again!
Now that you are in Portland are you going to be exhibiting a lot less in California and focus more on local shows? What plans are ahead for you?
No way! I’ll be everywhere, like a candy-coated plague you grow to love. I plan on experimenting in different media. Painting in oil/ acrylic. Working on photography with a friend or two. Making clothes and accessories and start work[ing] on a top secret film, hopefully that pans out.
Lastly, any advice for a budding creative just starting out?
Work hard as hell, way harder than you think you have to. That’ll put you way ahead. Make friends with people whose work you love. Don’t be fake or mean — that shit will come back to haunt you and eat you alive. The art community is super small!
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