Tom Kerr’s Nebraska @ Absolution

I remember seeing Tom Kerr’s tattoo flash drawings illustrating lines from Bruce Springsteen’s iconic 1982 album Nebraska on Instagram around two years ago. As a long time fan of the musician, I was an immediate intrigued. The album, famously recorded in Springsteen’s bedroom on a four track recorder, stands as one of the New Jersey native’s most celebrated works, devoid of the stadium rock scale and instead focussed on Springsteen’s intimate Americana story telling. I reached out to Tom at the time and he told me of his plan to draw imagery for every song, I was excited to see what would come from the project. It may have taken some time, but finally the suite is ready for exhibition as a complete body of work. As you can imagine, I was excited to sit down with Tom and we sermonised about Springsteen, Nebraska and the process of making these works…

I have always found, depending on prevailing tastes, that it can sometimes be hard to admit that you are a Springsteen fan, you never know response you are going to get! For some people, it’s still the flannel shirt and Born in the USA, but there is, of course, this whole other side to Springsteen. How did you kind of come across his music?

My dad is a huge fan, so growing up, Springsteen classics were always playing, especially Born in the USA and Born to Run and stuff, but I think getting older and being a young adult, I just resented Springsteen and thought for so long it was just dad music. Then my really good friend Dan, who probably has the best taste in punk music I know, was like, have you listened to Nebraska? I was like, nah, I don’t really rate any of Springsteen’s music, it’s all dad rock or whatever. I think he said something like, forget everything you know about Springsteen before you listen to this album, it’s not a big band, there are no saxophone solos or type of shit. I was really into lo-fi music, recorded songs, and I got more and more into that and through that I went back to Springsteen’s wider catalogue and listened to Born to Run and that’s when I fell in love with all the classics. You get to an age when you realise the music your parents loved is good. As a kid, you push so hard to be like, I don’t want to like the music my parents liked, I’ve got better taste than they do. But then you grow up and realize that Elton John and Springsteen and Cat Stevens, and all those dudes are flawless musicians…

The idea of Springsteen being ‘dad rock’ was so strongly entrenched from his mega star status in the 80s, but I was always more into his early, kind of romantic street poet aesthetic, the storytelling, the Magic Rat and stuff like that, and then Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River and eventually Nebraska continue that storytelling vein in a darker tone. Born to Run is about escaping, but those later albums are about being trapped, or what happens when you don’t get out, and I think as you get older, there’s something about that idea…

With Nebraska, the songs are so well done, you listen to Johnny 99 or Highway Patrolman and they go for three minutes and you know everyone in the song, you know about their dreams, their aspirations. The song ends and you are like, how have you painted such a picture with like three chords and just like talking about these guys? He tells us how characters went to war, how the farm didn’t work, about having a brother who is a loose cannon and shit, I couldn’t tell someone that much information in just three minutes…

They are short, yet they are almost cinematic in scope and vision. The other interesting thing is Springsteen’s influence on the New Jersey punk scene, right? The Dropkick Murphys, The Gaslight Anthem, he’s had this interesting standing where the broader public have this perception, but the people in the know have a different understanding…  

I think it comes from digging a little deeper. Born in the USA was his commercial success, it was in the 80s and there was so much marketing when they made that album, they made him shave and go to the gym to look like a working-class farm boy or whatever. But in reality, if you look at photos from Greetings from Asbury Park, he’s wearing a beanie, he has long hair and is wearing bell bottoms and shit, and he’s the complete opposite of what most people think of Springsteen…

The ripped arms, the sleeveless flannel shirt, the headband, but then you go back to that earlier ‘Skeeter’ persona, the leather jacket and the oversized beanie, the scraggly beard, hanging around in Asbury Park, playing bars like The Stone Pony…

The E Street Shuffle kind of stuff…

Born in the USA is interesting though, it is really misunderstood, it is actually an album that’s way darker than everyone perceives, there is actually a kinship with Nebraska

Nebraska was all demos. I think they did The River and they toured it and then Bruce wanted to break off from the E Street Band and become a solo musician or he wanted to break off from the concept of what The E Street Band were doing, so he recorded these demos and when he took them to the label, they were like, this isn’t happening, so he went back in the studio and did Born in the USA. In the Born in the USA tours they do live versions of Johnny 99 and a few more of the demos that were in Nebraska actually ended up on Born in the USA, like Working on the Highway. I think they tried them all as full band songs and half of them just flopped…

Born in the USA was written to be much more sparse, right? Originally the songs were stripped down versions, the title song was more bluesy and, of course, No Surrender is the most punk song in his catalogue…

We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school… So good!

But it’s lost in that full band bombast…

Even the song Born in the USA, when you ask a person on the street if they know the lyrics, most people are going to say, I was born in the USA and I was sent down to kill the yellow man… It sounds really redneck, like I’m proud to be an American and shoot Commies and all that sort of shit, but then you listen to it and it’s like, I lost my job at the plant, I came back and no one thinks I’m a hero, all my mates are dead, they didn’t come back, it’s the same narrative as Forrest Gump

Born in the USA was co-opted by Ronald Reagan and the Conservatives as a rallying slogan and it has just never escaped that association. Although, since Springsteen came back with The Rising, and his role post as a sort of post-9/11 poet laureate figure, his politics have been made much clearer. His work has always fluctuated between big arena sounds and more intimate albums, like The Ghost of Tom Joad and Devils and Dust, but Nebraska definitely stands out…

Apparently, when they finally got into the record pressing stages of Born in the USA, he still had the tapes for Nebraska and every single time he got into a room with an engineer, he was like, we’ve got to put it out. I think they finally agreed to do a small run as a mini album, but it was recorded so poorly that every time they tried to cut it to a record, the lathe would bounce out of the record. They went through like five engineers or something to finally actually mix it properly because it was just like boombox recordings and the mics were too loud or there was not enough going on…

As a musician yourself, does the story behind the making of Nebraska, which Springsteen recorded on a four track in his bedroom, add to the allure of the album?

Yeah definitely. There’s so much information around and half of its fake, half of it is bullshit. The best story I’ve heard about it was that it was recorded on a Tascam four track, so to bounce it down to tape, you then record it on a boombox or a normal two track or stereo tape recorder. So, Springsteen bounced it down from a four track to a boombox and then he’d take that boom box out on a row boat and go fishing in an estuary. Apparently the boombox fell into the water and he waited for the tide to go out to get it back. The boombox was fucked but the tape was fine, so they washed out the tape and that’s why it’s got so much filth and grit to the music. It’s a great story, but I have no faith in it being real…

A real fishing tale…

Four tracks have a tape speed, so if you have a 40-minute tape, if you record on half speed, you get like 80 minutes. A lot of people think that Springsteen had the tape speed like just slower, but then whoever mixed it down for him, knocked it back to 12 o’clock, so if you try and play guitar to the songs, they are like a quarter step out of tune, and not in E or E flat, but like halfway between, which gives it this weird quality. I think people subconsciously resonate with it because it’s not an E chord or an E Flat chord like most bands would write music in, it’s something slightly different…

So, you play his songs?

Originally, I thought it would be cool to put on the show and have a different musician play each song from the album. I’ve got Johnny 99 and Reason to Believe down, but the rest of them are so hard to play. I don’t know if it’s because he recorded the guitars and then did vocals over the top, or it’s just his style, but there are some sentences I just can’t get through being able to strum it right, especially Reason to Believe and the bit about the preacher standing with the Bible and the congregation’s gone home, it bounces up and down differently to the way you strum a guitar. It’s probably just his style, but every time I get to that mark of the song, I fuck it up, it’s so hard…

So, the exhibition is based on your response to each song?

Kind of, I’ve basically just drawn the image each song painted in my head. When I drew them, I wasn’t tattooing yet, I was still building, but I would draw after work three nights a week and I eventually just ran out of ideas. I had listened to the album a couple times and it hadn’t really resonated yet, but I valued Dan’s taste in music so much that I was like, it has to be good if he recommended it. I ended up working on a job by myself and instead of using a work radio I just wore headphones and I listened to the album. I used to always skip Nebraska [the first song and title track] because Atlantic City is such a banger, but I finally listened to Nebraska with headphones and the lyrics were clearer and the song is just about a guy and his girl killing ten people and getting the chair. I just thought it would be pretty cool to draw a guy sitting on an electric chair with his girl sitting on his lap. I was drawing so much after work and I just needed more briefs, so I was like oh, I’ll try to Atlantic City next week and then after I’d done three songs, I was like, well I have to do the whole record now and then they just sat for ages…

It became a ritual…

Every week, yeah. Instead of listening to the album, I would just listen to the one song I had to do that week, all week, to really try and close my eyes and think what the snapshot would be.

What was that process? Did you find yourself gravitating towards types of imagery or certain phrases?

Yeah, certain phrases…

Was there a consistency across the phrasing that you were picking out of each song? It seems to me a pretty cohesive album…

I think probably being a New Zealander and listening to songs written by a Jersey boy recorded on tape or whatever, lots of things in my head kind of had that Sopranos or old American movie type stuff. For Mansion on the Hill, I just had this big American, gothic-like Addams Family mansion…

There is some really memorable imagery throughout the album, like in Atlantic City: “Well, they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night…”

So good. There’s a really good newspaper photo of the Chicken Man’s house, his front door is like Ground Zero, like there’s just weather boards everywhere. Originally, I thought the Chicken Man was a go-to fried chicken spot and they blew it up because it had been abandoned or fallen apart, like the Santa Monica pier where the Z Boys surfed, which had fallen into such disrepair the Fire Department never showed up. I was like oh, the Chicken Man must be a restaurant, and then I read about the crime families and stuff, and it’s actually a guy…

Were you doing research to inform the imagery as well, or were you wanting a more pure response to the lyrics?

I think with the tattoo style and so much being reference based, I was trying to find actual references to draw on and still trying to capture the imagery from the song. The drawing I did for Johnny 99, I found a shot from a hostage scene in a movie, but then I had to draw one of them as Johnny 99, and one of them is a gas station attendant, so I had to research clothing a gas station attendant would have worn in America in the 50s or whatever, and try and make it look a little bit old school. So that was fun, having the image in your head and trying to draw it and portray it as more than a feeling because at the end of the day, it isn’t actually an image, it’s just an overall vibe that you’ve got in your mind…

Did you revisit any over time?

They were drawn and that was it. I think too, because the idea was to do one a week, and because I’m always trying to find shortcuts, one of the songs I didn’t initially rate that much, like My Father’s House, I would have been quite happy to skip it and just do it at the end, but I just knew if I did all of them and left that one until the end, I would have just skipped it and never done it. As a result, having to listen to My Father’s House for a whole week, by the end, I was like, this is such a great song…

So, when you were originally drawing them, were you drawing them as tattoo flash?

Yeah, the expectation was just that people would get them tattooed. People responded to them really well, but no one actually got them tattooed. I drew them ages ago, so I thought I will see what happens, if I tattoo them or not. But then a couple of years ago I was like, I need to do a zine and an exhibition. The space at the shop [Absolution] was already booked out for like a year, but I saw that the 40th anniversary of the album was coming up in two years’ time so, I thought, two years is ages away but it would work. It flew by because of Covid, so I was like oh shit, two years already! Time to do the show…

It feels like a traditional tattoo style is a really good fit with the album. I know the most immediate association is the black and white album cover image, but if you were to turn Nebraska into an art style, I kind of think it would be black and white photography and traditional tattoo flash…

At the time, my main medium was a Sharpie pen and black colouring pencil. It still is now, but instead of using a Sharpie I use a point 6 Artliner, so it’s just a little bit smaller. But the thing I love about a Sharpie, especially for text, is that if you make the text too small, things like a lowercase E, get the bleed in the eye of the E and it becomes solid, it’s the same as if you were using a typewriter and the ink was too runny, all those things close up. In traditional tattooing, because the lines are so bold, if you do them too small the lines go close together, so all the designs have to be very contrasting to the skin that you don’t tattoo, so all the lines have to be far apart. So, for instance, if you are tattooing a hand, you don’t bother doing all four fingers because you know it will just blow out and become black, so you imply the form. On Nebraska because a lot of the songs are demos, a lot of the details are implied; the harmonica solos, and you know when he does those high pitch screams, I feel like a lot of those are his way of saying this is where the sax solo would go… Because it’s just a tape recording, there’s no thought put into it. I will play four bars, and I will whistle, or I’ll play harmonica, and in the studio we can decide whether it’s going to be sax or synth. That’s kind of the beauty, because its good enough. People will be led to believe it’s a conscious decision and it’s the same with tattooing with a really big needle, you are kind of governed by how much freedom you have, so the decision you make is that less is more, I guess. You can sort of imply something in same the way you would imply a sax solo by just humming, and people will go I love how you are humming that bit and you go, I didn’t know what else to do…

When you look at the works now and when you think about displaying them, does it make you more aware of the album’s narrative?

I think what hammered that home was the introduction I wrote for the zine. I wrote it as a dedication to everyone who is described in the album; everyone who ever felt like going on a killing spree with their girlfriend, or wanted to live in the big mansion on the hill, or fell out with their parents and that sort of shit. The last song is Reason to Believe, so it comes around to a dedication to all these people who went through all this shit and somehow, even though you are at the end of your rope, there’s something to believe in that is bigger than we all are, and then the album just ends. So, there is that conscious story-telling that is so good, you can’t believe that the sequencing hasn’t had a heap of thought put into it, we’ll close it out with this song about faith, and he doesn’t even mention that it’s in God, he just mentions that there is something that makes you get out of bed each day…

That reason can be so many things; the person you wake up next to, the vision of that house you grew up in, everything that precedes that song can be one of those reasons to believe…

Like in Open All Night, I drew a nice car, but he talks about having this car up on blocks, working on it. It’s probably a shitter, but he loves it and that’s probably his reason to believe, this rad car…

Cars are such an important image in Springsteen’s songs…

Nebraska is about the first ever spree killer, the first person to kill in a car crossing state lines. In his autobiography, Springsteen talks about how his Nana or someone told him in an electrical storm you can’t get electrocuted in a car because of the rubber tyres, so in the book, he’s like, when I was a little kid whenever there was a lightning storm I would run out of the house right into the car, and then I proceeded to write songs about automobiles for the next 40 years of my life. His whole career comes back to this story of cars being like a saviour…

So, what do people need to know about the show?

It opens at Absolution on Friday the 30th of September, which is also the 40th anniversary of Nebraska, technically it would be Saturday, Friday in America, but yeah, it starts at 6pm. I’m thinking I might give away a prize for the best Springsteen outfit, but I’m going to try and encourage people to think outside the box and not dress like Born in the USA Springsteen, which I think is the whole point, educating people that there is a Springsteen behind the Boss. Like Dan said, forget everything you know about Springsteen, this is the record. If you don’t like Springsteen yet, hopefully this one is the one…

I’m not sure how I’m going to lay it out yet. It’s rare to not see a tattoo artist use an iPad now, even I use an iPad, but back in the day, you used to do everything on tracing paper first, then you would do a nice one on paper. I’ve still got the tracing paper drawings from these works, so I’m thinking, because Nebraska was a demo album, I might hang all the final artworks and then around the corner I might hang all the tracing paper works and the lino cuts and all that sort of stuff. I was thinking I might use a string line to line everything up but I might leave it up, highlighting that Nebraska was a working idea that wasn’t supposed to be finalised and left like that…

What’s the one line from Nebraska that you think best sums it up?

I probably change my mind every day when I listen to it, but right now it’s probably in Reason to Believe:

Take a baby to the river, Kyle William they called him

Wash the baby in the water, take away little Kyle’s sin

In a whitewash shotgun shack an old man passes away

Take his body to the graveyard and over him they pray

It all happens in the same breath of air, someone’s in, someone’s out. We are all just doing it. Reason to Believe is probably my favourite song on the album, as much as I love Atlantic City, but Reason to Believe is so good, there’s the line about the girl waiting for Johnny to come back, there’s the wedding, the preacher standing with the bible but the bride didn’t show and the congregation’s gone home. It’s a tough one, actually maybe it’s the opening line:

Seen a man standin’ over a dead dog lyin’ by a highway in a ditch

He’s lookin’ down kinda puzzled, pokin’ that dog with a stick

Got his car doors flung open he’s standin’ out on Highway thirty-one

Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run

It’s a vivid image, right?

It’s such a wicked lyric, like did he see that or just make it up? I like the idea of someone just standing there being like, c’mon, get up man, this can’t be it… It might come back to the death of the American dream, poking it with a stick is not going to get it going again, you just have to get back in your car and keep driving.

But it’s the reason to believe, it might not get up and run, but you can hold onto something, hope is always there…

Or you could be the dog, hoping someone might poke you and not just keep speeding past…

Tom Kerr’s Nebraska opens at Absolution Tattoo and Body Piercing, 6pm, Friday 30th September, 2022.

Follow Tom on Instagram

And That Was… August 2022

I am actually skeptical August even happened. I have the most fleeting recollections of some days that purported to be in August, but I have no certainty, such was the speed with which it passed. On the bright side of this hurtling stream of months is, of course, the impending arrival of weather conducive to art making outdoors – longer days, warmer nights and a bigger audience… But before we get to all that, let’s use all of our available resources to paint a picture of what happened in the mysterious month of August…

Jay Hutchinson @ Fiksate

We have been fans of Ōtepoti artist jay Hutchinson’s work for a while, so it was brilliant to come face to face with his hand-embroidered refuse in our favourite gallery. From a discarded Subway napkin to a greasy KFC chip box (both presented on chunks of asphalt), the jarring juxtaposition of delicate beauty and overlooked mundanity striking and alluring.

Seaside Session

It’s always great to to see familiar spaces get a spruce up and in mid-August, a popular New Brighton spot was the site of a communal re-paint, featuring a range of contributions, including Burga, Peaz, Tepid, Nemo and teethlikescrewdrivers. This evolving space is always good for a gander, full of intentional and accidental collaborations…

IRONS X Yikes (Kind Of…)

Yikes’ startled character, seemingly locked between brick pillars on Manchester Street has been a favourite for years, but a recent addition by IRONS highlighted the way pieces can become a harmonious pairing. IRONS’ painting above Yikes’ work feels entirely organic due to the green background echoing the older piece, a perfect understanding of how to seamlessly fit in…

Ikarus X YSEK

If the Yikes and IRONS juxtaposition was more a response from the latter, Ikarus and YSEK’s Sydenham collaboration was much more planned, a combination of each artists’ iconic style – the unmistakable letter forms of Ikarus and YSEK’s signature animal characters, in this case a blue-skinned lizard, all tied together with a sewer background and unified colour scheme. Chef’s kiss.

Black Panther 2 Trailer

OK, so technically it was released in July, but let’s just say I only saw it in August. The trailer for Black Panther 2 is pretty epic, adding new elements to the story and hinting at the handling of the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. Technically it isn’t urban art related, but as someone suggested, the mural of T’Challa spotted in the trailer looks like a Retna and El Mac collaboration, which is good enough for me!

What were your highlights in August? Let us know!

Auspicious Victory – Hostile Body @ XCHC

I became aware of Hostile Body, an exhibition of digital art produced under the identity of Auspicious Victory, through somewhat cryptic social media buzz. I had recently been grappling with the rising profile of digital art through the lens of crypto currency, skeptical of the way digital art was being represented as PFPs and 8-Bit illustrations. But Hostile Body was presenting a much more considered, conceptual and interesting approach, layered in intense visuals and tied to reality in haunting way, it suggested the best of digital practice. With the exhibition opening approaching, I was fortunate enough to talk to Auspicious Victory and find out more about the concept…

How would you describe Auspicious Victory – is it an identity, an alias, is it something more conceptual? How has Auspicious Victory evolved over time?

Gender neutral and identity fluid (they/them), Auspicious Victory can be anyone or no-one. Auspicious Victory comes from Amarapura “The house of the immortals” and preaches simulation theory as fact. Part designer, marketer, performance artist, techno prophet, visual artist, and activist all in one. Auspicious Victory’s true identity is irrelevant as they will tell you. Auspicious Victory will eventually be “guided” by a collective of individuals who wish to support their cause, this format is a DAO, a De-centralised Autonomous Organisation, breaking new ground, with the crypto world coming together with the art world to create the first de-centralised artist.

Hostile Body is described as a “multi-sensory” exhibition of various digital mediums, how long has Auspicious Victory been exploring digital art and what approaches are most interesting to them?

Auspicious Victory in this simulation was given their first PC in 1983. They learned to code in BASIC, their first program was an animation and they have created digital art ever since. In the exhibition, there is a piece of artwork created in 1999 that has never been seen before. 

Auspicious Victory responds to stimuli of all kinds and likes to collaborate with other artists. Working this way brings new perspectives and builds community along the way. The approach they are currently taking is to de-centralise as much as possible.

Deep State IX 2 E, 2021, stretched canvas, 1200mm x 1700mm

The rising profile of digital art has been tied to the cryptocurrency movement, but that unfairly obscures the longer histories of digital creativity, what does Auspicious Victory see as the biggest benefits of digital art making?

Yes, crypto is responsible for a lot of things but digital art is not one of them. Digital art was made before Auspicious Victory even entered this simulation. Digital art is anything shown on a digital screen. It’s that simple. Whatever screen you are looking at, a media professional or artist created it. There is so much media to choose from at present that we don’t even notice art when we see it.

Wow, the benefits… there are so many, where do you start? The benefits for oneself are instant gratification but this can also become a distraction. Digital art is easily shared and can be much more affordable than traditional fine art. Also you can weave deep messages and interactive experiences into digital art. You can express yourself in ways previously unimaginable. It’s corny but true, with digital art the only limit is your imagination. Digital tools are much more accessible, soon to be a commodity/service and allow anyone using a digital device with a screen to make art. 

Hostile Body presents the experiences and extremes of chronic and mental illness, has it been conceived as a very personal story or a more universal exploration? What threads have come out most clearly and how have they been explored through the digital mediums deployed? 

Auspicious Victory’s experience in this simulation is not exclusively unique. The themes are universal. Auspicious Victory encountered trauma on their journey, from this they sensed emotional and mental injuries, the data could be called pain.

In many of the pieces, the floating objects represent an aspect of an extreme emotional state, both low and high. These floating objects are held in stasis effectively freezing the emotion in time to observe and interpret.

The mood is largely determined by the colour palette; sometimes warm, bright and vivid colours suggest the high of a hypo-manic episode and conversely the darker more turbulent palettes allude to darker states.

The abundance of colour and texture in these works are a facsimile for mental over-stimulation. 

The landscape quietly or violently makes its presence felt in the background, reminding the viewer and the artist that storms are always brewing. But as all things, these too shall pass.

Deep State VIII U, 2021, stretched canvas, 1200mm x 1500mm

The exhibition is to be staged at the XCHC, how much of a challenge was ensuring the venue could successfully host the range of art? How vital was it that the venue was right?

No challenge at all. Auspicious Victory is not alone, there is a team of believers investing their time into similar projects and crossing paths with those talented people has been serendipitous and has led to creative and practical solutions. Auspicious Victory is grateful and acknowledges those who have gracefully stepped into the fray.

The venue is essential as most galleries wouldn’t do what Auspicious Victory want’s to do. XCHC is the perfect venue for this show. It’s a flexible white box. It’s intimate. It’s authentic and connected to a vibrant creative community. And its not afraid to try something new.

 Hostile Body opens 9th September 2022 at The XCHC, 376 Wilsons Road. Details and limited tickets are available here: https://events.humanitix.com/hostile-body-exhibition?accesscode=IBELIEVE

For more information about Hostile Body, visit the exhibition website: www.hostilebody.art

Showtime!

Vacation from Reality – Pener, Fiksate Gallery, 15th July, 2022

Polish artist Pener’s mid-Winter residency at Fiksate culminated with a stunning show at the Sydenham Gallery. Despite the cold and wet weather, Vacation from Reality was irresistable, with the artist’s striking abstract paintings spilling subtly onto the walls behind, extending the impact of the bold lines, colours and forms. The combination of bright and muted colours, along with the dynamic compositions wowed the crowd, who were treated to the sublime work of an international visitor with a refined practice…

Do you have a show coming up? Let us know at hello@watchthisspace.org.nz!

Tune! with Jessie Rawcliffe

Jessie Rawcliffe is our next contributor to Tune! our ever-growing playlist of the music that inspires our favourite creatives. Jessie has built a reputation for her stunning works, often portrait-based, and constructed with intricate, painstaking detail. Her painting of Pōneke based tattooist and artist Richard Warnock is a finalist in The 2022 Adam Portraiture Award, a biennial competition and exhibition held at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Wellington. The Adam Portraiture Award is considered Aotearoa’s most prestigious painted portrait award. The first time she has been selected for the exhibition, Jessie’s painting is one of 45 works on public display from 26 May to 14 August.

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Music has been an ever present part of my life – it’s affected the people and aesthetics I’ve been exposed to and has been a way of connecting with others. It’s fair to say that it’s influenced what and how I make.

There’s plenty of music I love that won’t get played while I paint. I’m looking to get into a dissociative state. Having to change album is a massive buzz kill and I’m haunted by that stupid sound my UE Boom makes when it turns itself off.

As problematic as Spotify is, I heavily rely on autoplay from the first thing I pick to give me a few hours of agreeable background noise. I’m only partially listening.

Each of these artists lead in a direction I like going.

MF DOOM – A.T.H.F (Aqua Teen Hunger Force)

Minor Threat – Betray

Idles – Colossus

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) 

[Video contains mature content]

Night Lunch – Haunted Mill

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Follow Jessie on Instagram and check out our expanding playlist in our other editions of Tune! right here on our blog…

Tune! – with Dr Suits

Next up on Tune!, our ever-expanding playlist of the music that inspires our creative friends, is Dr Suits. If Dr Suits is painting in his studio space at Fiksate, chances are there is a classic Reggae, Ska, Dub or Rocksteady vinyl playing. With an impressive collection of vintage and re-released vinyl (trips to Ride On Super Sound are a common occurrence), the music is a strong influence on his creative process, setting the mood for for his work and manifesting in various ways. For Tune! Dr Suits takes us on a trip through these vital and influential genres…

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Music is a fairly important part of my creative process. I use music to help me get in a calm and consistent frame of mind. To do this, I like to play vinyl, predominantly Dub, Rocksteady, Ska and Reggae. The older the better. What I like about this music is its experimental and honest imperfections you can hear in the music. The artists are more about exploring a concept rather than trying to perfect a composition. Plus I generally love any old Jamaican music!

Playing vinyl means I’m engaged in the act of listening, its much more tactile. I like the physicality of flicking through the crate and experiencing the artwork, opening the cover, admiring the details on the insides and the sleeves. Each record will have 4-6 tracks on one side, this means every 20-30 mins of listening, in no time, I’m back there exploring the music again. So, although I like the tunes, I also love the vintage graphics, photography and bizarre outfits of early avant-garde experimentalists of Jamaica.

It’s hard to pick 5 albums, so I’m going to aim to cover the genres listed above…

Jackie Mittoo –  The Keyboard King

The Skatalites – African Roots

Lee Scratch Perry – Cloak and Dagger

Studio one – Rocksteady Got Soul

Trojan Records – Rudeboy Rumble

Tune! is an ever-growing playlist of music that inspires our artist friends!

Tune! with Josh Bradshaw

The latest contributor to our expanding creative playlist is Josh Bradshaw. Josh’s list is a reflection of his evolution over the last two years, where his shift from a certain artistic persona and style represents his desire to make work more honest and true to himself. His latest body of work is defined with an anarchic quality that investigates materials and methods of acquisition and draws a fine line between urban decay and beauty. In that regard, his selections for Tune! are raw and aggressive – classic punk and hardcore, from Minor Threat to Descendents, reminders to not pander to a market, but to disrupt and keep pushing…

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For the last few years I’ve found myself witnessing an uprising of particularly flimsy shit being made for the sake of nothing except maybe looking ‘trendy’ or ‘urban’ for all the Merivale Mum’s who might happen to flick past your sweet new artist profile double page spread in NZ House & Garden Magazine. I can’t sit here and claim I’ve never been a part of the problem however, I’ve made more than my fair share of sellable crap for the masses. Nowadays when I’m producing new work, I have to listen to music that is going to keep me honest and not settle for making mediocre shit for no reason. I have to listen to music made by more important people that actually have something to say from a more important time than myself and the lame filtered positivity Instagram era that we are all currently living in. Here’s a few favourite albums and discographies I listen to whilst working because who the fuck has time to curate a playlist or change a song every 2 minutes. Keep it aggressive not flimsy.

Dead Kennedys – Kill The Poor

Minor Threat

Bad Brains – Bad Brains

Descendents – Milo Goes to College

Tune! is an ever-growing playlist of music that inspires our artist friends!

Tune! with Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch

In this issue of Tune! artist and designer Kophie Su’a-Hulsbosch shares the music that matters to her. For the founder of Future Apparel and member of the Conscious Club, music is a vital component of her creative process, with hip hop a driving force in her thinking and making. From shooting and editing music videos with her partner Local Elements, to designing posters and album covers for local and international acts, Kophie’s art is deeply entwined with music, while her love of hip hop also reflects her social activism…

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My name is Kophie and I am a freelancer artist/designer among other things. I have been drawing since I was young, and growing up in Wanaka, I was influenced by the skate and snow culture. Moving to Christchurch at the age of 10, I went from a small country town to an urban environment, I became obsessed with graffiti and it’s been a journey ever since. I used to love walking around the city and the tracks before the earthquakes, looking at all the newest pieces. Then the explosion of graffiti post-earthquake was cool to witness. My style is primarily influenced by hip hop (including graffiti), politics, street subcultures and lowbrow art. I have had a lot of art stolen, so I think I make art for broke people like me!

Music certainly influences my work, I listen to many genres but my primary influence is hip hop. Nothing touches my soul like hip hop, especially the power that lyrics can have. There are so many sub-genres within hip hop which I think is evident in the songs I have chosen, but I absolutely hate trap! I listen to most of these songs while I am working or creating depending on my mood or what tasks I have…

Songs: Verbz & Mr Slipz – Hope Feat. Nelson Dialect and Ocean Wisdom – Voices in my Head

I love UK hip hop and the movement over there is HUGE. I have been lucky to design single cover art with some big names in UK hip hop through an awesome producer over there called Planky. My favourite UK record label is High Focus, they are releasing the best artists. These two songs are artists from High Focus.

The Verbz & Mr Slipz track is my new favourite tune, and the Ocean Wisdom song is an old fave, it a track that is a bit more real and emotional.

Album: Choicevaughan and Tom Scott – Deuce 

Tom Scott from Homebrew is probably my fave musician of all time and I have been listening to his music since high school so its had a massive influence on my life, he tends to talk about real-life New Zealand problems and politics. This album is a newer collab with Choicevaughan, a New Zealand producer featuring many other local musicians. It’s a pretty upbeat album and I listen to this on the weekly. My other favourite song from Tom Scott is Home, which gives me goosebumps or makes me cry every time I listen to it!

Song: Eno x Dirty – GETURSELF2GETHA

Eno x Dirty is real representation of New Zealand hip hop and I love the incorporation of Te Reo in the lyrics. I especially love the track GETURSELF2GETHA talking on all the bullshit conspiracies going around and the rise of fake news, the decline of critical thinking and the increasing division on social media.

Mix: Don’t Sleep Records

I love Don’t Sleep Records and I listen to this mix of boom bap and jazz hip hop all the time while I am working. It was recommended to me by my good friend Lucia. The samples used throughout this mix are about not sleeping, which I strongly relate to!

Song: Stephen Marley x Mos Def – Hey Baby

This one is a classic! It was released in 2007, but I love Mos Def/Yasiin Bey so much and his verse gives me goosebumps. I could listen to this song all day! I put this on when I want to be inspired…

Radio: Lo-fi – STEEZYASFUCK

This is my favourite lo-fi radio to put on when I really need to concentrate or do a lot or writing or research.

Song: Local Elements – Nine to Five

I have to slip in this upbeat track by my partner Local Elements – it is some awesome Christchurch hip hop!

Follow Kophie on Instagram and Facebook for more of her work…

Check out the other issues of Tune! to build an ongoing playlist!

Tune! with Teeth Like Screwdrivers

Welcome to the second issue of Tune! This time we got pencil-slinger Teeth Like Screwdrivers to name some key tracks that form a soundtrack to his creative endeavours. As host of his own radio show he was a natural choice, and his selections reveal his background going to school in Liverpool and his love of indie music…

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I am a huge fan of music, but I can’t make it for shit. I host a radio show on Rotten Radio in Lyttelton, Quality Time with Nat, and I get to play music that I like, which is fun. I went to university in Liverpool, so I have been an indie kid all my life but I will always have a place in my heart for soundscape stuff as well. Choosing eight songs or albums has been the hardest thing ever. Here’s what my music tastes are like at this moment. It will be different next week. Listen to Quality Time to see what it is I guess!

Album: Young Team – Mogwai 

One of my favourite bands from my favourite record labels making their very best. I saw Mogwai play live in 1998 and I am still recovering. Yes! I am a long way from home is one of the greatest opening tracks of all time and Mogwai Fear Satan is one of the greatest closers.

Song: Creep 2021 – Thom Yorke ft. Radiohead

I have the original on 7-inch that I got from Probe Records in Liverpool when it was released in 1992. Thom Yorke has completely messed with the whole song and it has the most amazing noise kick a minute or so into it. Shivers.

Song: Where is my mind? – Tkay Maidza

I found this via a cover of a Deerhunter song by Lyttelton’s Aldous Harding that was on a 4ad compilation – one of the great labels (The Breeders, Throwing Muses, Big Thief, The National etc.). Everything about this is wrong – but it just works amazingly well.

Song: Sparrow – Woodpecker Wooliams

I think I saw this on a snowboard video. Woodpecker Wooliams are one of my ‘gutted to have missed’ bands as they had broken up a few months before I heard this for the first time. If I’m ever needing a pep talk, this is it.

Song: Hobo Johnson – Sorry, My Dear

I have loved Frank and the stuff he puts out since seeing his Tiny Desk video a few years back. This song from an awesome album actually makes me shout out loud and almost brings me to tears every time.

Album: Cocoa Sugar – Young Fathers

Just a phenomenal album from start to finish. Lord and Toy are the standouts.

Song: East Hastings – Godspeed You! Black Emperor

From one of the greatest albums of all time – F♯A♯∞. Nothing, nothing prepares you for Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This 16 minute track is one of their finest and is one of my most heavily played.

Album: All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend- Aurora

I found Aurora while trawling Bandcamp (for Norwegian music – don’t ask, but do go and look for Kælan Mikla) years ago. At that point she had only brought out one or two songs but there were some amazing live performances online. There was also a documentary online about her life. I downloaded the album then bought the vinyl. Six years later she has ‘arrived’ and now sings on Disney movies and her songs are used on TikTok. Regardless, she still makes absolutely astonishing music. Her first album stands out for me. She wrote Runaway when she was 11! FFS.

Song: Arab Strap – Here Comes Comus!

Arab Strap have been one of my favourite bands and one that has shaped me the most throughout my life. Aidan Moffat is arguably one of the darkest, most gifted story weavers writing music. After more than fifteen years, they are back with a truly astonishing album. I saw them  heaps, mostly in Liverpool (supporting another favourite of mine, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, as well as Mogwai, at the legendary Krazy House), in Portsmouth (a shambolic, drunken show), at various festivals and on their Farewell Tour. I own every record they have put out on Chemikal Underground. The Week Never Starts Round Here is still one of my top albums of all time, but the new one, As Days Get Dark, is also a masterpiece, it’s Arab Strap at their finest.

Follow Teeth Like Screwdrivers on Instagram and listen to Quality Time with Nat on Rotten Radio…

Stay TUNEd for the next installment of Tune!

 

Jacob Yikes – Angels, Aliens and Archetypes @ Chambers Gallery

With 2020 proving completely unpredictable, it seems like forever has passed since I sat down with Jacob Yikes to talk about a show he had in the works for 2020. At that time, we were completely unaware of the challenges the year would bring. However, now, finally and with just weeks remaining of 2020, Yikes’ latest body of work goes on display at Chambers Gallery. Angels, Aliens and Archetypes opens on Tuesday December 8th and runs until December 24th. The small collection of work is both a extension and departure from Yikes’ previous output, continuing the exploration of altered states and other spaces, while expanding his material approach and stylistic detail. As Yikes continues to grow and his work becomes increasingly layered and sophisticated, Angels, Aliens and Archetypes is another progression for one of Christchurch’s most distinctive talents.

Angels, Aliens and Archetypes opens 5pm, Tuesday December 8th at Chambers Gallery, 241 Moorhouse Avenue.

Alongside Angels, Aliens and Archetypes is also a presentation of work by Ben Reid.