I was first introduced to the Portland-based label Dropping Gems two years ago when they released their first compilation, Gem Drops. I was shocked. Here was a labor of love, done by friends for friends, with incredible beats and songs, and all the revenue went to the American Cancer Society. I stayed fresh and young, I got down with some kale jams (seriously), and I loved it so much I even featured a track on my Redford Rise mixtape, for all of you to enjoy.
Gem Drops Two followed the next year with the same inspired blend of tracks. Anything from synth pop, hip hop beats, ambient, drone… it was there. This was music to fall in love to, to get lost in a forest with, to make you dance in the sunshine. Once again, the proceeds went to cancer. Once again, I was smitten with the music.
Gem Drops Three came out yesterday. Many of the same things are there, but after several years, the sound is more refined. This is a labor of love. So through some help by friends of friends, I got a chance to ask label founder and Portland native Aaron Meola how he does it. And in the loving tradition of The Fox Is Black interviews, I asked him five questions about music, love, and passion.
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Came across this interview by Edan Corkill with Shigeru Ban in which they discuss his growing up, his education at Cooper Union, and his love of paper tubes. Before this article I honestly had no idea that cardboard could be so damn durable. You can read more about his practical uses of paper tubes on his Wikipedia page.
My favorite part of this piece though is at the end when Shigeru explains what’s important to him in regards to architecture.
What’s the most important thing when making architecture?
Even something that I intended as a temporary structure, like a paper church I made in Kobe in 1995, can end up being permanent. That church was relocated to Taiwan in 2006, after they had an earthquake there, and it still exists today. Ultimately, what determines the permanence of a building is not the wealth of the developer or the materials that are used, but the simple question of whether or not the resulting structure is supported — loved — by the people.
Architecture made simply for profit — even if it’s in concrete — is in fact temporary. Commercial architecture is precisely that. If it is made for making money then eventually some other developer will come along and try to make more money out of it by demolishing it and rebuilding it. And it just repeats. In that way concrete is in fact temporary.
However, if you make architecture that is loved by the people, then regardless of what it is made of, it will be kept.
Found through Spoon & Tamago
Louis C.K. painting by Cara & Louie
I’ve been seeing a lot of folks suggesting I read this interview with Louis C.K. by Dave Itzkoff from the New York Times so I figured it must be pretty good. I’m not a huge Louis C.K. fan, nothing against him, but I’ve always admired for calling out that everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy. Overall it’s a good read though it may not shed a lot of new lot on C.K. for those who are fans. But I did find a lot of wisdom in this part of the interview, which is true of any profession, including design.
Does it matter that what you’ve achieved, with your online special and your tour can’t be replicated by other performers who don’t have the visibility or fan base that you do?
Why do you think those people don’t have the same resources that I have, the same visibility or relationship? What’s different between me and them?
You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.
So why do I have the platform and the recognition?
At this point you’ve put in the time.
There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.
Odd pairings are always interesting. Earlier today Alec Bladwin released a new episode of his podcast Here’s The Thing featuring Radiohead and Atoms For Peace frontman Thom Yorke. To me, it sounds like an incredibly odd pairing, the movie star and the rock star, trading stories and getting deep. But the end result is actually quite interesting to listen to. Baldwin is a fantastic host who can masterfully guide the conversation to get such wonderful answers out of Yorke, while Yorke actually turns out to be a delightful, chatty guest. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of either of these guys.
Found through The Scout – Thom Yorke photo by Phil Fisk
Last month Nobrow Press launched an exciting new children’s book imprint called Flying Eye Books. Over the last 4 years Nobrow have been producing some really incredible books and comics and it’s exciting to see that they’re now bringing their talents to the world of children’s books. Focusing solely on publications for kids aged 4 to 11, the new imprint isn’t just exciting news for Nobrow fans, it’s exciting news for kids everywhere!
Over the course of the next year they aim to release 12 new titles, ranging from picture books and comic books, to fiction and non-fiction. Some are generated in-house while others are translated versions of handpicked French and German titles. Looking at their upcoming releases it’s clear to see that these new books will be just as good as their parent publisher’s output.
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I always thought it would be cool to do interviews on The Fox Is Black. I’ve made some pretty cool friends over the years so it makes a lot of sense. But then these two midwest folks, Ryan and Tina Essmaker, decided to move to New York and start a site called The Great Discontent which is essentially everything I wanted to do only a hundred times better. TGD has taken the idea of an interview and turned it into a an art form, mixing words and imagery seamlessly.
Earlier this morning the interview I did with them went live and I can honestly say I’m so honored to be part of what they’re doing. In it I describe my process of being some kid from the suburbs that really had no idea what he wanted to do in life (other than “make art”) to running The Fox Is Black and having a full time job as an art director at Disney Interactive. It’s also about being passionate in your work and life, and that the only way you’ll succeed is if you put a lot of hard work into the things your most passionate about. Anyhow, hopefully you get something inspiring from the interview, I had a lot of fun talking with Tina and Ryan, they’re great folks.
You can read the interview by clicking here.
Over on The Great Discontent they have a really great interview with Jon Contino, the Brooklyn based artist and designer. I’ve worked with Jon on a bunch of projects for the site and it feels like I know him, but it’s great to be able to read about his life, how he got to where he is and his passions. This is my favorite question from the interview.
Are you satisfied creatively?
No. Definitely not. There’s no way it’ll ever happen. I get to do stuff that I enjoy, but there are so many things I could be doing that I either don’t have the time for or don’t yet have the skills for. I am satisfied to the extent that I’m in a position where I get to decide what I want to do. Years ago, I didn’t have that luxury. In that sense, I’m happy, but there are still people who don’t know my name, companies I haven’t worked for, and things I haven’t done yet. I think that if you’re an artist and you’re satisfied, then you’re a failure—honestly. There’s more out there than you could ever imagine. If you’re satisfied, you’re done being an artist.
Starting September 6 Stephen Powers will have a brand new show at the Joshua Liner Gallery, featuring a gallery of enamel on aluminum works which look really amazing. In conjunction, i-D magazine interviewed Stephen about the show, his thoughts on street art today, and the slow rise of the sign painter.
In your ESPO days you targeted shops that appeared to be out of business and grates that were already heavily vandalised and described it as a public service, do you feel your work still acts in this way?
I like going where the blight is, wherever it is. That’s been a constant since 1984. I like making a place better with my markings. Sometimes all you need to improve a situation is a can of flat black spray paint.