In our latest Art of Sound episode, where we list our favourite albums and EPs based on music and art work, we showcased Chris Carrier’s True Step Locomotion. Intrigued by who was behind the amazing artwork, we scouted out artist Allan René to give us the low down on how he transforms a painting into a record sleeve. Part of the SlapFunk “crew”, Allan designed cover art, a flyer and stage background for the record label and its events. SlapFunk is a record label seriously worth noting with exciting releases from artists such as Larry De Kat, Malin Genie and Chris Carrier. Both SlapFunk and Allan are based in Utrecht, where they originally met and embarked on their artistic careers. While the guys over at SlapFunk started their musical escapades, Allan worked on his art. He holds a strong DIY ethos and is not afraid to show it with his “Fuck Your Gallery”, a type of bandcamp for art initiative, where works are sold directly to buyers without relying on intermediaries like galleries (as the name blatantly suggests). He has also opened his own clothing label, Bangladash, with its famous tag line, “Stay Humble, Smoke Loud”. Find out more about this talented and outspoken individual in our following interview…
Can you give me some background information about yourself? Where are you originally from? You look like you could be mixed, and some of your paintings have an Asian theme to it (i.e. Muy Thai, Noodles, chinese characters, BangladAsh).
I’m born and raised in Utrecht, the Netherlands. My dad is Dutch, but my mom is from the Philippines. So yeah I’m double blooded.
Maybe not always intentionally but still I find it important to counter the lack of Asian influences in western Pop culture. I think Asian or eastern culture is underrepresented in western pop culture, so I’m doing my part to shine (a little) more light on it. Although everything I make is in a way a reflection of myself. Logically you will find a lot of Asian influences because that’s a big part of me.
Your art could be seen as quite controversial. Do you take influences from graffiti art?
Yes I do, but not really. I find most graffiti not that controversial. I’m more influenced by street art, but if that’s considered graffiti than yeah you’re right. Although I like Fuck the gallery’s type of attitude: We don’t need a gallery or museum to express ourselves to the world.
What influences your art?
My biggest influence is mainly pop culture. Music, movies, fashion and the culture around it. Also classics are always a big influence. I always seem to be looking for some classic shit to insert into my artworks. Shit that’s recognized by certain people and makes them feel a type of way.
The theme of music is very present in your artwork. How important is music for your work and yourself?
Music is life right.. I mean everything in this universe is a frequency. So yeah for me music is very important. I always play music when I paint and of course I enjoy going out, festivals and all that. Music inspires, gets people together, relaxes the mind, gives people a voice. It’s life.
What makes you attracted to hip hop music? Is it the lyrics?
I like hip hop because of the aggressiveness, the go getter mentality that goes with it. It can be very motivational for me. And I’m a fan of the culture and all the ridiculousness that comes with it.
I like the attitude that comes with listening to hip hop. I ride on my bike faster when I listen to hip hop, I train harder when I listen to hip hop.
How did you come to design and create the cover art work for SlapFunk?
Slapfunk are my homies. We all know each other for almost 15 years now. We all represent the same tribe from Utrecht so we’re basically all brothers. All those years while they were doing their music thing, I was trying to do my art thing. So eventually when it was time to get someone to do some art for their label, I guess it was a organic thing to ask me for some stuff.
Your personal pop art is somewhat different to the paintings you made for SlapFunk. Can you describe the main differences between this work and your personal work?
Everything I make for myself is meant for me to like and is a pure reflection of me and my choices. When I make something for Slapfunk it has to be a reflection of them, the artist, and myself as well. So it’s not just what I would like, but also what they would like to see in the artwork or concept. It makes it a little more difficult because ultimately my choices have more effect than on just myself. My own art I make for myself, I may not hang it in my house, but I paint like that’s the purpose. When I do a cover it’s meant to satisfy the label, the artist, the buyers and myself at the same time. So it’s kinda different, but that makes it cool to do.
You turn commercial objects into art by reproducing them on a painting, and you turn your paintings into commercial objects (records to sell) for SlapFunk. Was this intentional?
I’m intrigued by art that isn’t supposed to be art. So I like to make stuff that isn’t supposed to be a painted onto a canvas and hung on a wall. And I also like it the other way around, making a record cover as an actual painting that you can hang in your office. I guess I like the contrast. Or the unconventional approach to making stuff.
How do you come up with album cover designs for SlapFunk? What do you consider when designing a cover? Do you take into account the music? Do you collaborate with the artist?
It’s always a collaboration. Sometimes between the label and me and sometimes between the artist and myself. There’s always a lot of communication in the decision making of the actual concept. When the concept is clear on both ends, they’ll take their hands of the project and I get to do my thing and convert the concept into an painting and after that into an actual cover. I do that by just trying to find out what works for me along the way. Nobody knows what the cover is going to look like until it’s finished.
What techniques do you use when designing album covers?
I mostly paint on wood with acrylic paint, make pictures of the painting, and fine tune that image into the actual cover ready image with Photoshop and an online editing program I must keep for myself.
What design are you making for Anil Aras’ newest release, ‘Slapcity’?
I’m doing a portrait of him in front of the pride of Utrechts called: De Domtoren (The Domtower). He came to me with this idea and a couple examples of the style he was looking for. So the concept was already made up and I did the rest. It’s not my everyday style but that’s fun for me. Playing around with different styles. I’m still working on it but I will finish it soon. I guess the release will be out in a couple of months or so. So get excited for that one.
You have a clothing brand called “Bangladash”. Can you describe to me your brand’s concept? What do the Chinese characters mean? What does Bangladash Stay Chiefin mean? What is the smokers club?
With BANGLADASH I’m trying to build a brand that puts some positive energy into this world and represent a different kind of lifestyle. I guess if a bunch of hippies would make street wear, something like BANGLADASH would come out. All the designs have a deeper meaning and are meant to inspire, educate and effect people positively. We have a couple of design and this Stay Chiefin Smokersclub shirt is one of them.
With this particular tee we want to represent our smokers out there that smoke cannabis with a conscious mind, respect the herb and feel a deeper connection with this plant, beyond smoking just for a laugh.
The Chinese text says: 星星之火，可以燎原 (xīng xīng zhī huǒ, kě yǐ liáo yuán) – A single spark can start a prairie fire. It’s a famouse Chinese saying that fits the concept well. As like: ‘Stay Humble, Smoke Loud’, you might notice we appreciate ambiguous terms.
The Slapfunk boys always have been very supportive of me and the brand, wearing the tees while playing. So shout out to them. If you want to know more about the brand go to: www.banglada.sh.
Thank you for your answers, Allan! As part of our regular competition series, Allan and SlapFunk have kindly offered some great prizes for one lucky Meoko reader:
– A Bangladash T-shirt
– Tasty vinyls on SlapFunk records:
- Chris Carrier – True Step Locomotion
- Daniele Temperilli & Stooge Wilson – Splittang 1
– 2 Tickets to ADE ’14: VBX x SlapFunk x Natives presented by Meoko
To stand a chance to win, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with “SlapFunk & Allan” as the subject title. Good luck!
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