Solaris Interviews: Haniboi

I am always massivly inspired by creative people doing their thing. That’s why I loved living in London so much! 

Han Lee aka Haniboi always stuck out for me as he was very proficient translating his illustrations and ideas into fun products and prints. So it was really great catching up with him and gaining a little insight into his creative mind…

Hi Han! Please introduce yourself to the amazing readers of this blog… 

Hi amazing readers, my name is Haniboi, I’m an illustrator based in Taiwan! My main work is character design, and I recently created this new character called “Happy Crotch “.

The reason why I started this new character is very simple: I wanted to throw 3 of my favourite things ( drawing, music and sex ) into one pot and see what’s going to happen!

We know each other from our time at Central St Martins. What was the most important lesson you learned studying at such a well known university you think?

Don’t be afraid to try new things! With this attitude in mind I am always looking for new things to learn, and also to enjoy the progress doing it.

You were already using the name Haniboi when I met you, can you elaborate on how to got the name and what it means to you?

I am a childish guy and Han is a such short name! So my flatmate started to called me Haniboi. Personally I love the idea of staying a boy forever: Boys love to have fun, boys can play anywhere and boys are brave! Plus a boy has a simple mind which I really want to keep.

When we hung out in London you already started producing products alongside all the illustration work you did as well. The Haniboi Wallet Tape comes to mind. Was that your first official product?

I’ll say my first ‘official’ product was back when I was in high school and I started to make badges to sell. When I saw my friends loving and wearing my badges I fell in love with the idea of making my own things!

Can you tell us a bit about how you got your first products made?

The badges were an easy project even for a high school boy, I still remember I took my pencil sketch to the badge studio and look at them turned my work into computer. It was the coolest thing ever! I loved the clean line and color blocks! It still influences my style nowadays!

My first mass manufactured product was called Hanitape. It’s a cassette tape looking wallet. 

I started this as a project during my product design course at university. In that time I really wanted to figure out the whole process from designing a product to developing it and putting it on market. But no one could teach me that and college takes money and years to learn ‘design’! 

So I saved 1/4 of the college fee to use the money to made this product and see how long it takes to make this money back.

After that I just keep on learning and doing in the same time. It is not the best way of releasing a product because I made all the mistakes I could make! Lucky for me I had a good feedback from trade shows and order started to come in quickly.

It was a great experience and much cheaper than college!

I really liked the Rock Alphabet you did. Seems to me music has a big influence on your work…

“YES!!! Music is a huge influence” I have been saying it since… forever! At one point I was really tired of myself saying I love music so much without creating my own. It is like to say you love basketball but you never play ball and only watch the NBA on TV!

I really felt like something was missing. So, 2 years ago I started to make my own music. Today’s technology helps you making beats so easily and fast… I couldn’t find any excuse not doing it! 

  via Typefoundry
via Typefoundry

You have quite a couple of tracks now on your own Soundcloud account. Do you see your music as an extension of your design practise or is it an additional thing you do for fun?

At a moment it’s for fun and practice, because it takes time to learn. But I have this plan to make sex music for my character Happy Crotch! I’ll like to do an whole album full of sex tracks: From how you touch yourself to old school candle red wine strawberry sex etc.! To use music to tell that story would be a fun project, so just wait for it… 


We both graduated awhile ago. Any advice you want to give any budding illustrator out there who is just about to leave university?

I can’t give any advice sorry, everything is changing so fast! I don’t even think you should go to university to learn “design” now! To have a big number of followers of your work online is much more important than a diploma or C.V.

In fact… personally I always ask for advice from much younger people that I meet, so… need to pass!

You did quite a couple of screen prints which got sold via known galleries like Nelly Duff. Tell us a little bit about that.

I used to spend a lot of time in London Print Club to make my own prints when I living in London, I love the color in screen print! It suits my style very much. Nelly Duff is a great gallery, I had a nice time working with them.

I wish there would be a screen print studio in Taiwan too!

You moved back to Taiwan after working in London for some time. Was it hard to settle back in? I can imagine the design scene in Taiwan is quite different from London…

The hardest part is you understand them but you don’t agree with them! They like your idea but will not go for it. People are afraid of change, that’s what worries me!

Let’s talk a little bit about the UPUP app you developed. You ended up creating plastic character toys for that as well. Tell us a bit how it all happened.

Dude… it is a long story… here is a short version of it…

UPUP started as my own side project. I put the website online and after 2 days it went viral! After that I started to get a lot of interest for UPUP and we started to license the characters. There are so many stories in between, because the whole process took about 3 years!

You even collaborated with UNIQLO at that point. How do you manage a project once it goes this big? I assume there might have been a lot of legal stuff you needed to sort out?

In Taiwan is once your name is up their people would line up to work with you. The legal stuff is not the problem, my agent took care of it. The big problem is they always asking for the same thing! When working with big companies it’s hard to ask them to listen to you. There would be advertising and PR company in between, so is hard to communicate. I need more experience of working with big company for sure.

Your most recent project is HappyCrotch which is a cute character which is basically… a crotch! How the hell did you come up (no pun intended) with that one?

One thing I love about Happy Crotch is that the name sounds so wrong but yet so funny! 

The reason I created this character is very simple: my crotch isn’t happy! 

I didn’t have sex for a very long time and when I ask my friends for advice just found out that no one’s crotch is happy. We are all living in a fake world full of sexual content to excite our crotch but no one is truly happy with it! I found it very interesting because there can never be just one answer to this issue, because everyone has a different kind of ‘happy’. So Happy Crotch is my way of finding my own answer…

Did you get any flack for creating a toy that talks about masturbation and sexuality this openly?

Not yet… it is still a new character, people still don’t know about it. But I am looking forward to it! I like to hear about different points of view and see some angry people!

At a moment the work I do for Happy Crotch is still very safe, I need to spice it up more! Still working on it…

The packaging and the figures ( there are three colourways now ) look very slick. How did you get them produced?

I worked together with a HK figure studio called “Unbox “ and they are very professional.  Thanks to them my crotch came out very smooth and shiny!

Are you collecting toys? How do you feel about the current character design / urban vinyl scene?

In fact… I don’t collect anything at a moment. It takes too much time and money! I think we are in the best and the worst time of character design, or creation in general. Everyone has a social media account and can be an artist, this is the best thing ever! So many people are doing exciting works, and people can find them on their phone! However, we don’t get excited any more, we can find anything in no time! 

I remember when I was young and saw some new Japanese figures in the toy store: I needed to find out their story myself through hard work! I had to ask around friends, spend time to collect all the information and merchandise. Nowadays an artist has to put out works daily for people to like, it is totally another way around now! Things are very accessible.

I love both, it’s just up to you how you see the scene.

Most designers and illustrators dream about creating their own prints or toys. Is it hard to make your money back once the production cycle is done? Can you give some advice how to approach creating and selling your own products?

Oh, no… I can’t give advice again… but I’ll like to share a lesson I just learned: Spend times on the category you want to do before you started your own project!


If you want to make a toy, spend time on learning how to make it: Ask people who know, follow their fan page, like their photo, get to know more people who are in the scene. Go and meet them face to face! 

In the process you will learn new skills and be able to tell people what you working on. You will build up your own network! Not a media one, a real one with people who will sort things out for you and help you to spread the word! This way you are making friends, creating work and do marketing in the same time. It sounds easy to do, but it takes time! Years maybe, but it feels much more solid.

What can we expect from Haniboi in the future?

I am working on the first music video for Happy Crotch, it is coming soon! 

Any final words of wisdom?

Be honest with your crotch.



It ain’t easy being a DJ

Every since I went to a disco when I was 14 during a family holiday and thought “This music sucks, I could do this way better!” I have been hooked on being on the turntables and playing out.

Finding new awesome tracks, hearing your music over a club PA and seeing 300 people go ape on the dance floor to your music selection is just awesome. So awesome that I have been djing for over 25 years now! Damn I feel like an old fart. Anyway. Check out my mixes, ya welcome:

But with great power comes great responsibility and every art form has some rules and regulations. Either imposed by oneself or by the rest of Club Land: The promoters, fellow DJs and of cause, the punters dancing in front of the DJ booth.

Being the DJ can be the best feeling in the world, or the worst place to be in.

So let me talk about what being a good DJ means to me.  For me a good DJ only needs to do one thing well: Analyse the vibe of a crowd correctly and make people have a great time.

Sounds obvious, but the DJ and the crowd can really fall out over how this goal should be achieved best, and there has been a lot of frustration on both sides of the dance floor! DJs complain about people not being open minded enough to get into the groove and the crowd moaning about snobbish DJs who refuse to play the fun tunes!

I personally had people getting personally offended that I would not play their favourite Metal track… in a Funk Club… #facepalm

All this pain can easily be avoided with the right mind set on both sides of the equation.

To me the biggest aggravation happens when the DJ and the crowd BOTH misjudge what they signed up for and don’t adjust their expectations accordingly.

As saying YES or NO at the right time is the key to happiness, let’s discuss the different situations a DJ and a guest can find themselves entangled in, and how to deal with them correctly!

The House Party

A mate throws a party, and you bring a bag of tunes to play in the kitchen.

In this situation nobody is getting paid and DJ and guest are equally getting wasted. So the DJ really doesn’t owe anybody and can play what the fuck he or she wants. At the same time guests do have the right to ask for tunes without the DJ throwing a hissy fit.

This is a casual situation and should be approached as one.

Power levels: DJ: 60 / Guest: 40 


The local boozer

You get a Friday to play tunes in your local pub

Here the DJ is expected to provide a service and is hopefully getting paid. Getting no pay or shitty pay does NOT relief the DJ of the expectation to provide appropriate music! So this is not the place to try out your latest Free Jazz albums and you need to expect to be approached by drunken punters.

Still, we are not at a high flying club night, so the DJ should be allowed to have fun with it as long as he or she is not playing Hip Hop tunes to a Classic Rock crowd.

Power levels: DJ: 40 / Guest: 60 


A proper club night

Congrats! You made it to a properly promoted venue!

The DJ should hopefully get properly paid now and the pressure to entertain is on. In this situation the guest has ZERO right to approach the DJ! Even the promoter is banned from wandering over and suggesting tunes!

If things go south the guest is free to leave if he or she doesn’t like the music. And the promoter should have done his homework better before booking the DJ for the night. Once the disco train leaves the station all controls are off!

After the night is over and the DJ is paid the promoter has the right to shake his fist and never book that DJ again. That’s what people get for not booking ME in the first place!

Power levels: DJ: 100 / Guest: 0


A wedding / birthday party

“Hey I like your music, would you play at my wedding/birthday party? You can really play whatever you want…”

Let’s be honest here: You are, even if promised differently by the groom or the birthday girl, 100% expected to be a human juke box!

Very often the person who hires you has no idea about the musical preference of his or her guests. So when the people don’t dance and start to turn on you, the host will get nervous and will try to fix the situation by making comments like:

“Ok I said no cheesy stuff, but nobody dances… could you play 5 hours of straight Chart Hits although we agreed that I didn’t want you to? Please?”

Throwing DJ attitude around in this situation is futile! You have to accept that you are the little DJ BITCH of whoever hired you, all his mates and their drunken parents too.  So get on with it and PRAY that you packed that ’50 classic Party Hits’ CD your flatmate got with his free paper the day before! 

Top Tip: Either decline such bookings straight away or make it worth your while financially. As you WILL be required to play Justin Timberlake… at least twice! Being the humanoid Spotify playlist is not worth doing for peanuts and if the people don’t want to pay what you feel is fair NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER DO IT!

Power levels: DJ: 0 / Guest: 1000


The perfect gig

“Hey, we listened to your mix and as we are really into Minimal House and you are really into Minimal House we really like you to play Minimal House as our guests only like Minimal House!”

The perfect storm: You know what you get into, they know what they get into and it all falls together perfectly. You get paid a good fee, everybody is dancing and is happy. The Vodka Red Bull is flowing and MixMag writes a gushing review the next day.

Why can’t all sets be like this?

Power levels: All egos are extinguished… 1 Nation under a Groove!

Some final words of advice:

If you are booking a DJ: Communicate clearly your expectations and check his or her mixes first so you are not confused why he or she plays Techno at your Jazz Night!

When you hate the music as a guest: Either deal with it or leave. Respect that the DJ is a human person too and is not out to sabotage the night. Most likely he or she really tries his or her best to make you have fun! So buy another beer and give it a chance. Maybe the reason the DJ plays so much Trap is that your mate who hired him or her requested it. 

Disclaimer: At NO POINT is it OK to walk over to the DJ, tell him or her how much he or she sucks and then rattle down a list of random songs you like to hear right now. Not cool!

When you are getting booked: Don’t sell yourself under value, respect your craft, try to spread L.O.V.E. and know what your getting yourself into when saying yes to a booking!





Back to the Future: Futura 2000

 via Acclaim Magazine
via Acclaim Magazine

It’s interesting too see how BAPE founder and Streetwear legend NIGO continues to bring his buddies over to UNIQLO for some nice global exposure. First it was NY artist KAWS that had Hypebeasts go crazy, now it’s Futuras turn to release a capsule collection with the Japanese fashion retail giant.

Sometimes I wonder if such a project really turns new people onto art and Graffiti or if this collaboration just appeals to the same old fans that are already on board. In any case: I love it!

As I am growing older I can’t justify spending crazy money on T-Shirts anymore, and the never ending hunt for the next hype item get’s pretty tired. I rather just walk into a store and get what I want at a reasonable price!

So that NIGO picked Lenny McGurr aka Futura to create the next UT collection makes me more than happy.

It’s not secret that I am a massive fan and have had the pleasure to bump into Futura many times in London. He was always super cool: Embracing the fans, signing items and having a chat.

A green UNKLE toy based on his designs was my first purchase on eBay many moons ago and I am still here in 2017 collecting his stuff!

For me Futura embodies all aspects of the Urban Lifestyle that I love: Music, Fashion, Technology and Art. Being it his early works in the 80ties, the artwork for MoWax in the 90ties or all his projects and collaborations since… I just never get tired of seeing his artwork!

So let’s take a journey down memory lane and recap. This is by no way an extensive retrospective of his work, more like a quick introduction for anybody who is not familiar with Futura and would like to know what all the fuss is about…


Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan Lenny McGurr aka Futura 2000 started spraying at the tender age of 15. After an unfortunate accident painting with a friend in a train tunnel he put his art on hiatus. After four years he picked up the can again, painting alongside New York Graffiti legends like Dondi, SEEN and Zephyr. 

  via Style Wars
via Style Wars


When Futura painted his “Break” train in 1980 he turned heads: Abandoning the traditional Graffiti lettering style was revolutionary and way ahead of his time as normally writers would make sure their names would be boldly featured. Futura stuck with this style and the rest is Graffiti history.

  Image by Martha Cooper
Image by Martha Cooper

This FUTURistic approach blurred the line between traditional Graffiti and abstract art and made it possible for him to crossover to the fresh new art scene that formed in SoHo at the time.

Rubbing shoulders with Pop Artists like Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, Basquiat and Warhol, Futura went on to exhibit in galleries like the Mudd Club, PS1 and Fun Gallery. Especially Keith Haring was very proactive in getting Graffiti artists acknowledged and helped getting them to mingle with the more established art crowd. At some point Futura even dated a young Madonna! True story…

  via 1981.ny
via 1981.ny

A fun clip from 1982: A young Futura creating the logo for the Film “King of Prussia”

After people like Agnes B starting to collect his art he caught the attention of the British band The Clash that embraced the new Hip Hop sound and the Urban Art scene. They invited Futura to paint during their concerts and he started to get involved in designing their album covers too.


When long time fan James Lavelle started to purchase his painted canvasses to use them as artwork for his newly founded label MoWax in 1992, Futura was again at the forfront of a new cultural movement. 

As Lavelle connected the creative energies of Tokyo and London by signing Japanese acts like Major Force West to his label, Futura soon got exposed to a whole new world based on fashion, otaku culture and limited edition art objects.

When Lavelle and NIGO clicked and NIGO started releasing albums on MoWax, Futura was once again the man to go to for the album artwork…

The MoWax cover that made him notorious was the cover for UNKLE’s magnum opus “Psyence Fiction”: It sold millions and featured heavily his “Pointman” characters. As MoWax boss James Lavelle loved creating different versions and promo items for each UNKLE album, soon Futuras signature pointmen and atoms could be spotted on various UNKLE releases and merch like T Shirts, Jackets and collectable toys.

Futura soon translated his art into his own collectible toys, sneakers and fashion. Most of these items were exclusively sold in Japan for a committed scene of collectors.

Living in London gave me access to many cool events, so when Futura opened his show at Maharishi in Soho 2005 I was able to take this snap with the man… couldn’t stop grinning!

2000 to the future

Ditching the “2000” in his name and going forward simply as “Futura”, Lenny McGurr still goes from strength to strength. Collaborating with brands like Nike, Maharishi, Medicom, Converse or Hennessy, his visual iconography, typography and abstract aerosol art still stays as relevant and fresh as it was back in 1980.

Apart from all his achievements in the past and present, another thing that fascinates me about Futura is his love for technology! He was one of the first artists to creatively embrace the internet, launching his site 1995 as more of an art project than a portfolio website. Although the site hasn’t been updated in ages, it’s still impressive and fun to browse.

Continuing the digital legacy of his website is his Instagram account @futuradosmil where he shares pictures from his travels, photo manipulations and new artwork. You rarely see a picture of Futura without his camera, snapping away as he travels the world. A true digital nomad…

So as you see, Futura has been part of Urban Culture for over three decades. Adapting, collaborating and creating. And never standing still! 

Very inspirational!

Ok, so I stop here. Before I sign off let me share with you a litte fun list of… 

5 essential Futura pieces I wish I had:

1. 1000% Futura Bearbrick

Created by Medicom Toy in Japan, this big blue alien is the perfect accessory for any MoWax fan out there and towers literally above all other toys based on Futuras designs…

2. OG Futura UNKLE BAPE Jacket

One of the early collaborations between NIGO and Futura: This BAPE jacket features heavily the Pointman UNKLE logo and will turn heads wherever you go. 

3. A real Futura Canvas

Very obvious I know… d’uh! Maybe one day when I win the lottery…

4. OG Futura FLOM

Apparently only 24 pairs in existence. Made to celebrate the launch of his Futura Laboratories store in Japan 2003. Worth 15.000$ a pair… peanuts!

5. Futura x Colnago Limited Edition Master Pista Bike

This bike sets you back a cold $100.000: One of 38 custom made Futura 2000 frames with hand painted wheel details! More about this beauty here

Daydreaming with… UNKLE @Lazarides Gallery

Let’s chat about the reason I took it upon myself to visit London in January when it’s rainy, cold and horrible: MoWax boss James Lavelle was holding court in the legendary Lazarides gallery to celebrate 25 Years of UNKLE and the upcoming release of the new record ‘The Road’!

So when I got the chance to attend the private view of the show I knew I had to hop onto the next flight to The Big Smoke aka London Town.

It was great to check out all my old haunts like Maharishi, Supreme and various record shops with the exhibition being the cherry on top.

When I arrived at the venue on day two of my stay there was already an orderly queue forming outside the gallery and soon the space was buzzing with the devoted followers of all things UNKLE.

On display where pieces crafted by the usual suspects: Futura 2000 and Massive Attacks artist in residence, 3D. Both created artwork for past UNKLE albums with Futura covering the first two and Del Naja taking over for the third album ‘War Stories’.

Additional UNKLE related art was provided by Doug Foster, John Isaacs, Ben Drury, Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones to name just a few!

I really enjoyed the mix of different mediums on display: From photography, painting, sculpture all the way to scents and VR experiences, there was no shortage of things to look at.

Still, when I think MoWax and UNKLE I really like the old work by Futura best. I’m just oldskool like that!

The legendary Pointman character he created for the UNKLE logo is still my fave, so one of the stand out pieces of the show for me was this weird mechanical Pointman robot on the upper floor.

First on display at the original Daydreaming show curated by Lavelle all the way back in 2010, it’s still very impressive in the flesh… or dare I say… metal.

You can see this thing in action here.

I couldn’t really take any good shots at the show that night so I returned the next day to give the whole exhibition a second viewing. 

The fun with UNKLE always was the merchandise connected with the band: Being it rare versions of the albums, collectable toys or limited edition clothing… UNKLE never held back.

So not suprisingly there were a lot of things for sale, especially some vintage goodies straight out of Lavelles private collection!

When the main guy of a music band creates a Japanese toy of himself in BAPE garm, you know how geeky the world of UNKLE really is. That might explain why most of the people in attendance were middle-aged Streetwear nerds like me… eyeing the display of rare merchandise nervously…

On that note: Shoutout to @mowaxplease who actually got himself a plastic Lavelle to take home with, I am envious!

I promised myself to be good and not purchase any more stuff but when I saw the new screen prints created for the show I had to reconsider: Featuring six different colour variations of the legendary UNKLE camouflage created by Futura and Ben Drury, I just knew I had to get one!

The funny thing about UNKLE is that although I enjoy the music, the true appeal of James Lavelles musical project really is this incredible, Otaku like obsession with creating hard to get collectables that accompanied each album release.

Being it the UNKLESounds mix CDs that never got officially released, the awesome pop up album artwork that was promo only or the toys created with Medicom in Tokyo: You could bet each new album would come with a bucketload of swag that send Hypebeast heads spinning… but that topic is a blog post in itself!

You can get a good sense of Lavelles obsessions in this video of him chatting to The Guardian about the show. I am still cracking up watching the bit where he tries to explain all the toys to the flabbergasted interviewer…

So yeah… boys and their toys. Again, you can blame it all on Star Wars! If everybody would have kept their Hans and Leias boxed and not sold them off as kids, so much geek trauma could have been averted!

But then again, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten all this great artwork and product.

Still, geek shouldn’t be a dirty word. It’s the medal of honour that should be worn with pride! It means you know more about a specific topic than most other people on this planet which is AWESOME, right?! The only rule to follow here is to never, EVER try talking to people who are not sharing the same fire. 

This is a foolish rookie mistake that can only end in tears and humiliation!

I know I can always count on my homies from to create a nice comforting echo chamber of warm UNKLE man-love at such events. So shout out to @Mojib, @Mowaxplease, @ZMan, @WDMN, @JonesysJukebox, @M0Matt and the many others that made it down to London to worship at the altar of UNKLE just like me.

Some travelled all the way from Sweden and France so big up to JL for being a good sport and taking a snap with the U77 massive!

On this note let me wrap up with the official war cry of the MoWax obsessives: 

U… N… K… L… E …EE! Until next time…

For more about UNKLE and the legacy of MoWax head over to:

If you want to hear some great UNKLE tracks and remixes, check out my UNKLE tribute mix over at Mixcloud:

Solaris on tour: London calling Part 2

Bright lights, big city. So if you are not really culturally inclined then London has a lot of damn good shopping options as well!

Although classic streetwear locations like The Hideout, BAPE London and the Stüssy London Chapter closed down yonks ago, the town is littered with other great options to get rid of your hard earned cash for some hip garms!

One of my favourite stores in London is the DPMHI store in Great Pulteney Street. Not only is Maharishi one of the OG’s in the Street Wear game, but the store looks absolutely fantastic: Camo tiled floors, Japanese armour and a selection of the finest Urban Vinyl really makes this location special!

I love the connection between art, fashion and music and Maharishi is championing this mix with their embroiled art pieces by Futura and Neckface up the walls, it’s great jackets and pants and collaborations with musicians like Travis Scott.

You don’t need to walk long to hit up the next spot: Just around the corner from Maharishi is the latest brand to kick up a stir in the Hypebeast scene… Palace Skateboards.

Ripping a massive page out of Supremes playbook, Palace is like the rowdy British cousin of the US streetwear giant who,  instead of listening to Capone-N-Noreaga, raved through the early 90s to 2Step and UK Garage.

The shop turns up the swagger with it’s Versace style floor tiling and a Rolls Royce grill mounted to the wall. And if you still don’t believe the place is fresh, cool and dope you better believe my homie Jonah Hill!

The rest of the shop is following Supremes approach of less is more with a clean shop space with a TV screen mounted on it’s white walls showing skate vids. Don’t forget to grab some overpriced silly merch on the way out: I recommend the  £1 Palace matches…

Talking about Supreme… let’s just say we have history together! 

Of cause I had to drop by the Supreme store also. When the London store opened 2011 I expected for the hype to die down a little, but what do I know: It went straight through the roof!

Queues every Thursday morning ( aka Drop Day ) were a regular sight on my way to work. No shopping luck for me this time tho, but at least I got a good birthday present for a close mate!

To cover all awesome shops in the centre of town is futile, so let’s just say I had a good ol’ snoop around my favourite haunts for sneakers, records and magazines like Reckless Records, Foot Patrol, Size?, Oi Polloi and others!

When I was heading back east I had to have a quick check around Bricklane as well. Rough Trade East is great for record collectors and stores like Son of a Stag are perfect for finding some great denim and menswear.

Rare Japanese denim threads for the urban cowboy… 

The shopping gods finally revealed some treasure for me when I checked out the Good Hood Store further up in Shoreditch. As late January is traditionally Sale season I was able to pick up some wicked WTAPS Vans for such a nice  price that I was able to afford an additional Eric Elms Kilroy coffee mug as well. Result!

What can I say: London always delivers! There is so much cool stuff to do, buy and see that things can be overwhelming. I might do a little shopping guide for London soon, but in the meantime you can read Part 1 of my London travelogue here or buy yourself a ticket to fly to this great city. It will be well worth it!

Solaris on tour: London calling! Part 1

It’s always great to visit London. I just love this city! But let’s be honest here: It’s not a place where you can catch a breath and chillax. The hustle and bustle of this multicultural metropolis sucks you right in and it’s great fun to over-indulge in it’s cultural offerings of which there are many!

So join me on my trip whizzing through the shows London had in store for me on my recent trip to the big smoke…

Gavin Turk at the Newport Street Gallery

However one feels about Damian Hirst, he really puts his wealth to good use by creating a stunning museum to showcase pieces from his personal collection. I love the fact that the entrance is free and that the gift shop is not part of the viewing experience.

The current exhibition centres around Gavin Turk, another YBA and Hirst contemporary. Graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1996, he rose to instant fame when the RCA refused Turk his postgraduate degree based on his graduate show piece called Titled Cave. 

It consisted of a whitewashed studio space with a blue heritage plaque on the wall commemorating his own presence as an artist, stating “Gavin Turk worked here, 1989-1991”. 

Ballsy move I say! But then again it’s always better to rock the boat and stand out than just fall in line.

Still, the show left me feeling ambivalent. His pieces might play with questions like value and originality but seeing bin bags cast in bronze felt like a tired metaphor I have seen over and over again, starting all the way back with Duchamps urinal from 1917.

Whilst I loved his legendary MA piece the waxworks and sculptures of himself fell a little flat for me also as I feel Cindy Sherman already explored this play on celebrity and identity, and with more success.

I might do his work injustice, but I felt Turks pieces came across like a lovechild of David Shrigleys crude surreal humour, Banksys social commentary and Koons self loving egomania. Not a bad mix but lacking in impact for me.

Still, the execution of the work was great and fitted the space well. More about the exhibition and the artist Turk here…

The next thing I was curious to check out was the museum restaurant Pharmacy 2. When I visited the Koons show last year the space was already closed so today was my chance to see it in all it’s pill popping glory!

What can I say, an exercise in subtleness it’s not: Stuffed to the brim with Hirst-isms like his famous butterflies and pill cabinets, it’s visually stunning for people who don’t mind to indulge. After being shown to a table by a very friendly waitress, the reasonable prices of the menu allowed for having a seat and a quick cocktail to take it all in. Definitely recommended!

Onwards to the…

Banksy Print Gallery

Although Banksy stopped working with Steve Lazarides in 2009, the gallery still owns a massive stash of Banksy prints and artwork. As I already checked out the Lazarides curated exhibition at the MOCO gallery in Amsterdam last year I couldn’t pass on the chance to have a look at this permanent exhibition next to the Mondrian Hotel on the Southbank.

No surprises here, just walls full of Banksy’s Greates Hits! Again, this exhibition was free also and it’s always great to see a Banksy in the flesh. The prints really show why Banksy is so popular: Clever visual puns and a crisp execution.

Next stop…

Tate Modern Switch House

When gallery crawling on the Southbank, the Tate Modern is a must! Especially as I haven’t had the time to see the spectacular extension yet! Dubbed the Switch House, this twisted pyramid structure stands 64.5m tall and has an amazing 360 degree viewing platform on it’s top level.

Nobody does massive as impressive as the Tate Modern, and this new building fit’s right in next to the legendary Turbine Hall!

Whilst taking in the great views I wondered how happy the owners of the luxury loft buildings next to the Switch House must have been having thousands of tourists peeking into their flats every day. 

The sign urging visitors to respect their neighbours privacy feels too little too late as the glass walled living rooms across the platform feel like natural extensions of the viewing experience. Let’s just say I am happy the Tate is not planning any viewing platforms next to my flat anytime soon!

No Southbank visit is complete without checking out the Southbank Skatepark! After a long legal battle about it’s relocation in 2016 the park is here to stay  and breaks up the row of chain store restaurants that clutter the area rather nicely!

As the sun set it was time to slowly walk over the Millennium Bridge to head towards Soho for the private view of the UNKLE retrospective at the main Lazarides Gallery. I will give this exhibition it’s own in depth review at a later date so let’s just say it was a lot of fun and very, very geeky!

My exhibition crawl ended the next day with a very special show curated by my good friends from Gammaproforma. Run by it’s curator Rob Swain, Gammaproforma is bridging the gap between art, music and print. 

Launching their new gallery Gamma/Sector 25 in SE25 with a bang, their first show “Humilitism” examines Social Media and it’s fallout featuring new artwork by SheONE, Will Barras, Swifty and many more. Of cause I had to check it out!

Loved all the pieces on display and it was great to catch up with old friends. As a very special treat I finally got my hands on the Gamma published book by legendary London Designer and Artists Swifty! “Funky Typo-Grafix” is full of his art and design work he did for record labels like Talking Loud, MoWax and more. Check it out here, essential reading!

So there you have it! The first part of my London travelogue… stay tuned for part 2!

Let me sign off with a massive THUMBS UP to all of you via the fourth plinth on Trafalgar Square and the genius of David Shrigley… #goodvibes!

10 things creative people can learn from La La Land

I planned to kick off the blogging year by a self affirmative and motivational post how to best achieve your New Year resolutions. Then I went to see an early screening of La La Land… and now I have to re-shuffle my posting schedule!

 Credit:  Dale Robinette
Credit:  Dale Robinette

La La Land blew me away and touched upon a lot of points I wanted to make in that New Years motivational blog post. So I felt compelled to do this write up as a semi prequel… just with less Jar Jar Binks! 

I expected the movie to be a sweet romance with some whimsical music numbers thrown in for good measure. What I didn’t expect was getting a multi layered meditation on creative ambition, dreams, insecurities, doubt, pain, love, happiness and despair on top of it!

It’s the story of how two struggling creatives falling in love in LA: Mia being an aspiring actor, Seb dreaming of playing Jazz and owning his own club. Garnished with amazing cinematography, lush colours, a great soundtrack and fun dance numbers, this movie feels like Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers via Wes Anderson. 

  Credit:   Dale Robinette
Credit:  Dale Robinette

This is really as far as I like to go reviewing it. I urge everybody to watch this movie for him or herself first without listening to any hype or reviews!

Still, I really like to discuss some of the themes that stood out for me.

Like any piece of art, how one will read a movie is deeply personal. Some might see La La Land as just a love story, some might see it as a critique of glitzy LA and some might just enjoy the film for it’s musical numbers and forget it the next day. 

Most reviews I read after touch upon the vintage musical feel the movie successfully recreates but somehow fail to mention how perfectly it discusses what it takes to be successful as a creative person.

Personally I think director Damien Chazelle crafted yet another great film dissecting the dynamics of creative relationships. His last Oscar nominated film “Whiplash” from 2014 was showing a dysfunctional relationship between an aspiring drummer and his tyrannical mentor, asking how far is too far in order to achieve artistic greatness and immortality. 

 Photo by Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. .
Photo by Daniel McFadden, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. .

La La Land is far more romantic, subtle and paints a broader picture on how difficult life as a creative person struggling for success and fulfillment can be.

Being a Designer, Artist and DJ myself I loved how the film followed the characters from their humble beginnings to the conclusion of their path, touching on many obstacles designers, artists, actors and musicians face every day.

So without further gushing here are…

10 inspirational things creative people can learn from watching La La Land

1. Have passion

If you don’t care about what you are creating how will you make your client or audience excited about your output? If you are more committed to your Facebook feed than your actual work it might be time to hand in your apron.

2. Don’t be a hermit

Hiding away in your studio is no fun. Go outside and hang out with great people you can bounce ideas around with. Your brain needs fresh air!

3. Endure the pain of creativity

Nobody says it’s gonna be easy. You will be judged, applauded, torn down, insulted, celebrated, hated, mocked, loved, fired and hired. Don’t let this shaky ride discourage you!

4. Respect your fellow artists

Even if you disagree with the work of a fellow creative: Don’t dish out the same vitriol you got served by that horrible client just two hours ago! Try to be respectful and give productive feedback.

5. Just do it

If you don’t start planting seeds nothing can grow. One idea might die, the next might grow into a beautiful flower. You never know until you actually put something out there and see what happens!

6. Don’t be stuck in your ways

Maybe you become exactly the painter you dreamt to become. Or maybe you realise that teaching art is more your forte than standing in a studio in solitude working. Wherever your journey will take you, don’t be afraid to improvise!

7. Stay on target

We all need to pay our bills so you might have to make concessions in your creative endeavours to make ends meet. This is just to give you some stable foundation to build your dream on. Don’t get cushy and forget about your original ambitions! 

8. Never give up

Things can become overwhelmingly tough. Self doubt can be crippling but curling up in the fetal position is not really an option that gets you anywhere. Dust yourself off and keep on walking, who knows where it takes you.

9. Be aware of the price of success

Everybody wants to be successful, but nobody wants to pay the price to get there! Late hours, a crazy work load and pushing your dream alone in the studio whilst your mates have fun down the pub… all this can be the price you have to be willing to pay to get where you want to go. 

10. Never stop dancing!

Don’t forget that life is more than ambition, work and long hours in front of the computer. The ultimate goal of every endeavour should be to become a more happy and healthy person!

Let me know your thoughts about the movie and about my 10 things i picked up on in the comments! I would love to read them!

I wish everybody a HAPPY and CREATIVE 2017!!!

Star Wars nothing but Star Wars…

When I started writing this blog post it was meant to be a celebration of the movie series that means so much to so many people. Now I feel it’s an eulogy for maybe the biggest star that shines in the Star Wars universe: Princess Leia and the actress that created her feisty wit and princess prowess: Carrie Fisher.

I am sure I am not the only guy out there who’s first crush was Leia in A New Hope. But although she was very pretty she never felt like eye candy and a damsel in distress. Being it choking out Jabba or trash talking Vader, she was badass and could handle her business! 

I feel sad that Carrie Fisher had such a rocky life, being haunted by the one role that defined her acting career. Seeing her back in The Force Awakens was great and *SPOILER* even her CGI likeness in Rogue One made me misty eyed and brought me right back to my childhood.

Leia set the bar when it comes to female leads and I am more than happy to see this tradition continued with great kickass female heroes like Rey and Jyn.

It’s weird to feel this way about the passing of somebody you never knew who played a fictional character in a fictional movie. I felt the same when MCA from the Beastie Boys lost his battle with cancer: You suddenly realize how much this person  (that you never met) contributed to your life’s journey. And as much as I listened to the Beastie Boys my whole life did Star Wars provide the movies and collectibles from my early childhood all the way to now! So let’s dry those tears and celebrate Carrie Fisher’s life and the biggest franchise in this damn solar system…

It’s actually hilarious to see just how many of my friends gift Star Wars toys their kids this Christmas, as if trying to make up for the shortcomings of their parents back in the days. The Force is still strong in this one! 

So what is it that makes these flicks so iconic and different? Let me mention the things that I feel made Star Wars catch lightning in a bottle…

A lived in universe

Until Star Wars came along life in space has been either about glittery camp aliens, squeaky clean star ship interiors or freshly pressed space suits. Star Wars felt more like a filthy Spaghetti Western made by Sergio Leone than a clean cut John Wayne Hollywood production. The colour palette was muted, life on dusty desert planets was as dusty as it could be and star ships looked beaten up and bolted together.

When I saw this promo shot of Ewan McGregor in a film from 2015 I instantly thought: Now THAT’S the Ben Kenobi I wanted to see in the prequels!

So less this… and more THAT!

JJ Abrahams putting the dust and dirt back into The Force Awakens with puppets, built sets and interiors really brought back that sweet Star Wars feeling to me.

Amazing design

Talking about how the flicks look… EPIC!

Whilst most other Sci Fi movies tried to either impress with outrageous and over the top designs, Star Wars kept it precise: Very much like Braun or Apple, the design teams crafted space ships, weapons and armour that was sleek and minimalist yet instantly iconic.

From the impressive Imperial fleet, the Rebel X Wings, the Stormtrooper Helmets to Boba Fetts Slave One: Each piece of the Star Wars universe felt meticulously crafted regarding shape, colour scheme and amount of weathering.

A huge part in all this played concept artist Ralph McQuarrie who designed many of the original characters and created stunning artwork that I would hang on my wall in a second.

Another designer with a powerful impact was Joe Johnston, who later became a movie director in his own right, crafting movies like The Rocketeer, Jumanji and Captain America: The First Avenger. Back in the days at Lucasfilm he worked alongside McQuarrie and designed most of the amazing star ships and vehicles.

A honorable mention must go out to Doug Chiang who replaced Ralph McQuarrie as concept designer on the prequels. And as much as I don’t like the films themselves, I must give credit for the lush designs of the pod racers, naboo fighters and Queen Amidala’s all chromed out pimp ship! Plus his work as Creative Director on Rogue One was great!

Cooler fanboys

Unlike Star Trek, somehow Star Wars attracted the cooler nerds: Being it Japanese Streetwear don NIGO, MoWax head honcho James Lavelle or any Graphic Designer in the 90ties who incorporated Star Wars visuals into their designs to make things look cooler… it wasn’t only the IT Crowd that got super obsessed about the battle amongst the stars! ( Yes I know Pharrell and the Beasties prefer Star Trek … shush! )

 A sticker sheet by MoWax records
A sticker sheet by MoWax records

 AD-AD urban vinyl toy by Bill McMullen ( via Kidrobot )
AD-AD urban vinyl toy by Bill McMullen ( via Kidrobot )

 Street Art by Invader
Street Art by Invader

“Berry Meditation” UNKLE album cover

 Toymaker The Sucklord ( via Village Voice )
Toymaker The Sucklord ( via Village Voice )

 Boba Fett by KAWS
Boba Fett by KAWS

The most iconic characters in the universe!

Han Solo, Luke, Princess Leia, Chewie, Yoda, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, R2D2… the list of iconic characters, droids and aliens is endless. As much as I like Star Trek too, their alien back catalogue doesn’t even come close to all the crazy critters that inhabit the Star Wars galaxy… 

Most of these character designs can again be credited to the design genius of Ralph McQuarrie. Good to know he got his moment to shine as well playing General McQuarrie in The Empire Strikes Back. You can find his toy in the Star Wars section in aisle 4, thank you…

 It's the dude in the middle
It’s the dude in the middle

Another fan favorite was created by Joe Johnston: Boba Fett, the flyest Bounty Hunter of them all. That Mandalorian armour still looks so damn BADASS!

We all know he escaped the Sarlacc pit so let’s hope they get the Boba Fett standalone movie right! I wonder how much they have to bend the story after that clone origin debacle in the the prequels… oh well.

Until then my favourite toy artist The Sucklord has to keep Boba P.I.M.P.

Practical effects baby!

Mixing practical effects and real locations gave the saga a weird sense of realism even when it was set in a galaxy far, far away.

Abandoning this approach really betrayed the prequels in my opinion, as the CGI and clean look just didn’t feel Star Wars to me.

The Force Awakens had some very obvious puppetry going on and somehow that made it feel more tangible. BB-8 was properly build and that they even did Rey’s weird green muffin bread as a practical effect really showed the commitment to the cause!

Ta TA, ta ta ta TAAA TAAAA!

Just like in the James Bond franchise, the music and it’s classic themes helped elevate Star Wars to another level of greatness. The Main Theme. the Imperial March, that Cantina Band Spacejazz… Star Wars just wouldn’t be the same without it! Fist bump to John Williams for lacing some dope stringz, yo.

Of cause there have been some awesome musical spin offs as well. Collect `em all!

Whilst we are on the topic of Star Wars soundtracks… how great is this etched holographic vinyl release of The Force Awakens? 


G’damn light sabers!

Hell yes!!!

Even before Kylo Ren pimped up his tool of the trade with an added hilt lightsabers were the coolest shit ever! The glow, the hissing sound and the ability to cut through metal doors like a hot knife through butter… no other space weapon comes close!

My favorite lightsaber fight actually happens in the prequels: When that second blade came out… oh my! I really wish they wouldn’t have killed off Maul in The Phantom Menace so quickly. Such a waste of good Sith…

Buy buy buy!!!

As every bit of the SW universe was already designed to a T it was easy to translate the starships and characters into a range of toys who looked awesome as well. Somehow Kenner managed to create some great packaging on top of it which would soon become iconic in its own right. Now spice things up with multiple variants of the same figure and you whip collectors into a frenzy! 

Much of the Star Wars merch obsession of millenials can be traced back to either having sold off their collections for peanuts on the local flea market or silly parents decluttering the attic at the end of the 80ties. OH THE PAIN!

How cool are these vintage Clarks x Boba Fett sneakers?!


These lost treasures were never forgotten, and with Lucasfilm pumping out more films there is no shortage of SW obsessives trying to re-buy their childhood and heal the mental scarring of their youth.

Again to be fair to the prequels, I still have fond memories of this Naboo royal starship blockade cruiser playset which was gifted to me from my uncle in America back in 1999. Oh the fun when the package arrived , beeping like crazy as some of the postal workers managed to trigger all the sound fx buttons at the same time…

Last but not least: Crazy shit that stays with you

There is something said for grossing out your audience: They will never forget it! Being it Jabbas slimy perv tongue or that carnivorous Rancor beast in that pit munching on exotic dancers… there always were these awesome gross out moments during the original trilogy that added a little bit more spice to the proceedings!

Jabba wants kissy kissy!

Ewww floss your teeth bro!

After a run in with this fellow Han had to stuff Luke into the carcass of his trusty Tauntaun, warming him with it’s intestines… GROSS! And inspiration for the best sleeping bag ever…

 via ThinkGeek
via ThinkGeek

So these are my thoughts on the topic. And with a new movie getting released every year now it never has been a better time to be a Star Wars geek! Or run for the hills in horror…

I personally will always love Star Wars, even when I start looking like this old geezer below with all that grey in the beard!

It’s a shame General Leia will not be part of the journey going forward. Carrie Fisher, you will be missed! And in the words of Space IP Man Donnie Yen:

I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me…


 Picture by  Matt A.J.
Picture by Matt A.J.

Man what a crazy year! First Bowie and Prince check out, then England votes to leave the EU and now orange faced Trump seized the Leadership of the ( apparently) free world! Is it a coincidence that populism has a winning streak the year two of our most flamboyant and eccentric geniuses leave us?

That Trump won isn’t a big surprise to me. Somehow I had the same feeling in my gut seeing the Trump rally that I had during the Brexit campaign: All this vilifying of populist opinion will not diminish it’s popularity. The more the Left squirms, the more rebellious and enticing the “wrong” choice might be. Why? Because it stirs some shit up. It goes against the status quo. It’s a “Fuck You” to the ruling establishment. 

A lot of people say that if Bernie Sanders would have run instead of Hillary, Bernie would have won. This might be true. Because I feel people are now looking for candidates that offer an alternative to the established political ruling class, even if they are crazy and wrong like Trump. Bernie could have offered a real alternative to Trump, but Hillary just felt too deep entangled with corporations and banks. Trump was the LEAVE to Hillarys REMAIN.  

Do I support Trump and his bullshit agenda? Hell no! Still I get why people voted for him. I will not go into some cliché America bashing, but Trump is the logical consequence and the embodiment of the American dream: Money, Success, Dominance. He has a damn jet with his name on it, he must be right! So where we in Europe see a caricature of a businessman straight out of an episode of The Simpsons, over half of voting America seems to see a successful leader who has the balls to tell it like it is.

Sometimes I feel it’s actually impossible to have high flying career in business or politics and stay a sane, level headed human being. Who wants to be in the public eye 24/7 and be aware of all the dirt and bullshit? Who can and wants to deal with all this pressure? Being a bit of a sociopath definitely helps taking decisions and brokering deals with that level of responsibility. Plus: If you are a Rock Star you can at least bang groupies and do drugs, as a politician you need to pretend to be squeaky clean. How boring is that?!

Somehow I am even happy about Brexit and Trump: It has been a long time coming and now the cards are on the table and don’t hide in the haze of local pubs and hushed conversations. The liberal left seems to have failed to communicate their agenda and get the whole country onboard, not only the educated liberal middle class in the big cities.

The uncomfortable truth is that a lot of people think very differently from what our own rigged Facebook feeds like to suggest to us. It’s time to step out of the media echo chamber and take a broader look around.

Of cause there is a reason most people don’t want to talk religion or politics: Because such topics are deeply personal and EMOTIONAL! It’s extremely hard to keep calm and respectful when discussing opposite views how the world works as our core beliefs have been deeply anchored within us by our upbringing, cultural heritage and education. We are not willing to throw all that under the truck just because somebody thinks different!

But if we can’t discuss things that matter without yelling at each other within minutes, how can we get to a point of mutual respect or evolving viewpoints? If we like it or not, most of our believes are steeped in emotion, not cold hard facts. I feel this is what the UK politician Michael Gove meant when he said that people are tired of experts. It’s not about numbers, but how we feel about certain issues. And if this feeling is wrong it will be more helpful to talk about it than to call each other names. Especially in American politics I feel the Republican / Democrat divide is so massive that any mutual agreement on an issue is seen as selling out and being defeated by the opposite side. It’s not anymore about serving the people, more about securing one’s own power and dominance.

I am as annoyed about people seeing Trumps win as the end of the world as I am about the people who see his win as a new golden era for America. It’s both massively exaggerated.

Still, how a ruthless businessman could convince a country that he is on the side of the honest American worker is still beyond me! Trump is the first guy who would outsource production to China if it makes his pockets fatter.

His big issue might be that he has to live up to his hype now, although I am sure he can spin his way out of any false promises he made. If George W can do not one but TWO terms as US president even after little things like, you know, missing WMD’s, then Trump is more than capable to do the same. When you are too big to fail, things get pretty cushy!

Where am I going with this? Well, I guess I am just verbalising what goes on in my head currently. George Carling once said: When you get born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you get born in America you get first row seats! And I don’t mean this in a derogatory way. It’s just that America was always the inflated version of Western Europe, with bigger gestures, bigger dreams and even bigger TV’s. So I really hope this is not the beginning of even more countries swinging to the right, thinking that the solutions of the past hold the key to the problems of the future.

The gap between liberal and conservative has never been more obvious. But can I really blame somebody who lives in a small city for not appreciating diversity to a level that I do after having lived 15 years in a crazy eclectic world capital like London?

I feel we need less blame and more education. We need more politicians who actually deliver what they promise and less hysteric Facebook posts that ultimately just preach to the already converted thanks to algorithms that only enforce how we already see the world. But most of all we have to get off our liberal high horses and grow thicker skin to be able to have some uncomfortable conversations. 

So what are my wishes for 2017? Hopefully the debunking of the myth that becoming more nationalist will solve all the issues. And that we accept that in a democracy everyone is entitled to an opinion. 

Let the conversations begin…

Memories of a Shoreditch Twat

Remember when Shoreditch was cool? I do.

Admittedly it’s hard to imagine these days after Shoreditch High Street became somehow officially part of Essex and Bankers enjoy their after work drinks between EINE murals and preserved Banksy pieces. Thank you very much Gentrification!

This seems to be the circle of life: Artists make screwed up neighborhoods livable until people with money deem the area “cool” and want a piece of the “creative vibe”. New buildings are build, prices go up, artists move out and city boys and girls can have their Costa Coffee on the now dead and sanitized main street.

Shoreditch has been steamrolled by stag dos and drunken bankers for awhile now but there used to be a time where Shoreditch was the epicenter of cool. Or Hipster Wankery. Depending on which side of the fence you were standing.

Anyways, it was damn fun, OK? Hipsters roamed the streets freely, The Face was still the coolest mag in town and I got wasted with my fellow students in the golden triangle between Jaguar Shoes, Catch 22 and 333Mother.

 A cheeky pint Shoreditch Highstreet 2004 with two designer twats in the foreground and two scooter twats in the back...
A cheeky pint Shoreditch Highstreet 2004 with two designer twats in the foreground and two scooter twats in the back…

So as I was strolling through Shoreditch today in 2016, I felt it was time to reminisce a little about the good old times back in 2001 – 2010.

Hipster Wankers

May I be so bold to proclaim without Shoreditch there would be no lusciously bearded Hipsters in Dalston and Hackney Wick these days?  When it comes to attract ambitious yet utterly pretentious creative types, nobody really did it like Shoreditch in the early 2000. And in true “ironic” Hipster fashion it didn’t take long until the growing scene started to mock itself.

Hipster pisstake Mockumentary Nathan Barley from 2005 is still as relevant today as it was 11 years ago, putting the finger on all the twattery we still engage in: Self obsession, social media and the search for true meaning.

The first place that I went clubbing to in London was 333 with it’s attached late night dive-bar / meat market “Motherbar”. 333Mother was a haven to students like me:  The late license made sure you could drink way past your bedtime and the fun music kept you dancing all night long. I even ended up DJing there, spending many late nights in a haze of Vodka Red Bulls, the massive Disco Ball above the dance floor and spinning a mix of Kitsune records, HipHop 12s and filthy Pop Hits.

 The classic Mother Bar interior 
The classic Mother Bar interior 

Another great thing about 333Mother were the amazingly illustrated monthly listings, taking the piss out of the creatures of the night. Never was clubbing culture more honestly captured than through the illustrations of Elliot Thoburn. Get his great book “The Devils Dandruff Guide to Nightlife”, totally fucking Mexico yeah!?

It later even spawned it’s own fanzine/listings mag, aptly titled “The Shoreditch Twat”. Headed up by Neil Boorman of Sleaze Nation fame, this mag was like a proto-VICE, mocking the beginning Hipster boom whilst being a part of it itself. Oh so “ironic” innit!

  More twattery on my Flickr
More twattery on my Flickr

So yeah… big up to 333Mother! Since then they revamped the whole building but the Motherbar still remained untouched, ruining the good sleep of the next generation of Shoreditch Twats to come.

Jaguar Shoes and Basement Raves

Not many of the old places are still bearable in Shoreditch, but the one crew that still fights the good fight must be the Jaguar Shoes Collective. I still love going to all the venues they are running, and especially their flagship bar Dreambags Jaguarshoes. 

 Picture by JaguarShoes
Picture by JaguarShoes

It’s just a great concept: A monthly refit/repaint of the space by an artist or designer that would transform the whole bar with paintings, projections and the odd sculpture. Pretty awesome, as the place would never get dull visually.

JaguarShoes holds many fond memories for me, especially when I managed to secure a DJ gig for me and a mate that came over from Hamburg to visit. Or so I thought! The manager on the night didn’t remember anything about our agreement from the day before, but at least offered us to spin in the basement instead of upstairs in the main area.

This set back turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we managed to turn our DJ set into s sweaty rave downstairs as nobody complained about noise levels or rowdy beats in the basement! One of the best parties I played at to this day… shout out to Dj Felox / Team Hamburg!

The night I didn’t buy a Banksy

Another place that’s still great is the relocated Dragon Bar on the corner of Rivington Street. Just be careful when you run into Dj Chris Read, as Hip Hop ignorance will not be tolerated!

Always tightly connected to the emerging Graffiti and Street Art Scene, the Dragon Bar used to host monthly exhibitions in their old upstairs gallery space in Leonard Street.

In 2002 a small artist called Banksy had his first show at the Dragon Bar and I still remember looking at all the stenciled rats. I felt his stencils looked quite cheap on the plain white canvasses and I preferred his work way more in context on the streets of Shoreditch and Bricklane. So no way would I part for one of his artworks for £300 a pop, right? Who could have predicted the hilariously stellar rise this man and his art would experience! Although I really like his work, I still can’t believe the prices his stuff commands these days.

His NYC takeover video supports my early assessment, still I wouldn’t mind having had a couple of Banksy’s in my possession from back in the days! Ah well… *sobs uncontrollably*

Madonna, late nights and snogging Stormtroopers

Another thing that I found inspiring about the Shoreditch of old was the mix of gay and straight. As the East End was the playground of creative types it just made sense that gay pubs like The George and Dragon became “diluted” with straight folks who were going out with their gay mates and fancied a bit of Glam, Glitter and Gloria Gaynor as well. As my fondness of unashamed pop music is unfortunately well documented I really enjoyed hanging out there every time the straight bars became a bit too bland and predictable.

  Picture of the great George and Dragon interior by Rosa G . That electronic horse head not included unfortunately...
Picture of the great George and Dragon interior by Rosa G . That electronic horse head not included unfortunately…

As late night places were sparse and “The Motherbar” has had it’s time I graduated quickly to the legendary Joiners Arms, hijacking my gay mates by suggesting to go for “one last drink” and inflicting horrible hangovers on them… so let me just say: Thanks Kate! 😉

Both places have been shut down now and I am sure boring pubs will take their place. I loved the time they were around as I always felt welcome there and the music was a lot of fun. Straight bear hug!

Bonus story: The George and Dragon had it’s own brand of resident club kids who dressed outrageously and which took care of playing music on the weekend . Especially a towering slender Blonde rocked the dancefloor many times and I remember getting a drunken snog off her on a packed Friday night. Fast forward a couple of years and it looks like I got Phasma’d… oh my!

More non shit places according to me

Apart from Jaguar Shoes and Dragon Bar, the Village Underground is still doing it’s thing also. Their massive mural wall and rooftop co-working space with the two tube carriages rock!

Once home of Crunchy the Credit Crunch Monster by my friend Ronzo, the rooftop hosted many great BBQs and get togethers. I just hope this landmark will not be bulldozed anytime soon to make place for yet another shitty loft conversion.

Another legendary place I need to mention is Hoxton Square. Not sure how high it’s currently ranking on the Shoreditch Shit-O-Meter but I still have fond memories sitting on this rotten patch of grass during long summer nights drinking cans of Red Stripe. 

On Fridays this park could get so rammed that the energetic chatter of the punters could have been heard from miles away, sounding like a swarm of angry Wu Tang Killah Bees! The White Cube gallery used to be just opposite the park too. I bet they still regret painting over that piece Banksy left on their wall

  via Smudger77
via Smudger77

Some might argue the opening of the 1948 Nike Store in 2008 was high street store chains moving in, yet as I was a massive sneaker head I loved this addition to the area. Especially as they made every efford to get the design of the shop right! 

I picked up many rare sneakers from this store and still enjoy popping in there one in awhile to check out the latest kicks!

Here is some pretty Nathan Barley esque video of the opening night for all of you to enjoy… #sunglassesatnight

In the lair of wood and neon

At the end of my stroll I walked past a building I assumed to be the studio of Morag Myerscough and the rest of Supergroup London. As I follow Morag on Instagram and loving her work, I could not resist knocking on the door and saying Hi!

The East is home of some big agencies like Mother, UsTwo and Unit9. Good to see smaller independent creative studios are still working in Shoreditch too!

Lucky for me she was in and after a puzzled look she invited me into the studio where her fellow supergrouper Luke Morgan lend a helping hand to finish work on an upcoming installation.

What can I say, I am a sucker for design, type and bold colours so I felt right at home! Luke and Morag were super friendly and fun and I even got a physical LIKE to take home with me, pretty awesome!

After a great chin wag I was back on my way, heading home to Dalston. Ah Shoreditch! We had a great time! I will miss you…

Now after being all soppy and positive about the area, let’s wrap this piece up with some good old fashioned ranting, shall we?

My top 5 shittiest things in Shoreditch:

1) Essex Bars

You can spot these places from far away: As much neon as humanly possible, a big cocktail jug on display and glitzy crap everywhere that supposed to communicate “quirkiness” and “fun”… ewww!

2) Box Park

Initially people were exited about the promise of a space supporting independent labels, but now this ugly container crapfest sells smiley t-shirts and embroiled caps. Thumbs DOWN!

3) Shoreditch High Street Station

Hey, why don’t we just put a massive ugly grey slab of concrete down and call it a train station? Will work GREAT visually with the awesome Box Park next to it!

4) All new lofts/skyscrapers

Ok I get it. You got money and you like to have a loft close to Bricklane. But is it possible to build something that fits into the area instead of buying into the most bland and boring designed apartment blocks known to man?

5) Street Food Hype

Seriously, how many tents with overpriced Vegan Burgers, southern Chicken Wings and funky Tortilla Wraps do we need? And please stop pretending it’s all so authentic with your stenciled menus on cheap plywood at the entrance and all the wood chip on the floor. No me gusta!

/rant over!

So what do YOU like or hate in Shoreditch? Let me know in the comments or tweet at me @solaris100!