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

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!

London Gallery Crawling: Part 1

Living in London as a creative person can be a blessing and a curse at the same time: It’s absolutely fantastic to have the best of art, design and music at your fingertips, yet it can be mind-fryingly overwhelming as well.

It’s easy to develop full blown FOMO ( Fear Of Missing Out ) syndrome as the best of the best exhibiting their work in an seemingly never ending queue of awesomeness on a daily basis. It’s just really easy to get lost in the whirlwind of other people’s work and loose one’s own creative focus!

Still, with the right amount of self discipline ( erm ) it’s possible to get stuff done AND enjoy the richness of London’s creative scene. So please enjoy my little recap of exhibitions I checked out lately…

Maser: Orbiting on the Periphery / Lazarides Gallery

I always enjoy shows at Rathbone Place where Lazarides currently operates it’s main gallery. Home of many great exhibitions in the past, it’s one of the top galleries for Urban Art in London, check it!

As dedicated followers of my digital adventures know I am a sucker for bright colours and shapes. So great I stumbled into the show of Irish artist Maser purely by chance! I really enjoyed his paintings and took a good long look at his technique as he used a lot of different materials and interesting approaches to getting certain effects on the canvas…

Ahhhh colours…


The Connor Brothers: Wondrous Obsessions / Hang Up Pictures

Another heavyweight of the British Urban Art gallery scene, and conveniently just up the street where I live!

I feel Hang Up Pictures are curating more withered, darker looking shows compared to Lazarides and Stolenspace who do like their art rather eye popping, so having The Connor Brothers commission a selected group of artists to create work living alongside natural history artifacts, scientific objects and antiques just totally fit the bill!

Victorian Street Art you say? Hmmm… All I know is that no art show worth it’s salt is complete without an hawt female intern or gallery manager looking concentrated into a macbook 😉

And onwards…

Felipe Pantone & Alex Yanes / Stolenspace Gallery

Ticking yet another box: Stolenspace! Founded by D*Face in 2005, for me the gallery really helped Street Art upping the ante regarding the quality and the craftsmanship of work exhibited.

Did they take a page out of Obeys playbook creating Street Art with a high-end finish? Maybe, but I always enjoy checking out what’s on…

I really like the concept of joined exhibitions and the two gallery spaces at Stolenspace are perfect for that! On my last visit the first gallery was showing ‘Way-Out’ by Alex Yanes. I saw a bit of Barry McGee aka Twist in his work  and really enjoyed his painted wood sculptures, mixing lots of materials to add detail. Especially the finish and combination of characters and type really hit my spot. And his painted Boombox was just too dope!

The main space was dedicated to ‘Data Somersault’ by Felipe Pantone. What can I say: The pieces had my eyeballs somersaulting fo sho! The vision screwing patterns, rainbow colours and retro computer aesthetic really made me think this is the kind of art that hangs on the walls of Bill Gates or Max Headroom. The mix of 80ties gradients and stern black and white symmetry really rocks!


Phil Ashcroft: Fallout / Canal Projects

Always good to support local galleries! I never been to Canal Projects so it was awesome to check out a new art space. Especially when the very talented Phil Ashcroft has his paintings on the walls: Check it out, it’s on till 10th September!

I always liked a mix of acrylic paint and vector based aesthetic: Long time member of the Gamma Proforma Crew and Scrawl Collective Phil Ashcroft was rocking it and there were a lot of familiar faces and dope beats courtesy of Dj Monkphat.

Having a friend over from Germany who is really into art was pretty cool too! She wasted no time discussing post modernism with poor Phil… or maybe they just had chat about colour matching paint and scarves? Who knows…


To finish this piece off with a bang:

Jeff Koons: Now / Newport Street Gallery

Last month was the time to FINALLY check out the gallery space build and curated by no other than Damien Hirst! What can I say… what a building: Designed by architects Caruso St John, the gallery spans 37,000 square feet and includes six exhibition spaces – one with a ceiling height of eleven metres – split over two levels. It hosts art from Hirst’s private collection is free to get in. Sweet!

Hirst is so rich, he can even afford a couple of  hawt interns / gallery managers looking into Apple products! At the same time! Plus security! Bling Bling!

For avid fans of Koons the NOW show has no surprises in store really. If this is Hirsts private collection he basically acquired the most iconic pieces from Koons catalogue: Floating basketballs, pieces from the Popeye Series, Cicciolina in the face photos and massive polished sculptures from his Celebration Series… 

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it! The space lends itself perfectly to display Koons work, especially the two massive sculptures on show. 

I just hope her boyfriend doesn’t get chrome envy…

Koons is just the daddy of Pop, with his porn pictures soiling the clean and innocent polish of his other work in the perfect amount. His re-creations of inflatable toys or the massive Play Doh mountain and chrome sculptures really express the joy of collecting and the visual power of cute toys. Looking at his work gives me the the same kick I get from marvelling at toys from my local toy store. Just in bigger. MUCH BIGGER. Something KAWS understood and applied to his own work quite perfectly.

I can only applaud the crispness of his work. Well done assistants, well done…

Upon leaving the gallery I spotted a stencil piece in a nearby tunnel, facing the gallery. A tribute by Banksy or just a miffed art critic venting? It shall remain a mystery…

Hope you enjoyed the show(s)… till next time!


Lazarides | Hang Up Pictures | Stolenspace Gallery | Canal Gallery | Newport Street Gallery

Creative Triathlon: Meeting of Styles 2016

When Jim and Matilda from Endoftheline offered me to get involved into the creative frenzy that is the annual Meeting of Styles festival I couldn’t say no: I grabbed my camera, dj bag and paints and headed down to the Nomadic Garden in Bricklane to see what’s going on!

What is Meeting Of Styles you ask? In short: It’s a yearly paint jam that’s organised by people all over the globe! Want to know more? Well, why don’t you check out this educational video curtesy of UK #mos16 organizers Endoftheline:

Bricklane has been a Streetart and Graffiti spot for ages so picking the creative space of the Nomadic Garden and the surrounding area felt like the perfect spot to host this massive event.

When I arrived for the second day of the festival, things were already in full swing: Artists were hitting walls, musicians were jamming and people were enjoying the sunshine, wandering from artists to artist to see what’s happening! Of cause there was food and drink as well…

I really enjoyed the mellow and inclusive vibe that was all around me. As London can be pretty snobbish and hectic this was a welcome change from the norm. It reminded me more of the Hip Hop Jams of old than the polished exhibitions that are everywhere in London these days.

Of cause the centrepiece, like every year, was the massive main wall painted during all three days of the festival. It’s still mind blowing to me how a squad of artists manages to work together so perfectly on such a massive scale! I can’t give enough props to everyone involved in bringing the tentacled London bus to life!

For more pictures of this piece and much more please check out my Flickr!

The one thing that get’s lost these day when it comes to HipHop IMHO is the culture aspect of it: It’s not all about the BlingBling but expressing yourself truthfully via art, dance and music! MOS had an impressive list of DJs, Beatboxers, Musicians, Graff Writers and MC’s all getting down together and I loved every minute of it! Big up!

The creative spirit wasn’t limited to the garden itself but spilled over to nearby walls in Allen Gardens, Pedley Street, Grimsby Street & Scalter Street. The tunnel behind the Normadic Gardens had been made accessible too so there was no shortage of walls to be hit. Glad everyone had an official permission so when the friendly neighbourhood police turned up everything was cool!

Now enough of talking the talk… time for walking the walk myself! With so much amazing talent involved I felt very intimidated putting my canvasses up but it was time to man up and put that paint down! 

I am by no stretch a Graffiti artists but I do love painting and recently got more involved creating artworks with pens and cans so why the hell not get those dried up paints out! First challenge: As my foundation was screamingly yellow I was instantly attacked by a variety of insects ganging up on me in the gardenso I had to leave and find a spot more removed from the local fauna!

As there was no shortage of space soon I was hitting the canvas. My brain was buzzing, switching from “Oh my god I am so crap” to “Hey… this just might turn out alright…” in 5 second intervals. But hey, everybody has to start somewhere, right?

Painting open air drinking beers was way more enjoyable than watching the paint dry ( literally ) at home so although I didn’t manage to finish my two canvasses ( go two or go home ) in time for my dj set, I was quite happy with the outcome and had a great time. I am a beautiful Art Butterfly, no matter what they say… and I am sure you can check out the finished pieces soon on my Instagram!

When the sun was setting it was time to ditch the paints and get out the record bag: Time for the third part of my creative triathlon consisting of taking snaps, painting pictures and spinning beats all in one day! 

As my slot was quite late a nice big crowd was already grooving to the sounds of the previous DJ crews and beat boxers. Easy!

Although I have been djing for over 20 years now, each new gig is still giving me a bit of stage fright. It’s about connecting with some hundred people and getting the party moving… not an easy task! Hence my serious face: Dj Solaris100 in deep meditation!

I am happy to report that the vinyl only selection of tunes I packed didn’t fall on deaf ears! I especially want to give a big shout out to Paz Dean who dug my vintage HipHop selection so much he basically became my hype man, inspiring all kinds of hardcore breakdance moves as can be witnessed below:

Like any good DJ I ran over time and even sneaked in a cheeky German Hip Hop track in there! The facial expressions of the few Germans dotted around who didn’t expect to hear some Eimsbush Beats in London were priceless!

So all in all it was an amazing event and I need to give again a massive shout out to Matilda and Jim from Endoftheline for organizing all this and all the artists involved blessing the event with their creativity!

Till next year! | | Nomadic

And to wrap things up, here are my Top 5 party smashers from my set at #mos16…

1) “Wicked Funk” – Kwanzaa Posse ( 1999 )

Absolute killer Funk track that has been in my record bag since 1999! Always gets me into the mood and is the perfect jump off point for any set mashing different funky flavours together. 10/10

2) “Represent” – Nas ( 1994 )

Stone cold classic that takes me back to when I was hanging out in my local Hip Hop joint in Hamburg/Geramany called “The Powerhouse” on the legendary Reeperbahn! It was known for playing mostly Eastcoast tracks on an insanely crisp soundsystem… ahhh the golden days! 

3) “Wie jetzt” – Dynamite Deluxe ( 2000 )

The aforementioned German HipHop track! I have been living in London now for 15 years so after adapting to Sunday Roasts and the Monarchy it’s only fair that I import a bit of my German HipHop heritage onto this island! Part of the legendary Eimsbush Crew hailing straight outta Hamburg Ciddy, their MC Samy Deluxe still rates as one of the best German emcees doing it. And the beats? Banging! 

4) “Tricka Technology” – A.Skillz & Krafty Kuts ( 2002 )

I do love all kinds of funky beats so being into Breaks comes natural to me. This banger from the two heavyweights of this musical genre still delivers the goods and works in any context. It’s one of these tracks that sets the mood and gets people grooving…

5) “Sabotage” – Beastie Boys ( 1994 )

What can I say… LEGENDARY! Sometimes you have to give the crowd what they need. The Beasties are the one band that had the biggest influence on me period! Being it their style, music, humor and other creative endeavours. Unhatable and untouchable. Check out their amazing live DVD “Awesome… I shot that” to revisit them at their absolute top game! #ripmca…

Gamma Proforma: Audio Futurism

London has been home to many legendary labels: MoWax, Ninja Tune and Warp just to name a few. But apart from the heavy hitters many small independent labels keep pushing the envelope too. One of these labels is Gamma Proforma. Mixing art, design and music Gamma Proforma can be seen as a continuation of labels like MoWax where the design of the record sleeve is as important as the beats pressed on wax. With their 15th anniversary last year it’s about time to catch up with Rob Swain, creative director and label owner of Gamma Proforma, to shed a little light on the story so far. 

Hi Rob! Happy 15th anniversary! Tell me a little about yourself and the birth of the label. 

Things evolved from a group of artists and musicians (wasters), originally in Edinburgh where I lived at the time. There was never much of a master plan, we made music, art, ran events, it made sense to give it a difficult to say name and develop it. I’m an annoying, opinionated bloke who has ideas above his station.

You are the curator of the Gamma output: Picking artists, releasing albums and designing the art books. How do you manage to wear so many hats at the same time? I guess you are not getting a lot of sleep…

As with all things you enjoy, it’s never really work. Projects develop at their own pace, there are always a lot of creative hands in the mix. It’s not like we’re rushing around, pushing all the time. It happens in a more laid back, bit by bit way. Deadlines come and go, but we always get there in the end.

I guess the learning curve was pretty steep or did you have previous publishing experience before launching the label?

I’d previously ran a label, been in bands and had a shop, when Gamma kicked off it was more about doing things right, based on all the things i’d previously done wrong.

Gamma Proforma is quite a strange name, can you explain a little the meaning behind it?

Gamma represents 3 (Third letter in Greek Alphabet), it’s the 3 elements of what we do, Art, Music & Design. Proforma is a word i’ve always liked, it means ‘for forms sake’, in a working relationship, about being upfront and direct, the wordplay on ‘forms sake’ also appealed to me. It was 2000, that was the only domain name we could get.

The artist roster of the label is pretty impressive: You work together with some of the biggest names of the urban art scene like Will Barras, sheOne, Phil Ashcroft, Delta etc. How do you approach artists you like to work with?

A lot of the time we’ve met and discussed an idea, you meet one artist, then another. Most of the work happens in the pub, now and then if there’s someone who’s a good fit for a project or who has done something that’s impressed me, i’ll do what anyone would do, drop them a message or give them a call, send them some expensive biscuits.

Let’s talk Rammellzee: You dedicated a whole art project to him and curated an exhibition at Magda Danysz gallery in London. What does Rammellzee mean to you?

There aren’t many people from hip-hop’s inception who achieved what Rammellzee achieved in his short life, he was a legendary MC, inspiring the likes of the Beastie Boys. His art was ahead of it’s time, like Futura he moved beyond letter-forms before most of the world even knew what writing (graffiti) was. He created a complex world of characters and mythology, building costumes and sculptures from garbage, all backed up by a movement on his theories on control through written language, Gothic Futurism.

Can you name anyone who’s even achieved half of that? He’s Hip Hop’s Sun Ra, a cult figure who’s influence has yet to be fully realised.

You had Futura contributing a canvas for the Rammellzee show that was used for one of the 12″ releases as well. That must have been pretty special regarding his legendary status! Can you talk a little bit more about how that collaboration came about?

The Rammellzee project, Cosmic Flush, was about celebrating the life of a legend. When you’re talking Rammellzee, you can’t throw many names alongside his. Futura was a contemporary and friend of Ramm’s, he dubbed Futura ‘The Master Mapper’. It was fitting to have him involved, he’s part of the same story. Ian Kuali’i, who worked tirelessly alongside me on the project hooked up with Futura and made it happen, he was a gent throughout.

You are coming from a Graphic Design background, can you tell me a little bit about your sources of inspiration? Futurism seems to play quite a big role…

I’ve been into Design since I was a kid, the only thing I ever liked about Star Wars was the design, the story is generally rubbish. My thing, for the most part is modern art, Futurism is a fairly loose term. It’s constantly evolving, as we can never really live in the future, it’s always just ahead of us, and as such, each generations view of it is different.

As a child of the 70’s/80’s i’ll always be drawn to the Futuristic vision of my youth, the Delorean DMC 12 was built in the city i grew up in, vector graphics were new, computers were in their infancy.

I draw a lot on the period from my formative years, as it was a time when the tools were just getting exciting, but you really needed to be creative to achieve anything with them as they were still quite limited in what they could achieve. I subscribe to the ‘less is more’ philosophy, it’s healthy to be restricted, you’re forced to approach things differently.

For the Rewire project you had electronic artists like Cristian Vogel, Divine Styler, Luke Vibert and Andrea Parker contribute music… was it hard to get them all onboard?

I worked on that with Andrea Parker, Vogel and Vibert came from her relationships. Divine Styler is a solid member of the Gamma team, he embodies a lot of what we’re about. On the project in general, if you have a good idea and treat people with respect, in most cases they are happy to be involved. I have no desire to persuade people to do things they have no interest in, it’s worthless unless they actually want to be a part of it.

Running such a varied operation like GP must involve a lot of paperwork as well. With so many different artists involved, is it hard to sort out all royalties and rights and legal stuff?

Not really, most of the music we promote is available for free, we have very little paperwork, if a contract is required it’s usually very simple. We aren’t interested in tying people down or enforcing restrictions, for the most part, that’s what contracts do. A lot of the time we just shake hands and get to work.

With Banksy being at an all time high hype-wise and people like RnB singer Chris Brown trying his hand at street art, how do you feel about the urban art scene at the moment?

I don’t really pay any attention, I don’t even know who one of those guys is. It’s interesting how these generic labels bundle people together, I get why they are necessary, humans need labels to describe things, but just saying Urban Art or Street Art doesn’t really say much other than, someone painted something in the city, or here’s where the cool kids hang out. I’m not actually interested in these groups across the board, it’s like saying I like ‘Canvas Art’, I’m interested in art and artists, great painters, people of vision. 

Getting back to your question, at present we live in a very noisy world, in the 90’s you’d be hard pushed to meet anyone who called themselves an ‘artist’, these days I hear it daily. It’s like the Xmas pressie went from guitars to turntables to paint, in some respects it’s great that so many people are pushing their creativity, a lot are just having fun, i’d say 5% have something to say. Gamma isn’t part of the scene, we get lumped in as a generalisation in the same way people throw independent record labels in the same pot.

GP pushes a lot of experimental music. Any artists not on GP you are currently excited about?

I find it quite difficult to find new music these days, I spent a few hours going through new releases on Bleep the other day, nothing jumped out. ‘Current’ artists that I have playing in the office today are Bad Bad Not Good, Dead Rider, Juice Aleem, Mr Len, Beak, Clint Mansell…

You are releasing a book about the legendary UK designer and artist Swifty soon. How did this come about?

After a few beers, a lot of the time it’s a case of ‘why has this not happened already?’ There’s no denying Swifty’s credentials as a leading figure in Graphic Design, his record sleeves alone could fill two books. It’s a real honour to be working with him, people like Gilles Peterson and James Lavelle owe him a lot, I personally bought their early records because of Swifty’s sleeve art, it was a seal of approval.

Images via

Vinyl is back with a vengeance but smaller labels complain about big labels blocking the pressing plants with their mainstream releases. Did you guys have an issues with that? What are your thoughts?

What you say is true, there’s a rich fat bloke with a big arse and he’s hogging all the room with his RSD fodder. Until he fucks off we’ll all have to just wait in line.

You did what many designers dream of: Run your own show. Any advice for any striving art entrepreneurs?

Have a back up plan or side job. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, financial security is not on the horizon. If you’re the sort of person who strikes out on your own or makes things happen you don’t need advice, you’ll do it no matter what people tell you. It’s like design, you can’t really teach it, it’s who you are.

Any final shout outs and announcements?

A massive shout out to you Solaris, and the other 12 guys that buy our stuff!

Gamma Proforma is hosting a night at The Social on 22.4.2016. Don’t miss it!  More info here

Check out Gamma Proforma online:

Swifty Typografix:

Thanks to DJ Food for addtional images:

Their 7″ vinyl weights a ton: Secret 7s 2016

That London hosts amazing exhibitions is no secret, but this exhibition hold some secrets itself! Kickstarted in 2012, Secret 7s picks 7 tracks and releases them on 7″ vinyl. Then selected artists, designers and illustrators create unique covers for the song of their choice.

The catch: The artist, the designer and the track stay anonymous so each visitor has to guess which creative messed around with which song!

Especially when it comes to the infamous sale day where all the sleeves get sold off for charity, having the right hunch can bag the vinyl lover an original artwork by a world famous artists for the price of £50!

The list of contributors is as eclectic as the selection of songs for the 7 inch vinyl: From total newcomers to big artists, Secret 7s prides itself to be open and accessible which I think is great. And not just because I managed to get to submit an artwork to the show 😉 

So many different approaches to customizing a 7″ cover! Trying to figure out the songs as a visitor is as much fun as designing a sleeve as an artist: It’s all about dropping enough hints to make the cover relevant to the song, but not too many that it’s too obvious. 

Name-dropping all of the artists featured would be impossible. The whole list can be seen here. Needless to say it’s great to share the exhibition space with friends like Daniel Clarke, Patrick Hanke, Mark James and Stevie Gee and personal heroes of mine like Pete Fowler and Swifty, just to name a few.  

As all monies will be donated to Amnesty International there is  no need to cling onto your cash: Get yourself a piece of affordable art and support a great cause! 

Wonder which songs are on offer? Tracks featured on vinyl this year: Chvrches / Clearest Blue, Etta James / At Last, Jack Garratt / Worry, The Jam / Art School, John Lennon / Imagine, Max Richter / Dream 3 and Tame Impala / The Less I Know The Better. Quite a range of musical styles!

To create the right vibe for the private view at creative space Sonos Studio featured artist and vinyl lover Pete Fowler and friends provided the soundtrack to the kick off of this years show with their 7″ vinyl  only selection while ice cold craft beers made the rounds. Cheers! Now I really have to get that amazing Turkish Funk record he played…

So head down to Secret 7s in Shoreditch and go on your own musical expedition into the unknown… and discover more than one visual treasure!

The exhibition runs from 8th of April till 1st of May 2016 with the Sale Day being on 2nd May! Open Tuesday till Sunday, 10AM – 6.30PM at Sonos Studio, 21 Club Row, Shoreditch.

Before I am off to the record store, let me say that Secret 7s is not the only project worth mentioning when it comes to fusing art and music on 7″ vinyl…

1) Waiwiya

I came across these great designed 7″ records during the Independent Label Market this year. Apparently Waiwiya is a singles club where a subscription gives you access to seven vinyl singles designed by seven amazing artists. What a fun concept! Check out their Facebook to find out more. 


2) 45/7 Vinyl Club

Hailing from Hamburg / Germany, the aim of the 45/7 Vinyl Club is to connect 7″ vinyl lovers and present new eclectic 7″ mixes on a monthly basis via their Soundcloud. Every contributing DJ gets a unique hand painted 7″ sleeve by Secret 7s artist Patrick Hanke and they just celebrated their first limited release on vinyl:  A limited promotional only pressing of their “45/7 Theme” which already has a special place in my record collection!


3) Mondo Tees |

The illustration heavy hitters from Austin / Texas don’t only deliver when it comes to amazing and limited screenprinted posters, no they go all out too for their vinyl releases! These Batman and Superman 7″ vinyls are just a thing of beauty. Catch them if you can!

KAWS Mania: Making moves with Brian Donnelly

Uniqlo dropped the bomb this week and revealed the pieces of their upcoming collaboration with pop artist KAWS! I am very, very happy about what I see, not only because the bags and shirts look great and are affordable but because it’s funny to see how I am growing up alongside my heroes of the past. Time to reminisce about the rise of KAWS and my favorite pieces and collaborations that explain how Brian Donnelly made the leap from painting panels at Disney to the top of the art food chain in 2016.

1997 – Bus shelter interventions

Let’s start with the KAWS bus shelters: What a great idea defacing ads with your own brand! KAWS clean style fused perfectly with the beautifully shot adverts, raising his art in the process. Instead of destroying the ad this could be seen as his first ( illegal ) collaborations with high value brands as the slick visuals of the source material were always preserved if not enhanced by KAWS colourful and witty style.

Funnily enough the toys Medicom created based on the bus shelters are the cheapest and most readily available toys in his catalogue. Weird as I think they are a lot of fun and the concept is great!

  via JeremyRiad
via JeremyRiad

14 years later and the collaborations became a bit more official! Again I really think this is because of KAWS ability to create graphics which are so crisp and clean that they don’t feel out of place connected to high fashion and lifestyle brands. I wonder when he creates his first capsule collection with LV!

1999 – The birth of designer toys

Covered this part of his contribution to the Urban Toy phenomenon in my blogpost about Designer Toys here. Still it’s worth mentioning them again as they represent the first of many collaborations KAWS created in Japan where the scene embraced him first. I doubt he would be as popular and well known as he is now without the fandom of NIGO of BAPE fame and the support of the emerging street fashion Harajuku scene consisting of brands like BxH, Neighbourhood and Undercover. I am still loving the idea that a brand can embrace fashion, art and toys in one go.

2005 – Big in Japan

It’s good to have people who believe in you and push your career forward. Being one of the favorite artists of a mega rich Japanese streetwear mongul certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world! Nigo didn’t only commission a lot of pieces for his private art collection, but had KAWS create a whole season for his mega hype fashion brand BAPE. This didn’t just include pieces for the clothes line but artwork for his music label Bapesounds and covering his Bape Cafe in Tokyo with artwork as well.

  via Hypebeast
via Hypebeast

Some of my favorite pieces from the BAPE x KAWS era are the early toys and the CD cover for Japanese singer Cherie. I was lucky enough to pick some of these items up on my trip to Japan in 2007… 

A honorable mention goes out to ex Deee-Lite member Towa Tei who was one of the first people ( apart from Nigo ) who commissioned KAWS to do some artwork for him… Japanese people just have great taste!

2006 – Original Fake

Next step in the quest for world domination was opening his own store in Japan together with toy company Medicom. The Original Fake line felt decidedly less cartoony and more upmarket compared to the designs he did for BAPE. Architects Wonderwall created the impressive yet understated looking store and I am still annoyed about the small Japanese sizing of the goods! Most of his later toys were released via Original Fake as well and queues used to form around his impressive Tokyo store on the regular. In 2013 KAWS pulled the plug on this business venture to concentrate more on his art hustle and less on the fashion retail side of things. I am sure though that he learned as lot about crafting his brand from this venture.

His final season can still be viewed here…

  via Wonderwall
via Wonderwall

Pharrell – Back to the USA

  via Upscalehype
via Upscalehype

As much as Pharrell caught the BAPE bug from Nigo, he caught his KAWS obsession as well. This early picture of Skateboard P rocking a diamond encrusted pendant based on a KAWS Blitz toy shows how hard Pharrell was riding on the KAWS fan train. I feel Pharrell can be credited for bringing KAWS back to the US alongside fellow NIGO bro Kanye West after he reached cult status with devoted collectors in Asia.

Pharrells public endorsement put KAWS back on the radar of a more mainstream western audience. Creating Kanye West’s “808 and Heartbreak” album cover art was just another step winning America over. He should go on creating massive sculptures for the MTV Music Awards and Marcy’s Day Parade…

Art Hustle – Rubbing shoulders with the fine art world

KAWS learned a lot about collaborating with the right people during the early days in Japan. He proceeded to hand pick his art collabos to not over saturate the market and work with credible artists that would add an extra dimension to his art. People like Pushead, Hajime Sayorama, Yue Minjun and Robert Lazzarini gave his companion extra flavour and elevated his toy to sculpture status. And that Murakami became a big fan too might not surprise anybody…

Blowing up dolls

Talking about sculptures: Blowing up his companion character to insane heights started very modestly in 2007 with taking the 1000% size concept of Medicom toys to the next level: The 4ft Companion was born!

Sizes grew with time and impressive sculptures were created for exhibitions in Malaga, Switzerland and Hong Kong to name a view. KAWS cartoonish style gives his massive sculptures a very surreal edge and allowed him to break into the art world. 

British KAWS lovers are fortunate to be able to see his Companions until June 2016 in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Read my write up of the YSP exhibition here! 

Selling out… by selling out

KAWS is great at keeping prices for his art high but offering accompanying merchandise that’s still desirable but affordable to the masses as well. As original art sells in the upper ten thousands middleweight collectors can still buy a pieces of KAWS via his limited print editions which are not cheap but the closest a normal person can get to owning some KAWS artwork. When it comes to the masses KAWS follows the same approach of high fashion houses like Chanel or LV: You might not be able to afford a handbag but you can still pick up a low cost item to feel part of the gang!

 via The AlleyGallery
via The AlleyGallery

Some merch from the YSP shop… not a piece of art put a piece of KAWS nevertheless…

XX for the masses: KAWS x UNIQLO

Now here we are, at the dawn of the next step of KAWS pushing his creations to become household names! Whilst other artists might be called “Sell Outs” for collaborating with a company doing mass produced fashion, this collaboration just feels natural. Especially with Nigo being the current creative director of UT at Uniqlo! Personally I am excited and already picked my favorite pieces.

The toy nerds won! Next KAWS might give a space shuttle his trademark teeth and crossed out eyes as the sky apparently is not the limited to a business savvy pop artists like Brian Donnelly!

Solaris 100 at Meet The Artists

As a Designer, having personal projects can really help to keep the creativity bubbling. For me that’s DJing, writing this blog and doing a bit of painting and drawing. But what to do with all the physical output?

As I am very happy with my customized record covers I was just waiting for a chance to get involved with an exhibition to show the fruits of my work. When a friend of mine pointed at a call for submissions for a group show in East London I jumped at the chance to get my work seen live and direct on a wall in a gallery.

When I got the notification from the curator that I was in, my mind instantly started spinning how to present my work. As I am a big fan of the cross over of product and art I thought it might be fun to offer more things at the show than just my paintings. I always wanted to try out a bit of shoe customization so I thought that would be fun item to add.

After getting some white canvas shoes I was off to applying a dash of colour to them whilst still trying to keep them look crisp and not messy. On top of that did I wonder how to package them as the original shoes didn’t come with boxes. Some amazing leopard patterned tote bags I came across solved that issue, especially as I was able to print my logo onto them which I designed earlier.

To quote Hannibal from the A-Team: I love it when a plan comes together!

As my work was so heavily about records I threw another thing into the mix: Some limited 10″ records I designed for the British band Akasha awhile ago. The bold colourway and the orange clear vinyl inside really worked with the rest of my art and I hand customised them on top of that. Pure fire!

Some mini artwork rounded off the Solaris100 offering and I suddenly had my own little art store going! 

I just really enjoy getting inspired and running with it. Thanks to Athena Anastasiou for running MTA & Ryan Godwin for curating the event who was happy accepting all this extra artwork!

The show itself was great: A packed house, fresh artists on display, cold beers and amazing music provided by Tj Owusu. And when a designer like Peter Crnokrak is happy to model your new logo full on Zoolander style you know you did some good work! #bluesteel

Thanks again to the whole Meet The Artists team. Follow them on Facebook to be notified of the next shows in London! It was great to be part of this and I can’t wait for the next one. Until then: Keep on keeping on…

Still Here: A Decade of Lazarides

Yes, I am still struggling to take good shots in dim light conditions! Then again, this picture really captures the frenzy that ensued once Lazarides opened it’s doors for it’s 10th Anniversary show at their gallery in Rathbone Place in Central London. Pure mayhem!

Before I could even start checking out the show I needed to head to the freebie table to refill any depleted energy with bottles for Golden Lager and Streetart Marshmellows by Boomf. Tasty!

Recharged and ready for action I threw myself at the show which spread from the basement all the way up the the 3rd floor of the gallery! 

I really wonder if they put something special into the Bristol water supply as it’s uncanny how much this city contributed to global urban culture: Massive Attack, Portishead, Banksy, Nellee Hooper, Breakbeat Era and the one and only Mr Steve Lazarides!

Looking at the walls it becomes clear why Steve Lazarides get credited with being one of the major players in the urban art business: 3D, Aiko, Anthony Lister, Antony Micallef, Banksy, Brett Amory, Chloe Early, David Choe, Doug Foster, Faile, Frank Laws, Gary Taxali, Herbert Baglione, Hush, Ian Francis, Invader, Joe Rush, Jonathan Yeo, JR and many more represent the extensive scope of Lazarides art portfolio.

Pretty sure this is some new work by 3D of Massive Attack…

Seeing all this art on the wall reminded me of the heyday of Pictures On Walls, another one of Lazarides Art ventures. I still remeber the excitement buying my first ( and only ) #Banksy via POW and the queues that would form outside their print shop in Old Street. Their website is still up but I wonder if they release any new prints. 

Climbing up the stairs revealed some tasty #banksys… some of them from the very early days. I must say I prefer his prints to his canvases. I still remember being at his first show in London, upstairs at the Dragon Bar near Old Street Roundabout. An artwork was around £300 and apart from that amount being quite a lot of money for me back then the rats on white plain canvas just never really appealed to me. Ha! If I only knew back then what I know now… *sigh*

What can I say, with the latest investment into his business Lazarides is going from strength to strength!

Here is to the next 10 years…

Still Here: A Decade of Lazarides | 12.2.2016 – 24.3.2016

Wednesday–Saturday 11am–7pm. Admission is free.

Lazarides Gallery | 11 Rathbone Place, London, W1T 1HR

Neverended: End of the Line 10th Anniversary Show

February keeps on hammering me with great shows to go to! For two weeks EndoftheLine takes over the entire LondonNewcastle Project Space on Redchurch Street in the heart of Shoreditch with a massive retrospective of the last ten years of East London’s Graffiti, Street Art and Hip Hop scene. 

Matilda and Jim of End of the Line have been very busy the last 10 years organizing amazing art shows , running event spaces like the legendary Rockwell House and being at the core of the London Graffiti scene. Since I moved to London I kept bumping into the two when I wandered around in the East or popped into the Dragon Bar for a cold one. 

It’s great to see how far the two and EndoftheLine progressed in the last 10 years! 

Very impressive was also the scope of featured artists! Jim’s massive murals around London and running the UK side of the Graffiti Blockparty “Meeting of Styles” helped them to connect to the “Who is Who” of local and international Graffiti Writers and Street Artists: Will Barras, Mr Jago, Bom.k, Sowat, Faile, Tizer, Xenz, Sheone, Dan Chase, Ed Hicks, Rabodiga, 45RPM, Candy Lo, Imaone, Suiko, Zoer, Does, Odisy, Dr Zadok, Reeps, Dotmasters, Steff Plaetz and 123 Klan are just a few to mention…

Walking around the show made me feel like I jumped straight into the pages of an issue of VNA magazine! Loved it! My favorite pieces on show came from the always fantastic ROID, Faile, Terratag and Jim Vision who painted an apocalyptic wall that invited the visitor to become the Angel of the Apocalypse! Of cause I had to oblige…

End of the Line made sure that the visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Graffiti, Street Art and music with a series of pop up events the organized in the exhibition space as well. Planned are live art, life drawing classes, music showcases by the 5th Element Agency & Lyrix Organix, pop up feasts and live talks. Follow End of the Line on Facebook for the latest scoop on this!

So what else is there to say for the time being apart from encouraging everybody to check out the exhibition! I personally feel very inspired to hit the canvas myself again actually.

Oh, and they are running a small pop-up shop as well for the duration of the show featuring limited edition prints by many of the featured artists, collectibles and a selection of customized street furniture. Get involved!