Eric Le Flexible: The paradox of crude and explicit art

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The definition of art is an elaborate task. Yet, arguably, when a product of the human imagination triggers an emotional response, it can be defined as art. While most art is defined, subjectively so, only because the reaction it elicits is deemed pleasurable and guided by a superior sense of aesthetic, what to do when a vivid imagination has put together a universe of gruesome, graphic drawings with a warped yet fascinating sense of humor? You get Eric Le Flexible, an idiosyncratic maverick who ventures mostly into the grotesque and macabre, drawing with ghoulish irony and detached ease. He has that matchless skill to play with our minds (and his own) like a child does: unabashedly, lucidly, flusteringly, enabling him to pull out multifarious tricks from his hat, whether it be disproportioned genitalia, gory cartoons, or more innocent sketches. Eric Le Flexible is a brazen artist, with a flair for constantly exploring his creative power and pushing its boundaries, smacking us with his unembarrassed, bold choices. It stings, but it surely does not hurt.

Graziella Buontempo: Who is Eric le Flexible?

Eric Le Flexible: Another person inhabiting a major city in a western country. I also draw stuff.

GB: Do you consider yourself unconventional artistically?

ELF: I guess you could say that. I have always had a hard time placing my work into a category yet I know that, in and out of itself, it is not for everyone. Now, calling it unconventional may be a bit simple since I feel as though, over time, we are being used to greater exposure to sex and violence. They are part of our lives whether we choose to get involved or not. I just like to portrait the interaction differently than most cartoonists.

GB: Where does most of your inspiration come from?

ELF: The most mundane yet harsh reality that hits me everyday in socially acceptable interactions with fellow humans. My interpretation of those moments in life may have been fostered by the brilliant vision of cartoon prodigies such as Marcel Gotlieb, Franquin, Gary Larson and Nicholas Gurwitch.

GB: Given the nature of your illustrations, most people would describe you as a perverted and mentally deranged individual at the borderline of transgression and deviance. How would you defend yourself against such comments?

ELF: I wouldn’t. I can’t draw these things and expect not to be called a mentally disturbed pervert from time to time. I feel as though we are shaped by societal ideas based on categorization and hierarchy. If people want to analyze my work in such a simple manner and put me into a conveniently labeled basket, so be it. I just like to think we all have different interpretations of reality but some people comfort themselves into thinking there is only one. That being said, I am well aware of the content of my work; it’s up to the viewers to call me “wrong” or not.

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GB: Is there a line you trace in your drawings between acceptable and not? Do you think your work is/ can be/should be perceived as art?

ELF: I would like to think it is art but I understand most people see it as childish and hurtful classroom doodling, which it kind of is. When it comes to my drawings, I don’t think anything is unacceptable. I draw the line where my imagination and ability to express it stop.


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Masomenos-Art: A colorful shower of artistic and entrepreneurial innovation

Ghosty

I have already talked with and about Masomenos, the creative project headed by the colorful duo of Parisians Joan Costes and Adrien de Maublanc, but this time their creative energy has concocted a new formula that combines not only their enthusiasm for graphic art (and fashion), but also a clever new way of financing, showing thus once more just how creatively ebullient they can be.

Through crowd-funding, a new way for the public audience to support and promote projects, whether entrepreneurial, artistic, musical or of any other kind, the more artistic side of Masomenos, Masomenos-Art, has decided to look after the manufacturing of vibrant new scarves. What comes out from Masomenos-Art and their new project is the degree of inventiveness that this duo has: inexhaustibly ingenious and vivaciously exuberant, Joan and Adrien are animated by an incessant motivation to tinge their followers and their world with wild splashes of color.

What is so wondrous in the Masomenos world is the dedication that they put into all of their adventures, and once again, they have come up with an inspired and innovative way of doing things: diving wholeheartedly, unconditionally and, first and foremost, with pure pleasure and fun, the pure Masomenos style.

Luckily the project comes at the perfect time of the year: with glacial winds and snow approaching, Christmas time will be even more jolly and warm!

Graziella Buontempo: What exactly is your new scarf project? How did it come to life?

Joan & Adrien: We were working on  the Tofidi (The Snake) design (drawing, paintings, and vinyl covers) and we wanted to create a nice object with it for Masomenos-Art.As both Adrien and I are big scarf lovers (it fits really well with our lifestyles) we started working on a scarf. And, as always, we thought it a little bit out of the regular scale (a big square 140X140 cm and a triangle of 140X140X180cm).

GB: Why did you choose to finance the project through a crowd-funding platform (KissKissBankBank)? Is this the first time you venture into a project like this? How did you find the experience up until now?

J&A: Well, we discovered the KissKissBankBank platform as we had already started thinking about the production of the scarves. We had all the infos related to the production, and suddenly thought about the synergy it could create by doing it this way. We really went head over heels for it for different reasons, and the money part was not the main reason at all. The idea to receive feedback on the product, directly from our people, and to be able to propose a high quality product for a great price to them was the main motivation. So we decided to start this project this way. The good part was also to write all down, which was a good exercise. And to communicate about it, and that is for sure not the thing we do best. Here we had to! So far, we’re really happy about the experience. We’re already thinking of a second project to put up this way.

It opens the door to a new field of possibilities. And it totally fits our spirit! We’re totally into crowd-funding now!

GB: How do you usually finance your projects? What have been the advantages of crowd-funding for you?

J&A: We always did it in a “Masomenos” way, finding a good way so that the project breaks even. But in a way, it’s really limitative. You get restricted on the amount of projects you can launch, and on the quality of the production. With this way of financing, the only limitation is your creativity. If people follow you, then it’s a good one; if not, we can skip to another one. We’re not lacking ideas :) :)

GB: Do you think this method of financing could easily be applied to other parts of the Masomenos brand (for example, in the distribution of your music)?

J&A: To be honest we already thought of a lot of different ways to apply it. For sure we would not produce another fashion product right now. We though it could be nice for us, but also for other labels, to finance the reprint of sold out vinyls, or special boxes…for us it could also be a special art installation, or a sculpture! Anything, as long as it’s a good idea!

GB: How important is it for you to mobilize people in the creative process?

J&A: It’s more in the production than in the creative process that we involve people. But it is VERY important. We started having a really intimate relationship with our audience by touring, and playing live, sharing time and emotion with people. And this is an amazing experience, as anybody performing live will tell you. Making products was tearing us apart from this, and here we’ve found a way to get closer again, and we feel really more comfortable this way. Masomenos is neither a brand or a label, it’s an artistic project and therefore we need to find our own way of developing projects. We can’t apply usual brand marketing, or label promotion. It would always fail, as this is not why our audience is following us. They expect us to do differently.

GB: How well do you think you know your audience? How do you think you are able to create a lasting relationship with your customers?

J&A: Well, as much as we enjoy making products, and for this reason have the need to sell these products, we like to consider it more like an audience than as a bunch of customers, or a market. As a lot of people told us when we started with Masomenos-Art you can’t have a brand that proposes iPhone stickers, street-wear clothes lines, high-end clutch bags and artistic prints. Well we did it our way, and for sure we never really had “customers”, or we never got so much press either, but people keep following our work, and enjoy the idea of having the possibility to buy a part of it. For this we made things that were leaving everybody the chance to get them, while never restraining from the idea of making high-end collaborations (with Sylvia Toledano, Lucien Pellat Finet, Causse…)

GB: I noticed that the scarves are made in Italy. Is there a particular reason why you chose made in Italy over made in France?

J&A: No, none. We just got a great contact there and were really happy about our work relationship and the sample products we had received.

GB: Are there any other future projects you plan on financing through crowd-funding platforms?

J&A: Sure! Especially one, but it’s gonna take at least 6 months to put it up! We’ll keep you posted.

GB: How important have social media and platforms like KissKissBankBank become in developing the Welcome to Masomenos brand? What are some of the biggest challenges that you face and some of the most rewarding aspects of brand development?

J&A: As we’ve said before, crowd-funding really opened new perspectives, and great ones, so we can’t really talk for now, but we’re totally excited about it. The difficult part is that it’s more an artistic project applied to products rather than a brand, and for this it’s not easy for us to communicate. The rewarding part is seeing people enjoying to have some of our world into their lives.

Click over here to contribute to the über funky Masomenos-Art scarves!

Tofidi Scarf

FIAC Paris 2012: between energy and provocation

Click here to read the article on Suitcase Magazine

Tis the season of art fairs…from the end of Kassel’s Documenta to Chicago, from London’s Frieze to, finally, Paris’ FIAC, and very soon Art Basel Miami. While collectors, art dealers, and gallerists around the world always agree that the two most important dates are Art Basel and Frieze London, this year Paris has definitely climbed to the top of the list, putting up a show of true wonderment and high praise.

The setting couldn’t be more perfect under the marvelous, sky-high, vaulted ceilings of the Grand Palais: a true joy for the eyes. But what caught the attention even more (apart from various great works of art) was the general mood: adieu pouting lips and sulky Parisian stares, people were truly, genuinely happy and moved by curiosity and admiration for art (and far less for street style and designer clothes…). Every one of the 184 perfectly illuminated, glistening galleries, was bristling with the merry brouhaha of hundreds of carefree viewers, cheerfully fluttering from painting to sculptures like attentive, industrious bees.

If Frieze this year decided to open the Frieze Masters to those artists that have changed the art world across the centuries, FIAC has put the focus on all that is new, emerging and seemingly provocative. With silicone sculptures, detailed photographs and Andy Warhol polaroids, there was a constant, voyeuristic awareness, which grazed flirtatiously between sex, power and money. From Paul McCarthy’s monumental “Static (Brown)” to Gilles Barbier’s “Soviet Suprême”, passing through Wand Du’s almost indecent yet thought-provoking sculpture, artists and galleries definitely encouraged discussions on the boundaries that art, media and society are willing to transcend when it comes to sex, image selling and politics.

Even more, the fair was a proper portal into the world of contemporary Asian art, with swarms of old and young artists showcasing their avant-gardism in the most disparate of ways. From sketches and oil paintings, to sculptures and more conceptual art, China and Asia seemed to be the center of attention, from more acclaimed artists like Yue Minjun’s “Picture of Noble Scholar” to the budding generations of Sun Xun “People’s Republic Zoo” and Japanese Chiharu Shiota. There was a clear commitment to opening up the boundaries of art and of the audience’s interests, and the Far East is still as bewitching as always.

Wary that social and political upheaval is always close by, FIAC Paris put forward an artistic extravaganza made of a quiet, yet heartwarming modesty. The genuine simplicity and unpretentiousness of the works created an atmosphere that managed to captivate viewers, catapulting them in a world of excitement and entertainment. Everywhere permeated a feeling of interactivity and intertwinement, with viewers finally observing works of art devoid of that quizzical, enigmatic scrutiny that so often comes when contemplating the hermetic. It seems that Paris is slowly, yet assuredly, making its way back into the cultural arena as one of the driving artistic capitals of the world, filling our hearts with even greater expectations for what lies in the months ahead.

Frieze London: A Window of Artistic Hope

Click here to read the review on Suitcase Magazine.

There is always something electrifying about being in London in October. The atmosphere is magical as leaves fade to yellow and orange in the luscious parks, and while they gently fall to the ground, the autumn sun still warms the increasingly crisp air. Yet, the main reason of excitement comes not from these last rays of unexpected sunshine, but from the feverish frenzy of the infamous Frieze Art Fair week, which this year celebrated its 10th edition.

 And what better way to celebrate success than by opening up a new tent at Regent’s Park? This year’s novelty, Frieze Masters (the new space opened to celebrate art before the year 2000), more discreet and less flashy than Frieze London, did seem to steal the show, with its breathtaking showcase of masterpieces ranging from Canaletto to Miro and Sol LeWitt. Here and there Persian rugs and Christian icons were interspersed with Poussins, never before seen Warhol drawings and three majestic Calder sculptures, rotating their featherweight, metallic components lulled by a gentle, silvery tune. Undoubtedly, Frieze Masters was an awe-inspiring success!

Exiting the taciturn, elegant atmosphere of the Frieze Masters to enter the Frieze London tent creates an almost shocking sensation, with a crowd who seemed in some cases to ooze more fashion and head-to-toe designer clothes than an actual interest in the diverse art exposed. With 175 galleries representing 35 countries, Frieze London was a fun, colorful and varied event, presenting old and young, famous and emerging artists (as well as swarms of street-style photographers). While many observers, driven by the anxiety for the economic crisis and social turmoil of the moment, were expecting a less shiny spectacle than previous editions, the financial depression seemed to be a simple ghost of the past as visitors happily left their concerns outside to fully appreciate and enjoy the event. With curious eyes, flocks of people wandered around the multitude of booths, stopping to take pictures at Carsten Holler’s pink walrus at Gagosian or observing the weaving mastery of Turner-prize winner Grayson Perry with his “The Adoration of the Cage Fighters”. With paintings and photography, color and monochromatic, colossal and miniature pieces, Frieze London was a jumble of artistic skills eliciting laughter, enjoyment, inquisitiveness and a certain dose of perplexity.

Many visitors seemed to get lost, trying desperately to find some sort of unity in the jungle of artists surrounding them. While difficult to find, there seemed to be a common thread in the multitude of warm-colored balloons, pop-colored windows and wooden doors that represented many artist choices. From Scott King’s “A Balloon for Britain” series to Scott Myle’s “See Through Window” and Richard Long’s controversial “ThisGlobalWarmingSeemsToBeDoingUsSomeGood” (all of which were amongst my personal favorites), there is a resoluteness to move forward and forget the sorrows of the world. Politics and anti capitalistic utopias are put aside in order to encourage what is, hopefully, the beginning of a new period to forge fresh artistic ideals. It is so that a simple picture of an Irish coastline, or a series of 10 enlarged balloons set against a black and white English-country background, seems to rise to a higher symbolism. One in which the artist tries to escape the burden of a moneyless, jobless and emotionless world by silently observing from the sky, or by deciding to color those glass windows that supply our vision of reality with enthusiastic and energetic nuances, clamoring against a society maybe too often infused by a wrenching lack of passion. And while most art, however interactive with the audience, remains hermetic and individual, the atmosphere at Frieze was more than ever, one of discovery, experimentation and hope.

Damien Kamil Sahri: The shamanic mixture

By simply setting foot in Damien’s world in Berlin, I was astounded by his openness and almost carnivorous need for constant melody. Young and passionate, Damien has cut himself a world that seems almost apart from the rest of Berlin, creating a fierce and driving energy of his own. His contagious laughter and high spirits make a fleshly, wild concoction, while in his studio or behind his turntables he strikes a dapper figure in combining sounds from the four corners of the world. Far from colorless, bland productions, Damien’s musical universe brings you in an intricate jungle of tribalism, deepness and honeyed vocals. Through soothing, relaxed arrangements, Kamil’s music is able to carry us to a lolling atmosphere, trailing back to the chill-out, primitive roots that lie within each one of us.

And you can listen to so for yourself through this exclusive set made especially for this blog: “Berlin My Heart”.

Graziella Buontempo: Who is Damien Kamil Sahri?

Damien Kamil Sahri: It’s just me.

GB: What is your earliest childhood memory when it comes to music? At what point in time did you decide that you wanted to be a musician?

DKS: I don’t know if there was a precise point in time at which I realized that I wanted to be a musician, but my desire for creativity has always been really strong and not only for music. My earliest important childhood memory related to sound was probably when scratching my first hip-hop records at house parties in the late 90′s.

GB: If you had to choose 5 words to define your music, what would they be?

DKS: Five Words Is Not Enough

GB: You lived for a long time in NYC and you currently live in Berlin. Both cities are extremely vibrant and energetic both from a social and artistic point of view. What are some of the differences you have noticed among the cities? How have these cities empowered you as an artist?

DKS: NYC and Berlin are the most influential cities of the planet for me and they both teach me equally a lot, but in their own ways.NY is tough. It grabs you by the guts and pushes you to swim faster than one another in a big ocean of competitive challenges. Berlin is not so rough, it’s completely the opposite but it’s also dangerous…I would say that in NYC you have to be careful not to spend too much time working and in Berlin not to spend too much time chillin’.

GB: What makes Berlin so special to you?

DKS: Salvador Dali once said that freedom is like intelligence: it is a nuisance to people.After spending some time in jail, Dali found himself completely redirected through his own freedom because it was taken away from him. The same happened to me. After having a lot of freedom in NYC, I was restrained and had a lot of time to think for myself, so when I was free again, I knew exactly where to go in my inspiration, and Berlin was here for me.

GB: Berlin is a relatively young city. It is full of young people and great vibes. In the last 5 to 10 years, tourism has boomed, mainly attracted by the freedom and music scene that Berlin invites to. Do you have the feeling that certain types of music that were once labeled as “underground” have become highly commercialized (even in a city like Berlin that lives of art and music)? Do you think that now is the perfect opportunity for music to evolve into something entirely new and different?

DKS: By definition, underground doesn’t have the same incentive as commercial. A song can be famous and still be underground, but a song can also be commercial and completely unknown because it doesn’t “sell” enough so I suppose underground means: music that is created by a precise array of artists for a chosen elite of listeners and their evolution within that genre. Commercial means: music made for a maximum amount of people, success in meeting standard for social and entertainment expectations, and acquisition of financial compensation.Of course, it isn’t black and white. I don’t believe in radical changes and I think that music, like any other artistic activity, involves a lot of research and cannot only include the desire to make something new. Since our primate ancestors were hitting rocks on hollow trees, people have been creating new ways to make music and assemble harmonies and rhythms. I therefore believe that Music will continue its evolution according to the ongoing technological development over time, but only through acknowledgment of its history and its purpose to life in general.

GB: How can artists differentiate themselves when so many productions sound almost the same?

DKS: By pushing their style to next level! You can be influenced, but you have to be able to influence as well. I think it’s amazing when you can touch someone’s soul as much you have been touched by someone else’s music before, but listening to your own stuff all day doesn’t make sense. So by going out, meeting people, exploring and collaborating you can open up yourself to other varieties of sounds and find what you really want. Forge your own appreciation of music and define that one message you want to spread to your audience so that they know what you stand for, always.

GB: You have a residence in Berlin at Stattbad, a unique place inhabited by artists of all kinds. How is it working with so much diversity surrounding you? How does it influence you?

DKS: It’s amazing. After living across the street from Stattbad for one year now, I can say that my friends are having a hard time getting me out of the neighborhood. I’m not only resident there, I’m also the proud member of a beautiful team. Whether it’s a simple breakfast with the skateboarding crew before a competition, a street art exhibition in the disaffected olympic swimming pool, or a heavy underground party in the basement, it’s always pure Berlin energy and it feels just like home. Continue reading

Rosanna Bach: The genuine capture of life

Rosanna (Rosie) is a wild spirit. Armed with her camera, she captures the untamable essence of life, whether it be her personal one or the savage beauty of nature. Her pictures are silvery and mellifluous, and you can discern her eye and taste for sceneries and moments that lack that flagrant cheesiness that too many  end up with. Rosie’s photography is original, in that it is authentic and real. She could choose any other blatant, obvious subject, but on the contrary she chooses her life and sense of adventure with all its wonderfully complex yet unpretentious moments. It is so that a creative reunion of artists in a Pennsylvania retreat, a California highway or a Berlin Open Air party, reach beyond a simple click: Rosie is able to move us into the picture and one can immediately feel the dusty gust of wind in Aluminé (Argentina), or the raving music of Berlin. Her free mind and curiosity exude like a storm from her lens, whether it be in the emotional depth of a face, the ephemerality of a moment, or the fierce wilderness of a rainbow stretching across a delicate fog.

Graziella Buontempo: Who is Rosanna Bach?

Rosanna Bach: A work in progress.

GB: Do you remember when you received your first camera?

RB: To be honest I don’t. But there’s a good chance that it was one of those Polaroid cameras from the 90’s because I recently rediscovered it in the back of a cupboard!

GB: Do you have a defining experience that made you want to launch yourself into photography?

RB: I wouldn’t say there was one particular moment where I though to myself “alright, now I’m going to launch myself into it.” It was more of a gradual process. In my first year in New York I’d take a bunch of photos with disposable cameras for memories sake, and my friends were like: “Hey your photos are pretty good!” So the encouragement from them I suppose is what landed me into all of this.

GB: Who are some of the people who have inspired you the most throughout these years?

RB: This might sound strange, but I guess the people who are inspired by me usually inspire me the most, because that’s where the best exchanges occur.

GB: Most of your pictures are black and white? Why do you prefer to choose B/W to color? Does this choice represent particular emotions?

RB: Color can be distracting at times, if it is not used well it will hurt the photo more than help it (like in a painting too). So I suppose I find it easier to get to the core with black and white.

Wilde Renate Open Air, Berlin

Los Angeles Lights

GB: You have a very international background. You are half Swiss/half British, you lived in New York City and now you are living in Buenos Aires. How does such diversity influence you?

RB: I don’t feel like I am from any one place. Obviously there are certain places I relate to more than others, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I don’t feel very Swiss at all. I think it’s mostly just taught me not to judge, see that everyone has their own “truth”. I mean I always knew there was no black or white, but it’s made me appreciate the grey a whole lot more.

GB: You graduated from Parson’s School of Design in NYC. How has living in such a dynamic city inspired you? What are some of the places, people, sounds, colors of New York that have attracted you the most? Are there any particular sub-cultures that have moved you in a particular way?

RB: The randomness of the city is what is most beautiful about it.

GB: How is living in the warmth and liveliness of Buenos Aires different from your past experience in New York? Does this city inspire your work in a different way?

RB: It’s similar to NYC in the sense that it’s hard to break into, but then once you’ve got that, the big love affair begins. And I was actually scared shitless at the beginning with the language barrier, I didn’t know how strangers would react. Secondly the city is in a bit of a state right now. And a blonde tourist girl with a camera is probably the prime target (to rob that is, electronics are very expensive here).

But something good came out of it, I started a project about fear. It was a way to help me get over mine. So I approach strangers and take their portraits and have a conversation about theirs. It’s an interesting topic, every single one of us has them no matter what shape or form, family, country we’re from.

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Voices of Black: The sensual seduction of disco house

I had never visited Brown University. Yet, the one night I went, about a year and half ago, Voices of Black made it more than special. I remember Zev (aka The Wolf from Wolf + Lamb) telling me the previous week that he had discovered some new pupils, and his words were the perfect description to their music. He told me their name was Voices of Black, but in a crazy, playful apartment at Brown, they were just Baba and Jules…and while dancing to their sultry tunes I still hadn’t made the connection with the “sexy, delicious” duo Zev had told me about. When their first EP “Plastic Dolls” came out on Wolf + Lamb, I finally realized…and I was absolutely stunned! Their music was not only frolicsome and seductive, but it was also somewhat mischievous, teasing the mind with images of luscious, hopeless models lost in a world of frenzy, emptiness and materiality (the “Plastic Dolls” that give their name to the album). Voices of Black seem to be catapulted from a world with no boundaries, glimmering through the always unfaded years of  soul, funk, old-school hip-hop, real house and, above all, flashy disco. Baba and Jules are modern day, musical Romeos, that charm not only with their easiness and respect for women, but also with the soothing, hypnotic beats of their music.

Graziella Buontempo: Who are Voices of Black?

Voices of Black: Jules Born & Baba Ali

GB: What are the top three qualities you appreciate in the other?

VOB: 1. Honesty

2. Creativity

3. Risk

GB: You both come from a hip-hop background. Today, the hip-hop industry seems to be at somewhat of a dead end, producing artists that seem so far away from the true, deep roots of hip-hop and light years away from the lyrical wisdom of J Dilla, Abstract Rude or KRS-One. What do you think is happening to hip-hop today? Do you think there are any chances for a great revival?

Jules Born: I don’t think hip-hop as a whole is much different, I think the way hip-hop is presented to the masses has been dumbed down and turned into more of a minstrel show than anything. Real hip-hop still exists just real hip-hop being displayed to the masses has pretty much died. Real hip-hop meaning diversity in style, proper representation of hip-hop and youthful culture, subject matter, and overall creativity.

Baba Ali: I don’t believe in revivals, but I do believe that hip-hop will be re-invented and re-imagined. It’s just the nature of how things work. We’ve seen it with jazz, we’ve seen it with funk and disco…every new movement piggy-backs on the accomplishments of the past. We’re definitely in a period of transition, and hip-hop will be the foundation upon which new ideas will be built to find a new form of expression. The biggest gripe I have with the current stage that mainstream hip-hop is that it no longer functions as a voice for the voice-less. The story hip-hop narrates has changed, but the environments from which this art form originated hasn’t. There’s a very apparent disconnect, and that’s why it’s losing its legitimacy.

GB: You guys seem to have a very special relationship with women. Your first album on Wolf+Lamb “Plastic Dolls” is centered on the glam, glitz and fakeness that often surround specific fields like fashion, and on the image of frivolity that is often attached to women in the industry. Are women a constant source of inspiration for you? How do you relate to them and what makes a woman so special to your eyes?

JB: Women are always a good inspiration for the creative process. The appreciation of beauty will always impact art one way or another. Women are the driving force behind the development of most genres and music because women are more in tune with emotions than men. Girls don’t ask you the name of a song after a dj set, or what you used to create your latest song or music video. They just say thank you, smile and dance.

BA: I just like being around women, whether it be more intimate, business, or just plain fun. Throughout my life I’ve learned so much from so many different women in my life, so it’s not something I think about. It’s just natural. But shouldn’t it be? No matter what, men and women need to stick together. I’m not cool with sexism just as much as racism or any -ism. I try to promote unity amongst differences in people whether be gender, race, religion or whatever. I feel like it’s necessary, because there’s already so much hate out there in the world and in history, there’s no need to contribute any more.

GB: You guys are very young and I feel that with your productions you are (whether consciously or not) trying to bring back a movement in which music is linked to actual thoughts on your surroundings and on society in general. However, living in an image conscious society may often put the focus on the wrong things. Is it hard to balance between the need to entertain people, making them dance while at the same time producing something that is distinctive and of good quality?

JB: Making people dance is a result of your creation. I think that is achievable while having strong and meaningful content in song writing. There is nothing wrong with imagery as long as it is honest. Quality can reach the masses and mainstream; it’s a current misconception that everything mainstream has to be  bad and everything underground is good. It just takes more integrity to reach wide audiences and stay true to yourself, but it has and does work.

BA: I guess I never thought of  the ideas of entertainment and quality as separate. My only goal is first to satisfy my needs, creatively, and hopefully be able to connect to people. The way I started doing music was out of imitation of my music heroes and how they found a way to connect to me. So I’m just trying to do the same.

(Click on the player below to listen to “Shade” from the EP “Plastic Dolls”)

GB: You both go to school. Does what you study in class influence in any way your musical productions?

JB: College was a great opportunity to network with people and be influenced by different cultures and individuals from different places. It also reminded me of what I really wanted to do and how knowledge from different areas can be applied to anything you want to do. I never have or will take adderall. Yarch To The Masses.

BA: A lot of the books I read for class somehow work into what I’m working on musically. I think the key to being creative is being like a sponge and just absorb, absorb and absorb. So yes, school does influence me.

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Gecko Chamber: The intriguing unpredictability of minimalism and melody

Two things that many people in the music business lack today are boldness and originality; because it takes some audacity and inventiveness to stand out from the crowd, but even more to have the constant interest to discover and experiment with unflinching determination different musical backgrounds and genres. Gecko Chamber are two bright, fearless daredevils that have decided to go on an adventure, and to embark a thriving battalion of enthusiasts across the Bosphorus all the way up to the UK along with them. Two weeks ago, their first album “The Other Side of Sanity” was released, and their intricately playful, psychedelically dark tones are a true delight for the ears. From throbbing, exuberant melodies to layered waves of mysterious, dusky percussions Gecko Chamber have this captivating and unchanging quality to excite the body and trigger a progressive, almost unnerving curiosity. Without a doubt Cem and Coskun, the two Geckos, are set to fluster and shake up more than one ear with their balanced brews of warm, sweeping tunes, dubby beats and vividly entangled layers of experimentation.

Graziella Buontempo: Who are Gecko Chamber?

Gecko Chamber: Hello! Gecko Chamber are just another drop of water in the ocean, but namely we are Coskun Akmeric and Cem Serter.

GB: Describe each other in 3 words.

GC: Coskun is zen, intelligent, and unique, while Cem is insane, creative, and hyper.

GB: How did you come up with such an unusual name?

GC: Our name is just a word-play on the phrase echo chamber; which was a purpose-built room, long before the dawn of effects units, with loads of microphones and speakers and reflective, jagged surfaces. Engineers used these chambers to create artificial echo and delay effects, so what you would do is for example blast the vocals into the echo chamber, and the microphones would pick up the new sound, the one that includes all the echoes from the sound bouncing around the walls, and ta-da!

GB: How do you complement and differentiate each other? Do you always get along? Is there one of you that spends more time producing rather than actually playing and vice versa? Or is there total balance between you two?

GC: Absolute, total 100 per cent balance between us. We don’t always agree, but we do always get along. We forged a brotherly bond spanning over a decade; we know each other inside out, we know how to talk to each other, how to behave and treat one another.

GB: Your debut album “The Other Side of Sanity” is set for release on February 27th. What is the inspiration behind it? Tell us about its process of creation.

GC: OSOS is a concept album, one that was born out of difficulties in our lives. It began accidentally and working on it quickly became our soul cleansing ritual, our therapy.

(Click on the player below to listen to an amazing exclusive set Gecko Chamber recorded especially for this blog!)

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Masomenos: The liveliness of a colorful multisensory experience

When I first listened to “Bon Voyage” and “The Third Eye” by Masomenos, I was mindblown like I hadn’t been for some time by music in the techno-minimal scene. In a world of (sadly too often) excessive repetitiveness and unoriginality, for the first time in years I was listening to something deep yet magically colorful at the same time. Punchy and soft, dubby and enthusiastic, mellow and vigorously jumpy, Masomenos have the consistent ability of tingeing their productions with nuances that carry to a rainbowed parallel universe that is cheerful yet playfully mysterious at the same time. Venturing in the Masomenos universe, is not only a delight for the ears, but for the eyes as well: a captivating collection of jolly, bright little animals and multicolored artwork, a concoction of miniature companions and more abstract figures with beaming smiles and exuberant expressions. As a breeze of fresh air, for over five years now, Joan and Adrien of Masomenos have been able to passionately combine their talents to bring to life a new experience. One that, with its brilliantly fun graphics and incredibly textured sounds, makes bodies dance and minds travel with a smile.

Graziella Buontempo: Who are Masomenos?

Joan & Adrien: Joan Costes + Adrien de Maublanc = Masomenos

GB: Describe each other in 3 words.

Joan about Adrien : Spirited, intense, optimistic

Adrien about Joan : Colorful, inspiring, clever

GB: You are a married couple, how are you different from one another, both as artists and at home in your more private life? How do you influence and complete each other, in your artistic projects and everyday life?

J&A: Well, not married, just under Masomenos and that’s already a lot :) We are indeed really different, but weirdly we have the same taste for almost everything. I don’t remember anytime we disagreed on a movie, an exhibition, or a style. For sure, since we met, we have influenced each other a lot, and started on some level to look alike. It would be too long to describe and to give examples on how this all fits, but it does for sure, considering how many things we have done since we met.

GB: Describe a typical day in the life of Joan & Adrien.

J: Well, during the week we’re not early birds. We do wake up around 9:30…then the days are different…more based on music, drawing, or office work. I exercise often, so it’s part of my daily organization. We also have a family routine Tuesday and Wednesday. Weeks fly by, especially when you travel on the week-end.

A: Pretty much the same…except I don’t exercise lol

GB: Welcome to Masomenos is not only a music label, but a creative project that includes colorful T-shirts, jumpers, stickers, clutch bags and much more. What are the reasons behind your choice to be more than just a music label? In the world of music, how does this diversity help?

J: It is not a choice, it’s a reality. We do make music and image. We do stuff, then it gets organized. The first t-shirt was only for Adrien to wear. Then friends asked us if they could have one. Thus we started proposing them online. We were asked to do some collaborations like with Pellat-Finet (cashmeres), or Sylvia Toledo (clutch bags), because they had seen our graphics and liked them. Now we have what we can call a brand, and considering this, we’re getting organized to make it good. We just founded Masomenos-Art with our third partner, Antoine, who is going to help us to display and sell all these “products” we’re making. Nothing of all this was planned. Diversity doesn’t help at all, in any world, because people can’t classify you. We did it because we wanted to, not because we thought we could get an advantage from it.

A: I think this has answered the next question…

GB: Do you think the vivacity behind your artwork influences the relationship you establish with your audience? Aren’t you afraid that having developed so many different outlets (t-shirts, candles, even Iphone cases) will make the audience see you as more of a brand rather than an artistic couple?

J: Well, to keep on what I’ve said before, we know it doesn’t help us in this specific underground scene, and being part of this doesn’t help the “brand” development either. But, we don’t look in this direction to please an audience, we just do our stuff. We keep on working, developing our project, having fun, getting challenged and excited. We were already like that independently before we met, experimenting different medias to express ourselves. So in a way, it’s kind of natural we keep on doing it this way.

A: Didn’t I say clever?

GB: How was the “Masomenos & Friends” project born? How did working with such diverse artists like Lemos, Tobi Neumann, Vadim and dOP change or influence you in any way?

A: Definitely it is super inspiring to work with others, you learn a lot from this experience. In the “& friends” series it is based on one or two sessions in the studio. It happens very fast. It has this nice feeling you have when you have only a little time with someone and therefore you give your best.

GB: What is the inspiration behind your last project “Technocolor”? How did you come up with the name?

A:  We often use Masomenos as an adjective referring to colorful tinges, especially picking up items for the shop, I guess our music sounds a little techno and we are trying to put color into it…like every year putting together the music in a project Technocolor sounded cool, even if we spelt it wrong…

(Click on the player below to listen to Masomenos’ new album “Masomenos & Karat” featuring collaborations with Ark, Cabanne and Laetitia!)

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Arthur Loustalot: The stunning magnificence and power of words

Meeting Arthur is like colliding into a delicate, new reality: a dreamlike atmosphere veiled by an incredible mystique that makes you want to discover and uncover his most remote feelings. Arthur has that mysteriously poetic and fresh appeal that belongs to the timeless world of literature. Reading his last novel, “Là où commence le secret” is entering a world that seems geographically remote, but sentimentally close. In a reality made up of the stories of four men brought together by despair and grief, Arthur is able to describe their melancholic hearts with the stunning minutiae of a painter, carrying us in the remote depths of China, Bolivia, Scotland and Paris. In the touching sorrow of his characters, Arthur is able to captivate the reader with a tender yet sharp flow, a stream of elegant words that brings us into the profound and moving intimacy of life. Coloring every story with a talent hard to achieve at such a young age, Arthur’s words have the bewitching power to transmute even the dramatic sadness of life into a vivid and unrivaled beauty.

Graziella Buontempo: Who is Arthur Loustalot?

Arthur Loustalot: I have no idea…

GB: When and how did you decide to launch yourself in the literary world? Is there a turning moment in your life during which you started writing?

AL: I started writing when I was 17, at a period in my life when sentences were constantly flowing in my head and I felt the need to let them out, and most of all, to transform them into reality. But I have always loved inventing things, telling stories, seizing all that surrounded me.

GB: How did you come up with the title for your last book “Là où commence le secret”? Did you decide it, or did your publisher do so?

AL: Ha, ha, I wouldn’t have let an editor choose the title of my book! The title is the last phrase of one of my short stories, I chose it because I felt it perfectly resumed the entire book, and gave it a certain coherence.

GB: How do you connect to each of your characters in “Là où commence le secret”? How does each character in your book speak to you differently? Do you have a special attachment to one of them?

AL: I am connected to them because they resemble me, in their relationship with their bodies, and especially in their connection to reality; the impact that the environment can have on living things, whether it be in the progressive transformation of bodies, sensuality or their dispossession. I have a special attachment to Fergus, the thirty-year old Scottish who, disguised as an angel, waits for tourists on the top of a cliff. Beyond any doubt, he is the character I have put the most of myself into…his doubts, bashfulness, his difficulty in seeing things differently.

GB: What inspires you the most for your stories?

AL: Of course reality, but most of all those fantasies that we create from it. A writer once said that an author is like a homeless people, wandering the streets picking up plenty of useless, broken things to put in his cart. Then, once the cart is full, he tries to do something with all he has. It’s a bit like this.

GB: How did you find all the details to describe unknown, remote and forgotten lands of the world, like Hancheng, the “City of Death”?

AL: I looked at maps, pictures, geography manuals…But I especially think that I transposed most of my sentiments in all of these landscapes. There are some recurring themes in the stories: for example, the idea that the environment can allow us to elevate ourselves, or that it can engulf us.

GB: In defining the personality of your characters, do you ever draw inspiration from people close to you in real life as well? Family or friends?

AL: Of course, and it can be rather difficult to assume… Continue reading