4EYES aka Aaron Minerbrook is the visual artist behind all of Detuned Transmissions' artwork. We were lucky enough to corner him for a chat about his input into the label and matching the musical ethos of the label with an aesthetic identity...
Detuned Transmissions is a label that is strongly rooted in Montreal, and a vision of a dystopian future version of the city. How did you get involved with the label?
Jason and I became friends while studying at Cornell. At that time Ithaca had a pretty strong rave scene and was part of broad network of ‘scenes’ that included Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, and Albany. We had crossed paths at parties several times, but never really got to talk until we happened to share a sociology class, which I think one or both of us eventually dropped out of. We spent a lot of time discussing being mutually late for class because of this or that party, but we also had a LOT to say about music, culture and society. At some point I found out that Jason was a cellist so I asked him to compose the score for my first film. So, I would say my involvement in the label is part of an evolving collaboration that started in college. For me the label is a way of expressing an aesthetic that has been brewing and developing for the last 10 years. And while the label may be strongly rooted in Montreal I think that our ‘dystopian vision’ is one that could be applied to any city.
Very often, historic and iconic labels are as well loved for their label art as they are for the music itself. Why is artwork so import? Especially for vinyl releases?
Art is like a web that over time evolves to become more and more interconnected. There is an evolving dialogue between artists of different mediums and between the disciplines of each artist. No artistic medium can exist within a vacuum. I don’t make music, but if I did it would certainly be influenced by and communicate to the visual art that I like or perhaps make. So while label art is certainly an expression of a label's aesthetic, it is also an expression of that dialogue and an important part of the label's framework. With each new vinyl release comes a new story, another piece of the narrative that defines the label.
As an artist, what is you background and how does that influence your work for Detuned Transmissions?
I always wanted to make art. As a kid I spent hours filling sketch books and taking pictures with my parents Yashica. As an adult, the question was ‘how do I make a living?’ I think that was part of the motivation behind becoming a filmmaker. I thought it was a commercially viable way to be an artist. Looking back that was a rather naïve approach. That being said, I was never that interested in making commercially viable films.
My work for Detuned Transmissions is a big part of an interdisciplinary approach to making art that evolved out of an understanding that making films is just a part of the story. So now it’s about taking that knowledge and making it work for me. The connection between the music videos or short films that I’ve made and the work that I’ve done for DTND may not be immediately clear, but for me there is a dialogue, a dialogue that relays between philosophy, aesthetics, and technique. And I guess when I make something I will always have the instinct to make something cinematic.
The artwork you have created for Detuned Transmissions on DTND001 and DTND002 has a very distinct feel to it, how did you interpret the original brief while bringing in your own influences and sources?
That’s a really good question because Jason [DTND] and I don’t really work that way. I never really get a brief. I get the music and go to work. I think this is possible because the collaboration is constant, regardless of whether or not there is a release coming out. So when it comes time to prepare a piece of artwork for a particular piece of music there is a whole slew of conversations and exchanges for me to draw from. That being said, prior to DTND001 I produced a series of sketches and preliminary designs that were used to promote a series of mixes called the Decarie Sessions on Facebook and Mixcloud. I had total freedom here to draw on whatever sources or influences I wanted and in so doing started to build a visual framework for what would become DTND.
Of course, there are a few things that need to included on label art. Things like track and artist details need to be included. How do you balance out these functional realities against artistic expression?
This part of the process is probably the most difficult for me because it often means setting aside or adjusting my own personal aesthetic choices. I try to avoid getting attached to these choices by doing the artwork first and working-in the “functional realities” in a second phase of design. But things don’t always work the way you want them or in the way that you expect them to. Choosing the right font and its placement is a science and an art and sometimes they don’t agree. In the case of DTND002 it led to the decision to eschew the A/B side track labeling.
Working with Detuned Transmission presents an opportunity to develop continually evolving visual themes, what challenges does this also create. How do you create a visual story to compliment the music?
Music is tremendously inspiring for me. And in my minds eye I often interpret rhythm visually… To me that’s what graffiti was all about in the '80s. A psychedelic visual response to this new amazing sound that we now call hip-hop. The challenge is to maintain the spark and sense of spontaneity that inspires that response. The only way to do that is to create and to create often. The visual story that compliments DTND’s experiments in 170 BPM music has evolved out of many spontaneous responses.
As a visually based artist, what does it mean to have your creations on physical records? In an age so predominantly digital, it's maybe not unreasonable to say that the value of something to hold that is so highly held by the musical artists, may also be a value for visual artists?
It’s tremendously satisfying to see my work printed, because it’s the result of collaboration, and an evolution of ideas that has been developing for over 10 years. For me, it’s not just about having my work printed, it’s about the DTND imprint and seeing that be available to people who respect and appreciate it.
It’s not unreasonable at all to say that vinyl labels and covers are valuable real estate for visual artists in a market that is exchanged predominantly in digital formats. That being said, the work that I’ve produced for DTND is valuable to me because it was produced in collaboration, and with respect to the music that inspired it. Detuned Transmissions is a collective, and as such our goal is to share a collective aesthetic. And that is something that I am very happy to be a part of.
DAAT - "Fridge" / "Apache" is out on Detuned Transmissions on 26/05/14.