Art & Design blog

XETH talk to singer & musician Anil Sebastian

Artist / designer:   Anil Sebastian
Article author:   Charlotte Bradford
Published:   Mon, 10 Oct 2016

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Photographer: Alma Haser. Overpainted & rephotographed by Anil Sebastian

London – based singer & musician Anil Sebastian is founder & director of London Contemporary Voices choir.  Anil has collaborated with over 50 artists including Sam Smith, Amber Run, Laura Mvula and a long standing relationship with Grammy Award winner Imogen Heap. Always keen to push the voice in new directions, Anil is about to release his first album titled Mesonoxian with a launch party at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. XETH talked to the artist about his most recent project, what’s in store for the future and what inspires him to keep producing music.

At what age did you start to take an interest in the field you work in?

Before I can really remember music is very much part of my family. I was in my first band at two. It was called ‘Anil Scream’. My two oldest brothers Kumar and Nimar would play thrashy punk. One would shout “Anil Scream” and I’d scream until they shouted “Anil Stop”. Later at around 10, my dad got hold of a really simple software midi sequencer called Voyetra and I started programming songs on our Amstrad PC. My sister and mum taught me guitar. I sang constantly.

What’s your proudest achievement so far?

I’m releasing my first album Mesonoxian on 28th October. Mesonoxian means ‘pertaining to Midnight’. I made the record with my brother Ingmar Kamalagharan and Cherif Hashizume. It’s taken me a few years to finish the record. I’m doing my album launch show at the ICA on 27th October and pretty excited about it!

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

Many of the songs on the record started in my teens and are about my Dad’s death. I abandoned them for a long time and rediscovered them recently during a bit of a personal breakdown. I was a terrible insomniac sleep-walker kid and still am. My brother Ingmar heard the songs back when they were first written and when I told him I was working on them again I swore him to secrecy. He got me through it and co-produced the record with me. Some days he actually physically carried me to the studio. Later, we started to work with Cherif Hashizume at Cafe Music Studios. He’s incredible and has a special stash of honey vodka under the sink.

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Photographer: Alma Haser

What are your top three favourite songs?

Bjork – Unravel

Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek

Portishead – Roads

What is your favourite London music venue and why?

Union Chapel in Islington. I think the best show for me was one we curated at Union Chapel last June with London Contemporary Voices (the choir I co-founded and direct). The show involved collaborations with Imogen Heap, Guy Sigsworth, Nitin Sawhney, Manu Delago and Shlomo – basically six of my musical heroes.

Name three creatives who have inspired you over the past 10 years?

Guy Sigsworth. For every Madonna or Bjork song Guy has produced, there is a whole library of sublime, utterly unique and masterful piano work – all unreleased. Every conversation with Guy leads me to a life time of new ideas. It’s no lie – he’s a phenomenal human being – one like no other I’ve ever met. His solo project will be coming out under a different name. My own work is heavily influenced by him and in particular his hand in BjÖrk’s Homogenic and Vespertine albums as well as from Frou Frou his project with Imogen Heap. We’ve been writing songs about physics -time in particular. I did my degree in Physics and Philosophy – so it’s been great to think about those things again.

Manu Delago. I worked with Manu on a track called Drumheart for his album Silver Kobalt last year. Following that, we did some shows with London Contemporary Voices and London Cello Quartet. He’s probably best known for his work with Bjork and Anouska Shankar, particularly on the hang drum but his own solo work is incredible. Music just flows out of the man without any pretence.

Imogen Heap. I first worked with Imogen when I was 18. I went on tour to Japan with her as a guitarist filling in for Leo Abrahams (an incredible musician). It really blew me open creatively. She’s quite something, incredibly nice, frighteningly intelligent and works harder than any artist I think I’ve ever met. Not only can she do virtually every aspect of creating a record herself, she is also an innovator and has something about her voice that is utterly unique.

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Video still: Rino Stefan Tagliafierro

Have you got any exciting projects coming up in the near future?

I’m working with Guy Sigsworth on his new solo project and that’s been incredible. I’ve also formed a band with an Icelandic singer called Ösp Eldjárn and Cherif Hashizume called Hrím. We’ll be putting out our first EP early next year.  I’m also plotting and writing London Contemporary Voices’ first record. Outside of that, I’m actually writing my second album already – usually late in the night!

If you weren’t an artist what other career would you have chosen?

My degree was in Physics and Philosophy and I loved it. I was, at one stage, seriously considering going into academia. I did actually write a very crap novella in my early twenties. I’ve often been tempted to try that but perhaps I’ll save that idea. I also ran an Alternative Provision for Looked After Children and children who had been excluded from school. I loved that, although it was extremely tough and really made me see the world very differently.

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Photographer: Alma Haser

What advice would you give to younger people who want to work in the creative industry?

Be nice and not just to people you’re trying to impress. Be nice to everyone including crew, interns, receptionists, cleaners etc. Music doesn’t have to be a war of all against all. Make friends with other artists, build communities rather than seeing other musicians as competition. Embrace your uniqueness and don’t preoccupy yourself with trying to be cool. Work very very hard. Know, learn and get on with the business side of things including admin. Be decisive, unless you’re incredibly lucky, you will need to do it yourself – no one else will do it for you. Work with the best (and nicest) musicians and producers you can – people who terrify and inspire you with all the things that they can that you can’t. Don’t be afraid to collaborate and co-write – you don’t have to do everything yourself.

 

Anil Sebastian’s single Closer is out on 14th October. Mesonoxian is released on 28th October and tickets are available for the album launch show at the ICA on 27th October.

XETH talk to artist Rajesh Soni

Artist / designer:   Rajesh Soni
Article author:   Charlotte Bradford
Published:   Wed, 5 Oct 2016

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Credit: Rajesh Soni, ‘On The Way To Play Music For Happiness’, Oil Painting

Rajesh Soni is an Indian artist living in Udaipur, Rajasthan where he manages Gallery One. He is well known for his hand painted digital photographs, sketching and drawing. Rajesh is the son of artist Lalit Soni and the grandson of Prabhu Lal Soni, who was once court photographer to the Maharana Sir Bhopal Singh of Mewar. The skills of hand-coloring photographs were passed down to Rajesh through the intermediary of his father.

Rajesh has also collaborated on various creative projects with American photographer and writer Waswo X. Waswo since 2007. Their joint work featured in the exhibition ‘A Studio in Rajasthan’ which toured India and led to further exhibitions throughout Europe. Their next joint exhibition, organised by Tasveer Gallery, is titled ‘Photowallah’ and opens on 8th October at Exhibition 320, Delhi.

At what age did you start to take an interest in the field you work in?

Since the age of 12 I have been interested in art because I saw my father panting. He was my first teacher.

What’s your proudest achievement so far?

I am so happy and lucky that I chose art in my life. I have been showing my work in countries including Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland. In India I got the chance to work with Waswo X. Waswo who is an American photographer living in Udaipur for the past 12 years. I work as a hand colourist for his black and white photos.

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Credit: Rajesh Soni, ‘The Priest From Shiva Temple At Chandpol’, Oil Painting

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

It’s not easy being an artist and it’s not easy to find honest people who will support your work.

What are your top three favourite songs?

‘Beautiful’ by James Blunt, ‘Lean On’ ft. MO by Major Lazer & DJ Snake and ‘Anga La De’ from the Bollywood movie  Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-leela.

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Credit: Rajesh Soni, ‘The Susses’ Series

What is your favourite art gallery and why?

I love my own art gallery, Gallery One Udaipur because each work is unique and different.

Name three creatives who have inspired you over the past 10 years?
Raja Ravi VarmaPablo Picasso and Salvador Dali

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Credit: Rajesh Soni, ‘Old Shop Since My Childhood’, Original Sketch

Have you got any exciting projects coming up in the near future?
I am working on photoshoots about the lives of women and their amazing support.

If you weren’t an artist what other career would you have chosen?
Photography

What advice would you give to younger people who want to work in the creative industry?
Be happy and enjoy the moment. Don’t run after things!

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Credit: Portrait Of The Artist Rajesh Soni

To see more of Rajesh Soni’s work, please visit his Instagram account; rajeshsoniudaipur

XETH meet Curator Lily Brooke

Artist / designer:   Lily Brooke
Article author:   Charlotte Bradford
Published:   Mon, 27 Jun 2016

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Artist: Ali Glover Photo: Will Webster

XETH caught up with Curator Lily Brooke prior to the opening of her exhibition, time: ephemeral – everlasting, on 30th June. We asked the young creative about her next project, favourite London galleries, what inspires her and the challenges she faces every day in this line of work.

At what age did you start to take an interest in the field you work in?

During my third year at Chelsea College of Arts , I created spatially orientated installations. Eventually my practice became secondary to the curation of the work I was producing.

What’s your proudest achievement so far?

The exhibition programme I’ve begun in my home. I find it exhilarating working in unconventional spaces and often try to avoid the white cube space so it’s been a nice challenge. It also provides a nice friendly atmosphere among visitors which has felt a lot more inclusive compared to many traditional galleries. I also pride myself in searching for different artists to avoid the typical cliques in the art world so that always brings a nice element working with new interesting people.

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Artist (from left to right): Harriotte Hodson, Sam Carvosso Photo: Will Webster

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

Keeping level headed and choosing artists wisely. It’s relatively easy to find lots of great artists and work in London but I have to be careful creating the right combination and composition within a show.

What is your favourite London gallery and why?

Bosse & Baum Gallery in Peckham. I’ve been helping recently with their upcoming event, Plantón Móvil, which will take place in July. They have an incredibly interesting events programme which engages the local community in immersive activities. The exhibitions themselves are often installation based.

Name three creatives who have inspired you over the past 10 years?

Olafur Eliasson

Hans Haacke

Nairy Baghramian

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Artist (from left to right): Harriotte Hodson, Sam Carvosso Photo: Will Webster

Have you got any exciting projects coming up in the near future?

Next week will be the second exhibition I have curated in my house. The show titled time: ephemeral – everlasting will present the work of 10 artists; an extensive collection of works will grapple with identifying the past, present, future and everything in between. This exhibition will take place throughout my living room and dining room but will also extend out into the garden.

Details:

Private View: 30th June 2016, 7-9pm

1st – 6th July 2016 [by appointment only- info@lily-brooke.com]

Address: 3 Ada Road, SE5 7RW

If you weren’t a curator what other career would you have chosen?

I find a lot of enjoyment in collaging for posters and designing the publications for CHROMA collections- so probably doing something along those lines.

What advice would you give to people working in the creative industry?

Create your own opportunities

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Artist: Lily Brooke Photo: Will Webster

 

 

XETH talk with Louis Hartshorn, Executive Director at Arts Theatre

Artist / designer:   Louis Hartshorn
Article author:   Charlotte Bradford
Published:   Tue, 31 May 2016

Rat Pack Producing team ARTS 2014

Photographer: Piers Foley

Louis Hartshorn has been working as a theatre and live music producer since 2006.  Alongside Brian Hook he manages Hartshorn-Hook Productions producing West End musicals and over 60 other live productions, specialising in transferring international productions to the UK. XETH is delighted to have caught up with him during a break from rehearsals to hear about his latest projects.

At what age did you start to take an interest in the field you work in?

I was interested in performing from a young age, but turned my attention towards producing when I was about 16 years old when I co-produced an adaptation of The Birdcage written by a friend of mine at school. The production was an unexpected success and the feeling of having created it from scratch was electric.

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Photographer: Unknown

What’s your proudest achievement so far?

Closing the road for the American Idiot red carpet reception was pretty special, as was opening the Blues Brothers at the Arts in 2010. I think I’d go for the Best Musical nomination we got for Woody Sez in the Evening Standard awards in 2011. We lost out to Matilda.

None of that compares to the feeling I got when I scored against a Liverpool under 21s goalkeeper at the Kop end of Anfield, of course…

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

I have to constantly balance art and business. People take a very dim view of art being constrained by finance – but sensible business decisions create an environment in which the art can survive and flourish for the long term.

What are your top three favourite songs?

California Soul (Marlena Shaw) is my number one, then possibly Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke) & Come Back to Me (Sammy Davis Jr) – although it feels wrong to leave out Waiting All Night (Rudimental)

What is your favourite London venue and why?

Great question. My favourite place that I’ve played was the Brixton Academy – it was crazy. As an audience member probably Royal Albert Hall – I was lucky enough to be taken into a box as a guest and to be able to eat and drink in private while also having that view and that quality of performance was an absolute winner.

Name three creatives who have inspired you over the past 10 years?

I think Michael Frayn is a certifiable genius. It’s pretty amazing to consider the breadth of his writing – from Noises Off to Copenhagen. Eric Whitacre has done some amazing things to fuse classical and modern music such as in his Paradise Lost. I think Michael Grandage has managed to combine quality theatre, popular appeal and social conscience.

I’m incredibly inspired by the memory of Sammy Davis Jr. He asks if he can perform for the audience, as if they are doing him a favour. It’s all because he wants to sing for them so much – it is so honest.

The Cast of Woody Sez, The Words, Music and Spirit of Woody Guthrie, featuring David M. Lutken, Andy Teirstein, Darcie Deaville, Helen J Russell. Photographed by Tom Oldham 18/1/11

The Cast of Woody Sez, The Words, Music and Spirit of Woody Guthrie. Photographer: Tom Oldham

Have you got any exciting projects coming up in the near future?

Absolutely. Richard the Second at the Palace of Westminster on Shakespeare’s birthday, which is just mind-blowing to be working on. I’m also working with Gregory Batsleer on a new collaboration between a composer and DJ for a piece at Latitude festival – we can’t announce the details just yet, but watch this space. There’s loads more going on – we have hundreds of shows at my theatre, Arts Theatre West End, and updates on my producing projects can be found on the Hartshorn-Hook Productions website.

If you weren’t a theatre and live music producer what other career would you have chosen?

I guess I’d be running a football club. Who knows – there’s still time!

Hartshorn - Hook Productions: Managing Director Ð Louis Hartshorn Creative Director Ð Brian Hook Photographed by Tom Oldham 18/1/11

Photographer: Tom Oldham

What advice would you give to people working in the creative industry?

People say ‘believe in yourself’, but you can’t make it with self-belief alone. You have to really commit to honing your skills and constantly looking to improve. I was confident about producing before I was any good at it – and those were hard years. Thankfully I put in the hours and eventually my skill level caught up with my self-belief – only then did things start falling into place.

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XETH meet animator & illustrator Hannah Jacobs

Artist / designer:   Hannah Jacobs
Article author:   Charlotte Bradford
Published:   Wed, 30 Mar 2016

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Illustration: Hannah Jacobs

XETH: At what age did you start to take an interest in the field you work in?

HJ: If you ask anyone in animation how long they’ve been into animation, they’ll pretty much always tell you that it’s since they can remember, and I’m no exception.  I’ve always just loved drawing and loved watching cartoons. I was really into Garfield comics and Asterix and Oblix. The whole language of comics appealed to me so much…telling little stories through a series of pictures. I loved writing stories and loved drawing so it was a very natural progression into animation for me. I was definitely a fairly odd and obsessive little kid, so I think the process of animation really appealed to me – and still does.

X: What’s your proudest achievement so far?

HJ: I think making the list of one of Vimeo’s best vids of 2015. And more recently having a film accepted to Annecy Film Festival. It’s been an aim of mine to go there for so many years, let alone have something of mine screened there.

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Animation: Hannah Jacobs

X: What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

HJ: For me personally, it’s working  alone and at a computer for the majority of projects I work on.  And the sheer volume of hours that goes into making an animation. It really is all consuming and can start to drive you a little mad after a while! It’s kind of this really weird self torture you put yourself through, drawing 24 drawings for each second…but then seeing something you’ve created come to life is incredibly rewarding. Even if it did cost you your sanity and 6 months of your life!But I definitely work best bouncing ideas around with someone else and as cheesy as it sounds I always find so much inspiration in other creative people when I do get to collaborate with others in my field. So I think I’d like a little more of this going on.

X: What are your top three favourite songs?

HJ: Wow, that’s such a hard question! And I’m not sure I can answer it. But three songs that I love and are often found blasting out of my speakers are ‘This must be the Place’ by Talking Heads, ‘You Can Call me Al’ by Paul Simon and ‘Poem On The Underground Wall’ by Simon and Garfunkel. I don’t think those are very ‘cool’ choices though…sorry.

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Illustration: Hannah Jacobs

X: What is your favourite London gallery and why?

HJ: I have to be honest and say I’m actually a terrible creative person in that I rarely go to galleries and exhibitions – but that’s mostly due to lack of time rather than out of choice. I’ve always loved the Hayward Gallery because they have brilliant exhibitions on and I have such fond memories of going there when I was little with my mum. I also absolutely love the Wellcome Collection as you just can’t fail to feel inspired after a visit there. On the whole I probably spend more time in museums over galleries…I find them so inspiring. The Grant Museum of Zoology is a particular favourite….creepy things in jars and skeletons of animals draped around… there are endless things to draw in there. Also a great place for a first date…

X: Name three creatives who have inspired you over the past 10 years?

HJ: Allison Schulnik, Michel Gondry and Matt Groening

X: Have you got any exciting projects coming up in the near future?

HJ: I’m currently working on another video for The School Of Life and developing a new kids cartoon for the BBC with one of my best buddies who is a writer, which is an absolute dream come true for me! It’s early days but still very exciting.

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Animation: Hannah Jacobs

X: If you weren’t an animator/illustrator what other career would you have chosen?

HJ: Dog Farmer

X: What advice would you give to younger people who want to work in the creative industry?

HJ: My advice would be, stay true to your creative instincts and have conviction in what you’re doing. It can be a tough industry and I know it’s a bit of a cliché but I do genuinely feel that if you’re enjoying what you’re doing that is reflected in the work and other people tend to enjoy that too.

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Illustration: Hannah Jacobs

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