KB: TALKING ABOUT YOUR ART, DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST THINGS YOU STARTED DRAWING AS A YOUNG CHILD?
AT: Yes, I do. I always drew the human body. I always drew people. Drawing is the one thing I remember doing from being very, very young. It's the one constant thing in my life. It was always like a character. It was always like a human body moving. And when I was very young, that was unusual for my parents, teachers, etc. That awareness of motion was unusual for them. How the body moved was beyond my age in a way and I was always surrounded by -growing up in Buenos Aires- medical books, Biology books, because my mom was training to become a doctor and somehow I had this interest in characters and moving people and this real kind of photo-realistic quite gruesome medical imagery that I grew up with, somehow this anatomical awareness was there from the very beginning.
KB: WHEN YOU MOVED TO BURNLEY IN THE 90S, YOU SAID THAT YOU DEVELOPED THIS LOVE FOR BRANDS LIKE CP AND STONE ISLAND, BRANDS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PREVALENT "CASUAL" SCENE AT THE TIME, DID THIS SUBCULTURE INFLUENCE YOUR POINT OF VIEW OR DESIGN PERSPECTIVE?
AT: Yes, that subculture introduced me to those brands. That was the door really. A lot of people are interested in the door but I was more interested in what was behind that door. And it was actually because of football and the football subculture that I ended up being surrounded by this uniform. The fact that those brands were appropriated by the subculture is just a coincidence. Maybe they could have been appropriated by another subculture and I would have come across them through another subculture, but like I said that is just the door. It doesn't matter how I would have been introduced to it, it was more what was behind the door. Where those brands come from, how those brands were born, how those products were born, is completely nothing to that subculture, it is an adoption. And it was through the football subculture that I found the work of Massimo Osti. And for years I didn't understand why I was interested in his work. It just didn't make sense. And I began to be interested in - very effectively- in the anatomy of the product, how something can be constructed from so many multiple facets/layers and effectively it is just like the human body were an object either has integrity and soul componentry and complexity or not. I didn't know that at the time that's why I was reacting to it and for years I was just fascinated by it rather than doing something. I continued to draw and it wasn't for a few years later that the two came together really.
KB: YOU WERE ASKED A WHILE AGO TO REDESIGN THE MILLE MIGLIA JACKET AN ICONIC CP COMPANY CREATION (HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE MILLE MIGLIA JACKET?)
AT: For me it was a real challenge. First of all it was the biggest honour imaginable because it was that particular jacket that first inspired me to become a designer. But the challenge was that it was a jacket that I considered to be almost perfect so it was almost scary to have to redesign it effectively. But because all my work was and is actually informed by a deconstruction conceptually of what that jacket achieved, what that design achieved, I just extracted the system from that jacket and redesigned it based on its own system.
What the system is basically is about starting a narrative or a concept. You start with context from A to B in this way and conditions, etc. The context , the setting, the narrative and then you have a purpose to the work that you do. For the driver to survive those conditions; the driver needs to drive, needs to protect his head, look at his watch while he's driving, all of these elements, right? So the jacket needs to be comfortable to do that and that's exactly what Massimo Osti did as well so I'm going through the same process as him but I'm being a purist about it. He and I basically had the same goal of working. You start with context in a way in order to inform a process that evolves into innovation so you don't know where it's gonna end up. So by going to concept to context to function, you have purpose then you go to process that reforms a process of what materials you need, what ergonomics you need to consider, etc. And then, in the end, all of those things result in this product, which is completely new, you'd never seen before Massimo did it, a jacket with a hood like that, with a watch viewer like that and the rest of it and you're not afraid of what the concept results in in terms of innovation, it's resulting because it's a natural product design. So I was doing the same thing but making it really, really work in the Mille Miglia so it had to be waterproof, it had to fit properly, you had to be able to move your head left and right and the goggle stay in front of your eyes. You had to eliminate the bulk of fabric in front of your stomach when you sit down so that results in an innovation of releasing the tension from the front and changing the shape of the jacket into a sitting position when driving.
All of these solutions end up creating a completely new product that was only born from the concept.
KB: YOU SAID THAT INSPIRED YOU: IS THAT WHY YOU STUDIED FASHION DESIGN? ACTUALLY YOUR GRADUATE COLLECTION CALLED — WHEN FOOTBALL HOOLIGANS BECOME HINDU GODS — WON THE INTERNATIONAL TALENT SUPPORT AWARD IN 2006 FOR GRADUATE COLLECTION OF THE YEAR.WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT) AND HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?
AT: Well, what happened was, if you rewind a few years, I ended up being interested in designing garments, not in becoming a fashion designer but in designing these jackets. So by accident almost, I started drawing these jackets and these characters that I always drew, started becoming more and more detailed in terms of the jackets so it was because of football hooligans that I became interested in design.
Then I started studying and I went to Manchester, I did my degree there. I started learning new techniques, having new ideas, new inspirations, you know, going away from the football hooligans in a way and also from Massimo Osti and Stone Island, CP company, and I started getting inspiration from everywhere, and I tried to develop a new approach to clothing design.
So if we go fast forward another three years, by the time I got to the final stages of my Masters Degree, I was surrounded by a completely different kind of inspiration which was informed by my surroundings at the time. In this case it was a good friend of mine called Mayor. He was a Hindu guy and he used to sit next to me everyday at college, and we used to travel to college together because he lived near me and sometimes he would not be allowed to eat, he was fasting or whatever or he was coming in with a BINDI from a religious festival the previous day and he was a colourful character, completely opposite from the kind of uniform that I had surrounded myself, you know, this kind of religious colourful thing that surrounded him and I became interested in it .
I'm a very inquisitve person in general, So I would ask him why he is not eating, what are these festivals about, what does the bindi represent? and the colours and actually I started learning a lot about Hinduism and as a result of that, I became genuinely interested in it, particularly in the simbolism. I think it is interesting when you think about character design, how the visual, physical attributes of the character are informed by the characteristics.
A Hindu God may have four arms to hold four different things so it has these four arms because it can only hold these four objects and it needs to hold those four objects because they are symbols of four different attributes of that particular God. It is like form follows function in a way but in terms of metaphorical symbolism is like form follows reason. So in a way, it is like comic book character design ,like superheroe design. When you look at Batman suit it is definitely form follows reason.There is no function in his ears for example and there's a reason for them. So I'm very interested in this notion: form follows reason.
And when you look at religion, the kind of symbolism throughout history it is this idea of form follows reason and I think that is what my work is about and Hinduism really tapped into that and so I was interested in hinduism and I surrounded myself in it.
I was basically making a collection about Hinduism and about deconstructing these ideas - form follows reason - and then one day I felt "this is crazy I got into this industry because I was surrounded by football hooligans and now Im doing my final collection for my final degree at my Masters level and I'm surrounded by Hindu Gods. I was never a football hooligan and I was never a Hindu God either.
So "WHEN FOOTBALL HOOLIGANS BECOME HINDU GODS" is really a symbol in itself. It's a metaphorical narrative with my own path which is an interesting thing, I didn't make clear at the time. And as a concept in itself it has obviously a morale purpose to highlight the reality of racism; particularly in British football Hooliganism which is also something personally connected to myself Something that I grew up experiencing and I think that creative energy should be morale, should be concious. We should use creativity ethically to communicate a message of something that can inspire or include humanity. So I don't want to be talking about "this season I'm inspired by Hawaii" for example.
KB: AND OBVIOUSLY YOU DONT WANT TO GET STUCK TO THIS IDEA OF SPRING SUMMER FALL WINTER COLLECTION?
AT: Of course not, I still don't even understand that system. I get it, I go shopping and I go like "I like that t shirt, I wanna buy it" and I hope I'm gonna go back to that store and there's gonna be a new t shirt because I wanna buy a new t shirt. I like fashion, I buy fashion. I'm just saying that is not what my work is . I'm not trying to get you to buy this t shirt. I'm trying to create art.
KB: SPEAKING OF FASHION AND FOOTBALL, WHO DO YOU SUPPORT?
AT: I support Burnley.
KB: CONGRATULATIONS YOU'VE JUST BEEN PROMOTED.
AT: I'm amazed that you know that.Thank you very much.
KB: DID / DO YOU GO TO SEE THEM?
AT: Yeah, sure. Actually I went recently with my friends from Kasabian with Serge and Tom and as Leicester got promoted too we went together. It was a big match. It was like the number one team and the number two team Burnley.I guess I'll be going to more games next season as they'll also be playing here in London.
KB: THE PREVIOUS QUESTION JUST BRINGS US TO THE NEXT ONE CONCERNING FOOTBALL AND THE ENGLAND KIT YOU DESIGNED FOR UMBRO BACK IN 2009. WE'VE SEEN A VIDEO OF YOU PRESENTING THE JERSEY TO TOM MEIGHAN. WAS THAT FIRST TIME YOU MET TOM?
AT: That was actually the first time I ever met Tom, which is crazy because we're good friends now. That's when we first met, I was already a fan of their music and I suggested that we involved Kasabian in the release. UMBROwanted to so something with a musician or a band and I thought Kasabian would be perfect to do this and luckily it happened.
KB: AS YOU SAID BEFORE YOU ARRIVED IN BURNLEY IN 92 RIGHT?, YOU WERE ONLY 12 YEARS OLD BUT THEN 94-5-6 YOU EXPERIENCED ALL THAT "KULBRITANIA" "RULE BRITANIA" BRITISH INVASION AT FIRST HAND WHO WERE YOU LISTENING TO IN THOSE DAYS? DID THE MUSIC ALSO INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
AT: I was surrounded in the whole subculture and it was definitely about football and it was also about those amazing bands from the 60's like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and also from the Small faces to The Kinks. And then The Jam, The Stone Roses, Oasis obviously, you know, all that Indie Scene like Shed Seven and Ocean Colour Scene for sure. So I was very much that kind of Indie kid growing up.
KB: DID YOU EVER DREAM OF FORMING A BAND?
AT: Yes, absolutely. I think most kids did. We used to sit around playing guitar, singing and whatever but somehow it wasn't my calling yet. I feel that I can't do anything until I can do it properly. If I can't do something properly, I somehow get out of it because to do something properly it means that you do something meaningful. And I can't understand the idea of investing your energy into doing something not meaningful.
So I guess I didn't know enough. I didn't have the commitment enough to do something meaninful. And eventually I just invested back into what I already knew and had already mastered and that allowed me to do something meaningful ...visually, structurally and physically. But I got more and more involved with music and musicians. It's crazy how I can see my conceptual systems also applying to music. I've been in a lot of studios with interesting musicians and producers and I'm more and more interested in that.
KB: SPEAKING OF MUSIC, YOU VE WORKED AS A CREATIVE DIRECTOR FOR DAMON ALBARNS FIRST SOLO RECORD, HOW DID THAT COME TO HAPPEN? AND WHAT WAS THAT THE FIRST TIME YOU GOT TO KNOW HIM?
AT: Damon and I met a few years ago. We met through mutual friends. Richard Russell was there when we met, the owner and founder of XL Records, who is an incredible producer who actually produced Damon's solo record ,"Everyday Robots". I already knew Richard and we were hanging out with some other friends and then I met Damon and we just got on really well from the beginning. I guess we do have a lot in common in terms of our personalities and how we approach our work. We're both , on the surface, kind of laid back, sort of working class sensibilities but we're extremely deep and conceptual and attempting to be innovative trying to do new things. So I always saw an aspect of myself in him and his work. He was always inspiring to me. We saw ourselves in each other when we first met. And then he invited me to go to The Congo with him. He was making a record with Oxfam and so he invited me to go along with the creative direction so to art direct the visuals for the album. Then I started getting involved more in Africa Express and then he started telling me his plans for his solo record and then I basically did the whole visual identity for him, for his record, the album cover, the first single cover, the music video for "Everyday Robots".
KB: YOU USED FOR THE VIDEO SOME FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES? YOU USED THIS ZBRUSHDIGITAL SCULPTING TOOL ...DID THAT TOOL JUST FIT PERFECTLY INTO THE WAY YOU WORK AND ESPECIALLY THE KIND OF WORK YOU DO?
AT: Yes, I think on two levels basically. I had been very interested in it aesthetically for a long time. It is a relatively new tool. For about two years I had seen videos of their interface, how it works when people are sculpting and using it. Online you can see what people post, their work flow, processed videos of how they use things and how they use tools, and I was interested in that aesthetic. The bits you're not supposed to see, the anatomy of the product in the end. And with it you can also build actual anatomy you know, human anatomy. You can start with the skull and build a realistic character layer by layer by layer.
So visually I wanted to do a portrait really, a reconstructed portrait of somebody. And I think that on a sort of conceptual and phylosophical level I'm very interested in the notion of anatomy. And the way I see it is a timeless, meaningful, relevant piece of work, whether it is a piece of music, piece of art or a garment, whatever. If it's meaningful, relevant and timeless, for me it means that it has an anatomy, an anatomical piece.And if we say human anatomy, if we look at our hand, for example, we see a surface so we see the skin and the form, the shape, the volume, is all informed by what is underneath and the way those components work. And all those components, the tendons, the veins, they all end up creating a collective form, a collective aesthetic that is only held together by the skin. So when we look at our hand, that hand can only exist with all of those components together and you get a sense of the fact that the skeleton is primarily neccesary, then you have to put the tendons, connect them to the muscles, the nerve system needs to be weaved within that and the vessels sit on top. For me, when we listen to an amazing piece of music, we get the same feeling, you see, you feel one thing but you know that it is made up of different components. And when you look at a piece of art or product design, we also tend to say so it's an anatomical sensitivity that I think we are very perceptive to as human beings. We're basically responding to something that is built in a very similar way , so we're connecting with something. So I wanted to build this portrait of Damon to show his anatomy, to show that his work is anatomical. He is an anatomical person in terms of how he works. His work is made of different layers and aspects all together. Damon has had a mask for so long, he's been Blur's frontman, he has been with Gorillaz, he's been all these different projects. I just wanted to show Damon Alban, that was obviously my challenge.
And I wanted to not only take the mask off but deconstruct his anatomy. I wanted to show the inside of him. The fact that everything is out. That everything is exposed. And that's how his record is as well, it's really personal. It's really bearing everything out. So it's all about him, it´s all about bearing him exposed but you never actually see him at the same time as it actually is a mask.
KB: WHEN IT COMES TO THE ALBUM COVER, IT SEEMS YOU TOOK A MORE MINIMALIST APPROACH. ON THE COVER, WE CAN SEE ALBARN SITTING ON A STOOL LOST IN THOUGHT. "I HEARD HE SAID IN AN INTERVIEW "TALKING ABOUT THIS EVERYDAY ROBOTS THAT HE FELT KINDA GUILTY AFTER MESSAGIN HIS DAUGHTER TO COME DOWN TO DINNER". WAS THAT WHAT YOU WANTED TO CONVEY THERE?
AT: Not really I think that the idea of lost human touch and how we are isolating ourselves more and more because of technology and how this is allowing us to interact less and less is recurring through that idea of isolation as well. But I think that isolation is also a direct symbolism "This man is now solo, it's just him" and it's him in this vast space and he's not afraid of that space. He looks like he's in thought, he looks a little bit introverted or something. But for me he looks more like a child who has been told off, a child who's been told to go and sit on that stool and think about what he has done. A child who is accepting the fact of them being very very individual, but he's happy to accept that because if you look closely he's actually smiling. He's deep in thought but he's excited about what he's planning to do next after he gets up off that chair.
KB: GOING BACK TO KASABIAN, YOU WERE APPOINTED AS THEIR CREATIVE DIRECTOR BACK IN 2011. SO YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN THE 4TH AND 5TH STUDIO ALBUMS. WHAT DIFFERENCES DO YOU SEE BETWEEN THEIR LAST 2 ALBUMS? AND THE ARTWORK AND WHAT YOU WANT TO SHOW THIS TIME.
AT: For me it was very important to reflect their intention musically and I think they have evolved massively in the last two or three years. They have really become very assertive and very sure of what they want to achieve. I think their confidence has grown as a result of that. So, that resulted in a very direct and confident album which has the confidence to embrace how powerful and impactful,directness and minimalism can be at times. And it's a very confident statement from them musically and it's very interesting in the genre in which they are. But I really think it's helping them musically to disconnect from the wrong connotations and associations that they have had throughout the years when people stopped comparing them to certain past and gone Brit Pop Era Band or whatever. Even before I knew them it always pissed me off, it's like I said "Have you actually heard their music?", it's nothing you're referring to. I think that because they are Northeners and there's two of them and they hung out with the Gallagher brothers for a while. People ended up making an association that didn't help them understand their music, their intention, and this new work, and this new album really helps to assert how directional and innovative and at times experimental they can be; particularly talking about Sergio, who is the mastermind behind the music and I honestly think it is an album that is going to change tha possibilities for rock'n roll music. It's kinf of the first true successful rock album for the next generation and for a lot of people it's going to take them a little time to realize that because it's just a shift in what the possibilities of what music can be. And I think it's incredible. And then artworkwise, I just wanted to reflect this confidence, this directness, this kind of feeling of not being afraid, of just having the confidence to just not do what you feel is right or what you think you should do in a specific genre of music to allow yourself to present something, turn it up and not have to hide it behind layers of stuff.
I was in the studio with Sergio for a long time. We worked very very closely together and spent a lot of time together. I was interested in two things particularly before we had any visual direction. One thing I was interested in is the idea of what should an album be called. I'm very into the idea of an album being a piece of art in itself.
The album is the final piece; that's the skin, so the title is the skin but that is just one thing that holds the components together. So the skin is meaningless if all the organs and anatomy are not inside the skin. so it's all about the songs, it's all about what's underneath the skin.
So what's the title for an album that shows this? I never liked when the title of an album is the title of one of the songs because it gives too much unfair balance to the album. The ultimate title for the album is all of the song names together. It's one long long title. So this was a nice long conversation between Sergio and I. So maybe that is the title of the album when we made all the song names one word, which is in keeping with his direct approach musically.
It's like having the confidence to put a painting on a wall without the frame. You know sometimes the working titles for songs are often more interesting because they are more honest and normally they are one word titles so I was seeing all this one-word titles in the studio -that are very industrial, very authentic, very genuine and I loved the aesthetics of anything being informed by authenticity- you know, it's like Channel N° 5, the experiment N° 5 for that perfume. I loved that industrial authenticity, that resulted in luxurious minimalism. So he started having the confidence to call the songs by one name and at the same time I was interested in Sergio's obsession with how long an album should be. He was always having a difficult time getting it to the right length, optimal length. And he was always saying that it should be between 45 to 50 minutes, optimal listening time to enjoy it as one piece of work.
He really wanted to create an album that you could listen to from the beginning to the end, and enjoy the transitions from song to song, and I think he has absolutely achieved that. And that is the ultimate collective title for a piece , it is 48' 13''. Almost every album should be called that.
KB: KASABIAN GAVE AN INTERVIEW AND THEY SAID THE NEW ALBUM IS GONNA REIGNITE ROCKNROLL. DO YOU FEEL THE SAME?
AT: Absolutely, I don't see any risks being taken in rock'n roll and rock'n roll should be all about risks. Rock'n roll should be about not being sure about what is gonna happen and do something. And then you look at how direct Sergio's intent is with this album. You have to respect and admire that he's being a true artist and taking risks and being true to his vision and creating something that some people are not gonna understand. And that's how it should be because it is powerful and meaningful. There is so much music out there now that is just pleasing the consumer, everything is just so boring.
KB: YOU WILL BE INVOLVED AS WELL IN THEIR HOMECOMING SHOWS IN LEICESTER, WILL IT BE THEIR BEST SHOW TO DATE YOU RECKON? OR THIS WILL COME AT GLASTONBURY?
AT: We just finished the rehearsal last night. I think by the time we do Leicester that we'll be the best show to date. The energy is just perfect. This show has been waiting to happen for years. The setlist is the best setlist there could ever be, and the structural and visual aspects of it. Everything is coming together. So it's a real complete mission and statement as a band. So it'll be a powerful experience and I think by the time Glastonbury happens that should be even better but at the same time it's a completely different thing, different crowd, so they are gonna be different experiences but probably both of them will be the most powerful gigs they have ever done.
KB: DO YOU THINK THE LEICESTER HOMECOMING GIG WILL BE DOCUMENTED? I.E FANS WILL BE ABLE TO PURCHASE A DVD/ BLU RAY COPY OF THE SHOW?
AT: I can't confirm anything. It's definitely up something but we're not documenting. There should be a few cameras here and there for sure,though.
KB: GOING BACK TO FASHION AITOR YOUVE BEEN APPOINTED AS GSTAR RAW CREATIVE CONSULTANT ? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN EXACTLY CAN U TELL US?
AT: Basically, they approached me a couple of years ago. And I thought there was a lot of interesting stuff that I really wasn't aware of as a product design asos they are,they're very, very rich in the sense that they have worked with incredible product design brands so they have a lot of integrity in the product design world and they started making a lot of incredible denim-based innovations as well and they got to a period where they weren't connecting their clothing or the core of their brand to this historical product design sensibility and we both decided that it would be a good opportunity to come along and try to align them and to tell the same story consistently from design to the way that it is presented in stores, to the way that store is communicated through advertising and marketing and to help tell the story which is a very amazing story and to help evolve that story continues.
KB: WHAT'S NEXT FOR AITOR THROUP THEN?
AT: There's a lot of stuff coming up, my first collaboration as a concept costume designer will come out in a big Hollywood style but I can't say which one.
KB: THE WORLD CUP HAS ALREADY STARTED, LET ME ASK YOU THEN: WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF BURNLEY WINNING THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
AT: That's less possible but having said that it is a good time to enter the Premier League. Something magical might happen.
KB: AITOR THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THIS INTERVIEW AND MASSIVE LUCK IN LEICESTER THIS WEEKEND.
AT: Thank you for your interest and all the best.
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