Rob Swain is an artist, designer and DJ who runs and curates Gamma Proforma, a London based art’s label and publisher. Born in Belfast, he’s lived in various cities around the world including Edinburgh, Melbourne, Hong Kong and London. This is what he recommends.
Music: Chrome (1975)
I’ll bet most reading this haven’t heard of Chrome (i love a generalisation or two). For me, they are one of the most important bands of all time. Tracks from their 1979 ‘Half Machine Lip Moves’ album still sound beyond our time. They were formed in San Francisco in 1975 by Damon Edge and Gary Spain, later joined by John Lambdin and Mike Low who was later replaced by Helios Creed. Edge and Creed were the movers, together they worked magic!
Having had their initial demo rejected, Edge set up his own label (Siren Records) to release their music, this go your own way spirit is evident throughout their recordings. The music is raucous, experimental, futuristic and completely outside the box. Chopped up samples (before samplers), synthesised layered drums, alien-swagger vocals, diverse movements within tracks and all round lawless punk attitude. They were punk on stage and in the studio… There has never been anything quite like Chrome. And they totally moved heads and bumped hips!
Chrome Video – Static Gravity
Film: Dark Days – Marc Singer (2000)
I’m sure a lot of you will know this, it was a well received documentary of it’s time (deservedly so) and featured music from DJ Shadow. The story follows a collection of characters who live under the New York subway system in abandoned tunnels. These down and out men and women tell their tales through the lens of Marc Singer who spent years living amongst them to make the film. More than a documentary, Dark Days is a stunning, heart wrenching film that examines how we perceive each other and the reality of how we treat each other in one of the most advanced civilisations on earth. If this film doesn’t twist you up inside, you’re obviously already dead.
Art: James Choules (AKA sheOne)
Choules’ work, like all good urban art, makes subtle use of its environment. It’s about a highly advanced technique of lifting detail from the surface with subtle flourishes of light and shade. Having watched him at work, I’m always amazed by where he paints and how he does it, on one occasion i saw him paint alongside several other artists on a long wall in east London. Most of the artists chose the flattest, smoothest surfaces for their piece whilst Choules went straight for a crumbling, crooked and semi hidden wall (the last place you’d choose if you wanted people to see your work). He then set about utilising the crumbling stone and peeling paint, lifting it out further with his trademark black flourishes. On another occasion i saw him paint in a burnt out paint factory, moving through the space adding little details to old signs, doorways and even an abandoned forklift truck. Unlike a lot of the street art mob, Choules isn’t on a mission to become famous. He’s an artist traveller who uniquely inflects his persona with subtlety on the world around him. One of a kind…
Book: Futurism 2.0
Time for a shameless plug, I was fortunate to work with a lot of outstanding artists from a new wave of abstract urban art for Futurism 2.0, which looks at the current landscape and reflects on parallels between now and emerging art of the 20th century.
More info at www.futurism2-0.com
A DJ mix from Rob Swain: