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Just a few months ago Slam Jam presented its new store in the Brera district with an opening event that many of you will remember. Coinciding with the store inauguration, Slam Jam unveiled an exclusive guest room dedicated to hosting special projects and exhibitions. OAMC opened the games, with the exclusive set-up showcased during the launch event, and now it’s been the turn of another guest.
This time Slam Jam aligned with creative collective Brain Dead to launch a multidisciplinary media exhibition. Dubbed Brain Slam, it gathered the works of some of Brain Dead’s favorite artists and musicians, including contemporary artists Chris Oh and Ricky Swallow, creative B Thom Stevenson, photographer Peter Sutherland and designer-cum-illustrator Kevin Harris.
Along with the artworks displayed, the collaborative duo joined forces to churn out some exclusive Brain Slam products, which are now available on slamjamsocialism.com. We popped by the Brain Dead exhibition and sat down with Kyle Ng to know more about Brain Slam and to delve into Brain Dead’s universe . All shots are courtesy of photographer Ivan Grianti.
What are you known for?
Let me see, I’m known for loving food. And I think I’m known for liking so many different things, for being a nerd. With our brand, my partner Ed and I try to portray our interest in all the things we are into, like music, books, art, just the creativity we love, and people making things. We try to support those who want to make things. We love passion.
Is this accurate?
I think that’s pretty accurate, there’s passion in our way of doing things. Sometimes reckless, sometimes not super thought-out, but it’s always passion.
Do you think your brand reflects how you and Ed are and your relationship?
Yes, with our brand what we’re trying to do is collaborative work, and showcase stuff is our main focus.
How do you usually pick your partners?
For instance, for this show we picked some of our favorite artists who are friends of ours. Chris Oh is an amazing painter and we really wanted to showcase his work, as well as B Thom. Some of the products we have are by illustrators and artists that we really admire, like Peter Sutherland, the photographer, who did a shirt for this, and Ricky Swallow.
Did you come up with these ideas together with your artists?
For the Chris Oh stuff, I’ve seen some of his works and it was all about painting on weird things like on backpacks or on fabrics. He was painting Medusa heads, and we turned this renaissance-inspired, pre-classical work. What I really loved was the idea of that, and also of DIY punk patches, and I thought it would be really cool to see what happened to these punk or DIY patches painted by Chris Oh. So we decided to get several garments and put them on different items, to make them feel like they were used, abused items. And to give the idea that someone made these jackets with the patches on them.
So this is a specific attitude coming from punk culture, you wanted to do something crazy with that.
Yes, all the items were kind of about that. The jumpsuit obviously has subcultures references, and also the bomber jacket and the charcoal French work coat.
What is Brain Slam? What makes it worth visiting?
For us, being friends with the Slam Jam guys means a lot. I love the energy and you guys always create new things and do presentations. When I came here, I found this space super inspirational and I think Brain Slam is the idea of connecting ideas, bringing together what we do and what you do to make something special. Slam Jam has always been incorporating music, art into everything they do, it’s a lifestyle, so subcultures again. And fashion doesn’t really matter if there’s no culture around it.
A few months ago you told us that Brain Dead deals more with lifestyle and culture rather than fashion. This has also been highlighted by the launch of Braindead Records. Can you tell us something about your music?
I think with Braindead Records it’s all just about the things we’re into. It’s not like one specific genre, it’s not just electronic or hip-hop or rap or punk. The first record we released was lo-fi rock ‘n’ roll synth music and it sounds like early Devo. Then on cassette we released a Japanese noise band, and then we have mixes that are all electronic.
‘There’s no real end result in anything we do, the process is the exciting part. It’s like the stress of making something excites me. ‘
Is it something you were listening to and liked at that time or something you want to showcase?
Yes, actually both. Tetsunori Tawaraya, the guy who’s from 2up, the Japanese punk band, he’s an amazing illustrator too. So we knew about his work and his music too, and the idea of him making music and art just fit perfect. And the guy he was releasing the record with, is also an illustrator and graphic designer, so that’s perfect too. It’s all about our common interest in making things and there are no real rules to it, it’s not just like “Hey, I’m a musician, I’m an illustrator”. I think everyone just wants to make cool things they like.
What do you feel is currently overhyped and played out?
Everyone has their own thing, so I can’t really hate, but I think there’s a lot of things that are coming out that feel like replications to just make money. If you think of culture though, it never sprouts from this idea of financial gain. It’s fine to make money, success happens and great brands are really authentic to make a lot of money, but I think people are forgetting to challenge themselves. That’s the real issue, no one is trying to challenge themselves, or bother to get in more difficult music or art, trying to make things that get out their boundaries. Everyone wants to feel safe.
Do you think this has to do with passion again, like people just want to do something that sells out?
People can have passion for money and I don’t think that’s a bad thing, so I can’t really comment on that. But for me and my partner, our passions comes from the things we make, and actually after this exhibit I’ll be like “That was cool, but what’s next?”. There’s no real end result in anything we do, it’s just the process that’s the exciting part. It’s like the stress of making something excites me. When I get a good result I’m happy, definitely, and I’m excited, but I’m always thinking about the next thing.
What is something you wish people cared more about?
Just challenging themselves. I would love to see everyone getting involved and trying to learn about new things. I think that if you tried to challenge yourself, learn and understand other people, other cultures, everything would be a lot better. Think about what’s going on in our countries, everyone wants to be in their bubble and know themselves out of what’s really happening.
Do you think that has something to do with Donald Trump election?
When you think about punk rock, you think about Ronald Reagan. People were so frustrated with him that all this great art came out. And I think the same will happen with Donald Trump, amazing art will come out during this time, because people are actually frustrated and want to make things to express themselves. As far as he is our president, I think he’ll be good for the creative community. That’s an optimistic way of seeing it.
What is something you love but other people dislike?
Noise music, that’s definitely the thing. I love experimental composition, and people like Glenn Branca, he’s a weird modern composer but uses guitars.
How do you find new artists out?
Anytime I’m in a records store I like to ask people questions, because I think that’s a way to learn. If I see people in the same aisle, I ask them what they are listening to. So many people are afraid to ask because they don’t want to be made fun of, but everything we learn is by asking. I think all is about communicating and connecting with other people. It’s exciting when you meet someone who explains something, I always want to learn from the persons who know more than me.
We’ve been told you have a strong penchant for oddities. Where does this interest come from?
I think the interest for oddities comes from my friend. Back in the day he was like a special effects guy, he did special effects for movies like Starship Troopers, Jurassic Park and Star Wars. I went to his house one time and he held these taxidermy objects around the house. And I love the idea of collecting to know things. I like the idea that when you own, that’s not just having an ownership, but it’s showing an investment and a knowledge. You could look for things online, but it’s not the same. It’s funny because some of the stuff my girlfriend and I have in the house, like ceramic pieces, we don’t even look at it, it’s something we forget about because we know it’s there. It’s not about showing off what you have, it’s more about the idea that if someone does ask, it’s exciting to explain the whole story.
What do you think makes Brain Dead different from any other brand around?
Honestly, I think that what makes Brain Dead different is that what we always try to challenge ourselves. So we want to do tapes and in the meanwhile maybe do homewear and books. We are releasing a comic book in January and then a record, I don’t think there are lots of brands that want to do so many different things, because it’s risky.
Can you share with us some music that has been inspiring your work lately?
I can make a list of artists I’ve been listening to, like Julia Holter, anything she makes is amazing, her voice is beautiful but in a really complex and experimental way, she’s super cool. I have this record of her called ‘Mariah’, you’ll like it, it’s totally weird. I’ve definitely been listening to A Certain Ratio, which is good. And Scott Walker, I’ve played a lot of him recently.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity)