Interview: We Talk To Grime’s Go To Graphic Designer Joe Whelan

The music industry is big, and for such a large industry (the creative industries combined now bring in £84.1 billion to the UK economy) we actually get to see a surprisingly small part of it.

Take Grime for example, sure, you know the artists, but what about all the people behind closed doors. The videographers… the sound engineers…the graphic designers. Do you ever wonder how it all comes together?

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Chances are, you won’t know the name Joseph Whelan off the top of your head. If you’re a Grime fan though, then more than likely you’ve already seen his work. Joe has done artwork for WileyCadellMerky AceGrim Sickers and many more. We like democracy, so we contacted Joe to hear about his side of the industry, and his contributions to the current UK music scene. Read on below.

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Hi Joe – tell us a bit about yourself – how old are you and where are you from?

I’m 30 years old and from born and raised in Swindon 

What was your route into graphic design, and how did you end up connecting with the music scene, particularly the Grime side?

Well ever since a young age I have always been an artist. My dad taught me how to draw very early and it’s always something that I had done. I quickly realised I liked drawing cartoons and even won little competitions at school for them. I took art at A-Level and actually fell out of love with it to be honest, too much restriction. I got my full A-Level and declined the opportunity to go further. A few years later I started teaching myself how to use all the software and create illustrations. I gained an interest in the other aspects of graphic design such as logo design, print, branding and such and just took it all in. 

The original plan was to go to university and gain a degree in it but realised a lot of the best graphic designers don’t even have a degree in graphics, just very strong portfolios. So I just dedicated myself to getting better and building up a strong portfolio.

They say it takes 10,000 hours practice to become an expert in anything, so that’s just what I did. Practice, practice, practice.

I kind of just fell into the music scene by chance really. I am good friends with Grim Sickers and I used to do his artwork when he was just a local MC. Once Lord of the Mics came about and he blew up, we came up with the idea of doing ghetto versions of Hey Arnold characters for a track he did with Ghetts, then there was the famous Black Bin Bag Him artwork which is what really made people take notice. Before I knew it I had more and more established names approaching me for artwork and it snowballed from there. I went from doing something I did for a hobby and it turned into a full time business in less than a year. So I owe a lot to Grim for that initial push. 

How would you describe your approach to graphic design?

I really like to collaborate with the client, get a feel for the kind of message that they are trying to put across so I can put out the best product possible. The way I see it, it’s my job to make them look good no matter what line of work they are in, their image is in my hands and I take that very seriously. 

Who are your favourite music artists in the UK at the moment?

I’ll be honest, I’m more of a US hip-hop guy but I do take in a lot of the UK artists as well. I would say Cadell is one of my favourite UK artists right now and not just because I work with him. Not many people in the scene can really hold a candle to him. I’m also a big CasIsDead fan as well, as far as originality goes. 

What’s your absolute favourite piece you’ve produced so far, and why?

Tough question. I did a cartoon piece for Mic Ty at the tail end of last year that I really loved. It didn’t end up getting picked up by the label because they wanted the cover to be a photo of him which I thought was boring and unimaginative but hey that’s record labels for you. I really liked the 100 Bags cover for Grim Sickers too. The cover for Wiley and Cadell‘s single “Shredded Wheat” is another favourite just because it’s Wiley, not many people can say they’ve done artwork for him!

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Shredwheat

What equipment do you use for your designs (software and hardware), and how long does a design take?

I mostly just use a Mac with Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign with a mouse to be honest with you. That’s all I need. I have been known to use a Wacom tablet from time to time. I’m currently learning how to use Maya as well. That’s very tricky.

Is the graphic design life life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I suppose it can be at times but I like my own company. Especially when work is piling up and you have deadlines to meet. But at the same time you have to make time for yourself. I like to see different places, go to museums, shows, socialise. I went to LA recently and got a bit of work there too so I fully intend on making that one of my go to places to relax.

Which historic album art would you like to redesign, and why?

That’s a tough one. I’m a big fan of all of the Gorillaz artwork and their projects in general and I think that’s what inspired me to initially want to create album art. But I would never want to touch their work. I wouldn’t mind putting my own twist to Snoop’s Doggystyle cover. That would be a lot of fun.

Professionally, what’s your goal, and how far would you like to take it?

Well I’m going to be a part of some big projects this year which will lead to some even bigger projects so that’s something to look forward to, I’m just looking at the next challenge and seeing where that can take me. I just want to work with people with the same motivation as me and be able to create beautiful visuals which can be seen by the world, and the sky is the limit when it comes to that. I’ve already seen my work reach beyond the UK to the US, Australia, and Asia so it would be nice to be able to work with people from all corners of the world.

Any shoutouts of other graphic designers we should know about?

I’m a big fan of mregfx’s work. He has a great style. Tom Porter, the guy who does the Simpsons characters in streetwear illustrations’ work is crazy too. There’s too many to name. I’m a big fan of the guy who does Gucci Mane‘s artwork, KD Designz I think he goes by, his work is so good. 

What’s your favourite kind of brief, and why?

Briefs come in different shapes and sizes. Some are detailed to the point you have no creative freedom at all and some have just no brief, where you end up playing a guessing game which can be beyond frustrating. The best ones are where a client has their complete trust in me and don’t try to shackle my creativity. Just a brief outline of what they are looking for. I produce my favourite pieces that way. 


 Joe does more than just graphics for Grime – Check out his website here!

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Introducing: Ayar’s Fantastic “Off The Corner” & Exclusive Interview

Seriously, this is up there in the top five of our favourite UK projects this year. A few weeks back, Canning Town emcee Ayar dropped the uncompromising Off The Corner, his third mixtape, after Good Is Getting Better and collaborative project with Rageouz Authentape. Describing the new work as “a reflection of my past and present, which displays my growth both sonically and mentally”, we were immediately struck by the project’s honesty and soulful and R&B inspired vibes. We caught up with Ayar to talk about the release, and introduce you guys to an emcee who is surely set to light up 2016!

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“Hi Nice To Meet You” – An Interview With Bristol Hip Hop Duo Forktungz


We really first started paying proper attention to Forktungz when we heard 2014’s “corned beef smoothie”. Featuring deliciously smooth production from youtaro, it’s a creeper of a track that sticks to the brain with it’s lazy piano chords, dull drum thumps, and intricate spoken-word flows. Following this came Christmas present “bob_cratchit“, and the recently dropped “drive-thru“, with each release increasing in quality, slowly defining Forktungz’ unique sound in the UK Hip Hop scene.

Forktungz comprise of emcees Cobez and Pea Whitey (who moonlights as producer Lemzly Dale of label Sector 7 Sounds). We decided to reach out to the Bristol boys to see what the future holds for their project.


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1.Tell us a bit about Forktungz – What ends are you from? Who are the members, where did you grow up/ where are you based now?

Sector 7. Still here, holding down the fort. There’s a few of us but It’s pretty much just us two that record. The position is always open if any of our mates decide they wanna spit a hot suttin, even just a 2 bar.. it’s a pretty basic initiation.

2. How old are you + any other interesting personal information –

Pea Whitey  – We’re both 23. I’ve got an older brother, he’s got a younger brother. Last time I measured myself I was 5’9″, give or take. I have a habit of disappearing at night. Could go more personal but feel like I’ve already said too much.

Cobez – My ancestor was Thomas O-Beckett, thats my go-to interesting fact. Madness I know.

4. Tell us about the name – where is Forktungz from?

C – It comes from an incident that happened on a school trip to Longleat Safari Park, I’ll let Lemz explain it.

P – I’d rather not.

5. Are there any crews/collectives you’ve worked with in the past and/or work with now?

P – Just Penthouse so far. There’s a bunch of people we’d like to work with eventually, when the time’s right.

C – For those that don’t know (probably everyone) Penthouse is me, Lemz, Arch and Zeen. We got about an albums worth of material that will probably never see the light of day. 

6. Give us a basic outline of your journey through music so far – when/how did Forktungz come into being, and what has happened up to this point?

Started in 06/07 for fun, used to freestyle and battle all the time. I remember saying to each other years back that we gotta record at least one track before we both get bored or give up. Took us a while to finally do it, which in hindsight is probably a good thing.

7. Are there any particular MCs/artists from back in the day that particularly inspired you to start spitting?

P – Mainly MCs from early JumpOff days, Scribble Jam, Mind Games etc. Think I wrote my first set of bars after hearing Rhyme Asylum. Actually managed to hold onto them til last year when i found them clearing out my room… flung em in a bonfire swift. No regrets whatsoever.

C – All the freestyle and battle-rap stuff definitely. The first Hip-Hop music I owned was the album ‘Simpsons Sing the Blues’, I bought from the WHSmith at Paddington. Bart had a couple rap tunes on there, which I mesmerised. Found out that Jazzy Jeff and MJ had writing credits on there which is cool.

8. What are Forktungz’ plans for the next year and further? Are there any upcoming projects you want me to shoutout?

Maintain some sort of work rate. Maybe put together a mixtape. 

9. If you could work with any UK MC or producer right now that you haven’t already, who would it be?

P – Springa and Prophet.

C – Reginald Omas Mamode, hes a producer and singer – pure fire emojis

10. UK Hip Hop seems to be going through a very healthy patch at the minute – are there any artists nationwide that you’re particularly feeling at the minute?

C – Jesse James, Lee Scott, Strangelove and Gen Uchiha are all killing it. Springa isn’t nationwide but one day he should be. 

P – Everyone he mentioned plus Hawk House… and the brother Yung Zeen obviously.


Make sure you check Forktungz out on their social media pages + keep up to date with their new releases:

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PHOTOGRAPHY & THE STREETS – GREG COLEMAN (Interview)

Last month, we ventured out of our usual area of expertise to introduce you to the inspiring photographic work of SBTV shooter Steven M. Wiggins in the first of our Photography & The Streets series, in which we will be putting the spotlight on some of London’s finest up and coming urban photographers.


"One of the biggest things for me currently is to inspire those around me. I'm ambitious and extremely determined to succeed, and like I’ve said, I want to be phenomenal one day. I feel like if people can see London from my perspective in my images and see the same un-orchestrated scenes in real life then I’d be happy. I’m really into appreciating my city on a whole right now I think it’s important to document it organically instead of painting perfect images all the time."

This instalment, we are proud to introduce you to the wonderful Greg Coleman, who is currently working out of North West London. Using social media effectively, Greg has garnered over 13,000 followers on his Instagram account “@iammrcoleman“, beautifully portraying the city of London from his unique perspective, often utilising the city’s rooftops to produce startling panoramic shots.


Below are some of Greg’s finest shots, but be sure to check him out on his INSTAGRAM and TUMBLR pages for the full collection! Scroll down to read our exclusive interview to get an insight to how Greg shoots!

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Find out more about Greg’s style and work here:

Tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your name and where do you come from?

My name’s Greg Coleman, also known as Mr Coleman. I’m from North West London.


What kind of gear do you use?

  • Camera body – Canon 6D
  • Lens –  Currently running with the Sigma 24mm 1.4 art and a Canon 50mm 1.4
  • Tripod – Manfrotto Compact Action
  • Filters – I have one but I never use it, it just sits in my bag.
  • Flash – x2 Yongnuo Speedlite 560’s
  • Camera bag – Lowepro Pro Runner 300 all weather
  • Mention others, if any. (etc etc) Flash Triggers, remote, Light Stand,  and million batteries haha, need to get me some rechargeable ones, Macbook Pro Retina, G Drives, pretty much all the necessities of a photographer.

How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

Man, I put a lot of time into this particular part of my craft. I would say every night it’s a personal battle where I have to summon some extreme discipline and come away from my Macbook and get some rest. I really study hard though. I want to be a phenomenal photographer and learning as much as possible is so important to me personally. I understand that being great takes time and I just try my best to take in a lot of new information as much as I can. I’d be on the internet looking for new inspiration daily, even looking at the same things over and over again as some stuff takes a little more time to sync in. Having said this however, I’ve learnt so much from the work that my peers are putting out, they inspire me massively and have influenced my endeavours more than they can possibly imagine.


Among your works and series’ so far, which one is your favorite? Why?

Now that’s a tuff question. I’m pretty hard on myself and the work I produce in all honesty. I’m still in a place where I feel like I still have so much more to learn and improve. I don’t think this is a bad thing though, I mean, yes I have an array of images I’ve taken that I love of course, but I couldn’t label one as my favourite just yet. With some of my upcoming positions in photography, I’m sure it won’t be long before I have that shot I can label as my favourite.


Whose work has influenced you most?

Pause…

I have a few. Baring in mind I love different types of photography, I’m going to start with a guy named Don McCullin. He was a war photographer from Finsbury Park, London – his work is insane, and extremely moving. I remember reading somewhere that a bullet hit his camera as he was composing a photograph once. Crazy!! Albeit I won’t be shooting war zones anytime soon the power in his images is something I want my images to give off one day. I quite like dark and moody vibes. I could probably go on for ages with this question and list a load of names that people have never heard of… Who else comes to mind right now, Vincent Chapters and Holly Marie-Cato have both been huge influences, as well as Emmanuel Cole not just because they have all done well on Instagram, I see them as organic photographers before anything, ones that I’m sure inspire so many others the way they inspire me. I also really like Curtis Jehsta’s work, so professional and clean, and he simply delivers the goods every time. Also Isaac J Cambridge and Steven Wiggins… both incredible … Yeah in terms of work, these are the names I WOULD BET ON EVERY TIME! Huge influences for me.


What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

When editing, Too much ‘clarity’ tells more lies than truths haha…


What do you think makes a memorable photograph?

Hands down an image that can evoke an emotion the first time you see it. I like photos that either make me smile, laugh, or think, and in some cases the extreme opposite and make me feel quite emotional and uncomfortable, sort of like the work that Don McCullin produced. It’s always a portrait that gets me though.


What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?

One of the biggest things for me currently is to inspire those around me. I’m ambitious and extremely determined to succeed, and like I’ve said, I want to be phenomenal one day. I feel like if people can see London from my perspective in my images and see the same un-orchestrated scenes in real life then I’d be happy. I’m really into appreciating the my city on a whole right now I think it’s important to document it organically instead of painting perfect images all the time. Admittedly it took me a while to get to where I am, but yeah, just truth in my images overall and a go getter. I’d be content if that was the general feedback I received in the future when people view my work.


What do you think are some clichés in photography you steer away from yourself?

I wouldn’t say I steer away from anything. Personally I think it depends on the individual and how one perceives something to be cliche. First thing that comes to mind is the city. Images of the shard, Tower bridge, you know that stuff would undoubtedly be labeled as cliche. They are the images you will come across time and time again, however they are images that the whole world loves and will always get great responses. I’ve shot them to death haha. Im in a place now though where it’s not so appealing to me anymore, not so much because of a cliche label, London on a whole is some much more than what the world is shown and I’m in a place where right now, I’m not into the whole thing where people are selling the world dreams haha. I’d much rather go get stuck in and document the city the way I’ve really seen it my whole life. I think that’s being true to myself, my craft and my audience.


When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?

It depends really, on what I’m shooting, and also the weather. If I’m patrolling the streets, I may  just pick a location at random and see how things develop when I get there. No days are the same really, I like to check the weather as this can help decide on a particular locations I will head to, especially when it rains. On a whole I would say much of my day to day shooting isn’t organised, I’ll just leave the house with my camera and take it from there.


How has social media played a role in your photography?

Massively. Social media right now is so important. I’m most active on Instagram, and following that, I’m on Tumblr and I’ll tweet every now and agin. As unhealthy as it can be at times, I’m glad I have been so active on Instagram, I’ve learnt loads, grown a decent following and had some great opportunities come from it. It’s through social media I have had the privilege to meet those I mentioned earlier as well as people like Dave Burt, Tobishinobi and Jacob Riglin, all of which have played some part in my growth on social media side of things.


Any tips for aspiring photographers?

Honestly, my best advice is “Go Through It” and enjoy the process. Most people join a social media platform with the aim of becoming a key player and the reality is, it takes a lot of work. I started very strategically, putting out stuff I know people like, but my advice would be to simply not to lie to yourself and just focus on what feels right to you and don’t expect anything over night. I always say, as hard as it is, remember that nobody on social media owes you anything. If you can remember this I think you will get on just fine and have a lot more ‘fun’ building an audience. Also, do some research on the particular social platforms you want to join, and use the platforms the way they have been designed to be used. Network with others, don’t be afraid to reach out. Also don’t kill yourself trying to get the best equipment, focus more on your photography knowledge and work with the gear you have, I believe as you get better, your gear will get better, you know, when you feel like you have a good selection of images that represent what you can offer as a photographer then just put yourself out there, get stuck in, meet people, talk to people and be confident in yourself and your abilities. Lastly, find someone that is in the position you want to be in, and work toward that!

INTRODUCING: Mikez Blaze – “Off Key”

Got someone with bags of potential to show you lot today. Meet 17 year old MC Mikez Blaze, who originally hails from the Camden Town area. Mikez is a multi-talented artist who we like for the fact he’s comfortable going in fast over Grime and Drum & Bass riddims or going in deeper over slower boom-bap style Hip Hop productions. The track we have here for you today is a respectable refix of Stormzy‘s ‘Know Me From‘. Let us know what you think in the comments section!


Look out for his upcoming 11-track project ‘Haze Filled Days’ which should drop in the summer!


Compiled by @CareerEnderSam

Stream MidNight Phunk’s Impressive Debut “130” EP, And Read Our Q + A With Him

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Always get excited when we’ve got something special from North London to share with you guys! Yesterday Creo Collective founder and N.London born & bred producer MidNight Phunk dropped his debut EP “130” via Soundcloud. Even though he’s only properly been producing for 7 months, the EP is an an absolute triumph, and is a confident and unique mix of elements of electronica, garage, R&B, Reggae and Dilla-Style-Boom-Bap (he somehow makes this all work) to create a very uplifting record that we’re looking forward to bumping over the summer!


We had a quick catchup with MNP just before the EP dropped to get to know him a little better. Here’s what went down:

Tell us a bit about Midnight Phunk – who are you and where are you from?

MidNight Phunk is a producer from North London. Haringey born and bred. I’ve been producing for about 7 months. I make what I wanna make, if you fux with it, then cool, if you don’t, cool, regardless I’m making vibes. 


How old are you and what’s your musical background?
 
 I’m 22 . I used to be a rapper going under the alias as “Random P”, but am producing full time now. 

What about the name MidNight Phunk – is there any particular meaning behind that?

 There’s no cool story behind my name – when I decided I was going to produce, I wanted to go under an alias other than “Random P”, and I went through a thousand names, but props to my ex coz she said “what about Midnight Phunk”… I make “PHUNK” the sound of tomorrow music and I only really vibes and get the best of my work done late late into the night…MNP.


Are there any crews or collectives that you currently work with/have worked with?

 I only represent my own collective “Creo”. I’m the founder of Creo, a collective of creatives from North London pushing good music and vibes. Big things to come from Creo this year.


Tell us a bit more about how you got into music.

 I fucked school, I didn’t care as a kid – I’m really dyslexic and struggled. School wasn’t good. My brother is the sporty one and I’m the music man. My dad is an engineer so I’ve grown up around studios and music all my life, so maybe it was inevitable that I was going to do music in the future. 


What does 2015 hold for MNP, and are there any artists you’d particularly like to work with?

 Im going to be releasing a lot of material in 2015. Should be a good debut year for MNP. In terms of MCs, Little Simz would be cool. I think she’s dope. 

Composed by @CareerEnderSam