'I feel like words are dated. Beautiful imagery is universal while words only work in the languages you know.'
All Photography by Kida Tang
Though the adjective has long been a trusted and well-applied description to those deserving of its weight, creative as a noun seems to be a tad overplayed in the modern world. Perhaps it's the strive for individuality by today's art-pursuing youth; Perhaps it's the effect of the technology era allowing anyone to pursue their creative passions; Perhaps most of all, it's humanity's tendency to wear expressions into the ground until their very meaning has been squeezed out and left to dry. No matter the reason, doubt often accompanies the modern utilization of creative in its nominal form.
That is, until a true creative, expansive in their artistic talent, unique to the bone, bold in their undertakings yet humble in their nature, walks among us. And luckily for us, we were fortunate enough to cross paths with just such a young multi-dimensionalist whose artistic pursuit is immeasurably wide, whose demeanor is calm and collected, and whose very creativity isn't an option, but is instead a self-described daily function.
Meet Oliver Asadi, an artist - a creative - who lives up to the name.
RNGLDR: It seems that the UK in particular is in the midst of a creative moment – a renaissance, if you will – where global music, art, and fashion are in many senses being led by artists from London and beyond. As a young artist who is a part of that sphere, can you give us a little insight into what it’s like being a creative in the UK today, and what perhaps led to the current explosion of innovative artistry?
Asadi: It’s weird you say it because even though I do see the UK having its own scene, especially since Grime music has been more embraced by the world, I’ve never really felt I fit in the UK. I don’t think I’ve ever been properly accepted. I feel people more international on the internet with my work as opposed to my City or Country. In some sort of sense that’s what made me gravitate to M.I.A., a Sri Lankan refugee brought up in the UK who is probably biggest in the US. I don’t really know where I belong with my work.
I feel like the tools being so readily available has helped. Anyone can learn how to make beats, edit videos, make animation, etc. now because all the information on how to do it is out there. I feel like in small student-esque communities everyone is willing to help each other out as well, because everyone benefits. Leeds is super dope for that.
RNGLDR: Artists from the UK – whether they be musicians, filmmakers, designers, or visual – tend to possess a more balanced approach to their creative pursuits, often allowing their artistic undertakings to bleed into areas outside of their primary focus. As just such an artist, what leads to the development of such a wide range of artistic endeavors? Do they inspire one another, contradict one another, or do they exist in completely separate areas of your personal creativity?
Asadi: Personally, my creative pursuits generally blend into one another while I’m making them. If I’m making a song, I probably have some idea for the artwork or music videos coming into my brain while making it and vice versa when making films, animation, etc. Sometimes I have ideas that I haven’t done for 3 years and I begin starting them when the right moment of inspiration comes around. For example, the basis for my FIRE was originally made back in like 2014, when I was messing around with performing the demo at gigs, but as I gained more information it become how I fully imagined it in 2017.
RNGLDR: Between your music, filmmaking, fashion, photography, and visual art, is there one that you consider a favorite? If not a favorite, is there an order to which you embarked down the separate paths?
Asadi: I would probably say Music Videos & Films because it’s where I get to combine all my creative talents. Plus, I can focus on just the cinematography aspect and less the words. I really don't like words. I feel like they get in the way of the rawness, emotion and beauty of images. I feel like words are dated. Beautiful imagery is universal while words only work in the languages you know.
RNGLDR: Speaking to your visual art, you are clearly inspired by and indulge in the collage aesthetic. What is it about collage that draws your creativity and allows you to put together such interesting pieces?
Asadi: Honestly, I find it’s the easiest way to combine elements without it looking super copy & paste. Cutting out objects naturally and sticking them together will always give a natural texture which you can’t achieve digitally. I really like grain, it gives it an authentic feel.
RNGLDR: Specifically, you’ve been commissioned to do a lot of album artwork for other artists and flyers for events. You have a knack for capturing the sonic texture of the artists you work with while differentiating their artwork and holding true to your unique style. So, what is the process behind designing something visual as a representation of another artist’s sound?
Asadi: I feel like as a music artist myself it kind of puts me in the same mindset of how they think. It’s kind of like cheat code. I generally have quite a bit of knowledge on different art forms/aesthetics so when some says I want it to look like ‘___’ a lot of the time I have a reference to look to. I feel matching colours to how the song sounds though it is the easiest way to capture how they want it to look.
RNGLDR: Can you speak to a specific project as example for that design process?
Asadi: When working on the artwork for FIRE, I must have gone through at least 10 different concepts and 20 different versions. I had to research shaman/tribal imagery. I had to find the right colour palette that would aesthetically match with the colours of the sound. Everything has to be perfect and timeless because it’s going to be out in the open forever.
RNGLDR: To us, one of your most capturing visual projects is your collaborative work with fashion designer, Sho Konishi where you took his existing design photos and incorporated animalism and shamanism, turning them into animated works of modern collage surrealism. They’re some of the most innovative and intriguing concept cards we’ve ever seen. What was the inspiration behind your personal spin on the project?
Asadi: Yeah, Sho is an amazing designer already so I honestly didn’t have to try that hard haha. I’m so thankful for working with him. If I hadn’t had that opportunity, I don’t think I would have all these fashion related works over the past year or so. In terms of inspiration I don’t think anything specifically was looked at while creating them. But I subconsciously was probably inspired by the dark semi-surrealism of George Condo’s work, The art directions of ICO/The Last Guardian/Shadow of the Colossus and aesthetics from my previous film NIYAZ. I feel like in general I am inspired by death as well, it has been a big part of my life and is always something I am thinking about.
RNGLDR: In your opinion, what would the introduction of animation add to the skillset of fashion designers whose early surrealist design concepts could be better portrayed through animated movement, much like a fashion show?
Asadi: I kind of feel like if you look into animation you will learn a lot of about body movement and fluidity. Exaggerated movements also look really cool, they achieve a big impact. I would look into the ‘12 Basic Principles of Animation’ as the main guideline on how to learn about it.
RNGLDR: On the subject, you’re currently the Creative Director of Leeds RAG Fashion Show. What all does that role encompass, and how has it changed your perception and your opinions on fashion and the industry?
Asadi: I basically handle the overall creative aspect of it, like what colour palettes should be used, which clothes we should showcase, how the stage design should be, etc. It hasn’t really changed much of my perception because I have always been into fashion. Although, I think I now realize how much goes on behind the scenes and how many other people are working on it that you don’t see in the spotlight
RNGLDR: Are there any designers or any particular trends that you’re seeing bubbling underneath the floorboards of Leeds that we should be on the lookout for?
Asadi: Well, pretty much every student shops at vintage stores like Blue Rinse or Pop Boutique. There are also streetwear brands like CNFSSNN that have been featured on No Jumper videos. In terms of the more runway style/high fashion feel there some really amazing designers like Eden Keshia & Zlata Alekhno. Trend wise, I feel like Leeds kind of has its own style that no one has documented on haha. It’s kind of like 90’s Britpop meets the Skate Style of Cali.
RNGLDR: You, yourself have an interesting personal style. Who or what are some of your influences on the way you dress and design your personal aesthetic?
Asadi: To be honest I just try to dress like an Anime character. I pretty much just jacked Shaman King and BLEACH for most of my outfit inspirations haha.
RNGLDR: The influence seems to go both ways, as your graphic animation for PLACES + FACES is being globally utilized by the brand. How did you end up with the opportunity to design it for them?
Asadi: I actually know the dudes Soulz & Ciesay that run it from way back in 2013/2014 when they were first starting up. Back when I was in Uni and was using my student loan money to go to London a lot haha. They were at a lot of the event’s I used to go. In terms of the animation, I didn’t really intend for them to use it worldwide. But the anime style is something I know they’re into. I specifically tried to go for an imaishi/Gurren Lagann style for the art direction.
RNGLDR: What has it been like collaborating with such a massive brand, particularly one with so much influence on the streetwear era?
Asadi: I have some of the first pieces they ever dropped, so it’s crazy to see them have the reach they have now where people in my small village know who they are.
RNGLDR: Much like your art and your fashion, your music finds itself quite creative, left-of-center, and difficult to define. So, how is it, when others ask, that you define your sound?
Asadi: It’s quite hard honestly haha, I don’t know what to call it myself. I just make whatever sounds good to me.
The closest thing to a genre would be something like Art-Hop/Prog-Hop. It’s all very maximalist with a dreamy atmospheric grandiose production.
RNGLDR: As far as the UK has historically been concerned, there have always been very British parallels to more traditional American or other global takes on hip-hop music. Whether they be garage artists, grime, or simply UK hip-hop, who are some of your musical inspirations from within and existing outside of the UK?
Asadi: I'm not that much into UK Hip-Hop/Grime honestly other than M.I.A. Most of my UK inspiration comes from artists like King Crimson, Portishead, The Prodigy, Massive Attack, My Bloody Valentine, etc. I really like the production of 90's garage.
Most of my influence comes from abroad though. People like Kanye & Cudi, who are my idols have a huge effect on me, not only musically but as a human being. I don't think I would be doing this without them.
RNGLDR: You've certainly had the opportunity to work with and even share stages with some big names in music. Between artists like Denzel Curry, Kevin Abstract, Father, Afrikan Boy, what is the wildest moment, the craziest story from your time spent with some of modern music's most high-energy and influential young artists?
Asadi: You know even though I shared the stages and worked with those names, I do prefer performing at my own shows. Because then I have people that I know will definitely bounce to my songs. Making the crowd go wild is absolutely the best thing about performing.
The craziest moments always come from performing TILL I DIE. I create walls of death when the song starts and by the end we have full-on mosh pits happening. It basically becomes like a Punk/Hardcore show. We temporarily broke the sound system when I supported Denzel. What's crazy about the Denzel show is that I actually met him a year prior in London, where I gave him my card as a Graphic Designer. Then a year later I was doing a show with him in my hometown.
Also, since most of the artists are from the US everyone always asks me if there's a weed plug I know in town, but I don't smoke, so I kind of let them down a bit haha.
RNGLDR: For us, it seems like film allows you to take all of your creative endeavors - all of these artistic pursuits - and bring them together. For example, your video for MOONLIGHT features your skill at animation, your knack for photographic, cinematographic art, and your conceptual fashion design, bringing it together with your music. Being such a wide-ranging artist, does such a wide-ranging project come easily to you, or does the merging of your creative worlds become difficult to balance?
Asadi: I would definitely say since a lot of my creative work share a similar aesthetic it's easier to blend them all together. But the problem with that is trying to make each piece unique to me and not be the same as before. Like MOONLIGHT shares similarities to FIRE but they utilize different tones and more.
RNGLDR: What are all of things on the horizon for an artist of such expansive undertakings?
Asadi: Well I actually just made a game called Cube Fantasy which isn’t released. I’m trying to work more on it before I make it public. I’m acting in an upcoming short film which should be out around the end of the year, as well as making my own film, but I’m still in pre-production with that. In terms of music, I’m always making stuff in the background especially my long-term album Loveless Jungle. I’m also working on an exclusive EP for Red Seal Records. At this point, creating is my life.