As REbEL, his DJ alter ego, Jonny Lawrence is about to drop a killer EP on Constant Circles.. and he has also produced a stunning piece of visual artwork for the release through his brand Tough Luck Art. We wanted to know more about his journey in both Music and Art, so we invited him along for an interview.
Hi Jonny, welcome to the Constant Circles interview spot. You are based in London but we believe that you originally came from the East Midlands of the UK.
When did you move and what prompted it?
Well I was actually born in Barnet North London, so London has always been a part of me. I lived in Buckingham most of my life before moving to Leicester for university back in 2004. That’s where I learnt most about love and life, art and music, and where I met the people I am still close to today.
Leicester is such a great town, it’s always going to have a special place in my heart but I knew that I couldn’t stay there if I wanted to achieve my goals in life. Living in London is everything I hoped it would be; bonkers, exciting, fulfilling and yes, I’ll say it, expensive! I do okay though, I do sometimes wish art and music was encouraged and helped more by the government. It’s seen as being lazy, not getting a “proper” job, weird how that is just seen as the norm. If I didn’t have a day job I wouldn’t be able to live here and do what I love, that sucks though, why shouldn’t you be able to do the things you love without having to waste time doing something you might not be happy about doing?! But then the best art is born out of struggle so maybe if it was easy it would all be crap!
Yes, completely. I actually used to make these comedy tracks with my school friends when I was young, they were ridiculous but I suppose it taught me the basics. Then when I went to uni I started doing it a bit more, me and my housemate Josh would sit in a cloud of weed smoke creating bizarre 140 proto garage and grime, mine were always mental, Josh always made really great loops!
When I got on to live that’s when it all changed, I just instantly got the software. I’ve not looked back, although now days my setup is more and more hardware based, my DAW has always stayed the same.
You’re a co-founder of Tough Luck Records, so is Tough Luck Art part of the label?
Well I see it as a separate entity but I just liked the idea of making a link between the two. The labels ethos is uncompromising and underground, suppose my art is like that too.
A lot of my artwork is quite abrasive and scary so why fight against it?! I thought it made for a good hashtag too, #toughluckart social media, ugh. It’s great but doesn’t it just make you shudder at times!
In this spot, we’d like, however, to concentrate on your artwork and ask a few questions, the first being – did
you have any formal art training?
I took Art at A level (nearly failed it, scraped a D I think) then studied graphics and illustration at uni but dropped out. I don’t think I was ready for further education, I also realized that I wanted to do music more, I was djing every week at the time, running parties, I’d just end up going out on a Thursday and not coming home until Monday, the drawing took a back seat.
I think that and some other factors really put me off illustrating, I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I stopped drawing for the first time in my life, I stopped for years, I just had no confidence in it.
One of my closest friends started asking me about why I wasn’t doing it anymore, that I was wasting my talent. She inspired me to start again. I got a sketchbook, did some ink drawings and went from there. She always reminds me about that actually, but it’s true she was the catalyst for a lot of things for me, thank you, you know who you are! I think ahead of formal training and education my friends have taught me the most.
Do you have a favourite artist?
I’ve always been into Dali, Goya and the Futurist movement was a massive inspiration. They were fascists but they captured music and movement in their work so well, Boccioni’s (I think that’s how you spell it) pieces are bonkers. I relate to them because they were rebelling against convention at a time when Europe was in turmoil, most of them died in World War 1.
I’m also a huge fan of Katsuhiro Otomo. The Akira books are just stunning, I’m in awe of it to be honest, if you’ve only seen the film, which is in itself a masterpiece, you have to see his self penned, 6 book series. He draws cities with the attention to detail of an architect. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of work it took to finish it! I want to write my own graphic novel in the future.
(Picture: ELASTICITY 1916 UMBERTO BOCCIONI)
What inspires you?
People are the biggest source of influence and inspiration. Love, passion, anger, all that bollocks! I wear my heart on my sleeve.
We note that most of your work is portraiture, is that your signature area of interest?
It’s kind of how I got serious. I started doing these hipster drawings and posting them on my instagram. It was funny because most of my friends and social media following had no idea I could do that. I then moved on to DJ portraits which has been great for me, Waff and Jacky are my faves.
I’ve started doing more abstract work and my next ideas involve more geometric shapes and city scapes, I don’t want to give too much away though!
We love the artwork you have created for the CC release, we can’t wait to unveil it and it looks like a step in a new direction, more abstract and freeform. Is this a sign for the future?
Yes I’ve done a series of these freeform shapes. They are made using watercolour splashed quite randomly then worked into with ink. I love how people seem to find shapes and images in the form the watercolour takes. It’s completely up to each individuals interpretation.
Finally, do you see yourself first as a DJ/producer or is the artwork more important?
Well when I was in school and started collecting records I decided I wanted to do art for record sleeves. But I also wanted to be a DJ, I dreamt about that shit! Now I’m doing both and that makes me extremely happy!
Thanks very much for allowing us this insight into your world.
Thanks for inviting me into your world too!
In the lead up to the release, you can also grab a free track from Rebel:
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