My name is Passion, and I always found it hard to call myself an artist, because I don’t really consider what I do to be art, so I consider myself a creative. Anything that I like, I work out ways to do it and then work out to make it my own. So you can say I’m a maker. And it doesn’t matter what form or medium, as long as it is something that is a reflection of myself and my interest. I will make it.
Where did your creative journey start?
The first creative things I ever did would’ve been videos and music: when I was around 12 I used to film skate videos, just for fun, because we were always out we had cameras on us and we wanted to see how good we are. And I really liked watching skate videos, so I said to myself I can do this, so I taught myself how to edit. We’d film on our shitty portable phones, exported files into Windows Movie Maker, and they really looked like bad versions of Jackass, because we couldn’t really do many tricks. So it was mainly just bush diving, people getting hurt, water balloon pranks. And through using Windows Movie Maker I sort of learned how to use technology.
In the years that followed, what spurred my creativity is that I was exposed to so much culture I was listening to all this music coming out of UK. I grew up in South-London, where garage, grime, and dubstep were new. I listened to the radio all day every day, that was my thing. I’d listen to Rinse FM and Radio 1Xtra because that was new back then.
And I thought to myself I want to make music. But how do I do it?
I started listening to all these cool sounds and knew that I could make these exact same sounds, but compose them in a way that works for what I was trying to do. I could hear the music in my head without actually playing it and I tried to understand how it works. How the drum beat works, what time signature it is in; is it four times, is it half time. How do I make my drum sound like how the professionals are doing it. And through tweaking it, I eventually started making my own sounds.
I was making these beats and eventually after about a year of making music I had my first radio show. And it was when I got to that radio show, I was around other people who had somehow worked out to make this a career.
So I realized, I need to continue what I am doing and get better at it. Through practice, my first radio show got me a second one. Now I’m doing two shows a week, coming out with new content every week. So I’m already practicing my craft. From that second radio show, I got my first club shot; that club shot was amazing.
It was a graveyard slot from 4:30 till 6 in the morning. Which meant I had to get to the club at midnight, spend 4 hours not doing anything and then eventually do my set.
Bare in mind back then I’m only 16. I wasn’t even supposed to be there. I knew no one. I was sober, in a night club, on my own. Waiting for it to be 4 in the morning.
I walked around, I smoked so many cigarettes, I ordered one tequila. Because I didn’t even know how to order drinks, so I asked for one tequila and they gave it to me. That was the first time I ever ordered a drink at the bar.
That night was really eye-opening because it showed me that the only way I ever gonna succeed is doing it of my own back. And this is where dj-ing really took hold of me because at this stage, it was the first time I played for someone who didn’t already like me and who wasn’t my friend. Doing a graveyard slot in a night club, where literally the other rooms emptied and everyone came into the room I was playing, I thought, okay, this is really good I am doing the right thing here.
The audience is hundred percent my motivation, it’s important for me that people appreciate my work. I wouldn’t make work if it didn’t have the destination of eventually being in public eye.
What does good and bad response do to your creativity?
To be honest, I prefer the bad responses, because I find it so hard to tell myself I’m doing the wrong thing.
What I find really easy is to tell myself I’m doing the right thing. So when I get positive responses, I’m like, I know it’s good, that why I made it, that’s why I made those decisions. But for me it’s about getting the negative feedback, it’s good to hear that you’re doing something wrong or could do better. That’s a way to grow.
So after making videos and music, photography was your next thing?
Yeah, at 19 I decided that I was going to focus all my energy on photography. I got my first film camera and I just started shooting like crazy. I probably spent 200-300 pounds on learning how to shoot, because I learned on film.
And every single time there’s anything happening in London I was there – Nottingham carnival, festivals, literally everything worth shooting, I’d go just to learn how to shoot, you know.
Do you believe you can teach yourself how to take great photos just by practicing?
A hundred percent. If you take something on, that you can’t do and you know what good work looks like, it’s so easy to tell when things go wrong. I would look at my favorite album covers, skate magazines, photographers that really stood out to me, ones that I wanted to be my influencers when I get further on.
So I tried to see what I liked about their work – their color pallets, how they would use flashes or not. Or did I liked their focal length, whether they were shooting super wide angles or super long, learning the tricks of what they are doing to make photos look right. Because I didn’t really have anyone in my life to teach me photography, this was something that made me want to teach myself. I taught myself how to make videos, how to make music – so I could definitely teach myself how to take photos.
And it’s just the same as back when I was making music, I used a reference, someone who’s professional, someone is doing good work. And then trying to get as close to that. And once you’re close to that, you typically have your own style, because you know what you’re good at by then.
How would you describe your style?
So I guess my style is, an amalgamation of all of my influences in life, but I can really pin it down to about two topics. So the first one coming from a rave music background, playing in these nightclubs, because I’m really influenced by rave culture. Even the rave culture that occurred before my existence, so I’m really inspired by the bright colors and the crazy beats of the acid house scene in the late ’80s and early ’90s in the UK. That’s where a lot of my color pallets and photography come from. But it’s also where my use of vocal samples and drum breaks comes from in my music, is my addiction to early rave culture and how that affected the youth culture.
Before I was into rave, my friends and I used to go to punk shows all the time. And punk is basically is a DIY scene, where everyone teaches themselves vocals and then puts together a band and their own shows. So what I took from punk is the whole ability to do things yourself, so if I was ever around people who were doing things themselves, not waiting to someone to support them, that was always influencing. So I was really influenced by people who do things themselves.
How did collabs come about?
I would be DM’in people asking them to shoot with me, if there were students in my local town, especially people who were doing fashion marketing or fashion branding, I would offer them my services, I’d be like look I can do a shoot for you. And one of my first projects was for a fashion student; I arranged the whole plan for the shoot, choose the locations myself, did all the styling. Those photos ended up going into her magazine, which was her graduate piece at the university.
From then on I started to grow my portfolio. I found people who’d I collaborate with and my network and portfolio was getting bigger and bigger.
So at this stage, I’m almost 21 and I decide, I need to work out a way to make these creative ventures payout for me. So I decided I’m not gonna go to art school, I’m gonna apply for an artist residency program.
I flew out to Amsterdam for New Years that year. I went to visit the art studio, they had a dark room. And I was like I’m coming here in a year.
Can you explain what an art residency program involves?
A residency program is when an artist can go to live places around their own country or around the world, it gives them access to an art studio, to gallery connections, it gives them access to a lot of things that you wouldn’t find in your art life until your third year of university.
It’s basically a house with creatives and supplies. They give you all the things you need to do to succeed, without telling you to go read this book, go practice this. It’s just – here’s the space.
The reason I wanted to do an artist residency program is so I could be around other creatives. It’s also a way to be in the art world without having someone tell me that I’m doing something wrong because they read one theory book, that tells them you suppose to do things that way.
Tell us about your move to Amsterdam.
So fairly young I noticed the way to succeed is through independence and keeping your friends and safety networks around you will not let you succeed. So I always wanted to move away from London. I just didn’t know where. And then I visited here on holiday and I literally fell in love with the place. It is super accessible, it is only an hour away by flight, the language barrier doesn’t really exist. So I decided I’m gonna move out of the country that wants to leave the unified market and go join the unified market where I belong.
But also at the same time, it meant that I had no friends, I had to just succeed, I had no excuses – I couldn’t say that “Oh so and so distracted me.”
<put this as a voice note>
As soon as I got here, there were so many creatives, so many events – that like I can’t even imagine what living in a place like New York’s and being in the art scene there is like.
If Amsterdam is this crazy, where there are 10 exhibitions a day and if you go to Utrecht and Rotterdam there’s 5 more in each city.
I think the Netherlands is beautiful for creative people who want to be independent.
How did you become an analog photographer?
So I bought a book from the ’80s about camera’s, from a vintage shop in a bar, somewhere nearby the Marktkantine. And it had this book that said: “How to develop film”. It included all of the stuff about how they developed film back in the ’80s. And I got it and then the trial and error process commenced.
I spent like 11 hours a day for about 20 days in the darkroom, inhaling all these toxic fumes, getting really high of them. Until eventually I could do it and almost every time and get perfect results. I learned how to get my temperatures right, how to get my chemicals mixed properly. When to adjust to certain situations, you know, say, I shot on a really dark day I learned how to push my rolls so it had more contrast in the images. I learned all the little tricks and tips that a professional photographer would already know from school. And I did all of that in those 20 days, hardcore – smashing it every day. At the end of those 20 days, they asked me to show some work.
So I decided, okay, you gonna develop some prints now. Printing is very similar to developing film, so I just went and did it, and it took me 5 days to get 5 working images, but these images got a really good response and through them, I got my first photography clients out here in the Netherlands. Through people who came to see that exhibition. It was a group show with about 60 artists. And just by meeting vloggers or musicians or whoever was there, I built a network of people who willing to give me a chance out here.
One of those was a music label Who’s Susan and another one was a girl who is a composer, who was also in the art residency at that moment.
And these were my first two clients that really showed me that I can make it, I don’t need to show people my degree, I just need is to show my portfolio and my skills.
I think it’s also about personality, don’t you think?
I think in this social media age, where we all spend so much time getting other people to like us, to like our photos, never getting any negative feedback over anything. I think talent is about 20% and personality and likability is about 80% of what you do. So, of course, it’s important to own your craft and spend these days in the darkroom or spend days teaching yourself how to use music software. Get the practice in, and the younger you can do it, the better. It’s never too late, but when you are younger, you have fewer responsibilities and it’s a lot easier to get your skills up. But once you have your skills, it’s all about your networking and who you know. And I didn’t really come from a position where I had family or friends who would help me out there and get me a job there or introduce me to so and so. So I just used to go out all the time, like literally anytime when I wasn’t working I would be outside, regardless of who I was with. I was meeting skateboarders on a pretty much daily basis, I was meeting people who owned skate shops, people who were making music videos, I was meeting these people who were already in the industry and through that, it gave me a lot of character building in terms of personality. It taught me how to act around strangers.
How did you find motivation & discipline to do all of this?
My discipline got better over time. But at the beginning, it was mainly that I didn’t want to reward myself or give any gratification until I’ve done something that was worth a while. And one of the first times it happened I got invited to a Boiler Room in London. And I texted everyone in my contacts, like “Yo guys, come, please, come to this show, I don’t really wanna go alone.” An no one wanted to go, everyone was like I got work, I got this or I just wanna sit a home dj’ing.
And I was like, are you serious? We can go meet these guys, in this tiny ass club where there is like 30 people. So I just ended up going on my own yeah, and that experience was so fulfilling.
So I got to the event, and no word of a lie, I was a first person there. And that’s a discipline thing you need to learn as an artist. Fashionably late is bullshit. Get there in the beginning, otherwise, you weren’t there. And this allows you to meet people who actually are running the events. They may not be musicians or photographers and in the actual industry you want, but they tightened to it somehow. Like a sound engineer, who’d do light and sound design and through meeting these people how professionals are working. And the only way to meet them is sorry to say, but leave your friends alone.
I get there early to show genuine interest, almost like a form of endearment. Cuz no one wants to talk to you after their show, they rather talk to you before their show. So I think through discipline and making sure you get to this places early, and you’re actually leaving your friends at home and being sober and trying to network – you can form genuine relationships. You’re sacrificing something of yours and they are sacrificing the knowledge of their experiences. And eventually you do start to meet the right people, and they become your friends.
What’s the next thing you’ll be making?
My next project is to work on recording vocals, so I’m gonna release vocals music with rappers and singers. But the next fully unique individual project I’m gonna do is a podcast. Audio is so much easier to consume than words. Because kids don’t read books like we used to. So I think in 2019, if you want to reach a wider audience – audio and video is the easiest way.
And I really appreciate broadcast, I come from a background of the radio so I really appreciate the idea of a broadcast. Giving other creatives a platform, talking with people like Ray Fuego, people from the New Originals. So yeah, I think that it going to be my next thing.