September 7, 2011
Paul Vanzella—the multitalented designer, photographer, owner of Vanzella Graphic Design and co-founder of RedBubble—is clearly a busy man. Nevertheless, he’s agreed to create a very-chill new mix to help our Playlist series shift into autumn with ease. So grab your earphones and sit a spell to find a little inspiration all the way from his warehouse studio (below) in Melbourne, Australia.
What do you listen to while you work? Mainly ambient music—Brian Eno, Phillip Glass—sounds that permeate the atmosphere subliminally and operate sympathetically with the visuals I am working on. And also, if the mood shifts, I go to 50s and 60s orchestra music—love early Miles Davis, Julie London! And then, on the flip side, I can do Joy Division and The Smiths even.
August 24, 2011
Keep the end of the summer feeling sunny with our latest Playlist from Todd St. John, founder of HunterGatherer–the Brooklyn-based studio/workshop that counts, among its many cool accomplishments, this commissioned music video for Yo Gabba Gabba.
What do you listen to while you work? I usually switch between radio, Internet radio, and iTunes. I have a turntable in the studio, but it doesn’t get played all that often when I’m working.
How do you listen? I don’t really like headphones if I can avoid them. I usually listen over speakers.
Do you have any favorite music providers? KCRW has some good shows. WNYC, though not for music. Sometimes Newtown Radio. I’ll check out the usual blog downloads sometimes as well: Pitchfork, Gorilla vs. Bear. I’ve been listening to some of the mixes on indoek.com recently as well.
Does music influence your work? I think on the obvious things, like a record cover—definitely. When I animate, I do like to have music to work to if possible. In something like the “Sea Friends” animation, the music structurally drives the piece. I can’t say that for other things music affects them in any direct way. Maybe indirectly.
Where do you find music recommendations? Friends, mostly. People in the studio. I used to buy more vinyl, so that was always a way of stumbling into new (or new old) things.
Above: Untitled silkscreen on paper by Todd St. John.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? I have no idea. I actually had seriously thought of being a composer before I was a designer. The two things are very related in my mind. Things like contrast, pacing, restraint, and texture all translate directly.
Love and Peace, Quincy Jones
For Beginners, M. Ward
Don’t Toss Us Away, Lone Justice
Paris 1919, John Cale
Substitute, The Who
Street Life, Roxy Music
Erase You, ESG
No Such Thing, Agent Orange
Watermelon Man, Herbie Hancock
The Vibrator, Jack McDuff
Walkabout, Atlas Sound
Sweet Jane, Velvet Underground
Images: Todd St. John
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
July 27, 2011
This week, Brett MacFadden gives us a look inside MacFadden & Thorpe, the three-year-old design studio he runs with business partner Scott Thorpe (and their musician-by-night intern Clive). Listen up to this smart mix compiled by all three designers from their San Francisco-based workspace.
What do you listen to while you work? Like most designers, music is an important part of our creative process and our tastes are eclectic, worldly, sophisticated, massively edgy, and, indeed, beyond pioneering. We listen to Internet radio a lot and to more classic rock than our interns might appreciate, but that they quietly tolerate. We love classic rock because it’s generally older than us. We also like classic-country, classic-rap, classic-jazz and classic-cal. Scott would like to emphasize that we do not like Vampire Weekend, and I (Brett) support that, even though I saw them last year in Berkeley and it was a not unpleasant experience.
How do you listen? If we listen together, it’s traditionally though my iMac, which has decent speakers. But I recently brought a small Altec Lansing speaker in from home (a great product by the way) and now Scott is enabled to play music as well. Often I like to stream one of two great public radio stations—KEXP in Seattle or The Current in Minneapolis—then it takes the pressure off of being the DJ, and provides a steady wash of new music. Although, lots of times I’ll be playing one of these stations and I look around and everyone else has put their headphones on.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
July 7, 2011
Musician Rocky Votolato should take note: not only is product and furniture designer Mike Devereaux a fan of his simple, straightforward music, but Mike also named his studio “Red Wire” after a line in one of Rocky’s songs. Find out what else makes up the workday mix of this Detroit-based designer in our latest Playlist. Read more
June 22, 2011
Freelance product, furniture, interior, and exhibition designer Katarina Häll likes to combine simple, stripped shape expressions with colorful details and poetic touches—much like the playlist she created for us this week. Take a listen at this Stockholm-based multitasker’s upbeat mix.
What do you listen to while you work? It depends very much on what I’m working with, what kind of concentration it requires, what mood I’m in, what kind of weather it’s outside, or what the actual work needs to get inspired. If I start a new project, for example, I have to listen to something I’m familiar with and don’t have to concentrate on. It’s often something from my early years in the 90′s like Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, Stone Roses, Kate Bush—familiar sounds that I know by heart help me focus. But if I am in the middle of a job that requires more routine and less creativity, I listen to newer music within the broad category of pop/rock. Some of my favorites at the moment are Disciplin, Beach House, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
How do you listen? For some reason, I have not come to the point where I’ve invested in a real speaker system—so, unfortunately, through the computer speakers.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
June 14, 2011
Jon Setzen spends his days (and often nights) working as Creative Director at Something Massive a digital strategy agency in Venice, California. He’s new to LA, having just moved here after a decade of living and working in Brooklyn, NY. He’s best known for the hundreds of rock posters he’s made over the years and his work has been shown in NYC, LA, Japan, Denmark and the UK. He’s had the pleasure of working with the likes of Yahoo!, Target, Alicia Keys, Sony Pictures, 826LA, MOMA and countless world-renowned photographers. He runs the Los Angeles branch of Creative Mornings. He’ll never turn off a Smiths song, never turn down a good taco and daydreams about Narragansett, Rhode Island. He lives in Silverlake with his wife, son and Siamese cat.
What do you listen to while you work? It really depends on the day, the time and the situation. It’s generally a mix of old, new and rediscoveries. There is a calming reassurance in listening to something you know by heart. So, for me that could be Hefner, Pastels, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Galaxie 500 etc. Most of the time, I either close my eyes and pick something out of my iTunes library or keep playing the same stuff I am currently loving. Lately, it’s been a lot of Craft Spells, The Clash, Suede, Neil Young, Mingus, Generationals, Luna, Sonny & The Sunsets and Lou Reed.
How do you listen? At home I have a Numark PT-01 (portable turntable) which is plugged into a pair of old Sony speakers. I have it setup on the other side of my studio so it forces me to get up and stretch my legs every time I have to turn the record over. It’s a pretty analog setup really. I try to only play LPs and 7”s since I never ever get to listen to all that old vinyl anywhere but in that studio. Lots of old Modern Jazz Quartet, Aretha Franklin, Spaceman 3, Housemartins, Wedding Present, Orb, Nick Cave, Stan Getz, Stereolab and The Band as of late. At work, I share an office with two other people. Our company is growing like mad so we’re currently all in pretty tight quarters. My two office-mates (who are great and very busy) tend to be on a lot of calls. I generally use a $30 pair of Logitech skype headphones since I tend to need to be on skype a lot. It’s easy to toggle back and forth. I also have JBL creature speakers hooked up to my Mac Pro 8-Core which I use from time to time.
Balance, Design, Technology
May 4, 2011
The paintings of Leah Durner embody “generosity, beauty, and dirt.” (And the music she listens to while she creates them isn’t so bad either.) Take a listen to this latest playlist from the New York City-based artist, then check out her new one-person exhibition, Leah Durner: NAKED COLOR, May 5 – 28 at 571 Projects.
What do you listen to while you work? My tastes in music vary widely, but all the music I love shares a sense of history, conveys a sense of human drama, and has emotional depth and authenticity. I love classical music—especially solo piano as well as opera. I also love American roots music and the American songbook, as well as classic punk. What these genres have in common is passion and a kind of rawness.
I have a strong foundation in traditional Western European studies, which is the source of my interest in classical music, and I am also interested in the American experience. I was raised a Roman Catholic in the South; the juxtaposition of these two very different cultures has had an important influence on me—roots/rural culture versus the highly developed Western European culture especially evident in pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, which was the traditional patron of the greatest works in the history of both art and music. My grandparents worked in a cotton mill in North Carolina (my grandmother grew up on a subsistence farm before moving to town to work in the mill) and today I live today in NYC—so the roots music serves as a constant reminder of both my own past and the historic arc from premodern to a postmodern narrative.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
April 27, 2011
In his role at Herman Miller, John Kim is responsible for helping communicate all the company does to build a better world. Find out what’s currently playing in this dad-to-be’s workspace. (P.S. We particularly like the piece of art he has hanging there. John’s brother-in-law Driscoll Reid had a hand in creating it.)
What do you listen to while you work? I listen to a lot of different stuff including NPR (even during the pledge drive—I know…that’s love), upbeat guitar-driven jazz like Wes Montgomery, something fun like LCD Soundsystem, and albums to which I know most of the words, like most of the Ted Leo and the Pharmacists or Wilco catalog. Also, my wife and I are expecting our first kid and we finally took the time to scour our iTunes catalog and make some fun mixes for the baby, so shuffling through the playlists have taken over lately.
How do you listen? If I’m home alone, I’ll listen to NPR on the radio or the iPod via an iPod dock. If I need quiet, I’ll listen through JVC noise-canceling headphones.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I also enjoy Pandora, but I find that the selection gets a bit repetitive on the free version.
Does music influence your work? Yes, but not in a visual way. I think it just allows me to concentrate and get lost in my work.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? To stay on top of what’s new and good, I’ll get recommendations from my friend Brent and my friend Amanda, who is a music writer for the New York Times, Pitchfork, Spin and others. I’ve trusted her musical taste since middle school.
Too Late to Turn Back, El Michels Affair
Red and Purple, The Dodos
Little Lion Man, Mumford & Sons
Award Tour, Tribe Called Quest
Home, LCD Soundsystem
Parallel or Together?, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists
How Low, Jose Gonzalez
Start a War, The National
The Afterlife, YACHT
Juveniles, The Walkmen
Warm Heart of Africa, The Very Best
The Boy with the Arab Strap, Belle and Sebastian
West Coast Blues, Wes Montgomery
Images: John Kim
Design, Products, Technology
March 23, 2011
We’re huge fans of superstar typographer/illustrator Jessica Hische’s “Daily Dropcap” project (as well as her work in general). And now we’re huge fans of her taste in music. Take a listen.
What do you listen to while you work? I listen to such a crazy variety of stuff while I work—one day, it will be guilty pleasure tunes from high school, then girl group stuff from the 50s, oldies mixes my Mom made, ambient instrumental stuff, or podcasts. There are a few bands that are always on rotation for me when I’m working—Violent Femmes, old Modest Mouse albums, Elliot Smith on mellow days, CCR on let’s-get-amped days. I actually watch a TON of TV when I work, mostly through Netflix watch instantly. I sometimes end up watching whole seasons in a day when I have a lot of stuff to do.
How do you listen? Mostly through headphones since I have studio mates who are into podcasts and silence. When I have my way or have the studio to myself, I listen out loud, mostly through my iMac. The only time I can’t really listen to music, movies, or TV when I’m working is when I’m answering emails or trying to figure out some weird technical code-y thing. I’m a pretty good multitasker, but I absolutely cannot write when music is on.
Do you have any favorite music websites? I have recently been really into rdio.com. I have a bunch of music on my main work computer, but since I have three computers and travel around a lot, it’s awesome to have a sort of cloud library of music and playlists. They don’t have everything on the site that I want to listen to at any given moment, but they do have A LOT and generally have all of my “craving” music on there—stuff like TLC’s Crazy Sexy Cool that I don’t plan on rebuying anytime soon.
Does music influence your work? I think sometimes it does, mostly just the mood of the music versus the mood of the piece I’m working on. There are a few direct examples though, my favorite being one of the daily drop caps which was made when I was listening to Mariah Carey.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? Mostly through friends or from keeping an ear open when I’m in shops and coffee shops around Brooklyn. I’m sure there are a lot of baristas out there that have inadvertently turned me on to some bands. My friend Jason of theheadsofstate.com was one of my major music tastemakers after I got out of college and I still ask him about recommendations when I’m itching for some new music. I visit pitchfork.com occasionally, but soundfixrecords.com (a record store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) is really good at archiving their “best of” picks by genre. I usually end up picking up a few albums because of that.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? It would have to be something really perky and dance-y but a bit grungy or handmade feeling. Maybe a Violent Femmes song? It’s hard to pinpoint a precise song/band!
Banshee Beat, Animal Collective
7/4 (Shoreline), Broken Social Scene
Goods, Mates of State
With a Girl Like You, The Troggs
Why Can’t I Touch It, The Buzzcocks
Marquee Moon, Television
Kiss Off, Violent Femmes
Broke, Modest Mouse
Be My Baby, The Ronettes
Oh Yoko!, John Lennon
Yer So Bad, Tom Petty
All I Really Want to Do, Bob Dylan
Images: Jessica Hische
Balance, Design, Technology
March 16, 2011
What’s better than record-store recommendations from a music critic? Find out three all-time favorites and more from Amanda Petrusich, contributor to The New York Times, Pitchfork, and Spin (among others) and author of It Still Moves and Pink Moon.
What do you listen to while you work? I spend so much time writing about music that my assignments tend to dictate the day’s soundtrack, but when I’m working on a longer project or something not tied to a specific artist or record, I typically like really rhythmic, almost mesmeric things—that can be hip-hop, or pop, or old hill country blues songs. I think as writers, we’re all aspiring to get music on the page, in a way—that sounds so stupid and pretentious, but it’s also true! There’s an elusive rhythm to good prose.
How do you listen? Like all music nerds, I like vinyl, I like headphones. I like closing the curtains and having an all-encompassing, stupidly dramatic listening experience. If I’m listening for pleasure, I’m almost always listening to an LP. That’s not practical, work-wise—these days, it’s fairly common for critics to only get a watermarked stream of a high-profile record in advance, and then I have to listen through my computer, usually on headphones (I’ve also had to review records that I was only allowed to listen to in a conference room at the label’s office, with the door closed). If I get something on CD, I’ll play it on my stereo (we have an old vintage Marantz receiver that’s a little temperamental) or put it on my iPod and go for a run or ride around on the subway with it. I like to get it out of my office, if I can—let it breathe, let it move.
I’ve been writing a lot about record collectors lately—specifically, the guys hunting down old, pre-war blues 78s. For Christmas last year, my parents bought me this stunning, four-foot tall Edison phonograph, probably from the 1910s—it’s the most beautiful thing in our home (besides, obviously, our cat Dominic). 78s only contain about 3 minutes (or less) of music per side, so I wind it up and just let it blow—honestly, it’s incredible.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I’m terrifically biased, since I’ve been writing for Pitchfork since (yikes!) 2003. But I will happily tell you my top three, all-time favorite record stores: the Princeton Record Exchange in Princeton, NJ; Shangri-La in Memphis, TN; and Bop Street Records in Seattle, WA.