British multi-instrumentalist, multi-genre musician, and visual artist ASHLEY REAKS has been around for more than 10 years and it’s high time we give it some attention on IDIOTEQ. Though we first connected right after the release of his last year’s punk rock opera “This Is Planet Grot” in September 2016, we haven’t managed to wrap up our interview until now. One of the main reasons could be Ashley’s prolific work ethic that helped him to put out 6 (yes, six!) different records in a meantime! His newest offering “Track Marks” marks his 11th recording and it’s a one hell of a treat for fans of experimental dub, eclectic art rock, as well as jazz and blues tinged progressive music. We caught up with Ashley to discuss his punk offering “This Is Planet Grot” and his intriguing collage work.
Hey there Ashley! Thanks a lot for sitting down with us and sharing some thoughts through IDIOTEQ. How are you? How’s London? Sunny and shiny as always?
London is unusually hot and clammy.
Haha, good to hear that! Ok, so let’s start off with your last year’s work, ‘This Is Planet Grot’, and some of the feelings that come up when it came out last Summer. How are proud of this recording and where this record fits in the jigsaw of your varied discography?
I’m really happy with how ‘This Is Planet Grot’ turned out. Some of the songs have been around for a long time so it was satisfying to get them all on one coherent record. It’s not a current album in terms of the writing of the songs but I always thought there was a good album in there, so it was well worth the time and effort it took to make the record.
Tell us a bit more about your story and background that projects into your new works. Where did you grow up? How did that affect you as a creative?
I grew up in a small town in Northern England. It’s a very conservative and conventional place. I somehow heard The Ramones as a 12 year old and everything changed. Within a few months I’d formed a band and the conservative life was over! The DIY artwork of the early punk scene (especially CRASS) had a huge impact on me and I’d spend as much time making posters for the band as i would actually playing music.
After so many years of creating music, who are your kindred spirits that you look up to?
You played some gigs with THE DICKIES last year. How was your recent touring experience? Tell us a bit about how you manage to deliver a live show with project that used your very self for most of the studio work.
Playing live is a real challenge for me as I have to completely rethink the music I make in the studio. On THE DICKIES tour It was me singing and playing guitar, a laptop with some pre-programmed stuff on there and I had my art images projected on screens behind me.
Alright, so let’s learn a bit about the other guilty pleasure, which is collage art. How did you get started doing stuff like that?
As I mentioned before, the artwork of CRASS by Gee Vaucher and The Pop Group had a huge influence on me. I made collaged posters for my early punk bands and started again years later.
What influenced your passion for collage-style art?
That’s an easy one – I’m technically very limited as an artist so collage was a way I could create images without being able to draw or paint.
There are a lot of erotic scenes and references in your works. Can you talk a little bit about it as your source of inspiration?
All artists have recurring themes in their work. There’s a lot of S and M imagery in my work. I don’t think of it literally, more that issues of power and abuse seem to always be in my art, visually or musically.
Is there an underlying theme or message you’re trying to get across to us with your works?
Not specifically but my inner world is quite disturbed and issues of power and powerlessness, abuse, violence and self-hate seem to want a voice on a regular basis!
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece? What’s your creative process usually like?
Making collages is deliberately time-consuming. I like to lose myself whilst making stuff so I make very detailed and intricate work a lot of the time. Each collage takes about a week.
Don’t you feel the collage art doesn’t get enough attention and respect, beacause of its nature, and being, excuse me for calling it this wat, but kind of like scrapbooking?
I haven’t really thought about it but to me any art form is as valid as any other. An interesting artist will make interesting art in any medium.
What other forms of art are you drawn to? Are there more areas of creative expression that you find fulfillment in?
Over the years I’ve written (anti) poetry and done stand-up comedy but ultimately narrowed it down to music and collage making.
Comparing these two worlds, design/collage art with music, do you put the emphasis strictly on one of these spheres? How do you balance between these forms of art?
I go wherever the energy takes me – it’s usually an intense period of art followed by an intense period of music-making. I rarely make both at the same time.
Ok, so finally, given the ultra fast development of modern technologies, digital solutions and various music related tools, what role does the internet play in your art or your inspiration? How does it match your original punk approach?
The ability to cut and paste musically has allowed me to make the music I want to – it’s invaluable. Paradoxically my collages are all by hand. I took the DIY approach to mean to make what you want by any means possible – I’m open to all influences and ways of creating.
Great! Thanks Ashley, cheers for your time, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Feel free to wrap it up, drop your final words and be sure to keep in touch with us here on IDIOTEQ. Best!
I’ve just put out my new (and 11th) album ‘Track Marks’. All my albums are available as a free download at ashleyreaks.bandcamp.com