IN CONVERSATION w/ LUCIANO ZERACHI: NORTH LONDON, SOUTH AMERICA, WEED BROWNIES & ‘VEGAN RUDEBOY’

Highbury North London born and bread. Luciano – from growing up in North London to travelling South America. Running a football school to running a weed brownie “business” to make ends meet while living in Colombia has taken all these experiences and channeled them into a his latest venture.

I caught up with him discuss his life and the journey that lead him to the street food brand and business ‘Vegan Rudeboy’.

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T: So, I always like to talk about going down the route of learning about the person themselves (personally), rather than just what do. So, where are you from?

L’; Highbury, North London. But, my Dad’s from Italy. So half Italian and Mum’s a mix; Scottish, Irish, Welsh.

T: So, they both came over in the 80s?

L: Well, my Mum’s always been in the UK, but my Dad come over when he was young – like 2. In an attic above a restaurant in Camden…

T: And it must’ve been mental back then…

L; I mean yeah it was London back then (70s). And they were in an attic where his older brother couldn’t stand up coz the ceiling was so low. They were poor man. It was hard times…

T: Anyway, you’re from Highbury. But you didn’t go to school in Highbury did you..

L; I went to primary school here – at the end of my road, Joan of Arc. Then we ended up going to secondary school outta the ends which was surprising for us. We ended up going to ‘London Orentory’ which was an all boys school in Fulham Broadway. So trekkin’ everyday.. I mean it was a good school, a lot people did well out of it. But for me it was a bit too constrained – too many rules.

T: And when you say Fulham. Is it Chelsea Fulham, or working class Fulham?

L: It weren’t a private school, but it was very hard to get in to. It was Catholic commitment. So doing the alter service and all that stuff. We were “practicing Catholics”, but we didn’t particularly fit in there – my brother or I. We couldn’t get into other schools that were more suited to us coz of catchment area’s and all that stuff, and the other option was going to ‘Highbury Grove’ in ends *laughs*.  I weren’t lookin’ to do that. Them times it was a rough place man.

T: Yeah and unless you’re from the Estate you weren’t linked it…

L: Yeah, well we knew people from the area from playing football and stuff – and we could handle ourselves – but know one would’ve expected us to. So, it would’ve been a lot of bullshit.

T: You would’ve had to earn your stripes in mad ways. And in them schools earnin’ your stripes is a risky business…

L: Yeah, coz you’re dealin’ with people from your area as well. I’m glad I didn’t go there coz going there could’ve lead you down the wrong path I think…

T:  Yeah yeah. Anyway, let’s switch lanes here, coz we got a bit of the back story now. So, at what point did you get into the Vegan ting?

L: It was only about 4 years ago, at 25. It wasn’t long after starting my Football school – a bit more of the background. I had a kids football school that I started with my brother when I was 22; which is relatively young to start a first business/. It was a great experience. We ran that for about 4 or 5 years…

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T: And was there any link to this that lead you to becoming a Vegan?Or was it just timing coinciding?

L: It was a lot to with my brother and his girlfriend went away to Spain and come back. But I’d already been thinkin’ of it previously and he come back he was like ‘We’re thinkin’ about goin’ Vegan’ and I was like; ‘You’re doin’ it, then I’m doin’ it as well. It just makes sense init’. I always talked about how much I love animals…

T: Yeah people do it for different reasons. Some do it for the climate, some for health reasons etc. But for you it was…

L: It was a combination of loving animals and the environment….

T: So health was secondary or even the third thing?

L: Yeah, I can be honest, I party, and I’m not even the most healthy. A lot of the food I cook is relatively junk food – now Vegan junk food. Which I think is important coz it’s a good way of transitioning people from non-vegan. I mean when we were young we used to hang around in the chicken shop. That’s one of the reasons why I’m doin’ seitan chicken as my meals init. After kickin’ ball in ends we’d go chicken shop, hang around there, fuck about, have banter – it’s for the average person init.

T: But particularly in London. Linking it to the ‘Vegan Rudeboy’ ting. So in some regards – not that it was at the forefront of your mind – this ‘Vegan Rudeboy’ ting is almost bridging the gap between those people that would never consider it…

L: Exactly. I don’t think I’m what you’d consider your “average vegan”. When I tell people they’re very shocked – generally – and I think that’s a good thing.

T: So let’s get to the point where ‘Vegan Rudeboy’ (the business) was starting to become a clear route…

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L: It was really when I went travelling. I was had this massive desire to travel. When I was young I was always saying “I’m gunna travel the world!”. And I used to think “I’ll do one more year of the football school”, but it was going on and on. Then it was comin’ up to the end of the season and I said I’ll do one more year, build up the finances and then I got a message on Facebook from my Colombian friend – I’d been doing the Football school on my own at this point coz my brother had left it….

T: So, this forced you to really consider whether you really want to be doin’ this…

L: That’s it. He’s gone now and I’m choosin’ a different career path..

T: Okaaaay. So now it’s like my thing. “This is my life now..”

L: Yeah, “This is what Luci’ does. He’s that guy who’s got a football school”. And I was thinkin’ “Oh really”. My brother  was the one who was more interested in football than I was. So, at that point people were sayin’ if this is not what you want to do – you’ve built up an amazing thing and we don’t want you to give it up – but if it’s not what really drives you, don’t do it…

T: And did it end then?

L: Mentally yeah – to some extent. The season was approaching the end and I got that message from a friend I grew up with who was living in Colombia and he invited a load of us out there. So I spoke to my Dad about it and he was sayin “Colombia’s really dangerous etc”. Then I was talking to him on the phone and he was like “Luc’ c’mon man. You’re a 27 year old man, you make your decisions.” and within’ 15 minutes of gettin’ off the phone to him I’d booked the flight.

L: So I went away and I was with those guys for a couple of weeks – but I travelled for a year in total. It was a few months in and I met these Colombian guys who were Chef’s…

T: Oh seeen. So, there was food influence on this trip?

L: One hundred percent. The whole time I was travelling I found myself around people that cooked a lot and Chef’s.

T: Okay, some inspiration in that travelling experience that you didn’t foresee…

L: I was staying with a Chef for a couple of weeks in his apartment, and ended up staying there for a bit without him…

T: So you were forced to socialise now…

L: Exactly. So, I ended up meeting this guy and he was a good cook man. We’d be in the evenings smoking some nice weed and cooking really nice food; with a lot of veg and where he knew I was Vegan at the time – he was like “Alright I’ve got to be more creative” because they have a very meat intensive diet.

T: And they’re (culturally) really on their food deen. So he had to work some magic for you *laughs*

L: Yeah, and there was another Venezuelan guy. These guys were kinda trained Chef’s – I mean they’d worked in a lot of kitchens. Anyway, they weren’t too knowledgeable about Veganism themselves. I’d go to restaurant and say “No meat.” and they’d be like “Okay, Pollo” meaning Chicken. And I’d have to say no again. And they’d be like “Oh, Pescado”and I’d be like nah nah nah – so you’d end up in a restaurant with Lentils, Chickpeas and Rice! And a bit’ah Plantain.*laughs*. Don’t get me wrong it was still nice, but…

T: The culture was alien to them…

L: Ah man… But surprisingly there are some restaurants in the more cosmopolitan cities…

T: Yeah coz there’s enough tourists to inform and support the demand. But really it was these individuals you were forced to meet when you weren’t with your mates, who made the effort to cook you something nice that didn’t have meat in it and that played a profound role in this journey…

L: Exactly. They were having to adapt recipes and be “Ah we can’t use egg’s or milk?” and would be like “Nah man”.

T: Was that like a challenge for them?

L: Yeah yeah, to some extent, I think they probably enjoyed it. It was wicked man. So I was with them for a little while, stayed in this flat for 6 weeks, I was doin’ Spanish classes there. Then I thought I had to move on. So I went to Santiago Di Cali coz I’d heard about a work opportunity there. I stayed in a hostel and really liked the people there. One of the guys I lived with before told me that he done batches of food in a hostel and sold it to other guests in the hostel. So they’re gettin’ to eat nice home cooked meals, I’m gettin’ to eat for free and make a little earnin’ back. So, I thought while I’m travelling I might as well make some food, learn to cook and make a little money. So initially it was a load of pasta dishes *laughs*..

T: And couple of things you picked up from the guys you lived with…

L: Yeah, but then it was difficult coz I doin’ shifts in the bar in the evenin’. So, me and Jono – the guy I was working with on the food and in the bar – decided that all of the food we make we put together, we keep everything, we won’t spend any of it and we’ll go on our little travels together afterwards. So, the food starts to get quite creative man, but we have to factor in budget…

T: Okay so now you’re in the “academy of food entrepreneurship” (so to speak)…

L: Yeah. So we’re alternating shifts and then it got a bit deeper than that *laughs*. We started making weed brownies *laughs*. I don’t even know if I should be sayin’ that, but we wanted to make more money. And people wanted it and liked the idea. First we just made a batch for people just stayin’ in the hostel.

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T: And these are Vegan brownies?

L: Of course!

T: So this is kinda where it started!

L: 100%! Initially though the weed brownies weren’t mean’t to be a business thing. It was mean’t to be for the hostel, coz we had a big film night with a big projected screen on the block next to us. So, we thought we’d make weed brownies and watch some cool classic films. By chance we’d met a guy who was a chef, but also a shotta and gave a cookbook dedicated to weed edibles. But we ended up puttin’ an ounce of weed in the brownies; which was not the best idea coz them brownies were strong! So everyone was fucked up! *laughs*

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T: So, you slew’d off the whole hostel *laughs*…

L: Yeah and the owner of the hostel came back and was like “what have you done to my guests?!” *laughs*. Everyone was scattered around the hostel, asleep on staircases, the lounge, the garden… *laughs* Then we got people turnin’ up to the hostel from other parts of Colombia are they’re goin’ “Yo, are you Jono and Luci? We heard about the brownies.”

T: Oh shit so your names ringin’ on da streets now!

L: *laughs*  Ringin’ on the streets across Colombia!

T: And this really validated your ability to make good Vegan food that people are gunna enjoy, and that was like your accidental PR stunt *laughs*

L: That was it. So, we thought why don’t we make these for when people are goin’ on a coach trip – coz when your travelling it’s like 12 hour trips – and people are taking Valium to go to sleep. So, I’m just like “let’s go natural man!”.

T: You’ve had a lot of pivotal entrepreneurial moments in your life…

L: Yeah, but I always like to have someone to work with. I got the idea’s, but I need that little push, and That was Jono at that time.

T: At what point does this madness that’s goin’ on here – that has really interesting aspects with regards to how you upped your lev’s with the vegan cookin’, and how you developed your hustle a little bit more. But how did that travelling experience end? Leading to the ‘Vegan Rudeboy’ thing? You had a really long vegan related travelling experience and it wasn’t planned. You would’ve met other vegans, bonded and there would’ve been a level of camaraderie over the adversity of the lack of vegan food?

L: Yeah and it creates initial conversation.  And the hostel that I said I was living in before. That’s where the ‘Vegan Rudeboy’ name actually started…

T: I could see how someone could be like, coz you’re from London and would’ve possibly been actin’ up a bit. Well, enough to get the nickname…

L: Yeah and the general mannerisms. *laughs*, I think it was a Canadian guy called Jay. And he would buy my food all the time, and he would say “Shit, your foods so much better than eating some Dominoes bullshit.” So, that’s how the name occurred. But then I’ve gone to a vegan restaurant in Cusco (Peru) – run by an American woman. I was like “Any chance you need volunteers here?”. And she said “Actually I really do. I’m quite desperate…”.

T: Once again your sharpenin’ your “vegan culinary sword” so to speak…

L: Yeah. So, she said come in Monday morning, I worked a week, but I was mean’t to carry on to Bolivia. And she said If you come back round you can have a full time job here. So, I did Bolivia for about a month and came back to Cusco, and worked in the restaurant for about 6 weeks. And it was a relatively new restaurant so it enabled me a lot of time to spend one on one with her…

T: So you had another mentor. You had friends who were skilled chef’s who would adapt their food for you and now you’ve lead up to meeting a person who’s now teaching you Vegan cooking.

L: Yeah this is where I learned about Kimchi, vegan cheeses. Originally I thought “Alright I’m never fuckin’ eatin’ cheese again!”. But had this amazing Cashew Cheese. It was a great learning curve.

T: So, that 6 weeks was a really profound part of the journey that lead you to where we’re at now.

L: Yeah I wasn’t just cooking. I was engaging with customers and they liked me, so they were coming back – so she was happy. It’s a food establishment, you need to be able to talk to people.

T: So, you developed your recipe repertoire and validated your ability to build rapport…

L: Which is required specifically in the street food industry.

T: So, you realised I can cook, I got the business acumen – proven from the football school and the weed brownie hustle. I got the people person personality and also I got the edge to be a credible “Vegan Rudeboy” which is an important part of your brand.

L: Yeah coz I didn’t wanna change who I was with anything I do. It’s gotta be myself.

T: Yeah, you can confidently call yourself that – not because your off some block somewhere and you’ve shanked bare man…

L: *laughs* Yeah. And to establish the idea that I’m the average man and not your stereotypical person who went vegan.

T: That’s a better way to explain it. “I’m not some upper-middle class, champagne socialist wanka who became vegan put up Facebook statuses it.” You became vegan for your own reasons, but you’re not cut from that cloth. And you want more people from your social sphere to be able to engage with veganism…

L: And make it more accessible.

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T: Yeah, that wrapped it up perfectly and ‘Vegan Rudeboy’ is a brand name that would work for that type of person. There is that gap in the market that isn’t being stimulated because of the connotations associated with veganism, and what your trying to offer is veganism for people who aren’t cunts…

L: *laughs*

T: You know what I mean. To put it bluntly. Doesn’t mean coz you’re a vegan you’re a cunt, obviously. But you can still be the type of person that the word ‘Rudeboy’ represents and be vegan without being the type of person that ‘vegan’ represents.

L: Even from working in the fruit and veg game, and working with guys from a much older generation, giving them accessibility to even knowing what veganism is and understanding what it is.

T: Yeah they’re staunch working class geezers…

L: They would’ve just been thinking “Tossa’s, animal rights protest mugs!” *laughs*.  And now they don’t think of it as some weird thing. I’ve made food for them that they never would try otherwise, and they’ve liked it.

T: And because of the type of person you and basically what your mission is with this brand, is to engage a different class of society, and introduce them to food that has broader benefits to the environment. You almost doing a duty to society, there’s not a lot of vegans out here doin’ that.

L: I’m like Robin Hood! *laughs*

You can listen back to our full hour long conversation below:

POSTED BY: @TIMI.WATSONROSE

GLASS, GOLD & SHAPING THE MOULD: IN CONVERSATION W/ ALEX MAY HUGHES

Gold Fanatic, Simpsons Enthusiast, Lager connoisseur, battle cruiser peruser, Ealing Native, Sign painter and me old friend Alex May Hughes’ been puttin’ in the graft with her distinct style of Gold based artwork for a hot minute. From her humble beginnings pumpin’ out premium products from her bedroom to being a fully fledged and full time certified sign maker. Commanding widespread accolades for her synonymous style and chracteristic creative direction.

Alex has taken a desire to do what she loves into a respectable career with out compromise. Affordable sentimental commissions for a lovers gift to their significant other to independent and large scale art exhibitions in the corporate sphere. Her work transcends the world of artistic commerce, while vehemently retaining it’s artistic integrity. So much so that I decided it was about I caught up with her to chew the fat about her early life, entry the Art world, the transition into to her full time career, her attitude towards and interests in the broader realms of Art – and the culture that surrounds it – and a general otherwise deeper insight into who she is and what informs the work she does.

Here’s what we discussed when I span down to her studio in West London:

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T: When you consider that most young people pursue creative endeavors of this kind are in east or south. Why did you decided to stay in West – more specifically your native borough of Ealing?

A: Yeah. Well, I did my degree at LCC and I lived in South London; which was really fun, and good, and cheap. Close to school, close to everything which I enjoyed. And then the guy I was going out with at the time went and lived in North – just off of Green Lanes – Which was wicked; amazing Turkish food which was absolutely bangin. You wake up in the morning and it smells like the most incredible Lamb and think “yeah I’d eat that for breakfast” *laughs*. So I lived up there for a bit and that was good, but it didn’t pan out so I moved back home….

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A: …I thought oh my life’s a mess what am I doing… But, what it did mean I could do was not have to worry about rent, I didn’t have to go and get a shitty job that I didn’t want to do. So, I just started painting signs and I could go just do that non-stop for like 16 hours a day working out of my bedroom.

T: So this all started in your bedroom…

A: In my small bedroom; which I’m still in now,… *laughs*. I use quite a lot of chemicals and stuff like that, and thought ‘ah yeah this is fine…’ and then after a year and half I started to lose my mind a bit. *laughs* Those chemicals give you a really bad headache and I never stop working..

T: So you were feeling the effects *laughs*

A: Eventually yeah! *laughs*. Then I started to turn down work because I ;literally didn’t have the space to make it, and it occur to me that maybe I could work in a studio or something like that. But I didn’t think I’d have enough money for that, and didn’t really have a grasp of what it might cost. In West London it’s prominently residential – people wanna live here. Where as in East, South or even North there’s more artist communities. But I typed it into Google and in North Acton there’s some artist studios but they’re about 8 or 9 hundred pounds a month. But they were in beautiful community building with parquet floors, but I thought ‘I dont’ need that… I’m gunna ruin that!’

T: But that would’ve the quote unquote “artist community” that you were looking for…

A: Yeah they had screen printing facilities and all this other stuff, and in theory that would be great… but who are the people that are there that can afford to pay £800 rent and £800 on there studio… Like how do you a make living off that?! And then this place came up which is with a place called ACAVA and they have places all over London – and now outside of London because they recognise that empty buildings in London aren’t really a thing anymore. They basically just wanna make it really affordable for people to do this as they job.

T: So, that’s there mission?

A: Yeah it was setup by this guy Duncan Smith in the 70s – he’s a proper old man artist.. Long white pony tail…

T: Is he balding??? *laughs*

A: Errgh… *laughs* He always this grey baker boy hat…

T: So yeah probably balding then… Sorry I’m just trying to put an image to the name init… *laughs*

A: Yeah he’s proper artisty. But yeah, in the 70s there all these empty buildings in London I think they just thought ‘Let’s just start putting artists in them’. Anyway, this building came up and I thought I’d check it out, and I literally walked in thought ‘100% yes!’. A big room with big bright windows..

T: And a durable floor.. *laughs*

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A: Yeah a floor I don’t have to care about, a short bus ride away from where I live. And now I’ve been here 2 and half years. Fingers crossed it doesn’t get shutdown, or taken away from me, or nobody burns it down…

T: For insurance purpose.. Duncan get’s a bit fuckin’ desperate *laughs*

A: Nah more people are careless. Health and Safety in Perivale industrial estate is not a priority. I’ve guys park where they shouldn’t and I guy with a forklift will come and pick their car…

T: Rah, they’re ruthless round here! But that basically explains why you stayed in West. Cheap and close to home.

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-The lawless streets of the Perival Industrial Estate. Mind ya motors folks…

T: So let’s roll it back… Where you into Art, or typography or Comic Books as I kid. Obviously deeply into the Simpsons.

A: Heavily into Simpsons. From the get go always…

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-Two-Two Simpsons Selections from Alex’s archive

T: Did you have the books. There’s on in particular that I had but I can’t remember what is was now…

A: Bart Simpsons guide to life?

T: Yeah!!!

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A: Yeah that was the shit that I loved which was cool.

T: Cartoons in general or were you just a fanatic about the Simpsons?? Biker Mice from mars fan??

A: Nah Cartoons in general. And Yeah, really into Biker Mice From Mars. Really into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… I had an older brother and a younger Sister so it was all spanning all the time. SO had to watch what everybody wants to watch…

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-Classics. If you don’t, I beg you get to know at your earliest convenience, still…

T: Were you drawing stuff.. Where you that kinda kid?

A: Yeah I think so, always drawing stuff and in school that was my favourite thing to do.

T: Where you good at drawing coz I always have this discussion about Art and School and whether you bothered doing in year 10 and 11 when you chose your subjects was pretty much determined by how well you could draw. It’s pretty narrow. I’m not sure if that’s changed…

A: I guess so. But there’s lots of people who were like ‘Argh I can’t draw…’ But there’s different types of drawing and Artistic drawing is different to just being communicative…

T: But don’t you think that in school what more like...

A: Tracing shit…

T: Yeah there was no abstract Art in year 8 and 9…

A: No, well… maybe unintentionally *laughs*. But yeah I think I had good teachers and I enjoyed it so i put an effort in and kinda snowballs.

T: Do you consider what you do as “Art”? Coz you do Typography for the most part…

A: It’s a weird place to be. I mean when people ask me what my Job is I don’t go ‘ Oh I’m an Artist’… Who the fuck does that?! *laughs*.

T: Wanka’s! *laughs*

A: *laughs* I just say go ‘I’m a signpainter’ because ultimately in it’s truest form it’s just a trade – you’re just providing a service for people. But I also do a lot of private stuff. So it’s weird. It serves a different purpose to lots of different people… I really don’t know because even within Sign Painting I do such a narrow bit of it. I mean I only really work on glass and with Gold Leaf and that’s just a really small aspect of it….

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-One of many gold leaf signs from the earlier end of Alex’s the archive…

T: Staying on the topic of Art.. Are you actually into “Art”? Firstly like, contemporary Art – do you go to exhibitions and genuinely go to see the art? And if so what type? Coz, I mean it could be photography, Fine Art or whatever…

A: Yeah absolutely.. I went the national Gallery to see the Ed Ruscha exhibition coz his paintings are amazing and I’d never seen them in real life. I really like doing that a lot… And if I really wanna see the Art I won’t go on the opening night coz I’ll just get really pissed, talk to all my mates and not look at anything *laughs*.

T: So you do genuinely care about Art…

A: Yeah but I can’t stand the really protentiousy things that I don’t understand. I’m quite a literal person. I mean signs have got words on them, so you can read them and understand what it is.

T: Yeah there’s a lot of pretentious shit out there; particularly Photography exhibitions…

A: Sometimes I just don’t get it. I try to understand it, but if there’s no context with it so you can’t even try to work it I just get bored and go ‘I just don’t care what that is’… which is probably appalling. But sometimes someone will explain what it is and i’ll go ‘Ahh, that’s fuckin’ sick’. So, maybe I just need to spend time doing it, but also there is some really pretentious shit out there that I don’t care for much.

T: Who are you really rating though?

A: I mean the Ed Ruscha that I went to yesterday and his attitude towards it is kind of like the tradesperson thing. He doesn’t believe in prentencious shit or any of that stuff, and anybody that calls their artwork “peices” can just get the fuck out! *laughs*

T: *laughs* He’s anti!

A: Well he just does these massive paintings that have a historical and social context. And they’re usually just landscapes or an image with text on them. So they’re kind of literal, but abstract in their meaning.

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ARTISTS WHO MAKE

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– Two-two artwork by man like ‘Ed Rucsha’

T: So like to being able to see it and take something away from immediately. Rather have someone give you an epilogue...

A: Kind of yeah. Maybe that’s just the terrible ‘Instagram Scrolling Syndrome’ where if you don’t get it you just keep scrolling…

T: Yeah, but I suppose some people like that. Like being able to peel back the layers, or the aspect of talking about it. So rather than the piece itself they primarily like the discussion… Like, those socialite art types…

A: Oh noooo *laughs*

T: Let them live obviously.. But that’s not you…

A: I just want people to come to my exhibitions and just like the way it looks. I mean sometimes I’ll have an idea or there’s a place where the words came from and if you wanna read into that that’s cool and you’ll get something from it hopefully. But also you just wanna look at the picture and go ‘That’s a nice picture, I like the way that looks’; I’m not gunna make you work hard for it *laughs*

T: Rolling on. Where did your obession with gold come from? Did the #GOLDPATROL predate the Gold Leaf work? Were you always you just deeply into gold??

A: *laughs* I was always really into it. But that’s not a new thing that’s like an Egyptian (hertiage) all spanning the history of the planet thing. It’s just deeply within you.. this finite resource which is just so attractive for so many reasons. So, I was always really into it and also when I was younger it was kinda fashionable – or maybe it kinda always been fashionable. I can’t make the call on that…

T: It comes in and out of Fashion…

A: Maybe it does, but the crassness kinda appealed to me when I was younger. I think it kinda had a renaissance for being cool or whatever. But the Gold Patrol, was before I had Instagram. So I was using Facebook as a fuckin’ blog, finding these random pictures on the internet and sharing them…

T: So you are deeeply into gold. This goes beyond the norm…

A: *laughs* I mean kind of. I got non-stop spam on insta of people sending me stuff. The people on instagram no! That and car number plates… You gotta be careful what put out there on the internet because people are non-stop sending me stuff.

T: *laughs* Well they must send you some stuff you like..

A: Yeah sometimes I get stuff and I’m like ‘yeah thanks’ and post it up *laughs*

T: So, back to your craft. What’s your favourite commission? I was reading some prior interviews and there was one the came up. But we’ll see if that matches to your favourite to date..

A: Was the drunk fish?

T: Yeah, is that still the one?

drunkfish-213x300.png-The Infamous and aforementioned Drunken Fish..

A: It was a really fun one… and it was a drunk fish. *laughs*

T: What was the reasoning behind that? The fish did look really drunk…

A: *laughs* Well it was for pub called ‘The Anchor Tap’ which is owned by ‘The Dark Star Bewery’ who also own my favourite pub in London ‘The wenlock’ in Old Street…

A:…Anyway, it’s on the way to Brighton and it had a sea theme, so they got another guy to do a big anchor and some other signs and stuff. Then Adrian the guy who was doing the design for it sent me that image of the fish and I was like ‘fuck that’s so sick,’ So it made a lot of sense it was really cool… Also, that was when I was still working in my bedroom and that was the biggest thing I’d made in there; I nearly didn’t take on the job, but I made it happen. I was like sleeping like half underneath it *laughs*. It was hard that one. But when I made it was yeah, now I need to go get a fuckin’ studio so I make something this big all the time…

T: So it came at a pivotal moment in your career…

A: Kind of, I mean coz it was so big I made more money. So I thought maybe this can be my job. It helped me to take it more seriously I suppose. But I finished a sign for an exhibition with 30 other sign painters from around the world and it’s based off a catalogue of a sign painting exhibition in the Victiorian times in London and this Meredith in American who’s a sign painting historian. She has a catalogue of what all the signs were of. So she put them into a spreadsheet and said all of you can pick one sign and you get to make whatever you want and I chose one that said ‘All The World and His Wife’. All of where really fuckin’ cool. Mad puns and really filthy shit.. So, I just finished making that and I’m really pleased with it.

T: I see what you mean about making stuff that looks good but has a theme that’s easy to digest. It ticks all the boxes. So if you had your own exhibition…

A: Yeah, I’d put that in it. I mean every two years I try do an exhibition and I’ve got a list on my phone; so if I see a cool word, or think of something cool or a song title, or whatever it might be… And after 2 years I got this fuckin’ long list that I haven’t made. So I just think shit, If I put on an exhibition I can just make stuff that’s on that list.

T: So when’s the next exhibition?

A: I mean I’m due one coz my last exhbition was like 2 years ago now. But i have to not take on commisions for a couple of months which I find very difficult; saying no to people. Some people it means a lot to them. When they’re like ‘My girlfriends loved your work for years’ and they wanna get them a present. How can I say no? I’m so grateful it’s my job…

T: So this exhibitions gunna be a while then…

A: We’ll see. I feel like if I had a month of just solid work I could do it this year…

You can check the full unedited and in depth 45 min audio podcast version available to down HERE and listen below:

POSTED BY: @TIMI.WATSONROSE

IN CONVERSATION W/ YONI LAPPIN: FINESSIN’, FILMMAKING & FORWARD MOVEMENT

It was New Years of ’16/’17 that I first met Yoni. Posted up in the kitchen of the house party is where we spent – all things considered – an incredibly disproportionate amount of time discussing and dissecting a medley societal topics in great depth. While everyone else was turnin’ up to celebrate the birth of a new year, we were breaking down race relations and debating social constructs. I didn’t know who Yoni was at the time, but after our talks, I knew he was an interesting person. And upon connecting on the socials, I came to learn of his profession.

Promoter, Filmmaker and more specifically Music Video Director for the likes of A$AP Rocky, Mura Masa, Danny Brown and more. Yoni’s been in the mix, living between the realms of Music and Film for a number of years now. From working at Rinse FM to making it at Warner Bros, I caught up with him to discuss his early life, careers breaks, film and passion over profit.
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T: As we established from our first conversation. You spent some time growing up between London and New York?

Y: Well, I was born in Israel. I moved to New York when I was 3, and then moved to London when I was 7. And I’ve lived in here sine then; since 1993…

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T: So, where about’s did you grow up?

Y: Barnet. Between Whetstone and Southgate in North London. Since January last year I’ve lived in Homerton. I always wanted to live in Hackney and where I live now is like a 5 minute walk from where I shot the video for Love$ick (Mura Masa ft A$AP Rocky)  – which is really coincidental.

T: I’m a bit of British Urban Music snob so I’m not even familiar with the video for Love$ick off the top…

Y: I think it’s the video that I’m probably most proud of so far because even though the concept is very simple, it really represents something I wanted to do for a long time in terms of its execution. The video’s based on my experience’s growing up in London. What it was like as a kid going to school coz I went to school in Camden and that was a real crazy journey…You Know…travelling from the sticks to get there via harringgay…Finsbury Park…Holloway…Kentish Town…Caledonian…In the late 90s and early 2000s. So every day was an adventure.

T: And how old are you??

Y: 31

T: Shiiit… So, you would’ve been going through there when it was rough still…

Y: I look back at it as a bit of a golden age for what London was like back then. I mean, you’d get people trying to jack each other everyday on the buses and in the street…Look at Islip street in Kentish Town for example…Nowadays that’s a really affluent street but back then that was a route to school that was always a major risk. I’d say 50% of the time you’d run into trouble walking down that street. But the trade off was; you had this amazing music and culture just bursting at the seams all over the city and it was so energising, with jungle and ragga, the peak of UK Garage days and the start of Grime…coming as a kid from New York, just being a 90s Hip Hop kid up until then, it was really amazing to me and I was soaking it all up like a sponge, I just really gravitated to it instantly…But I went to a Jewish School in heart of Camden, going through Holloway everyday; we were prime targets *laughs*. Lot of memories taking the 29 and 253 bus from Wood Green, Manor House and Finsbury Park too.

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T: Oh yeah, the “back of the bus” culture. As annoying as it would be as an adult, that was a hub…

Y: It was like the Wild West, nothing was really patrolled back then, it was a different time…

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T: You mentioned ‘Love$sick’, so let’s lets get into how you got into film. What area of film are you obsessed with at this early point in your life? Music Videos, Documentaries, Feature films??

Y: Ever since I was a kid I knew it was like, one of the options I’d say to myself I could be. I never took it that seriously though, but it was one of the things I’d think about becoming. It took a long long time to take it seriously and bring it to the surface.

T: And when you say “a long long time”, are we saying you’re in High School thinking about making Music Videos, or Short Films maybe?

Y: I mean, like a lot of young men get into film through gangster films. Your Scorsese’s, Godfather, Goodfella’s, Reservoir Dogs, those films. And think the realism of those films – the grittiness and the violence, mixed with the beauty of how their shot and tender moments – as a child it leaves an impression on you. It did on me anyway. I was always an observer of people and I think on a subconscious level I always knew that what I wanted to do was find a way of observing people for a living.

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– Goodfellas (1990)

T: I know cinematography is a big factor in what you do. At that age, was it a factor then?

Y: It was always about how it was shot (along with everything else) that was important to me. I remember picking up on that very early on. It was everything. The tone, the acting. It was real, but at the same time it was very artistic and surreal at the same time. Then I remember seeing some of Stanley Kubrick’s films like 2001… It was always a language that connected with me. I felt I understood it and was fascinated by it…So it was there, but I went through a decade of being obsessed with Music and not really taking film seriously as a career. It seemed out of reach to me I guess…I definitely tried to get into music first.

T: You were trying out different creative mediums kind of?

Y: Yeah, I saved up for 6 months for all this equipment to make music and I quickly realised that I wasn’t very talented at making music *laughs*, but it was an obsession of mine I knew I could do something else with music even if it wasn’t making it.

T: How old were you when you realised that “my riddims don’t bang” *laughs*?

Y: 23 *laughs* But, it got me into working for a radio station (Rinse FM) and then a record label (Warner Bros.). After Uni I really didn’t know what to do, I was at this crossroads that I think a lot of people go through and was torn. I put Law on hold coz at one point I considered being a Lawyer and my Dad was trying to get me to carry on with academia and get an MA as well. Those were the obvious two choices at one point, because they were clearer, more tangible career paths, but that was never where my heart ultimately was and I knew that deep down. Really I knew I wanted to do something in Music or Film; that was sitting in my stomach and it never truly went away…

T: So, what was the catalyst?

Y: Well, I dropped out of a Philosophy MA in London because I just wasn’t feeling being in a classroom anymore. I wanted to get out and do something, be a part of something happening in the city that excited me. So, I applied to this film ad for a ‘Rotoscoping’ job for this guy who looked like he was doing interesting stuff, it was a total stab in the dark and it came out of a sort of desperation I was feeling at the time to go another way where my life was currently. I dunno if people still do it, but it’s when someone goes in front of a green or in this case, blue screen and they cut them out etc etc to make them appear in front of any other back drop they want. It’s a lofi VFX trick. They needed someone to help out with that and I pretended I knew what I was doing…In reality I didn’t have a fuckin’ clue what I was doing!

T: So you finessed your way in *laughs*

Y: Yeah because it sounded cool and I wanted to be a part of something like that. This was around 2009…Anyway, I was assisting this guy who was an assistant to a really great music video director called Saam Farahmand – in my opinion he’s one of the best music video directors of all time and that was a complete fluke that I ended up there and a brilliant way for me to get a taste of that world and a fresh way of thinking. It was just really creative.

T: Just to cut in it. How you ratin’ Hype Williams, baring in mind he has his own cold style?

Y: In the 90s he was a complete trend setter, one of the pioneers for sure, took music videos to new levels no one had seen before and made hip hop music videos a true art form…

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– Busta Rhymes – Gimme Some More (Directed by Hype Williams – 1998)

T; What’s your favourite Hype video?

Y: The early stuff he did with Wu Tang like ‘Can It Be All So Simple’, even though it was him just starting out as a director, I actually like as much as the stuff he did later with Busta that was so out there and iconic. Because the earlier stuff was so raw and defiant in it’s honesty of the music is portrayed. You just immediately felt the person behind those early videos like that for Wu for example, just understood the essence of the music in a deeper way, and that was inspirational to me because that’s how I felt about the music too. The Busta and Missy videos etc. also capture the essence of the music and hip hop culture in a much more flamboyant way, which was equally inspiring I guess…The budgets for music videos back then was crazy. You could build a set and go all out and really experiment. I envy that time in that respect, but then again every-time has it’s advantages and I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now without the limitations I have to work under either. Limitations force a different type of creativity out of you too which can be equally valuable. You have to find the advantages of the times you live in and craft using that I think.

T; But, yeah let’s get back to the story of your journey into film. Got a bit side tracked…

Y; So, I did this experience with this Director and it was a cool time. As soon as I got a taste of that world I was hooked. It felt right and I felt alive.

T: What was the first thing you made knowing that you were showing it to people and were somewhat taking it seriously? Even if it was shit…

Y: Around that time I was working for that Director they asked me to bring something in that I’d made. And I was just fuckin’ around that month and trying to experiment with film, and made a mashup of Gucci Mane & MF Doom. It was a song at first. I found an acapella of Gucci and it had the same tempo as this KMD MF Doom beat.. Then I mixed in this really old black and white film footage of tap dancing and shit; the director found it really funny and said cool, you can work for awhile…But I don’t think they took it very seriously. I think they just thought the effort was cute.

T: Joker! *laughs* Pure creativity.

Y: It awoke me. I was quite depressed at the time from the MA, and moving back home after 3 years of freedom at university. It’s winter time in London, i’m having to take Night Buses to and from Barnet juggling internships and going out in East London etc… But, that immediately awoke me. I felt alive, and I thought, okay, I know I need to leave the MA program now and get into this world. Whether it was music or film, I knew that was the right direction I needed to go in to find fulfilment… I was making something and I was involved in something and that’s all I needed to keep going…

T: I hear that. And that experience gave you the validation you needed to pursue it seriously. So, what kinda stuff were you working with the director at first and what videos from the early days, that you still like?

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Y: Well, while doing my terrible telesales job to fund my life…

T: A slave to the wage man…

Y: Yeah *laughs*. But, at the same time I was interning at Rinse Fm as a producer at the studio in Brick Lane. I was working at night, so I’d be getting a Brick Lane bagel around 4am after a shift and getting the Night bus home to Barnet. And the route was awful. 4/5am and it took about an hour and a half every night. But I got to observe people day in day out, and it kinda stuck with me. It really inspired some of the subject matter and what I do… It was horrible and beautiful at the same time, much like the experience of living here I guess…

T: Poetic and true…

Y: But after being at Rinse, I went to Vice for a short while – just working as a receptionist intern. This is back when Vice still felt a little rebellious so I was eager to get a taste of that world too I guess. And to cut a long story short after Vice, one of my friends Ashley from Uni hit me up and he was working at Warner Bros at the time, and he said they were looking for somebody on the PR side and I was working at Vice; doing my club night ‘Prang’ – and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing.

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T: Another example of not who you know, and not necessarily what you know…

Y: Yeah, but when I had the interview with the boss at the time. He said, what do you want to do? I know it’s not PR… And I said, I wanna be a Director. I dunno why I said that! Maybe it was already brewing at the time; I’m almost surprised I was saying it that early but I did already know I guess… So he gave me Canon 7D and said go shoot something and I went down to Brick Lane – having been at Rinse and in the area all the time – and I shot something around Brick Lane bagels. I spent a whole night there with some mates capturing the life…It was a total experiment.

T: When he said “Shoot something”, what did he mean? Like a short film?

Y: Nah, it for a music video. A remix by Royal T. I spent a week editing it, this was literally my first time doing everything you needed to do t make a music video so it was my film school in real time. I just ran with it and that was the start of it for me really…Shortly after that, that same friend Ashley started a label and also started to manage an artist called ‘Ifan Dafydd’ and he said I could shoot the video for it (Treehouse).

T: At what point did you make a video that you still like today?

Y: Well I don’t know exactly how to answer that but I can say that I at least knew I could say to my parents this is what I’m going to do for a living after ‘What If I Go by Mura Masa’ came out. I could feel something happened after that, it just connected in a special way.

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T: I recall you mentioning having some involvement in the ‘Desiigner X Mura Masa X 67 – All Around The World’ remix. How did that come about?

Y: Well I directed the original video without 67 and I can’t say that I was responsible for the remix lol, because that’s down to the artist, manager etc., I don’t get involved in any of that. But what I will say is i’m a huge 67 fan, and I discovered them through the boy Izzy who plays the main kid and his friend in ‘Love$ick’. I was hanging with him and his friends and they were all on that UK Drill shit by then and that was new and exciting to me and they showed me that! That’s why you hear one of them (Dimz) rapping his own drill verse he wrote in the intro of the video…I felt it represented London at that moment. And then I shared that excitement to Alex (Mura Masa). I remember just telling Mura Masa about 67 and the manager after a show one night. We were talking about UK music and I mentioned “It’s all about 67!” and really gassing it up lol. I think I may have mentioned “Getting 67 on this All Around The World remix!” After a few rums that night lol. Maybe…But I never really thought anything of it and then about a month later Alex sent me the remix and I was absolutely elated…But who knows, maybe that would’ve happened anyway. Alex stays up on everything too. He definitely doesn’t need anyone telling him. His knowledge of music is on another level.

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T: Big that up! I rated that song for what it was.

Y: I love their video’s, especially the old ones. I’d really wanna do a 67 video.

T: That would be interesting and something I’d like to see… What you got going on right now? And any plans for the future you’d like to share?

Y: I have this Vogue doc coming out this week or next that I shot in New York and Paris. It’s about a few different models from South Sudan. They all have very interesting stories. I interviewed 4 or 5 – went to where they live. To me it was an identity story. Identity is a theme I keep coming back to at least on a subconscious level. Which I guess is because of my transient upbringing. Other than that…More music videos, photography projects, commercials, docs and eventually a FILM.

Catch Yoni bringing the guest selections on Narx’s show on NTS this Friday @ 1pm.

POSTED BY: @TIMI.WATSONROSE