Right after last Friday’s #IMPRINTPRESENTS talk with the very talented and endearing, not to mention, down-to-Earth Jeff Hamada, the Imprint team and our bigger sister interTrend family were all treated to a gourmet lunch at the brand new Gentaro Soba location in Downtown LA, in the brand new FIGat7th development. I was not blessed with the innate ability to take amazing photos, but luckily for us, none other than our talented friend Brandon Shigeta was on hand to document the madness. Gentaro Soba is a Tokyo-based buckwheat soba chain, with branding work by Kenya Hara (of AFD and MUJI fame) and interior design work by our previous #IMPRINTPRESENTS speaker Koichi Suzuno of Torafu Architects. Gentaro make fresh buckwheat noodles and tsuyu (dipping sauce) daily. Don’t miss this great addition to LA’s blossoming foodscape! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter.
Brian Ulaszewski is the Executive Director of a fascinating nonprofit design studio called City Fabrick, located right here in the heart of Long Beach. [...]
- 8 Questions with Brian Ulaszewski
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On September 22, 2013 Diana Nyad, a world record distance swimmer, approached the Key West shores after swimming for nearly 53 consecutive hours from the coast of Cuba. 53 HOURS. Just let that sink in for a bit. She had attempted this exact same swim four previous times but was forced to abandon them due to strong currents pushing her off course or pools of jelly fish stinging her to oblivion… while deadly sharks were also circling beneath her waiting to make a move. All of this at the young age of 64 years old. Dedication, preparation, and an unrelenting level of commitment, Diana is the epitome of never giving up.
Last Friday, Jeff Hamada came to town and gave a special lunchtime #imprintpresents talk at the Downtown Independent. After being introduced by Imprint Culture Lab’s own Julia Huang, the Vancouver, BC-based founder of booooooom.com did not boast about his hugely popular art website or even his own art. Instead, he talked about failure.
Telling stories about closing his eyes while riding his bicycle home when he was a little kid and jumping off cliffs with pals in Hawaii more recently even though he isn’t a very good swimmer, Jeff described a history of doing things that are a bad idea and setting himself up for failure. Or hopefully near failure, as in the case of Jeff faking his way through his first “real” job until a boss helped him get up to speed. In his opinion, playing it safe and avoiding disappointment is a surefire way to keep from reaching one’s potential. It’s also less fun.
But it isn’t easy to do things differently, consider new ideas, or change in general. Jeff shared that he is actually afraid of being afraid of change. And these days, even looking up a topic with Google or exploring images on Instagram leads to results patterned after your tastes and past by algorithms. In these cases, the results are rigged to avoid change.
So how does Jeff run Canada’s biggest art-related website without becoming predictable or complacent? By respecting his audience and treating them as peers–or at least neighbors–he allows the site to be led by users rather than dictate its course himself with an iron fist. (It’s a big deal to Jeff to not show art that is made to look like something booooooom.com would cover.) Likewise, he is afraid of merchandizing and monetizing the site to the point of losing focus. “I’d love to be a millionaire,” he said when asked about making T-shirts and other licensed gear. “But there are a million other things I want to do as well.”
Jeff revealed that to him success isn’t the best part of a process anyway. It’s the moment just before the success and inevitable letdown. By never peaking and always growing, he will continue to enjoy what he does and evolve as a businessperson, artist, and human. And that is a lesson that anyone can benefit from.
Today’s interview is with Kent Mori, one of the Founders behind ASPECD Apparel, a new contemporary menswear company that makes it super easy to find great fitting clothes – and boy do they mean easy. Each shirt sold on the site is offered in “in-between sizes,” such as “medium/large” and “large/XL,” and with FREE alterations as well to create the best fit possible just for your specific body. Options include fields for your height, waist size, shirt fit, and my favorite, stomach type. Although their designs are unique and fresh, I’ve just got to say that their customer service is absolutely stellar. You can really tell that they put a ton of time into understanding what exactly it takes to provide a truly enjoyable shopping experience. As a customer, these are the types of experiences that you remember, appreciate, and tell your friends about – and that is exactly what ASPECD has achieved spending nearly zero dollars on marketing and instead leveraging their organic customer base to spread their mission through word of mouth.
Fresh designs and an incredibly seamless shopping experience. Can’t get much better than that when shopping around for your next shirt. Best of luck and thanks for participating!
1. What are you working on?
At the moment, we’re designing and getting samples made for our Spring/Summer 2015 collection. We’re really excited now that we’ve got a couple seasons under our belt and we’re firing on all cylinders with our different vendors. I think we’re going to have some pretty cool stuff! Other than that, we’re about to introduce our handmade accessories, so I’ve been playing with a bunch of different fabrics to put together our first collection of ties, bow ties, and pocket squares.
2. Where do you find inspiration?
I love to find inspiration in everyday people’s lives and experiences. Everyone has something they’re passionate about, whether it’s their job, hobby, or family – and I love hearing the intricacies of these passions and how it drives their lives. This overflows into my overall design philosophy – where I believe heavily in simplicity, function, and attention to detail.
4. What are you reading at this moment?
I wish I had something more fun to say, but I’m currently reading up on Canada-USA import/export regulations so we can start selling our products in Canada. I think this is a pretty good example that when you’re running a small business, you have to accept you’ll be working on things that aren’t necessarily fun, but still needs to get done.
5. How would you describe your job?
That’s actually a very tough question. I think this is probably the same for all start-ups, but since we’re such a young company my “job” changes hour by hour. At any given time, I could be working on designing a new line, sewing some accessories, posting to social media, contacting sales leads, or working on the accounting.
6. What does your work day look like?
Well it always starts off with a cup of coffee. But after that I tend to start with all of the recurring tasks that just need to get done every day. This includes things like responding to emails, posting social media, and contacting marketing, PR, or sales leads. In the afternoon, I try to spend most of the day at the workbench or behind our sewing machines – working on designing, prototyping, or making product.
7. What’s your favorite post-work destination?
Any place with cold beers and great cheap food.
8. If you could give some advice to your teenage self, what would it be?
This is pretty specific – but I would tell my teenage self that not knowing how to do something is a horrible reason not to start. I remember thinking when I was in school still that it was too late for me to learn an instrument, too late for me to learn to code, and too late for me to try to develop my creative side. In reality – if I had just started then, I’d already be a 15 year veteran in whatever I set out to do.
A lot of adults, I think, get caught in this paralysis. They’re interested in something, but they use their inexperience as an excuse not to start. But with a little dedication, patience, and consistency, you can excel in anything.
I’m glad I eventually wised up. 5 years ago, if you told me I’d be designing clothing, knew how to sew, and was hand making neck ties I’d think you were crazy. The most important part for me was just to start.
$2 billion to build.
$3.5 million filtration system.
$4 million annual maintenance cost.
0.6 miles long covering 20 acres of land.
This, my friends, is THE largest pool in the world. Located at a private resort in Chile the owners wanted to keep the water as clear as possible, and based off of the images, look to be doing a pretty darn good job. Talk about one amazing competitive advantage! At least the water used is filtered sea water from the Pacific Ocean…
Via The Meta Picture
The most unlikely of Kickstarters has happened and reached it’s goal numerous times over. You may have read or heard it on the news. It’s essentially just potato salad. When Kickstarter switched their review process to a more automated reviewing this KS for potato salad was born. Just a man on a mission to make his first batch of potato salad. It’s now surpassed the original goal of $10 and just broke $50,000 and with 17 days to go the sky is the limit. He’s now going to be renting out a party hall and has invited the internet to participate in the event. So for all those out there that have a little dream, just look what a little ingenuity can produce.
Made an off-the-cuff decision to attend the Agenda show in Long Beach last week and I’m glad I went. While most friends I know in the action sports industry dread planning their booths, making the same presentation over and over again, and trying to remember people’s names, I love it because I get to see a gathering of old pals from all over the place in the same gross, air-conditioned space under the same industrial metal roof. The guys just happen to rip at skateboarding and make awesome gear.
I was stoked to see real buddies and co-founders of Heel Bruise Thomas Yu, Rich Mulder, and Robbie Jeffers–not pictured, but he blessed my camera by taking our photo (above, bottom right). Last time around, they didn’t have a booth and simply wandered around the show as a gang. I’m pretty sure they took meetings in the bathroom, kind of like Fonzie. How cool was that? And how cool is it that they needed to have a proper presence this time around–not to mention a VW Bus? I was a fan of their hanging out like bros but am a bigger fan of them getting the word out about their soft goods line with serious lineage in Stüssy, Nike SB, Chocolate, etc. And the new T-shirt design that uses Thomas’s Save Music in Chinatown flyer art is sick! I totally want to buy a bunch of them and GOCCO the date and bands onto them… Love their equal emphasis on the presence of fun as well as sense of design.
Moments after seeing Thomas, Rich, and Robbie, I saw another Heel Bruise crew member Isaac Ramos (above, top right). He was there with Emerica but I actually know him best through his affiliation with Keep Company. Anyone that has a Keep shoe named after him is obviously a rad human being. I think the last time I saw him was in the front rows of the Rocket From The Crypt show at The Echoplex, so it was nice to bump into him someplace where we didn’t have to shout at each other in the dark while being crushed by a sweaty mob.
Imprint followers should be familiar with Justin Reynolds (below, top left), who held down the skateboard panel at last year’s Long Beach: Work in Progress event. Justin was there with Resource Distro. As if organizing gnarly skate events in Pedro and Catalina weren’t enough, he has some brand-new rad decks with amazing artwork by Tim Clark coming out. Ripping!
Alyasha Owerka-Moore (above, top left) is another longtime associate of Imprint–speaking in a conference way back in 2007, as well appearing in an Imprint video or two. But he was a friend of mine even ten years before that. I was helping to shape Giant Robot mag and he was with Alphanumeric and American Dream back in the day. Now he’s with PF Flyers (now that is real O.G.) and is about to unveil a new brand called North Manual Vocational. Always love talking about family and new projects with Aly. He’s unstoppable.
I met two longtime acquaintances for the first time, too. Simon Pellaux of Preduce walked up to me and said, “Hey, are you Martin?” I’ve corresponded with the head guy at Thailand’s raddest skate shop and brand for years now, and even included one of his videos in a skate program that I put together for film festivals, but this was the first time to meet him in person. He said that he flew in, totally partied, and was hung over, admitting it was a “rookie move.” Great to meet him under any circumstance, though.
The other friend I met for the first time was Gary Parkin from Destructo. I’ve been skating his trucks for years, and have traded emails and even talked on the phone with him a few times. His story is amazing. He was the only kid in his neighborhood in England who wore Vans and skateboarded back in the day, became an artist and came out to L.A., and then matched his art with a truck project. Meant to be and as kind as can be, too.
Not sure what I can say about Jeremy Klein… The founder of Hook-Ups skateboards and longtime foil to Tony Hawk at Blitz Distro supported the magazine I used to help make from the beginning. Even though GR’s coverage of skateboarding and anime was never hardcore, he advertised on the back cover of every one of our issues. I’ll always appreciate that, and I love that he seems to be promoting the brand more than ever–posting on Instagram all the time and releasing old and new decks, too. Often he sells the goods at a Korean BBQ behind the Orange Curtain. Serious character and a serious master of having fun on a skateboard.
There were a lot of guys I was hoping to see but didn’t. Never spotted Don Nguyen over at Listen to Volume 4, which graduated from being part of the Baker Booth to having its own spot. Congrats to The Nuge. Filmmaker Dave Hoang and designer Paul Kwon were crushed with deadlines, while photographer pal Ben Clark was on assignment. Meanwhile Jeff Ng was no doubt in lockdown in the Staple compound… But I didn’t want to stay too late and get stuck in traffic anyway.
Thanks to the dudes for making time to hang out when they should have been selling their goods to retailers. Thanks to skateboarding for sharing heavy music, driving functional fashion, forcing every other action sport to be cooler, and being so much fun. And to the random skateboarder out on the street who asked about my wristband: Hope you had a rad day!
I met Michael Nhat in 2010 when I interviewed him for a piece in Giant Robot mag. The prolific indie rapper was out his mind making music and videos, performing at house parties, art galleries, and underground shows, enjoying zero commercial success, and not giving a crap about the latter. His creativity for creativity’s sake was a great reason for an article, and I thought his story would inspire anyone who labors for love in the face of oppression.
So it was excellent to hear from Michael a couple of weeks ago. After relocating to Philadelphia, he’s been back in L.A. and making more music than ever. Not enjoying an iota of success but still as dedicated to his craft as he ever was. I caught up with him by the very paddle boats in Echo Park where he filmed a recent video, and asked him Imprint’s 8 Questions while I was at it.
How would you describe your gig?
I’m not going to be alive forever, so I’ll lay all my cards out.
You could say vaguely electronic dance with soul. You could say computer punk rap with noise. You could say futuristic ’80s meets bass music meets noise meets angry Asian rapper. You could say digital ’60s versus a Viet Cong’s ghost with a rhyme dictionary. You could say computerized happy music versus “gook” with an attitude. You could say them all and they all describe my music.
I built this city with the goal of having a message like Bikini Kill, Public Enemy, Paris, and Crass, but in perspective of an abandoned Vietnamese refugee. Since 1995, I wrote a bunch of pro-Asian songs years before I heard of “Azn Pride” in the late ’90s. I wanted to be the Malcolm X of Asian Americans in my lyrics. I even wanted glasses like his. I tried to buy them in the ’90s in high school but they didn’t exist in Iowa. So when black framed glasses became mainstream again, I got the ones I wanted as well as the false accusation of being trendy and a typical hipster.
There was a long period in my years of recording where I stopped making sense and wrote stuff that looked like poetry on paper. My old random/abstract songs are inspired by U-God, Beck, and Sonic Youth, but I don’t write that way anymore. Nowadays, I make it a point to make sense.
The way I move or structure and rhyme my words around a beat are inspired by (again) U-God and Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan. As well as Juicy-J of Three Six Mafia.
My volume is inspired by my first time on stage in 1992 (people were booing and couldn’t hear me, so I started yelling and found my voice on stage) and by Beastie Boys 1995 “Root Down.” I loved hearing their high voices shrill into the mic. It was alive like punk. As opposed to the calm, high as a kite delivery’s like EPMD (later Mase), the Beasties Boys’ approach on vocals was more appealing to me. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t dislike the average rappers with a whispers volume, but I don’t like how I sound when I do it. So I don’t. If you’re not comfortable with yelling or think it’s unnecessary then don’t. There’s no “better” way to rap.
The music is inspired by house, noise and anything silly. It might not make sense to the masses but I really like the evil juxtaposition of childish dance-like melodies with intense, cynical, and dark barking. Off the top of my head, here are some some specific songs that inspire my beats:
A. Skeeter Davis, “I Can’t Stay Mad At You”
B. The Brady Bunch, “It’s a Sunshine Day”
C. Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, “Sherry”
D. The Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting For My Man”
E. Bay City Rollers, “Saturday Night”
What are some projects that you are currently working on?
I plan on working on music videos for Onslaught and Heads on Sticks. The double release was a lot of work, so I’m not rushing to complete any new music ventures until after the summer. But when I do it, this will be a project where all of the music is produced by other producers. Working title used to be Mars Canal (Yeah, I stole that from Rampo Noir) but I changed it to They Made The Beats, Volume 1. After that, I plan on returning to producing another solo starting with the leftover A-list beats from the Heads on Sticks session. The working title for that is Bats on Promenade.
Over the years, I have been working on a second film called Dishes 2. It’s not good. It’s all random footage, just like my first film Dishes, and it’s taking forever. I debate with myself whether I should scrap it and use the footage as music videos for Onslaught and Heads on Sticks. Or take my time and finish it. It’s not a priority at all, and hasn’t been since 2012.
Can you describe a typical workday?
I have a daily routine that I try to stick to. My fiancée goes to work. I wake up. I make breakfast for my stepson and me. I peel and eat one kiwi, five mini-carrots, and drink a glass of water or English black tea with one spoonful of sugar. It’s usually the afternoon when I record. If I have nothing else going on that day, I close all the windows and curtains and I am ready to begin.
I sit in front of my computer beside my bed. It’s on a black dresser. I wish I had a computer desk so my legs could fit comfortably, but we don’t have the room for it. I turn on the computer. I open up the software. I connect whatever hardware needs connected. I then usually do one of two things: I will either make a beat from complete randomness or I will already have a sound/melody/harmony in my head prior to turning on the computer and rush to get it on so I can record a draft of it before losing it. It usually takes me one to four hours to start and complete one instrumental. Sometimes, I will do this for hours and make maybe five (at the most) in a day or night. After a certain amount of time of working on beats for about a month or two. I go back to them on iTunes. I make a playlist and name it something generic like “July 2014 Beats.” Then I listen to all the entire playlist. I divide it into two more playlists named A-list and B-list. I choose which ones are my favorites and which ones are not. This process is based on which ones I think other people will like and those I personally like so much I will regret not recording to them if I die. And which ones I personally like but I don’t think other people will. Those I often keep to myself, and they make up B-list.
It doesn’t always happen, but I try to have a name and cover art first. If I do, the A-list gets renamed it. I try to limit myself to 40 minutes for an album because I am naïve enough to think some label will pick it up someday and maybe put it on vinyl, which maxes out at 40 minutes. If I make more than 40 minutes of A-list beats, the excess go on a new A-list playlist that will make up the start of the next project/album I work on.
Next, I go through a milk crate of lyrics I’ve written between 2000 and 2014. I play mix and match with the renamed A-list. I base which ones go with what on instinct and tempo. If I don’t have something that fits a beat, which is half the time, I write something new, on-the-spot for it. After I have songs on paper ready, I start to record these lyrics. I average four to six songs in a day before my voice goes out from screaming and yelling. (Which reminds me to inform everyone who says “You don’t sound like you when you rap” it’s because I’m yelling and screaming).
At the earliest a week, at the latest a month, I will have recorded vocals for all the A-list beats. I make WAVs of them all. I listen to them daily and go back and fix or change whatever I feel needs it. Then I listen to the playlist more to figure out the song order. Then I upload them online somewhere, just in case the hard drive or computer goes out. And then I listen again to see which songs need a music video.
Where do you find motivation and inspiration to keep going after all these years?
I know I am not the right body type or race or demeanor for success in the hip-hop world. I know it’s an uphill battle. However, I won’t stop because I don’t care.
I love the music I make. I am my biggest fan. I have not quit because I want to hear the music I make. It doesn’t sway my ambition if no one likes it or every media outlet/blog shuns me. No. I will still make music solely because I want to hear it. Yes, it does bother me more that people don’t but that is not a good enough reason for me to quit making something I love to make. If I did it for fame and money, I would have quit years ago. I am inspired by the aural masturbation.
People quit when they don’t get their expected results. They thought something was going to happen and it didn’t. They are inspired by a goal beyond creativity. I am not.
You have a massive back catalog. Do you ever revisit your old songs? What’s that like?
Nope. I do not go back and listen to my old albums for pleasure. I do it during a session looking for samples. And sometimes while doing this, I will get inspired to write a sequel to an old song for an upcoming project or whatever I’m working on at the moment. On an extremely rare occasion, someone will email me they liked some old song or album and that email will influence me to go back and listen to it. I always do that. I guess I try to understand what that person is thinking when he or she is hearing it for the first time. When I do that, I sometimes I see it differently than the week it was finished. Sometimes, I’ll take notes of mistakes and also of things I like and want to remember to do again.
Listening to anything new and interesting at the moment?
I was listening to Erase Errata, Pens, and Ice Cube’s Death Certificate when I recorded Onslaught. The newest CD I have is my labelmate Habits’ CD. The most interesting vinyl is The Korean Children’s Choir’s To The World with Love.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grow up?
When I was a kid I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to draw cartoons for a living. Then, maybe in the 4th or 5th grade, I decided I wanted to make horror films. First I wanted to be in them. Then I quickly decided I wanted to make them, cast them, design the creatures, etc. It wasn’t until high school that my mom and my guidance counselor told me artists don’t make a lot of money and my chances in the movie business were slim to none. In 8th or 9th grade I started freestlyling with my friends everywhere we went. In 1992 I signed up for the Junior Variety show to rap on stage for the first time. After that, I wanted to be an underground rapper like Esham and Triple-Six Mafia. (Before they changed their name to Three Six Mafia, they were unsigned and making DIY tapes but had a fan base.)
What’s your favorite place to attend shows and favorite place to perform music? Any gigs coming up that we need to know about?
Gee, so many favorite places have disappeared. Vermont House used to be my favorite spot to attend and perform, but it is gone now.
And I don’t have any gigs planned. I’ve gotten asked, but decline. In fact, I was just asked via gmail messaging at this exact second if I wanted to play somewhere. That was highly coincidental.
Part of the reason I don’t perform is I’m scared no one will come, that I will embarrass myself, and it will disappoint the the booking people. I used to book shows at Second Street Live Jazz before Matsumoto passed away. So I appreciate the work and how things are done from that point of view. I’m scared audiences won’t come because I’m too broke to promote them successfully. And I’m scared they won’t come because I’ve turned into an über-introverted hermit. Which is my way of saying I don’t have support from friends. And I don’t know what happened to my fan base. I think I pissed everyone off who loved my 12″ debut by releasing four shitty follow-ups of disappointment. That was until December 2013′s Hyenas Because Hyenas…
Check out Michael on Soundcloud, Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube. He has a mix coming up on Bandcamp really soon, and michaelnhat.la is a great place to find out more about his music, movies, and maybe even some shows.
Last year our Managing Partner Tanya Raukko interviewed Ayah Bdeir, founder of littleBits, for our 8 Questions interview series. littleBits are a New York-based maker of fun, educational modular electronics kits with different snap-together circuits incorporating lights, speakers, motors, and much more. The possibilities are seemingly endless. I ordered a kit for my seven-year-old daughter and she enjoys it a lot. So I was impressed to see that littleBits have recently collaborated with Japanese electronic musical instrument brand Korg, on a special Synth Kit which allows you to make music with your own analog synthesizer. Korg is an interesting company who have produced some of the most successful and popular synthesizer designs of all time. And to top it off nicely, they’ve worked with performer Reggie Watts, to create some complimentary video content. I’ve blogged about his work here before; it incorporates music and comedy in a bizarre and unique way. Since loop machines are a mainstay of his performances, it seems like a great partnership to me!
Most coolers are typically used for one thing and one thing only: to keep things cold. Granted thats why its called a “cooler,” but c’mon, modern times asks for modern products – at least thats what Coolest creator, Ryan Grepper, says. The Coolest comes equipped with not only a cooler, but USB charger, blending station, removable water-proof speaker, LED light, and much more. Although these gadgets all add up to one ultimate cooler, I’ve gotta say that my single favorite improvement is the addition of WIDE wheels. Dragging a cooler through gravel or sand is no fun task and I think just a few other folks happen to agree. Within only 36 hours of launching, The Coolest is on its way to tripling their funding goal of $50,000. UPDATE: In less than 24 hours from when I wrote this post, The Coolest has now raised 18x its funding goal.
Get one while ya can!