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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: D.GNAK by KANG.D

A look at Korean-based label D.GNAK by KANG.D's debut London Fashion Week show on Menswear Day - a mix of traditional tailoring with exotic twists - illustrated by Joana Faria!

Written by Matt Bramford

Illustrations by Faye West

As I approach the North London pub where I’ve agreed to meet Lupen Crook, cheap more about I’m surprised to find that he’s already there, about it sitting quietly at a table outside. He greets me politely and offers to buy me a drink. Not quite what I was expecting from the self-confessed “unmanageable” Crook, but then the 28-year old singer-songwriter and artist is a slightly different proposition these days.

Having spent a couple of years out in the cold after an acrimonious split with his record company, Crook has returned with easily his best work to date, entirely self funded and released on his own Beast Reality Records.

And whereas he used to stalk the unlovely streets of the Medway Towns in Kent, Crook has now moved to London and developed a muscular sound to match.

Recorded with his band, the Murderbirds, Crook’s eagerly awaited third album, The Pros and Cons of Eating Out, is a vaudevillian trip through the dark recesses of his vision of the “Dysunited Kingdom”. But the melodrama of old has been replaced by real drama, and instead of lyrics about toilet abortions and shaken baby syndrome comes beautifully crafted wordplay, with beguiling references to Enoch Powell and Schrödinger’s Cat.

From the Love Cats-esque Lest We Connect through the Russian Cossack stomp of How to Murder Birds to the sub-low synth powered Scissor Kick, the genre-confounding album is the band’s most fully realised and accessible work to date.

But in case anyone’s thinking that Lupen Crook has gone all mature on us, one look at the harlot-embarrassing hand painted album cover should reassure fans that the band shows no signs of pandering to the mainstream just yet.

Over the summer you played to big crowds at the Latitude and Wireless festivals and your new album is more accessible than some of your past releases. Do you think the band has the potential to cross over to mass audiences?

There’s been no conscious effort to make our music more acceptable to people at all – in fact we’re celebrating the freedom to do exactly what we want more than ever. But we’re not shutting ourselves off to the possibility of reaching wider audiences. We’re more comfortable in our own skin now and stronger for it, and with that maybe comes a wider appreciation.

I feel like people generally are treated like idiots – like they’re not intelligent enough or emotionally deep enough to be able to understand anything further than just really crap music. And I think, well, if you actually give people the chance, there’s a whole wealth of brilliant music that would actually make them feel a hell of a lot better about themselves and that they’d enjoy.

Having released your first two albums on the independent Tap n Tin Records, you’re now setting an example for how bands can function as the industry changes, by being completely self funded and releasing your new album on your own label, Beast Reality.

Back when we were recording our second album Iscariot the Ladder, I’d always had this idea of Beast Reality Records – it’s always the daydream that you can release off your own record label. After our contract ended we recorded this album and thought “Right, how are we going to release this?” We had interest from labels and we considered it, but, as everyone knows, the industry’s fucked at the moment and, no disrespect to any of the labels, when we actually got through the door and started talking with them, we thought, well what are we actually getting from a record company? We’d financed and produced the album ourselves, so all we’d be getting from them would be manufacture and distribution.

Do you feel like musicians are, in a sense, starting to get their revenge on the more exploitative elements of the industry?

The music industry’s being returned back to the people who are actually creating the music, and now it’s up to them how they want to do it.

One of the good things about the self-release aspect is that it can keep up with the amount of material we want to release. Industry people have this thing of “you can’t release too much”, but the whole thing with Beast Reality will be to get material out as much as possible – I’d like to be looking at two to three EPs and an album a year.

In the early days you were courted by the NME and were in the NME Cool List in 2005, but this always seemed to be at odds with what you were about.

It completely threw me – it made me retreat hugely. For one thing, the song on that CD [First single Lucky 6 was included on a free CD with the NME] opened my music up to so many people. But I was a far more insecure person back then and I didn’t have my gang and my band around me. I’m never sure how much I suffered from all that – I think to a certain extent it was good, but on the other hand it was a bit of a diversion. But I’ve got no regrets, it was just something that happened and was, quite frankly, out of my control.

Your music is often described in the press as alt-folk, and you describe it as “fight folk”. What does the work “folk” mean to you in terms of music?

Folk means people – it’s peasant music. I don’t think folk music is anything to do with “the fox ran over the moon in the pale night sky” and all of that traditional stuff – I don’t really care about tradition. It’s storytelling – but then at the same time I think we’re a punk rock band really. I like fight folk because it’s got that storytelling aspect to it but also it’s sort of aggressive and I think that’s kind of who we are as individuals.

In recent times the Medway Towns have become known as a kind of hotbed of creative talent, and you’ve often been portrayed as being very much rooted in the area, in the same way that Billy Childish is. Why did you recently choose to move to London?

I’d been in Medway for too long and needed to get out. I feel there’s always the potential for something brilliant to happen there but everyone and everything, and this is why I love it, has turned really feral. To say there’s a scene there is bollocks but to say it’s got the potential for loads of great bands is definitely true. It comes in fits and bursts. There are occasions when everyone decides to get their shit together and not sit in their bedsits drinking and smoking, and when they do actually make the effort, it’s great – there’s something really thriving and exciting, but it never maintains itself because there isn’t really the opportunity for it to go anywhere outside of Medway. I moved to London because I’d walked down every alleyway, I’d drunk in every bar and I’d kind of done it all. Medway will trap you – it’s in a valley – but you can really lose yourself in London.

Your music has lots of references to Catholicism and religion – the song Scissor Kick from the new album talks about “a sprained cath-aholic”. In light of the controversy over the Pope’s recent visit to Britain, what does Catholicism mean to you and how does it feed into your music?

I was brought up with it and it’s in me. I’m very much a Catholic but I absolutely detest Catholicism quite frankly. I just think it’s really outdated and so irrelevant to anything. I think you should have faith – but faith in yourself, almost like individualism – you don’t need a God. I don’t reject everything to do with Catholicism, but I don’t see the point in an organised religion. There’s so many people of a certain generation who still sort of feel this guilt for certain things – I’m completely stricken with catholic guilt and it’s terrible.

Your music has always been hard to categorise and it’s sometimes difficult to detect your immediate influences. What bands or artists have had an influence on you musically?

Someone told me there’s a theory that the interests and experiences you have when you’re around eight years old go on to form the core of the person that you become. When I was eight I used to make little recordings, multi-tracking my Dad’s guitar and my Casio keyboard, and I started a band with the kids down the road, and in a weird way I haven’t actually progressed since I was eight years old – I’m doing the same thing, which actually makes me happy. At that age I was listening to AC/DC, Bon Scott era, and my school uniform, with the shorts, was the same as what Angus Young wore on stage. And Bon Scott was singing songs about sex and fighting and everything that my teachers and parents would detest, which is why my band was called Devil’s Disciples – completely like “I’m gonna piss you lot off”. Then when I was about nine my babysitter brought a compilation tape round with Carter USM on and I just fell in love with it. I think they influenced my lyrics quite a lot – Carter USM’s really down-to-earth wordplay with Bon Scott’s love of the three basics – sex, drugs and rock and roll.

You mention you’ve been playing in bands from a very early age. Has this always been what you’ve wanted to do?

It’s not even a case of that I wanted to do it from an early age – it’s what I decided to do. There’s only been one time in my life when I seriously considered giving up music and just leading a normal life. It was after I broke up my last band and I just packed it in and had a job delivering parcels in a van. I still used to bring my guitar with me in the van so I could play it when I was waiting for deliveries or whatever, and then one day my boss saw it and said, “What’s that?” He said “Look, you make your choice now. You can dick about on the guitar or you can be a parcel delivery man” and I just had this moment of clarity and quit. Then on my way home I got a phone call from my girlfriend saying that Tap n Tin Records wanted to sign me and that was that.

You’ve spoken in the past about having schizoaffective disorder, and last year you released The Curse of the Mirror Wicked EP to help publicise the YoungMinds mental health charity. Does this feed into your creativity?

It’s hard to tell. The way I’ve learnt to understand it, in a crude way, is that it’s somewhere between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I got told by a doctor when I was 19 that my obsession with music was actually making me more ill, and at certain moments in the past I’ve thought maybe they’re right, that it is a weird obsession. It’s kind of like a chicken and egg situation. But generally I think; I’ve made my bed and I’m lying in it. I have the occasional wonky period, but I feel lucky that I’m in a position where it’s kind of easier to live with than it might be for other people – because I don’t do a nine-to-five job and I get to write songs and paint pictures.

You make music, and also artwork, under the name Lupen Crook. Is this a character or is this really you?

I’ve always played around with names and I’ve always needed that. All my friends call me Mosh – that’s what I’ve been called since I was eight years old and I refused to be called anything other than that, even by teachers and my parents. I even called myself Jilted Jack Cann for a few years when I was in my last band, Bonzai Reservoir. Lupen Crook started off as a character idea, and now I kind of am that person. Names are almost nothing and everything, aren’t they? I’ve always liked the idea that you can set aside what you were before and, not invent a new persona, but find other perspectives within yourself to say “I’m not that person anymore, I’m this person now”, and that’s what I did with Lupen Crook.

“Right, home time”, says Crook, and with that, he disappears into the night. As I’m leaving, I’m struck by something he said: “I was a writer before I was a father and I was a writer before I was a husband. If I lost everything in the world, I’d still be a writer, because that’s the most important thing – to communicate, even if it’s just to myself.”

The Pros and Cons of Eating Out is released on October 4th on Beast Reality

Illustrations by Faye West

As I approach the North London pub where I’ve agreed to meet Lupen Crook, pharm I’m surprised to find that he’s already there, there sitting quietly at a table outside. He greets me politely and offers to buy me a drink. Not quite what I was expecting from the self-confessed “unmanageable” Crook, but then the 28-year old singer-songwriter and artist is a slightly different proposition these days.

Having spent a couple of years out in the cold after an acrimonious split with his record company, Crook has returned with easily his best work to date, entirely self funded and released on his own Beast Reality Records.

And whereas he used to stalk the unlovely streets of the Medway Towns in Kent, Crook has now moved to London and developed a muscular sound to match.

Recorded with his band, the Murderbirds, Crook’s eagerly awaited third album, The Pros and Cons of Eating Out, is a vaudevillian trip through the dark recesses of his vision of the “Dysunited Kingdom”. But the melodrama of old has been replaced by real drama, and instead of lyrics about toilet abortions and shaken baby syndrome comes beautifully crafted wordplay, with beguiling references to Enoch Powell and Schrödinger’s Cat.

From the Love Cats-esque Lest We Connect through the Russian Cossack stomp of How to Murder Birds to the sub-low synth powered Scissor Kick, the genre-confounding album is the band’s most fully realised and accessible work to date.

But in case anyone’s thinking that Lupen Crook has gone all mature on us, one look at the harlot-embarrassing hand painted album cover should reassure fans that the band shows no signs of pandering to the mainstream just yet.

Over the summer you played to big crowds at the Latitude and Wireless festivals and your new album is more accessible than some of your past releases. Do you think the band has the potential to cross over to mass audiences?

There’s been no conscious effort to make our music more acceptable to people at all – in fact we’re celebrating the freedom to do exactly what we want more than ever. But we’re not shutting ourselves off to the possibility of reaching wider audiences. We’re more comfortable in our own skin now and stronger for it, and with that maybe comes a wider appreciation.

I feel like people generally are treated like idiots – like they’re not intelligent enough or emotionally deep enough to be able to understand anything further than just really crap music. And I think, well, if you actually give people the chance, there’s a whole wealth of brilliant music that would actually make them feel a hell of a lot better about themselves and that they’d enjoy.

Having released your first two albums on the independent Tap n Tin Records, you’re now setting an example for how bands can function as the industry changes, by being completely self funded and releasing your new album on your own label, Beast Reality.

Back when we were recording our second album Iscariot the Ladder, I’d always had this idea of Beast Reality Records – it’s always the daydream that you can release off your own record label. After our contract ended we recorded this album and thought “Right, how are we going to release this?” We had interest from labels and we considered it, but, as everyone knows, the industry’s fucked at the moment and, no disrespect to any of the labels, when we actually got through the door and started talking with them, we thought, well what are we actually getting from a record company? We’d financed and produced the album ourselves, so all we’d be getting from them would be manufacture and distribution.

Do you feel like musicians are, in a sense, starting to get their revenge on the more exploitative elements of the industry?

The music industry’s being returned back to the people who are actually creating the music, and now it’s up to them how they want to do it.

One of the good things about the self-release aspect is that it can keep up with the amount of material we want to release. Industry people have this thing of “you can’t release too much”, but the whole thing with Beast Reality will be to get material out as much as possible – I’d like to be looking at two to three EPs and an album a year.

In the early days you were courted by the NME and were in the NME Cool List in 2005, but this always seemed to be at odds with what you were about.

It completely threw me – it made me retreat hugely. For one thing, the song on that CD [First single Lucky 6 was included on a free CD with the NME] opened my music up to so many people. But I was a far more insecure person back then and I didn’t have my gang and my band around me. I’m never sure how much I suffered from all that – I think to a certain extent it was good, but on the other hand it was a bit of a diversion. But I’ve got no regrets, it was just something that happened and was, quite frankly, out of my control.

Your music is often described in the press as alt-folk, and you describe it as “fight folk”. What does the work “folk” mean to you in terms of music?

Folk means people – it’s peasant music. I don’t think folk music is anything to do with “the fox ran over the moon in the pale night sky” and all of that traditional stuff – I don’t really care about tradition. It’s storytelling – but then at the same time I think we’re a punk rock band really. I like fight folk because it’s got that storytelling aspect to it but also it’s sort of aggressive and I think that’s kind of who we are as individuals.

In recent times the Medway Towns have become known as a kind of hotbed of creative talent, and you’ve often been portrayed as being very much rooted in the area, in the same way that Billy Childish is. Why did you recently choose to move to London?

I’d been in Medway for too long and needed to get out. I feel there’s always the potential for something brilliant to happen there but everyone and everything, and this is why I love it, has turned really feral. To say there’s a scene there is bollocks but to say it’s got the potential for loads of great bands is definitely true. It comes in fits and bursts. There are occasions when everyone decides to get their shit together and not sit in their bedsits drinking and smoking, and when they do actually make the effort, it’s great – there’s something really thriving and exciting, but it never maintains itself because there isn’t really the opportunity for it to go anywhere outside of Medway. I moved to London because I’d walked down every alleyway, I’d drunk in every bar and I’d kind of done it all. Medway will trap you – it’s in a valley – but you can really lose yourself in London.

Your music has lots of references to Catholicism and religion – the song Scissor Kick from the new album talks about “a sprained cath-aholic”. In light of the controversy over the Pope’s recent visit to Britain, what does Catholicism mean to you and how does it feed into your music?

I was brought up with it and it’s in me. I’m very much a Catholic but I absolutely detest Catholicism quite frankly. I just think it’s really outdated and so irrelevant to anything. I think you should have faith – but faith in yourself, almost like individualism – you don’t need a God. I don’t reject everything to do with Catholicism, but I don’t see the point in an organised religion. There’s so many people of a certain generation who still sort of feel this guilt for certain things – I’m completely stricken with catholic guilt and it’s terrible.

Your music has always been hard to categorise and it’s sometimes difficult to detect your immediate influences. What bands or artists have had an influence on you musically?

Someone told me there’s a theory that the interests and experiences you have when you’re around eight years old go on to form the core of the person that you become. When I was eight I used to make little recordings, multi-tracking my Dad’s guitar and my Casio keyboard, and I started a band with the kids down the road, and in a weird way I haven’t actually progressed since I was eight years old – I’m doing the same thing, which actually makes me happy. At that age I was listening to AC/DC, Bon Scott era, and my school uniform, with the shorts, was the same as what Angus Young wore on stage. And Bon Scott was singing songs about sex and fighting and everything that my teachers and parents would detest, which is why my band was called Devil’s Disciples – completely like “I’m gonna piss you lot off”. Then when I was about nine my babysitter brought a compilation tape round with Carter USM on and I just fell in love with it. I think they influenced my lyrics quite a lot – Carter USM’s really down-to-earth wordplay with Bon Scott’s love of the three basics – sex, drugs and rock and roll.

You mention you’ve been playing in bands from a very early age. Has this always been what you’ve wanted to do?

It’s not even a case of that I wanted to do it from an early age – it’s what I decided to do. There’s only been one time in my life when I seriously considered giving up music and just leading a normal life. It was after I broke up my last band and I just packed it in and had a job delivering parcels in a van. I still used to bring my guitar with me in the van so I could play it when I was waiting for deliveries or whatever, and then one day my boss saw it and said, “What’s that?” He said “Look, you make your choice now. You can dick about on the guitar or you can be a parcel delivery man” and I just had this moment of clarity and quit. Then on my way home I got a phone call from my girlfriend saying that Tap n Tin Records wanted to sign me and that was that.

You’ve spoken in the past about having schizoaffective disorder, and last year you released The Curse of the Mirror Wicked EP to help publicise the YoungMinds mental health charity. Does this feed into your creativity?

It’s hard to tell. The way I’ve learnt to understand it, in a crude way, is that it’s somewhere between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I got told by a doctor when I was 19 that my obsession with music was actually making me more ill, and at certain moments in the past I’ve thought maybe they’re right, that it is a weird obsession. It’s kind of like a chicken and egg situation. But generally I think; I’ve made my bed and I’m lying in it. I have the occasional wonky period, but I feel lucky that I’m in a position where it’s kind of easier to live with than it might be for other people – because I don’t do a nine-to-five job and I get to write songs and paint pictures.

You make music, and also artwork, under the name Lupen Crook. Is this a character or is this really you?

I’ve always played around with names and I’ve always needed that. All my friends call me Mosh – that’s what I’ve been called since I was eight years old and I refused to be called anything other than that, even by teachers and my parents. I even called myself Jilted Jack Cann for a few years when I was in my last band, Bonzai Reservoir. Lupen Crook started off as a character idea, and now I kind of am that person. Names are almost nothing and everything, aren’t they? I’ve always liked the idea that you can set aside what you were before and, not invent a new persona, but find other perspectives within yourself to say “I’m not that person anymore, I’m this person now”, and that’s what I did with Lupen Crook.

“Right, home time”, says Crook, and with that, he disappears into the night. As I’m leaving, I’m struck by something he said: “I was a writer before I was a father and I was a writer before I was a husband. If I lost everything in the world, I’d still be a writer, because that’s the most important thing – to communicate, even if it’s just to myself.”

The Pros and Cons of Eating Out is released on October 4th on Beast Reality


Illustration by Joana Faria

Fashion week always throws up a surprise – a label that you hadn’t heard of before that puts on a show with some flavour that you weren’t expecting. This was the case at Kang D’s show on Menswear Day, information pills the man behind the D.GNAK label (see what he did there?)

Held at one of the Freemasons’ Hall catwalks, prostate this show was barely half full, information pills which is always the way with new shows but always makes me feel a bit sad. I mean, imagine the work that goes into a catwalk show, lest the money! Luckily, before I was reduced to tears, the show began.

First, a little history about Kang and D-Gnak. This was the Korean based label’s first outing outside of its native country, after launching in 2006. A quick skim through previous shows doesn’t reveal much. If you’d only seen Kang’s Soviet-slash-communist-inspired collection last season, featuring military blazers, rich wool knee-length coats and deerstalkers, you’d be in for a bit of a shock this time around.


Illustrations by Joana Faria

Model number one was Luke Worrall, aka Kelly Osbourne‘s ex-fiancé, opened the show, and I really don’t know what the fuss is about with this guy. Anyway, that’s besides the point. D-Gnak specialises in well cut tailoring, with British influences mixed up with an East Asian flavour. Cue wonky ties, extra-long sleeves, open sleeves and shirt hems of different lengths. Sounds bonkers, right? Well it was a little bit bonkers, but I actually really liked it.

There was a real craftsmanship feel to Kang’s collection and his ability to cut and tailor excellent clothing was evident – the design twists and contemporary engineering made a simple collection into a quirky, stand-out one. Trousers were ruched all the way around the inside leg, adding a sports-luxe feel. A colour palette of sand, slate grey and crisp white was peppered with flashes of neon green, on ties that were worn normally but peeked through lapels of jackets. Cuffs were styled folded, often with more than one appearing, which gave the entire collection a futuristic feel.

Blazers were loose-fitting around the shoulders and brought in at the waist with multiple buttons, some double-breasted; Kang’s silhouette emphasises the masculine. Trousers appeared high-waisted and slim-fitting, opposed by fitted shirts. I know what you’re thinking – this is all over the bloody place! Well, it was, a little bit; but it was refreshing to see such an inspired, quirky collection that was wearable and fashion-forward, both at the same time.

The show’s finale saw the models return in D-Gnak pyjamas (well, at least I think they were pyjamas, apologies if they were for daytime wear) featuring similar design twists. Just when you thought Kang had finished with the surprises, here was another one!

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One Response to “London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: D.GNAK by KANG.D”

  1. [...] Check out D-GNAK’s review in Amelia’s Magazine. [...]

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