A TOUR OF THE MIND AND STUDIO OF THRACKH ILLUSTRATIONS
In the cracks of Bristol’s weird and wonderful lies Thrackh’s Studio, a space where Will Brown demonstrates his illustrations and designs in a working timeline in the mind-bending and reality-warping. Matt Knight stopped in to discuss the times he decided to pursue illustrating, his musical background, life in lockdown times and a whole lot more
Having settled into a newly appointed studio space in November time last year, Will’s humble little nest of organised chaos has become a comfortable box with illustrations and designs inadvertently on every space available.
A cup of tea was made whilst we spoke about how he ended up in the place he is now: “I grew up in Sussex. I was born in LA then moved over here when I was a kid, my parents are both from Scotland and my dad was just working out there. Then when I was like seven or eight I moved to near Brighton, went to uni in London, then I went travelling and came back and thought Brighton’s a bit dead now, but moved to Bristol from there and that was like 2017. I haven’t lived here the whole time but generally living between Brighton and Bristol.
“(I studied) Ancient History at university, my Dad's an artist and he basically put me off going to art school, he was just like, if you’re going to do it you’re going to do it anyway, and that was true, that’s actually what I’ve ended up doing. It was weird, I went to quite a posh uni, King’s College London, and just didn’t fit in at all. I just went to uni cos I wanted to party basically, but it was an interesting experience, it was good, I don’t regret it.”
Sometimes to see clearly an escape from the place we live is needed, and after some interesting travels around the globe, Will knew that the illustrating route was what he wanted to pursue. Then after sometime spent revelling in the music and party scenes, a time came to follow the illustrating further: “I think I always kinda knew, I’ve always done it my whole life. I never really thought you could make any money out of it until I went travelling. I went to India and lived in India for like eight months, went to Vietnam and worked there for six months as a teacher. Beforehand I was just well set on music and DJing and stuff, I did alright on that for a bit, got a few bookings worldwide which was fun. I played in Russia and Israel, loads of European countries. My brother (C3B) is still doing that, so we did quite a lot of stuff together, but I don’t know, I just kinda did it cos I was well into the party scene for ages, started doing this and realised this is more of what I wanted to do with my time. It’s kind of a tough life to maintain the whole DJing and making tunes, kinda wears you a bit thin with the party life as well.”
Will’s illustrations create a surreal picture of the life we all see and experience, and with the minimal approach of pens and ink, the abrupt creepiness definitely creates an image to surround the name: “I do a lot of figurative stuff, I work mainly with pen and ink, a lot of black and white stuff. I’m really into figurative art in a surreal way I guess. I also really like comics, old school 70s comics and stuff, a big merger of weird different styles really. A lot of observational drawings as well, like drawing people and places and shit.
“That’s a little project we made called Mateyboy (Above). That’s the little cartoon bits for that. Mateyboy is actually our music project as well: so it’s me, my brother, Miki Taiki, who’s got a studio at the end, Billy Pilgrim, it’s a gabba project, stupid mash up shit.
“I guess when I started getting more serious about it, I started a lot more observational drawing - I always liked abstract art - but then I also like really solid, robust drawings as well, and I always thought if you're gonna make really interesting abstract art then you should have it based in reality and have an ability to sorta record reality. Then you can augment it your own way instead of just like throwing some paint on a wall and being like, this represents the angst in Vietnamese children or something (laughs). I like being able to record things properly, like having perspectives in proportion and things. When I was younger, I just sort of did whatever but then, take it a bit more serious, and learn some more like traditional art skills and apply that to make something weird.”
STUPID MASH UP SHIT
Undertaking more corporate jobs is something a lot of freelancers have to do in a creative industry, something that Will has had to come accustomed to. Although occasionally when jobs are like these ones (Left), the possibility of doing more personal jobs seems more plausible: "I did one recently who I sold to a guy in America, which is something I’m gonna do a lot more of now I think, this one took about three weeks. Stuff like that are my favourite things to do, when you do jobs for like, loads of different people to make money - I also sell my own stuff - but sometimes don’t get enough time to do my own bits. So it’s really nice to be able to spend a good few weeks doing these crazy detailed ones that take fucking forever. They’re my favourite things to do as opposed to having to do a job for someone and they get you to do the job cos you’ve got, sort of, creative input and you have an ability to create it, but really the ideas not yours and that gets a bit boring. When it’s like week in week out, doing changes for people and your vision for it gets lost, you're basically just a tool for them to create their own idea.
“I did a few vinyl covers recently, Wan Bushi and Audiotist, I did their 12inch cover, that’s out now I think. Really, what I want to do more of is what I’m doing at the moment, just my own things. I mean for one, I enjoy doing them way more, and then it’s really nice to sell an original piece that's just straight out yours. Just got a big clothes run done, they’ll be on my site soon. I sell a lot of prints as well so just got a load of them done. Just trying to find different streams of revenue than can enable myself to carry on living this sort of life.
“Always got imposters syndrome a little bit, that you’re not quite doing it for real, but then when you realise that for the past year of your life you’ve paid your rent doing it, then you’re like, I must be doing it (laughs). This must be what it’s like to be this sort of person. Then you always see people that you admire and you sort of think that they’ve got this sort of whole different level of professionalism that you’ve never managed to reach, but then you realise you’re doing exactly that they did, so I guess I must be doing it. But then I think if you ever get to the point where you think that you’ve ‘made it’ - smashing it completely - like, ‘I am the best’, you never want to reach that stage because you always want to be improving, I think. There’s always room to get better and better, and if you ever feel like you’ve reached the pinnacle of life - 'I’m fucking sick' - then there’s no room to do anything interesting anymore.”
THEY'RE TRYING TO MAKE MUSIC THAT'S NOT CATERING FOR THAT PARTY ENVIRONMENT
With the end of lockdowns almost in our grasps, the thought that everything had gone to a holt this entire time can be an overshadowing one. Although the productions in all creative fields - the ones we’ve seen so far - have been on full blast. Coinciding with this, a lot people seem to have had more time to invest in pieces of art and music that has been cooked up from all around the world: “First lockdown started, last March, I was still working part-time doing client liaison for a charity fundraising company, and I was doing that from home. I started getting loads of offers in for doing jobs for people cos people were on furlough, and they got they’re own personal projects they needed artwork for and stuff, then loads of people started getting in touch. So I was just like, fuck it, I’m gonna quit my job. I’ve got more work than I ever had in the past year, which is fucking sweet, kinda capitalised on everyone else having a shit time (laughs). I think it’s been a really interesting time for that, for creative people in general, cos a lot of the time it’s so hard to find the time to make the money to do this shit, and if you don’t have that time you could never get to the financial position that you wanna be in for you to progress and make it your thing. In a way this whole lockdown situation has given a lot of people that space to focus in on it and that’s definitely been the case for me, it’s been sweet.
“Producers at the moment just have this backlog of stuff that they used to like, you know, you’d gig every weekend so you’d wait for the weekend to come so you can play a new dub and see how it goes. I feel for the pent up tension of producers at the moment who have a backlog of tunes that they wanna play out, but it’s not gonna be happening for a while unfortunately. It just means that people are making really different, interesting types of music as well cos they’re trying to make music that’s not catering for that party environment. They’re trying to do stuff that’s more of a listen in your bedroom sorta interest, sorta more downbeat music, it’s really cool to see some producers who’ve never done that before and doing that, which is really cool.”
We went onto talk about his personal interests, regarding music and art styles that he likes in other people or themes he resonates with: "So like IDM and breakcore and shit is what I grew up listening to, and punk and metal and stuff. That gritty weirdness has definitely had an influence, I think you see that in a lot of people, their music taste reflects what they like doing in other creative ways. I’m more of a music enthusiast than a music maker these days, but it’s a huge influence. I really like renaissance paintings, and I also like medieval, weird alchemical shit.
“I like art that’s really personal, but I like such weird shit that I don’t think any one will ever understand what it's about apart from the people that know me really well. I’ve always liked literature and art that’s super intensely personal, and kinda selfish because it’s all about you, but through doing that hopefully someone else will get something about themselves about it. I don’t really want anyone to get anything too specific, but through how obscure and precise the situation might be about myself, someone might gleam something about themselves out of it. But ultimately, I like weird pictures that people look at and they go, what the fuck is that (laughs). That bewilderment is something I’ve always liked in people’s art.”
Now with the end of these lockdowns looking like an actual possibility, Will is still there doing his thing. An exciting project that has a chance of coming into fruition is the next opportunity that he will be undertaking next: “I grew up around animation cos my dad worked as a drawn animator, and then a computer graphics animator for a long time. So I know how to do it but it’s definitely something I’m looking to do more of. So me, my brother and my mate Amir are planning to get this funding (Arts Council Grants) to do a big audio visual project. We’re filming in empty venues around Bristol and then making five different music videos. My brother is gonna make the music, get five Bristol MCs and vocalists to sing or spit over the top, it’s all gonna be about the ghost of rave, and how it’s not working at the moment. That’s gonna have a lot of animation in it, it’s gonna be like composite animation, but that's probably the biggest project I’m working on at the moment, that’s gonna be really sweet if we can get that going.”
February 23rd 2021