Feature: Tyler Askew

Picture of Tyler Askew

Interview by Marc Kets

Tyler Askew isn't your average record hound; for a start he's a highly respected art director and designer having worked on campaigns for the likes of MAC cosmetics and Bill Blass, and since 1999 he has worked as a scribe and creative consultant for the record connoisseur's bible Straight No Chaser alongside his design mentor, the legendary Swifty. Since 2003 he and partner Karl Injex have taken over APT. in New York on the second Tuesday of every month for a gathering of like-minded people who like to get down to their eclectic jams at a heavy session they call Rude Movements. With Puma working alongside them and a record label underway you can bet that we are going hear a lot from this talented man in the future.

Your night Rude Movements has become a New York institution holding court every second Tuesday at Apt. What do you think it is about the night that has lead to its longevity?

I think it's a combination of things. Initially, it was really about doing a one-off party and packing APT with our friends (big up to Tchaiko, Ibrahim, Dustin, Ramadhan, J Lew and the whole extended family). We had such an amazing first night that we decided to do it again, and it just took off from there. From the beginning it was about the music, but equally about the crowd. I mean, these days you can go a lot of different places any night of the week to hear "underground" or leftfield music. So our approach was not only to keep the music side of things really sharp, but to really cultivate every aspect of the night, through strong brand presence. But in some ways I think it was just a case of being the right time, right place, right people. APT has been an amazing venue for us, and we've definitely benefited from that relationship (cheers Alec).

You're an art director and graphic designer by profession. How important do you think it is for imagery used to tie in with the music? I particularly like the way that artists such as HVW8 and Ray Noland express their musical influences through their work.

Well for me it's an especially unique relationship, in the sense that the reason I am a designer today is largely a result of the music. I think today, especially with the proliferation of mp3 culture, iChat, blogs etc, a lot of labels don't really consider the packaging that much anymore. I was inspired by those thick gatefold jazz LP sleeves, and labels like MoWax, who really considered every detail. Hopefully now that the music is so disposable, some labels will reconsider how they present it.

Who are your influences in both music and art? What is about these people that makes them stand out from the rest?

Man, there are so many. I'm inspired by leaders, trend-setters in all areas. In no particular order: Stevie Wonder, Hiroshi Fujiwara, 4 Hero, Rei Kawakubo, Swifty, Jay Dilla, Paul Rand, Large Professor, Basquiat, Joseph Muller Brockman, Futura 2000, Fabien Baron, Gilles Peterson, Fab 5 Freddy, Nobukazu Takemura, 3D, Juergen Teller, Undeground Resistance, Marcos Valle, MM Paris and so many more.

You've been involved with Straight No Chaser since 1999. How did you hook up with them, and has your name being linked with the magazine been beneficial to both yourself and Rude Movements.

I discovered Chaser in about 94 and it all but changed my life. I was a serious hip-hop fan who was just getting into jazz and soul. What was going on in London at the time was so exciting, a mix of music, people, style, art. From there I knew that I wanted to be involved. Even from a very disconnected Atlanta, I managed to catch the eye of Paul Bradshaw and Swifty through my letters. I can credit persistence and passion. Since my first pilgrimage to work with them in '99, they have been very supportive of all we've been doing. It certainly has been an amazing platform for us. When we started Rude, the idea was also to bring some more attention to the magazine, which has a hard time in the States due to distribution and other factors.

Your column in Straight No Chaser is known for breaking new artists. Have their been any particular artists that you have been proud of breaking? Who do you think we should be listening to more?

We definitely like to highlight artists that aren't getting exposure in the mainstream press. We were one of the first ones to interview Dwele back when he was more of a mystery. Sa-Ra was another group that we pushed really early on. We did one of the first interviews with them, and that eventually evolved into a cover story, which we facilitated. There is so much good music coming from the States, that we've tried to report more on our surroundings. Who should you listen more to? That's a hard one to answer. I think Waajeed is going to do some big things. We're also digging what Japan's Jazzy Sport crew are doing, Amsterdam's Kindred Spirits, and LA's Stones Throw crew have really upped the ante in the last few years.

How important has it been working with a company like Puma? How far do you want Rude Movements to expand and grow, or are you happy with the way it is at the current juncture?

The Puma relationship has been a very good one. When they came aboard to support us in the middle of our first year, it brought more credibility to us on a certain level, and also allowed us to do some things we probably would have struggled with on our own. They definitely understand where we want to go, and respect our creative vision. In terms of growing, it's a question we are dealing with every day now. Obviously, things have developed now and Rude Movements has grown beyond an event. Our relationship with Puma is deeper, and we're also developing the other sides such as limited garments, collaborations, etc. We are very excited about how it's going, and hope to grow it slowly and methodically.

You've recently released the very well received Shawn J. Period single on your own imprint, have you got any more on the way?

We've got some tricks up our sleeve. I think you'll see a balance of established artists and newcomers collaborating with us. The main consistency will be quality, hopefully. Stay tuned.

Is jazz the teacher as Juan Atkins said many years ago?

I think everybody find there own sources. Jazz has definitely taught a lot of people. And I certainly credit its influence on me in different ways. The thing that I most relate to is the attitude and the rebelliousness.

I recently interviewed JIVA from Atlanta, and seeing as you have roots in the city, what do you think it is about the city that makes it home to so many vibrant artists and musicians, and how does it compare to New York City?

Atlanta is off the hook. There is a rich musical history there, and I think it just runs in the blood. There are so many talented musicians. Of course, Atlanta is much smaller and more spread out than NYC. In some ways, I think the musicians there are in more of a vacuum. This can be good or bad. NYC is so inspiring, but it can also be overload. In Atlanta, most of the cats are just playing because they love it. In NYC I think you have a lot of ambitious players up in the mix. In the mid-90s, Atlanta had an extremely vibrant underground scene which produced a lot of artists that we are only hearing in the last few years like Donnie, Jiva, Just One, Michael Johnson, Kai Alce, etc. Karl was also integral part of this movement from a DJ standpoint, in turn influencing some of the live musicians.

How did you meet your partner Karl Injex, and how does the chemistry between the two of you work so well?

Karl and I met through the music (big up to Red Beans and Rice record shop). Karl was an established DJ, and I was an eager high school student, who had just discovered that whole world. He used to basically sneak me and my friends in to hear him DJ before we were of age. From there we became friends and eventually began working on projects together. I think our chemistry comes down to our vision. In nearly 10 years (where a lot has changed in the musical landscape) we have maintained a similar idea of where we want to go. We also share a lot of other interests from technology to design and culture.

Do you think that especially with regards to the current political climate that it is important for artists such as Rich Medina to have a voice and say things that other artists probably wouldn't say for fear of reprisals? Who do you think is saying what needs to be said?

Always. Music is a powerful tool for voicing opinions of the people. My only fear is that major labels are very hesitant to support artists who have strong voices. Look at our friend Meshell Ndegeocello. She's a very outspoken artist, who's been battling for years to express her views. I do think that now with the internet, and the greater freedom of information, things are changing.

What artists do you think are really pushing the boundaries at the moment?

I'm excited to see what this young cat Taylor McFerrin is going to do. On a jazz tip, Soil & Pimp are doing some cool things, as well as Hajime Yoshizawa from Sleepwalker. Other cats I'm checking off the top of the head are Lupe Fiasco, Dabrye, Unabombers, Kai Alce, Black Spade, Reel People, Visioneers, Isoul8, and Innocent Sorcerers.

www.rudemovements.net www.tyleraskew.com

Marc Kets, Apr 2006

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