Without Domino, we’d probably have never heard of Franz Ferdinand. Likewise, Sam Paganini would’ve been a stranger without Cocoon, and for all we know, Tokimonsta could’ve been the name of a random #857 Pokemon if not for Brainfeeder. The point is, record labels are as crucial as the musicians who prosper once they’re signed on to them. And it’s astounding how for such a teeny country (let alone, scene) like ours, local label Darker Than Wax has already reached out to over 40 DJs and producers all around the world, with over three million plays on its SoundCloud page. A small label with huge ambition – founded by homegrown trendsetters (Cosa Nostra) with both heart and a sophisticated palate for sound – DTW is an identity we always root for.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Modern Hieroglyphics is another creative entity that’s been responding to the call of DTW. A “curated collection of conversations with artists”, Modern Hieroglyphics is a biannual publication that embraces art and design, and it’s launching its sophomore print issue internationally, in conjunction with DTW and Canvas Singapore – the latter being the riverside habitat of this cultural union.
Enhancing parties the best way they know how, DTW soundtracks this urban fiesta with a selection of its esteemed label mates. Fresh off a New Zealand tour and a moniker transformation from ‘Samuel Truth’, the wonky big man and producer returns to Singapore as Troy Samuela. Scrubbing off his penchant for perky, video gamey synths, Truth tells it like it is with a darker output of trap and trip-hop as indicated on his latest single “Yams”, which we can only fathom is based on the late A$AP captain, RIP.
Truth is backed up by another DTW member from London, Sh?m, who packs a few trap-based tendencies of his own. But low-end explorations aside, this producer has also released some shimmering house numbers (“Move” echoes everything we love about Lxury), and surfs around chill-wave as well, even remixing “Ascension” from neo-soul originator, Maxwell.
DTW will also be joined by a guest from Virginia imprint, Satellite Syndicate (’cos underground homies help each other out), Big Wave, who prefers to keep his beats slow with tinges of Balearic and old-school trip-hop. And above all that, DTW founder Funk B*stard and first lady Rah will be reppin’ Singa with sets that fluctuate between soul, funk, hip-hop and bass.
Of course – aside from the head-nodding tunes and feel-good atmosphere that will paint the celebratory evening of the publication’s second issue – the release party will also feature an intimate presentation with homegrown multi-medium artist, Clogtwo. Having illustrated the artwork for MH#2’s limited edition cover, the globetrotting wolf in sheep’s clothing serves testament to the street art community at home and abroad, while providing insight into his multi-faceted artistic presence. Ahead of the celebration, we spoke with the artist to find out more about the oxymoronic notion of a street artist based in Singapore.
Let’s get the cliche question out of the way – how did you get started as Clogtwo?
Clogtwo was founded in 2004 in one of the sewage canals of Singapore. When graffiti was still new and there weren’t any legal spots for us to paint. Thus, the gritty and moist wall was our only home.
We love the suited-up look, but it’s a little unconventional for the street art scene. Is it a way to demonstrate non-conformity? Or is it simply a desire to dress well?
Many people regard graffiti as an act of vandalism or being stereotyped as hip-hop – but we come from different backgrounds and walks of life. Most of us were into extreme sports, like skateboarding and street BMX, and the music that we listened to ranged from punk rock to indie. Therefore, dressing up in a suit is a message stating that graffiti is just a medium and a tool. Dressing up doesn’t make a great artist; only our minds can perceive what we want to create.
You’ve brought your art all over the world with your partner in crime, Inkten, in the Ink&Clog DSTRY series. Have you ever had any negative reaction from ‘destroying’ cities abroad?
Fortunately, we haven’t received any negative comments about DSTRY-ing cities abroad. We truly understand that graffiti was born as a mark-making tool. Our purpose was to tag cities to show other writers that we have been going places, and that we are serious and active in the game. The ideology behind ‘DSTRY’ was to create markings of our own to tell people that we have visited their countries, like a traditional GPS.
In DSTRY MILAN, we see you pull a few drive-by tags with the Milanese NuclearOne crew. Have you ever found yourself on the run from the law during or after a graffiti spree?
I guess consequences come in different forms. For example, if I don’t go on a graffiti spree, the consequence would be regretting not tagging the town. If I do, I guess the consequence is another story. You will never know what will happen in the future; all you can do is choose what you want to do at that moment.
Do you consider yourself a creator or a destroyer?
I think I’m both. In order to create, first you need to destroy.
We couldn’t help but marvel at your comic hero illustrations. Which superhero (or super villain) do you most identify with?
A hero or villain is always made, and not born, due to situations of incident. But everyone loves a villain. I’d probably go for Doctor Doom.
As a multi-medium artist, is it ever difficult switching between mediums or managing the amount of time dedicated to each?
As an artist, I think everything falls back to our foundation: the trusted pen-and-paper routine. With that, I thinking switching mediums or tools isn’t a problem, but different mediums have different processes and time management. For example, I work faster with spray paints because all of the colours are pre-mixed, and you can use your entire body to create expressive and energetic movements in your works. Acrylic paints are more time consuming because you need to mix the colours while controlling every single brush stroke. It’s a more delicate procedure, but it’s good for meditation.
Street art has seen a lot of commercialisation over the years. Is there still a ‘movement’? And does it still stand for the anarchic values that once inspired its conception?
In Singapore, it’s very hard to maintain the authenticity of graffiti, as we do not practice a lot of ‘bombing’ in the streets. Thus, we are mainly labelled as graffiti muralists. But in order to stay true to the art form, we do tag and ‘bomb’ overseas where graffiti is considered less of a ‘crime’.
How can everyday Singaporeans make themselves heard in the absence of artistic skill?
All artists are gifted with the power of visual voice, loud enough for everyone to hear. The problem is how can we make others less blind and deaf?
Any upcoming projects you’re looking forward to?
There’re a few projects coming up in Mexico this March; Milan, Italy in May; and Richmond, Virginia, USA in July. Time to paint some massive walls.
What attracted you to working with Modern Hieroglyphics?
I first met the co-creator, Chor Boogie, back in 2013 when Inkten and myself were painting in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I recently just met Jack McKain (creator) who introduced me to Modern Hieroglyphics. We were already friends, and to make this movement even bigger, we thought, “Why not collaborate the East and the West?” We have one agenda in mind: art.
What can we expect to see from you at the Modern Hieroglyphics #2 Release Party?
A lot of people having fun, and good vibes – nothing less, just more.
The Modern Hieroglyphics #2 Release Party happens on Friday, February 6 from 9pm at Canvas Singapore. For pre-sale tickets and event information, visit the Facebook event page HERE.
Text Kevin Ho & Trent Davis
Images Various Sources