Spring King… the interview

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Quite often, I have listened to people lambast the very thought of forming a band, exclaiming with enthusiasm every problematic influx of issues, involved with being in a band.

They negate every debate possible, focusing upon the people politics, quarrels, and in my experience, the horror of scouting for suitable members; especially with modern equipment allowing music to be created alone, at home, in a suitable, simple and leisurely environment.

Layout 1I guess, having fun, hanging out with your mates and physically clattering around on stage your hand crafted songs still attracts many a day dreamer, and add this to the attraction of playing in a band assisting in the scoring stakes with girls, which a very unique appeal of its own.

‘I’ve known Pete the guitarist, since I was 14 years old. We went to the same high school and have been making music together for over 10 years. Andy was someone I met when I was a little older, maybe 16 or 17 years old.’

Significantly, it still lays the ultimate platform, as far as I am concerned of projecting a voice through opinion and not to mention the dreams come true scenarios of basking in the glory of headlining tours, meeting idols, and inspiring countless along the way.

However, It takes a certain recipe and flavour to lure the public to taste your musical concoctions and it is no accident that Spring King, a very cool bunch of lads from Manchester; formed as a small-scale, art-pop-punk project by drummer and front man, Tarek Musa have caused quite a stir.

‘The last year has been a lot of fun. We’ve had ups and downs along the way but we’ve enjoyed every moment.’

spring_king_oct-tour_promo_475-photo-credit-amin-musa

Little over a year ago, the band had been playing the rounds of UK and European venues attempting to make waves, releasing singles and extended plays until the celebratory evening, Zane Lowe played the charging 2015 release ‘City’, which got beamed into 100 countries last June, as the landmark first track played on Apple’s Beats 1 radio service. Follow up single, ‘Who Are You?’ was launched at the end of 2015 and announced as the ‘hottest record in the world’, on Radio 1 by Annie Mac. It was then A-listed on 6 Music and placed on the In New Music We Trust playlist on Radio 1.

“I’ve had a lot of emails and positive tweets from people who have never heard the band before,” Musa said

The Apple beats gig proved to be a huge break for the band, leading to worldwide press hype, a deal with Island and an appearance on BBC2’s Later… With Jools Holland alongside Elton John, who personally requested a copy of their debut record.

‘’Elton didn’t offer any advice, but he really enjoyed our performance so we gave him a copy of our album!’’

Recorded in Lincolnshire’s Chapel Studios as well as 27-year-old Musa’s house, ‘Tell me if you like it’ belays a deeper, richer sound than in previous releases and almightily armed with a set of songs screaming to be played loud and danced too, until sun rise.

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We wanted this debut to be a natural progression from where that EP left off. We wanted to explore identity even more and on the whole the album was intended to be a coming of age record.

Most recently, the band flourished on the NME/ BBC RADIO 1 stage displaying an unnerved, controlled and natural performance, providing a wide eyed and unpolished excitement fans desire from young buck, rock and rollers performing at a festival. The performance served everyone a glittering glimpse, into the bands future, as potential headliners, which only heightens the excitement brewing around them.

‘’The astonishing energy and speed was kept up throughout the set, and was so fast and furious that even an Olympic sprinter would’ve struggled to keep up with the pace.’’

Catching up with the band, prior to an upcoming UK tour, I hoped to experience what it must feel like to be in not only Manchester’s but one of the world’s most promising and prodigious bands, whom are certainly taking Manchester, into the future after many years under the clouds of multiple legendary legacies of past glories.

NE.  Spring King began as a solo project by Tarek. How did you discover other members?

I’ve known Pete the guitarist since I was 14 years old. We went to the same high school and have been making music together for over 10 years. Andy was someone I met when I was a little older, maybe 16 or 17 years old. He skated at the same park as me and we met over skateboarding and a common love of metal and punk music. He didn’t play an instrument at all, that came later. James our bass player was someone we met when Spring King had already been going for a while…we had numerous line-ups but musicians were constantly changing and eventually James joined as the bass player. He’s been with us ever since and we’re now a settled band.

NE.  How has Spring King evolved?

Spring King started as a solo project and now it is a full band. The sound has changed with what I have learned about mixing and producing music. I’ve always wanted to make sounds as best as I could, and the limitation was always my knowledge of production and engineering, but over the years this has evolved. We are still the same four guys we were last year. We are very active with our releases and make sure to be hands on with the photos, videos and artwork. I feel like even though we are on a major label now, we still stick to the DIY way of doing things, being part of the big decisions and making sure we do this the way we always have enjoyed doing it.

NE.  Who are your influences?

Musical influences include The Clash, The Beach Boys, Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, Black Lips and TY Segall. Non-musical influences, I’m not sure, I like to read a lot…maybe the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Alan Watts and Noam Chomsky…

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NE.  How difficult is it singing behind the drums. Did anybody else attempt, or try out for the front man role?

We originally had a different drummer, but he had commitments to other projects. Playing the drums and singing was never intentional, it was something that happened due to not having a drummer and finding it difficult to find out quick enough. I used to actually play Bass and Guitar originally in Spring King! It can be difficult, especially when you’re al-ready tired before a show, but I always get a buzz and then I’m fine.

NE. You like to challenge yourselves, writing a song per day. What other musical challenges do you feel lay ahead?

The next challenge is writing more music and using whatever influences that inspire us in the future to create it. The next record we release will hopefully be different in its own way! The other main challenge musically is performing the album on tours, which I find very exciting!

NE.  ‘The Summer’ is your homage to Brian Wilson, why is he such an inspiration to you?

I didn’t really take a passion for song writing until I heard The Beach Boys. I’ve always written songs but never taken it seriously until around the age of 23 when I heard ‘Girl Don’t Tell Me’. After that, I kept listening to all their catalogue and slowly became obsessed. I realized on the surface a lot of the songs were about sunshine, parties and surf but dig deeper and there was a darkness behind Brian’s up-tempo ‘happy sounding’ productions. There was a moody undercurrent which swept me away and ever since, I feel like I’ve learned to understand his writing in much more detail. I’ve tried to take his energetic/up tempo approach to arrangements across into Spring King, along with the dark nature of some of his lyrics.

NE.  What challenges did you faced with ‘Tell me if you like to’?

We recorded ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ very much in the same way we’ve recorded our older songs. Luckily we received a grant from the PRS for Music Foundation who helped us gain funds to enter a recording studio. Apart from the small budget from the grant, we kept it simple, and I took the seat of engineer, producer and mixer on the album. We were in between two tours when the album was being recorded so didn’t have long to record it! The biggest challenge was making sure we got what we wanted out of those sessions but also learnt when to say enough was enough. For me this record was about capturing a moment in time as opposed to a perfect album that takes months upon months. That’s the way I’ve always approached recording our music. There’s a perception that maybe because we went into a studio we were perfecting things or over producing but it’s definitely not the case. I tried to challenge myself to record better than before and mix better than before, but it was an artistic desire to expand as a musician and engineer.

NE.  How has the recent UK tour gone down and are you looking forward to the album launch shows in Manchester and London?

Our last UK tour was incredible. In May we traveled to both familiar and unfamiliar cities and the turnout at every show was surprising! So many people came to our shows and gave us some great memories. The album launch shows will be a continuation of that tour, we have great fans and I know they’ll give us a great night!

NE.  This time last year you had no label, now signed to Island records, and embarking on headline tours, how does it feels?

The last year has been a lot of fun. We’ve had ups and downs along the way but we’ve enjoyed every moment. We have a lot of respect for Island who signed us without even hearing the album. They took a big step doing that, having the faith in what we do as a band and letting us do our thing how we want to. The single ‘City’ was a funny one be-cause that EP it was on (‘They’re Coming After You EP’) was only meant to have four songs on it but right at the last minute I wrote ‘City’ and put it on there! I’m really glad I did, because we’ve had so many positive messages from fans who enjoy the song.

photo-1NE.  The band is extremely DIY in many aspects. How important is this to the band?

We always have an active role in the creativity surrounding music videos, artwork, photos, and everything else. We are in every conversation, every email and always stay involved. We have always been like that and it’s not something we want to change. We’re also very lucky to have a label that are trust worthy, giving us our creative control. There’s a massive mutual respect. If you don’t stay involved with all aspects of the art then what is it that you’re presenting, and is it honest?

NE. What is the hardest part about being the producer for your band?

Learning when to be a producer and when to be a musician. In many ways the two over-lap and they have grown together since day one.

NE.  How did you decide upon signing for a major label like Island records?

We’ve had a lot of label offers in the past, from both independents and majors. Island were very honest with us and basically said they wanted us to do our thing. Surprisingly they wanted us to keep things the way we wanted more than the others that were interested in the album. What I liked about them was they had faith in us. They didn’t hear the album until it was ready to be mastered, which I felt showed their trust in us to deliver something we as a band were happy with first and foremost. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be releasing this album perhaps right now, who knows. They have a huge level of knowledge and always advise or suggest ideas to us…it’s great to have an extended family!

I think labels still matter. Bands can do it on their own too, it just depends if you can find a way to release your music and get it out there in a way you are happy with. The good thing is there are just so many options in how to promote your music both via labels or DIY.

NE.  How long did you spend working on the record?

The album was recorded in 3 weeks. Some songs on the record such as ‘Rectifier’, ‘Tell Me If You Like To’ and ‘Take Me Away’ were also written in those 3 weeks whilst at Chapel Studios. We took it slow for some days, just soaking in the surroundings was inspiring enough to write new material whilst there!

NE.  Do you have any advice for young bands out there?

Make music that makes you happy whether its punk or pop or whatever you’re into and be proud of your art. Play as much as you can, both in the practice room and live. Take it slow and steady, give your self time to develop as a musician both as a songwriter and as a performer on stages.

NE.  What is the next step for Spring king?

We are going to tour as much as we can over the next few months, and keep writing more music. Lots more music basically.

 

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Interview

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By Gabriela Dellosso

Right and Better Left Unsaid

“Right and Better Left Unsaid” 24 x30

Success in art and life is a wonderful thing.   Judy Takacs is an example of art imitating life. She is a positive thinker, generous and sensitive to all the people that surround her. Judy is a figurative artist who tells stories about people who have something uplifting to share. Judy has been awarded seven “Best of Show” awards since 2010, she curates, writes blogs and chairs a sub-committee for the Portrait Society of America. Recently, she was invited to be an artist archived in the Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, joining a short list of legendary Cleveland Artists.

G:  I think readers might enjoy learning about how you have developed the concepts for your various series of paintings.  Tell us about how two of your series:
“The Age of Adventure” and “Chicks with Balls” came about.

J: For painters of people like myself, the challenge is always, “Where do I find my people?” Both Chicks and “Age of Adventure” are where I ended up when I started looking for fascinating people to paint.

The concept for Chicks with Balls came about years ago, when I was denied a show at a city art center because, at the time, I had mostly nude figure drawings in my portfolio. The forward-thinking director of the art center was frustrated with the council members in city hall, who cared more for hometown sports than the arts. She referred to them as “the sports guys.” They would not tolerate nudity in art at the city-funded art center. To amuse myself, I kicked around concepts as to what the “sports guys” would like and came up with “balls;” basketballs, baseballs, footballs. And what if the balls were covering the offending parts…self-conscious self-censorship and not a nipple in sight; Chicks with Balls.

“Susie Makes It Happen” 36 x48 in, Oil on Canvas

“Susie Makes It Happen” 36 x48 in, Oil on Canvas

Building my epic project around “what the sports guys would like” was not my goal though (and this same city art center won’t even display my Chicks with Balls show postcards, let alone give me a Chicks show), but it did get my wheels turning, and it got me to look at my own female friends and family. I saw a lot of figurative balls; strength, courage, persistence, professionalism, passion and unwavering love for those they care for. And, thus was born the concept for Chicks with Balls. I started asking my female friends and family to pose, and fortunately many said yes!

And because Chicks with Balls is a long-term ongoing pursuit, around the same time, I also wanted to have some fun painting wonderful, wise and gorgeous old people. I took inspiration from Rose Frantzen’s Portrait of Maquoketa Project (http://www.oldcityhallgallery.com/portraitofmaquoketa.html) and set up at my hometown senior center painting the elder citizens of our town. In addition to serving my artistic desire to paint gorgeous wrinkles, my year of weekly painting sessions in the lobby of my hometown senior center (http://www.judytakacspaintspeople.com/judytakacspaintspeople.com/The_Age_of_Adventure/The_Age_of_Adventure.html) was billed as an enrichment activity for the seniors. I began the portraits with an audience, and then continued work on the paintings for another 30 or more hours back at my studio. I did the same thing later at a retirement center for nuns, and blogged about that experience too. http://chickswithballsjudytakacs.blogspot.com/2014/03/painting-nuns-coveredand-uncovered-woman.html

G:  The color red is found frequently in your paintings.  Tell me about that.

J: Red is my favorite color. It has so many associations; love, passion, fire, heat, energy. It’s the opposite of subtle, it makes a statement and “pops” off the wall. And, try as I might to be quiet sophisticated, subtle, understated and muted with my color palette, it seems to go against my nature. So, because of this connection with red, I decided to shake hands with my devil and tone my canvas red before I paint on it.

I also found out that using a red ground gave me such a beautiful flesh and blood base for painting people. And, when placed on a super bright cadmium red background, even the most lavish flesh tones I mix up become toned down and melt together better to become flesh.

My first round of Chicks with Balls paintings all have a white background, but now I have expanded to other warm color grounds…Red, Purple, Orange and even a hot Barbie Pink for some of the most recent ones.

G:  You have a marvelous sense of humor.  I really enjoy that about your work. Where does that come from?

J: I’m generally a pretty happy, energetic person. But, I didn’t “chose” happiness like the facebook memes tell you to do. I have known too many people with depression and anxiety to pretend that I somehow have worked at it and they didn’t. I think I just got genetically lucky with extra doses of serotonin. Just like I got genetically lucky with late blooming gray hair and no seasonal allergies. I must have been standing in the extra belly fat line when they were handing out the allergies, gray hair and depression.

“A Valentine For Jim” 36 x36 in, Oil on Canvas

valentine for jim

I also was fortunate to have found a husband who makes me laugh every day and to have known many funny friends over the years. There’s nothing like people to laugh with, to fan the flames of your sense of humor. And, I’m actively trying to convince my kids how funny I am too; that I’m not just the embarrassing woman who folds their laundry, sings badly and nags them. I’ve been told by my oldest that I’m only funny when I’m not trying to be… he’s funny too.

G:  You are a well-rounded person.  How do you balance family life, painting and all other activities in your life?

J: I’m actually not all that well-rounded…belly fat aside. I don’t have many other activities besides family life and painting. Occasional girls nights out of course, but that’s pretty much it, no sports or exercising or hobbies. Painting comes first, except for when family comes first.

I’m also very organized and self-disciplined. I wake up before 6:00 each morning and head upstairs to the studio in my home to start my painting day before everyone else does. I really do get up every day with that “Christmas morning” feeling when I’m heading up to the studio. And, my kids are teenagers now, sleep late and require less hands-on maintenance…or they head off early to school (one’s already in college), so I have the house and studio to myself most days.

But, between my graphic design business and then having baby after baby for a while (three boys in 4 years), there were about 10 years where I didn’t pick up a paintbrush. Someone was always crying (sometimes it was me), someone always sick and someone was always hungry.

Karen's time to shine

Karen’s time to shine

And, even when I did start painting again, I didn’t even have a studio to call my own until 2009…I painted in the kitchen, but had to set up and break down the operation every day when the troops got home. I don’t regret the long break though, it was good to immerse myself fully in my kid’s lives and know I didn’t miss a single thing. Now I immerse myself fully in the painting. Though, once you have the kids, you’re never “done”…but that’s okay, you hopefully reap the rewards of the people you’ve created. Right now we have college applications, job applications, drivers education, summer jobs, spontaneous discussions about physics and computer programming…stuff like that…along with attitudes, lip, sass and eye-rolling.

G: What is your next project? What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?

J: Having only just re-entered the world of realistic figurative painting, in the past 7 years or so, I still consider myself very “young” in all this. I’m still very much trying to find my “voice.” Whom shall I paint? What will I say about them? And how shall I make these people I chose to paint come alive and force my viewer to care?

As far as future projects, I am infinitely hedonistic in who, what and how I choose to paint. But if I can paint the way I like and also save the world a little with my painting, well then that’s the kind of win-win I can get on board with.

One of the things lacking in our world is the ability to do something that I call “switching the heads” on a situation. It’s the same concept as walking a mile in another’s shoes before passing judgement on how they should live their life. As a painter of people, and a sometime writer, I try to let my viewers get to know a person they may have nothing in common with and maybe find out they actually do.

There’s a song by Sting, where he says, …“I hope the Russians love their children too.” There are profound human similarities running beneath the surface between people from different religions, races, political opinions, genders, ability levels, socioeconomic and educational level…but we as a society don’t dig deep and try to switch the heads on stuff to try to see how certain situations are parallel.

We try to label and distance ourselves…to make our way right and another’s way wrong to justify our actions…or lack thereof. I’m not trying to preach though; I only want to save the world if I can do it through painting. I’m not running for office or putting myself in danger by traveling to hostile areas. But, if through my painting, I could also somehow build bridges and save the world a little, well that would be a

great lifetime goal for me to at least get started on in the next 10 years!

“Judge, Jury And Executioner” 24 x48 in

“Judge, Jury And Executioner” 24 x48 in

 

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Click here for Judy Takacs’ Book
priced for gift giving. 68 pages, 35 color plates, hardcover $50

Upcoming Shows:

Chicks with Balls: Judy Takács paints unsung female heroes
Opening Reception: Thursday October 29, from 6:00 to 8:30
A solo show
Show Dates October 29 through November 24

Gallery East
(http://events.tri-c.edu/event/chicks_with_balls_judy_takacs_paints_unsung_female_heroes?utm_campaign=widget&utm_medium=widget&utm_source=Cuyahoga+Community+College#.VakeESpVhBd)

Cuyahoga Community College
Eastern Campus
4250 Richmond Road
Highland Hills, Ohio

About Face

Opening Reception, October 21, from 5:00 to 7:00
A group portrait show with Lou Grasso, Diane Fleish Hughes, Milan Kecman, Billy Ritter
Show Dates: October 21 through November 13

Gallery West
Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus
11000 Pleasant Valley Road
Parma, Ohio

The Drawing Show: From Doodles to Digital
Opening Reception: Friday September 25th from 5:00 to 9:00pm
An invitational drawing show, curated by Anna Arnold
Show Dates: September 15-23
The Florence O’Donnell Wasmer Gallery
Ursuline College
2550 Lander Road
Pepper Pike, Ohio