Nov 23, 2021

Storage Box Launch Special Interview: Record Illustrator $HOW5 x Face Records

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ー Your title “record illustrator” is unfamiliar to us. How did you come up with it?

“Artist” may be the most popular term to call people like me, but I find the word somehow ambiguous or tricky. It’s like, if you don’t understand what they are doing, just call them artists. I wanted something completely different which would sound more striking, more new to everyone. That’s why I decided to identify myself as a “record illustrator”. I always want to do something no one has ever done before.

ー Did you copy and draw sleeve illustrations of vinyl records from the very beginning?

When I visited the university, I did nothing but listen to records of my parents at home. Classes were boring and I had no part-time job unlike any other student. I spent the whole day sneakily digging DJ Premiers or the sampling melody of Pete Rock. When I found great music, I recorded it on cassette tapes and reproduced the sleeve pictures to “own” them. I always wondered by myself “should I be doing something else with my life, something more productive?”
Then occasionally around 1998, I started to draw sleeve illustrations of vinyls recommended by FRONT, WOOFIN or MURO to practice illustrating because I became interested in designing for my future career. Through drawing while listening to records, I could sense the zeitgeist and assimilate artforms. As I had now the purpose and everyday practice, and felt that I had gained a feeling that “I have done something”.

ー You are also successful as a DJ. How do the both activities influence each other?

While drawing, I have a feeling that I could see the sounds and listen to the pictures. For me, DJing and drawing are the same behaviours which give me great joy. When I DJ or draw, it is as if I could set myself free and my soul were flying out of my body.
At the beginning, I drewed truly for my own satisfaction and had no intention to show my works to anyone, although my senior friend told me to exhibit them in public.


ー Do you think optical art is directly linked to music?

Indeed. Whenever you go to a record store, first you look at the sleeve and then think “the music must be cool!” . Here, the sleeve design has a direct link with music. You must have had such an experience, right? Sometimes the music is utterly different from your expectation, but I enjoy this kind of gap, too. It is also the case for Japanese translation of a title of records. Remember when the title of the album “Kurtis Blow” of Kurtis Blow - the Rapper- was first translated in Japanese as “Chatty Kurtis” when it was introduced in Japan. It was fun. For me, it is very important to imagine the music when I draw before listening.

ー You have created lovely storage boxes with two Face Records stores in New York and Tokyo. How did you come up with the design?

I have always enjoyed drawing the city of New York, its stores and daily scenery. While drawing, I can directly sense that the city has a great history of people who have created new things.With boxes with the illustrations of Face Record Shibuya and Face Record NY, I indicated vinyl records traveling between Tokyo and New York.


ー Did you have the idea to draw the Face Records stores from the beginning?

Yes. I had three ideas at first: 1.arrange the famous company logo of Face Records into something like vinyl records, 2. use the design of the shoppingbag of Face Records 3. depict the exterior of the store. Because as far as I can remember, Face Records was the very first record store which had its own taste in designing as well.
There was a member card of Face Records before and it was unlike ones of any other record store really stylish. It was the time when the Face Records store was located in an omnibus building and the store had already sold cool little merchandise made of wood, especially for 7inch records.


ー Whom would you recommend for the boxes?

First and foremost, I would love to recommend my father to use them. Like record stores, he never had a storage box especially designed for vinyl records. He used to put his records in cardboard boxes of supermarkets. He knew that boxes for water melones just fit Seven-inch records and always told me to bring them home, which was embarrassing to me.
So I wanted to tell my father that these boxes would be must have.

As for the design, I wanted to make the boxes a bit cute and at the sametime cool. I spent time on fine detail with the staff of FTF and the commercial printer.

ーYou tried the boxes and how do you like them?

They are beyond my expectations and very practical to use: records are steadily settled in the storage box for Seven-inch records and its capacity is much bigger than it may seem.
The boxes are stylish when standing alone or in line. I, personally, want to put several boxes in line just like works by Andy Warhol.


ー With an effective use of the logo “Buy-Sell-Trade”, you indicated second handed records are traveling through the world. You are a records digger as well. Tell us your experience with vinyl records?

My father is a dedicated records collector who owns about 30,000 records and publishes fanzines of Soul music. And my favorite Hip-hop and its sampling source was what I found among my father’s collection.

When I was a teenager, records were the only topic about which I could talk with him. My father, who was also a math teacher, didn't like the idea that I wanted to learn illustration at college. Also I was not a decent student who was once suspended from school.
Vinyl records barely managed to bond the father and the son.

At a company, I could get along well with my boss who loved punk rock and I entertained international guests by singing Sex Machine by James Brown with Camel Walk. Thanks to vinyl records and music I could survive in society.


ー You are collaborating with many DJs. Tell us more?

My father always listened to In The Rain by The Dramatics which is a sampling source of Funky Methodist by BUDDHA BRAND.
When I had a chance to talk to DEV LARGE and told him my father published the fanzine for soul and funk, he said he had once read it. It was a great surprise and I realized that records were handed down great music beyond time.

ーIn which country do you want to dig vinyls?

I would go to Face Records in New York to bump into The Alchemist or Daringer who happen to dig Wa-mono.


ーYou told me you visited Face Records Shibuya in the 2000s. How do you think music culture has changed?

At that time, I jumped to buy the records even without trial listening before they would be sold out. Now, I have become very particular and listen to them with streaming services. It is a bit frightening to think that we did in clubs and record stores what young people today do through smartphones or SNS.
On the other hand, I find it great to see girls now dancing with music normally for hardcore fans on TikTok. I was like, “How would you know this trap?” This is all thanks to the Internet.

ーThrough streaming services or Youtube you can listen to music before they are released. It certainly changed the attitude of people toward records.

Yes. We lost not only excitement but also the feeling of being “betrayed”. I was sometimes bummed out when I bought records just because my senior friend told me to, and found it was not worth buying. I would never have such an experience now.


ー Record stores are no longer the only place to buy records. Thanks to the Internet, we can check the customer reviews of records you want to buy beforehand, or even listen to its music before buying.

I think it’s two sides of the same coin: because you experience anticipointment, you can be happy if you discover really great records. Today, I have a feeling that I became less moved despite the fact that there is far more better music than before. It may be because we can find and listen to music too casually and too easily.

ー In recent years, there has been a worldwide trend for young people to dig records. Is there anything you would like to tell them?

I can't say anything. Digging records should be a personal choice, and I don't want to interfere with their freedom.

ー What do you expect from record stores?

It would be interesting if record stores take initiative to organize events in cooperation with DJs and musicians, for example making playlists together. Especially Tokyo is a city full of potential for record stores to connect with many things as there are many DJs and interesting radio stations. In the future I think the environment as a whole where you can listen to records will be recognized as a service.

ー Which records have you been listening to lately?

Tobira no Fuyu by Minako Yoshida. I like BASS by Haruomi Hosono, and am looking for works of Hosono playing BASS before YMO.


ー What would you take to the desert island? Select three records from your collection.

James, Bob and Brown : It's A New Day So Let A Man Come In by James Brown, One by Bob James, and Every Little Step by Bobby Brown. These three artists can never be missed, after all.


ーOn which vinyl records are you keeping an eye?

I want Bamboo by Murakmi Minoru when I become old, which sounds like Japanese instruments played in Rare Groove music. Also COMME des GARCONS by Ono Seigen which was composed for a fashion show of Comme Des Garçons. I have CD albums of Ono Seigen, but I rarely find records. The music sounds very avangardistic, and some people want to buy them at the very first glance at the sleeve.


We had a great time with $HOW5 in his cozy room full of records. Throughout the interview we felt his devoted love for vinyl records, which truly resonated with Face Records. We are very blessed that vinyl records brought us together.

On Record Day 2021, the storage boxes are ready to be packed with love and your precious records. Never miss this chance!


$HOW5 (Tegaki) Profile

"Record illustrator".

Along with his activity as a DJ in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, $how5 draws illustrations for records making a good use of his musical intuition and sense.

In 1998, he drew sleeves for more than 100 cassette tapes and 200 CDRs. Soon after publishing these works on his own Instagram, they gained attention from several media such as FACT (UK) and Ego trip (NY) and widely introduced by them.

He has held a solo exhibition at Firekingcafe, and illustrated a NYC hip-hop guide. He is currently working on magazine illustrations.

instagram : show5_original

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