Your Shot…KK Outlet Art Director, Keith Gray Talks to LBB About the ‘Make With a Red Stripe’ Campaign
At the end of March 2012, the Little Black Book editorial team was invited by KK Outlet to see the work for their most recent campaign for Red Stripe ‘Make With A Red Stripe’. Visiting their rented studio on the outskirts of Wembley, we met the artists and production team behind the work and watched as the final pieces were put together. Here, KK Outlet’s Art Director Keith Gray spends time with us to discuss the work, the artists that were involved, and what inspired the campaign.
LBB > Tell me about the work
KG > So this project is ‘Make With A Red Stripe’ and it’s the second of the Red Stripe projects from KK Outlet. The first was ‘Make Something from Nothing’, which was less mainstream - this is more national. We first started working with Red Stripe in 2011 - the pitch for the business started that March. Red Stripe is a really interesting lager. It’s one of those brands that, just from the culture it comes from, has a really interesting past. There is something quite effortless about it; Jamaicans wanted to make a lager, they put it in a can with a red stripe and called it Red Stripe. Contrary to popular belief, Jamaicans don’t have this culture of taking it easy, they make it easy. They don’t have a lot of money or a lot of resources available to them, so they make do. For instance, they make sound systems out of wheelie bins, putting speakers in the sides and moving them around the street. They make use of the materials that are available to them and they do so in a really effortless and creative way.
LBB > Was this the inspiration behind the work?
KG > That’s where ‘Make With A Red Stripe’ comes from, and that attitude. Ever since the Jamaican culture landed in the UK in the 50s, [its influence can be seen through music] with reggae developing into dub step and right through: dub step, to ska, to indie, to rap. It’s not just that approach to music, it’s also that approach to art, that effortless, creative approach. Many artists today have that same attitude, the four artists that we picked to do each van do exactly that. If they want to make something, they go out on the street, they spot an environment and just do it. You don’t need money and materials. Some just do it with tape; some do it with paint, some by manipulating photos, whatever medium they have at their disposal…they just want to make.
LBB > So, tell me about the four artists.
KG > Firstly, we started looking at street artists, not like the Banksys or JRs, more the people who were just creating off their own back, and who seemed to push things in a different way. For example, D.Billy. One of his first pieces was really interesting because he used to live opposite a fire hydrant and he was telling me that there was this corrugated wall behind it. He thought the hydrant looked quite lonely and like it just wanted to rain water. So, one day he went out with a load of streamers and stuffed them into the front of the hydrant to look like water was spurting out and then just wrote ‘FOOOSH’ behind it (http://bit.ly/HSwp5H
). It’s really beautiful, really simple. I guess we looked for a similar way of approaching projects in all the artists we chose.
Sweza is more technical and his stuff can become a bit more digital. D.Billy is more typographical and then we have Sandrine, who is much more character based. She has a real, almost childlike look at the world which is truly amazing. Then there is Rosie. She is really quite interesting as she isn’t really a street artist, she is an illustrator and used to be in a band. There is something about her illustrations that is so nice. If she wants to draw something, she just does…. She doesn’t have a fine art background and, as such, there is a real charm to her work and to her expression.
LBB > Why vans?
KG > I really can’t say where the inspiration came from. We were looking at people who are so truly expressive and creative that they don’t need canvases. Remember going to gigs as a kid? People’s canvases were toilet walls. We were thinking about graffiti’s origins in the NYC subways of the 80s. Because the trains would run straight through NYC, the work got high visibility; they didn’t need a highbrow art gallery. We’d seen a lot of stuff around East London with guys like Sweet Tooth who were using those old box vans that crop up around the city. Because they are so boxy and white, they provide a really good canvas. So we thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to create an art gallery that you don’t go to, but that comes to you?’
LBB > Where will these vans go out to?
KG > First they go to Bristol and then onto Leeds, at each of the cities they drive around areas of cultural relevance. Then they come back to London where they drive around Camden and Shoreditch, resulting in a grand finale event in Old Street. One of the most interesting things about these vans is its not just passive artwork on the exterior, they are interactive and participatory. The hidden feature of them is that they form a mobile event. Rosie’s van is a moving sound system that has a giant amp on the back and she has an illustrated amp on the side, where a cable comes out that people can plug their iPods into and turn the van into a giant music system. They can play with the sound with all these buttons. Sweza’s van is an interactive video which people can be silly in front of…
LBB > And there is also the digital element that they get something to take home with them, their footage can be sent to their email.
KG > Exactly. When you turn up at the event in London, all will work together. Sandrine and D.Billy’s vans will provide the stages for the DJs and for people to hang out.
The ultimate goal for us, with this, is to inspire the nation that if they want to make something, they can go and make it in a really easy, simple way. Aside from the vans, we also have, in Manchester, an ambient piece where we’ve been working with street artist Filthy Lucker, who has a giant scaffolding on the side of the city hall. Again, it’s kind of unique. The space is usually used for big ads, £100,000s worth of media is usually displayed there. We gave the space to Filthy Lucker and he had a really fun idea. He observed that traffic cones and construction paraphernalia and saw that the red gates that they put on the side of a building look like space invaders. So he has built an old retro game, with lights in it and it’s interactive with a large button on the ground for people to press. When they do, it starts to animate with lights.
After that we are doing something in Edinburgh with a street artist called Space Boy. You know you see shop shutters covered in graffiti? We are creating what we like to call a ‘choreographed animation’ with the shop shutters; we are making a physical zoetrope. After, we are creating a film with Space Boy’s animation where we will break it down into frames and fill in real time. As the shutter goes down we put another graphic on it. We’ll speed it all up, with the shutter coming down so fast that it’s like a camera shutter and the whole thing will animate because of the speed.
LBB > How will people know about the events?
KG > It is really important that these works of art are the campaign. They sell themselves and create and draw interest. There will be no print. Red Stripe could make ads, but we wanted to make like a Red Stripe - not tell people to ‘Make With A Red Stripe’. So stuff like the scaffolding in Manchester is an unorthodox use of advertising space. It has high visibility, much like the giant ads you see in Piccadilly Circus. So people can see the work as they move around and about the city.
After our first project last year with Red Stripe where we created artwork from old cans, we gained quite a following. As such we were able to communicate to fans of the brand through social media and tell them about what we are doing, who is involved and how they can participate.
LBB > What’s the average Red Stripe fan like?
KG > There are a couple of groups of fans. The first, I call them the weekend rebels. They are probably likely to work in an insurance firm during the week and then at the weekend they try to go to many gigs, do as much stuff as possible. Someone who would have liked to have had a creative job, but life got in the way. Secondly, as a brand, it’s of a standard that appeals to creative folk too; people who are perhaps used to being exposed to creative, underground, unusual cultures and work.
The Red Stripe audience is like going to watch a band; you have those in the audience, who are watching those on the stage – but the Red Stripe audience has to be those on and off the stage.
LBB > What have you personally got out of this?
KG > It’s been great fun. It’s really easy. I love making stuff and I get to make stuff with people I might not have met. It hasn’t been about just commissioning the artists, like you would a photographer for an ad, I’ve actually been working with these amazing people and we’ve become really great friends. It feels like I’m back at college, messing about again, only this time I’ve got a bit more money to play with… It’s been great.