We sat down with Aitor Throup to learn about his latest collaboration with experimental musician Flying Lotus.
Following their first collaboration for A Portrait of Noomi Rapace, British artist and designer Aitor Throup has once again teamed up with experimental musician Flying Lotus. Together, the two present the Death Veil Mask (v.002), a multi-component product developed especially for the Los Angeles creative to wear during his live shows. Throup and Ellison first started discussing and working on this unique New Object Research piece since early 2014, and it embodies their shared passion in the aesthetics of the exaggerated “persona” (i.e: a Superhero), as well as a mutual interest in the subject of death itself.
The mask is actually the second version of a product which Ellison and Throup tested for the first leg of the You’re Dead! American tour during October 2014, and was first revealed at the sold-out Flying Lotus gig at the Roundhouse, London on November 7.
The eyes of the Death Veil Mask light up via an integrated switch, which allows Ellison to control it within the performance, giving him an identity on-stage as the audience get a real and direct representation of the orientation of Ellison’s face, even when surrounded by the immersive and progressive visual show which has now become synonymous with a Flying Lotus performance. The various components which form the final modular design can each be interchanged with more evolved and/or limited edition versions of them as the piece evolves through time.
To learn more about the unexpected collaboration we sat down with Aitor himself. Take a look at the full interview below and catch Flying Lotus in the Death Veil Mask when he stops in your town.
How did the collaboration come about?
I got an e-mail from Flying Lotus’s manager around a year ago saying that they really would like to hook up and he was a big fan of my work. At first I was like, “wow, that’s crazy, cause I’m a big fan of his work, too,” and he put us in touch. I was actually in LA the following week because I had an exhibition so I invited him over and we just connected straight away. We’re on the same wave aesthetically and he was like, “hey man, I like your work, it’s what my music looks like” and I was like, “I always said that your music is what my work sounds like.” So it was kinda crazy, we were already aligned in an aesthetic level and we were just convinced that something should happen and that it resulted in an ongoing conversation.
So we hung out for a while, we talked about early ideas, but we really came together when I found myself back in LA about three months later when I was working on a different project and he invited me over to the studio to come check out the new album. I went over and I heard the early version of the album and I tried to really go deep into the album and understand his thinking behind it. I even spent some time in the mastering studio and was able to see how intensively he works, and saw very direct parallels from the way he works, the way he approaches work, to the way that I work.
Where did the initial design cues for the mask come from?
He’s trying to invent new things, as I am, and so all of that and the concept behind the album, it being called You’re Dead! and the importance of death for him and the fact that death is actually an ongoing theme throughout my work was the starting point. You’ve got death as a theme throughout my work: Shiva references, The Funeral of New Orleans, terror police killing an innocent person, etc. All of these shared experiences came together in the studio with me and him sitting there, hanging out. It came together without personal reference, just us being grown-up versions of the kids we once were. We’re still into the same things we once were. We’re still into comic books, still into video games, I think we still entertain that child-like mind for our work in a very deep and sophisticated way but we’re into comic books and superheroes.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked into his studio was a Batman mask in the corner and I was taken aback. Basically my oldest memory of feeling passionate about something that you wear was Tim Burton’s original Batman film when you see the Batman mask and how it features an exaggerated version of Michael Keaton’s face. That always stayed inside of me and it’s such a powerful way to convey meaning into an object, for an object to be figurative without having the human body inside of it.
So all of those elements and showing his needs for the live show and his own life experiences etc., lead to us developing this mask. It had to incorporate not just his essence and my essence but also importantly the concept of the album, so it’s very much a death mask, it’s very much his identity, not just in the context of his album but also as a musician. It embodies him as a musician and it gives him an identity in a live scenario. The eyes light up and it has built-in electronics he can control throughout the show, even though he is surrounded by layers of visuals inside a very complex structure.
What materials did you use?
The core of the mask is made from melton wool and it goes through a very complex process of multilayered stiffening and then heat-bonding and sealing with different layers of heat-reactive film. Basically, what it creates is a compound material which allows us to give it shape. Every panel is individually heat-shaped and the last layer is a layer of open technical mesh that is actively glued and bonded on the upper layer of melton. That creates a very interesting effect which is actually the same effect that we use on one of my jackets, the Skanda jacket, and that effect reflects the light of the glue, which makes it look almost glittery. It looks like something sinister is going on in the material and the way it’s constructed using the same technology and techniques that I use in New Object Research. Its’ effectively a bespoke piece from New Object Research.
It looks like the mask has interchangeable parts.
There are three other components that can interact with the piece that can make it worn in different ways. First is like a top lip, that you can clip on, it matches the material, that’s basically the main piece. With the top lip and the jaw clipped on, that creates a skull – the complete product. But just like with an actual jaw you can detach the jaw and that’s where we really started to create something unique.
We talked about how cool it would be if there could be accessories for this mask, to make it different for every tour or a different addition for a special gig. We started looking at head gear that we like and Steve showed me this really cool image from a comic book where these hanging bits are coming off this ancient headwear, almost like Eastern tribalism. So we started talking about the idea of it moving through the air, when he performs. We also talked about the aesthetic of the Punisher and all these references coming together in these component additions. So it’s like this alien being created from all the components from New Object Research and combined them in this mask that represents death.
Have you guys considered working on more pieces like a jacket or suit?
We are working on it actually. We did a fitting on Friday – he already has one of my jackets – but I don’t think it’s the right kinda jacket for this. I actually want to do this, create a suit jacket, designed to work with the mask. We are also working on a tie as well and it’s gonna be a whole new tie design. I’m quite obsessed with ties.
One last question. Will the mask be available to the public?
Not anytime soon, it’s too personal. It seems like an identity but we could do something together in the future in terms of a product. I am very product focused and there’s a geeky beauty in the fact that we both appreciate the devil’s in the details.
One last question for real this time. How do you pronounce your name?
Flying Lotus portraits and live photography by Neil Bedford
Product photography by Karl Axon