Photography by Mark Lloyd

Pop_up interview: Phil Rees of Deface

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Photography by Mark Lloyd

Pop_up is an experiment in building a community around creative practice and social media, and doing it on no budget, which meets each month at the Barrel House Totnes. We caught up with regular attendee Phil Rees of Deface

1. What’s your background and what do you do?
While studying Graphic Design at UWE Bristol in the mid 90s, I started my fledgling design company. Cutting my teeth and developing a bold graphic style by creating the artwork for hundreds of club flyers within Bristol’s diverse music scene. Before finishing the second year at university, I’d already designed many record sleeves for Bristol’s famed Cup of Tea Records. I later became the labels in house designer and invited to art direct Bristol’s Knowledge Mag the world’s leading Drum and Bass magazine.

As well as setting up my own design company specialising in creative work and the music industry, I was a founder member of the underground Bristol Hip-Hop movement known as the Fantastic Super Heroes (FSH) (later forming a successful Hip-Hop band called The Aspects). The FSH united likeminded individuals from DJs, producers, emcees, breakdancers but more notedly graffiti artists from across the region. During this time I collaborated successfully on artwork with much of Bristol’s then fledgling street art community, including Will Barras, Mr Jago, Banksy, Paris, Dicy, Feek, Nick Walker, Xenz and China Mike to name a few.

2. How important is it to build a creative community, and do events like Pop_up help?
It’s hugely important to build a creative community, even more so here in Devon since there are so many talented creative people hidden away all over the region. The possibilities for creative collaboration multiple when so many talented individuals get together and get talking. In a large city with established institutions with international events as a regular occurrence, it’s far easier for creative groups to spring up on their own. Pop_up uses social media (such as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr) to effectively to bring together so many like minded creative individuals.

3. You’re working on a new collaboration with James Englwell, who you met at Pop_up. How difficult is it to meet potential collaborators?
At the moment, James (from Breadcrumb Media) and I are only at the discussion stage (early days). Perhaps it will lead James pushing me to move my still photography into moving image and future pop video work. I certainly feel inspired by the prospect of collaborating with other people in different fields of creative expertise.

I don’t think its difficult to find potential collaborators once so many creative people have been brought together. However, like any relationship, collaborating with someone still require some magical ingredient to make it work – every relationship is different.

4. How has your practice developed, creatively and as a means to earn a crust?
I didn’t start doing what I do to make money. I started designing and taking photographs because I love it. Someone once told me that if you do something passionately, you’ll earn more than just a living through it.

5. The economy is full of doom and gloom – how does it look for the creative industry?
It really is tough times out there right now and nobody is completely immune to what’s happening. The music industry in particular has recently been taking some huge cut backs, namely the demise of so many independent record labels. The ones who have survived are adapting, seeing vinyl record sleeves and even CDs as a thing of the past. I’m seeing the creative canvases of the past turning digital. This in itself is opening even more creative possibilities than before – exciting times ahead.

• Check out some of Phil’s latest work on his Deface Flickr stream

(image: Phil Rees’s yacht artwork has been nominated for the Graphics category at the Media and Innovation Awards 2011. Photograph by Mark Lloyd)



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