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Check out all of the posts in the category ‘Interviews’ below. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, try searching by using the box on the right hand side of this page.

A Chat with Horace Panter

Horace Panter was studying for a degree in Fine Art when he and some friends formed a little band called The Specials. Several albums, tours and trips around the world later, art is back in the frame for the musician and painter who has used these opportunities as inspiration for his work. We caught up with Horace to chat influences, icons and what's up next.

Horace Panter at work in his studio

Fred Perry: Hi Horace, talk us through your most recent work:

Horace Panter: I’m currently working with a screen printer in Birmingham. After having read a book on Warhol, I liked the way he used a process that removes the artist, while at the same time using the process to make the work very personal. Also, I like the idea of fake, so I want to do a fake Warhol. I’m also looking at the idea of mixed media, collage and the like. I’ve recently met up with a Scottish artist, Colin Brown, who does some cool collages; I saw his work in a gallery in St Andrews and they reminded me of some of my ʻChicago Bluesʼ pieces so I bought one. I’m always referring back to the work of Joseph Cornell because he is an important influence. In terms of painting, I’m doing some faux-religious stuff. I’m fascinated with the symbolism of all those Fra Angelica Giotto, early Renaissance painters- I’m convinced I’ll end up painting real icons!

'Hound Dog Taylor' by Horace Panter

FP: You were studying art when you first formed The Specials - do you think your art and music inspire one another, or are they very separate disciplines?

HP: They are separate disciplines. As a musician (I’m a bass guitarist) I’m dependent on drummers, singers, guitarists, etc., and I’m a very good team player. This is very different to painting, which I view as my ʻsolo careerʼ. Where the two disciplines converge is in the marketing. I’ve used a music-business model to get the work seen; my wife is my Malcolm McClaren!

FP: Is there any particular music you listen to whilst you work?

HP: When I’m doing my Blues paintings, I listen to Blues! I have difficulty with multi-tasking; I could never do my school homework with the TV on. I generally work in silence – total concentration.

FP: Are there any particular visual artists who have inspired you, or whose style is evident in your work?

HP: I’m like a chameleon…or the Borg! I assimilate a lot of stuff I see: Henri Rousseau, Peter Blake, Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Indiano, Kenneth Noland, Mark Rothko, Ed Rusha, and traditional iconography. I have some cool books on Australian Aborigine Art and I was really impressed with what I saw in Beijing a couple of years ago. I suppose Pop Art is my biggest influence, but I’ve started looking a lot at American 19th century Realists. I think The Borg is the best description of my influences and tastes!

'Scarecrow' by Horace Panter

FP: Several of your paintings feature other noted musicians - do you see art as a means of paying homage to your heroes? Is there a reason behind these pieces?

HP: I love The Blues and I have always wanted to describe the music visually, not just paint a picture of Muddy Waters, but try to describe the music itself. The Blues wasn’t tidy, wasn’t polite, neat. It was visceral, brash, came from the heart, rather than the head. I’ve tried to put that over in the work. And yes, absolutely, these paintings are a homage to my favourite Blues practitioners!

In another galaxy altogether, I saw an exhibition of Stanley Spencerʼs ʻGarden Paintingsʼ that I thought were beautiful, so I painted a picture of a scarecrow in a kitchen garden with him in mind - trying to ‘channel his spirit’ I suppose. One of my favourite Wayne Thiebaud paintings is of a pair of shoes and I’ve just gone out and bought myself a new pair of Doc Marten brogues that are currently sitting atop a desk in my painting studio!

FP: Do you have a favourite piece, or a project you are particular proud of?

HP: The ʻFruit Girlʼ paintings probably, although ʻPunk Rock Girlʼ and ʻBeijing Street Sweeperʼ both have something special about them. Of the Blues paintings, ʻHound Dog Taylorʼ and ʻStevie Ray Vaughanʼ are my favourites, although ʻBo Diddleyʼ and ʻMuddy Watersʼ seem to be the most popular. If there is a painting I’m NOT proud of, you don’t get to see it!

'Muddy Waters' by Horace Panter

FP: Youʼve been in several successful musical groups, but your painting is a solitary project. In your mind, what are the pros and cons of creating individually and as part of a group?

HP: As I said earlier, being in a band involves tight team work and working for the benefit of the group as a whole. Painting, as you remark, is a solitary occupation ... all the decisions, successes and failures, are my own! I enjoy my own company so I have no problem with immersing myself for hours on end in the process of realising an idea on paper. The studio is probably my favourite place. Having said that, I can’t deny that being on a stage playing bass guitar is close to heavenly!

FP: Finally, what’s coming up next for you - more music, or more art?

HP: The Specials are about to announce plans for 2013, which I’m really looking forward to. Regarding the art, 2012 has been a very positive year and has put me in a good position for 2013. My work is represented by several galleries in the UK and even one in Singapore: White Room Art, Leamington Spa and Bath; Number Nine Gallery, Birmingham; Contemporary Six, Manchester; Metropolis Art, Bournemouth; 1 Love Art, Bristol; The Artists Gallery, Aberdeen; Icon Gallery, Singapore. So, in answer to your question...both!

To see more of Horace's artwork and for information on past and future exhibitions, visit his official website.

A Chat with Gran Sport Scooters

Based in Birmingham, Gran Sport Scooters started life in 1995, founded by the combined knowledge of a rich wealth of passionate individuals and talented mechanics from the midlands and beyond. We met with current team member and talented mechanic Danny Turner to discuss the history of the business, the scooter scene today and a very special restoration project.

Danny Gran Sport Colour

I was 10 in 1982 when my skinhead uncle came home with a Betamax copy of Quadrophenia, it blew me away - that was it really - within a week I had a parka, a white Fred Perry and a pair of brown desert boots, job done! When the clock struck midnight on my 16th birthday I got on my Vespa to take it for its 1st ride out, mum and dad were outside to wave me off and then I heard this rumble of scooters coming down my street and I was greeted by 15 other Mods on scooters. Dezl (Derek Askill) had secretly organised his mates to surprise me and take me on my own first ride out and that was the best ride out I've ever had; amazing feeling, I had waited 6 years for that day. I was a tad emotional. Most of the ride outs in the 80s early 90s were my favourite times as well there would be some times between 20 to 40 scooters all going to the Isle of Wight, Hastings, Great Yarmouth, Scarborough, Blackpool etc. The Tony Class CCI rallies were the rallies to do back then, these were all long journeys when riding a 60s scooter that didn't do more than 55 miles an hour - but looking good was most important.

The Modernist and Scooter scene at the moment has a healthy and dedicated following, and is now starting to draw in the younger generation; which can only be a good thing, as new blood to the scene means that this passion for all things Mod and scooterist will go on for years to come. There is still a strong movement of diehard Mods, I know this being one myself, but in general the whole scooterist scene has a blend of everything in the mix these days, if you ever go to a scooter rally there is a whole cross section of fashions there.

Interior Gran Sport 1

Many of our customers use their 60s scooters for work and play, and most of them can use a spanner and don't mind keeping them up to scratch if they break down. A lot of our friends and customers have two scooters or more, usually a classic Vespa or Lambretta and then they have the good old classic PX/T5 as these are tried and tested reliable scooters for everyday use. The most popular Lambretta models are the TV 200, SX 200, GP 200 and TV 2 and 1 being as popular as ever but almost any unrestored Lambretta's in original paint are becoming increasingly desirable. The Vespa models that we are most often asked for are SS180, GS160, SS90 and GS150 - all of these models are very sought after and are at the top of everyone's wish list at the moment. Original 60s accessories, rare or otherwise, seem to be the most popular way of adding that 'individual' element to their pride and joy at the moment, I know of lots of people who have paid hundreds of pounds for one little item just so they can have that finishing touch to the their scooter. Vigano and Ulma accessories being most sought after.All our restorations are memorable because each customer wants something a little different (and better than the one before), it's a bit like the mod ethos of wanting to be an individual I suppose.

We pride ourselves on being precise and trying to be a little more patient with the scooters we build, it takes a long time to build a restoration as some of our customers will happily tell you, but it's the finished item that counts, we use as many original parts as possible and only use the best remade parts available (Casa Lambretta being the best) after all, you are advertising your restoration and word of mouth on the streets is a great tool to have on your side! At some point in the 80s everyone who worked at Gran Sport has been a Mod at one point so yes we are all into the scene, some in a small way and some still in a big way giving us the ability to advise our customers from personal experience. Many of the original members of the Gran Sports team have gone on to specialise and continue to be major players in the classic scooter business. Derek Askill is a legend on the Mod scene and the major contributor to our reputation for the highest quality restorations and iconic Gran Sport specials. Other original members include Jason White, ex of Classically Italian, Nathan Warriner, ex of Rimini Lambretta. Not forgetting the long standing and current line-up: Jason White, Jon Sillitoe, Ashley Phipps, Danny Turner (myself) and Gary who juggles the numbers.

Gran Sport Interior 2

Quite a few costumers let us have a free rein on their restoration, as they want a bit of a Gran Sport touch and want to make sure they're not making the wrong suggestions. We always question SOME of their ideas if we think that something wouldn't look right and try and give them our honest opinion. Nine times out of ten they go with what we think is best - and this seems to work! As a company, we have sponsored many events including and a variety of local scooter club do's, the most recent being for a Mod friend of ours who lives in Vietnam that contracted a paralysing illness. A friend and I organised a fund raising night for him and raised over £3,000 to help with his medical bills, this was helped by friends, many customer donations and from friends and Gran Sport itself.

There's a big Mod movement in Tokyo and we have sent many scooters over there, and we have also sent restored scooters to Spain, America and Australia. We've supplied scooters to a few famous faces; top Mod Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene has purchased many Lambrettas from us (Lambretta series 2, LD, Special, TV175 and a PX 200) so has Simon (Lambretta Silver Special) and Damien (Vespa PX 200). We supplied two Lambrettas for a Paul Weller competition, one was done with the Wild Wood theme and one with the Stanley Road theme, and we've also hired scooters out to Goodwood Revival and even some film and advertising work, including a few music videos from Ocean Colour Scene to UB40. Over the years we have had the likes of Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream and Mani from the Stone Roses pop in, who are both big fans of the scooter world.

Gran Sport Bumper 

The 'lights and mirrors' scooter fashion for Mods came about by the late 50s early 60s by scooter enthusiasts of the day. There would be meetings and scooter rallies held for an older and younger generation of scooter owners, that would enter their scooters into custom shows and put accessories on them to make them more interesting and to individualize their model. When the Mods then started to appear on the streets, a lot of them were purchasing second hand Lambretta's and Vespa's with all these little shiny accessories on, and so to make them their own they then added to them again by borrowing spot lights off cars and the odd mirror, then I guess it escalated from there with other things they could lay their hands on!

Chrome By Colin

The inspiration for my own lights and mirrors Lambretta was the front cover of the book  Mods! by Richard Barnes. I was also influenced by two local Birmingham Mods, Philip Ford and Colin Bunn. They had scooters to die for being a young Mod - they were covered in lights mirrors and chrome accessories and I wanted to beat them and wanted a more 60's feel to mine but still over the top. I still own the Lambretta but I have de-modded it, as I think the Mod movement is a youth movement and as time goes on I feel you have to tame it down a bit if you're going to carry on with the style, I feel this also goes with Mod clothes element too, you can spot an old Mod miles away, they have still got that cool style but less over the top should I say!

Sx200 1

The SX200 is a classic model with fine slim line detail, this is the model to have if you want a Lambretta, they are extremely sought after and will not or should not come cheap, (unless you find one in a old fella's back garden) as some of us have been lucky enough to do in the past! When purchasing a Lambretta SX or any classic scooter it's good to have as much history for the scooter as possible, do your homework, there is a huge amount of info on the LCGB website and if you're not sure consult your local, or a reputable scooter shop they will be happy to advise.

Gran Sport Scooters are currently restoring the SX200 shown above to a custom spec chosen by Bradley Wiggins. Over the next few months, we'll be showing the scooter in its various stages of refurbishment before it's presented to Bradley on completion. Stay tuned for further updates.

When You Hear the Music, Trouble Disappear

Justin Thomas has spent the last 35 years working as a music photographer, documenting some of the industry's finest and most influential artists through his intimate behind the scenes portraits and captured moments of on-stage theatrics. This Friday sees the opening of When You Hear the Music, Trouble Disappear, an exclusive solo exhibition held at West London's Graffik Gallery that highlights some of the photographer's most iconic images. We caught up with Justin ahead of the show's opening to talk about his methods, most memorable images and the shots that got away...

What draws you to photographing musicians?

I’m drawn to bands who move. I’m looking for that moment when Bob Marley flicks his head back and all his locks flail out like tendrils, when the stooping KEEF brings down his arm or Wilko Johnson does the splits in mid-air with his Strat pointing straight out like a machine gun.

Bob Marley Justin Thomas

Bob Marley at the Crystal Palace Bowl, June 7th, 1980

It's a challenge, and when all the elements that make a good photo come together at the same time, composition, exposure and capturing THE moment, it’s extremely satisfying, especially if you have captured it exclusively - a unique image, yours. There's a lot of luck involved in 'live' photography, 9 times out of ten you'll misfire, but digital cameras give you the freedom to shoot at will, which was a luxury I never had when I was starting out - I didn't even have a motordrive. I think that enhanced my sense of anticipation. Photographing musicians, is, like most other forms of photography, about pushing your finger down a fraction of a second before you think 'it' is going to happen. It’s about anticipation...if you've seen the picture already, you've missed it.

Is there one shot that has particular meaning to you, or you would describe as your best work?

I particularly like the Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross frame. I had been very moved when Stevie came back for the 2nd part of his 3 hour Wembley show after the interval.

He was led to the lip of the stage, and then left on his own. He was using his feet to balance, half on, half off the stage, while he rocked his body to the sound of his harmonica. There were moments when he was so involved in his music that his upper body was almost parallel to the stage, so much so that I thought he might fall on my head. It was very endearing watching him, knowing that he might fall 12 feet down. He looked very vulnerable in his ecstasy.

Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder at Wembley Stadium. By Justin Thomas.

Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye & Stevie Wonder at Wembley Stadium, 7th September 1980

On the final encore he brought on Marvin and Diana, and it brought tears of joy to my eyes. Motown, was, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest label of all time-joy unlimited, and here were the Kings and Queen. The only thing that might have topped it would’ve been if Aretha had popped up on harmonies. I love the composition and Marvin in the middle, pin sharp; smiling sweetly...can I get a witness?!

Has there ever been a moment where you’ve missed what could have been an iconic shot?

It was about 1978 and I’d been in North London to shoot George Thorogood and the Destroyers and they’d put on such a blinding show that I used up all my film.

It was a bad mistake.

Me and my mate decided to go down the Music Machine to catch the end of Link Wray and Robert Gordon's set - two fabulous gigs in one night! At the end, my mate went backstage to shake their hands, but took ages. I went to see what was keeping him and the first person I bumped into was Sid Vicious. I couldn’t believe I had no film left, at which point my mate elbows me in the ribs and goes, ‘It gets worse, look who’s just walked in behind you’ – and when I turned around there was Bob Dylan himself! The king of punk and America’s greatest singer-songwriter together in this tiny little room in Camden Town – can you imagine how many copies of that shot I could’ve sold? One good thing did come out of it though, and that was noticing just how small Dylan actually is. I mean, this bloke is a hero of mine, always has been, but he’s just a little fella. That moment really helped me with my approach to the job after that because I realised that no matter how big the stars look on screen or on stage, they’re just flesh and blood...'just like everybody else'

The Jam at Townhouse Studio, Shepherds Bush, 1979. By Justin Thomas.

The Jam at Towhouse Studio, Shepherds Bush, 1979

What’s the most difficult factor when photographing live music?

There are loads of difficult factors involved in shooting live photography - having flagons of piss thrown at you by bored audience members at heavy metal concerts like Castle Donnington spring to mind. I was the house photographer at Brixton Academy for 10 years, and it would not be uncommon to have a full pint of beer come flying over into the photo pit and exploding all over your camera; at other times it might be somebody's foot kicking into your head on the way back into the mosh pit.

When I started out doing punk bands, I’d run my hand through my hair on leaving the venue and it would be coated in spit.

The Specials at The Hope and Anchor, Islington, 1979

The Specials at The Hope & Anchor, Islington, 1979

Is there one musician you haven’t shot, who you’d like to?

There are many artists I wished I’d photographed, but THE one, was the greatest performer and guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix. I wanted to go to The Isle of Wight festival when I was 14, but my mum wouldn't let me. No-one has or ever will come near. I went to see Jeff Buckley as a punter once at The Astoria and was completely blown away by the way he turned the place into a church...a very spiritual occasion...but in a way I’m glad I didn't take pictures 'cos I appreciated his performance so much more. When you are taking photos you don't notice the performance so much 'cos you are concentrating on getting 'THE' shot.

'When You Hear the Music,Trouble Disappear' is open 20th July - 18th August 2012 at Graffik Gallery, 284 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TE

All images courtesy of Justin Thomas/Graffik Gallery.