Well it’s not often that we find ourselves at a loss for words here at LSD, but having read the interview that Elate - Jon Hammer sent back to us, apart from getting straight on the blower and asking him to write for LSD, we gorged ourselves on the stunning intellectual breadth, conceptual range and lyrical wonder of his sparkling mind. Tracing a primal path between the organic and the magical, his canvasses plunge us into the fault lines between the utopian and the dystopian and hurl us out into a molten core of shimmering imagination where genesis and apocalypse close the circle of archetypal consciousness. A pure old school graffiti writer, Elate has lived witness to the artistic evolution of daubing punk slogans in ’82 to the renegade rush of bombing trains, then the explosive colour and sizzling letters of the street into the concept projects of breathtaking pieces of collaborative creativity like Mutate Britain and Arcadia. Instinctively poetic, searingly perceptive, profoundly positive and inspirationally open hearted, his art and his words hold an enchanted mirror to the ebbs and flows of decades of underground subculture and beyond into the bewitching landscapes of the collective consciousness and the ideas, emotions, complexities, corruption and towering innocence that defines the hidden Hades of the soul and the trickling mysteries of the unchained mind. Seriously though - just fucking read this. - his first ever interview
Can you tell us a little about your early life and your initial drive into art?
I was born in 1970, on the enchanted day of the enchanted month, according to the ‘Old Religion’, or so I’m told. I’ve always been captivated by colour, patterns, reflections and how things are affected by light and shade. My earliest memory is lying in my cot, rubbing my eyes to marvel at the crazy patterns which I could generate. When I got my own room I stared at the artexed ceiling above my bed to make vividly animated landscapes and characters, which kept me awestruck, as did my kaleidoscope, much as kids these days play video games. As I grew a little older I was similarly transported by viewing slides through our antique microscope. I could already read and write when I started school so I drew, in full perspective, in an attempt to ease the boredom and was brutally attacked by a teacher for my efforts. At this point I first realised that making art would not necessarily be easy. I came from a poor but cultured family, our working class background was lit up with amazing colour prints and books on art and music everywhere. We only had a black and white TV but Heironymous Bosch’s visions hung in almost every room which I lost myself in continually. There was always a fresh supply of paper and art materials to hand. My aunt was an amateur archaeologist, armchair historian and expert on the classics, and took me round museums, castles and churches regularly from the age of three. I loved the sacred architecture, staring at stained glass and into the cabinets. She told me what the things were and where they came from, how they were made and how they found their way to the museum and this fired my enthusiasm for art and history.
How did early experiences of sub culture and counter culture impact themselves on your developing identity?
In the early 70s the consciousness revolution that happened in the 60s, had spread from the hippy underground into broader society. My parents were clearly affected by that ethic and the self sufficiency and whole-food thing, there would always seem to be Bob Dylan and blues playing, vegetables growing, joss sticks burning and yoga going on. I remember hearing Dylan and blues songs as a very young child and making visual narratives in my head so I guess that stretched my imagination quite a lot.
We lived in Norfolk back then. A lot of the people who were involved in the London hippy scene in the 60s moved out to the West Country and East Anglia to pursue dreams of pastoral living and put on festivals. One I remember very well was Barsham Faire in ‘74 and ‘75; a medieval folk festival with entertainers, and puppeteers, horses and dogs everywhere. I remember seeing adults, playing totally innocently just like us kids, banging drums and playing flutes and singing and dancing and basking in the sun in wonderful costumes, it was like being transported into a golden age, very beautiful times. I felt at home instantly and understood what was going on. It gave me the idea that there was another way of living, a higher human purpose of imagination and fulfillment that was beyond the everyday capitalist conformity of living in a house and going to work or school.
Back in the real world I got more disillusioned with the iron fist of my teachers and became more aware of the rapid outbreak of punk from the ‘shock-horror stories’ on the news and from playground rumours. After feeling completely powerless at the hands of authority it was as if aliens had suddenly landed in our midst, and they were on our side. The significance of their presence in society was something we instantly understood, and as we got older and became brave enough to stand up to the teachers we found that punk was there for us too, it became a symbol that there really was another way of living that us kids could actually do ourselves, whether our parents liked it or not. Back then punk really adversely affected them, threatening the whole fabric of society. When we saw the punks walking down the street the adults’ powerless anger and outrage made us warm towards that and copy parts of it so that you could cause a little bit of that outrage too, it was a way to take back power, of standing up for yourself and saying no, fuck you I’m different, even if it was just a badge or a safety pin, or the name of a band on your schoolbag it showed your mindset and loyalty and really pissed authority figures off. It’s difficult to comprehend now just how shockingly different punk was, people were reacting like it was the end of society as we know it, punks were regarded with the sort of fear and loathing normally reserved for killers, as in effect they were, they were killing the broader conventions of polite society, behind which lurked all the bullshit.
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE IN ISSUE 6