Nauga: I am feeling very cheesy today! Multi-talented Bijou, who created the new Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown mix and video, is flying in for a chat over a large plate of fromage today. The Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video features me of course, in my multiple shape-shifting forms, and is just one of many Gentle projects Bijou has worked on including a variety of cover art and even a forthcoming documentary.
Today, Bijou is taking time out of his busy schedule to float among the bubbles with me here on planet Naugalyne. It’s time to find out more about Bijou’s many artistic talents. Let’s meet the star of today’s interview, Bijou Clochard.
Nauga: Welcome to Naugalyne, Bijou! I know you like to travel and it’s great you could visit my home planet and sample some cheese with me.
BC: Thank you for having me Nauga. I tend to prefer the exotic and far-flung when traveling, but this is ridiculous! Naugalyne is stunning, and your outstretched arms certainly have the most welcoming of effects.
Nauga: My fellow Naugae are delighted you have shown our shape-shifting ability in combination with our other favourite delight, cheese! We thought it would be great to find out more about you as you seem to understand Naugae very well.
BC: Thank you Nauga. I hope I do not make you blush by revealing that you’ve been an inspiration for some time!
Nauga: I understand how I could be such an inspiration so please don’t be concerned about my blush response which by the way takes the form of the scent of cheese (smiles). So, tell me about this inspiration.
BC: Thanks to a swirling cacophony of influences during my childhood, I have always been interested in creating art. Originally, that took the form of doodling my own cartoon characters or visualizing theatrical performances that starred costumed action figures under the proscenium arch of my childhood desk.
Later, at the age of 11, I started heavily collecting 12″ vinyl singles and the proper paraphernalia required for DJing/ mixing music. These were the days of ’80s dance/ soul/ freestyle and acid house, of which I am still a fan. I soon started putting together mixtapes, leading to my own remixes of songs – I have not stopped since. Music is such an important tool for me and it informs so much of my other work.
Nauga: This other work includes painting I understand. Have you been painting long? Also, do you paint cheese? Or Naugae?
BC: Although I had always dabbled here and there, I started taking it a bit more seriously while in college for a film production degree. Focusing on surrealist portraiture with a graffiti edge, my influences were that of Frida Kahlo, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tamara de Lempicka. After exhibiting work in galleries in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, a few of my pieces even turned up in Pop Art book releases. More recently, I have been involved in photography projects as well. And yet, along the way, I have always been writing – short stories, screenplays and even a novel.
I particularly enjoy when various aspects of my work converge, as with the Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video. It was really fun to be able to create the remix, generate a ton of graphic design and then edit the images into one final piece!
Nauga: Yes, so let’s talk a little more about the Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown mix and video you created. What was the inspiration behind this work apart from my good self and the deliciousness of cheese?
BC: Well, ever since I saw The Gentle People perform Cheese Freak many years ago in Moscow, I had always rooted for the song to be released in some form. Earlier this year, I was working on a more up-tempo, electronic remix of the song and in the midst, I happened to get tickets to the game show “The Price Is Right.” To gear up for the taping, I listened to some of the fantastic incidental music cues that composer Edd Kalehoff created for the show back in the 1970s. When his track “Dig We Must” came on, I immediate starting singing Cheese Freak over the top, no doubt since the lyrics had already been so much on my mind. The resulting “mash-up” was a very quick process. The entire mix was finished in a day or so, with some additional tweaks made later.
As for the video, I was really looking for a way to get my digital editing feet wet again since I am to deliver an as-yet-untitled Gentle People documentary by the end of the year. I was having difficulty sleeping one night and it was then that the idea for the video came to me: a simple white background with various fonts and Pop Art-inspired graphics that mirror the words of the rap, almost like a children’s TV program but groovier, and minus the bouncing red ball that follows the lyrics at the bottom!
Originally, I had made a challenge to myself to complete the video in under four hours, but once I sat down and counted how many times words and phrases like “Camembert” and “Cheese Freak” were spoken, I realized it was going to be a bit more involved. The trick was to sustain interest during the entirety of the video, making certain that the different slides retained the same visual weight throughout. Simple changes of font and color were just not going to cut it. To bring it to the next level, I thought it might be fun to play around with the logos of many famous cheese-related brands from around the world. In the end, I think the new direction faithfully brought things full-circle, back to the consumer-savvy “Price Is Right” game show that inspired the mix.
It certainly was not an easy task to redesign so many iconic logos, especially since few of their fonts were readily available. With many of the slides I had to simply re-create the font myself, letter-by-letter. I think my diligence paid off however in some pretty neat results, and that is ultimately what kept me moving toward completion.
Nauga: Mmm I am thinking of all those cheese types and it’s making my mouth water. How many cheese logos are in the video?
BC: I think there are 117 different slides of graphic design in the final piece, though I created over 260, many of which were ultimately revised or tossed in the cosmic dustbin. In fact, the original ending depicted you and your fellow Naugae flying through a large piece of Swiss cheese in space!
Nauga: I was wondering when you were going to get round to my involvement!!
BC: Oh yes, Nauga, how could I forget your appearance? Aside from all the logo fun, I also wanted to pay homage to The Gentle People. It was really fun to include “gentleness” into many of the slides, and as always Nauga, you were a thrill to work with, the consummate professional… no matter how naughty!! (Nauga giggles)
Nauga: Thank you. I was wondering about the Naugalyne mouth at the end of the video with the delicious large cheese, however. It’s most odd!
Nauga: Ah yes, the lovely Norn. But back to you. I know you’ve worked with The Gentle People a lot over the years, and of course you have featured me on much of your work. How did you initially get involved?
BC: I think the first artwork I did for the Gentle People was for the iTunes release Galactic Confections. That started off a chain of different pieces for albums, compilations and EPs. It is always fun to play inside Gentle World with its array of zany colors, textures and bubbles!
Nauga: Indeed it is. My favourite cover artwork by you is Boy in the Window where I am in my contemporary living space. Which is your favourite?
BC: I really like Boy in the Window too! There were originally three different versions – one with a groovy spy boy hanging out in a window, another with a gentleman that had only a Naugalyne head, and the final version that featured only you! I think it is definitely the most well-balanced of the three!
My favorite piece though has to be the work I did for the double-sided single Plastic City / Naughty Nauga, particularly since it was made into a 7″ record in Spain! No offense, but it was fun to introduce a new character in the mass-produced plastic baby that features on front. Of course, the swirl of Naugae on the back and on the label was really fun to imagine as well. I really liked the idea of taking Gentle People artwork in a completely different direction since much of the earlier stuff was laid against highly saturated pastels. It was a challenge for me to feature a completely black background that still read as part of the Gentle World.
Nauga: A change indeed. So, other than Naugae, what influences your work?
BC: When designing cover artwork for a musical venture, you definitely want to think of the content that it is portraying. Usually though, I like to take that concept and then turn it 90 degrees or so to put it in a new, less literal context. A good example would be the What Do You Know? EP. That’s the one where I placed you as a contestant on the “What Do You Know?” game show, a concept which, although still groovy, had nothing to do with the actual lyrics.
Nauga: You are a master of juxtaposition! So, looking at some of your other work, you’ve had a variety of art exhibitions, have produced a multimedia photographic series and I understand you are currently working on a Science Fiction soap opera novel. This I know will be particularly of interest to Honeymink who is a big SF fan. Have you been taking cloning lessons from Kaoru?
BC: Guilty – as charged. I think what keeps me going, chipping away at the many projects I have going on, is planting a seed and watching it grow. It may sound simplistic, but I really enjoy the creative process and learning how others take that same journey. I have a ridiculous spreadsheet and calender that keeps me on schedule, writing a certain amount of chapters each month, or completing a series of photos and/ or drawings during a certain time period. It may sound a bit unorganic, but ultimately, it’s very Capricorn!
Nauga: Capricious too no doubt (smiles). Naugae just love to travel through galaxies – they are so full of wonders. The Naugae and I were therefore very interested in your new book, Stars of the Desert. How did this come about, and have you any plans for a book about Naugae?
BC: Stars of the Desert is my first travel photo book. It follows my partner Doug and I on a voyage across Southern Tunisia to locate the last remaining “Tatooine” sets from the Star Wars saga. The book features 68 pages of images and text that detail the adventure. We just released it in August in conjunction with our Set of Drifters travel blog and I am very proud of the way it turned out. Even if you are not a fan of Star Wars per se, I think the subject matter can relate to anyone who is interested in travel and/ or archaeology.
And as far as a Nauga book is concerned… After seeing how easily it was to transform you into a slice of Brie, just think what we could do with some gelatin cubes, a glockenspiel and a basket of ostrich plumes! The possibilities are endless!
Nauga: Oh yes! I can’t wait! Recently I have been really enjoying conversing with friends old and new who have been involved with Gentleworld. I have a entire series of items planned for the entertainment of the wider Gentle family. What do your plans include?
BC: “Past Lives“, a multimedia photo series that tells a number of pre- and post- histories via “Past Life Regression” hypnotherapy is nearing completion. I hope to have the project in a gallery later this year or the beginning of next. I am also working hard on the aforementioned “Sci-Fi soap opera,” a story told over three books, the first of which should be out late next year. And then there is the Gentle People documentary. I must tell you Nauga, there is a great scene of you traipsing down the lane in Brighton on Christmas Day! I think it will bring a lot of laughs from the audience! You always know how to steal the scene!
After that, I am going to come back to Naugalyne for a well-deserved looooong vacation. I hope you’ll have me!
Nauga: Of course, as part of the Gentle family, I consider you an honorary Nauga so you are very welcome. It’s been a real groove eating cheese and chatting with you today. Do you have a message for the Gentle friends, fans and family?
BC: I do! Please remember, Gentle friends, that we are all here to share love and experience life to its fullest. This means that even if you may be lactose-intolerant, it’s important to indulge in cheese from time to time!
Nauga: Thank you so much for visiting today. May your travels be fun-filled and fabulous. And can you just tell me, Hawaiian or Space?
BC: Nauga, you’ve saved the toughest question for the end! More often than not, it’s space, though anyone will tell you that I am a sucker for tropical landscapes as well. Can we call a truce on “tiki rockets?”
Nauga: A fine idea! A très bientôt, Bijou!