Nauga in conversation with Bijou Clochard – multimedia artist and writer

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.

Bijou Clochard May 2011

Bijou Clochard

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?

"The Pyeceean," acrylic on canvas, visit www.vivabrady.com for more information

The Pyeceean (acrylic on canvas)

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?

Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video cheese logos

He went to Edam, to Cheshire, Cheddar too, Pont l'Eveque and Port Salut

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?

A selection of cheese logos from the Cheese Freak Velveeta Pricedown video

A selection of cheese logos created for the video, some of which didn't make the final cut

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)

Laurie Lemans by Norn Cutson

Laurie by Norn

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!

BC:  That is Laurie Lemans chomping away at the cheese!  The caricature was rendered by the very talented Norn Cutson in New York.  You can view more his work here.

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?

Four of Bijou's designs for various Gentle People releases

Gratifiyingly, Naugae appear on three of four Bijou cover designs for The Gentle People

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!

Cover artwork for Boy in the Window

I am the Boy in the Window...

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.

Plastic City single release cover artwork

Plastic City single release cover artwork

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?

Book cover for Stars of the Desert - a journey across the dunes of Tunisia to discover lost "Tatooine," the new travel photo book by Brady Walters, as part of the www.setofdrifters.com

The cover of Bijou's book: Stars of the Desert

BCStars 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?

Photograph from "Past Lives" multimedia project due out 2012

Bijou and Binnorie photograhed in "Past Lives" multimedia project due out 2012

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!

Bijou sips a cocktail in a tropical island paradise

Bijou sips a cocktail in a tropical island paradise

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!

Nauga in conversation with Kaoru Sato (aka Miss K) – musician, artist, and writer

I am feeling very artisitc today! The lovely new Nauga News area of Gentleworld.com inspired me to redecorate my living quarters at my home-planet. So I thought I must fly here today to speak to the creator of Gentleworld.com, and all-round creative, Kaoru Sato.

Let’s get lounging and our creative juices flowing with a few words about Kaoru. In between his own albums, Kaoru came up with the look and feel not only for the current Gentle People site and my very own Nauga News, but also, the original site and some Gentle People music artwork.

By the way, if you haven’t seen me on Simply Faboo or any of The Gentle People cover artwork, you can see some of it on iTunes

Now let’s meet the star of today’s interview.


Two sides of Kaoru

Kaoru / Miss K - double trouble

Nauga: Hello Kaoru and welcome to my Nauga home from home here on earth, my lounge of love!

KS: Hello. It’s wonderful to be back. Have you decorated since I was last here?

Nauga: Indeed! The new look Gentleworld.com is a fabulous creation. The Naugae of my home planet are particularly pleased to see me promoted to the home page and to get my own news area. They are also very interested to find out more about you as a musician, writer and artist.

KS: I’m glad I’m helping spread the Nauga message! If your kind can spread your message of love through your appearance on the pages I’ve designed then I am, of course, more than happy.

Now then, about me. Well, how long do you have? I could quite literally go on for hours on the subject as it is one that’s close to my heart.

I’ve always been, shall we say, undecided about where I stand – am I a musician, a designer, a writer, an artist, male, female, British, Japanese? I’d say that 99% of my work comes from those conflicts. I design websites like a programmer. I make music like an artist. I’m a man who dresses like a woman. It’s not that I’m trying to work stuff out. I enjoy sitting in the tramlines as you never know which track you’ll jump onto next.

My day job is as a designer or as a digital creative and I think I’m pretty good at that, but I’d say that my main passion is music. I spend almost all my social time going to see new music – London is a great place to live for that! And ever since my youth I’ve been in a succession of bands, none of which have made much money. But they’ve taken me places and given me experiences that I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world.

Probably the most significant to me are Deathline, my current band and Six Inch Killaz, from the 90s, for entirely different reasons.

Six Inch Killaz

Six Inch Killaz (l-r Luis, Mona, Holly, Jasmine, Miss K)

Six Inch Killaz (tagline: “tranny punks on the verge of rock n roll chaos”) was like a car crash in slow motion. We were constantly tearing ourselves apart, but there was a tremendous sense of excitement about what we were doing.

Deathline (tagline: “rock noir”) is brilliant as I’ve found a musical soul mate, Jennie, with whom we make music that is a synthesis of all the music that we’ve loved in our lives with our own idiosyncracies thrown in. And it’s probably the most financially successful of all the bands I’ve been in which is nice – to be “recognised in the wallet” as it were…

Miss K

Miss K - transgendered z-list sleb

Then there’s the transgender stuff of course. I’ve done a lot of writing on my long-lived blog about my experience of being Miss K, “transgendered z-list sleb”. It’s all out there. I’m most pleased with the creative writing – there’s a cycle of short stories and one webcomic on there that I think are well worth the time to read, dear Nauga.

Nauga: What an array of talent – rather like my good self (smiles) Now, what we really want to know is how you manage to do so many creative things from music, art to writing not only for your own projects but also for others like The Gentle People? Do you have a time machine?

KS: You’re funny, Nauga. Time machines are a causal impossibility! No, I perfected human cloning a few years ago. You see, as well as having several identities, there are also several copies of me scattered around the world amongst whom I distribute certain less edifying tasks like cleaning, accounts, day job etc.

No, actually, as people in the know will tell you, the real secret is that I never sleep. There is a touch of the vampires about me.

Nauga:  Aha! I see. Returning to Gentleworld, apart from featuring me, which was no doubt one of your better decisions, what else influenced your designs for Gentleworld.com?

KS: It came originally from the rich widescreen visuals of JM’s amazing video for H20. That demanded a very visually rich presentation.The Gentle People’s world is pretty colourful and swirly anyway so it suited them to have the website reflect that. Also, the Gentles are also pretty classy at times, when they haven’t got themselves a bit squiffy on fabulous cocktails, and I think I wanted to make it look equally classy (and a bit squiffy).

Nauga: Squiffy? That’s a new word for us Naugae to learn to love (smiles). As you know, I always have to appear wherever The Gentle People go to make sure they are spreading as much love via their music as possible. Apart from my news area, what other things do you think are really important when presenting musicians online? And do you take inspiration from any particular designers or digital manifestos in your online work? 

Warhol - Cheese Soup!

Andy Warhol's penchant for cheese revealed

KS: Obviously you have to make musicians look and sound as good as possible. If I’m anything to go by we are a stupendously vain race of people. This is untrue of the Gentle People of course, who are an unusually wholesome lot and unsullied by vanity. So in their case, I just make sure they are supplied with the aforementioned cocktails and other fabulous baubles. And cheese. Plenty of cheese.

In fact I can’t think of any creative problems that can’t be solved using a particularly whiffy cheese.

I happen to know that my favourite music related designer, Peter Saville, who designed all those iconic Factory Records sleeves, posters and flyers was fond of a Gouda or two. And my biggest influence of all in all ways of life, that incomparable artist Andy Warhol, was often seen with a runny Camembert stashed under one of his many wigs.

This is all true.

Nauga: I am delighted to hear about the Camembert wig but I must say it makes me rather peckish. I am delighted that you found a way to showcase the lyrics to my favourite Gentle People song – Naughty Nauga. What do you like most about the new Gentleworld.com what are you most proud of technically?

KS: Ah, you’re talking about the lines you speak when people hover over your grinning visage on the Gentleworld.com site. Yes, that is a rather nifty feature. I’m actually most pleased with the “Fromage Lounge” section which presents the rather complex Gentle People discography in a pretty easy to navigate fashion. More of a usability feature than a technical one I suppose but then your audience is the most important thing, eh?

Nauga: Very good. I adopted The Gentle People many years ago, they are now actually honorary Naugae. I am really quite fond of them even with their penchant for Primula. How did you come across The Gentle People?

KS: Ah well, that is a long old story… lights pipe and sits back. Swirly time effect…

It started back in the mists of prehistory when normal people didn’t have email addresses or mobile phones (it was about 1995, dear reader). But these were momentous times. I was a first jobbing fledgling web designer, newbie tranny and had just joined Six Inch Killaz – my life was opening up in front of me like a big, messy life shaped thing, with hooped earrings on.

Ahem, anyway, I digress. I believe by this time, that the Gentle entity known as Honeymink Foxmeister had decided that the human race was prepared to take the next step into cyberspace – a realm she had happily been inhabiting since before her arrival on Earth.

What better way of introducing people to the mysteries of the “information superhighway” as the Internet was rather charmingly known back then, than by materialising the Gentle planet into that domain? No better way, it turned out – I mean, look at the Internet now! It all started there.

This is where I came in. I was ushered into the groovy Gentle sanctum to discuss the birth of the very first Gentleworld.com. I was plied with exotic substances in a form very similar to strong beer. It took me to a new plane of consciousness and by the end of the evening, we had not only planned the next 20 years of Gentle web development, *and* become firm friends, but we’d also got quite squiffy in the process. Result!

That’s how it started and we’ve stayed Gentle chums ever since.

Nauga: Yes, Honeymink does have that effect! Music is really important to Naugae as the vibrations of sound waves are an important power source on our home planet. What kind of music do you love and what do you create?

Deathline

Deathline (Kaoru and Jennie)

KS: I like all sorts of music. Pretty eclectic, but of course my favourite kinds of music are of the dark and loud variety. I like nothing better than standing in a darkened cellar with other people dressed in black and having my eardrums pummelled by noise.

Favourites at the moment include Suicide Party from Southampton who are Gothic, Western, Surf, New wave, everything we like, Exit International, a Cardiff based power trio with twin distorted basses – incredible noise, HTRK, who sound like ice melting invisibly in the dark, and Teeth of the Sea, who are hard to describe really. But you should go and see them. Just make sure you wear ear plugs to avoid lasting damage.

The music we make as Deathline sits in among these but we have a more melodic / punky edge amongst the dark noise – probably that came from the fact that we both really like punk and hard rock as well as the dark stuff and there’s a part of us that likes shouting and jumping about as much as nodding silently in the gloom…

Nauga: Eclectic! The Gentle People told me that you have a new album underway. Do you have any songs about Naugae planned? Or is it something less intergalactic in outlook?

Deathline - SixtyNine cover

Deathline - SixtyNine cover

KS: Yes! It’s our second after our debut SixtyNine. We’ve been writing it over the last few months and completed that phase a couple of weeks ago. Now we’re in pre-production before flying out to Los Angeles to start tracking in mid-September with the amazing producer Josiah Mazzaschi at Cave Studio. We quite literally can’t wait and we believe we have a very very strong set of songs under our belt this time.

In terms of subject matter, it’s quite hard to describe it as intergalactic. It’s about Earthly monsters, human and otherwise, if anything. There is one song called Nova, an instrumental, which is about the death of stars exploding in deep space. But I wouldn’t like a nice chap like you to be anywhere near that to be honest…

Nauga:  My naugahyde is strong, so no need to worry on my behalf! I recently went to the moon and had a great time dancing in zero gravity! My next trip is to the ice fields of Titan – the chill-out parties are supposed to be ultra-cool. What are your next plans as an artist, musician and writer?

KS: It would be wonderful to visit the outer planets. They seem like a fascinating if chilly place. We’ll have to settle for the warmth of LA instead! We plan to tour with the new album next year of course. I will keep you posted on that, Nauga – it would be wonderful to have you pop in backstage.

I have some top secret Internetty plans up my sleeve also, and plans to collect and publish my photography in book form. Otherwise, the music is front and centre in my future plans.

Nauga: I am looking forward to seeing your secrets! Ah, the day is now drawing to a close with a wonderful Hawaiian sunset. I think it’s time for a cocktail or two – would you care to join me? Oh almost forgot, before I get mixing, do you have a message for the all the friends, fans and extended Gentle People family?

KS: I would love any drink you can conjure up based on dark rum, thank you.

kaoru

Kaoru

My message to the readers is that peace and love is by far the harder road to tread, but in these difficult times, we must keep trying to make things better.

Oh, and buy our album or at least add us on Facebook xx

Nauga: Thank you very much Kaoru, I will now teach you a little Nauga song to sing until we meet again.

KS: I shall set it to an arrangement of feedback guitar, overdriven bass and ominous delay drenched vocals. It’s been a tremendous pleasure. See you soon!