Dave Fernandes cover designer interview

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As Cyclic Defrost peeks across the threshold of quarter-life, Dave Fernandes takes its cover into a realm of potential and positivity.

Fernandes is a DJ and Digital Designer, part of Sydney design and promotional crew HAHA Industries, a team of five who aim to create unique music experiences for a city too often restricted by other live music venues. “Everyone is extremely dedicated and talented at what they do and together we make HAHA Industries. We’re not a nightclub or festival brand”, he says. “We like doing things a little differently, we like to change things so that Sydney doesn’t end up so monotonous.” The crew have brought acts from Optimo to Tim Sweeney to our shores, pulling in crowds to covert locations and warehouse spaces across the city.

The HAHA ethos could be anti-establishment, if the establishment consists of terrible music, over priced booze, gorilla bouncers and pretentious beauty queens: things Fernandes lists as characteristic of the mainstream Sydney live scene. “Primarily we need a platform and space for music to be heard and respected. We’ve dealt with a list of venue owners who are concerned with nothing more than bums on seats and squeezing dollars out of every promoter, slowly annihilating Sydney’s artistic integrity and culture, and we just don’t stand for that.”

Speakeasies are common in the HAHA world – punters find out locations close to the performance date, by mailing list, Facebook or word-of-mouth. But far from being a nostalgic throw-back to the past just for the sake of it, the speakeasy is a method of promotion that allows Fernandes and the crew to bring together likeminded people in an environment free from venue restrictions and those who just don’t get it.

In terms of how this affects the visual design for flyers and promotional material, Fernandes finds it particularly liberating. “It allows me to design as open and freely as the music we are trying to express. Most nightclub and festival flyers have a commercial and general message, where as with ours we try to communicate the message of creative sound and a unique atmosphere in order to attract an intelligent and switched-on crowd.”

It’s something that is present in all of HAHA’s visual output, particularly visible in the Under The Radar (UTR) flyers. Augmented by bold sans serif typography, the UTR flyer for Optimo’s show in March 2010 consisted of a vintage looking photograph of a man with what appears to be two giant amplifying cones strapped to his ears, overlayed with a giant black circle. This circle stems from the HAHA logo, appearing as a frequent motif by being referred to in the rest of the black shapes in the so far seven part UTR series. Other representations have included a cosmic landscape stamped with the trademark black circle, or a kookaburra emblazoned with a hexagon. It’s this retro, war-themed photography covered in black objects that represent HAHA’s “battle with soul-destroying venues of Sydney without being ‘detected’,” says Fernandes.

“For UTR#04 we used a stealth bomber for Mark Pritchard’s appearance, as he is known to have a dubstep and electronica ‘stealth’-like sound. The police sirens ringing in his second track was quite surreal”. Alphatown also played live which had a very “flying” feel to it; rolling and speedy. For UTR#05 the photo of the inside of a submarine was used as we had Sub Bass Snarl, MonkFly & Johnny Faith all playing a deep, dubstep and techno orientated sound.

“I think I try and deliver something visually the same way one would hear it in the sound we are embodying – familiarity mixed with the new and in different expressive ways. Our sound is quite open so I try to take the same attitude towards the design. Not being bound by ‘brand rules’ and trends allows us to change all the time. This is also used as a way to find the right audience, which we think is pivotal to any event. We’re in a world where we are surrounded by communications that don’t require you to think, I like going against that grain and it works. Our audience is an influence, the art attracts the desired audience and its the audience that makes our events.”

In 2008, HAHA hosted Tim Sweeney in the basement of a Spanish restaurant, at an event called ‘Discoteca Psicodelica’. “Tim’s radio show is called ‘Beats In Space’ in New York and he really pushes some great electronic music, reworked and experimental sounds and a lot of it does sound wonky and trippy, though still coherent, beautiful and makes you want to dance. That’s where the “Psicodelica” came from and “Discoteca” speaks for itself. Why in Spanish? It created another point of difference that was still understood. It makes you think.

“The colour scheme has been commonly used to represent the bright contrasts portrayed with psychedelic states, the pink on blue together makes it a little hard to focus as your eyes are left trying to adjust.”

Throughout his childhood, Fernandes was taken by his brother’s involvement in graffiti, though he gradually moved from walls outside to one inside: a computer screen. He cites early influences like pop-surrealist artist Todd Schorr, Coop, Doze Green and Paul Insect. “I didn’t aspire to illustrate like those guys because they’re ridiculously good, but the way they visualised things was mind bending and extremely engaging.” Previous digital and online influences included work from The Designers Republic, Tomato, Joshua Davis’s “Praystation”, Michael Cina and Hi-Res studio in the UK, which Fernandes still references from time to time.

“Locally I remember coming across the early Design is Kinky and Australian InFront community portals. It amazed me that there was a community of creatives online, actively sharing thoughts and working together. They’re both now two of the biggest, if not the biggest online communities for the Australian design industry and ones that I am continually referring to.”

“I find influences in lots of different things. [Looking at] other artists away from design is really interesting. I like seeing how minds think alike yet produce in completely different manners. I don’ try to produce a particular style, I use what I know, or seek out what I can learn, to create what I need to communicate.”

“Today there’ hundreds of influences that come in many shapes and forms and I love drawing from those, but in terms of design I still haven’ seen a studio compare to UniversalEverything in the UK. They’re my all time favourite design studio who’ crossover with design and art I have not seen anywhere else.”

When Fernandes is designing for a particular event he likes to surround himself with music from that particular artist. “Obviously I work with electronic music so that has precedence but when I’m designing I go off a few different things. When doing commercial work it’s emotional, so I go by how I’m feeling at the time, or by the urgency of the job. On high rotation I have things like Jamie Lloyd, Flying Lotus, Julian Casablancas, Lou Reed, Optimo’ Sleepwalk, Massive Attack, Arthur Russell, Horace Andy… Also my background being Portuguese, I have developed a love for the Fado and Spanish Flamenco also which I find quite serious yet flamboyant.”

For this issue’s cover, Fernandes drew on the theme “Cyclic Defrost”, as well as the milestone issue number. “I used the letters from the name “Cyclic Defrost” as a basis to create the shapes used to generate the typeface and the number 25 for the 25th issue.

“The shapes are clean, geometrical and straight edged but overlapped and randomly placed to create the colour and pattern. They were constructed then left as they lay, non-specific to a grid that a lot of traditional design is based on. I also wanted the design to reflect the liberty of the music that Cyclic Defrost embraces.”

Black-and-white photography overlayed with monochrome shapes is something that’s prevalent throughout Fernandes’ work for HAHA, yet for this cover he has allowed colour to play its part. The photos, of sakura blossoms and a young woman, “signify that 25 is a beautiful age, so young and full of potential.

“Influences never end, and as long as they don’ you’ll never be short of something to create. I think that’s a beautiful thing.”

More of Dave’s work can be seen at www.hahaindustries.com

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