Life on the line

In conversation with London based artist & musician, the low-key man behind legendary rare content Instagram page Sheet Noise.

London based artist & musician, the low-key man behind legendary rare content Instagram page Sheet Noise in conversation with Maria Abramenko, along with a special selection of tracks for our latest Soundscapes release.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.123, a playlist curated by Sheet Noise

Your Instagram account is a reference point to almost everyone I know. But the internet knows nothing about you. Few words about yourself?

I prefer to keep it a mystery. I think we live in a time where everyone gives everything about themselves away online and I feel it holds more power to keep something back. On the internet you can be whoever you wanna be so I don’t understand why people often choose to share the worst version of themselves. I don’t think that’s the point of the internet. It’s not real life. To me anyway.

You’re a musician. What kind of music do you do and where can it be heard?

I’ve made many different types of music and played in all sorts of groups over the years from Garage bands, to Synth Punk to Industrial Noise and even Lounge music. I used to play Guitar and front bands but these days I prefer to make electronic music. Currently, I’m making a 5 track EP with the artist, musician Maresz Miucula. That will see a physical release later this year on Veronica Vasicka’s Citi-Trax label (a sub-label of Minimal Wave). We’re putting the finishing touches to the recordings and then we’re going to start work on producing the videos and photography to accompany the release.

Is there any connection between you and the fashion world?

For several years I’ve done creative consultancy with an array of luxury brands, mainly providing image research for projects. Currently, I’m working with a LA/Paris based brand. They’re opening a record/rare books /coffee shop next to their boutique in Paris so I’ve joined the team working on realising that. I enjoy working with them because I feel a kinship with the ideas they have and the references they use. I prefer to be in collaboration with someone rather than them percolating me for my ideas but I’m always open to working with people if it’s an interesting project. I mean, I give a lot of research away through Instagram which people probably use for free.. of course it’s nice to make a living but I get a kick out of knowing I might be having a tiny influence on where the culture is going too rather than just financial compensation. DJs back in the early hip hop days used to remove the labels of their records because they didn’t want other DJs to know what records they were playing but I’m the opposite. When I make my DJ mixes (Sheet Noise Radio on Mixcloud) I always give the full tracklist because I’d rather someone take those tracks, play them out and for them to become better known. I think it’s the same with the imagery I share.

Exactly my next question. Why and when did you start Sheet Noise?

I came up with the name around 2014 but didn’t start the Instragram page until the beginning of 2016. Originally when I started on IG, a lot of creative people used to share a lot of imagery very similar to what I do as a way of putting your flag up and connecting with people. So a lot of my friends used to do that but I just took it further and decided to dedicate my feed to that. Then maybe the app changed a little bit and it became more focused on stories or got a bit more Snapchatty but I continued down this route. I guess it’s evolved over time, like we all do as people. What I post now is a lot different from what I posted then.

Where are you getting your feed from?

All over the place really. Usually images from books, magazines, record sleeves or just all over the internet. Sometimes you go down a Google wormhole looking for one thing and it just takes you on a different route.. For me it has to be an image that pops visually and when I find an image like that on my searches, I know when it’s right for my aesthetic. Sheet Noise has a look and a feel. I’m aware of that. There’s a lot of things I’m into that I don’t post on this account because of the aesthetic and following that’s developed over time. The Sheet Noise thing kinda has it’s own lane.

You must have noticed that Instagram has changed quite a lot recently. I’m talking about the last 3/4 years. How do you feel about all the new Instagram generation?

What I don’t like is the TikTokification of it I guess. I hate all the suggested posts and reels of dumb shit. I prefer to keep that stuff out of my brain. One of the biggest problems I encounter nowadays is the censorship and the puritanical nature of the app’s gatekeepers. You now have to be really careful what you post as your account could be deleted or your reach reduced to nothing. I’ve been sanctioned for posting an image with an arty bum cheek or a slightly visible nipple before.

People are so worried about offending people these days. The new Puritans! Because of this it’s starting to become very difficult to express yourself online. People are having their entire careers threatened by some idiot with an agenda getting the wrong end of the stick. The blind leading the blind. I think it means less people will put their head above the parapet or necessarily do things that are challenging. I mean you look at Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s early clothes. You think that could happen now without a lot of grief?

Speaking about censorship, our chat inevitably comes across some recent events…

I guess when your work gets very successful and into that kinda tabloid arena you’re going to get detractors waiting for you to slip up. In the case of all that recent Balenciaga controversy, their detractors found a stick to hit them with. I mean they’re not exactly Irina Ionesco photos are they? (ed. making reference to Irina Ionesco’s controversial “Lolita” photo series of her daughter)? It’s quite crazy how out of control that whole thing got.

I’d be happy to hear your art references and your inspirations. Who are the artists who influence you the most?

I originally got interested in Fashion and Art from being into the Sex Pistols and Punk as a pre-teen. You’re seeing Jamie Reid’s art and Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s clothes and ideas projected. It really spoke to me. The latter were a huge influence on me especially with the culture they brought to the fore in their work and research. I think they’re a good place to start as the strands that come off their work are so far reaching genre and culture wise.I have always liked the outsiders, the people kicking against the pricks. The disruptors. People doing something different on their own terms. I see music and fashion as being very important bedfellows. Music wise the net is so wide that it would be impossible to list them all here. I’d say just look at my Instagram to get an idea of what makes me tick.

As we were speaking about certain music, certain years and the art you post from those years. What is your prediction for cinema art, music and fashion? How do you see the future, is it bright?

Well, I think everything’s quite fractured now. There’s so many different things clamouring for your attention. When I was younger it was rather more straight forward and very tribal. You identified as either one thing or another. The way I see it, the future is taking a bit from here, a bit from there and trying to create something new with it. You see and hear it in music and fashion now. I find it really interesting to see what influences the younger generations coming through now are mixing together. Things that perhaps people from my generation wouldn’t touch but all the same creating something new and desirable with it. I think each decade really starts to come into it’s own in its third year. Once the hangover of the previous decade subsides, you’re really going to start to see the decade’s identity emerging now. What is desperately needed is perhaps a bit more decent curation and quality control. I think curation is really important and increasingly the people doing it really don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. It’s also an internet problem because they’re are so many different voices now rather than a handful of publications steering the culture.

Last question is about Sheet Noise Radio. I understand you have this monthly podcast. Is it a permanent project?

I think I’ve done the shows for 7 years, every month. I think close to 100 shows now and we’re talking like close to 2000 songs. It gets increasingly harder to curate them especially when I’m busy. Every time I want to stop doing it, I speak to someone or get a sweet message from someone saying how much they enjoy them so I carry on. Again, this is something I do for free. I do a lot of things that I just do for free because I just like sharing things with people.

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