Shawn Reed is a multitalented visual artist and musician (Wet Hair/Raccoo-oo-oon) with deep roots in the underground community. Reed operates the eclectic, independent record and cassette label, Night-People, out of his small bungalow in St. Paul, Minnesota. I've been familiar with Reed's work for years, but it wasn't until recently that we began a correspondence. His stories about growing up in rural Iowa are intriguing, and his devotion to being a self-sufficient artist is incredible. I wanted to shine a little light on this modest artist hiding in the underground, so I asked him a few questions:
LAS CRUXES: What do you find most challenging when creating new work?
SHAWN REED: To always push forward and make better work than what was made before. To constantly evolve isn't easy and rising to the challenges that I present to myself is the toughest part. Just getting started as well because I often have high expectations of myself so its a big hill to try to run up when starting something new, but once I get focused I get more locked in and it usually becomes easier and more inspired and less daunting.
LC: You co-founded the independent record label, Night People. The label initially started as a collective, which you since have taken over — What have you sacrificed personally and/or artistically because of it? What have you gained?
REED: I've been doing Night-People full-time more or less since 2007; its been the most consistent and dominate thing in my life since then. It takes a lot of time because it's just me and I do everything for the label: art, design, packaging, mail order, web presence, press, correspondence etc. so the amount of everyday basic attention it needs takes time away from other pursuits like focusing more on making visual art for a gallery setting in example, or music that I want to create. Its also kind of kept me grounded geographically because I need the stability of permanent specific living to keep it going properly, which has had its ups and downs. Its always been a grind to stay afloat financially, I've learned a lot over the years, but there have been endless amounts of stress related to the financial hurdles constantly at play with the label. The relationships with other musicians and artists is such a blessing, I've really enjoyed that part of it. I wish at times I could have done more than I knew how to do, but I've tried my best. I hope over the years its inspired some people or that people that follow it have noticed the work that went in—that would mean a lot to me.
LC: You work on many collaborative projects with your friend and former Wet Hair bandmate, Ryan Garbes. Can you describe your dynamic and why it works so well?
REED: I started playing music with Ryan when I was 20-21 and I think he was probably 17 something like that, we've been down a lot of roads together, heaps of tours, endless band practices, recording sessions, etc. we've really grown together and through that our identities as artists both visually and musically has so much in common. I think our personalities fit well too; I take up some areas he doesn't like doing and vice versa. Ryan is just an easy guy to get a long with too, and he's so talented it's really been natural and not difficult over the years to make it work.
LC: Las Cruxes strives to provide a platform where music, art, and fashion can intersect. Do you feel there is a strong correlation between these mediums? Why or Why not? If so, how do you feel one medium affects the other?
REED: They are totally intersected in my life. Music is sound and Art is visual, they sometimes have different purposes or ways of interacting with an audience/listener/viewer but in my view come from the same places in the human experience related to imagination and processing/expressing reality. Fashion has a lot of connection to the languages of visual art and is often promoted in its adaptations with lifestyles or culture practice in tandem with music. I think the personal and communal cultivation of style is a really important thing culturally to help push cultural paradigms artistically and even perhaps politically. I tend to look down a bit on superficial fashion something that isn't personally cultivated but just bought and put on.
LC: What are you currently working on? What can people expect from you this year?
REED: I just released some new cassettes on Night-People and also a long in the works 12" by the Savage Young Taterbug called Shadow of Marlboro Man, which contains some really great tunes. I'm hoping Charles (Taterbug) Free hands me a full-length to put out later this year as well, but we will see, he can be pretty hard to pin down. Ryan and I are trying to push ahead work on a lot of visual art together. We have been working on some paper suits that are largely a collage and silkscreen project. We are also working on a collaborative visual art book we will press ourselves. We hope to get more gallery opportunities as well, because we feel some momentum coming off a show we did in the fall at Ladybug House in San Fran. I'm trying to make music again for the first time in several years, it's a bit of a learning curve but I'm trying to put a lot of time into it. It's influenced in some rhythmic, sonic and textural ways to 80's digital dancehall and dub, music I am a big fan of but just trying to draw on as an influence not as something I am trying to recreate.
SHAWN REED EXPLAINS HIS LAS CRUXES PICK:COME TEES DUPPY JEANS
I met Sonya Cohen (Come Tees) years ago briefly in Western Mass, but the meeting was pretty foggy to me. Through the worm hole of mutual friends and the internet I ended up seeing a pic of these jeans, and my mind was blown. As an artist with a heavy background in silkscreen, I was impressed from a DIY silkscreen perspective with the stylistic use of the imagery with text, the multiple colors, and Sonya's illustration touch. These jeans were one of the freshest things I had seen in years. These particularly resonated just being a big fan of Reggae music in general.
This interview was conducted by: Lizet OrtuñoYou can snatch Night People's latest releases at www.night-people.org