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TEN QUESTIONS WITH KESH

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Kesh is a creative shapeshifter. An artistic chameleon, if you will. Born in Croydon, London, and living out in California, the multihyphenate goes by artist, designer and now, musician. You’ll recognise Kesh from her graphic eye and face motifs, which plastered American Apparel stores worldwide when she collaborated with the brand in 2013. She creates her work from The Cave, her studio which doubles as a living space. Before she moved there in 2010, she was making custom fashion designs, and even showed under Fashion East’s MAN for a season.

Across various years, in between a series of different projects – including creatively directing a Skims editorial and making a photo series for Moschino’s Picasso SS20 collection – Kesh has privately been making music. What pushed her to finally put it out? The Purple One. That’s right, in 2015 Prince summoned Kesh to Paisley Park after he saw one of his band mates wearing a piece from Kesh’s American Apparel collab. His advice? “Release your own music. That’s why I created Tennnn, my own, independent record label where I release my works and a selection of other artists that I believe in,” says Kesh. “It’s been a beautiful process. Not always easy but something that has insulated my authentic expressions. It’s a safe space where I don’t need to make compromises and I can create works that are true to me.”

On Friday, Kesh dropped her debut EP. Titled Throes, the triplet of tracks were made with the intention of being played loud. “They’re like siblings from the same set of parents that all came out so differently,” says Kesh. “They’re related but they’re all on their own wave.” Her synthetic sounds feel akin to that of an immersive exhibition, with the industrial, club-ready beats of not “Not Gaan Out” proving a stark contrast to the meditative sounds of “Jadine’s Escape”. The EP’s closer, “Mind Maze”, is a euphoric climax, a bit like the feeling you get when the lights are about to come on at 4am; when you’re hungry for the night not to end. With all that in mind, we caught up with Kesh for a quick chat.

1. Why is now the perfect time for you to release your debut EP?

“It seems I don’t pick the timing. The timing picks me. We set dates but then things shift and the song or project ends up coming out at the perfect timing. The universe is usually guiding it all. I’m just along for the ride.”

2. Are there many similarities in creating a track as to one of your physical artworks?

“In a way yes. I usually start with a simple idea and have the intention to remain in the space of simplicity. I always want to create a calm experience for myself and express without hardship but every single time I end up diving deeper and deeper into the idea, the concept and finish with something deeply complex and intricate. Layered not only with sounds and visuals but also emotion. This applies to both visual and sonic art for me.”

3. Being based out in LA now, what do you miss about Croydon the most?

“The raw energy of England is something I’ll always miss. The British grit and diversity will always hold a place in my heart. I feel so comfortable when I’m home and I can just be. I actually live up in the mountains not in LA but I come in for projects. California is beautiful and calming but sometimes I miss the chaos.”

4. How long did it take you to come up with your signature Eye artwork?

“The actual design came to me and was executed in maybe one evening but it was at the tail end of a 3-month process of deconstructing my previous works, my journey and myself. I was in a space of simplifying everything. Stripping down to rebuild. Taking intricate works and looking at the core. The Eye itself came from a larger self-portrait titled Fetrinitewhich was one of my first prints I ever sold publicly.”

5. When you met Prince, what was one piece of advice he gave you that stuck with you?

“Release your own music. That’s why I created Tennnn. My own independent record label where I release my works and a selection of other artists that I believe in. It’s been a beautiful process. Not always easy but something that has insulated my authentic expressions. It’s a safe space where I don’t need to make compromises and I can create works that are true to me.”

6. What has been your favourite moment from recording the EP?

“Honestly the warps of “Not Gaan Out” do something to me. They take me somewhere else and creating those was really a highlight. Amir and I really went in on those and they just really speak to my spirit. Also finding the right synth for the euphoric ending of “Mind Maze” was another highlight. The body of work was made over the span of five years, with several collaborators in four different countries, in person and over the internet and really it was just a stunning experience for me as I’ve had music in my heart for so long and now I am finally expressing it.”

7. Last year you shot a series of self-portraits for Moschino’s Picasso collection. If you had to go back into Scott’s archive for the brand and shoot another collection, which would you choose and why?

“Definitely SS18 Vase Life. Those pieces were so beautiful. So incredibly done. And I mean the artistry and construction behind the pieces were really captivating. I love nature and get a lot of healing from flowers in general so I would love to be one in a shoot.”

8. What can we expect from your return to fashion design?

“Bespoke pieces and low numbers. Concept works and rare releases. I’m taking my time with the development and the process. I’m making decisions about how I want to approach and what level of commitment I will give to design in general. So many people want me to jump back in and go all the way but I’m interested in taking it slow. Seeing how I feel about it. Fashion isn’t easy it takes a lot of attention. Especially for someone like me who obsesses on the details. I will take release by release and see how I feel about it.”

9. Which people, artists or club nights shaped your sound today?

“There’s a whole selection and would be hard to break it all down, but I can definitely say firstly any dutty grime rave in London then my own party The Copy Shop which we held illegally in some old printer shop in LA. It was amazing I had all my friends perform and then I’d finish with a set and it was INSANE. We Shayne Oliver (Hood By Air), Total Freedom, NguzuNguzu, Yves Tumor before he was Yves, Kingdom, Mykki Blanco, Theophilus London, Napolian, Zakmatic and so many more I can’t even remember but that place definitely contributed massively to my sound.

“Then also Fade2Mind by Kingdom / Prince Will / NguzuNuguzu , Mustache Monday by Nacho Nava (RIP) and Total Freedom, Work It by Loren Platt / Sara El Dabi PDA by Mischa Notcutt, Carrie Stacks, Akinola Davies Jnr. Any parties by Roxy Cottontail, any boujis situation by Legendary Damon, Yo-Yos by Seb and Leo and just a million parties that I’ve played over the years throughout Europe and America. Everyone’s had such amazing vision and really provided spaces for people to dance and release over the years and that’s definitely been a huge part of who I’ve become.”

10. What does the rest of the year hold for Kesh?

“Sooooooooo much. I’m about to do a secret cameo tomorrow for this big film project and then I’m getting back in the studio to finish up the next three tracks which are coming in on a different mood altogether. I have a couple more NFTs and some clothing releases. I’ll be in London in August and September for a few special things and then New York too for a cute moment. I can’t say much yet but there’s a lot!”

Artwork by Kesh. Stream “Mind Maze” on all major platforms now.

@kesh