According to Tim Head, “People still want tangible things,” which is a relief, considering that we’re interviewing him for our print publication. When it comes to ‘art for art’s sake’ and creating shit because you can’t sleep at night if you don’t – Tim Head is the real deal. The London-based artist’s practice extends across a huge variety of mediums, but his works all point back to a sincere love of raw punk energy and the halcyon day-glo era of ‘90s rave culture. His latest venture is a short run zine, Maximum Respect – released by Melbourne indie publisher Smalltime Books – that looks to the London music scene between 1989 and 2001.
Did you know that there is another London-based artist who is also called Tim Head?
Yes, I actually discovered that when I applied for art school and the interviewer told me they were expecting the older artist to turn up. Let’s hope the younger me isn’t a disappointment.
Is that weird?
Not really. There were three Tim Heads in my local town, so from an early age I knew there were a few of us out there. One day I would love to do a two-man show and call it Two Heads Are Better Than One.
That would be interesting – but let’s talk about you now. How would you describe yourself as an artist?
Me, as an artist? That’s never felt right. I actually find it hard to declare myself an artist – I’m just a guy who makes what’s in his head, and a lot of mess.
You work in many mediums – photography, drawing, painting, collage. Has this been an evolution or do you just like mixing it up?
That’s a tricky one. To an extent, there’s an aspect of evolution – your skills improve, you discover new mediums to work in. But my initial reaction to answer this is that I like mixing it up, keeping it interesting. It’s situation dependent too. Working from my bedroom, I can’t work with clay and iron welding, so I do collages and drawings. I can’t predict or dictate when I’ll be inspired by something so I can never predict which medium I’ll work with next – but the bigger the studio playground, the more fun I can have.
Let’s talk about your zine, Maximum Respect. It’s been described as a “nostalgic love letter to the London rave and pirate radio scene of ‘89,” correct?
Yes. One big wet sloppy, pilled-up kiss that happens next to a speaker stack and smoke machine.
Why the pirate radio scene?
When I was getting into that music culture back then, the pirate scene was the only scene. It was all pre-internet, everything was pirate material and everything was home-taped and passed on by person. The underground was the overground. I loved the directness. You couldn’t walk into a high-street record shop back then – you had to have an ‘in’. That’s kind of been lost with the internet.
It’s interesting. Apparently the internet has killed pirate radio, and also killed print. And you made a print zine inspired by pirate radio! Amazing.
Sure, the internet has changed everything but I’ll be the asshole here and say that I don’t think it’s killed print or pirate radio. In fact I think it’s kept it alive and made it better. As people, in our DNA is a desire to go out and collect beautiful things. If you look at Tumblr, it almost fetishises nice objects – pictures of magazines on Danish coffee tables in beautiful apartments. It makes people still want those tangible things.
The reason the pirate stations climbed tower blocks with antennas was because of their passion for music and utter need to share it. With the internet, these principles have never been more accessible. There are now a million pirate radio stations and we don’t have to worry about aerial signals to enjoy it. And that’s amazing!
What were you hoping to communicate?
The energy of the music. What I love is the speed and the raw energy, especially with ragga and jungle. So I deliberately decided to create something fast and loose, as opposed to soulless and clinical.
What’s your collage-making process? Do you think about all the layers or the message of the piece before you physically start?
It’s just instinctive. I find an image that sparks something in me – a background, a pattern, a person from a magazine – I then go through my archive, pulling out things I think will go with it and just play around until I’m happy enough to commit to pasting them together.
Do you make art for yourself or for the viewer?
Myself. Always. In the past I’ve had times where I’m too distracted worrying about outside bullshit – people’s opinions and whether the piece will sell or not. But worrying affects the work, fucks it up. The ultimate goal is to make the best art possible. You need to go at it from a pure place. You’re never going to please everyone and we won’t live forever – but our work might. So why produce bullshit? Do it for the purpose of making something good, something you yourself would love to see. To stand out you need to make something original and you’re never going to do that by worrying about other people.
What music do you listen to when working?
For Maximum Respect it was non-stop Nicky Blackmarket and jungle. Also for my two last shows, [I listened to] Minor Threat and Peel Slowly And See [by The Velvet Underground] – I love the sound but the titles [also] sum up my work and me. Music is, without hesitation, one of my greatest inspirations.
What else do you do in your spare time?
Art! I mean I work a nine-to-five in a design studio so all my other art work I have to fit in between getting home and getting in bed. Small window. So if there ever is a precious spare minute, my luxuries include sleeping, drinking and checking out exhibitions.
What the most important lesson you’ve learnt in the past year?
Personally or professionally. Firstly, no surrender – never ever give up. People will ignore you and what you’re working on may screw up, but never surrender. Shit happens, keep on keeping on.
Secondly, fuck the noise. Be yourself, have fun with your work and don’t give a shit. Stress and over-analysing is the cockblocker of creativity.
Oh and don’t stay out in a carnival when the sun goes down. Trust, shit happens!
I once heard you say, “You shouldn’t have had your best moment yet,” which I really like. But tell me – how do you know when something is your best?
You don’t! When you make something you should always be like “Yes, that’s cool, I like that, I’m proud.” Then it’s onto the next one. Probably only in hindsight, or when you die, your work will be proclaimed as your ‘best’. So, until then, it’s all about making things, being proud as fuck and pushing myself.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on two abstract shows with my friends Michael Swaney and Stephen Smith, another upcoming solo show in London, and a few other exciting collabs and group shows. A lot is happening. I’m always up for anything good.
Will it be your best?
Best yet! Or else what’s the point?
This article was originally published in issue 31 – The Loud Issue – which you can purchase here.
All artwork courtesy of Tim Head.