Karim Rashid may be best known for making hip housewares (especially garbage cans) accessible to the masses when he created a line for Umbra. But, Karim is an international design star, a true globetrotter, having worked on everything from glasses, watches and shoes to restaurants, hotels and packaging for the likes of Method, Prada, Alessi, Dirt Devil and Issey Miyake.
Now Karim stretches his talents to arch into the music world by designing not only the CD cover for ObliqSound Remixes Vol 2 (out Oct. 3), but also a limited-edition CD carrying case, which was manufactured by Brazilian plastic footwear manufacturer Melissa and is available at the Karim Rashid Shop, MoMA Design Store, Bergdorf Goodman and ObliqSound.com. The case is made of flexible rubber with raised grooves and can hold all your essentials for a night out. The CD features an eclectic mix of world music, urban beats and jazzy breaks -- a perfect blend that represents Karim Rashid's varied personal tastes.
He told me he's been an avid music fan for three decades, when he first got turned on to electronic music and groups like Kraftwerk. In fact, he DJ'd through the '70s and '80s and once again recently hit the decks at a club in Milan. He travels with no less than three full 60GB iPods with artists as diverse as David Bowie, Moloko, Mylo, She Wants Revenge, Ry Cooder and even Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I briefly met Karim a few months ago during a quick trip through Chicago. A couple of days later, I got an email saying he enjoyed meeting me and discussing his forthcoming music project. He agreed to an interview, which we conducted via email due to his busy travel schedule (it turns out he was actually answering the questions wearing pink briefs and pink sunglasses out by his pool). Following the interview, we continued to chat back and forth for a few days -- he even gave me some tips for my upcoming trip to London.
He signed off one of his emails with a great phrase, which I feel everyone should adhere to:
More experiences = more memories = longer life
Q&A with KARIM RASHID:
SomethingGlorious: How did you get linked up with ObliqSound?
Karim Rashid: They just went into my shop and asked if [I] would be interested in redesigning their covers and brand then left me their music to listen too. The shop sent the CDs to my office and I was hooked.
SG: What was different about designing a CD case than other projects?
KR: Nothing. Design is all the same to me – it is all about redefining and revisiting the built environment and about communicating a human connection, a message, a dialect. Design is about shaping our contemporary landscape.
SG: Where did you find inspiration for this project?
KR: In the music, in the vibe of their jazz musicians and the remixes. I sketched digitally as I listened. I was always a jazz aficionado!
SG: What about the music on the ObliqSound remix channeled that inspiration?
KR: Yes. Funny you use such a dated and supernatural word – "channeling." The vibrating pulsing bone like form that I designed graphically for the cover and the wireframe compositions are the intangible music becoming tangible and taking on new form.
SG: When you say that "channeling" is dated and supernatural, how so?
Don't you feel like you can allow the music -- or any inspiration -- to
seep inside of your psyche, which then in turns processes it and
KR: I was referring to the word itself. Of course music moves and inspires creativity, but I just haven't heard that term in a while –It makes me think of Atari back in the day.
SG: Has this project prompted you to do other music-related design projects -- and has anyone else approached you about it?
KR: I have written about album covers many articles for BPM magazine and I recently designed CD and 12” covers for Hong Kong Counterfeit. I also designed my CD compilations three years ago for Neverstop records. I am in discussion with Tommy Boy Records and would love to do many CD cover designs for diverse groups.
SG: From a design perspective, what is the best technological advance in the music world -- past, present or both?
KR: I always loved electronic music since the early '70s when I started listening to Kraftwerk, Suicide, Eno … so that was the greatest technological phenomena because instruments are really archaic. But binary notation changed music and the world. Downloading music is the best contemporary advancement as well as programs like Reason, which I use.
SG: What is missing that could be introduced to further enhance music listeners' lives?
KR: In the design business Rapid Prototyping is the greatest advancement. I have had Fuse deposition machines in my office for six years now and they are [for] desktop manufacturing. I design an object in a solid modeling 3D program and press a button and over night the machine builds layer and layer; [it creates] a physical plastic model that is accurate to six decimal places, meaning that the model has a perfect, a hinge, etc. I have produced art, perfume bottles eyeglasses, furniture, watches, flatware, and so many objects this way. I have not made a physical model in my office in 13 years. Now I am wondering if I can have the machine build its own forms from the music notes?
And I also would love to see random digital videos that are more artistic and never the same every time I watch them - being produced from music so I don’t have to watch four goofy looser guys running around acting like idiots with cute, sexy half-naked chicks, which are so beyond what they could ever get – so they become rock musicians, or a big rapper surrounded by booty constantly – really banal.
SG: What are you currently listening to, personally? (top 5)
Flash and the Pan
Southern country rock
SG: Who are some of your favorite artists historically?
KR: This is an unfair question because there are too many favorites but if you insist:
SG: What's the best concert you've ever attended?
KR: Well a toss up between the Tubes in Buffalo (1977), Alice Cooper in Toronto (1976), David Bowie in London (1984), Grace Jones in New York (1988), Miles Davis (1978), and Kraftwerk in Düsseldorf (1984) since I realized I don’t really see concerts now (large venues)– I just go to small venues to see jazz or deejays like Roy Ayers, Ladytron, Alexander Robotnick, Gary Numan.
SG: Who's the coolest rock star you've partied with?
KR: Elvis Costello in 1976 "My Aim is True" period, Cheap Trick in 1977, Moby at his house this year, and David Byrne two years ago at my loft.
SG: Really? What'd you do with Moby and David Byrne – what did you talk about?
KR: I have known Moby for awhile – we would just hang out and talk about art, music, anything really. I also DJ'd his birthday party. I also spoke about the same things with David.
SG: What are some big projects that you're working on?
KR: All projects are big to me. I just released “Design Your Self - Rethinking the Way you Work, Live, Love and Play,” a new book for Harper Collins and showed 32 new pieces of furniture and objects in Milan Salone, Italy and in Highpoint, N.C., furniture fair for companies Bonaldo, Tonelli, Montina, Frighetto, Artemide, Casamania, Horm, Oasis, Contempo, Ferlea, Normann, Kundalini, Feek, Umbra, a limited edition series of ceramics for Bitossi, and a new bathroom collection for Bigelli Marmi. All these pieces come to market in September to December 2006. I presently have a retrospective and an art installation show at Frank Lloyd Wright Price Tower in Oklahoma. In the winter 2006 many new projects will be released like a new handheld vacuum cleaner for Dirt Devil, a new clothing store design in Moscow, a restaurant in New York, Shanghai and Belgrade, a new bathing suit and sportswear line for men and women for Arena in Korea, new door handles for Martinelli, 30 pieces of hand made craft furniture for Philippines furniture industry, new collection of eyeglasses for Sceye in Sweden, a new hard drive special case for La Cie, France, cosmetics for Axe and Kenzo new laundry detergent soap bottles for Method, a new broom and dustpan for Casabella, and several more releases from cd cover designs to a new shoe line fall 2006 with Fessura and Melissa, dog perfume for Sexy Beast in NYC, and table top objects. I am presently working on several hotels in London, Belgrade, and USA, a house in Kuala Lumpur, a subway station in Naples, Italy, a lounge for Deutsch Bank Cologne art fair, several brand identities, art directing a fashion magazine in Brazil, water bottles, ceramics, mobile phone, glassware, a car, music, sci-fi animation film, a TV show and several art shows.
SG: Wow -- with all the projects on your plate, how do you find time to
tackle them all? Is it just you or do you have a team that helps
develop your vision?
KR: I have 15 people that work for me, but I am working constantly. When you work, you must focus and work only; then you can work less and accomplish more. When you play, focus to play only, then you will have more fulfilled relations or pleasure. When you rest or relax focus on just that, then you will be rejuvenated always. In other words if you devote yourself to the experience at hand, your life will be extremely well balanced, accomplished, and more fulfilled.
SG: Since you're always traveling, what do you do to relax? Do you like to travel for vacation?
KR: I answer interviews.
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