The Power of Sound: A conversation with Alex Olson
Culture — 15.06.21
Photographer and Editor: Inbar Levi
As the world goes back to normal, whatever that means, Teeth Magazine decided to check in with Alex Olson, catching up LA-style in a little afternoon hike and a conversation. We had a hunch that if anyone would be up to something interesting it would have to be this pro skater/musician/DJ/photographer/fashion designer, and the list goes on…
In this interview, we learnt about Alex’s current fascination with making music, the conscious decision to be a responsible brand owner, and his coming up series of photo books based on the spectrum of colours.
For better or worse, we’ve all had a trying year. What were some positive revelations or obstacles you’ve encountered professionally and personally?
I was fortunately in California when the lockdown happened. So I got to surf and make music…what I had been wanting to do for so long but could never find the time. I was so burnt out from both of my companies and everything around me that I needed a break! I think we all needed to take a break to really look at ourselves. I can’t say it was very relaxing and it was hard to be inspired…
You’ve been very busy making music recently, how is this medium different from the other creative outlets you’re involved with?
I love it! It’s something I have always wanted to do! But creatively it’s no different, you have ups and downs. Sound is an amazing and powerful thing that you can’t touch or see but feel. There are so many things we can do with it yet it feels like it may fall to the wayside cause we can’t touch and see it. Making tracks is the same as someone painting, shooting a photo or anything. It’s just you have to not be so critical with yourself. Just keep making it until you get good at that one thing and have learned it. You move to the next and the next one after that, until you have a toolbox ready for every and any situation.
You’ve recently had your first photo book ‘Red’ published, which is the first of a series of photo books. Looking at the images you’ve created of abandoned shopping carts and grouped belongings sometimes covered in fabrics and sometimes more exposed, you really managed to spark a lot of emotions from the viewers, they are very mysterious with those beautiful outlandish silhouettes. Your play with light, colour and texture is very cinematic. Was this concept of the book always very clear to you or did it evolve while making it?
The idea was that they were these objects that you wouldn’t notice at first but if you were to catch them and really look at them, they were actually really beautiful. They would have moved on and you wouldn’t see them again. They became these objects I wanted to document because they turned into these moving sculptures that might not be around tomorrow.
Can you give us a hint or tell us a little about the next books in the series?
Each colour will represent a different project and the whole body of books will be the spectrum of colours. The next one is about cultures glorifying different personas. I’ve been working a lot on this one! I think it will be really great.
Through your fashion brand Bianca Chandôn and your photo book ‘Red’ you’ve donated proceeds to some important causes such as the LGBTQIA+ youth community, PATH that serves the homeless community of Los Angeles, Planned Parenthood and more. Can you please expand on how important it is for you to give back to our society?
It just simply started from getting into Paris is Burning. Using those photos and donating some of the money, because we couldn’t find the contact of the photographer. Larry Levan’s & Paradise Garage friends asked to donate the money with their blessing. We also were trying to show people how to be a responsible fashion company in a way.
You are a role model to many and have quite a following. What does it feel like to have people looking up to you like that? Who were and are your role models?
Hmmm, I don’t think I do…but thank you for the compliment. If I do, I don’t really notice it, so I can’t comment. My role models were creative people who did multiple things. Andy Warhol, not for his art, but his whole involvement in New York. Malcolm McLaren, James Murphy, Robert Heineken, Erwin Wurm, the Soulwax brothers, and David Bowie. So many it’s hard to think of them all… Artists that had their hands in Multiple things and did their art in different mediums.
How do your dreams and aspirations for yourself compare from the time you were starting out to today?
I mean, I’m very lucky cause I got to live out my childhood dream x 10! I had other aspirations but nothing I look back on that I didn’t get to do… I would do things differently now because I’m more knowledgeable but, I’m very grateful now looking back. I just got lucky with the timing.
When it comes to your creative process – with your clothing brands/photography/music – what usually evokes an idea? How do you get an idea initiated and executed?
I get a form of inspiration from songs, movies, the library, museum, random videos. Then you just expand on it and you just have a deadline to meet and keep it going with that process.
Are you more comfortable working on your own or collaborating when it comes to a project?
Hmm, it all depends. I mostly work on my own cause I have a hard time vocalising my ideas to others. When I do work with someone, I try to be very loose and fluid working with others and let everything go into the air and see where it lands. it just has to be the right pairing for anyone.
Whilst in skateboarding the distinction between being good and being terrible are easy to identify, in art/fashion/music it is all pretty subjective and obscure. How do you navigate within those grey areas?
I navigate by knowing I’m not trying to be the best at any of them and being ok with that and not having some unrealistic idea of who I should be or want to be…making small projects, archives those things. I wanted to be an artist a long time ago…it seemed great! Then came the realisation that no one needs to be repped by a gallery to be an artist, to be signed to a label to make music or go to college to be smart. Those are great things to achieve but it doesn’t make you less because you don’t have them. I like doing them because they make me happy. My music sucks if we’re going to compare it to others, or my art if you stand it next to someone else’s, and I’m ok with that.
You’re a dedicated yogi, deeply connected to nature and an all-around spiritual person, has this always been a big part of your life? How does your practice affect the creative aspect of your life and your day-to-day?
I try to have a daily practice to just keep me grounded and sane. The Ayurvedic call it “dinacharya” (daily routine). It’s something I’ve worked on for the last five years and if I don’t do my daily routine my day feels incomplete or it’s hard to focus. It just helps to get your day on a positive start before anything else comes into it. I’m still working on making it better and when I fall off my routine, the best thing I’ve found is to just start small and work back to a bigger morning practice.
Is there still a hidden talent that you possess that we don’t know about yet? What are you working on at the moment? What’s next for you?
No, I’ve shown all my cards I think? Hmmm, I’ve just been rebuilding my skateboard brand and trying to expand it outside of skateboarding, because it can only do so much within skateboarding. I would like to do bigger things with it!
You can follow Alex Olsen’s work through his Instagram, clothing company Bianca Chandôn, and purchase his photo book ‘Red’, here.