Voices

Voices // Sound Design – Interview with Adam Rodgers

by Paul Weedon

As a design studio focused on new modes of interaction and visual communication, International Magic combine their cultural interests with emerging technologies to create truly unique experiences that are designed to resonate with people on an emotional level.

Led by Creative Director Adam Rodgers, the team boasts an enviable list of clients, including the likes of FKA Twigs and Hudson Mohawke.

As Adam prepares to join us for Sound Design, an evening event by the West of England Design Forum which looks to explore the unique creative relationship between music and graphic design, Paul Weedon caught up with him to discuss International Magic’s creative output and inspiration.

Tell me a little bit about your role at International Magic and what you guys do.

International Magic was formed in early 2017 by myself and Stefan Endress, who is based in Munich, Germany – together we run the creative direction of the studio. We met whilst I ran the design studio Remote Location in London, and Stefan worked for Future Corp in a shared space called Studio Three along with several friends of ours who work in similar fields.

After collaborating together on a digital documentary for FKA twigs at Manchester International Festival and a website for Warp Films, Stefan and I realised we shared the same thoughts regarding the relationships between people, design and technology, so we decided to form a new operation to explore subjects we find interesting, combined with emerging technologies to create experiences which resonate with people on an emotional level.

This Summer we directed ten films for the Perfume exhibition at Somerset House, and also collaborated with Manchester International Festival, Studio Wayne McGregor, Scanner and artist Susan Hefuna to motion capture a live performance featuring thirty migrant dancers and transmit their movements in real-time to an artwork inside the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester.

How large is the team?

We are a core team of four with a wide network of collaborators and we expand depending on the size/type of project.

How did you initially start out in the industry?

My first ‘real’ project was for a Glasgow based music collective called Caydnss. I made the website, music videos and posters for their launch. This was around the time I graduated in 2001. I still work with Andrew McGeoch (Tersh) who makes fantastic granular electronic music. He composed the soundtrack for the films we made for the Somerset House ‘Perfume’ exhibition.

So when you were starting out, what was it that appealed to you most about the prospect of combining music and design?

I’ve always been fascinated by perception and identity – how music artists choose to represent themselves in a visual sense, and how this translates to the audience in an authentic way, and communicates the right message. I’m also interested in using all the human senses to explore how people experience music and design visually, aurally and materially.

You design ‘experiences’, creating new modes of interaction and visual communication. How important is that distinction for you in helping your clients stand out in today’s creative landscape?

I think it’s relevant for artists who are keen to explore new ways of communicating to reach their audience in a fresh way, whether it’s an interactive music video, physical product, installation or something else.

The purpose of music videos has changed a lot over time. Do you feel that music videos still have the same level of importance today that they did during the MTV era, for example?

I think they are still massively important, although they are consumed very differently these days of course. The shelf life of a product such as a music video is dramatically more short-lived in the age of on demand social media.

Shout to my friend Marc Kremers and his forthcoming video platform vvatch.tv – I think this will be a game changer for online video consumption in the future. Stay tuned.

You’ve worked with artists like FKA twigs and Hudson Mohawke. I’m sure it varies from artist to artist, but how collaborative does the process tend to be for you guys? Are most artists fairly hands on?

Most successful artists are in control of their image and already have a clear idea of the direction they’d like to travel in terms of their album covers and music videos. However, we’ve been very lucky that many of the artists we have worked with are open to new ideas and suggestions in regards to progressing their image online. It also helps to have a record label which is open to taking risks and experimentation.

You also run Numbers, the record label and club night. How did the club night initially start out, and what led to you starting the label?

All six members used to run separate clubs in Glasgow, and the audience were all the same crowd, so we eventually consolidated into one night called Numbers. During this time each member of the crew was involved in their own label – and trying to release the same artists – so we consolidated again and Numbers, the label, was born.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced from a design/creative perspective in the music industry?

Budgets and time restrictions!

Some quick fire questions for you now…

1. First album you ever owned?
Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back

2. What, in your opinion, is the most iconic album cover of all time? (you can pick more than one)
Off the top of my head:
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
Ice T – Power

3. Favourite music video of all time?
Too hard to answer, so I’ll just list ones I’ve watched recently and love...
Flying Lotus, Post Requisite
Amnesia Scanner, AS Chingy
SOPHIE, It's Okay To Cry (Official Video)
Arca & Jesse Kanda, TRAUMA Scene 1
Aphex Twin, On

4. Which musician or band would you most like to work with, living or dead?
Prince, Drexciya, Abra, Lanark Artefax, Kendrick Lamar, Sia, Bjork, Steve Albini, Juan Atkins, Amnesia Scanner, Public Enemy, My Bloody Valentine, NWA… Too many to mention…

International Magic