November 5, 2010
Jason Lewis interviews DJ and music aficionado Tyler Askew
Tyler Askew is a multi-talented music connoisseur and a NYC-based art director that Jason Lewis has been rolling with for years and years.
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, or “Hotlanta” as he would prefer, Tyler grew up in a hotbed of music and was influenced at a very early age by local and international artists alike. Quite the astute student, Tyler spent his teen years and his 20s indulging in soulful music and dutifully absorbing all that he could from his ever-growing record collection, nights out at the clubs and from personal experiences with musicians and DJs alike. It didn’t matter if they resided in Georgia, Detroit, London or Tokyo; he was relentless in his pursuance of those soulful sounds.
Fast forward umpteenth years and Tyler is currently a design director working alongside large brands and small clients across the world. He is an internationally recognized DJ, most notably for conceiving and building the club night turned record label Rude Movements. His music and design work continue to grow. I sat down with him recently to talk shop!
Why Djing as your initial medium of expression? What do you do in particular in the music community?
For me, it’s all about sharing and exposing music that I love. Music is a language that brings people together, and it’s allowed me to connect with kindred spirits in every part of the world.
I started DJing as a teenager and eventually started playing out in my hometown of Atlanta. I became transfixed by the London jazz scene of the 90s and particularly the London-based magazine Straight No Chaser (SNC). I followed my love and eventually began writing the column “Transatlantic Audio” for SNC for almost a decade.
Through my work in London, I began DJing more and working with all types of the labels and producers. I did a lot of my early graphic design work for small independent record labels. More recently, my involvement has been creating events like Rude Movements and My Favorite Things and developing artists. Currently I am the host of a monthly radio show on Tokyo’s Shibuya FM where I have the forum to play what I love and hopefully break new music.
What sounds/type of music do you prefer?
I guess you could say I’ve always gravitated toward the soulful side of music. Growing up I became captivated by hip-hop culture. As I got older and deeper into DJ culture I discovered the sounds of Chicago House, Detroit Techno, Brazilian Funk, and all sorts of genres. I also have a deep love for jazz.
Why Black music & crossover music in particular? Emphasis on Black music homey, inquiring minds want to know.
All I can say is that I’ve always gravitated towards what moves me. My musical tastes have never been premeditated. I’m interested in finding the common thread in different forms of music and bridging those gaps.
Who or what inspires you and what you do within music? Is there anything in particular you listen for? Any favorite artists?
There have been so many people along the way that have inspired my musical journey that it would be hard to single anyone out. But it goes without saying that the whole Straight No Chaser family played such an important role in my upbringing and I always have had maximum respect for its founder Paul Bradshaw, who was been a great mentor to me.
In terms of music I listen for, again, it’s really about what moves me, and that is always evolving (hopefully). I’m a sucker for a warm Fender Rhodes chord though. I also lean on a great circle of musical friends whose opinions I respect.
Where have you lived? Where have you traveled? In reference to sound, do you draw inspiration from any of the places you’ve been to?
I grew up in Washington DC and returned to my birthplace of Atlanta where I finished high school and went to college. I also spent a lot of time in London during college working with Straight No Chaser, before moving to NYC where I still live today.
Travel is one of the biggest influences for me. I’ve been lucky enough to travel abroad quite a bit through music and DJing and I’ve been really inspired by all the people I’ve met along the way. Some of my favorite places are Tokyo, Paris, Amsterdam, Singapore and Puerto Rico. Detroit is a place that has had a great influence on me and produces the best music in the world, in my opinion.
You’re a well-known art director as well; do you reference music in your design work? Do you get to work with music or musicians/DJs/Producers in your design work?
If it weren’t for music I don’t think I would have gotten into design. In high school I was making mix tapes, and at one point I realized I was probably spending more time on the cover than the actual mix. Early party club flyers were also a great stepping-stone. My design mentor Swifty was one of the most prolific record sleeve designers of the 90s. His work for Mo’Wax and Talkin’Loud inspired me to want to study graphic design. I’ve been really lucky to work with some amazing labels and musicians that I really respect over the years. One proud moment has been working with Meshell Ndegeocello, who is a contemporary genius, on her album ‘The World Had Made Me The Man of My Dreams”.
Now in my role as Design Director at Exposure, I have been lucky to be able to incorporate my love for music across numerous platforms and for a variety of clients.
What’s the story behind Rude Movements? Why book the specific DJs/Producers that were a part of this night? What were you looking for in a DJ for rude? What were you trying to create as far as an identity and a community?
Rude Movements, as it was originally known, was really just a way to bring together our diverse group of friends in NYC and also to share new music that we felt needed a forum. I think it was a combination of right time and right place that allowed us to book some amazing DJ and acts and create a really special environment. A lot of the artists that we would book were friends first and foremost and shared our musical vision, but the emphasis was also on creating a really diverse line-up that would keep people guessing in a good way. While the genre might have varied slightly from night to night, the energy and vibe was always consistent. As far as an identity, I think we in part very successful because we did have a strong visual identity, strong photography and a strong sense of community. These things were equally important to the success of rude as the music. Respect to all those who were a part of rude over the years!
What other projects are you involved with relating to sound? Future projects?
Recently I’ve focused on my radio show on Shibuya FM and a few small projects. Last year, I released an EP from a great soul singer from London named Leon King. This year I have a few 12″s lined up that I am really excited about. I’ve also just begun a new monthly party with my music partner Simone Serritella at SubMercer in NYC called “Get Down Friday Night”.
How has the changing landscape of the music business affected what you are doing? Has it closed or opened any doors? Are you working differently than you have in the past?
Well it’s really all completely different now. Record shops used to be the meeting place for like-minded folk, but that’s currently all online. The way we get and share music is totally different, as we all know. Music packaging and design is almost a lost art by now, but I am confident that it will never disappear entirely. On the positive side, the power of the Internet has made it much easier to connect and work with people around the world. Even though the interconnectivity has taken away some of the mystique (it used to be really exciting to receive a package of vinyl from Berlin or Tokyo), it has enabled me to meet a lot of great people.
Would you like to produce a track with me on it? Do you pay well?
I can try but I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. If it happens I’ll pay you in ice cream
Check out Tyler’s blogs at:
And be sure to check out Jason’s blog at: