The last time we caught up with London-based arts/music collective Real Gold they were teaming up with T-Shirt Party for a DIY printing in Dalston. Now, in between supporting The Alibi, Rita's and FUN magazine, they're back with a new t-shirt line out now. This time they've got a killer collaboration going between Tim Head and James Pearson Howes. Many will know Head from the recent immortalisation of his teen rave memorabilia in Maximum Respect, capturing the erratic, sensory overload of London's pirate radio scene alongside photography and film work for Nike and Converse. Pearson Howes' work is also intrinsically linked to the London scene – from soaking up the city on the top floor of buses with exhibition Top Deck to The King is Dead, Long Live the King which shone the spotlight on Kingsland Road's gentrification.
Take a look at the duo's extensive back catalogues below and read on as we catch up with the pair about this new design collaboration with Real Gold.
James Pearson Howes: I've known Deano Jo (Real Gold's founder) for a long time, back when they first started up. He came to me and asked if I wanted to release a photo t-shirt – hell yes. Straightaway I said to Deano that I wanted to work with my buddy Tim Head – someone who I've been itching to work with for time.
Tim Head: For my part I was tapped up by James, who in turn had been asked by Deano to do some tees for Real Gold. I think Deano had wanted James to do something for a long time, but for some reason James decided to get me involved. James rolls with lots of good creative people so the fact he asked me was very humbling, or stupid.
What was it about the brand's aesthetic that drew you to the project?
James Pearson Howes: The aesthetic and more so Real Gold's attitude towards creativity.
Tim Head: You can't say you know East without knowing Real Gold. Even if you don't know the name, you'll know what they do or who they are indirectly. Everyone's got loose at the Alibi or eaten well at Rita's, and thats just the tip of what they do. To have a brand that is focused on doing, rather than hyping is a beautiful, and rare thing. I was very proud to be asked to get involved in this with both James and Real Gold, two bona fide institutions.
How did you both go about deciding on designs? did you have a particular visual theme in mind at all?
James Pearson Howes: I've been a massive fan of Tim's work for some time now so I knew what images of mine would suit his aesthetic. I just sent him a large file of my stuff and let him get to work.
Tim Head: When James got in touch he mentioned that he wanted me to do some collage work using his photos – so abstract painting or illustration was out. He then shot me over a folder of images he wanted me to use, so I printed them out and locked myself in the studio with a bunch of pritt sticks and scissors. I wanted this to reflect both of our styles, I didnt want to take over and lose James' incredible work, or on the flip side I didnt want to be weak and in the background. At the end of a short, but productive stint in the studio I had about three to five variations of each photo James sent me, then I whittled it down to a rough edit and shot them back. Thankfully Deano and James both liked them and we ran with no hassle or changes. A dream job. The themes are loose but each image is a response to James' initial work. I also never forgot to focus on creating images that ultimately would look good on t-shirts and be something I hoped people would proudly wear.
“We're not going to be rich if these sell, but that wasn't the aim – we wanted to make it affordable and create something good, and hopefully we achieved that” – Tim Head
What would you both say has been your biggest career highlight so far?
James Pearson Howes: Commercially it would have to be shooting four seasons of ads for Dr Martens. It was a perfect brief for me at the time and a great British brand to work for. But personally it's meeting Liam Hodges and seeing his SS14 men's collection which was apparently heavily influenced by my first book British Folk Part 1. That makes me happy.
Tim Head: I treat every project I'm working on as the best and last, so that way I give it 110% and don't get lazy. So without the fucking cheese, it's gotta be this so far! It was a labour of love – we're doing this to make stuff we're proud of. We're just covering costs on this project, we're not going to be rich if these sell, but that wasn't the aim – we wanted to make it affordable and create something good, and hopefully we achieved that.
James – tell us a bit more about your ongoing series British Folk?
James Pearson Howes: I've always wanted a reason to travel Britain and shoot its people, producing an epic project. Then around 2008 I stumbled upon these weird, dark Morris men in my local town back home in Dorset. After researching folk traditions I found my reason to travel Britian capturing these surreal versions of dark but wonderful folk traditions still practiced within Britain. The result was a trilogy of books, the final one British Folk Part 3 will be released in August.
Tim you recently published the collage-heavy ode to the pirate/rave era, Maximum Respect did you find the aesthetic for that bled into this project too?
Tim Head: Yes. James referenced that he liked the Maximum Respect zine and said wanted me to bring a bit of that vibe to this project, so it was consciously there. Also my studio is a fucking mess, and there's a lot of collage material lying around that I though I'd use, so that vibe is there somewhere. But I'm acutely aware of being typecast as 'that guy' who does/did Maximum Respect so I'm keen to show new stuff asap.
If you could both collaborate again on any design/brand what would it be?
Tim Head: I'm always up for working with cool people on things, so anyone who would have me really. That's not desperation but I think that the best ones commissioned are the unexpected ones, the ones that take you out of your comfort zone, so any project could be exciting. But after a crazy commission I did, I would be very happy working with complete creative freedom. It sounds boring, but truly it is everything. Theres nothing more frustrating knowing you can create something amazing for someone, but being forced to make something mundane. So this project was a dream – Deano and James liked what I do, and asked me to do what I do, because of that I think we did something alright.
James Pearson Howes: I'll second that!
Which was your favourite print to work on with these shirts?
James Pearson Howes: 'Pink sky' for me. Just makes me happy.
Tim Head: For me personally 'The London Lad'. I obviously like them all, but that one in particular I like a lot – reminds me of home.
Order your Real Gold tees here.
Follow Sian Dolding on Twitter here @SianDolding