Best of CH 2014: Interviews

From a cyborg activist to a surfboard shaper to a musician, comedian, fashion designer and more, our look back at the people we spoke with this year

This year we spoke with an incredible pool of talented individuals, and narrowing it down to a select few feels a little unfair. While an almost equally interchangeable list of interviews would include Sharon Jones, Erik Spiekermann, Ingo Maurer, Iggy Pop, Iris van Herpen, Ai Weiwei, Peanut Butter Wolf and so many outstanding chefs, designers, artists and DJs, below are 10 people who put such a unique spin on their craft, we couldn’t help but fan-out. Be sure to click on each name to read more, told in their own words.


Casey Spooner

Starbucks isn’t the place New Yorkers go to for art (or really coffee, for that matter). However on one fateful night in 1998 at the East Village’s Astor Place location, the coffee retailer was unsuspectingly turned into a guerrilla performance art venue. Casey Spooner and Warren Fischer, art school grads new to the city from Chicago, threw together a performance under the moniker Fischerspooner. From there, the group’s irreverent, over-the-top electronic art glam—the likes of which had never been done before—took off. Reacting to the grim utilitarian mode of the day, Fischerspooner was a spark of glitter-dusted avant-garde futurism. Now, 16 years later, the band examines their legacy with “New Truth”—a stunning hardcover photography book. We sat down with the crowd-facing half of the genre-spanning art project, Casey Spooner, to talk origins, creative process and what’s in the works.


Henrik Vibskov

Taking home first prize by breakdancing in an electric boogie competition at the mere age of five, Henrik Vibskov—now 42 years old—has amassed a simultaneously impressive and intriguing biography, portfolio and unsurprisingly, an international cult following. A Copenhagen-based fashion designer, costume designer, contemporary artist, drummer, retailer, professor and potentially anything else he puts his mind to, Vibskov not only takes on almost any type of creative endeavor that piques his interest, he does it on a massive scale.


Roger Linn

Without a multi-million dollar budget, high-tech research lab or an engineering degree, Roger Linn created the LM-1 Drum Computer in 1979, the first programmable drum machine that used digital samples of acoustic drums. Unlike other drum machines of the day—like the classic Roland TR-808—the LM-1 was the closest one could get to having an authentic drummer when you didn’t have a kit (or the skills) handy. Linn, himself a guitarist and mandolinist who lives in California, built the LM-1 when he was recording demos and needed a decent rhythm; he hired a live drummer and recorded each hit. The resulting drum machine was worshipped for its realistic, natural sound, which stood in stark contrast to the synthetic drum hits built from white noise or sine waves (though that sound led to a style cherished by house, techno and hip-hop).


Hayden Cox

At just 32 years old, Sydney-born Hayden Cox has exceeded in making his mark on the surf industry. With Haydenshapes—his line of performance boards—the self-taught computer programmer, web designer and shaper embodies the spirit of modern surfing. Aesthetically focused yet driven by performance, Cox’s boards integrate innovative materials and design features into unique board shapes inspired by free-surfing’s past. Bypassing the competition-focused design approach of many of his peers, Cox bravely follows his instincts and those of his team riders. Following an unexpected collaboration with fashion designer Alexander Wang, we spoke with Cox between LA and his native Australia about design, the current state of the surf industry and being your own boss.


Federico Pepe

Federico Pepe is a slightly peculiar figure in Italy’s arts and culture landscape. Advertiser, artist, graphic designer, video-maker, typographer—over the years his hybrid interests have seen him collaborate with celebrated artists like Maurizio Cattelan, Pierpaolo Ferrari, Nico Vascellari and many others on a diverse range of projects. The most well-known of these projects is certainly Le Dictateur, a unique e-commerce and editorial platform (and now also an exhibition space in Milan). Conceived as a sophisticated art magazine, Le Dictateur is synonymous with high-quality content and is equally worshipped by graphic designers and typography enthusiasts for the subversive design aesthetic found across its printed pages.


Tom Dixon

Tom Dixon might have received an OBE from Her Majesty in 2001, but that hasn’t made him blasé about winning other awards. Cool Hunting sat down with him at Maison & Objet, where he was honored as Designer of the Year for 2014. Wanting to do something special for the show, Dixon built a popup factory with limited-edition products produced and sold on site, and unveiled a new line of glass-and-copper barware, diffusers and pressed-glass candleholders. In such a good mood was the gold-toothed designer, he even celebrated with a hush-hush late-night performance at David Lynch’s club Silencio, with Tom on bass (like his days in the ’80s playing in the London band Funkapolitan) and art book publisher Robert Violette taking over the drums. With us he discussed the new Mondrian Hotel opening and his plans for London Design Festival.


Gemma Shiel

Don’t be misled by the pink-haired, effervescent-yet-sensible Gemma Shiel. The creative mastermind behind London-based label Lazy Oaf has a youthful energy that manifests in the saucy, playful apparel she and her team design, but she’s been in the industry for over a decade. With humble beginnings selling printed T-shirts in a market stall to opening a shop in Soho to collaborating with icons for the production of Garfield-covered bodysuits and more, Shiel’s steadfast commitment to the brand’s roots has led it to eventual global success. Each capsule collection Lazy Oaf produces leaves enthusiasts with overflowing shopping carts, as it’s hard to leave with just one piece. We spoke with the illustrator and designer to discuss Lazy Oaf’s Autumn ’14 collection, the team’s creative process and making fashion fun and accessible.


Neil Harbisson

While the term “wearable technology” might make you think of a fitness tracker or Dick Tracy-esque talking wristwatch, Barcelona-based artist Neil Harbisson wears an antenna that is permanently implanted in his head. Diagnosed with achromatopsia (complete color blindness) as a child, Harbisson had been searching for a way to experience color further than the greyscale he knew. The sensor at the end of his antenna reads wavelengths of light, or colors, and converts them into a sound frequency. Different colors translate into different pitches and Harbisson can even “see/hear” colors outside the visible spectrum, such as infrared and UV light. In 2010, he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation to encourage others to explore this new realm of cybernetics in the arts. We spoke with Harbisson over Skype to learn more about his life as a cyborg activist.


Tim Heidecker

Sometimes just looking at a certain comedian can make you giggle, and cult alt-comedy star Tim Heidecker is certainly one of them. Heidecker and his longtime partner in crime Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric fame have been making audiences laugh (and sometimes cringe) with their odd, signature brand of surrealist humor on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim since their first solo show aired in 2004. Outside of their comedy series, the duo has independently been pursuing creative interests with Wareheim directing several famous music videos and Heidecker hitting the studio with his partner Devin Wood as Heidecker & Wood. Following up on the pair’s 2011 ode to soft rock Starting from Nowhere, we caught up with Heidecker to talk about balancing comedy with earnest music production and his new record Some Things Never Stay the Same.


Eames Demetrios

In the garden of the Case Study House, Eames Demetrios—grandson of Charles and Ray Eames—settled in a shell chair to share the stories of his family’s heritage and legacy, architectural preservation and his own world travels he undertook to create his epic global parallel universe installation project Kcymaerxthaere. Just a few weeks earlier, Demetrios finished up a project with Herman Miller to design the way the entire Herman Miller collection works together in a display at downtown LA’s Carondelet House (originally built in 1928). The colorful dining room is now set up to showcase the colors of their newly updated sustainable materials. Looking out toward the Pacific Ocean, our conversation with Demetrios began with a discussion of Eames furniture and material innovations.