What is Endless City? How did it start?
Aaron: [Endless City] Started out as a club night in Manchester about 6 years ago. Me and Jamie met through a close mutual friend years ago, before we all went to uni. Along with another guy, Joe, we always talked about starting up a studio together. One of those conversations that rarely turns into something fruitful, but luckily it turned out to be!
Jamie: There’s been a lot of coincidences, things that maybe haven’t been good at the time, culminating in us being here now.
As a collective, you’re known for doing loads of different things, whether it be poster design, live visuals, dj’ing- was that a natural progression for you guys?
J: It’s become a home for all the stuff that we enjoy doing. So we’ve always enjoyed music and we’ve always enjoyed art, and I feel like that’s the core of it. But because music and art is so open that then leaves illustration, photography, visuals, you know just leaves it completely open.
A: We didn’t really plan on doing all that stuff. There’s been so many times where we’ve just been throwing ourselves into a situation and trying to prepare for it as quickly as possible. We’ve paid our dues with running around town getting cables and forgetting shit. Me and House are quite forgetful I think.
J: Yeah, yeah, we were. We’ve always been in bands and stuff as well. We’ve both just knocked around creative circles since school and been trying to make it into a valid thing.
A: We’re all graphic designers by education I suppose, that was our kind of thing. It’s what we all did at uni, its like our core stuff of being designers and then applying that to all other sort of things. Abstract forward motion. We can’t really do anything else I don’t think, so, it’s worked out quite nicely for the moment.
Which brings us on to the fact that Endless Studio is a legit business now! Talk us through taking it from a bunch of mates, into a real professional bunch of mates.
J: We still do have other jobs- endlessly chasing invoices. We both work like a couple of days a week and then DJ’ing on the weekends, it all mixes together. The goal is to move it to a kind of set hourly rate like a proper business.
A: When we started a few years ago we moved into a studio in Brunswick Court, which was the old NHS deaf records building. So yeah, Feng Shui was way off. Everything was really dark and it was like one of those weird old Eastern European horror films going in there. No one wanted to stay in there at night. We were in there for two months and we painted it and did all this stuff to it.
J: We didn’t have any internet or heating or water. At the time we were convinced that we were gonna go analogue and that would be really cool and we just put loads of books in there and were like “it’s fine, we don’t need the internet” and that lasted about a day.
A: Then we burnt the books for heat. But yeah like Jamie said before, having those ups and downs and those bad things. I remember Raf [of MAP Charity] taking to me aside one day and saying that the building had been bought. And I was like fucking dreading telling these two guys. And they both just started laughing, both just like pissing themselves. Then that night, Raf rang us up and said “I know that’s happened, I’m really sorry- but there’s a space opened at MAP and we’re trying to do all this stuff” and gave us the bitesize information of it all.
J: It had been close to our hearts for a long long time before. It was like Raf was asking it apologetically like ‘oh you would have to do some work for MAP charity’ and all this stuff and we were like yeah, please, that sounds great!
You now have a lovely working as well as personal relationship with MAP Charity and it’s associates. Tell us about that journey, and how it impacts on Endless Studios.
A: We moved into MAP late 2017, we were in a really tiny office in the corner. We totally jumped at that and got more involved in every aspect of it all. We’d both done some teaching before, like workshops and stuff which sort of developed into us teaching downstairs with the kids and teaching the tutors some skills, they all teach us loads of stuff as well. Everyone there is just so nice; everyone shares, everybody wins. It couldn’t be a more kind of perfect match I think. It’s a natural progression to be in a building like that, and that sort of environment affords you to do good practice.
J: And there’s just so many people in the building, just ideas floating around constantly. It’s a really positive, healthy environment to be in to be creative.
A: We ‘re very fortunate to be in that space and situation, just making the best of it really, trying to make it a success. It’s a situation where everyone of all ages, whether you want to be involved in it or not, you can really see the impact of it.
J: Even just the amount of people that come to Leeds and leave loving Cosmic Slop, something as simple as that changes people views.
Have you guys noticed the music scene develop and evolve since you first came here?
J: I think there’s a lot more kind of emphasis on live music now which is really good to see. Also, like erm, 10 years ago there was a lot more local nights. Back then it was relatively rare for students to run a gig or a club night or whatever. I think it’s been really healthy for the music scene because there is so much competition. At the same time it’s been very hard to promote, but, it’s very healthy. I think it’s starting to become maybe known for the music a little bit more than it was when I first got here.
And in terms of the art side of stuff, has that scene been developing alongside the music?.
J: I think around the time when we started the studio, something which really spurred us on was that, a lotttt of the design around the city, all the kind of new restaurants, bars, anything that was like cool and appearing to the youth (winks charmingly), they all had like exactly the same, kind of like Scandinavian style of design and we wanted to really not do that.
A: yeah, like try and subvert things wherever possible.
J: yeah and it’s just always nice to be creative isn’t it? Original and things. With all these tings, it’s like we noticed it at the same time that loads of other people must have noticed it, because around that same time all of a sudden the art in Leeds became really really interesting. It’s like that idea of a shared idea space, think there must have been, yeah a bit of a knockback against that.
A: Yeah and the posters are mint as well, a lot of them. Everyone’s pals you know. It’s all like spurring each other on and sharing ideas and obviously, when you see other stuff you do have that tendency to naturally sort of be like ‘oh well that’s good, like try and do this next time’.
How do artists go about finding one another, and how did you meet a lot of the people you work with now?
A: We met loads of people through the Skint Store. It’s weird because the people who we knew then, so like 3 years ago, they’ve sort of transcended that now and they are doing really good stuff, maybe doing it as a full time job, and working for bigger brands and stuff. It’s like year groups in school, and you can see people develop. Like ‘aw yeah we’re in year 13 now, we can wear our own clothes’.
J: I think art people, probably the same with music people, gravitate in style. Adam Menzes who is working in there at the moment, like, when we first met him like all his drawings had like staircases and leopards and pyramids and all this like abstract semi mystical stuff in it. A lot of that is kind of our inspiration pool, same with a guy we work with called Joe. We kind of clubbed together so we can like have these discussions about symbols or old bits of fact and stuff like that. You can really help each other to get an understanding of it, and then create stuff out of it thats like interesting and with an actual backing to it.
J: It all comes back to Leeds as well don’t it, there’s a lot of links to mystical secret societies. The way the cities laid out, and the tunnels and the links to ancient Egypt in lots of the architecture. It’s got quite a rich history of that which is why I think there’s quite a few different artists who are tapping into that
A: I don’t know if this is the right thing to say in an interview, but we’ve already engaged now haven’t we! Don’t quote us directly, or they’ll be after us. But yeah, the layout of Millennium Square with the Museum, Civic Hall and Town Hall is laid out to scale in the same way that the Great Pyramids are in Egypt.
J: yeah it’s all the same ratios and angles isnit. And the owls are a classic ancient Egyptian symbol and all that kind of stuff, and the sheep, the obelisks. It’s an interesting place.
It just keeps getting more interesting as well, with the current development and gentrification that is a focal point of the discussion in Mabgate and particularly with MAP. How do you guys feel about the current development?
A: in terms of the MAP thing, like with the Hope Foundry that’s gonna become like the all encompassing aspect of it. The fact that it can be a community art space for people of all ages, something that really works for everybody. Public opinion is leading us more to that sort of sustainable like way of living and working. One of the more exciting things there is that the roof garden is gonna be up. I can’t wait to have an orange juice on the roof garden. The fact that they’re gonna grow loads of food on there, and sell it and teach people how to cook it. It’s gonna be mint.
J: I feel as well like development has been going on since cities were being built, and artists were probably always the first people to be chucked out of an area, and artists will always find a new area, so at the end of the day it’s more important to concentrate on not worrying about it. I know MAP that for certain if they didn’t manage to save the building well then it would be somewhere else. Development just has to have synergy with the community, you can’t not develop but you can’t just ruin everything, it’s got to have a balance. The Yin and Yang of development- maybe there’s a book we should write.