PROCESS: LUCAS KUHL
it's a warm and sunny day, and LUCAS and i are in in his car driving from THE DOJO WORKSHOP, QC to DOWNTOWN OTTAWA, on our way to find a dongle so i can use my clip-on mic with my phone to record the interview. on our way there, our conversation picks up quickly, and i decide to start recording right away.
GIOVANNI: GATINEAU drivers bro...
LUCAS: foreal. it's like a different world out here man. just like the vibe is so different from OTTAWA.
but umm...i think it's one of the biggest skills anyone could have right now: the ability to be multi-disciplined. and that's kinda the main thing i'm trying to communicate with my entire being. cause the most agreed upon thing up—until right now i'd say—is that you need to focus on one thing and stick with it and master it. it works, but it's not the only way. there are people who don't work like that.
yeah 100%. and i feel you on that cause i'm not great at anything but i'm good at a lot of things.
you're great at being good in multiple things.
yeah, and there's definitely value to that. especially with what i do with the magazine, it's all about doing it yourself. i just try to do what i can with what i have.
see, that's one of the best things because, if right now where you're at, you're not making excuses and you're doing with what you have, when you actually have a shit ton of stuff, you'll have the creativity to use your resources to the maximum that you actually can. so it's a plus from now until forever.
honestly. part of the reason why i do the whole magazine by hand is because i just never learned how to use PHOTOSHOP or ILLUSTRATOR or something like that. so i can still make something that's cool but i don't have to do it the way that everyone else does.
what's funny is, if you don't tell anyone you do it by hand, they'll think you used PHOTOSHOP.
that's true. and especially with all the texture packs nowadays, you can make it look like that. but there's some character to it that you can't get with digital.
i think that's the plus side of analog. like film and doing shit by hand. it's actually the margin of error. the fact that it's so not perfect that makes it look so cool. it's not a robotized, automatically done thing—your personality is in it when you do it by hand. i fuck with that, i like that. even when i do shit digitally, i always try to do it in a way that it's not automated, so that you can kinda see my personality in it and it's not just PHOTOSHOP placing shit for me.
definitely. going back to the 4ASECOND cover, you can tell that it wasn't just random shit put together on PHOTOSHOP. it looks like it's a legit watch with the title on it, it's sick.
yeah. and that's funny cause that idea was like—i didn't really think about it that much. cause that whole summer, the whole point was to put out a song every week. right?
so i have to have the song done. i have to master it. and i have to do the cover, submit it on time so it's up on time. so i don't have the time to really think through "ahhhh what should this look like blah blah blah." so i just have to be like "okay this is what i'm gonna do" and that's it. and in that, you get the better ideas. cause i had just looked at my watch, and was like "for a second, that's an easy [visual] pun or play on words" and i did it.
that's sick dude. i find—same thing for me. some of my best ideas just come in the spur of the moment. it's harder to have good ideas—
when you try.
yeah. i like doing things—like i've been planning some stuff, like planning shoots for the magazine. but a lot of it is just spur of the moment, you know, all my best photos are just making it up on the spot.
and i think that's the thing a lot of people struggle with. they try to control that aspect of the PROCESS. people don't like that idea that—i used to struggle with that a lot too where most of my best—especially when i was heavy into making beats and shit when i was just learning. most of my greatest ideas were when i wasn't trying to come up with my greatest idea.
it's like when you force it, it doesn't work out.
as soon as there's ego involved in the PROCESS, i think it goes to shit.
so the concept of like willingly going into making something, and then not really being obsessed with making the greatest thing—it's very paradoxical—that's the key to making good shit. i found.
and i find that even with me like—in skating for example, i went through a period recently where i just felt like i needed to skate my absolute best all the time or else i suck at skating. and i just skated like shit for like two weeks straight. and then as soon as i just—like—gave up on trying to skate my best and just have fun, like—now i'm skating better than ever you know?
it's the funniest thing. it's like a big big joke in a way cause it's a downward spiral cause as soon as you get pissed off that you didn't do as good as you wanted, when you go into it next, the chances of you being even shittier are higher. and then you keep going until you give up, and then as soon as you give up, you're back at it again.
you can't lose the fun in it, you know what i mean. if you're trying to force it all the time, you lose sight of why you actually do it, you know?
it's being result-oriented that usually fucks you up.
yeah that makes sense.
and that's what i was trynna do—yeah ... yeah you're gonna see the logo, i'll show you the logo soon cause i have to send it to your email anyways—but that was kinda the point i was trynna make [with it]. the thing i've learned the most last year was the importance of accepting that the PROCESS is a very mundane, repetitive slash boring thing, but in the best way possible.
no yeah i agree.
cause you just sit down, like learning a trick—i had a moment of trying to learn how to skateboard but i just could never pick it up completely but i managed to land a few ollies. but the PROCESS of skateboarding—especially learning the first few tricks—it's just doing that same thing over and over again and fucking up and getting closer and doing it and doing it and doing it and doing it and doing it and doing it, and then one day you land it and you're excited, and now it's just about perfecting it from the point of you figuring it out. and it never ends, cause you could always be better.
100% dude. like, if i saw myself skating now when i was 15 i'd think i was the sickest skater ever.
but right now i still feel like i'm a shitty skater, you know what i mean?
it never ends bro. that's the joke, it never ends. there's no result. it's just a cycle, it's just a loop.
and it's sick, there's nowhere to go!
i love it and hate it at the same time. like when you're going through it, it kinda sucks sometimes. but the whole PROCESS is good in the end, you know what i mean? you feel like it sucks doing the same thing over and over again but then, you look back on it and like, that was so fun. it's weird.
that's why people say, ummm ... as cliché as it is: you can't do it for money first. like of course if you're good enough to monetize it and you want to, go ahead. but the first reason why you're doing something—specifically creative—it should never be for the money. cause you're not only making something for the result, but you're essentially making it for anything other than yourself cause then you're trynna sell it and trynna figure out what people would want, and then you follow trends, and then you just always end up behind.
definitely bro ... i wanna see if i can park here. maybe i'll try right here.
we find a place to park and walk to the mall. on the way there we run into JOHN, a homeless man i've become friends with who always gives me advice on filmmaking and life. today, he lectures LUCAS and i about seeds of the mind, and how ideas are like tree saplings, and other stuff like photography essentially being a power that lets you freeze time.
after a few minutes, we leave JOHN and head in the mall and i buy the dongle. we then walk back to the car and drive to the skate park at LANSDOWNE. we start talking again about cool stuff on the way there. i record a short clip of that conversation as we're getting out of the car to walk to the park.
i found in being self-taught, the thing is—especially if you don't go through learning it how it's done traditionally—you don't learn the way most people would teach you, so you don't learn according to the rules. in that, you end up not only easily cutting to your own style of doing the thing, but in the not learning the rules, you break them and then you create new rules and you add something new to the thing that you're learning. so if you're learning skating in the way that people don't—cause people probably have very firm ways of how you should learn skating like "aghhh you should do this first, you should that first"
yeah like ollie, then shov
"you should ollie like this. you should ollie like that." but if you just try to learn it without going that conventional way, your way is probably gonna be so weird that it's gonna be refreshing. you end up being so much more refreshing.
100% dude. i've got a homie who's like—he's not the best skater, but he has so much style and so much personality that he's like—my favourite skater to watch, you know what i mean?
yeah see that's the thing. but i mean, you can still learn the rules and figure out how to go outside of them but, if you don't go that way at all, i think the looseness of how you're learning will create something so refreshing as a result.
[we both step in a pile of mud]
oh fuck ... yeah with photography too like i never really learned how to—i never learned the rules to it, you know what i mean? i never took it in high school, i didn't go to school for it, but i feel like it's definitely easier to like—hone your vision for what you want to do, you know?
yeah if you just jump into it.
cause you don't have rules to follow saying "you can or can't do this", you just do whatever you think is sick.
yeah and in that you end up being more creative cause like, "ohhh what about this? what if i do—" cause what happens when people teach you is, the possibilities of what you could do—they basically just cut them all away, and then they kinda just tunnel it, like they put you in a tunnel, and they narrow down the possibilities. but if you don't learn that way—or at least if you learn that way and you can figure out how to get yourself out of the tunnel, you can do that too. but that's just extra work.
might as well just start with all your options open.
exactly, it's better to just not get in the tunnel at all.
100% dude. i totally feel you.
[approaching the park]
damn i've never seen this place. i've been to LANSDOWNE, but i didn't know there was a park here.
it's pretty sick, there's a lot of little kids and stuff but uh—
[end of recording.]
we get to the park and LUCAS spends around twenty to thirty minutes skating so i can take a few photos. we see the concepts which we were talking about applied: he repeatedly attempts the same trick until it lands, and when it does, he goes on to the next.
once he's done, we move towards the back of the skating rink, and i finally get to ask him some questions.
actually, this is me being curious. your face is not on all of them so i just wanted to know: how many creative projects are you involved in. not necessarily projects but like, endeavours and shit that you're doing. cause you're involved in FAME FATALE.
you're involved in MORTEM.
yeah that's my homie ANDREW. we make a lot of clothes together.
yeah. he's a graffiti artist so he does all of his work with airbrush which is like, mini spray-paint kinda shit. and uh—yeah i chill with him almost everyday i go over to his house like just to sew clothes and screen-print shit. stuff like that.
*LUCAS sewing pieces for MORTEM STUDIO
so you're involved in it.
yeah. he runs it but i do a lot with him.
okay...what else? you said you just joined a punk band.
yeah, so i'm in a band called BANEZEAN. it's a skate punk band. i just joined [it] recently and my buddy ZANE started the band and he recorded like—a three song EP all by himself, like—playing every instrument and singing and stuff. so he was looking for band members. i met him at the skate park and we ended up talking because he was wearing a t-shirt from a band i knew and i was like "sick shirt man!" and we started talking and he bought the magazine from me, and then i was like "if you ever need a drummer, let me know!" and he was like "i do actually!". so it ended up working out.
okay. so anything else?
ummm ... that's about it i guess. i do the magazine—
you do photos.
i take a lot of photos, yeah. i shoot exclusively on film, pretty much. i have digital camera but i don't use it all that much. so i've been doing shoots for people like—do you know WILLEM? he did PSA LIVE. so he made these shirts that say RIOTING IS FOR THE UNHEARD. i don't know if you saw the photo of CHRIS i posted the other day.
i saw one of them. it was like—a button-up?
yeah. so he made those shirts and we made a photoshoot for that.
you took those photos?
ahhh, i didn't even know that!
mhmm. and he's raffling them off with BAD DOG, i think. so hopefully—i think he's gonna use the photos for that.
i mean, the one photo i saw of CHRIS was fucking fire.
thank you. i can show you the album if you wanna see.
photo by LUCAS KUHL for BAD DOG CO. & WILLEM
see, that's what i wanna do. cause i wanna create the least waste possible. so now what i'm trying to figure out is screen-printing. i might ask em for advice on that.
i'm gonna ask you too. cause i'd rather do that than to like—cause i know t-shirts use a lot of water—something in [the process of making] it is not that good (unsustainable) in the long term. so i thought why not get second-hand ones and wash them and then screen-print whatever i want.
it's the way to go though cause you—
and it's more analog like we were saying earlier.
yeah, and it's like—recycling almost. reusing, turning it into something new. and it's also just a lot cheaper too. you can get a blank tee at VALUE VILLAGE for like two bucks. whereas like— everywhere else is a minimum of five, so it's a bit cheaper too.
why does FAME FATALE exist? what was the—i hate asking "what was the inspiration" but what was the thought behind it? did you just gravitate towards it naturally? do you have a goal with it? do you have something you're trynna communicate with it?
sort of. so, the reason it started was: i always thought it'd be sick to make my own magazine and i wanted something that i could make with my photos so it's not just pictures, you know what i mean? and so, it had been in the works for years before i actually made the first magazine. back when i was working at a storage facility, and i was just sitting indoors all day, we had a computer and a printer so i was just printing out designs, ripping up paper, fucking with it, stuff like that; just on the work printer and i'd go home and i'd try to think of other stuff i could do. cause i didn't have a printer at home, so i was doing it all at work. the original name was MAGDALENE CULT which is what i'd first thought of which—not a bad name but, i think it's a little corny. but um ... we threw a backyard rap show under the MAGDALENE name, and that was super dope. but i wanted to make it more than that, so i went through a few more iterations of names and ideas for the magazine until i found something cohesive. and so, FAME FATALE—what the name means is: it's sort of how—you know how the Femme Fatale is like the classic literary device where it's a woman who seduces you or entraps you, and she has ulterior motives? she'll play with your mind in order to get you to do stuff for her, which is kinda like FAME, i believe. people will do so much in order to become famous that they lose sight of their creativity; they lose sense of their sense of self because everything is just for the fame. so it's relating fame to how it seduces you to do things that are ultimately kinda bad for you, you know?
oh yeah, that's a fire name then.
is it spelled F-A-M-E?
cause i've been pronouncing it the french way. 'femme'.
yeah it's okay. my other french homie says it the same way.
that's fire. i didn't even make the connection. that's sick i like that.
*promo photo taken by LUCAS for FAME FATALE VOLUME III
okay, so that's what you're communicating? sticking true to what everything is about, which is just making shit.
yeah. my whole thing is DIY, like i do everything in the ways that i know how. i do what i can with what i have. i was talking about that before a little bit. yeah, that's like the main thing for me umm ... i love making things, i love building shit, and the magazine is like—a good creative outlet because i could take my photos—which i love doing—but also, i could make it more about more than just the photos. and uh, i'm trying to use it as a platform to promote artists—like local artists. so i wanna have resources for people who wanna do similar shit. like i'm not trynna be the only one DIY magazine, like i want other people to do it. it's cool to have a scene, not just be the only one, you know?
that's key cause a lot of people which is— ... i wouldn't say just OTTAWA but in general—when someone has something nice going where they're ahead of other people in whatever that thing they do, they're always afraid of giving out the "secrets" of how to this. like when someone will ask "how do you do this?" people will be super brief, like "i can't give that away", "i can't give away the secret sauce", whatever. that's such a lame thing.
it's so egotistical. like—i don't know, i just always wanted it to be a resource and a platform for people. cause what is art without a community? so that's what i'm trynna do. so i do how-to videos on how i do some of my shit. like how to screen-print, how to get like, different textures in your photos.
shit nigga, send that to me!
i gotchu bro!
i mean, i haven't really tried. i've been saying i wanna learn how to screen-print but i haven't really tried. i think that once i try, it should be pretty good. cause there's so many ways right?
stencil, there's like—
the photo emulsion way. the photo emulsion is like—super hard to use. i've tried it four or five times, fucked it all up every single time.
so you use stencil?
yeah. so i have plastic overhead sheets that i can put through my printer. and then, i'll print out a design on them, cut it out with an X-ACTO knife. so sometimes there will be pieces that aren't connected to the outside, so i'll put a piece of painter's tape, i'll tape the part that i wanna cut out on top of that, i'll cut it out, and then i'll just peel out the rest of the tape, and then i'll stick the painter's tape right on the screen.
that's the easier way right?
yeah. it's the quick and dirty way, but it works super well for simple shit. like you can't do a full picture with it but you can do simple shit really easily.
ahh, that's good to know.
if you ever want some help, i got hella ink, i got hella screens. i'd be super down to do some stuff together.
yeah, i'd come over and try to do a make-shift workshop. bet okay.
yeah that'd be sick.
okay so, just to relate things back to what i told you DOJO is mainly about: it's a very vague question but what does the word PROCESS mean to you? what do you think of when you think of that word?
mmm process ... i think in a lot of cases, it's more important than the final result. because, if you don't go through the process you're never learning. if you're focused on the result of it, then you don't learn shit along the way, you know? you have to figure out your own process, you have to figure out the way you do it, which is a lot of what i do because i don't know how to use PHOTOSHOP so i'm making it by hand. i didn't know how to take good pictures so i practiced like crazy. it's all about the process of learning. if you're not learning, you're not growing. and i feel like if you're not learning, you're not really living either, you know?
yeah like i was telling you earlier, i think that's the whole point of being alive, right? like depending on people's belief systems—like i believe in reincarnation and shit like that. i believe you come back. if you don't finish whatever you have to do, you come back, in a different body or whatever. if you don't believe in that, if you think you're gone, it's same thing. you have one life to figure shit out. cause when you come here that's the whole thing, that's what you're drawn to: [figuring] things out.
in the end, it's kinda pointless in a way but, it's like the thing you were saying where it's meaningless but it's just up to you to just give it meaning in a way, if you believe that.
100% ... i can't remember what i was about to say. [laughs] but uh ... yeah like, i find that nothing really matters in the end, but it matters because you want it to matter, or because it matters to you, you know what i mean? that's kind of the beauty of life, it's that nothing matters unless you want it to matter, you know?
yeah, and that gives you the power in a way. i think that empowers you cause, anything that doesn't matter that may be a hassle to someone else, you know inherently that at baseline, objective reality, the more you zoom out, the less shit matters. and it's one of those bittersweet things to learn cause that applies to everything! that applies to social, racial, everything issues. the more you zoom out—an alien could be looking at us— ... bro, an asteroid, a meteor comes here: it's not gonna spare me cause i'm not rich. it's not just gonna kill the rich people or the poor people or whatever. if a meteor hits, it doesn't care who's who, what's what. nothing matters to it. you're just—you're done! that's it! everyone's equal, objectively! so, i think when you apply that philosophy, and you decide what matters [while] remembering that nothing matters and you're just playing a game of kinda pretending that this matters to you—but you always remember that objectively it doesn't fucking matter—then in that it's more fun.
it's freeing in a way. once you don't invest so much time worrying about stuff, you have so much more time to do stuff that you actually enjoy, you know what i mean?
like i say: you see what you're looking for. so if you're looking for problems and shit to worry about, you're gonna find plenty.
i've had to learn that the hard way. i've had a lot of bad things happen in my life recently. this is gonna get a little heavy, just a heads up. a few years ago, my girlfriend that i'd just moved in with passed away of a cardiac arrest.
and so, i was there with her. i had to call the paramedics and do CPR and shit. umm—and it was the worst thing that ever happened to me, obviously.
i can imagine, fuck.
very scarring. i still kinda have PTSD from it. after that, my grandpa died, and my uncle died, a bunch of childhood friends died—
what's the time span for that?
uhh, i had like seven people die within a year in a half.
ahh nah that's too much...
it got to the point where i just never expected anything good to happen. it was always just thinking "more bad shit's gonna happen". so it took me a long time to start to shift my thinking. every time things would go well, i'd be like "nah it's going too well, something bad's gonna happen". but if you keep thinking that, you're manifesting it a little bit, you know? it took me a long time to shift my thinking into—that good things can happen. it took me about two years to get over such a bad depression. all i could see was the negative. now i'm kinda on the other side where—
that's good to hear man, cause some people don't come back. some people just fall into that and they just stay there bro.
i thought i was gonna be like that forever but, it only lasted about two years which is still a long time but—
would you say there was a specific turning point, where you kinda decided, or was it a very gradual thing where you gradually got out of it?
a little bit of both. like, it was gradual, but gradual over a short period of time. so it was really bad for a long time but, it was right around when i started the magazine. it gave me a purpose. it gave me stuff to work on, and stuff that make me feel happy. i had to get used to feeling happy again, you know? right around the time that i quit weed too, cause it's so easy when you're feeling bad, you just smoke a bowl—
yeah exactly. it's just a crutch you know? when i quit doing that, i felt so much more motivated, i started thinking more positively, i had stuff that i was working on that i was proud of. that helped a lot. i still tend to be a bit pessimistic sometimes but—i have to tell myself to focus on the good things. cause if you don't realize the good things, all you see is the bad, you know?
you find what you look for!
yeah, as you were saying.
your mind creates the universe. everything is being processed through your head so, the objective mind is interpreting [from] all the senses, and before it gets to you, it has to pass through the filter that is your personality; through LUCAS or GIO or whoever, INSERT NAME HERE. it has to pass through that filter, and then that's when how you are as a person determines how you interpret what your senses come across.
it's crazy to think that reality is just how your brain perceives things. like—for me, i was stoned all the time, so i was just perceiving things differently for two years. and then once i stepped out of that mindset, it's like it opens your brain up to perceive things in a new way and reality literally changes, which is cool.
yeah ... what would you say your process is like for each of the things that you do?
so for the magazine, i put it out every three months. so i first secure some interviews for it so i can plan around that. and then, i'll just be shooting for two months straight. some candid stuff when i just shoot when i have my camera but, i've been recently trying to plan out or purposely do shoots so that i have good content for the magazine. and then, i spend about a month putting it all together, just cutting paper, taping it down. i try to get all the content done before i plan out the magazine because i can select what i want from what i have, and it's easier to lay it out. but usually it only takes me about a month [to put everything together]. and then after that, i put it out, i promote it for another month, then i shoot a bunch of photos for a month, then i start working on the next one. that's pretty much my process for the magazine.
do you ever have a period where you stop? cause, for me, that's the thing i struggle with: after i finish a big project, let's say when i put out YIN®—actually it wasn't a bad thing but, i completely got off music for a very long time.
i feel you.
do you work in a way that after you put out "volume one", you start working on "volume two" right away?
nawh, i can't. i run out of ideas so i need time in between in order to think of new shit, you know? so i'm like experimenting with different ideas like putting together different textures or different ways to edit photos. so i'm just kinda thinking of new ways throughout the time but, i can't work on the magazine right after the other one, you know? it's just too much, i run out of motivation and ideas.
okay. i think that's all. lemme see if i have anymore questions ... oh it's been twenty minutes.
damn, doesn't feel like it.
how'd you gravitate to—oh nah, you said it for the magazine but, for photos, did you just start?
i just started, honestly. my dad's been a photographer for the entirety of his adult life. so he does a lot of—
so you've been around it.
yeah i've been around it. my dad takes a lot of super nice landscape shots, like HDR, super nice colours and contrasts and stuff. we used to just go out—me and him—and he'd just take photos of me for my facebook profile picture.
[laughs] that's hard.
we'd think of ideas and i'd get my dad to take some photos and stuff like that, so i got used to the idea of thinking of ideas for photoshoots. and then, randomly out of nowhere, i just went on KIJIJI and looked up a random camera and found one that i thought was cool. went and bought that for fifty bucks. and then, it's just practice really. i love film cause, you shoot the shots, you don't see them, so you have no idea if it's gonna turn out good or not.
you better get it right! [giggle]
yeah, which is scary but it's much more fun too because, you get your photos back, and it's like a surprise, youknowwhatimean? you'll shoot your photos, you'll forget about the roll and drop it off a few weeks later, and you literally forget what photos you've taken.
especially if it's been a while. like "oh shit!"
yeah! like "i took this! that's sick!" you know? it's like surprising yourself which is super dope.
i think that's my favourite part of the experience: when you go pick it up, especially if it's been a month or two, and you're like "ohhhh yeaaaah, that moment! oh yeaaah and that moment!" and you start remembering when you decided to take the picture. yeah, i like film a lot. digital's cool, they all have their pros and cons, one isn't better than the other. i think i like film more just because of that reason. like we said, analog can add so much more character.
yeah! and that's another thing i like about film. and it goes back to the DIY thing. cause like, i don't really know how to edit photos very well, especially with a digital photo, it's very flat. there's so much you can do with it, but i don't know how to do it.
i hate editing digital.
with film it does so much of the editing for you. you can just do little adjustments here and there but it adds the character, it adds the tones to it already. so it's kinda one in the same, i kinda do what i can with what i have and—
and that grain!
that grain cannot be reproduced.
you ever see girls post selfies and they go on VSCO and crank the grain up? you can tell it's fake.
you can always tell when it's film. you cannot copy that, it's so good.
it's cool that there's been a resurgence but it's also kinda bad because—<