Keith Rankin talks... Giant Claw, pairing music with visual art
Visual artist and musician Keith Rankin has been championing his creative talents from a young age. Though his initial motivation was to create visual art, Rankin spent the majority of his teenage years making music, which he argued stunted some visual development. Now a master of his craft, he's pinned his name to a myriad of creative projects.
Keith: "The initial motivation to make visual art happened so young I can’t remember it, it’s like the motivation to speak, some things happen when you’re young that are out of your control. For music it was the appeal of a mysterious alternate emotional language."
Namely, his work with Orange Milk Records - the underground cassette label run by Keith and partner Seth Graham since 2010 - is what has garnered a lot of attention both visually and musically. What started out as a simple idea soon flourished into a fully functioning label, aligning itself with the electronic scene, and focusing largely on sounds from the Japanese electronic underground movement.
The characteristics of each record on display at Orange Milk are expressed through their eccentric cover art, a majority of which Keith has produced himself. Though he does not design records with a synesthesic palette in mind, his fantastical concepts will almost always inadvertently influence the way the music is received, and vice versa.
Keith: "The pairing of music with visuals can be very impactful. Most modern musical movements that I can think of are deeply tied to a visual look, over time those looks can become shorthand for an entire period of time or an entire segment of culture. On a smaller scale, if it’s strong enough, the visual usually dictates the identity of an album, especially for artists who aren’t using their own faces and personalities to brand their music.
Aside from working alongside partner Seth Graham as 'Cream Juice', Keith also produces his own music for the label under the 'Giant Claw' alias. His latest piece, Soft Channel (2017) is a kaleidoscopic display of whirling synths and glitchy instrumentation, that tie in well with the visual elements of the record. His work as a musician, he admits, is more of a testament to his creative skillset than his art. For Keith, his artistic boundaries are manifested more often in his visual work.
Keith: "For Giant Claw album art I like to collaborate with my partner Ellen Thomas who is a great painter; the result is always something I like that I couldn’t achieve on my own. Being in control of your own work is rewarding, but finishing any piece is too. I can’t express how joyful it is to finish a piece of art or music you’ve been putting a lot into, it’s exactly like an endorphin high...
...I want to try to make the image and music work together. Sometimes they do just because they’re put together, when two things are paired they can’t help influencing how the other element is viewed."
Keith: "Sometimes I use 3D elements, but ignoring that and focusing on photoshop, my process is similar to older airbrush artists. I draw an outline of an object, either pen and paper scanned or with the photoshop pen tool, and then build up layers of color to give it dimension. Then I adjust color settings in photoshop to get a desired effect. Overall it’s not as effortless as it might look, a lot of the time I restart images multiple times before I find an image that’s satisfying."
Despite the confines of Rankin's artistic imagery, his imagination has always run amok with futuristic subject matter that transcends shape, colour and form.