Photography / Editorial / Print

With a multitude of talents ranging from graphics, illustration and animation to DJing, composition and record production, we asked Jem Panufnik: Where do you find the energy from?

Good question! We have a 7-month old baby now too so the juggling has reached epic proportions – as have the bags under my eyes! Occasionally it troubles me that maybe I should be concentrating on fewer things, but I love all aspects and they all feed off each other. I couldn’t imagine dropping anything right now.

Tell us a bit about Jem and what makes you tick?

Well as you’ve noticed I lead a pretty schizophrenic life, but everything’s tied to each other in some sort of way. It’s not that I’m incredibly disciplined either – I just seem to accidentally take on a lot…

How important is music to you, did you play any instruments growing up and what made you decide you wanted to DJ?

I grew up in a musical family – my dad was a classical composer (Sir Andrzej Panufnik) and my sister and I were very much encouraged to learn instruments although nothing was ever forced on us. As kids we went to a lot of orchestral concerts and rehearsals and of course that rubbed off. My sister went on to also be a classical composer while I got into playing the drums, jamming in rock and funk bands and recording. I never set out to be a DJ but I ‘ve always been an avid record collector, and once I started producing dance music, taking it on the road was very much part of the job.

Where do you find inspiration for your drawings? 

I love chunky graphical art. I get a lot of pleasure from vintage packaging but possibly my main inspiration comes from Filmore era psychedelic posters and album sleeves. I admire some forms of comic and graffiti art although I don’t partake in either (although many people imagine I do)

To you art is....?

Expression, but on any level. It used to tear me up thinking I needed some great cause to champion through art, but actually it can just be as simple as enjoying a shape or form, or a scenario that makes you smile. It’s the same in music. The legacy I thought I’d inherited from my father, who had a very hard and often painful life in war-torn Poland made me feel for a while that anything that didn’t have an important message was somehow superfluous. Now I know that if you can get a boot tapping with a great beat, that has a beautiful action of its own. It’s just a different artistic function and they’re not comparable. And that’s not to say my dad’s music always demanded a serious approach – much of it is just gorgeous on face value regardless of the background.

What methods do you employ in creating your artwork, do you start off with drawings, templates, then add layer upon layer?

Generally I get going in my sketchbooks and when I’m ready I’ll start on a nice big bit of cartridge paper and ink it in black and white. Then I scan it into Photoshop and start adding colours and textures. More often than not the sketching part is where I have to really work it the hardest and when I want to drop my pen and run away. 

Tell us about the sleeve and flyer designs for Finger Lickin’ Records and your collaboration with Justin Rushmore?

Meeting Justin and eventually starting Finger Lickin’ together was a great twist of fate really. I’d been making music as a hobby mainly and doing small illustration jobs since I left art school (Camberwell) a couple of years or so earlier. We were both inadvertently looking for a partner to help compliment what we had. Justin has a good business head and brought direction to my creativity. After a few white labels and house tracks we started Finger Lickin’ with a brand and vibe very much in mind and it became the perfect springboard for all my creative passions. It was also one of the first underground labels to make the visual side as important as the grooves – we spent a lot on lavish full-colour sleeves and I think that helped us to stand out a great deal.

What highlights have there been in your DJ career - what has been your best gig?

I guess nothing can compare with when breakbeat just exploded about ten years ago, particularly in Australia. To travel to the other side of the world and discover not only do they know all your work but go mental for it was an experience I will cherish to my dying days! As Soul of Man we played huge festivals to crowds of thousands, in the New Year sunshine, plus were treated extremely well. Aah happy days!

How important are vibrant colours, bold drawings and humour in your work?

It depends on what I’m doing. Record sleeves, a few years ago at least, were racked like any other product vying for your attention. A major factor for commercial artwork these days is it has to work well as a thumbnail for digital stores, so simplicity is the key more than ever. But much of my work now leans towards a different emphasis: since I’ve started exhibiting I’ve been painting on found bits of wood, making sculptures, exploring my darker side…

What would a world without music be...?

Inconceivable! Music is everywhere

With so much experience in the music industry, what advice would you give to young DJs and musicians starting out?

The industry is completely unrecognisable now to when I was starting out. Cheap technology and the internet has made it possible to get your work out there – on YouTube, Soundcloud, Facebook etc, but of course it’s made it much more competitive to get noticed. I think it helps to have a strong visual side, to make some short cheeky videos – anything to make you stand out from the crowd. If it’s not something you can do on your own then collaborate.

Following on from the Riverside Gallery exhibition, what plans do you have in 2012?

It’s shaping up to be a crazy year! My Jem Stone project is stepping up a gear – it’s more of a jazzy-funky-dubby trip with crazy animated visuals ( I’m about half way through recording an album for Freshly Squeezed with some stupendous collaborations that I think are going to surprise a lot of people, plus I have an AV show I’m going to take on the road, particularly the festivals this summer. I’m very excited about it all!

The exhibition was a big hit and I’m now in talks with a few venues to take it on the road over the next year or two. I’ve just finished a children’s book I’m now trying to get published, plus I’ve been asked to do some film music and I have a few film ideas of my own with my digital artist wife, Mischa. And there are some interesting remixes in the pipeline. Not sure how to squeeze it all in!

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 06


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