Our colleagues from “The Upbeats & Co.” have recently interviewed Rutger Prins – a man who deserves much more recognition as he is the one responsible for amazing covers like “Raum und Zeit LP” by Neosignal, “Could This Be” and “Split The Atom LP” by Noisia, “Undertaker” by The Upbeats and others. The interview is huge, pleasant to read and covers all the necessary topics. You get a chance to know about Rutger’s methods of work and his development as a designer. It is a real honor to have an exclusive right to publish the English version of this interview. After you’ve finished with it, you are obliged to check out “The Upbeats & Co.” public page to show your sign of gratitude for such a great job they did. On their page you can find the russian vesrion of the interview, as well as all the fresh news and previews from producers like The Upbeats, Noisia, Mefjus, Emperor, Phace & Misanthrop and others.
Hello Rutger! It’s a great pleasure to chat with you. So, we want to ask you some questions from us and our subscribers (https://vk.com/the_upbeats). Unfortunately, some of our readers have no idea who you are :D So please introduce yourself to public.
Hey there, thanks for you interest in my work! I’m Rutger Prins, a photographer and graphic designer from the Netherlands. I’m specialised in creating high impact imagery and I’ve been working for the creative industry for about 10 years now.
What thing had brought you into design & photography?
Ever since my next door neighbour showed me Adobe Photoshop 1.0 back in the ‘90’s I’ve been absolutely fascinated with image manipulation. You see, back in that time I only knew Paint and did have a knack for image esthetics, so Photoshop was like a door to a new universe for me. Although I never stopped playing around with design, neither my school nor my friends/family knew there was any career in this line of work.
Do you have a special photographer or designer education or something like that?
Yes, I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. Nothing official in photography though. During my years at the art academy I was thrown out of class for being a REALLY bad photographer.
What sources of knowledge are most valuable for you?
My personal life is the best source next to the internet. I like to learn new skills by myself so once something has spiked my interest I want to know how to do it.
We know that you had graduated from a special school for photographers. Could you tell us about it?
Nope! Just did the local art academy. My photography is self-taught.
How you became the person you are today? Had you decided to become a designer right after finishing your education (in school or institute) or did you make this decision after doing other job somewhere?
I kind of rolled into it I guess. I’ve always been drawn to the arts even though during high school nobody told me there was such a thing as an ‘art academy’. I certainly wasn’t any good at drawing, which was the only creative course on our school. I I just started some IT education which I quickly failed. My counselor told me that he thought my work was always very elaborately designed and he told me I should apply for an art academy. Once I was accepted at Academy Minerva my world was turned upside down. A school that taught stuff I actually was interested in. During the second year I decided to become a designer and after an internship and a few weeks of work at a design agency I noticed I wanted to work for myself and not for a boss, so I started my own studio. I don’t want to help some guy build his dream. I want to build my own.
We have a fan-society full of people who love music from such producers such as Noisia, The Upbeats and Neosignal. So, a lot of our questions will be connected with these musicians. How did you meet with Noisia? Do you have other things in common besides the work on album covers?
I met Nik from Noisia at the art academy. We became friends and he told me he was in this DNB group called Noisia. I didn’t like it at first. Way too aggressive. I was more into mellow DNB. But after a while I noticed his music was WAY more detailed and well constructed compared to any other artist I knew and so my respect for Noisia grew.
After my mother died and my relationship with my girlfriend ended I was looking for a room to rent in Groningen. The guys from Noisia had space left so I moved in there and lived as their roomie for a year.
We heard that you like playing videogames and The Unreal Tournament in particular. Why this game is your favorite? What other games do you prefer?
Nik and I are both huge nerds and I introduced him to Unreal Tournament in 2003. I already had a group of friends playing it competitively. We got together often and became pretty good at it, eventually grabbing a world title in a specific game mode. I like UT because it’s one of the first high speed arena FPS’ that require an enormous amount of coordination, twitch aiming and sense of play that other games lack. Other games I prefer are Company of Heroes 2 and CS:GO which I play competitively too.
Another question about Noisia. Do you think that working together with these guys changed your workstyle in any way?
In terms of design I think Nik has had a profound effect on me. We both love sci-fi inspired stuff and love certain types of typography. In terms of photography I’m doing all I can to keep the images coming from my own kind of inner world and as little from the outside as possible.
Who gave you an idea of installations for such album covers as ‘Split The Atom LP’ and ‘Could This Be [Single]’?
The original idea for Split the Atom arose during a meeting with Noisia and their management. They wanted it to be very extreme but also show Noisia as a group. I wanted to avoid something as cliché as an atom bomb explosion but rather show the effects of the ‘splitting of the atom’ on Noisia itself and eventually on all the other pieces I did for that album.
The idea for suspending the radio was part of a personal project I started at the same time as the ‘Could This Be’ single. My girlfriend came up with the idea of using fishing wire!
I like the photo used in ‘The Upbeats – Undertaker EP’ cover art. Where is the place that is captured on photo?
After my mother died of cancer my family went on a brief sabbatical on Vlieland, a Dutch island north of the Netherlands. In the photo you can see the grasslands of the coast there and if you look closely you can see my father standing in the background.
So here comes a question about Neosignal: What does a bee sitting near human eye symbolize? As for me, it means that humanity became crazy and could not notice anything in their surroundings. However, is it even possible – to ignore a bee sitting near your eye? :D
I think you’re very close. Originally the idea behind the album is to hold up a mirror to society to show how much we are being consumed with our digital lives, but also our neglect for our surroundings. The dead wasp is a symbol for both a dying nature and our inability to feel anything real anymore.
Did you have a deal with Phace and Misanthrop? What can you tell about them? Some of their ideas seem to be totally insane!
No deal, I’m afraid. Haven’t heard from them since the Raum und Zeit artwork project finished. They both are very detailed and passionate about the imagery for their Neosignal act and I loved spending time with them to do the project. I won the project pitch which turned into the Raum und Zeit artwork but they both were very involved with every aspect.
We’ve noticed that you have changed your working direction towards participating in exhibitions (as we can see on your new website) instead of creating album artworks. Why are you interested in this particular art direction?
A year ago a few people who are special to me noticed that my work had gallery potential. I’ve always pushed myself when working for clients, creating the most insanely detailed and hard-hitting artwork I could from a bunch of dreams I write down after waking and keep them stored in my phone. I sell these ideas to clients who hire me for design or photography. But I’ve never used these ideas for myself. This changed last year when I had my first exhibition of personal work which sold out in 2 hours. It was a revelation to me. Instead of waiting for people to hire me for my visual ideas, I create them and they end up as huge art prints for people to enjoy. Creating my own work means no compromises, nobody telling me what to do. My personal work is like looking into my mind. If you like it or don’t is irrelevant to me. This is a kind of freedom that I’ve never experienced before.
Have you ever felt like you wanted to give up on photography and design? If so, what helped you to overcome such thoughts?
I’ve never really wanted to quit. There have been a lot of hard times, yes. But I think my work is more of a lifestyle than a job. I -am- my work so I can’t really quit. When I was younger I doubted myself a lot. When you do something a long time, things get easier. I kept looking at other artists that I loved and kept working until I was as good or better than them.
Tell us about your future plans.
First of all: expanding my personal work on my website. I’ve just started as an artist and I’ve already been asked to take part in 3 major international exhibitions. But my design work never stops. I’ve split up personal and professional work and Regime is my new studio name. All my assigment work can be found on www.regime.nl, It’s still under construction right now.
Questions from our subscribers:
What collaboration had interested you most?
Definitely with Noisia. We’re very much on the same page when it comes to what direction to take in terms of style and esthetics. Working with them is like coming home.
What inspires you?
Death as an ultimate end. Bringer of change, making everything matter. And explosions. Lasers. Any type of violence that is visual. And experiments in physics/chemistry.
What font is your favorite? :D
Right now it’s Gidole. My whole website is built with it.
What books or other sources of information could you recommend for beginners in photography and design (compostion, coloring, etc)?
• The Design of Dissent – Glaser & Ilic
• Dali – Gomez de Liano
• BAUHAUS – Jeannine Fiedler/ Peter Feierabend
• Understanding Design – Kees Dorst
• Alphabets – Wim Crouwel, the entire Los
Logos series (!!), Surrealists – Tim Martin, any comprehensive art history book.
What music do you like? What artists are your favorite?
I’ve got a very wide range of favourites but right now it’s mostly breakbeats, instrumental hip-hop, glitch-hop and edgy electronic music. Artists: Zack Christ, Comfort Fit, Fulgeance, Daisuke Tanabe, Ghost Mutt, Dabrye, Samiyam, Flako, Evil Needle, Eric Lau and Lukid.
What was your main activity before the cooperation with musicians?
Designing for small startup companies in Groningen. Then I started out doing work for musicians, so nothing much really.
What project (album cover) was the most stressfull or had the biggest workload? Could you describe a process of its creation?
The Raum und Zeit artwork project was the most intense for me, I think. First I had to win the pitch versus other good artists with a great idea. Then discussing the idea with Neosignal and their management. Then I had to sketch and plan the entire setup. Getting all the supplies ready for the shoot. Finding the perfect location, then move all the gear there. Protect gear from rain and snow. Hook up a 3000 watt generator with all my computers I brought from my home. The setup and shooting needed to be finished within a few hours because of impending rain and snow. So we had only a small window. I worked non-stop for 20 hours to get everything finished and perfect and I love the outcome.
Which one of your projects is your favorite?
Definately the Split the Atom special edition project. I had so much freedom to do whatever I wanted and it turned out great. Of course we already knew what we’re going to do, so my mission was simple: create an even better version of the original cover and then just go crazy on the atom explosion concept. I believe I only slept 4-5 hours per night those few months. I was so excited. I was working on the Tommy’s Theme artwork and Could This Be artwork at the same time.
How many days does one installation take in average?
‘Compendium’ / the ‘Could This Be’ radio (from my late grandfather) took about a month of work. But my most recent addition to my Personal Effects series is called ‘Discord’ (link: http://rutgerprins.com/work/discord) took 9 months of on and off-working on it. So my average is a bit off I guess :)
What software do you use to create or edit your projects?
Mostly Photoshop + Camera RAW and a bit of Illustrator.
Is it possible to live on gainings from making album covers?
No not for me. It’s a great way of working but I have to diversify my income from several sources to stay alive.
Did you make graffiti with Noisia?
No comments ;)
How did you make your style recognizable and become a respected person in society?
I don’t think I’m well respected in society. I’m not that famous. Doing what you like for an extended period of time tends to make you better at it. I don’t believe that I’m a very talented person. I’m very patient. Lots of my visual experiments fail and nobody gets to see them. Just try everything until you’re happy. After a while you create your own style. Don’t pay attention to others. There’ll always be people better or worse than you. When you’re dead you’ll be remembered for the things you did by yourself, not by the things you copied from others.
Could you describe some features in work with musical collectives (instead of single musicians)?
You’ll have to be a teamplayer to work with other artists. The people who pay you tend to want you to do exactly what they want. The true art of a designer/commissioned artist is to do whatever you want while giving the other guys the impression you’re following their instructions. This isn’t always the case, but it helps to force your own freedom or set your own goals within a project.
How do you get a concept for album covers? Are you guided by your own impressions from music or ideas from the musicians? (I had seen a video – ‘Making Of “Split the Atom: Special Edition Artwork’ – it’s awesome!).
Whenever I wake up after a good dream I write down what I can remember. Have you heard of the BBB theory? Our brain seems to come up with the most creative ideas during Bed, Bath or Bus. This is why I’ve always have my ‘Foto ideeën’ document open on my phone: you can’t know when a good idea strikes so you have to note it down as soon as possible.
What instruments (software, hardware, etc.) do you use at work?
Besides the above I have a Nikon D800 with a single pro lens, 5 cheap studio flash units including some attachments and tripods, 10 cheap portable battery operated manual flashes, a Manfrotto with pro head for my camera, iMac 2010 with 32gb memory, Wacom Intuos 4 medium (you need this), 2x Lacie 4TB harddrives, a 50m2 studio which I rent (expensive :S).
Can you make a cover art for 500₽ (russian rubles)? :D (~7 €)
Yes. But it can only take 15 seconds to make and you pay up-front, no refunds :)
Do you have a dog(e)? >:D
I have two cats. Cats > dog(e)s