No Art But Fashion: An Interview with Storm Division Eight

words by Daniel Smith

“I don’t think of what we are doing as music, or art even. Everything in this world is fashion. Nothing more, nothing less.” Eight M explained to me over a pot of tea and a selection of french pastries.

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Eight M with his partner, Miki Lau. (Photo courtesy of Storm Division Eight — taken in Hong Kong, 2017)

Though largely unknown to the public, The Rebel Lariat was known amongst elite art and fashion circles in the first half of the current decade. Having worked on design with companies ranging from Apple to Tommy Hilfiger to BMW, their vision for design has been influential on trends threading through the 2018 landscape.

The shadowy organisation disbanded in 2014 after internal arguments amongst its leading members about artistic direction, before being reformed as “TRL Group” by key members Eight M and Messiah The Gonzales in 2016.

From then, TRL Group went on to work with celebrities such as Drake and Canelo Alvarez, amongst others. They operated in even more secrecy than they had under their previous incarnation.

That was until the Manhattan-based Eight M decided to form a splinter group with his long term partner, Miki Lau of Hong Kong, known as Storm Division Eight, revealing themselves with their new release on Dream Catalogue ‘Air.’

And how do I, a young, humble journalist, know all this? Because I recently sat down with Eight M of Storm Division Eight for my first interview for Dream Catalogue at The Black Penny in Covent Garden, London, where he showed me his portfolio of work, on the condition I did not mention certain details about it.

DANIEL: So, why exactly have you decided to emerge from the shadows to reveal yourself now?

EIGHT M: The principles I once held in regards to anonymity and letting the work speak for itself, so to say, have faded into the past as time has moved forward. The only thing that remains the same in life is the fact that everything changes, you know? And I have changed, absolutely.

DANIEL: Why did you choose Dream Catalogue to reveal yourself and your work?

EIGHT M: I admired the work Henry Moonchild was doing earlier this year and wanted to work with him. I have followed Dream Catalogue since Thom Yorke turned me onto the label back in 2015, some time after the 2814 record came out. I kept my eye on it, as most in the circles I move in do.

DANIEL: I’ve followed Dream Catalogue for many years myself and I had no idea about all that.

EIGHT M: Yes, it is quite popular. But as they say “great artists steal”, so people don’t care to cite Dream Catalogue or HKE as an influence. Same with me, although I have a wad of non-disclosure agreements in my office that states that people I’ve worked with can’t talk about me [laughs]. But artists and designers… most of them, they take ideas from the real innovators out there, the one’s who have some real feeling. They take them and refine them slightly then present them as if they’re their own. It’d reveal them to be the weaklings that they are if they actually came out and said who their real influences were.

DANIEL: Are all artists weak, do you think?

EIGHT M: Most are, yeah. I’m not. Though, I was. Everyone is weak and stupid when they’re young, there’s no real exception. So I understand it, absolutely. If an artist or designer does mention an influence, it’s usually not a contemporary but a fashionable figure from another era, you know? Stating those influences is the sport of fashion itself and not a legitimate divulgence of information. It’s boring.

DANIEL: What was it about Henry Moonchild that attracted you to Dream Catalogue?

EIGHT M: I was utterly fooled [laughs]. I e-mailed him, you know back when he was doing his wild thing on Twitter a few months ago? It was in regards to this release. Well, I got a response from an associate of David’s (HKE), who referred me to him. He told me Moonchild was going away to run that techno label [note: meaning Bloodpakt]

DANIEL: So you were happy to work HKE instead?

EIGHT M: Yeah. HKE himself is very intelligent and strong-minded. But he’s troubled, I think. I can see why he has achieved so much. He has real vision. But what I mean when I say I was fooled is that HKE told me he was planning to shut down Dream Catalogue this year.

DANIEL: Really?

EIGHT M: Yeah. And now he e-mails me again last week telling me all his big plans for the label’s future. I’ve never met anyone so impulsive before [laughs].

DANIEL: Is that how you ended up planning to release “Air.” with the label??

EIGHT M: I was ready to delete it and move on, but when HKE changed his mind about things everything seemed to click together for all parties. So we talked some more about it all and we fast-tracked it to next week [note: the album is out now].

DANIEL: Why was Dream Catalogue still the right home for you to reveal yourself after all that happened?

EIGHT M: Because Dream Catalogue understands fashion and the importance of aesthetic. All other labels I spoke to about this project were more interested in the names I have in my phone’s address book. When I told HKE about the people I knew, he didn’t seem to give a fuck [laughs]. He passed the litmus test.

DANIEL: What  do you mean by fashion and aesthetic?

EIGHT M: I don’t think of what we are doing as music, or art even. Everything in this world is fashion. Nothing more, nothing less.

DANIEL: Why is that?

EIGHT M: The only tangent of the divine we can see in life is through the math behind harmony in music, you know? Once you understand harmony, you understand beauty and then you understand why beauty is the most fucking amazing thing that we’ve ever discovered as a species.

DANIEL: That all sounds kind of spiritual.

EIGHT M: It is. Absolutely.

DANIEL: Are you a spiritual person, then?

EIGHT M: No [laughs].

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We continued to talk about music, art and fashion, finishing our tea and pastries before taking a short walk towards Covent Garden tube station, where we then finished the interview on the underground journey to London Victoria, talking more in depth about the new album “Air.”.

DANIEL: So, Eight, is “Air.” your debut album release? You don’t have work under any other names?

EIGHT M: That’s right.

DANIEL: It sounds very accomplished for an amateur.

EIGHT M: I’m no amateur [laughs]. I’m sure you knew that, right? Yeah, I’ve been working on music for just under a decade now, but usually in the realm of the fashion world. Shows, ads, you know?

DANIEL: That makes sense. So, what is “Air.” about as album? How did you come to produce it?

EIGHT M: I don’t think of it as an album. It’s a product, you know? It’s a fashion product. Think of it like buying a pair of sneakers. It’s a physical product

DANIEL: So there’s going to be a tape or vinyl?

EIGHT M: No way. I hate that shit. I told HKE specifically never to release any music I give to him on tape or vinyl. I can’t stand it.

DANIEL: Why not?

EIGHT M: Because, you know, it’s ugly fashion. It has no utility. It’s useless vintage shit. It’s bad for music as a culture, I think. It reduces music back to being a useless mass market product instead of a product of beauty and fashion.

DANIEL: Was HKE okay with that philosophy?

EIGHT M: Absolutely. In fact, he told me that he tried to set fire to some vaporwave tapes with Halo Acid last year, but they couldn’t find a secluded enough place in the park to actually do it. You know, when he said that to me, that was really the moment I knew he was the guy I wanted to work with [laughs].

DANIEL: I haven’t actually met him in person yet, but I’m planning to interview him soon.

EIGHT M: Me neither.

DANIEL: So is “Air.” your way of explaining your beliefs on fashion and aesthetic?

EIGHT  M: Nope. I have no real need to explain it through music and I don’t even think that would be possible unless there were words or lyrics in the music that actually spelled it out clearly.

DANIEL: It says on the album cover that you worked with someone named Miki Lau to create this project?

EIGHT  M: Yes, we made it together with my team in Hong Kong over the course of a week. Miki had just as much input as I did on each side of the project. Then the final product was rendered in a high bitrate quality and mastered by members of the TRL team in New York.

DANIEL: Who is he? 

EIGHT M: She, not he. She’s my partner, both in fashion and in life. We run Storm Div Eight together. Like, she’s just as much a part of it as I am, you know? It’s actually eight of us all together.

DANIEL: That’d suck if one of them left the team then.

EIGHT M: Everyone else other than Miki and I are easily replaceable.

DANIEL : Is fashion replaceable?

EIGHT M: Are you kidding? Of course it is. Fashion moves quick. Like these people  getting on and off the subway, you know? Hot shit is stone cold in the morning.

DANIEL: I think some art has a timeless beauty to it.

EIGHT M: Well that’s something for us both to think about. [laughs]

We shortly parted ways and I was left with as many questions about this mysterious man as I did before I met him. And though I did not personally agree with all he had to say, he came across as the type of person you always wanted to hear more from.

‘Air.’ by Storm Division Eight is available now on Dream Catalogue.

https://dreamcatalogue.bandcamp.com/album/air

Sucklings

It’s spring already and our flesh was ripped off the bone with the blunt fangs of wide-eyed beasts.

Cause it’s so easy to get tricked by light patterns, even though we read it all in the wrong numeral system.

That old rotten milk has no nutritional value even though it comes with a sparkling package and crystal white teeth.

The tree of life will bear fruit but only if guarded by an electric fence, or something.

I can’t wait for this shit to be over and done with.

— No One