One cog in the mystical, magical, marvellous machine that is Brain Dead, Ed Davis, speaks exclusively to Goodhood about sci-fi influences, print pyjamas and building a community at the Brain Dead Tee Retrospective Launch...
GH: Hey Ed, thanks for chatting to us! First of all, could you explain a bit about the ideas behind Brain Dead’s latest drop?
ED: Well, graphically there are 2 main inspirations. One of them a series of science fiction novels called The Southern Reach Trilogy, which is all about nature taking earth back. The other was a book I read called Stranger In The Woods, which is about a hermit - a guy that just goes off and spends 20 years on his own in the woods. It's actually based on a true story: he's just driving home from work one day, he's about 20 years old, pulls over to the side of the road, gets out of the car, and just walks into the woods in upstate New York. And then he spends the next 20/30 years breaking into summer homes and stealing shit to survive, living out there until the police catch him. So the collection is kind of a combination of those two; it's kind of like an eco thing, even though you wouldn't necessarily get that at all from the actual product…
GH: How did you come across these books? Do you feel, especially with The Southern Reach Trilogy, there's a kind of resonance with the age we live in?
ED: A friend of mine recommended the books to me. I read them and I just started vibing on those ideas - I was reading the two books at the same time and had some strange correlations, which stuck! There's definitely [resonance]... I guess, as I'm getting older I think about this shit a lot more. I've got 2 kids, and the future of the world and stuff... I spend a lot of time in my head thinking about strange things like that.
GH: Have there been any standout pieces from this collection? The Split Panel Varsity Jacket is pretty sweet...
ED: That was cool, yeah. I was really happy with that – it was something we've been trying to do for a while. Probably, one of my favourite pieces is the pyjama set, and that’s just because it's such a non-streetwear thing to do. Anything 'not streetwear' is usually going to be my favourite.
GH: How do you feel Brain Dead has developed from the early days? You’ve gone from an on-the-fringe collective to a well-known and well-respected brand.
ED: We're developing, for want of a better word, organically and just making whatever we want to make. At the beginning we were financially constrained but now it's just... we're very privileged to be able to make pyjamas, y’know? It's a very spoilt position to be in, where people actually like what you're doing enough to get behind it.
GH: What was the idea behind the retrospective then?
ED: Well (un) are friends of ours and we were already talking about doing a broader Brain Dead book anyway, then I just felt... I knew we were coming to London, and I just wanted to do something kind of a bit quicker. So, I thought let's just make a T-Shirt book. And it's just… we make a lot of t-shirts - I was actually surprised how thick the book was. But because we’re making more things now, it was a good time to just take a minute, look back, and see the foundations of the brand.
Above: Brain Dead Split Varsity Jacket
GH: How do you know the guys at (un)? Why them?
ED: Well, Unprojects is Takahashi and Asato, and Asato shoots a lot of photos for us - he does a lot of our lookbook photos. He's based in LA and Takahashi's based in New York, but they're both Japanese and they started this little project. I saw a book that they did with Look Studios and I quite liked it, so I thought it'd be cool if we could do something like that. So I just hit him up and they were into it. All this stuff comes through personal relationships y'know? It's just super-organic like that.
GH: How are you approaching your collaborations? Are you reaching out to people, or are they reaching out to you?
ED: We just work with like-minded people, anyone we connect with. It's a bit of both, really. We do a lot of reaching out - if we see someone's work that we really appreciate we definitely reach out. And sometimes it doesn't end up with anything other than a conversation, but yeah we're always looking out.
GH: So do you feel that the brand acts as a platform for talent within the graphics world?
ED: I hope so! I mean, I'd like to think we're at least helping people, giving them a blank canvas to do some stuff, a place where they can do their own thing. Maybe we shine a little light their way and spread a little love, y'know?
GH: Why do you think that's important?
ED: I think, for myself, I still feel the same way as I always have. I still feel like a fan of things and of people, and I still get psyched on things. I think it's important to... it's community, y'know? Just trying to build a community, where everyone can vibe on the same level. If it feels Brain Dead then that's enough.
GH: What's next for the label?
ED: We're just going to keep on doing what we're doing...