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Q&A: Ferry Gouw

When Diplo formed Major Lazer back in 2008, it started life as a conceptual electronic act fronted by a cartoon character – the aforementioned Major Lazer. The group’s larger-than-life tracks needed an equally towering 2D frontman, and after a chance meeting London-based artist Ferry Gouw was tasked with bringing the “Rasta Commando”, whose sole mission is peace, to life.

Ferry, who is currently serving as art director and co-creator of Major Lazer’s titular cartoon show on Adult Swim, has created extra special artwork to coincide with our 2016 launch and we quizzed him about what inspires him and how he came to work with Diplo and co…

What made you first get into illustration?
I never really got into it, to be honest. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. I doodled a lot as a child, as a way to pass the time, as a hobby, then when I started reading comics, it was a way to re-create my favourite superheroes and scenes, etc.

Where did you study?
I studied art and design at Central St Martins, then I did my Masters in Filmmaking at Mike Leigh’s London Film School.

What inspires your work?
I guess a lot of the things I grew up with influenced my work, Marvel Comics, Japanese Manga, 80’s cartoons, etc. But I also look at contemporary art, print, film, just try to be engaged with whatever’s happening around me.

What other artists/illustrators do you admire?
I read a lot of comics, so mostly comic artists like Marcos Martin, Eduardo Risso, Paolo Rivera, classic guys like Jack Kirby, or Jim Lee. Weirder comic guys like Yuichi Yokoyama, and the weirdest ones I’d found recently: Leon and Stefan Sadler. I also love Wilfred Limonious and Philip Guston. Tonnes of people.

How did you start working with Diplo and Major Lazer?
Totally by chance. I bumped into them when I was picking my friend up for lunch, I got introduced as an illustrator. They were looking for someone to draw the whole project, I read the outline of the project and realised it was describing my whole childhood: Jamaican Rasta Commando fighting the zombie wars of 1984, a laser gun for an arm, etc. I submitted 3 drawings and the whole thing clicked into place. The character design, the logo, the colours haven’t changed since then.

What was involved in the process of making the character of Major Lazer? Did you work to a strict brief or did it come naturally?
The guys wrote a brief outline of the world: Rasta Commando with a laser gun for an arm, he lost his arm in the zombie war of 1984. Now he’s a vampire-fighting renegade, he runs the baddest dancehall club, and he rides a flying hoverboard. Then I had to come up with what I think this character looks like n what kind of world he inhabits, but the whole thing kinda made itself. I kinda knew from the start who he was, how he would turn out.

What would be your dream project to work on?
Star Wars.

Can you tell us a little more about the artwork you created for Lovebox?
The new Major Lazer album, Peace Is The Mission, has a unifying positive theme. We aspire for the music to be the force that bring the world together. So the Lovebox artwork borrowed from this theme, unity through dance and music. People of all race, gender, and orientation partying together as one.

Check out more of Ferry’s work here.

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