The Designer's Forum: Patrick Savile

Following on from our chat with illustrator Isabel von der Ahe, Phantasy Forum once again delves into the life, mind and designs of another supremely talented artist operating in the sphere of electronic and alternative music, Patrick Savile.

Working across print, digital and moving image, Savile’s clients have included Warp, Universal Music, NTS and artists including Clams Casino, Romy and Tame Impala. In 2021, he delivered the mind-boggling, historical/industrial aesthetic for Jay Duncan’s label debut ‘In Limbo’, featuring virtuoso saxophonist Ben Vince and backed by an inspiringly, equally out-there remix from the legendary Ricardo Villalobos.

Savile’s design is available not only on the hyper-detailed cover of the vinyl release, but on a limited-edition long sleeve shirt, available now from the Phantasy web store here. We caught up with Patrick to talk about his influence both on and from club culture, sustainability and his personal favourite garms.

What was your first official shirt design? Did you always intend to align so strongly with music and club culture?

So I'm not really sure but I think it was for Bokeh Versions— at that time I was working quite intensely with them. And yeah, I always intended to be in the music sphere, since like 14, I was making flyers and designs for album sleeves etc, and I guess that adage of if you want something enough it happens is true.

How do you approach designing a shirt in comparison to your poster work? Do you remain as keenly observant of general fashion as much as general music and alternative culture?

I always consider the print process of clothing, and know that certain imagery works better on clothing than on paper, so that tends to drive it, and I try to keep my awareness of fashion/ street culture updated, they all obviously go hand in hand, and are somewhat symbiotic.

I always want to push clothing designs into weirder territory, but there is definitely a balance to be struck with wearability/ simplicity when designing tees.

What were some of the specific influences on your design for Jay Duncan & Ben Vince, ‘In Limbo’?

Because of the references to Purgatory and limbo, I was looking at Dante, which informed the design, the 9 rings of hell, and the tower of babel as the levels of hell. and I suppose we were flicking through a lot of art historical references which had the right feel for this, we were definitely interested in the Industrial aesthetic, hence the pure black and white, but tried to create its own aesthetic that felt like it was coming from Jay’s world. I don’t know when it’s not true, but I was also looking at alchemical symbolism— the symbols often can mean various things depending on what the context is.

Much of your work is associated with electronic music and club culture. What were the club nights or DJs that influenced your taste in this respect?

It’s a really difficult question— but it has definitely shifted over the years, but I think what characterises my taste in whatever I’m listening to, it is usually the deliberately weird, or whatever people I know aren’t into— I used to run a dance music radio show on Resonance and then Radar with my mate Will, and he would always play big room techno from the off, and I would rail against it, and play the weirdest stuff I had found recently, it kind of sums it up being on the fringes of the club, in Room 3.

My favourite club experiences have always been in smaller/ offbeat venues, some early ones which were really formative was Wrong Meeting at the T Bar— that sweaty basement incarnate.

You have become quite prolific, even a ‘go to’ artist in the past few years for alternative labels. This is a great reputation to have. Do you feel that most collaborators afford you a lot of trust and freedom, or have you been subject to having been expected to produce a Patrick Savile thing?

Yeah a lot of people give me complete freedom, which is the great thing but sometimes the problem is when I create something new, which is always the task in my head, they don’t like it because they basically haven’t seen it before— something they have seen in the web which is appended to a cool night or brand has a lot more clout in their mind, so when they see the design I have made for them, which is just fresh and has had the wight of time or recognition sitting on it, they don’t like it as much.  It usually takes a couple of nights for them to sleep on it, and then they feel it.

I have also had people just send me an existing flyer I have done for someone and ask if I can redesign it with their details on it, which is baffling…

How do you collate your influences; scrapbooks, Pinterest or physical research?

I definitely don’t use physical scrapbooks, takes way too long, though I save images in a file system on my computer— half organised, which I think is great as I can go back and look at things that used to really influence me when I first saw it, and remember motifs or colours or styles that were important in the journey to whereI am today— which I think is something that is pretty key, keeping the past in mind as you move forward, so you can make choices visually that are part of a continuum, but are at the same time new.

How well do you feel that the music industry is dealing with new, environmental demands on shirt production? Is making this end of the industry more sustainable a motivating factor for yourself?

Yeah I’m not sure how the industry is dealing with it— a lot of the time merch seems to be an afterthought, a way to make a quick buck, so I see people choosing cheap, crap garments, and not considering anything other than the profit, which I have never been into — consideration of our environment is absolutely a driving factor in all the choices I make when producing something — though I think something needs to shift far more radically— but for now, choice of high quality, ethically produced garments is key, I don’t care if the consumer doesn’t give a fuck, I do, and that’s important in all my work.

What do you think is the worst musical parody design ever? I would still ride for this.

Wow I have never seen that. I suppose it's pretty good actually, the fact that it’s actually Disney makes it… I can't think just now about the worst musical parody, they’re all pretty funny, no? They've become pretty mainstream now, but there was a time when putting Hanson on a tee that said Nirvana was a bit of a lol. It seems the bootleg mindset of cross pollinating bands/ brands/ unconnected entities has kind of peaked with Johnny Bangers work, but I have to say a constant source of wonder are those lost in translation tees— I own this Sailor Moon one and I love it a lot. 

Who are some upcoming designers currently inspiring you?

Jiayi Li, and illustrator based in Paris, she’s insane, The Cestainsi crew, also from Paris, they do a lot of Hyper pop aesthetic stuff, which is just super playful, Cecilia Martinez/cm-dp, her stuff is always nice very textural, very strong. Vera van de Seyp, who works a lot with coding and GAN is very sick.

Is there any original band or artist shirt you’d happily still pay over the odds for to have on your back, or at least on your wall?

Hard one… Some nice Burzum ones out there— I love black tees with terrible writing. There's a really nice Sprial Tribe one that is actually new by Boot Boys Biz, which is kinda way nicer than anything they produced, or this:

John Loveless, December 2021.

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