5 Minutes with… FILFURY
FILFURY – a.k.a Phil Robson – is one of those creative minds whose artistic ideas leak out in all directions. Graphic design, film, sculpture… basically imagine if DaVinci was a humungous sneakerhead with a passion for UK street culture. He reached notoriety with his personal artworks that deconstruct trainers and streetwear, reconfiguring them as skulls, eagles, insects, weapons and more. He’s caught the eye of brands like adidas, Nike, Philipp Plein and Huawei. And nine months ago he joined forces with Mill+, who’ve helped him grow his ambitions. He’s also been collaborating with UK grime artist J Hus, creating album artwork for his debut album Common Sense and creating the Sexy Beast-inspired music vid Bouff Daddy.
And he’s also grabbed the attention of Chief Production Officer of BBDO Group German, Steffen Gentis, who organises the amazing Regielounge event (Director’s Lounge) and last week he was introduced to a massive crowd in Düsseldorf. LBB’s Matt Cooper caught up with FILFURY to find out more.
LBB> You’re known as much for your art as your career as a director of music videos and commercials – what came first in your career?
F> Making fake IDs at school! Design really came first; I trained as a graphic designer and worked my way up… from print designer, to crossing over to motion design, design director to eventually live action and all of it combined. However, I always wanted to be an artist I just never knew what to create. It was easier for me to solve other people’s problems or briefs. I guess that’s the point of difference for me, design is finding solutions to a set brief whereas art is creating just for myself.
I’ve been making art for a few years, as a release from the 9-5 design day job. However only the past few years has it got to the level of execution I’m happy with and thus found exposure. I’m still learning, pushing myself, staying ambitious and trying to perfect my craft.
LBB> And your well known for your sneaker art – why is it important for you to carve out time for your personal projects?
F> You don’t always get job satisfaction from paid work… I need that release, I need to create for myself. I love making stuff and I feel the personal projects have catapulted my work rate. I’m now always working, making something. I work quicker than ever before and feel these personal projects have got me into the right gear. I’m passionate about what I make so the personal projects push me to be true to myself.
LBB> And what is it about sneaker culture that hooked you in the first place?
F> Ahhh man, I’m obsessed with good footwear. Always have been. Since a kid growing up in the '90s… as soon as the Air Bubble arrived I needed them. It was about fitting in at first, wearing the right trainer to be ok on my estate, trying to be like the older lads. Wearing your allegiance to a particular subculture. However, I guess then the design language hooked me, the form, the colours, the new must-have future tech. I wear trainers daily, I don’t feel complete without them.
LBB> When did you join The Mill and what’s it like working with the Mill+ team? How do you think they’re doing things differently?
F> I signed with Mill+ just over nine months ago, and I’m loving it. For me Mill+ and The Mill are realising my dreams. I’ve got ideas too big for me to execute alone. Having the power, the skills and talent found at The Mill behind me is inspiring, and lifts my game to another level. They are a passionate team of creatives and producers who really care about the craft. That means everything to me. They have ambition and set the bar in terms of quality.
I have a lot to learn still and being with these guys makes me excited about the potential and possibilities the future holds. For me personally, I chose to align with Mill+ as I really feel they have my back, they understand the creative I am and want to help me grow in the right direction. There is an array of talented Mill+ directors, each with their very own specific style – so it was important to me to make sure I teamed up with the right people to push me down my own path. I feel like my own artist, yet still part of the bigger team. It’s Mill+ and FILFURY, I don’t feel like I’ve been swallowed up and become just another number.
LBB> Your recent promo for J Hus is cool – how did you enjoy working in a more live action way? What was your inspiration for that one?
F> I love the variety of mediums I get to play with, live action being something I want to push and explore further. J Hus was an amazing opportunity to do just that. I designed the album art for J Hus 'Common Sense', so this was a wicked follow up with a music promo.
I love working in a more live action way, but for me the challenge was in making it look like I’d done it. I wanted to push my graphic composition work, symmetry, abstracted negative spaces… treat it like an art piece in its own right. Bouff Daddy basically means being the man, having the money, that you’ve made it – so wanted to explore the epitome of what ‘making it’ means in the UK… retiring to a sunny villa in Europe. I was thinking Sexy Beast, The Business, but with a FILFURY twist.
It was an amazing experience and I’m pretty pleased with the result. It’s had like two million views in two weeks, which is mental, pure testament to the talent J Hus has and how he is the part of the new wave of credible UK music.
LBB> Your work is really informed by youth culture and you’ve been working a lot recently with grime artists like J Hus – how do you keep up with grassroots culture and street culture and how do you keep your work authentic to that?
F> I’m a big kid! To be honest it’s easier keeping up to date with street culture as I’ve always been into it. It would be a different story if I was to work with an indie band or something. I’ve always loved streetwear, street music – hip hop, rave, garage, grime and followed these scenes, been part of them. I listen to the music, I go out and party to it, I bang it loud on my car, I follow updates daily through music/fashion blogs, social media...
I love where the UK ‘urban’ scene is right now, it’s refreshing and exciting. We finally have our own hip hop, our own sound. It’s British and authentic, I love that.
LBB> I’ve read you’re also working more with physical sculptures… what projects have you done in that space? And what challenges etc.? Does that involve that you don’t have to consider so much in your design/CG or film work?
F> When I first got exposure for my deconstructed art, people were always asking me if it was real or not… I never wanted to answer them, as if finding out it was digital would devalue their appreciation of it?! So, I naturally thought that should be the progression. I began cutting shoes and objects up for real, deconstructing them and putting them together differently to make new physical sculptural form.
To be honest it was very challenging. This isn’t CG where things can magically break and float within the air. With a physical sculpture every angle needs to be considered and look good. So, I learnt and developed new techniques. I aligned with people who could help me, created amazing relationships with model makers and fabricators. I’m now in a position where I usually mock everything up, from a range of angles digitally, cut some of the items up to test coverage, then work out a general approach and who to help me execute it. I often now use 3D printing or laser-cut wooden starting points, to create base models that then get wrapped in new textures.
It’s been an exciting, nerve-racking progression. I’ve made personal pieces – I’ve cut up 15 pairs of Converse to make an eagle, deconstructed ‘80s BMX bikes to create AK-47s and created a whole campaign’s worth of sculptural form for Philipp Plein. The Plein collaboration was the most challenging and rewarding. I created 15 pieces, where I cut apart PP shoes, bags, coats from two seasons’ worth of catwalk creations. The pieces were used in advertising and shown in FILFURY X Plein store exhibitions around the world.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes?
F> My peers. I love seeing others create, share and develop. Things like social media have allowed me to get an insight into other creatives and their hustle. It makes me stay on top of my game, get out there, get involved and do my own thing.
Of course I have creative heroes, but they don’t necessarily relate to what I’m doing, I’m just in awe of people being at the top of their game, inspirational game changers… Tinker Hatfield, Wes Anderson, Dave White and Ye...