Write On: Kele Okereke

On his album’s artwork…

Bloc Party singer gone solo Kele Okereke explains the visual influences of his album artwork…

“Recently I have been asked a lot about the inspiration behind the visuals for my recent album, ‘Trick’ (review), most pointedly the striking use of red and black as the bedrock for both the album art and the videos.

“The decision to use the colour red was something that started with the album cover for the last Bloc Party record, ‘Four’. At the start of the campaign all four members of the band were assigned a colour to represent them – and my designated colour was red, which I was very happy about because it is my favourite colour.

“Universally, red is seen as a sign of both life and aggression, associated with energy, danger, strength, power, and determination, as well as passion, desire, and love. These colour assignations were present in how we chose to dress during the ‘Four’ campaign and throughout the visuals for the Bloc Party videos for ‘Octopus’ and ‘Truth’, and importantly it culminated in the album cover consisting of four different coloured concentric circles against a black background. This image was supposed to represent our band as a union.

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‘Doubt’, from ‘Trick’

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“I started making ‘Trick’ while I was touring ‘Four’ with Bloc Party in 2012, and even though both records could not be further opposed sonically, in my mind they are very much connected to one another. Making a delicate, minimal electronic record was somewhat of a respite for me while touring the abrasive, guitar-heavy ‘Four’. That’s always how I’ve worked as an artist: veering between the opposite of extremes.

“So I knew from the inception of ‘Trick’ that red was going to play an integral part of the artwork for this record, connecting the two very different musical projects on a personal axis for me.

“As with my last solo record, ‘The Boxer’, I knew that I wanted the cover to be a portrait image. But whereas last time my gaze was hidden in shadow, this time I knew I wanted something more confrontational, more direct. I was very much influenced by the work of UK-based, Nigeria-born artist Rotimi Fani-Kayode. His work explores the tensions created by sexuality, race and culture through stylised portraits and compositions. To me, his black male nude images were the antidote to Robert Mapplethorpe’s lurid exoticism, and there was a sense of defiance in his work that I liked. I wanted my album cover to have that same power.

“The most significant final touch for me was the inclusion of the West African green Kente headband that I am wearing. Kente cloth has its origin with the Ashanti Kingdom and was adopted by people in Ivory Coast and many other West African counties. It is an Akan royal and sacred cloth, worn only in times of extreme importance, and was the cloth of kings. It was important to me have a reference to my African heritage, and the green cloth signifies growth and spiritual renewal.”

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Words: Kele Okereke (online

‘Trick’ is out now on Lilac Records and reviewed here

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