Get To Know: Duval Timothy
Duval Timothy is a man of multiple passions and projects. We knew of him as a recording artist first, but on diving a little deeper we came to realise we'd only brushed the surface of just how much he actually does. In addition to his music, Duval's work also includes painting, photography, sculpture, design, food, video and textile. Many of his pieces exist under the banner of Carrying Colour, an umbrella project which includes an evolving clothing range, photography, publications and lifestyle products. As if that's not already enough, it's also the name of Duval's independent record label through which he's released his great second record Sen Am. We had a lot of questions about how he manages it all, so we got in touch for a chat...
Hi Duval! I’m fascinated by the breadth of your projects. Is it difficult to keep headspace for a single project when there are so many ideas buzzing around in your head?
Definitely. I try to keep it to no more than two serious projects at any time so that I don’t spread myself too thin. My thought process is always moving so the most important thing is to actually start doing something before I talk myself out of it. Once I get going, I’m absorbed.
Does it help to keep a common thread at the centre of all your work? If so, how would you characterise that thread?
Colour is at the centre of all of my work. That normally means vivid block colours but it can also be colour musically or thinking of flavours in food as a type of colour. Colour also refers to my identity and how that plays a role in defining me, that’s the point where my work becomes about something more than just making something that may or may not be beautiful and it starts to say something about my life.
You've said elsewhere that much of your work is also informed by your time spent in Freetown. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the city and the impact it’s had on your work?
I spend a few months of each year in Freetown during the dry season. It’s a place of huge inspiration for me. It’s such a vibrant place with an interesting history being one of the world's largest natural ports; slavery, colonialism, civil war, the traditional foods and clothing that still exist alongside the huge mass of imported plastic goods, second-hand clothing, knock-off football shirts and general cheap homogenous goods that you find in markets all over the world, or televised culture like European football. Watching a Premier League match in West-Africa is a different experience to watching it anywhere else. When you can take something familiar and create something new, that's creativity. I feel like I’m always witnessing the creation of culture in Freetown.
That must be a really inspiring force. To what extent do you find creative inspiration in collaboration versus working alone?
I think to do a real collaboration is to commit to spending time with your collaborator and not knowing what the end result will be - maybe you won’t create a thing at all and that should be fine. What most people are calling collaborations is just people taking something from each other or using someone to build hype; that's fine too but if I’m going to do that I’d prefer to just take what I already know I want from someone and use it without having someone else water down my idea and slow down the process. I feel like Kanye sampling Jessie Ware might be better than what they would produce sitting in a studio together. Maybe not though! I guess it depends on your ability to communicate. So many artists aren’t the best social communicators so it’s asking a lot to expect something meaningful to come out of two introverts spending a few hours together. I really value collaboration and it’s part of my practice but I feel like as a word it’s overused and is losing meaning.
Your recent album release - Sen Am on Carrying Colour - is a solo project. How has your sound developed since Brown Loop?
My sound is looser and has simplified since the Brown Loop record. I’m playing with different sounds and samples. This album is also one of the most personal projects I’ve ever done.
There seems to be increasing pressure on artists to use their platform to talk about matters other than music. Do you feel an obligation to talk politics?
Sure, as much as anyone else has a responsibility - I don’t think I have a better political opinion because have a dope album. Whether someone you look up to votes left, right, up or down isn’t really a great contribution because it only encourages people to follow something blindly. Offering insight into why I have a certain opinion is what might help others form their own opinion.
Finally, as we approach the end of the year, we’d love to know five tracks from 2017 that have caught your eye, or had an impact on you or your studio practice?