A little while ago, I had to pleasure and honor to talk with music video director/renaissance man Narayan O’Hanlon (aka Nryn). He’s an illustrator, graphic designer, installation artist, and one of the 8 members of the indie pop band Real Life Charm. But all in all, he’s a talented digital artist who graces the senses of everyone who sees his work.
With his signature style inspired by his fascination with digital technology, Nryn’s amazing work recently led to his transition into becoming a part of Compulsory’s roster of filmmakers. In his very first interview, Nryn talks about the inspiration behind his artwork, his transition into directing music videos, and his experiences in working with labels as opposed to working with individual clients.
UPDATE: A link to an audio file of the interview is provided at the bottom of the page/article. Enjoy!
Jourdan: Great to have you here, man.
Nryn: Thanks! It’s good to be here.
So this is your first interview, correct?
That’s correct! It is.
Awesome, awesome. I’m very honored.
I’m glad you’re interested.
[…] So correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re an illustrator, graphic designer, web designer, musician, and now you’re directing music videos. How’s the transition been for you?
Well, it seems sort of natural in a sense to deal with these different things. I see myself more as a digital artist. I don’t know if I’d try and use all of those terms to define what it is I do. I just have a general in most kinds of digital art and I’d say that originally starting off learning some applications like photoshop, you know all of these sort of things that are crucial nowadays. That really got me interested, just generally, in digital art and I’d say what I’m doing now with music videos is a nice…not conclusion, ‘cause of course it’s always going to be a journey, but a nice step towards something else-
Sorry, so it’s just the next chapter in your career, then?
Yeah, absolutely! It’s not that I’m doing music videos and giving up other art forms and I see everything, sort of as one. Of course, with music videos especially with the angle that I’m coming from, not really using cameras, mainly making things completely on my computer […] It’s sort of like, the possibility there is kind of a bit vaguer than the difference between an illustration and a film made with a camera. There is some kind of distinction there, but when you get into the world of digital, you kind of blur the boundaries and you have the opportunity to blur the boundaries quite a lot between these distinctions.
So they’re all in the same for you, right then?
I’m really interested in that, basically. I don’t really try and say “Oh, I do this! And I do this! And I do this!” I tend to say I’m a digital artist, really.
That’s a nice way to look at it […] So I’ve checked out some of your art pieces and so what would you say which artist in particular inspired you with your work as a digital artist?
I’d say because of my interest in creating all sorts of different styles and, kind of, going down lots of different routes with my work, I’d say a lot of people. But in particular, the illustration and the drawn work is very much influenced by indie comics, so specifically, U.S. artists like Adrian Tomine is one of my favorite-
Yeah! I was actually gonna mention, it does have an Adrian Tomine vibe and also like a little bit of Chris Ware in there too.
Yeah, Chris Ware! I really love Chris Ware’s work. It’s really really detailed, intricate. I had the opportunity to meet him this year in London when he came to talk at festival. Not only is his work mind-blowing, he’s also a fascinating man with lots of interesting ideas […] Everything I read in some way or, I say “read” I’m talking about comic art here, but yeah, everything like that influences me to some extent, but I’m most impressed by Chris Ware’s work visually, and I’d say […] I compare visually more with Adrian Tomine’s work. It’s the fine, delicate linework and the…
And just that minimalism as well?
Yeah, and I really enjoy drawing people and, obviously, his work focuses a lot on people and what is it to be a teenager, what it is to be a human or alive and stuff like that. It’s really impactful, emotionally as well. Emotionally impactful, rather.
(Partyholiday Hungary poster by Nryn)
[…] So now that you’re getting a lot of work, what would you say was the art piece that really got you noticed?
When you say art piece, could this really be anything?
Yeah, in general.
I’d say it might be the work I did for Peh Per Ghost, […] who released an EP by Five Easy Pieces record label and I think that’s sort of how Compulsory first found me and once I was on board with the Compulsory guys, they’ve just been really great finding fantastic briefs […] and lots of great opportunities have come through Compulsory and it’s a really great bunch of people to be working with and working for. I’d say it’s the Peh Per Ghost Piece that got me noticed by those guys at least. I’ve done various bits and bobs of other work that’s had some kind of recognition or appreciation online as well, but in of my career, my professional development, it’s the stuff that’s coming through Compulsory that’s really driving me forward and getting me noticed by new clients and new people, so that’s awesome.
So that’s a really good segue into your music video career…And so your work is very distinguishable and it really does stand out among all the directors’ work at Compulsory. It’s very kaleidoscopic and euphoric, what are your inspirations behind your work in music videos?
Ah. […] My inspirations directly come from kind of my curiosity with technology and the stuff that I was talking about earlier with the installation work and the puzzles and the patterns (laughs). All of this kind of stuff I think […] I don’t know if, visually, my work is kind of […]
It’s a tough one to figure out actually, that question. I think my visual inspirations probably come from like minimalist design perspective […] I think music videos is the latest thing I’m turning my hand to in a more serious way. […] A lot of the stuff I’m doing visually is informed by, just basically, my own experiments into creating patterns and visualizations of audio in these applications on my computer. So yeah, I think a lot of the visual output that I get is, basically, a result of me screwing around. I do a lot of screwing around and then what I’ll eventually find is […] something that really works for me and then I’ll really refine it and I’m super detailed with everything that I do. I really try hard to make sure nothing is rough around the edges […] I like experimenting, but it also has to be perfect, so that part of my internal struggle every time I do a video.
Well yeah, all your work is very experimental, but still the final product is mind-blowing.
So how involved were the labels when it came to directing music videos for Leon Vynehall and Peh Per Ghost?
The labels sort of got in touch with Compulsory and Compulsory sort of offered me up as a potential good person to work on this idea and after they’d seen some of my work, and Compulsory had talked to them, they were very confident in me and my abilities, which was great because it allowed me to offer them some visual ideas and they seemed really receptive and they really liked what I was doing, which was really good for me as a good confidence boost being someone who’s new to […] a least at that stage was new to making videos and I really had a lot of freedom to be creative with them and I’m glad that they came out the way they did and that both the labels in this case were happy with the output.
Cool! So is it different working for labels as opposed to clients for your graphic design work?
Yeah, I suppose so. I’m trying to put my finger on exactly why that is. I think its simply to do with why someone would choose me to do something. What I mean by that is I think for my video work, people have seen the past work I’ve done and said, you know, “Can you achieve this kind of effect?” Something else, “Could you try doing this style of animation?” or “Could you try creating this?” And each time that I have one of those questions, it really is like starting from scratch, like, I can’t remake that same video. […] That’s not me. I have to experiment and try something new. But with the design work, the illustration and so on, I’m super-happy to repeat what I did before, at least its style. Because I feel like I’ve developed that in the last few years, I’ve been able to find my style […] and I really like when graphic work comes in or when an illustration piece gets commissioned and I have to match something I did before. So that’s the kind of difference in, at least my mindset, when I have these two different types of work coming in.
So one side is asking you to repeat your process while the other is asking you to experiment with your process?
Yeah, in a sense. And one fills me with dread and is very rewarding, and the other one fills me with excitement […] It’s somewhat flattering when someone says, “Oh, I really like what you did for this client. Can you do something similar for us?” And then, I’m like, “Yeah, absolutely!” So I’m very excited about both types of work, of course, but I approach them in different ways most of the time. It really does depend on what the client’s asking for, of course.
But in the end they’re both rewarding, so-
So if you don’t mind me asking, are there any music video projects that you’re currently working on?
Yeah, I suppose that I’m… I’ve got a few in the pipeline and I’ve been pitching on some recently. I don’t know if I’m allowed, actually, to be specific about who for […] or things like that, sorry.
But I think… I’m really lucky to be in the process of fleshing out some music videos and some other work that’s really varied. […] I couldn’t ask for more. I’m so lucky to be on Compulsory because they’re providing me with work that’s different every time… Basically, there’s lots of experimentation ahead and that excites me greatly.
So I’ve already asked this to David Wilson and Chris Toumazou already, but are there any musical artists you would love to work with someday?
Yeah… I’d say… I really like a lot of artists on the Brainfeeder label. Teebs […] yeah, really such beautiful like living music. […] It’s really really great music that’s coming out of Brainfeeder right now. Yeah, I guess I’m really into all sorts of instrumental music as well and electronic music. I’d say some of my favorite artists I’ve been listening to recently, Plaid brought out a new record some months ago […] And yeah, just brilliant. Who else have I been really enjoying recently that I’d love to work for?… I’d say yeah, like, basically music that’s instrumental and organic and just musically interesting as well. I play some instruments myself. I had some classical training when I was younger and I really find that music that is musically interesting (laughs) I don’t know if that makes sense or doesn’t sound completely pretentious, but yeah.
Alright man, well its been great having you here Nryn. Congrats to your new digs over at Compulsory. So where can people find you in the interwebs?
On the inter webs you can find me on the Compulsory site. There’s some information and some videos. Compulsoryviewing.co.uk and you can go to the “directors” page there if you wanna check out a few of the things that were mentioned. I also have my own personal site where I have a lot more of my illustration and design work. It’s more of a scrapbook than a portfolio. Apologies to any listeners or readers who are expecting something super-fancy. It’s nryn.co.uk.
But yeah, your website’s the- you said it’s a scrapbook, but it’s still amazing nonetheless.
Aw, thank you so much (laughs).
So there you have it, everyone. After getting acquainted with Nryn, I have no doubt that we’ll definitely be seeing more amazing things from him in the near future. If you enjoyed the interview, please check out Nryn’s personal website, where you can find all of his amazing work ranging from cool art pieces to great music samples. And be on the lookout for more music videos directed by Nryn in the near future by checking out Compulsory’s website.
Once again, a million kudos to Compulsory for arranging the interview, and a million kudos to Nryn for his time and patience. Be on the lookout for more interviews with upcoming directors soon!