Interview: Daniel Gillies on his work with Oxfam in Uganda

Having starred in four seasons of CW’s ‘The Originals’, Daniel Gillies talked to us about his experience of moving into the Director’s Chair.

Alongside his work in acting and directing, Daniel has been working closely with the international humanitarian organisation — Oxfam, visiting newly-arrived refugees in Uganda.

AC: This season on ‘The Originals’ you moved into the Director’s chair, what was it like directing the actors you have been working with?

DANIEL: It was complicated with some. It was a seamless with others. But neither experience was less rewarding than the other. As the Director, I was a servant. I was there to serve. Any adversity that may have arisen, was there to supply me with an education. It’s a privilege to receive that education.

What has inspired you to start working with Oxfam?

I was approached by Jackie Nelson of Oxfam earlier this year. At that time, I was already in communication with another Global Humanitarian Group that I love (Action Against Hunger). That relationship began a couple of years back. Together with those folks and with the tools of social media I was able to raise a decent amount to donate to their organization, which inspired me to continue our communication and my commitment to the issue of Famine. Furthermore, I’d inadvertently received a minor education about many regions in the African continent afflicted with Famine and Conflict.

Jackie’s infectious goodwill and the noble aspirations of Oxfam were aligned pretty beautifully with what I was passionate about representing.

Julius Caeser/Oxfam

From this trip to these refugee camps, did you know what you wanted to learn from the visit?

Honestly, I don’t think I could have entered that situation ‘knowing what I wanted to learn’. What you learn is what you’re going to learn. You can’t control that, to a certain extent. It would defeat the purpose of the visit if I was to enter with an agenda or objective. Put it this way: The whole thing was an education.

How could it not be? It’s another world. Entirely. The only place I’ve ever seen poverty like that was in India and South America. And even then, those countries had their elements of (tyrannically disproportionate) wealth. But I’d never seen anything like what I witnessed in the refugee settlements of Bidi Bidi or Imvepi.Nor have most people in the West. Sadly, nor will they ever. This is something that I would ardently recommend people to do and to experience. We’re impervious to images on television and the internet. Their suffering and unimaginable plight can seem somehow unreal, distant and intangible. When you’re with them… when you’re laughing, eating, traveling with these folks…listening to their stories, they’re real. I would recommend visiting countries like Uganda. The people and the land are unbelievably beautiful…You’re safe from the terrors of War there, but you can actually see the brutality that the war has precipitated — when you see the legions of Women and Children in the Refugee Settlements.

I wanted to approach these people with humility. And nothing will humble you more that the refugees of the South Sudan.

I suppose I wanted a deeper understanding about what had befallen these people. The nature of the conflict that had torn these people from their homes. Who was responsible? Was there any foreseeable resolution?

PHOTOGRAPHY: JULIUS CAESAR / OXFAM

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Adam Crookes: Pop Culture & My Magazine

It’s not just about knowing what is popular, it’s also about understanding why.

CROOKES Magazine is now almost three years old and it continues to morph and change its form to keep up with pop culture.

For me, it’s not just about knowing what is popular, it’s also about understanding why. If there is a television show that I don’t like – that doesn’t mean I can just ignore it and pretend its not relevant. I guess it’s just about taking notice – if someone is listening to Travis Scott’s new album, I want to understand why.

I wouldn’t naturally be a Post Malone or Troye Sivan fan – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to their music. I do. They’re two incredibly influential artists right now. But unlike a fan, I focus on understanding what makes them popular whilst I’m listening. At the moment, I’m really interested in what Drake is doing. As an artist, he is managing to turn each of his releases into a cultural event – tapping into the zeitgeist of any moment.

The fringes of pop culture are also just as interesting. When Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ hit cinemas last February, another film called ‘Phantom Thread’ also began screening. The 1950s-set period drama from Paul Thomas Anderson centered around an Oscar-nominated final performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as a obsessive and controlling fashion designer. I was blown away by the film.

Then a month later, whilst Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ swept the box office – I saw Lynne Ramsay’s gritty-thriller ‘You Were Never Really Here’ starring the chameleon-like Joaquin Phoenix. I honestly think Joaquin Phoenix is the best actor working today.

In late-March, I saw Alex Garland’s new film ‘Annihilation’ on Netflix. By the third act of the sci-fi thriller, I was feeling pretty uneasy. I couldn’t turn it off because I was watching it with other people – so I stuck with it. As the credits began to roll, I was completely freaked out – it felt like a mini-existential crisis.

Sometimes I’ll completely disagree with what is considered popular in culture. In May, British rock band Arctic Monkeys – fronted by masterful lyricist Alex Turner – released their fifth studio album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. The release marked a drastic departure from the pulsing baselines of their acclaimed fourth album ‘AM’, swapped with piano-driven lounge music. Contrary to the general consensus among die-hard fans, I found the album bloody impressive. It was exactly what I was looking for in that moment, even though I wasn’t expecting it to sound like it did or be what it was. Though unfortunately for the Monkeys, this sudden change wasn’t what everyone was looking for. Unlike its predecessor, the album can’t really be considered a hit – when taking into account its reception. People don’t really like change. Especially when an artist makes art that resonates with people in a unique way. That’s what Arctic Monkeys did with ‘AM’ – there has never been another record like it, they tapped into the zeitgeist of the moment.

Andy Warhol – who pioneered the Pop Art movement of the 1950s once said: “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”. It’s a quote that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We’re in the future, so what does he mean? I started looking into the ideology of the Pop Art movement. The artists wanted to make art for the masses, having felt that earlier art was elitist. Commercial items and cultural icons were often incorporated into the pieces. Back then, this artwork could be seen by thousands if it were included in an exhibition. But now with social media, anyone can post their own art online and have it potentially seen by thousands, maybe even millions. Pop Art is about making art for the masses – so in 2018, this includes Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, memes and GIFs. Also, Warhol opted to use printing techniques that were used for mass production with his art. Similarly, applications like Photoshop or Instagram and Snapchat are being used to mass produce art right now.

In a way, maybe CROOKES Magazine could be considered as Pop Art – the covers are designed to be seen and shared by the masses. That’s ultimately what the magazine is for, what any magazine is for.

When it started to snow across England back in February, I began working on an art project – a collection of work that I’ll put on the magazine website, almost like a mini-online exhibition. I dug out my family’s old VHS camcorder, that had been untouched for almost twenty years. It’s pretty special. You can almost create a timeless look to the imagery – with what your shooting neither looking old or new. From the stuff that I’ve been creating so far, its fair to say that I like abstract work. The idea that an image can be interpreted in dozens of ways, without being at all conclusive.

I want even the most die-hard fan to learn something new about their idol in the magazine.

Since the beginning, I’ve always felt that CROOKES Magazine and pop culture are heavily aligned. From the styles of photography to the questions that are asked in interviews. In the interviews, I want even the most die-hard fan to learn something new about their idol when they’re reading the article. You never want an interview to be too serious either, it’s got to be fun and have a few bizarre questions in there. One of my favourite questions to ask is “what’s the strangest food combo you’ve ever had?” – I remember Emmett Scanlan saying “egg and rice krispies” and Jack Maynard saying “chips dipped in chocolate milkshakes”. With the photoshoots, I want fans to see their star in a completely new light – literally. What’s the point in commissioning a photoshoot that presents the star in the same way they’ve always been seen in? And why ask a ton of questions that they’ve already been asked before?

At the end of the day, the sole purpose of talent being featured in the magazine is to promote their new work – whether that be a film, a TV show, a new song or all three. As long as the feature helps to promote the new release, it can be presented in a lot of different forms. I’ve been playing around with a few different ideas and testing a few different things. One idea I tried out recently was a Print Edition with Cameron Boyce – ultimately I’ve decided to not pursue making any further Print Editions because I feel there’s no growth in print at this time.

I’ve always been prepared to fight for every reader that I get.

In the same way that vinyl records have been revived, I think in a few decades time we’ll be seeing a return in print magazines. Print magazines are still selling – but any editor in the printing game knows that the clock is ticking. The people running these print magazines are far from stuck in a bubble though – they’re bulking up their online presence whilst sapping the remaining dollars left from the newsstands. CROOKES Magazine could be doing this, but I’d rather get the website in a really strong position to contend with each outlet as they head to online one-by-one. I’m going to be spending a lot of time soon researching why exactly vinyl has made a comeback (beyond the obvious reasons of nostalgia), so that I can see how this translates to the return of print. That’s a whole other article.

I always try to make sure that the variety of talent featured in the magazine is as wide as possible. If a new season ‘Riverdale’ or ‘Stranger Things’ is about to start airing – why don’t we have one of the actors talking to us? Even if they’re not a ‘lead’, I’ve learnt to never underestimate the power of a show’s fanbase. One share on social media from a TV show ‘fan account’ can light the spark to hundreds of readers – that happens a lot.

If I see someone listening to an artist on their Spotify, I’m going to try and get that artist featured in the magazine. I’ve always been prepared to fight for every reader that I get, and so I should. I have to give people as many reasons as possible to visit this website – and simply giving them the address isn’t enough. That may be enough if I want them to visit once, but I aim to be able to get my readers to visit at least once a week to see what’s new.

Adam Crookes

THE BIG READS

Interview: Mark Gatiss – The Prolific Character Reinventor

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Interview: The Magnetism of Billy Magnussen – ‘Black Mirror’ & ‘Game Night’

Interview: Jess Glynne – The Return Of A Chart-Topping Powerhouse

Interview: Tom Odell – The Songwriter Finding Home Again

Interview: X Ambassadors are blurring genre lines

Now two years after their debut album ‘VHS’, X Ambassadors give us details on their highly-anticipated upcoming second album.

AC: You’re often described as a rock band — but how would you describe yourselves?

X AMBASSADORS: Genre lines are so blurry in this day an age, that I don’t even know what is considered rock anymore. We’ve always taken influences from so many different types of music, new and old, and we’ve always been proud of the fact that people can’t seem to categorize us easily.

What song are most proud of to this date?

We are always trying to write better and better songs, so we tend to be most proud of our most recent material. I’d say right now, it’s a tie between our new song ‘Ahead Of Myself’, and another new one we’ve started to play live, but haven’t released yet.

Is it during Live Performances that you decide which songs you like the best?

These days, we generally record an entire song before ever playing it live. I’d say for me personally, I do at least discover which songs of ours I like the best by playing them live. As we tour and keep playing the songs, they evolve a bit too, and sometimes I’ll find whole new depth to songs we’ve played for ages.

Is there a new album coming? How many songs are you working on?

We are actually in the final mixing and mastering phase of making our new album, but I can’t give too many details away cause, you know, it’d ruin the surprise. All I’ll say is that it’s a full length album of entirely new material. So far, the only song from it you’ve heard so far is the first single, ‘Ahead Of Myself’.

Who has been designing the merchandise? Was that a collaborative effort?

Honestly, it’s mostly my brother (the lead singer), our manager, and a few artists and designers we’ve met over the years. We’re going to be doing a lot of new merch to go with the new album, so keep your eyes peeled. We’re pretty excited about the new designs.

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: Harlea – The Songwriter Pushing Against The Trends

HARLEA is pushing against the current trends of rock’n’roll – carving out her own style with a fusion of contemporary and raw songwriting with an edge.

Birmingham born and London raised songwriter made quite the entrance last year with her debut tracks ‘Miss Me’ and ‘You Don’t Get It’. Now the passionate lyricist returns with her brand-new single ‘Beautiful Mess’ – a hook filled, future classic written with American super producers Rock Mafia.

We had a chat with Harlea about how she found her style and her songwriting process.

AC: You used to be a model, how did you manage to breakthrough with your music career? Was music always at the forefront of your mind?

HARLEA: I have always loved music and it has always been a part of who I am. I really enjoyed modelling but music was always my number one passion so I decided to focus on that completely a few years ago.

I feel like your guitar music goes beyond the current trends, was that a conscious decision?

It was. Everyone I spoke to always went on and on about how you don’t get music like you use to these days, and you had to go back in time for the good stuff. That was all the music I was listening to, so I thought, why not make a modern day version!

How do you feel about the state of guitar music at the moment?

I think that there are some really great bands out there at the moment. Guitar music gets a bad rep and everyone thinks it’s having a tough time, but there are brilliant bands and artists breaking through.

Who do you think is staying true to classic rock’n’roll?

I think there are many bands out there staying true. The Foo Fighters for instance!

Guitar music seems to be really popular in LA right now. What was it like working with American producers on your new material?

I love America and spend a lot of time in Los Angeles. It felt like a natural fit to work with Rock Mafia and they were really fun to work with. I have worked with a lot of British producers too though and there are some great talented people on both sides of the Atlantic.

When did you buy your first guitar?

I bought my first acoustic guitar about seven years ago and unfortunately learning how to play it didn’t work out so well for me, so it’s been hung up for now. Hopefully one day I will master it.

So, what about songwriting – how long does it take you to write a song?

It really depends on the day, who I am writing with, what’s inspiring me that day etc. Sometimes I have ideas and they quickly turn into a song, and other times there’s a lot of back and forth. My new single Beautiful Mess was written by Rock Mafia. When I first heard it, I knew I loved it, but we had to adapt it a bit until it felt perfect.

Who would you like to collaborate with in the near future?

I think that is hard one to answer. There are so many great talents out there that I would love to collaborate with but to pick a few to name just seems too hard!

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: Logan Henderson on his new single ‘Pull Me Deep’

Logan Henderson
Photo by Catie Laffoon

LOGAN HENDERSON is currently embarking on a solo career as a musician, after gaining fame a decade ago with a breakthrough role in Nickelodeon’s ‘Big Time Rush’.

Raised in Texas, Logan moved to California at the age of eighteen to pursue an acting career. ‘Big Time Rush’ centered around a four-part pop band and quickly became a big TV hit, catapulting the fictional band to sign some very real deals with Sony Music Entertainment and Columbia Records. The band went on to release a three albums – which featured much of Logan’s songwriting.

After four seasons of ‘Big Time Rush’, both the show and the band went into hiatus by 2014. Logan took this time to focus on his personal life and begin developing a sound of his own – a sound which we’re now beginning to hear. 

Logan has just released his debut solo album titled ‘Echoes of Departures and the Endless Street of Dreams Pt.1’. The release introduces listeners to Logan’s sound and clearly shows that he’ll be a staple in pop culture for years to come. The second installment of the album will be released later this year. We talk to Logan Henderson about his brand new single ‘Pull Me Deep’.

AC: What was it like growing up in Texas?

LOGAN: I have a lot of family and great memories from growing up in Texas. It will always be home for me.

When you moved to California, what were the biggest differences in the culture for you?

I moved to California when I was seventeen, it was a complete change of life. It opened my eyes to a lot of different things.

Looking back at ‘Big Time Rush’, do you have any favorite memories from your time on the show?

I got to eat, sleep and breathe music. I was able to travel the world and meet a lot of interesting people. It was an unforgettable experience.

As a group you shot to fame in a short space of time. How did you manage that as an individual?

I was very focused on being present in the moment and the task at hand. I tried not to think about it too much because it can get overwhelming.

You’ve just released part one of your debut solo album – how long had you been working on it?

Part one is a collection of music and stories from the past year and a half.

Do you have a favorite track on the album?

Each track kind of has a life of its own.

Logan Henderson

What’s it been like shooting music videos for the singles? Do you get involved in the concepts for them?

I’m very involved in the process and vision for my music videos. Filming and story development has always been a huge passion of mine.

Would you consider returning to acting?

Music has been my focus, but acting is something I’ll do for the rest of my life.

How important is social media to you?

I love the ability to talk to my fans, but I’m not huge of social media.

What’s the best thing about performing live?

I have the best fans in the world! I love the energy and the journey that we get to go on together.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

No set pre-show ritual. Each show is different. I go off of the vibe at that moment.

Tell us about your new single ‘Pull Me Deep’ – what inspired you to write it?

‘Pull Me Deep’ is a new sound for me that I have been wanting to explore. It’s a story that I think everyone can relate to. It’s one of my favorites that I’ve released so far.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH LOGAN HENDERSON

What’s the strangest food combo you’ve ever had?

I’m a huge foodie and I’ve eaten a lot of weird shit.

Everyone has a cool app idea, what’s yours?

No app idea, but if I have a few ideas for Apple! FaceTime needs to allow you to leave messages if the person isn’t available. Also, FaceTime should allow you to have filters. Come on let’s get with it!

What’s on your music playlist at the moment?

Nao, Brockhampton, Playboi Cartie, Greta VanFleet, Chromeo.

Is there a sport you wish you could play?

I love hockey..terrible at playing it.

What’s the last film you watched?

‘Hereditary’.

If you had one superpower, what would it be?

I’d be on some ‘Nightcrawler’ shit.

What’s the last photograph you took?

Lots of dog pictures.

If you could sing a duet with anyone right now, who would it be?

Clairo

Is there anything in particular that you’re really excited about for the future?

New music, traveling and more shows and seeing all of you at more shows and festivals this next year.

Listen to Logan Henderson’s new single ‘Pull Me Deep’ here

PHOTOGRAPHY: CATIE LAFFOON

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

Send a Letter to the Editor about this Article

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Interview: Mark Gatiss – The Prolific Character Reinventor

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