Monday, November 10, 2014

Abdul Haqq - 25 Years of Techno Art

The first interview I did for DRL back in 2008 was with Abdul Haqq aka the Ancient (above second from left) who illustrated Drexciya's Neptune's Lair album. Haqq is a hidden but extremely central and very influential figure right at the heart of Detroit techno and its science fiction roots. He has also done artwork for Model 500, Derrick May, Underground Resistance and many many more.  As he has just released his 25 Years of Techno Art book I thought it might be a good time to revisit the interview again. Also one of my readers sent me a scan of a page from his book which includes an intriguing page called 'The House of Drexciya'. It features a photo of the house James Stinson lived in (they lived right around the corner from each other) while they were working on the artwork for the album. The page also includes a short and touching text about his experience working with Stinson as well as the album and Drexciya's legacy. The book also includes his illustrations of the 'Drexciyan Cruiser' and 'Warriors Returning' (both below) from NL. Details of his book can be found at his website here.

For my interview I was lucky that Haqq was willing to expand on the detail about his work on Neptune's Lair and his relationship with Stinson and Drexciya.  Quite recently Neptune's Lair was also reissued by Tresor. My original post on this subject can still be read here.

Q: How did your first professional involvement with Drexciya come about?
A: It was in the late 90's when James Stinson approached me with his Neptune's Lair concept. I think it was the summer of 99. It was going to be the first Drexciyan concept album.

Q: Did you know them socially already or only when the first project with them arose?
A: I knew James Stinson in passing from being at Submerge often. Gerald Donald I knew of even less.

Q: Did they have specific ideas for you, just give you the title and track listings or completely leave it up to you?
A: James Stinson had very specific ideas about Neptune's Lair. He had their whole underwater world and civilization thought out in his head. He gave me very detailed descriptions and then we worked together on the Drexciyan Warrior and Cruiser.

Q: Did you feel any connection or kinship with their dedicated approach to music, the enigmatic presentation of their image and the imaginary world they created with their words and music with the way you work?
A: I felt a very deep kinship with James. He was brilliant when it came to science fiction and that's always been my favourite subject matter. When we thought out the concepts of the album together it was very natural for me. I think we worked well together.

Q: Did everything you submitted for Neptune's Lair make the finished artwork or was there things you would have liked to have seen added?
A: Yes. We pretty much thought out everything together. There wasn't anything extra that I did that didn't go on the album.

Q: Was there any other work you would have done for them, outside of Neptune's Lair, which people might not be aware of?
A: After the death of James Stinson, I did a tribute painting of the Drexciyan Warrior on a wood panel. The title was "Long live Drexciya".

Q: When you did the artwork for Aquanauts what was your instruction, if any or how did you decide to approach it?
A: I was instructed by Mike Banks to take the concept to the next evolutionary level if you will. Since James Stinson's brother was in the Aquanauts, we wanted to keep the same vibe as with Drexciya but change it up slightly.

Q: The central figure in your Third Earth Heroes image on your websites homepage looks very much like a Drexciyan. What today is your personal feeling and opinion about Drexciya's music and legacy?
A: I am amazed by their achievements looking back after all these years. I think Drexciya was the "perfect storm" if you will. A number of elements that converged to make something unique and sublime.

Q: As one of the illustrators of Drexciya's world, even though it was a commercial job, this places yourself amongst the very first artists to be inspired by them to do work. Were you aware that since the death of James Stinson they have had a similar inspirational effect on other artists such as Ellen Gallagher and Kapwani Kiwanga? How does this make you feel about this ongoing process you played your part in?
A: This is amazing as I was just contacted and interviewed by Ms. Kiwanga just a couple of weeks ago. I'm really glad there is such interest in Drexciya and their concept. I'm proud to have been the choice of James to be the artist for Neptune's Lair. What's funny is most people don't realize that Drexciya themselves didn't write the most famous story (myth, legend) that they are known for! It was the Unknown Writer!

Q: What are your current activities and plans for the future?
A: I'm currently finishing up my project of a lifetime. I've written an artbook that tells the story of Detroit Techno and it's legends done in a sci-fi style. I did all new paintings and images for it too. There will also be a CD that features tracks from 6 of the legends in the
book. They are:
Derrick May
James Pennington
Carl Craig
Jeff Mills
Mike Banks
The Martian
I hope when it comes out, I will be able to bring it to your country!

Best regards,
A Qadim Haqq
Techno Visual Artist


Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Stephen. Do you know who the men in the photo are? Mike Banks in the centre and Abdul second from the left but the others? Thank you Rossa

1:43 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

On far right is Cornelius Harris aka The Unknown Writer but I don't know other two.

5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stephan, I left a comment on who the other two are, but you haven't allowed the comment through. How come?

10:15 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

The comments are not moderated, just try again.

5:39 PM  

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