14 Dec 2020

Spotlight on: Tasso Okinawa

The story behind DGTL label's record sleeves artwork

In our current ‘Spotlight On’ series, we are turning the light to three artists close to our hearts, Tim Buiting, Tim Straver, and Tasso Okinawa. The artists behind the record sleeves of our label’s releases. Every artist got to work his magic, creating the artwork of 5 releases each that we published as a series. While the music of every EP tells its own story, the art of the 5 sleeves created a storyline throughout the several releases. We got to know all three creators through a different aspect of the festival and with their work for the record label, they got to express their artistic self in a new way.


In our last feature, we turn to Tasso Okinawa, the final mastermind behind the sleeves. Tasso and DGTL have a long history of collaborations which started back in 2013 at an ADE night in the NDSM Loods. The Cologne label Kompakt celebrated its 20th anniversary during a DGTL night and Tasso had been doing their visuals for quite some years already and was invited to VJ this particular event. "I was so excited to play this awesome location with all my friends and a huge LED wall. Big and high res LED walls were not the standard in those years". On the line-up were artists like Gui Boratto, Kölsch, the Pachanga Boys, Saschienne, Coma, and of course Michael Mayer.


Tasso and Tim (DGTL Records label manager) got to know each other when Tim was managing the artist handling at the DGTL festivals. "Since I was always doing a couple of days or nights I guess he had to take care of me a lot and we became good friends and spent quite some time at front of house, backstage, and in production".


"I was a huge fan of DGTLs professional production since day one (thanks Chris, Floris, Gerke, Kelamo, Tim, Bob, Luuk&Jessica, Arnold... to name just a few) and was always impressed by their idea to make more than "just a good party“ but something sustainable", he says. 


There is a big difference between VJing and creating artwork for a record label. VJing is something made for the moment, only experienced by the crowd in front of the stage where a lot of things need to match. "...everything that comes together to create the atmosphere, from the sound to the lights, visuals and of course the energy of the dance floor". The artwork and animations of the record sleeves, on the other hand, is something very different, he says. "Creating something, unsure when and in which environment it will be seen, not sharing the uniqueness of the moment, is a different challenge". 


Tasso is currently working on his second DGTL Records sleeve. "Tim's idea was to bring the VJ atmosphere, people known from the events, into the record labels artwork. So my approach was to actually create visuals, as I did for the events, and then pick one frame for the artwork". Tasso was surprised by the outcome and says that the most unexpected struggle was to choose the right frame.


To create the artwork, Tasso used a method called macro photography. A couple of years ago, he started to experiment with filming in the marco world to find new approaches to creating content for his VJ shows. He was looking for something organic and flowing which "still had a dark, abstract, and emotional feeling". Playing around with flowers, magnetic and hydrophobic fluids, and light, instead of pushing keyframes around in a timeline was surprisingly exciting, he says. Tasso later combined this with algorithms in software like touchdesigner and notch. "The first time I brought those visuals to stage was a DGTL Barcelona edition where I did a stage in front of the sea. I had filmed corals for the show and the result just looked astonishing so I kept on experimenting". 

To involve the artists in the creative process of the record sleeves, they were asked to name some emotions they felt when listening to their track. Tasso then used those keywords as inspiration for the design. Something that worked quite well, "since music is a universal language".


Tasso's real name is Tasso Treis. When we ask him where ‘Okinawa’ comes from, he says it's a story best told with a drink in the hand before he continues: It started when he was doing design work and throwing parties in Cologne in the late nineties. "Party flyers were really big and very important for the techno culture. We did a lot of flyers…. I mean a lot…" At one point, they were asked for their agency name during an interview and had to come up with something. Tasso laughs, "agency name, haha... " At that time, Tasso and his friends were working in a copy shop messing around with torn papers and cut-out pictures from magazines, sharing one computer and adobe illustrator had just come available. "We were working on a collage to make a design for a big party we planned for the popkomm (popkomm 1990-2003 used to be Cologne's ADE). To pay the DJs we printed shirts and sweaters with a very graphical and also political design. "Suddenly we had all these DJs running around in our shirts at our legendary after-hours we did for years to unofficially close popkomm at the well-known bar 'six-pack'… the name Okinawa 69 was part of the design and somehow stuck with me till today".


When asked about his vision and future goals he tells us that the DGTL Records vs. VJing is a good example of how to use the long experience in techno culture while waiting until events can happen again. "I would like to do more projects together with the people I met all those years and call friends today. Building a strong and sustainable network that also functions in times like these".


Share this article
Group 2 Created with Sketch.