Mumptown: Joining the Dots Between Music and Illustration
Written by James Zaremba on 15th December 2016
Enriching shop windows, city streets and social media pages across the North West, Mumptown’s unique poster artwork is emphatically adding colour to the musical landscapes of Liverpool and Manchester. We caught up with the man himself to discuss the marriage between his art and music; his influences and future plans.
Setting the vibe for some of the most popular club nights across the North West including; Madnice Marauders, BamBamBam, So Flute and Pause – Mumptown, AKA Oliver Smith, has already left an indelible mark on local poster culture. Between doodling all over soul-queen Fatima’s face for Madnice Marauders and sketching out hip-hop royalty in the form of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Mumptown has also designed artwork for record labels and created portraits for some of our (and his) favourite radio DJs.
Artistic Director for our new friends, Fly High Society, Mumptown is rapidly becoming a familiar name in the record label business too having recently collaborated on the Blip Discs 002 artwork: a release that received major acclaim from the likes of Gilles Peterson and a Boiler Room debut. Amid a heavy schedule, we managed to catch up with Oliver to chat all things Mumptown…
So Oliver, how did it all start?
I’ve always loved drawing; from a young age I was doodling all over everything. At high school I was that guy who was good at drawing, mostly cartoons or other weird shit. In college I got into illustration and graffiti. My early characters were influenced from Futura2000; I’d draw Pointmen-style characters.
Mumptown started when I studied my degree in Graphic Arts at John Moores University, Liverpool. I was more into Japanese character illustrations and artists like James Jarvis, Kaws and Will Sweeney.
The biggest inspiration for me is music. Pretty much all my ideas come from listening to music all day and zoning out. I also look at album covers mostly jazz, funk and soul. I’m a big hip-hop and rap fan; any Pen and Pixel designed album covers of obscure southern rappers…I love those.
From gig posters to record label artwork, you seem to have touched on everything recently…how did you get started working alongside the music industry?
It happened by accident really but it was always something I wanted to do. I used to make beats and upload them to Soundcloud, they were kind of good but I got more interest and attention from the artwork I’d have with them. It spiralled from there, getting connected with Fly High Society and No Fakin’. I then started spending more and more time working on artwork and less and less time making beats.
You’ve captured some legendary musicians: Fatima, Statik Selektah, Pete Rock & CL Smooth…do you have a stand out portrait that you’ve created? What’s the feedback been like from these artists?
I think the Fatima, Alexander Nut, Madnice was the poster that boomed the demand for Mumptown artwork. I was pretty nervous on that one because it was the first time doing a portrait style illustration for gig artwork. I also wasn’t sure if Fatima wanted me to draw all over her face but it was received well! The Eglo Records management wanted to get it printed out to hang in their office…No idea if it is though?
Also, I sent NTS Radio’s Charlie Bones the So Flute artwork of him to his Do You!!! record shop, he’s a fan. I listen to NTS 24/7 and can’t really remember life without it. I thought, “I’ll doodle some DJs I regularly listen to.” The reaction to them was pretty funny, I planned to do more but it’s hard finding the time to do illustration for myself these days.
You’ve worked with Fly High Society, recently doing the artwork on the new Contours release…how did that collab come about? Are there any plans for the future?
I owe a lot to Fly High Society; you could say I’m a big part of the visual side but we do have a very collaborative vibe. I’ve been a part of Fly High since 2010; SertOne and Bolts championed my artwork and beats way back then, they where always happy to just let me do what I thought was best visually. The Canal/Dadaloop “7 was a great project to work on; having my artwork on a record was a fantastic opportunity. We will be releasing more 7” vinyl very soon…
Do you have any gallery shows planned?
I’ve been offered one a few times for a little exhibition but they always fall through, soon maybe…I’m thinking of doing one by myself. Sessions Faction’s Dalema has an upcoming hip-hop exhibition in Constellations, i’ll have a piece in that.
I’m currently working on an IOS sticker pack full of musical references and got some more record covers to be released. I’m keeping these quiet at the moment but I take everything day by day, you never know what’s around the corner!