Interview – Corrupt Autopilot

Corrupt Autopilot are a rock band from New York, with a number of free releases under their belts. Frontman Dima Drjuchin also creates incredibly detailed psychedelic artwork for the band as well as various other musicians, so M3 caught up with him to discuss his creative process, and whether or not design work is a good way for bands to earn an extra income…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Dima – I am a painter, an illustrator, and a musician, living in New York. I do everything from fine art, to posters, record covers, etc…

What inspired you to focus on music related artwork? What is your own musical background?
I’ve been a musician since I was 13 years old, and it’s been a very important part of my life for almost 20 years. I got into making art for music mostly by circumstances. I was always the guy in the band that could draw, so I always designated myself as being the one who makes the album covers and merch. The more I did this, and the more the work was seen people started asking me to make things for their bands. I also do a lot of work in stand up comedy. I think I’ve done more work there, then in music, but I see both fields as related.

How much creative control do you have over your artwork for musicians? Do they give you an idea of what they’d like, or just let you do your own thing?
It’s different with everyone. Sometimes they give me a general idea of what they want, sometimes I come up with something and present it to them. I just did the cover for the new Reggie Watts record and he gave me no direction. I made the cover and sent it to him and his manager, and they both loved it so we went with it. The cover for Father John Misty – “Fear Fun” was a little different. I had some long talks over the phone with J. Tillman about it and he gave me the concept he was looking for, and I worked around that. It was more of a challenge but ended up being one of my favorite album covers, and was a lot of fun to work on. I’ve been pretty lucky so far that I’ve worked with people that understand my style, don’t micro manage and are positive people who I respect a lot. Those things matter a lot. It’s really rewarding to work on a project that you believe in, because it makes work that much harder and you don’t want to let them down. As for as my own records, everyone I play music with seems to trust me in making the design.

Would you recommend illustration and design work as a good way for struggling musicians to earn an extra income?
That’s hard to say. I don’t see it as a supplementary income to music, it’s my job. I hold it in equal balance to my love of playing music. I also take it very seriously and make sure I’m a reliable artist to work with. If a musician is serious about doing it, then yes, it can be great. but it’s also a hustle. You can get a lot of work at one time, and no work for a while. I’m a freelancer and things seem to come in waves. Sometimes I have a lot of things on my plate, sometimes I have no jobs coming in. The lulls can be crushing, but I always have something to work on of my own, so I always take that opportunity to work on my painting or write some songs. At this point I play in three different bands and do music for a monthly comedy show called Heart Of Darkness, on top of working my on art and doing illustration for other people. If you’re not good at balancing things like that, it can be hard to do. I’m fortunate enough that I have a burning work ethic and love all the things that I do, so it’s always a lot of fun to do. But if you are a touring musician, it can be hard to do since you’re on the road a lot. So I don’t know, it works for me…

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I’ve recently got a turn table again after a 5 year of not having one. I love listening to vinyl more then any other way. I feel like you have to commit to the record as a whole piece in that format. I grew up on cassettes and walkmans, and it’s very similar. So it takes me back into that kind of mind set. I listen to MP3s on my iPhone when I’m walking around, but I tend to skip around more. I think MP3s make you more impatient because the song you REALLY like is just a click away, I find vinyl more meditative and you tend to hear things that you wouldn’t normally choose to hear on MP3. I also really enjoy playing records when I’m painting.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Somewhat, it’s hard to say since there’s so much music out there. I know there are bands that still try to make an album, rather then a collection of songs. I know my friends who are in bands do that, my bands definitely do that. When I write music for an album, I always see it as one piece, and I’m very careful about sequencing the songs the right way so there is an arc. I can’t really comment too much on what’s going on in popular music because I don’t really listen to any of it, or pay much attention to it. I think the album is still there, but it’s maybe harder to see because the medium has evolved into the digital age, and our perception of music has changed due to it. I think most serious artists still try to make albums.

Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I think the digital age has mostly killed the large chain record store who thrived on CD sales. I live in New York and all the small record stores still exist here. There are tons of them. There’s one right by my house. They tend to cater more towards vinyl then CDs. So I think the renewed interest in vinyl that’s been happening in the last couple of years thats been keeping them afloat. I definitely buy more records than CDs or MP3s. Plus most new vinyl comes with MP3 downloads that I think is a great idea. It’s a good way of supporting the old and new formats.

Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforcable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
I think an artist has the right to try to protect their work, there’s definitely way less money to be made from music these days. I’m at the point with my musical career that I don’t even think about making money off of it. I put up my band Corrupt Autopilot’s records up on Bandcamp with the option of donation, most people don’t give one and just download it for free, which I don’t mind at all. I rather they enjoy the music for free, then not download it at all because they don’t want to pay. I support myself through my art work, and everyone else in my band have jobs. We do it because we love playing music. It would be nice to make money from it, but I’m also not a major musician who lives off his music. I think people should do what they think is right for their art and how they want people to attain it.

What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I don’t think the internet should have those kinds of limitations and be controlled in that fashion. As a person who thrives from the internet, it’s bad for business.

Finally, what does the future hold for Dima Drjuchin?
Making a new record with Corrupt Autopilot during the summer and I have recently started playing guitar in Ancient Sky, and we are working on a new record as well. Hopefully there is an art show looming in the future… but yeah I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. Making art and music till the day I die!

To see Dima’s artwork, you can visit his official website. For more information about Corrupt Autopilot, you can visit their website and find them on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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