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It’s not the typical name you’d expect a band to have. In fact, it seems quite controversial. Slaves.
The connotations are too negative. The history of the word is too dark. It’s too heavy, especially for a group of young musicians from Sacramento, California. Besides, what in the world could post hardcore experimental rock and slavery have in common? But that’s what they call themselves. And the reason why is pretty simple, even if it still causes some heads to turn. “We’re a slave to what we love,” Lead Singer Jonny Craig told Alternative Press, a magazine focused on alternative and punk music. Whether offended or intrigued, one can’t help but wonder about the story, music and people behind an experimental rock band called Slaves.
Despite being formed in early 2014, the band has already released two studio albums. Jonny Craig, the lead vocalist, brought the group together. In fact, Craig revealed the band members via his twitter account. In addition to Craig, there’s guitarist Alex Lyman, bassist Colin Vieira and drummer Tai Wright. With each of them coming from previous music groups, the guys joined their talents together, releasing Through Art We Are All Equals, their first studio album on June 24, 2014. Aware that most either love him or hate him, Craig explained the band’s name a little further in an interview on the Ryan Rock Show, a Los Angeles radio show. “Men have been enslaving men for as long as we’ve had gods to hide behind. Every man is a slave to what we love-whether it be women, drugs, music or sports. Through art we are equals.” Representative of everyday struggles, addictions and decisions, many of the tracks depict a kind of mental, social, emotional and relational enslavement. Heavy metal sounds, matched with pop rock guitar chords and subtle, consistent drum beats combined with Craig’s sultry smooth voice gives the band a very independent feel. While some tracks feel more ACDC inspired, others have a kind of R&B, reflective and emotional tone. From “The Young and Beyond Reckless,” to “Starving for Friends” (which features Vic Fuentes of Pierce the Veil), the album’s lyrics remind listeners of the subtle ways we’re enslaved to various cultural aspects and expectations. Featuring Tyler Carter of metalcore bands Issues and Woe is Me, “The Young and Beyond Reckless,” begins with the following words: A puppet is only as strong as its strings/I forgive and forget, yet the truth still stings/ the lies are all easy, and the words are hard to swallow/the leaders get killed/we’re never fulfilled/yet we follow (we all follow). Like the lyrics, the band itself has experienced both the highs and lows of the young and beyond reckless.
“This band has to fight through each other’s personal problems as a whole, and then the opinions the rest of the world forms of these things as a whole,” Craig told Alternative Press on another occasion. Anyone familiar with the band understands the strong opinions the lead singer referenced. Besides fighting hostility due to Craig’s drug use and internet scams, the band has also had to deny rumors of them splitting up after they were kicked off the Warped Tour due to an altercation involving Craig. Additionally, Lyman, the band’s guitarist was stabbed last year. But through it all, the band remained together. “We have all taken each other’s addictions, family problems, relationship problems on as a group and have each individually became the strongest we’ve been in our lives because of this,” Craig continued to explain in his interview. The band grew financially as well. Fans helped raise $29,000 in less than 48 hours after Slaves was kicked off the tour. Through it all, the band continued to thrive, releasing Routine Breathing, their second album in August 2015.
Today, the band’s twitter account boasts of their latest tour, Us Against the World. In so many ways, the name of the tour speaks to their spirit. In the midst of scandal, addictions, family problems and physical altercations, Slaves proves one thing to be true: there is power in unity. United by their artistry and their personal experiences, the members of Slaves are like a small, everyday family: flawed, human, slightly dysfunctional but talented and preserving. Like the title of their second album, it’s the routine breathing that keeps them going: the day by day decisions that turn experiences into tracks and tracks into albums and albums into tours. Through it all, their music explores the vast range of human experiences.
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Like most executives, he’s often found in business meetings discussing the latest plan to keep the company prospering. Marketing strategies, new product ideas and possible collaborations are all topics of discussion. Listening attentively, he takes out his Moleskine notebook. According to The Wall Street Journal, the notebook is always with him, even at the dinner table when he and his wife are out to eat. A businessman, it is easy to assume he’s recording notes, jotting down profit margins and planning out new ideas. In many ways, that is true, but the pages aren’t written on. Instead of meeting minutes, travel plans and/or mental reminders, they’re made up of doodles, sketches and shoe drawings because this is what is always on his mind. Though odd, it makes perfect sense considering he’s the CEO of Nike. Despite having never attended art school, 60 year old Mark Parker is a visionary both inside and outside the pages of his Moleskine notebook.
At its core, Parker’s journey to Nike began with a dream. Perhaps daydream is better fitting. While studying Political Science at Penn State University, Parker ran cross country and track. Competitive and a visionary, Parker became obsessed with creating the perfect running shoe. As his passion for design grew, he started experimenting with various rubbers and waffle patterns. In addition to drawing, he glued the materials on the bottoms of his Asics shoes hoping for faster times on his marathon runs. Never giving up hope for designing the perfect running shoe, Parker started sketching various designs on graph paper, a tradition he maintains today. Not long after graduation, he joined Nike as a footwear designer in the research and design center located in Exeter, New Hampshire. Less than 10 years later, he became the Division Vice President, eventually going on to become the General Manager, Vice President of Global Footwear and finally, CEO in 2006. In fact, according to The Wall Street Journal, since Parker became CEO, Nike’s annual revenue is up 60 percent, profits have increased more than 50 percent and the brand’s market cap has more than doubled. It’s no wonder Parker was named Fortune’s 2015 Businessperson of the year. Ironically, he’s still into design just like he was during his college days, personally overseeing the brand’s emergence into the fashion industry, resulting in a larger range of high quality shoes.
Beyond his love for designing shoes, Parker is quite the art fanatic. His office, located in Beaverton, Oregon at the Nike headquarters looks and feels like an art gallery. In fact, there are more than 1,000 pieces of art in Parker’s office. The various collections, including everything from Murakami and Warhol to a framed insect collection to canvas art to Japanese robots to individual portraits of the avengers superheros to a painted cartoon of Abraham Lincoln by Mark Ryden. Having discovered his love for collecting art from childhood excursions with his grandmother, Parker loves being surrounded by large amounts of art as it provokes creativity.
“Being open and curious to the world through collaboration is a way to nourish and inspire our own creative culture,” he told Hypebeast, an online entertainment magazine. Admitting that he listens and perceives information better visually, Parker has as many art friends as he does athletes. “I’ve sketched since a young age,” he tells Designboom, a digital magazine for design and architecture. “…So there’s always been an artistic side, a visual side to my personality.” This is more than evident for anyone that’s visited or seen the CEO’s office eclectic office which has living goldfish built into a table showcasing more art, Parker’s sketches and photographs with friends and colleagues.
Part executive, part sports fanatic, part art collector and part designer, Mark Parker’s success is a result of a healthy balance between vision and collaboration. From the doodles in his notebook to his hour long discussions with athletes, Parker turns visions into products, designs into dollars and dreams into realities. Acknowledging the fickle changes that come along with sportswear, Parker focuses on the bigger picture and the larger vision. “There is this magnetic pull to focus more on the short term, the immediate, the quarter-to-quarter. And then there’s a sense of f-that, we are going to go out here and really create the future. And we need to do both. I have to live that tension,” he tells The Wall Street Journal. This same tension occurs between his doodles (often done in financial meetings) and the return in dollars. Beyond the tension though, are visions after visions brought to light and shared with the world. And anyone familiar with the Nike brand knows, the products are visions that the world loves.
As we begin the new year, this is the perfect time to look in the mirror to assess some things about ourselves. Look deep into the mirror, can you see the things that trouble you? Now look deeper, can you see the things that you are hopeful to accomplish this year? The mirror must be an interesting place to spend so much time, just ask the millions of Instagram models who spend hours in front of the glass taking pics that you can’t even see their faces on. Whatever it is that keeps people in their mirrors, certain people hide there. No, not physically of course, but in a sense of never being able to see themselves outside of their reflections. Armenian born artist, Tigran Tsitoghdzyan, is someone who has brought attention to this concept through his art.