Interview - Artist Sonny Kay: Valuing Creativity, Psychedelics & Giving Voice To Ideas That Go Against The Grain
Sonny Kay is without a doubt one of my favourite visual artists. Words will not do when it comes to his work; it needs to be experienced for oneself. Every time I look at one of his works my understanding of it evolves a little bit more, I find myself coming back to the images time and time again as inspiration for my mind and food for my soul—they remind me of the pure potentiality of life. Sonny is the art director for Rodriguez Lopez Productions and has created tee designs and album covers that complement the musical dialogue of artists such as long-time friend Omar Rodriguez Lopez, one of my favourite bands Le Butcherettes, the kick ass Zechs Marquise and more.
Art-wise, what are you currently working on? And so far, how do you feel about it?
SONNY KAY: Right now I’m finishing laying-out new albums for Good Old War and The Mars Volta. The GOW project is more a matter of assembling parts that the band provided, whereas the Volta thing consists of original art I created for it, and now I’m in the process of adding lyrics, etc. So basically two different approaches. They’re both a good challenge, but of course the ones that utilize my own art feel more personal.
Previously, when asked about your artwork and the evolution of your album cover designs for Omar [Rodriguez Lopez] you have said, “I find my thoughts dwelling more and more on concepts of multi-dimensionality and what might be called the fabric of reality.” I wanted to ask you, what was your first introduction to these concepts? What first sparked your interest in these ideas? Have you ever personally experienced something that you perceived to be this?
SK: I suppose my earliest introduction to this kind of thing would be via people like George Harrison and Timothy Leary, all the sort of figureheads of 1960’s psychedelic awareness. I always had a kind of passing interest in psychedelic poster art, and that kind of thing, but more from an aesthetic point of view. I managed to completely avoid hallucinogens until well into my 20’s. Then about ten or eleven years ago I had my first bona fide “psychedelic” experience after taking a double dose of psilocybin mushrooms in Japan. I came away from that with the explicit understanding that there are dimensions of consciousness I could never have begun to imagine. And so from that point on I began reading everything I could get my hands on about hallucinogens, and more specifically, entheogens such as DMT. When I finally had the opportunity to try it myself, I was prepared for it in a way that I felt put me at an advantage over someone just happening upon it at a party or something. I felt like I’d primed myself intellectually. But nothing could have prepared me for the total sensory overload of it, nor the depths of astonishment possible that you just can’t imagine.