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The Wasted Heroes: Russ, Circus X and We Love

Russel Reid is the illustrator behind Liverpool's premier club night Circus, as they look towards their 10th Anniversary and Russ' involvement with the We Love closing party.

Ever since acid house exploded into our minds in the mid eighties there have been events ranging from raves to club showcases all with one common goal – making sure the right people know about it happening. One of the long established ways of doing this was flyers and posters; where the right design would not only hook people in but showcase exactly what the night all about.

Of course, now we live in a world where you live your life online, spending a fair portion of that life deleting event invitations to terrible parties. The flyers are all saying the same thing - cheap drinks, big tunes, big names - to the point nobody even cares anymore. A clubnights identity is being lost amongst a mist of mediocrity and laziness on the promoters part, and worryingly things are becoming all about the money, putting to one side the art behind it all. Thankfully, there's still a handful of people left who care about the club package as a whole; how it is perceived, what it stands for and projecting an image of quality to their paying customer - us. Some of these people are Russell Reid and the people of Circus and We Love.

My friends and I have been big fans of the iconic work of Russell Reid of Wasted Heroes for a while, whose designs have been the main face of Liverpool clubnight Circus, amongst others, for the best part of a decade. He's been responsible for the Circus X clobber that everyone from Yousef to Carl Cox has been seen sporting, with Wasted Heroes, the clothing company he is behind, having appeared on a veritable feast of Ibiza starlets such as Loco Dice, Alex Wolfenden and Ian Blevins.

Growing up in the Liverpool dance music scene I've long been bombarded with the creations of Russell Reid, entirely through his work with club brands Circus and Chibuku, collecting the flyers and posters to decorate my Uni flats walls with a more pleasing visual. Seemingly taking sections of photographs and combining them cut 'n' paste style with some very striking and bold illustrations, Russell has carved out a nice little corner of the music design industry for himself. Of course, there's no doubting any amount of proficiency with scissors and glue will really help if you're an aspiring designer or illustrator yourself (or would it, Russ?) - the complixity, uniqueness and bespoke nature the designs have blown my mind and inspired a whole generation of people of the night to make their weekends all about Circus. Frankly, brands like that wouldn't be the same without the likes of Russell Reid.

Ahead of a huge weekend for Russ – he is hosting El Salon for the We Love closing party and Circus will be celebrating ten years with two huge parties in London and Liverpool. We decided to catch up with him to find out about his history of working on the island, his inspiration in design and how it feels seeing a bona fide legend like Carl Cox wearing one of his t-shirts.

Your relationship with the We Love crew has been a long time in the making, you used to work at We Love back in the day, right?

Yeah, when I graduated from university in 2003 I packed my bags and moved to Ibiza for the season. I had contacted We Love's Mark in advance and knew I had a job working on their PR team waiting for me. They are a great bunch of guys to work for and promoting We Love was a joy as the line ups were incredible. And the bonus was having to finish each week partying on the Space Terrace!

I try to get back out most years and always go to Space to say hello. They found out I had my own t-shirt label and really liked the designs, they felt the label would fit in well with the We Love vibe and asked if I'd be interested in hosting El Salon for the closing party. It's a great opportunity and amazing for the brand, so I jumped at the chance and really looking forward to being back out in Ibiza.

When you started out on the designer/illustrator route, did you always intend for your future to lie working with these huge clubbing institutions like We Love and Circus?

I've always been involved in the clubbing industry, from DJing, working for We Love and many years working for the Circus and Chibuku guys as their guest list man. I was lucky enough to have a profession that could then fit in with this industry and it all started when Circus asked if I'd pitch for their new designer.

Even in my earlier design days I'd redesign album covers and was always the guy who designed all the local dj's cd artwork. I guess I've just progressed to the next level by designing for a club as big as Circus and Yousef's album artwork.

The whole Circus X celebration seems to be going well? With the merchandise and the party back at the original home in Liverpool…

The circus flyers have always been pretty complex and a lot of work goes into them. For this campaign we decided to strip it right back and play with the roman numerals for 10, instead of something too obvious. It's a great device to work with and the birthday has become known as Circus X, for both the shows in Liverpool and London.
The symbols work well on all printed material, t-shirts and we've started photographing some of world's biggest dj's who have played at Circus such as Carl Cox and Jamie Jones holding the X as a happy birthday tribute. We're going to carry on with this campaign throughout the birthday year and see what else we can do with the X.

I guess the creative arts are a tricky industry to get involved in, with so many people I speak to wanting to be a designer of some sort, graphic, fashion and so on. What is your experience of the time from deciding what you wanted to do with your life, to where things are at today? I presume it wasn't easy…

The arts industry is not something you get involved in with the intention of making money and you do it for the love of design. If you get to work as a designer in an industry such as music that you are really passionate about then it's an added bonus. I've just been lucky enough to have a profession that gets me involved in the music industry.

I also think there's an element of being in the right place at the right time. If I hadn't started working for the Circus guys doing the guest list they would never have seen my work. The best thing is to emerge yourself in the industry you want to work in and things will happen if you're passionate enough about it.

Any advice for those wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Even if you don't get the chance to design in your preferred field, still embrace it and design off your own back. Send your work off to people and there are always bands or DJs would love someone to work with them and design their artwork.

When it comes to the t-shirts, I knew I always had a passion for the fashion industry and that I always wanted to start a label. I just went for it and started sending my designs off to the right people, artists and DJs. It took off from there.

Just how important do you think the design of flyers, posters and merchandise is within the clubbing industry? What is it role?

I guess I'm biased but I think it's very important. Clubs are printing less flyers due to the power of social networking and sending artwork digitally. People still collect flyers and they need to be present on the streets. It's an identity to the night and I know people still get excited about seeing the latest circus flyer and pinning it on their wall.

Over the last few months in particularly I've seen the ‘Circus X' t-shirts pop up all over the place. How does it feel to see such prominent artists like Carl Cox wear something you've created?

Seeing Carl Cox wearing one of my tees was a joy. The Circus X Campaign has gone down really well and I get a real buzz seeing Yousef pictured wearing one of the tees all over the world. When he then sent me link to Coxy wearing one I was over the moon. I'll have to try and get him in a Wasted Heroes design.

Talk us through the process of creating your typical design if you could. In as much detail as you like. From what I can gather it looks like a ‘cut and paste' job, but like 1000 times more complex!

The last Circus theme was so much fun to work on. In the nicest way possible i was getting a little bored of jumping on my computer and designing a flyer. I wanted to go back to my art school roots and actually create the artwork by cutting out images and pasting it all together by hand. I then needed to somehow get these deigns onto a flyer and decided to light them up and photograph them. The results have a lot of impact and generated interesting shadows and a new depth to the artwork.

Finally, who are your design heroes? I'm looking to speak to David Tazzyman of We Love fame next, clearly your styles are completely different, do you take much influence from other artists?

David's work for We Love is amazing and his style of illustration fits in so well with the We Love vibe. When it comes to influences I really like what the guys from Village Green are producing for Fabric and you tell straight away it's a Fabric flyer.

I also like Kate Moross's work as she has her own distinctive style; everything from her work with Cadburys to Converse is always eye catching. But when it comes to a campaign you can't beat Peter Saville and the whole Factory Records and Hacienda catalogue. Close to thirty years on people still talk about that. What a legacy.

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