I am beyond excited to make a dream of mine come true. 2 of them actually. The first one - to launch our Visual Artist Spotlight content series, and the 2nd one - to talk to one of the most insane 3d artists (and producers) I've ever seen - ROHO.
The idea of creating the Visual Artist Spotlight interviews came to us during our 2021 team retreat while talking to our designer and illustrator Geri. The goal is to not only showcase talented musicians, but other very important people, part of the journey of a song - the visual creators. We hope to also build a useful database which can be used by musicians to find that dream collaborator in the future.
Now, to the real spotlight - ROHO. A few months ago a few of us were cruising up in the mountains and a track came on. I asked the driver (Peyotoff) who that was and that's how I stumbled upon ROHO's brilliant futuristic 5-track EP Octaves. Little did I know that was the same person whose 3d models I've been admiring on Instagram (@rohan.jpg) for a while now. I was mind-blown by how much talent a person could hold and instantly decided he would be the best guest to kick-off this series.
Tell us a random fact about you that not many people know.
I graduated college with a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering (somehow!).
What about your visual journey - how and when did you start?
My visual journey has been a windy road thus far but definitely been marked by a degree of consistency since the day I first started. For me, it began with an introduction to photography and photoshop by my older brother Karan (who also happens to be an artist that I've always looked up to), which I took and ran. I spent most of high school and college strictly in the photo/video sphere, creating everything from album covers to music videos to press release packages. By the end of my time in college, I had slowly started to wander into the realm of graphic design and animation through a mixture of self-teaching, learning, and commission work.
My girlfriend Rachna (@rachna.jpg) (an amazing artist, photographer, and all-around person) helped grow my fascination for styles of animation like rotoscoping, which eventually led to my desire to spend more time with moving visuals. She also introduced me to Blender (eternally thankful for this) which I fell instantly fell in love with once I realized its power, and that marked the start of the rabbit hole that I'm still currently traveling through.
What's the last visual piece you worked on, tell us more about it.
One of the last big visual pieces I worked on was a series of immersive visuals for my homies at Soulection during their ComplexCon 2022 adventure. The goal of this series was to create a series of nature-inspired animations to be displayed on an 85-inch screen that was mounted to the ceiling, as to give the effect of looking through a skylight into multiple different universes. I always love working with the Soulection team and to see so many different people enjoying the experience that we all helped build was really special.
How would you describe your style to someone who hasn't seen your work?
I would describe my work as practical surrealism (I just came up with this but sounds pretty legit right?). To me, that means that I step on a line that lies between creating things you might only see in your dreams and that you can fully imagine yourself experiencing because so many elements in my work draw from familiar concepts, objects, and moods.
You specialize in 3d modeling, and I absolutely love 'solar powered' (if that's officially the name of the work?) - is 3D something you were always inspired by?
When I first started my 3D journey, modeling was something I was much more focused on as I was trying to grow familiarity with Blender and create original objects - but as I progressed I slowly started to incorporate a more producer-like workflow into my process which meant leveraging asset libraries (AKA sample libraries) that I could pull from and customize to help bring my work to the next level. The way I like to think about it is that in a lot of your favorite beats, elements from other creators are being used (kicks, snares, one-shots, loops, etc.) but the way that the producer customizes and contextualizes them breathes an entirely new life into the sounds and allows you to experience them in a whole new way. Similarly, with 3D I started to work in (royalty free) assets from modelers who were much more proficient than me, but altering and re-imagining them in a way that allowed them to become a part of a much larger experience.
Tell us more about the astronaut character that's often in your pieces.
Funnily enough, this is a character model that has been used by tons of artists in the 3D space but what drew me to it was the fact that it simply represented an explorer of the new, and almost served as an anonymous mascot that I could imagine myself being in the suit of. Seeing that I first started using the astronaut in works where I felt like I was breaking new ground (3D visualizations of DAWs), I thought it served as the perfect character for the stories I was starting to tell.
Where do you look for inspiration offline?
For me, my greatest offline inspirations all come from nature. I've been in and around natural environments since I was a kid and grew a fond appreciation for the creativity of nature itself and the infinite diversity of colors/textures/shapes that we're always surrounded by.
What kind of music do you listen to when you draw/design?
Everything! When I design, I'm not so much focused on the content of the song as I am on the feeling I get from it, so anything that lifts my energy is liable to get queued. That being said, I generally gravitate towards Jazz while I work because to me it is the most creative genre and provides constant inspiration for that reason.
Favorite album cover (not created by you) and why?
To Pimp a Butterfly without a doubt! To me, the concept, execution, and the way it relates to the music itself are all just so incredibly raw.
What's your take on the role of AI in visual design? There are tons of products out there these days. Distrokid (the distributor) rolled its own free-to-use service just a few months ago. Good, bad, scary, ethical?
I feel that though there is obvious game-changing potential with AI in visual art, its overall presence is a bad thing. A scary thing to be honest. When used as a tool in the creation of something larger, I think AI can definitely help enhance works and allow creators to see a refreshing take on their ideas, but when AI is being relied on as the executor of a vision and is almost entirely responsible for the way a piece looks, I think the laziness and lack of human thought/emotion immediately degrade the artwork.
Do you use AI in any way or form in your life right now?
Currently, the only way I use AI (besides the obvious examples like Siri) is in the form of texture-manipulating software. I've been enjoying running my 3D work through impressionist paint filters a lot because it helps create new moods/feelings in the work itself but at the moment that's about it.
Besides being a visual artist & 3D designer, you're an insanely talented producer. I love your 2022 EP Octaves. You also made the artwork/motion for it, what's the concept, and what came first - the music or the imagery?
With Octaves the music came first for sure! To be able to create a visual identity for this project I first needed to understand its sonic identity, so I built out all the tracks first before I was able to visualize them. The concept around this one was a bit loose (at the time I was primarily focused on making something I thought just looked really pleasing), but I like to think I viewed myself as the robot surrounded by all these different colorful elements (ideas), using the keys as a medium through which to tie them all together.
Would you like to work with someone external (a visual designer) when it comes to your music or would be tough to let go of the creative wheel?
I am definitely interested in working with an external designer at some point in my career, but I think it would need to be someone who could imagine my works through an entirely different medium!
What came first - music producing or visual art?
I started learning to play piano around the age of 7 which led me to start producing music when I was in high school, so I was surely a "producer" before I was ever a designer.
What's next for you as a musician?
Still figuring this one out! All I can say for now is that I'll be dropping new music soon, and even more after that.
Who is on your playlist right now?
Jake Milliner, Vooo, Telemakus, Knxwledge.
Who inspires you creatively?
I'm inspired by people, in any line of work, who have a signature style and are consistently able to innovate with their work. One of my favorite examples of this is with KAYTRANADA, because when those beats drop you already know exactly who had their hands on the production. To me, one of the ultimate goals in art is to reach a state of cohesiveness across all your ideas so that anything you make is perceived as undeniably you - so to see someone do that in any discipline is inspiring to me!
Do you have any piece of advice for anyone aspiring to be a visual creator? What tools or skills should they focus on?
Focus on creating work that YOU are impressed by. This is the only way to maintain a sustainable visual career and ensure that your growth comes from a pure place. And of course, become really fucking good at using your software!
Who should we talk to next?
@mute.psd! He's a visual creator and super dope producer who's been killing it for a while now and definitely deserves all the shine!