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🎵 IT215: thrash!
✏️ Alex Ling
🗓 27.02.24

Alex is an illustrator, designer, and comics maker based in New York.

Hey Alex. Can you tell us a little bit about your tape and your song selections?

The tape originally came from a playlist I made in late 2021 that was more of a chill house vibe, but soon after making it I found myself adding kind of aggressive tracks. I graduated school a couple of years before then, so with my awkward early 20s coinciding with the isolation of 2020 and 2021, I think I was subconsciously looking for a cathartic release from feeling so stagnant. For this mix, I looked for music that felt like it could reverberate through your entire body, where you start the evening with a lil’ dancing, then end it thrashing. I wanted to organize the songs in an order that emulates a night out that progressively gets more chaotic and feverish.

What direction did you take with your cover art, and what was your process?

Kind of like when you’re pausing a show and unintentionally stop on a moment that looks strange because it’s between frames, for the cover art I wanted to illustrate something that felt like a glitchy freeze frame. Since the tape is about a journey towards going feral, the cover art “pauses” as the figure is metamorphosing and losing themselves in the music.

My initial sketches were surprisingly kind of painterly, but considering the theme of the tape, I ultimately wanted the cover to look more deranged and messy. I eventually realized photo and video were probably going to be the most relevant references for the “freeze frame” feeling I was looking for. Then, since I’m a sucker for a moodboard, I cobbled together references that I really resonated with.

I think the longest part of the process was just landing on a composition for the cover. Because my main references were photo and video, it was an interesting challenge trying to replicate that look in illustration. I went through a lot of different versions to land on the final cover, but I felt like I was able to turn my brain off and just let myself experiment with whatever felt “right” as I drew. Since I wanted something that could be blurry, rough, and disorienting, there was a lot of freedom to play around with shadow, texture, and funky layer styles, which I really enjoyed. It was also funny taking the world’s least flattering reference photos of myself so the expression and angle looked somewhat natural.

Moodboard from left to right, top to bottom:
Outer Space (1999)
Fear and Hunger 2: Termina 

A few notes: Outer Space and @wrapped.nil’s photography were huge inspirations for the cover. Both pushed me to think about depicting movement and sequence in a single frame, which was a really fun experiment.I’ve been following Fear and Hunger since the first game and it blows my mind how much detail is packed into the series. There’s a scene in the second game where the player can watch the process of a townsperson turning into one of the enemies they can encounter. The entire sequence is so unsettling and I wanted to emulate that transformation for the cover.

What are your fave album covers, records with a great music and artwork combo, or musical projects with a visual component?

Blue Weekend (Film) – Wolf Alice
Dir: Jordan Hemmingway
DOP: Molly Manning Walker

Kentucky Route Zero (Original Soundtrack) – Ben Babbitt
2020, Atlantic / Asylum Records
Creative Dir: Jed Skrzypczak
Photography: Huck Kwong

Although the KRZ album isn’t a standalone music project, its soundtrack has stuck with me just as much as the game itself. Most of the audio in KRZ is diegetic, but throughout the game there are moments where a song becomes the focal point of the scene. Music in KRZ unfolds and guides the story, with many of the tracks foreshadowing different themes and even directly connecting to the characters’ backstories.

What did you listen to growing up?

I was tragically a cross between a weeb and a wannabe emo kid. I listened to a lot of Paramore, My Chemical Romance, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Vocaloid (those Nico Nico Douga PVs are permanently ingrained in my brain, iykyk), and anime and video game soundtracks. In high school, I started listening to K-pop, mainly keeping up with Block B, HYUKOH, BAP, 2NE1, SHINee, and f(x). I also somehow began my Sufjan Stevens fixation around the same time and would listen to his entire discography religiously (and still do).

And what’s on heavy rotation for you at the moment?

Lately I’ve been listening to Vagabon’s Sorry I Haven’t Called, Carly Rae Jepsen’s The Loveliest Time, and a Cantopop playlist made by my best friend’s mom. I also have a playlist with songs I’ve found myself listening to a lot this year, so I usually rotate through that if I’m not listening to anything specific.

What’s happening in your creative world at the moment?

Last month I contributed an illustration for the Asian American Arts Alliance for its first print release of their magazine, The AMP, which was a really cool project to be a part of. I’ve also been on a risograph kick for a while now, and I’m working on printing a small postcard book with nature photos I’ve taken on different trips with friends. I’ve tabled a couple of times this year, but in the coming year I’m hoping to dedicate more time to comic-making and participating in more events. Since I work full-time, I’m trying to find a nice balance between my job, making art, seeing friends, and staying healthy. In general though, I’m just trying to have fun!

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @aswling
Tumblr: aswling.tumblr.com
X: @aswling
Shop: aswling.etsy.com

Thanks Alex 👋🏽

Zeltak - Das Rauschen / Bio-Forge (Predator) - Turbulence / Hermeth - Devil’s Reject / TORIENA - 頭蓋Vital / MCR-T - P1G ST3ND D1WN B2CK UP / Terrorrythmus - SWEAT (Andrew Juke Acid Eater Remix) / Satronica - Kill It / Rob GEE - Riot in NY (Mental Lownoise GEEMix 2) / Nitrogen - Bad Bwoy / DREAMCRUSHER - Suicide Deluxe ︎