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Style, innovation & equality

Zak is wearing a lace shirt by Our Legacy

Ecco2k

Ecco2K’s power begins with his art, the art of being Zak.

”We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begins in art. Very often in our art, the art of words.” Said Author Ursula K. Le Guin. And change is what you’ll find when you unravel the work of Ecco2K. To some he’s the mastermind, together with Bladee, behind Sad Boys, Yung Lean and Drain Gang’s album covers, merchendise, and visuals. To others he is the ever-changing style chameleon known for his bright and expressive sound. But Zak Arogundade is not your typical vocalist. He’s more than that. He’s a graphic designer, photographer, art director, filmmaker and product designer. At the age of 16 he started his first clothing label and from there he started designing shoes at Eytys, most recently he’s founded a new design platform called g’LOSS.

Ecco2K’s power begins with his art, the art of being Zak.

Zak is wearing a wool polo by Oscar Jacobson, wool and cotton v-neck jumper by CMMN SWDN and his own backpack.

Zak is wearing cotton tank top by Eytys (SS20), his own sunglasses, leather belt is stylist’s own and organic cotton jeans by JEANERICA.

Are you an emotional person?

— I didn’t always want to acknowledge the fact that I am, because my mother is an emotional person. Growing up as a boy I tried to define my own identity by rejecting the personality traits of my mother. You want to understand who you are and assert your independence as an individual by separating yourself from your parents. As I grew up I accepted my sensitive nature and started to really value it. I can’t hide it from myself or anybody else and why would I? I’m also very much like my dad though, very analytical, inquisitive and self-aware. I feel a lot, but I also think a lot about what I feel.

Your dad taught you graphic software.

— Yes, he put me onto Quark, it was like InDesign but pre-Adobe. He taught me when I was very young. Those files can’t be opened anymore, but he still keeps them for me on a drive. I got my first computer when I was 12 and cracked all the programs I still use today.

What did you create?

— I liked coming up with conceptual ideas for stuff. Basically just contexts where I could bring everything I loved doing together into something cohesive. I’m still looking for ways to make projects with layers of creative depth, Ecco2K is one of them. The most successful one.

— I was often told that you have to specialise in order to make something worthwhile. Some people will put all their energy into that one thing and they are supposed to be the best. I think this idea applies to some but it has never applied to me. I’ve always worked with a lot of different mediums, where each one reinforces the rest. For example; being a designer makes me a better photographer, working with music inspires my videography and so on… I can express myself in different ways effectively because I have been doing it for so long.

I’ve heard that you have a kind of compulsive behavior when it comes to documenting your life.

— Yes, I have a background in photography, I took pictures before discovering music and film. I was interested in documentary photography, people like Mary Ellen Mark, Daido, Strömholm and Petersén.Even though it's no longer my main medium of expression, I haven’t lost the need to capture beautiful imagery from the world around me. I can get anxious about missing something that caught my eye, I even have nightmares about it sometimes. I'm a very visual person. I think the act of compulsively documenting my experiences plays a big part in shaping how I remember and contextualise all the impressions I absorb. Since I’ve had a smartphone I usually end each day by making selections from the material I’ve gathered. Curation and creative decision-making are a big part of my everyday life, big or small.

”My inner monologue is pretty chaotic. I often have to tell myself to shut up.”

Are you more into visuals than words?

— I have a special relationship to words. I have early childhood memories of hearing words I didn’t understand but that made clear images in my mind based on how they sounded, almost like a kind of synesthesia. I experienced a very strong visual association with the phonetic content of words. It happened all the time and it still does. It’s more developed now. I’m more aware of what’s going on because I can’t help to constantly analyse myself. I think words are important, not just what they mean but which ones you choose to use. Two words with the exact same meaning can convey very different images. I obsess over certain words and phrases. My inner monologue is pretty chaotic. I often have to tell myself to shut up. But even though I have a visual mind I wouldn’t say the two are mutually exclusive, I feel like I see with words.

How does it work when writing music?

— The relationship between words and imagery became even more important when I started writing music. In speech and text, it’s one thing to have emotional associations attached to the sound of each word, but when writing music it’s more important as each sound in each word means something in the context of rhythm and melody.

Do you read and write a lot yourself?

— I mostly write lyrics but I have started reading again. I had forgotten the value of reading but when I picked it back up I quickly remembered why it’s important. Absorbing a verbalisation of something you’ve already thought or felt through another persons language really enriched my own way of thinking. It’s easy to confuse not enjoying reading with reading something you don’t enjoy, which can make it seem off-putting. I finally just got around to reading ”Siddharta", It resonated with me because it explores some universal philosophical and existential questions within the context of a young person who rejects the idea of finding truth through the teachings and experiences of others and decides to make their own path to find fulfilment.

Can you define your aesthetic?

— You can try. It’a a very carefully arranged chaos. Does it ever occur to you that you have defined the 2010s, that you are leading the way in producing music.

— I don’t ever feel satisfied with what I have done or what I do. I only want to continue to challenge myself. I want to continue to learn and evolve. But I know that without a healthy relationship to what I do, what I love, I will ultimately fail. I had to re-learn this after leaving the world of commercial fashion last year.

How did you cope with those issues?

— If you’re the type of person who can’t separate their purpose from their value as a human, who is never content in what they do, you can very easily develop a toxic relationship to it. Your self-worth will suffer if you fail to perform and ultimately you will lose your purpose by blindly chasing it, it's a destructive spiral. I had forgotten the importance of self-care when I was still juggling full-time careers. But I realised that your biggest responsibility working with creation is to take care of your relationship to it. Regardless if you are like me or if you value your health and happiness above all, you have to look after yourself before anything else. Even with the conviction to succeed by any means you will still end up shooting yourself in the foot by neglecting that responsibility.

— We were all taught that a strong work ethic is essential and I still believe that, but nobody ever taught me that without effectivity, discipline and endurance you won’t get very far. I would pride myself on working 32 hours straight without food or sleep. But there’s nothing to be proud of if your performance is ineffective. It’s just buying into the idea of productivity where the goal is to produce as much commercially valuable products as quickly as possible. Effectivity to me has come to mean expanding my idea of a productive behavior beyond work, to include the maintenance of the mind, body and soul. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to do absolutely nothing. But we can’t always afford to do nothing since we live in a world under constant economic pressure. But we should try our best to avoid the toxicity that comes with it. I needed to learn that in order to survive.

Have you ever been burned-out?

— I don’t know ... almost. People were worried. I still have work-related injuries in both wrists, elbows, shoulders, forefingers and thumbs from retouching. When I could no longer use my left arm I switched to the the right one. Now they’re both still giving me trouble. It’s one of the reasons I had to quit my 9 to 5 job. When I first took that position I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it get in the way of what I actually cared about. I grew so much as a professional during my years there but at one point I realised that it was time for me to move on and apply everything I’d learned to my own practice.