Can you give us an introduction and a bit of background about yourself and where you’re from? What’s your connection to the brand, Magic Castles?
Good Morning. Chris Stoker here currently parked up in London and originating North East of England. If London is Kings Landing then where I’m from is more akin to Winterfell if that helps paint a picture.
I’ve been working in ’the industry’ now for over 20 years in some capacity or other but am probably most associated for my 13 or so years working with Folk which is where I first came into contact with and met Yuri & Andy who I’d be reunited with a couple of years down the line when they formed Lite Year. I currently work in more of a free-floating capacity as a brand consultant with various people as and when I’m needed. This has allowed me the freedom to work on other projects, one of which is the new brand Magic Castles of which I’m a founding member and also my on-going music sidelines such as Not An Animal Records, Charlie Nobody & Ess O Ess.
Where does the name Magic Castles come from and the origin story for the brand?
The original idea came from another of the founders, Cathal Mcateer. It's hard to put into words but to try and sum it up in a concise way it's a bit of an imaginary utopia or psychedelic theme park where you can do and be what you want without the shackles of reality. We never really wanted to have a paragraph that explains exactly what we are (much to the disdain of anyone I talk to that works in marketing), as we’re then pigeon-holed so we opted instead for something more ethereal to give people an insight but allow us room to maneuver.
The passage below perhaps explains it a little better than I can which is the first part of an ongoing story that will be added to with each drop and the words will feed directly into the collection and visual content.
There are many rooms, none with a key, the doors are always open. Wander and wonder and get lost along the way. Pied Pipers off the beaten track, a never-ending band of misfits. Pear drops rain marshmallow clouds. Fruit Machine Reels, reel. A hall of mirrors smile.
We provide a backdrop, the rest you make your own. For the most part, the brand is inspired my music and is an expression of the good times that brought the team together - having spent a lot of time dancing and enjoying ourselves, which itself is always a catalyst for inspiration. There is a monthly radio broadcast on Soho Radio with myself and some other hosts on rotation and special guests as well as parties, although they’re obviously on hold at the minute. In addition to this, we're teaming up with various charities, artists & musicians for events and collaborations to join the dots and build a community that's a little less focused simply on fashion.
The clothing is just one facet of a bigger picture.
Music has always played an important role in fashion. For someone that has had deep involvement in both for years, how do you approach the work in both spaces/industries? Is fashion and music similar/different?
Music is a very personal thing for some so it's not really for me to say whether they’re similar or different or where music fits into fashion. For some, it's simply a soundtrack and for others more of a lifestyle. Fashion aside I think that music finds its way into most industries in some shape or form. For my part, the fashion side of things was the day job and music more a passion and hobby. As the music projects started to take shape and be more successful and demanded more of my time, the two worlds started to butt heads a little, which is part of the reason I decided to go freelance and be more in control of my time.
With Magic Castles, I’m starting to see more synergy between what used to be two separate parts of my life, quite literally night and day. The radio show is also giving me a creative outlet that is not so focused on late nights, parties and dance floors so I can share things in a different way.
Magic Castles pulls from a lot of technicolor psych-vibes particularly from the early 90’s rave scene. What is it about this particular era and subculture that inspires Magic Castles as a brand?
It was never really the intention to say that the brand or the collections are inspired by psychedelia or the rave scene but those things seem to naturally shine through, I guess because both elements have been factors in our lives for the longest time. It's only recently we’ve had our wings clipped and are seeing a forced hiatus from the dance floor that brought so many of us together.
There is no denying there is a lot of brands on a similar journey at the minute but it’s no surprise when psychedelic's are seeing some time in the limelight for the better. We’re certainly not trying to put our flag in the sand to say that’s all that we’re about as there is a lot more that shapes the collections and brand ethos.
The more people spreading a positive message the better, I think. Everyone will have their own handwriting and way of delivering it. There’s a huge awakening at the minute to the more positive sides to psychedelic exploration and quite rightly so when it's been frowned upon and suppressed for so many years.
There is great usage of youthful prints and vibrant colors unique in Magic Castles that we haven’t seen in a while. Can you walk us thru the creative process and what that looks like?
There’s a bit of a team effort with myself, Cathal & Sophie where anyone can take the lead, or step to the side and advise…. this is free as we are very assured on what we want to do… It's Sophie the designer who will ultimately bring it all together though.
We’ve also been working with a graphic artist called Kate Gibb who’s quite well known for her work with the Chemical Brothers and created a lot of the artwork that’s recognizable to their releases. We’ll give her a bit of a brief and she’ll produce some artwork which we’ll then take elements of it to create some all-over prints which find their way onto shirts and shorts. Then some of the words from the poem above may find their way onto garments as well as anything else that pops up along the way. It’s also still quite early days and we’re only about to show our 3rd drop so the process is still exploring new avenues at every stage and will continue to so. We want the brand to remain fluid so we don’t find ourselves in a prison of our own making as can sometimes happen.
For someone’s occupation to be heavily involved in the music nightlife scene in London, how do you feel about the growing interest in radio shows/music channels? Coming out of the pandemic (hopefully soon), do you think the music scene in London will change significantly?
I think people getting turned on to music in any form can only be a positive thing. As with everything the more that's out there the more it's diluted but then that leaves it down to the individual to find what works for them. It's a never-ending journey I suppose which is why it's important to build a community for your output.
You can’t resonate with everyone but there are plenty of people to go around and if you're honest in your delivery people will find you.
As for London who’s to say. It's changed so much since I first started putting parties on, it's almost unrecognizable but at the same time I'm a lot older now so am perhaps not as tuned in to everything that's happening as I once was. I’ve got faith in it finding a way, I like to think of some positives coming from the current situation. However, many rules and obstacles you put in place, there’s always someone who wants to throw a party and invariably always a crowd of people who’ll follow them into battle which takes it back to that tribal mentality where you’re onto something special.
As soon as London went into lock down there were parties popping up in the woods and mashes and on canal barges with hundreds of people in the East where I live. It’s like that game, Whack A Mole. For every party that gets shut down another will pop up somewhere. In some ways I’ve enjoyed having the time off this year from all of that. I must admit I’m looking forward to a really good party and blow out when normal service resumes.
DJ'ing and working in fashion have allowed you to travel quite a bit. Anywhere in particular you’re interested in heading back to post Covid world?
Japan was always a firm favorite. I really loved playing in Kiev and look forward to going back there as soon as I can although I’m battening down the hatches for winter hibernation now so will pop my head above the turrets when its spring again.