‘Politics, nudity and super-powers with Anthony David King’ by Love Lee
Politics, nudity and ‘X-Men’ are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this exclusive interview. Mr Anthony David King began his entrepreneurial expedition at the tender age of eight years old where he would take photos of his friends and charge their parents’ 50p a pop!
ADK started off marketing major artists in the music industry. Along the way, he developed creative projects working alongside schools and the government. His voyage has led him to Executive Creative Director.
Amidst his main outlets, film, music and photography, ADK has created a job title that encompasses all of it by comfortably residing ‘behind the scenes’. He nurtures creativity and allows it to blossom, because, ultimately, that is truly what he believes to be his calling; I would say ADK is an entrepreneur, a creative, in the shadows yet prominent.
In 2009, ADK’s long time friend whom he met on his first day of college, music video and TV producer Samona Naomi Williams, fell ill with a very rare disease called ‘Ehlers-Danlos’ Syndrome (EDS). Near after, a collaboration formed between the two creatives as a way of expressing and informing the world on the disability as well as challenging people’s perception on the subject. Global exhibition ‘Bound’ has exceeded and surpassed public expectations due to its heartfelt story and provocative exterior, providing a sense of hope and inspiration and has received rave reviews such as: ‘Bold and provocative’ from the Guardian newspaper.
From left to right – ‘Light’ and ‘Vulnerable’ | ‘Bound’ exhibition, 2013 – more on this exhibition further down!
Love: “What were your creative influences growing up? How did you spend your time?”
ADK: “From about 6 years old, I used to be obsessed with ‘the making of’ videos. The shorter programs sometimes included on videos after the film or sold separately – that showed how they made that particular film. Like, ‘The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller’. I was fascinated with how they did what they did, probably more than WHAT they did.
At age 8, my mother bought me my first camera – for my birthday I think. It was ugly. And the film needed to be taken to the local chemist to be developed. But I loved it. I would photograph of all my friends – and sell the photos to their parents for about 50p each. By age 10, I had enough money to have 3 cameras. The only problem was over the years I had loads of photos of others, but few of myself, because I was always the one behind the camera.
When I got a bit older, I, like many people, developed a more serious interest in music. Again, I was fascinated with not just the artist or song, but more the person who wrote or produced the song. I used to spend hours in second-hand CD shops, searching for other songs by writers I liked and rare remixes by other producers. It might not sound like much today, but I believe that interest at the time was the building blocks for me working in the music industry with some of Britain’s most talented songwriters. And what Clive Davis once called “having the ears to hear a great song” when it is still at the demo stage.”
Love: “Did you consciously know what you wanted to do career wise from a young age?”
ADK: “In a weird way, yes. Even though I didn’t know at the time what the role was called. Today as a Creative Director, I develop people and business ideas in the creative industry; in areas like music, film and photography. So when I look back at the things that sparked my interest as a child, they’re pretty much the same today.
Love: “Aside music, film and photography, you have also been involved with educational projects. How did you get into that?”
ADK: “My work in education was somehow fate. After several years in the music business, I was feeling a little unfulfilled. But I would regularly speak at music events for young people – sharing insights about how to get into in the industry. I somehow enjoyed that more and seeing young people’s mental cogs spinning as I explained how some things worked in the business. That’s when it hit me – the value and importance of development. Not just creatively and business wise, but also personally.
I left the music industry (for a while) in 2005 and began working with the government and schools to design creative projects and services for young people. I wanted to make sure they somehow had the same opportunities I had to get involved in things in the creative industries.”
“Since 2006 I’ve probably worked with close to 150 schools. Mostly designing creative projects.” – ADK
ADK: “For example, where young people learn things like the photography techniques of the world’s most successful photographers. Or introducing activities run by others like a film club, where pupils watch films and discuss what they learned from it. Also, helping organizations to design their own services for schools, to be more successful at getting into schools and working with them.”
Love: “What has been your favorite project thus far, within this element of your career?”
ADK: “One of my favorite projects was when I was approached by the NHS. They wanted to know if I had any ideas for a pilot project to help school pupils get more exercise. I had this wacky idea I had seen once, where someone connected an exercise bike to a computer games console to get their child to do more exercise. I thought: ‘this is something that would definitely work with a few tweaks.’ The NHS loved the idea. So we commissioned a company who designed adapters that could connect X-Box 360’s and PlayStation 3’s to exercise equipment
We introduced it as a pilot into two schools in North West London. With 8 consoles and 16 step machines for each school (two step machines per console). The teachers said it was probably the most effective idea of getting children to exercise they had ever seen. Some pupils, who were notorious for forgetting their PE kit, were now prepared to borrow the schools spare PE kits just to participate.
We also made sure that the video games included were mostly sports games. Where pupils could also learn the rules of certain sports while they were playing. And could play together in competition or as a team.
Love: “That’s amazing. Incorporating activities young people enjoy with what they NEED at their age: exercise. I suppose it installs a level of confidence in them, which in turn makes them WANT to get involved, and in their own time. I believe that transcends into all areas of life. Team building and informed decision-making!
You mentioned stepping back from the Music Industry earlier. How did you get into the music industry and what exactly did you do?”
ADK: “I was quite fortunate, after I left college, to start working with a couple of Saturday jobs and quite early on, probably in my early 20’s, I knew someone who worked in the music industry and they gave me a job.
I started off as an intern. The idea was I would just see how it goes. And it probably was supposed to be from about 3 to 6 months. And I actually stayed there for 2 years because I got flung into head first what, for me, was the best learning curb of my life.”
I always think that back to this interview. It was probably the worst interview I’ve ever had. (He smiles) But, it was… I dunno… It must have been a blessing in disguise. Because I had absolutely NO experience, even knowledge about the music industry. I knew I liked music, but I hadn’t even prepared myself with some knowledge or background about the industry. You know, music as an INDUSTRY, not just as an art form!”
And to every question, I’m like: ‘How can I be answering NO to every single question??’ And I thought I’d failed. But the lady actually called me up a week later and said: “We wanna give you a chance because there is something about your attitude. Even though you need to get a bit more experience, we think this is the best place for you.” And I was so grateful. Maybe the person that owned the company, who I knew, put in a good word for me and said: “Give him a chance anyway.”
Love: “That’s how it kind of works sometimes.”
ADK: “Yeah, it was based on WHO I knew, because it definitely wasn’t based on WHAT I knew! I knew nothing (giggles galore)
Love: “So, ultimately, do you think it’s WHAT you know or WHO you know?”
ADK: “I think it’s a little bit of both nowadays. The reason I say that is because access to knowledge today is slightly different to how it was. Whereas before, it was difficult to know certain things, whether it was how maybe a particular industry might work, or who certain people were, you didn’t know. So you had to know people who knew that. And I’m not saying it’s about that now.
Yes, on some levels it is about WHO you know. You can get certain favours from people you know and who can open doors for you. But nowadays, when you have access to information on the internet, you can learn how industries work, the history of their companies, their cultures, what they want to do and what they find valuable. You can put yourself in a better position knowing certain things.
So, even if WHAT you know puts you in a good position to meet people you NEED to know then WHAT you know still plays an important factor.”
Love: “Good answer. What lesson did you learn from your interview experience?”
ADK: “And I vowed from that point to always have ‘something upstairs’ so that nobody could ever say to me ‘you don’t know what you’re doing”.”
Love: “I suppose it also takes tenacity. You still tried your luck even though you hadn’t done your research beforehand. You could have either not gone to the interview, missing the opportunity altogether or tried to dodge it and act like you knowledgeable of the field of work you were walking into. One of the things about the music industry is that it’s ruthless. You kind of had a ‘f*** it’ kind of approach: ‘What have I got to lose?’ ‘Let me just be me and see where it takes me.”
ADK: “Probably. Haha! They probably saw the honesty and thought: ‘OK.’ She didn’t HAVE to give me the job.
Love: “So tell me a bit about who you’ve worked for within the music industry.”
ADK: “The company I worked for was a music managing and marketing company. On one side of the office was the Management side, and on the other side of the office was the Marketing team. I sat right in the middle because that’s just where my desk was. I worked on projects that were to do with music marketing and so that included, at the time, we did all of the UK marketing for Sony’s urban rosta. Def Jam at the time, Universal, all of the R&B artists, that kind of thing. So, at the time, with Def Jam it was like the Jermain Dupri’s, Montel Jordan, all of those oldskool artists. Sony, at the time, it was Destiny’s Child, even UK artists like Llemar, Big Brothers…
Love: “Oh wow that time…”
ADK: “So we did all the marketing for a lot of these acts. We got all the music first, the albums, the CD’s and we had to do the radio plugging, plugging for the DJ’s and stuff. So we had a HUGE mailing list and connections and relationships with all the DJ’s all over the country calling us up. Whenever they knew someone was dropping a new track or single, they would call us up for it and ask: “Have you got this, have you got that.” And we were like: ‘Are ya gunna play it, are ya gunna play it?”’ They were like: ‘Yeah I’ll play it!’ and so we said: ‘OK, you can have it.’ We had these great connections with people all over the country and in the industry. It was brilliant. We got invited to every club and launch party you could think of because that’s where all the DJ’s and artists were. And anytime they would come over, we would chaperone them to different radio stations, to different clubs, concerts and stuff. So we got to meet all these acts and celebrities. And it was great!
On the other hand, we did management for songwriters and producers. So we managed a couple of high profile songwriters. One called Wayne Hector, who wrote songs for Westlife, Blue, he is still in the business now and still one of the best songwriters in the country. I think he wrote half of JLS’s first album and….
Love: (I felt the urge to break out into a song – clenched fist in the air and everything!) “I’m flying without wiiiiings….”
ADK: “Yeah! I remember, I think it was the first day or the first week. I had just started. Wayne would be in the studio, writing songs and he would send the lyrics over to the office to make sure we catalogued them and everything. I remember my boss at the time asking me to make sure that this song had been formatted properly and that the lyrics were, as he wanted. The song was called ‘Flying Without Wings’ and he had JUST written it. I’m thinking: ‘Hmm OK, big deal.” (sarcasm)
I think it only hit me a couple of years later when I went to a ‘Westlife’ concert and you heard 50,000 screaming girls all singing the lyrics of this song. I thought: ‘I remember when this song was written!’ It had such an impact on me that such a creative gift could come out of someone’s heart where they can write a song and then a couple of years later you have 50,000 people singing something that came out of your heart.”
Love: “That is quite epic.”
ADK: “I just thought: ‘WOW’. I would love to be in a position to work with people like this. I didn’t necessarily believe I had that same gift, but I knew I had something in me that could help to nurture and foster that gift in other people. And that’s something I kind of made a checkmark from, that its something that I want to do in life: I want to work with songwriters. Not just songwriters for the sake of songwriters, but to find MY songwriter, who I believe has that same gift, that same potential and find a time when NO ONE knows who they are and develop them into somebody that the world will one day know.”
Love: “OK, sounds like an A&R type of role…”
ADK: “Yeah, that kind of thing. I didn’t necessarily pigeon my role into a particular job title, but I knew what I wanted to do….”
Love: “…. To create your OWN job title!”
ADK: “Yeah! I knew what I wanted to do. I knew that part of what I wanted to do was what an A&R person does. So I kind took a bit of that and said: ‘In my ideal role, I want to do what this person does too.’ So we also worked with producers. And, I stayed with them for 2 years. We worked on fantastic projects and I got to learn so much about the music as a business. I met so many different people that I still see today. I even met someone just the other day who asked me if I am still working in the music industry. I replied: ‘not as much as I used to, but I still do have a hand in it.’ But I met so many different people who were not doing so much back then, but who are doing great things now or visa-versa, were doing great things then and maybe are not as successful now. It’s been a privilege to meet so many different people.
Love: “So you have that ‘behind the scenes’ concept across the spectrum really. It ties in with what you were saying about supporting and nurturing young people’s gifts as well as working within the arts…”
ADK: “I’ve never really been one for the limelight. I love working with others and seeing others get the praise and accolades. As I mentioned before about making that check mark in my mind about wanting to work with a songwriter who was unknown, I got the opportunity to do that just before I left the music industry. The songwriter I found at the time has become a very good friend of mine, and who I’ve been working with recently on a lot of his new material that is going to be released next year. He is an established songwriter now and has won a number of rewards. Three of the rewards he has won since we have been working together.
“Sitting in an award ceremony and hearing his name being called for songs that we have worked on together, its just amazing. I don’t necessarily feel the need to be up there receiving an award. I’ve always been a ‘behind the scenes’ kind of guy’.” - ADK
Love: “Having done an internship yourself, do you feel that it is still worthwhile? What was your experience of being an intern in the music industry like?”
ADK: “I grew up in an era where you didn’t work for money, you’ve worked for experience and understanding of what you wanted. I’ve come into it with a different perspective where, maybe I’m wrong, but all I know is that I did an internship for 2 years and didn’t always get paid for it. I maybe got a bit of a bonus on successful projects that I had been working on, but I didn’t get a wage. I had to work part time in the mornings and then go to my internship during the late afternoon and work through till the evening. For me, money was never an issue, because I knew there was something beyond where I was and I knew it was contributing to something that I really wanted to do in life. So for me, I didn’t bat an eyelid at how much the company was making and I didn’t get anything. I was learning something much for valuable.”
“It was the experience that one day, I would leave where I am and take the knowledge that I had gained with me, and it would be worth more than anything I could be paid for.” - ADK
ADK: “But, now when I put out ads for interns, they don’t come with the same attitude. The first thing they want to know is how much they are gunna get paid. The law changed a couple of years ago, where you legally had to pay interns for work that they did. Even if it wasn’t just an intern, say it was just people who worked on a daily rate for stuff that they did, they don’t seem to have the same…. (he ponders on the right word as if he is on ‘Deal or No Deal’) … GUMPTION.”
Love: “Gumption…. Wow. What a word”
ADK: “Yeah, GUMPTION. They don’t have that same ‘get up and go’, putting aside any inhibitions about what you can get. If you give enough, its just going to come back to you in a greater way. I don’t necessarily find that. I tend to choose my team wisely and tend to choose people who have gumption.”
Love: “So, switching the subject slightly: ‘Bound’!! What an exciting project. Tell me how this whole concept with Samona started.”
ADK: “Wow, there’s a lot of history there. Funnily enough, Samona and I met in college when I was about 16/17. We were in the same media studies class and in media we studied a range of different subjects: film, photography, press. Interestingly enough, when I first started media studies, I started with the interest of going into film. And she (Simona) started with the interest of going into photography. However, due to several experiences that we had in college with tutors who just did not believe in us…”
Love: “I can empathise with that! Haha…”
ADK: “Samona went into working in film. She was quite fortunate in her career to be able to travel work on music videos for people like Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, LL Cool J and, I think she was working with MTV and a few other networks out in America.
Unfortunately, she had to put her career on hold when she got diagnosed with a rare disease called ‘Ehlers-Danlos’ Syndrome (EDS) There are three particular types to it. Simona’s one (type 3) affected her nervous system. Her body doesn’t digest food as it should, her muscles don’t work as they should, her blood vessels don’t pump blood, as they should. That can open up a whole new challenge of health issues. It has been really tough for her. She got to a really low place. It’s understandable and it always begs the question:
“What do you do in life when you dream of doing something and you actually achieve it, yet it just gets taken away?” - ADK
Love: “I don’t know what’s worse: Your ultimate goal being just out of reach, or achieving it, tasting the success and have it taken away from you.”
ADK: “I thought: ‘what can I do?’ ‘How can I help?’ ‘What can WE do?’ Even though she is not as physically able, we are still hugely passionate and creative people…”
Love: “Of course! Your minds are still working. So the idea to produce these images was quite organic and came naturally…”
ADK: “Exactly! Our minds still work the same way. We still think of different things to do. Yeah, we sort of came up with an idea of doing some photographs to express how she might be feeling on the inside.”
“What started out as just an idea to help a friend through a tough time, turned into this exhibition with global potential.” – ADK
Love: “Yes, I saw some of them on your website, amazing photographs. It incorporates so many different angles: you’ve got disability, gender. You’ve got so many aspects and relevant issues that could bring so many different people in, and I love that. I think it’s great that your minds work so well together for you to produce something like that.”
ADK: “She was talking about this paradox in her life where on one hand, she is a beautiful young woman to look at. But she doesn’t look sick or disabled. It wouldn’t be until she would need to get up or move that people would realise that she has a disability. She had so many contradictions in her life. Being young, vibrant but not being able to do what she wants, or being creative but still being limited in what she can do.
The only medium we could use was photography to capture this. Trying to do anything else was not within her capabilities. Posing for photographs was the easiest medium to communicate her story. We thought: ‘why don’t we create a series of images that capture and tell the story of these paradoxes in your life, your experience. Let’s just see where it goes.’
Love: “Samona is stunning. Great photography. It’s a great concept. Beauty on the exterior and a more painful, deeper story on the interior.”
ADK: “On the surface of most of the images, they look very beautiful and glamorous but the closer you observe them, the more of a deeper meaning they convey.”
ADK: “Yeah, provocative. That’s the exact word The Guardian used when they reviewed it! They said: ‘Bold and provocative.’
‘Bed’ | ‘Bound’ exhibition, 2013
“One of the first images was her in bed, minimal clothing, but still surrounded my the amount of pills that she has to take on a daily basis.” - ADK
ADK: “We wanted to capture people’s attention because it is a serious thing that she has to go through. We created each image in that type of vein where you would look at it and think: ‘wow’, but the story behind it was so deep that when you heard it, it wasn’t just an image anymore.
Then there was the image about being gold. I had this weird and wonderful idea of just covering her in gold.”
‘Gold’| ‘Bound’ exhibition, 2013
“I wanted that image to almost be a mirror that a woman or anyone could look at and say ‘I am more valuable than gold” – ADK
ADK: “It’s funny, maybe it’s subconscious. I didn’t actually think of ‘Goldfinger’ when I thought of the image, even though I have seen the film. I just saw Samona being covered in gold because gold is like this universal symbol of value. I wanted to capture this picture that would not only speak to her as an individual, but that would speak to all women. I’ve heard so many stories of women going through so much crap in their lives for one reason or another. Some women look in the mirror and do not value themselves, just in that moment or at one moment in their life. Really, you’re valuable, more valuable than gold.
Her (Samona’s) scenario was that she had looked in the mirror so many different times and not seen her beauty, because of how she felt, experiences she has gone through, considered ending her life because of external circumstances, when really, she still has something inside to share with the world that is just so amazing even if its just her story of not giving up. This image is still the image that gets the most attention out the series of images.
We created about 12 images in all for the exhibition and they all had that same theme running through them. On the surface they are like: ‘Oh, wow. That’s funny, that’s interesting, that’s oh gosh, that’s this, that’s that.’ When you actually hear the story behind it, it’s like: ’OK, that’s deep.’
Love: “You have not only created empowerment, but exposure too. It can give people who may be suffering from the same illness something to hold onto. There is a huge driving force behind what you and Simona have created.”
ADK: “Admittedly, I did want to play on peoples presumptions, our ability to jump to conclusions. That was very deliberate. I wanted people to be drawn in and to come to a conclusion immediately that was, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, completely wrong, or just left of what was the reality of the situation.”
“Once our attention has been gained, our interest follows.” – ADK
ADK: “People think that sometimes being provocative is slightly conventional when you’re trying to grab attention. At the end of the day, there are so many things that are fighting for out attention that it does need to be as bold as that. I still wanted the story to remain true and not let being provocative supersede the deeper issue. I tried to strike as best a balance as I could with that.
We thought we would get some feedback about what people thought through just through putting up a few of the images online. People from all over the world were sending us stories about how much it impacted them and the fact that they would wake up in the morning feeling crap, yet seeing what someone else goes through, such as Simona, it has given them hope and empowerment to get up and do things. We got so much interest from the National press to just do things and go on an exhibition tour around London.”
Love: “Ah yes, you hit up the Tricycle Theatre, didn’t you?”
Love: “I can’t believe that, but at the same time I can. The Tricycle is a great platform to showcase different art forms.”
ADK: “Yeah so we did The Tricycle Theatre, Southbank, BFI and Brick Lane Gallery. The aim was to maybe do a couple of venues in London, yet it turned into eight! And then we realised there was much more of an interest than we thought, so we started looking into how we could maybe start touring different cities around the world. We had interest from other countries.
Unfortunately, Simona took ill again, so we couldn’t continue at that point. But, for us, this is not something that is confined to a particular period.
We did say, that if this takes us one, three, five years to complete, we will do it, because we want this to be timeless. To be continued!”
Love: “I will be watching this space!”
ADK: “I always take the approach of not minding whether people compliment or criticize the work that I do, as long as they have an opinion. We’ve had both praise and criticism.”
Love: “What criticism have you received?”
ADK: “A few forums from different countries have criticised the extent to how provocative some of the images were. A particular image that got a lot of criticism was an image called ‘Fragile’ which tells the story of Simona being wheelchair-bound and feeling quite fragile when she is in that position. Not just physically, but also emotionally.
Again, I had this weird and wonderful idea of just covering her in tape, completely naked with just fragile tape, because that is how she feels.
‘Fragile’| ‘Bound’ exhibition, 2013
ADK: “A few people on disability forums in other countries took slight offence to that image. But, for me, they had an opinion and that was important to me. At least people are talking about it.”
Love: “Simona has the right to express herself and you have nurtured how she feels. I very much look forward to seeing more around the ‘Bound’ exhibition in the near future! OK, so here is a really fun question. If you could relate to any superhero, who would it be? And why?”
ADK: “It’s funny; I always used to think of, you know, The X-Men. It’s probably a silly illustration…”
Love: “Erm, not necessarily!” (X-Men are dope)
ADK: “They all have their unique gifts in something. Even if they didn’t know what it was, that’s a brilliant example of just diverse people who are completely different, doing different things, having skills and abilities in different things, yet still coming together to do bigger things.
I always used to wonder: ‘what is mine?’ I used to gravitate somehow to Professor X, who actually… (I started laughing, then Anthony started too) his gift was bringing out the best in all the other students. And that’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve always thrived to do, try to bring the best out in others.
“That’s kind of what I’ve built my business on, developing the gifts in others and helping them to become who they need to be.” – ADK
“At the end of the day, we all have a creative gift, something. And how we best put that to use determines how we impact people around us.” – ADK
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by: Love Lee | August 8, 2014 | News