Visual Culture: Q+A with Suze Webb of Shimmy Shimmy & No Ice Cream Sound

Words by Erin MacLeod

To the internet, Shimmy Shimmy is a thoroughly interesting, dancehall-minded blog of the same name. To the real world, they’re producers of events, a range of equally dancehall-minded t-shirts and publishers of No Ice Cream Sound, a fanzine that’s enjoyed by people from the UK to the EU to the USA to JA (And which happens to have a new issue out next week).

Minding the Shimmy Shimmy shop is Suze Webb AKA DJ The Large, a gyal of many talents. Alongside DJs Whydelila and Cazabon, she’s part of the Style and Swagger radio crew. And, in addition to her Shimmy Shimmy blogging, writing, designing and promoting, she can also be found flexing her writing talents at the blog for Mixpak Records, distributors of Schlachthofbronx and Vybz Kartel projects. (Sidebar: if you’re in the London area, check out the Shimmy Shimmy/Physically Fit roof party with Saxon Sound ttomorrow, Aug. 13–see the flyer at bottom). It being Fashion Fridays ’round here at LargeUp, we thought we’d chat with Suze about those t-shirts (you know, the ones you want) and their relation to everything else.

LargeUp: How’d you get this started?

Suze Webb: For the first instance, I met a t-shirt printer (Craig Currahee, he prints for k2 screen). I don’t think I really thought about it until that happened. He said, “You should really do t-shirts, I’d want to get involved in some kind of reggae t-shirt idea.” He’s a printer for Damien Hirst and all these top artists so I knew his stuff would be good quality. So then I sat down and came up with the Shabba idea—it took like five minutes. He’s a huge icon, so it wasn’t a difficult thing. I can’t use Illustrator properly, but I have all these ideas in my head. So I will sit with somebody and direct them how to do it. Luckily I know a bunch of people that can do that! We ran a really small amount of t-shirts—they flew out the door. Then it took us the best part of a year to get the five new designs up and running. We also changed the Shabba one around. We’re still doing a really small run—we’re keeping it exclusive.

LU: Who did you work with on the most recent designs?

SW: Tom Pearson, who designs the inside of the zine. He also designed the website, but there were a lot of people who helped. All the designs are my personal designs, but I give people very specific instructions and get their input as well. If I had done everything myself, we wouldn’t have played around with different elements of the design.

LU: What’s been the response?

SW: We’ve had some funny offers by people who want to wear them. Serocee wanted to be our spokesmodel, or whatever that’s called, so I gave him a bunch to wear on the festival circuit this year. Other people have asked us for them—Moska is wearing them around. I got word from Khago that he’s coming to London for the Carnival season, so I told him about the t-shirts and his emails were really funny. “Maddd!” was about all he said! So, from what I can gather, he liked it.

LU: There aren’t a lot of t-shirts out there that balance between a reference to Jamaican music or culture without use of stereotypes. You make use of direct references, but your t-shirts aren’t typical.

SW: I spend my whole time talking to designers. My motto for them is “no weed signs and no red, yellow and green.” I’m so bored of it. I know people like that kind of stuff, but it is just so clichéd and there is another side to it. And I think there is a whole corner of design there that people haven’t tapped into that goes beyond red, gold and green. I wanted to stick with using bright colors and making sure it was fun and represented that bright side of dancehall culture. Other people that I was aware of and influenced by are people like Seen in Germany and there’s a label in Japan that make really good dancehall t-shirts, but you can’t get them anywhere aside from Japan.

LU: Design is a big thing for No Ice Cream Sound. Can you tell me a bit about the design choices for the zine as well?

SW: Design is always something that we’ve been trying to keep at the forefront, as with the t-shirts. Dancehall is known for bad covers and bad art, in lots of ways, even though there is some really great stuff as well. But it is like when you go to a record shop and you flick through and you think, “what is this?! This is awful!” We, since the beginning, have tried to make design part of our brand. We weren’t necessarily thinking of it at the beginning, but we’ve fallen upon really great designers…and then that became our basic tenet.