Norman: Hi Laurence!
Laurence: Hi Norman!
Norman: You come from Antwerp, right?
Laurence: Yes, and you are from Berlin?!
Norman: From Halle actually, one hour away from Berlin. You probably never heard of it before.
Laurence: (laughs) No, of course not…
Cyte: What do you do, Norman?
Norman: I’m a musician and I work in the fashion industry for 10 years, try to bring music, fashion, art and acting together. That’s me!
Laurence: Is there a connection between modelling and making music?
Norman: Oh, my god it is so close – once I tried to sign with a label and they said that fashion has nothing to do with music. I was so confused because it’s one pair of shoes! Look at Madonna, David Bowie …but we germans think that music and fashion are not connected. But I work on it!
Cyte: Laurence, what are you doing?
Laurence: I’m a jewellery designer …most of the time. I live in Antwerp and I’m doing it for three years. And I love it, I absolutely love it!
Cyte: Norman, there is one thing you can’t hide: all your tattoos …
Norman: I never wanted to hide them, that’s the reason why I put them on my hands, neck, and face. I got so many.
Cyte: What is the reason why and where do they stand for?
Norman: Yeah, there is the name of my mother, my sister, keynotes for my music, everything has a meaning for me. Special moments of my life. When I felt a lot of happiness or pain, I decided to put them on my skin to remind me of these moments for my whole life. But they are old, – for 10 years I haven’t done a new tattoo.
Cyte: Do you have tattoos Laurence?
Laurence: No, I don’t.
Norman: You don’t put a sticker on a Bentley!
Laurence: But I always had that idea when I was younger, if I put now something on my body I will regret it …do you regret it? One of them?
Laurence: Yeah, they become part of you, right!?
L: You started with rap music, why?
N: I needed to express myself, I wanted to tell people about me, my opinion, like get away from anger and all that stuff as a young man.
L: Why rap, you could have chosen other types of music …
N: I was so in love with rap music since I was a teenager. Tupac was my idol, I got a tattoo of him on my leg.
L: So, he was your first crush.
N: Yeah, Tupac, Eminem, and all that stuff, so I loved to do hip hop and rap music. It became my outlet and I could let go of my anger.
L: Through words you could let your anger go?
N: Yes, it was a way to express myself. But now I do something else: I sing!
L: When did you find out that you could sing?
N: When my heart was really broken, honestly!
L: And your voice?
N: I remember, I’ve been through a relationship and I still made rap music at that point. I tried to find a way to work with my pain, and rap didn’t help me out anymore, because in rap you write and say a 1000 words, but in the end, you say nothing, in my opinion. And then I found a way to sing my words and feelings, since then I didn’t want to step back from it anymore, I have a guitar player, a drummer and I like that. In rap music you have a microphone and a computer, you just write your lyrics and that’s it. But when you do “real” music it makes much more fun!
L: So you want to stick to “real” music?
N: Yes, I want to go on stage, play live and I want to perform with my boys.
L: Great, I’m looking forward to that!
L: What’s first, the music or the lyrics?
N: I think as a musician you need to live first! That means you experience things and after you write them down in words and then you sing them. So, first the words!
Did you hear the first song?
N: Did you like it?
L: Yes, I was lucky, I also got the lyrics in English, so I could understand your words as well!
N: What did you think about the words?
L: I do like them! Tell me a little bit more about the new song. We see the video for the song in the background. Why did you write it?
N: I filmed the video with my friend Frank. We did all by ourselves because I love to be in charge – when I do music when I do videos. I don’t like it when other people tell me how it should look like. We filmed it 3 months ago. It’s about my time in America. I tried to express the last 2 years in Los Angeles.
L: Tell me about America. You lived in L.A?
N: Yes, I spend 2 years there.
L: Why did you come back?
N: Because of music being honest. I didn’t want to be the first example of an unsuccessful musician in America. So, I thought it would make sense to play my music in Germany. But I had a nice time in the United States.
GROWING UP IN BELGIUM
Cyte: Laurence, being from Antwerp with this strong fashion scene, with lots of important designers, who often have a dark side to their work, almost gothic, do you feel influenced by that? Because I can see these elements also in your work.
L: Growing up in Antwerp had definitely an impact on me wanting to become a designer for sure! I met a lot of people when I went to the fashion academy, to art school. And we were really this group growing up together in the city. Exploring the city, exploring galleries and museums. Everyone was connected and I think your environment gives you so much input, that you can not separate yourself from this kind of input.
Cyte: As a model, you travel a lot. Do these journeys influence your designs as well?
L: I try to separate my work as a model from my design work. As a designer, I dive deep into my own little world, when I’m at home. Of course, through modelling, I see the work of other designers, but actually, this gave me enough confidence, that I’m also able to do it! That it is not so far away, that I could imagine, what it is and how it works. This world came a bit closer to me so that I easily could relate to it.
CHANGE IN STYLE
Cyte: For you Norman, growing up in the east part of Germany, listening to Tupac and Eminem, your new music is a big change from this. It’s more blues and rock orientated. What happened?
N: My decision to sing this music, was not so far away, because I grew up with this kind of music. My mother and father were listening to James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and all this stuff. I wrote 200 rap songs, we know they are not bad, I know I can rhyme and all this stuff, but I guess if you are an artist, or if you do sport or any kind of profession, you want to get better and better. And I’m that kind of guy, I want to grow with music. As a rapper, there is a border. Your career ends with 34, 35. And I can’t imagine what I would do after that age without music, because I am music, I live for music, so that’s probably the reason why I needed to grow.
Cyte:(laughing) Yeah, it’s hard to imagine Kollegah and others still doing gangsta rap in 15 years or so …
N: Yes! The music which I heard through my parents, was actually the biggest influence on my new music. When I arrived today, you asked me, what kind of music do you do – you couldn’t describe it, this was the biggest compliment since a long time because I was thinking back 2 years ago before I stepped to the microphone and I tried to cross over different genres like blues, rock, soul, psychedelic rock and hip hop, everything together.
But in Germany music is really structured, we have 4, 5 artists they all sing the same kind of music, one guy writes the songs for them, it’s really cheesy here. These artists and their music are like in commercials, really shallow and soft, it’s not even cool to have an opinion or something. They say in Germany you can say, what you want, but no, you can’t at all. Like in music, for example, turn on the radio, it just goes like:(sings) “Let me hug you, it’s a great day…” sounds like a never-ending commercial spot for beer from the 90ies. Me as a rapper – when I was younger – I told myself we’ve got good rap music in Germany – like Kollegah, Bushido, Sido, Cro and they are really successful and kids love them, but – now comes the big “BUT”! I ask myself, what’s going on with music in Germany. I don’t want to say the names of other artists, that’s not my thing, but I think it’s f**king boring here when it comes to music. And I don’t like boring stuff. Look at me!!!
L: I do have to say as an outsider….Germany looks really cool!
N: Germany is really cool!
L: Yeah, but we don’t think Germany is something cheesy.
N: I didn’t mean Germany is cheesy in general, I’m talking about music …
L: But you know, when you live in Berlin, you write and play music there …you are surrounded by this great circle of people there.
N: Of course there are great musicians there, but I guess the problem are the bosses and labels, they think they know what works and they think they know what the people want to hear, they are pushing everything else back. They don’t want to try new stuff. It’s not about the talent of the artist, it’s about what they think what works, take a look at our commercials or our movies – germans are cool and fucking super sexy, but you know …I’m not a big fan of our movies; I was growing up with movies from America, I was growing up with music from America, I was growing up with the music from the UK, I didn’t feel attracted to what we got here, so I told myself maybe we need to change it a little bit.
L: Well yes, the grass is always looking greener on the other side …
N: It’s either just pop or rap, why can’t it be in middle …
L: …pop-rap …rap-pop
N: There is soul, blues, pop, jazz …poppa-rider-hop …we have great artists, great …but fashion is different …
L: Yeah, but that’s a completely different process, as a designer people don’t really look at you.
N: As an artist or musician in Germany it is not good if you have too much personality if you want to be successful…
L: I think it’s ok, you don’t make music just for Germany, you want to make music for everyone…
BECOMING A JEWELLERY DESIGNER
Cyte: Laurence, how did you become a jewellery designer? What got you into that job?
L: Actually I studied textile design, during that time I started modelling, and somehow I got so attracted by the jewellery, that I said, yes I want to do it! And then I got really into it!
Cyte: So you draw your designs or do you just do them?
L: I draw first! I think by drawing you first set the borders, it definitely changes when you then do it, because you have measurements and you have to wear it in the end, so it needs to be comfortable. But I do believe in having a strict idea, that you then develop, there are no coincidences then, I don’t like this idea of coincidences, that’s a shot of good luck, which I don’t believe in!
Cyte: Do you think in collections or seasons or is it not structured as such?
L: I don’t think in seasons, but I do think in “sets”, which means you have a ring, earrings, a necklace, etc. which fit together. And I do believe it’s interesting to make different translations of the same idea or the same concept and then make different versions of it! But I don’t really see the difference between summer and winter! At least not in my case!
Cyte: Is wearability important to you?
L: Yes, super important! It’s one of the most important things to me as a jewellery designer! I really want people to wear my jewellery every day and if I wear something for weeks, it becomes part of my body and when I don’t wear for one week I feel like I’m naked! As if I have lost something! This balance, between becoming one with you …it gives you a feeling of safety.
Cyte: Could you also imagine to design jewellery which is not wearable? Which are more show-pieces or statements to show to the press?
L: I’m really thinking about body-pieces! Normally you just have rings, necklaces etc. but I think I need to look further and not only have the usual things! Different shapes or things you can tuck to your jacket.
N: That’s cool, stuff which I can hang to my leather jacket!
L: More like an accessory, I think that could be interesting!
Cyte: I think it would be great for you to work on bigger and more unusual pieces to get more press.
L: Yes, I am working on it. The upcoming collection will be the same style, but will go more towards fashion, it will go broader.
Cyte: Would it be easier if you design jewellery for another fashion designer, who gives you a task? Or is it easier to do your own stuff?
L: I think it’s easier to design stuff for yourself! As you are your own critic and the thoughts in your mind are really detailed. While if some else is giving you critics, it’s never as deep as your own mind! And in that way, it’s easier to design for yourself.
But I think it’s amazing to work together with other people, I do believe no one is an island, on their own. I think it’s nice to do other stuff, which you can’t do alone.
Cyte: The reasons why I’m asking is, as an artist you always stand in front of this white canvas, you question everything you do, so when you work for someone elsewhere there is clear DNA, it might be easier?!
L: Of course I ask the people who surround me, but in my mind, I’m so strict and critical, it’s either a “go” or a “no” and when other people have a different opinion…
HOW TO FEEL IN 2020
Cyte: 2020 was quite interesting so far! It started with discussions about the climate crisis, which led to “Fridays for future”…
N: Sorry, to interrupt you, but as an artist, I feel confused about all these things, if you don’t post political statements, you are not politically correct, but I’m a musician, I don’t care about politics at all. Of course, I don’t want people to starve in this world, or I think it is good that they judge sexual harassment harder, but I can not fight for everything in this world, I have to fight for myself, I need to look after myself as a human, I’m not egoistic, but that’s my opinion. When I hear the whole discussion about climate change, get the fuck off me, I make music!
Cyte: How do you feel about that, Laurence?
L: It’s challenging! I’m personally put not a lot of my perspective on social media, I don’t want to influence people to make up their minds, because of my opinion. Everybody has his own. I also really believe that what we hear in the media – we hear a lot, but we don’t know everything, I do believe there is so much more shit after everything, that I don’t think anybody has a complete view … that I can’t make an opinion about it! It would be stupid …we have to raise our voice for our rights, of course. Before I say something I want to be 100% sure that it’s correct. And I think, because of the media we don’t have the whole picture.
N: Don’t misunderstand me earlier, I hate racism and all those things, I love equality, I want women and men to get paid the same, but I’m not the one who needs to fight for it. First of all, I need to fight for my art, that you even listen to me. Sorry, I’m not at this point yet, I’m not Udo Lindenberg or so.
L: I do think we need to fight for things, for sure, we have the right to fight. But I don’t want to overwhelm you with my opinion and I don’t want you to think the same as I do …
Cyte: As a white person it’s very difficult to find the right words and attitude in that big discussion about racism because we never were in that position, we don’t know how it feels …
L: It’s super difficult! For example, next week I might have a modelling job, with me as a white skinny girl, then you have a curvy model and then you have a black model. They asked me if I wanted to do it and I was talking with my boyfriend about it. When they asked me I felt so weird about it, “so I have to play the white skinny model”, immediately I felt super bad because then I get defined as a white skinny girl, but it’s not how I feel about it. It’s like a stigma. Maybe I prefer not to do it, I don’t know yet.
N: We as white people never understand how it feels to be black, brown, red, or yellow. When you try to rent an apartment and the landlord says no, because of your skin color.
L: Yeah, we can not understand, but I do believe we as a young generation and that makes me really angry, we as a young generation have access to a lot of information, a lot of things are happening and when I talk to my parents about it, who are closer to it, still at this point a lot of young people don’t want to open their eyes and don’t want to listen and still stay in this “unknown situation” and than I’m (takes a deep breath)
I’m the kind of person who always thinks it will get better in 5 years, 10 years, but when you hear them, I think, shit, it will never happen.
N: If I have an opinion about something, I write a song about it, I sing about it. Maybe there will be a day where someone asks: “Norman, what do you think about it, and then I will tell, what I think about it…”
L: …yeah, but at least you think about it!
Cyte: If you could change the world, what would you do?
N: I don’t want people to starve! There are a lot of other problems than what we post on social media. I came from East Germany where lots of families were living in poverty, where children had too little of everything and this is still happening. I don’t want children to starve, equal rights for women and men, and respect for your sexual preferences.
Cyte: And you Laurence, how would you change the world if you could?
L: I would plug out prejudice from people’s minds! I hope that people are not so stuck in their own mind by thinking this or that … I hope that everyone gets this open view and just gives everything a chance and I think that would make a huge difference. Prejudices take away humanity.
LOVE OR MONEY
Cyte: Word Games! Please answers quickly! City or countryside?
Cyte: Beer or wine?
Norman: I love them both! I love beer so much, but wine as well, sorry.
Cyte: Chocolate or chips?
L: (laughs) You are such a woman!
Cyte: Love or money!
Norman: Love! But imagine someone would answer money, what a guy!
Cyte: As an artist, how important is money for you?
N: It is important! You need to pay your rent.
L: Yeah, it is important! I think if you don’t have the money, you can’t be creative.
N: Not at all, you can be creative …
L: Yeah, sure, but you need money to make it …
N: …of course, for your jewellery …
Cyte: Both of you have a background in modelling! Do you think it’s a benefit for your other career or is it a handicap?
N: It’s a fucking handicap! As a musician in Germany – as I told you earlier – fashion and music are not so connected to each other, as they were trying to make me understand. But let’s see, maybe I can make out of this handicap something golden.
Cyte: And for you Laurence?
L: I think it’s a benefit! I think as a model you don’t want to admit it, but you see so much behind the scenes, you travel so much, you learn so much from other people who have much more experience, you are like a sponge – when I was really young I felt like a sponge … you go somewhere and you”schlooopsch” and when you go back home, you are like “aahhh” I saw all these amazing things and when you are super young this is amazing!
N: My biggest inspiration is when you can look and learn from the people …
L: …you talk to people and I think that’s the main reason why I did it in the first place.
N: I love to work in fashion honestly …because I think all these things are close to each other: art, design, fashion, music…yah, love it!
Cyte: Do you invest money from your model work into your music or design career?
N: I have to, no one else is doing it! That’s the main reason why I’m still doing it! I never saw myself as a model. I work as a model, which is a big difference – I am a musician!
L: Me neither! As a model, do you go on set as yourself or do you change …?
N: I’m myself all the time! That’s probably the key to success in my case. And the reason why I work for 10 years in this job. In the beginning, they said who is this dude, maybe he will disappear after a while- nope, he’s still here! (laughs) And he will not go away!
L: For me, it helps to go on set as a model and completely set myself on the side.
Cyte: So you play a role then?!
L: Yeah, it’s easier, I think you are really limited when you only be yourself on set.
N: Oh my god, you are not limited at all, when you are just yourself! Who you are is the question. I invent myself everyday new in front of the mirror, I become new and different every day. But I understand you if this works out better for you. But to be yourself is the best! Don’t play any role for no one!
Cyte: This is interesting, both of you work as a model, but both of you come from different backgrounds, cause I see you, Norman, as very extroverted and you can be yourself and inspire yourself by being yourself and you, Laurence, rather play a role, so it’s a kind of different approach to achieve the same thing in a way.
L: It’s interesting!
Cyte: Somehow it’s contradictory, but at the same time, if it leads to the right thing, there is not just one way to success and fame!
N: Being yourself in music doesn’t help you out all of the times, sometimes it’s better to play a role.
L: I see modelling as something which is not me. They don’t book me because of my name. In your case it’s a bit different, I guess! They book me because they want a certain look and blue eyes. But if they book you they want action, the tattoos and the bad boy.
L: That’s different from me! – I wish I was a bad girl …
Cyte: 3 albums for a deserted island! Which ones would you take?
N: Everything from Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix! Especially Sinatra and Bob Marley, both of them are so fucking chilled, but probably because I come from an area where is nothing chilled, I feel attracted to it.
L: PJ Harvey, Molly Nilsson, Nick Cave!
N: Nick Cave is really nice, you’ve got good taste! Good guy!
Cyte: Any last words from you?
N: Love! Love is eternal and love is the key! Don’t let other people judge you. Don’t feel unconfident about anything, just be yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you anything, just believe in 24 hours.
L: I would just say: Go! Go for it and jump! Just do it!
Cyte: Thank you very much!
Hair+Make-Up: Kristina Heinisch@Bigoudi
DOP: Jaron Kühmstedt
Art Direction: J4 Studio
Photographer: Stephan Ziehen
Thanks to Tonali Saal, Hamburg
all looks artists own
Link to Normans latest video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGgRMAG8-LA