UK rapper, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Dylan Cartlidge was inspired by all the negative in the world, but instead of reacting with anger or disappointment, he responded with a message of hope. “Love Spoons” is an uplifting song with a sense of urgency, and it's exactly what we need right now. Watch the new Katia Ganfield-directed video above, and read a short interview with Dylan below.
“Love Spoons” has a really positive message. What inspired that, and why is it important for you to share right now?
I believe so strongly in hope above adversity, and this song was written in part as a response to all these horrific attacks that were happening around the globe, one after another. It was awful. The Orlando attack in particular really struck me, as I couldn't believe those people had been targeted for the way in which they express their love. So I combined the feelings and thoughts from this period with my own feelings on individuality and hope above adversity. Regardless of age, gender, skin color, sexual orientation, or background, being you is a key to truly finding happiness. I think now more than ever there's somebody somewhere that could do with hearing that.
Musically, this isn't like a lot of the current styles making the rounds right now. What music influences you?
Kid Cudi is basically my idol, being a rapper by trade I grew up listening to a lot of rap, R&B, soul, and mainstream chart music mainly but lived in a household as a child with a trance DJ and '80s pop fanatic for a good while but typically, Lupe Fiasco, Stromae, Olu, Kanye West, Cage, Mac Miller, The Cool Kids. I then joined a band when I was 16, and for the first time had openly experienced music with live instruments, guitars and riffs, bands like The Black Keys, The White Stripes. I've never looked back since, totally blew my mind, my musical horizons had been broadened.
What can you tell us about the music video for “Love Spoons”? Where was it shot, who are the people featured in it? Any stories from the shoot that you remember?
The video was shot by a wonderfully talented lady named Katia Garfield who's done videos for the likes of Childhood, Demob Happy, and loads of others. It was all shot on her super cool VHS camera in the seaside town I live in named Redcar. I'd gotten many friends, family, and people I knew involved to try and showcase as many forms of love as I could find, in all different relationships and people. I even roped my girlfriend Holly into it!
In 2013, Tyler Ross, a Canadian videographer, was working as a garbage man to make ends meet. “That was shitty,” he says. “I was shooting videos part time but I wasn’t making enough money to survive.” Over the course of the past three years, he paid his dues—interning and helping out whoever he could with shoots—and eventually got the opportunity to work with Kanye West. “Kanye’s such a legend,” he says.
Ross, better known by his Instagram moniker WhiteTrashTyler, was born in Nova Scotia, a Maritime province in Canada near the Atlantic. The son of two school teachers, he started shooting skate videos with his friends as a hobby. But it wasn’t until he began helping an old roommate make YouTube videos that he decided he wanted to pursue a career as a videographer. “I realized it was something that I was passionate about,” says Ross, who declined to give his age.
After graduating from college with a marketing degree, turning down an office job at a tobacco company, and a short stint as a garbage man, he booked a flight to L.A. to pursue his dreams. “I knew I wanted to do something more creative,” he says. He slept in hostels on Fairfax Avenue and on friends’ couches, and made connections and assisted anyone who needed help shooting or editing videos. “I learned everything when I was in L.A.,” he says.
In his first ever interview, Ross talks about what it’s been like capturing candid moments of West and Scott, working with other big-name artists like Drake and 21 Savage, and what’s next for him.
How did you get the name “WhiteTrashTyler”?
I feel like WhiteTrashTyler is an extension of me. When I tell people I'm from Nova Scotia, the first thing they say is “Where the hell is that?” They expect me to be some hick from Canada. So I think it's funny to just roll with that assumption that people have about me. That irony is amazing.
How did you start working with Kanye West?
I met Gabe from [Los Angeles-based group] UZi and he was making music and directing videos at the time. I was sleeping on his couch and would just help him with whatever I could. Then when Ian Connor started creative directing for [Kanye West’s clothing line] Yeezy, he told ‘Ye, “You should have people filming this stuff using a VHS camcorder.’ So Kanye brought Gabe in, and Gabe asked me to help.
How would you describe your style? You use VHS right?
I shot using a mini DV camcorder and VHS camcorder when I was younger. I like using VHS cameras because they remind me of home videos, and people are always more comfortable around it. But I definitely love mixing formats. Through my work with Gabe I’ve been using VHS but I’ll still shoot HD stuff outside of that. It’s just become a blend of the two. Sometimes I’ll be shooting and pull out a different camera and just see what happens.
What inspires you?
A lot. People and the conversations [I have] with those who I meet. People from different cultures and walks of life. I'm lucky to be working around high-level artists. Everyone who’s in the room usually has some kind of story of how they got there, so that in and of itself is really inspiring. I’m inspired by reinventing something that was made in the past and making it more modern. For me, pushing the needle forward is not getting stuck in only making music videos. It’s about taking everything I've learned and pushing projects to a higher level. I feel like everyone at some point in their life is told you can do anything, and it's true, but you really have to believe it or you have to see it to really believe it. If you really want to achieve something, you'll find a way to do it.
To what extent were you working with Kanye West and for how long?
For a little over a year, I was documenting events that were going to be used for his other projects. I helped shoot and edit the “Famous” video. It was an inspiring experience because I had been working for [Kanye] for around six months before anybody even knew that I was doing anything with him. The “Famous” video was the first thing that came out that people were like, “Oh, shit! You worked on that?” I remember we were finishing up the video right before the premier. We were literally exporting the file while we were in the car on the way to [The Forum]. When we walked into the arena, Kanye’s music was playing and I was just like, “Shit! This is gonna be packed in an hour and everyone’s going to watch this video.” That was a surreal moment.
What did you learn most from working with Kanye?
The importance of collaboration. The true magic is finding the right people to bring into the room and create with. Before, I was just always trying to learn how to do something else so I could add it to the project. But Kanye was like, “If I want to build something, who’s the best person in the world that I could learn from or that I could bring in to create this?” The magic is connecting the dots, bringing the right minds together to build it. For me, that was my favorite part of filming him. The way he spoke to people that he had just met to convince them to be part of a project was inspiring.
I feel like I just went to school with Kanye and now I'm like, “How do I take everything I've learned and start developing my own mood board?” I hope that I'm always learning and developing myself. If you're not trying to achieve better then what's the point? Something might seem like a long process but that extra day, that extra week, that extra month you put in… 10 years from now, you’ll be happy you went the extra mile.
You posted an amazing video on your Instagram of Quavo riding a horse. What was that about?
That was in Calabasas. These people were just walking their horses down the street and Quavo—I don't think he'd ever been on a horse before—was like, “Can I ride it?” [laughs] And they're like, “Yeah, I guess.” He got on it and he was a natural. It was pretty amazing to me. I was like, “What the hell is going on right now?” I just started filming it.
You shot some of the footage of interactions between Kanye and Travis that wound up in Travis’ La Flame documentary. Tell me about that.
Travis was about to put out La Flame but he knew I had filmed him and Kanye together a bunch of times, so they asked me what clips I had. So I sent them a little reel of different shots that I had. After Kanye approved them, they added some of it in the documentary. I shot Travis testing Kanye’s [floating] stage for his Saint Pablo Tour, Travis gifting Kanye a watch, and Travis in the crowd at the Saint Pablo shows.
What’s your favorite moment so far from being on tour with Travis?
He had a show in Houston and his mom surprised him with a visit from his old teachers. That was special because Travis said he was basically failing one of his classes but his teacher really loved him and believed in him. She basically passed him because she knew he was a special kid. His mom was crying. That happened right before he went on stage. Being able to see people’s growth and hear stories like that is pretty special.
What was the energy like at The Criterion in Oklahoma City when Travis performed “Goosebumps” 14 times?
That crowd was insane! They broke the stage barrier hours before Travis even got there. Everyone had to be evacuated to fix it. Kids were raging in the streets, there were cops everywhere before the show even started. They didn't want me to film ‘cause every time the kids saw the camera they started chanting Travis’ name and rushed the doors.
You helped edit Future’s “Use Me” and “My Collection” music videos. How did that happen?
That was through my mentor and good friend Nick Walker. He’s an amazing director; he’s someone who doesn’t have a huge following on Instagram but, to me, he’s one of the most talented people I've ever worked with. There have been moments where I was like, “What the fuck am I doing out here [in L.A.]?” You never know what you're going to be working next week. He’s always been someone who has encouraged me to keep going and gives me projects to do. One day, he approached me and was like, “I'm doing these videos for Future. I want you to edit them.” I would go to his office and edit those videos with him. I also edited the FKA Twigs mini-doc, Baltimore Dance Project, and Freddie Gibbs’ “Pronto” video.
What’s the end goal from here?
I don't really want to have an end goal. I hope that I'm always hungry to figure out the next thing or inspired to feel the need to always be creating something. That's the goal.
For six years now Lana Del Rey has attracted and foiled critics with pop music that does not sound like any of her peers. The mild, smoky voice, the judicious use of rap production, the juxtaposition of classic American images and sounds with hyper-contemporary, crass language, from these elements Lana makes music that feels at once familiar and strange.
Lust for Life is her most ambitious album yet, and as Lana explains in her third Complex cover appearance, it emerged from a period of self-examination that, when it ended, left her “looking at everything else” the world has to offer. Hopeful and questioning, the album engages with the tumultuous and oftentimes terrifying politics of 2017 on songs like “God Bless America—And All the Beautiful Women in It” and “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing.” Elsewhere, this more expansive worldview means features from artists like Stevie Nicks, Playboi Carti, Sean Ono Lennon, and ASAP Rocky. “I was ready to have some of my friends jump on the record,” she says,”[and] they were all naturally a little bit lighter than me.”
Lightness is, in some ways, the operating principle for Lana Del Rey right now. At 32, her career is no longer “guesswork,” the way it was when she first began. The questions of authenticity and agency that greeted her upon arrival are irrelevant. There's only Lana Del Rey.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
You were living in New York when you put out Born to Die and I know that you went from being like normal New Yorker who rides the subway to Lana del Rey who's on Page Six and is the subject of long thinkpieces in the Times.
That was fucked up. It just changed it. I remember I was working somewhere else and I was on my way back from there and I was getting on the 6 train, and TMZ was behind me the whole time.
On the train?
Yeah, I had run into this camera-man. It was the first time I had seen a paparazzi, but he wasn’t taking pictures, he was just filming. I don’t even know if I had ever seen that before ‘cause it’s someone with a VHS following you around.
Was he trying to talk to you?
Yeah, and I was answering and I sounded crazy. I went down and got my ticket, swiped it, waited for the train. I looked behind me, the guy had got a ticket too, and he was waiting too. I was like, Wait, is this real life? Honestly from then on one of those guys I had seen that day was just always there. I thought to myself, I think I gotta move somewhere.
Your first three covers are all fairly serious, sort of oscillating between kind of almost sad and maybe a little bit aloof on the Honeymoon one. This is the first one where you’re smiling.
Well, the Honeymoon cover I thought was more just casual. I felt like I was in a more casual space. But this was definitely in an even more lighter space altogether. My sister, Chuck, shot it, but we shot it in the parking lot behind the scenes of my “Love” video. We didn’t know if we were going to get the cover but we definitely knew I was gonna smile. We took a couple frames, and we developed it that week, and I felt like that was the one.
For being a fairly dark time to live in the world, it’s kind of interesting that this is actually your most optimistic work, at least in its titling and its imagery. What’s the genesis of that?
Well there was a little bit of a shift in me naturally. I felt like I had kind of said a lot and done a lot through the records. I was ready to have some of my friends jump on the record [and] they were all naturally a little bit lighter than me, so that was kind of happening in my world. I felt like two years of recording really dark tunes would not be fun.
You do touch on problems of the world and politics in this work in a way that your previousalbums did not. Was that a conscious decision?
On the last records I needed to look inward to figure out why things had gone so far down one path, and then I kind of came to the end of my self-examination and I naturally was looking at everything else. But, of course, all my experiences and romantic relationships and stuff are still peppered in to some of the songs on this record. Also, with Obama as the president, me and everybody I know, I think we felt very safe and protected, felt like we were being viewed the way we wanted to be viewed, in terms of the world. So there wasn’t as much to say except, like, look how far we’ve come and it’s getting better, getting even better. I feel like there was quite a shift.
With this record you have infused more politics than ever before. I think it’s not necessarily a political record, but it is a record of the day. I don’t know this for a fact, but I would imagine that you have a decent number of sort of middle American fans for whom Trump’s inauguration and administration is not problematic. How do you negotiate expressing your own honest feelings about these things, and do you think about whether or not it’s going to piss them off, or is this something that has inspired ire from people who at one point were in you core?
You don’t negotiate when it comes to your work or your art. You stand totally firm and take the consequences. In terms of losing fans I don’t care. Period. [Laughs.]
The last two albums, Honeymoon and Ultraviolence, it seemed like you concentrated on making stuff for yourself, and perhaps for your core audience. With this record, it at appears that there is a more expansive ambition.
I would consider it as a not turning away from the possible bigger-ness of it, compared to the other two. Before, I felt maybe I wanted to be more protective of my own space and stuff with the last two records.
Was that a reaction to the success of records like the remix to “Summertime Sadness”?
I think it was a reaction to more people knowing who I was right away. So I was like, Let me just check myself and get myself into a place where I’m sure I like what I’m doing, and I know I like the production. With the “Summertime Sadness” remix, I had told you before, I didn’t hear that song until it was on the radio and I came back from a show in Russia, and I heard it on the radio. I mean, obviously in general I like to have my hands all over the production.
Was that a weird feeling to like—
It was a weird…
Is it weird also that it’s probably—
That it’s a huge song?
I mean, radio numbers at least.
No, you’re probably right.
Probably not your most important song, but…
I think “Video Games” is right up there. I was more sensitive about it then because when you’re new you’ve got so much to prove. You don’t have that many chances. That’s real. I’d consider it at the time just being careful. You know, in terms of collabs or sponsorships or whatever.
Is it freeing now to feel that you can do whatever feels good in the moment?
Yeah. It is actually.
Do you feel like that played into the larger ambition of Lust for Life?
Rocky’s on the record, and when he’s in town and I’m here, I’m just down at the studio anyway. Or the same with Abel, you know? I’ll just go down and listen to what he’s working on. I realized, Why do I not have my friends on my record? It was pretty natural but I guess with Abel, everything he does now is so big, so at another time maybe that would’ve felt like a little bit scarier or something, but now it just feels right.
What do you mean?
Well, he’s super out there and he’s got a lot of radio stuff so I don’t know if I would’ve known what to do with a big radio song. I’m not saying I have one on this record…
But if you are to have one, you feel confident that it would be exciting?
That I would be happy, yeah.
David Byrne from the Talking Heads wrote an amazing book about the history of music, and he goes into the significance of radio in how songs are formatted, and the idea that it’s like three minutes with three hooks and a bridge—there’s nothing in nature that says that that’s how music should be composed. It’s strictly about how radio programmers want to get three songs per commercial break, so that has sort of trained the artists to work within those confines.
For sure. And they’re not terrible confines to work within. It’s kind of fun to make a short song with a cute chorus. But I think if you’re writing it yourself it’s important to have half the record at least where you’ve got a little bit of your life in there, or a little bit of an opinion. I think if you’re really good you can do both. I was thinking of Bob Dylan.
What is the measure of success for you?
The one thing that stayed the same is, for me the measure of success with the record is just that it gets finished. [Laughs.] For real.
Did Sean Lennon make the record?
He made it.
I saw that you took these pictures with a horse, but it was not a horse that was coming out of a pond on his estate, so I didn’t know if that was like a subliminal shot.
It’s not, no. Horses have just been a random theme somehow. He ended up producing the track we made, “Tomorrow Never Came,” and that’s the only track on the record that I wrote over the last two years that I didn’t feel like it was mine. I felt like I had written it for someone else, which I… I’ve never really felt like that. Then I was looking at the lyrics and I had a lyric about John Lennon and Yoko, so I called Sean and asked him if he would do a duet with me. He said that he was his dad’s biggest fan, so it would be really natural.
The other thing I’ve noticed is that almost all the people that you work with are men. Is that something you ever think about, or that bothers you?
Well, it’s weird because the people in my close production life are men. I guess I’m thinking of like Rick [Nowels] and my two engineers, Dean Reed and Kieran Menzies, who have changed my whole musical life and my sound and my records. But in my personal life, there’s just so many women. Well there’s not many female producers, for sure. There’s some great female songwriters though. That’ll probably change.
When you think about yourself as a songwriter, how do you think you’ve changed from Born to Die days to what you’re writing now?
Maybe just the ability to integrate my own experiences with what I’m observing. To be able to reflect back, like a good mix of inner world, outer world.
Toxic relationships were very much the fuel of a lot of the writing on those first albums, as you have moved to a sort of happier, more solid place, perhaps making better life decisions—
How do you think about your romantic life, and how do you think about it within the context of your songwriting?
I feel like in this record there’s—with the songs that are “love songs,” or about relationships, I feel like I come off almost more annoyed about the way things are going rather than like, “Oh, poor me.” There’s like a moving that I get from my own stuff, because sometimes my own stuff is a little bit revealing to me, you know, about myself.
With a lot of artists who write very personal stuff, when they get to this point in their career it sometimes gets more difficult to unearth and reveal those things because of success and fame and the work.
That’s so true.
Do you feel like it’s a greater challenge now?
Yeah, but I’ve never been somebody who turned away from really hard work. I’m always looking to put the footwork in. Like with the mixing, if it takes eight months I will mix for eight months. If the master doesn’t come back right I’ll find someone else to do it. With the personal stuff I mean, if I feel like I’m just not getting it right I’ll just keep on trying different things until I feel like I’m hitting my stride in that department. I don’t know, finding your own path is not for the faint of heart. It’s the harder path. It’s easier to just keep doing the same shit over and over again and then be surprised when it’s still the same results. Somehow that’s easier than just doing something different.
A lot of what got written about you in the beginning, and in a somewhat real way, you had developed a character. I imagine a large part you, and then perhaps something that’s imagined. As you’ve gotten further and further into your career do you feel like the lines between those things have changed or blurred?
I mean, that’s what most of the thinkpieces are about. You know, there’s a lot of stuff I could’ve not said in the songs and I said it anyway. It didn’t always serve me to talk about some of the men I was with and what that was like, and then not comment on it further. So that’s some of my experiences and where I lived and what it was like. It would’ve been easier to just not say that and then deflect all of the questions about it afterwards.
So do you think that was sort of overstated?
I didn’t edit myself when I could have, because a lot of it’s just the way it was. I mean, because I’ve changed a lot and a lot of those songs, it’s not that I don’t relate but… A lot of it too is I was just kinda nervous. I came off sort of nervously, and there was just a lot of dualities, a lot of juxtapositions going on that maybe just felt like something was a little off. Maybe the thing that was off was that I needed a little more time or something, and also my path was just so windy just to get to having a first record. I feel like I had to figure it out all by myself. Every move was just guesswork.
It’s kind of funny because you were in your mid-twenties when you sort of came out and I do think if you look at artists that dropped their first albums between like 25 and 27, whether it’s an Eminem or Jay Z, it’s like, if you looked at their work at 22—
Yeah, exactly. It’s different.
It would’ve been very raw and unfocused. There was no Slim Shady for Eminem at 22, but at 26 he had the full 360 package.
Jay Z talks about that too, like how he really, really lived by the time he was 26. There was a real perspective he was coming from. So, yeah, it’s a real age where…
You can put together a project that's more fully formed.
Right. And my perspective was fully formed, it just wasn’t a great outlook. It’s not so much a persona question with me, it’s just more like what was going on with that girl, you know? Like, where was she coming from?
There’s been an inordinate amount of conversation around the idea of cultural appropriation, and Katy Perry kind of stepped right in it with her performance on SNL. You have moved fairly organically from the singer/songwriter world into hip-hop, and back out and back in without much commotion. Why do you think that is?
I never feel like I’m not where I’m supposed to be, you know? No matter who I’m with, I’m always still doing my own thing. I can’t remember the last time I was in a club or somewhere and felt like, Man, I’m not supposed to be here. I’ve been kind of doing it for so long I feel like everybody I’m friends with, everyone I know just knows I’m all about the music.
Do you have any consideration for the critics and all of the sort of dissection for your art at this point?
Yeah, sometimes. I have a song called “Get Free” which closes my record, and it started by, it told my whole story, I guess, and my thoughts on where I want to go next; and then I realized, I actually don’t want to tell my whole story, I don’t want to talk about it.
How do you negotiate what you keep for yourself and what you are ready to share?
Sometimes I just can’t resist to just tell it like it really is for myself and the way that I feel.
Photography: Timothy Saccenti/Styling: Brett Alan Nelson/Hair: Anna Cofone /Makeup: Pamela Cochrane
Florida natives and frequent collaborators Twelve'Len and Denzel Curry connected again on the smooth track “Human Gods,” which dropped in May. We already had the song on repeat, but now the video is here, and it's packed with awesome moments. The video highlights the two artist's chemistry while the VHS effects and striking imagery (A giant dog!) make it essential viewing.
You might already be familiar with Denzel Curry, but look out for Twelve'Len—this kid is special. Watch the “Human Gods” video above. Check out what happened when Denzel came through for an episode of Trending Topics and we asked him about South Florida rap below.