Amrit Randhawa

We caught up with Amrit Randhawa AKA Taxi Cab Industries, who is a visual artist

based at Islington Mill. Since graduating from Graphic design at Salford he’s done all

sorts. From poster design, to painting and printmaking, zines, publications and

putting out mixes Amrit’s practise spans it all. We chatted about making bootlegs, not

taking yourself too seriously, the art of not specialising and the power of self-

publishing.




Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?


I’m Amrit, I work under the name Taxi cab Industries which is an umbrella name for

everything I do. I put out graphic design work or a publication or a painting or a T-

shirt or a shitty little mix I’ve made on garage band. It all operates under a black

background under Taxi cab Industries - @taxicabindustires on Insta.


Where did the name come from?


I grew up with lots of bands who were formative to me, around ten years ago, they all

had quite stupid names and regret their name choice. The Arctic Monkeys is not a

very good name for the music they make now or vampire weekend especially are the

antithesis of a name of a band that doesn’t fit to the sound they make.

I just thought Taxi Cab Industries. As soon as you have a name you can just start, at

Uni we had to rebrand ourselves. Other people were just using their name and then

adding creative after it or studio. I never wanted to be called Amrit Randhawa creative

studio. It is easier for me to hide behind an alias where I can do more experimental

things.


HW: It is a little bit distanced from it, there’s more mystery around it.


AR: It all relates back to music and the way musicians can hide behind an alias, take

MF DOOM for example or someone like BURIAL, you don’t know anything about his

personality. I guess I accept I am a boring man who lives in the suburbs. I enjoy my

quietness behind Taxi Cab Industries.


HW: You make zines, paintings, graphic design?


AR: I studied Graphic design, I was fortunate to have the freedom to experiment

outside the basic realm of what graphic design is, or could be. I guess a lot of my

work is in having access to lots of different things, like print making or to consider

painting as a form of graphic design.


Half way through my course I cottoned onto the fact there are no rules at art school. I

thought I was at design school, but I took advantage of the physical space I could

occupy. If I wanted to make a zine, I would wake up and not know what I was gunna

do and then see something and then make a zine. Then 8 or 9 hours later I might

have 24 photocopied zines.


Even though it was Graphic Design, by third year I realised could do whatever I

wanted. Break down the objective of a module there are no rules, as long as you do

the work, you’re fine.


HW: It is about experimentation, I love your work, I’m inspired by how much

you put out and I think your pretty prolific. Painterly but grounded in graphic

design.



AR: In first and second year I was inspired by James Victories, if you learn all the

rules then you can break them. It’s quite cliché, but it’s fun. You see a lot of

practitioners that rebel, but they don’t know the underlying structure they’d they are

rebelling against. Contemporary Graphic designers are against traditional modernist

design. If you don’t understand the principles of modernism, you can’t really rebel

against them.


I have been reading about the lives of designers such as Milton Glazier, who were

based in New York in the sixties. They took advertising roles and learnt about how

you set type. They were more interested in the margins of culture and funny styles of

illustration. When they developed their own creative practise, they could set type

beautifully.


I pride myself on knowing the rules of type, it’s so dry. But I really enjoy kerning. If

you’ve never kerned to Jungle, that’s one of life’s greatest joys. Kerning is the

spacing between letters or characters in a piece of text.


HW: It is interesting to bring things from the margins, but in your work there’s

a lot of obvious brands that people recognise for examples Marks & Spencer’s,

Pizza Express.


AR: At the root of it all, it’s just a bit silly. It’s not highbrow, it’s not dry wit. I wish it

was but I’m not that funny, you can just instantly get it. With the Marx & Spencer’s, I had the idea years ago – it was a matter of thinking it was funny I didn’t think it would sell. I don’t make t-shirts to make a healthy profit margin. I make work that I like and it’s amazing that other people can like it as well.



The Pizza Express thing, I don’t make them thinking it will turn into something people

send on the internet. I’m bored and want to waste my leisure time to see if I can

make these letter forms that don’t exist for a laugh in people’s life.


HW: They take on a life of their own, there’s a lot of value in it being silly, fun

and playful.


AR: I am inspired by practitioners that are silly. That’s the core root of it, there’s not

much more to it. It’s a nice thing. If I took it more seriously, I would lose that silliness.


HW: You end up over analysing and pull apart the concept.


AR: I like cultural and historical contexts; the human eye knows when something is

laboured and it hasn’t been made with love as cheesy at that sounds.



What is Commodity Fetishism? What do you mean by that?


AR: It is a term Marx would use throughout Kapital. His writings on economics, I

might not fully understand that term but I know the term, it’s silly and an entendre. So

if people don’t understand it either that’s alright!


I was just trying to make a joke about how I’m in a contemporary sense of the word

fetishizing the idea of a revival of Marx. I’m a typical Marxist in the sense I don’t

really understand Marxism or haven’t engaged fully in Marxist texts which makes me

an amazing Marxist.


HW: We are always consuming, so you are taking them and throwing them

back out to us, holding up a bit of a mirror?


AR: Sometimes I make work that I’m not that happy with and I wonder if it’s just what

Banksy did twenty years ago, and Banksy is like Coldplay, everyone knows who he

is, just he’s not that cool. But maybe your Mum would compare you to him, my Mum

always says this is like Banksy. But there’s a lot of truth in that I’m not being that

smart with what I do. It is a bit silly, a bit of a joke. A lot of the artwork and design

work I’ve liked over the years stems from taking the piss a little bit.


HW: There is the whole Stöckport thing – how did that come about? Making

connections to where you are?


AR: Again, all this stuff is happening in the unconscious mind, I’m not that aware. I

have a sketchbook here and it’s full of shit. I have about 5 or 6 sketchbooks on the

go dotted around and there is no lineage to any of the sketches and I probably have

some form of behavioural order, undiagnosed ADHD as I’m quite erratic, not very

organised and sketch like that. I drew when I was at Uni in a sketchbook at 2 or 3 in

the morning.


I draw portraits, do design work, then that comes out. Maybe I’ve just seen a Stüssy

tee and then I think ha, that would be a funny bootleg. It took three years to make it

into a shirt. I am quite often catching up on ideas from years ago. Some of the ideas

you don’t know if it will work. It’s a risk if the shirts will sell.



Using Logo designs and bootlegging was a bit of a joke. Part of me recognises that I

have to make them real and save money for months on end on a risky venture.

I’ve never celebrated the fact; I have reprinted the Stöckport ones three times. –

Some new Stöckport t-shirt’s coming out soon. It’s a lot to invest. It never feels like

an achievement it’s to invest back into my practise.


All the risk is on me, the money slowly comes back to me but I just like doing silly

things.


HW: You are one man design, production, marketing, admin, etc


I’m taking a break at the moment; I’ve just had to say no to. It’s too much work to

finance a practise and figuring out how to shift 50 t-shirts’, RareMags have stocked

the Stöckport T-shirt and will stock the next one.


The point of having a practise, in theory it a one-man operation but lots of people

help me. They have a lot of confidence in me and a lot of belief of what I do. They

wanted to buy 30 more, 30 T-shirts felt like a big production. If someone pushes you

and gives you positive reinforcement you feel like you can do it.


People are sweet on Instagram, I don’t expect people to say it’s nice, over the past

few years people will directly message me which is very considerate.


Could you speak about other people you’ve partnered with?


Tee’s for Partisan – they asked me to design some tee’s for them – we talked about

doing the t-shirt before Everpress campaign, the logistics felt too much but they sold

70 in the end and all the money goes back to them.


Was that in the pandemic?


I honestly don’t know – I can't remember – I think it was before. That was a bootleg of

the Nuclear war, Nein Danke – It has been translated into over 180 languages, but

they are clamping down on people bootlegging it. I spent a few days in bedroom and

didn’t leave. I don’t know how copyright law works. I probably should look that up.


HW: I’ve done a Nike rip before at Uni and we were fine.


AR: Sports banger does it with their NHS t-shirt’s, so maybe it's fine.


I know you make a lot of zines, wondered if you could expand on that?


I think we first met at the Over Here Zine Fest, it was the same weekend as

Bound, there was three zine fests on that weekend.


Zines are great, I picked them up from Uni from the lecturers, John Powell Jones, he

was making interesting comics and had a screen-printing practise. He introduced me

to Steve Hockit, for Oi Polloi’s zine Peeker post. The content of their zines never

reflected athleisure or flannel zines or jackets for 800 pounds. I like the culture

around zine making and people who aren’t designers make these things. I was

enamoured by zines that were made by graphic designers.


At the time I was fortunate to see people like Shy Bairns exhibiting stuff. I guess

seeing people in Manchester make zines got me into it. It’s harder now, I loved Uni

because we were fortunate to have the space and time. But now money is the

barrier. I think I can run a freelance practise but every moment is about making a

living of it and prioritising client work, applying to things – there’s always a 500-

pound thing and you never get it but you apply anyway.


I still make zines I’m making a really big one at the moment. I have to make a living

and zines just don’t do that. The more I make, I’m more interested in methods of

binding and print production.


I’m currently making a book taking a photo of the “type” (text) in the background of all

the shots in the Wire, the best TV show ever. I want it to be an actual book. You can’t rationalise that. If you don’t have thousands of pounds, it will be a bread-and-

butter outcome. I love the zine I made called a typographic study of Walsall. In an

ideal world, I would live on a stipend where I could walk around and take photos of

my signs I like.



I’ve started one for Manchester just before the pandemic. All the things I think about

zines are the opposite of what zine making is about. People just get information out

but we don’t live in an era where the newsagents have a photocopier for 5p a sheet.

I am enamoured by Sarah Boney Press who puts out really good artists to document

their work, people who work full time jobs and in their evenings, they want to up their

level of print production.


There is a community of zine makers, it is quite nice. My first five zines were really

shit. But it is nice when you go to Bound Art Book Fair, and see all these losers who

work full time jobs are under one roof for a weekend who actually care about printed

things. Maybe now it is a more of a middle class exercise rather than putting out a

zine about smashing the fasch, or female sexual liberation.


HW: The point of zines is they can be about anything. Born out the punk, riot

grrll, all the women to the front, but they range from anything politics to your

favourite footballer.


AR: My fave zine is one where the artist asked their friends to draw Bart Simpson

called Art Simpson – So simple and funny.


I wanted to touch on the crossover of how you work multidisciplinary, as

someone that also does that. I struggle with the idea of not specialising in

something. Is it an advantage?


It is something that was haunting to the point where it is paralysing, especially when

you leave university, if you are to ‘make it’, you have to have a formalisation, you

need a website and a business card. Maybe it is really a privilege to specialise, we

admire Lucien Freud and Frances Bacon, who had the time money and space to do

what they love.


I couldn’t envision myself sitting down and doing the same thing every day. I want to

pursue my dream and I want to try everything. It is liberating. The thing that keeps on coming back to me is Douglas Coupland in his twitter bio he wrote ‘never left art

school’. It had a profound effect. Maybe you physically left the art school space, but

you can still experiment and try new things.


There might be DJs, that might do graphics, that also do textiles, in an ideal world we

could specialise but the creative industries are oversaturated and non-linear, one day you need to be an editor and then you become a videographer or editor because

you have final cut pro.


I would love to be a contemporary painter, represented by a gallery and paint all day.

In history this happened to people who were incredibly wealthy.



A lot of my graphic design isn’t always shown on my Insta because it is to make a

living and I have the skills to kern letters, or create imagery for social media. It is

hard to say you’re a specialist when you’re just trying to live. I’m not on the breadline,

I could never pretend I’m not middle class, I can live with my parents and it’s a trade-

off. People ask me how do you make a painting? How do you make a mix? But at

the moment I don’t have to worry about making my rent.


There is nothing wrong with just doing it, in an ideal world I would love to do one

thing. I would love to pay people to help me do stuff under the name

Taxicabindustries, the studio could grow bigger.


It is not a new contemporary idea– Take Milton Glazier, his illustration style changes

so much with new ideas and projects, he was just curious. Ultimately, we are driven

by a curious nature. Picasso wasn’t just a painter, he printed pieces or did ceramics

and lino prints. Quite often we negate the fact that most practioners are engaged in

lots of other things. Whether that’s a musician who makes their own artworks or t-

shirt’s, writers who self-publish and interest in publications.


You have to know other things to have a more informed world view – most of the

books that have been inspirational or informative aren’t about graphics or art. There

lots of benefits to specialisation but why pigeon hole yourself if you’re so young. If

you want to go to Long Bois on a Saturday afternoon you can just do that.


I’ve always tried to maintain autonomy and ultimately to work with interesting people.

I was lucky to work with Bound, Rob, Joe and Lillian and Rory Clifford. 4 people’s

practise I admire. People who were lovely to work with, have admirable virtues, of

patience and considerations.



Why does working in the arts become synonymous with being horrible, you

can nice and be successful you can be both?


AR: There are people in the art world who are mean and cut throat but at what cost.


What’s on the horizon? What’s coming up next?


I think I’ve been quite pessimistic, maybe that’s who I am.


HW: You sell yourself short a little bit.


AR: I think I will always do that, I think people think it’s a big ploy, I’m not very smart

and don’t have the lexicon to talk about my practise. I am taking a break and

reflecting, not stopped for the last 3 and half years. There’s always client work,

there’s always emails. It has had a negative impact on the way I live.


I am accepting that we are in this horrible time, living through history, if we are living

through this time, there’s only so many bootleg logos the world needs. I think what’s

happening all across the world is very serious, the Burger King rebrand is not that

serious.


I’ve been drawing a lot of Union Jacks. I’m planning paintings and big scale pieces,

but not putting a rush on myself. I have a need to have an output at all times

especially if I’ve not posted something online, even though that’s not a measurement

of my practise.



It would be lovely to be part of exhibitions, I was gunna be in three exhibitions which

have been postponed. I need the balance more of reading and watching things.

Have you ever watched the film ‘office space’? There is a great bit what would you

do if you won the lottery. I would sit around and do nothing. Teaching is rewarding.

Client work is rewarding. But for years I’ve been working 6 or 7 day weeks.

Have you ever done nothing? Not because your hungover or depressed, just to do

nothing. If you can watch two films in a day and still feel productive that is a good

day.


That’s my horizon, turn off Strava, put some Jungle on and go for a bike ride.

Cos Jungle is contrary to popular belief, massive

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