My Panda Shall Fly
While certain DJs have a tendency to veil themselves in attempted mystique – take the steely masks of Zomby et al, or the 00s approach of notoriously media shy ‘post-dubstep’ producers – Suren Seneviratne wears his persona on his sleeve by way of his wonderful, whimsical aesthetic.
The striking Sri Lankan-born, South London-based DJ’s productions as My Panda Shall Fly have flourished from his garage and grime inflicted early work to the lo-fi leanings of Tape Tekkno, while his recent EP Higher, released on pea green cassette, explored the phenomena of ‘sacred pain’. As part-time model and full-time wildly colourful beatsmith, Seneviratne is a totem for all things bright, bold and fiercely experimental.
As a result we are delighted to profile My Panda Shall Fly in the first installment of Aesthetic, our new fashion feature which showcases artists who frame music with idiosyncratic style. This month Seneviratne’s distinctive look is captured in Charlotte Rutherford’s lucid hyperreal gaze.
Describe your personal style.
1960s renegade activist meets born-again voodoo sheik – or so I’ve been told by some members of my family.
How important is your Sri Lankan heritage when constructing your aesthetic?
It’s not something that I’ve had to consider in the past… I suppose the fact that I spent my childhood growing up there means that there is still some aspect of my traditional upbringing that is inherent and remains with me to this day. I couldn’t admit to knowing what exactly my aesthetic may be, although I wonder if it may be something that others might be able to pick up on better than I could. As much as it has pained me to be away from my first true home for so many years, living and working in London has been has been the biggest impact upon my ‘style’.
Your recent EP Higher is based around the idea of ‘sacred pain’ and discomfort as a result of diverse religious traditions. What was it about the phenomenon that inspired you?
I remember being only aged eight or so when I witnessed an act of ‘sacred pain’ in my hometown in Sri Lanka. It was shocking to the say the least. There was a street procession charged with noise and colour. There were men on brightly-decorated floats dangling from hooks and other metallic apparatus, their faces frozen in ecstasy. They were impaled onto horrific contraptions yet there was no blood. I didn’t quite know what I was witnessing at the time but after watching a documentary about ‘sacred pain’ I recalled my personal experience as a child and became fascinated with learning about the different expressions across the world.
The video accompaniments to your work often show you interacting with your environment; the videos for Opening Brace and Dark No contextualise those tracks within a young, urban setting. How do you think this affects the way people digest your music?
I’ve never wanted to force any sort of bias towards my music. It’s interesting to ponder what sort of image one can draw from when engaging with my work – which for the most part has been pretty disparate in sound and video so far. There was no decision to set the videos in question within a ‘young, urban setting’ as such, as they were both separate projects with no connection to each other, but I’m pleased that a thread has been observed. Certainly, this theme is not one I wish to expand upon in particular.
How much control do you have over the artwork for your records?
My artwork is integral to the music and as such I’ve always been able to exercise a lot of control over it. If I’ve not designed the artwork myself, I’ve been fortunate enough to commission other fantastic artists that I’ve always been fond of. I’ve never been one to shy away from the spotlight, so I’ve made a conscious effort to appear in my artwork wherever possible. I’m curious to see how this form develops over time. Maybe my next EP cover could be a selfie?
What was the inspiration behind your t-shirt line?
Some time ago I chanced upon a stall at a flea market run by a greying middle-aged man who had been making and printing kids’ clothes for a long time. He also had a massive box full of about 100-year-old, unused heat-transfer graphics that instantly caught my eye. There were countless sheets of incredible (authentic) skate/surf graphics in eye- popping red, green & blue fluro colours. I was like a kid in a candy store. I came home with 30 or so sheets, learnt tie-dye and bleaching processes and used my friend’s heat-press machine to apply the graphics onto my t-shirts. That’s how they were born. In tragic news; I’ve lost contact with the man who sold me the original 1980s prints and might not ever see him or his prints again.
What is unique about London fashion?
People do whatever the hell they want.
Who are some of your favourite designers right now?
MEAT, Subversive & Roberto Piqueras.
Who is one up-and-coming British designer that we should look out for?
Photographer: Charlotte Rutherford
Art Direction and Styling: Charlotte James
Assistant Stylist: Valerie John-Lewis
Set Design: Glitterguns by Amy Exton
Hair: Jake Gallagher
Make Up: John Maclean