Artist Interview: Nick Radford

Nick Radford is a multi-talented dude. He has been working professionally as an illustrator for over 10 years, servicing clients such as The Guardian, Vodafone, Cadbury, The BBC, Ubiquity Records and Bantam Press. His illustrations are also featured in The September Project and Michael Fordham’s, The Book of Surfing. His artistic pursuits do not stop there, however. In addition to the illustrations, Nick shares his creativity through music. Signing to Freestyle Records, an independent label based in London, Nick’s debut album, ‘Colours’ was released in March 2011. The music is a cleaver blend influenced by soul, jazz, R&B, Latin and ska. He is also an avid surfer, riding for Howies ( and Empire Surfboards (

Below is the official music video by Chris Mannell for September (from the debut album, Colours). The tune was written a few years ago while in Ireland for The September Project, a book documenting a gathering of creatives experiences there.

How would you describe your music? Is Frootful a solo thing or is there an entire band involved?

Frootful began as a solo thing – I’ve been working as an illustrator under the name for a few years now, and it seemed right to continue it across to the music. The debut album, ‘Colours’ is a recording project of my own material, produced by my friend, Adam Gibbons (Lack of Afro), whose band I play in also. We play most of the instruments between us, featuring some other musicians and vocalists on the album who collaborate to co-write some of the music. The music itself is pretty varied, influenced by 60’s soul, jazz, (old) R&B, Latin and ska. To promote the album I have put together a live 6-piece band, The Frootful Art Ensemble; so called because we feature limited edition artists prints, which are sold alongside live shows.


Your style of bridging the gap between old and new seems to be reflected in both your music and art. Is paying tribute to the past in a new way your intention?

Definitely. In fact, that is the concept behind the name: creativity is often referred to as being fruitful; so with the respelling, Frootful, it acknowledges your roots and influences also; suggesting the creative process of looking back to move forward. This can obviously be applied to music, art and surfing.

What/who are your inspirations – past and present (musically, artistically, surfing)?

Most of my friends I have met through what I do, many of whom are very talented, so I would have to say they are the most inspiring to be around. Otherwise, there’s something about the 60s that I constantly refer back to stylistically. I’m into all sorts of music, but especially 60s soul and jazz. A bit of a mod you could say! Guitarists such as Grant Green, Kenny Burrell and BB King have been influential, with the tone of their instrument as much as their playing. The whole aesthetic behind that era and style of music influences my artwork also; LP covers, gig posters, Reid Miles, Charley Harper, Sister Corita Kent, Saul Bass etc. Plus contemporary artists such as Geoff McFetridge and Barry McGee. As for surfing, Dora, Nuuhiwa, plus the new school of shredders that are taking old templates and pushing them in a new direction.

Give us a little background as to who Nick Radford is. Talk about how you got started into illustration/graphic design as well as your musical endeavors. Did one lead to the other or did they both develop on their own?

I’ve always been heavily into music, and have been playing guitar (my main instrument) now for about 18 years. Funnily enough, I got my first guitar and board around the same time, so the two things I am most passionate about have developed alongside each other. I studied illustration at art college, and started a more graphic approach to my work through doing tee shirt designs and editorial work. I don’t think one led to the other as such, but the projects I enjoy the most are the ones where my interests cross over (album artwork for example).

Typography plays an essential role in a lot of your artwork I have seen. Why do you feel that the mixing of type and images works so well in your art? What is the key to blending the two together?

I think it comes from doing tee designs, and trying to slap someone round the face with an idea or concept within the fleeting moment they glance at a tee. I guess the key is to keep things minimal to communicate an idea visually with an intentional impact. A lot of typefaces appear too rigid alongside an illustration, so hand drawn type will always sit better depending on the context.

And, most importantly 🙂 – how does surfing fit in with all your artistic endeavors?

Well, the beauty of being self employed is you can plan around it. I think a good balance between work and play is really important, to keep ideas fresh and maintain a healthy lifestyle, so I get in the water as much as I can. With the music, on the other hand, it becomes more difficult. I’ve missed a lot of good swells while away on tour or gigging, but I don’t mind so long as it’s the music keeping me out of the sea, and not work!photo: James Bowden

photo: James Bowden

You have quite a few avenues to draw from for stoke. Is there one project or avenue that you are more focused on right now? And is there a project you are most proud of?

I’m more focused on the music right now, and the album is probably the project I am most proud of to date. I’m hoping to tour around Europe with the band in Autumn, so please check back here for updates:

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