Nick Knight Speaks on Shooting Travis Scott's 'Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight' Album Cover
The SHOWStudio director speaks on his involvement in Scott’s sophomore album.
Travis Scott’s album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, recently debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, propelled by the strength of hit singles like “pick up the phone,” “biebs in the trap,” and “all through the late night.” The album represents the maximum extension of Scott’s gothic-trap sound and his knack for collaborations, both musically and aesthetically. It should come as no surprise, then, that Scott reached out to fashion super-photographer Nick Knight to help capture the visuals for the album’s artwork, which show Travis shrouded in chiaroscuro, his boundless energy lending him a vibrating aura; blunt smoke cascading from his mouth, Scott’s dark wings are edited to look glitched with echoes of datamoshing. Scott deliberately chose pieces by designer Martine Rose and Gosha Rubchinskiy because they were mobile and dynamic and responded to the G.O.O.D Music artist’s energetic physical performance.
HYPEBEAST spoke to Knight, the SHOWStudio director and legendary fashion film pioneer, about how the collaboration came about, how he feels album covers contribute to an artist’s overall aesthetic, and whether we can expect more from their creative pairing in the future.
What kind of vibe were you going for with these visuals?
It’s a real reflection of Travis. I was picking up the aesthetic that Travis has already shown, and to some degree, picking up on an image that might hold some resonance with the title of the album. When Peter Saville and I used to do album covers, he would tell me not to try too hard to get close to the album title but rather to do the best possible image — that was more important.
How did you want these images to be received by his fans and listeners of the album?
I used to spend a lot of my time during my childhood in the 1970’s looking at album covers on records. Album art was very important: I would study the picture on the front of the sleeve while listening to the album. People used to put a lot of time and energy into album covers back then, and I think people still want to look at the imagery and see a continuum of the sound.
Whoever you’re working with, you need to express what they do aurally, visually. It’s like trying to imagine the sound of a Jackson Pollock or a Basquiat — putting that concept in reverse.
How was the concept conceived; for instance, did Travis approach you with an idea, did you guys brainstorm over a listening session, etc.?
Travis and I hadn’t personally met before the shoot, we’d been aware of each other only through third parties for the last few years. We worked together when Travis recorded the narrative for the “Seven Deadly Sins” project to celebrate Edward Enninful, but we had been waiting to collaborate properly. Then it all seemed to happen very fast — he phoned me on the Tuesday and we shot on the Thursday. It was more of a meeting of minds rather than a pre-planned visual concept.
Why were brands like Gosha and Martine Rose chosen for wardrobe?
Travis seems to have a real understanding of what’s popular and what’s exciting in fashion at the moment. Both Gosha and Martine Rose are currently doing amazing things so it makes sense that Travis chose their designs. Travis chooses his clothes and they are clearly both designers who excite him. As you can see, he mainly wears Martine Rose in the album cover. I think he also wanted clothes that would move in a particular way during shooting. He really was leaping and jumping and throwing himself around in the studio and that meant that in the imagery the garments would form particular shapes. I particularly noticed that in one of the images the silhouette of a collar stuck up around his neck in a manner that became almost demonic. He chose clothes that could move, clothes that create their own shapes depending on his movement. This shows a good understanding of the process of making imagery, which I think he has.
How did you guys work together during the shoot and post-production?
During the shoot, Travis could see what was happening on screen, he could see the images as we took them. He was very physical during shooting — literally throwing himself through the air, bursting with this exuberant energy. He exhausted himself in his performance, no energy was saved. After that, post-production was simple because the images were pretty much there on shoot but we would email each other back and forth. Mainly we could see the images when they came out there on the screen.
What did you think of the talented, sometimes enigmatic artist?
I thought he was a real inspiration to work with. It’s seldom you meet people with that desire to be so physical, to create performances through that complete physical exertion. The unique thing was his desire to create those exceptional shapes, as an image maker, that was really inspiring.
Have you listened to the album? If so, what do you think of it?
It’s great. He played it throughout the session. It sounded amazing and was an amazing experience, playing the album through the studio as he performed during the shoot.
Can we expect another collaboration between you and Travis?
I think we can. I would certainly love to. There are things being talked about and I would be thrilled and honored to work with him again.
- Robert Marshall/HYPEBEAST