An interview with Mochilla’s B+

We chat with Brian Cross aka B+ of Mochilla about hip hop and photography ahead of his POP Montreal events this week.

Brian Cross aka B+ of Mochilla
Brian Cross is both chronicler and contributor to hip hop. The Irish native has spent over 20 years on US shores documenting the evolution of the culture.

He and Eric Coleman, partner in creative venture company Mochilla hit POP for two events, tonight at Concordia in conversation with Narcy and Thursday at Artgang for We Are The Medium, also featuring local DJ duos the Goods and Voyage Funktastique.

We caught up with B+ by email to get familiar.

Darcy MacDonald: Please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you, where are you from, and how did you become involved in the culture of hip hop?

B+: I’m Brian Cross, aka B+. I’m from Limerick, Ireland and I had been listening to hip hop since I lived in Ireland but became involved in shooting it while in Grad School at CalArts in 1990.

DM: What are your favorite aspects of what you do as Mochilla, whether on corporate work, videography, design—what can you most get into?

B+: I think the best thing about Mochilla is that it’s a union born out of necessity.

Eric (Coleman, fellow photog and partner in Mochilla) and I are very good friends, we have been friends since like the first day we met, back at the end of ’96.

But Mochilla is a place where Eric and I do things. What it has come to represent is something photo driven and music inspired. It has allowed me to become a director, to dream bigger than I was previously, it has drawn some of the brightest creatives to us. I’m thinking of Luke Lunch, the editor here, or Michael Park the photographer, Laith Majali the photographer or indeed Keith Tamashiro and Stephen Serato, both incredible designers.

DM: You’ll be in discussion with Narcy, who calls you fam, in the hip hop course he teaches at Concordia—how did you all link up originally?

B+: Narcy is friends with several friends of ours from the Middle East and I can’t remember if he came by the office first or if we met him at SXSW first, but he is an amazing cat with a good story and we’ve worked with him a few times so this is an extension of that.

DM: If you would please say something about the photo exhibit you’ll be showing at POP Montreal—is there a theme, or is it a retrospective of both of your careers as photogs?

B+: The bones of the show is a series of photos we printed analog style for a ten year retrospective that we did in San Francisco in 2008. But we’ve added some extra bells and whistles for this show—Eric has just made a series of small prints and I’ve made some mural sized prints. It all rests now in the installation!

DM: I’ve read that you both “prioritize engagement over production value” but what does that mean in a hands-on practical way to your crafts?

B+: A simple explanation is that we are more acutely sensitive to the context and temporality of the engagement than some preconceived notion of what should happen when the engagement occurs.

Put more simply: the light that is there is more important than the light that you bring! Apply that to everything—mood, context, clothing, make-up. It’s a photography of acceptance rather than imposition—but to a point!

DM: What do you make, individually, of the increasingly photo-centric world we live in (ie: ‘pics or it didn’t happen,’ or simply that everyone thinks they are a photographer these days—which is funny if you think about it, ‘cuz we used to say exactly that about DJs too and it’s only become more true).

B+: Look, this is a very complicated issue! I personally love doing something well enough to live off of it that millions of people appreciate and practice everyday now.

However, screen time is impacting our everyday lives in extraordinary ways and this isn’t all good. Eric is an Instagrammer and can perhaps speak to this better. I’m sure this will be subject of discussion at the artists talk!

DM: What does a Mochilla DJ set have in store for the audience?

B+: Oh man! Lots of variation! We both love lots of music from all over the place so expect lots of stuff you haven’t heard before.

And while we both come from a background very inspired by hip hop, we both play outside that box. I’m more the ‘play early, set the vibe’ DJ and Eric is more the ‘smash the last hour guy,’ so let’s see where this takes us. ■
Brian Cross aka B+ will appear today with Yassin ‘Narcy’ Alsalman in conversation at POP Montreal Symposium panel We Are the Medium at Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve W., #H-100, 6 p.m., free

Brian Cross aka B+ & Eric Coleman of Mochilla will launch a retrospective exhibition of photographs, If It Fits in a Backpack, at Artgang 6524 St-Hubert, Thursday, Sept. 17, 5 p.m., DJ sets beginning at 7 p.m. from Mochilla & Friends, The Goods and Voyage Funktastique (Walla P. & Mahdi), $15