Tom Dixon had a surprise up his sleeve for an audience gathered to hear his musical choices at Spiritland in King’s Cross last week – the Tunisian-born designer has a secret desire to go from micro to macro by becoming a city planner.
Dixon was asked by the NLA to pick eight tracks around which he could talk through his career in conversation with NLA chairman Peter Murray. But after detailing his early life in Tunisia – ‘I can only remember camels’, dropping out of the Chelsea School of Art to play bass in the band ‘Funkapolitan’ (including a ‘claim to fame’ appearance on Top of the Pops), and work at Habitat helping to re-establish the name, perhaps his biggest surprise was his bid to work at smaller scales on creating electronic music kit including drum machines for primary schools’ syllabuses and larger, with cities.
‘I’d like to do city planning’, said Dixon. ‘I think buildings are actually quite a small ambition, so maybe larger still. It’s quite nice to do macro to micro, but also making sure we do big scale. That’s again why I created my own company.’
Dixon said he had already created ‘some architecture’ for a client in Monaco who unfortunately does not want to publish it and does fear being put into a box or category as a certain kind of designer. He has even branched out into creating ‘washing up liquid’ – but also wants to get into civil engineering too.
Asked about his move to King’s Cross from an area that had become ‘sanitised, isolated and no longer creative’, Dixon said he was happy the way things are working out in his new ventures. ‘I was kind of sold on the idea that there was a community here’, he said. ‘I didn’t believe it for a minute but I have discovered it’. There was a diversity, he said, which he had not expected.
Dixon’s life in the funk band was as a bass player, and his love of Bowie and glam rock inspired some of his furniture, although life in the band supporting other big names like Bananarama and Simple Minds (but also The Clash on Broadway) once they had been signed up was not as good as its early, less well-known days.
Prompted by Dixon, Peter Murray also surprised the audience of dinner guests, whose menu fee goes in part to charity, by revealing that he once met Jimi Hendrix after a gig. ‘He was pretty catatonic, actually’, said Murray.
The talk, music and three-course dinner followed a tour of Tom Dixon’s new studios and new restaurant at Coal Drops Yard, alongside the Thomas Heatherwick-designed retail centre that opens later this year. The next subjects in this series feature Sadie Morgan and Michel Mossessian talking about the ideas that have guided them and the music that has inspired them.
Tom Dixon’s musical choices:
1) Edith Piaf - LA VIE EN ROSE
2) Fela Kuti - NO WATER NO ENEMY
3) Cream - CROSSROADS (live)
4) David Bowie - SPACE ODDITY
5) Althea and Donna - UPTOWN TOP RANKING
6) Funkadelic - ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE
7) Prince - I WANNA BE YOUR LOVER
8) Donna Summer - I FEEL LOVE
Images from the night can be viewed here.
By David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly