An Interview with Artist, Designer and DJ Neil Metzner

neil metzner interview

On 30th November 2017, Coggles celebrated the opening of its brand-new store in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. As well as food, drinks and showcasing the latest space, we had Neil Metzner on the decks – an artist and graphic designer by day, DJ by night. We sat down with Neil just before the event to find out about his creative process, his career highlight, and how he manages to juggle all three.


Firstly – you’re DJing at the opening of the new Coggles store. What’s on your playlist?

Well, I think I’m playing for about four hours, so I will need a fairly large selection. I’m going for a funky, uplifting vibe – nothing too deep and nothing to completely blow the roof off! There are quite a lot of really cool tunes around at the moment that sample old disco records, they sound great and I think they will work well, so I’ll be playing a few of those. Also, there’s an excellent production team in Leeds called Groove Technicians that was set up by Scott Lees, and he’s just sent me over some of their new productions and remixes. They’ve done some great work with New York DJ/ Producer Victor Simonelli, so I’ll definitely be playing that!

What’s been your best gig (apart from this one, of course)?

I was a resident DJ at UpYerRonson in Leeds. It started in 1992, and we had amazing guest DJs from all around the world, and a great crowd every week, so all of those Friday nights that we did were really special. I loved Paradiso in Amsterdam. Not only is it a great venue, but the list of people who have played there is pretty special too… The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Chic, Nirvana… the list goes on and on! So to play somewhere with such an amazing history (it opened in 1968) and musical heritage was a real privilege.

neil metzner art lust-monster-munch-still-life

And what would be your dream one?

I would love to have played at The Sound Factory in New York, in the early 1990s when Junior Vasquez held his residency there. It had a really strong musical style, and for a time was probably the most influential club on the planet. Concorde was still flying then too, so that would be the perfect way to get there! Anyway, back to the present… I’ve never been to Glastonbury – I’d love to play there – it would be amazing to take part in that festival. I’d have to stay in the glamping bit though!

As well as a DJ you’re an artist and designer… how do you find the time to do everything?

My day starts early. I usually try to get in my painting studio for about 5am. I like to paint when it’s quiet and there aren’t many people about at that time so it’s perfect. I’m a partner in a design agency called Black_Inc and luckily my painting studio and office are only about five minutes away from each other which helps the transition from one to the other. The DJing is an evening thing, so it all works out. If you really want to do something enough, you just find the time.

neil metzner dj

Do you have a favourite out of the three or do they all feed into each other?

For as far back as I can remember art and music have both been a big part of my life. They haven’t really crossed over in to my painting but when I first started DJing people started to ask me to design flyers for their club nights (because they knew I’d been to art school). I didn’t even know how to turn a Mac on at the time, let alone use one, but after a couple of weeks I’d had my first posters and flyers printed… as you can imagine, it wasn’t my best work! DJing is really good fun, but painting is my muse, and it becomes more interesting and engaging the older you get, so if I had to pick only one it would be painting.

Your artwork is pretty distinctive. How would you describe your style and process?

I’m interested in metaphor and iconography, and how motifs can be used as a trigger that will connect with the viewer and in turn kick-start some kind of reaction and open up a dialogue. I think it’s important to engage with our surroundings and on a broader scale the times we live in. As a result, my images can be sad, intense, scary, funny, stupid and dumb. The working and questioning process always sows new seeds of thought and leads me to the next thing in a logical way. The next thing doesn’t always work out, but then the mistakes take you somewhere unexpected and that’s good. Generally, the story of a painting is a story of adjustments and the style is born from that process.

metzner pickled-onion-flavour-still-life

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

I showed at Transition Gallery in London a couple of years ago. It’s a well-respected gallery run by two really good painters – Cathy Lomax and Ali Sharma, and lots of painters I admire have shown there too, so that was a good experience. I’ve got a solo show coming up in Leeds – May 2018, so I’m working towards that at the moment.

What can we expect to see next?

Whenever new ideas spring to mind I quickly scribble them down in my sketch book, and make a visual note. I’ve got things in there that I’ll probably pick up on after I’ve had my Leeds show. I still want to explore the same theme I’m working on now but I’ve got ideas to push certain elements in different directions – maybe making the pictures a bit more frenetic or busy?

Interview by Angharad Jones

Sarah Atkinson

Sarah Atkinson

Writer and expert