10 Oct 2016

Meet Joseph J Cox: Graphic designer and musician from Hull

We find out all about Joe and his string of creative projects.

Joseph J Cox runs an online shop, the arts and music collective Mola Mola records, the electronic music collective Squarewaves, as well as creating electronic music in his own project Azyss and being a design extraordinaire at H&H. For those of you who went along to Humber Street Sesh (HSS) in August, Joe and the creative team at H&H were the people behind that helpful map that guided you from stage to bar to the nearest toilet and that all important clashfinder which ensured you didn’t miss all that incredible live music.

We had a chat with Joe all about his unique illustrations for HSS, as well as his love of music, art and design.

Joseph Cox © Patrick Mateer

When was SquareWaves first set up? How many members are there altogether?

We’re coming up to our second birthday in a couple of months. It’s something that’s grown naturally over time, sprouting from Mola Mola. It’s effectively a record label that me and a friend, Michael, set up as a platform for our own music and to do stuff we love. SquareWaves has since outgrown Mola Mola and became a thing in its own right. We started with a SquareWaves compilation CD in 2014, which brought together local producers and was sold to raise money for RED Gallery, which had lost funding. We went down to FRüIT a couple of days after the release for Something Entirely Different’s Art And Beer night and met there. There are now around 16 different musicians who have engaged with us over the years. A quick browse of Instagram or wonderful Facebook groups like A Creative Hull quickly gets you in touch with loads of brilliant creative people also.

Joseph Cox © Patrick Mateer

How can people get involved with Squarewaves?

There are a lot of different things we’re doing that people can engage with, any level of experience is welcome. Electronic music is internationally popular, but we get that people often find it difficult to break out of their bedroom studios, or to find a place on local live music scenes in the early days. It’s best to keep an eye on our social media for what we’re up to, including dates for monthly jams.

Where do you find the inspiration for your work in Azyss?

I’ve experienced anxiety for a long time and discovering the ambient and kosmische music of the likes of Brian Eno, William Basinski and Tangerine Dream when I was younger helped hugely and went on to shape the music I make.

Over the years other influences have certainly come in – old science fiction and horror soundtracks in the way they can evoke a feeling from just a noise or texture, plus industrial and rhythmic noise music.

Can you talk us through your design ideas for the Humber Street Sesh this year?

The Humber Street Sesh brand evolves every year. I have to say a massive thank you to Mark Page (aka Mak, founder of Humber Street Sesh) for giving me such creative freedom with the Sesh design.

With so many stages covering so many different musical styles my aim is to start bringing individual identity to areas while keeping them within the overall style. In 2015, each stage poster kept the same festival illustration. This year each stage got unique illustration – the Hull University main stage had references to Larkin and Venn, plus album covers from bands that went to the university, for example. I delved into the rock cliches like skulls and fire for their stage; synths and cables for SquareWaves; sea creatures for the Deep stage and so on.

I love including local references and easter eggs, and this year also brought back an updated illustrated map originally created for 2014. My favourites being the Spider from Mars, Amy Johnson’s plane and although it’s pretty tiny, there’s a guy in a Throbbing Gristle t-shirt standing on the site of their old warehouse from their COUM Transmissions days.

You seem to be involved in a lot of projects, what does creativity mean to you?

For me, creativity is about getting those ideas that float around your head out into the world – be that on a public platform or just at home trying new things. It’s about experimentation and finding those little moments of joy where everything clicks together. Those happy accidents are one of the things I love about improvisation – usually in music but also in design and art. Using loose structures, rules and motifs to follow but beyond that it’s just a matter of trying things and suddenly everything comes together and it’s wonderful when it does.

Joseph Cox © Patrick Mateer

What does Hull becoming UK City of Culture in 2017 mean to you?

It’s massive. I love how 2017 isn’t even here yet and already brought creative people out of the woodwork and empowered them to do things they might not have had the confidence to do before. Everyone’s putting themselves out there, and so we can all see everyone’s great ideas and find people that share similar creative visions – perfect for finding those exciting collaborations. It’s already proving to be the case as SquareWaves have managed to find all sorts of fantastic people to work with and get some exciting things happening.

Check out Joe and his partner Alice’s online shop Form, which sells art prints, stationery and cards, and Joe’s website, which has more info on all of the above exciting projects.


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