Many in the arts community and beyond are familiar with the art of Andrew “Android” Jones, or they may have seen his mind-boggling animations on tour with Shpongle, Bassnectar, Tipper and other electronic leviathans. He’s credited with being one of the foremost pioneers and the most promising leader in multimedia psychedelic art today. Innovations like his SAMSKARA 360 projection-mapped dome experience have already made waves at Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, and other events.
His career over the years has spanned from sketching to digital painting and from VR to AR, and he's especially rare as a creative figure for his celebrated ability to move from one medium to the next almost effortlessly - but where did it all start? To find out, EDM.com caught up with the enigmatic figure for an inside understanding of his origins.
To begin the story, Jones brought us all the way back to his childhood at about five years old. It was then that he remembers his art raising eyebrows; as far back as before preschool when a stumped instructor pulled his parents aside to talk about the intricacies of his overly creative doodling.
“I remember I did this drawing and the teacher brought my parents in and said 'This is unique,'” Jones told EDM.com. “I started lessons from eight onward. My artist identity started to develop that early on and I’ve been doubling down ever since.”
He drew with ever-increasing detail and ornamentalism as his practice expanded to incorporate one technique or medium after the next, an uncle began lovingly spoofing his name. Andrew became "Android." The nickname has been a fixture of his identity ever since.
As he grew older, he was admitted into the Ringling School, which had a sister school that, like Android, was well ahead of the time. “MAPS came out of that school,” said Jones proudly. “They had some really advanced chemists at that school, too, so before I learned how psychedelics could become a tool for altering creative consciousness in art school, I had my own private visionary art, which was making art in different stages of consciousness. I’d lock the doors and turn the phone off for like two or three days and just make a bunch of crazy art.”
It was an experiment in self-discovery that he grew timid of sharing with others. Back then, mushrooms, cannabis and other substances weren’t regarded for the same spiritual or medicinal benefits that they are recognized to offer today. Especially in the art community around which Android grew up, skilled traditionalists were less than progressive when it came to psychedelics.
After studying in the University of Colorado Boulder and graduating with a degree in Computer Animation and Fine Arts from the Ringling School of Art and Design in Florida, he went for a “real job” and worked for several years in the film and video game industries. “I was working for Nintendo in Austin, Texas," he said. "I was their concept artist for Metroid Prime for like five years. Then I started my own studio where I was the creative director.”
While his career was certainly a success, Jones' extracurricular style wasn’t something he was able to learn from the traditional artists - nor from those in corporate America, even with Nintendo. He knew he was onto something though, so he continued to develop his experimental craft at home on the weekends as if trying on different states of consciousness like hats. “I learned early on that if people didn’t understand it, then it was better just not to let them know,” he explained. “I wasn’t trying to recruit anybody and people had their own judgments around it, so it was something that I just kept secret.”
He had made friends with Boulder, Colorado Artists Robert Venosa and Martina Hoffman, and in 2016 they invited Android to an event called SynerGenesis. The event was an art show that happened to be taking place a block or two away from his then-home in Soma. At the time it was just a stroll down the street, but today Android remembers the experience as a catalyst that changed his art and his life.
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“I just walked down the block and coming into the building I saw this wild, bohemian, skinny white dude with these two dreadlocked, tattooed girls carrying this huge psychedelic blacklight canvas through the doors and thinking 'what is going on in here?'” Android recalled with an enthusiastic nostalgia. “That was the big bang where I met Luke Brown, Carey Thompson, Xavi, Alex Grey, Andrew Gonzalez, Mark Hensen - all the heavy hitters of the time. The realization was that the work I was doing on my own in these psychedelic binges - it was a really important part of my personality that I had to keep hidden because when it was revealed to colleagues it was something that was demonized or looked down upon - I realized what I thought was a liability in this scene, you were celebrated in that one. As far as how fast I switched gears: Well, they couldn’t punch my ticket fast enough.”
The key to success in psychedelic creativity binging, according to Jones, was a great playlist.
“Music was always really important. I learned having a playlist setup was one of the most important, influential things to do. It’s primary for any journey. So I would have a sort of ceremonial playlist, with Bitchesbrew, Vivaldi, Miles Davis or classical music.” He also would include some downtempo electronic music and found himself frequently exploring electronic sounds that musically mirrored the same creative journey he found himself on within his own art. “At the same time, I was stumbling upon the full immersion into creative visionary art culture that included music, performance and gathering,” Jones told EDM.com. “That’s when I discovered Tipper, Bassnectar, Random Rab and Bluetech.”
By this time, Jones had already been attending Burning Man for a few years, and he valued his ability to make a living with his art. Shortly after 2003, though, he sauntered into the transformative gathering's El Circo dome where he had an epiphany that changed his outlook on the power and pervasiveness of the arts community.
“There was a moment where the pieces started to come together. One night I remember stumbling into the El Circo dome where Bassnectar was playing and everyone was dressed up like these crazy cosplay future techno feather leather vampires,” he recalled. “It felt like everybody in the community had become this well-oiled machine. To find that this thing had been happening underground independently and to see it in the El Circo dome in full bloom around 2004 or 2005, I just saw it but didn't even have a full understanding of what it was - only that I wanted to be a part of it. It was like, 'How is this happening? Why? And, how do I join up?”
Between the friendships he made at SynerGenesis and the inspiration he found in El Circo, Android saw things more clearly than ever and knew he would be at home in the visionary arts movement as it continued blossoming in the Burner community. Jones said, “I jumped in with both feet and made a bunch of really great friends and shuffled the pieces of my life around to make this the focal point.” Now as a fully tenured artist at age 42, Jones sees SynerGenesis as a pivotal time in his life. Despite it disbanding by 2009, El Circo was the spark that ignited a flame that many festivals and electronic artists in the woke milieu still burn today.
“Symbiosis wouldn’t be what it was without el Circo. Lightning in a Bottle wouldn’t be where it is now without the concentration of all those creative people together,” Jones told us. “Bassnectar got a lot of inspiration from them; so did Random Rab. There’s also visual influence in Tipper’s work and in fashion design. Whenever I see someone with a feather earring I can tell there’s some facet of the impact they had. Oscura Digital is a company and they had a lot of El Circo employees, so they impacted that organization in a big way. Any of the Fractal Nation or Fractal Planet camps have traces of it. Even the Fomogenesis Camp has some remnants there. There are so many tentacles that it’s actually really hard to trace it.”
In 2020, the art of Android Jones can be enjoyed when the MOVA dome returns to Lightning in a Bottle on Memorial Day Weekend. Several other exhibitions have yet to be announced.
To learn more about Android Jones, tune in and ask him a question directly during his upcoming Reddit AMA. It will be hosted on the r/ElectronicMusic thread on Monday, February 10th at 2:00 PM PST.