March 14, 2014
July 29, 2013
Here is some news: We have signed The Moms, which is three guys playing punk rock from New Jersey. Their 7" is called Viva! and it is shipping now. Also, you can check out the music video for "Bedtime" here: http://bit.ly/NetFk0
The vinyl is limited to 250 on ultra clear with yellow splatter!
As if that's not enough, these guys will be putting out a full-length with us in November and touring around their Fest 12 appearance! More dates coming later....
North Providence, RI
University of New Haven
New Haven CT
The Mill Hill
Alamogordo New Mexico
Buzzbin Magazine Art & Music Shop
June 17, 2013
Jonathan DuBose is not just a toy maker. He's an artist too. DuBose has been responsible for all those cool skulls we have been releasing over the last few months. Tim the intern sat down with Jonathan to discuss his D.I.Y. ethic, sending copies of his daughter's hand to relatives and his fully wearable Predator suit. We are about to launch two new skulls for the new Light Years and From Hell records and you can check out Jonathan's other work here.
How did you hook-up with Vinnie initially? Did he contact you?
Initially, we were linked through my paint vendor Matt Walker at MonsterKolor. He said Vinnie was looking for a resin guy and I had been working with Matt at that time and he connected us together. The rest is kind of history.
Could you explain the process of making resin figures?
As far as the process goes; we start with an original. If it’s hollow, I gotta make it a solid. In most cases I just fill it with sand. It’s the cheapest and easiest way to solidify the hollow prototype. Then I’ll do my silicone mold of it with a pressure pot. Dye my resin and pour the mold. On the marbling it’s a totally different process with the two batches which I have to do and can take a lot of timing.
What was it about molding that attracted you to it?
When I first started doing molding and casting I did larger scale stuff. I made myself a Predator suit. Like, a fully wearable Predator suit. I started of doing special effects at first, but the market was not great. You can make a million one pieces at a time for special effects or you could do it ten months at a time with toys. So, about 10 months ago I started switching my efforts from special effects, movie props and stuff like that to smaller resin toys. The market is way better and me as an artist, I need to market myself so I can survive. This is all I do. Resin production and making toys.
Did you go to school for art?
I did go to school. In high school I was a big art freak while I was there. I went to college for a little while and majored in fine arts, but I didn’t really much direction in what I wanted to do. So, I was playing with a rock band and we ended up getting signed and all that good stuff. We recorded an album out in LA. It was produced but then the whole band thing kind of fell apart. The singer got into drugs and all that crap and couldn’t keep his shit together. That was the end of that. After all that, I was a repo man. That got too dangerous. I saw too many guns. People really like their big screen TVs apparently. Eventually I had a chance to go back to college to try and finish my school. At that point I was majoring in graphic design and minoring in fine arts. Couple years into it I switched and started majoring in fine arts. I was primarily focusing on sculptures. As far as the molding and casting stuff goes, I learned that outside of college. Researching on the internet, reading, lots of trial and error, lots of money wasted, but it was a learning process and it all got me to where I am.
Did you ever think you would end up making toys or was it just something happened?
No way dude.
Was it just the next logical step?
When I started making my own little art stuff here and there it was selling OK. Then one day I was going through all these toys on Instagram and was like, “Wow, all these toys are awesome. I could do that!” and I felt like I could make a cooler toy. So I thought to myself, “I can build this with a smaller budget”, because at that point my big prop costume fund was exhausted and I needed to make money to pay the bills. I started making smaller stuff and the name started getting around. Eight months later I’m well over 1,000 followers. I got nominated for a designer toy award. I’ve only been concentration on toys for 8 or 9 months. November was when I started really focusing on toys and smaller stuff. Before that I was making Movie props and costumes.
What is it about the toy market that draws people to do it? Why do you think it’s so popular right now?
The whole designer toy industry seems to be really growing. New artists popping up. Fans are growing exponentially. There are a lot of artists out there that did primarily did painting and are now making toys. The three-dimensional aspect is important. You can touch and feel it. You can hold or turn it around and look at it. Turn it upside down and it’s physical. It’s not a two-dimensional painting on the wall that you can sit and stare at. It just has a totally physical appeal. It’s hard to explain, but the market seems to be growing and growing.
It’s kind of weird because it’s not like an action figure or something like that. It’s just something that is there. You can put it somewhere and display it. It’s a weird kind of market.
Exactly. There are people who actually make action figures within in the industry. Full articulation and everything. It’s incredible. I’m actually working on some magnetic articulation today on a piece of mine.
Cool. Are action figures something you’d really like to get into?
Most definitely. Those are really time consuming, considering the articulation and I’d have to have a budget for it. It’s not something I could do on my own real quick. It would be a long over-time extensive project for myself, but if someone wanted me to make them an action figure I would do it. Absolutely. I really wanna do it, but I gotta get the right job on it. I do live casting too. I do all sorts of 3-dimensional art. Recently, I lifecast copies of my daughters hand and made copies for the family. They loved it. A lot of her family live all across the country and they never get to see their granddaughter, but they get a soft foam hand of their granddaughter they can squeeze and feel. Oh man!
This is that also a thing? Do you get people who just want personalized things for them?
I get all kinds of commission work. With the life casting I do that mainly local because I have to travel. I do that locally with the live casting of the hands and body parts and stuff like that. More personalized gifts for like mother’s day or Christmas. I also do the shrinking so I can shrink down pieces and make key-chains and smaller items out of it too. All sorts of stuff. Man, it can really be a bit insane over here. You never know what’s gonna come in. Every morning there’s an e-mail and something new pops up. My wife and I do our best to get it all done. She is my financial motivator She handles the finances and tells me to get shit done.
Do you like having that kind of workload? Do you find it more motivating when you have that much work to do at one time?
Oh yeah. I don’t like to sit around and have nothing to do. No, I need something to do. If I’m not doing something I’m pacing around. I like to be busy. It really lights a fire under my ass to get the work done. I’ve got so much to do so I gotta clear my plate so I can refill it. That’s how a lot of work with Paper + Plastick goes. Vinnie will give me a nice little list of stuff to work on and I try to knock it out as fast as possible. As far I know, the stuff I do for Vinnie is tied in with album releases and what not. So, Paper + Plastick are a top priority for me. I’ll drop my own projects to knock something out for Vinnie real quick.
Going back to the idea of a niche market. What do you think it is about putting out the skulls with the records that makes it appealing to someone just buying a record?
It’s something else that they the fan's can get that the record that maybe the album can’t give. You can’t take a record to work.... Well, you could but everybody will be like "what's this guy/gal doing with a huge vinyl album on their desk?" But you can take a small little skull or and put it in your cubicle or on your desk and that’s badass. It’s something physical that you can take along with you. Also, there’s the collection aspect. People are actively collecting these things and I’ve heard people ask if they could buy some more and I’m just like, “Wow.” Just kind of taken back. It’s crazy. This has been a whole new experience for me and it’s been awesome.
They do go pretty fast.
Dude, tell me about it. It takes me longer to make them then it takes them to sell! I’ll put two or three days into it producing a nice healthy batch and they’re gone in a minute. No complaints from us!
I was here one day when they launched the mini-skulls with the charms inside and they were gone almost instantly.
Yeah, by the time I had a chance to re-tweet that they’re available.. they were already gone! A release day is a madhouse around here. It’s very exciting. I’m really looking forward to the making more.
Have you seen an increase in interest of your work?
Most definitely. I’ve never had a post on Clutter Magazine, but working with Vinnie I’ve got a post up there. It’s a real cross-promotional type of thing going on here. I’ve gotten a lot of Paper + Plastick fans digging my work. There’s a lot of cross-promotional things going on. I think I’ve gotten more followers from Paper + Plastick then they have from me. I love it. I love all the likes and the comments people leave. I live in a small town. It’s a small community. I hardly leave the house and all this attention and work has been incredible. I’m really shocked that I’ve been able to do all this while sitting here at the house on the internet. I’m thankful for all of it and very thankful for my fans.
Would you consider expanding if you had to? Or do you enjoy working at home?
I would like to keep it at home. I have a nice size shop and a nice sized little property here in town, but eventually I’m gonna have to expand. Eventually I’m gonna have to take on an intern or something to help me out. Besides my work with P+P I have other artists that come to me and want me to do their resin production. They’ll send me their sculps and make their molds and at some point I’m gonna need help. In order for my art to grow and to continue doing my original stuff along with my client work I’m gonna have to and I look forward to it. I really do. At that point I’ll handle my own personal work and my other big “important” employees and handle my important, but not as important employees. Doing molds and easy stuff. I’ll have my intern handle that.
I like how it’s kind of similar to the DIY, punk rock spirit that record labels embody.
Exactly. I’m all about the do-it-yourself stuff. Everything, including my pressure pots have been do-it-yourself. My pressure casting pots are all homemade.
I think it’s cool that you do it all out of your house.
We really try to cut cost. I could get an outside studio, but then I’ll have to pay overhead on that plus my house payment. I wouldn't be able to operate. I’m the only one working, aside from the help I receive from my wife. But yeah, it’s all under one roof. Work and family kind of gets mixed. The house-flow and the work-flow. It’s a very hectic dance around here, but we manage to get it all done.Here at the house it’s me, my wife, my three year old daughter and my 80 year old father. It’s just us four here and he’s retired, so we handle all his meds and his health care stuff along with doing the art. It can be a madhouse here. The crazy old man drives me crazy. I’m sure I did it to him at one point.
June 10, 2013
Nowadays, vinyl is on the rise. One of the things that appeals to people is the packaging. How important do you still think it is today for people who collect vinyl?
One of the most important aspects of that whole vinyl experience is, for me personally, I always felt it was incredible inclusive of the music for me to sit down on the couch, put the record down and while the whole time the record was playing it was never in the background. I’m sitting on the couch, I’m opening this 12” X 24” giant artwork and I’m reading the lyrics. I’m reading the credits. I know who engineered this record. I’m reading lyrics. I’m sitting down and really listening to it and I always felt it always made the music more important. Nowadays you kinda cherry pick an MP3 here and there, throw it on in the car maybe or while you’re working, but one of my favorite things in the world was just to buy the record, put it on the turntable and just pour over that packaging. It’s one of my favorite parts about record collecting is when I get a cool package. Whether it’s a screen-printed cover or whatever. It doesn't even have to have a gimmick. If the artwork is perfect for what the music is I can stare at a solid color. I think it’s very important. It’s one of my favorite aspects to it. As far as one of the things Vinnie does, he’s got one foot in that vinyl collector, tangible product that’s kind of on the rise but is sort of looked at like a wayback machine but then there’s things like instant digital downloads or watching Youtube videos or Tweet this and get a free download. There’s all kinds of ways I really appreciate as a vinyl collector, if I didn’t know Vinnie or Paper and Plastick, I was always appreciate the way Paper + Plastick thanks the listener for purchasing the physical object by making sure you can enjoy it in any format. I’m a sucker for colored vinyl and all that stuff. I think it’s very important. I think it gives the listener a reason to make the purchase instead of just downloading it or just throwing it into your iTunes library to get lost. It gives the listener a better experience, so that’s my personal experience.
Going back to growing up and maturity with punk rock in the background. I noticed on your website you did some work with the Strawberry Shortcake comic series. How did you come from drawing Less Than Jake’s logo to Strawberry Shortcake?
I never thought about this. I think if you put the cover of a Strawberry Shortcake comic next to some of the cleaner images of the Evolution Kid I think there’s a little similarity there in that there are times when I've grown up and I’m suppose to decide if I should call myself an artist, an illustrator, or a designer, but I always considered myself a cartoonist. I don’t find that that’s immature to think of myself. I know I do a lot more, but I think if I look at the cartoonish style that I've used for Less Than Jake I think it has a total carry over to kids properties. Also, I had a day job for about 5 years doing packaging for children’s products and that included coloring books, art kits and working with licensed characters like Strawberry Shortcake. So, being a comic book fan as much as I am a vinyl enthusiast I was really excited to do comic book work, but specifically for children. I think was during that period was someone would be like, “What are you working on?” And I’d go “Well, I’m doing Strawberry Shortcake by day and punk rock skulls and guts by night.” All I gotta do is not confuse the two things and let them spill over. I’m not sure what Strawberry Shortcake does for my punk rock cred, but I’m incredibly proud that my first comic book work was the cover for Strawberry Shortcake because I have nephews, but I also have a niece who’s really special to me and the fact that my first comic book work was a comic book made for little girls. There’s nothing on the shelves for little girls to get into comics. I feel incredibly proud that my first foray from punk rock into comic books was something really cool for little girls. The first issue had a scratch and sniff strawberry cover, so that’s that kind of cool like getting a glow-in-the-dark 7” record. I think I make the transition OK, but sometimes I gotta remember when I’m making something for kids it’s gotta be really for kids. I love that I can do cross-overs though and I think it’s a pretty good transition. Above all, I’m very grateful that I get to do it.
I also really like the Dr. Seuss-esque artwork on the Coffee Projects’ Moved On record. Have you always aspired to do more children’s oriented art?
Well, I was friends with the Coffee Project for awhile, especially since I knew Buddy. For that particular record, which was the third one I did for them, it was one of the biggest compliments. When they first got in touch with me they told me they wanted art that was Peter meets Dr. Seuss and it was just kind of an honor just to hear that sentence. It took a lot of back and forth, but I think we got it. I was really proud of it. What a great concept and what a phenomenal record. I would love to do children’s books. I would love to do original stuff. I’m really grateful to do a Strawberry Shortcake here and there, but I would love to my own children’s books. I think that is something I’m going to get into.
Also, I think I must have always aspired to do this kind of art because from age 0-18 all I knew was cartoons and comic books and children’s books. When I was graduating high school I didn't really know what I was gonna do, I just knew I was good at it. I was good at drawing and had this great heart-to-heart with my parents and I was able to go to an art school. Even in art school, I just assumed I was gonna be an animator for cartoons or something. Even though I've read children’s books I still somehow never put two and two together. Then I had a teacher who said I should check out illustration. “Illustration is already what you love to do. Record covers, t-shirts, comic books, children’s books.” and so that’s when I pursued illustration more. Design, packaging and layout just kind of came after. I think in some ways I almost always only aspired to do children’s books and comics and stuff like that. I also always liked music and punk rock and records. It was only the last ten years of my life where I really started to merge the two. Even when I was in high school the greatest feeling in the world was going to a punk rock show and seeing your t-shirt for sale. I was still not putting two and two together and going, “Oh I can do that and get paid for it!” So it’s taking a backseat now. I currently do packaging for music, but I've always aspired to that and I kind of just lost track for awhile.
I know earlier you mentioned how you were getting more into layout like with the Make Do and Mend record. Do you find that really fulfilling as well?
Yeah. That’s really important to me. This great designer Rob Dobi took these great photos and did the layout, but through a series of events it was up to me to engineer this one of a kind never done before die-line. It was really close to the holidays so it was kind of crunch time, but I was super proud of it. I can definitely draw something, but I can’t necessarily make something. With my experience with record packaging and toy packaging I was able to work with the manufacturers to produce something that’s never been made before and I was incredibly proud of that. I think starting with the first Coffee Project 10”, that was a really important record for me because that marked a change where I had gone from someone that gets an e-mail saying,” Would you do the cover for our record?” and I would draw something or paint something and I’d e-mail it over to them. After that it would be up to someone else to do the logo and the layout and all that stuff. It was totally out of my hands, but with Coffee Project it was the first time I was responsible for 100 percent of the design. From the labels to the type-face. Granted, you get input from Vinnie and the band and everything. I’m not saying this is all coming out of my brain, but that was the record that I decided that I only want to do 100 percent of the record packaging. I think it’s made me a better artist. I think it’s made me a better designer and I think it’s made for way better packaging than before. I can tell you right now when I notice that someone just gave Cannibal Corpse that painting and they just slapped their logo on top willy-nilly. I just love that I can look at stuff and go, “I might find faults in my work, but I am proud that 100 percent of my hand is in it” and with something like the Riot Before and We Are the Union’s most recent record or even the lyric insert for the Swellers EP and some other things, that is my actual handwriting and I’m really proud of that. It’s the easiest thing in the world to find a font, but I’m already reading the lyrics anyway to do the layout and to also get drawings done and concepts done, so I felt really strongly about writing the lyrics out. With the Riot Before, I’m kind of embarrassed to say that the writing took me longer than the artwork and I’m even more embarrassed to admit that I had to ice my wrist down. When I look at the final record I’m so insanely proud of that aspect. For someone like me who loves vinyl packaging and sits on the couch and listens to that record, I think you can really tell you can really tell the difference or maybe only me? I can tell the difference and I’m insanely proud about that kind of stuff.
What are some current projects you’re working on right now?
I’ve been doing a lot of little things here and there. I have my fingers in a bunch of different cookie jars. I like that I’m doing not just punk rock record covers and t-shirts and comic books, but I’m also doing a menu for a vegan bakery or a logo for a private school for children and things like that. As far as how punk rock has influenced my work ethic, for better or for worse I am passionate, but I don’t tend to stay with the same thing for very long. It’s one of the reasons I do penciled watercolor. It’s a very fast, active medium and you’re sort of not really in control so you are relying on this sloppy and passionate happy accidents. So, I think for me what I’m translating into what I’m working on, I never get bored. A record might take months. It might only be 10 hours of work, but with the back and forth it can take a large amount of time. I’m always on to the next thing though. I’m always moving onto the next thing and juggling ten different things, so I think that for me I love that there are things that I can start and finish in one bite. I never get bored. There’s always something different and then I get to flex some versatility muscles where I might be doing something cartoony on Monday or some photo manipulation on Tuesday and so further. I've never been stuck in a rut with what I’m doing right now. It’s not punch in, punch out day after day.
The energy you need to balance all of these things is kind of in the punk rock spirit in away.
Yeah! My paycheck and how I pay rent and stuff like that is entirely up to me. It’s scary. It’s terrifying. There are definitely times where I go, “Oh God, I should just get a 9-5.” I’m scared and I’m hungry and I eat once a day, but it puts a fire under your seat. Like when you’re working on something and you’re just so excited about it and it’s all you wanna do and somehow I’m breaking even and thrilled about it. It definitely puts a fire under my seat though to do as much as I can and oddly enough I don’t get to sleep much or go out much, but I feel like I've got some things to show for it and I’m happy and I don’t regret it.
June 7, 2013
You may not know who Peter Wonsowski is, but you have probably seen his art in more places than one. Peter has done artwork for the Riot Before, Coffee Project, Automatic Loveletter, Less Than Jake and even Strawberry Shortcake comics. Tim the intern sat down with Peter to discuss his love for records, growing up with punk rock and how one 15 year old became the creator of a franchise. You can check out some of Peter's work on his website.
I was hanging out this morning and Vinnie mentioned to me that he was first aware of your art when you were 15? You drew the logo when you were that young? That’s crazy. When did you start drawing?
I was drawing since I was a baby. One of my earliest memories was when I was 2 years old and I found a pencil. My dad had just painted the house because they were trying to sell it, but I ended up drawing happy faces all over the newly painted walls. That’s a popular family story. Ever since I was 2 I’ve been drawing. My dad would bring home computer paper so I wouldn't draw on the walls anymore. So I would just sit there and draw all the time. Around the time I was 15-16 I was really getting into punk rock and ska and at the time Less Than Jake was my favorite band and one of the first punk rock shows I went to. Even as a fan I drew them a silly drawing and sent them a fan letter and it had a play on the band’s name like “More Than Jake” and “Less Than Jake” and I got this letter from the band, which at the time was the greatest thing in the world since my favorite band in the world wrote me a letter back. In the letter they asked if I could re-draw that on un-lined paper and then it became a t-shirt with the Evolution Kid, which they still use to this day. It has really branded the band. It’s my favorite band plus it started a special, meaningful relationship with Vinnie so it just makes me happy to see it used and I get to work with Vinnie and everybody.
So around this time you were getting into punk rock. How big was punk rock in your life at that time?
I think it was a big deal. They call those the formative years when you are starting to get into things on your own. It wasn't always the message, but the energy of the music really synced up with how I was when I was a kid. Whether I was happy or kind of angry. It really conveyed those things. Not that I was an angry kid by any means, but I just feel like it has this great energy to it. I think what I really gravitated towards was that there are these bands that nobody knows. You’re going to all these shows that aren't like the concerts your parents would take you to when you were younger. These small clubs with 100 people and a band that no one really knows. I got into vinyl because you’re on a kid budget and Less Than Jake’s coming around with $8 shirts and $2 7” singles. It was really affordable and I fell in love with the music and the packaging and it really influenced me a great deal. One of my favorite things to do now is to do packaging for records and I just love the experience. I fell in love with punk rock not just because of the music, but it’s a community and a world that’s very near and dear to my heart. It’s a big deal and it’s not always about following the bands or staying in tune with what’s new. Sometimes I fall out of the loop, but it’s really important how meaningful it is to the people it means things to. I really gravitate towards that.
As far as your art or your art style or your ethos towards art, much do you think punk rock has an influence on that?
I think there’s an energy to my drawings that has a similar punk rock energy as far as the ethos is concerned. I try to bang out really fast. There’s mistakes. It’s imperfect. It’s definitely not always clean, but I like to hope it’s powerful, it’s meaningful, that there’s a ton of energy to it and that it’s appropriate. That it’s got passion whether it’s flawed or not. It just has an undeniable passion.
What was one of your favorite experiences, thus far, working with a band?
One of my favorite things working with punk rock bands is sometimes I've gotten jobs with high profile artists and you just kind of feel like you’re work for hire. They’re paying you for what you do and that’s really amazing and I feel very fortunate, but with punk rock bands the music that they’re making is so urgent and works for them. Any time someone gets in touch with me, no matter who they are or how small they are it means the world to me and I always make sure I honor the compliment of being asked to represent something that they’re passion about. I mean, most punk rock bands don’t get to record in studios. They don’t have a lot of money. They’re recording stuff sometimes on a tape cassette in a basement or something. So I’m just honored that anyone has music that they are passionate about that they felt strong enough to ask me about. That being said, it always means a lot that Vinnie keeps coming back to me. I think the Paper and Plastick records I have worked on are some of my favorite things. Even though all these great projects I've worked on came through Vinnie I had a really great time with the Riot Before record. I think a lot of records we have done came out great. It’s fun to draw for the Coffee Project. I love those guys. It’s also totally cool to do something different for Plow United or Russ Rankin where it’s no illustration at all, but I get to follow one of my mantras which is to do what’s best for the artist. I never try to force my style on a band. I think about what they are trying to say and get across. I try and do what’s right for them. I rarely try to do what’s right for me as an artist. I try to do what’s best for Russ Rankin or Plow United or the Riot Before. For the Riot Before LP though, I thought the whole thing came together. The concept, the music. All of us; the band, Vinnie and me went back and forth for months. We went through a lot of changes and I think the end result was better than anything any of us could have thought on our own.
I really like how it’s a cut out with the flag and then you open it. It’s pretty cool.
Getting to work on cool stuff like this especially through Paper and Plastick we are engineering these one of a kind things for the first time ever. Doing a die cut, which I know there’s been die-cut gate-folds maybe in the past, but I think what I really loved about the Riot Before was they have this concept where I was sort of at years prior where you grow up with punk rock and it’s really close to your heart, but you start to grow up a little bit and realize your ethics you had when you were 15 or 16 aren't gonna take you through your 20s and 30s. So, what I love about the die cut aspect of that record was on the front it kind of looks like a punk rock cliche. You have the fists in the air and “Yeah, rebellion! Let’s break stuff!”, but I love that when you open it that only goes so far and you sort of have to grow up a little bit and I love that’s what I talked about a lot with the band, Brett and Vinnie and I’m glad we were able to do something. I like the cover and I’m proud of it, but I really love about it more than the whole experience is opening it up and getting a kind of magical reveal that conceptually from front to back to the insert is a whole experience, a whole concept. It’s not just, let me put some cool images and repeat it and give it a consistency. I feel like we really told a story and again hoping that I did the best I could for what the bands message is. However, I love that it was kind of a mature take on punk rock and I think of too many other examples even as bands get older. It’s cool to be apart of some kind of maturing in punk rock as I get older.
June 4, 2013
Did you grow up with comics when you were young?
I was lucky. My dad was a big comic book collector, but not like a poly-bag cardboard back kind of collector. I grew up with a really big chest of 1970s Marvel comics just basically tossed in there. He rolls the cover back when he reads them. He doesn't care that I was 3 or 4 years old. “Oh, sure a bunch of classic X-Men or Conan No. 5. Go for it! Have a good time!” I was super lucky to grow up with this great collection of comics. I lived in the country in Pennsylvania and I wasn't old enough to move out on my own. We didn't have the internet back then, I couldn't walk to a store to get comics. In a sense I missed out on a lot of comics when they came out from like the late 80s through the mid to late 90s because I didn't have access to it, but I got to grow up with this sort of treasure trove of Marvels from 1968 till about 1981. A lot of my comic frame of reference is grounded in what people call a bronze age of comics. I dig it. There are a lot of guys now that want to draw like Jack Kirby or they want to draw like Wally Wood and it’s funny because I really dig that style of art and I really like looking at comics when they are drawn like that, but some times I’ll keep up these collections of Spider-man. Well Spider-man isn't a good example. Early Fantastic Four is great. Reed Richards mentions being terrified of the Communists like every page or two. That’s the period and the way all their entertainment was and that’s just really funny. If you wrote a comic like that now I don’t know if people would read it. It’s sort of what I like to do with comics. I sort of like having a certain classic look to them. I definitely prefer to whole Lichtenstein style of printing as opposed to the all Photoshopped digital printing. I like how it’s gotten to the point where you can make a comic look like anything you want as long as you put a lot of love into and the story is good. I think some segment of an audience will get it.
I know over the past few years there has been a controversy over the fact that more people are downloading comics. Considering that Doc Red is free on the internet would you like to weigh in on this issue? Do you think that is a better way to go?
I do personally. My frame of reference would totally be when it comes to music. Like if someone gets a burned CD of your band and really likes it they are more likely to go see you in concert or they will be more likely to check out your new CD and maybe buy it then. I don’t have any problem giving somebody a story or something if they like that character. If they don’t like it I don’t feel like they’re getting something out of it because it was free if they just don’t dig it. For some people it’s a quality control argument. There’s a guy from Pittsburgh, Jim Rugg. He does great work that looks like aged Marvels from the 70s. I’m a really big fan of his. He did this really interesting article about digital versions versus print versions of certain comics depending on where you got it printed, the kind of paper it was printed on or the ink. Two of the same drawings produced online made to look totally different. I’m a story guy. I’m a words guy, so I prefer the nicer page with the better color saturation or what have you, but if the story is good and I get a general idea what’s going on in the panel it’s fine for me. For some people who just see color a little better or are just more visual people I get how a poorly produced copy can turn you off to something you would otherwise like and recommend to people.
I’m all about putting up comics online for free though. People buy the books, but I’m not basing this off hard numbers, but I imagine a company like Marvel makes way more money on t-shirts, licensing, movies, action figures and merchandise then the actual books themselves. The more people you get into your stuff, the better you’re gonna do overall.
Going back to the music thing you used to play bands right?
Yeah, I played in bands for a long time.
Ok, because I went and looked you today and you used to play in Incommunicado. What was it like going into the punk rock world to the comic realm? Do you think there’s a connection there as far as fandoms when they cross over?
There’s a fair amount of crossover. There’s also a lot of things that are very similar but with slight differences. This is more of an anecdote than anything else, but the first big comic con we did this Fall was the 2012 Baltimore Comic Con in July. We were lucky enough or maybe I should say he was unlucky enough to sit next to us. The guy next to us was Stewart Sayger, he’s a really talented guy. I think he had some work in the new Superman movie doing Superman shirts for DC, but really cool stuff. He had brought a buddy of his with him who was from Washington DC. Being from DC this guy was really into Fugazi back in the day and as soon as we saw the first cos-player dressed as Danzig walk by we figured out we were Danzig fans and were buddies. Since this was our first con we only had one book and Sarah and I had been trying to figure out different merchandise to sell to try and make table money. We had a lot of fabric in the house, so she designed a patch that a variation on the atom symbol. She did a geometric variation on that idea and we made patches. They looked really nice and we had them for sale at the table. I kept having people come up, pick it up, kind of turn it over and look at it and say, “What is this?” The first couple of times I would say, “Oh it’s a patch. You can put it on a bookbag or a jacket or pants or whatever.” Then they’d look kind of disappointed and put it back and after the second or third time that happened Stewart Sayger’s buddy was like “Look man, when most people who come to Comic Con get a hole in their pants they just don’t patch it up, they go and buy new pants.”
There are a lot of similarities though like once you start taking your book around and traveling and booking yourself on tours. A lot of Comic Cons are like a circuit so if you wanna do five or six shows in a row, which is sort of feasible. There’s sort of another parallel. A lot of guys make their table money by doing drawings of Iron Man or Batman. Whether or not they ever worked on that comic company’s book specifically. That’s not really where our artwork is at. It’s not what we do. Sarah and I never thought people did that. We just assumed you’d get sued doing that and technically you can. It happens sometimes, but it’s a way bigger thing than we ever thought. When we first got to Baltimore and saw everyone around us doing that Sarah kind of made a face and I was like,” Don’t worry baby, we’re not a cover band.” Back in the day I made way more money playing in cover bands in shitty bars then I ever did playing in punk rock bands that I liked and I felt like people cared about.
I know there is a very D.I.Y. ethic as far as distribution of comics now a days. One person that comes to mind is Mitch Clem. Also his work with zines like Razorcake who will spotlight his work along with Ben Snakepit and Liz Prince. There’s a real D.I.Y., punk rock ethic to comic book making.
Totally. When I first started working on the story for our first comic I was working in parking lot at a hospital in Pittsburgh. The other guy I was working with a non-profit writers collective called Punk Apocalypse. They do their own printing and I think they do other people’s books there. They also house a different writer every month who wants to come and live with them and do a project. So when I was starting to actually do my first comics, I had not drawn anything since I was 15. When you’re young you wanna draw superheroes so when I was in high school I took a class called 2-D art and I was like, “Oh, 2-D art. Comic books!” and it turns out if you wanna take any other art classes after that you had to take 3-D art, so I couldn't take any of the art classes with all the writing so I just kind of gave it up. Plus if you grew up in the 90s and saw Jim Lee’s art you were like “Well I’ll never draw like that so I might as well give up.” Which is a horrible attitude to have, but it felt like that sometimes.
Last year in Pittsburgh Carnegie Mellon University let the Pittsburgh Zine Fair people do their fair at the university. Up until then, we had only done Comic Cons. The zine community is very different. It was a cool show. We did pretty well. Even though our book is printed locally and paid with from the tips that we saved our book still looks a lot slicker than your average zine. So I’m trying to explain our weird, retro sci-fi aging make-up artist comic book and people dug it. Then I would look at someone’s zine and one is like, “These are nude self portraits of me that I sewed together with yarn and it’s about how I’m really submissive in relationships.” And I’m like,”WOW, why would you tell people that?” The biggest problem I run into is that our comics are sometimes too slick for people who like hand-made limited print run artisan type stuff and it’s not slick enough for most people who like huge boobs and guns and big muscles, which is fine. I dig comics from both of those realms of comics. I would say we do more talking at Comic Con than a lot of people just because our books kind of have weird premises. A lot of people go to Comic Con to relive some part of their childhood or reconnect with stuff they haven’t seen for a long time and they’re not really willing to hear your spiel for 15 minutes. You’re pretty much losing them, but I like where we fall in the D.I.Y. pantheon of things. I like that our comic is printed by a friend of ours at a Union-owned worker shop. They do really good work and care about getting it right. They let us go down and check out the shop. Look at the lines and make sure everything is lined up correctly. All the words are printed correctly. Being new to comics when we decided to do our first print run last summer we realized that all my pages were saved in gray scales, but some of the lettering was dropped in from different files. I couldn't figure out why the lettering was coming out pix-elated. I probably could have saved a dollar for each copy had I sent it to Michigan, but it would come back with pix-elated words and I would be embarrassed to give that to somebody, because when I made it it was right. I really dig that we can do that right here in Pittsburgh and have something we’re more proud to give to people.
May 31, 2013
Tim the intern sat down for a really long time with author Frank Cunniff about his latest comic Doc Red, which was illustrated by his wife Sarah. This is part one. We talked for that long. You can download issue #1 of Doc Red for free here.
I went and read Doc Red and found it very interesting. Is it based on an actual person or is it a completely fictional character?
It sounds funny, but it’s kind of a multi-tried answer. The character Doc Red is based on a real-life psychologist, that my wife and I know here in Pittsburgh. Her name is actually Ellen Redinbaugh. I kind of take her mannerisms and her style of dry wit. Her kind of “don’t take any shit” attitude, but it’s in a light-hearted way. I took her and tried to imagine what it would be like if she was living in the Arizona territory as a traveling surgeon, rather than a psychologist. The likeness and beliefs are like the real Ellen Redinbaugh, but then I also was doing research on early female doctors in America. One of the prominent ones was Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. I took some details about her as well. I actually put Blackwell in the book. The book opens with Ellen writing letters to this woman who is a doctor in real life. But then I take some of the real things. Like she was trying to get over some of the hurdles she faced to become one of the first woman doctors in America and I incorporate that into Ellen’s character. So there are some elements from Blackwell’s life that I appropriate into Ellen’s character. So yeah, she’s based on the real Ellen, but based in part on Elizabeth Blackwell.
What was it about both of those figures that appealed to you so much?
Well, Ellen I’ve always really liked. She’s my mother-in-law’s best friend. There’s a hospital every 5 feet in Pittsburgh and they both worked at the same hospital for awhile. I got to know her pretty early on when I started dating Sarah and she was always a lot of fun. We always joked around together. I find a lot of people in the psychology and mental health field a little odd or hard to talk to, but I never felt that way about Ellen. She’s just super open and funny and welcoming. I've always enjoyed characters like that. I never met a psychologist quite like Ellen. I got the whole idea for the series because I never met a doctor who liked to work in the back of the restaurant to blow off some steam, but that’s Ellen’s whole deal. That’s kind of how we started really spending a lot of time together. I helped my wife open up a bar with her dad in Homestead. Ellen works there one night a week washing dishes just to not be a doctor for one night. If you work at the pub you get a drink and then a meal, so I started writing her tabs as Doc Red, because it fits in my POS system. Then looking at it I had this weird flashback while cashing her out. It kind of reminded me of a 70s Western movie poster. It’s Doc Red, so it says Doc Red like how I have it written in the title, but I saw at the end of a long rifle with Ellen sort of behind it with her finger on the trigger and it just kind of hit me. It just kind of made me laugh when I was at work and when we did our first comic this fall I hadn't thought about the whole printing signature end of doing a comic. Like everything has to be in multiples of four so it fits right. So, when I did our first comic I was short a page and so we did a fake ad for Doc Red. It was just kind of sort of a joke for Ellen. We printed her out one and framed it for her, but then I was sitting at a party once and I kind of lost track of what was going on in the conversation and I just kind of thought of a three issue arc for Ellen’s character and we decided to roll with it.
And as far as Dr. Blackwell is concerned, what was it about her that appealed to you?
I kind of fell into Elizabeth Blackwell. I kind of wanted Ellen to fall into that role. I don’t start out wanting to write historical fiction, but it kind of comes out historical fiction. I had the idea of doing Ellen, but I wanna do her like contemporary. I wanted to do it in the West so I decided to research if there were women doctors on the frontier in 1862. It seemed plausible enough to me, but I wanted to check it out. I found Blackwell while I was researching early female doctors in America. She seemed pretty tenacious and someone that Ellen would get along with. When I found out she lived in Ohio around the same time during the Free Labor, Free Men abolition movement it seemed like it would be plausible enough for me to believe the actual history so I thought it would work as a story. So that is how I found out about Elizabeth Blackwell.
Also, she traveled to Europe for her first medical training. That kind of opens up more possibilities. You could go west, you could do more Civil War some in the East. I like to keep things rolling along with the books so I have a few more ideas for the next few Doc Reds. We’d love to see her go to Great Britain to chase down Elizabeth Blackwell and I try to do some other things in the story. Like, Ellen will have medical tools or devices that she might not have available in that decade. Maybe she used a little hepsacurse. Elizabeth Blackwell went to Europe and became friends with Joseph Lister. He was the first surgeon that pushed for washing their hands and things like that. While Elizabeth was there though, she lost an eye and Joseph Lister’s father was one of the first developers of real deal microscopes. So part of the story is this ironic gift of an advanced microscope to Ellen from Elizabeth Blackwell and that’s how I justify her having it out in the West. I’m always finding really interesting historical figures in a story can really help you in your story by either moving it along if you’re stuck somewhere or it can just make it more interesting than something I might have thought of on my own.
I went to school for writing, so that’s where I learned to write. After I did it for awhile and it wasn't what I wanted to do and I realized I wanted to do comics it was kind of hard to shake that bare-bones type of style. I feel like I eased my way into doing more of the historical fiction. There are definitely elements of journalism in there, but since it’s a comic book you know you can really hit somebody with neat, hard facts and you can learn something, but since it’s a comic book you can still really play with it a lot more than you can in a regular book or a news article.
And as far as the time period goes, is that something that just happened because of Blackwell or was it something you were interested in writing about?
That’s probably more Elizabeth Blackwell. Also if you go past that, then you’re sort of getting to the end of the era. There’s enough people in the West to where it’s not really like the frontier, Wild West. You can read a lot of stuff that will still depict it that way, but I feel like by then it was all for show. You had guys like Bill Hickok and these sort of famous cowboys that would wear outrageous, garish cowboy clothing that you see on a cover of a dime-store book, but those aren't things they wouldn't necessarily wear. By then though there would have been enough dime-store books that people coming from the East wanna see that. It’s almost like the “Disney-fecation” of the Wild West, even though it was before Disney. I like that 1862 was right when the Civil War has started, but it really isn't everywhere yet, so I like that there’s not really law there. It’s in Arizona too, which is the absolutely furthest the Civil War made it. That specific year gave me a lot of leeway as far as what I could do with the story. I would like to see Doc Red set up with buggies on the road whether it’s the West or Australia or anywhere. It’s one thing when it’s a movie, but with comics you can drop them anywhere in the West and have a good story or take take them out of the West and drop them in England. I would like to have sort of a loose chronology with it, but it seemed like the best year. The Civil War hadn't gotten there yet, but there was this sort of looming threat.
So, did you go to school for journalism?
Yeah, technically creative writing. Technically I have a degree in English, but I basically went there because I wanted to do journalism, but it just seemed like their English department was a lot stronger than their communications. It was really lucky that their comm department, while not being all that great, actually had a guy there that owned his own publishing company a while and had written at least 12 books himself. He was actually a really great find, as far as going to a state school for journalism. I stayed in the English program, but I ended up working for him and I even was his TA for awhile. So yeah I went to school for non-fiction and creative writing I guess.
Journalism really kind of weighed on me really heavy though. Maybe I’m just a sensitive dude so I decided to do comic books instead. Even though I've got a totally non-fiction comic that I've been working on for a few years that started as book, but after I did these first two comics I thought, “Well, comics seem to do well. Books get me bent out of shape.” So, I really dig comics because you can be as factual as you want and I get out my journalism side, but I can write about a horse chase with ladies shooting guns and I get to do that too.
May 21, 2013
Frank and Sarah Cunniff, the author and illustrator of Doc Red are gearing up to promote their newest webcomic series. They will be tabling at both of these upcoming events. You can download the first issue here. Look out for an interview with Frank later this week!
May 26, noon to 5pm: Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival
- The Toonseum, Pittsburgh's comic and cartooning museum, is holding an outdoor
event on the 900 block of Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh for the National Cartoonists
Society Conference. http://www.pghcomicartsfest.com/
- June 29, 10am to 5pm: Pittsburgh Comics and Collectibles Show
- New Dimension Comics is hosting a one-day convention inside the Pittsburgh Mills
May 20, 2013
May 19, 2013
The Sky We Scrape are a newish band fresh out of the infamous Chicago punk scene. Tim the intern sat down with vocalist/guitar played Jason to discuss their Chicago roots, some up coming festivals and why you shouldn't have to use a thesaurus at punk shows. The Sky We Scrape just released their new record Divides and you can order it here.
So you guys are on tour right now with Arliss Nancy. How has been the tour so far?
The tour’s been awesome. Couple of rough nights, but for the most part it’s been cool and getting to play with Arliss Nancy every night is awesome. They are, collectively, one of our favorite bands just in general. So the fact that we get to see them every night and party with them afterwards is totally rad. Those guys are incredible dudes. It’s been a really good experience so far.
Do you guys have the record with you on tour?
We had half of them shipped to us and the other to Paper+Plastick. We have a bunch on the road right now.
Are fans checking it out?
Yeah, it’s going really good even in places we haven’t played before. For the exception of North Carolina, all these cities that we’re playing on this tour are new cities for us. We’ve never done an East coast run, so it’s been cool that at every show people have been buying the record and we’ve been getting a lot of good responses. We are a relatively new band to a lot of these people, so it’s cool that people are still buying our shit and actually picking up vinyl at a show, which is really encouraging.
How is everyone reacting to the newer songs that you guys are playing on the road?
Really well. Divides technically came out in February and then the P+P release happened recently, so in that time period since February we’ve been working on a bunch of new stuff and trying to play it out on the road. It’s been really well received, which is cool because it’s the same vibes as Divides, for sure, but there’s a lot more technical aspects to it. There’s a lot more heavy guitar work. Steel really gets to shred a lot more, which is cool. The new songs have been really collaborative. Aaron, our bassist, has written a couple of the newer ones and they’re really awesome. It’s been cool to get more of everyone’s input and make it more collaborative, which I guess the last record was too, but it’s cool as we’re developing as a band we are still able to do that.
How long has The Sky We Scrape been a band?
I’ve been in the band for four years, so I guess like four years. Steele started a couple of years before that. The band officially started in 2008, but it went through a bunch of personal changes. We’ve had this line-up for about two years now and with this lineup it was finally like we actually considered ourselves a legitimate band. We try to take ourselves a little bit more serious as a band and do more. Before, it was kind of like, we’re still doing stuff, but we didn’t have the confidence in each other. Now, we just gel really well and we’ve known each other for a long time.
I’m sure that makes life on the road a little bit easier too.
Yeah, we get along great. There hasn’t been a bad day on any of our tours, knock on wood. So today we’re gonna get in a big blow-up fight. But no, even if we weren’t in a band these are dudes that I would want to hang out with on a regular basis. I’ve known Aaron since I was in middle school, so there are long-term friendships going on and everyone has known each other since 2009. But yeah we all get along and it’s fun to just hang out on the road and play shows at the same time.
So this tour is leading you to Pouzza Fest. Have you guys played that before?
No, we’ve never played that. Most of us have been to Canada. I’ve been to Canada, but just to play hockey when I was younger, which doesn’t really count for punk rock. We’ve never played Canada though and we were stoked to just be excepted on the bill period, but since we’ve been on the line-up we’ve gotten some attention. Punknews posted that we were one the top 10 under the radar bands to check out at Pouzza Fest, which is cool. We get to play with No Trigger, who is just incredible and then two other bands from Montreal, which we’re stoked on too. We got sandwiched between these really great bands so we are really stoked on Pouzza Fest. Plus we get to eat poutine.
It seems like a Canadian version of The Fest.
Yeah, that’s how it’s been communicated to us. I’ve heard about it for a long time, but I didn’t know just how big of a deal it was. Just by looking at the line-up, it’’s just bananas. Steel is the one who initiated the booking for Pouzza Fest and we were all like, “Hell yeah, we’ll do whatever” and then once we got confirmed we were like, “oh, this is a big deal”. It’s an honor to be on that bill. We’re beyond excited for that.
You guys are also playing Fest in Gainesville.
Yeah, since we’ve been a band we’ve wanted to play Fest. I’ve actually never been to Gainesville at all, so that’s cool that my first time at Fest will be playing Fest. We’re super pumped for that
Speaking of festivals, they just announced the lineup for Riot Fest right in your hometown of Chicago. I don’t know if you guys have seen that, but it’s pretty nuts.
We’ve been following that pretty closely. We’ve been looking at tickets, but we gotta put gas in the van so we wanna buy tickets, but it’s really bad timing to be on tour. The line-up is insane. AFI. The Broadways! That’s the one band I was really excited for.
That’s pretty much the only band I cared about when I saw the line-up.
Yeah, I was like OK guess I gotta go change my pants now. We all went last year and it was incredible, but I feel like this year’s line-up kind of blows last year’s out of the water. Last year, there were some really awesome after parties. We saw Alkaline Trio at the Empty Bottle, which is a 275 person room. I was told it was awesome, but I don’t really remember. There’s always stuff like that, so I’m really crossing my fingers that the Broadways will play the Empty Bottle or do a show at Fireside or something.
Speaking of Chicago. There are so many great bands from or around that city. What was it like growing up in a scene like Chicago?
It was really cool. It was really inspiring to be apart of that while growing up. Through high school and college we would go to shows at like Fireside Bowl at least once a week. Maybe not that much, but there was always something going on. Being able to see shows like that brings back a lot of nostalgia for us. Seeing bands like Alkaline Trio and Lawrence Arms. Bands like that in Chicago at their prime. It was great to be apart of something you could see grow and become massive. Seeing Rise Against opening for bands like Death By Stereo and AFI at the Metro. We saw them at Riot Fest last year and it was just a sea of people and I think they’ve grown into something that I would have never imagined a little Chicago band could be one of the biggest bands in the world.
The flipside of that though, is that in Chicago there’s so much going on and so many bands. So many good bands and some not-so good bands as well, but it’s a really saturated market. So, it’s cool that there’s always something going on and there 10 great venues in town that you could go and see a band any given night. As a band in that scene it’s made it a little harder to stand out and make your own way.
How does a band in a scene like that, stand out?
It’s really hard. There are a few bands that we know in Chicago that are really supportive of each other, but to a certain degree it doesn’t feel like a real brotherhood there. There is a lot of competition, which is shity because that’s what punk rock should be. It shouldn’t be like, “Oh, well fuck that band, because they got on a show that we wanted to be on” or whatever. It’s just hard, but it’s also cool because it makes all the bands try harder. All the bands that wanna stand out bust their asses. Those are the bands you see flyering non-stop. Every show you see the same dudes in the same band and you know those guys give a shit. They love what they do and want to do what they love so they are gonna put the time into playing music and getting your name out there.
As far as your band’s sound goes, how much do the bands from Chicago or Chicago itself have an influence on you guys?
I think it’s a little bit more organic. We all listen to a bunch of different things. For this last record a lot of people saying it sounds kind of like a mix between Small Brown Bike and Funeral For a Friend, which I don’t even know what to say about the Funeral For a Friend thing. Small Brown Bike though are one of our favorite bands as people, so that’s been cool. Steele writes a majority of the music and the riffs you hear. He has a lot of cool influences. RX Bandits are a big influence on him. Small Brown Bike, Propagandhi is another huge one. So, its like adding some heavier elements into punk and pop punk and trying to make it our own. Obviously, we have our influences. We are all pretty much into bands like the Broadways and Alkaline Trio and AFI. There also some really awesome bands that we’ve been playing with that we’ll see and be like, “Holy shit, this sound amazing!” Like this band Silver Snakes, I think they are from California. We them play with our friends in Red City Radio and that was one of those bands. I am very seldom blown away by a band I’ve never heard of. I guess I don’t expect much, but when we saw Silver Snakes, that was some next level shit. That’s one of those bands that are really doing it right.
As far as lyrics go, what really inspires you?
Steele wrote 3 songs on Divides and I wrote the remaining 9. Some of them are political. Two songs on there are some personal family stuff that went on with a friend of a friend. Some of them are basically what’s going on in our lives some of it is painting a portrait of our life. Steele’s songs are like telling a story or more of a narrative. There’s no one set influence. It’s more like showing what’s going on in our lives. It’s not always trying to inspire someone. You’re just hearing a story that’s going on and it’s significant to us.
When you are listening to songs is that something you are looking for more often than not?
For me, I like it when bands use lyrics that paint a picture and using words that you wouldn’t necessarily use in an everyday scenario. I personally don’t like it when bands are using $50 words when a simple word will do the trick. I like songs that you can sing along to and there’s a hook. I guess every songwriter is different and I guess that’s why I like our songs lyrically are a little different from each song since each one is about a certain experience and we’re telling a different story.
I like to think about what kind of words would you wanna have your fans singing along to live. I don’t wanna have to get out a thesaurus to figure out the lyrics to the song.