FORGE. Issue 18: Sacrifice

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Sunmi “‘Goose family’ is commonly used in South Korea to refer to a family that is separated, with the father working in Korea to support the mother and children living in a Western country. ‘Astronaut family’ and ‘parachute kids’ are other terms broadly used to describe this situation. As a goose child, I think a lot about migration and generational trauma, having learned much later in my life that both sides of my family has roots in North Korea, escaping during a period of colonialism and war. I’ve also learned of other painful memories that my parents would rather not talk about, topics that were hard for me to bring up as well. What does it mean for me to grow up in such privilege when so many suffered before me, and still suffer around me? What is identity when cultures are always changing, arbitrary lines constantly being drawn, what does sacrifice mean when the wealthiest continue to be so self-serving? I become less afraid to ask questions and more confident to create understanding. ” -Sunmi Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?


I like a variety of art, poetry, writing, & film, but my biggest inspirations are independent cartoonists working today (US & international) and shoujo/josei mangaka. I tried to pinpoint some artists but I just gotta sum it up with ~Kyoko Okazaki~ and redirect to publishers Youth In Decline, Peow Studio, Koyama Press, ShortBox, and Quang Comics, because they publish everybody whose work I love. For films, Sunny (2011, Korean) and Saving Face (2004, American), which are both kind of problematic but good at heart? It feels inane to say stuff like that but I’m scared of people yelling at me on the internet lol. They’re both about female relationships and queerness (in a way for Sunny...) so I feel like that’s important.

Age 22 What is your current location? Baltimore, MD, USA Where are you from? The Bay Area of California, USA What is your current occupation?

What materials do you like to work with?

Illustrator, cartoonist, small press publisher, barista at a small cafe & bakery.

Ink! I’ve tried out many pens and brushes but my favorite is calligraphy pens and mainly the Pilot parallel pen, which I use for everything.

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

BFA in Illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

Currently I am working on a short comic for Power & Magic Press’ latest anthology Heartwood, centered around modernday sylvan fantasy and featuring all non-binary creators. My comic is about a near-future where androids have begun to as-


similate into human society, and focuses on a Korean-American photojournalist who meets a dilapidated, older android in the forests of Jeju Island. I am also working on a short comic that will be included in the print edition for a webcomic that is launching their first Kickstarter campaign in January 2018. Besides that, running my small press Dandelion Wine Collective which just wrapped up our own Kickstarter, and making my own zines and prints here and there! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Yes!!! I also like a lot of music so it depends on my mood. Most recently I discovered there is a lot of ‘70s South Korean and Japanese pop and rock on Youtube and Apple Music. The albums Now by Kim Jung Mi and Sunshower by Taeko Ohnuki are two favorites. Where do you like to work? I can work alright in my bedroom. I also feel grateful to have a shared studio space in the house I’m living in right now, with two other roommates who are also illustrators. I like cafes and libraries too but I still get anxious drawing in public, so I mostly do emails stuff outside. Since I’ve been traveling a lot this year, I realized that my best ideas and writing happen in transit, so I love long bus rides now...

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @sunmiflowers (Instagram)


What is one of your earliest memories of making art? When I was a kid I drew a serial comic strip on copy paper and kept in a pink plastic binder, called “Adventures in Imaginary World.” It was basically just fan art, but also I had original characters that were a crew of cute & cool girls. I remember starting it at my crush’s house, whose mom was friends with my mom. His mom had a bunch of teddy bears and dolls in delicate, little outfits all around the house, that I’d sometimes play with and draw alone. We would play together with beyblades, baseball, and run around with our brothers. I was always torn between wanting to be treated as “one of the boys” and adoring other girls, which I guess kind of reflects in my art now? It’s all very cheesy but true. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I want to write and draw stories that help people feel less invisible and more comfortable with themselves, like many have done for me. I want marginalized voices and stories to be at the forefront in our media, fight for and create a future that values the poor and oppressed. For myself, I’m always looking back on memories and regrets, and trying to be more honest in regards to identity, loneliness, and pain, so those are the themes that I always come back to.


Hélène Tchen Cardenas “This photograph is a part of a series I did very recently about my origins, femininity, and sisterhood! The model is my twin sister, Laure-Anne Tchen. We were born and raised in Paris by my mother who’s Colombian. We’re both half Colombian and half Chinese. The series is a way for me to represent my view about body image and mental image, while acknowledging my origins and myself as a woman. Shooting my twin sister as my model felt so right because we lived and felt the same things about our identities, she’s the closest person as a woman who knows what I feel. I’m proposing the photograph for the ‘sacrifice’ theme because being a woman with non-white origins feels like a sacrifice when you grow up, until you can see it as a gift. ” -Hélène Tchen Cardenas Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Hélène Tchen Cardenas


There is a lot of photographers that inspires me, and my favorites are Petra Collins and Harley Weir. My favorite writers are Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. The kind of stories they wrote are so close of how I see life. I also really like directors like Ingmar Bergman or Joachim Traier.

What is your current location?

What materials do you like to work with?

Paris, France Where are you from?

I only use analog cameras that use 35mm and 120mm film. I mostly work with daylight or continuous light–sometimes flash when I don’t have a choice.

I was born in Paris and I always lived there, but my mother is Colombian and my father is American.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

What is your current occupation?

Im working on a photo series called “Just Human,” and it’s meant to represent humanity as I see it by celebrating all body types, races, and genders. The people I photograph are people who reached out to me after they saw my instagram ad.Some were people I already knew or who I contacted cause I think they match what I’m looking for. I’m still looking for more people to propose themselves though!


I work in a photo studio as an assistant and I’m a photographer for my personal artwork and collaborations aside. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I studied cinematography and film history a while ago, I started doing film photography during my studies, since then I got proposed to photograph bands and singers which made my decision to become a professional photographer.

Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I have a Spotify playlist where all my music is shuffled! I really like independent pop rock and folk type music like Kevin Morby or Weyes Blood.


Where do you like to work? I like to work at the studio where I assist when I photograph. but in the future I really would love to work outdoors in the nature! What is one of your earliest memories of making art? When I was a child I went to visit my aunt in Florida and she

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @helenetchen (Instagram)


bought a bunch of art stuff for my sister and I. I would spend hours drawing very realistic horses. It was terrible! What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I hope when people will see my work, they will feel more confident and see the beauty I see in the people I shoot.


Dilraj Mann Name Dilraj Mann

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?


I have a few on the go that I can’t really talk about yet. One is a book so that will take up a chunk of 2018.

Older than my brother. Younger than my sisters.

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What is your current location? In a small rural town near Brighton, U.K.

Currently Moses Sumney, Twinkie Clark, Champion, Edgar Froese and Finding Shore by Tom Rogerson and Eno, but I’m always seeking out new tunes and always tune in to Benji B.

Where are you from?

Where do you like to work?

Kent, U.K.

Usually in my studio at home but if it’s warm, in the park.

What is your current occupation?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

Illustrator, and artist.

I remember once the electricity went off on our street during the evening. I lay on the floor all night drawing the pink panther by candle light.

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I studied illustration and then got an M.A. in computer animation, and what I do now is a world away from that. Although I’m hoping to do more animation in 2018. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I’d like to incorporate people like me in to stories and art without it being the entire focus of any piece. I love the tapestry of multicultural communities and hope to reflect that in my work.

I try to seek new inspiration very time I engage with a new project. At the moment I’m looking at Ralph Bakshi and Vaughn Bode and early graffiti. I’m also reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I’m always influenced by Keichi Tanaami, Taiyo Matsumoto, Katsuhiro Otomo, David Hockney, José Muñoz, Niki de Saint Phalle, Beryl Cook, David Mazuchelli, and Julian Opie. Music is also a big inspiration. What materials do you like to work with? Brush and Higgins Black Magic Ink. Gouache.


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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @adilrajmanninstagram (Instagram)



Jesse DeNobrega “I’ve been thinking about how everything that happens to us - on some layer - energizes us or depletes us in some way. A lot of metaphors that get thrown around to describe this use war terms, but maybe it’s nicer to to think of in the language of play. As a kid I could never get across the monkey bars, but I could climb up on top and dance across them from above. I wonder how many situations can become less dire if our approach to dealing with them is changed radically from the one that we default to. To be honest it’s probably not very many. A lot of situations that people are stuck in are undeniably horrible. But it’s reassuring to know that there will be a few here and there that can. The volunteers forge onward, working toward an ideal that they know will be the death of them. But maybe their bravery and dedication to edging closer will inspire more to take to the path.” -Jesse DeNobrega Name Jesse DeNobrega Age 23 What is your current location? Right now I’m living in Oakville, Ontario, while I go to school there. It’s a half hour from Toronto. Where are you from? Ajax, Ontario, a suburb on the outskirts of Toronto. I’ve been orbiting in a half-hour radius around Toronto my whole life. What is your current occupation? Most of my time is spent being a student, and then I work as a rock climbing instructor for kids and also at a tiny used CD store called Deja Vu Discs, which is a very good store. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’m in my last year of an illustration course at a school called

Sheridan College. It’s been really good. I have a lot of great teachers, some I like to think of as friends now. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I’m really inspired by how much detail exists in everything that you can see or hear, like when you bite an apple and then take a look at what the flesh looks like up close. It’s so intricate and strange, like a landscape only hidden by my mind that usually tells me to ignore it. I really like artists whose work makes me think of things in ways I never would have otherwise. I read certain parts of Yuichi Yokoyama’s book Baby Boom often, especially the scene where a ton of pages are devoted to a game of catch. I’m also really inspired by Michael Deforge, Tommi Parrish, Brian Chippendale, Shee Phon, Jesse Moynihan, Mickey Zacchilli. A lot of people that do really cool things that feel like they could have only come from them individually, who also seem to be really thoughtful. What materials do you like to work with? I think I mostly gravitate towards using the risograph right now because of how accessible it makes my work. The cheapness of printing means I can just give stuff away to people or leave posters around. I got the chance to work on a VR game for TCAF last year with my friend Marishka Zachariah which was really cool, but I’m still kind of not sure how to approach things like VR that have this really limited accessibility that seems to be mostly controlled by big companies. Regardless, there’s so much potential


to do new things there, so somebody may as well try.

start with a blank palette.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

Right now the main thing I’m working on is a longer kids’ comic that’s kind of about trying to come to terms with not really having a firm grasp on your identity as a human being while also coming to terms with the fact that there may be not much of a future within which you’ll be able to live inside of that identity. It’s a very fantastical story that has an alien in it. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? It changes a lot depending on how I’m feeling, and I like to explore a lot, but lately I keep listening to Yoko Ono’s Fly album. Some musicians who I listen to most when drawing are Nobukazu Takemura, Brian Chippendale (Black Pus especially), Animal Collective, Dustin Wong/Takako Minekawa and The Necks. Where do you like to work? A lot of the stuff I do takes quite a bit of time, so I mostly work in my room, but whenever I can if I’m writing a comic or coming up with ideas I like to walk around and find public spots like libraries or benches. Moving around helps a lot. I think for me it’s not so much about being in different places as it is about having those transitory periods of time when I’m walking between them to let my mind wander a little, or just turn off completely and

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @jessedenobrega (Instagram)


When I was in 3rd grade a teacher gave me a little notebook to draw in, I guess because she saw me drawing a lot (most of the kids were into tracing Pokemon from a book we had). I remember being shocked that you could get notebooks where the paper didn’t have lines. I filled it up with different characters, places, etc for this imaginary world I made called “Mystic Battlefield”. I think this was around the time I’d been hearing about Final Fantasy, but I didn’t have a Playstation, so I made my own ripoff of Final Fantasy. The two main characters were named “Dude” and “Cool”, and it was a very serious story. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I’d like to reinforce that maybe it’s okay after all to be left with a lot of questions about yourself, and that some of those questions won’t get answers, and that maybe you don’t need to apologize for or explain it. Not everything needs to be justified, least of all your own small existence. Being empathetic to others and being aware of how your presence is felt by them - good or bad - and then trying to do whatever weird things you are compelled to do in a way that doesn’t encroach on the rest of people, it feels like that’s all that there is. Maybe my drawings and music and whatever else I end up doing can help myself and others believe in that a little bit more in the same way that many people before me have made me aware of this.


Rory Wilson “The process for me is quite simple and usually starts off with me Jotting ideas down and a tiny scale. Most of the time these will be on a load of post-it notes, then I will work my way up bigger and bigger until I’m happy with the outcome. Then I will take it onto Photoshop and manipulate it that way. I’ve only started to become more dependent on making my work digitally so I’m still experimenting and playing around with a lot of stuff. I got the idea for the image from the first thing that came to mind when I thought of sacrifice, which is centered around a dagger. I also wanted to include Religion but not do the cliché of some goat man standing over a sacrifice. So, I went in the opposite direction and played around with Buddhism. I wanted to include some hints towards Mayan iconography because they love a good bit of sacrifice.” -Rory Wilson Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Rory Wilson

One person who is a big inspiration in my life was my ‘Grandad Don’ who was a graphic designer and encouraged me to go into the creative field. Blade Runner, Wes Anderson, Any of the Ghibli films, Over the garden wall to name a few.

Age 21 What is your current location? Bournemouth, United Kingdom Where are you from? I was born in Cardiff but have moved around a lot and spent most of my childhood living in Switzerland but have moved back to the UK since. What is your current occupation? I am currently a student in my final year of degree at the Arts University Bournemouth Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Currently working on my Bachelor of Arts degree in Illustration .

What materials do you like to work with? Recently I have found myself working exclusively digital, but I love a good mechanical pencil and most of my work will be directed through very rough drawing. I have also been dabbling in ceramics recently which has been great fun to work in 3-D. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I have just finished a small Zine called Drip Drop which follows a little drip boy on his journey into a bathtub… But most of my time is going toward preparing for my final show at degree. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Michael Cera surprisingly enough is one artist which I listen to quite a lot. I tend to seek out obscure music the more obscure the better. Where do you like to work? I have a very small and cramped working area in my student


Accommodation which is cozy enough for me. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? My family have always supported my creativity and don’t think there was a time I wasn’t doing something creative ever since I could hold a paintbrush. One of my stand out memories would be when I was a little I remember working out how things work by

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @rorwilson (Instagram)


bisecting them (Damien Hirst style) through drawing, especially one where I drew a car and how I thought it worked. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? That’s a hard question, I guess I hope that my work can inspire and spread joy to others as do lots of other talented illustrators do for me.


Adrienne Kammerer “Most of my work is based on old renaissance paintings and medieval art ‘remixed’ with more contemporary references like old cartoons and 90’s manga. This drawing is based on the painting of the beheading of St. John the Baptist by Andrea Solario. My process for creating an image starts with collecting references and then dropping in different elements and editing the images all together. Once I have an image I’m happy with I print it out and make a loose trace of the image onto watercolour paper so I have all the proportions correct. From that point it’s basically just shading which is the part of the process that takes the most time. my tools are pretty basic; mechanical pencil, water soluble graphite gum eraser and blending stump. ” -Adrienne Kammerer Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Adrienne Kammerer

The people that inspire me the most are my friends who also make art.

Age 32 What is your current location? Los Angeles Where are you from? Canada What is your current occupation?

What materials do you like to work with? I work primarily in graphite. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m still slowly finishing a comic with my friend Mat about a little boy and a bear. I just picked up a comic book/picture book gig for my friend’s album. I’m making this brunch bingo thing with my partner and I’m just waiting to get the green light on this other project that I can’t talk about.

Right now I’m working as an artist’s assistant. Before that I was cleaning apartments. I always have a few different part time jobs.

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

Where do you like to work?

I’m self taught. I went to one semester of art school before I dropped out.

I mostly listen to podcasts or audiobooks.

Mostly I’ve resigned myself to working out of my bedroom which isn’t ideal, but when I’ve had a bit of extra cash it’s been nice to have had the opportunity to rent a small studio space.


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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @adrienne.kammerer (Instagram)



Ashley Nicole DeLeon “There’s a saying in Spanish, ‘a sangre y fuego,’ which directly translates to ‘by blood and fire.’ When my grandmother left Cuba for America, she cut and sold all of her long hair to be able to afford the journey, and even then she had to leave two of her children behind. I made this illustration to honor her strength, courage, and sacrifices.” -Ashley Nicole DeLeon Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Ashley Nicole DeLeon

I like to translate the people, compositions, and textures I see in photography into my own visual language. It’s fun to make up a story about a small detail and just keep running with it. I like to revisit previous ideas, concepts, and imagery with different perspectives and approaches. A lot of my work centers around a character, but I am always inspired by places.

Age 24 What is your current location? Brooklyn, NY Where are you from? Miami, FL What is your current occupation? Aside from freelance illustration, I work part-time as a bookbinder and assistant for a local designer. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 2017. Before that I was studying Marine Biology in Miami. I switched to Fine Art in community college and graduated with my associate’s in 2014 before transferring to SVA for Illustration. I went down a few different paths when I first started college, but I don’t regret any of it!

What materials do you like to work with? I love how tactile colored pencils are. I’ve been using more screentones lately too! What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m currently working on a comic called The Tea Host. It’s about an eccentric tea-lover and a runaway reverend talking about life while waiting for a rare flower to bloom on the mountaintops. I’m trying to keep it light and unexpectedly supernatural! Is there any music you like to listen to while working? Joanna Newsom is always a favorite. Where do you like to work? I love working in my room. It functions more like a studio space than a living space.


What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

When I was about 10 years old, I would come home after school and draw non-stop about whatever I was into at the time. Magic powers, imaginary places, Pokemon. It went on for a few years, I would draw on plain notebook paper and put it in a binder until I had three binders filled with this continuous comic that made absolutely no sense.

My goals are always evolving, which keeps me moving forward. Right now I want to tell engaging stories people can connect with. I want my illustrations and comics to invoke the same excitement that I feel when I work on them. I love to draw and I hope it shows!

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @ashnicdel (Instagram)



Chelsea O'Byrne “The piece that I submitted to Issue 18 titled ‘Let Go’ was inspired by the difficult process of letting go of the things in your mind that hold you back. It’s a type of sacrifice that’s for your own good but it feels so difficult sometimes. To make this piece, I painted some colours and textures on paper and then cut shapes out of that paper for collage. I used a combination of handmade textures and found paper, with some coloured pencil and gouache to add smaller details. ” -Chelsea O’Byrne Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Chelsea O’Byrne

What is your current location?

I love children’s books from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the fashion and design of that time. The people who inspire me the most are other artists because it’s really difficult to be self driven and turn your ideas and feelings into something that other people can experience. When other artists make the choice every day to keep doing what they do, it makes me want to do the same.

Vancouver, British Columbia

What materials do you like to work with?

Where are you from?

Lately I have been using gouache, which I love because the colours are very strong and opaque but it’s easier to work with than acrylic. I’ve been getting into collage lately too. When I was finishing my degree, I was mostly doing embroidery and sewing so I’d like to get back into that too.

Age 29

I was born in Calgary, Alberta but my family moved around a lot when I was growing up. What is your current occupation? Right now I’m enjoying doing freelance illustration full time. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be my own boss and do what I love. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’ve loved drawing since I was a child and my mom is an artist too, so up until university I was mostly self taught/taught by my mom. I eventually ended up getting my BFA at Emily Carr University in Vancouver.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Right now I am in the process of illustrating two picture books, and trying to use my spare time to make personal work and zines. I’m also in the very early stages of collaborating with a friend on a textile project. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I find a lot of inspiration from old country and folk music. I love Dolly Parton because of her incredible song writing and storytelling ability. Some of her songs would be so amazing as children’s books! But when I’m trying to focus I tend to listen to


music without words like Squarepusher. Where do you like to work? I like to draw things that I see when I’m out at a park or a coffee shop, but usually I’ll kind of scribble them down and then come home and make a better version where I can concentrate more. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? When I was really little we had this little plastic picnic table in our

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @chelseaobyrne (Instagram)


backyard for me and my sister to paint at, so we would sit outside and make finger paintings of bugs and flowers. What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I hope to make work that can convey timeless ideas about humanity. I think one of the most interesting things about art is that the style and media can change so much over time, but the emotions and questions behind today’s artwork are the same emotions and questions behind work from hundreds of years ago.


Aoife Dunne Name

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

Aoife Dunne

I mainly listen to experimental music, or sometimes acid jazz whilst working.

Age 22

Where do you like to work?

What is your current location?

I work mainly from my (very messy) studio, but I often stay up late working from my bedroom too!

Dublin, Ireland

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

Where are you from?

I started making art relatively late. I was heavily involved in film, dance, and fashion from an early age and only began making work when I was in my late teens. My earliest memory of making art was when I was sixteen, and really struggling in school at the time. I vividly remember grabbing a notebook and marker and mindlessly drawing to distract myself from how distressed I was feeling.

Ireland What is your current occupation? Visual Artist, Creative Director and Stylist Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have a BA Hons Degree in Fine Art Media, but I was mainly self-taught in most software programms.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work? I want to make work that is inspiring, innovative, and challenging.

What materials do you like to work with? I love working with found materials–the most exciting! What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I am currently working on a large-scale digital installation piece which I will be exhibiting in the new year (eekk)! I have lots of great collaborations in the works also, but none I can speak about, yet!


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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @efadone (Instagram)



Lauren Seider “In considering the theme sacrifice I found myself thinking of the ‘he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me...’ game where petals are pulled off of a flower. I really like personifying flowers, and if you personify a flower in the context of that game it becomes this sacrificial figure giving up a very important part of itself in order for this person to ruminate over someone they care about. I identify these personified flowers with naivety and vanity, and often they act as an external voice for the present character’s internal monologue. Because of this, illustrations like this one become much more personally reflective for me, and that was my experience with this piece.” -Lauren Seider Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Lauren Seider

I’ve received a lot of inspiration from juvenile fiction in the past few years, as well as collections of essays written by chapter book authors like Diana Wynne Jones, Madeline L’Engle, and C.S. Lewis about their experiences writing children’s literature and about their lives. Reading them as an adult, I find them to be such complex things packed beautifully into simple, sweet stories. That wonderful distillation is what leaves me in awe, scrambling to find a way I could possibly, maybe create something as magical as those stories.

Age 22 What is your current location? Kansas City, Missouri. Where are you from? A small town of about 8,000 in central Missouri, aptly named Centralia. What is your current occupation? At the moment, a creative intern in a Kids and Family marketing and design agency for just a little longer, freelance illustrator, and occasional artisan ice cream scooper :-) Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I have a BFA in Illustration and a Social Practice certificate from the Kansas City Art Institute. I graduated in May of 2017 and I loved every minute. The things I learned and the relationships I made through peers and faculty have been invaluable in the first few months I’ve been an alumna.

Visually, I am constantly finding inspiration in small places where overlooked patterns and colors are found in life, like the pattern of the carpet or flooring, the security patterns inside of envelopes, the end papers of old books. I joke that I am a squiggle hunter, I look for squiggly shapes (like this ~) out in the world and take pictures of them, I like that it gives me an excuse to pay close attention. Now that I am out of school I am hoping to find an effective way to continue to immerse myself into different areas of art history, which has always been a great source of motivation and inspiration for me. I’m also a Christian, so I’m often driven to use art-making to help me articulate, understand, and grow my faith in God. A lot of the work I make naturally takes on ideas indicative of and unique to my religious upbringing and lifestyle, but I’ve also been able to see people of all kinds relate to that work, and I find that in itself really inspiring. What materials do you like to work with? My favorite types of projects are the ones where I get to sur-


round my workspace with colored pencils, markers, crayons, gouache, pens, you name it, and I start with that giant excess and experiment until I can narrow my materials down. I have pretty recently started to find my comfort zone with digital processes, I’ve always been able to use photoshop as a tool to speed up my process and give me lots of compositional freedom when I haven’t quite worked everything out, but finishing pieces completely digitally has only pretty recently been something I’ve started doing. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

get shit done; I put on headphones, play The Strokes nonstop and dance around a bit while I work, and my productivity is never better! Where do you like to work? Any place I get to call my own studio space. At home currently, preferably with lots of natural light and enough space for my ever growing stash of materials to be stored somewhat efficiently! What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

I have currently been quite busy with my internship, but in my free time I have been trying to finish up promoting and documenting a collaborative magazine I created and designed during my senior year at KCAI, called the Y.R.S. Mag. It features writing and illustration from 10 different local illustrators to KCMO, and focuses on the Yellow Raincoat Society, which is a secret organization of people who wear yellow raincoats on rainy, grey days and “fight the gloom.” It’s been such a rewarding project, and the past couple months have been great to reflect on the process, share the magazine, and get it accessible for others to get their hands on it.

One of the earliest and most impactful memories I have making art was when I was about 10 and I learned my mother’s women’s group at my church was asking for design proposals for their district’s representational banner. The cloth banners of the chosen design would be made by a women in the district and taken to the annual national convention. I heard the prompt, something about “Come to the waters...” I totally saw the design in my head of Jesus next to the sea with sea shells and sand, and people from all parts of the world coming to join him at the sea’s edge. To my shock, they chose it, and it was lovingly made by a woman in my church.

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

Spotify is the best invention ever because my music selection has expanded so much simply by following the trails it leads you down. I think the music I listen to the majority of the time is pretty ‘chill’ because music effects my emotions so much. Some of my forever favorites are Regina Spektor, Laura Marling, Beck, The War in Drugs, the Beatles, Andrew Bird. When I really need to

I’m definitely still trying to discover what it is I really want to do, where I want to see my illustration go and what kind of form that will take. More broadly, I think I just want to make things and pictures that make people happy, that service the world positively, that point out small, important things, or the possible extraordinary future.

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Where To Find Them Websites:​​​ Contact: Social Media: @yellowraincoatsociety (Instagram)



Teresa Carreira “We’re usually told sacrifice will be a fair trade, unfortunately that is not always the truth. Throughout history the idea of sacrifice has often been perverted, used as a tool to make people accept an unfair present for a future that is nothing but an illusion.” -Teresa Carreira Name Teresa Carreira Age 22 What is your current location? I live in Lisbon, Portugal. Where are you from? I was born here in Portugal, in the same town I live in currently. What is your current occupation? At this moment I work as a freelance Illustrator, but in a few days I will add a part time job to that. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? Yes, I do. I studied Drawing at the Lisbon Faculty of Fine Arts and finished a post graduate degree in Illustration after that. School was an essential time and I learned a lot. Also, while far from free, higher education in Portugal is affordable. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I consume a variety of art, literature, and entertainment, but what is easier to point out as having an influence on my work and my attitude towards image making, are visual artists and

designers. My inspirations fluctuate but the ones that always stay are maybe Robert Weaver, Degas and Diebenkorn. What materials do you like to work with? For my illustration work I usually work either with colored pencils or digitally, or even both, I might also throw a little paint in the mix. I already developed a system to be efficient with these techniques while at the same time having a distinct look to it. For personal work I can use the same techniques or others such as oils, watercolor or charcoal, also personal work allows me to work in bigger dimensions. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I have some freelance work to finish in the next few weeks and a bunch of post its with ideas taped to my wall, I do them when I have the time. Some work and a lot of them just end up being a waste of time, but that’s all part of the process. I’m also collaborating with my friend and former art school colleague Mariana Teixeira. We’re creating a body of work that will hopefully result in a gallery show or something along those lines. It’s still in the beggining and will probably take a lot of time, but I think it will turn out good. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I listen to some music–but only in more repetitive stages of the work, otherwise I have to be in silence. I don’t listen to a specific genre, it’s whatever fits my mood.


Where do you like to work?

work place drawing a castle. I was about 4 or 5 years old.

I can work anywhere as long as I can minimize distraction and talking.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art? The earliest memory I have is of being with my mother at her

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @teresafrc (Instagram)


I can only control so much of the accomplishments of my work. I can only assure to myself that I will continue to work hard everyday to develop my work and try as much as I can to escape banality and avoid shortcuts.


Caroline Vance “When I thought about sacrifice, I thought about what it felt like to be in an abusive relationship and feel like you’re losing any sense of who you are in order to make someone else happy. It takes courage to leave and time to gain distance from the situation to be able to look back and realize how much of yourself you lost, and to start to regain that. That’s what I was thinking about when I started sketching ideas for my illustration. When I work I always start with a sketch, and then after I choose a color palette I’ll move on to drawing or painting the final piece, this particular work was drawn in photoshop.” -Caroline Vance

Where are you from?

good show or hear a song that inspires me I love to think about how I’d animate to it, or what kind of flyer I’d make. Getting to work with so many musicians is great; it’s exciting to be able to experience the art they make and visually interpret that for them through my own work. I also like to see how other artists do this as well. Robert Beatty, Paula Scher, Ray Pettibon, Andy Warhol are all good. I’m also constantly looking at design and typography; Louise Fili, Jessica Walsh, Paul Rand, Stephen Powers, Kate Moross, David Hockney, Mike Perry are all favorites, and I like to collect old books. There’s something really beautiful about forgotten imagery and typography, feeling nostalgia for something you’ve never experienced can be a very inspiring feeling.

Stony Brook, New York

What materials do you like to work with?

What is your current occupation?

I work primarily with Photoshop and After Effects, or Gouache on paper. Sometimes a Risograph when I can.

Name Caroline Vance Age 21 What is your current location? Ridgewood, Queens

I’m a student and freelance designer, and I also work as an intern and Promoter Rep for AdHoc Presents. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I’m currently in my third year of a BFA in design at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most? I work so directly with music in my day to day life that I’d say that that is what I take the most inspiration from. When I go to a

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? I’m working on a lot of stuff that I’m really excited about right now. I just finished up an animated music video and I’m doing an album cover for a friend and artist I really love. I also have a pretty steady stream of show flyers, posters, and logos that I’m always working on. Is there any music you like to listen to while working? I always like to listen to something while I’m working. I’ll usually


put on a playlist of songs that I’m into at the moment. Right now it’s a lot of Alex G, Power Funeral, Show Me The Body, Horse Jumper Of Love, Forth Wanderers, Elliott Smith, and Kraus.

things that I loved. I also really liked to paint rocks.

Where do you like to work?

Ultimately, I hope to make work that goes beyond myself. I want to use my voice to help other people and make the things that I interact with more beautiful. The design world can be so cold and harsh, and I want to do what I can to bridge the gap between formal design and experimental design, printmaking, and illustration. I believe that design, beyond being able to communicate well, can be fun, and I want to prove that in whatever little space of the creative world that I occupy.

I’m most comfortable making work at home, usually sitting in bed with my two cats. What is one of your earliest memories of making art? My mom used to give me mini photo albums that I’d fill with collections of stickers and drawings of my teddy bear and other

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @careoh__ (Instagram)


What do you hope to accomplish with your work?


Ron Hotz “Brownies was drawn from my experience as a case worker in a downtown Toronto crisis centre. The facility provided non-medical support to people who were survivors of physical and sexual abuse, drug addiction, psychiatric illness and homelessness. The most unfortunate of the group was a pair of identical twin sisters. They had endured terrible hardships and when asked if they could recall any happy memories from their childhood mentioned joining the Brownies. The Brownies are a division of the Girl Scouts. However, in order to join they first had to buy uniforms. As neither had money (or support from their parents) they approached an uncle for help. He offered to pay for their uniforms in return for sex. And that’s how they joined the Brownies.” -Ron Hotz Name

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Ron Hotz

The person who inspires me most is Philippe Petit; the French high wire artist who walked between the Twin Towers in 1974. Nothing could dissuade him from realizing his vision, his art, no matter how impossible or death defying the odds. Love that guy! In terms of authors I would say my favorite is David Foster Wallace. He can reduce any construct to its microscopic particles and then immolate it with his insights. When it comes to film I like what Harmony Korine is doing. His work is trashy and arty and feels uniquely his own.

Age 53 What is your current location? I live in Toronto with my partner Evelyn and our two wily daughters Hana and Miki. Where are you from?

What materials do you like to work with?

What is your current occupation?

Every drawing is a goddam fist fight. I use whatever materials are at hand to create the image: pencils, markers, acrylic paints, oil paints, collage, inks, coffee, office supplies, digital fakery. When drawing I have the mind set of a kitchen blender.

I am a physician working full time in a Family Health Organization. Until recently I was also practicing obstetrics.

What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on?

Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught?

In addition to producing small books and zines I am currently working on a comic about a plague doctor, who, during the 16th Century, is confronted by all manner of Hieronymus Bosch-y demons, angels and adventures. Ink Brick number 7 edited by Alexander Rothman will feature a six page story with this character.


My first degree is a Bachelor of Fine Arts from York University. Cartooning, though, is self-taught.


Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

There is, I listen to everything! Across all genres and eras. The common thread is that it be transgressive. I am, however, a sucker for melody. If a song is ear-catching and produces that elusive sensation, that shiver, which falls between déjà vu and an orgasm, it can surely influence my work. Music intensifies my drawing experience. It can also relax my inhibitions and promote new directions in creativity.

In grade three I created my first flip book; a circus lion eating a man and it was a lot of work. But to see my figures animated was incredible. And when I showed it to my friends, and saw their reactions, it made me feel like a wizard.

Where do you like to work? I draw at home and at the doctors’ office: At work the drawings are frenzied. I sneak them in between patients and phone calls and insurance forms, this stuff is liminal. Whereas at home the images tend to be more contemplative and methodical..

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Where To Find Them Contact: Social Media: @ron_hotz (Instagram)


What do you hope to accomplish with your work? It’s all about making art that challenges my own technical limitations, striving for honesty and fearlessness. It’s strange, but after producing a successful drawing it leaves me feeling afraid; that it was just luck that got me there–and it might never happen again. It’s a constant struggle but that’s the work.


Andrea Lukic “Her past is not generous. Her secrets lay unexpressed in the deep chasm between the lines of chaos. In the opening shot of the television show she is leaning against a tree near a garbage can, eyes closed, in a red jump suit, lit only by the headlights of an unknown vehicle. She looks at her reflection in the rearview mirror and small fires transmit her senses. ‘Like night I sleep with open eyes. In my dreams I reach the essence of what this symbol is creating.’ She traces a heart on the window pane. I remember her from highschool, she was gripped by a fear so early on yet sick with devotion for collisions. Due to her implant, we are able to see inside this joyride. Her companions are entities made of light around the exterior, laughing nervously and watching her. We take the laughter to mean that they know something we don’t. Whenever we are being torn apart by outwards suffering or inner conflict, it is inevitable that a sacrifice, when ritualized, will weaken in the arms of a dispassionate subject.” -Andrea Lukic


playing music and less interested in making art. My education there seems pretty forgettable now. After graduating I picked up drawing again and forcibly forgot a lot of what I heard in art school, which was that things like drawing/ceramics/music are not serious art–but playing divisive tricks with shapes is serious. I am currently getting my masters in Library Studies. I’ve always been fond of research. I wish I’d thought of this sooner.

What is your current location?

What people, books, films, (etc…) inspire you the most?

Vancouver, BC

Today its Gee Vaucher, The Ruling Class starring Peter O’Toole, Ace Frehley, Jonas Mekas, Star Trek, Early Netherlandish painting, special fx makeup artist Rob Bottin (he did Total Recall, RoboCop, the Fog, the Thing, Se7en), Rob “the Baron” Miller from Amebix, Ms. Trees comics, Greer Lankton, Michael Jackson, deep investigative reporting, Marilyn Manson (till the year 2000), Pharoah Sanders, kabuki theatre, con-artists, middle earth, the Alien franchise, REsearch publications, GG Allin’s last gf Liz Mankowski, Akira, Foxy Brown, dolls, flowers, animals, futuristic guitars, interior decor books, closets, angels, and most importantly; mysteriousness and books. Mostly books. As for “artists” I am inspired by anyone who is a freak in real life, and cool in real life.

Name Andrea Lukic Age

Where are you from? Originally former Yugoslavia. Then I moved to Canada when I was a kid. What is your current occupation? A work at a comic book store. Do you have any training or formal education in the field of art you work in, or are you self taught? I received my BFA at Emily Carr University, but I didn’t do any drawing there unfortunately. I initially wanted to study printmaking, but I hated it. I moved on to sculpture department, but at that same time I started to become more and more interested in

What materials do you like to work with? I used to strictly use brushpens. Now I use pencil a lot and my best friend is my eraser. I will draw many things in one picture


and erase many many things. 2nd most important tool is my symbolic representation of the world and diary. What pieces, projects, or collaborations are you currently working on? Journal of Smack 5? 6? A comic I do when I feel inspired to do it and have time. The newest addition to Journal of Smack is a love story unfolding in a tv show. We have a guy addicted to the past and to a soap opera from his hometown, his wife Dara is addicted to a dream -her reality is much like a nightmare-and her husband is so addicted to the lead star of a soap opera, Kay, who is addicted to a drug.

people where it’s appropriate or even expected to engage with people and them with what your working on–I find that aspect really irritating. Drawing for me is asocial. I pretty much jump down a rabbit hole and don’t come up till I’m done. The alone together element of libraries is better for me. I like the endless isles of stimulus, I like the studious frame of mind, and the sporadic interruptions that are separate and disconnected from what you’re doing. What is one of your earliest memories of making art?

Klaus Schulze, Clive Palmer’s Original band (Clive Palmer was in the Incredible String band), Coil, the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Original Soundtrack, Don Cherry, Clan Of Xymox, and Robbie Basho. I also love audiobooks and podcasts, interviews, talk shows, star trek and dateline mysteries.

I think when I was 12 or 13 I started to draw the same girl who panhandled outside the drugstore by my house over and over. She was the main character in a story of underground people who lived in sewer mazes. I had the script for the story saved on a floppy disc from school, so I’d write a page of the story, and then draw the people over and over again and fantasize about what they would be saying. I don’t think I would have been drawing if I wasn’t poor or a loner. My family lived in a one bedroom apartment, so we had little privacy and I liked escaping by drawing.

Where do you like to work?

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?

I work at home at my desk or at the public library. I had a studio once upon a time a long time ago, but sharing a space with

I hope to get better technically, and I hope to stay uninhibited in expressing myself, especially with the writing.

Is there any music you like to listen to while working?

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Where To Find Them Websites: Contact: Social Media: @antonlevis (Instagram)





As a songwriter and performer, Anna McClellan is a complex force to be reckoned with. The 24

year old singer/songwriter from Omaha, NE has crafted an emotionally dense body of work with the two solo albums she has recorded since entering her young adulthood. On her debut, Fire Flames, Anna gives vivid detail to abstract ideas about love, loss, and anxiety while simultaneously showcasing her music musical prowess as a singer and pianist. But on her new follow up album, Yes and No, coming out next month on Father Daughter Records, the power and conviction of Anna’s voice and writing are brought even farther to the forefront, giving even more weight to the subject matter she grapples with through out the record. After a month long cross country tour at the end of last year, Anna returned to New York and has begun prepping for the release of her second solo album. I met up with Anna on a Friday morning for breakfast at B&H Dairy in Manhattan to discuss her new album and all of the aspects of her life that have helped make it the heart wrenching masterpiece that it is.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Omaha—born and raised. I basically lived there my whole life. Now I live here in New York. It’s been like a year, or a little over. But I’m moving out of my apartment in March, and then I’m probably not going to have a place for a while. I like not living anywhere. I mean I also, I have to acknowledge my privilege in being able to choose when I have a stable living situation. I feel really lucky that my socioeconomic status allows me to make/do the things I do. Was there a music community where you grew up in Omaha? What led you to start performing and making music? High school was the start I think. I took piano lessons, so I guess there was the whole piano scene with all of the recitals I would go to, haha. Then in high school I did band. I made friends there and then we sort of started doing other stuff. My boyfriend in high school was very prolific and was constantly creating stuff. His house was sort of like the hub for a bunch of us. My friends started making bands in high school. I didn’t have one because I was still scared and I was trying to figure out what my voice was. It didn’t really even occur to me that I was ever going to do it. I think art has always been intimidating to me. Was there any specific music that was important to you at the time? Did anything convince you that making your own music was something you wanted to pursue? Rilo Kiley probably. The first song I ever learned to play and sing was “With Arms Out Stretched” by Rilo Kiley. My sister played it for me in her car. She’s five and a half years older than me, and she played it one day for me when I was like 12. It was the first time I felt like I could do something like it, or that I wanted to. I also liked the idea that singing didn’t have to be any certain way. Whatever way your voice wants to go is cool. Then years later my friend this band called Sun Settings and my first band around that time was called Howard.


Did you start playing shows at the end of high school then? I played my first show solo. I had written like five songs and I played in my friend Imagine’s basement. It was really cool. People were immediately responsive, so it felt really good. After the show my friends Daniel and Corey who also played drums and guitar in Sun Settings were like “We want to play with you.” so after that we stated the band. Then getting out of high school, I was in the larger Omaha scene, which was such a fun and supportive space. When I was a junior in high school I studied abroad in Denmark. That’s where I started writing songs and where I started realizing the way I wanted to be a person in the world. I realized I didn’t want to go to college, so I made plans to travel after high school to South America, which never ended up happening. That was what I thought I was going to do, but I ended up staying in Omaha and was working at a coffee shop, writing songs and playing more music I guess. But also I was just fucking off too. I moved out of my parents house, got an apartment, and just did weird shit there. I hung out with my friends and felt depressed. It seems like most after high school experiences are like that. I felt very desperate and was searching for validation in that time. I guess I was playing shows then. I remember when it first occurred to me that I could book a show, and I didn’t just have to ask to booked. That was a big thing because I realized that I would have more control over how the show felt, which is always good. At what point did you start working on your first album, Fire Flames? How did you approach writing the songs for that album? All of those songs were written in that period that I was talking about when I was around the


age 18 or 19. By the end I had all of these new songs and Howard had just broken up. This guy Ben (Brodin) who use to come into the coffee shop I worked at, was a sound engineer at the main studio in Omaha called ARC. He’s this super rad guy who’s really supportive and wants to work on stuff that he likes. So he made that record along with Yes and No. I feel like if it wasn’t for him helping me get really nice recordings, it wouldn’t have gone the same way. He’s such a huge part of me pursuing this more actively and seriously. You have a really unique style of songwriting in general. Your lyrics are often really descriptive yet also really cryptic. How long did it take you to develop your style of writing? I really like big picture—like writing about things in giant scope with universal themes. I think a lot of stuff I like to write about is the constant search for something when you don’t know what you’re looking for. You know you’ll probably never find it, but you just keep looking for it because, what else are you going to do to fill all of the time that you have? I remember for the first song that I wrote, I just asked myself how I felt, and the act of asking was the catalyst of knowing. I had to ask it, but I felt like I hadn’t really asked before. I just try to be really honest with my writing. Emoting and expressing is not something that comes easily to me, so it’s always sort of a struggle to get it out. After finishing Fire Flames what was the immediate result of the album? How much time was there between when you finished that album and when you moved to New York? We finished making the album in, I think, early 2015 and then it came out on tape in October of 2015. Then I moved to New York in August of 2015, but just for three months, and I lived in North

Brooklyn. Then when the tape came out I went on this tour and ended up not coming back. I just stayed in Omaha because I had just gotten back together with my boyfriend. When you first moved here, did you plan on staying here permanently? Yeah. I mean, I just had sublets. I had just come off of this four month solo road trip and just ended up here at the end of it. So I guess I still didn’t really know, but I was just seeing what felt good. But I moved back to Omaha and was living with my boyfriend at the time in this really small apartment. We were in really close quarters and it was above this bar. I really hated the apartment, haha. I really tried to make it work because we had gotten back together so many times, it was just like, “If we’re going to do this, this is the last chance we’re going to do it.” Then it didn’t work, so I moved out and moved into this other place with my friend Alex and lived there for a while. I started getting restless again, and I had made so many friends out here that I wanted to hang out with. I also wanted to pursue music more seriously—not that New York gives you more opportunity, I don’t think that. But being here gives me a certain amount of drive that I couldn’t have, being so comfortable. That September, after I moved out of the place with my boyfriend, I recorded Yes and No, and we did it in two days. Then we went back and did the overdubs later. The band on that record is so good. They just really work. I was really fortunate to have people who can just sort of figure it out really quickly and then be ready to do it. When did you decide to move back to New York after that? Well, there was this Bellows tour with PWR BTTM that happened in October of that year. They came through Omaha, and I had just gotten back from tour and hadn’t really gotten settled into my job. They offered to have me just jump in the van with them, so I did, and I ended up driving with them for three weeks, finishing out the rest of their tour, and ending up here. Through that time I was like, “Okay. I like hanging out with them and being independent and being out in the world. I’ll just move back I guess.” Felix had a room open up on that tour, so it just made sense. What was it like moving back and starting to play shows here again? I didn’t really play that many shows when I first moved here. I feel like I still haven’t played that many shows here. But I have a really cool band here, and it’s been a long time since we’ve played with that line up. It’s drums, bass, cello, and me, and it’s so fun. When I first moved here I wasn’t really getting any offers to play, but I get more now. I haven’t really been able to do any of them because of this play that I’m working on, and I was just on tour for five weeks. I feel like New York is a weird city for shows. Going into making your second record, were there things that you knew you wanted to do differently with Yes and No? Yeah definitely. With Fire Flames, that was the first time I had ever done it, so it was the first context I had for making an album. Then with the next one, I had that context of making Fire Flames. I think when I started writing songs for Fire Flames, I didn’t know I was making a record. But when I started writing songs for Yes and No, I was aware of the idea of making something cohesive. I think since all of the songs are written next to each other, that happens naturally. There’s a progression that your life has, and that’s reflected in the songs that you write. But yeah, all of the songs on Yes and No, to me, have a very similar theme, which is me grappling with the idea of romantic love and loving men.


Do you feel like the writing became more or less personal than the writing on the the first album? If anything I think it’s more personal. For some of the songs on Yes and No I had a really hard time coming to terms with myself and the way that I feel. Making that public in such a way is hard. I knew with Yes and No the arrangement was going to be a lot simpler and more straight forward. On Fire Flames there were all of these different instruments. We didn’t really have a plan or anything. With Yes and No, in addition to piano, it was just guitar, bass, drums, and strings and that’s it. I just love how it feels very tight and closed. It’s like the circle was completed or something. We also knew what we were doing a lot more.


Who are some peers who’ve been really supportive or helpful while you’ve been starting out? I think Greta (Kline) comes up first. She asked me to tour on the Frankie Cosmos record release, and that was huge! That just blew my world. I had never played to that many people so consistently. Also meeting her and everyone on that tour was just so cool. The way that it happened, was just through her seeing one show that I played. It led to all of this shit. Yeah I remember her texting me the day after seeing you play for the first time and she told me I had to check out your music. Yeah she has been such a cheerleader. Some other people who’ve been helpful or influencial are Razors, Gus and Call, The Howl, Ayomide Adekunle, Dan McCarthy, UUVVWWZ, Rachel Thomlinson Dick, Megan Siebe, Sean Pratt, The Subtropics, Mesonjixx, Outlaw Con Bandana, Sun Settings, Ryan McKeever, and Omaha Girls Rock. When did you first show Father Daughter the album, and what has it been like working with them to put it out? Last February was when we were “shopping it around” or whatever. I sent Jessi (Frick) the album and it took her a couple weeks to get back to me. But then she did and she said she wanted to put it out. So I was like, “Okay, sweet!” She’s just the best, so it’s been really great. The only thing that sucks is that we had to weight so long for them to be able to do it. But that’s just the way that all of this works these days. The market is over saturated, so there’s a wait.


But she is just so sweet and thoughtful, and I feel so heard by her. It’s about the music, not about numbers or anything, so it’s cool. It’s cool to have resources like that. She does a lot for the bands on her label. How did you start working on the play that you’re involved with right now? Dude, the play is crazy! It’s by this director named Elena Araoz. I met her in Omaha, because there’s this avant garde theater conference that happens every May, and she started coming to that. So me and the other people that are working on it—we did plays for her in Omaha where we’d have just a weekend to make it and then we’d perform it once. She just keeps asking us to do them and now, since a bunch of us live here where she lives and works, it’s worked out to do more. We’ve just been really lucky because it’s been really amazing. The work is so fulfilling and different from playing in the typical rock outfit. We had known we were going to do it since the fall I guess. We started writing it in December before the holiday. Then for the past two weeks we’ve been putting it all together. It’s really stressful and there’s so much work and it takes up your whole life. It’s really interesting trying to agree on all of these little things—or even just trying to explain what you’re saying. We just get so caught up in things like “So, are we doing it two times before the progression or three times before the progression?” But we’ve figured it out by now, so it feels really good. Once you have it all and you see it all come together, it’s really gratifying—especially since there are so many parts of the theater, like light cues, actors, and the director. You’re not just answering to yourself. It’s just so different, but also the same. Also I get to play this really nice piano, haha. It’s weird to go into work every day.

What do you think keeps people from putting their work out into the world when they’re younger? How did you get use to releasing your music and performing in front of people at a young age? I don’t know. For me, with everything that I’ve done, as soon as it occurs for me to do it, I’ll be like “Okay, let’s try that.” When it occurred to me to tour I had to ask “How do you do that? What are the logistics of doing that?” I think a lot of it is just that there’s a lot of work. I think it’s often laziness that keeps people from doing it, more so even than their fear. I guess laziness and fear go together or something? There’s so much about doing music on the DIY level that you have to do yourself that’s not even music. A lot of it doesn’t involve playing music at all. So I think that probably keeps people from doing it. I feel pretty comfortable with it all now. It’s weird trying to remember a time when I didn’t. It’s hard for me to even think of being afraid of showing people my songs or something. But that definitely was a thing at one point. Now I’m just so in it that it’s mostly fun. I spent a lot of time by myself a couple years ago, just trying to figure out what I really want and believe and stuff. There were so many times where I was trying to get shows and feeling like a dumb baby, haha. What was your experience like touring for five weeks at the end of last year? It was so awesome. It was a perfect storm of people and music and experiences. We were all really surprised by how well the shows turned out. What I hoped when I started my first tour was that this thing would just build on itself, and I think that that’s finally true. The more


people that you know, the more it adds to this giant web. It’s sort of a small circuit when you think about it. You start meeting people who all just know each other all across the country. I love it. It gives me life to be a part of that. Now more than ever, there are so many bands and people trying to do it, so “making it” has to have a different meaning. “Making it” has to mean connecting with people. If you’re doing that, then you’re doing it right, in my opinion. Are there things you feel like you still struggle with as a songwriter or as a musician? What hurdles do you still see ahead of you that you want to overcome? I think my weakest thing is rhythm. It’s hard, haha. A part of me is just like “I don’t think I’ll ever be good at it.” I just don’t really have it. But the play has been really good for that. There are a lot of weird time signatures, like we play in 5/4—which isn’t that weird, but I usually just play in 4/4. Pitch also sometimes gives me trouble. I think the other thing is playing with other people. I usually write alone, and I usually write my songs by myself. It’s hard for me to come up with stuff when other people are around. I get really self conscious. Also, up until recently, no one has ever asked me to play their songs—I was always teaching other people my songs. So leaning music that I didn’t make was hard for me. Feeling comfortable with other people and music, rather than just myself and music, is something I think I’m still figuring out. Trying to be a more versatile player is a constant thing to strive for. What stuff are you working on right now that you can talk about? I’ve been trying to learn guitar this whole year. I got a guitar on tour in May, and so I’ve been doing that a lot. It’s interesting because I can only play like seven chords or something. Trying to write songs with that limitation has been really fun. Trying to write songs with progressions that have been used forever and have been so done and trying to make them interesting— that’s been something I’ve been trying to do lately. I keep trying to get more and more simple. With piano I’ve been trying to write more stuff without singing. I haven’t really been able to write “song” songs on piano lately. I don’t really know why. I guess it just hasn’t been working. They all sound really dumb, haha. But I’ve been getting into more instrumental pieces. I think the next thing is going to be a combination of those two. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? I don’t know… I guess I imagine having a place—like my own studio or whatever—where I could just make a thing. I guess “shed” is the term, right? Blocking off a month of time and forcing the thing to be done at the end, and just seeing what it is. Other than that, not really I guess. This year is all about touring, so having more money for that would be cool. There’s basically none right now, haha. I think about video projects a lot. I’d like to do some weird video project, but I don’t really have any resources for that. Mostly what I want to be doing, I’m doing right now. So it’s been pretty good.




Across his many artistic endeavors, Brian Chippendale has yielded a level of might and grace that has allowed him to

make consistently unprecedented work for the past two decades. Since moving to Providence, RD in the early 90s and studying printmaking at Rhode Island School of Design, Brian has ferociously output ground breaking work as a musician, cartoonist, and painter, garnering critical acclaim for his achievements in each field respectively. With projects like the celebrated venue/installation/living space Fort Thunder, the seminal early 2000s newspaper Paper Rodeo, and his 20+ year noise music partnership Lightning Bolt, Brian and his peers have helping to establish the gold standard for modern DIY projects, forever changing how we think about underground art. Despite his many achievements and accolades as a musician and artist, Brian has remained to approach each new project he takes on with the same child-like enthusiasm and spontaneity he always has had.

While visiting Providence this fall I had the great fortune of visiting Brian at his new studio in the desolate industrial district

on the west side of town. Among boxes and boxes of unpacked relics from Brian’s past, we sat down to talk about art communities, making a living as an artist, and how having a kid forces you to reprioritize your creative life.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I was born in Newburgh, New York, which is not the nicest place in the world if you’ve ever been there. It’s okay. It’s near Beacon and stuff, and those places are nice. But I grew up outside of Philadelphia in the suburbs. Then I came to Rhode Island for art school. I went to Rhode Island School of Design in the early 90s. Now I’m still here in Providence, Rhode Island. Where you a part of the art or music communities in Philadelphia while you were growing up outside of the city? I knew that glam rock band Cinderella was from Philadelphia, haha. But aside from that, not really. Well, I guess in high school I went to Stratford which is near this big park called Valley Forge Park just west of the city. Me and my friends started a band, and there were a couple bands at our high school. Then we discovered that in Redding, Pennsylvania there was this hardcore scene, so we started going to those shows and playing there. I’d see Sick of it All and Judge—just these big hardcore bands of the late 80s and early 90s. But I never really understood Philadelphia. My interactions with Philadelphia itself were; on the weekends my friend and I would go down and do figure drawing classes at either Moore College of Art & Design or the University of the Arts and then we would just wander the streets. But we never really got past the doorways of the buildings. I would go see big shows in the city, but at that time local bands or even opening bands were just a thing between you and seeing Suicidal Tendencies or Soundgarden or whatever you wanted to see. So I didn’t know what was going on in Philadelphia at all. Then I went to college and started

kind of understanding the local scene in Providence a little bit. But when I’d go back in the summer I’d still never know Philadelphia at all in that way. I wish I did, but I was very much a suburban kid. Before going to RISD did you have any formal training in music or art? As a musician I’m completely self taught. It was like, my best friend’s dad married this new woman and her son became my friend’s step-brother. The step-brother also had a friend, so it became this group of the four of us that were thrown together. We just made a band because we were hanging out all of the time. One guy played guitar and another guy played bass and they could play Rolling Stones and Metallica songs. Me and my best friend couldn’t play anything, so we both wanted to sing. But he ended up singing and I ended up playing drums. I think I drew straws and lost, so I had to play drums. Then that was it. We would just play in my friend’s mom’s basement. I didn’t really ever take classes. I had taken saxophone lessons earlier in my life, so I could sort of read some music—not that that applied to being in a four chord rock band. Then for art, as a kid I always did local craft stuff. My parents would send me to stuff like that in the summers. At some point we discovered the figure drawing classes in the city and I got pretty serious about that. So I knew how to draw naked people I guess. But I probably spent more time drawing out of comic books than I did doing that. Everyone says when you go to art school, figure drawing is a foundational thing, and I guess it probably is. Even just drawing from life generally is good. So I think that was a good thing for me to do, and it was cool because


it would get me into the city. What was your awareness of comics at that point? What role did they play in your life growing up? I was making them prior to knowing anything about real comics, I think. My timeline gets a little puzzling when I think back on it. At some point I went to some convenience store and bought a Daredevil comic and a G.I. Joe comic. Then I was hooked, so I got subscriptions. I would get this folded in half comic in a little brown sleeve in the mail once a month. That was just amazing. I think it was G.I. Joe issue 10 and Daredevil issue 121 or something. Lucky for me, when I started reading Daredevil it was at this amazing point in the series that still holds up, right before Frank Miller came back on and David Mazzucchelli was drawing it and had been drawing it for a whole run. One of the first issues I had ever read was issue 219 I think. It’s written by Frank Miller and drawn by John Buscema. Daredevil is not in the comic at all, but Matt Murdock, his alter ego, is. It’s just this weird story where Matt Murdock rides into this weird New Jersey town and has to deal with this corrupt police officer. He resembles “the only good cop the city had ever seen” and I don’t think he says anything the whole time. So it was just the most un-Daredevil comic that ever came out, and that was one of the first ones I picked up. Then a couple issues later there was this vulture story that David Mazzucchelli drew. Those comics are still amazing. What made you decide to go to RISD after high school? What were some of your first impressions of the school when you went there? I applies to three schools. I applied to Maryland Institute College of Art, RISD, and then Alfred because I was into ceramics. That was maybe going to be my focus because we had a really good ceramics teacher at my high school. I think he has since passed, but he smoked Pall Mall cigarettes all day and was just covered in this cloud of smoke. But he was so cool and for some reason I was super into ceramics. Thank god I didn’t go to Alfred. Although, I’m sure it would have been fine. I went to look at RISD and I didn’t like it, and I don’t remember why. I came once and was like “Uh, it kind of sucks.” But then my friend at high school was like, “I’m going to go to RISD. You gotta go! Let’s go together! It’s going to be so fun.” So I came and visited again and sat in on a freshman foundation 3D crit. I think I even spoke, haha. I was probably like the dumbest weirdo in the room being like, “Whoa! So you put the pattern on the object and on the flat background and you can create this corresponding thing with the flatness and depth?” I said something and probably sounded like an idiot. But whatever happened in that moment in that class made this huge connection in me and I was suddenly like “This is awesome! I really like it here.” My friend who I was talking about going there with—because Brown is at the top of the hill we had talked about how “We’re going

to hide behind this wall and throw rocks at the brown students.” So that was the whole plan; go there, take classes, and throw rocks at the Brown students. But then he ditched! I mean, he wasn’t my closest friend, he was just a pretty good friend. But he just ditched and didn’t go to RISD and went to Tyler. So I ended up going to RISD without the guy who convinced me to go to RISD. But it all worked out fine I guess. I loved it once I started going. My freshman roommate was Mat Brinkman, who’s this incredible illustrator and personality. He shaped mine and many other people’s existences over the next 15 years. It was a really great experience. I wasn’t really the best student by any means, haha. But Providence was a wasteland back then and it was way less developed than it is now. Downtown was kind of a ghost town at night and there were all of these abandon buildings, so you could explore endlessly. It felt like weirdly safe because it was actually empty buildings rather than buildings with meth-heads or whatever. So we would wander around all night and then go to some of our classes, haha. It felt awesome. What was the printmaking program there like? What made you decide to make that your focus? I went into printmaking because I figured out that printmaking felt like the one program where you didn’t have to do only printmaking in a way. It was like, illustrators were definitely illustrating, painters were definitely painting, but printmaking people were kind of doing a lot of weird stuff. It felt like the only department at the time that you could have some flexibility in because there were a couple really cool teachers. So that’s why I went there, and a few of my friends also chose that department. People that I liked seemed to be in it so—I just follow. That’s my thing I guess. I go where ever my friends tell me to go. Then they ditch me, haha. So that was what printmaking was like. I hated aspects of it. I do not like lithography. Just grinding stones flat—it’s just so boring. But I did like silkscreening, and that was my first introduction to silkscreening. I still managed to fail the Silkscreening 2 class somehow. I mean, I managed to not graduate at all. I petered out with half a year of undone credits just floating out there. I went for two years, then I left, and then I went back. In retrospect, maybe I hated it. But the people that I met there was just a really strong creative crew of people. It just felt really good being in Providence at school. Maybe half of the teachers were any good. But a couple of them were really inspiring and the people that went there were super inspiring. What was your awareness of the ideals behind “punk” at the time? When did you first meet Hisham Bharoocha and Brian Gibson and when did you start playing music together? Maybe in high school I started listening to Fugazi and DC


bands and all kinds of stuff. That sort of idea was creeping into brain at that point—this idea of DIY or whatever. So I went to RISD for two years and then I left and then I came back for two years. I think I met Brian (Gibson) during the second wave when I came back. People were talking about this crazy new bass player who could play every Primus song or something, haha. I think I was a junior and he was a freshman. So we played together with a guitarist for a little while. It didn’t really work out, so we sort of all went our own way. But then me and Brian got back together just the two of us, and we played a show. I think it was 1994 at this point. Then this guy Hisham had arrived in school, and I was probably a senior now or something since Hisham is four years younger. We were super into the Boredoms and this guy Hisham was really into the Boredoms and he was a singer, so s omething happened and we got Hisham in the band. He looked so rad. He had this huge afro, he was super tall, he was super skinny, and he was really filthy in my memory of him. Although, he’s not filthy anymore. Occasionally he’s filthy. But he was just this stunning visual who had just arrived and loved the Boredoms and sang. So we had done it for a two piece for a minute, but we got him and it got really exciting for a while as a three piece. Then there were complications with that. Hisham went away for one some and me and Brian were a two piece again. We had a really productive summer and were like, “Maybe we should just do this.” Hisham is amazing and he’s busy with a lot of stuff, but me and Brian were focused and were like, “We’re going to do this.” So we parted ways after a year and a half I think. Somewhere out there theres a whole record that we recorded with Hisham. We went to a studio at Brown University and this guy named Lee— who sill exists and still has these recordings—recorded it. We got an email a year or two ago that was just a little piece of each song. So there’s this multi-tracked album of our early stuff out there. I want to pursue finding it, but I think at the time we couldn’t tell what was going on. We were like, “Is he trying to sell it to us?” He’s obviously not just giving it to us for free since he didn’t give it to us. But eventually we’ll get that stuff. A lot of that early stuff was primarily improvisational, right? You were at that show that I played like two nights ago where I played solo as Black Pus, right? That set was all pretty much improvisation too. At this point in my life improvisation has a little bit to do with lack of preparation. I want to go in there and play a totally comprehensive song oriented set, but I just can’t get my shit together. But part of the reason why I can’t get my shit together is that I like improvising so much and when I come into my studio to practice I’m just improvising all of the time. I think that’s always been the part of the competing ideas in Lighting Bolt and kind of whatever I’m doing. I love structured stuff. Like, I love watching a movie that’s super considered and


so put together. But I also really respect off the cuff energy driven art. I feel like that’s more my natural state. Conceptually its so exciting to work in the moment, find what you find, and make it a special thing. For an improvisational show, you can have the most successful moment of your musical career while you’re playing, and then utterly fail five minutes later. Or you can fail the whole time. When you’re playing a group of songs, you can deliver an amazing performance and find meaning in the songs that night again, but maybe you won’t get to that place of pure nirvana with creating in the moment. So there are a ton of different things at play. With Lightning Bolt we use to do a lot of improv. I think, just because we were playing all of the time, we were on top of it. Writing songs wasn’t a problem though. We would write plenty of songs and then put improvisation in there just to have a balance and to try to take chances. Now it’s gotten a little weirder because, as an older band it’s harder to find new material using our limited means. So, similar to the Black Pus stuff, we rely on improvisation because so many times we’re like, “Uh, I’m so sick of these songs. Let’s just do whatever.” We played last Friday in Chicago and improvised a bunch of stuff. Part of it was because we had some ideas that we hadn’t fully fleshed out in the studio, and we were sick of the old stuff, so we decided to just go out on a limb. It ended up being really fun. So improvising is helpful for the struggle of getting something in the moment and being frustrated with where we’re at as a songwriting band. It’s there for a mixture of stuff. I was watching some footage of me playing on Friday night and I was like, “Wow, when I’m unprepared I’m improvising, but I’m also just spazzing out.” haha. Songs sometimes reel that in a little bit because you have other things to rely on. How did Fort Thunder come to be around that time? What was the intention behind starting it? So me and Mat Brinkman were freshman roommates. We’re fairly certain it’s because we both wrote Godflesh as our favorite band, and I think RISD was lumping people in with their music tastes. So that was in ’91 when we started going to school. We were both in school, then we both left school, and then we both came back to school. We were staying in some apartment on the east side of town, which is the college side of Providence in the summer of ’94 or ’95. The landlord at the time had a friend moving out of this huge warehouse space. Sometime prior to that we had gone to some loft parties downtown. There were a couple old mills down town that students were living in, and I think we saw this band called Zen Guerrilla and this RISD band called Glory Hole, who then became the Jack Lords. I think it was the first mill party me and Brinkman had ever gone to, and it really hit us hard. We were like, “Oh my god, we’re in this big, high ceiling room really late at night and these guys are playing and it feels amazing.” We didn’t know any of this stuff. We had been to shows,

“For an improvisational show, you can have the most successful moment of your musical career while you’re playing, and then utterly fail five minutes later.” and we had been to clubs in cities, and we had been to basement shows because RISD had some basement shows. But we had never been to this specific type of mill party before. So I think it cemented in our minds, “We have to do this.” I don’t know who had that mill—probably members of that band Glory Hole. They were what felt like a total anarchy band. They would have torches and fire and puppets sometimes. Maybe it was just like the muppets show or like blues rock, but it felt really sinister and ferocious. There were a lot of people in the band and it was really noisy. It just felt really crazy to my mind at the time.

So anyways, that band and show and group of RISD students doing stuff before us got us on that path. That band and their crew of friends who were a few years older than us that probably started in the 80s had a huge affect on us. I had the feeling that they maybe cared less about that whole thing. We cared so much that it changed our lives. Maybe some of those guys were just passing through it or stumbled into it, but we were like “This is it!” Many years later I’m still in these spaces and I’m still playing stuff that echos back to that moment. So we got that space in the fall when somebody was moving out. We moved into the huge space in September of ’95 and I think Brinkman


named it Fort Thunder because it was where Lightning Bolt played. That was simply that. It’s incredible that you can trace it back to seeing a group of people doing a similar thing who were probably taking it less seriously. I feel like that’s a common starting point for a lot of people who get into punk or DIY. When you really try to start pulling apart all of the roots of the tree that you’ve grown into or whatever—not exactly the metaphor I was looking for, haha. But it’s just funny to try to figure out whether it was an event or something that put you on this path. For me, was it seeing Fugazi in Philadelphia is 1989 that put me on the corse of where I am? Or maybe it was seeing Sonic Youth when they were on the Sister or Goo tour in Philadelphia at the Trocadero? Or was it my high school friend’s who were into all of this stuff when all I knew about was Megadeth and Metallica and they were like “You have to check out The Minutemen.” Or was it going to this mill party where Glory Hole played that did it? It’s just interesting what puts you on the path that you end up on. Once you start to pick it apart you realize there are all of these little pieces. You’re like a rolling ball and someone kicks you a little bit each time until you’re creeping off into another direction. For the most part, none of us had any idea that we were even doing anything. With Fort Thunder people ask, “What did you set out to do?” but I’m just like “I don’t know. We needed a place to practice. Then a band called and they needed a place to play, so it all just worked out.” It was just this naiveté that lasted and continues to sort of last to some extent. How long did it take to actually construct the space? Did you have any sort of point of reference when you were deciding what it should look like? We had no preconceptions. Really all we wanted was a place where we could be loud 24/7. That was it. Later on people would come and be like, “Have you ever hear of Merzbow?—not talking about the Japanese noise musician, but the 20s house installation. Even stuff like Gary Panter—I hadn’t even watched Peewee’s Playhouse and I didn’t know about any of that stuff. There was this book called Assemblage, Environments, and Happenings— which I have somewhere buried—that was in the RISD library. It was put together by Allan Kaprow, who is maybe the guy who coined the term “happenings” in New York in the 60s or as early as the 50s. They would do these happenings where they would go into an abandoned building and just set it up like an apartment and hang out. That was his art. So I did see that book where there were these really crazy dense places that people were working on. It was just a really random book that was really gorgeous and had all of these different types of paper. So I saw that and that was in there to some extent. But really it was just that we found this space and we had all of these friends


who collected junk. We’d go out on trash night and find stuff, so we just started bringing stuff back. We had like 10,000 square feet to fill, so colorful stuff just started arriving and we would drag it in. There were a few things you needed. First you need a room, so you would build your room. You wouldn’t use any money, so you would bring in whatever and it would take on an odd form. My scenario was that I made this thing that looked like a weird mountain made by wheat pasting patterned newsprint all over this paper mache mess of a room. It became an art installation just because it had to. I had to fill in the cracks and I didn’t know how to make a wall. I remember steeling this huge amount of chicken wire from the RISD store, so I had all of this bendable material and stuff just kind of happened like that. I had a bunch of stuffed animals in bags, and you couldn’t just leave them rotting in bags, so you would staple them up to get the out. We just felt this inclination to use all of this stuff. That feels like the more prevailing thing than seeing a few installations. Then little by little we realized, Oh wow this is becoming really cool. It’s like this crazy living organism. Then I think me and Brinkman maybe even became a little militant about it like, “Why are you not stapling shit to the roof?! Get on it!” It was a funny time. Who were some of the artists and bands that were involved early on? The original crew was me, Mat, this guy Rob Coggeshal, and Freddy Jones. Freddy didn’t last very long, so there was this cursed room that people would cycle through. Leif Goldberg was a roommate who is an amazing artist. Jim Drain who is an amazing artist was a roommate. There’s a bar in Brooklyn right now called Honey’s and one of the partners who runs that, Raphael Lyon, was a roommate. There were a lot of roommates who came and left. Virtually everybody had something crazy to offer. If for some reason you were a roommate and you didn’t participate, it didn’t last very long. The first show we had there was for Karp, which was this band we all loved. I think the show was Lightning Bolt, maybe this local RISD band Les Savy Fav, Karp, and then maybe Radio to Saturn who was this guy Danny Leo who’s a part of the the Leo family that Ted Leo is in. I think that was show number one. Karp played in the kitchen and we were just like, “Holy shit!” They were one of the best bands. They were so good and so heavy. Then there was just this slew of amazing bands because there was nowhere else to play. Mat Brinkman is such a key component behind all of this stuff. Everything that happened in Providence from ’95 to 2005 has his imprint on it. His drawing style, how to do things—he’s just this pivotal person. He’s a bit of a void because he doesn’t really talk to people and he’s out in the mountains in Colorado. He’s not on social media really—though maybe he is. He’s a secretive kind of character. Forcefield, which was his group who was in the Whitney—other members of that

“It became an art installation just because it had to. I had to fill in the cracks and I didn’t know how to make a wall.” group might do interviews, but Mat won’t explain any of it. As far as Mat Brinkman is concerned, Mat Brinkman is not in Forcefield. Meerk Puffy—this person that may or may not be him—is in Forcefield. He’s really a powerful figure. But one that’s hard to pin down. There are a lot of people using the skills that he taught them indirectly who have become prominent, where as he just always shadowy and in the background. Black Dice was playing there. Before Black Dice was Black Dice they were called The Clutters or something. There were a few different names, but one iteration had Brian Gibson playing drums for them before Hisham was in it. Obviously Hisham came through in all kinds of forms. Hisham photographed the space really early for this magazine called The Nest. That issue is a really cool document and I think it’s still findable. It’s kind of crazy how many people I run into who came through at one point and then moved on. A lot of younger RISD people were piling through, and I don’t even know all of their names or how being there affected what they did later. But I remember Le Tigre played there. Man is the Bastard played there which was this huge historic band for us. Lots of people passed through. How did the Paper Rodeo project start? So there was Paper Radio, which was a conglomeration of Boston people. Ben Jones, who’s obviously now another

big artist, came to the Fort a lot. He moved to LA a couple years ago and is kind of affecting all sorts of stuff now. Chris Forgues (CF), who is sometimes in New York and sometimes in Providence, was part of it. There was also this guy Joe Grillo. Basically there was this crew in Boston that was making this thing called Paper Radio. They would show up at Fort Thunder all of the time with these Paper Radio zines. At some point Leif and Mat wanted to make this newspaper of comics. I think they called up Christopher or Ben and were like “Hey we’re making a comic and we’re going to call it Paper Rodeo. We’re stealing your name and there’s nothing you can do about it.” That’s the story at least. I wasn’t there for that moment, haha. I was probably ten feet away at the kitchen table or something. So Paper Rodeo was a comics paper and the name derived from this Boston crew of other supremely talented people who’ve gone on to do other stuff. There were drawings by people like Joe Bradly in there, and Joe Bradly is now this huge painter in New York. He’s got skull drawings in a Paper Rodeo from back in the day which is really funny. He came through as well becasue he was just someone that was around. When I was cleaning out my studio I was finding everything that was ever left there and I found a few funny things. I found an envelope with three dollars in it that said “Can I get these issues of Paper Rodeo?” from 2005 or something. I tried to find the guy online so I could be like. “Hey I found your three bucks! I think I might still


“The reason I’ve been able to even just draw comics is Lightning Bolt, because comics makes me such a small amount of money.”

have those issues.” but I can’t find him online, so I don’t know where he is. I found a stack of what I thought for a minute were Joe Bradly original drawings. Joe Bradley’s work goes for maybe a million dollars—I don’t know, he’s just a huge painter. So I was like “Oh my god!” but they were just photocopies. But for a minute I was like “We’re Rich!!!!” I probably would have just mailed them back to Joe, but the thought played itself out there for a minute.

My participation with the paper was that I drew a comic for it and I drew ads for it. But Leif and Mat were the main people going to get the ads and actually doing the production. Then various people would show up and help the night before it would go to press and they’d be at Kinkos just piecing shit together. But it was mostly just those two. I remember they were in the Whitney Biennial as Forcefield—it was Leif, Jim, this guy Ara Peterson, and Mat. It was a shit ton of work and they made this amazing Forcefield display of crazy creatures and sounds and all of that kind of stuff. Then shortly after that I remember going to Kinkos in the middle of the night and I saw Leif and Mat doing an all nighter to try to get their free gobbledygook newspaper out. So they had this huge New York debut and doors could have opened in all sorts of ways for them. But they just came back to Providence and were like, “I have to get the latest issue of this free thing out so that people who go to the crepe shop down the street can get


their thing.” They were—and still are—just so dedicated to community. That was a running theme in Fort Thunder as well. We had this place and we wanted people to use it, and you just had to put in work so that everyone could have it and so that Providence could be cool. What was it like to start seeing more people paying attention to the stuff you guys were doing? Was it exciting to be validated in a way, or did it spoil any of the fun of what you were doing? For Lightning Bolt at least, what was amazing for me after a while being able to be like “Whoa! I don’t have to be three months behind on rent anymore! I don’t have to duck tape my sticks back together anymore. I can just buy sticks.” Lightning Bolt for me was the first thing that generated any income for me. I did not have that many jobs. I would generally figure out how to make the money I needed. I would print something or… I don’t know what I did. Or I just wouldn’t pay the rent. We had a pretty serious tab going with the landlord for a while, and a lot of it was me for a few years. He was not happy about it, haha. The space was so crazy huge and chaotic that the landlord would come in and you would never see people disappear so fast into their caves. Then he would wander through and be like “Hey, is anybody here?!” Then he would come back the next week looking for rent and we’d

pay him some to keep him off. The good tenants were floating the boat for awhile for us. But we were working hard on other stuff, haha. The ability to be in a comfortable financial state as an artist or musician comes in waves. I don’t think the success has spoiled it too much or even spoiled it then. Back then it just gave me a little bit of safety to make other stuff. I think it was good. I mean, what destroyed Fort Thunder was just other weird real estate decisions by the gods that rule over these places and own all of these buildings. After that, nothing quite like it has started again in Providence since. There are amazing places. There’s this place, The Dirt Palace, which is this feminist collective that has existed for years now that is amazing. They were way more advanced in that they own their building and have a stable space. But there’s nothing on the really grand scale of chaos that we had going on. The town kind of changed at a certain point. You couldn’t get the same kind of space for the little amount of money that we were paying. There was a heyday of cheapness. Stuff gets snuffed out a little faster than it use to. Just in the last couple years Providence is definitely getting more expensive. What was it like to see Fort Thunder get shut down while you were simultaneously seeing more success with Lightning Bolt? I was on tour when the doors were actually locked at Forth Thunder. The landlord chained the doors because they were tearing it down, but they weren’t tearing it down immediately. I remember coming back from tour and paying

him the money we owed him so that I could get the last of my stuff out. Even still, I think we had a secret way to get into the rooms, haha. I think he chained the door back up and I was still climbing in through the roof and practicing in my room in the dark with a candle. So I was still going in there. Even now with the space that I just moved out of, I’m still finding ways to get in there. I’m a very polite tenant until you put something between me and my stuff. I’m going to get my stuff. I will do whatever to get my comic books out. I also have to have a place to play drums. I’m a nice person until you try to stop me from playing drums. Then I become the worst neighbor ever. It was a struggle at first. I remember going from paying $140 a month at Fort Thunder to a space where I had to pay $450. At least a period of time it was the only place I could find. It was brutal. I think Lightning Bolt allowed me to get it and have some months there before the money ran out. I remember being really stressed for a while. There was probably a year or something of really high levels of stress trying to print and sell posters to try to pay the bills. In that space I remember designing the Wonderful Rainbow cover. Our first couple records had printed silkscreen versions and then mass produced versions. For Wonderful Rainbow I printed like four copies just to get an image that could be mass produced. But I printed the first one—it was way too many colors—and I did it in that space. Then I remember the stress calming down a bit. I think Wonderful Rainbow came out and we did some touring on it and there were a bunch of years where it became more comfortable. I could rely on the tour money to get us going. I was only in that space for a few years until

“Our first couple records had printed silkscreen versions and then mass produced versions. For Wonderful Rainbow I printed like four copies just to get an image that could be mass produced.”


I moved back into another cheaper group space.

What comics were you working on around that time?

Lightning Bolt has been amazing. The reason I’ve been able to even just draw comics is Lightning Bolt, because comics makes me such a small amount of money. I go on tour and then I’ve got like four months when I can do whatever the fuck I want because I don’t need to worry about money. At least I didn’t. Now I have to pay for babysitters all of the time to actually get the space and time that I need, haha. So It has allowed for the art making which is less lucrative to happen. It has remained that way for the most part. I had a painting show this year in New York and I didn’t sell much of anything—I maybe sold like one thing. But then we’ve had some Lightning Bolt shows which have footed the bills for everything. I had a comic come out last year and we’ve sold—I don’t think we’ve sold the initial 3,000 worth of the comic, Puke Force. But even if we did, it only floats your boat for like a month or two. I don’t know how everyone does it, but comics for me are I think I do because I can do these other things. I would still try to find the time to do them even if I was utterly broke, because I just love the form. But Lightning Bolt has definitely allowed me to put extra effort into it.

Maggots, Ninja, If ’n Oof, and Puke Force are the four books that have been published on a standard level. Then I’ve had some minis. Paper Rodeo started around 2000, so prior to that I was drawing all of my comics in notebooks. I self-published a few copies of what was called Maggots at the time. It was me photocopying out of a notebook and reorganizing it. It was stupid, I had an 8.5 by 11 book that I had drawn all of this comic called Maggots in, and I was making these minis that were a quarter of that size. So I would photocopy all of the pages, cut all of the panels out, and then re-structure them because they went in their weird chutes and ladders kind of way in my notebook. It was just all of this extra work when I could have just made a big book. I just didn’t want an 8.5 by 11 book, I wanted a little one. So up until Paper Rodeo all of my drawing of any sort was in books. Books that I’d find in old buildings, books that people would give me— just books that already had something in them. I drew a bunch of comics on a catalog of Japanese books, so it had this thin Japanese writing through out the whole thing and I would draw off of that. Then when Paper Rodeo came a long I was drawing spe-

“Over the years I’ve become more interested in story and less interested in motion. My last comic Puke Force is pretty much straight up jokes and satire. If anything it’s like Bloom County.”


cifically to be published. I had never really drawn to be published before. I would always just draw to make a cool book that I could then keep on my shelf. I’m not in the first issue of Paper Rodeo because I didn’t want to be dragged into this world of publishing stuff. I just remember being weirdly angry at them because I was like “Ugh! They’re forcing me to draw on something I can photocopy easily!” Then I did it and I never went back. I started drawing all of that stuff on pieces of paper and I was done with the books. I actually have a book that I did like a hundred pages of comics in that just stops in the middle because I just moved over to plain paper. Now I just have piles of loose 8.5 by 11 paper which I do most of my drawings on. That was a big shift for me. Back in the old days I would draw just a figure in black space doing very little and just walking around. There was a lot of me being interested in motion. Then over the years I’ve become more interested in story and less interested in motion. My last comic Puke Force is pretty much straight up jokes and satire. If anything it’s like Bloom County—strips that lead to a bigger narrative. I’ve read a ton of super hero comics, but some how Bloom County and Sunday comic that I read as a kid were a big influence on the format.

There seems to be a common thread of filling up empty space through out your work. Where do you think that motivation comes from? Yeah a little bit. Something might be a little askew in my brain. My stuff is kind of cluttered. It’s funny, I see things that I can say are an influence, but sometimes I see things that are more like a recognition that I’m on an okay path. Julie Doucet is an illustrator who released maybe ten issues of thing thing called Dirty Plotte. My new books was published by Drawn & Quarterly, and her series was published by Drawn & Quarterly way back in the day. She had characters in a cluttered space with garbage all around. Around then I didn’t know Gary Panter that well, but I knew Julie Doucet and I knew a little bit of Chester Brown’s stuff. But it was justifying what I was already doing which was making really dense stuff. People say the same thing about my drumming. My drumming is very dense. But that’s maybe just because I’m a spazz and I get wound up. But it’s just such a different thing. If you’re a spazz and wound up when you’re drawing, you’re going to draw more like Mickey (Zacchilli) than me, haha. Me and Mickey kind of start from the same place with a figure in a dark space. She’s more like my older stuff which is more energy driven, where I have become more like

“To make something feel lived in, you’ve got to make it kind of grubby. That added grime is where the inspirational marks come in and you can have a little more fun.”


“He’s in a world with consistent shit in the background. If that stupid tea cup in panel number one it’s going to stay there through the whole thing.” The way I drum and the way I draw—it’s weird, they sort of coordinate and they sort of don’t. If I drew like I drummed I’d be tearing pages in half and howling and spilling ink on them. But at the same time, my most spastic drumming is still controlled too. There are correlations, but they’re different. I think over all I just want the world I make to have a lived in feel. To me, to make something feel lived in, you’ve got to make it kind of grubby. You’ve got to put marks on everything. If you take the debris away and take off the hatching on the buildings or whatever, it just looks clean and sterile. Clean and sterile to me has always kind of been like the enemy to me. I always try to pile on some more debris. Also, when you’re drawing, you’ll draw a figure and a background and then you’ll draw some weird shit on it. That added grime is where the inspirational marks come in and you can have a little more fun. I think with my comics I’m trying to communicate and tell a story, and at this point that’s a majority of what’s happening. But with my older stuff the energy of mark making is still in there and that sort of like a layer of noise. It’s the same as if you have a guitar and then you have a distortion pedal. That shit is the distortion pedal so that I’m not just playing acoustic. You have a really distinctive voice as a songwriter and as a cartoonist? What ideas do you hope to communicate to people through your work? That’s something I’m always sort of working on. I’ve always liked writing. I try to read a lot. Sometimes I just read comics, but other times I try to read a lot of books. These days, because I have an eleven-month-old kid, I read a page and then fall asleep until three hours later when he wakes me up again. I keep notebooks and stuff and like to write. Sometimes I’ll free-write on the computer. I like playing with words even aside from drawing and all of that. I think I like voices a lot too. I think a lot of storytellers do. I play out conversations in my mind. If somethings going to happen—if I have to go talk to someone or deal with something, I’ll play out the conversations before I get there. My comics are usually born from just me sketching. I’ll be free drawing whatever while listenings to the news or listening to music and just jamming on stuff. As soon as a character opens their mouth or does something funny, a lot of the times there will be a spinout conversation and a page is born in a way. The voice kind of comes from a mixture of playing with words and playing with drawings. I try to let the words come from drawing something and let the drawing suggest that something is happening and what would be talked about while it was happening. All of that is then mixed in with specific points I’m trying to make. I’m actually pretty angry when I’m drawing a lot of my comics. I’m pissed off about something, so there’s an undercurrent of being pissed off—which I try to make fun of to an extent.


How have you seen Providence change over the corse of the time that you’ve lived here? Do you feel like people still value the intentions behind DIY the way that people around you did when you were starting out? I think they do. I’ve aged. I came for school and I was very involved for a very long time. Now I’m a little less involved, partially because Lightning Bolt is like an international band now. When we play shows we’re traveling to them and we’ll maybe play one or two local shows. I started doing solo stuff just so that I could do more local stuff because it’s just nice to be involved. But I guess I can’t fully speak to what exactly is happening these days in town, because there’s always something happening and I’m less involved now. I feel like in every city there’s always this strong underground do-it-yourself network. There are a couple more club kind of spaces like Machines with Magnets, where we were the other night. This place Aurora has been fun, but it’s actually closing at the end of this month which is sad. AS220 has been here forever. It was a venue that was here when I came, and now it’s still here. That place is somewhat consistent. It’s always there when you need it. But the underground stuff changes. Right now there’s not a big mill scene. A lot of the mills are either getting fucked with or the spaces are smaller and people are using them to practice, but not for shows. There are a couple basement spaces which is where I feel like the youngest members of this weird gang are doing weird shit in. In the 90s and early 2000s it felt very inclusive. There was a real push to really mix up shows. I feel like at some point there was this schism in the way things worked. Rooms got smaller and scenes fragmented and maybe stayed fragmented to some extent. It’s not really all under one roof anymore. I mean, maybe it never was and I just through it was. But it feels more fragmented and it has kind of stayed that way. I feel like comics felt really strong when I first started doing them in the 90s and early 2000s here, but now a lot of those players are gone. But I think comics have remained really strong in Providence and there are some key people doing a lot of stuff. So comics have remained really strong and, if anything, have gained strength. There was a very unique art school reject stye that was going on that may have filtered out for other stuff. Again, this is me two steps outside of it all talking about it. Silkscreening has always been big in town and is sill kind of big. It’s maybe not as big as certain heydays, but there’s always a couple people doing really cool prints. It’s rad that that continues on. The art scene around places that show art work or that do installations seems to be wounded right now. There’s not a whole lot of that going on, and there have been better moments for that kind of stuff. It always feels like it’s an inch away. Providence is still pretty lively and if you want to get involved, it’s there. I feel like now I’m disconnected I feel like that’s all right, but there have

been times where I’ve felt disconnected because I’ll have just come back from tour and playing 40 shows and I feel like, “I don’t want to go to a show again for months.” Then after four months I’ll be like, “I want to go to this show, but I feel like I don’t know anybody anymore. Do they all hate me know because I don’t show up or whatever?” But once you go through the door into the Providence scene, it’s super friendly and open. For some reason sometimes in my mind, when I look at it from the outside, I feel like it’s very exclusive and there are really cool people doing cool things to a very limited cool audience. But I think that’s more in my mind. They are very cool and are doing cool things, but they actually want people to come and they want the support. That’s my synopsis from being a 40-something dad on the outside, haha. What has been the role of your solo music project, Black Pus, in your over all body of work? What void does it fill in your creative life? It’s had a few different functions. In the beginning it was just a joke. My roommates and I were writing down band names that had “black” in them like Black Flag, Black Sabbath, Black Dice, and Black Eyed Peas, in this on the kitchen table. I wrote down “Black Pus” and was like, “That’s going to be my band.” I don’t know why, I just wanted to be on the black list I guess. Then I was like, “Well, I better make an album.” so I made a CD with just drums and saxophone, because I use to play saxophone as a kid. Saxophones also sound cool through delay pedals, even if you can’t play them. I self recorded prior to Lightning Bolt when I was in high school. It wasn’t necessarily to have an end product. I would write songs for my high school band. I would play all of the instruments and then show it to my friend and be like, “Here’s the songs.” which was sort of frustrating to my friends. As the band went on I started playing guitar and bass, so I would just record these songs as demos. That’s how I got into self recording. Prior to Lightning Bolt I releases a few solo tapes of just drums and noises. But then when Lightning Bolt kicked in I sort of stopped. Lightning Bolt was taking up so much time that I didn’t really have time to self-record as much, I remember doing a soundtrack for someone’s film at RISD. I’d be psyched to hear that but I have no idea where a copy of that would be. But Lightning Bolt would take breaks sometimes, so I think it probably kicked in during a break. I think I recorded the first Black Pus album in two days. Instead of playing everyday we took a week off and I was like, “I’ll record an album!” So I recorded one, then I recorded a second, then I recorded a third. I remember recording one of them—we were suppose to go to Japan to tour and we got stopped trying to get into Japan. We got locked up for two days at the airport and they charged us like $600 a night to be in what was basically a prison hotel. When I got back home my girlfriend at the time Jungil (Hong) and Mat Brinkman were over still in Japan, so the two people


I hung out with the most were waiting for me in Japan but we never made it, so I was back home. I remember recording a Black Pus record that week. Then for the fourth Black Pus record—Lightning Bolt had recorded a bunch of stuff, but we had become frustrated with it and separated for a little while. Either right before or right after Earthly Delights came out we had this sort of a break because Brian didn’t really like the recordings we were making and we were both in separate places. I remember just being like, “What the fuck. Can’t we just write songs and then put them out, just like any normal band. Why is this so complicated?” So I just wrote eight sort of “pop” songs and they were on this one pop CD called All Aboard the Magic Pus. It was all pop songs with keyboards, drums, and vocals. I was like “It’s so easy to write songs! Why is it so hard for us to write songs? I can write a song a day on my own. Why is it that when me and Brian get together it takes us like six months to write a song.” So I did album as a reaction and to say “This is how easy it is to write songs.” Yeah, they’re all kind of dumb songs, but I think there are some good songs on it too. Most people haven’t heard it, but it’s a pop masterpiece, haha. Then at some point I played a couple live shows during that same break when we weren’t playing together for nine months or something. I try to play every day. For Lightning Bolt, maybe in the beginning we would play almost every day. But then we dialed it back to where we’re playing two to three days a week now. So there were these other days in the week where I would be playing drums with nothing. But then I started getting into playing drums with something and I started developing stuff. At first it was like, “I’ll sing while I play drums.” Then I got an oscillator and was like “Oh, I can make one tone while I play drums. I’ll play to a tone and then use a distortion pedal so that it sounds kind of gnarly.” Then it has just grown since then. So really it’s just whatever I do to amuse myself when I’m playing by myself and the shit that I’ve gathered around that venture. I think someone even gave me my first oscillator. I have them on the drums over there and they’re these two little boxes that generate the tones. Everything has kind of been an elaboration on that sentiment. Someone just gives me a thing and I’m like “Okay, I’ll use what you give me!” It’s just been an elaboration on what I’ve stumbled into. It’s at this point now for me where it’s a really satisfying venture. I love Lightning Bolt and it works so well when it works. It gets a reaction and people are psyched. But there’s something about Black Pus that’s so exactly how I’m feeling in that moment. It’s just more personal I guess. A two piece band can change on a dime pretty easily. But man, with a one piece band you can really change it up and not worry about losing the other member. It’s fun and I make enough noises now that it can be a totally satisfying experience.

“ I love Lightning Bolt and it works so well when it works. It gets a reaction and people are psyched. But there’s something about Black Pus that’s so exactly how I’m feeling in that moment. It’s just more personal I guess. ” You’re so accomplished across so many aspects of music and art, but you still seem to have a fearlessness about getting better or trying out more new things. Is there anything that still feels difficult or challenging about creating for you? Are there things you’re hoping to accomplish that you’re still struggling with? I mean, kind of like everything. I’m frustrated with everything, but I’m also so psyched about everything. Everything still feels wide open and confusing and exciting. Trying to draw correlations with stuff I do is a part of it.


You learn something in one field and then you suddenly realize you’re ignoring it in another field. I’ll be like, “This is becoming the most important aspect of my paintings. Why am I not doing it in my comics or my music?” I recently started doing more absolutely abstract paintings or collages or whatever they are. I use to do more illustration based stuff—collages of characters in scene and stuff. But at some point I just got tired of making easily understood images. So I tried to extract the narrative out of that work so that I could let the viewer put their own stuff into it. My comics have become more narrative based in the

face of that. Comics are really good for narratives and that’s sort of what they’re about. But I think sometimes it’s easy to get lost in that and forget that you are just drawing to be drawing. It’s just this push and pull with all of these different forms. People say, “Oh he draws the craziest comics! They’re all like dirty and gnarly and crazy.” I’m just like, “Well… They’re still paneled, they’re square, and they’re actually really easy to read.” Maybe they’re a little bit cluttered, but I’m not really pushing the form that much. I feel like they’re actually fairly conservative comics, which bugs me sometimes. I’m often like, “Are these super tight-ass?” I feel like I use to rail against tight-assness in comics, but now I feel like I’ve been come the most tight-ass of them all. So it’s just about evaluating where you’re at and evaluating what you want to do and becoming comfortable with that. “Maybe I want to make really tight comics. Am I comfortable with that? Do I have to do that?” It’s the same with making silkscreen prints. At some point I abandoned really tight printmaking because I’ve always just used really wonky equipment. I have a homemade table, a home made light table, and a home stretched screen. They’re old and weird, so I try to let a little bit of space for every-

thing to breath. But it’s just because the shit is too wonky to print regular stuff. The last thing I want to do is get stressed out about printing—or stressed out about anything. There are enough things to be stressed out about without having ot add the basic premise of your art into that. So maybe that’s what it is; finding wats to destress all of your platforms and then finding ways to make things the smoothest. It something is working really great in one way, maybe apply that to the other methods. There’s just always new shit to do! I’m painfully excited to continue working on new stuff. Since I just moved my studio, everything is a mess and I can’t work on anything. I just pet the cat. “What a beautiful day to pet the cat. Is it time to pick up the kid yet?” Your most recent book, Puke Force, is sort of the culmination of a lot of the stuff you’ve been doing up until this point. What was it like putting that book out and what have you been working on since? Puke Force was a long hall. It was like five or six years, so by the time I had finished it I was like, “This should have been out four years ago.” The book before it was called

“The little guy is just eleven months so suddenly children’s book ideas start popping in my head and children’s clothing ideas are popping in my head.”


If ’n Oof and was one drawing per page and it was a big book. You could breeze through it and it was sort of like an action-adventure comic. I was like, “I want to make another one like that.” But with Puke Force there’s a little more air in the room when you open it up. The format is really enticing, with these one page, twelve panel stories that culminate into a greater thing. You can cover a lot of bases and then you can pull it all together in some way. That book is sort of about this greater scene, and you’re just visiting aspects of it. So right when I finished Puke Force I just started drawing more Puke Force. Things got complicated and I abandoned it for a moment. Then I did a short mini book called Atrophy Life which was one page panels about a cowboy and his gang. They’re all one page and each one jumps in time a little bit. Basically it’s like The Far Side or something—every page has to be a cool drawing on it’s own. So I made a mini of that and almost finished another 40 pages of that, but I haven’t quite finished it. That’s when the kid came a long, so now I’m just like, “I don’t even remember how to do that anymore.” I think at least getting to the point where I should be able to revisit that and finish it and put it out as a second issue. The most recent thing I did—and it’s kind of because of Mickey (Zacchilli) and Michael (DeForge) doing instagram comics—is an instagram comic. I’m just like “Whatever!” Part of it for me is also just chasing cash, which is such a joke. Ninja started literally because it was the early 2000s and I was broke and I was like “What if I do a monthly comic? Maybe I’ll make money that way.” So I made the first issue of Ninja and I made no money off of it. I mean, maybe I payed rent for a month, I don’t know. But for this instagram comic I’ve been selling the originals online, along with prints that I found when I took a part my whole print studio to move it. I need the money literally because baby sitting is so expensive. If I want to go to the studio it costs me a certain number of dollars an hour just to be there. Even if I just look at my phone for an hour, it’ll still cost me a certain amount of money. So I figured, What if I just draw a page and then put the page up for sale on my store right afterwords. I’ve only sold a couple pages ever—and nothing from a book, just some short stories and the stuff for zines. But for the new one I’m just like, “Fuck it! I’m going to draw a page and then just sell it as a drawing on my store.” That’s been my newest money making scheme, an it has kind of worked. I think I did 12 pages, posted them to instagram, and my main instagram has enough people that where I can get some traffic on the comic one called Bottomless Pit. The comic is all brush and ink drawings which I’ve never really done. So it’s kind of a different style and it’s a little like Atrophy Life where each one has to be a complete drawing. Theres a little bit of a jerkiness to the reading because you’re jumping as little each time. So that’s where I am now, and I’m excited to make another bunch of them and put an issue out and continue to sell the pages as a part of this money making scheme, haha.


You have a child now and your in another transitional point in your work. How are the aspects of your adult life changing the motivations behind what you do in your artistic life? My first project is just to re-set up my studio. Everything just takes longer with a kid. I use to be able to be like, “Sorry, I’ll be home by 11, I promise.” or “Umm, I’ll be home tomorrow. I’m not going to come home tonight. I’m just going to work, sleep in the studio, and then wake up to do more work.” That was sort of my old style, living in the place that was my studio. At some point we got an apartment, partially just because our studio became environmentally unfriendly depending on the season and it was falling apart. So the biggest thing is just the time constraints. In the beginning it was very frustrating having a kid and going crazy because there were two of us, but we both had to be there all of the time because it took two of us figure out how to keep this child alive and stay sane every day. Now it has kind of smoothed out and now it’s a matter of using your time wisely. For the most part it’s just about continuing. I’ve been making all of these Black Pus recordings since he was born and before it. I have tons of this shit on tape, and there is some really cool home recordings that I want to go through. I feel like the window is almost coming where I could actually do that. But the pressure of it being like, “Ugh, it’s been too long since I’ve been represented in that category of stuff. I just have to get music out. The little guy is just eleven months so suddenly children’s book ideas start popping in my head and children’s clothing ideas are popping in my head. You want to dress this kind in cool stuff, and kids clothes are usually expensive, so he’s mostly living with hand-me-downs and stuff. So that stuff is starting to filter in a little bit. I would have never thought of that before. It’s always fun to try to make clothing for yourself. But suddenly, this kid has to have some clothing, so that’s slipping in. Fairly soon I feel like we’ll just start building weird cardboard palaces and stuff. That’ll probably inspire it’s own “real art” I guess. He’ll start to inspire other realms. I’ll first do something for him and then realize, “Wait a minute, this could be really cool.” I have some friends who have made stuff for their kids and you see it and you’re just like, “Wow, that stuff is amazing. You should keep making that stuff or take it to some other level. It’s the best art you’ve ever made.” But I don’t know, it’s going to be interesting. But time is an issue for sure. Gotta hang out with the kid, haha.



Hannah K Lee is a multi-faceted artist and art director whose work puts humor and irreverence in the face of life’s many

obstacles. Since graduating from Parsons, Hannah has bounced around between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, working in a full spectrum of creative professions, and allowing each job to inform her approach towards the rest. Hannah’s whipsmart approach as a designer and and illustrator has landed her work with a slew of blue chip clients like Google, the New York Times, and the New Yorker, while her personal work as a zine-maker and cartoonist has led to projects with indie publishers like Koyama Press and Issue Press.

Before I dropped out of Parsons I took a class that Hannah taught while I was a sophomore, and the wisdom and encour-

agement she imparted on the class has stuck with me to this day. After the release of her new book, Language Barrier, and once she started her new gig art directing for the New York Times, I was delighted to have the excuse to pick her brain once again in the context of an interview for the magazine. So earlier this month I met up with Hannah at her home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn where the two of us discussed art education, overcoming insecurities, and implementing your values in your professional work

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Glendale, California and I live in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York. Did you have any sort of art or music community where you grew up? No, I grew up really Christian. Yeah, it kind of fucked me up. I did learn some instruments at church because I was in praise band and I taught bible study. I really wanted to fit in, but it never felt right. Oh really? I didn’t know that! What parts of your personality or identity do you think came out of your Christian upbringing? I feel like part of my identity is a reaction—a negative reaction—to that. Then another thing is, I got really obsessed with Christian paraphernalia. I collect holographic Marys. I have three on my wall here. I like to collect Christian pamphlets that I find discarded on the street. I have a whole envelope of them—not because I still follow it anymore, but because I just think it’s really interesting. The fact that it controls so much of the population is really fascinating to me. If you meet a Korean, they probably grew up Christian. Koreans as a whole are a fairly recent immigrant group, so to find community they went to church. That’s where my parents whole social circle was. And of course, I had to go with them.

Do you feel like your religion was one of the more dominating factors in your life while you were growing up? Yeah! I went to church two or three times a week. I didn’t know anything else. They told us fucked up shit like, “Don’t date because you’re cheating on your future husband.” and “Don’t kiss anyone because your future husband will know that you are soiled.” There’s like a double patriarchy too. There’s the Christian patriarchy and also the Korean patriarchy which together makes this potent brew of oppression and misery, haha. It’s also funny that there’s not really a specific denomination that Korean Christians like to follow. They like to pick and choose different things. For example, we do communion, which I believe is a Catholic thing. Something about the ritual of eating the flesh and blood of christ probably really appeals to them. When did you start deviating from Christianity? I think when I went to college. I went to Occidental College for a year—which is where Obama went for two years. I smoked weed for the first time. Getting exposed to different people, different ideas, and knowledge just made me realize it never felt right. Did it feel exciting to suddenly have this new perspective in your life, or did it feel scary to fall out of something that was such a big part of your life? No, it wasn’t either of those things. It just felt right. Almost in a banal I was like, “Oh, this is who I was.”


What was your experience like studying at Occidental College? When did you decide to transfer to Parsons?

you move here—I think anywhere really. A lot of it was learning socializing as an adult.

While I was there I studied english and comparative literature. It was a small liberal arts school and it was close to my house since the campus is in LA. In high school I was really into writing and drawing and I thought studying english would be smarter. But I just realized how much I missed drawing and making art, so I transferred to art school.

When did you start making zines? How did that community become a part of your life?

What was the role of drawing in your life prior to going to college? I was a really anxious, weird kid. My family moved around a lot—like every two or four years—so it was hard to make friends. So I would just draw a lot. But even today I think my social awkwardness is a big part of me. I think I’m a really high functioning anxious person. I hide it well, but it’s there all of the time. What was your experience like at Parsons? It wasn’t very intellectually rigorous at Parsons. They had us take some liberal arts electives at Eugene Lang, but Parsons as a whole is more focused on your art practice and the building of skills—at least at the time. That kind of bummed me out, but it equipped me with the skills I needed as a commercial artist. So I guess, that’s what I wanted and that’s what I got. What was your impression of the student body? Did it feel like you were in a group of peers who were all working towards becoming contemporary artists? No, and it actually didn’t turn out that way once we graduated either. A couple of my peers are illustrators, but not in the sense of what you see in the “illustration scene” in New York. My friend Roxy Vizcarra is the head illustrator at Rockstar Games. Christine Young—she does jewelry now. Zachary Zezima does animation now. Now I’m doing art direction. We all kind of deviated a little bit. Illustration is really hard to sustain as a career. What was it like moving to New York and readjusting to the way things operate here? What did you start to notice change about your life and attitude after moving here? I think what draws people to New York is ambition, and as the sensitive flower that I am, it took some time to get use to that. Theres a coldness and an edge to people who have ambition as their primary motivation, and that was definitely a learning curve for me. I developed thicker skin and learned not to take things so seriously. I’ve learned that your colleagues aren’t always your friends. Your friend’s aren’t your ride-or-dies or your besties. There are different categorizations of people to learn about once


That came after school. I wasn’t getting any illustration work, so I made a zine about my feelings. That first zine I ever made was born from motivational messages that I wrote on pieces of paper and taped all over my room. They were really mean to me too—stuff like “Stop being such a lazy bitch!” haha. So then I made a zine out of it. Then I traded that zine with Ryan Sands of Youth in Decline, at APE (Alternative Press Expo). He opened a lot of doors for me into the comics and zine community, and that’s how I got into it really. What attracted you to that community after graduating? Well my point of reference of course, was illustration. In comparison I felt like comics people were more interested in my individuality as a person rather than the commercial viability of my work, and that’s way better! It’s way more soul affirming, and I felt more seen as a person, instead of just useful or instagramable—or at the time it was Tumblr I guess. What was your experience like immediately after school? What were some of the first jobs you were hired for? Right after school I moved back to LA for a boy… Never do that. It’s such a bad idea. I was concerned a lot with that and getting my freelance career off the ground. That’s all I cared about at the time. It’s funny to think how small my world was back then. At the time I don’t think I was very successful at it, and I think that’s why I started making zines. Even now I don’t like being art directed. Drawing for me has always been an escape from anxiety or the scrutiny of other people. I didn’t like using that energy for commercial work that wasn’t meaningful to me. Now I’ve realized that I just want to use and conserve that energy for projects that I really care about, like long-form projects, or personal paintings, or graphic novels—that’s what I want to do. I don’t really want to draw for money anymore. I’ll hire people to draw for money, but I don’t want to do it myself. What was going on in the zine community once you become more of a part of it? What were people making that was exciting you? It was around 2009 or 2010. I was seeing the weirdest work I had ever seen. Seeing Michael DeForge’s work for the first time was mind-boggling. I just felt like, How could something be this fucking strange and still be so jarring and touching and compelling. I wasn’t seeing that kind of

stuff anywhere. Helen Jo—her work was really important to me because of the emotionality behind it. There was just a lot more soul behind that work. I hope I’m not talking too much shit on illustration, haha. But I think that’s just the nature of commercial work versus personal work. I feel like any professional worth their salt will acknowledge that. What’s interesting is that I fought more to be in the comics community–ot that there was resistance towards me–just in terms of my own hang ups and anxieties. I just really wanted to be a part of that community. I felt like they were really good people and I just wanted to know them better and be a part of that. Once I did, it was just the best feeling. I feel known and understood and accepted and loved by those people for my uniqueness and individuality as a person. That’s priceless. What’s unique about that community also is that we keep each other accountable. We call each other out in a loving way—or maybe in a harsher way if that’s what called for. There’s a lot of trust there in order to have certain dialogs that are hard to have. You need to have to have that trust, and that’s why I love the comics community.

Do you feel like being a part of that art community has given you the feeling of acceptance that was missing in your life up until that point because of your Christian upbringing? Yes! Yeah, I don’t know, I just felt happier. I felt less judged and more joyful. I felt the way that I thought I was supposed to feel at church. I actually realized a few years ago that I’m an Atheist, and knowing that gave me the sense of calm, that again, I was told I should feel thinking about god. So, that’s how you know that something’s working for you, right? You have a really distinctive sense of humor that runs through out your work. Where do you think that comes from, and why did that become a priority in your work? The most important thing for me in life and everything is just understanding reality and the nature of reality. That’s why religion in general interests me so much. It defines so much of how people perceive reality. Sometimes the truth is really hard to hear and unpleasant, and there are times when the only way to present that is through humor. So growing up Korean and Christian and being the child of immigrants, there was a lot of trauma. In my parents

“Most of the personal work is somewhat therapeutic.”


“I fought more to be in the comics community–not that there was resistance towards me–just in terms of my own hang ups and anxieties. I felt like they were really good people and I just wanted to know them better and be a part of it.” generation, they don’t believe in therapy, they just want to stew in their misery. Sometimes the only way to do deal with that is to laugh at it. How much of your work feels therapeutic for you? Most of the personal work is somewhat therapeutic. A friend of mine told me that my work is very opaque in the sense that you can’t know the deepest parts of me very well. I do what to explore that more with longer form projects, like graphic novels and things like that. I want to communicate more of myself without humor, because sometimes humor can be a wall or a mask. The more affirmed I feel as a person the more comfortable I am as my self in my own skin, the more I am okay exposing the softer more vulnerable parts. What design and illustration work were you simultaneously doing to start making a living at that time? I always had a trickle of illustration work, but it was never

sustainable enough. Also, I’m from LA, so I just have a taste for big expensive cities. I lived in San Francisco for a couple years which was interesting… haha. But It’s always been LA, SF, or New York, so I sometimes had day jobs. I had a corporate job at Williams-Sonoma. Then I freelanced full time as an illustrator, and I decided to pivot into design which is where I started at Nautilus. Then I got laid off. Now I’m at the New York Times as a freelance art director. In terms of income streams, I have my fingers in a lot of pies. I think the first illustration job I ever got was for Time Out New York and the piece was about a bachelor party. It was something like “Things Dudes do at a Batchelor Party.”—I would never take that job now because it’s so stupid and gross. But it was a different time and I was your age now—21 or 22. So my first jobs were things like that. Also a lot of alt-weeklys which are sadly dying out. I did little things for Op-Ed and Letters at the New York Times.


You’ve worked in such a wide range of art professions and yoi have taken a ton of different approaches to image making. How has that benefitted you, or what has been the cost of wearing so many hats? Its been to my detriment, actually. It’s harder to define what my style is. Identifying someone’s visual style is the quickest way to categorize them and for them to get work. But I don’t actually care, which is a great thing to know. Rather than have a cohesive visual style, I’d rather have a distinctive way of thinking, whatever form that takes. That’s what I’d rather be known for. I think it’s made me empathetic towards everyone in general. I think there’s a lot of miss-understanding between illustrators and art directors, or designers and cartoonists. But since I’ve done all of that a little bit, I feel like I can be a better communicator. If I ever had to art direct, say a cartoonist—in temperament I feel like they are a little different from a purely commercial artist. I feel like I’m better equipped to deal with those idiosyncrasies and their unique sensitivities. What has being a freelancer taught you about human nature in general? I think it’s affected me in a way—this can be good or bad—but I feel like I can be a chameleon and I modify myself according to who I’m talking to or what kind of work I want to do. But the bad side of that is that I don’t have a definitive thing that defines me. I think now that I’m a little

bit older, that’s something I want to establish a little more. How do you think your experience working as an artist in New York has affected you? Do you feel like there are other aspects of your life that have taken a toll because of what is required for an artist to make a living here? God, yes. I kind of hate it. I think about moving to a smaller town a lot because I have to worry about making money all the time. I don’t come from money, I’m not an heiress, and I don’t have a rich husband or anything, so it’s just hard. I really wish I could just make weird zines and weird paintings all day, but I can’t. So a lot of the way I schedule or think about my year or my long term goals is around making enough money for a certain time and then saving that for taking mini sabbaticals. I’ll usually alternate between that. It seems to work for me. Who have been some of your favorite clients to work for? What have been some of the more memorable jobs you’ve done in the past? Medium has this book club thing and they assigned me to Susan Faludi’s Backlash, which is a really famous feminist text. Reading that for the assignment was like Feminism 101 for me. I did three or four spots per chunk of book that I read. I like assignments where I get to learn something. I don’t really love being an illustrator that much, so that’s the only one I can think of, haha. I like working with type a lot more. I like designing over all more. There’s a beauty

“I think there’s a lot of miss-understanding between illustrators and art directors, or designers and cartoonists. But since I’ve done all of that a little bit, I feel like I can be a better communicator.”


to making systems of organization to help communication happen. That’s really exciting to me. It’s like Tetris but really complex. All of the type illustrations I’ve ever done I’ve really liked. There’s also something about the language aspect of working with type that relates to my interest in writing and comp-lit. It feels more integrated. I letter a lot o thing’s too. I made a zine called Everyone is Younger and More Talented which was actually commentary on that motivational Pinterest bull shit that you see a lot. There’s power behind words. It’s not just about letterforms and aesthetics, it can have a meaning. So, that kind of stuff really interests me. When did you start teaching at Parsons? What did that opportunity open up for you that you hadn’t originally sought out? Parsons contacted me a few weeks before the start of 2D core studio, where you were one of my students, haha. You know… teachers always say that silly expression “The students taught me.” but it’s so true. I love having friends of all ages because they bring you the perspective that you wouldn’t have had before. I love working with young people because they’re so passionate, and in many ways a lot more woke than I am, just because they grew up in a different context. The things that I’m now learning about are the things that they grew up in. I love being around that. I really learned a lot about culture and the things that are getting people riled up though teaching. I loved it. Where there specific things that you wanted to do differently from your college professors? What did you try to impart on your students? I wanted to give my students a sense of agency. So during critiques for example, I always said, “If you disagree with me, you don’t have to listen to me. But you have to back up your feelings and tell me why don’t agree.” I wanted to empower them in that sense, and let them know that their voice matters. There was practical stuff too like learning to write well. That’s important and I don’t think art schools teach that enough. Being able to talk about your work so that people understand what you’re trying to communicate was important. Things like that. Art school—and especially one like Parsons—is often like, “This is what the illustration program, and this is what you should do to be an illustrator.” I really wanted to bring in the stuff that I figured out doing comics and zines to that class, and expose students who didn’t know that there are so many ways to be an artist other than that one “illustration” way to do it. What did you take away from your experience as a professor that has had an impact on the work you’ve made since? I learned that interacting with young people is really uniquely fulfilling, and it’s hard to get that feeling from


anywhere else. For that reason alone I would totally be down to teach again. But I think I’d rather do something more specific. 2D Core Studio was so board—and it was around the time they combined Drawing and Painting and Concepts into one class, which is bull shit. They should be three separate long ass six hour studio classes. Shame on them for that, but I digress. But I would like to teach typography or lettering or something like that. Teaching Intro to Design could be really interesting. I might pursue that later. What was preprocess like working with Koyama Press to put out your book Language Barrier? Annie (Koyama) saw Shoes Over Bills, which is the second zine I ever made. When I traded with Ryan the first zine I made he told me he had a risograph machine. This was before the whole format exploded. But he was like, “Oh, you should just stop by the studio and use it anytime you want. So that’s how I made Shoes Over Bills. Annie saw it somehow through people we both know—I’m not exactly sure how. But after that she invited me to make a book and I was just like “Whoa! I am not ready for this.” I think that was in 2011 or 2012. It took like five years for me to feel confident enough with my body of work to put it all into a book. She would check in with me every year, but I’d still be too anxious. But then I finally did it. Annie made me flush my insecurities down the toilet— which is where they belong really. She made me feel like my work should be seen, and that’s a really positive thing to do for anyone. Artists tend to be neurotic in this way, right? But she was really good at just doing away with that. At my first signing I was really nervous, and she made it all okay, haha. She’s just such a magical woman. She gave me the confidence to keep making more work and to put out longer stories. She’s just so wonderful. I’m sure this is what everyone says, right? What was it like working with Annie as the editor of the book? She’s actually pretty hands-off. My book is more like a monograph, so there’s wasn’t a lot to edit. 60 percent of it is zines I’ve already put out over the years. I got a little feedback on the comics, but again she was really handsoff. I’m a designer too, so I just laid it out all myself. Production wise I can say pretty confidently that I’m easy to work with, because I do everything myself. What do you feel like you’ve gained artistically from your involvement with the contemporary zine and comics communities? What do you feel like you’ve gained from your work as a professional illustrator and designer? It’s pretty clear cut for me. With illustration and design I know how to make money as a creative person. It’s hard to figure that out sometimes. Then with the comics com-

“Being a designer and illustrator, I think a lot about marketability—but that should not be the main thing when you’re working as an artist.” munity I found a platform for my voice. So two very different things. I don’t really know how to reconcile them yet. I keep them so separate in my life and in my practice. If I had to do a comic for a client, I’d really hate that. Sometimes the New York Times commissions comics, and I hear that Buzzfeed does that too sometimes. I hear a lot of frustration from cartoonists when they feel like they’ve been too edited or too art directed. They’re just not accustom to that.

Being a designer and illustrator, I think a lot about marketability—but that should not be the main thing when you’re working as an artist. But doing both made me more empathic towards possibly considering that a little more when I’m working as a cartoonist or an artist. Though it’s not the main thing, you should think about it a little bit. Even just with the design of your cover—your cover should be beautiful so that people pick it up and buy it. If you have a graphic novel with a shitty cover, it’s less likely that someone’s going to look at it. Being a designer makes you more practical.


Who are people in each of those worlds who have had a big impact on you and your career?

A lot of my friends. Jillian Tamaki, who’s concurred both worlds really, is a big one. Sophia Foster-Dimino is just such a genius. Sam Alden is such an amazing emotional storyteller. I should just take a look around my room, haha. Hellen Jo, Michael DeForge, Mickey Zacchilli—Mickey has such a unique approach to drawing. She makes like abstract expressionist comics—I think Sophia described it as that once, which I thought was really dead on. Connor Willumsen is amazing. I knew him as an illustrator first. His paintings that he did for that Criterion versions of Scanners and The Killing blew my mind, and his comics are so weird and cool. Matt Dorfman at the New York Times Book Review—he’s always encouraged my sense of humor with the sketches that I send. Nathan Wong, who I work with at the opinion section of the New York Times has been helpful too. Jordan Awan, when he was at the New Yorker, he hired me a lot and he’s also someone who let me be funny with the illustration work he threw at me. That’s all I can really think of for now.

“There’s a lot of fear of being too honest, and I really hope we can get to a point where we can be more clear and honest about things. I don’t know when that will be though.” What has it been like to start working at the New York Times? What do you hope to bring to the Op-Ed section? I want to hire people who are not as well known. I don’t want to just hire straight white men. That’s actually something that the entire team thinks about a lot—giving more visibility to people of color, women, and queer voices. It’s something that preoccupies a lot of people in my position. So It’s interesting to see everyone deal with that in their own unique way. Do you feel like that’s a shift you’ve seen take place in the time that you’ve been working professionally in your industry? How have you seen people handle it well or not well? When I first started out it wasn’t really a thing. It’s really crazy to see it—some people would say “explode” and other people would say “blossom.” It’s been really cool to see it evolve. I think it was in 2011, but some art director at a Condé Nast publication hired me to do a piece about Asian fusion cuisine. He asked me to draw a geisha

bending over to serve a white chef tea or something like that. It was so shitty and cliche and I really remembered that. I have been hired on a tokenized basis before, and it doesn’t feel good. So that’s definitely something that I think about, now that I’m in the position to hire people. And I mean, I’ve fucked up too, because we’re all still learning. I think it’s difficult because the climate right now is really raw and sensitive. I feel like, collectively speaking, we’re all just big exposed nerve. There’s a lot of fear of being too honest, and I really hope we can get to a point where we can be more clear and honest about things. I don’t know when that will be though. If I fuck up I hope an artist can tell me to my face—or my email face I guess—what I did wrong and that we can talk openly about it, instead of it being a big explosion on facebook. I hope it becomes more about dialog and less about accusation. None of us are profits of social justice. We’re all doing our best and we’re just learning, so I just want there to be more communication.


How do you feel people with progressive ideals or intentions should work within institutions that have such a long history, like the New York Times? I think everyone needs to be as self-aware as they can be, and to accept different things about themselves. I think people should challenge themselves to think outside of that and also extend understanding towards other people who are still learning. Can I use Dave Chappell as an example? Have you seen his new special? You should watch it, it’s really interesting. He addresses some of the criticism he’s gotten from his previous specials. To use the phrase again, he’s not a profit of social justice, he’s just a fucking comedian. He’s not running for office or anything, he’s just standing on a stage making jokes. That’s his thing, and to condemn him as “bad” is an oversimplification and you’re not looking at his context or acknowledging that he as a straight black man from a certain time is processing these things at the same time we all are. It’s just that his processing is public. That applies to a lot of people, right? Not for people like Harvey Weinstein—he should totally be condemned. But there’s just so much nuance that I think people are unwilling to consider, and it’s frustrating. I think a big part of it too is that, accepting that nuance also then means that you’re maybe guilty of some of it as well. Of course! Everyone is a little bit guilty! I think thinking in black and white terms is naive and foolish. Thinking about producing merch—even if it’s sewn ethically, maybe the thread was made in a place without ethical practices. There’s no escape from this, and it’s because we’re mired in a system that oppresses people. I feel like that’s the thing we need to be critical of, instead of just individuals. What has it been like working in an environment like the New York Times? Everyone is very aware of what’s happening—obviously, because it’s their job. The art department is very mindful of reflecting what’s ethical or trying to make good choices. We try to create a good balance of who we assign things to, and I really appreciate that they care. There’s always room for more, but they’re definitely in the right camp. I really do like that about working there. Op-Ed illustrations specifically are legendarily stressful because you get the assignment at 12, sketches at 3, and then the final at 6. So you and the illustrator have 6 hours to turn around this piece that’s sometimes really heavy and political. Sometimes it’s lighter and it’s about kale salad or whatever, haha. But yeah, if you think that’s stressful, imaging doing it every day as an art director. IT’s really intense but you learn so much reading these great pieces. Some of them you don’t agree with, because they don’t always pose a liberal perspective. Sometimes it’s John McCaine writing a column. So you just get exposed


to all different sides and opinions and viewpoints. It helps me understand the world better. What stuff are you working on at the moment that you can talk about? My friend Anne Ishii—she does Massive Goods and she’s an amazing writer. We’re working on a graphic novel. She’s writing it and I’m drawing it. It’s about the pain of loving someone. It’s not a romantic story, it’s about friendship. I’m really excited about that and it’ll be my first long form project. I’ve been making notes about my family. They lost their house a few years ago through the recession and moved back to Korea. That brought a lot of stuff in me to the surface, and I’m going to turn my feelings into art, basically. I want to figure out a way to do autobio comics in a not too depressing or whiney way, so I’m working op that. I’m writing more now that I want to do illustration less. I’m focusing on more personal projects, really. Are there any projects that you’d like to embark on that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment Yeah, I want to do really big paintings. Maybe I’ll do that in my 40s. Maybe I’ll have time then, haha. But for now I need to focus. I use to think that I could do everything, but really you can’t. You can’t do it all well. I’ve been doing so many different things that are okay, but what I really want to do now is pick a couple and do those things really really well. So I’m going to try that. What do you feel like you still struggle with as an artist? What hurdles do you still see in front of you with your work? Hmm… I’m kind of lazy. I know what it looks like on the outside, but I actually procrastinate a lot and I’m kind of lazy. I mean, that’s a self assessment, so maybe I’m reacting to the shape I feel for not going to Stanford or something. I don’t know what it is, but I do feel like Asian immigrant families put a lot of pressure on academic performance, but I went to art school, you know? While doing nothing for periods of time is important to my creative process, I just worry that it’s too much sometimes. Especially when I’m doing design or art direction on site, it’s really draining and I don’t have time to work on my personal stuff, and I feel guilt about that. Maybe I should bring that up with my shrink, haha. Okay well, rather than feeling bad about being lazy, I should instead feel okay with taking the downtime that I need to recharge creatively. How about that? Let’s frame it like that. That’s healthier, haha.



In the few years that Monica Ramos has been active as a professional illustrator, she has created a breadth of vibrant

worlds for her incredibly human and endearing drawings to inhabit. After immigrating from Manila to the US for college, Monica has continued to live and work in New York, regularly working for high profile clients like the New York Times, McSweeney’s, and Coach. Since graduating from Parsons in 2013, Monica has become one of the most distinguishable illustrators of her time, exploring color, pattern, and form with her delicately intricate and emotive watercolors. But despite her early on professional success, Monica continues to push the boundaries of her personal work, prioritizing creative growth over marketability.

I met Monica for the first time shortly after moving to New York, and I’ve always looked up to her amazing willingness to

change and experiment through her work. This winter, after returning from a brief hiatus in Manila, Monica is primed for a period of incubation where she hopes to expand her work past the boundaries her industry has placed around her. A week after her return, I met up with Monica at her studio in Brooklyn to talk about her career thus far and where she hopes to go in the near future.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Manila in the Philippines, and I live in Ridgewood, New York now. What was your experience like growing up in Manila? I think growing up in Manila gave me access to a certain level of privilege that I don’t have here. I had a really comfortable childhood and my family took care of me very well. It’s kind of a hard question to answer because, you live somewhere for 17 years and then there’s 17 years worth of experiences that affects you. Growing up I was affected by Filipino culture and language, having a catholic up bringing, and the experience of growing up in a colony and then going to the place that colonized you. I don’t think my family was really resentful of the US while I was growing up. Our historical relationship is maybe more like looking up to the US as our “savior country.” We attach ourselves politically to them for military defense because we don’t really have a great military. But I think it’s all different now with Trump. My dad doesn’t even want to visit me because he’s boycotting the US. What was your relationship to making art while you were growing up? I feel like I would always draw. That was a major past time for me. My dad’s side of the family is a family of artists. My lola’s great-grandfather or grandfather—his name was Juan Arellano, and he was a major architect during the US occupation. He built the post office, the Metropolitan Theater, and some other monuments that you can look up on the internet, haha. Then my dad’s mom was a painter too. My mom would paint a lot as well. My family use to have these painting sessions in my house in the garden, and everyone would all be oil painting together.

I just realized recently that My mom’s friend’s aunt—she was a famous painter too—and she was dating this guy (Roberto) Chabet who was this really influential curator and conceptual artist in the Philippines. I only learned about his work recently, so I was like, “Wait? He was hanging out at our house!?!” Did you have any formal training in art before going to college? When did you decide you wanted to pursue it more seriously? I think I took some pastel drawing classes. But you know, you just draw like gourds and warped mirrors and stuff, haha. I was too afraid to go and apply to art school at first, so I went to this school in Upstate New York called Manhattanville College. I was like “I’m going to be a business person. Or maybe I’ll study biology.” But then I had a teacher named Joan Weinrich—I think she was the head of the english department—and she said in one class “If you’d rather be doing something else other than writing essays, you should leave.” haha. So then I transferred to Parsons. Had you always anticipated going to school in the US before you moved here? I mean, it was more just like an opportunity from my family. I don’t think I was really aware of where that would really lead. I always thought that I would move back home right after. There’s some importance placed on a western education too. I don’t know if they care much for art school education though, haha. I knew I wanted to stay in a place that was pretty diverse and I didn’t want to feel like the only international student in a place. I think that was one of the reasons why I wanted to go to New York at least.


“I was like ‘My family sent me all the way here from Philippines! I will do my very best!’ That was totally my attitude so I just gave all of my projects everything I had.” What made you decide to go to Parsons specifically? What was your experience like moving to New York?

Did you have any professors that were particularly inspiring or motivating while you were at school?

I think I read about Parsons in one of those books that rates all of the colleges. The website made it sound really intimidating. I got the impression that “We only pick the best students, and nobody gets in!” but that’s not the reality at all. Maybe everyone experiences that disappointment with under-grad, where only two people actually care about the class. I was one of those two people because I’m such a nerd. I was like “My family sent me all the way here from Philippines! I will do my very best!” That was totally my attitude so I just gave all of my projects everything I had. I was probably way more stressed than I should have been, and I should have enjoyed it just a little bit more. It seems so long ago that it’s kind of hard to put myself back in that place. I can’t believe how intimidated and terrified I was. I think the weird thing is, after doing a guest critique or talking to students, it’s crazy how the students look at you with so much authority. They look at you and they think that you’re going to spurt out some wisdom that’s going to help them. I just think, Wow, I was exactly like that. I didn’t realize that my teachers were just people. That was definitely something to get over.

I feel like everyone from Parsons really likes George Bates’s Sketchbook Warehouse class. That was really enlightening, and I wish took it sooner. It was great to hear that you don’t have to take your work so seriously and that, the more expressive and free you are with your work, the better it is. Sometimes putting pressure on yourself to make something super great is just setting yourself up for failure. I really liked Lauren Redniss’s class. She was my thesis teacher and she wrote that book about Marie Curie, called Radioactive. She was so great to have as a teacher because she had so many references. You’d show her something and then she’s shout out three different artists to look up. I wish I could do that, haha. Noel Claro—she taught different design workshops that were all really fun. Jordin (Isip) was my other thesis teacher and he was really nice. He included me in a bunch of group shows. One of the ones right out of school was Permanent Collection at Nancy Margolis Gallery, where each artist had to recreate something from MoMA’s permanent collection. It was really cool. I can’t remember what I did though, haha. It was cool just going through the archives.


That was a really fun show. Also Eddie Del Rosario, who is a really cool painter that has a studio in this building, was another great teacher. I saw him one time around 3 am while I was leaving the building and he was coming in, haha. He’s come into our studio a few times and gave us some critiques.

with watercolors. I’d like to use better colors or have the option to work with the backgrounds more. Even just being able to work bigger—that’s quite hard to do with watercolors. When you’re trying to make original artworks on paper, it’s just not as durable. So I’m working on figuring out ways around that stuff.

What point did you start noticing yourself gravitating towards watercolors? Did watercolors become the primary medium you worked with while you were in school?

A big handful of the illustrators who came out of your graduating class went on to do big professional work. What do you think attributed to the success you and your peers saw after school?

I can’t really remember. I like the fact that they’re easy to clean, haha. They’re also good for when you’re working in a small space. I think a lot of the time I was just working in my bedroom, and that’s not really the best place for something like oil painting. You have drawing and material classes in school where you’re just trying out all of these different things. I just liked how simple water colors were. I like even just moving the water blobs on the paper too. There are constraints though. There are visual things that I want to do, that I can’t really do with my own skillset

I wonder if it’s because of the internet. We were probably there at the moment when people were finding and sharing a lot more things, and we had a lot of things out there already. It’s hard to say because I’m not really trying to keep tabs of what’s happening, because I don’t really think that’s healthy. The internet is free advertising and I think, at the time, I was really unselfconscious about it, which is I think what was the best part. I don’t think I really knew what I was doing and I wasn’t really thinking so much about what other people were thinking. It was also

“On one hand it’s nice to get that validation, but you can’t really attach yourself to it. Otherwise, you won’t be able to make anything after it ends.”


“One of my first jobs was with Alexandra Zsigmond for the New York Times Letters to the Editor section.”

the time right after school when the structure of all of your classes falls away and you’re left with this void. So I was just making all of these things and I was interning. I felt like, Well, I’m nothing at this point so I’ll just do it. I was just trying to enjoy whatever that moment was. Where you putting stuff online with the goal of getting hired, or did that sort of come indirectly from what you were putting online? I remember using Tumblr because it was free, it had nice themes, and it was easier to use than Blogspot. So I was just using it as a website and I was uploading whatever I was making. It was nice to get feedback or some attention from it. On one hand it’s nice to get that validation, but you can’t really attach yourself to it. Otherwise, you won’t be able to make anything after it ends. You can’t rely on the internet or what people think. I’m sure everyone knows now that that’s the danger of using social media too much. It’s good advertising and it’s good to show what you’re up to, but it’s more your own attachment to it that you have to think about. You can’t feel like your success or failure is attached to your stats. What were some of the first jobs you got hired for right out of school? One of my first jobs was with Alexandra Zsigmond for the New York Times Letters to the Editors section. It was for a letter to the editor about abortion. It was very heavy… Then I think I did something for Lucky Peach for the Gen-


der Issue for the art director Walter Green. He asked me to do little figures for each of the stories, so each of spreads had it’s own miniature illustration and the index had all of them on it. That was super fun. My favorite one from that one was for this recipe for cooking either sheep or bull penis soup, so I drew this little bowl with all of these floating dicks in it. Then there was also this recipe involving breast milk, so I drew this girl milking her own boob and milk jugs with boobs on them. Where you nervous about your first few years out of school? Do you feel like you settled into working as an illustrator quickly? I was freaked out… for a long time. I was trying to just paint my own things a lot more. But I was also actively emailing people and just pushing things out. I feel like I was really lucky and things picked up maybe a year after I graduated. Then it was kind of crazy after that. I was so busy at one point that I was scheduling two or three months in advance of when my blocks of work would be. But I was so sad and stressed out. I don’t think I really enjoyed it. I think that was around 2014 and 2015. Those were crazy years. I think people really liked seeing the patterns that I did—especially with the ones with figures. They’re really fun to look at, but incredibly tedious to make, so I was dying over them. Everyone just wanted that, and you get a little tired of it after a while. But I mean, I thought it was really fun seeing my work published or seeing anything printed. It’s still pretty crazy.

Did you start to see a lot of illustrators at the time folding into a similar trend? That’s a hard question because I don’t know what’s my own ego talking, and what’s just everyone being inspired by similar reference points. I was noticing things that looked similar. It feels a little disheartening when you see someone doing that. There have been instances where people have been directly referencing an image I made. At first I was shocked and angry about it, but now I don’t think I really care. I think a lot of work at the time was on the front of a visual trend that maybe involved softer, feminine art work. Watercolor became a trend. Scenes that involved a crowd— that was a whole trend. Tiny figures was a thing. Eventually I realized, Oh, those were all of the things I enjoy doing, haha. It made me feel conflicted and it kind of made me want to share a little less of what I was doing at one point. But you can’t always do the same thing over and over.

You have to grow and make new things and explore new options. Everything comes in phases, you know? There’s a time to shine and there’s a time to withdraw. I feel like that was my last year especially. I was really trying to have a life, haha. Who were some of the clients you were working for at the height of that. A what point did you feel like you had to take a step back and start saying no to more work? I mean, I still work on bigger jobs with my agent. But I feel like I’m not really doing editorial work now—which I’m okay with. When I was really busy I feel like I was doing a lot of editorial jobs because the turn around is usually in two weeks or so, and it’s a lot of work. You have a few days for sketches, and then the final is due after that. Around then I was in a Culture Lab show with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. It was called CrossLines: A Culture Lab on Intersectionality. That was in 2015 and

“You have to grow and make new things and explore new options. Everything comes in phases, you know? There’s a time to shine and there’s a time to withdraw and reflect.”


“We were all making ceramics, so we thought it would be a good idea to have a space to show them in, instead of just selling everything online.” I was working crazy hard to make a bedspread for an installation. That felt like a moment. I think they were really trying to include more outsider people—not really people in the traditional fine art world. What things did you anticipate about becoming a professional illustrator? What was really unexpected when you actually started doing it for a living? None of it and all of it, haha. No one is prepared. I think the shock was a little bit later on in trying to figure out how to push your own work forward, and still meet your clients demands. I’m sure that’s a common problem in any creative profession. I also don’t think I was good at giving myself enough time to enjoy myself. I think that’s an important part of it. Now I know, haha. I’m such a protectionist that it takes me really long to get to somewhere good. So instead of just trying to finish something as quickly as I could, I would just slave over it, and I don’t know if that’s the healthiest thing to do for myself. When did you start making more sculptural and ceramic work? How did that lead into the Sometimes Shop project you did? That was in 2015. Wow, when I say 2015 it feels like eons


ago. Did that even happen? Those were simpler times, haha. I think I started doing ceramics because Leah (Goren) and Rachel (Levit) were taking some ceramic classes. They were like, “You should do it, and we’ll all hang out!” and then we did exactly that. It was fun to do something else—even just to make something that’s not in the way you would usually do it. Making pots on the wheel was something I never got to master. I only have lumpy, baby rejects from that time, haha. I never got good at that, but I felt like hand-building was pretty easy. I think at the time we were all making different kinds of sculptures. We were all making ceramics, so we thought it would be a good idea to have a space to show them in, instead of just selling everything online. We rented a space in Greenpoint and had a weekend pop-up in the summer. That’s actually how I met Chioma (Ebinama), my current studio-mate who’s a really talented artist/painter/ contemporary babe. We sold a bunch of shit there! It was really cool to have people come out. You took the photos and video for the second one! Yeah I think that’s how we first met. No, we met because of Noel (Claro) which was before. Then later on we went to that restaurant Gua-cu-co.

Oh yeah! I remember that. I think I was confronting you about dropping out of school that time. Yes! And then you did. Look at you now! But anyways, maybe it was because I was more extroverted at the time, but it was such a big high to have all of our friends come out, host an event, and just be able to see what people are interested in the work. It felt more real than just having a BigCartel site, haha. It was really fun, and I’d love to do some kind of event—or just something with more real-life interactions again. There’s so much technology that let’s you do everything. You can do anything online basically. But I’m trying to have more face time this year. Who was involved with the show? What was it like to have community of illustrators working together on a project like that? The artists in the show were Rachel Levit, Leah Goren, Masuko Jo, Kaye Blegvad, and Gina Rockenwagner. I think that was the first batch. Rachel and Leah were my studio-mates at the time. They had the space before me and enticed me out of my bedroom. It was a nice vibe at the time because it felt like I’m sure how the Pencil Factory feels. You come in and it’s like an office and everyone is just working, and it functions as normal work hours. It was nice to have the company and you could ask for advice or critiques. You could be like “What does this look like?” and someone would say “Maybe move the cat to the left corner.” or something. We would even help each other with writing emails, pricing, budgeting—all of that. So it was really helpful, especially because illustration is such a solo practice. You can definitely be a weird hermit at home, and not talk to anyone the whole day. Illustration is such an erratic industry because of the fact that the people in charge and the trends going on are constantly changing. How have you figured out how to navigate that and get steady work as an illustrator? Don’t let your audience get it twisted—I don’t have it figured out, haha. I think I have it a little easy in the way that, what I’m really concerned with right now is just trying to make things that I’m still happy to present, that I’m proud of, and that are not just being led by someone else. I don’t want to burn out, you know. If someone just asks you to do the same thing over and over again, you’re going to burn out eventually. I think it’s a common problem when someone becomes known for something specific, visually. Unless you’re doing new things on your own, people still just kind of want you for this one thing you already did. I think maybe where I am in my career is in a bit of growing pains. I’m trying to figure out what to do next, how to expand what I’m doing, and what are other things I can make.

You can’t stay in New York unless you’re hustling really hard. It’s not like a “chill” place to live, where you can have a life and meditate, haha. You have to prove yourself to stay here I think. Or maybe that’s just a broken attitude that I have? I always feel like my time is limited here because I’m not a citizen. For the past three years I was on a visa, so I kept on thinking, Okay, I have to make the most of this time since I only have three years. Then I’ll figure out what to do afterwords. So I feel like that pushes me really hard, especially because there’s a lot of sacrifice that comes with being in a different place. You’re away from your family and you’re away from your culture—whatever that means. I just want to make the most of it. How have you seen your work change over the course of the time you’ve been illustrating professionally? I think I’m a little bit less in my head now. I’m trying to see more of what’s happening in the world and respond to it, instead of making worlds that I’d rather escape into. I’m definitely not trying to do little figures for editorial clients all of the time, haha. I don’t know, I guess it depends on what the story is about and what they’re asking for. I think it’s a weird time for me right now because I want to just try a lot of different things. Before, I maybe would have more of a set approach where I would be like, “Oh, this is how I’ll do it and this is how I’ll color it.” But I got a little bored with the way I’ve felt comfortable approaching it. So now I’m just trying a few different things out. What projects are you working on now or in the new year that you can talk about? I worked on this book by Eckhart Tolle called The Power of Now. I illustrated the french version. They asked me to do ten different illustrations for the chapters. Even with this stuff they’re just referencing old work and saying “We want this jungle thing.” I think for the most part I’m just making things for myself, and maybe they’re not so apparent in the illustration work I’m doing yet. I think I maybe pigeon holed myself in making the work and the visual styles I’ve been comfortable in, like patterns or dense images. I’m just trying to paint more. I think when you’re making something, and you have so much in your head of what you’re trying to put out, it doesn’t really come out. It’s only when you come back and you’re able to see what you’re doing that’s new. So it’s a weird time because I’m still figuring that out. It’s okay to not really know what you want to do specifically. I do want to make more books. I’m trying to make more woven blankets like the thing I did with Hardworking Goodlooking. My boo is one of the publishers there.


Are there any projects you’d like to embark on, that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? I want to try to implement recycling into my practice. I have so many bits of random paper that I can’t get myself to throw away. I want to work bigger. I think that’s something that I don’t let myself do because I didn’t know how to document it properly. I think I want to go back to making sculptures too because I haven’t made anything that way in a while. I have all of these ideas for candles I want to make too. I also want to figure out a way to work with more living plants somehow. What do you still struggle with as an artist? What hurdles do you still see lying in front of you with your work? I feel like the biggest hurdle is getting out of your own way and not doubting myself. Allowing yourself to do something new, or to change, or to fuck up a bit are all

important. It’s okay to do something new and have it not be perfect. It’s okay to do something ugly or put yourself out there. I had a really hard time talking about politics here because I have always felt like it’s not my place. I’m not a citizen—I’m not really even an immigrant—I’m just a temporary worker and I always have one foot out the door. So I’ve felt like it’s not my place to say anything, but I think that that’s something I’m learning to do now too. Especially with immigration, I feel like it’s the thing I can relate to the most, so I feel like I can speak to it better. I think I want to make more personal and political work in the future. I feel like I just need to know more first. I’m always so hesitant to talk about it because I feel like I need to be way more educated and nuanced. I’m afraid everything I could say has been said before—but maybe that’s something to get over too! I think maybe that’s it. I don’t want to self censor. I have so many little things that I draw, but I never feel like anything is good enough to show or good enough to be a real thing out there in the world. So I think overall, getting over some fear of judgement, is something I want to do in the future.

“I feel like the biggest hurdle is getting out of your own way and not doubting myself. Allowing yourself to do something new, or to change, or to fuck up a bit are all important.”



Jacob Berendes is an incredibly thoughtful individual who fulfills a role that is so desperately necessary in any DIY

community. The Providence, RD based writer, curator, and archivist has been documenting New England’s underground communities since the dawn of the internet. Across all of his esoteric projects, Jacob has effortlessly championed low-brow formats through thought-provoking writing and a vanguard of visual artists. From his elaborate junk store, HBML, to his off kilter literary newspaper, Mothers News, Jacob has targeted ordinary civilians as the audience for his idiosyncratic ideals and sense of humor. Often taking a joke too far means exhausting everything that could be funny about an idea we’re confronted with on a regular basis. But For Jacob, taking a joke too far means seeing the absurdity of an idea through to the end, thrusting it into the real world, and letting the joke become a part of the lives of people who maybe wouldn’t have even thought it were funny to begin with.

Where are you from and where do you live currently? I’m from Worcester, Massachusetts. I lived there for 20-something years and now I’m in Providence, Rhode Island in the Silver Lake neighborhood. Where you part of an art or music community while you were growing up in Massachusetts? Yeah, when I was leaving high school something very extraordinary happened. I feel like it’s a dream that people often talk about where you have a group of friends and say “I’m sick of this weird city that we live in. What if we all just up and moved and bought a house in some weird town where we didn’t know anybody and we just tried to start a scene there?” So, that’s basically what happened. A couple people that knew each other previously—or who had some sort of a collective living environment in Boston—had an opportunity to buy this house in Worcester. It was this big farm house and there were seven or eight people there. They opened up an infoshop—this was the 90s so the idea of an infoshop was still valid— and they opened up a punk DIY venue called The Space. They would leaflet outside my high school and they would just pass out these incredible one sheets. The group that distributed outside of my high school was called “The League of Super Villains” and they even drove around in a car with a shark fin that had an anarchy A on the top. It was incredible. It was a group of five people initially who moved to town, and they met up against the bar rock scene, which was the only thing going on at the time. I guess that’s not true—there were hardcore bands and straight edge bands that would do shows at VFW halls and stuff. But these people joined in with the local community and pretty soon there was a scene. The leaflets they would pass out were about pretty generic anarchism stuff like “Don’t

watch TV.” and “Not everything your teachers are saying is true.” and really kinder-garden level stuff. But they were fun, they were well written, and I could tell that they were funny people, so I would talk to them. Then I ended up volunteering at the infoshop and I would work at the venue. Eventually I just moved into the house years and years later. Similar to Providence there was just a loud area in the town where there was manufacturing going on night and day, and a bunch of empty building that no one ever cared about, except for whether or not you were paying the rent. So originally it was this one band called Garrison that rented out this spot for rehearsals, and they just started doing shows there. I think that pattern is the most common for DIY venues. It was underneath a gallery and above what I think was an actual sweatshop where they made silk ties. There would be hardcore shows and noise shows, and there was a while where I just saw everything. I probably saw the band Bane like 15 times, but I don’t remember anything because I was just fucking around. So, that was kind of the scene for me. That’s amazing! What was your experience like moving into that house after high school? I moved in there a couple years after high school, but I knew everyone there and I was hanging out there all of the time already. I had just started to play music when I was hanging out at The Space and I played a couple shows. But it just felt like all of a sudden there was this possibility of, We can have a band that starts this afternoon, records this evening, and has a record release tonight! That was a viable strategy, and there were enough people who were just hanging around that you could make it happen. It stayed open because there was a benevolent character in the zoning department. They came by The Space once and said, “Do you guys have papers?” and someone just showed them a single paper— a lease maybe, I don’t know what—but it was something


that looked official. So then they were like “Great! Goodbye!” and they left and never came back. Then years past and that person quit or retired, and the new dude who replaced them was like “I’m going to crack some heads. I’m going to go down there.” Since it was a DIY venue, there weren’t any permits or anything, but we’d still get on the front page of the local weekly paper. There were big acts going on and hardcore was a big scene at the time, so I’m sure cops would cruise by and see a hundred people outside waiting to get into the show and would be like, “What’s going on?” So eventually this new guy who, on the first day of the job was probably like “I’m going to crack some heads. I’m going to prove my value.” like a dog attacking a mail man, came by asking for papers. We were like, “Haha, yeah we did this before. Here you go.” and he was like “This is jack shit! What are you doing?” and we were like “Oh…” So then the place just closed down.

rest would just come up because someone had been looking at it.” But it was really just a lot of minutia. I was going to a lot of shows and talking about stuff going on, so if you were interested in weirdo art in New England at the time, you would just tune into it. I met a lot of people through that, and just writing everyday. I understand going to school for anything, and if that’s your path then that’s fine. But I find, for certain things, there’s not really a lot of short cuts. If you want to be good at drawing, you need to draw 10,000 drawings and that’s it! You can go to school for 18 years working on just one drawing. But the reality will be that you’re just 9,999 drawings behind everyone else. So I just wrote everyday. I didn’t think of myself in a way where I was I like, “I’m going to become a writer, so I’m going to write everyday.” It’s just something that I enjoyed doing and had a great readership that was engaging and wouldn’t hassle me. Then I didn’t really shutter that website until a full 10 years later.

There were years where nothing really happened after that, as far as DIY, because we had established this model of, You rent out a place, and you just have shows. Then suddenly we had to get permits and it had to be legal. That was a real boondoggle. It wasn’t until years later that someone unlocked the idea of just having shows at your house. Someone was just like “Just open up your basement! If cops come, then it’s a party, and everyone just goes home. Case closed.” But there were dull years in between when people were doing other things or trying to figure out how to get back into it.

You recently started doing that website again, right?

Did you have any formal training as a writer or musician or are you primarily self taught?

I feel like, when you’re a student in school, you sort of feel like you need the permission of the institution or your peers to be able to make anything. But so many people who don’t go to school end up having so many less hang ups about starting to make something that they’re interested in.

I went very briefly to college, and then realized it was a bad idea for me, so I just stopped going. I was very conservative in approach, which is to say that I just pursued what I wanted to pursue to the best of my ability, which is a time honored tradition. But I didn’t really go to school for anything. All of my work just came out of deciding to start doing it. I got into writing because I ran a little record label, which was a default pursuit for a period of time. I had a website for it while it was still the nascent web. I think maybe it was around ’96 or ’97 when I started the website. And then I just had a blog. A friend of mine, Leonard Richardson of, had written a blog, and he was my pen pal for years. So I decided to start a blog as well, before the word blog was even a thing. The website was called Then, by virtue of the fact that there wasn’t a lot on the internet and not a lot of people talking about the things I was talking about, I ended up with a really huge readership. People started treating it they way you would treat checking your email. I was talking to a friend recently and he was like, “Yeah, when I was in college I’d go to the computer lab and sit down at any computer, and I could type just the first two letters of the website and the


I recently started it up again, but then I kind of bailed on it again. It’s funny, a lot has changed in the time that I started the website—I guess that goes without saying. But I think of myself as being at the forefront of a lot of common neuroses that are resulting in too much introspection and too much self report. Doing the website, every now and then I would hit a low ebb where it would kind of freak me out that writing all of the time was my way of processing everything.

When I was doing the newspaper, people would come up with the dumbest questions to ask. I know there’s a common trope that “There’s new dumb questions.” but there are. Basically the root of a lot of the questions people asked me was “Why are you aloud to do this?” That was mind-blowing to me. I would just be like, “No one’s ‘aloud’ to do anything.” It was indicative of the climate, but people just couldn’t perceive that someone could just do something. They would be like “How did you print this?” and I’d be like “I just sent it to the guy.” Sometimes people would be like, “Oh, did you major in newspaper stuff? I never heard that.” and I’d be like “Yeah I never heard it either. I didn’t go to school.” Or I even got “Oh is this your family business, and you just print this on the off hours?” and I’d be like “No…” One of my very good friends was like, “Oh, do you have a newspaper app you use?” and I was like “Are you kidding me? I just use photoshop.” Then he asked “How did you make it so big?” and I was just like “What do you mean? You just make it big!” Eventually you have to realize that everything you

see is just something that someone made at one point. They didn’t have special permission, and they didn’t wake up with a sigil on their forehead that meant that one day they would become a bass player for a punk band. They probably just got into it because their friend’s older sister was in a punk band and gave them a mixtape or whatever. How did the blog eventually end, and what led you to open up your junk store later on? There aren’t really clear chapters in my life. It was just like, “I was doing this, then I was doing this.” But doing the blog got me into pursuing weird stuff and having an audience that was supportive. Also, the blog was part of a record label, so I was putting things out. It was the CDR era, so it was perfect for putting out these easily mailable things. Doing that led me to making merchandise. Me and my friend Mike Leslie would do crafts fairs, and it was sort of like the dawn of the contemporary crafts fair. So we’d set up and there’d be candles, refrigerator magnets, and some people who were making what you would now call art books. Some people would just bring paintings, and they’d only have two paintings out. Everyone would be sitting there, grumpy and complain-

ing, behind their $3,000 painting. We’d go to the fairs in Worcester and Providence—stuff like this was just in the air. There are still tons of these things. So we’d just make all of this weird shit and sell it. It was wicked fun and it was cheap, so everyone would come up to us and they’d talk and we’d have fun. We’d end up with, not a ton of money, but more money than anyone else because we’d just be sitting there having fun. So that sort of put the bug in my ear. The only reason we ended up having a store was because of a joke. Our friend Meredith sent Mike Leslie a very nice birthday message, and he’s one of those dudes who doesn’t like people getting in his eyes about his birthday. He just doesn’t like the attention. Also, being New Englanders, we fuck with each-other constantly. It’s a display of our love. So, on his birthday she sent him this poster that she had made of this completely stonefaced Indian man in an Indian restaurant holding a sign that says “Happy Birthday Mike Leslie” and in the poster you can see behind him there’s tons of shit on the ceiling. There were origami cranes and paper shit—it’s just a very busy environment. Mike Leslie and I were living together, so we had that hanging up on the wall for a while. One day someone came over and said “What…

“Eventually you have to realize that everything you see is just something that someone made at one point.”

“So then I had an ultimatum and was like, ‘Listen, we either open this store, or we just never talk about it ever again.’” is that? What’s that picture?” and Mike said “Oh it’s from this shop.” thinking that he was asking about the background in it. Then they went “What’s that, your store or something?” like, totally serious but completely unthinking. So Mike was like, “Haha, yeah that’s my store. I have a store called ‘Happy Birthday Mike Leslie.’” So then that became a riff and we’d imagine the sort of things we would do at this made-up store. I wouldn’t say that it was a party gag, but it was something that we would reflect upon often. Stuff like “Yo, when we have our store we should have this and this and this.” Something we talked a lot about but never did was having an “Adult’s Only” section, but in the section it would just be meerschaum pipes, and leather-bound volumes of Dickens. Nothing saucy or erotic, just stuff that if a kid saw it the’d be like “Oh some cauliflower. Yeah, I don’t want that. Just adults want that.” That was sort of the style of riff that we would have. What was the catalyst for actually getting the storefront? Eventually we were just talking about shit all of the time. I don’t know if you have this experience, but it bums me out when people talk about shit too much and don’t do it. So

then I had an ultimatum and was like, “Listen, we either open this store, or we just never talk about it ever again.” So we just said, “Okay, let’s do it.” We idly scouted out locations and found one. We got first and last month’s rent together and then just opened up. I’ve always just had a ton of shit, so I just took my lesser garbage—or I’ll say, my lesser treasure —and stocked the store. We put the call out and got stuff from everybody and then we just opened up. There was no paperwork or anything. That’s sort of a theme with my life—it’s easy to make a joke about something, but the furthering of the joke is actually doing it. Even being a little bit miserable because of it, that sort of enhances it as well. Just feeling like, Damn, I can’t believe I’m getting into this bizarre situation, but here we are. Outside of fulfilling this joke, did you have a goal for the store that motivated you to keep doing it? Did that change at all through the course of having the store? I didn’t really have a goal. The goal was really just to open it. Then once we had it, it was kind of a shocker. The thing that really fucked us over was that it was pretty successful. We had planned to drive it into the sea, you


know what I mean? We planned on it being not worthwhile, and for it to just fizzle out. But it went okay! It didn’t go gangbusters, but it went okay. We had a couple really good schemes that would keep bringing in enough to pay rent. Mike kind of airplaned out because he doesn’t enjoy that kind of work, so it was just me at the store for a while. I was paying my rent by making these bizarre chachkies and t-shirts and whatever else. Really the challenge was “Damn, what’s the next level? How do I move up from here?” That was really daunting. It was fun and I kept coming up with ideas, but the frustrating thing was, I thought it would be more like a sensation. The people that went there were definitely delighted about it, and it was really weird. It was great and it was fun to talk about, but I honestly figured it would be more of an explosion. Because of the fact that it was not an easy place to get to from New York or LA or whatever, that changes things. I think if I was doing the same thing in somewhere like New York or somewhere with more media presence, more people would have talked about it and more exciting things would have happened. But as it was, it was pretty much just coasting. I was still putting down good ideas, but it was hard for me to do promo. It’s so depressing when you’re trying to convince someone that what you’re doing is interesting. So eventually I just kind of bailed on it.

What were some of the things you did while it was going on that you were really proud of? Well we had a really good mechanism for staying open, which I hesitate to even talk about because it was such a good idea. We had this thing called “The Rent Club.” The rent at the time was… I don’t know, let’s just say it was $400. I’m always doing projects and I’m always making stuff, so it’s easy for me to break the money down when I need something. $400 a month is like 40 $10 bills, so I was like “Well if we can sell 40 things for ten bucks, then we can make $400 a month and we’ll be open for another month.” We knew a lot of people that were graphic artists and print makers, so we devised this rent club where you would sign up and for three months you would get a silk screened poster in the mail. The posters were all incredible, and it worked out to be that everyone was paying $10 a month each, and they were keeping this place open for another three months. This dude in town, Ian Cozzens, made one that was just monstrously incredible. Cybele Collins did one, Scott Reber of work/death did one, Matt Thurber did one—I don’t know, just a good group of people did them. We didn’t pay them a lot, but we would pay the artists who made them. Then you’d get this thing in the mail and the place would stay open. That mostly worked

“It’s so depressing when you’re trying to convince someone that what you’re doing is interesting.”

out great, and it was a really dynamite idea. We had a planetarium. That was my best design. The previous incarnation of the space, I think, was a restaurant. So there was an order window that went into a back area. The back area was closed off so we basically made a closet around the other side of the window. So, from the store you just see this rectangular hole in the wall and there was a curtain in front of it. Then on the other side there was this black fabric curtain around it. If you stuck your head way in to the hole—which was an act of faith— you could look down and there was stuff handing from fish line so that it looked like planets hanging. On what appeared to be the ground we added green grass and a pyramid that had Sun Ra playing a keyboard way at the bottom. On the floor there was a turntable that had a record on it that was painted with Day-Glo paint spinning in the background. Then there was a turtle that you would put your hand on that was on the ledge that had two button on it, and the buttons would control the soundtrack. Pressing the buttons would play one of two eras of Sun Ra’s music or both at the same time. That was really nice because the whole place was really crammed full of stuff. It was kind of like MAD Magazine—you could stand in one spot and just see all of these little details. The planetarium was far out because, even though it was such a simple trick, it really created this feeling of space. We did some performances and some products that went over well. I had this friend who made things with incredible detail and he was great at making props. Those skills only really manifest in two ways; he makes a St. Patrick’s day float for his high school ex-girlfriend’s church every year and he makes an insanely good halloween costume. One year for halloween he was listening to all of these audiobooks of a 19th century sea captain, so he just made this whole costume based on it. He didn’t just do a good job replicating it, he did a good job actually making it! He sewed this coat out of wool, he assured me that his underwear was appropriate for the era, and he just immersed himself in this world. He had an accent, he had things to say, and he was very very stern when he had this costume on. So he came into the store and did these Mad Libs with people. It was mind-blowing. There was a store packed full of people and he was standing on a soapbox saying “I wish that you would give on to me a noun.” Someone would shout out “Chair” and he’d be like “The noun chair is not sufficiently funny! The point is, you say a dirty word that you would not say in your ordinary life and then I am forced to say it in the context of a story!” Then someone would say “Umm… butt wipes.” and he’d be like “Very well, butt wipes.” and wrote it down. Did you have any regular cliental at the store? There was a kid who came into the store all the time. He lived right next door. A lot of the kids who came into the store—their parents were kind of hippies or were already


into the thing. But this kid Bert just lived next door. I don’t know how old kids are, but he was probably… eleven? But he’d come around the store, he had this shitty little dog, and he’d kind of just be annoying. There was nothing bad about him—I’m sure I was the same way as a kid— but he was just always annoying me. But he was funny too, so I liked him. He kept hassling me about getting him a job. I would be like “Bert… Do you think I make money? Look around you. This is not a normal situation. We don’t put tuna into cans, we don’t make shoes. This is a fucked up situation.” But he would be like, “Come on man! I can go lots of stuff.” so I asked “Well, what are you going to do?” He was like “ I can organize stuff.” and I was like “That’s a lie! Look around you. What order could you possibly bring to this? You might as well try to comb the sea.” So then later I was like, “Listen, can you draw?” and he was like “Yeah! I can draw mad pictures! I can draw really great.” So I was like “Great. Draw my friend Margaret over here. Here’s a pen and paper.” Then he did it, and it just looked so fucked. So I was like, “Okay, you know what. Come in on Friday after school at 2, and I’ll advertise that you are drawing caricatures and it’ll cost $1. People will come up to you and ask for you to draw their picture, and you’ll say ‘Yes.’ Then you’ll draw their picture and they’ll give you a dollar. You don’t have to cut me in, you can just hang out here.” So he was like “Alright.” and I sent out some emails and he did it. He was really good at it, but it was so fucked. After a while when people get older they get self conscious about their drawings. I don’t know if it was because he was the perfect age or if it was because it was a job, but he would just patiently draw every line of someone’s face. You’d look at it and—if you compared two, you could tell who was who. If he drew you there’d be some features where you could be like “Alright… Well those are my glasses. That’s kind of how my mouth and nose intersect.” But he would patiently daw everyone and they’d give him a dollar. This kid had three things he would say, and he’d say at least one to every person. He would be drawing—and it took him a long time—but he would stop suddenly and be like, “I just realized, you have a really weird shaped head.” and you’d be like “Uh… Thank you?” He wasn’t even making fun of you, he would just feel like he had to say it. Sometime he’d be like “You ever watch Family Guy?” and you’d be like “Umm, no.” Then he’d be like “You ever watch Futurama?” and you’d be like “Yeah, I’ve seen some episodes.” and he’d be like “Oh, have you seen the one where blah blah blah happens?” and if you hadn’t seen that episode he would just go on and on asking about different episodes. But the best thing was this thing he did to a couple of my friends. Bare in mind he’s eleven, he’s a little heavy set, he’s trying to find his place in the world, he’s got an older sister who yells at him, and whatever. But he’d be like “Hey, can I ask you a question? When you were my age… did you have friends?” hahaha. You’d be like “Umm… We moved around a lot, so not a lot, but I had some.” and he be like “Ahh. Cause

“I pull Bert over and tell him ‘Bert, this Good People is the best thing that has ever come out of this store.’” I don’t.” You’d feel bad and say “Well… You seem like a nice guy… You know, just be yourself.” It’s incredible that a space like that would let you have such a distinctive relationship with someone you would otherwise never spend any time with. It’s interesting that a store front like that would allow you to have so many random interactions with people that might not seek out your art or understand what you’re doing. There are three things that I would want to say about Bert. The first I already said, and that’s that I truly did really like him, and I hope that if he ever read this that he would see that. The second thing is that a friend of mine ran into him on the street and said “He grew into a nice young man.” Then the third thing is that… I’m almost tearing up now. He made the best piece of artwork that came out of the whole place. People would come and bring stuff in all of the time. Once people caught the vibe of, “Oh you drew a mustache on this TV Guide. Okay, I can do that too.” some of the stuff people brought in wasn’t very good. Some of it was neat, and people would bring in their zines and stuff, so that was all really great. But Bert fucking cracked my mind when he made this thing. Actually, just give me a


second and I’ll go get it. So here it is. I had to frame it up. So, he would come into the store, he’d be fucking around, and frequently he’d break something. He’d be in the store, he’d break something, he’d see if I heard it, and then eventually I had to kick him out. I kicked him out of the store and told him, “You can only come in here for five minutes at a time. You’re a kid, it’s the fucking summertime, you shouldn’t be hanging around here, and you’re driving me crazy.” His parents were very understanding and said something like “If you need to kick Bert out, just do it.” Then he got kind of sad when I said, “Yo, you can only come for five minutes a day.” But he came in once, and he had this thing I’m about to show you, and he was like “Hey do you want this?” I looked and I was like “Umm… Yeah, I do…” Then he was like “If you don’t want it, it’s okay. It’s stupid. It’s just something I made.” and I was like “No no no no no! I want it! This is incredible… What is it? What is this to you?” He said “Uh, I don’t know… It’s like a… magazine.” So here is what it is. It’s a piece of bubble wrap, roughly five by eight inches, and in the top fifth it says in magic marker “Good People” on it. I was just like, “This is a magazine to you? This is your idea of a magazine?” and he said “Yeah. I don’t know, it’s stupid. Don’t worry about

“It’s false to think that I had this project and wanted to seek out people who could help me, because they were just around me. It was just them being around me that fed into the project and vice versa.” it.” I said “Bert, you’re blowing my mind!”

There was another person at the store at the time, who was nice and had a good heart, but he didn’t do the work. I got in this big fight with this guy because he wanted to be perceived as an artist, but he just wouldn’t do the work. He’d come in and be like “Yo, what do you think of this? Look at this thing I made.” I would be like “Hmm. Well it really looks like a Mat Brinkman drawing.” and he would say “Oh cool, thanks! That’s what I’m going for.” Then I was like “That’s not valid. You can be going for a bunch of weird dudes walking around a dungeon. You could be going for a dark mood. You can look at what he’s doing and say, ‘How do I do that in my own way?’ You can’t go for someone else’s character design doing what they would be doing.” That would happen all of the time and he would just skip around from artist to artist, and it was fucking driving me insane. But anyways, he’s there fucking around while Bert is there and I pull Bert over and tell him “Bert, this ‘Good People’ is the best thing that has ever come out of this store.” Then he was like “Uh, no shut up.” because he didn’t believe me and he thought I was fucking with him. Then I was like “You know that other dude over there who’s here all of the time? He can’t do

this. On the path he’s on right now, he can not get here. You’re here already! You’re fucking eleven years old. I don’t know what this is, you don’t know what this is—we don’t even know what we’re talking about. But you really put it down with this.” I couldn’t believe it, so I framed it and I have it on my wall so I can look at it every day. You were telling me earlier that there was even some stuff that was made for the store that came out of interactions in the store. What’s an example of that? Yeah, one time this kid came into the store and was like, “Do you guys have any Iron Maiden shirts?” and I said “No, we don’t.” Then he was like, “Well… When are you getting them in?” and just portrayed that childhood ignorance of how things work. This was not a store that things came in regularly. But I said “Uh you know what, the truck is scheduled to come on Saturday, but I don’t know if they’re going to show up.” and he said “Oh cool.” Then I was like “Yeah, but they’re kind of weird.” and he said “How so?” So I was like “Well, it says Iron Maiden in the Iron Maiden font and it has Eddie on it. You know who Eddie is, right?” and he was like “Yeah yeah, I know Eddie.” This kid is probably 10 or 11 like Bert, and is just


getting into metal and stuff. I’m like “Yeah Eddies there and he’s umm….” and I’m stalling for time trying to think of something, and the kid is like “Is he holding like a knife, dripping with blood!?” thinking that to me that’s crazy. I was like “No… He’s a… He’s eating an ice cream cone.” and the kid was like “Oh… alright. That’s cool.” and I was like “Yeah, it’s cool! It looks cool!” So he leaves, and I just go home and silkscreen these shirts myself. It was a cool design too. I ended up hand coloring in the ice cream cone so that it really popped, but everything else was a reduced black and white. Then the kid just came in on Saturday. The shirt was seven bucks or something and he just went with it. But he’s probably out there somewhere just scratching his head like, What was up with that? At the time to him it was as natural as going into Tower Records and getting a Spice Girls CD or whatever. How did you start developing this network of artists that you were working with to do posters for the store, and how did that lead into the next project you started doing? I didn’t really try at all. They were just around. I think (Matthew) Thurber I reached out to, but I knew him already. I was really into whatever was going on, I knew Christopher (CF) from being around. I’d see him play shows and he gave a big folder of comics maybe the second time we met. It was like this big Christmas present and I was so psyched. Yeah I guess they were just people who were around. If they were into weaving, I would get into weaving. I don’t know, it was just in the air. I think Providence has a great print culture. The RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) print department is great. Actually, I don’t know jack shit about RISD, so maybe the print department sucks. But a lot of people came out of RISD with silkscreen abilities. I think a big part of it was Fort Thunder. (Mat) Brinkman, (Brian) Chippendale, and (Leif) Goldberg were just making crazy posters and giving them away. That was a big part of it—just being able to wheat paste them on a post. All of that stuff was just in the air so it’s false to think that I had this project and wanted to seek out people who could help me, because they were just around me. It was just them being around me that fed into the project and vice versa. I read a lot of biographies, and the idea that “people are just around” is something you see reappear in biographies, but never in fiction. Things are serendipitous. If you had a fictional story about someone who wants to do any of these things that I’ve done, you’d write in their strong motivation, their great desire to see this thing achieved, and the fact that it conforms to exactly how they pictured it. But in my experience, it’s more like… rock candy. It’s a super saturated solution, you insert a disturbance, and everything adheres to the disturbance. That’s it. These people are all bumping around in the soup together, and if there’s something neat that they can attach to, they will.

Or at least, that was my experience at the time. When did HBML end and how long after did you start Mothers News? Mothers News had it’s origins with the junk shop, partially as an engine of publicity. I started a newspaper for the junk store called New Parisian, because Worcester is the “Paris of the 80s” which is this bizarre slogan that adhered itself. So I had this newspaper called New Parisian that was a one sheet Coffee News format. There were ads down the side, and my thinking with it was, I like to write and I already write. I’ll put writing in this things, I’ll distribute it around town, and then it will point back to me. So I did one issue of that, and I kind of got distracted with something else that came up, and I never did it again. Then the store closed down and I was kind of bummed out. I was still sort of healing. Any project like that is stressful when you’re the sole proprietor. Then I moved to Providence. I think the store ended in 2008 and Mothers News started in 2010. Between that there were some bleak years when I was just bopping around and reading stuff. I was trying to figure out what the new thing was going to be. I tried a couple other things and I had done other projects in that time period, but nothing really felt great. Even the newspaper sucked for the first three months. The first two issue are bad. The third issue is okay, and then the fourth issue is like getting there. I kind of got tricked into continuing it. How would you describe Mothers News to someone who’s unfamiliar with it? The goal was—did you ever see Coffee News? Coffee News is this paper that you see in pizza places and coffee shops. It’s a one sheet and it’s pretty vapid. It’s easy to read, it’s got trivia and probably horoscopes, the type is big, and it’s just a racket. People buy ads in it and it’s just there for people who are waiting around. It’s better than staring at the table I guess. But that was kind of the feeling I was going for. I thought, Well, it’ll just be something that’s nice to read. It’s something that anyone can pick up. I’m not going to have anything that’s not kid appropriate, but I’m also not going to hold back from any of my inclinations to do something confusing. I wanted to steer away from in-jokes and I wanted it to be something that really anyone could pick up and extract a gem from. Even if you don’t really know what I’m talking about, it’s not dependent on you being someone who goes to shows or you being locked into a geography. I think you could read it anywhere on earth and get something out of it. It’s just sort of interesting stuff to read if you have the time. It’s basically just a zine in a newspaper format. Beyond that, I have a hard time talking about myself or describing succinctly what it is that I’m doing, because that’s why you do it. How did the paper develop over time? Were there is-


“I liked to have a theme for each issue, and I like for the theme to not be entirely evident.” sues that really stood out to you when you were making it? I like to remain excited, so I like to change around what I’m doing. Sometimes I see someone doing something and I’ll be like, “Oh I want to try that.” or I’ll have an idea around it like “What if I did a sports page? I’ve never done that.” I just wanted to move forward and I didn’t really want to repeat myself. Something I did pretty consistently was hiding a tiny picture of Batman in the advertising section of the newspaper. If you found the Batman and wrote in, you would get—initially it was a pin and then later I made patches that had Batman’s cute little face. I wish I had picked someone other than Batman because Batman is already a copy written figure and I couldn’t really expand into other merchandise. But also, Batman sucks. Batman is a rich dude who beats you up. I would rather it be something cute. There was an essay in the paper at one point where I was like, “This is not Batman qua Bruce Wayne. This is a cute little dude who hangs upside down. He’s a little bit of a creep, he’s a little bit of a perv, he’s cute, and he’s this big.” The Batman thing was something I stole from Coffee News. Coffee News has a little guy and you have to look for him in the ads. If you find him, I think nothing happens. But for the newspaper I just got a PO


Box, which is really fun to have. I loved to get mail and I loved to send mail. But it sucks when you’ve got a PO Box and there’s fucking nothing there. So part of the point of the Batman was that he’d drive your eyes towards the ads, and that works from a business perspective because people want to know readers are seeing their ads. I also worked really hard on the ads so I wanted to draw people back in. But really the main reason was that I wanted to get mail. I wanted to check the mailbox and for there to always be mail. So that was a pretty good idea, and that was pretty early on. Some of the issues I was very proud of. Things would just come together. I liked to have a theme for each issue, and I like for the theme to not be entirely evident. Sometime a theme would be like a number or a shape. There was one where the theme had something to do with parallel lines. It was in the month of November, which is the eleventh month, so I talked about the the number eleven and parallel lines. There’s a kabbalistic diagram of the zig zag Tree of Life shape. So there was all of this stuff that tied in like, sprinkled through out it was titles of songs from Blonde’s Parallel Lines just worked into it. I was just so happy everything was coming together and it made me happy. But I didn’t require that anybody care about it. Writing it I felt

like I was in the zone. Getting things to match up or echo in different parts of the paper where I could be talking about something in a very lofty way and then two pages later I could be talking about the exact same thing. but in a crude way coming from a completely different angle. It felt extremely gratifying. How did you pull together the comic section you had in Mothers News? The comic section started in the second year we did it, when it expanded greatly. It’s funny, I thought it would be less work to do more, because it’s really a lot of work to write less. It’s difficult to write two paragraphs on something you really are interested in. So I thought, Well I’ll just give myself more space and I won’t have to rack my brain as much about how to distill this thing to it’s essence. But that said, there’s a lot of space and it’s nice to stretch out. I put in a center spread that took up two good pages, but it was also something that you could hang up on your wall. Then there was the comic section, which was traditional for a newspaper. There are somethings that are in every newspaper that I like to do. I want to play the game, but I also want to do an inversion of the thing. There was a time where, if you were a painter in Milan in he 1700s, you had people come to your studio and they would say “Well these landscapes look great, but where’s your painting Catherine on the wheel? You gotta do it man. Where is it? Let me see it. Everyone does it here.” So doing the newspaper, it was fun to be like, “Alright, I gotta have a comics page.” Something that approximated my favorite part of the newspaper was the solutions so the cross word puzzle. The comic page came together effortlessly. It was all people that I knew and loved, and it was merely by asking that it happened. Christopher (CF) was on board first. He had sent me some drawings for other issues of the paper. He made a great strip called Monorail High, which was about a nebulously futuristic high school owned by the monorail company. I sent out an email to everyone and was like “If you need help riffing this out, I will be happy to help you riff out a concept that you can do monthly.” Everyone wanted to do it, but sometimes you need a little boost. I grew up loving the comics page, and those have settings or characters that were easy to make out immediately. I sort of sent out a list of different ideas that they could try, and Christopher was like “I’m calling ‘high school.’” I think for Mickey I said “Put something in the grave yard. Or maybe do something about ducks.” and she was like “Cool. Graveyard Ducks. That’s what I’m doing.” Chuck Forsman has Witch Beach, which is about witches that live on a beach. Melissa Mendes asked if I could suggest something, so I was like “Yeah! Can you do a circular Family Circus style thing called Mercyful Fate that’s about goths.” Mike Taylor had sort of like a Far Side thing called Monkey Vision. Charlotte DeSedouy, who’s from France, spent some time in Providence and she’s incred-

ible. She did this on going thing about stage hands in a broadway situation. Every installment was like a, “Oh, we’re doing play based on Jaws, so we have to move all of these props of sharks and shit.” DeForge did Military Prison which was based on a lesser character from The Wizard of Id who’s always locked up in jail. His was pretty bleak, but he is beautiful and he is of course one of the easiest people in the world to work with. He’s the best, he’s polite, and he’s on time, which is an unheard of triad. Arthur Katrina did a comic that was initially called Rap Radio, but then it was turned into Rat Radio which was incredible. They’re a zine maker and flyer artist. Everyone had a different approach to doing the strip, but Arthur’s was really just like a zine. it was a zine but it was just three panels. They do a zine called Rot which I love. Brian Chippendale did Atrophy Life—also known as A Trophy Life. Too heavy… He’s a feather in the cap, he’s wonderful. But he can’t really do one panel. He can only do an unending stream—of anything. For music and art it’s ideal, but it’s difficult to switch on for one panel. So he had this huge ongoing story that you could only read a panel of a month. He released them later as his own book, so you can read them all at once and it makes more sense. There was New Character, which was from a group out of Providence called Providence Comics Consortium done by Walter Mettling. It’s comic classes in schools and public libraries, and they start out by doing a character sheet like in the old Marvel age, so I would just run one of those. Kate Schapira, who’s a brilliant poet, had an imageless comic called The Saint. I think that’s it. But overall the comics really fell together. People were really divided about the comics. I had the feeling that some people were just reading the comics and discarding the rest of the paper, which is just hurtful. But that’s their decision and it’s there loss. Then other people would come up to me and say like, “Why are you running these comics? They’re horrible.” Then I would say “Well… I strongly disagree.” Was there any other sort of push back with stuff you were putting in the newspaper? A major problem with the newspaper was—I enjoy when things are lively and I enjoy when they’re unusual, but unfortunately a lot of people assumed that I was making stuff up, and I didn’t appreciate that. The Onion is funny and stuff, but it’s just redundant. I don’t need to make something up to laugh at the world, I can just laugh at the world. I would go into great detail and the way that my mind works and the way that I enjoy writing, I like to make a connection between things. I ended up talking about mythology and words a lot, and the extraordinary connection between things. But if you think that I’m just making things up, the power is destroyed. I’m not going to make up a false etymology of a word just so that I can prove my point about the mood of the month of September. I can just do the real thing! To deny the truth of those things is


to deny the wonders of the universe, which is a spiritual precept. That also applies to the Batman because people thought that I didn’t really do it. People thought it was a joke where you would waste your time—and not just people, but people who I liked and admired would say to me “Oh that would be really cool if you really did this.” Then I would say, “I really do do this.” There was one issue where the Batman was too obscure. Odgen Nash once said “Too clever is dumb.” and this was as clever as I have ever gotten. The Batman was hidden in the worst way. You have to fold it. It was very Al Jaffee inspired. At first I put the Batman in as just one fold, but then I was like “Yeah, but he’s obviously right there and there.” So I made it so that you had to fold it like four times and take different pieces of the paper and put then together. There’s even a diagram as to how to fold it that was just described as an abstract piece of art. Oh my god, it was depressing. I worry that I shut people out. Where do you think your attraction to these dying or non-economically viable formats comes from? It seems like you opened the junk store and started the newspaper at points in time where both those businesses were on the way out. There are a couple factors. One is definitely that I’m selfdestructive. I definitely put obstacles in my own path. That’s a major part of my process. I make myself miserable all of the time. But also, I just get a tickle in my spine sometimes. Part of it is this evil self destructive aspect, but part of it is that the format is open now or it’s a challenge. Seeing brick and mortar stores are on the cover of Time magazine saying “Well, we’re not going to have these anymore!” and that makes me think, Oh, they’re on the way out huh? Let’s see what I can do here. The newspaper is like the same riff. Even having a punk club in an old warehouse—it’s the same riff. “Oh wow, these manufacturers are moving out now. Well we’re going to move in and have our own kind of manufacturing! This is going to be far out!” It’s just exciting. The way I think about it, there’s just a lot of wiggle room. If I was trying to do a newspaper at the height of the alt-weekly in the 90s or whatever, things would have been more declared. But when it’s on the way out, more things are possible. Part of my problem too is that I thought that would be a publicity item. Something like, “Well they say newspapers are dead, but this young go-getter…” bullshit narrative. This is the first time I’ve been to Providence, but it seems like the geography and low cost of living in Providence really influences the work that’s made here. How do you feel like living here has impacted the work that you make? Well the difficulty here is that, it’s cheap but you don’t get any money. A friend of mine moved to New York recently and I was talking to him about it. He was like “Everything


is comparable. Rent is $1,000, but you get a job and it’s like $20 an hour. You still end up hustling and trying to make rent every month, but you’re just exchanging larger amounts of money.” and I was like “Oh yeah… that makes sense.” I’m good at coming up with a scheme. If I had to pay much more in rent or anything—or god-forbid something befell me—my artistic career would have to be examined, haha. But that’s what I dig. How have you seen the city and the scenes here change over time? Something about any scene is that people come and think, That’s something you can always count on. You end up seeing people making the same decisions all the time or being really similar. Sometimes you’ll see someone move to town and you’ll be like “Oh, we needed one of you! Our last one of you moved out six months ago.” whether you’re the new doom bassist in town or whatever. Or it’s like “Oh, you’re a young curator who’s here to help figure out how to do this thing in a low stakes environment. We welcome you for the next year and a half of your life!” People do interesting stuff with their life, then they move on, and we accept that. Most visibly, things just kind of get closed down. There’s always encroaching development bullshit, which is difficult. It always feels like, “Oh well, that’s the last of them. We’re not going to see their like again.” But then, invariably, there’s something else like it again. But one of these days, someone talking about the end of the world is going to be right. What was the living situation you were in before you moved into tis place? How did it change over the time you were living there? Before I was living in a funky loft environment, but it was one of the few remaining. I was only sort of remaining by virtue of the fact that we sort of stopped doing shows and it was really tucked away. But living there gave me a lot of opportunities to do things that I couldn’t have done otherwise. I had a wood shop and all of this other shit, so I could work on projects on a grander scale. But I was also physically constructing the space, which is incredible. If you ever have the opportunity to be in a situation where you’re the one building the wall, it’s extraordinary to see what goes into it, how to do it right, how to do it imaginatively, and what happens when you do it wrong. It’s extremely nice. We just had a big open floor plan and we had to carve it out and figure out what to do. For the first couple years I was there, we had built the rooms in a stupid way, which was the legacy of Fort Thunder. The rule was that “the windows belong to everyone” and if you wanted to build a room, you could, but you couldn’t build it over a window. Public space was maximized. We did the same thing because I was living with some people who lived at the Fort, and that was just how they cemented how to build a room. At one point I was like, “You know what, it’s really cold in here in the winter, and I’m just in this dark

room. It’s aggravating that so close is a nice sunny spot.” So one year I came up with a bold way to redo the floor plan, and we just tore everything down and rebuilt it. We really giggled stuff around, and it was so gratifying. It’s nice to change the floor plan. It’s good for your mind. Doing the paper, almost the same thing happened. I would change the layout and would get this feeling of, Oh, why wasn’t I doing it like this. Having that parallel was really nice. I was also really moved in because I had printed thousands of copies of this newspaper and you need a place to put shit like that. So it was great to have the space. Here it’s wonderful, but I still feel like I can’t run the vacuum after 10. I hesitate every time I put a nail in the wall. It’s similar to what we were saying earlier about inhabiting something on the way out. It’s just nice to be somewhere where no one cares about this wall and if I fuck it up. If I fuck this wall up, its just me living with a fucked up wall, and that’s my choice. That is a fecund situation—it’s rich with life and possibility. When did you stop making Mothers News and what led to the decision to end it? It wasn’t a big thing. It was more like I just kind of ran out of steam. It was a lot of work. I had helpers, but I was still doing a lot of it myself. I guess the official answer to why I stopped the newspaper is just that it was a lot of work and I wanted to start doing other stuff. It was also really difficult to maintain something with a light feeling. I don’t know, I reached a point where I felt like I was doing the world a disservice by writing on the sunny side and talking about esoteric subjects when people are dying. It seems so foolish, but I couldn’t figure out a way to engage that, and I didn’t feel right not engaging it, so I kind of just clammed up. You would see it on Twitter. I use Twitter in a bunch of ways, one of which is just to shit out stupid jokes, but it’s like you wake up and hear the news about some police murder and you’re like “Well… I’m going to put this joke into a notebook. I’m not going to broadcast this, because this is not the time.” In the same way, but at a different level, I felt insane writing a page and a half about a biscuit recipe or about the goddess Athena or whatever, when I wasn’t lifting enough weight with heavier topics. So, I just had a hard time figuring out how to engage in a real way. What projects have you been working on since the end of Mothers News? What direction are you taking your work now? Well, it’s funny because now I’m going even more abstract. Doing the newspaper—part and parcel with that frustration—a lot of my writing is about explaining something, and I kind of got sick of explaining stuff. I felt jealous of people that were engaging in abstraction. So I’ve been trying to pursue more abstract stuff.

I’m working on a book that I’ll be self-publishing called Oysters at Evelyn’s. Then I have a video game coming out on the Paris Review which is nuts. That actually came out of something I was working on for the paper. I wanted to do a video game for the newspaper and that led to making this thing which is about the French writer George Bataille. It’s sort of like an adventure game where you walk around stabbing ghouls. A lot of it has been hobbies and having the experience of not knowing what I’m doing and learning something for the first time. I’ve been working on electronic stuff and building a synthesizer. Also I’m just getting back into writing again. I started this blog that’s all book reviews, or reviews of any printed object. I ended up acquiring too much stuff because I was doing a printed publication and I wanted to see what other people were doing. I’m doing this blog almost just to shit out concepts so I can turn the page and move on. It’s called 100% publishing and it’s at That’s going good so far. I’m only about a week and change in. Are there any projects you’d like to embark on, that you just don’t have the time or money for at the moment? As I said before, I like to do things. I like to have an idea and then do it. As a result of that I don’t come up with a lot of ideas I can’t do. I don’t know if that’s entirely bad. But it’s like, if you and I were to start a band and we’re talking about our ideas for the band, and you were to say “Okay, we’ll get a private jet and…” I would just say “No. No we won’t. And I will not engage in this kind of talk with you.” So as far as funding stuff—I don’t really think about that at all. I can only think with the thing that does the thinking. So I don’t know how much I’m missing by not thinking at the private plane level. Everything I want to do, I can sort of think of a way to do it. Time is a different issue. As I mentioned before, I would really love to do a book of the Mothers News stuff. But that’s not so much about time as it is just needing another mind to look at it and say “This is reasonable.” and “This is crazy.” I had this idea of self publishing it because I want it to be perfect—or I want it to conform to my specifications. I had a friend have a book come out on a major publishing house, and the book is great, but it just looks like garbage. I would be so mad at myself if that happened. So I thought, Oh, I’ll just self publish it. But I’m having a hard time getting it started. So, although I don’t really have a path to finding this hypothetical person who I’d very much like to work with, maybe that’s a daydream at the plane level. But other than that, not really. My most recent project was publishing a newspaper which, previously and otherwise, was the domaine of millionaires. So what can I do that’s upper Echelon from that? If I wanted to make a TV show, I could make a TV show. I can even think of a way where I could own a TV station—that’s a logical jump for the owner of a newspaper. At this point in time, that’s really just a Youtube channel, so it’s not as exciting. But it’s pretty open at the time being, you know?


Photography by Matthew James-Wilson

This past fall I was incredibly thrilled to host the second annual CURRENTS gallery show at Secret Project Robot in Brooklyn! This year CURRENTS was a month long group show celebrating the five year anniversary of FORGE. that featured work by 13 young contemporary artists who have been involved with the magazine in the past. Similar to last year ’s show, the goal with CURRENTS this year was to once again to showcase the community of artists and viewers that FORGE. has created online, in an IRL setting. The show was meant to serve as a time capsule of who I think are some of the most amazing contemporary artists from various disciplines working today. Hopefully the show reinforced the sense of conectiveness among all of the artists included, and encouraged them to care about eachother ’s practices. While the gallery show was up for a month, I put together a bunch of events including screenings, poetery readings, comic readings, and musical performances, plucking people from different corners of the art world who have some how been involved with FORGE. over the past five years.

Trace Mountains @ CURRENTS 2017

Trace Mountains @ CURRENTS 2017

Emily Yacina @ CURRENTS 2017

Emily Yacina @ CURRENTS 2017

Emily Yacina @ CURRENTS 2017

Current Joys @ CURRENTS 2017

Current Joys @ CURRENTS 2017

Sleepovers @ CURRENTS 2017

Sleepovers @ CURRENTS 2017

Yowler @ CURRENTS 2017

Molly Soda @ CURRENTS 2017

Molly Soda @ CURRENTS 2017

JP Garcia @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Zeke Aszman @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Hannah Rego @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Shriya Samavai @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Simon Defeo & Roshan Abraham @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Theo Thimor @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Mary Moore @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

James Yeh @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Joanna C. Valente @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

EVIL MTN @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Simon Defeo @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Darcie Wilder @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival

Lindsay Bottos @ Reading Rainbow Poetry Festival


Ó @Audience CURRENTS @ DBTS 2017



(Sandy) Alex G @ CURRENTS 2017

(Sandy) Alex G @ CURRENTS 2017

(Sandy) Alex G @ CURRENTS 2017

Emily Yacina @ CURRENTS 2017

Emily Yacina @ CURRENTS 2017

Franz Charcoal @ CURRENTS 2017

Framz Charcoal @ CURRENTS 2017

Franz Charcoal @ CURRENTS 2017

Kevin Czap of Czap Books @ CAB

Char Esme & Lauren Poor @ CAB

Jesjit Gill of Colour Code @ CAB

John Malta & Sibobhan Gallagher @ CAB

David Schilter of KuĹĄ @ CAB

Patrick Crotty & Jane Mai @ CAB

Rose Wong, Nichole Shinn, Kurt Woerpel, & Thomas Colligan of TXTbooks @ CAB

Patrick Kyle & Ginette Lapalme @ CAB

Kendra Yee @ CAB

Allyson Leigh & Kelsey Wrotten @ CAB

Eric Kostiuk Williams @ CAB

Joe Kessler, Anna Haifisch, & Dash Shaw @ CAB

An Nguyen @ CAB

Max Huffman, Andrew Alexander, & Jack Resse of Weakly @ CAB

Ross Jackson @ CAB

Killer Acid & Sierra Siemer @ CAB

Connor Willumsen & Zach Hazard Vaupen @ CAB

Sophi Miyoko Gullbrants & Connor McCann @ CAB

Orion Martin of Paradise Systems @ CAB

Jay Létat & Tommi Parrish @ CAB

Lukas Caprez @ CAB

Leesh Adamerovich, Louise Reimer, & Ariel Davis @ CAB

Ed Kanerva of Koyama Press @ CAB

G.W. Duncanson Hannah @ @K. Paper Lee @ Jam CAB 5

Jane Mai, Eric Kostiuk Williams, Juli Majer, Kelsey Wrotten, & Richie Pope @ CAB

Tara Booth @ CAB

Matthew Volz & John Malta @ CAB

Comic Arts Brooklyn

Juli Majer & Christian Hernandez of DDOOGG @ CAB

Evan M. Cohen & Patti Dale @ CAB

Niv Bavarsky & Wesley Allsbrook @ CAB

Rui Tenreiro @ CAB

Tyler Gardosh @ CAB

Harrison Stewart, James McPherson, & Rellie Brewer of Clow Kisses Press @ CAB

Lexie @ Baby’s All Right

Lexie @ Baby’s All Right

Lexie @ Baby’s All Right

L’Rain @ Baby’s All Right

Nice Try @ Murmrr Theatre

IAN SWEET @ Murmrr Theatre

Frankie Cosmos @ Murmrr Theatre

Moses Sumney @ Knockdown Center

Moses Sumney @ Knockdown Center

(Sandy) Alex G @ Knockdown Center

Panda Bear & Avey Tare @ Knockdown Center

Panda Bear & Avey Tare @ Knockdown Center

Cende @ Bowery Ballroom

Cende @ Bowery Ballroom

Vagabon @ Bowery Ballroom

Greta Kline @ Brooklyn Bazar

Spirit Crush @ The Footlight

Colleen Green @ The Footlight

Cassie Ramone @ The Footlight

You Should Check Out... By Matthew James-Wilson


Cut Worms

i can’t exactly remember who or what first tipped me off to singer/songwriter max clarke’s project cut worms, but i’m so delighted i had the opportunity to stumble on it this fall. at the end of october clake released the brief six track ep alien sunset, with the help of jagjaguwar. discovering this record felt like digging up a rusty box of 45s from a sandy dune. each track is a delicately worn in pop song channeling a sound and era decades before it’s time, and instilling a sense of mystery around their creator. the arrangements are minimal but full of character, making the standard 60s garage instrumentation sound refreshing once again. the ep is brimming with heartfelt, memorable moments and stands out among other releases because of the unshakable character of clake’s performance. the ep’s titular track showcases the breadth of intensities in clarke’s vocal delivery, adding a weight to his haunting lyrics. then later on the ep, “song of the highest tower” is luminous ballad with that’ll tug at even the most jaded listeners heart strings. carke’s tender accent and jagged writing have left the shape on his works in my ears long after the album has finished playing out of my speakers, causing me to revisit the album over and over through out the day. i’m not sure what clarke has planned next for cut worms, but if his full length is anything like alien sunset, i’m sure i’ll be won over once again.

Lunch Lady

i had the amazing fortune of seeing the los angeles diy super group lunch lady perform their first show while i was in california this fall. the eerie post punk four piece is comprised of members of abe vigoda, heller keller, red channel, and roses, creating an impossibly high expectation for the band. although their previous projects are tough acts to follow, lunch lady has already begun to exceed expectations in the few months since their conception. for their first show the band performed in a tightly packed, dimly lit recording studio in glassell park. the huddled mass of an audience shifted back and forth to a syncopated rhythm section, rachel birke’s laid back vocals, and juan velasquez’s new wave guitar riffs, as the band played through the half dozen songs they had written so far. if you live in or around la, definitely keep your eyes peeled for one of their upcoming shows. and if you’re a sad sap like me who lives somewhere else, you’ll have to settle for buying their five track demo on bandcamp.

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Post-Trash: Volume Three

this month the brooklyn based music journalism outlet post-trash put out their third consecutive charity compilation, post trash: volume three. the site’s editor in chief, dan goldin, has been a force of nature in the north east independent music community, always making sure there’s opportunity for young artists to have their voices heard through both post-trash and his label, exploding in sound. this year’s comp includes a staggering 51 tracks by established and emerging musicians from a range of different genres, locations, and backgrounds. whether or not you’re familiar with any of the musicians on here, there’s something for everyone nestled into the compilation. post trash: volume three is available for free on bandcamp, but 100% of the proceeds made from the compilation go to the maria fund, a puerto rican disaster relief agency formed as a result of hurricane maria, so be sure to make a donation if you download it.


Leesh Adamerovich’s Spotify Playlists i recently moved into a studio with two of the hardest working illustrators that i know, leesh adamerovich and ariel davis. the three of us each have different temperaments when it comes to making work in the space, but typically we can all at least agree on the music we’re listening to while there. probably the most unexpected benefit of having a desk in the studio has been getting to know each of their tastes in music. leesh in particular has spent hours crafting premium playlists full of obscure tracks from around the world. she even goes as far as illustrating stunning covers for each one. if you use spotify, it’s definitely worth searching her name and giving one of them a listen! :)

Songs in the Key of Z songs in the key: the curious universe of outsider music is a phenomenal series of compilation albums of weirdo music from across the 20th century. to my knowledge, there are at least three volumes that accompany a book with the same name by music journalist irwin chusid. the compilations are a great starting point for anyone who’s interested in outsider artists and musicians, and is lovingly put together in a way that really exemplifies the spectrum of alternative music that is been made by people for decades.