Sunday, May 5, 2013

Interview with Art Daniels, Current Merch Man for GypsyhawK

The other day I had the good fortune to talk to Art Daniels. Recently Art moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles to pursue a full time job as a road dog. He is the current merch man for the hard rock band, Gypsyhawk. Not only was Art fun to talk to but he was open to any questions I had!  
  
How long have you been working merch for Gypsyhawk?
Just a short while. I've been on one tour with them so far. I'm hoping it's the beginning of a long gig.

How did you get the gig?
I knew one of the guys in the band, Erik "Ron Houser" Kluiber and he had asked me to fill in at the end of their tour with The Sword in December but I couldn't get out of work because of the short notice. So when this opportunity came up, I wasn't letting a crappy retail job get in the way. I was interviewed by the band and they asked me to go. I quit that job and I'm not looking back.

Hoping to become a lifer?
Yes, although I have my sights set higher than where I'm at now. I've been on tours with other bands but this feels like a good spot to be in right now.

What other bands' have you done merch for?
Before I moved out West, I would go on tour with a metal band called Jameson and right before Gypsyhawk was a band called Future Villains.
End of tour with the Future Villians (Art is second from the left)
What's it like going on the road with people you don't really know?
It's scary! I mean with Gypsyhawk I only kind if knew Erik. I had never really heard their music before and I had heard Eric Harris was kind of a handful. I mean we all talked for 10 minutes to decide that we were all going to live together for the next month. It's lots of pressure and you don't want to get too drunk or say the wrong thing to a new boss who you can't get away from at the end of the day. We are all together almost all the time.
"Eric Harris with his trademark 'Smile.'" - Art 
That's intense. At the end of the night is it hard to party with the people you ultimately work for?
If you're doing a good job, no. I was working hard, helping out wherever I could and the band saw that and realized that I wasn't going to be some guy only doing the bare minimum. As soon as they saw I was there to make everything easier, they took me as one of their own and made sure I was as messed up as they were.
Enjoying a day off in Austin with Ian Brown and Andrew Packer
Without going into too much detail have you ever heard of a band and merch person "breaking up" during tour?
Of course! It's really easy to be a distraction and just do whatever you feel like doing. The key is to listen and learn. Some bands have very specific ways of doing things and you're only going to look like an ass if you come in and ignore that. If you want to change things you have to learn how they work first. You can't just guess you know the better way. That's a good way to get tossed off with no ticket home.

DAMN! I'm so naive. I had honestly never thought about how things could go sour between the merch person and the band. But you're right. How many years have you been working merch?
On and off for about the last five years. It only really got serious this year. I moved out here to work with bands and it's finally taking off.
Erik Kluiber and Art Daniels
Since this is obviously something you love to do, could you tell me what you enjoy most about being on the road?
It sounds so corny, but I love to travel and see America. I've seen places that I would have never thought to go to and I've done things I never would have done. A great example is that on my birthday, I was out with Gypsyhawk and we were in Seattle. We decided that we should go see Kurt Cobain's house, you know the one where he died. Andrew Packer came up with this awesome idea that we should shotgun beers on his front yard, so that's what we did. That's something I would have probably never have done!
Art shotgunning a beer outside of Kurt Cobain's house
Holy shit, that sounds like an amazing birthday.
I don't know what I can do to top it. Next year will be rough.

Yeah, that's going to be difficult. haha!
Well luckily, I'm up for the challenge.

Other than extremely awesome moments like that, what is a typical day on tour like for you?
Well any day starts off with us waking up out of our drunken states and inventorying the people and seeing who is missing. Then we locate and reclaim the missing. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes it's not. Once we get everybody back in the van we get to the next gig. Sometimes it's a few hours sometimes its a lot of hours. The rides are usually filled with stories of what happened the night before and Netflix. Once we get to the venue we all get into work mode. I find a spot to set up and get organized and the band gets set up. Then we wait until show time. Sometimes light drinking is involved. When the show starts its pretty fun. You get to meet people who tell you how awesome the band is. It's always great when people tell you how far they came to see you. After the show its time to pack up and get drinks and figure out where to crash that night. Then its time to party, then pass out. Then the process starts again.
End of tour with Gypsyhawk and Mothership
I feel like people (myself included) see the merch person as the face of the band, that's why we're always chatting ya up. Does it ever get to be overwhelming?
Sometimes. I have to be sure that no matter how annoying somebody might seem that I have to be nice. It's rare but I do get people that just want to talk about something completely unrelated to anything or somebody asking for a discount. Sometimes they want an autograph or to get a picture and I try to make that happen as best as I can. I want to be sure they leave the table loving Gypsyhawk more than when they walked up. Like I said before, most people just want to buy something to remember the show and tell you how great the band is. I want to be sure to not change that.
Blake Anderson from Workaholics stopped by for a show!
That's a really good attitude to have. I know it must get tiring being on the road, driving for hours, and then dealing with (presumably) drunk people.
Being on the road is tiring at times but it's all worth it. My worst day on the road is better than my best day working a regular job.
Art with Andrew Packer and Erik Kluiber of Gypsyhawk
When I saw Gypsyhawk in NYC I not only enjoyed their music but I really liked their style, especially Erik's badass bellbottoms. Do you feel like you have to up your style game with those guys?
Well Erik does rock those pretty good. I don't think I could pull it off. One of the things that's cool with Gypsyhawk is that I feel like I fit in. We all look like we should be around each other with the long hair and denim. Eric Harris has been coaching me on what to wear next tour. I never thought I would be wearing cowboy boots but its happening.

You do all have beautiful long hair! Gypsyhawk should be sponsored by Pantene!
I'm sure that it would be considered!
End of tour with Gypsyhawk. Seriously though, you all have gorgeous hair. 
If you could tour with any band dead or alive, who would it be?
Great question. I think it would be wild to be on tour with Mötley Crüe back in the 80's. I mean a lot of bands party and it's crazy but I don't know if there's ever going to be that level of partying ever again. I would be fascinated to see how that all went down.

GREAT ANSWER! Funny too, cause I just finished, "The Dirt" and I can't stop thinking about all the shit they did!
Yes, it's amazing they are all still alive

THANK YOU THANK YOU ART! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. 
No problem! See you at the Merch Table!

You can meet Art for yourself when Gypsyhawk goes on tour this Summer with Vailent Thorr and Ramming Speed. Below is a link to Gypsyhawk's FB page where you can find cities and dates for their upcoming tour 
https://www.facebook.com/Gypsyhawkusa

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Interview with Myke Colby of Hot Graves

If you've paid attention to Southern metal for any amount of time you've probably come across the name Myke Colby. His bands Thee Kvlt ov (((Øurøbørøs and By the Horns were Gainesville metal fans' answer to their infernal hails in a predominantly punk scene.  Fresh from an East Coast tour with his current band Hot Graves, Myke took some time to talk to me...

You've been in two of the BEST metal bands to come out of Gainesville, Thee Kvlt ov (((Øurøbørøs and Hot Graves. Did you do design work for both?
Wow, that's pretty blush-inspiring, thank you!  And yes, I have (for better or worse) done quite a bit ov design work for these bands' merch requirements n' things.

Are you responsible for this amazingness?

I laid it out to be a t-shirt design, easily-printable by any screen-printing facility, including the typeface, but the man responsible for the artwork is Gustav Doré, a french engraving artist from the 19th century.  He has been a go-to for many a hack designer (like myself) in need ov good METAL-lookin' artstuff.

It's a great use of his work. I took a class called, "Medieval Magic and Witchcraft" (yes this is a class that is offered at UF) and every book we read used his work.
No doubt, he has created many ov the most iconic religious (and otherwise otherworldly) images in history.

What are some of the first design projects you did? Were they for your bands or for other people's bands?
Well, if you really wanna dig back, I always drew little tape covers for the band stuff I recorded with my buddies when we were in 7th/8th grade on up, but the first thing that ever really got semi-mass-produced was my old Punk/Ska band Gov't Chee$e's first demo tape, called "This Here Demo".  I took a picture ov a very worried looking little black boy from a clip-art book I found at my high school (in 10th grade now), and did the rest ov the design using cut-n-paste techniques and just pen and marker drawing. That's how flyers and most everything was done back then; cutting stuff out ov magazines, comic books, whatever.  Photocopying stuff and drawing on it was like early days photoshopping.  Then, obviously came computers...

When you did design work for THEE KVLT, what programs did you use?
I was using an outdated version ov Adobe Photoshop, especially for like the "hymnals" and all that stuff, which had extensive typeface and slapped-together imagery.

Was it something you found you could use and then taught yourself to do?
I was properly educated in other programs, like PageMaker and stuff like that, and I wanna say I may have had some Photoshop instruction in high school, but with Photoshop I am largely self-taught, very much in the "trial and error" fashion.  Once you get to know one program really well, other ones become a bit intuitive. This is the layout for the very first Hot Graves Demo CDRs that we sold.  This is one project I can say I absolutely did all the layout, recorded all the music, burned all the CDs, printed/cut/folded all the covers, and mailed em all out to people myself.... 



HOLY FUCK! How did you do the layout? Photoshop?
Yeah, another photoshop conquest there.  I just did the measurements for the CD sleeves I was using, and used the rest for a little insert. Here's the one for the second demo...

That's brutal! Are there any particular bands or artists that influence the designs you do?
I would say mostly magazines have influenced my sense ov design, especially in the idea ov everything having it's place so the flow ov intended information is presented in a way that's not confusing or cramped.  There's all these old Metal/Punk publications (read: fanzines) that I really enjoy the aesthetic ov, as it keeps in line with the sound and vibe.  But mostly, now that I think on it, necessity influences my designs the most.  I try to stay away from it if I can these days.  
(I never can, by the way)

The influence of fanzines definitely comes across! Some of your work reminds me of "The Slayer" fanzine by Jon "Metalion" Kristiansen
Good eye! That's a huge one for me.
HOT GRAVES (Myke in the center)

Doing design work for yourself definitely saves money, have you ever done your own screen printing?
In high school I did, in fact.  I stretched my own screen and everything, and I made the design by hand-painting the emulsion on the screen to create a t-shirt design ov the logo for the aforementioned band, Gov't Chee$e.  Our logo was a wedge ov presumably-swiss cheese (it had holes in it) on a small plate, with a couple flies circling around.  I printed it on every spare shirt myself or anyone I knew had.  Nowadays, I let the professionals handle that.  Like our drummer Matt, his brother Jimbo runs this label Bigger Boat Records ( www.biggerboatrecords.com ) that just put out a 7" record for us, and he silkscreened all the 7" covers for the release himself.  I always make a sloppy mess ov stuff like that, so I leave it to those who would consider themselves professional at it.
Hot Graves' merch table ($10 for a shirt?! YES, PLEASE)

This is totally unrelated but you designed some shirts that were sold at Smoke (An old Gainesville smoke/skate shop) and I bought one for my friend Noni back in 2004 and he wore that motherfucker till it fell to pieces. 
That's amazing. 

He was so sad when he laid it to rest
I've had a few ov those remorseful ones. The first one ever was an The Accüsed shirt I got at a flea market in South Florida, it was the cover ov Martha Splatterhead's Maddest Stories... and it was on a white shirt that began disentegration after 1st wash.

Fuckkkkk that sucks
The only thing that held it together was the ink.

Hahaha. Did you create the coffins design for Hot Graves?
The original design for that was kinda jokingly done by a Doom Metal forum buddy who whipped it together for a laugh.  Then, since we liked it, Hutchy and his girlfriend re-did it, spiced it up with some more occult-y symbols, and there you have it!

The ouroboros seems to be a theme in your work, obviously with THEE KVLT but also in Hot Graves. Does that symbol have any significance to you besides just being an awesome ancient symbol of eternal return and self-reflexivity?
Yeah, for sure.  I have it tattooed on myself, in fact, with the pentagram in the middle (which served as the logo for THEE KVLT for a good while).  And yeah, the whole ancient symbol meaning thing is a pretty easy sell, but I was always fascinated by how it came up in many different, seemingly-unconnected societies at different times in history.  If I had to explain it shortly, i would say..  I live for the catharsis.

It's a powerful symbol and I always thought Thee Kvlt ov (((Øurøbørøs was such a good fucking name. I hope you reunite some day, not only because of the name but also because you put on one hell of a show.
Thank you.

Kimmy loves your hot pink guitar and it's a color you use in your band designs and wear quite often. Hot pink is seemingly anti-Black Metal, why do you like it?
Now that I think about it, it's sort ov an aggressive thing.  Like me and my buddy used to call it "Hard About Being Soft", and it was all about being about some soft-ass shit, like wearing and putting pink on everything, in a really militant way.  Like, defending my right to like Justin Bieber TO THE DEATH, and shit.  But with the name Hot Graves, the hot pink just seems to go with it, for me personally.  And really, it's just an extension ov my personality, so the guys don't put up much fuss when I say "PINK" to every color concern.
Record label:  Do you want to do some colored vinyl?
Hot Graves:  Yes, Pink.
I have a couple pink metal t-shirts, one is a St. Vitus shirt, and one is this band Cemetery Rapist, so I don't know.  I guess it's pretty metal.

Hahaha! I would love to see a hot pink Hot Graves patch. I remember that Saint Vitus shirt! Well, my last question is about the buzz circulating your upcoming guest appearance on Justin Bieber's album.
Yeah, I've kinda like been advised to kinda keep that hush hush until he's done promoting the current album(s).  Don't wanna steal no thunder or nothin' like that.

I understand. Thank you so much Myke!
Thank you, Jami!!!!  This was fun.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Interview with Lynn

How old are you?
I am 26 years old.

How long have you been touring with bands? 

June will be a year.

Who was the first band you toured with and how did you get hooked up with them?
Corrosion of Conformity. My friend Emily, who does merch for Valient Thorr, got offered it but couldn't do it so she put a thing on Facebook and I messaged her. She was like, "She'd be perfect! She'll talk your ear off whether you want her to or not!"
Lynn (fourth person from the right) on tour with Corrosion of Conformity, Torche, Black Cobra and Gaza
How long did you tour with them? 
I did a month with them then another week long tour a couple weeks after we got home.

Was that a good experience?
Yea it was an awesome place to start and it's how I met Black Tusk and got set up with touring with them. I met a lot of fun people and got to see a lot of cool places. CoC has been around so long that they have fans who have been listening to them for 30 years and since the merch girl is the most accessible I got to hear all sorts of stories and see all sorts of tattoos. Plus the guys have been around for so long that they have some great stories from when they were coming up.

I would love to see some CoC tattoos! When I met you in NYC you were on tour with Black Tusk and are currently touring with them now. What are some of the ups and downs touring with three Southern metal dudes?
Well it's nice because I was born and raised in the South too, so it's nice to be around some Southern boys. I never realized till I started touring how real of a thing Southern Hospitality is. We all have a really similar mentality and the guys are really accommodating to the fact that I'm the only vegan. I definitely feel like one of the boys and not the token female on tour. 
Lynn with James and Athon of Black Tusk/TCBT!
Besides working the merch table, what are some of your other responsibilities on tour?
That is the bulk of my responsibilities. If you ask Athon he will tell you I'm tour Mom but honestly they've been doing this so long they've got it down to a science. I try to keep up with the band's Instagram but mostly it's just merch, being the one who looks on the bright side when everyone is complaining and looking pretty. 

And you DO look pretty!
Ha thank you.

For those who are not privy to the job of a merch person could you take us through a typical day on tour?
Well we wake up wherever we've passed out, the night before we've figured out when load in is and how long the drive will be. We will stop at a Loves/Pilot /Flying J and get some hot garbage food, once we get to the venue we will unload the trailer and I will find somewhere to set up the merch, find out if there's a merch rate (where the club takes a percentage of what we sell) and make sure all my stuff is organized so I'm not digging around like crazy when everyone asks for something. Every week or so I will count shirts and music to see what we need to restock. Then I walk around the area till doors praying to summertime that there will be something vegan and reasonably priced to eat within walking distance. Once doors open it's time to drink beers and get chatty. Till we load out and find somewhere else to crash out. I basically spend the show telling people that they can't have a deal because it's rude to ask and and trying to get people to buy the right sizes in their shirts because everyone wants to think they wear a smaller size than they do.
Lynn working the merch table.
Hahahaha! I only just learned (in my interview with Santos) about merch rates and I was shocked. Were you aware of this before working merch?
I wasn't. It blows my mind too. The band makes the shirts, carries them around, brings people to your club and then we have to pay you for something you have nothing to do with. Festivals are the worst. They make you count in and count out and when you're carrying around a couple hundred shirts it's annoying. I'm usually the asshole that's like, "If you're not gonna take my word on it you can count it yourselves." I had one venue that had me fill out a sheet when I was done and I just showed the dude my tally system where I keep up with the sales for the band and he was like, "I'm going to put 'honest' on the records for this band because you're honest with me, if a band tried to cheat or skimp we write dishonest on the sheet and make them count in and out." It makes no sense to me because no matter if I was trying to get away with not paying 15 percent of our sales to you, what did you contribute to this process?
"That's what I have to say about merch rates."
EXACTLY!!!! It's insane to me. Do you think that the people who come to shows realize how important merch sales are?
I think some do and some don't. There are the people who gladly pay full price and give tons of money in the tip jar and are more than happy to do it. Then there are people who walk up to the table and immediately ask,"So what kind of deal can I get?" Or will buy a record and be like, "Can I get a shirt for 10 instead of 15 since I bought a record?" At that point it depends on my mood because if you catch me on a good day I will explain to you how we are still paying the merch companies for those shirts and koozies, they aren't free and giving them away doesn't pay them off, and how the profit we make goes straight in the gas tank. On a bad day I will probably just say it's rude and I would be way more likely to hook you up if you don't ask. I always say, "Do you go to the grocery store and the mall and try to haggle their prices? Then why try me?" We need this money way more than they do. Merch is a big portion of gas money for tour. I have a sign I put up in some cities that says "no gods, no masters, NO DEALS"

Besides some people who hassle for deals, is your experience working merch predominately pleasant? 
It's so much fun. I wouldn't do it if I didn't ultimately have a good time. I love talking to people and I love music. I somehow stumbled into my dream job completely on accident. I've worked in the service industry for a decade now so being behind the merch table is the same thing only people are generally a lot nicer to you and don't act like a jerk because you didn't have a chance to refill their 3/4 full glass of sweet tea. I always wanted to be
involved in music somehow but I have zero musical talent so this is the next best thing.
Sometimes dance parties happen on tour. Lynn with James, the drummer of Black Tusk.
Mmmmmm sweet tea! What would you say the hardest part about being on tour is? Missing your pup?
That is probably the hardest thing. I'm a very over protective dog Mom but he's in good hands so I don't get too worried. It is kind of stressful never having alone time or the ability to do whatever you want or pick up and go where you want. Your day is mapped out. I've lived alone for years and going from that to sharing a room night after night can wear on your nerves sometimes, but then occasionally you stay at a house that has rooms where you can sleep alone. I also am really physically active when I'm home. I go to the gym and run regularly and my job involves me walking around in circles for 6-8 hours at a time so I always feel like I get really out of shape on tour. Sometimes I swear I am sitting in the van and can feel my muscles atrophy.

Buddha, Lynn's adorable pup!
You ever do Chinese fire drills just to get your blood going?
Haha I wish. When we stay at a hotel I always try to see if they have a fitness center so I can use the stationary bike or treadmill but they usually don't have one more often than not. I'm almost always the first one awake so I feel weird trying to do sit ups and stuff in the room while everyone is still passed out
Lynn at the Grand Canyon during tour.
That's not weird. What's your dream band to tour with, dead or alive?
Fuck that one is tough. Haha. I would say probably the Highway Men, when Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson formed a group. My dad used to play it all the time growing up and I always loved it. I imagine they had some amazing stories and they always seemed like outlaws to me and always reminds me of riding in my Dad's old Ford pick up. In my head I just imagine them after playing sitting around a poker table smoking cigarettes playing cards and telling stories
Lynn with Black Tusk, Red Fang and Lord Dying
Awww that's awesome! Those MFers were outlaws. They'd be fun to tour with for sure. You think you could out drink 'em?
Haha absolutely not. I love drinking but it doesn't always love me. I've chilled out a lot in the last couple years.

Haha I don't know, you're pretty badass Lynn. Thank you so much for letting me interview you!
Dude no problem I'm glad to do it
Athon, the bassist of Black Tusk and Lynn. Some fans replaced items that were in Athon and Lynn's book bags when they were stolen from the tour van. 
Check out Lynn's tour blog fromthebackofthevan.tumblr.com
You can also following her at http://instagram.com/garm0nbozia for more tour pics.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Short Interview with Juan Montoya

One of my VERY favorite band t-shirts is my Torche "Meanderthal Tour" shirt. I bought it at a Torche show in Gainesville, FL in 2008 and it's been in heavy rotation ever since. I recently learned that Juan Montoya (former guitarist of Torche and current guitarist of both MonstrO and Stallone) co-designed this shirt.  He was kind enough to answer a couple of questions I had regarding this illustration and other visual projects he's working on. 

What medium did you use to design the shirt?
I used black ink on stock computer paper it was more of a doodle. Rick already had the Torche logo designed a while back, we used it on the first self titled. Once it was scanned we added blood drips on the image, to go with the AC/DC "If You Want Blood" Tribute.

What was the concept behind the design?
The shirt was a collaboration with Rick Smith (Torche's drummer). We recorded Meanderthal in late 2007 and the band talked about an album cover. Steve Brooks(Torche's vox) mentioned I should draw monsters for the cover and I said "Why don't I do monster versions of us?" So we all agreed and I started to do about twenty diffrent designs. The band loved all of them and we included them on the cover and I asked Aaron Turner from Isis to sketch out ideas for a backdrop to these creatures. He came up with the mountain idea and Robotic Empire printed a giant gatefold of the art. It was amazing to see the finished product. We also designed tee shirts from all the different drawings. The idea for that particular shirt was to make it a homage to AC/DC but warp out Bon Scott and Angus young into a Steve and I siamese mutant. It was a laugh when I showed it to the guys.

Other than being a fan of this shirt, I also extremely enjoy the illustrations you do. Could you tell me more about these psychedelic pieces?
As of late I'm playing in the band MonstrO and instrumental band Stallone. During MonstrO's tour with Clutch, Hellyeah and Kyng. I put a drawing of the band on the merch table for sale. Someone bought it and I took a pic of the image earlier and posted a photo of the fan who purchased it on our Facebook. It created a little buzz about having a different drawing in each city and seeing who would own it. When I came home from tour I started working on my technique and started selling my own images on FB and IG. I did one for a friend of her cat inside a tiny space ship traveling the galaxies and the emails started to pouring in. I've been able to support myself with these drawings. I work on original one of a kind high quality pen drawings on watercolor paper.It's a blast to do these and most people love their pets like children. It's very gratifying to give a little joy with art. I also do trippy images that are very 60/70s sci-fi influenced most of them include sexy space vixens that I make up from dreams. 

These are amazing! My personal favorite is "Kiss Cat"! 
Thank you so much! Cheers

You can see more of Juan Montoya's work at instagram.com/montoyablackmagic
Or you can check out his work at MonstrO's merch table when they go on tour with Alice in Chains in late April.

"Dita in Space"

"Dr. Skull"

"Kiss Cat"

"Stallone Album Cover" 

"Sally"

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Interview with Santos

The other day I was lucky enough to talk to an amazing artist whose work I love and respect so much. Santos' designs have graced the t-shirts, album covers and posters of metal bands such as Lamb of God, High on Fire, Kylesa, Torche, Yob and many more. Not only has he done illustrative work for metal bands, he's also been known to work the merch table on occasion....

Me: Thank you again for agreeing to this. You're the first person I thought of when I came up with the concept of this blog. I've never interviewed anyone so be kind. hahaha.
Santos: Thank YOU for including me on this. I'll be kind. 
"Swans of Black Ash"

Do you prefer Santos or your first name?
Santos. I haven't went by John since I was 15. There are some people that don't even know my first name. haha!

Fair enough! I get called Wichita a lot.
Ha! Funny how that happens. I always prefer Santos. John is so common a name. 

Well first & foremost I'd like to say I'm a huge fan of your work. The "Swans of Black Ash" design you did for Kylesa is one of my favorite band shirts!
Thanks! (i'm blushing as i'm bad with compliments) ha!

ME TOO! How long have you been doing ink illustrations?
I can remember inking my first designs for a few bands in high school in 87'. Shitty quick designs.

Were the designs for bands that you were in or friends' bands?
Friends' bands.

What/who were your early illustrative influences?
I read a lot of comics and Art Adams and John Byrne were two of my favorites. Of course, Pushead blew me away as soon as I found his art. I was also really into Gustave Dore' illustrations. I also thought that Derrick Riggs was a god. His Iron Maiden covers were one of the main reasons that I wanted to do cover art.

Who doesn't love Eddie? haha
Right?! I drew those covers over and over again. On desks, notebooks, for friends, and wherever I could get away with drawing him. I had almost every Iron Maiden button that I could find on my jean jacket. Obsessed.

My girlfriend is a card carrying member of the Iron Maiden fan club! hahaha
I cannot believe that I'm not one. I saw them on the Piece Of Mind tour with my friends' big brother. Changed my life.

I bet it did! HOLY CRAP!
I'm old. haha! I saw them at Red Rocks with Twisted Sister for Powerslave, with Metallica (with Cliff Burton) on Somewhere in Time, and several times even through the shitty years.haha!

Can I be you!?! I cried when I saw Cliff Burton's bass at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. Nerd ALERT
Ha! It was an awesome show. They had just come out with Master Of Puppets. No worries. I'm a HUGE music nerd.

Wow. When did you realize that you could/should charge bands for your designs?
I think when I did the Catheter 7" cover on Headfucker Records. I got paid a 1/4 of dank buds. So, I started charging a little bit of cash and maybe some pot on top of that, but I was just into doing art for bands. The first time that I was officially paid and knew that I could get into getting paid for all of my work was when I had inked the first design for High On Fire. I got paid $200 and was AMPED! haha!

I would have been stoked too! haha. Of course you hand illustrate all your designs correct?!?
Yeah. I'm still into the old ways, I guess. I like to get the illustrations the way that I want them to look before I scan them in to send out. Less computer work.

That is amazing! How long does it take you to finish a design for say, a band t-shirt?
Around 2 weeks. With a week of sketching and dialing in the design.

That's worth way more than $200. 
Yeah, i charge a bit more these days, but it's still way below what it should be for the time taken for each design. But, bands aren't rich and I like to keep my rates affordable for any band.

Of course. :) Can you take me through the process that occurs between you and a band when they come to you for a design?
I start by finding out if they have any ideas or themes for the design. If they do, I get as much information from them as possible concerning their idea. If they leave it up to me, I will then ask for lyrics or music so that I can come up with an idea that it relevant to the band. I then sketch out some designs and send them along to get a sense of whether or not the band is into any of my ideas. I will get the sketch to a final pencil drawing, send it along, and wait for an answer before I start inking. Once I ink, I really can't go back. If there are any changes that they want in the design, i get that info when they get the final pencils file.
"Demons & Diamonds"


Because there is so much initial discussion about the band's ideas and concepts, does it ever occur that the band decides to go in a completely different direction by the final pencil drawing?
That hasn't happened to me, yet. I have had a few people ask to add or remove things when it's finished being inked. I then inform them that it is too late and they have never really put up a bitch about it and were happy with the design regardless.

It must help that they are more or less aware of your artistic style and are coming to you for that very reason
Nowadays they are aware of that. It didn't used to be so easy.

Do you find yourself busier now that you're more accessible via the interwebs?
Yeah. Much busier. I think word of mouth has helped a ton, too. There is a chain that I can follow of bands that passed my name around for years. It was awesome and humbling. I've never had a business card not a real web site. I should think about getting one soon. haha!

Word of mouth is so cool because that's old school.
It's the best. I remember seeing High On Fire >Kylesa & A Life Once Lost. Kylesa> so many Southern bands. Scott Kelly got my name from Pike and Lamb of God got my name from Scott Kelly. Touring has also helped a ton.

I had the pleasure of meeting you (very briefly!) in NYC while you were with Torche last fall during the Converge/Torche/Kvelertak tour. How was that experience?
It was awesome. One of the best tours that I've been on. The Torche guys are some of the best. Hell, we all have the same tats now. haha!



A Harmonster right?
Yep. I love those guys.

Rick is the BEST
Yeah, I hung out with him a lot. Crazy vatos!

As a seasoned mercher (yes, I just made that up) what are some of the highs and lows working the merch table?
Highs: Meeting awesome people, making the band some cash, selling designs from many of my friends, tips, and the ease that goes with selling goods.Lows: punishers, dumb questions, rude and drunk assholes, hagglers, people looking for deals, location of the merch area, and clubs taking a % of the merch money.

WHAT? I'm so naive, I didn't realize clubs take a % of the merch money!?!
Yep.

Wow.
That's the first thing that I ask is what the % of the merch money goes to the club. Some clubs take a % from soft good only like shirts, hoodies, totes, etc. Some take a % from soft goods AND music. The best clubs take no % because they fucking rule and know that that is all bullshit.

It IS bullshit. They depend on that. I don't know how many times I thought I should bring extra money for merch cause I know it helps the band.
Yeah. Some places even have their people sell your stuff for you. The Paladium in Dallas, TX counts in your merch, sells it for you, AND charges a 30% fee on soft and music. I was there with Kylesa one time and the sold 2 cd's and the club STILL took their 30%.

What a bunch of pricks!
Festivals do that shit, too. On top of mark up the prices on your merch. People should definitely know that merch is directly tied to helping the band get down the road to the next show. And, instead of trying to get a deal out of the band, maybe realize that they are more than likely getting fucked by the club already.

Agreed. I can't stand when I'm at the merch table and some dude/dudette is next to me haggling about the prices! haha. It's like really? This isn't fucking Metallica, this is Skeletonwitch. This guy goes home and has a fucking job.
I know. I like when they try to get a deal out of you and you finally give them a break and they ask if you have change for a $100. Or say, I'd buy merch but I need money to drink. haha!My sign for the Torche /Converge tour merch table....

"The mantra at the merch table." - Santos 

Hahahahaha! That's brilliant!!! 
Thanks. It worked, too! I know that Kim Kelly has a "No Gods, No Masters, No deals" sign. I should ask her for a pic of it.

haha I'm pretty sure she had that during the Metal Alliance Tour! 
I think she did. 

Do you have any plans to tour this year?
Yes, I do. I might be going with Kvelertak on their US tour in April, but waiting to hear back. And, from talking to David, I may be going out with Red Fang in the fall.

Red Fang! One of my favorite bands, one of my favorite patches.
I always look forward to getting out on tour.

Other than High on Fire and the bands mentioned above, you've done designs for Yob, Sleep, Torche, Lamb of God and multiple others. What band(s) would you like to work with in the future? Iron Maiden perhaps? 
Iron Maiden would be tops, but a close second would be Neurosis. They've been my favorite band since the 80's. Scott told me that I would be doing some art for them soon, so i'm closer to that dream.
"Bastard Samurai"

That's awesome! Last but not least, what have you been listening to while you illustrate?
That's always funny because it's usually never metal. Let's see..... Neu!, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Amen Dunes, Black Math Horsemen, Ash Ra Temple, and surprisingly a lot of punk and jazz.

That all sounds great! I love Black Math Horsemen. My poor girlfriend, I've been insisting on listing to the Smiths, Wire or Hole while painting. hahahah
Hole fucking rules!

Thank you so much Santos! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. 
Thank you for including me in this and for being the first interviewee.

You can check out more of Santos' work at his blog http://eyebleedink.blogspot.com 
or at his Tumblr http://santosillustration.tumblr.com/