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I was using an outdated version ov Adobe Photoshop, especially for like the "hymnals" and all that stuff, which had extensive typeface and slapped-together imagery.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 ( ) 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.