Your newest publication, A.Y.P.S., collects work created over the past three years. Within that time, you’ve managed to produce twenty zines, books, and newspapers, many of which were self-published. More recently, you’ve worked with 5nakefork Records, Accidental Guest Recordings, and Zeitgeists Publishing, and now Kiddiepunk. How did you end up working with them?
Most of the people I work with I've known for a while, buying their books or records, or like with Accidental Guest, that is Sean from Fan Death Records, who released Locrian's The Clearing LP. So most of them kind of approach me about ideas, since I have been making art books/zines since I was in graduate school. John at Zeitgeists runs a great label, and had been buying a lot of my zines and art and just was a very supportive person, so when he approached me about a zine, it was like a no brainer.
Do you prefer self-publishing or collaborating with publishers?
I like both. I think with other publishers, it can help do projects that are more ambitious in scale or printing method and distribution. Like, I could never have made this book on my own. Plus, I tend to think about the audience, too. This way, it is printed in France and can get overseas to a scene I don't normally work in. So Michael at Kiddiepunk and I have been talking for almost two years about doing this book. It took a while and definitely changed over time. Typically, when I do it on my own, I make it smaller in edition size and maybe more specific with material, like all vellum or handmade envelopes, etc. I kind of know my core audience of people who are interested in what I do in print, so I know they'll have homes.
Kiddiepunk explains that A.Y.P.S. (“Anno Yersenia Pestis Spiritus” or “In the Year of Our Spiritual Plague”) was occasionally used in the liner notes of black metal albums in the 1990s. The phrase’s connections to heavy metal and religion/spirituality are obvious. I’m wondering if it might also hold personal significance, perhaps a reference a specific event or period of your life? For me, life in Florida could easily be described as a “spiritual plague.”
Yeah, I think a lot of what I do comes from I guess a spiritual ambivalence. I am not a very devout person, but I spend a lot of time thinking about religion, and the profane. It was obviously coined, poorly in Latin, to comment on the prevalence of Christianity, but I thought, disembodied from the liner notes or whatever, it took on another meaning. Maybe more personal, what would a spiritual plague be? Maybe one of even mourning a lack of the spiritual. That we no longer really have that connection to awe or mythology anymore.
I grew up in Florida, so I am very aware of its various plagues. In the end, though, I think it is this very wasteland that can inspire. You have to work a bit harder, but it is worth it. To work with friends and like minded weirdos to make music, art, whatever. It is good. I look back and even though I hated my time there, and I think in that void, you create plenum. You have to. Whereas in a place of plenum, like a big city or something, most people just create voids, echoes. There's no real place, everyone is a tourist in a way.
The first section of the book contains drawings made between 2010 and 2012. The earlier works contain more explicit references to heavy metal (stacks of amplifiers and speaker cabinets, drum kits) and religion (church candles, stained glass and other elements of church architecture), and first small glimpses of hair engaged in the “unholy bow.” The recent works remove those references and focus solely on larger disembodied masses of hair. How did this reduction or abstraction of forms, and how do you feel about it in relation to your previous work?
Yeah, it was Michael at Kiddiepunk's idea actually to go larger with the scope. I thought that was an interesting idea, something I hadn't really done before. Typically in a lot of my art publications and zines, I really curate it tight around a theme or media. So this was going to be interesting to me to expand it out a bit. Plus, my practice had changed, the figures became isolated. I edited out the amps and church architecture. I guess it felt to easy. The vernacular was very familiar. The heads alone felt different. They said something in their isolation that the previous constellation of, like, Sunn amp, stained glass, just didn't do. It's a progression. The collages helped me get there too, you can't stay in one place. The work has to be dynamic.
Throughout the first section are nine sets of “Negative Texts.” Some of the lists are repeated with all the words crossed out, or negated. I noticed that some of the words and phrases have been used as titles for drawings and solo recordings. How important are the Negative Texts to your overall artistic practice? Why did you choose to include them in A.Y.P.S.?
I think you picked it up on the connection. I collect a lot of phrases or just interesting arcane religious terminology. But I had been collecting them thematically, around anonymity or eroticism, just these ideas I had about obscurity or rapture. Different themes I saw within this idea of the headbang. But collected, they would form this cadence, and some of the themes deal with negation or obliteration, so repeating them crossed out was a way to emphasize that erasure. I've never shared them, unless you read my blog, but yeah, I just felt they fit in this time period and definitely informed the work. I guess I included them to help people get something else, provide some context in language. Like a statement. They are poems, but not really. Maybe it's just a list.
The second section of the book contains a new body of work titled Dread Majesty, in which you make collages from found images of hair. Like your recent drawings, the hair in the collages is isolated from the figure. Has working with collage affected your drawings in any way?
Dread Majesty is actually some specific collages for a newspaper coming out on Accidental Guest. A few of them made the cut for this book. They are the heads of hair over mountains and ice. More of a move away from heavy metal, I guess, towards the sublime.
But the collages definitely come from the drawings but also feedback into it. It's a loop. I never view a medium or idea as isolated anymore. The collages actually tend to dominate more lately. They get more involved now than they used to. But here in the book these are really early ones I started maybe two years ago. Just as a way to stay busy in the studio when I couldn't paint or draw. I'd always loved collage, but just didn't know what to do with it. Now, they definitely have found their own voice.
The third and final section is an interview with American poet, author and playwright Kevin Killian. In one of your responses, you talked about Alberto Burri’s handmade books and how you don’t make one-of-a-kind books. I’m not sure when the interview took place, but since then, you’ve produced Lost Profiles, a one-of-a-kind set of sixteen full-color zines that document all of the shots from behind in the films of Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and contain them in a handmade linen slipcase. What’s the story behind the creation of this piece?
You know, I had such ambivalence towards Burri for a long time, but lately, I've really been excited by those pieces that have that bit of gold leaf, and then the focus got more acute when I saw his book at MoMA.
The interview with Kevin was actually during the production of Lost Profiles for this exhibition I Killed My Father, I Ate Human Flesh, I Quiver with Joy curated by Invisible-Exports at Allegra La Viola Gallery in NYC. Invisible-Exports had asked me to contribute to the show. And I had saved hundreds of stills from Pasolini films. So I decided to pull every shot where the actors do not face the camera. The profil perdu or "lost profile." I had a hunch at the time Pasolini used it a lot. And I was right, so I watched every film from Accatone to Salo and excised the stills. Some films had over 100. He made only 12 movies – which I now know pretty well.
At the time of the interview for A.Y.P.S. the plan was to do some sort of small edition but the scope of the project just overwhelmed me. 16 publications, and hand making a slipcase. In the end, it became my one-of-a-kind object. So I guess I should have said "yet".
Last year, your social networking presence expanded to include accounts on Tumblr (where the Lost Profiles blog is located), Pinterest, and Twitter. A few years ago, none of these sites existed, and now artists like yourself use them as tools for research and promotion. Has social media had any considerable effect on the way your research and promote your work?
Maybe not so much with how I would research, but I tend to share some of my research on my blog. Specifically about the lost profile using images or interviews, sculptures, etc. Videos. Whatever I find. I would definitely say the promotional side has shifted dramatically. For example, you haven't seen the physical book yet, right? So you were able to get the PDF from me. It saves money and time. Why send something to someone who won't be interested? So when I make a zine or edition, I obviously have my e-mail lists of people who normally pick up work, but social media just makes some of it very unpredictable. You never know where what you put out there will show up. It can also be hyper focused. That can actually, with all the info in the world at your fingertips, lead to enhanced myopia. It is supremely bizarre.
Since our last feature on your art in 2011, you’ve relocated from Chicago to Baltimore and have a new studio. Have the new surroundings and workspace changed your studio practice in any way?
Definitely. I think anytime you change that center, your studio, something gives. It just happens that way. After that transition period. I hate that part, just packing up and relocating then getting comfortable. I work all of the time, so down time is just a bad thing for me. I get super irritable. But now I am in a basement in our house, so it is nice just to have more space and be able to have my music gear out and my art up. Plenty of room. It works for me.
Baltimore is very different than Chicago, but I liked it before I moved here, I kind of thought it had these gems with some neighborhoods or like good, weird shops like True Vine, this excellent record shop. It's much smaller and more intimate, but good people doing good things with art spaces/galleries, like SophiaJacob, Nudashank, Guest Spot and Open Space.
Your only solo exhibition in 2012 was Veils, at the Stevenson University Gallery. You showed new drawings and collages, and had Sutekh Hexen perform at the opening reception. How did students and faculty respond to your work? To Sutekh Hexen?
It was great. I really had a lot of support from my department and the students. I think it’s always hard to read that, but I think from questions they would ask later, it went over well. Maybe had me make more sense as a person. I always feel it is good for students to see what their faculty do. It may come down the road, but they'll see like in the end we're trying to figure something out. However, I overheard some students talking this month in the gallery where the show was. This was after my show had been down for a few months. They weren't from my class, but they were sharing about what cultural events they went to on campus, and I overheard one of them ask the other if they saw that weird show from the last semester with the mirrors and metal-heads. She then said it was "weird but cool." So, I'll take that.
The Sutekh Hexen set was very quiet, and they did this longform, abstract minimal thing. It was cool, a nice side to those guys. Also, some people came to the show to see them, so it was nice to intermingle these scenes. I love art and music worlds colliding in non-obvious ways.
You were also in a small number of group shows last year, most notably, the traveling exhibition, Black Thorns in the White Cube, for which you also designed the exhibition catalogue. And you’ve already been in a few group shows this year, barely three months into 2013. Can you talk about some of the artists you’ve shown with and how the works relate to one another?
Man, that is a lot of artists. All the shows are very different, sometimes very organized like Black Thorns in the White Cube which was curated by Amelia Ishmael around the appearance of black metal as a theme in artists' work. Or like I Killed My Father, I Ate Human Flesh... at Allegra LaViola Gallery in NYC that just opened was curated by Invisible-Exports about Pier Paolo Pasolini. But then the Group Show at SophiaJacob was more of a few artists that they liked and just wanted to put in their space. My contribution was two bass amps with tone generators through them installed in the basement where no one could see them.
I think I can talk about some of the artists but it can be hard since in some shows there were quite a few. So like in, most recently, I Killed My Father, I Ate Human Flesh, I Quiver with Joy... at Allegra LaViola in NYC, I was really excited to just be with some friends like Scott Treleaven, Paul P., Ramon Vega and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. This show was also great to see a lot of work that I wasn't as familiar with, like Dustin Yellin or Franklin Preston, around this similar obsession with Pasolini. In the Group Show at SophiaJacob though, I was really excited by Graham Collins large pieces that used all of this window tint on glass and made these intense large monochrome pieces. They were some strong pieces.
Since we started this interview, you’ve released a new zine of ink drawings, and some coozies with your art on them. What else do you have planned for 2013?
So, yes, I did this new zine of ink drawings and color transparencies called Corpse Flower, based off of the Amorphophallus Titanum. I needed to break away a bit from the metal content and I've been researching this idea of attraction and repulsion. The flower kind of seemed like a good metaphor. It uses its scent to attract pollinators, plus whenever it blooms it attracts people to view it. But for 2013, I have a new newspaper and cassette of solo music coming out on Accidental Guest Recordings called Dread Majesty, plus a solo LP and zine coming out on Shelter Press in Belgium. Locrian also has its new album coming out in the summer called Return to Annihilation on Relapse Records. So lots of publications and music.