Photos/Video: Lewis Royden
Lewis Royden Interviews Chris Alliston
On the 9th October of this year, legendary head banging veterans The Melvins arrived in Manchester UK to lay siege to the North on their European tour. Illustrator Chris Alliston was set the task of creating the poster for the event and did a cracking job of it too. I caught up with him to follow the process.
So, The Melvins! That’s pretty big! How did you end up being the man for the job?
I’m lucky enough to have friends like Kam Haq, who is just generally as stoked on these things as I am. He gets to put on a great show and I get to do my job and try and put out some art that hopefully matches that.
Where did the design come from? Is it an Alliston original or were you given something to work from?
The idea was to rather than come up with some concept that had nothing to do with the band, for example a skull, or something just for the sake of it – I figured why not take a piece of already existing Melvins art with my own twist. I took the swan from the cover of the iconic Stoner Witch album. And set it ablaze. I don’t see the point in doing something that’s been otherwise done a thousand times by different people. The Melvins put out a lot of screen prints. The best jobs are when you get full control.
You tend to do the entire process yourself don’t you? All the way up to delivering the final prints to the merch table… could you give us an idea of the process?
Yeah, I love to oversee everything. Pencil to ink to editing; then rather than have someone else print my stuff, I learned how to screen print, so I get full artistic direction. The drawing is only 50% of it. As you saw when you documented this, the process becomes just as big of a monster as the inking does. It’s really tedious and takes up tons of time. But I get full satisfaction delivering prints on the night knowing this has my stamp on it 100%.
Do you feel like being so hands-on with every stage of the piece it gives you more of a personal connection to the work?
It does. Once the prints are completed, if there was something that you wished you had changed – for example a colour, or a layer – you know that was fully down to you. And you can change that next time, and you learn from it, rather than it being up to some other person in a random town making your mistakes for you.
Where does this rank compared to some of the pieces you’ve done in the past?
I would say this ranks high. Up there with the Mastodon print, for sure. The Melvins are worshipped by a lot of people. And it was my first sell-out show.
Must have been pretty special being able to watch from stage side, too?
So much fun. An honour, really.
You’re at university at the moment, how do you find juggling your studies with these big time commissions?
Pretty hard, but I work around it. Commission work becomes the job and university becomes school. I wouldn’t be able to do the process of screen
What’s on your work playlist at the moment, and does it differ to your everyday listening at all?
I have music on first thing in the morning, all day, all night, then in bed in the evening; it’s actually pretty ridiculous, and varies a lot. When working, it can be anything from TOOL, Thou, Chelsea Wolfe, Year Of No Light, YOB, Darkthrone, Darkcastle, Ommadon, ISIS, Pelican. It varies depending on how hard I want to work. Listen to Drought, too.
We spoke to you back in 2013 as your first solo show was being put together – how did that go and what have you been up to since; has much changed?
Yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to exhibit at the Heavy Days In Doom Town Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark. This time round, rather than some digital prints and a couple of scruffy originals, I had signed Mastodon screen prints up, and I think four of my skateboards for Moonshine. A bit more variation, and it just generally looked way better. The room was crazy big, too. That was an amazing weekend.
I see you’ve just had a book feature, could you tell us about that?
Kev Grey is a local illustrative legend around these parts. He put a book out before this one called Cranium Stockpile; it was a book where a ton of different illustrators draw the same medical drawing of a skull. It’s really sick to see the different styles and different takes on the same image. This book was called Black Eye and I was asked to be a part of that. Loads of different artists illustrating the same eyeball. I was really excited for that one, because Mark Riddick was in the first book. That guy was the sole reason I started illustrating in this pen and ink style.
When it comes to influences, whose work would you consider a ‘must see’?
Aaron Horkey is the king of everyone, hands down – I have a couple of his prints, and I love his entire fan base and the passion they have for his work. Brandon Holt follows closely behind. The Vacvvm in general is just a collective of stupidly influential, talented artists, they’re ruling right now. I look up to them a lot.
What’s in the pipeline for you now? Can you shed any light or is it all top secret?
There is a 12″ vinyl already set to come out at some point. I’m working on another. And there are around three more pro model skateboards coming from Moonshine skateboards currently being printed as we speak. As well as a new set of shapes and colours for the team boards. That’s all I can say.
That’s your lot from me, anything you’d like to say?
Thank you to CVLT Nation, Kam, CMH, The Melvins, Lewis Royden, Alex Smith, Adam and Chris, Moonshine Skateboards team, Lags, Gallows, Kev Grey, Rosie, The Bluecoat Gallery and everyone who has ever bought or supported my work.