CVLT Nation Interviews:
TOM IS THE BASTARD
Many consider themselves artists, or designers,
Some are good at what they do…
I think he is
So go ahead and check out TOM IS THE BASTARD:
What made you start doing design work? Did you draw before, or did it come out of the pure need of having some artwork for one of the bands you were in? What are your inspirations, what drives you to do such dismal designs? Are their other influences on you besides art? What keeps you going, since I know you sometimes complain about the lack of feedback or appreciation?
When I was a child, I used to draw a lot. I remember I was really into gory fantasy stuff and endless battles that I drew on paper rolls that went on for meters. My earliest inspiration was a book I referred to as “the book of the decapitated,” which featured oil paintings of middle ages battle scenes and other gory stuff. My dad also had a bunch of comics – some of them were clearly adult stuff with lots of violence and sex in the mix. I was all excited about stuff that, graphic-wise, spoke a darker language and dealt with killing, suffering and sexual imagery. When I turned 12/13, I discovered extreme metal through my father, and completely got lost in it. Music then was way more important then any graphic stuff, and my interest slowly shifted towards music and playing in bands. I never really gave up on drawing, but it eventually became less important to me.
Years later, around 2005/2006 when I played in this band “Call me Betty,” we needed to come up with some t-shirt designs for an upcoming tour, and I would sit down and finally draw again cause there was no one else around to do it and we couldn’t afford to pay for it. Weeks later, we put up one of our small basement shows in a place called “the morgue,” and we were still missing a poster design, so I did that too. This was probably the start of the whole “Tom is the Bastard” thing, although it was more illustration-oriented and less photo-oriented as it is nowadays. So I guess it’s both – the need for artwork that made me do them myself and a lifelong love for this kind of stuff.
Inspiration-wise, people like Pushead, Florian Bertmer, Gee Vaucher or Dan Seagrave would push me to do stuff, but there are not many similarities between us to be honest. Another thing that really impressed me, and which actually inspired me, is on one hand the whole 80s punk black and white xerox record covers and gig posters, and on the other hand the whole 90s black metal thing, with all this awesome looking dark black and white covers and overexposed band pictures. That really had a lasting impact on me.
Speaking about the things that keep me going, do I really complain a lot about the lack of feedback or appreciation? You know, like playing music, putting all this graphic stuff together is something I love to do. It’s redeeming, it’s fun – you get the chance to connect with interesting people around the world and design record covers for bands you really like. Seriously, this sounds kinda lousy but that’s why I love what I do. On the other hand, it can be a fucking pain in the ass. I’m doing mostly commission work at the moment for bands and labels from around the world, and sometimes it’s just a job that needs to be done, so you can get paid and buy some food or put out another cassette release. Sorry to disappoint anyone, but that is clearly another reason why I’m offering my work to other people and why I keep going on.
Yes, sometimes you do complain… but I guess people expect you to do stuff for free, since it’s DIY. Do you think you can combine being DIY with also being forced to earn some cash with it to make a living? Do you still consider this DIY, or is it just a job?
Besides the inspiration you get from other artists or musicians, what else inspires you? The social or political conditions you grew up in, the state of society … what is it that brings you to create these dark and atmospheric pieces?
To be honest, I’m the one forcing myself to earn cash with it. I’m sick of working stupid jobs for people I hate. Being a wage slave is just a waste of time and seriously makes me sick. As you know for yourself, by running a record store that concentrates on DIY culture, you can make a living embracing DIY ethics without selling out or ripping people off. I also don’t think that DIY and non-profit belong together. These are two different shoes. The ultra-orthodox raw crust punx would see that differently, but I’m cool with everyone making money with the things they love in life. Everything is better than working 8 hours a day in a job you hate, so why not take things to the next level and start doing things you love for yourself? This is DIY, even though its a job sometimes.
Where I grew up, everything was middle class, boring, nice and clean. I think it was a natural reaction to become interested in the other side of the coin at an early age. I’ve always felt that mainstream society is pretentious and fake. I’ve always felt alienated by what I would refer to as “normal” people. Building up a sub cultural identity was a big step in my personal evolution, and helped me to grow as the person or artist I am today. So the socialization-through-subculture and its ideas had a strong impact on my work. Speaking of politics, there isn’t much of that in my art, beside the typical slogans or typical scenarios. I think what I do is more about a gut feeling rather than a head thing.
So, when you design something, are these basically your ideas you try to sell to the “customer” or do you want them to tell you what to do? And, how do you work? Do you draw a lot? Or is this basically graphic design done with a computer? How do you start, where do you get the ideas from?
I mostly come up with the designs myself but “customers” do sometimes also come up with ideas or rough directions. I’m better at working out new ideas myself instead of trying to work out finished imaginary pictures someone else has in mind.
When I do all that collage stuff, I’m mostly working with a computer and sometimes an old office copy-machine I have standing around here. Back when I used to do mostly illustrations, I did draw a lot, but during the last years the more faster collage-style became my tool of the trade. Illustrations take ten times longer to work out than digital designs, or even analogue collage stuff, that’s why I rarely draw nowadays. I can work on more jobs and have more time. 24 hours just isn’t enough, haha.
I am a gut person. I sometimes start without a plan and it goes from there, but I can also work out stuff with a straight plan and an image in my head. I mostly make sure to understand what my customer is all about and what visual direction they are aiming for, then I come up with more or less worked out sketches, and together we figure out what’s best and what needs some changes. Sometimes this goes fast, and sometimes it takes forever.
Since you speak of customers, who asks you for designs? I know of bands, labels, promoters, but do you also design for people who are not from the hardcore/metal circus? So, “real” customers?
And, do you want your designs to have some sort of message, or is this just art? As I think it’s all kinda gloomy and depressive…and do you also draw or design as some sort of outlet, so just for yourself, or is this all “work” nowadays?
It’s still mostly the usual subcultural connection; I’m rarely doing work for neutral customers. I would like to, though. Like you said, it’s mostly Bands, Labels, Promoters, zines or film makers. Speaking of a message and Art, it always depends on the client. Some artworks have a socio-critical approach, while others are just plain dystopian, and yeah, I guess depressive. Some of the stuff I did for powerviolence and fastcore bands like Gets Worse, Henry Fonda or Derbe Lebowski includes certain political and socio-critical slogans, but there is no Big Agenda behind it. Like I said, it’s a lot about my gut feeling, or let’s say, a reflection of my current emotional state. For me, the whole design and music thing is a lot about structure/texture and depth. I’m aiming at creating stuff that somehow touches certain hidden emotional feelings, no good ones tough. Art is definitely an outlet for me. It’s the same with Music. But I rarely have time to do stuff for myself, and if I do, the designs end up on some shirt or record cover anyway.