CVLT Nation interviews visual artist Brian Walsby
You’re a visual artist and also a musician. What came first in your life? And do you see these two as complementary ways of expressing your passion for music?
They are flipsides of the same coin, which I guess is just being creative and expressing oneself. I need to do both of them to feel like somewhat of a human being, and that is just the way it is. I do way more drawing then drumming, and have been able to eek out an almost living at this point by relying on my ability to draw. It is always a struggle, but I guess that is how life is sometimes.
By the way, what are you up to with your band (Davidians)?
We are a very new band. It is my third band with bassist Justin Gray, and the first time I have played with both Cameron Craig (vocals) and Colin Swanson-White (guitar). It is fun, and its still a hoot to play music and play drums. I like playing with these guys. I have known Justin for years and we have a good working relationship, we play well together I think. Three of us were at various points members of this other band Double Negative, but it’s sort of a new thing really. We already have one single out courtesy Deranged Records out of Canada’ and have plans for another single and a east coast jaunt of the U.S. in September. After that, I guess we shall see.
Recently you have been going on tour with The Melvins and Buzz Osborne’s solo career. How did that happen? And what’s your specific role on the road with them?
I sell merchandise for Buzz and he lets me sell whatever I want to sell on my own. I have been friends with Buzz and Dale for years, and seven years ago they started to employ me and let me go out with them. I appreciate that a lot, and never try and take it for granted.
I interviewed Dale Crover and Buzz recently and they had only good things to say about you. Dale said that “Brian is a solid guy and has always stuck with us!”, for example. When did you first get to know them and what’s different about The Melvins that made you stay so close to the band for almost 30 years?
I met them in 1986, a few months after I moved to the east coast when I was twenty years old. What is it about them? First off, they are the rarest breed imaginable: a band with that much history that is still completely valid and good. No one has done what they have done and I really think that they are the last band standing. They are disarmingly decent guys. Dale is one of my drumming heroes and has no pretense or ego whatsoever. I mean, no ego at all. Buzz is someone I have learned a lot from and totally respect. Basically, they are some of the only people that have gone out of their way to help me out immensely with their friendship, and that is a total rarity. Which is another reason why I appreciate them as people…We think a lot alike also, in a lot of ways. I guess that’s another thing right there.
Besides that, you also have a good relationship with the guys from COC, who are also from Raleigh, where you’ve been living since the 1980’s. You’ve already did some artwork inspired by them, including T-shirts and comics. How did you get to know them?
I met them in Southern California in early 1985. I was a big fan, and their first two albums to me really stood out. I wrote letters to Woody for awhile until I actually met them. The three of them are good guys and its nice to see that they are still playing. And also they are not resting on their laurels – they do what they want and what feels best to them, even if not everybody is up for that. COC has a very divided fan base, as most people know, and they just do what feels right to them at the time. You have to respect that, I think. I saw Mike not too long ago and Mike is a very good guy and an amazingly talented bassist and overall musician. So there you go.
From what I’ve heard, you lived with Reed Mulin in the 80’s, right? How was that? And do you consider him and Dale as your major influences as a drummer?
Ha. Well, I never actually lived with Reed, but I lived down the street from him at one point. I did live with Mike though. Reed was a big influence on me, sure. How could he not be? He was great.
I would consider him and Dale as being heroes of mine, but then I would have to throw in Bill Stevenson and George Hurley too. Have to. Those fou,r and probably Michel Langevin of VoiVod, are the drummers I have most tried to rip off. You can ask anyone I have played with, they would probably agree, ha ha.
By the way. How many The Melvins and COC concerts have you seen already? And do you have some favorite ones?
I couldn’t answer that..too much to think about. Sorry.
When did you start making shirts (and other forms of arts) inspired by bands? And how did that happened?
My friend Charles Cardello (of Bifocal Media) initiated that. Charles is the other person that has gone out of his way to help me out, we worked really well together on a lot of projects and it seemed like he was the only guy in town that had the same work ethic of tapping into things that I had, except he was way more knowledgeable about doing things and had already done so much work on his own. He was the one that started me on that path. I can’t say it was anything I consciously wanted to get into, but once I did, I could see that it was a worthwhile avenue of self employment. We have done a lot of band shirts together and now I have done a few by myself. Some of them have been really successful and others haven’t, but I learned a lot along the way. I am sure there will be more, but no solid plans yet.
What’s the biggest challenge when you’re creating something?
Hmmm. Probably not thinking about it too much! I swear that is it. If you overthink something you are working on, whether it is art or music, I think essentially you are killing it.
Besides shirts, you also have done comics/graphic novels that are inspired or have relation to music and bands in general, like Manchild. Do you have a favorite one, and what are your plans regarding this for the rest of 2014?
Well, I am about halfway done working on what is supposed to be a book illustrating some of Legs McNeil’s interviews of both famous and infamous musicians and artists. If you don’t know who Legs is, look him up!
Davidians tour. Finishing that Legs book. Raising my little girl. And there will be a three week Melvins tour towards the end of the year. Beyond that, who knows? I would like to do another Manchild book but I don’t have a regular publisher anymore. I am sure something will eventually happen in the future. We shall see.
By the way, how it is it being an independent artist nowadays?
Thrilling yet terrifying. I have to make this work for me, and I am not skilled to do anything else, so this is it. I have a little bit of pride in finally being self-employed, but again, like everything else I don’t take it for granted, and I am always looking towards that neverending task of “connecting the dots,” so to speak.
What other visual artists do you look up to as influences?
All of the artists from MAD MAGAZINE during the late sixties and early seventies, all of those guys are easily my biggest influences. And Charles Schults, Raymond Pettibon and a few others I can’t think of right this second.
Please tell me three records that changed your life and why they did it.
Kiss – Alive! (1975). Kiss was my gateway band, how I got into rock music. And even today, it is still a enjoyable listen. Kiss is pretty stupid and you can’t take them seriously, but if they didn’t have some good songs up their sleeves, none of it would have happened in the first place. There are other bands I liked much better afterwards but again, these guys were my gateway band and you have to start somewhere, right?
Black Flag – Damaged (1981). Black Flag changed my life. I bought this in early 1982 not too long after it was released. It just totally blew me the fuck away. I didn’t even get towards Side 2 until a week later, that was how pivotal it was for me. You can never undestimate the influence of Black Flag.
The Birthday Party – Junkyard (1982). I was turned onto Australia’s Birthday Party a couple years after they broke up, but I had heard the name. Some of the greatest most dangerous and demented rock music EVER made. The production is so purposely horrible and extreme, Nick Cave is a incredible singer and lyricist and the whole band swings despite the horrendous racket they often created. Still stuff I listen to all of the time.
This is the last one. What are you most proud of in your career?
I guess just having one..can what I do even be considered a career? I suppose so. I am grateful to still be doing it. Thanks for the interview!