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French Interview

Written by Yasha Wallin   
Wednesday, 07 March 2007 06:12
Yasha interviews this English death metal listening English illustrator who just wrapped up a show in NYC at KCDC.

I've heard French's name mentioned off and on throughout the years via mutual friends. Then last summer, when I saw his black and white illustrations in a group show at ATM Gallery in New York of everything from animals to death metal, my interest was fully peaked... He just had a show here at KCDC in Brookyln... I chatted with French via email, to find out a little more about the work and the man behind it?

Where are you from?

I'm from a town called ALDERSHOT, which is 45 miles south east of London. It's a gnarley place, the home of the British army.

Is French your real name?

Nah! It's a nickname I got when I was about 12. All the guys I grew up skating with were at least 6 yrs older than me and they used to say that I looked like I a had a French exchange students hair cut... so I got called French boy. No one really calls me anything else.

What's Brixton like?

Like Jamaica, dropped into hell. I fucking hate it. Where I live is meant to be ok. But we still have a problem with prostitutes and crack heads getting in the building to use it as their own special office.

Did you go to school for art?

Yeah, I went to Uni in Stoke on Trent. That's above Birmingham and below Manchester, in the midlands of England. I studied Fine Art.

I spent some of my time studying at KU in Lawrence, Kansas. That was one of the best things that I've ever done. I met some seriously cool people and experienced things that many English people would never get to see. Like Frat parties, shooting guns, driving tractors, doing keg stands on a school bus on the way to an Ice Hockey game, skating some sick skate parks. You know all the things you would do in the Midwest.

What was the last illustration that you destroyed and why?

I haven't destroyed anything in years. I keep all my mistakes and use them for new work or draw into it again later. I don't really feel the need to throw work out, I dunno why.

You had a show last year at ATM Gallery in New York. Did you come out for the exhibition? How did the four of the you get put together for the exhibition?

Yeah, I came over for the show. I actually stayed a month and went to California after, I loved it. It was my 1st time in New York. It's a mental place. I don't really know how we got put together. I know I was asked 'cos I was doing a show with 2K in Holland and it had the same curator as the show in New York. So That's how I got roped into it. I guess the others had a similar contact.

I've heard about you indirectly throughout the years because you kept in touch with my good friend Alicia. The two of you met years ago in London. She's always told me about what a great sense of humor you have. Being that you're work tends to be on the dark side, what makes you laugh?

I actually met her in San Fran before that. She was going out with a buddy of mine... she looked after me and friend, while he was out of town. Well, she took us to get drunk.

I never really laugh at comedians or tv, more just life. I'm pretty sarcastic, sarcasm makes me laugh a lot. I guess just dicking about and being a tit to people makes me laugh the most.

Several artists and photographers such as Angela Boatwright and Peter Beste have bodies of work focusing on death metal and black metal. Do you relate to the kind of work they are making?

I like the stuff Peter makes. I actually met him last time I was in New York. He's such a sound bloke... I really like Death metal more than Black, and I know that I have a love of the music more than an interest in the scene... Neither of them have really taken photos of anyone I actually think is that credible as a band. But their work is both very interesting. Especially Peter's... to get into a scene like that and be accepted is really something else.

Do you work on several pieces at once?

Usually I'll work on like 3-4 things at the same time. Something for a show, something for a fashion company... They'll all be at different stages of being done.

What do you think about America's love affair with the English accent?

It's amazing if you're an ugly English guy, like me, It's like getting a face transplant from Brad Pitt. But it can get annoying after too long.

I noticed on your website that you've introduced a bit of color and collage within your work. What led to this?

I've been making collage and colour work for ages... I've always made collage, but I just got more into it recently after I found this amazing colour, children's bible and I made a few drawings that linked with these weird images. The collage thing is difficult 'cos it takes so long for me to find the right images... But when it works it's so much fun and can be really effective. I definitely wanna follow it up more in the future.

I like using colour, but I just think that using it too much detracts from a good image, so I just forget it a lot of the time. I prefer drawing, not colouring in.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I'm working a few different things. I'm working on a bunch of "Stoner Rock" style designs for Altamont t-shirts. I'm also drawing pictures of seagulls for my friend's skate shop's 10th anniversary t-shirt. They're by the sea... in Southsea and seagulls are a big deal.

Those Deer Head prints are really nice. Did you have them made or did you work directly with a printer? Can I buy one or what?

My buddy Stuart is a screen printer, and people kept asking if I made prints of them. So I just got him to make me 50 of them, and yeah, you can still buy one, I have a few left.

What do you listen to in the studio?

At the moment Vile, Amputated, Vader, Mortician, Autopsy, Psychroptic, Obituary, Prostitute Disfigurement, Gut, Blasphemy, Inquisition, Rompoprop, Baphomet, Devourment, Exhumed, Inveracity, Waco Jesus and Condemned. All death metal really at the moment. I only just discovered Inquisition and Rompoprop so them more than anyone else really.

Do your illustrations? come from images in your head or do you use source material?

I use source material. I have loads of books and photos and I get images from the internet. That's how a lot of them look like actual things. But often I'll work from 2-10 images to make one thing. Like I just did this wild boar that blends into a tree and I have 5 images of Boars to work from and 3 or 4 images of trees and roots to help me develop and realize that idea... Obviously parts are made up and the overall idea comes from in my sweed.

You have a suicides section on your website. Tell me about that.

I just did some drawings once for a magazine about suicide in Japan and I put them on my website. They're really old now and really I should take them off.

You recently did board graphics for Heroin Skateboards. Is it gratifying to see your illustrations in product format?

I've been doing boards for Heroin since around 2002, and I just got to make an entire series, which was so good. I love making products, especially skateboards, 'cos that's my passion and what I've always wanted to do... I just made flip-flops for Pointer shoes... I can't wait to see them. It's amazing drawing something and then going into a shop and seeing it on sale, or walk down the street and see someone you don't know wearing something you made. It's a pretty weird experience.

What was the last piece of art that you made that you were excited about?

I just drew this mental picture of a blokes head and torso, with his face and body melting by acid. All his face is caved in, his eye is falling out and his chest is melting and his guts are dropping out. I was so happy with the way that one has worked out for me. I dunno, I get excited about most things I draw. I'm just happy to be doing something I really love.

If making art is your day job, do you still find it enjoyable?

I love every minute of it. Sometimes it's stressful and the pay is shit, people don't appreciate how much work goes into a drawing and all the rest of that stuff I'll complain about if I'm having a bad day. But really, it's all I've ever wanted and I love it. When I dislike it I'll go get a real job, but how many jobs would I get to sit, listen to metal and draw? Only mine.

Who and what inspires you?

Metal, drawing, Gustave Dore, John Martin, Grays Anatomy, Gothic Architecture. Chris Moyen, my mum, Peter Dale (r.i.p), skateboarding, Aldershot, tea, traveling, Goya, Sigmar Polke, Tate Britain, history, machines, cities, Imperial Britain, animals, forests, nature, Alanglass, hate, love, Marcus Oakley, zombie stu, the future, Slayer, Martin Kippenberger, Jean Dubuffet, normality, change, life.

Where do you think you'll be this time next year?

Drinking tea, drawing and listening to metal I hope.

On the website ruthlessreviews.com they listed the 10 Worst Black Metal records of all time. Do you agree with them?:
Immortal: Battles in the North
Vondur: Stridsyfirlysing
Marduk: Panzer Division
Darkthrone: Transylvanian Hunger
Hecate Enthroned: Upon Promethean Shores
Cradle of Filth: All Records
In Memory of Celtic Frost: Celtic Frost Tribute
Crusade from the North: Moonfog Compilation
Dimmu Borgir: Anything after Enthrone Darkness
Triumphant Burzum:Anything after Filosofem.

They're twats! Panzer Division? Marduk and Transylvanian Hunger are totally amazing. They know nothing. CUNTS! And all the Immortal albums are sick. But the rest are bullshit.

Best band that you saw in 2006?

Shit That's hard. Either Mortician , Bolt Thrower or Insidious Decrepancey. I've seen Bolt Thrower before, but they are always good and I really couldn't believe how amazing Mortician were live. Insidious was so brutal..so, so brutal. All the gigs were at the Camden Underworld, a true metal venue where you can sacrificially devour Carlsberg, that makes the real difference.

more info::
http://www.tapedcopies.com {moscomment}

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