AN INTERVIEW WITH: ALEXANDER HEIR (ARTIST. NEW YORK CITY)
What aspect(s) of your youth motivated you to get into making visual art?
My father was a photographer (now a painter) so I grew up around visual art- going to museums, looking at art books, and talking about art and design. I always knew I wanted to do something with visual art, but it wasn’t until discovering punk, around age 13, that I became fascinated with making t-shirts and album covers.
How long have you been making visual art, and how would you summarize your personal approach to making art?
I would say I have been making visual art “seriously” for about 16 years. I’ve always felt like my design sense was very strong, but my draughtsmanship was never as technical as I wanted it to be, even after taking years of drawing classes and practicing for countless hours. Obviously it’s improved a lot since I first started, but I’ve also learned to accept and embrace the imperfections and idiosyncrasies- It’s what makes my style unique. I like to think “The Ramones weren’t the most technical band in the world, but they were still the best.”
You make music as well. In your mind, in what ways do the two mediums overlap/connect?
A lot of times when I’m working on a big or time intensive drawing or painting, I’ll take a break and work on a bass line or drum part on the computer. It’s nice to take a break from the visual art but still keep my brain active and engaged. I’ve started so many songs that wound up on albums just randomly messing around while taking an art break. I do all the art and write all the lyrics for LOTION Multinational Corporation- the lyrics focus on the effects on modern/militarized technology, and it’s nice to have a specific theme to focus on visually, as well. I get to craft a world to go with the music.
Current sources of inspiration?
80’s and 90’s video game covers, Soldier Of Fortune Magazine, Ghana movie posters, Horror and Sci Fi book covers, early heavy metal album covers, military patches, insignias, and guidebooks, vintage medical and science illustrations, Japanese psychedelic posters, and rave flyers, to name a few.
What is your relationship with coffee?
I love coffee, be it high end, the bodega, or a chain (Starbucks excluded.) I drink between 2 and 6 cups a day- I really love a good buzz and am definitely a caffeine addict. I also really enjoy a good espresso, there is one Italian bakery I go to with my family that we all agree has the best espresso we’ve had in NYC.
Do you think coffee and art go hand in hand? Are appreciators of coffee also appreciators of art?
I think the appreciation of any sort of craftsmanship is related, be it coffee, wine, art, fashion, furniture, whatever. When you really care about something you notice the fine details and minutia that make it special.
You’ve designed a few bags and merch items for us. Did you note any unique differences in the way you approached these projects as a designer?
The designs I did for Honey Moon are much less aggressive than my usual work- I tried to bring the same boldness and simplicity to the work, minus the violent subject matter I usually feature. I also usually work alone, whereas I was doing a lot of this with you all, which sometimes pushed me in directions I wouldn’t have gone or thought about on my own.
Maybe you can comment on the more general role of design in the craft coffee/food/beverage world?
Design and packaging can be so important with products you can't readily try- If you’re not able to sample a food product on the shelf, a lot of times you’re going to be swayed by the design and art of the packaging, especially with smaller brands that don’t have the same recognition or familiarity as the larger ones. It also can represent the maker's philosophy or approach to how they produce the product or run their business, and appeal to their intended customer base.
What’s your daily cup like?
I use a French press and grind fresh beans- I like Colombian and Sumatra, but always keep a big canister of something cheap on deck in case I run out of the good stuff.
A memorable cup that you can recall?
The espresso at this little Italian bakery in Caroll Gardens called Pasticceria Monteleone is one of the best I’ve ever had!
What do you have coming up next?
I’m working on the cover and packaging for my band, LOTION Multinational Corporation’s, new album, and am starting to put together the new Death/Traitors designs for the fall!
AN INTERVIEW WITH: YUSUKE OKADA (ARTIST. NEW YORK CITY)
What initially motivated you to make art?
I was always making things when I was a kid. They were mostly very stupid but they made me and my brother laugh. My mother couldn't understand and called me an idiot. I guess I liked doing it.
How long have you been making art?
Over 30 years, but I started showing my work about 13 years ago.
How would you describe your personal approach to making art?
I start with depression, then I get some ideas and get them out of me as fast as possible.
What are your main sources of inspiration now?
Seeing people on the street or subway, reading the news about this cruel world, people and technology, art books, comics, novels, movies, tv shows, indie games, records, other people fighting in online video chats, sitting at an airport, museums, road trips, making a fire, anatomy videos, xgames or any flying motorcycles, NBA / WNBA, Jeff Bezos and the CEO of Spotify, talking with my wife, my children and my friends, Marlboro no.27, and Hope Light. That's what I can think of right now.
What do you hope others take away from your art?
I am always happy when people tell me that they feel connected to my work but I don't have any expectations. My wife says my drawings are enjoyable company for lonely or ugly feelings. That sounds nice.
What role do you think art plays in today's society?
In NYC specifically, as well as elsewhere in the world. I really don’t know. Art ( or anything) could be the most important thing for somebody but true garbage for someone else. We have too many options already and it’s hard to pin it down or define it.
What is your relationship with coffee?
I like coffee. Any kind of coffee. I guess I care more about where I'm drinking coffee than what coffee I'm drinking. I like drinking coffee at New York Deli and Grill on Myrtle Avenue. I love when they ask you if you want a refill.
Do coffee and art go hand in hand?
Yes, If coffee thinks that it really wants to do something with Art, it can happen. It seems that Art has been interested in coffee for a while. A long time ago they talked about getting together but it really didn’t work. They were too young and there was Alcohol between them. Also, Art was always a bit pretentious.
How do you take your coffee?
I put water, then coffee grind. Then I snap my right fingers 4 times. In the middle, I snap my left fingers 3 times and mumble some Japanese words you never wanna know. The coffee usually tastes good. At night (my favorite time to have coffee), I just use the espresso kettle on the stove. No milk or sugar but not too strong.
What is the most memorable cup of coffee you’ve ever had?
I really don’t have the specific one but I always love drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette at night when I camp. Very special to me. Even instant ramen tastes great in nature.