King of merch
As I grew up my dad worked as a graphic designer, and I just loved everything about it, and knew from a young age that I wanted to be a designer too. He is now retired and paints/illustrates art full time (and recently did a giant wall mural in my studio). His dad was a printer who also loved to paint and do caricatures, so I guess being creative runs in the family. I studied Typography & Graphic Communication at the University of Reading and then swapped courses to a more graphic based course in High Wycombe, then worked at Comet HQ as my first full time job. During this time Lags from the band Gallows approached me to do their first band t-shirt. They were just starting out and had this idea for an undead Brigitte Bardot t-shirt. And things simply grew from there. Another band saw that Gallows shirt, asked who did it, then I made a t-shirt for them, then another band saw that t-shirt, etc, etc. The jump to bigger bands came when I did some self promotion and landed a part-time job in Camden working for BSI Merch. They had a roster of bigger bands, and worked with other merchandise companies who had even bigger bands. I’d like to think it was my work that got me to where I am today, but being in the right place at the right time helps. Also, getting yourself out there and pushing for what you want.
Depending on the band, sometimes there is a good amount of direction from the band or their management or merch rep. Recently I completed a range of Master of Puppets items for Metallica, and I work very closely with their merch company bouncing ideas around and coming up with concepts. Then we hammered out some cool t-shirts (as well as caps, shorts, socks, hoodies and a poster) for approval from management. Hopefully they will all be available by the time this goes to print.
I think that enjoying what you do is very important. I’ve worked a full-time job and evenings and weekends for a few years to get where I am, and have had years where my income has been very low, but I love it. Find something you want to do and pursue it. Currently I have a real urge to paint, so I’m working on sketches and figuring out when I can bring them to life on canvas.
Music and art go hand-in-hand. I still purchase physical copies of all the music I buy so I can look at the art and read through the notes. It’s a visual representation of the music (or it should be). And I always listen to the bands I’m working on when creating for them. The best way to keep fresh is homework. Look around and see what is happening out there. Follow artists you love on social media. Engage with them. Watch films, and listen to music. I have a one year old daughter (and another on the way) so I don’t get out to gigs much, but everything gets online eventually.
A couple of years back I did and exhibition of my art in London called ‘Merch n’ destroy’. All proceeds went to a homeless charity in London. It was a fun experience and the feedback from bands and the public was immense. I have approval to put together an amazing exhibition later this year, just finding the time to put it together now.
Interview by Alex Milazzo – Copyright 2016 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.