In my line of work I meet a lot of creative, crazy-talented individuals on a daily basis. Once in a while someone comes along that really inspires me and whose work consistently blows me away. I often find that its the people closest to me that inspire me most. I decided that I wanted to pay tribute to these wonderful individuals with a series of posts titled ‘Mi Inspiration’… to kick things off I give you one of my all-time favourite artists, Jhonny Russell…
What is art to you? How do you or don’t you define it personally for yourself?
I think art is a hard term to put into words, but basically most things that involve creating and expressing are art to me. I sort of think its best not to analyse these things too much. You start to think about it too much and it starts to mess with your creativity.
No. I don’t really feel like I get any kind of release of pent-up emotions or anything from making art. Though I can see how creating things could be helpful in letting go or addressing issues bothering you. It’s more about just creating something that didn’t exist before rather than releasing emotions for me. I don’t really take much seriously.
What’s the feeling you get from drawing or making music?
To be honest, I don’t get any “feeling” from it myself. I mean, I really enjoy it, but I see it more as I try and think as little as possible about it, and just make what’s in my head in a sort of almost meditative state. I think it’s up to someone else viewing it to be thinking about the feeling they get from it.
How would you describe your art?
It’s always hard to describe for many reasons. For one, I do a lot of different things that come into that category. Painting, illustration, producing and performing music, sculpture, designing, photomontage. So, I’m not really sure I could describe my art. As Frank Zappa once said, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” I think he’s pretty right. I don’t necessarily think art should be described or critiqued.
Is there a particular movement, period in art or artist that has greatly inspired or influenced your work?
I think Marcel Duchamp and a lot of ideas of the Dada artists really kicked me in the head and taught me alot. The rejection of any rules. Not doing what’s expected. As well as the satiric side of making fun of ‘serious’ art.
What were you like growing up?
Andy and I grew up discovering music and art together so obviously i can relate better to him than anyone, so he’s the perfect person for me to collaborate with. When I try to think of something I’ve learnt from him, there’s one moment in my life where one sentence changed my outlook forever.
I remember being about 8 years old and making something to eat, and turned to Andy and said “Do you think it’d be ok if I put this kind of sauce with this?” or something like that. He just smiled and said, “Dude, as long as YOU think it tastes ok, there’s no rules, do whatever you want.” Now, it probably sounds silly, but as a little kid, that blew me away. I applied that to a lot of things in my life, especially my art and music. Fuck music theory, just as long as you think it tastes ok.
Has art always been a really big part of your life?
Yes. I know alot of people are like, “Music is my life” and all that bullshit, but I really haven’t thought about much else since I was 7 or 8. Even when there’s no music playing, I find myself processing the noises from traffic, wind and birds and things as if it’s music. It’s hard to explain. But, yeah, it’s constantly on my mind.
What contemporary artists have inspired you lately? What is it about their work that you enjoy?
I find that the amazing quantity of really horrible stuff that gets made in the mainstream inspires me to do things almost more than things I like.
What’s your preferred medium of choice and why?
I don’t think I have a preferred medium. I would get really bored if I only did one all the time. But I’m most comfortable with just a lead pencil.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve been working on photomontage a lot. Two of the biggest artistic influences on my life are John Heartfield (german dada artist), and Winston Smith (who worked with Jello Biafra a lot). They were both photomontage artists. And I became obsessed recently with finding old 60’s and 70’s reference books, so I’ve been at ’em with the exacto-knife. As well as combining them with spray paint and mixing it up.
I recently finished my 2nd solo CD and a new Hobo Obituaries EP, so have been having a break from music production. But will be back at it real soon to complete the 2nd part to the Future Champions EPs as well as a fairly orchestral-style instrumental solo disc and a collaborative EP between Californian musician Shmoe and Hobo Obituaries.
Photo by Mischa Photography
What have you found to be your greatest challenge as an artist?
Getting any kind of support is by far the hardest thing. I mean, you don’t ‘need’ it and that’s not what it’s about, but at the same time, when you get no support it’s very discouraging. Even if you aren’t out to impress people, you get the feeling of “why do I bother?” a lot…
What do you do to keep things fresh and interesting for you?
I rotate what I’m working on from drawing, to making music, to carving, to whatever, and back again. So if I get bored with one, I’ll do another for a while, and wait to be inspired to want to go back.
Who or what compels you to keep drawing?
I’m not sure. It’s always a struggle to stay inspired but I couldn’t imagine what I’d do otherwise. So I guess boredom is what compels me.
How, if at all, does living on the Gold Coast, Australia influence your work?
I really hate to say it, but if I was being honest I would have to say really negatively. There is absolutely no creative avenues here, and very little support for anyone doing anything interesting.
You’re also a musician. What is one of your first musical memories?
As a child the first two cassettes I got of my own choosing were a Paul McCartney double Greatest Hits and Big Audio Dynamite II’s The Globe cassingle. Both huge influences. I heard The Globe come on the TV just the other day and stopped to think about it, and it really has so many elements that make it the right starting point for what I do. It was mixing a traditional rock/pop band with sampling, electronics and some hip hop / techno sensibilities. Definitely an area I have dedicated myself to since.
What are your top 5 albums and why?
‘Faith No More – Angel Dust’
My forrae into alternative music was ‘the Real Thing’ LP but I remember anticipating this release and not being disappointed at all.
‘Ramones – Rocket To Russia’
The band that taught all of us “un-co losers” to play guitar.
‘Solex – Low Kick and Hard Bop’
I really appreciate DIY. And for that matter, one person who does it all is even better. Like Solex. The one woman sampling machine.
‘Ween – Pure Guava’
I could write an extremely long essay on why Ween are the best. Not the kind of band you can paraphrase here.
‘KRS One – a retrospective’
I remember taking a tab each and then everyone left to go paint trains.. I stayed behind and tripped balls on this disc alone in the dark.
The majority of your friends are artists and musicians, is there any people from that network that has really inspired you? How so?
The people who inspire me the most are the ones who do it themselves. And there’s a big difference between what I mean by doing it yourself and doing what most people do. I think too many local peeps concentrate on being “picked up” by a label or something, and what they do is to impress these people, rather than just doing it yourself, and that’s it. It’s like the “doing it yourself” part of it is a step to making it. Where I consider doing it yourself and making your own disc or whatever, you HAVE made it. You’re not making this to submit to labels and things, you’re making it and giving it to people to listen to. And that’s it.
Have you ever had a really life changing moment?
Ever since I could remember all I wanted to do was be a children’s book illustrator. But that all changed in a creepy instant. I was about 12 or 13 and on a school trip to Sydney. We were in the middle of the city and stopped for lunch. Me and 4 or so other kids broke from the group and went and got some burgers and fries. We were from a small town and were really sheltered little kids, so we had never really been exposed to homelessness before and there was a lot of people there who were in that situation. We ended up sitting down to eat and made friends with one of the hobos, Maurice. We gave him one of those old Maccas calendars with all the vouchers. He was super stoked on it. My friend Mitchell tried to
give him a bunch of money but he refused, so we hid some at the bottom of the chips we gave him. We were talking to him for a while and he was a really nice, smart dude. Then he started asking us all what we wanted to be when we grew up. We went round the group and all my friends were saying they wanted to be a doctor or lawyer and fancy things, and he was encouraging them and telling them “that’s great!” and to work hard. When it got to my turn, I told him I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator and he totally lost it. It seemed to really anger him, it was bizarre. He told me to give up and that it was a bad idea in a very serious tone. His demeanour totally changed and he wasn’t kidding. It freaked the hell out of me. I still feel really weird about it. So basically I gave up on that idea. I still secretly wish I could, but don’t tell Maurice.
You can find Jhonny at:
http://www.gcbands.com/profile/jhonnyhobo (there’s 50 different tracks to listen to!)
Who or what has been inspiring you lately?
Have a super productive day lovelies!