Benjamin Paskins is one of my favourite Creatives I’ve met in the past year or so. He’s an artist based on the Sunshine Coast who makes zines, plays music and co-owns an indie record/vintage store with his friends – Daniel Stuth and Barton Worthington. Benjamin and his buds champion the DIY punk rock spirit and ethic in all they do—THEY MAKE THINGS HAPPEN!—including putting on shows in the basement of their store as well as other events like screenings of indie and cult films and have stalls at DIY markets. In our chat Ben and I talk about the importance of creating a community where you’re at, punk rock, zines, overcoming adversity, the important idea/life lesson that you get out what you put in to life and PMA. Enjoy!
In the introduction for your latest zine, Swampland #1, you spoke of being born and raised in Nambour (on the Sunshine Coast, Australia) and of wanting to be a part of the creative industries but your hometown not offering much in the way of opportunities so you moved to Brisbane for a little while, before eventually moving back to Nambour to do all that you do now. Can you share with us a little about this experience? You said in your intro that you left Nambour in search of greener pastures but didn’t necessarily find them…
BENJAMIN PASKINS: I felt like I really didn’t fit in on the Coast at times growing up, it was pretty close-minded at times. If you didn’t do sport you weren’t noticed and if you wore tight jeans you were called a poof. Being an introverted, dark-skinned kid who liked drawing didn’t help, I felt really out of place. Trying to be an ‘artist’ on the Sunshine Coast who didn’t do beach landscapes or bloody frangipani paintings was hard as well. I got pretty average grades in art at school as I didn’t like doing realism or anything like that. I think it’s hilarious that we all got graded not on our individual technique, but how we listened to instructions. It really suffocated creativity. I went onto study Graphic Design at TAFE to get a piece of paper to keep my dad happy at the time, after that I smoked too much green and decided to go to Brisbane for a change. I could never hold onto money, so that’s the furthest I could afford. Once I got there, I got mentally lost, did some real stupid shit and came back home with nothing. You get out what you put in, and I put in shit all, so what did I expect?
Over the years I’ve often found that my creative friends move to bigger towns/cities (such as Melbourne or Sydney or even far off places like New York or Berlin) to pursue creative endeavours. I myself have been told many times by folks that I need to move to another place other than Brisbane (where I’ve spent most of my life) or the Gold Coast (where I live now) to ‘make it’ in my chosen creative industries. Personally, I think it can be more awesome to stay where there’s apparently a lack of creative community, opportunities and culture and create things there; to me that’s how creative communities get started. What are your thoughts on this?
BP: I wholeheartedly agree! It made me work a lot harder to prove people wrong and to focus on what I wanted to do. Do you stay and improve the place you think is a cultural wasteland? Or do you move onto somewhere already flooded with people doing similar things? Coming back to Nambour was never something I had planned to do, but the shop [The Time Machine] was a great opportunity for all of us; to try and start something other than contribute to an already culture-rich community.
Tell us a little bit about your journey as an artist.
BP: As far back as I can remember, I was always drawing. All my schoolbooks were 95% scribbles, 5% work. I just enjoyed it and had trouble focusing on anything else. Being able to turn a blank piece of paper into something that evokes emotions from people is pretty amazing. I didn’t care about learning, just creating. It runs a bit in my family as well, my grandfather was an amazing fine artist whilst my dad has some really cool shit he’s made as well. It’s funny as I’m at the other end of the spectrum, I really suck at realism yet I’m the only one who’s pursued art (semi-)seriously. I can’t even draw that bloody well! I just like to do it.
Before the shop I worked at a wholesale printing place in Brisbane. I scavenged all the different offcuts of materials I could print on and made a whole heap of stickers and prints on different media. When we started trading, selling art was pretty much how I could afford ciggies, beers and coffee. The unnecessary necessities.
Having a physical platform to sell my wares via The Time Machine has been a pretty big self-esteem boost and motivator. Going to be focussing on it a lot more this year, thanks to the support and kind words of friends and people who come into the shop. I’ll draw on anything and will trade art for stuff!
What are your favourite kinds of things to draw?
BP: I don’t plan drawing really as I usually disappoint myself, I have a pretty lazy approach to art. Well, not lazy but I need to keep myself interested or else I just move on. That being said there are always things that I’ll start on and seem to reoccur in my works; skulls, flowers/plants, faces/characters. I usually start in pen so I don’t have to outline it again, if I fuck up I either throw it out or incorporate the mistake into it. I’ve got this habit of starting pieces and leaving them, which can turn out great as I’ll pick it up later (sometimes years later) and finish it in a totally different headspace and hopefully, make improvements. Not knowing what’s going to happen, what’s going to come out onto the page is what I enjoy most about drawing.
Who are some of your art influences?
BP: Friends and friends of friends, friends of friends of friends. Knowing people who are going somewhere with art really inspires me, the fact they’re giving it a go and going somewhere. Sam McKenzie, Philip Dearest, Kadir Kiraz, Daniel Ford, Barton Worthington, Mad Betty, David Houghton, Adam Lewczuk, Brett Weekes, Jhonny Russell, Giles Kilham, Ryan Sullivan, John Stewart, Aly Faye, Carmen Spencer, Ryan Vella… there’s so many. I keep meeting more, its fucking RIDICULOUS how much talent is out there.
What was your first introduction to the DIY punk rock community?
BP: I’m not really sure, I guess it’s been a progression over when I was a young teen to now as I’ve only been ‘actively’ involved recently in the past couple of years. Being raised in a religious household really hindered the process (devils music) and I kind of went backwards a few times (does that make sense?). My step-Aunt showed me bands I never heard of when I was really young (Millencolin/The International Noise Conspiracy/Blink 182/Living End/Green Day etc.) and took me to my first concert, Blink 182 in like ‘98 or something. I was fascinated by how these guys made money by playing music and saying dick and fart jokes, I think that’s when I realised I didn’t want a ‘normal’ job.
From there, it grew. I was hooked on music, anything new or different. I searched endlessly for new music and bands and secretly loved pissing my mate off for knowing about these said bands that he hadn’t heard of. It’s funny, now it’s the total opposite; trying to promote the unknown bands other than keeping them a secret. With this new music came new ideals and mentalities that were more positive and proactive. The ‘do-it-yourself’ lifestyle seemed a lot more rewarding than a normal 9 to 5, and art and music were always loves. The shop ties it all together today. I just wanted to work for myself, but without that horrible business mentality where money is more important than people. Greed makes people do horrible things.
It’s all a learning process – a little bit less anarchy and mindless destruction, a bit more of not being a jerk.
Who are some of your favourite punk bands?
BP: Shiiiiit, there’s heaps. Since I started to collect records it’s just a humongous hunt to find it all. I started writing a ‘record wishlist’ once and realised how long that would take and got bummed out. I don’t necessarily listen to punk all the time, oldies at the shop don’t like it. I guess I’ll consult the crate: Bad Brains, The Cramps, Dead Kennedys, Big Black, Public Execution, The Ramones, Misfits, Minor Threat, Crass, Jay Reatard, X, The Damned, Poison Idea, Conflict, The Scientists, Radio Birdman, Venom P. Stinger……….I dunno, that gives you a general idea I guess.
There’s so many bands which can make you proud to be Australian without being a dickhead, new and old. Recent bands are releasing stuff on vinyl too, which is amazing. Leather Towel, Housewives, Taco Leg, Straightjacket Nation, Lakes, Occults, Raw Prawn, Total Control, Sewers, Teargas, Kromosom, Last Chaos, Cuntz etc etc. Support the locals.
How has being a part of/inspired by the punk community helped shaped your ethos in regards to your day-to-day life?
BP: It made me appreciate things a lot more and value what I have and be happy with that. Also how to claw your way back up after falling to the bottom, and more importantly surviving as a bottom feeder haha. Not to let money control everything and to treat people the way you want to be treated, all that stuff that really should be standard.
You have a PMA tattoo and also incorporated the phrase ‘PMA everyday’ into the intro artwork in Swampland #1; why is having PMA essential to you?
BP: The mind can be a pretty terrible thing, I used to let it get the better of me and disappear within myself. My life has been pretty good, not easy all the time, but you know it’s been pretty fucking great compared to a lot of others, but the mind can be pretty horrible when you’re left alone with it. One year I let go and there was a while of not caring about anything, especially myself, and pretty much can’t remember that period. It got to the point where I had to change and start doing something about it or y’know, waste away. Focusing on having a Positive Mental Attitude just made sense, stumbling across the little acronyms through one of my favourite bands helped too. Getting the shop pretty much saved me and got me back on track.
You’re the co-owner/manager of The Time Machine. For those who aren’t familiar with TTM what do you guys do? What plans do you guys have for it?
BP: Too many things on both accounts haha, we’re pretty focused on making this work. The Time Machine is a huge space we’ve luckily got our hands on. The Family business (Barton Worthington, Daniel Stuth and myself (owners and operators), Wolfgang and our wonderful volunteers) run and operate a pretty unique vinyl/collectables store in Nambour, QLD. We’re also licensed second-hand dealers, so we get to trade and buy some pretty weird/strange/interesting things and of course; more vinyl. Pretty much one of the only stores you can go in with a bag full of toys and come out with some LP’s. Not just a record store though, comics/magazines, toys/figurines, old and interesting items of times past, prints/posters, DVDS/VHS’s/CD’s, local art, shit anything really.
We also put on shows either at the shop for an array of different Australian acts which has always been fun and have met some really nice people. We’re planning on turning the downstairs area into a cafe lounge area (where you can sit, read zines, drink coffee and listen to records) and we’ve recently got ourselves a little skate store, ‘Sugarcane Skateboards’ run by our mate Phil.
Getting paid a decent wage would be great too, we all work other jobs and that can take our focus away and eats up valuable time. But ya’know, we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t love it. Got some pretty great gigs coming up though…We’ve been working with a few friendly people from Brisbane who are keen to support us with getting some decent shows here.
The 3 of us have always tried to do something in music and art, and it’s so fucking hard. So we try and help out bands and artists as much as possible as it helps us out with our personal endeavours as well. Check out www.thetimemachine.com.au or www.facebook.com/TheTimeMachineQLD – we’ll show off ya shit.
I know you collect vinyl too; what are some of your most treasured records? Do they hold a special significance for you?
BP: Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ and Interpol’s ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ are the first records I ever bought, I didn’t even have a bloody player. I carried them around for years before I really started getting into it. Some of the ones that are worth money I was lucky enough to acquire are an original Can ‘Tago Mago’ and a beautiful purple ‘Love Affair with Nature’ by The Cannanes. I had a Japanese bootleg of Blink 182’s that was rare as fuck, but I sold that to buy more records. Audiophiles will harp on about the sound quality and what not but I just like records better. Big covers, coloured wax, stickers and posters in the covers, makes you appreciate it a bit more.
What is the first zine that you ever came across? What kind of impression did it leave on you?
BP: I had heard about zines in some punk doco’s and really wanted to go out and interview bands and reviews shows and start some, but social anxiety put a stop on that. Barton (Time Machine) and I were doing art markets in Brisbane a few years ago and that’s where I met Philip Dearest. That’s when I realised it didn’t have to be about music, it could be about anything you fucking wanted, and that’s what I loved. So first zine I got was one of Phil’s, the next week I made my own, ‘The Book of Bitterness’. It was pretty depressing and was a big help in getting over a previous relationship that fucked me up mentally. I made a run of 10, sold them, and vowed to never get it printed again. It was pretty therapeutic, hahaha. From there I’ve been trying to pick up as many as I can and meet the people who make ’em.
I ask this of all the zine makers I interview; why are zines important to you?
BP: Creative control is in the hands of the maker and if people don’t like it, who cares. It’s a good way to find like-minded people with similar view and it’s great to find local artists and bands. It can be whatever the fuck you want, that first one of Phil’s I picked up was full of drawings of people vomiting cocks and shitting vaginas and I bloody loved it.
Swampland #1 is very Nambour/Sunshine Coast focused; what can we expect from future issues?
BP: It will always have something about Nambour/Time Machine in there, but I want to start exploring more rural creative communities. I really want to venture around Australia this year, I’m going on a road-trip to Tasmania with Wolfgang (older mate who came with the shop) which will be a blast so I’ll hopefully pick up some ideas on the way. Really just making it bigger and better and more legit, with a primary focus on DIY-ers and creative, friendly folk. I would love to release the next one with a cassette with live recordings from shows at The Time Machine, other than that, just more profiles and exposure for independent artists. If ya like the cut of my jib, get in contact.
Can you share with us some of your favourite zines?
BP: The fucked up creations of Philip Dearest, Collage Party, PenErasesPaper by Sam Wallman, anything by the Phatsville guys, Jerkstore, Wasted Opportunities by Justin George, anything by Ryan Vella and of course without sounding like a brown-noser (although I literally do have a brown nose hohoho), the Conversations with Punx are amazing. Dr Know interview sounded intense B!
Dr Know was! When I finished the interview I got off the phone and just cried. I thought it had gone terribly, but looking back, I now see that there’s plenty of insight in there, you just gotta ‘overstand’ rather than understand. So, what motivates you to do all that you do?
BP: It’s pretty dismal, but if I don’t keep doing what I love I’ll waste away. I’ve let it overcome me once and I never want that to happen again. On a more positive note, we’ve met a few younger kids who really love the shop and help us out/support us, that shit makes me feel special in me guts. I’ve also got a bunch of little brothers and I really want to see me as a positive influence, instead of a deadshit. I hardly even see them but they’re a big driving force in what I do.
I’ll always remember my dad telling me to ‘do something that you love’ as he hates his job. I said I wanted to art and music, he said they were just hobbies, so proving him wrong is a big motivator. Don’t get me wrong I love my dad, he’s just old-fashioned sometimes.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
BP: Just to keep going really. A good friend of mine has just come back from overseas so we’re going to be working on trying to really get our art out there, and eventually lead it to a Nambour based distro. I’ve been fucking around with music under the guise of ‘Papa Dumb’ and want to play some more shows and release a tape. Swampland #2 will hopefully come out and that will include a tape of live recordings from gigs at Time Machine, pressing a compilation onto vinyl would be a dream. Setting up the screen printer at Time Machine and start pumping out shirts and other stuff. Playing music with other people, and going to more local shows. Making The Time Machine bigger and better, organising more shows and events. Hoarding more stuff for my personal collection. Staying positive. Supporting people who do the same.
*Photo’s courtesy of Ben’s fb; image 1 art&6 by me and image 5 by the awesome Angie Darling.