Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exclusive Interview with Aye Jay The Pop Sub King

Photo courtesy of govindajaya.com

Season 2 of Aye Jay's Pop Sub Series released today and with that I have an interview with none other than Aye Jay himself. Crazy useless trivia, he typed out all the answers for the interview on his cell phone. Now with great pleasure I give you Aye Jay !!!!

For the people that may not know about your background can give some history about your career ?

My name is Aye jay! I'm an illustrator from Chico,CA. Best known for my pop-culturey activity books. In addition, I try to be prolific in freelance art, skateboard art. Tee shirt design, and screenprinted matter. Aye jay is a stupid spelling of AJ, which is short for Anthony John.

I'm also a father of three, husband of one. I've dabbled in acting, rapper-ing, and male modeling. I toiled in obscurity for over a decade until having our first child in the year 2000. This lit a fire, causing me to self publish a Gangsta Rap coloring book in the early 2000s, which caught peoples eye. That lead to an expanded version, and the doors opened up a bit and led to everything described above.

You reside in California now, have you always been a SoCalnative ?

Actually I was born and raised in beautiful Chico, Ca. It's about an hour and a half north of Sacramento. It's known as the "city of trees" as the founder of the town was an arborist. It's also the home base of the Sierra Nevada brewing company, who make, in my opinion, the best beer in the world. My father moved here in the early seventies with a bunch of other hippies from New Jersey and started a band that continues to this day. Being raised in that creative environment no doubt influenced my career path. But the community here is so arts driven by age eighteen I had played shows in my "band", been in plays, and put together shows as well as the visual arts. It's a pretty great place, hence our decision to raise our kids here.

What inspired you to become an artist?

As far back as I can remember, it's all I wanted to do. As mentioned, my dad was involved in music, but I never pursued that till way later, and even then it was just for fun.

As I got more serious about art i became really interested in Haring and Warhol. Maybe I was a pessimist at a young age, but by high school I had figured out fine arts weren't really for me, and as an illustrator (as I call myself) commercial arts best suited me. That was a blessing and a curse, but it's the lot I chose, I guess.

Did you attend a formal Art School ?

No, I applied and was accepted to the Savannah school of the arts, but decided since I didn't have any money, I didn't want to pay off student loans for the rest of my life. The great irony here is I married a intellectual who was years deep in school, so there's loans to be paid from now till forever.

How does SoCal influence your art ?

My surroundings don't influence the art as much as my interests do. I've always had an interest in popular culture, and can be a bit of a know it all with random facts about music, movies, books, comic books, cartoons, DVDs, vinyl and celebrity. It's exhausting.

How involved were you with the SoCal skateboard scene and are you still today ?

From age eleven, I wanted to make deck art, with huge influence from VCJ, Jim Phillips, and Pushead. It's a hard world to break into, especially being so far removed from the core industry. Thankfully in 2004 my friend Todd Bratrud gave me a shot doing a deck for Consolidated, which he art directed at the time. When that first board showed up in the mail i almost wept. That lit a fire, which led to work for Foundation, Creature, pocket pistols, cliche, Baker, and the skateboard mag.

Doing skate art is one of the coolest things I have the privilege of doing, I only wish I could do it more! Even having done a bunch of work, it's still a struggle to do on a consistent basis. If I could choose to do only one thing art wise that would be it though.

What do you think of today's "Street Artist's" ?

Define "Todays!"

While I have never been a Graf artist (though my new book is centered around it!) I've always been a huge fan. Haring started my appreciation, but being into hip hop at an early age, I loved Graf, especially Phase2, Doze Green, and so on. By the time I became aware of folks like Shepard and Banksy, it seemed like more of an extension rather than something else. I have a healthy appreciation for all of that stuff, but still hold the aforementioned dudes in the highest regard. Especially Shepard, who has been one of the nicest and most selfless support folk I have had the good fortune to meet. He was an early participant in my son Cohen's collaborative art project, and I think his participation was key in others wanting to take part also. Barry McGee also, who is one on my art heroes. He's a great example to making your own lane and doing great things.

I like a lot of newer stuff, but a lot of it is pretty banksy derivative in my opinion, but what do I know? Blu, Dan Witz and Anthony Lister are all great examples of "newer" folk doing amazing things.

What are your thoughts on Mr. Brainwash?

I really liked the movie, and I think some of his employees are super talented. I hear the quality of the prints are top notch, though I don't own any. It's a pretty slippery slope to criticize other pop based stuff when you swim in those waters yourself. He's doing way better than I am career wise, so more power to him. #mbwhollaatme!

What elements of graffiti have you tried to bring to your work ?

Graf has a tradition of incorporating pop culture elements, which I do quite a bit of. Though I'm awful at lettering. I'm no Graf artist though.

Your Pop Sub Season 2 is out today who will we see in this one ?

Still finalizing the list but I'm pretty jazzed about some of the folks who have shown interest, from poster heroes Chantry and Kozik, to hardcore dudes like Bannon and Baizley. I'm hoping on at least one surprise too. Returning artists will be Mike Munter and Timmy Doyle. Tim has been an amazing partner in this endeavor, and I can't thank that dude enough for everything. The Pop Sub is an idea I had for years, and took quite a while to find a homebase for. I was really happy with the first run and think this second round will be even better.

Where did the idea for the Pop Sub series come from?

The idea is based on Sub Pop records 7" of the month club, which introduced a lot if new bands, Nirvana included. I thought it would be super cool to do the same thing but with 7" screenprints. Each set would have a guest, and a loose theme, as well as being a showcase for my own work.

As stated, I had the idea for a while and tried partnering with some good peoples, but didn't end up working out until I mailed tim Doyle out of the blue and he said yes. I handle the curation and art, and he does production and fulfillment, so it's a perfect set up for me. Plus he's totally bossome.

Do you have a set number of volumes in mind for the Pop Sub series ?

Nope. The hope is to do it until I've run out of great guests, but I have a big list. It's a pretty hard sell to some folk, because it doesn't pay a ton, but thankfully artists I've worked with or have contact with like me enough to participate. I'm continually flattered and amazed by it. Geof Darrow just agreed to be part, and his work not only has had a huge influence on me, but hard boiled tore my skull apart in 1989 when I saw it, so I'm taken right back to that place. He's a beast with a pen and ink.

Why do you think so many artists reference pop culture for their work?

Popular culture is a constantly changing well of subject matter to play with that we are all part of, for the most part. Some people do it better than others. I like to think I'm somewhere between good and terrible.

What else are you working on besides the Pop Sub series ?

I just finished some shirts for RVCA, some art for DC Shoes, new skateboards for Baker and Cliche, and ongoing activity page in the skateboard mag, a shirt for the Black Dahlia Murder, and I'm real excited about my new book "Graffiti art coloring book" out now from Chronicle Books.

Also just finished three new designs (my 6th, 7th and 8th) for Shirts and Destroy. Those are some of my favorite things to do, especially the comedy metal mash up shirts.

You have done several collaborations with different artists, how did those come about ?

For the most part, they were all folk I was friendly with, whose work I really liked. I put all those together, so they were kind of a precursor to the pop sub. Though only the R. Kelly flash print with Munter was a real collabo. Having done a multiyear, long term collaboration project with Cohen's work, working in tandem with someone else really interests me. Cohen's book is most likely the coolest thing I will ever do. I'm really really happy with how it came out.

All those people (Munter, Horkey, Bratrud, Baizley) I've done projects with are way better than me, so I try to glean as much as I can about how they work, and hopefully it helps my solo stuff.

Any other artists out there would you like to work with next ?

Tons and tons. All that stuff would be Pop Sub stuff from here on out though, I think.

How did you and Aaron Horkey begin working together ?

We became friends over the phone in 96-97. We had both done work for Sacred Hoop, and I liked his work so much I had to contact him ( I've always been that way, I guess.) and over the years became friendly. He's always been miles ahead of everyone else, skill wise. Me especially.

I remember when he started making posters, being skeptical about it's viability as a career option, but it worked out pretty good for him, I think.

Crazy in that so much time has passed, and we are old dudes now with families and kids and mortgages, but really my only regret is that he had the foresight to forsake rap music, and I continue to follow it like a teenage girl. I'm worthless.

X-Games Finals, half pipe you verses Aaron, who wins ?

Him. It's Horkey trivia, but that guys actually been in a skate video! He rips. I was always too paranoid about hurting my hands to skate, plus I have a shitty equilibrium.

Any new artists that have caught your eye ?

Not new per se, but: Rich Kelly, Jeremy Hush, Auriel Schmit, Justin Bartlett, Augor, Kev bones, Matt Loomis, and that guy who drew the gigposter of the ice cream cone pissing on your grave.

Visit AyeJay.com to see his work and learn more. Season 2 of Pop Sub is on sale and the info is above, or just click the banner to go back to the homepage. Thanks to Aye Jay for the great interview!!!!

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