Here’s another interview for this column inspired by the people I follow on Instagram. Meet Chris X, you probably have already listened to (BURST OF RAGE, NYC VELOCITY, LIBERTY, COUNTDOWN…) but he’s also a very talented graphic/visual artist, and that’s the main reason why I decided to ask him a few questions about his work and lifestyle.
First, I’d like to ask you to briefly introduce you: who are you? how old are you? where do you live? what is your occupation,I believe you’re still studying isn’t it?
Well i’m nineteen years young & I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, lived in Colorado for some time in high school and currently living in the L.E.S. of NYC. I go to School of Visual Arts, and i’m a second-year illustration major.
– According to some pics of your Instagram, you started to draw and paint at a very young age. Does it come from your family or have you been attracted to creative activities in your own way (like comics, cartoons)?
I was introduced to drawing and painting when I was around 5 years old, my earliest childhood memories are around the time when I would watch my mom draw and doodle while she was doing her work. I would pick up a pen and mess around on sticky notes, and eventually that led to just the total attraction to drawing and creating. I was raised in a household where there were little to no restrictions or limitations for creativity. Early on, me and my brother Aaron were always messing around with my Dad’s audio equipment, his drawings and his music. That being said, my Dad was very involved with drawing and music while growing up, so there was materials and music just about anywhere. I remember the first thing that caught my attention while flipping through my dad’s CD collection when I was younger (maybe 9 or 10), and that was the Green Day “Dookie” album cover. I would soon start making my own album covers with markers and crayons from different CD’s in the collection of death metal CD’s my dad would have. I think from that point on, I was always curious and attracted to punk/alternative music, and the love for drawing things related to the music I was listening to. So I would give it to both my Mom and my Dad for introducing me to drawing and the arts.
– As a French dude I must admit I take my hat off to some American illustrators like, I don’t know, Charles Schulz, Robert Crumb, Daniel Clowes and Bill Waterson… Who are your favorite American illustrators? Why? I guess the reason why I love the people I was mentionning is because of the cynicism of their craft, this is something stricly American in my humble opinion…
Are you kidding me! R. Crumb and Daniel Clowes are a few of the biggest inspirations of mine, along side Charles Burns, George Herriman (Krazy Kat comics), Steve Brodner (my principles of illustration professor), Ed Piskor, Brian Donnelly… the list goes on and on. I discovered many of these artists on my own time in high school, and was just baffled by the quality of work cartoonists like Crumb or Clowes would put in. That work ethic of theirs is what helps drive me.
– When did you start to feel arts, artistic creation were gonna be a huge part of your life?
I’d say when I was pretty young, which isn’t too far off. I was about 10 or 11 when I really discovered that I’ve got something that many kids in my class didn’t have. and that was just an eye for drawing and expressing myself through that. In 2nd grade, I made at least 6 to 7 pages of a Freddy VS. Jason comic that I still have, and this was all out of my class time. So, looking back at that I can remember that time when I was drawing in class, just by instinct. Then on to middle school I was put into special talented arts programs, that would pretty much be filled with the most talented students in the school, to put there creative minds together and draw at the end of the day. It was also a break from class which was killer. But from then on I knew that I wanted to be a creator and artist.
– It also seems your Dad was a big influence concerning your music tastes (you often post some old clichés of your Dad wearing heavy metal t-shirts)?
Yes, my dad has shaped my music taste entirely. Like I mentioned before, his CD collection and band t-shirt memorabilia was out of this world. From Testament & Sepultura, to Hole, he had it all. He was also involved in making metal music and was in many bands when he was my age. So watching him in that environment when I was much younger is what really kicked off me getting into wanting to make music with friends myself. He’s the one who bought me my first guitar, and has continued to show me great music, and vise versa, to this day.
– When did you get into hardcore? Is your Dad responsible of these affinities? What about being straight edge?
My Dad was a big part in getting me into alternative music in the first place, but getting into true hardcore was something I found through each individual branch of the music he showed me. I mean, hardcore is very related and hand in hand with bands like Sepulture and Biohazard, which was something I knew I was going to run into myself while looking and digging up more of these bands. But since 8th grade, I’ve been digging up and getting involved in the hardcore scene for some time. I knew that finally i’ve found a scene I could relate to— a scene that I could help create, and get involved with. There’s nothing like it.
With straight edge I found sometime through digging up bands with drug free lyrics, and I could totally relate to that, because like anyone as a kid, you’re looking for a way to set yourself apart from everyone around you, so I knew this is what I wanted to claim at the time, I mean I was 12 years old but I knew this was something special to me already. I was already not doing anything bad, in fear of letting my brother, Dad, or my Mom down, I mean I wouldn’t even say a cuss word in front of my brother at the time, so I was completely with the idea. And from then on, I was hooked and obsessed with the culture. I felt like I found a box of treasure when I found bands like Project X, or Minor Threat because no one was listening to these bands at my school, so I knew I had my own thing going. Eventually, people would ask you why you didn’t smoke or drink, (being in colorado where weed is THE thing) so I just naturally responded with “Nah, i’m straight edge!” Then that led to telling them the story of it and i’m sure I sounded like I was full of myself haha. The straight edge culture has introduced me to some incredible bands and outlandish people and I love what it’s done for me. I wouldn’t call myself straight edge anymore, but in my mind it’s shaped who I am most definitely.
– You play in a bunch of bands which are really good; DROIDxRAGE chief-editor Ed already published a BURST OF RAGE interview with singer Jack but I recently discovered NYC VELOCITY you’re also doing with the same Jack. This band, like BOR definitly seems to be a tribute to eighties hardcore punk. Is this period your favorite kind of music? Why?
Burst of Rage and NYC Velocity are both inspired by the pure energy and feeling of 80’s hardcore, most definitely.
Burst of Rage is a feeling, it’s a representation of a certain time and place to me. Nick Hinsch, Connor, and Jack wrote the songs on the demo before I was even a part of the band, so I was a fan of the band before I was in it.
NYC Velocity was an idea me and Jack had to make a band that would bring something new to the table, being that we’re inspired mostly by music with talent and feeling, that being Jazz records or soul, so we want to put out that direct feeling we have when we listen to those musicians, and hardcore bands of that time in our music. So we all really draw from our own music tastes when we write songs so we’re not just refurbishing a sound that’s been done before.
– What is more cathartic: playing music or drawing? Why?
I’d say playing music is much more purifying and cleansing to me, but just as equally I feel the same when drawing or creating, because I’m creating a piece, and expecting a direct response or reaction with the work, and musically it’s the same way.
I’d say while playing music, your soul and your whole body goes into that shit. So I feel much more liberating when playing music.
I’ve always said that making art and making music is a relatable art form, but that’s just my opinion.
– How many showcases of your works have you booked? What are you working on right now?
Well currently I’ve never had a show of my own, that wasn’t a smaller friend ran group show or event through my school, but here soon i’d like to actually have my own show in the city sometime.
Currently I’m working on assignments for school, a t-shirt for Antwon, some merchandise for Remy Banks, a flyer for Liberty’s first gig… there’s a list of things i’ve got going and my weeks are BOOKED! Ha!
– I guess that, living in NYC and being fond of hardcore punk, you’ll probably want to give me your opinion about that: I think one reason amongst others why 80s NYHC is a fascinating subculture, and had its connexion with arts in one way or another, lies in the fact that this city just speaks for itself: for example Bri Hurley’s book “Making A Scene” just shows how kid’s social boredom pushed them to be just like they wanted to be. Kevin Crowley’s illustrations, the different cover arts of the records released at that time, the different fanzines…all these elements seem just so natural, the antithesis of something artsy or overthought… What do you feel about this vision of your city?
I think that creativity during that time came from how fast people wanted things in the city, and how quickly people live and get by, which is still relevant now… Not only that, but this is a place where cultures come together, and you have to accept the way people are, because this place is FULL of freaks and artists, all after the same thing. The city is always keeping the spirit alive for creatives and definitely a leader for what’s going on around, and that’s one reason why NYHC was so effective. This is the place where things happen, and where people take their chances.
– By the way, this picture of you and Vinnie Stigma shaking hands during some show is just so cool! Any funny story to tell us about that night?
That picture will forever be my favorite thing. My good friend Zach Crogan took that photo on his 35mm, he’s always catching the best moments with his camera. That was the show that Agnostic Front played their The American Dream Died tour kickoff, which was a show i’ll never forget. Agnostic Front to myself, and to many others i’m sure is the most important band in hardcore. But that show was off the chain, Rat Bones was there, a few other old heads. It was sick to dive onto heads and throw my body around on that stage at the Bowery Electric.
– Which hardcore records sleeves would you consider being real pieces of art? Why? “The Kids Will Have Their Say” would be my favorite…
I have many favorites, which would be hard to put in order, but I’d say:
Blind Approach – “New Age” 7”
Big Contest – “Time Will Tell” 12”
Leeway – “Desperate Measures” 12″
Judge – “Bringin’ It Down” 12”
Agnostic Front – “Cause For Alarm” 12”
Killing Time – “Brightside” 12”
Warzone – “Open Your Eyes” 12”
A few of my favorites.
– Recently, one of your paintings was used as the cover art of FURY upcoming LP on bandcamp and you also made some montages for some hip-hop bands’s albums front covers. How did you manage to be asked to work with these different bands (and GIVE too by the way?)? I guess it must had been pretty funny to play the cliché aspects of classic 90s hip-hop graphics and add some “Parental Advisory Explicit Content” on it?
Well I am both involved in hardcore as much as I am the rap/hip-hop scene. I keep up with rap music just as much as I do with hardcore, and they both carry different vibes for the different feelings I have. But to answer the question, I started getting involved with drawing for different bands just by doing flyers for local hardcore shows where I lived in Colorado for a while, and pushing myself online and hitting up bands myself very early on. From there, things really got word of mouth and people started contacting me and wanting to work on their art direction. I’ve always been one to help make a band/musician’s identity visually appealing and I think that’s not an easy job, so through all this work i’ve done it’s helped me understand what to do, and what not to do.
I got involved with GIVE once they started promoting their Flowerhead Newsletter back in 2012, so I instantly was attracted to the concept of getting in touch personally with each listener, which nobody else was really doing at the time, so I sent out a postcard with doodles of flowerheads all over it. A week later, Crucial John makes this post on the GIVE Facebook page saying “If anyone knows who Chris X is, tell him to please contact us!” So next think you know, I start getting involved with what GIVE was doing, and John tripped out over all the flowerheads and drawings I was doing, so I was excited to be drawing stuff for my favorite band. Which led eventually to working with Zack on the Mosher’s Delight artwork and concept. It all progressed from there.
With the Rap covers, I’ve always been attracted to No Limit Records album covers, the whole Pen & Pixel look and southern music as a whole, so to me I saw it just as important as when I saw my Dad’s early CD covers. So visually, I really studied how those were created and what made them so appealing.
– It seems you also write hip-hop tunes? What is No Coast Company?
Yes, in high school there was a time when I was still trying to figure out my identity, still testing waters with what I wanted to pursue creatively. It really caught my interest when I was filming my friends and their music videos in parts of Louisiana, and eventually filming my friends in high school and starting to write raps and make beats for them to rap over. This was a time when I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could even do it, being that besides going to school I would record and engineer my friends in my bedroom, putting out their mixtapes, artwork, and releasing them online. In this circle I was in, and being a fan of rap music, I started putting writing raps and putting them online. I was messing around and trying to do something different with my music, but still keeping that attitude of hardcore and occasionally southern influence with it. My 2 best friends from high school, Kent Washington and Kevin Conti, were a big creative drive for me, and we eventually put together a group called “D.I.Y.” which is cliche as it gets, but we knew we were setting ourselves apart and making music that only our friends would relate to. I’ll tell you this; we made a 20 track mixtape, full of songs that we knew would be songs you would want to constantly play. Sometimes I go back and play those songs and picture the time, place, even the conversations from those recording sessions. I eventually would start to put out my own music videos, filming and editing them myself & playing shows with rappers like Hopsin, Flatbush Zombies, Dizzy Wright, and even booking our own shows ourselves.
Once we knew we had something special on our hands, and our friends were getting more involved, adding members to the group and such, we decided to expand this and give it a new name, which eventually became No Coast Company. I moved my studio down to the basement, took down all the shelves in the closet, soundproofed it, with help from my brother who is a dance music producer, and a DJ, so he knew what would resonate best. Added a futon/couch, lights, a mini-fridge, and it eventually became our own hang out spot where we would make some of the greatest music, have the most heart to heart conversations, and the most fun. Just being in that basement, you could see the energy and creativity bouncing off the walls. There would be one person writing an entire 16 bar verse on one corner of the room, one person making a beat, one person sleeping, one person recording in the vocal booth… It was always a place where we made our ideas and music come to life. That’s a time I will never forget. We even had talks of making a No Coast Movie, which never actually came about. But I did have the time and effort to release a 30 track mixtape titled “The No Coast Tape” and a 20 min. documentary about us along with the mixtape. That was just another one of my creations that I get to still see sprout and progress. I may not be a part of the group spiritually anymore, but that being said, it’s still as strong as it was 2 years ago.
– I’ve noticed you are also into skateboarding.
I personally think skateboarding is, in most cases, THE thing which lead the kids to hardcore, and arts. In my case, one day I stumbled upon Glen E. Friedman photographs, like MINOR THREAT in front of the Dischord House, with the skateboard on the left, Rodney Mullen skating in front of the same MINOR THREAT members, this old Henry Rollins’s ad for Independent Trucks Co and, I don’t know, just the SUICIDAL TENDENCIES! Plus, it has been proven many times that riders were open to photography and paintings: Mark Gonzales, Brian Lotti, Ed Templeton, just to name a few… What’s your point about that? Who are your favorite people making these connexions between skateboarding and arts?
Skateboarding is very important to hardcore & the arts, and I make new connections every day still with that being said. Some people that have completely inspired me from high school to now, that are involved in skateboarding are Mike Giant, Harmony Korine, the entire Girl Skateboards team, Mark Gonzales, Pharrell, Ed Templeton, Jason Dill, these are people that have inspired what I do what how I see the world. My music taste has been shaped and reversed from listening to Jason Dill’s Fucking Awesome radio shows, I’ve discovered some of the greatest music through him, including Neil Young and Stevie Wonder. Mike Giant was someone who inspired me in high school, he was someone who was doing graphics for a brand, doing graffiti, and producing crazy drawings. I always wanted to work as much as he did. Harmony Korine was someone who inspired me to make films, and write screenplays… There’s just so much that skateboarding has done for me, and that’s one reason why it’s made such the impact it has.
– Which skate videos are your favorite? What do you think about Swedish skateboarder Pontus Alv (he was skating for Mad Circle Company during late 90s and used to tour in the US back in the days) – this guy has been mixing his interests in skateboarding with other forms of expression (like making crazy black and white short films, taking photographs…)?
Videos I can watch that never get old to me are…
Memory Screen, Eastern Exposure III, Video Days, Habitat: Mosaic, Fully Flared, Zoo York Mixtape, Welcome to Hell…
Currently, i’ve been watching repeatedly anything John Wilson puts out, his HD edits are nuts… I keep up with what Strobeck puts out, the new Pussy Gangster video is very sick.
– You’re kind like a jack-of-all-trades in terms of mediums. Plus, for example, your paintings and your flyers are really different. Why are you interested in this variety of forms of expression?
I love this question, because no one’s every really pointed this out, but with painting and any medium besides pen and ink, i’ve always wanted to approach it and do it how I would approach a drawing. I’m still learning the techniques of each medium, but like I always say, I just want to master everything I’m capable of. I would prefer drawing and doing illustrations over crazy paintings.
– What’s your favorite medium?
Pen & Ink!
– I must admit, no matter the pencil you use, I’m really fond of your shading technic. How did you learn that?
I’ve always been a geek for shading and a nerd about classic master drawings & etchings, so cartoonists like Thomas Nast, Robert Crumb, Bill Plympton, Hendrick Goltzius… these are people I have studied for years and always wanted to know how they would create form and tone with their hatching. So that’s something I’ve always have been interested in.
– Got no further questions, final word? First band you want me to listen right now?
Those wore me out! haha. I appreciate you wanting to interview me, I hope I didn’t talk too much. I want you to listen to the FAZE Demo… google it!