Punk Rock Satirist Brian Walsby, Still Kicking Ass After All These Years (Part One)
Growing up in California on a steady diet of Charles Schultz, Goofus and Gallant, and Mad Magazine, Brain Walsby recognized very early on that he had a unique satirical illustrative knack. Already a fan of heavy metal bands like Motorhead and Judas Priest, when the late '70s and early '80s ushered in the hardcore punk rock movement, he became energized, pouring his energy into countless works ranging from panel-based standard comic fare to the mixed-media cover art for 7 Seconds' Walk Together, Rock Together.
Brian Walsby (with his daughter, Willow) has been creating original art, both visually and musically, for nearly three decades.
In 1986, his pen pal relationship with Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin convinced him to leave California and move to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he still lives. Through fanzines and correspondences with various notables along the subculture's network, he carved out an artistic niche for himself, both in graphic arts and as a drummer in bands including Scared Straight, Wwax (with Superchunk's Mac McCaughan), Snake Nation (with COC members Mike Dean and Woody Weatherman) Polvo, Patty Duke Syndrome (with Ryan Adams), and Double Negative. His illustrative work can be found everywhere, from the pages of Maximumrocknroll and Flipside to some illustrated erotic stories he did for a magazine his Melvins friend Buzz Osborne's wife worked for.
Now 47 years old, he spends much of his time caring for Willow, his two-and-a-half year old daughter, and keeping the artistic ball rolling, putting together five more collections of work under the unified title of Manchild since I met him at the Culture Room in Lauderdale during the Melvins' 2006 show.
He does freelance and merchandise business through his website, maintains a blog, and joined the Melvins once again during the stateside stretch of their tour this year. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Brian recently, and he was gracious enough to grant me an interview.
In the first half of our interview, we discussed topics ranging from fatherhood, work output, and carving out one's legacy.
New Times: What is the first piece of original artwork that you sold? What is the most recent?
Brian Walsby: The first part of this answer is sort of funny. When I was about twelve years old or something, my family went to Sun Valley, Idaho, in the middle of the summer because my father at the time worked for an insurance company called Prudential. I guess they were having some kind of convention up there. I remember sitting in the lobby of this weird-looking Swiss kind of deco hotel and drew stuff and sold it to various people who walked by.
I don't really remember too much else about it other than the fact that it was kind of the equivalent of a little kid selling lemonade on the street. It definitely happened, and I made maybe a few dollars, but I can't for the life of me remember too many details.
A week ago, I sold a drawing I did of Black Flag - in one of their many different lineups -- for fifty dollars, I think.
On a day you've set aside for drawing, how many pieces -- on average -- can you do?
When not doing tributary or satirical work, much of Brian's artistic output is autobiographical in nature.
I have been in a lucky situation since last summer because I haven't had a full time "real" job or at least a situation like that. Between the work I did last year, in addition to whatever freelancing I can get, and spending two nights a week at the Whole Foods I used to work at, I get by, but it's a roller coaster ride. There is no security in it, and when things are happening, it is great. But when work is scarce it is pretty scary. Anyone who does this kind of stuff can tell you.
So depending on all of those factors and adding in the time I spend with Willow and sometimes her older brother Noble, I can have a pretty productive day. If I am not doing any special project, I usually will sit and do a lot of short pieces and then I throw them up on my Facebook page. Some days, I have cranked out thirteen drawings. Most of the time it is less than that. And also the real projects are obviously more time consuming. So it all just depends.
I've seen you work with just a magic marker in person to awesome and blistering-quick effect, but I know you work with multiple mediums (your Walk Together, Rock Together cover, for instance). What mediums do you use, what is your favorite and which ones do you feel yourself gravitating towards as your art evolves.
For most stuff, it is just ink on Bristol board or some comic book type paper that I get from a local art shop in town. A lot of the quickies are done on generic eight by eleven regular paper.
On all of the posters that I sell when I am working for the Melvins, it's a different story, and sort of funny. I just go to a Walmart or a similar kind of place and stock up on cheap poster paper with a gloss and get some sharpies and Crayola colored markers, and that is pretty much it! It's extremely cheap, looks fine and is sort of funny because what I actually spend to get a decent amount of supplies is pretty much nothing. Selling just one of those posters is getting my investment back in just that.