humor

Background Noise, Episode 22: Eric Yahnker by Matt Valerio

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 22, the focus is California artist    Eric Yahnker .

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 22, the focus is California artist Eric Yahnker.

California-based artist Eric Yahnker has a knack for creating absurd, yet humorous imagery out of the most basic and unpredictable subject matter. A lot of his work has that "damn, I wish I thought of that" feel to it. For example, his "Star of David Lee Roth" piece, featuring a blue triangle and one of Eric's signature colored pencil and graphite drawings depicting David Lee Roth making up the rest of the Star of David. Some pieces from his brand new "Sticks and Drones" exhibit at Paradise Row in London show that Eric is on top of his current events. He has a detailed, hand-drawn portrait of Vladimir Putin with a blue Crimea-shaped tear dripping from his eye with the title "Crimea River". Or his "Wrecking Ball" piece, which depicts Barack Obama looking out the window of the Oval Office, watching Miley Cyrus swinging on a wrecking ball. It's all simple, yet amazing. I could look at his work for days.

His sense of humor comes as no surprise, considering his past experience in the comedy world. He worked on the storyboard for South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, and drew and directed a series of animated bonus features for a few seasons of Seinfeld DVDs called "Seinimation", some of which can be found on YouTube.

I was absolutely fascinated to see what songs Eric would choose, and he came through with an impressive mix of smooth 60s/70s R&B. Click through the gallery below for an additional glimpse at some of his work, read the brief Q+A below, followed by Eric's mix.

What was your first concert?
The first concert I remember hitting without an adult chaperone was Lenny Kravitz feat. Slash...must've been circa 1990.


Last concert/show?
I see my buds play small local venues just about every week, but the last major show I went to was either Sade @ Staples Center or Men of Soul: feat. Jeffrey Osborne, Freddie Jackson, & Peabo Bryson @ The Hollywood Bowl.


First album, tape or cd you bought?
My first 45RPM was Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You."  My first cassette was Paul McCartney's "Pipes of Peace," because it had "Say, Say, Say" on it.  My first CD was The Beatles "Rubber Soul."


Last album you bought?
DJ Rogers, "It's Good To Be Alive"


Was there any album that made a significant impression on you?
There were several albums throughout my formative years that blew my young mind.  During some particularly sensitive periods, my parents assumed I was gay:
Beastie Boys, "License To Ill"
Guns n' Roses, "Appetite For Destruction" 
George Michael, "Listen Without Prejudice"
Fiona Apple, "Tidal"
Jeff Buckley, "Grace"
Marvin Gaye, "Here, My Dear"
Maxwell, "Urban Hang Suite"


Who is your musical hero?
Quincy Jones + Michael Jackson, together.


How important do you think music is to your creative process?
Music is pretty necessary to help me zone out while I draw, but since I can't focus on two things at once, I usually have to turn it off when brainstorming or beating off.

Check out Eric's website, stream his mix below, download it here, or subscribe to the Background Noise podcast on iTunes. And don't forget to like Background Noise on Facebook for updates on future episodes.


Background Noise, Episode 20: Wizard Skull by Matt Bomarr

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 20, the focus is on Brooklyn's  Wizard Skull .

The "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 20, the focus is on Brooklyn's Wizard Skull.

There's no concept or juxtaposition of two pop culture icons that is too weird for Brooklyn-based artist Wizard Skull. Not only does the man also known as Alex Duke have one of the most epic beards in Brooklyn, he has an incredible knack for making you laugh and feel uncomfortable with his drawings.

Some of these concepts include: Kanye West as a duck, Rick Ross as Robocop, Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man as muscle men, rappers holding their cats (the subject of his handmade "Pussy" zine), or even 2Pac and Biggie in a shirtless embrace (for his "Sex Daze" trading card series for MIshka). Not only have these images been wheatpasted all over the city, shown in galleries, or sold as prints, they've also shown up on a series of skateboards he designed for Death Skateboards. He's quite prolific, and always up on his current events.

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He was yet another one of the great artists who contributed to the recent Surplus Candy show, one of the pieces, pasted to the inside of a toilet seat, featured Charlie Brown with a squiggly penis to match his squiggly shirt. And most recently, he and our mutual friend Killer Acid organized Zine Friends, a zine fair that took place at Brooklyn's Cotton Candy Machine.

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I feel like I can't even keep up with the number of zines that he produces. If I could afford it, I'd buy them all. If you think YOU can keep up, you should keep an eye on his online shop, or follow him on Instagram.

What was your first concert?

My first concert was Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band. Other than that, I never had much interest in going to see bands live, but I went to a lot of local band shows with friends just for something to do.
 
What was the last concert you went to?

The last concert I went to was at Bowery Ballroom. I don't know the name of the band. I only went because friends wanted to.

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What was the first album you bought?

I forget what the first music I bought was, but it was probably something I wouldn't be interested in listening to now.

What was the last album you bought?

The last album I bought was Devendra Banhart's Mala. It was alright.

Is there one album that made a significant impression on you?

The album that made a significant impression on me would be Wu Tang's new album. I haven't heard it and have little interest in hearing it,but they are releasing only one copy, which significantly impresses me.

Who is your musical hero?

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There's no way someone could be my hero for playing music. I don't know anything about the people who make the music I like, I just enjoy their music. Aren't hero's supposed to do something heroic? I guess I'd pick the people who sang the "We are the world" song, I forget what that was for, but I think it was a benefit or to bring awareness to something. So I guess that's heroic..

How important is music to your creative process?

Music is important to my creative process because I draw a lot in coffee shops and there are always really annoying conversations happening near me, so if there is music on, it helps drown out the sound of those conversations, and keeps them from distracting me.


Check out Wizard Skull's mix below, download it here, or subscribe to the Background Noise podcast on iTunes.

Be sure to check out Wizard Skull on Facebook, and don't forget to like Background Noise on Facebook as well, for updates on future episodes.

Background Noise, Episode 15: Left Handed Wave by Matt Bomarr

My new "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 15,  the focus is on Chicago-based artist  Left Handed Wave    .

My new "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 15,  the focus is on Chicago-based artist Left Handed Wave.

Chicago's Left Handed Wave is another prolific artist who tends not to take himself too seriously. His character of choice is "Banana Man", a man who is often seen in a banana suit, smiling and waving at passers by. While Banana Man started off in this outfit, he's taken on various other disguises throughout his evolution on the streets. Sometimes he'll be grinning at you from inside a bunny suit, sometimes he'll be dressed like a hot dog. Other times, Santa Claus, a ghost, etc. It never ends, really. He's constantly evolving.

Most prolific in his hometown of Chicago, his work will often be spotted in the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan. He was yet another of the select few artists that Hanksy chose to participate in Surplus Candy, his 2-hour abandoned building art show in NYC's Alphabet City a few months back.

He always has great merchandise to sell. He made a limited run of stuffed plush Banana Men, recently made some limited edition t-shirts, and almost always has stickers and prints available for sale on his Big Cartel page. Go there now though, because his work almost always sells out.

A few words from LHW:

Hanksy and Left Handed Wave at "Surplus Candy" (photo by Matt Bomarr)

Hanksy and Left Handed Wave at "Surplus Candy" (photo by Matt Bomarr)

What was your first concert?

All shit talking aside... I'm pretty sure the first concert I attended was New Found Glory at The Riv in Chicago, I must have been in the 7th or 8th grade. My best homie's dad took us and I remember him advising us not to take any drugs or alcohol from anybody while he was slyly getting dad drunk at the bar. The show was god awful, being a young kid from the suburbs I had never seen so many people going nuts before and I was a little weary to see another show after that. The next concert I went to wasn't until high school, I did everything my friend's dad said not to and then shows got pretty rad after that.

 

Last concert/show?

The last concert I went to was George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at the Concord. I drank a lot of delicious adult beverages and found a five dollar bill, it was fun...

Photo by  Billy Craven

Photo by Billy Craven

First lp/cd/tape you bought?

I'm pretty sure Blink 182's Enema of the State was the first CD I bought with my own cash which makes me feel like the whitest, most generic suburban kid ever. Everyone I knew had that album though, it has that skanky looking nurse on the front and it made me feel a little rebellious listening to it. The songs they swore in the most were my favorite, look up 'Family Reunion', its no hit, but for a sixth grader I was easily entertained.


Last album you bought?

I recently picked up RJD2's latest release, 'More Is Than Isn't'. It's no platinum joint, but I can rock some of it, especially the collaborations. I don't get down with too much of his new stuff like I do with the classics, but RJD2 was a big player in my transition into hiphop and electronic music so I always keep up with what he's doing.


Was there any one record that made a significant impression on you?

There has to be a dozens, but as of late, 'Daily Bread' By Hassaan Mackey and Apollo Brown has me listening on repeat. It's somewhat of an underground classic, but maybe it's too early to make that distinction. The beats on the album have this old school hiphop vibe and Mackey's lyrics are super raw, I feel a lot of struggle them which kinda reflects our current brutal winter here in Chicago. If I could describe Chicagoins right now all I'd say is we're fucking miserable, I've lived here my whole life and this is by far and wide the coldest winter ever. All that grit in the lyrics has really been reflecting my mood, but it gets me through the day like all impressional albums usually do.


Photo by  vivaspygirl

Photo by vivaspygirl

Who is your musical hero?

If you don't play dubstep, well, your my hero then.


How important do you think music is to your creative process?

Music is incredibly important to my creative process and daily routine in general. I'm not super hip to what the kids are listening to these days, but I always need something to narrate my day. I'm always plugged in, if I suddenly had to work in silence nothing would ever get done and my creative drive would most likely shut down. Art and music have always gone hand in hand, for myself it'd be impossible to have one without the other.

You can follow Left Handed Wave on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

Listen to his podcast below, or download it direct here. Don't forget to like Background Noise on Facebook, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Background Noise, Episode 8: Enzo & Nio by Matt Bomarr

(photo by @lostkaws)

My new "Background Noise" podcast series focuses on the music that artists listen to when they work, what music inspires them, or just music they like. This week, in Episode 8 the focus is on Brooklyn street artist duo Enzo & Nio.

Enzo & Nio have been friends since they met on a tree farm in 1994. Their shared sense of humor, love of hallucinogenic drugs and more importantly, their taste in art lead them to start collaborating in many creative ways ever since.

photo by bomarr

photo by bomarr

Lots of their work tends to lean toward the humorous, tongue-in-cheek side of things (see their "cock shark" stickers), while still making a statement. The specific statements are always left to the viewer's interpretation though, and that's how Enzo & Nio like to keep it. They rarely, if ever, talk about their work. Sometimes the work shows an obvious disdain for certain things. For example, their "Pull in case of..." series shows a standard looking fire alarm that says things like "Pull in case of Bloomberg", "Pull in case of Facebook", etc. And then there are the various wheatpastes that feature young girls with bandanas over there faces, brandishing weapons or holding molotov cocktails.

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I met Nio in person at a Futura art show a couple of years ago, and he told a friend and I about how he and Enzo had recently hung $100 in $1 bills from a string on the Williamsburg Bridge. Just because. It was fascinating. These guys really don't stick to just one medium when it comes to their work, which is admirable.

Music has been a big part of both of their lives, so it was only fitting for them to do one of these podcasts for the series.

Read their words below, and check out this excellent little feature on them done by the Dega Films series "Wild In The Streets"

What was your first concert?

Enzo: My first voluntary* concert was Bo Diddley. It was also my first date which is why it sticks in my head. I was in 6th or 7th grade and my uncle chaperoned a few of my friends and our dates to the concert. I don't remember why it was Bo Diddley it makes absolutely no sense that we went to see Bo Diddley at that age. In makes more sense in a hindsight kind of way - years later I would end up playing guitar in a few blues bands (at one gig Nio was even running lights for us). As for the Bo Diddley show, I don't remember the opening acts, but I remember Bo Diddley! He was loud enough so I could feel the bass in my feet and stomach. I always dug that riff and still do.

*My parents used to drag me to their stuff.

Nio: John Cougar Mellencamp (with my parents) circa 1986-ish

Last concert/show?

E: As far as bigger concerts go I saw Furthur this past summer, I think that was the last major show of note. I like outdoor shows and something you can make a day of. Sometimes, it’s kind of cool to just disconnect and groove in the sun. Shows in general? The last one was B.Dolan and Sage Francis - that is good time! B.Dolan’s new set up features a madman on the drums - they were pretty impressive - BOOM!

N: I went to the underwhelming Amnesty International concert at Barclay's Center last week.

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First tape/cd/lp?

E: Wow, I had to think hard, I was young: Greatest Hits - The Jackson Five. There was a time in my life when I would have been embarrassed to admit that, but their early stuff was SOLID, I still listen to it today. Then I think it was something by Alice Cooper or Kiss. I’m rarely current with music.

N: Van Halen 1984 on cassette

 

Last album you bought?

E: “The Best of War” - I want to thank OverUnder for making me remember them when I listened to his “Background Noise” installment. I'm listening to them now as I write this.

N: Sage Francis- Sick To D(eat)h

 

Was there any particular record that made a significant impression on you?

E: Yes, a lot of particular records have made a significant impression on me for a variety of reasons, I actually started to list them all chronologically here and then saw it would be ridiculously long. As it relates to the spirit of “Background Noise” I would say that several artists/albums have influenced the spirit of my contribution to Enzo & Nio. “Film the Police” by B.Dolan and the first “Rage Against the Machine” album are ones that easily come to mind. “FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!, FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!, FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!, FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” Yeah, something like that.

N: Bob Seger- Nine Tonight

 

Who is your music hero?

E: This will sound strange because we are not from the same era but John Lennon. Not only was he a great lyricist and musician, but John Lennon always stood for something and was unafraid to voice it. He also did it during a time when it wasn’t about a photo op or a meme or for self-promotion. He used his music and celebrity as a force for change to the point that he became an enemy of the U.S. Government - BECAUSE HE PROMOTED PEACE! I admire his cleverness, way with words/language and desire to make things better - for everyone. So he was influential to me for music and more. I think he kind of lurks in a few of E&N’s more socially conscious or philosophical things because of that. That said, we won’t be abandoning the Cockshark anytime soon - We don’t take ourselves THAT seriously.

N: Mighty Mighty Bosstones- Devil's Night Out

 

How important do you think music is to your creative process?

E: I am never working alone or with Nio when there isn’t music playing. It’s a mindful addition to our creative work environment. We’re just wrapping two days of studio work and we made some definite decisions about the music we were listening to. Among the choices for those days were “The Talking Heads”, Mike Doughty, “G. Love & Special Sauce” and some other related and unrelated artists. I can honestly say that even when we are running the streets, pasting or just fucking around, something is playing in my head that relates to the moment/night (some Jay-Z most recently).

Looking back, music has been an integral part of my friendship with Nio from the earliest days. You could say that as street artists “Enzo & Nio” were born at a music festival. One hot summer day with a number of acts playing on stage, Nio and I along with a few friends (fueled by psilocybin) kind of staged a massive public intervention with thousands of florescent orange “HOT!” stickers.

Some things change, some things stay the same but there’s always a soundtrack isn’t there?

N: Music can create an inspirational moment when you least expect it, whether a lyric, or a feeling that you want to capture or create later, but in the studio it is more background noise then something that is in the forefront of the process. Shout outs to Howard Stern, who I listen to on a daily basis more often than any sort of musical type situation.

Check out more of Enzo & Nio's work at their website.

Stream their episode below, subscribe on iTunes, or listen on Mixcloud