INTERVIEW BY MARCUS JOONS, FEBRUARY 2010
1. I have read that you met MGMT when they recorded with your friend Sonic Boom. What did you think about the music? Had you heard it before and what came to your mind while listening to it? Any obvious influences, you think? Do have any fun story to tell from when you met them there in Malibu?
When I was in Malibu we would listen to what the band had recorded that day or night. The music that I heard was mostly recordings of the band jamming and fucking around, I got the impression that was how they “found’ their songs, just having a good time together. I didn’t get the impression that they were sitting down and working on individual songs at that time, I’m sure that came later. What I heard up in Malibu was entirely different than Oracular Spectacular. The obvious influences were that they were under the influence…
2. What, do you think, lies behind that MGMT have become so huge as they are today? Do you have any theory more than that they are writing great pop tunes?
A lot of contemporary pop music is more about beats than melody. MGMT is writing songs with melodies and lots of changes. People are becoming more interested in good songwriting and meaningful lyrics than just rhyming raps over bonus beats. Their lyrics reflect their youth and their audience relates to that very strongly.
3. You are often considered to be a lowbrow artist. What are you thoughts on that? Isn't it a bit irritating to always seem like that or don't you care?
I have always painted whatever I wanted to, I never tried to fit in with any crew or movement. At a certain point though there were enough of us doing similar work that the art critics and art dealers had to figure out how to legitimize and market our work. At that point the term “Low Brow” came into being and I didn’t have any problems with it. I think that an artist who is just starting out now might not appreciate being called Low Brow because it is the art movement of a previous generation.
4. Do you think that MGMT got in touch with you because they see themselves and their music as lowbrow music? That they are deadly serious about what they do but that it is deadly serious FUN. Do you feel like there are any similarities between you and them?
MGMT didn’t give a shit about my being Low Brow or No Brow or any of that; they just liked my imagery and the way I paint. Sometimes a band will choose an already existing painting of mine but in this case I had to start with their idea. Andrew already had a pretty good idea about what he wanted by the time they contacted me to do the cover. I basically get paid to subvert my wishes and follow orders from the band and their art director at Sony, Josh Cheuse. I think that I was chosen to do the cover because MGMT, Sonic Boom and myself all got along with no psychotic ego problems!
If the cover artwork on an album or CD is anything other than a photo of the band, it should represent the band in some oblique way. I think that MGMT felt that my psychedelic take on the world was similar to theirs.
5. How come that you've been so into cartoons? Is there any story behind it?
My family moved to the USA from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean and American culture was pretty different to what we were used to. Television cartoons were part of that culture shock and they made a big impression on me. Later on I began to look at single panel cartoons in magazines and I realized that a single independent cartoon image could get a lot of information across. At least more than a painting, most of which seemed to be pretty vague bout what was being expressed. Hardly anyone was doing cartoon-based artwork at the time but now; well it’s all over the place.
6. Have you felt like that a lot of people now after the MGMT cover art are discovering your other art? How does it work in the art business? Will this give you a higher value, you think, or is it more like the opposite though there might not be that much value in pop culture? I'm just curious.
A lot of people are going to see my work now that ordinarily wouldn’t have had it cross their radar. Some percentage of those people will dig deeper and visit my website to find out about my previous work but most of them will be content with that one MGMT cover image; its all about MGMT after all, and not me. The Fine Art world tends to look down on Commercial art so I don’t think that this is going to help me with any galleries. That’s okay with me; I’d rather do a CD or album cover than show in a gallery anyway!