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March 22, 2004

{     Interview : Gunsho     }    

Nobody rocks the Viking graphic design skills like the man James Quigley from Sporting a mighty pen rather than the cliche nordic hammer, James has been printing posters for local and touring bands in Massachusetts for a few years now, each of which would look just as comfortable hanging in a frame as they would hanging on a telephone pole. The guy possesses a style of illustration signature enough to have become his calling card, as well as a firm grip on current graphic design sensibilities. All that skill has provided him with the opportunities to illustrate for magazines such as Complex and Tokion, design album covers for bands he digs, make rad t-shirts, and contribute illustrations to various books, zines, and benefits. We chased down Mister Pillage recently and bounced some questions off his oh-so-creative skull, so read on, or we'll hop a ship and sail over to ransack your village and steal your women.

Shane: Are you local?
Gunsho: I am inter-dimensional.

Really, where are you from, and where are you now?
I'm originally from the woods of Rhode Island, but right now I'm living in Boston.

Are you college degree'd?
No, I don't have a degree, but I do have five University of Rhode Island adult Continuing Ed. courses under my belt. I also went to art school for one semester but was forced to leave.

So you like all that evil apocalyptic stuff? Like skulls and fire?
I think that most of the imagery I use, at least lately, is a more perverted variation of the things I was obsessed with during adolescence.

It's funny, yeah, I like apocalyptic stuff. I'm pretty absorbed with the notion of "Significant Destiny." Like how regardless of how long it's existed or known of itself, it seems like every culture, population, or empire disregards a constant proof of history that every society fails, is supplanted, or disappears. So culture has an inborn anxiety and fear of collapse.

So our culture is afraid that it could lose itself at any moment to outside forces. We all know that our days are numbered and it seems like we have two options. We can hope that those end times don't come too soon, or we can hasten the inevitable and just bring it on early. In that case, we'd also make sure to kill everyone else off because we'd hate to see anyone other than us inherit control.

It's just interesting to me how those who seem to want the shit to hit the fan, like right now, are these stick-in-the-mud religious nuts who hate sex and anything else fun.

Personally, if I was one of these guys and not only did I know the end times were coming--but I was actually helping the last days to come early--I wouldn't be wasting my time washing the church on the weekends and telling gay people they shouldn't get married. I'd want to go out with a bang and do everything I'm not supposed to do, like eat lots of candy and have unsafe sex with strange women. It just seems like all that hard work to bring God's wrath upon humanity just seems pointless if you don't get much vacation time to screw off.

I don't know, that's pretty much just something that I like to think about. It's not really fatalist, living through the demise of empire is just as fun as building one up. If you've seen Caligula, the orgy scenes in particular, you'd see that it's not all fire and death. The fall of an empire is so much sexier than it's rise.

What kind of music do you like? Who are you into?
Well, the other night, my friend Richard burned me a copy of Mutantes. They are an amazing old Brazilian rock band. I like them right now. I like a lot of 70's rock stuff, metal, noise stuff, whatever. I sold all my records a few years ago so I pretty much depend on my friends for exposing me to new stuff that I might like.

Are you involved in your local music scene?
Yeah, I try to go to shows. I like to make posters mostly for the sort of noisy more eclectic network of bands that come through Boston and who live here.

Would you make a poster for a band that sounds complete shit, but looks cool?
Yeah, I would. Some bands are totally style over talent and I think that's fine. Talent will attract more student types and obsessive collectors but style will get you laid more. The visual art world is like the exact opposite. Wait a it's not. It all sucks and I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

How have you scored your commercial work?
I guess it's pretty word-of-mouth. The only real promotion I do is to put my site address on the bottom of the rock posters I make. Most of the illustration work I do is from meeting other artists who have passed my name along and art director or something.

Do you hold down a daily? Or are you mainly freelance?
I've barely made it through the last year without having to have an outside job. It's really hard and I owe a lot of money.

What are some things that you just could not face life without? And you can't say easy stuff like water or a pencil.
I think that I couldn't face life without being able to draw. That's pretty much always been the one thing that always made feel me like I was being myself.

Do you like comics? Like in the newspaper? Like Hagar and Blondie?
Yeah, I like newspaper comics. Shoe, the old bird, always reminded me of my dad. I don't know why, maybe because it's one panel, but I always read Family Circus even though it's unbearably stupid.

What are some of your favorite new and old horror flicks?
I don't know if it's sci-fi or horror, but the movie "Cube" is my current fairly contemporary horror movie. The acting was really bad and the story wasn't really that scary but I've been having bad dreams about it ever since I saw it a year and a half ago. I guess I like zombie movies too, but I have no favorite movies. I'm not good at committing to favorites.

What is the most visually powerful movie you have ever seen?
Yellow Submarine, or maybe Traces of Death. Most visually powerful TV show is Teletubbies.

Are you a packrat, minimalist, or sittin' in the middle?
When it comes to books and toys, I'm a packrat, but other than that, I think I'm approaching minimalist. Mostly because I can't find anything if there's a lot of clutter. I wish I was a cleaner person sometimes, I know that much. I'm a dirty minimalist.

You represent several different styles in your work. Do you think that it is good to be versatile, or is it better to be signature?
For commercial stuff it goes both ways, I'd like to represent my individual style but I can't afford to shove that style down the throat of someone who might pay me. I need to pay bills and I'm better at drawing than roofing houses.

I'd like to think that there's some sort of style showing through that's mine, but I'm not really trying to cultivate it. Really, I'm just trying to improve constantly, so I expect my style to progress or devolve along with my skills. My rock posters and my comics are pretty much my own thing and I can do what I want with them.

Who are some of your influences?
Comic art is my biggest influence. I'm definitely pretty nuts about 20th-century stuff like Situationism and Actionism, you know, like that anti-social overly-intellectualized art. But I really think that my sense of visual aesthetics hit its peak during my adolescence and I'm still clinging to it.

So stuff like He-Man and Ninja Turtles and garbage like that has infected me. Skateboard art too. Rock poster art is another thing and there have been dozens of incredible and innovative artists working in that medium: Dan Grzeca, Seripop, Little Friends of Printmaking, Fort Thunder, Kozik, Art Chantry, Jay Ryan, so many people.

So, what's next at the Gunsho yo?
I'm working mostly on posters and comics right now. I have a big project called Black Rainbow that I'm working on with some other artists and it's exciting. I've got some stuff coming out in the "Art of Modern Rock" book. I'm not sure when. I've got some collaborations going on.

What have you got going on in that there shop of yours? Anything?
The shop is just a place where I can sell some of my rock posters, art prints, some t-shirts, stickers. Basically whatever I can unload out of my flat files. Like, I've been getting into sculpting little figurines, maybe they'll find their way to the shop.

If you asked yourself a question, what would it be, and how would you answer?
I'd ask why I like mass-produced art so much, and I'd answer that it's because the artist who produces it has no control over where it ends up or who gets to see it.

Alright, insert your famous last words here:
Thanks for listening.

James's website is his main drag, showcasing a variety of his sketches, drawings, illustrations, posters, and just around the corner, or maybe even 3 minutes ago, a brand-spankin' new store selling tons of Viking goods like clothes and things every mead-swillin' axe-swinger can hang on his wall.


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