Sacrificial Lamb Taxidermy Art Show – Meet the Artists

We reached out to a few of the artists participating in the Sacrificial Lamb Taxidermy Art Show opening this Saturday January 13th 7-10pm  and running through mid February

Divya Anantharamana – a talented taxidermist in her own right gathered together some of the best in the art of taxidermy and brought them here to Los Angeles. She has described the Sacrificial Lamb Show as, “a menagerie of contemporary taxidermy. Referencing animal sideshows of the early 19th-century circus “museum shows” which collected real and fabricated freaks, this group show combines the craft of traditional taxidermy with a contemporary focus on including new perspectives in this type of art. In this exhibition, all interpretations of nature will be on display, with both real and imagined creatures.”

How did you choose the artists for Sacrificial Lamb?

These artists are all people who have a unique perspective and style with taxidermy and natural history. They’re all comfortable with the foundations of traditional taxidermy, but each has found a way to make it their own. The world of taxidermy is also very close knit, so even though these artists are from all over the US, many of us have met before, so I’m lucky to count them as friends of mine too!

How did you get started in taxidermy?

When I was 5 or 6, I would collect rocks, seashells, and flowers after playing outside in the muggy wilds of Miami. One evening, I saw a lizard crawl into our mosquito zapper and face the inevitable. I felt really bad for him, but thought he would enjoy a post mortem home nestled in my collection of natural curiosities. Needless to say, he stunk after a few days, and I learned my first lesson in decomposition. This was my first experience with death, and from then on, I have always been curious about (and fascinated by) that liminal space between life and death, science and art. I never saw “guts” as gross, and always thought anatomy and inner workings were beautiful, and fascinated at how the inside and outside of something work together.

Where do you draw you inspiration from?

I’m inspired by the intersection of art and science and mythology, and the magic that exists in nature.

Has taxidermy given you insight or changed the way you see life and death?

Yes! Taxidermy most definitely pushes me to face my own mortality each day. I feel empathy for animals and at times I feel more comfortable with them than with people! I have lots of pets-I’m one of those people that spoils my furry, feathered, scale family more than people would spoil their own kids, since I know how valuable their lives are. I don’t know if it has revealed the meaning of life, but it definitely reminds me to cherish it.

What’s the weirdest request/commissions you’ve had?

Weirdest commissions are the oddities (I’ve done conjoined livestock, kittens born with 2 faces, and other naturally occurring anomalies). Weird requests come from people who I’m sure are trying to prank me-like asking if I can preserve a finger they cut off in an accident or their foreskins. I don’t mess with that stuff!

 

What music is your favorite to work to?

Lately I’ve been listening to the latest Bjork, Prince Under the Cherry Moon, Cardi B Bodak Yellow, Sisters of Mercy, and Celia Cruz. Sioxsie Sioux is also a solid standby!

Favorite movies this year?

I just saw The Shape of Water and loved it SO much! It brought out so many emotions, one of the few times I have cried in the theater. Also loved Hidden Figures and Get Out. 

 

Emi Slade

How would you describe your work?

I would describe my work as surrealist sculpture of fantasy fauna.

Who has influenced you?

My greatest inspirations remain the twisted and bizarre movie monsters of the 80’s. Artist Giger was instrumental in my development, as well as Dali, and many others that touched on subconscious fears.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve made?

My favorite piece of taxidermy would probably be my Cerberus piece. This sculpture consists of the skin of many animals, and really allowed me to carry out my V. Frankenstein role play. Consequently Cerberus was the most difficult mount I’ve ever attempted.

 

Has taxidermy given you insight or changed the way you see life and death?

There is no doubt that working with taxidermy has permanently altered the lens through which I see the world. I believe the sense of energy and passion that my mounts exhibit is a direct result of the tumultuous feelings working with dead animals creates inside me. Man is not a harmonious animal.

What’s the weirdest request/commissions you’ve had?

If you have a weird taxidermy request, then I’m your girl. Highlights include a mounted pheasant with its guts flying out (“The Unphleasant”), a tiny baby bunny springing from a bone pile, and giant rats holding rat traps and cigarettes

What is your favorite music to work to?

I’m currently listening to an eccentric mix of The Kinks, Beach House, Rone, Aphex Twin, Bauhaus, and the Talking Heads. I’m also listening to “Girl in a Band”: a recorded memoir by Kim Gordon.

Favorite movie this year?

My favorite movie this year is most definitely Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water”. All the feels.

 

Amber Keithley

How did you get started in taxidermy?

My first work was prompted to me by my cat who dragged in the lifeless body of a small rat. I looked at that tiny carcass and knew that I was going to taxidermy it, and I never looked back. My work is driven by humor, irony, beauty, and dark fantasy.  My goal is for every animal to reach its artistic potential.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your favorite piece?

My favorite piece I’ve made is named “Wooly Pully,” and it’s a baby lamb with a distressed ribbon and bell attached to its neck, with its hooves mounted to the chassis of an actual vintage pull toy with chipped red paint and small rubber wheels. The lamb is pulling away from the front end, creating the illusion that it’s reluctantly following you wherever you lead it. There’s a nostalgia and cheekiness about it that I love. I hand carved the form using techniques I’d learned from master taxidermist Ken Walker, but I encountered new problems and had to improvise and make the best judgments I could. I entered this piece into the California Association of Taxidermists competition and I was pleased to be awarded a second place ribbon. I learned a lot from that lamb!

 

 

Has taxidermy given you insight or changed the way you see life and death?

Absolutely. The most tender moment is when I have a specimen on my bench and I’m getting a sense of how this creature moved around in life; it’s so touching to me to contemplate the life that it lived and how full of life it’s leftover shell can be. It makes me exuberant at the thought that death can be so joyful, and serves as a reminder of how fleeting life really is. Every piece of taxidermy I work on is a mental exercise in what it means to exist. Perhaps that’s one reason I keep coming back for more lessons.

Do you get some weird commissions/requests?

Weirdest request goes to an acquaintance who wanted their old dog stuffed and turned into a floor lamp.

Favorite movies this year?

Bladder Runner 2049, Atomic Blonde, and It. I’m a sucker for good sci-fi, kick-ass action, and horror flicks.

Tanis Ramsay

How did you get started in taxidermy?

Both of my parents were Native American anthropologists, so as a kid I was in and out of museums a lot. I have always loved animals and had a particular fondness for the taxidermy dioramas in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Being part Cherokee, I was taught at an early age about the circle of life and how everything lives and dies and goes back into nature to be reborn. Death was not something to be feared, but to be celebrated just like life. These beliefs hold animals as sacred beings, and animal remains are often used to create decorative and ceremonial objects in various Native cultures. This concept of remains as holy objects has stuck with me to this day, and taxidermy art is my own way of honoring the lives of these animals and respecting the significance of them in both life and death.

What inspires you?

I draw inspiration from many different mostly unrelated places. I love mythology and religious stories involving death and draw upon those narratives heavily. I’m also fascinated with anatomy and often incorporate natural anatomical forms into my work. Finally I love lace and delicate weblike fabrics and most of my pieces incorporate fiber arts in some way.

 

 

Do you get some weird commissions/requests?

I’ve definitely had some unusual requests but one in particular stands out. I got a call one day from a teenager who was making an art film and needed a blonde taxidermied hamster ASAP. I told her that I could get her a freeze dried hamster quickly but none of them were blonde I had no way to get a blonde hamster within her timeframe. She then asked me if she bought a hamster at a pet store if I would kill it and mount it for her. I was obviously disgusted at the idea and told her under no circumstances do I ever harm animals for my artwork and if she killed a hamster herself and brought it to me I would report her to the ASPCA. She hung up and I never heard from her again.

What is your favorite music to work to?

I sometimes listen to industrial and cybergoth music while I work. Most of the time I prefer to play educational podcasts or true crime and nature documentaries while I work rather than music.

Favorite Movie of the year?

Stephen King’s It is hands down my favorite movie of the year.

 

 

Kimberly Bunting

How did you get started in taxidermy?

I had decided to take a break from my career as a Graphic Designer and find what really fills my heart.

That’s when Houdini decided to appear. It was on my daily walk home from work, when I’d see a hawk who I affectionately gave the name. Houdini would appear and disappear like the great magician in the sky that he was. But most days I’d find him perched on the same towering, stone steeple, of a church I’d pass by. We soon became convivial and would share words almost everyday.

I told him, “you’re the only one that knows”. And then it happened one summer’s day. As I knelt closer, skin brushing hot concrete, a beautiful bird, still. My hands drew up, shielding my eyes then slipped down my cheeks. Tipping my head back, I looked up at the towering, stone steeple. Empty. I wish I could say we felt like strangers. But my heart sank as he lie there belly up. Wild, wide yellow, staring eyes, as tiny brown ants crawled over their glassiness. My chest heaved as I heard him one last time, “death is the road to awe”.

Houdini sparked my long time curiosity I had in Taxidermy. I indulged the energy and signed up for a workshop with award winning Taxidermist, Allis Markham of Prey Taxidermy. I learned how to Avian Taxidermy by attending her ‘Birds 101’ workshop at Prey Taxidermy in Los Angeles, California. I owe everything I know about Taxidermy to her and her mentor Tim Bovard, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

I find the process of Taxidermy very therapeutic. I have the opportunity to preserve a species into a beautiful treasure that would otherwise be lost upon its death. It’s my hope to spark others curiosity for our natural world and to create a dialogue for appreciation of our mother nature.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve made?

A Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot named Amazon. In life, he had the well-earned reputation as being the “life of the party.” So naturally, I posed him in party mode, with his wings raised and tail fanned. Amazon was a handsome bird in prime feather with so much zest it radiated from him. He featured amazingly life-like, custom glass eyes with a soft brown stippling, feathered band at the base and a greenish yellow to orange fade. He perched upon a sculpted metal base in the shape of a giant ball of yarn. Amazon still makes me smile.

 

 

What’s the largest most difficult pieces you made?

A Greater Rhea chick named Barthalemu, which is very similar to an Ostrich. I had to learn the technique of creating artificial cast legs for him…along with the challenge of supporting such a long neck!

Do you get some weird commissions/requests?

There was the one time I went to see a theatre production recently with my friend and her family. I was introduced to her Step Dad as the Taxidermist. After the play was over, he turned to me and I was expecting him to ask how I enjoyed it. Instead, he whispered quietly, “So would you be able to Taxidermy me when I die?” I kind of leaned back in my seat and met his eyes in a gesture to say, “Are you serious?” He looked me dead in the face and said, “I’m serious.” I had to break the news to him that I’m only trained as an Avian Taxidermist but I’d happily put him in touch with someone who could.

 

What is your favorite music to work to?

I mostly listen to podcasts when I work. Top five (no particular order): Ologies, Good Life Project, Your Creative Push, The Adam & Dr. Drew Show, Dear Sugars

Emily Binard

How did you get started in taxidermy?

I started out by taking an anthropomorphic mouse taxidermy class at a local place that held them when I lived in Brooklyn. I immediately enjoyed it, as I grew up with a dollhouse and have always loved miniatures. Plus I’ve always been an avid cook, and taxidermy prep work is very similar to cooking prep for meat. If you can roast a whole chicken or turkey, you can probably skin a small rodent. Now im starting to teach some classes in san diego, so its nice to come back around and help other people find this niche of artwork.  My work ranges from highly detailed anthropomorphic dioramas to uniquely colored fantasy animals to ornate wearable pieces.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve made?

My “Tangled up in Blue” jackalope is one of my favorites, so much so that I haven’t been willing to sell him. I have a taxidermy and painting collaboration in the Sacrificial lamb show at lethal amounts that was created with my friend, NYC painter Jennie Jones…that one is also a favorite.

 

What has been the most difficult pieces?

Some of the most difficult pieces I’ve made so far have been rather small in size. Larger is actually often easier in taxidermy. My dioramas are usually the most time consuming, as there are so many details in the scene building. Little birds are also generally difficult since they are so delicate to handle. Mounting pets for clients is always the most stressful though. The last thing you want to do is mess up someone’s beloved pet, or have it come out unrecognizable. And it’s impossible to capture the nuances someone that familiar with the animal can see.

Has taxidermy given you insight or changed the way you see life and death?

I think the way our culture views death is generally really unhealthy. People avoid the topic of death out of fear, and really tend to be unprepared to accept death when they are forced by life to face it. I lost a parent at a very young age, so death has just always been a part of my life…it’s probably why it was easy for me too enjoy an art form that is so intrinsically linked to it. I think everyone should read “from here to eternity” by Caitlyn Doughty and learn all they can about what post mortem options exist in their home state, and talk openly about their after life care preferences with their family.

 

What is your favorite music to work to?

Anything by the white stripes or Jack White, Beck, David Bowie, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, sometimes classical like Mozart or Tchaikovsky is great to work to.

How has your experience been as a woman in the art world and in taxidermy?

It can certainly be a conservative boys club when competing at the state association run competitions, but women are the fastest growing new group in the taxidermy field. Some folks aren’t as accepting of the unique styles many of the non-traditional or rogue taxidermists have, but a lot of us are really willing to apply ourselves to learning more traditional techniques to use in even our least traditional artwork. I think that willingness to learn directly from traditional taxidermists helps to bridge the gaps that may exist between us.

Bondage and lace, mesh and codpieces: The fashion of Martin Gore in the mid-80s

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Bondage and BDSM gear, fishnet and leather, lingerie of all sorts: this was the aesthetic of Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore in the mid-80s. It was, at most times, very feminine with a strand of pearls and floral lace but fused with the roughness of straps, chains and buckles. In 1984, around the time Some Great Reward came out, Martin had graduated beyond his school boy look (though he had gradually been adding more black, leather and mesh to his ensembles before then) and into a full-blown purveyor of risqué and kinky womenswear. Up til Music for the Masses in 1987, Martin unabashedly wore his bondage with confidence. After the mid-80s, most of the BDSM and lingerie were worn less even though he retained his fashion sense with leather shorts and porkpie hats, entire silver glitter outfits with matching Dr. Martens, badass MC jackets and dark sunglasses. Just… thank you Martin Gore.

Given the tragic (just terrible!) task to scrounge through thousands of Martin Gore photos for this photo collection, I realized that Martin Gore was well beyond his years in terms of his fashion sense.

Martin was the master of layering. You know what they say, it’s all about the accessorizing! Sure, the white mesh is an interesting choice but chances must be taken!

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Speaking of layers: bondage (and a belt!) over jeans with a dominatrix shirt (that he wore quite often during this time) and a vest.

As you can see, Martin layered his outfits quite often – honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this outfit in a nightclub nowadays. Actually, I’d wear it in a heartbeat.

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With or without a shirt, his gear looks great.

And one more example. His shirt selections are on point.

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Sorry. Just had to sneak this one in.

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Fashion can have utility as well! Note: handcuffs.

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I am all about this upper thigh harness/codpiece with riding boots.

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The codpiece makes a second appearance. This time with a pseudo crop top.

So very feminine and wonderful… garter, pearls and a slip with a slit to the waist? OK.

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There are not enough words to describe the perfection of this outfit. Leather, handcuffs, lingerie top, spikes, HAMMERS…

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Another iteration of the off-shoulder lace top and leather skirt. MG, can we please be friends and go shopping together?

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A red garter belt and thigh highs are honestly the most perfect thing I can think of… I’m being serious here.

Don’t ever stop being you, Martin. xx

– Andi Harriman

Madonna’s Pre-Pop Past

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There’s little need to introduce Madonna as she’s been pop’s reigning princess for the past 35 years. However, there’s not as much knowledge about her disco, rock’n’roll and, dare we say it, punk-influenced background before she hit it big with “Everybody” in 1982. Once she moved from Michigan to New York City in 1977, she began as a dancer at the Ailey American Dance Theater on a scholarship – which didn’t last long. Madonna met Dan Gilroy, a musician, at a party and they hit it off. Soon after, she learned guitar and began writing songs with Gilroy’s help. But Madonna received an opportunity to move to France as a dancer and background singer for the disco celebrity, Patrick Hernandez who had the hit “Born To Be Alive”.

(There is a bit of debate as to where Madonna is in this video but it could be she’s the featured dancer with the short brown hair.)

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Madonna and Hernandez dated for a brief time until she decided to move back to NYC to be with Gilroy. Together, Gilroy and Madonna wrote songs for about a year while she learned a variety of instruments, shacked up in an abandoned synagogue in Queens that Gilroy lived in. The band The Breakfast Club came together with Madonna on drums, Dan Gilroy on vocals and his brother Ed on guitars, and Angie, a former dancer turned bassist. Madonna eventually convinced Dan to let her sing vocals, which ultimately determined the end of the band – but the beginning of the rest of Madonna’s life.

The Breakfast Club sounds quite raw and punk-ish with some Joan Jett / Josie Cotton 1950s rock’n’roller influences. (Dan Gilroy recently found his way back into headlines when he announced he was releasing bedroom tapes Madonna made for him back when they were dating.)

Madonna left Queens and moved back to Manhattan to form Emmy and the Emmys from ’78-’81 with drummer and ex-boyfriend, Steve Bray, from Michigan who had recently moved to the city.

You can see Emmy and the Emmys performing in the movie In Artificial Light by Curt Royston from the early 80s, just before Madonna went solo. To see commentary on the movie, watch this clip. After rehearsing rock’n’roll with her band, Bray and Madonna would stay behind in the studio to work on funkier songs that reflected the feel of the Manhattan streets – her heart was not with rock music any longer. That’s when the duo wrote and recorded demos to submit to record companies, including this great version of “Burning Up”:

During this time Madonna recorded background vocals for the German singer Otto Von Wernherr to gain a bit of extra money. This might have been one of her biggest mistakes in her career (but how could she have known then?) in that from 1986 to 2008, Von Wernherr continuously cashed in three songs she sang background vocals on. He reworked the songs and amped up Madonna’s vocals so he could advertise the tracks as Madonna originals.

You can listen to the other two tracks here and here. They are terribly intriguing  songs that might be hard to listen through (even as someone who can ingest the most cheesy of songs, these are even too much for me)! So it’s no surprise Madonna wanted no association to Von Wernherr’s music even though he was using her face on his record sleeves. She took him to court but he ultimately won the legal battle, enabling him to continue to use images of Madonna in order to squeeze every last cent he could muster from her less than impressive background vocal studio session.

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For further reading go here and here.

– Andi Harriman

Total Death – an interview with Alexander Heir

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Do you like being referred to as a punk artist? Why? Pros and Cons?

I do like being referred to as a punk artist. First and foremost, I consider myself a punk, so I have no issue with that label being attributed to my work, and think it gives a greater context to the work. The negative side of this, however, is that I worry about marginalizing myself to only those interested in punk/underground art. These are still the people I want to make work for, but as I continue to progress with my work and take on more ambitious projects I don’t want to limit the scope of my audience.

Favorite artists?

There are way too many to list, but some major inspirations are Hokusai, Danzig Baldaev, Virgil Finlay, Yoshitoshi, Frank Armah and the other Ghanese movie poster painters, Ed Repka, Pushead, Joe Coleman, Francisco Goya, Giorgio De Chico, Kuniyoshi, Bernie Wrightston, early Raymond Pettibon, Tom of Finland, and so many more…

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Favorite album covers?

Just to name a few-
-Alien Sex Fiend- Here Cum Germs, Art by Nik Fiend
-Death- Scream Bloody Gore, Art By Edward J. Repka,
-Raw Power- Screams From The Gutter, Art by Vince Rancid
-Flower Travellin Band- Satori, art by Shinobu Ishimaru
-Discharge- Warning: Her Majesty’s Government Can Seriously Damage Your Health, Art by Mike Hannan
-G.I.S.M.- Anarchy Violence, art by Sakevi
-MDC- Multi Death Corporations, art by Vince Rancid

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Musician you’d like to do an album cover for?

I’m going to limit myself to musician still alive/releasing music, which case it would be a toss up between Killing Joke and Kendrick Lamar.

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How does it make you feel that you get thrown in the same sentence with Pushead, Nick Blinko, and Mad Marc Rude? 

It’s incredibly flattering, obviously, as all those artists have been huge inspirations to me, but always a bit surprising. Those artists have had such a widespread reach and cultural impact, I don’t know if my work has reached that level yet. I suppose time will tell.

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When did Death/Traitors begin?

I started Death/Traitors in 2008 with a friend who was also printing his own t-shirts, combining my label Death Attack with his, Kill Traitors. I would make the designs based on our collaborative ideas, we should steal shirts from American Apparel, and print them on the silkscreen setup I had in my apartment. We had no idea what we were doing, but we set up a website and brought shirt samples around to all the skate and punk shops we knew in NYC, and gave our friends a ton of free gear. Though my partner and I split ways amicably in 2010, things slowly began to pick up, and as I learned more about how to run the business, my art and
concept for D/T grew, and did my fan base. I still run Death/Traitors own my own, doing all the design, emailing, and shipping, though I am happy to say I share a printing studio separate from my apartment.

PURCHASE DEATH/TRAITORS SHIRTS HERE:

What made you want to start a clothing line?

I was always intrigued by t-shirts. Even as a pre teen, I would love all the weird graphic shirts I would see at vintage stores during my weekend excursions to NYC with my parents. After discovering punk, I was even more excited by the DIY shirts bands and fans would make, particularly Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s shop Sex AKA Seditionaries. I knew lots of people, like myself, that only wore band t-shirts, save the occasional horror movie shirt. Like Sex, I wanted to make clothing for punks by punks, shirts that looked tough but were’t band related or branded.

As I continued to do Death/Traitors, I also became aware of the propagandistic potential of t- shirts. Whatever message I put onto a shirt would be read or seen by everyone encountering someone wearing it. Whereas most brands choose to turn their customers into walking billboards by smearing their logo or name across their clothing, I choose to incorporate more of my own anti-authoritarian beliefs into my work.

What's your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration, like so many artists, is to leave my mark on this world and have my work be remembered and considered important after I am gone.

How often do you produce new work?

Between Death/Traitors designs, commissions, and my own art I’d say it averages once a week. I usually have a handful of things I’m working on at once, and will be finishing one piece as I start another.

How long does one piece take you ?

It really depends. Obviously a full color painting takes longer than a black and white flyer, but often times I find it depends on how easily the concept actual illustration come to me. Sometimes I come up with a good concept for the piece very easily, but getting it to look the way I want is difficult. Other times the concept or layout takes a while to figure out, but once I do the drawing comes easily. Either way there is an incredible amount of versions done of each piece as I refine and correct it. On the rarest of occasions I can start and finish a piece in one day, but more often than not I am late for deadlines.

Who have you been surprised to learn to be fans of your work?

There’s not one person I can think of, but I have been surprised to just too how many people out there buy my clothing and ask me to do art for them. I am eternally grateful to be able to live off my work and have my art embraced by the punk community. It was a particular honor to be asked to design shirts for The Mob (UK), and a treat to see Rat wearing a shirt I drew in the infamous video of him knocking out a heckler while we was singing for Discharge. I’m also flattered to have been asked to illustrate the cover for the Killed By Death Rock compilation, and the constant support from Caleb/Sacred Bones.

How would you describe the music of your band L.O.T.I.O.N.?

L.O.T.I.O.N. is a hardcore punk band with electronic drums, combining our love of all genres punk with our interest in electronic, industrial, and other genres. Our lyrics focus on the authoritarian use of technology and it’s future impact on humanity. We have 2 out of print ,self released cassettes and an LP available from Toxic State in the US and La Vida Es Un Mus in Europe.

Favorite electronic acts?

Nitzer Ebb, Orchestral Maneuvers In the Dark, The Prodigy, Ministry, Shoc Corridor, Chromagain, Nine Circles, and Depeche Mode to name a few. I like a lot of old school house and dancehall, as well.

Most personal piece you’ve done?

I think the piece I did for NUTS with the reaper and police officer struck a chord with myself and others. It was during the beginning of the recent slew of police killings of black men, and it seemed like an urgent piece to get out there. There is a bookstore in Brooklyn that has it hanging in their window, they’ve told me a handful of cops have stopped and stared at it, I hope in send reflection.

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