Total Death – an interview with Alexander Heir


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…


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


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.


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.


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.


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.