I’d love to take a walk around the inside of your head; I imagine it would be like a journey through The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. How did you come up with the idea for Moonhead & the Music Machine?
For a while I’ve liked the idea of telling a story about music visually and how that might work but the Moonhead character gradually formed from drawing, prints and sculptures I’d been doing. It started off as an asteroidhead character in a print I made of mob of characters, something about him stuck with me and I kept finding myself drawing things like a Moonhead band or a group of planet heads. Then in 2011 my wife Chrissie Macdonald and I did were asked to do an exhibition together in Stockholm. We hired a house in the countryside to make work for the show and it just happened to have a telescope which we used to look at the moon one night after the pub. I guess that inspired us to think along those lines as we called the show Objects in Orbit and made lot’s of Moonhead and planet sculptures and drawings. As all this was going on I started imagining what the Moonhead character might be like and how his head could float off into imaginary worlds while his body remains behind in the real world, an idea that I relate to a lot. I decided to stick with a familiar high school plot and to add all the bizarre Moonhead stuff on top as I wanted it to be grounded in a familiar reality which is offset by the bizarre imaginary landscapes.
In my review I listed some of the things Moonhead & the Music Machine reminded me of; could you tell us what your actual influences were, if any?
There are so many things that influence me from day to day that it’s hard to compile a list but I guess Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli was a big influence in the way it used style and drawing to tell the story, I also loved Sir Ken Robinsons TED talks about education and creativity, The Breakfast Club by John Hughes needs a mention, also An American Werewolf in London by John Landis as I’ve always loved how the characters behave like real people even though bizarre things are happening, throw in some Cream, and and a bit of Kandinsky and Bertrand Russells celstial Teapot and we’re probably getting somewhere close.
One of my favourite characters in the book was the aging record exec (he reminds me of The Dude from The Big Lebowski) Did you base this character on anyone?
He started off a bit more like Phil Spector and I toyed with a kind of Brian Wilson look but somehow I wasn’t feeling the drawings. I wanted him to have more of an ageing, spaced out, hippy look without actually referencing a living person so I went with a combination of Keith Richards, ZZ Top and Dude.
Nobrow are cool, how did you get the gig? What was it like working with them?
I can’t remember if I already new Sam and Alex when they first asked me to be in Nobrow 5 but I got to know them mostly from going to exhibitions at their gallery and at Pick Me up at Somerset House. They asked me to be in a few of their publications so I made a short comic story called Deity School for their Graphic Cosmogeny and another called Space Cadet for Nobrow 7, both of which got a good reaction so they asked me to come up with a book idea. I didn’t realise it at the time but looking back Moonhead is actually somewhat a mixture of these 2 strips.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
I sketch a lot and constantly keep notes in my phone of ideas and thoughts so that when I’m looking for inspiration I have things to turn to, it helps to remind me what my work looks like sometimes. I guess the most important thing however not to sit around waiting for inspiration but to turn up every day just try to make work even if nothing comes. If I have have an editorial job on there isn’t time to wait for inspiration so I just have to force it out of my brain there and then but more often than not inspiration turns up at inopportune moments, while out walking or on a bus or chatting in the pub so it’s important to keep notes so I don’t forget the throw away ideas. I still need to make sure I sit down and draw out the idea though, if I’ve thought through an idea enough it’s easy to forget to actually do the drawing it’s as if all the works been done thinking about it.
I see you are part of the Peepshow Collective, I’m kind of familiar with this: Spencer Wilson let me use his magpie illustration for the blog (he’s also part of the collective). Can you tell us what it is? How many people are involved? What kind of things do you do as the collective?
Peepshow stared as a shared portfolio website for a group of friends who’d just graduated. I evolved over time into exhibitions, a studio and eventually a company. There are 10 of us and these days it mostly functions as an animation studio and group of friends.
Can you recommend 5 graphic novels for me to read?
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
Building Stories by Chris Ware
Black Hole by Charles Burns
Habibi by Craig Thompson
And last of all, what are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I have regular monthly piece with the New York Times Magazine, I’m finishing an art history book called Where’s Warhol and an activity book called My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook with Laurence King, I’ve just finished a piece written by Will Self for BBC Culture online and I’m working on a pitch for a kids book.