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Up Front
I have always been fascinated by the process and people who bring the things I love to life, the animators, the writers, artists, performers and collectors that are working in their respective fields. It seems easy to sit back and criticize their work. Seems everyone's a critic these days and like assh**es everyone's got an opinion about the end product that someone else created. I am just as guilty as the next person of Critic-itis. That's where this column comes in. I call it "Up Front" because it looks at the people who create the comic books, art, toys, movies and stories that Zappowbang is all about.

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BRUTE! Propaganda art?.

Sometimes art is subtle and of course sometimes it gets in your face. I have always liked the latter, but sometimes an artist work does both and blows me away.I am a big fan of the Industrial band KMFDM and have love their album covers done by an artist called Brute! His work smacks you in the face and demands attention with big bold strokes, propaganda slogans and comic book like heroes and villains. His real name is Aidan Hughes. Aidan was good enough to share his views with me.

ZPB: You refer to your work as propaganda. Why? In what sense is it propaganda?

BRUTE!: Most art today has some sort of underlying message to it, judging from the pretentious/ hilarious explanatory notes that accompany it in galleries these days. In order to distance myself from this sort of art

I have, in the past, used several different names to describe what we do here at BRUTE! Propaganda (Pop Constructivism and New Gothic were a couple bandied around in the last decade) but we settled on the term Propaganda as we see what we do here as having no pretense, hidden symbolism or particular philosophy behind it. It is as pure as a stamp or a logo or a flag, without all the bollocks that usually accompanies art these days. It is intended to hit you instantaneously, as your car races past or as you are shunted past it on escalators. We want to leave a trace image on your eyeballs for the rest of the day, not leave you pondering endlessly on the socio-political symbolism inherent in the work. We donít care if you like the image or not. Its not for us to do anything except get your attention. The rest is down to you.

The propaganda of the last century yelled basic messages during times when artists didnít have the time or the will to play quasi-psychiatric guessing games with the general public. Propaganda artists had to use concise and powerful text and images to get their message across: Donít Spit on the Floor! Uncle Sam Needs You! Loose Lips Sink Ships! etc. We also use the term Propaganda to denote our belief in our cause and the need to work, through Art, to further it. Our experiences in the TV and advertising industries in the late 80ís made me admire the work of the copywriter and the ad man. I admire their use of image, slogan and typeface more than the vague and incomprehensible efforts on display in art galleries and this is why I align my work more with the direct impact of the propagandists than with so-called fine artists.

ZPB: Much of your work has been used by KMFDM on their CD covers. What is your relationship to KMFDM?

BRUTE!: They are clients of BRUTE! Propaganda. Iíve only met them twice in the last fifteen years. Its difficult to maintain contact when youíre on opposite sides of the Atlantic and I only travel if I really have to.

ZPB: You have done several animated projects for MTV etc. Have you ever considered a full-length animated feature film?

BRUTE!: I would love to do one and I have the idea all sketched out. Just waiting for the technology to catch up. It is based on the idea that later became ZPC, the shooter I did for GT Interactive in the mid 90ís. I thought of the project back in the late 80ís when I had become sick of writing treatments for low-budget film scripts that never got off first base. In those days you wrote around your budget and it was extremely frustrating, especially as youíd only get around $150 for each treatment. So a friend of mine suggested that I just write off the top of my head and so I decided I would write the most expensive film ever made. It was about the end of the world brought about by a homeless weirdo living on the streets of New York.

It had all sorts of biblical parallels and was going to be through the roof as far as cutting edge special effects went at the time. Other work came up and I left it alone for a while, waiting until I could find a writer to work on it with me. Then, when they asked me to art direct the ZPC game, I told them of the script I had been trying to finish and they were knocked out by it. I didnít want the idea to be totally used for the game so I brought in a number of other elements to make it fit better with the format, just wish fulfillment stuff like, wouldnít it be cool if the Knights Templar were these super powerful ninja types and what if Jesus had come back from the dead to take on the Nazis? Just mad stuff that appealed to me based on my interests at the time. After the game came out I took the ZPC treatment and wrote a story around it and went out searching for a writer. I asked a few Hollywood guys to take a peek (Michael Miner, who wrote Robocop, was one) but I returned to England shortly afterwards. I think the general consensus was that the film could not be made, as it was too huge and expensive. It would have made Pearl Harbor look like finger painting. Iíd also like to say that animation is one of the most heart-breaking professions in the world. If your client doesnít like one minute of what you have done, its a thousand drawings that they are asking you to replace and that can do your head in, especially if it happens more than once. I did an station ID for a TV station and they changed their minds on practically everything, forcing the company to put every penny weíd made from the film back into redoing it. Then they removed the music and added some horrendous shit of their own. The finished product made no sense and looked a mess, which is why I wonít show it and also why I think long and hard before going down that road again.

ZPB: Your work has touched on some pretty hairy subjects including addiction, violence, and fascism. What subject would you like to take a stab at, but have been hesitant to try? What is too much for Brute?

BRUTE!: I have always wanted to get involved with the official side of War Propaganda. I would love to work in the War Ministry, going in every day and dreaming up new ideas to keep the citizens aware of the conflict. However, the propaganda I have seen coming out of the US after the Sept. 11th is about as inspiring as an 80ís Pepsi ad. What is it about the Yanks that they have to cover all their official propaganda in molasses? Air-brushed children and soccer moms, firemen cradling cans of Coke at Ground Zero, baseball players high-fiveing each other. The hard-liners of the Taliban would have more respect for the US if they just told them the truth: We are going to Napalm your beardy asses, Big Time!!

The other subject Iíd like to handle would be pornography. You can go on all day about the effects of violent imagery desensitizing everyone but just get some fit young lady to get her top off and everything gets thrown into focus. The money we spend and the hours we put in just to see that. Sex is the most potent subject of all. Even the most prudish person cannot tear their eyes away from a sexually titillating image whereas most people are repelled by images of war. In answer to your question regarding how far would we go, well thatís simple: we never use negative imagery and besides, weíd never get permission to release anything that would be construed as too controversial. Even KMFDM have told me to tone things down a couple of times. People want to sell their goods and a nasty cover might jeopardize that. There have been times when we have been aware of people using BRUTE! artwork to further their dubious philosophies and while we obviously donít condone any group or individual doing this its not hard to appropriate our stuff as there is so much of it floating around the web. We do live in a hypocritical age where there are prime time kidís shows showing men being kicked in the testicles as a comedy moment and yet you canít show a guy slapping a chick on the ass.

ZPB: What do you consider your most important piece? Is it the message of the piece or the execution of that message?

BRUTE!: This is a tough one. You see the dynamic of the BRUTE! style is in the execution of each line. There are dozens of little victories in a BRUTE! piece, where you see the plotting of the perspective come alive in the inking and the faces achieve a character you may not have originally envisaged. When people say my work is violent I think it is the explosive nature of the art style more than the content. You never see any exit wounds or severed limbs in my work. The pain is in the facial lines and clothing creases etc. My most important piece has to be the ĎHonor the Braveí poster for Sept 11 which, I think, speaks for itself. The feedback from survivors, relatives and ordinary Americans has been phenomenal and itís great to feel that youíre making a difference to peopleís lives and not just to a handful of disaffected Goths in Portland.

ZPB: Have you ever considered working in a comic book/graphic novel format? If so, what genre?

BRUTE!: The BRUTE! style is about moment of impact. If you over-use it you dilute it. Page after page of explosions, sexual penetrations and knock-out punches would get boring, believe me. I once did a monthly comic strip for a magazine and it got so repetitive, drawing the same faces over and over again (thatís why Iím an animation director and not an animator). I canít read the things any more, especially the super-hero stuff. Even as a kid I only bought them for the artwork, the dialogue was sooo bad. To read them was like rinsing your brain in sherbet dip. However, should someone offer me a shitload of money for doing one I imagine my reluctance would rapidly melt away (what a slut!).

ZPB: What piece is your personal favorite? The one that best exemplifies BRUTE!.

BRUTE!: To answer your question as best I can Iíd say ĎCrash!í for KMFDM. I really worked my ass off getting the multi-perspectives right and I can still say I wouldnít change a line. I also like the KMFDM pic with the lesbian carrying the unconscious chick and the dead guy in the background(canít remember the title). Postal Rampage was fun to do also. I canít say which one totally exemplifies the BRUTE! all-time classic image because they each have their own emotion.

ZPB: Who or what is your greatest influence?

BRUTE!: In order of discovery: Jack Ďthe Kingí Kirby, Steve Ditko, Lynd Ward, Frans Masereel, El Lissitsky, Alexander Rodchenko, Kasimir Malevitch, Fortunato Depero, the Grosvenor Group, the Vorticists and the graphic artists of Germanyís Weimar period.

ZPB: What is coming up for Brute? Whatís currently on your plate?

BRUTE! The events of Sept. have made my American chums very reticent with their folding stuff and the work has almost dried up from there. Also, there has been a huge fallout from the dot.com, broadband and general IT collapse: a lot of people are going to be out of work in our industry. However, I still continue to show work in various exhibitions (I have a couple of pieces showing on the Picadilly Line, London Underground, at the moment) and I am currently finishing off a series of War Propaganda artworks which will end up as prints next year. Aside from my commercial work I like to get my head around new software, making sound loops and creating animations etc. As an artist, I work from one piece to the next, whether its propaganda or press campaign. Itís all the same to me. I just want to expand my range and continue to be as unique as possible without having to sell out too much or rip off other artists. After spending so many years working in the industry means that I only get work now where I can do more or less what I want and get paid for it. And that is about as successful as I want to be.

Nuff said!-Brad

Brad Walker collects American and Japanese action figures, customizes them, and "hangs out" by sitting on the hood of a car drinking Colt.45 at his local Dairy Queen parking lot. "Gai-Jin" is what he calls himself, but most folks call him "white trash". You can reach him at gaijin@zappowbang.com if he can get his PC to work, and if he's in a good mood he will reply.
You can also visit his custom action figure site here: http://members.tripod.com/~bwalk06/. For "big ass robot shampoo bottles (Shogun Warriors)" go here: http://members.tripod.com/~bwalk06/shogun/.

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