#KickassKleveland – Jerry Beck

A friend of mine told me about Jerry Beck and I could relate to his artwork immediately. Jerry works outside the mainstream with a no-bullshit mentality. He’s not about to swallow the lies we’re fed by Mother Culture and his approach to life is inspiring.

How would you describe what you do?
I’m an illustrator by trade. It’s a dream job, really. I work predominantly in black and white as a result of being color blind. In fact, I initially perceived it as a major set-back, but I turned it into my major strength. Lotta commitment to my craft is what allowed that to happen. 

What is your preferred medium for creating art?
I’m old school for sure. The pencil, the brush, the pen, and some black drawing ink applied to a good quality bristol board or illustration board is all I really need.

Two deal with merchandise, but the other two are something else entirely. Can you explain your 4 brands?
I’ll assume the 4 Brands you’re thinking of our Iron Asylum, Pit Bull Loyal, American Nightmare Factory, and Natural Born Sinner. Iron Asylum is a Brand that started in the bodybuilding scene, but is ultimately going to be directed toward anyone who trains hard for anything. Pit Bull Loyal has a very deep meaning to me. It has very little to do with the actual Pit Bull breed and is much more about being loyal to yourself. I always identified my loyalty to myself as Pit Bull Loyal. It targets a more urban influence..street style apparel. American Nightmare Factory goes back to my roots as a comic book illustrator. Very dark, intense images. Fun stuff with nothing to profound behind them. Just really fun stuff from the dark recesses of my mind. Natural Born Sinner is simply my answer to so many of the false claims that society and religion have bludgeoned us with, along with some serious sarcasm, and a little dirtiness thrown in.

What inspires you?
Waking up with a pulse. My daughter saying I love you, Dad. The opportunity to make someone feel like they’re not alone. Connecting with those types of souls that often struggle to be connected with. Art effects people. Art moves people. If you can effect people in a positive way why wouldn’t you? I feel its your right as a human being to do just that if you have that ability.

How often do your kids beat up the other kids in the neighborhood?
I’d hope NEVER! Unless provoked. Then, kids…handle your business! But seriously, my son is 18 and he’s a very nice, mellow kid. Reminds me a lot of myself, really. My daughters are 9 and 6 and in my opinion are as sweet as can be. I will say this though….If my kids were the bullying types? They’d get their asses kicked by me. I don’t tolerate that shit.

How did you get to this point in your life, what’s your back story?
Lots of living. My Pops was never really around, so I had to kinda guide myself through many of life’s lessons. A simple process, really. Stumble, fall…Get back up again and again. That’s how life is when you really break it all down. A series of events that we simply learn from. There’s really no wrong way to live. You simply start at point A and hope to become a better person as you move along from B to C to D to so on and so on.

Questioning everything, especially authority, goes back to the origins of our country. What form does this take today?
For me it’s been a part of my mentality for as long as I can remember. You’re presented with one side of a story. In school, in the news, in damn near everything that our government gets their hands on. So for me it was always more about searching for the other side of the story. Which often had more truth attached to it. Our government is our enemy. People just don’t see it because they bought into it in grade school and never questioned it. They just took what they were given, absorbed it as truth, and moved along. Rats in a maze. Sheep in the herd. Scary as hell.

What’s next for Jerry Beck?
Well, my new website is about to launch, http://www.jbeckunited.com. It will feature the 4 brands we spoke about earlier. Apparel lines, singular and unique designs. I also wanna focus much of my attention on my kids, especially my youngest who is Autistic. Motivating and inspiring people with my artwork is certainly at the top of my list as well. That’s the game plan for the most part.

Why Cleveland?
Born and raised. And my youngest is here, so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

Contact Info:
Online Freelance Portfolio
Brands and Merch

Small Business Saturday, November 24th, 2012

A quick Friday post for you to read while getting trampled by the herds at Wal-Suck. I’m proud to be a participating member of Small Business Saturday. They don’t get much smaller than a one-man writing machine. Please support the small businesses in your community and online. Thanks!

Don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter (look to your left) by December 24th to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. All newsletter members are eligible. Hopefully this will offset some of those shitty gifts you know you’re going to get.

Train, Train – Take Me On Out of This Town

I love train travel. Not Trane (although they make a great heat pump) and not Train (although they were a mediocre one-hit wonder for a few years), but riding the rails. I took Amtrak from Cleveland to Chicago and back this weekend on the Lakeshore Limited. The seats recline low and I had enough room to extend my legs underneath the seat without playing gay footsies with the guy in front of me. At 7:30 a.m. the dining car opened, serving a surprisingly good omelet and coffee. I slept. I read. I listened to the entire Mad Season record followed by Alice in Chain’s Dirt. I wrote this post. But even better, I got a majestic eyeful of our nation’s beautifully sexy midriff.

My biggest critic (i.e. my wife) thinks I hate America because I am critical of the direction our country is headed. I complain about class inequity, the walking dead that won’t think for themselves, the deterioration of personal responsibility, and those idiots that think it is fine to turn left after the light has turned red. She asks me why I don’t simply leave the country if I’m so dissatisfied. If it weren’t for house arrest and no-fly lists, I would. But seriously, folks, sometimes it takes a rickety passenger car straight out of 1987 barreling down the tracks at a blazing 40 M.P.H. to give you a chance to remember how fortunate we really are.

The sun came up behind us, casting a blue haze upon frozen fields left fallow for the season. When the frost melted away and the sleepy towns awoke on a Friday morning, cattle grazed and horses gazed. No sexy bullet train tunnels or canyons made of glass and steel. Just mile after mile of simple, honest, farmland and the salt of the earth tending it.

I didn’t intend to make this a corny “Thanksgiving” post. Family, friends, a job, Ozzy, big boobies, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I’m thankful for all of that. But I’m also grateful to have been dropped down to this mortal coil on American soil. That’s about as close to flag-waving as I’m gonna get.

#KickassKleveland – Erin Lung

I first met Erin Lung six or seven years ago when his band, Venomin James, played a show with my band, Threefold Law, at the old Jigsaw Saloon on Cleveland’s West Side. Since 2006, we’ve crossed paths a number of times, sharing many stages. The heavy rock community in Cleveland is a tight one and we’ve gotten to know each other over beers and smokes.

Venomin James continues to crank out the doom metal and Erin’s 4-string rumble is a big part of their sound. When he isn’t laying down the low end, Erin can be found at Rebel City Tattoo on Cleveland’s east side (contact and info at the bottom of the post). I recently visited the shop on Waterloo Road and spent some time with Erin Lung and owner, Chris McNeill to talk tattoos, vaginas, and more.

What’s been the most “personal” tattoo you’ve given a woman? What was it? Where was it?
A recently divorced middle-aged lady came in with her teenage daughter. They both wanted to get their first tattoo. Mom proceeded to drop her pants in the shop with her daughter there. She showed me her vagina and said she wanted to get a ladybug next to it for good luck. I thought the weirdest part was that she was there with her teenage daughter. That was so bizarre. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. You have to do your job, be professional and stay focused. You can giggle and laugh about it later. But you must keep it professional and be clinical about it. Most of the chicks that want stuff down by their crotches are not always the hottest. For a normal chick, a vagina is usually enough to attract a man. They don’t need to adorn it in any extra way [pause for a few rounds of hearty laughter from both of us].

How can you tell the difference between a cheap tattoo and a good one?
A great tattoo is something you wouldn’t expect. It’s executed well, fits the body, will last, and heals well. It’s when someone looks at it and says, “I didn’t know you could even do that on skin.” There are plenty of good tattoo artists, but not many excellent ones. It’s an art form and a lot of that is based on opinion. I’ve seen a bunch of people come into the shop thinking they have great tattoos and they have crap tattoos. It’s the artist. The tools have pretty much remained the same for over a hundred years now. The machines we use are coil, the original style of tattoo machines and they literally haven’t changed at all. The pigments, however, have gotten much better, even in the past ten or fifteen years. They outshine older pigments in durability and color fastness.

What’s the connection between tattoos and musicians?
Tattoos are about creativity and expression. A lot of musicians, especially rock and roll musicians, have chosen to live outside the box. We’ve created our own existence and therefore the things that regular people might be afraid of such as marking your body or expressing yourself, we don’t care about that. We’ve decided to live our own lives. It comes from being rebellious but what it is today is a totally different thing. Tattooing has become almost mainstream. Johnny thinks it’s cool and so he gets a tattoo because that’s the next badge of coolness. With athletes, they just have more money and time than they know what to do with. Every athlete I’ve seen with a tattoo has been an atrocity. There are tons of rock and roll dudes with shit tattoos, but I think athletes are trying to keep up with the rock and roll dudes. There is some creativity to it, but it’s not the same thing. They’re just playing a game.

Is there pushback from the tattoo community as the mainstream becomes more accepting of the art?
There is a little pushback from the tattoo community but those soccer moms or Johnny-come-latelys are my bread and butter, where I make my money. Of course there’s a little bit of pushback but I wouldn’t call it resentment. It’s a double-edged sword. The TV programs have increased popularity and made my job more valid, but it’s also created a group of people that think it’s cool and yet know nothing about it. And there are a still a ton of people that don’t agree with that decision (to get a tattoo) and they’ll tell you about it. People don’t expect that. They don’t expect the pain, don’t know how long it will take, don’t know how much money it’ll cost. They have expectations they get from TV and people feel they deserve a tattoo without putting in the time or money for one and that’s where some of the resentment comes in.

What has been the impact of reality shows like Miami Ink and L.A. Ink? What has Kat Von D done for the tattoo industry?
She has made herself known. That’s about all she’s done for my industry. People come in here and say “someday I want to get a tattoo by Kat Von D” like she is the epitome of the tattoo world. She’s not. She’s talented, but quite frankly she’s a drama queen with a pretty face and that’s why she’s on TV. She’s a skilled artist, don’t get me wrong, but there are people in this city that outshine her. So again, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s like with music, back in the day when you had a band you loved and nobody else knew about them and then two years later they’re everywhere. It’s kind of like someone stole your toy. Another issue you have is that people want to get into the industry and the easiest thing to do is just buy a shop and hire some artists. So some shops have owners that are not part of the industry, so to speak. That’s part of the downside of the whole TV thing.

What is the Rebel City story?
I wanted to open my own shop that wasn’t commercial, a custom shop (Chris chimed in when I asked this question before Erin picked up the answer in the next sentence). We try to keep it an old school mentality. Chris has been in the business for 17 or 18 years working with all kinds of artists from all over the country. He read an article in the NY Times about some artists that moved to Cleveland from New York City (Greenwich Village) and ended up in North Collinwood. It reminded him of a real New York City artists’ community, no pretentiousness, real, working class people. So we got into this new arts district at the ground level and we’ve been here for three years. The idea was to be part of a new blue collar, gritty, arts community in the Cleveland area. We wanted Rebel City to be an all custom shop where we work with the same clientele for years and years. It’s a small shop where we control everything ourselves which keeps artists from backstabbing when business is slow. It’s just the two of us and Chris has an apprentice named Jennifer White but the goal is to eventually move to a bigger location somewhere on this street. Being next to the Beachland Ballroom has been great.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever done?
I’ve been doing a lot of black and grey stuff lately with different textures. I just recently did two cool pieces, a tattoo from a T Rex fossil called the black beauty. The fossil formed in magnesium and is black so it’s not typical. I also recently did a tattoo for a guy that wanted a guitar and skull tattoo. It was a really fun piece to do and ties into my music thing. I experimented with some new textures. It’s always fun to try something new. If you stagnate, you’re done. You’re never done learning. Pieces you’ve never done or techniques you’ve never tried are fun.

I was working on some paintings and it dawned on me that I really don’t like painting. It’s the weirdest thing. A painting takes a lot of time with many steps where you can fuck it up and have to start over. I’m afraid to ruin a piece of paper but you put skin in front of me and for some reason the fear goes away. It’s the medium I prefer. You create something awesome and then your canvas tells you how awesome it is. There’s nothing like that.

A lot of people don’t spend much time being creative. It’s all I do. Music and artwork.  Every day I come up with ideas and most of the ideas get thrown away. Most creative people have a million ideas and you realize when an idea is stupid or when it’s worth pursuing. Most people don’t spend their time doing that stuff so they get the flightiest idea in their head and they think it’s brilliant. They come to you with this “brilliant” idea which usually isn’t their own. It’s something they’ve seen on the internet. You have to shoot it down and it can hurt their feelings. There are things in tattooing that are just not possible or won’t heal properly, or age properly. So you have to talk people out of stuff all the time. Sometimes they appreciate it and sometimes they butt heads with you. It’s all about communication with your client. I’ve heard some ridiculous things, like “I want a straight line that’s curvy” or “I want the shape round with points”. It’s tricky to decipher want people are talking about. You need a reason for everything to reinforce to your client that you know what you’re doing. When you are totally and permanently altering your body, they better have confidence in you.

Contact Info:
From the Rebel City Tattoo Facebook Page
We are a fully custom, award winning and friendly studio. We use the brightest colors of ink and all disposable equipment. We are also health dept. certified ensuring you a clean, safe, and high quality tattoo at a reasonable price.

Rebel City Tattoo
15701 Waterloo Rd. Cleveland, OH
(216) 481-1635

Album Review – Apocryphon by The Sword

If you close your eyes, you can almost smell the blood dripping from “Barael’s Blade” as the madness of steel comes crashing down. The riffs resonate with a marching cadence that could withstand the orc surge at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. In 2006, The Sword came alive from the unwritten pages of Tolkien’s finest and into the Texas clubs with enough force to make Metallica stop and take notice. John “J. D.” Cronise realized his vision of “something heavier” when he joined forces with guitarist Kyle Shutt and drummer Trivett Wingo. The Sword was born and thus began the Age of Winters. Since that time, the band has gone through personnel, label, and stylistic changes that have managed to both alienate fans and attract new ones. With the release of Apocryphon, “that little ol’ band from Texas” (the one without the beards) manages to establish themselves as one of the few heavy acts that can sell records on new material instead of a back catalog of nostalgia.

“The Veil of Isis” opens with a signature riff and the ear is immediately drawn to a well-balanced and effected vocal track that was missing from some of the earlier recordings. There is a desperation to the sound that is enthralling. “Cloak of Feathers” could be the strongest track on the record with a driving beat and a tasteful cowbell. A few tracks, such as “Arcane Montane”, “Execrator”, and “Seven Sisters” nod too heavily towards 70s era metal acts such as Judas Priest, without the vocal punch of a Rob Halford or a Bruce Dickinson. That element aside, it’s difficult to find filler on Apocryphon. The ghost of Geezer Butler, if he were dead, can be heard opening “The Hidden Masters” while “Eyes of the Stormwitch” cycles a riff that will keep the blaze lit. Finally, the record comes with bonus live tracks and a cover of ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses”, while solid, does little to persuade me from listening to the original recording.

It’s clear that the arrival of Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III as the band’s permanent drummer has softened the blow of Wingo’s departure. The influences of Sabbath and Zeppelin, like all Sword recordings, are just beneath the surface providing enough of a tie to the past and yet still leaving space for the future. While it’s always difficult for heavy bands to strike the balance between familiar and innovative, The Sword continues to do that. Fans of previous records will find Apocryphon to deliver the goods, but I wish the hombres would leave the ZZ Top to the drunks at karaoke night.