Like a lot of fans, I was excited about the Descendents releasing not one but two new slabs of vinyl. Making them even sweeter, the art on both was supplied by Chris Shary. I’ve been amassing records and shirts with his designs since the ’80s, and we finally met at a few years ago when the Descendents played with The Vandals at a tattoo fest. We’ve kept in touch ever since, so how could I not ask my friend about his latest work and endeavors?
Did you know Hypercaffium Spazzinate was going to glow in the dark from the beginning?
Well, when we were nailing down art for Hypercaffium, I knew there would be X amount of limited color vinyl editions and I really pushed for a glow-in-the-dark version. My idea was that the vinyl would glow and so would the cover. As it turns out all the covers glow, so I guess it was one better than what I was after. If you inspect the album, you can feel that a raised surface and that’s the glowing element.
Since you’re a teacher, do you have students who are punkers asking for you to sign the new Descendents records? Or do they listen to younger bands?
It’s funny because kids really don’t talk to me about my art and I don’t really bring it up much, either. They know I draw for bands, but I don’t often say who or whatever. The last thing I want to do is look like I’m trying to impress them and I don’t think they really care what I do outside of class, anyway. I know I didn’t care about what my teachers did. It’s almost like having a secret identity that isn’t very interesting to high school students.
How many album covers have you made now? What was your first? Have you ever made a mix tape with nothing but records with your art on it?
You know I haven’t really done a ton of album covers actually (at least I don’t consider what I have done to be a lot). My first album cover was the Libido Boyz’ Hiding Away. I drew it and three other Libido Boyz designs the night after I saw them for the first time. They made that much of an impression on me. My first 7″ was for the Stupids, my old Ipswich pals. I have never made a comp of albums I’ve worked on, but I’ve certainly made many a mix tape with bands I love (who I have since done work for).
You’ve amassed work for so many bands and all of them seem to be awesome. Have you had to say no to a lame band yet?
I fully agree. I think I have worked with some absolutely incredible bands over the years. In fact, I have worked with most of my favorite bands. Part of why it seems I have done so much with so many good bands (as opposed to forgettable ones) is that art is not my full-time, paying-the-bills job. I have been able to be selective and choosy because I don’t do it to keep a roof over my head.
Now I have worked with some stinkers here and there. I have also turned down a few. More often then not, bands who are lame simply cannot afford me in the first place, so it’s really not much of an issue to turn people down. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s just the way it is. There’s only one of me and I cannot spend an inordinate amount of time working for a band I don’t know when I need to focus on getting a ton of new shirts for a band I’m friends with who are leaving on tour. I have done hundreds of T-shirts and I think that’s kinda what I’m best known for.
I was going to ask about T-shirts. Do you keep one of each? How do you store them?
I try to keep at least one of each. I have done so many at this point, I honestly have no idea on quantities. But hundreds, for sure. I wear a lot of my more recent ones and others are stored in clear tubs in our attic. I’d like to think that when I croak, my wife and son can make a bit of spare change selling off my massive collection.
I love how you’re an advocate for bands, comics, and cosplay and involve your son in all of that. I like to share everything I’m into with Eloise as well, but do you ever feel like your dooming your child to a life of being a nerd?
Having Lori as his mom and me as his dad, Sam was doomed to be a nerd from the start. No need to lament it now. Luckily, he’s his own person and his own nerd instead of being a copy of Lori or me.
It’s funny, my wife and I agreed that when we had our son Sam that we would not force any of our interests on him. We’d let him explore things on his own. Having said that, we knew he’d kinda naturally be influenced by our tastes, but not because we were “making him.” I’m happy we have similar tastes, but I applaud his differences as well. Before we had Sam, I only had a passing interest in the Gorillaz, but he’s a massive fan who exposed them to me!
I love how you go for ALL with your dedication to punk rock and art but still balance and prioritize family and teaching.
Was that a question Martin? Wait, I’m not the one asking questions–or am I? But I’ll address what you’re getting at.
Thanks! It sure isn’t always easy, but you know I have many things that are a big part of my life, and while family is most important, I gotta make time for the rest. Luckily, I have an amazing wife and son who are very very supportive. And, fortunately, they also need a fair amount of solo time themselves. We all seem to work on many things independently, but will always drop everything to hang out. It’s a great balance. My wife Lori’s art career has really taken off in the past few years, so it’s super exciting to be working on similar things.
You’ve shown art at more than a few group shows. Who are you blown away to be hanging next to?
Although I don’t really seek that kinda thing out, I have done a few art shows. I’m happy to do them, for sure, but it’s not really my main venue. Having said that, I am always in awe of Rich Jacobs, my wife Lori Herbst, Brian Walsby, Tim Kerr, and Rick Froberg. Those five astound me and make me feel like I need to work harder, and it’s a good kind of encouragement to be included in a group with such talented and kind people. I love all of those people very much and I consider myself lucky to be able to think of them as peers.
Los Bros Hernandez, Pettibon, Pushead, Holstrom, whoever drew the Meatmen or Circle Jerks–who were your favorite punk artists when you were a kid?
As a teen, Pettibon, Pushead, and Shawn Kerri along with Brian Walsby were all kinda my idols. Brian and I have become very good friends through the years and it’s fun to push one another in drawing. More than punk artists I was most influenced by people like Jack Davis (of MAD Magazine) and John Byrne and George Perez who drew my favorite comics (Uncanny X-Men and New Teen Titans, respectively).
Have you ever thought about drawing comics?
I thought about drawing comics when I was a kid, but nowadays I don’t think I have the skills. I’m not being hard on myself, I’m just trying to be honest. It’s tough work and I don’t think I could keep up with the load. I’m very happy doing what I do and rarely wish things were different. If I want to do something different, I do it.
Check out chrisshary.tumblr.com/ and chrisshary.bigcartel.com/. And buy his merch from the Descendents when they come through your town! I need to hang out with Chris after the Palladium show and take some new pics. 🙂