Sharyage – Chris Shary talks about art, music, comics, and life

Donut Man (September 28, 2014)

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.

w/ David Stowe of Vannen Watches at Steal Music, Buy Art (March 19, 2015)

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.

w/ Milo, Tony, and me at Donut Man (September 28, 2014)

Check out and 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. 🙂

Descendents and OFF! at the Fox Theater, ALL and friends at Los Globos


When the Descendents opened for Rise Against and Bad Religion a few years ago, my brother and many of my friends gladly paid the 40 bucks and drove down to Long Beach to see them play an early, brief opening set. How could we miss it? It might have been a decade since they last played a live show for the SoCal scene that spawned them, and who knew if it would ever happen again? It was a huge, cathartic, and sweaty singalong for all of us hardcore nerds–and a little poetic for my brother and me since the first time we saw the band was at Fender’s Ballroom (R.I.P.) just a couple of blocks away on their farewell/finALL/Milo Goes Back to College M.D. tour in 1987.

Of course, the band that couldn’t sell out a telephone booth have come back many times since the Long Beach Arena show and I’ve caught each of the sold-out shows: GV30, FYF, Musink… So how could I miss a gig in a non-festival venue perfectly matched with OFF! or a special follow-up gig with ALL (featuring 3/4 of the Descendents) to celebrate the release of the Descendents/ALL documentary, Filmage?


As much as I love the Descendents and know every song inside out, I am just as versed in the first three or four ALL releases. In the early ’90s, I used to see the band practically every weekend at the Anti-Club with either the Chemical People or Big Drill Car opening. They’d attract 20 or 30 people, which was a real shame considering how catchy, polished, and perfect ALL songs could be. I wasn’t shocked that they’d leave town to be somewhere more central for cheaper rent and easier cross-country touring.

But on Monday night Los Globos was packed for the band’s homecoming: a special two-part set with Scott Reynolds and Chad Price each singing half of the set. I’ve only seen Chad a few times but he’s a great front man with an effortlessly gravelly smooth voice and demeanor. Songs like “Fairweather Friend,” “Million Bucks,” and “Original Sin” came back fast after decades of not hearing them. Seeing Bill Stevenson play drums way up close in a tiny club was a real treat, too. He’s a machine.


The Scott Reynolds era is my sentimental favorite, since I saw that lineup literally dozens of times. His set kicked off with “Crazy” and included “Dot,” “Mary,” “Scary Sad,” “She’s My Ex,” and so many other super catchy cuts that should have been hits. After playing “Frog,” even Scott had to admit what a dumb song that was. It was great seeing him jump, crawl, and work his way through the set like we were in a time machine.

The Dave Smalley era was represented by Chad singing “Paper Tiger,” and what I would have given to hear “Daveage” or “Just Perfect.” Seriously. I would have offered to personally pay for Smalley’s plane ticket from Virginia just so I could hear him sing “#10 (Wet)” with ALL but the thought didn’t occur to me until it was too late.


Following ALL’s set, a succession of guests came out to for a Descendents karaoke session. London May from Samhain sang “Descendents” and Milo from The Last sang “I Don’t Want To Grow Up.” After the show Milo told me that he actually auditioned to sing for the Descendents when the other Milo went to college, so this was kind of like a peek into that parallel universe where it worked out. The Filmage creators got a chance to take on “Cheer” and then Scott returned for “My Dad Sucks” and “I Like Food.”  It was pretty cool to hear Jen from the Bombpops sing a dude-oriented song “I’m The One,” and it was also cool that Chad got to sing “Thank You” after the crowd got amped up.

I think Marko from Sugarcult was the only guy in the house that needed a lyric sheet for “Get The Time,” but maybe his pal from the Posies knew them better. It was awesome to see Dennis from Refused/International Noise conspiracy/INVSN singing “Hope” and then “Silly Girl.” Wow. I didn’t recognize Davey from AFI when he sang “Myage” and “Bikeage” but spotted Jim from Pennywise in his Dodgers cap earlier and was stoked when he cranked out “Suburban Home” and “I Wanna Be A Bear.” Matt from Blink-182 finished things off with “Clean Sheets.” I understand he handled the Q&A following the movie screening at the Downtown Independent earlier that evening… If this description sounds manic, that’s how it was. You shoulda been there, and props to Filmage and Vannen for making it happen.


The night before was a dream bill with Descendents and OFF! and their histories overlap and intersect all over the storied landscape of L.A. punk and hardcore. No city on earth can top the musical past or present of Los Angeles, and this show at the lovely old Fox Theater in Pomona provided evidence.

Opening up was a transplant from San Diego, The Bombpops. Great to see a slightly younger band featuring some women in the veteran sausage party, and they cranked out a totally fun, tight, and compact set. Perfect!


OFF! are always great, but this was my first time to see the combo with Dale Crover from the Melvins sitting in on drums while Mario is on tour with Rocket From The Crypt. No one can drum like Mario, who seems like he’s going to destroy his kit and leave the room as ruins whenever he whales. But with Dale you get the feeling that he is going to kill someone with his drumsticks. Heavy. Dark. Evil. A different and great fit.

Keith didn’t do too much editorializing during OFF!’s opening set. Maybe he had packing on his mind since the band was about to embark on a European tour. Maybe his spiel wasn’t flowing since the show was a one-off. But one can always expect 100 percent intensity from one of the raddest punk singers and thinkers of all time. He touted the new album but those songs don’t seem new any more; they’re just the latest part of a ripping catalog with O.G. hardcore anger, veteran chops, with DIY intensity that a zillion dollars of production can’t buy.


Keith did joke that 99.9 percent of the venue was there to see the Descendents and couldn’t give a crap about OFF! Sadly, I think that might have been true. So weird. Maybe Pomona was just too far for the crusty L.A. punks to make the drive on a Sunday night.

By now in the Descendents’ reunited state, everyone knows what to expect yet always leaves blown away. They have the tightest lineup, the most likeable singer, and catchiest songs. Mixing up the best songs from Milo Goes to College all the way through Cool To Be You, their playlist is supreme. They can do no wrong. The biggest differences between this killer set and the others is that there were no kids helping out with the “All-o-gistics.”


There was one surprise. I spotted my friend Tony from the Adolescents in the middle of the show and started catching up him after the set ended when he was suddenly grabbed by Stephen and whisked onstage to sing a version of “No Way.” Holy crap, that was awesome. The whole band but especially Bill had a huge smile on his face and during the entire song.

One weird thing I have to add is that I usually hate it when someone sings along at shows and acts like a fool. But at a Descendents show, everyone really should be shouting along every lyric, jumping around nonstop, and having the best time ever. The amps are cranked up so loud, no one can hear you sing along anyway. That’s how it was at Ramones shows, too…


But the night was still young. Thanks to the magic of social media, I had begun corresponding with Chris Shary, who illustrates a lot of Descendents and ALL merch. Since he also did a lot of Chems merch back in the day and they had a song called “Donut Run,” I thought we might go to one of my favorite 24-hour eateries after the show. When he agreed and said that Milo might come along, I didn’t argue. And since Tony also a friend of theirs–and a fellow Donut Man fan, to boot–I invited him, too.

Some of my favorite bands. The last weekend of fresh strawberry donuts. Hanging out with Milo, Chris, and Tony at Donut Man. Can it get any better than that? (Without having my wife and daughter around, of course…)


In your quest for ALL, I recommend you pre-order the Filmage DVD, check out the art of Chris Shary, and blast every record by the Descendents and Adolescents nonstop…