All posts in “Music”

Wordburglar Invades Cobra Island

Released last week by Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Wordburglar; Welcome to Cobra Island hit me harder than Wild Weasel smoking a MOBAT in a Rattler tank smasher. I simply can’t stop rocking this thing.

The album samples the best theme music from the original Sunbow animated series and the lyrics are in-depth and superb, as one would come to expect from a guy named Wordburglar. Each track plays a part in canvassing much of the best G.I. Joe lore from the 80′s; the rhymes are airtight and delivered with surgical precision. This is top shelf hip hop.

The entire album is a free download, but I ponied up the dough to purchase the jewel-cased version because the album is just straight-up awesome. If you’re a true ‘Joe’ fan, I challenge you to do the same, this dude deserves our support for doing such a kick ass job putting this project together. Big thanks to my buddy Eric of Dartmouth Clothing Company for giving me the heads up on this thing.

On a personal note, I’ve been posting about 80′s nostalgia for a couple years now, but I’ve purposely avoided the G.I. Joe topic until now. The 80′s ‘Joe’ era means so much to me that I found it tough to find the right words; it was the single biggest influence on me as a kid, so correctly conveying the weight of that is truly a tall order.

The cartoon was cool, although campy, and the toys were obviously amazing, but the real magic was in the Marvel comic book series written by Larry Hama and Chuck Dixon. Those stories were what did the trick, they were rocket fuel for the imagination. The intricate plots and complex character backstories kept me coming back for more month after month.

This album hits all the right chords when referencing that original paperback material and has inspired me to finally post about my personal holy grail. So much so, that I’m preparing to unleash a blistering barrage of other ‘Joe’ related posts that I’ve started to write over the months, but never finished. So ready or not…here it comes. Yo Joe.

Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek

I’ve been a huge fan of The Doors for as long as I can remember, and Ray Manzarek was the biggest reason why. In my opinion, his keyboards were the heart and soul of the band’s iconic sound. Needless to say, when I heard of his passing a couple weeks ago I was pretty bummed. So I decided to pay homage to Mr. Manzarek in the same way I did when MCA passed away last summer.

I’ve been experimenting with some different illustration styles lately, shooting for a more geometric and simplified result. Heavy use of positive and negative with large areas of color. I fired up some Doors tunes and went to work on this one with that in mind. The final product is exactly what I had hoped for. Spot on.

Ray Manzarek Sketch

I’ve taken this same approach to a couple other projects that are currently in the works, they should be seeing the light of day soon. Things are definitely gathering some steam after my move West and I’m stoked about banging out some new work that’s been sitting on the back burner for far too long. Time to get it done.

MCA

The news that Adam Yauch, aka MCA, of the Beastie Boys passed away hit me hard. You see, I grew up in an all-white suburb of Buffalo, NY in the 80′s and early 90′s. At that time, listening to rap and hip-hop was decidedly uncool amongst my peers. In high school you were either a metal head, grunge, a redneck, or a jock. Virtually no one listened to rap. I started out metal, but I also listened to rap thanks to a select few enlightened friends. Within a couple years things shifted dramatically, and by the time I graduated from high school in 1994, almost everyone had their own stash of rap CD’s or cassettes. Beastie Boys albums like Check Your Head and Ill Communication bridged the gap and were at the forefront of the social transformation I witnessed. They made it not only okay, but cool to listen to rap.

Through the years, the Beasties’ music has stood the test of time. Even as the group evolved, they always stayed true to their roots. The energy and care they put into every syllable is unmatched. They are true MC’s. Far ahead of the lazy, droning, craptastic mainstream hip-hop today.

I spent all of May getting back to basics, illustrating my days away. When MCA passed, I put a few projects aside to embark upon a ‘floating head’ portrait of a man I considered to be a personal hero. Likenesses were never really my forté, but I thought this would be a great way to tackle the unfamiliar, while also serving as some sort of therapy.

I didn’t find any great hi-res images of MCA to reference, so I compiled several lower resolution files together, printed them out after a little retouching, and began several sketches by hand. Afterwards, when I had worked out the head angle and details I scanned a refined sketch and began tracing in Adobe Illustrator. Many hours later, this was the result. It’s 100% vector, no messing around.

I made a few key decisions along the way, like rendering the eyes without a lot of detail. I noticed that in almost every photo of MCA I came across from the 90′s, his eyes were so dark that there wasn’t any differentiation between the pupil and the iris. It could’ve been due to the high contrast photographic style prevalent back then, but it served to give him a unique look. I went with it.

Stylistically, this was an exercise in successfully transporting hand drawn line and ink work into the digital realm. It’s my first legitimate attempt at capturing a likeness digitally and what I learned here will undoubtedly aid me in future projects. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the results, but this style is very much a work in progress.

MCA color variants

Pepsi Cool Cans

Back in the summer of 1990 Pepsi released some limited edition “Cool Cans.” I was 14 years old, and I clearly remember going nuts for these things. I was firmly entrenched in the Pepsi camp of the Cola Wars and we had plenty of bottles in my parents fridge, but I also needed these cans. The nearest vending machine was just passed the woods in my backyard at the local community swimming pool. I used to ‘borrow’ some change from my dad’s coin bucket and sprint through the trails leading to that Pepsi machine. There were days I made many trips to that pool just for a cold can of soda.

There were only four different can designs, however it took me the entire summer to collect them all. I was sure Pepsi had staggered their release just to prolong my agony. I ended up with tons of the surfer dude design, which ensured that it became my least favorite of the bunch. That guy used to roll out of the bottom of the vending machine and taunt me, I’m telling you.

The design I most coveted was the neon one, it was the most unique of the group and was downright badass. Some internet psychologists may claim that I was somehow subliminally drawn to the neon design because it contained a hidden message. When stacked 3-high and positioned just right, the larger letterforms on the can kinda-sorta spell out the word “SEX.” So even though I never saw the cans stacked that way, and getting them from a vending machine assured that I didn’t know which one I was getting, I still must have been brainwashed by Pepsi into unconsciously choosing it for its “sexiness.” Hogwash.

These designs, paired with Pepsi’s most iconic logo, are my first memories of a true marketing campaign. Stepping up from toy packaging and advertising, I began to recognize there was a larger world of design and branding out there for me to explore.

Oh, and a little Young MC never hurt anyone hurt either…

M.A.S.K.

As a kid in the mid 80s, there was a small handful of cartoons that I couldn’t stand to miss and M.A.S.K. was definitely one of them. I had a few of the toys, like the Rhino Tractor-Rig and the Switchblade Jet/Helicopter, they were pretty darn sweet. M.A.S.K. was Kenner’s attempt to directly compete with G.I. Joe and Transformers by creating a hybrid of the two. The characters wore unique helmets each possessing their own special power and piloted vehicles that transformed…into other vehicles. The toys were well crafted and designed, the box art was outstanding, and the cartoon was even better. As a kid, this combination was just way too awesome to resist.

Watching the cartoon now after all these years is pretty hilarious. The dialogue is simply groan-worthy and the story-lines are ludicrous, but the animation style is top-notch. Also noteworthy, is that the soundtrack has a lot of personality (especially the VENOM themes) and the character voice actors put modern-day cartoons to shame.

Now, the reason for posting this is because I’m currently deep into a personal project based on some of my favorite M.A.S.K. characters. This is something fun that I’ve wanted to take on for a long time and now that I’ve gotten into it I’m having a blast!

So put on your neon shades and jean jackets, I’ll be posting some wickedly awesome 80s-inspired goodness sooner than you can say “Matt Trakker.”

EDIT // I’ve created a couple M.A.S.K. tribute posters, Matt Trakker and Miles Mayhem. Give ‘em a peek.