Ever wonder who gets the credit/blame for the fact that literally every single metalcore/deathcore/etc band has brightly colored, cartoon animals on their merch? Do you ever go to Hot Topic, see that every fucking shirt looks the same and ask yourself “WTF, how did this become the default style for every band shirt on the planet??” If so, we have the answers.
Michael Shantz is your man. As the main illustrator/designer for Drop Dead (the clothing brand owned and operated by Bring Me The Horizon frontman/heathrob Oli Sykes, for those who don’t know), he is the guy who put that style on the map. But don’t hate: he’s far from the neon-haired scenefag you would expect him to be. In fact, it turns out he is a super chill guy who thinks this shit is just as funny as you and I do.
Thanks to Michael for his time, and make sure you check him out all over the internets:
First of all, what are you spending most of your time on these days? Can you tell us a little about your new brand Dark Earth?
Honestly DE has been taking a backseat lately, ive had the spring line designed and finished for like half a year but im waiting for the other owner to get his shit together so we can get everything into production. Ive been working on a new brand called Vampire Club which is out of australia, i started it with my two good buddies josh and yab who both live there. I knew i had a good fan base there after The Red Shore told me all the designs i did for em would sell out FAST. So its a mix of my love of vampires and goth kids, and our combined vampire lifestyle (never sleeping, always working/partying). Ive also been art directing for a SIIIIICCK new brand out of LA called Divine Beast, and my buddy Mike Jakez’ line Its Alive which is coming/back from the dead after a year, expect goodness from IA as well.
As far as i know, BMTH was on tour with The Red Shore and i had done the taco monster design for em, and Oli LOVED it, and i guess after tour got at me to do some DD designs, and its history from there id say.
These days pretty much every metalcore/deathcore band’s merch has brightly colored, cartoon animals all over it. Are you the guy who started that whole trend, and if so how do you feel about people basically carbon-copying your style and selling it?
Id hate to say i am cuz it makes me look like a cocky asshat, but maybe i helped to take it to the mainstream? I think that design mentality is definatly a skate thrash 80s theme and thats my childhood, so when i started to design i just took from that and put it into my work.
Another funny/weird thing that kind of blows my mind is how little girls on Tumblr will reblog pictures of Drop Dead merch 2500 times (ex http://nightssourpowerr.tumblr.com/post/3781298667). What’s that all about, and how do you feel when you see little scene girls geeking out over stuff you designed?
To be honest, at first i was crazy excited to see people so into it,
but then when i started to realize i wasnt being credited and it was
more just a love of DD i stopped caring. But its definatly awesome to
see that with the right hype you can get kids going crazy over art on
a tshirt, pretty bizzare.
Kids tend to think that doing graphics for clothing, action sports, and bands is the awesome rockstar life. I bet you have had a few awesome rockstar moments working with a huge brand like Drop Dead, but I bet you also have some stories about the not-so-awesome side of the business that could be a good dose of reality for kids?
If kids actually think that they are waaaaaaay off. Ya i get to hang out, and have become close friends with a lot of “famous” people, but they are just people, i dont see it as anything amazing. Working at DD wasnt rockstar at all, i sat in a concrete office listening to BAD uk radio and the secretaries answer phones, seriously.
Ive had my fair share of big party hangs, everyone from every band there, drunk, retarded, but pretty awesome. But if i give any details to any of it, said people wont be too impressed with me ;) Lets just say that getting caught making out on the street against a fence with
a “Famous” model was kinda dope :)
I think the shit side of it all is seeing so many members of bands do far too many drugs and just turn into mindless sacks of shit… its just sad. Im in no way putting them down, we have all done our fair share of shit, but it takes the glamour away for sure.
If I didn’t know anything about you, I would’ve guessed that you were some kind of annoying scenefag, but from what I can tell you seem like a pretty chill, quiet guy who is mostly into horror and metal. Are people ever surprised that you aren’t a little Hot Topic kid?
Fuck that !! im definatly not a scene kid hahaha and ya, when fans have met me they have even admitted to being a bit surprised at how i am and how nice i am to fans. I havnt changed much since i was a kid, im still hella A.D.D , i listen to a lot of hiphop and metal, i love fashion and bug out over nice shoes hahaha.
With Dark Earth, you are using mostly pure black and white images that are still fun, but a little more mature and harsh than your older work. Is that a deliberate reaction against all the LOL NEON CARTOON ANIMALS KILLING EACH OTHER graphics out there, or just how it turned out? Where do you see the brand going in the future?
Its not really a reaction against that scene, cuz lets be honest, im a big part of that scene. hahaha
When DE started we sat down and talked about keeping a general style and attitude to the brand, keeping it black and white was just a kickback to black metal merch. I also felt that keeping it colorless was an easy way to avoid kids bitching about hating the color shirt we printed on, and was a nice little challenge to keep things fresh and new and not just white on black, black on white, over and over.
The brand is growing but sales are not what we expected at all, so a lot of our own $ is still going into getting each seasons line out. But we have love from some big brands and im hoping to collab this year and get a few more things made like hats and stuff. But im not gonna push it , im gonna just sit back, put in the effort and love and watch the brand grow.
You’ve spoken before about how important it is for artists to develop their own style, which I totally agree with. On the other hand, I’ve also seen a lot of people who have a very specific style be super hot for a couple years, then forgotten and ignored once people get burned out on their style and the trend is over. As someone who does have a strong personal style, how do you balance keeping your style vs keeping things fresh and new?
I definatly know where your coming from with this and have seen it happen over and over as trends die so do certain artists. But thats why i push kids into creating an original style that comes from thier hearts, not from trends and what they think is cool. If you have a style thats timeless, then it wont matter whats in, or who you work with, you will always be able to keep doing work. I have MY style, and yet i can do super detailed gore, crisp clean and cute, i can collaberate, i can sketch, i can paint, and you will always know its me. I do what i want, i draw from my mind and add little bits of whats in, pop culture etc, and somehow that keeps me fresh. I also try to grow each year as an artist, i still have a lot to learn, and im open to that idea, by no means do i think im the best, but i love what i do.
If it’s not too much trouble, could you pick 2-3 of your favorite graphics you’ve done over the years and talk a bit about why you like them? And if you don’t mind, one you DON’T like and why? I always think it’s interesting to hear how people see their own work, which is often very different than how others see it.
Its hard to pick , but i think any logo/mascot ive done, like the kitty brainz, and panda head for HUG in japan, are def some of my favorites. I love them because they are pretty simple, but i have to make sure they are interesting enough to keep peoples attention as they are logos for an entire brand. I also love everything i did for The Red Shore. They really just let me do my thing and so i not only made sure they were bangers, but they really had my attitude in them as well.
As for something i dont like….. The wrist cutter i did years back for DD is a definate blah. I had to redo it a few times and when i look at it, theres no energy to it, and thats before i really played around with thick and thin linework, so it just dosnt POP for me. It would be cool to redo that for DD, but i doubt that will happen.
Thoughts on the above image?
Takes a lot to make Oli laugh like that. <3 good kid. we dont talk much , but i wish him the best.