Jeff Jank: Sort of an interview

Undercover Magazine (UK)

Nat Illuminate Undercover Magazine (UK) May 07, 2006


Jeff Jank: Sort of an interview LIL'N: How long have you been in the art profession and what was your initial inspiration to get involved?
JANK: I've been drawing since I was a small child living in Lincoln, Nebraska. Back then I specialized in pictures of car wrecks. I was in the back seat of an off-white 1968 Volkswagen Bug when it was destroyed in an accident when I was still in diapers, but I don't know if that had anything to do with it, Many years and car wrecks later I started a band, in part to have an excuse to do some cassette covers. Later I did a magazine called DREW with Keith Beats (aka DJ Design of Foreign Legion), then a 1-page monthly called JANK in Berkeley, CA with a kid called Janelle, and then a lewd comic book called HOOKIE AND BABA which was sold exclusively in San Francisco Bay Area laundromats to local winos. I never thought of this as a profession because I made money working in a library. These days I make money working as the art director for Stones Throw Records, but I still think of 'art' and 'profession' as terms that have no connection with each other.

What different styles does your work encompass and what are your everyday influences?
After growing up being one of those kids that draws everywhere, I got into writing, photography, layout, design, and the way it all works with music and words. I still draw with a pencil and pen on a daily basis, but I'm influenced by everything from the Dada, Fluxus, and Situationalist artists to snotty design magazines, from dogma movies to good old rap music, the kind with a boomin' beat and a hand clap. I like Show Biz & AG, and I also like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I used to ride around all day on a bike listening to Main Source and end up at a punk show watching the Frumpies. I love a lot of stuff that isn't meant to be mixed together, On the artists and illustrator tip I've been checking for Raymond Pettibon's stuff since he was doing Black Flag flyers. Margaret Kilgallen was great because she did nice pictures of people and letters - my two favorite things, Dug One was also influential to me when I started doing record covers and flyers, All of these artists are associated with specific genres, punk/graffiti/hiphop, even though their work doesn't have anything to do with them. Personally, my favorite artist is Sonja Ahlers, who works out of Vancouver, BC. She does small pieces on paper which are a combination of drawing and collage. Her stuff is simple and pretty, but the process is very much the same as what someone like Madlib does with sampling and live instruments.

What is your connection to hiphop, do you have skills in any of the five elements?
I first heard rap music at junior high house parties, the kind where "Bela Lugosi's Dead" from Bauhaus would get mixed into a Run DMC track, back into New Order, and ending up with Planet Rock, with kids spinning around on a piece of cardboard before it was ever portrayed in any fashion ads. That's what the 80s was like. Chris Cut was the kid who really introduced me to hiphop. He was the best DJ I knew, so I never even tried. He later hooked up with a rapper called Charizma and started calling himself Peanut Butter Wolf, and I did some silly tape covers for them. Anyway, I was too busy drawing and doing my own thing. I never did any "hiphop style art" because the level of trendiness in that genre always bored me, and still does to this day. I've got respect for graffiti writers and artists - even Pope John Paul 2nd is quoted as saying that graffiti is "visual evidence of the soul crying out against injustice" - but if I see one more hiphop-neo-graffiti-bboy-style canvas that's suppose to look cool on the wall of a club, I'm just going to poke my eyes out.

Which record sleeves have you done with which labels, and how did you hook that up? Do you have allegiances with particular labels? And what's your most accomplished/favorite piece(s)?
First time I did any work on a record was the handwritten liner notes for PBWolf's My Vinyl Weighs a Ton, which has since become the unofficial Stones Throw font.
I recorded this guy called Captain Funkaho when I lived in Oakland, and Wolf wanted to put it out on a 7-inch. Naturually I would have done the Funkaho cover, but instead we got Dug One of ISP fame to do it. He did it in one day and gave Stones Throw a big fat bill, about ten times the cost of making the since, and that's when I decided to start making record covers. I did Quasimoto's The Unseen and all those line drawings you see associated with that record. When I was drawing the stuff, I was listening to the newly finished album about fives times a day, every day, for about three months, and I never got tired of hearing it. Moving to Los Angeles with Stones Throw right when Madlib started the Yesterdays New Quintet, I ended up working on Angles Without Edges and all those. Madlib does a lot of mix CDs, beat tapes, and secret albums, so I do covers for as many of them as I can. The Madlib collection is up to 15-20 titles now, mostly unreleased.
Outside of Stones Throw I like working with Foreign Legion because they're really funny and usually let me do whatever I want for the covers.

How did the international hook up with Nice Nice come about, and what's the entire piece (7 sleeves) make up? Also do you have further plans to work with British artists/labels?
Dan Stacy of Nice Nice is a crazy british journalist who wrote about my comic HOOKIE AND BABA for some fashionable magazine in England that I wipe my ass with. I thought that anyone who was not a hobo, in jail, or crack-addled and still liked HOOKIE AND BABA must be a good guy. I drew all 7 of those covers, and then I changed my mind about the plan and started over again. Problem is that we have this one cover out already, so I'm trying to talk Dan into recalling all of the copies and having them burned. It's never been done before, except in the case of The Beatles "Butcher" cover in 1966, which by the way was a fantastic sleeve. I would love to work with people overseas if only for the reason that I might be able to travel. You see, I'm what you might call a pig-headed American because I've never left the 48 states, except one time that I went to Canada and got thrown in prison for throwing a trash can through the window of an art gallery.

Have you done many exhibitions and sold pieces?
After the thing in Canada I'm pretty much banned from every art gallery who has ever heard of the stunt. I did sell a piece to MF Doom a while ago. Actually, we traded. He agreed to place a few words of hidden code into some raps he's recording in exchange for a painting.

What are your aspirations in the art world?
To be allowed into galleries again, because I sort of miss them.

Fill me in on some future projects...
I drew some girls jumping rope for a Madlib mix CD that will come out in the UK, and I'm working on Foreign Legion's new LP at the moment. Probably what I'm most excited about is a magazine I'm working on with a friend of mine who broke half his body in a 8-story fall but who remains a creative minded nut. We're going to call it DUCK Vs EARTH and probably make less than a hundred copies, just to maximise our money loss.