First ran across Sean Hogan at his essential, yet (for now?) defunct Damaging Noize blog, a virtual hotspot for some of the finest and sometimes rarest of extreme music (specializing in Japcore). He had the comments turned off on the blog, but provided his email, so like a fanboy I got in touch with him. I started seeing Sean’s comments at some of the other better music blogs and one such occasion he singlehandedly and unknowingly turned me on to a whole different kind of Hardcore music in the form of Bloody Fist Records. Then I just happened to pick up a 7″, I forget the band’s name, that had Sean’ artwork on the cover…this hentai styled chick. In talking to him I found out that he played music and inquired about that, which led to a hunt and eventual purchase of his band Cthuwulf split with Death Sentence, which I loved. Anyway, long story short, Sean is an interesting, multi-talented, renaissance type guy and I wanted to ask him a few questions, so we have this…
You’re an old LA head aren’t you, born and raised, like me, what was it like growing up in the LA area?
— In hindsight, fairly uneventful. For all the shit I pulled (and certainly talked) I somehow skated a lot of the consequences some of my close friends and other associates received. So here I still am, arguably unscathed (and thankful for that).
How would you describe yourself, feel free to be as general or specific as you like?
— For all my terminal cynicism, I somehow still default to clowning, laughing, being sarcastic and gross. I live by an extremely simple mantra of “don’t trip on me and I won’t trip on you”.
My first exposure to you was as a blogger, then as an artist, then as a musician, what came first, a love of art or a love of music and what events led up to that?
— Definitely art. I had high(ly misguided) aspirations to be the next Pushead. Ironically, all the guys who blatantly rip off his style the best these days completely deny any influence from him whatsoever…so maybe that’s a good thing I (mostly) gave up in that aspect. But yeah, music…it goes without saying you grow up on horror movies and comic books and doodling stupid shit constantly, you discover thrash/death metal and it makes you want to do album covers. It was as simple as that for me. My “talent” on the other hand is always up for debate, and I don’t feel I’m being self-deprecating or overly modest to say that. The day one stops questioning if they are an artist, is the day they cease to be an artist (or words to that effect).
I’m sure you were a straight A student and a teacher’s pet, but did you study art all, to what degree are you self taught? What or who are some of your influences?
— I did every artsy type of class you could possibly do in high school (I was even on senior yearbook staff haha!), and the same in college (even going so far as to take a course where the entire semester focused on “ethics” in the design field). But considering how full of myself I was with my “talent” (I was sophomoric at best, yet failed to see this at the time), I consider my real classroom “in the field” so to speak. Real work experience, in the non-art facets of art, taught me that even when you are openly acknowledged as the pinnacle of your field, IT’S A FUCKING BITCH TO GET PAID! I learned so much in developing actual skill as well as the reality of surviving on art. So yeah, I really have to say I ended up being about 90% self taught, quite often (and I still do this) reverse-engineering techniques or effects I wished to achieve. Influences? Ultragore and existentialism (and anime 😉 ).
As far as I know, your art was by hand, on paper and whatnot and by necessity I’m sure, as computers where fairly primitive when you were young, but it wasn’t that long ago that you made a transition from that medium to almost exclusively digital art…how did that come to be? Are you using Photoshop, or are there other programs you could recommend?
— My first exposure to Photoshop was in my first semester of college in the fall of ’91. So, the technology was there early on…just no one was taking advantage of it (and with most “new” technologies, a lot of oldschool artists I met were afraid of it). Hell, when I earned my digital design degree, they still made us do thumbnail roughs and lettering by hand! Regardless, though my parents were kind enough to set me up with my own Mac and arsenal of what were once industry standard programs (QuarkXpress and Freehand, Photoshop is the only popular survivor these days), if I wasn’t doing some bullshit magazine layout for a grocery store, I was only using the technology for logos or gradient shading in black and white (and very BASIC layout for the covers, scanning and cleaning my own drawn art). I’m not sure what set it off, my going completely digital. Maybe I was (very slowly) becoming curious with what I could achieve with using my mouse instead of a pen and paper. I did get really sick of the mess of smeared pencil lead, eraser shavings, and ink accidents…let alone my frustration in what I saw was becoming lazier and sloppier work on my end. In the 90s, I was notorious for getting something like a 10″ record’s entire layout hand-drawn and shipped to Finland within 2 days. Now, I take literally months to finish a 12″ sized cover. If it’s a basic 7″ cover, maybe several weeks. I’d rather move at a snail’s pace to coax noticeable growth in my skill than to race ahead halfass just to get it over with. Program’s now? Just the current version of Photoshop’s creative suite (aka: the 1,100 dollar version…yes, IT’S WORTH IT). I really need to learn InDesign for standard text-heavy layouts. It’s bundled with Photoshop, and I’m assuming is analogous to Quark in regards to “desktop publishing”, but I’ve never seriously had to consider looking into it until recently (laying in LARGE amounts of text in Photoshop is difficult and mind-murderingly slow). Other programs I use are some of the Alien Skin Software and Topaz Studios plug-ins, though I still feel a compulsion to tweak them and experiment with multiple overlaid effects, or bits of edits I choose to remove. I still use a mouse exclusively after all these years. So yeah, I’d have to say Photoshop’s CS package is all you really need (it also comes bundled with Illustrator for fine vector graphics, which if done correctly can blow your mind!). Shed the tears and buy it!
You’ve done a lot of art for various bands, covers and so forth, can you name drop a little bit and I’ve seen some pretty wicked shit, is there one that you are most proud?
— Fear Of God, Protes Bengt, Napalm Death, Nausea L.A., Bloody Phoenix, Cluster Bomb Unit, Katastrofialue, Deep 6 Records, Bruce Banner, Death Sentence Australia, Goblin/Hideous Mangleus, The Helpless, Disleksick (real nice guys), Agathocles. Tons of shit I can’t even remember until I stumble on it on Discogs (hey man, I was drunk the entire ’90s). Some of these bands have been clients multiple times, and have sought me of their own volition (weird). My favorites? Even though it ended up being an unintentional parody of Dark Passages, the Goblin CD discography as well as Nausea’s new LP. The cut-off for my “Phase One style” is around Nausea’s LP cover, which I had finished in it’s entirety two years ago. Beginning with what I’ve been doing recently for Excruciating Terror and Nailed Down is my “Phase Two”, which I am finding more pleasure and growth with (maybe at a snail’s pace, but worth it). My absolute favorite cover stylistically is the “grind-collage-to-end-all-grind-collages” that became the cover for the Agathocles/M.A.D. split LP (there’s an even deeper story to this, but I’m being lazy). As an “Artiste” it would have to be coming full circle from being a 17 year old fan of Nausea, to being their borderline in-house art guy 20+ years later. I achieved my “childhood dream” in that way, and yet I know I could still go so much farther.
Don’t be shy now, what is the lamest band, in retrospect, you have ever been a fan of? What made you see the light?
— No guilty pleasures my friend. I bump G’N’R and Terrorizer in my car with equal aplomb. And if anybody out there can’t see the fucking BRILLIANCE of Ritual De Lo Habitual, they can just chuggle my tumescence.
What was the first live act you ever saw and what was your favorite (feel free to list more than one, I know I couldn’t pick just one)…and why?
— I was a late bloomer, I didn’t go to my first show until I was nearly 17. I was always bigger on having money to pick up more records. My first time seeing an underground band playing live was some no-name thrash metal band at a house party. But then a month later I think it was either Kreator, Morgoth, The Accused, and Excel (yeah, crazy bill!), or the first Grindcrusher tour. Autopsy’s west coast tour for Severed Survival, and Nausea’s first LP release party are in there as well. This would all be in very early ’91, the same year I graduated high school. ’91 treated me VERY well throughout the entire year! I’m one of those fudds who never has strong opinions on shows, no matter how “godly” some of the bands I saw were.
What happened that you went from being a fan of music, to being a musician?
— I heard songs in my head that I wanted to hear in real life, but that no one else was playing. Doing Cthuwulf, I wanted a band that sounded like a mixture of Gai, Mob 47, and early Ripcord, and shakiness aside, we got that. I probably shouldn’t have made 90% of my musical journeys public, but it was all one big crazy experiment to begin with. I still don’t feel I am proper musician and will never call myself such.
Can you give up a discography of the shit you’ve released? What are some of your favorites? And if you could pick one tune that was your best/favorite composition, which would it be?
— Honestly, I would like Cthuwulf to be remembered for just two recordings: the session that became the split 7″ with Death Sentence, and our 2006 “Gaishu Issyoku” demo. On those two sessions we were at our tightest, or fastest, we got the best sound we could on the absolute worst amateur equipment, we had energy, excitement, the recordings had vibe, I was happy with my guitar tones…just everything clicked. I still really enjoy listening to those sessions a great deal, we felt like a “real” band then, like we were channeling the turn-of-the-80s noisecore we mutually loved (and I don’t mean the trendy kind of noise these years). There’s other tracks I like in everything else we recorded, but those specific two are the most important to me. There’s also a couple demos I did programming hXc-techno (Mach Baron, and Pyrotoxxxn), they still seem to entertain me, and it’d be cool if others got a smile (or nightmare) out of them as well.
Another thing we have in common is a past life of debauchery, what was that like and do you miss it? You recently celebrated 10 years of sobriety if I’m not mistaken, how’s that going for you?
— 11 years sober. My life was shit and nothing but drama when I drank. I don’t miss it. I’m still shocked a decade later that I’ve never spent a day in jail for the shit I pulled when I drank (almost arrested several times though), and just as with the very first question you started this interview with…I’m fucking THANKFUL. Pot on the other hand… *shifts eyes side to side.
What kinds of things do you have in the works…future plans?
— Starting Radiation Therapy school, I keep talking out my ass about starting up c-beat catastrophe SICK WITH FEAR with Lalo & Marco (and maybe lil’ Fivel too), finish another hXc-techno/experimental album, restart the blog, doing covers for Eu’s Arse and a new LP for Excruciating Terror. The future looks like a lot of fun!