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Hamsters. Hamsters engaged in intense multi-sport events. Cycling, swimming, running. May the best win.

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Strange Gibberish recording artist, Chris C, is an MC who wears his influences prominently on his sleeve.  It’s a deft tightrope act to pay homage to yesteryear without devolving into a nostalgia infected cynic.  His latest, Gringo Lingo, vividly conjures up images of whiskey saloons, Lee Van Cleef, Bronx battles and block parties.  So without further ado…  

What is the theme or concept behind Gringo Lingo? 

Gringo Lingo is sort of a blend of a lot of ideas, concepts and thoughts.  I wanted to present it as a bar, with me as the musical act for that particular night.  It needed to have the same vibe throughout; it needed to sound dirty and gritty, and the boom bap production style that Deepcrates brought made me wanna be a little more serious and flow a little harder than I have in the past. Sort of as an ode to a more pristine era in hip hop. However, as I wrote more and more it became a very introspective work.  I reevaluated myself on this album and I feel like I came out better than ever.  So, I guess the best way to put it would have to be that the Gringo Lingo is the bar in my mind.

How did your relationship form with the Strange Gibberish crew?

Christmas 2008 I finished the first part in my Hall & Oates trilogy.  Cinco De Mayo 2009, my homie Deepcrates tells me about a show he’s doing with some of the other cats on his label, Strange Gibberish.  I checked it out and enjoyed the show.  Every act was different and nobody sounded like anything I had heard really.  It was cool, unique, and I wanted in.  I met the founder of the label, Turtle Handz, and told him about my album.  He seemed interested and told me to e-mail it to him.  So, I did and he offered me a spot in the crew.  We rereleased H2OC2 in June of ‘09 and then we put out the second part of the H&O saga, Fuck Yeah!, in July. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Since joining SG, you’ve increased your productivity tenfold, what other new Chris C releases are on the horizen this year?

I have so much!  I’m working with Drumboy from Germany on a couple things; I’m going to make a very short EP with some tracks that my man David Arcade from the Out2Lunch crew sent me, which will be kind of a prelude to my next album.  I don’t really wanna disclose details on that album just yet.  Also, still want to do a full album with Fat Ross, and another cat from around here said he wanted to do an album.  I don’t think all of it will make it out this year, but expect at least an ep with Drumboy and the David Arcade joints from me this year. 

Who/what are your biggest inspirations as an artist?

Kurt Vonnegut, Grant Morrison, Charles Bukowski, Big Daddy Kane, Jack Kirby, Robert Frost and Batman. Always Batman.

What are your favorite and least favorite hip hop trends?

I was going to rant on about the state of the game and how it’s all wack compared to what it used to be, but when I step back and look I notice not much has changed.  Sure, the current state of pop hip hop is all club music, but rap started out as party music.  I was going to say how it’s all materialistic now, but the fashion and jewelry and cars were always there.  Hip Hop was started by a bunch of poor folks in the ghetto, so of course they wanted to get out there and make money once it started catching on.  The problem now is it’s so overexposed that its lost the emotion behind the culture.  Hip Hop is bigger than just rap, and you still see the graffiti, and you can still find the breakers, and there’s still plenty of DJs doing their thing. Look hard enough and there’s still plenty of real dope emcees out there. There’s nothing wrong with the game, the music industry has just done to hip hop what it’s done to every other popular genre; raped it into submission.

Download Gringo Lingo:

http://chriscrackalackle.bandcamp.com/album/gringo-lingo

http://strangegibberish.net/

The Dude Designs: Tom Hodge Interview

Few artists out there can perfectly capture the lurid aesthetics of exploitation’s formative years.  Creatively dense, vividly colorful and exceedingly retro.  In other words, the antithesis of the charmless poster art that invades today’s theater vestibules.  UK-based artist, Tom Hodge, has stepped up to the plate.  From his noteworthy Hobo with a Shotgun poster to his work for Ti West’s upcoming The Innkeepers, he’s evoking the vintage tones of cinema’s yesteryear.  It was a pleasure to interview him, he was insightful and informative.  Ladies and gentlemen, the dude designs…

The obligatory question, how did you first become interested in film poster/cover illustration?

 Well it has been quite a round trip, I’ve been drawing since a very early age, when i was eight my cousin and i used to bunk off of school to watch bad pirate copies of Rambo (who needs censorship).  Then I would have these sketch books full of Rambo dismembering soldiers in the jungle, mum hated them but she never threw anything I drew away.  She’s still got boxes full of all my old drawing in the loft.

So naturally I became a total film and horror nut and used to collect old sample video covers from the local video shop.  I’d also record films off the TV (buying a video back then was expensive), I literally ended up with a wardrobe full of videos and I’d draw my own video covers for them. Which I guess led me into graphic design after finished school.  I did two years at college and then a further three years at Uni doing Visual Communication/Film Studies. The funny thing is, the more I got into design the further and further away I got from illustration and doing film posters, there just wasn’t consider any real merit behind it or that industry.  Design was all about minimalism, new wave, clean lines and overly clever concepts.  Well that was the way i saw it!

After Uni, I jumped around a few different design jobs but actually spent most of my time working in the games industry working on the print side of things (packaging etc). I had been getting frustrated with design over the years and couldn’t see a way to combine what I loved and what I did (I know it seems obvious now), but I hadn’t drawn for about nine years.  The breakthrough was when I started doing flyers for the Midnight Movies, which was cool because I got to really experiment with the work and find a style.  Through that I then rediscovered the art of video covers and how much I loved them which is where I began my project to design video covers in an arty way more than anything commercial.  So out of necessity I started to draw again.  I really found my feet with my CANNON project which lead onto the Video dungeon piece for Empire Magazine and then onto Arrow Video where I really started to expand my drawing style more and gain the confidence to work on Hobo and the Innkeepers.  I’ve still got a long way to go though and get nervous every time I start a big job!  So we will see what happens!

Can you describe your thoughts on modern film posters and the creativity (or lack thereof) in the industry?

The problem with modern film posters is basically MARKETING!  It controls everything now, but they are numbers and figures people.  It’s all ‘market research’ and ‘demographics’ not creatively led.  Not to piss anyone off, but you have someone who can’t draw or design telling people who can how to do it.  So what do you expect?

In the past you would have to higher an illustrator to do a poster or video cover (there was no other alternative) and you’d have to trust what came out of there creatively to some extent.  Which gave the work personality and individuality, now with computers and Photoshop, ‘creatives’ have lost a lot of the control as marketing can request what they like, designs are kind of used like tools a lot of the time so we end up with super head posters!

Don’t get me wrong, I use Photoshop for my work, but I try not to let it use me so no layer effects.  I think, “how would they achieve this effect in the old posters and go down that route instead?”

There’s a great article from Creative Review about it all, which says “multiple executions and a tortuous approval process, this remains a complex and frustrating industry to work in”.  As many as 400 to 500 pieces of artwork can get produced for one poster.  That’s just too many choices man, can someone just make up their mind?

I think poster art is coming into its own again though through the use of the web with things like forums, blogs and newsletters etc.  They will all happily link to the poster, people want to write and read about this stuff.  You just need to provide them with an image that has a hook, which people can write about and want to see.  That then raises awareness of a film like free ad space, which is what a poster is supposed to do.  Boring posters just won’t make the cut and if they do it will just get laughed at, not doing the film any good.

I want to produce some sweet, detailed, thought through and passionate designs which can speak to people.  I’m going to be working on a few lower budget films next which is cool because it gives these film a voice that wouldn’t normally get heard due to some awful Photoshop composed poster that no one would pay attention to.  

I’m still working on getting my name about at the moment, so hopefully I’ll continue to get great responses online and make enough ripples to rock that boat.  The more people are vocal that they don’t want to see a star’s face with a bit of grain and a colour wash to sell a film, the cooler the posters will be again.

A personal favorite of mine is your cover for Jaguar Lives!, you perfectly capture the retro action VHS cover complete with Joe Lewis’ iconic flying kick.  I recall the outlandish claims in the trailer where they compare him to Bruce Lee and Clint Eastwood.  What’s one of your favorite tag lines or trailer quotes?

Hey thanks man, I’m working on a real retro video cover at the moment complete with tacky type!

Obviously IT’S ONLY A MOVIE, IT’S ONLY A MOVIE…is a legendary tag line, but I do love the strapline on the little known horror film 'The Lift'.  Take the stairs, take the stairs. For God’s sake, take the Stairs!!!”