Interview: The Bronx
Thu, 04 Dec 2008 10:28:22
"We are in Hackensack, New Jersey. We were just theorizing that maybe this was the home of the hacky sack," laughs The Bronx guitarist Joby Ford. He and his bandmates have had a lot of time to theorize lately while on the road. They've been touring non-stop since Warped Tour this past summer, and they just dropped their third viciously catchy offering, The Bronx (III). However, in addition to slaying crowds and pondering the monikers of the towns they're plowing through, The Bronx have many other interests. More of an artist collective than a band, The Bronx have crafted their own musical Pulp Fiction in a sense. They're quite a multi-faceted bunch, and they're happy to discuss their extracurricular activities. Joby shared his favorite things to do (outside of thrashing stages) with ARTISTdirect.com in this exclusive interview.
Other than music, where do you draw inspiration from?
I pull from everything creative really. I'm into recording bands and producing records in our studio that we have now. I do that as much as I can... artwork too. I was laughing the other day because every single thing I do involves a Macintosh product—24 hours a day [Laughs]. It's just ridiculous. I really enjoy cooking. Those are probably the three things I do the most outside of being in the band: art, recording and cooking.
You have a very interesting artistic aesthetic. Have you been drawing since you were a kid? How did you get into it?
I don't really know. I messed around. When I was a kid, I went to a bunch of art classes. I was really into comic books and things like that. I stopped doing that though, and I got really into sports. I puttered around for a long time, not really doing anything creative. I guess I was trying to be a "normal person" [Laughs]. I was an English major for a while. I did so horribly that in order to be eligible for my college team, I had to switch my major to social science just so I had enough credits to play. After that, I switched majors once again to art with an emphasis on design. That's probably when I really accepted the fact that I'm not really good at anything except for making stuff up. Originally, I was a middle infielder. I had a really bad accident, and I was moved to the pitching staff. I finished up my career there.
Where does your aesthetic come from? It's very raw, and there's an element of absurdity, but at the same time, there's a beauty to it. It's similar to the band. Your artwork is very engaging.
Thank you! Well, I do have a love for designing album covers. I always did, and I always have. I liken it to how graffiti artists do pieces on trains and things that travel around. Designing album covers is kind of like a legal graffiti, if you will. The artwork is seen all over the world by tons of people. I always try to combine a very basic, simple image that conveys a feeling with text. It's all very simple. There are two items to every cover I do. There's the text and the image. Oftentimes, I do use a lot of faces because I feel one of the best ways to convey feeling is through using expressions. That is the number one way for human beings to convey feeling—through facial expression, so there are generally a lot of odd-looking faces in my work.
What comic books were you into as a kid?
Mostly war comics, like G.I. Joe; that was big. I was also into Batman, Superman and all of the Marvel stuff. During that period of time, there were different artists that did all different kinds of series. It was a lot less focused than it is now. I don't read comic books too much anymore. Actually, I was just in Germany. The comic books over there are fucking insane. It is the most ultra-violent artwork. It's incredible stuff. It's like you almost can't even look at it, it's so evil and violent. Obviously, I can't translate anything that's going on. They're almost like art books—glossy with hard backs. The printing is really nice. They're not like comic books over here. If you're ever over there, pick some of them up. You'll be like, "No fucking way!" [Laughs]
Was all of Germany that crazy?
We stayed at a hotel right next to the Berlin Wall. It was based on Avant Garde art, so you couldn't figure out how to work anything. The Bauhaus school of design is in Berlin. That was the first school that actually taught graphic design as a subject. They're kind of known as the originators of using text and type as artwork. There's a lot of history within graphic design or any kind of graphic arts that's directly linked to that city. I always find that generally German designed stuff, when I'm over there, is all incredibly artistic—whether it's a bottle of water or a hotel faucet. The design that comes out of that country is incredible.
Were you ever into the Frank Miller art?
By the time that stuff was cruising around I was into baseball.
When did you get into cooking?
Probably four years ago. I was never really serious about it, but I've been trying to get a lot more serious lately. I attend classes and seminars every chance I can, when I'm home. I've gone to two [Laughs]. I'm starting to get into it more and more whenever I have free time. It's really therapeutic for me. It's very calming and creative at the same time. I enjoy it. The science of it is pretty wild. It's pretty insane. I can watch those shows all day long. I just get to a point where I say, "Fuck, I want to eat something. I need to make something."
Do you have a signature dish?
Not really... I have some go-to items. I'm really into kabobs. I do that. One of the things I've been really getting into lately is using cedar planks. I've been cooking cedar planks and apple juice and a filet of salmon covered in pesto and lemon, cooked for about an hour. It's pretty good. I've been doing that a lot lately. It's amazing. [Laughs]
It must be a good reprieve from all that thrashing around on stage.
Cooking is definitely one of my favorite things to do. It's just relaxing, which is weird because everyone in this world is always like, "Fuck, I've got to make something to eat. Fuck it, I'll just go to the drive-thru." Especially most guys don't like to cook. They'll just go out to McDonald's or something because it's too much effort. I'm completely the opposite.
The Bronx is more like an artist collective than a band because you have so much going on. Would you say that's the case?
Yeah, absolutely. We're definitely fans of basically anything that's not modern life or the usual day-to-day grind.
“Being in L.A., you realize that you actually can do whatever you want and make a living.”
That comes through in the music.
I always encourage fans or just people in general. A lot of bands hire me to do artwork, and I'm like, "What do you want?" They'll say, "I don't know." I'll tell them, "You've got to think." [Laughs] They'll say, "This is going to sound stupid." Well, it's not going to sound stupid, you're making it up and those are your feelings. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from this book called The Artist's Way. It's basically a step-by-step process of how your brain works when you're creating something in any facet. With music, you're writing lyrics. The one thing I got out of it that really made 100 percent sense to me was that true creativity lies in that spot in your head where it's comfortable. Every single person—if they're told to create something—they'll automatically go to the familiar. If they're told to draw a picture, they'll draw stick figures because that's what they've seen people do before. Or it's like, "Write a song," the response is "I like Green Day so I'm going to write a song like that." It's just the way your brain works. If you understand that and can go the opposite way where this sounds uncomfortable, I can't relate this to anything or this looks different, it doesn't look like everything else. That's where true creativity and artistic expression comes from: that spot in your head that's uncomfortable. It applies to writing. The book is like a road map to being creative and understanding the way your brain works. It just makes you have 100 percent confidence in the fact that whatever you do is good because you made it up.
How much of that comes from growing up in L.A.?
Being in that town, you realize that you actually can do whatever you want and make a living. If you want to be in a lesbian metal band, there's a scene for it. A lot of my friends are video game testers. They sit there and play video games all day long. Ten years ago, you never would've thought that was possible. L.A. is a very free town. You grow up thinking more about what you want to do than what you're supposed to do. The mentality isn't like, "Go to college and get a job" or, "You've got to get a paper route." It's like, "Fuck, start a band."