FREAK SCENE: UNFILTERED COMIX RAGE
Keenan Marshall Keller is one-third of small press publishing group Drippy Bone Books (with Kristy Foom and Mario Zoots) and the artist behind the steroid-fueled venture through the universe known as Galactic Breakdown. He spent several years curating art shows for Show Cave, and after a long break is returning to the curatorial stage with ‘Freak Scene,’ opening July 6 at Synchronicity. He’s kicking it off with two days of comics and zine readings from the exhibition, mixing unknowns with more established artists like Johnny Ryan, Tom Neely, Josh Bayer and Benjamin Marra. We pore over some of the comics from the various artists, finding page after page of obsessive linework and delightful grotesquery. This interview by Walt! Gorecki.
Tell me about the new show you’re putting together at Synchronicity.
It’s a collection of underground cartoon artists—the new freak champions of underground comics. It’s fifteen artists. We’re just gonna cover the two long walls from top to bottom with drawings. We’ll have works that are brand new for the show, and others are showing portions of whatever they’re working on. Johnny Ryan said he’s gonna be putting in new pages from the upcoming Prison Pit, because that’s what he’s working on, and I’m like, ‘That’s exactly what I wanted.’
What made you want to step back into curating after two years off?
Having been doing Drippy Bone Books and doing my own comics, I’ve been in the art, zine and comics world and meeting and appreciating all these great artists. If I could afford it, I’d put out a 300-page full-color book, but I can’t go that far as a publisher yet, so I’d like to put the work on the walls and invite people in to come and see these people. Some of the people involved are big names, but the other people involved—the other 50 percent—are very unknown, even amongst cartoonists. That’s kind of the idea, mixing both groups and creating an environment that is just unfiltered ‘comix’ rage. Just amazing mutant freaks. That’s what all these people are—they’re freaks to me, they’re the best kind of person. There’s something wrong with them on several different levels and they understand that and focus and channel it into comics. And I get to socialize with these people whose comics I love, like Jason Karns. He makes one of the greatest comics series going. It’s called FUKITOR. It’s the greatest tribute to your 14-year-old 80s horror film fantasies. Hilarious and vulgar, and the way he renders intestines is mind-blowingly great. This is the first show that I’ve curated in about two years and I’m really excited. I wasn’t going to do anything until I could do the show that I wanted to do with the people I wanted and have it be as insane as I wanted it to be. That’s why this has worked out. I get to work with Synchronicity, and I get to meet a lot of these artists for the first time and they’re all gonna be staying at my house for the weekend so it’ll be this crazy comic book compound. Comic book artists and cartoonists are weird folk, so it’ll be interesting getting us all together and seeing how we clash or vibe off each other.
What are your favorite shows from when you worked with Show Cave?
We had a few really amazing shows. The first show I did there before I was a part of the gallery was ‘Survivors of the White Plague,’ which was a group show with myself, Victor Cayro, Mike Diana, and a local L.A. artist David Magdaleno. That show was great, and that’s what got me into being a partner at Show Cave. They liked it and they saw how I handled myself and the show. We had lots of weird one-off nights too—lots of bands that would come through and play. We had Intelligence play a New Year’s Eve party that was absolutely fucking crazy. We had Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio play an acoustic set that was really amazing. Another show I curated that I really enjoyed was ‘Dark Psych,’ which was a lot of dark, psychedelic artists who were all into deformity of body and psychedelic visuals. The last show I did … it was a great show if it would have lasted both days. It was called ‘We Use.’ It was an art show and two-day music event, but it got shut down after the first day. I’d already left Show Cave and was just curating a show for them, and it was one of the first big shows at the Eagle Rock location. The cops came and it got shut down. The next night I had the Spits and Mikki & the Mauses set to play, which was a really big show. The Spits flew in for it but it was going to be an earlier show, and just two bands, not five like the previous night. But they didn’t want to get shut down two nights in a row.
You did a lot of illustration work for the Spits—was that after this show?
That was before and after. I know Erin [Wood, bassist]—he’s a good friend, and I’m just a huge fan. I met Erin working for a porn company, Naughty America, which was the dumbest porn company in the world—they hired an art department to spend $25,000 a year making sets for porn movies. I heard it was a front for the Greek mafia. My wife’s bandmate, John Henry from Static Static, got this art department job so he hired me and Erin, and other freaks and creative people, like Dave Reeves who wrote for L.A. RECORD and Arthur, the dudes from the 400 Blows. That’s where I met Erin—making a shower stall from scratch with real plumbing and everything, just so people could fuck. We even put up a plexiglass wall so they could put it on the glass.
Did that inspire the ‘porn gossip’ zine that you and Tom Neely were working on?
No, I’d wanted to do a Tijuana bibles zine for a really long time. Tijuana bibles, in case you don’t know, are these cheaply made zines from the early 1900s, using sexual parody with famous politicians, real people and cartoon characters. So there’s Mr. Magoo fucking a woman, and it’s only eight pages so they’ve got to get right to it, and it’s got to be really crude. There has to be penis and boobs in every single one. These are kind of the size of those little religious pamphlets, except these came out way before. They do like Little Orphan Annie getting fucked by Daddy Warbucks, and I really wanted to do it with contemporary artists. Tom’s the one who’s like, ‘Let’s make them do characters from now.’ But then I heard that a second and third Tijuana bibles book coming out, so I nixed that idea. It’s just been too long. Maybe one day we’ll pick that up, but at the moment it’s dead.
Do you have any special programs in the works for ‘Freak Scene’?
Shalo P is going to curate a video program called Freak Out—it’ll be a really amazing hour of videos. Then I might be releasing the newest issue of Galactic Breakdown, which is Galactic Breakdown #5, Part 1. Just to keep people coming in and looking at the work. I could talk about each one of the artists forever, like everybody knows Johnny Ryan. Josh Bayer is a comics god in some ways—he’s the mastermind behind Suspect Device, which is one of the greatest anthology comics ever created. He’s worked with Raymond Pettibon. There’s Tom Neely, who’s an amazing cartoonist and publisher. His latest book, The Wolf, was a really amazing painted graphic novel, and his newest thing—Henry & Glenn Forever: The Series—is coming out next month. They’re asking cartoonists to do stories, so Benjamin Marra’s doing a story, Ed Luce ,who does Wuvable Oaf, is doing a story. That comic’s going to blow people’s minds when they finally get to see it.
I read that you are a ‘manny’ for your nieces—does being around kids a lot affect your work? Have they actually seen your work?
They’ve seen my work. They know my character, Roids, and they’ve seen the first one, but the second issue has him helicoptering a whorebot on the first page so they haven’t seen that. I made a zine with my 8-year-old niece, Bella, called Fashion Statement, which was a bunch of her doodles on a fashion magazine. Every human has that instinctual need to draw a booger or a wart on a pretty face, but she did it for like twelve magazines from front to back. They influence me—you know your brain starts to recede and grow smaller when you’re only with children all the time, with no adult contact, so in some ways that’s helping since my comic’s really ‘stoo(o)pid.’
‘Stooopid’ with three o’s?
Two to three o’s depending on how stupid it is. ‘Stupid’ is for when I’m actually talking about someone’s intelligence, but stooopid with the o’s is a distinct style choice.
What did you think of L.A. Zine Fest?
L.A. Zine Fest was by far the best one that I’ve ever been to. They involved so many people that could all take a little part of it and help propel the entire thing. And it did—I’ve lived in lots of cities and I hate all of them, but I love L.A. Not so much that I feel community, because I’ve always felt that’s an odd word, and I don’t feel ‘community’ but I do feel like there are lots of cool people doing really cool shit in L.A.: running their own zines, getting them out there, running shops, running really cool spaces that I didn’t even know existed until I got there. The environment was one of the best I’ve ever seen because the lead-up to the Zine Fest. They taught L.A. that zines are a substantial and necessary thing and that people should know about them and support it, so people came with open minds and friendly attitudes. I didn’t get any of the weirdness that I get at most conventions, where people are like, ‘What the fuck is this bullshit? You want me to pay 4 bucks for five pieces of paper?’ One of the main ideas when they put this together was that they kept the tables cheap, and that really opened it up. There’s Sparkplug and Secret Headquarters tabling, and then there’s a dude selling his horrible punk rock patches, and thank god he’s able to buy a space at this—I know my niece bought one of the patches and loved it. It’s a great thing.
DRIPPY BONE BOOKS PRESENTS ‘FREAK SCENE,’ OPENING FRI., JULY 6, AT SYNCHRONICITY, 713 N. HELIOTROPE, LOS ANGELES. DRIPPYBONEBOOKS.COM.