SOME WOULD SAY THAT DAN RATHER'S INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST/ENTERTAINER/DICTATOR SADDAM HUSSEIN WAS A BIG DEAL. THEY'RE PROBABLY RIGHT. BUT IT'S NOWHERE NEAR AS FUNNY AS THIS INTERVIEW I DID WITH JAY RYAN. HE'S AN ARTIST/ENTERTAINER/NOT-DICTATOR FROM CHICAGO. I EMAILED HIM SOME QUESTIONS, AND HIS ANSWERS WERE BETTER THAN HALF THE ARTICLES I WRITE. OKAY, MOST OF THE ARTICLES I WRITE.
Vinnie: You’re in Chicago.
Jay: That's not a question.
V: Were you born there?
J: No. I was born in St. Louis, but my family was from the Chicago area. We moved back to the Chicago suburbs when I was two. I was conceived in NYC, though, above the original T.G.I. Friday's restaurant.
V: And what were you doing before you were screen-printing?
J: At what point? I went to school, started in industrial design, finished in painting, didn't study screen-printing, got a job as an apprentice carpenter, built a house, painted houses, built architectural models, antique restoration, custom woodworking, cabinetry, did freelance illustration, worked as a P.A. on music videos and TV commercial shoots, worked in the warehouse of a record label, booked bands in a bar, and other stuff.
V: Were you in a band? Did you ever want to be in a band?
J: I was in a band, and still am. I still want to be. We're working on new songs. We're playing a show in two days.
V: Who is Steve W., and what is Screwball Press?
J: Steve Walters is the most experienced practicing rock poster maker in Chicago. I learned to print from him, and used his shop, Screwball Press, for about four years before opening The Bird Machine. Steve and Screwball are still working hard.
V: What spawned The Bird Machine?
V: How lucrative is it, if you don’t mind my asking?
J: Extremely. I'm trying to decide what type of helicopters to buy this week.
V: How does The Bird Machine operate? Do you, Mat, and Diana collaborate on pieces together? Or is it more solo, unless needed?
J: We all have projects we take on by ourselves. Mat usually does most of the printing these days. Most of the posters that happen at our shop are designed by me, and printed by Mat with help from me. Diana has another job, and brings in a poster to work on every once in a while. They're like special treats for us. Mat does his own posters, too.
V: Is Chicago pretty receptive to the poster medium? Columbus, where we’re at, is not.
J: Oh, yeah. It’s receptive to posters both large and small. You, you must remember, are in Ohio. This is understandable.
V: What kind of stuff fed into you developing your style? It’s pretty playful, and way damn unique.
J: One of the most important lessons I learned in school, from a teacher named Peter Kursel, was to lower my expectations of my work and be receptive to silliness, chance, and the development of a drawing in the process. Also, I think animals are funny.
V: How big an influence on your work is the music you do work for?
J: I think it influences me a lot. I have the luxury of usually working for bands I like a lot, so I get to match the imagery to the band's sound or humor or lyrics or album cover artwork. There's always music playing at the shop.
V: Do you usually get to meet the musicians you’re making posters for, or is it a “Six Degrees of Separation” type thing?
J: Most of the time, I already know who I'm working for. But sometimes I don't, and it's nice to meet them.
V: Are you a fan of graffiti?
J: Not actively. I have an appreciation for graffiti, but I hate tagging. If there's a message, or imagery, or if it serves some purpose, that's one thing. But just scrawling your name is like just pissing on everything.
V: Have you ever thought about just posting your prints up like graf artists wheat paste bills up?
J: Not actually wheat pasting them up, but they get hung regularly. Hung up, torn down. Hung up, torn down. Haven't used wheat paste, though.
V: I dig that AFSC Benefit poster you did. Is that the first politically-oriented piece you’ve done?
J: I think that's the first blatantly political print, but more are on the way. I bet one could figure out my politics from looking at all the other work I've done, though, and the bands I work with.
V: Have you done any more, with all that’s been going on lately (world on the brink of destruction, peace protests, etc.)?
J: I've been posting images of people, individuals from Baghdad, on lamp posts and mailboxes. These are photos taken by a friend of a friend who was in Iraq about a month ago, and just took photos of normal people, at restaurants, on the street, laughing, smiling, etc. The idea is that we can see that these are just people like us; so we know who we're killing.
V: Do you think you could do one for our late editor, Wayne Chinsang? He was murdered this month. I’m kinda broken up about it.
J: Wayne,.. wayne dot com. Oh man, oh man. Wayne, my Wayne. Dubya dubya dubya dot wayne dot com.
V: Any guesses on who might’ve killed him?
J: I have a feeling that Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft might have had a hand in it. Those bastards!
V: What kind of stuff are you working on now?
J: Aside from worrying about Wayne? Just posters, and CD sleeves. And new songs.
V: What’s your dream gig?
J: Giggy. Gig. Giggy. Gug, glog. Grig.
V: Alright, last question. We ask everyone this. Check out the site if you think I’m lying. As a man who draws dogs every now and then, in your professional artistic opinion, do they have lips?
J: I have consulted my roommate, Seth the Greyhound, and after grabbing his head and feeling around for a while, I can say in all certainty, that yes, they do. Otherwise the fur wouldn't know when to stop growing, and would grow right up onto the dog's gums.
SEE JAY'S WORK HERE.
SEE JAY'S BAND HERE.