The Heavy Mental speak to French – the bloke that designed our logo and doodled our trees…
French is an artist from England. If this first statement doesn’t make sense then wait till you meet him. A fellow of many contradictions, and calling him a contradiction is the first… well… contradiction. A clever man who acts stoopid, an artist that pretends to be void of sensitivity, a true friend that will wind you up till you slap him in the face. And then, he is one of the most straight forward people you’ll ever meet – when he says he’ll be somewhere, then his appearance is gospel. A man that has become an honorary Australian for the amount of times he returns to enrich us with dark humor and even darker drawings. I remember when I met him he told me he hated Australia and would likely never return, though he was called back for a cameo on Home & Away only to be the least incognito extra in history; covered up head to toe in black jeans and metal t-shirt… at the beach.
French is an artist from England that is an Australian.
You’ve been to Australia a bunch of times now. What are the things that stand out to you that are different between it and the UK?
The weather, how tough Aussies are, the use of the word cunt. Also the full on straight forward outspokeness of Aussie’s is brilliant. I love the way you get called out for being a cock straight away. There’s no bullshit. The standard of living and the openness of Australia is awesome. People seem to actually follow their dreams in Aus and make what they will of their lives. It seems allot more realistic to follow your dreams in Aus, than it does in England. People start galleries, work as artists, start companies, open cafes in Aus and people in the UK just say it would be too hard.
Where and when did your enduring relationship with metal begin?
When I was a kid my older brother was really into Iron Maiden, Saxon, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest. So I got into bands like that and then gradually I got more into bands like Slayer, Anthrax, Exodus, Testament, Nuclear Assault. Some of my brothers friends introduced me to Death Metal, it was the early 1990′s and the whole Florida Death metal thing was going on, so I got straight into Deicide, Obituary, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse etc. About the same time bands like Bolt Thrower, Cancer, Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror would play in the small venues near my home town so I got into UK death as well. Its just gone on from there really, I’ve never really listened to any other sort of music, just sub-genres of metal.
What is the state of the English metal scene in 2012?
Its pretty fucking good. There’s allot of good bands coming out of the UK and there’s always bands playing from all over the world, big names and more underground ones. I love friday nights me and Danny skate the park in Camden till 9pm and then go to the Unicorn Pub, there’s always bands playing there for free on Fridays. Sometimes you get a proper good one.
Who are your favourite artists that have the metal spirit?
Ed Repka, Chris Moyen, Murdoch Stafford, Glen Smith, Pushead.
The independent skate scene is thriving at the moment with brands like Passport in Oz and Witchcraft and Palace in the UK. Why do you think people are looking for an alternative these days?
Its not a new thing really in the UK, we’ve always had a load of good independent, smaller brands. I just think due to the internet they can get much better exposure. Also I think people are board of the same old thing and really like having something that they can relate to. Some thing they know the scenery in the videos, the spots, the riders and style fits with where they’re from.
What was the motivation for you starting your own hard ware company? And what does the future hold for Witchcraft?
Its pretty simple, I could never get the shape and size board I want and I was fed up with having to search for the one I wanted so I just started making boards so I could have a short 8.5″ board. It’s just escalated from there really. Now there’s a team and its sold in a load of cuntries including Aus. We have an Aussie team rider as well, Kirill, he’s a beast. The future is bright, I hope, the team is getting better and bigger we now have Marc Churchill an older dude, but super good and a few younger guys. Hopefully we can make more exciting stuff and go on more trips. It’s just about the act of skateboarding and having a laugh.
When did you realise that you could make a living from drawing and art?
I don’t think I ever did. I just ended up having so much work that I didn’t have time to do any other job.
What has been the most satisfying project you have worked on recently?
At the moment I’m working on the poster design for Scions Rockfest, where Exodus and Testament are playing. So anything thing like that with bands that I’ve looked up to for so long is really satisfying. Also working with Scion is really fun and I usually get to draw something pretty free and interesting.
Do you have a dream project?
Not really? I think my dream would to just be able to make work and not have to worry about the financial side. Just make art for art sake. That’d be a proper dream.
What does DEATH TO FALSE METAL mean to you?
If the dudes worry more about what they are wearing, than how good they are, then its not true metal. Any of that emo shit you get these days sucks!!!
Interview by Ed Davis via The Heavy Mental.
Introduction by Joseph Allen Shea.
Photographs by Sam Smith.