One day as i was checking in on my favorite designer’s FB page and I saw him mention something about wanting to do more interviews. So i contacted him immediately and let him know that Super Happy Death Cult is down. A few days later he responded and the process began! This guy is someone that i look up to. Michael Shantz is an epic artist / designer, and although you didn’t know it, chances are you have probably seen his work at some point in your life and may have even owned one if his shirts. Hes known for his work as lead designer for Drop Dead. A UK Based clothing line ran by Oli Sykes, front man of Bring Me The Horizon, a band he also did design work for. Hes done a lot of amazing work (and some of my all time favorite band tees) for The Red Shore and many other bands too. Hes been involved in many successful start up clothing lines and runs his own called Grimjob. I was absolutely stoked to get this interview! And its my pleasure to present to you, the SHDCVLT interview with Michael Shantz.
Thanks for taking some time to be interviewed by us. First off, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hey ! My name is Michael Shantz. Im an illustrator, art director, stylist from Canada.
Where are you from in Canada? And when did you first start making art?
I’m from a small town in British Columbia called Salmon Arm. Yes its actually named that ! I started making art probably when i was around 3 yrs old ! I remember seeing photos of me painting and drawing at very very young ages. Both my parents are artists as well, so they encouraged creativity and art.
Are there influences from your childhood that we can see in the work you do today?
Definitely ! I was born and raised in the 80s and loved stuff like TMNT, toxic crusaders, biker mice from mars, comics, Tim Burton and ooooooooze !! Its safe to say that im still influenced by all that stuff still at 31 yrs old.
What other influences are responsible for you esoteric / egyptian / black metal and hip hop cultural style?
Well you kinda answered your own question there….. I was always really interested in black magic, black metal, Japanese kabuki and ancient Egypt. I studied up as much as i could and still do to this day. I really loved the theatrics of black metal and kabuki, the over the top stage presence and movements. They create characters, and thats what i love the most in my own work as well, creating characters.
You have made some really epic designs for big touring bands and musicians all over the world. Who where the first few bands that commissioned you for designs? And who were your favorites? I bought some of my favorite tees designed by you from The Red Shore.
I think the first band to ask me to do merch designs was a band called They Evoke from alberta Canada. I ended up doing a lot of early art for them actually ! My favorite merch ive designed though…. hmmm… its hard to say, its all been a lot of fun. Architects was fun because we ended up doing a series of din based designs that fans really loved. But honestly i think my favorite stuff was The Red Shore as well, because Jamie really let me run wild and do anything i wanted. My fav was the Pig-ton design and the boycotter facelift, both were soooo brutal and weird and i still look back and laugh at those.
You did work for Flatbush Zombies right? How did that opportunity come to you?
Actually, no. I did some fan art of them as Beavis and Butthead and they tweeted that they loved it but never got a hold of me to do anything. Id still love to do art for em and feel it would defiantly fit their vibe!
You were the lead graphic designed for Drop Dead at one point. What happened with that? And how do you feel about them continuing to run with your design style?
Oliver saw the designs i was doing for TRS when BMTH was on tour with them and loved the taco creep design so much he contacted me to do some designs for DD… one of those was the first ever Kitty Brainz designs actually ! After a few lines of designs he asked me to move to the UK to be lead designer, which i did. I learned a lot working at DD and don’t regret it, but due to unforeseen circumstances i had to come back to Canada. It was a bummer and id really love to redo some of those old DD designs for DD , im sure fans would love it ! But we lost touch and i wish DD all the best. Its complicated to talk about the style of DD. Honestly i do feel that after i left they kind of jacked my vibe and tried to keep it going, and that sucks. But the designers they have really have their own styles and i watched them evolve with the brand. I get a bit pissed off when a client asks me to do ‘Drop Dead style’ though…. hahahha.
What happened to Dark Earth and Vampire Club? I haven’t been seeing any activity.
Long story short…. don’t start a brand with people you cant trust. Im still pretty pissed off about both those brands. Both brands had huge potential i feel and we had big plans for both as well, but then the other owners seriously dropped the ball and there was nothing i could do to bring em back. At least i have Grimjob !!
Do you want to tell us about Raw Meat?
Rawmeat is an awesome little brand in the UK run and owned by my good buddy Doyle and he has some big plans for the brand but due to some health issues it has been put on hold. Make sure you go check out the brand and his work and keep your eyes peeled in the future for some great work with the two of us!
Tell me about your collabs with Mishka!
I love Mishka ! I first saw them on a trip to NYC with my ex gf and was soooo in love with the style and attitude of the brand. I really felt that they would understand where my art came from and that we probably have a lot in common. I cant remember how i actually finally got ahold of the owners, but i did and kept sending them sketches and design ideas an then finally a year later i did the black metal bear mop and Greg Mishka loved it enough to print it! From then on he would contact me anytime he had weird ideas that fit my style. I was lucky enough to do a watch, and some exclusives for the SF store as well as a few for japan. Hopefully i will continue to work with them for a long time to come.
Aside from being commissioned to do art for bands, musicians, and brands. What else do you do?
Im also an art director focusing mainly on branding and logo work. Me and my gf are also stylists and own/run an online vintage shop called Cool Koala.
You have sold through a lot of third party vendors like society6, printallover.me, and icamefromnothing. Has this proven to be successful? And how do you feel about them taking such big cuts off the profit?
I don’t make a fortune off any of them to be honest, but the point of putting stuff up on sites like that is to constantly have something available for my fans and collectors. Stuff that i wouldn’t be able to produce on my own, like shower curtains and XL prints. I will always update those sites with awesome new work !
What do you want for the future of your Brand Grimjob? Where do you see your self and the brand 10 years from now?
Grimjob is weird…. It started as an idea for a brand but then became an entity all its own with a weird grimy attitude that was really welcomed by my fans. Its less of a brand and more of a name for all the random awesome shit i make and sell. Ive done custom vests and handmade one-offs, and vie done collabs with bands and companies as well ! Id like to do bigger and bigger collabs with GJ in the future and maybe even a cartoon like King Star King…. something that represents how i see my art and characters. I could also see GJ as a high end fashion brand…. it has unlimited potential.
In the music and art industry, there is a lot of copying going around. How does this make you feel? If you could, would you change this?
If you ask around, ive been ripped and copied more than i can even remember ! It sucks, BUT there isn’t a lot you can do besides contact people that copy me and try to sell it and tell em to stop. I think a lot of the copying comes from kids being influenced by me and confusing the idea of using that influence to create something original and amazing rather than just copying my style or art directly. Im published in AP magazine ( http://www.altpress.com/features/entry/art_is_hard_when_cover_art_and_merch_designs_seem_a_little_too_familia/ ) talking about this subject more.
We all go through the struggle. What was your darkest moment in life? And how has it molded you into the character that you are today?
Not a lot of people know, and i feel confident with myself and my life now to share this, because maybe it will help some kids in the same boat, but i used to be a cutter and attempted to kill myself a few times… Its just not worth it, the pain is extreme and i know some of you might be thinking that the only way to end it or to get attention is to cut or self harm, but im telling you from a LOT of experience, it just isn’t. Take the easier road and just ask someone for help, or find a solid friend and talk to them, vent those problems and it will make you feel so much better !!! I think all the self harm , hatred and my life long problem with depression has helped to mold the way i think and react. Life is already short, don’t make it shorter.
What are the greatest moments of your career? What major milestones or dreams have you achieved?
Ive had some really awesome moments in my career so far like designing a rickshaw that a friend of mine raced across India. I got to design toys, skate decks and be lead designer for a huge clothing brand as well as design for one of my fav brands all before i was 30. I got to live in different countries, go to huge parties, be published on blogs, magazines and online for my art, style and ideas. Ive also gotten to meet more amazing artists than i can even mention and collaborate with most of them as well !
As we wrap this up. Do you have a message for our readers. Something you really want them to think about and take with them?
Educate yourself. If you want to be an artist, do more than read comics or copy your favorite artists (thats good too but,) knowing things like anatomy, perspective and color theory will take your work to the next level !! “Its not until you know all the rules, that you can break them!”