John Baizley and Baroness
The depth of John Baizley's ambitious talent is immeasurable by any terms I'm familiar with. To comprehend his somewhat mysterious, and purposefully private existence in the public art realm, one must first appreciate the demanded effort it may take to physically seek it out...
The depth of John Baizley's ambitious talent is immeasurable by any terms I'm familiar with. To comprehend his somewhat mysterious, and purposefully private existence in the public art realm, one must first appreciate the demanded effort it may take to physically seek it out. Deservingly so, the severely intricate line work of Baizley’s glazed-eyed muses, dark occult symbolism and moonlit fauna are difficult to shy away from. An accomplished musician in the band Baroness, his printed work has often only been accessible during his shows or those of his musical counterparts. This enigmatic presence has forced the lost art of human interaction on those willing to stray away from our impersonal, overly attainable existence and further created a lure to Baizley’s work. His deeply iconic and consistently brilliant work as a musician, an artist as well as a dedicated father has become synonymous, creatively consuming every facet of his life. I was fortunate enough to arrange an interview with Baizley to hear his well-defined and eloquent depiction of his motives and what drives him, simultaneous to the monumental release of a new Baroness album, and illustrative feat. This interview simply marks another stage for Baizley to delve deeper into expressing and defining his productively inspirational existence. - Lust After
In 2009 my wife and I were lucky enough to stage the first solo show by John Baizley at a little gallery we owned in Pennsylvania. John displayed artwork he created for bands like Black Tusk, The Red Chord, Darkest Hour, as well as his own band, Baroness. He has since worked on album art for larger projects like HBO's Flight of the Conchords and Gillian Welch, in addition to underground bands like Tiger Tiger! and Kvelertak. John's one of the most insanely gifted and incredibly driven people I've ever known, spending the last year working frantically on the new Baroness album and artwork, as well as several other album covers, in addition to raising a newborn daughter. Somehow with all this going on, we found an hour to catch up.
Where does Baroness end and your art begin? Is there a clear division between you the musician and you the fine artist?
If you would have asked me that question eight or nine years ago, I would have said yes – there is a separation. For about a decade, I had been trying to create some sort of division between the visual and the audible art that I make. However, after all that time I've learned that trying to keep any sort of separation between the two is really quite pointless, as one art-form informs the other so frequently and in such a fundamental way that the space in between has whittled down to nothing. It seems now that I've committed myself to one lifelong project that is equal parts visual art and music. The journey is in creation itself - it's always been a constant internal nagging to make something communicative. I'm a shitty carpenter, so it looks like it’s art and music by default.
Is Baroness that lifelong project, or is it unfair to give everything you create just one name?
It's open ended. It would do the band itself disservice to say Baroness isn't a lifelong art project. Baroness has been my main artistic outlet for a over a third of my life – a place to channel all my neuroses and creative impulses. Through the band, I've been able to cover all my bases, creatively speaking. When we first started the band, it was meant to stand as a vehicle for everything inside me that needed to get out – which is not to say I won't do things outside of Baroness, but over this time, it's become all I know. Baroness has been a fantastic platform for me to express myself, as well a unique place to share that kind of expression amongst my friends and bandmates.
The influence of skateboard art and rock album art is visible in your work, yet it seems to decrease with each project. Are those elements you consciously chose to get away from?
I really don't mind the referential stuff – the influence is natural and healthy. In the early parts of most artists’ careers, there's tends to be a learning curve. You use your influences in order to give you placement and to hone your craft. I was involved in punk and hardcore, so it stood to reason I would reference elements of that world. Earlier on, I was self-aware enough to understand that I hadn't fully flowered. I considered it necessary humility. I still don't feel like I'm there yet. The genre I came up in had already been established - I wasn't involved at the dawn of punk, I had 20-30 years of history to inform me. With each subsequent project and ongoing year, I gain a better understanding of my own ability and identity as an artist. I'm heading towards something more unique throughout my life, with less influences and a more genuine voice. Years ago, I was happy to have those influences. I wanted to use them. When you're learning a craft, it can be healthy to have an understanding of some of the some guidelines, and those guidelines allowed me to witness and understand my place in the world. The art that I'm making now feels different, more honest. I think that's what we all hope and strive for – a candor in communication which we hope to achieve. I try to buck the prevailing system whenever possible by introducing imagery significant to my work alone, which still speaks to the accompanying music. I like to think I can leave some imprint by changing the status quo and challenging some of the knuckle-headedness as I go along.
Read the rest of the interview at Lust-After for Juxtapoz Magazine.