The whole idea of people in the hardcore scene contributing back to the culture is an important one. Linas Garsys is a perfect example of that concept in action. The artist has created work for such bands as American Nightmare, Shark Attack, AFI, and Kill Your Idols, to name a few. In the '00s, he also co-founded Malfunction Records, a label behind many crucial releases, including ones by Four Walls Falling, Internal Affairs, and Trash Talk.
I wanted to get to know Linas and find out some of his story in the hardcore scene, so I reached out to him to be part of my ongoing Art Spotlight series.
Give me some background on your upbringing. Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into cool shit?
I was born in Bangkok, Thailand, actually, the product of a military family, raised all over the place, but primarily in the Northern Virginia suburbs. I'd like to say my parents were into cool shit but for the most part I'd say pretty normal. They were both immigrants and a lot of family time was spent going to Lithuanian school and random Lithuanian cultural events. We had soccer and Boy Scouts, I guess the normal nuclear family activities with some pickled herring and odd things attached [laughs].
When/how did your love for art/illustration develop?
As far as I can remember, I've always been drawing and doing art. I had a real akward childhood. I feel between feeling out of place culturally and dealing with an abusive family environment, it was the one escape I had.
Who were some of the artists that you looked up to early on and how long did it take you to find your own style/voice?
Fine art was drawn to stuff like Albrecht Durer and M.C. Escher. There was always E.C Comics and Bernie Wrightson, but my biggest influence has to be Pushead. I remember seeing Thrasher magazine and my mom having a coniption fit. She tore the pages out of Puszone because she was offended, then asked why I couldn't have just bought that nice Transworld magazine instead. For finding a style voice, thats a hard one to pin down. I still see things and just want to dabble with them and play, or see if i can figure it out.
Did your parents support your art obsession?
I'd like to think my mom did, and for the most part, yes. My dad absolutely not, he repeatedly told me I'd be a failure and the main drive, I guess, to do it was to give him a big middle finger. I know my mom saw that Iloved it and encouraged me, but she was always trying to steer me away from the comics robots and weird shit I gravitated to.
When did you start collaborating with bands? What were some of your first music-related projects?
I started collaborating with bands around '89-'90? Well, those were my first few times. Friends I used to skate with were all into hardcore and one of them (Tommy Anthony from Over My Dead Body) had an older brother who was in a band that was putting out a 7". Our friend who was putting it out asked me to do a logo and type on scratch board for it. I used to write letters and trade flyers with other kids in high school that were doing all the DC show flyers and we started trading off graffiti in black books on weekends when we went to shows. After that, it was all chaos [laughs].
I made stickers for Four Walls Falling just out of the blue, based on a art assignment and gave them to them at a show. Then one friend of mine and I made sheet bedding banners for Judge and Gorilla Biscuits when they played the Safari Club. We did the Judge one but they ended up being replaced by GB, so we stayed up wrecking more of my mom's sheets to knock out a GB horn guy banner. After that, I didn't really start working heavily with bands until late '90, with local bands and friends for flyers after that it all just kinda exploded.
Tell me a bit about Malfunction Records, the hardcore label you co-founded in 1999.
I initially started it as a label called InVAsion when I got my first real job and had extra money. Tru Pray, who I started Malfunction with, had a theory that you could safely drop out of hardcore once you completed the following steps: do a zine, start a band, book a show, put out a record, and meet the people that inspired you to do this. Already having done a few small zines, and at that point not seeing any way to do a band, I figured I should put out some local bands I liked a lot. When Time Flies was recording a 7" for Teamwork, I went with them and asked if they would be willing to do a 7" with me. With the help of Ken Penn, we pressed the first InVAsion record and decided to do more VA bands. The only other record with the InVAsion logo was Press Your Luck. We had planned on putting out the Count Me Out record that Malfunction ended up releasing.
Malfunction was the name of a cable access show that we all helped with, but really was our friend Joseph Pattisal's late hours and countless time, we named the cable show and that based on the Cro-Mags song. Tru pretty much picked up what all my plans were and ended up releasing all the stuff I talked about. It was then my chance to pretty much just do a lot of random art covers. I think for the Count Me Out 7" had like two other variant covers outside from the Sid and Nancy lock sticker idea. Over the course of us doing the label, I think there were maybe two records I didn't handle all the art for, so it was my chance to really just go nuts with art and trying different things. We ended up selling the label to Deathwish Inc just because it was coming to a point where we couldn't handle it anymore. Tru had moved to California and my job was being crazy. We were having to devote more and more time to it that we couldn't justify it anymore. Ceremony was getting huge and we felt it was unfair to them and other bands we had to not be able to give them the support they needed .
What are the toughest aspects of what you do from a business standpoint? Are you constantly networking and reaching out to bands/brands/companies for gigs?
The toughest aspects for me business wise are saying no and timing. Forever I'd say yes to everything and end up letting everyone down. I'd say yes to projects I wasn't feeling and would waste time. I wouldn't manage my time well and I'd be there just dealing with mental chaos. A lot of times I'd be my own enemy and end up burning it all down. These days, I'm much better about all that and have learned to be more realistic about it. I like to network and reach out but I don't do it as much as I used to. I know I need to have a connection to the project or it's going to end up being a nightmare for me, and later for the people asking for art. I much rather avoid that and make sure everyone's happy, especially since this is punk rock and no one is doing it for the zeros. I definitely charge a lower rate if it's something I feel and am psyched on, over some corporate job.
What are some bands you would love to collaborate with if you could pick three dream gigs?
This is actually a tough one for me. Okay, three dream jobs:
Gorilla Biscuits - Them and Judge mean the world to me and helped shape me as an adolescent.
Beastie Boys - You said dream [laughs]. All the work Haze did for them is so iconic and I feel they were the flag bearers of culture crossover for the suburbs. Growing up into skateboarding and punk and hip-hop, it was the soundtrack for suburban weirdos.
Nerve Agents - I would do horrible things to people to be able to do some new designs for them, only if they played again.
Tell me about some of the newer artists/graphic designers we should all check out.
This is where i.m going to fail. I'm not sure any of these are newer names I can mention. Jeremy Dean... I love his work. Matt Worthey does a ton of stuff for Backtrack and all Olivia Kates' work for Firewalker is amazing. There's a bunch I can't name cause I'm a fool. I love all the Krimewatch art. I also love all the Cuture Abuse stuff. Florian Bertmer, Sergie Loobkopf, Spoiler... so many artists.
If you had to pick one of your pieces that best encapsulates why you love doing what you do, which one would it be and why?
It would have to be the American Nightmare angel. It's taken a life beyond what was meant. It's a secret handshake. When I see it now, I know I have something in common with someone or that they're into punk or hardcore. I always smile when I see any of my designs in public, but that one brings me back to a special time and place, with great friends.
Tagged: art spotlight