Andrew Monserrate drew some incredible artwork during the '80s and early '90s NYHC scene and played in Stand Proud, a band that recorded one demo and had a song on the New Breed cassette compilation from 1989. Whether his pieces are music-, New York City-, or politically-related, his amazingly detailed work is a sight to behold. Monserrate just debuted a new website that collects work from his entire career to date, so I figured this was a perfect time to drop him some questions and showcase some of his paintings.
Hey, buddy, so tell me what part of New York did you grow up in and where is your family from?
I was born on 13th and 2nd in NYC in '67. Both my parents moved to NYC as children from Puerto Rico and met on Delancey St. in the '50s. They met at a screening of Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock. My dad lived on Allen St. and my mom lived over the bridge, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He walked over that bridge every day. We had a lot of family living in the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, so I have much memories of those days in NYC. We later moved to Richmond Hill, Queens. That's where I went to school. I later moved back to NYC for a while. My family and my work are still in NYC.
What are your earliest drawing memories?
Ever since I can remember, I've always been drawing. My mom says I was born with a pencil and paper in hand, she should know [laughs]. My tools and style have always stayed the same for 35 years or so: black ink, some red and grey tones. I don't use computer programs or tabs to draw, or brushes and paints, everything is done by hand with pen and ink, which is very rare these days. Everything is graphic art. Pearl Paint [art supply store] in Chinatown closed. I used to live in that place.
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Any particular artists that influenced you at that formative stage?
I have been influenced by several artist throughout the years. I've always loved highly detailed cartoons and illustrations, mainly black and white pen and ink, and I never really liked superhero type of art or comics. My first influence was Don Martin from Mad magazine, his cartooning wasn't difficult or detailed but I really liked his style. In the '70s there was this real underground comics scene going on. I was lucky to get turned onto these artist by a neighbor who was an amazing cartoonist. That whole underground comics scene was just like the punk/hardcore scene. They were cartoonists stepping out of what was normal and really pushing the envelope on social, political, and personal issues through comics. Some were quite filthy and raunchy. The underground cartoonists I like the most are Robert Crumb, Vaughn Bodē, Art Spiegelman, Spain Rodriguez, Skip Wilson, and Robert Wilson. They were real pioneers on pushing the censorship envelope in general, on many topics punk musicians were trying to get across. One of my main influences is Thomas Nast, who is probably the first political cartoonist in American history during the 1860s - 1890s. His cartooning is so perfect. Nast invented the elephant and donkey characters for the political parties. Not only did he do political cartoons, he was the one who introduced Santa Claus as a bearded, cheerful old man dressed in red. I also like Salvador Dali. I once received a book printed in Spanish of Dali's sketches, and they were all pretty much underground, cartoonish black ink. Strange, bizarre, sexual... very cool stuff.
I collect artist sketchbooks, to me they're more real than finished pieces.
When did you start playing guitar and get into NYHC?
I started playing guitar in the early '80s. I always loved guitar. I grew up listening to the Eagles; Floyd; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; The Who; Dylan... stuff my dad loved. Then in junior high school, I got into the Ramones, Joan Jett, The Police, and heavy metal—stuff like Iron Maiden, Priest, and Rush. In high school I drew in people's notebooks: metal bands playing, crazy skulls, and Harley dudes. I remember having like 20 notebooks on weekends, drawing guitarists with long hair and spikes. My main influence was Tony Iommi, for sure. I mean, he created the whole blueprint for metal and hardcore song formulas. I started jamming with a drummer who played drums for a band called Wolf Pack. I think it was 1983. I went to see him jam at a studio in Queens called The Loft. Agnostic Front was rehearsing there with another band called Cause for Alarm. I walked into that studio that day as a metal guitarist and walked out a hardcore guitarist. The whole attitude and vibe was so different, it gave you real confidence in writing your own stuff and really expressing yourself. I was lucky because I had two creative outlets: drawing and playing guitar. Those days were so incredible, listening to and seeing so many great bands from all over the U.S. We were fortunate and spoiled in NYC because every band made their way to our scene.
I never got into the political side of NYHC, like all that unity stuff that bands loved to preach about. I hung with people on the creative side and had a whole open-minded experience to a lot of different bands and artists, not just the ones in the "scene."
I had two hardcore eras. One was during the early '80s, where I snuck out to see bands at CB's and The Pyramid. I remember hanging in Tompkins Square Park and playing in some basement hardcore bands. The later era was in the Woodside, Queens scene with Stand Proud, where I was a few years older than the band. Stand Proud really had some good songs and ideas, but of course, life happened. But I really liked the New Breed era. It became more creative and expanded out of that earlier NYC formula. I have this one cassette of A-Bomb-A-Nation playing live on NYU and to me, it's just as good and brings back memories as any other labeled band. That's what was great about the scene, one cassette by a band that had 20 fans could become so great to you.
Who were some of your earlier favorite hardcore bands?
I loved it all, really. As much as I got into the NYHC bands, as a musician, I was really motivated by the West Coast and other bands like Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds, Black Flag, Minor Threat, D.R.I., etc. NYHC was the Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front. No other markets sounded the same as the concrete sound that came out of NYC.
You did some incredible artwork for your band Stand Proud. Besides doing flyers and zine covers, did you ever do artwork for any other bands?
I drew for a lot of bands, t-shirt designs, etc. I still have so many unfinished drawings from the mid to late '80s for bands that broke up before I could finish their designs. I drew for some bands from DC and Boston. One day I should print them in a book but there's also so much artwork out there I just gave away, do what you will with it. I have no idea if people used it or not. I also designed a bunch of tattoos and stencils for folks in the scene. I drew this poster for Hilly [Kristal] at CBGB's in 1989. He asked me to draw the front of the bar with a skeleton biker standing outside. It took me so long to finish, it was bigger than anything I ever drew. When I gave it to him, he didn't even unroll it to look at it, he said thanks, gave me a free t-shirt, and put it behind his desk. Who knows what he did with it. Maybe he gave it as a gift to a biker friend? Later, after he died, I drew a picture sort of the same way, but added him in front walking away from CBGB's.
I know you keep in touch with Tommie, the singer of Stand Proud, but whatever became of the other members?
Yeah, Tommie is my brother. Funny how we got back in touch. We basically lost touch in 1990 and I could never find him until I called the phone number on our original Stand Proud demo, which was Tommie's from when he was 16 and living at home. 20 years later his dad picks up the phone and he remembered me like I called last week. Just a shout out to Tommie, who's a real American hero serving in the military for 20 years, and he's actually doing his last tour in the Middle East right now. When he gets back we can finally get the band together [laughs]! He's still "standing proud" for his country. [Bassist] Damon lives on Long Island and still stays in touch with Tommie. [Drummer] Ike Proud disappeared off the face of the earth, like many people did from the Lower East Side scene.
Have you had any solo showings or been part of a group show of your art at a gallery space?
Musically speaking, I've done some solo stuff. As a guitarist in the '90s I did some studio work for some bands and independent movie soundtracks. Nothing big, but cool stuff. I've been recording instrumental punky/lounge/surf type of music for years and have a studio in my house. I'll always be creating and writing and dragging bassists and drummers in to lay tracks. As for art, I didn't make my living on art and drawing. I've had projects and shows here and there... after the NYHC scene. It's always been something I did for me, compositions of art, like songs. It took me years to get a new style of kids not slamdancing or playing guitar. But I have hundreds of illustrations done because they had to come out of me. I don't really like taking drawing assignments or anything like that these days because ultimately when people are paying, they're never happy. So like the punk-minded person I am, I'm just sticking to originals. I've made a pretty good living in the advertising and marketing world and have promoted and sold for hundreds of clients and Fortune 500 companies, but could never get around to really promoting my own art.
How have those days being into NYHC changed you in later life?
That mentality and confidence the hardcore scene produced in me has never changed. I don't think I would be the same person today if I never got into the hardcore scene. I know many people who are successful today because of the artistic and creative attitude that whole scene created. You can see the influence in so many things today, that came from that era in time. There was something special about the whole scene, playing shows only after months of learning how to play and people digging it. It gives you a certain confidence that you can do anything.
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I love your series of drawings of sports that can be played on concrete in NYC. Any chance you'll add such classic games like Handball, Stoop, or Johnny Ride the Pony to that repertoire?
Yeah, that series was done as t-shirts for NYC tourists. I drew them for a store in the South Street Seaport and they sold pretty well, but the store went under. My dad played tackle football in the mid-'70s for this NYC league. He brought me from playground to playgrounds all over NYC—Hell's Kitchen, Washington Heights, Chinatown, Harlem, the Lower West Side—just to watch his games. Every area had a team and it was rough, bloody stuff—tackle on concrete. When I was growing up in Queens, we played everything from roller hockey to softball to football on concrete, with no refs. People don't get that outside of NYC. How athletic New Yorkers are and how rough it gets. I still don't feel comfortable playing sports on grass. I do have other sketches that never made it to have final illustrations, maybe I should work on that. Handball was one of them.
Thank you so much for your answers, old friend. Where is a good place online that people can check out your work or contact you for customized drawings?
I started a new web page, AMIDgallery.com (Andrew Monserrate Illustrations & Design), which is up now. You can go there and see some oldies and newer stuff. Some prints and originals featured on the site are available for sale.