1 - Normally we kick off the interviews by asking "where are you from and how long have you been illustrating" but I'm not sure that really sums up what you do. So with this in mind and for those who don't already know - Where are you from and what is Snakepit?
I was born and raised in Richmond, VA. At the end of the '90s I was living in a punkhouse on Grace Street called the Snake Pit. I was a huge fan of Jim's Journal by Scott Dikkers, and when I found out it was fictional I saw an opportunity, so I stole his idea and did it for real.
2 - When you started did you have any idea how long you'd be doing it for? And have the ethics of the punk scene influenced you along the way?
When I first started, July 2000, I was just kinda drawing strips on the days that I felt like it, without any sort of direction. After self-publishing little zines of it for the first five months, I fine-tuned it, started adding the theme songs and made the commitment to draw a strip every day for the rest of my life. Here I am ten years later and haven't missed a day yet.
I guess punk ethics subconciously influenced me in the sense that I didn't wait around for somebody to offer to publish for me, I just went to the copy shop and did it myself for the first two years or so.
3 - It must have been great to see them compiled together in a book, how did the publishing thing happen?
Well, I was doing it as a zine and trading them through the mail with people, and I met Maddy Tightpants. She an I hit it off really well and became friends. She suggested that I send some Snakepits to Razorcake for review. Razorcake loved it, and when I went through LA that summer, Todd approached me and offered to do the first book. Once the first one came out, it was pretty easy to find publishers for the next ones.
4 - As the popularity of the books has grown has it affected the things you write/draw about? It must be a bit weird to think that people around the world are reading the ins and outs of your daily life.
YES it has affected what I draw and how I say it to the degree that I decided to stop publishing! Earlier this year I had made a decision to stop drawing the comics on 12-31-10, as that would mark ten years exactly. The reason I'd wanted to stop was because the comics had gotten so boring, because I couldn't put the truth about a lot of things in there. If my boss read some of the things I wanted to say about him, I'd lose my job for sure (same thing with a lot of my friends). After a lot of thought I decided not to quit drawing, but rather to quit publishing them, at least for a really long time (look for a new book around 2030).
5 - That's a real shame, although completely understandable (and I'll be looking forward to 2030!) Following on from my last question, has writing the comics ever affected the way you live your life at all, or decisions you make in everyday life? I can imagine myself doing weirder and weirder things just to put in the comic!
For a while I was doing just that, making stupid decisions about stuff because it would make good comics. Back then I didn't have much else going in my life so I put everything I had into the comics. Nowadays I don't really care that much and I think the comics are more honest. They're more boring, sure, but keeping them exciting was never the point.
6 - Speaking of exciting, how chuffed were you when you were asked to join J Church?! (was it J Church you were touring with when you played in my wife's club in England?)
Being in J Church was definitely the coolest thing that ever happened to me. I worked in a record store (Sound Exchange) in Austin and Lance got hired there. After a few months of working together we became good friends, and when he started the band up again in Austin he asked me to play bass. I played with the band for the next four years, touring North America, Europe and Japan. It was definitely with J Church that we played the Cavern, and I do remember it to be a wonderful bar and everyone there was really nice!
7 - If the comic has become less important to you what do you do now to satisfy your creative urges? Are you in any bands at the moment and, if so, any chance you'll be touring around this way anytime soon?
Music has always been my real passion. The comics were born out of frustration with the band I was in in 2000, when I started them. Right now I've got a few projects going.. My main band has been Shanghai River, we have an LP on ADD Records in Florida, and we did a short west coast tour last summer. Right now Shanghai River is on indefinite hiatus. I also play in Ghost Knife with Mike Wiebe from the Riverboat Gamblers and Chris from J Church. We're mainly a side project but have recorded an LP's worth of songs that will hopefully see the light of day soon. There's talk of a split with the Arrivals. I have two other as-yet-unnamed projects going as well, but they are in the very early stages.
8 - Whether band related or comic related, from the experiences you've had have you got any advice you could pass on to someone just starting out?
The best advice I can give is to not procrastinate! So many talented people go with their full potential unrealized because they were waiting for somebody to come along and do all the hard work for them. That kinda shit only happens in the movies. If you want to succeed you have to make it happen by yourself.
9 - Top 5 bands?
Top 5 bands right now: Muhammadali, The Arrivals, Unfun, Stymie, Daylight Robbery
10 - Top 5 films?
Again, this is a "right now" list: Dead Snow, The Road, Human Centipede, Best Worst Movie, Twilight:Eclipse (I'm serious!)
11 - Top 5 books?
Sadly, I don't think I've even read five books in the last 10 years.
Thanks loads for the interview Ben!
The Snakepit book is published by Gorsky Press, ISBN No. 0-9668185-9-8.