Posted by: Addison – Sep 27, 2012
Richard “French” Sayer is a freelance artist, illustrator, and skateboarder based out of London, England, and anyone who has seen his work inevitably utters some iteration of the phrase “holy shit.” Heavily inspired by metal music and highly detailed medieval etchings, French has created work for many names in the skateboard industry, as well as for his own company, Witchcraft Hardware. With an installation in LA and a show at Richmond's Books, Bikes, and Beyond Thrift opening in October, we caught up recently to shoot the breeze...
Alright, let's get the bullshit basics out of the way for all the bozos who don't know nothing. Can you give us an overview of skate decks you've illustrated?
Err... let me think. I've worked in the UK for Heroin, Harmony, Death, Ekta, and Lovenskate. In Europe, Antiz, 7" Inch, Nuke'Em, and now Cliche. In the USA, I've worked for Real, Zero, Independent and Creature.
What was the first skate deck you did artwork for? How did you get involved in that project?
The first one I did was for Heroin Skateboards. I'd known [Heroin owner] Fos for a while, through skating with him. My buddy Chas skated with him all the time and, when I came to London to see Chas, often Fos would come and skate with us. I just showed him some of my drawings and stuff. Over time he suggested maybe I could draw a board for him. I drew this picture of a dude me and Alanglass (the ex-Heroin filmer and my mate) would see all the time at metal shows. We called him the "Hove Warrior." We knew he lived in Hove, near Brighton, and he was the funniest dude, always with the best metal shirts. I moved to Australia for a year and I drew this pretty funny picture of him and emailed it to Fos and Alanglass. They thought it was super funny, and it just ended up as a graphic for Heroin.
What illustrators and artists have been the biggest influence on your style and aesthetic?
I guess the ones you'd expect--Pushead, Jim Phillips, all the old Santa Cruz stuff. When I started skating there was one shop near me and it pretty much only sold Santa Cruz. I was so into that stuff. I was also super into Death/Thrash metal, so like Ed Repka and all the old Napalm Death, Obituary, Slayer, Bolt Thrower, etc. album covers of the time. I've always loved Victorian age illustrators like Dore, Beardsley, Rackman, and all that kinda very British looking stuff from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
How sick are you of people asking you your favorite horror movie and/or metal band in interviews?
Pretty sick... but usually its just what I currently like. At the moment, I really love Sanguis Imperium, they're fucking sick. And I guess my favorite movie at the moment is Dead Snow. Nazi Zombies... result!!!
Give us the run-down of an ideal day for French.
Get up early, eat eggs, cycle to my studio at about 8:30am, work all day. Meet Street Panther for lunch at the Cafe by the studio, work till 6pm, skate Stockwell skatepark till it gets dark... pretty simple.
You're drawing some of the sickest looking metal letters out there right now. Is there a band logo that when you see it, you think "Damn, I wish I did that?"
Haha... pretty much any logo Chris Moyen has drawn. That dude's got that shit down. There's so many I wish I'd drawn. I really like the Necros Christos logo, as you can't read it at all.
I've seen coffee mugs, sweatpants, and some other unusual uses for your drawings. What are some of the stranger things you've done illustrations for?
I guess Homeware's the weirdest. I drew black metal stuff for pillows, aprons, shot glasses, coasters, and mugs. You gotta be stoked on the weirder stuff. I just did boxer shorts with skulls on them for Cleptomanicx.
What are some projects of yours that you are most proud of?
I'm most proud of the stuff I've done that involved anything that is skating or Metal [related]. I guess making stuff for Creature stoked me out loads, and shirts for Independent is what I dreamed of as a kid. Also, I drew a tour shirt for Krisiun and I was fucking hyped... almost did a sex wee in my pants when I got asked for that.
What accomplishments as an artist have you yet to achieve, that you hope to in the future?
Fuck... I dunno. I guess I'd love to do a book and have work in shows in a proper massive museum?
You clearly have an acute understanding of the walking evil. In your expert opinion, given a no-holds barred battle-to-the-death set in a charred hellscape, who would emerge victorious and why, between Hell's triple-headed guard dog, Cerberus or a pack of velociraptors??
Cerberus. Three heads are way better--3x the raddness.
Blood-sucking Chupacabra or reptilian, shape-shifting Chitauri?
Shape-shifting is fucking sick!!!
Glenn Danzig or King Diamond?
Danzig wears a rubber glove, so it's King Diamond, as he has a cape.
Frankenstein with machete hands or a panther in a Black Hawk helicopter?
Mate, Panthers always win, especially in a fucking chopper.
Golem or Sasquatch?
Beer or Weed?
Beer... more hopps.
A zombie horde or an army of suicide bombers?
Zombies. Jihad ain't shit against the undead.
Fixed gear bikers or rollerbladers?
Fucking hell... they both deserve to die.
Alright, now that blood hast been shed, and the smoke has cleared in the hypothetical nightmare scenario,
French has become supreme overlord of all that remains. What are the cardinal rules of your new empire?
Don't even get me started... So much shit gets on my tits. I guess, no cunts, no fixed gears, no pushing in the bowl, no ipods in skateboarding, no emos, front-side only, no rolled-up trousers, no floppy hair cuts, no jazzy beers, simple lifestyles only... no tech TVs, etc... Mate, I could go on for days.
Tell us a little about Witchcraft Hardware.
Well, it's my little project. I decided to start making boards for a number of reasons, because I could never get a shirt 8.5", I wanted to have graphics that I called the shots on. I knew a bunch of people like Paul Parker and Murdoch Stafford that would be sick for board graphics, and also just 'cos I thought it would be fun. Right now its escalated way more than I ever thought it would, I have distribution in eight different countries, team riders in most of them, and I even saw a naked chick in some magazine wearing a Witchcraft beanie. I actually have trouble working out whether its a real company, a fun thing, a project, or an actual business. What is funny is, people seemed shocked when I tell them I have no stock 'cos I sold it all, and also when I don't care about selling it or working on stuff 'cos I'd rather go skating. Surely that's how a skateboard company should work--skateboarding first, business second? All the team get on and just want to go skate, and it's not even so much about getting footage or being in mags for those guys. It's about skating, having fun, and going on trips. It's not about being the next PlanB--I'd be an idiot if I thought it would be that. It's about fun and staying true to what I feel skateboarding is to me.
Who's riding on the team right now?
Wow! The team's pretty rad. No one anyone really knows. In the UK I have home legends Marc Churchell and Joe Habgood, Tibs, Jamie the Pirate, Joxa; and on the flow team Arbel Samsanov, Max Roton, Mike Joyce. In France there's Vincent Coupeau; and in Romain, Canada, we have Garret McNevett; Australia is Kirill Ouspenski; and we just got this nutta in New Zealand called Morph.
Any plans for Witchcraft coming up? New stuff to look out for?
We'll have new boards in Feb, new clothing for Xmas, and I'm working on some top-secret stuff with Dave Sweetapple from that band Witch right now. Keep your eyes peeled.
Alright, thanks for shooting the shit with us!
No, thank you. Stoked to be involved.
Books, Bikes, and Beyond Thrift will be featuring prints and original works by Richard "French" Sayer from October 5th through November 1st. The show will open on First Friday, October 5th, at 7pm. Books, Bikes, and Beyond Thrift is located at 7 W. Broad Street. To see work by the artist, visit his website at www.funeralfrench.com or his blog at www.funeralfrench.blogspot.com.
By Jim Callahan