Posted Jul 13th 2009 by

Lead image

An interview with
DEREK DEALwords by , July 2009

For many illustrators and designers, the childhood memories of drawing and doodling lie in the core of their creativity. Harking back to yesteryear and drawing inspiration from the environmental influences that we all soaked up as youngsters. This is certainly the case with our latest featured artist. He’s one 5th of the design team The Black Axe, and inspired by the exploding OTT youth culture of the 80’s. His name is Derek Deal.

Hello there and welcome to Thunder Chunky, what’s new in the world of Derek Deal?

Hi! Hmmm what’s new? Well its summer, that means it’s festival season for a ton of our clients. So we (The Black Axe) have been scrambling to get all of their shirts, merch, albums, etc, done so they can look good on the road. The company is only 6 months old so we are completely stoked to be as busy as we are right now. But on top of other people’s stuff, there’s a bunch of our own projects we’re planning releases for in the near future.

If someone was to look up Derek Deal in the dictionary what would the excerpt say?

I’m pretty terrible at talking myself up but i guess it would say something like, Florida raised illustrator/designer known for creating t-shirt and album art for rad bands. I’d rather one day it would read, world record holder for devouring the worlds largest calzone or maybe something slightly less depressing, like eccentric billionaire mogul notorious for travelling place to place via ostrich-back.


Poster design – A Wilhelm Scream and Extinction Theory


A selection of Derek’s tee designs.

Your work can be seen across merch stalls for some of America’s most amazing hardcore and punk bands such as A Wilhelm Scream, The Swellers, Hot Water Music, Less than Jake, Set Your Goals, New Found Glory, The Flatliners, How do you approach different designs for each band. Do you just offer up designs you have done, or do they come to you with ideas about eyes popping out heads and giant monsters?

Every job is a little bit different but i almost never have anything laying around that’s prefab. I’d rather do something original that fits the band and their fans. Sometimes they’ll come at me with an idea that i can take and mangle and put my own spin on. That collaboration of ideas usually bears the best results and can make what i do a lot of fun. I get a lot of requests to just do my own thing too, at which point i grab a pen, crank the band’s tunes as loud as possible and just kind of see what shakes loose like a freaky science experiment. Usually eye popping is involved.


80’s Dino Riders Phenomenon

Your work has more than a hint of the 80’s about it! What was the best thing about the 80’s? What was you favourite 80’s toy?

Everything was better about the eighties; music, fashion, movies, cartoons. I dont know why, but things just seemed to have more balls.

I was a kid then, and had a pretty kickass time, so I’m pretty nostalgic and biased. I think everyone is partial to the generation they grew up in though. If I grew up in the 20’s I’m sure I’d be raving about talkies and making my own gin in a bathtub.

There was a lot of amazing toys but I think I have to give massive credit to Dino Riders. I mean c’mon, dinosaurs in battle gear, lazers AND aliens that look like hammer head sharks in one franchise? Its an eight year old’s wet dream as is, now throw in a couple of double A batteries to make the toys actually move, and you’ve got half a generation of drooling, soccer playing zombies who can’t wait to give you their lunch money. It was pure genius. I think its that kind of “more is more” attitude of the whole decade that’s found its way into a lot of my work over the last couple of years.


The Black Axe

Tell us about The Black Axe and how you got involved with them.

There’s five of us in The Black Axe. There’s me, Richard Minino (Horsebites), Yardley (Skull With Hair), and Joey and Kevin, who had their own web development company called Team Doom. I was a pretty big fan of all of their work before i knew them personally. We tended to share the same clients too, so it wasn’t uncommon for us to drop each other a line to trade notes or just to say “hey, way to kill it on that last design”. Over time, through email and message boards we all become pretty good friends online and then eventually in ‘real’ life. The talk of forming a partnership got brought up one day and It just seemed like a no-brainer, so we went for it. We were inspired by what firms like Invisible Creature and Monument Studios were doing, and felt like we had the potential to take on bigger and bolder projects as a team. We tell people we’re a lot like Voltron, except hairier i guess, and instead of the appendages being panthers they’d probably be burritos.

Where do you see your work and the Black Axe going?

I’m starting to feel my work getting more and more personal and stylized, even out-there if you will. I’m excited myself to see where it goes, but exploring a tangent into the realm of fine/low brow art is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. As far as The Axe, the job’s are definitely getting bigger and crazier and we’re having a blast. After 6 months I’ve already seen a huge shift in the quality of our work, and stuff that we are actually getting to collaborate on is some of the best work I’ve had the privilege to be apart of. We’re all really pumped about the future for sure.


Clockwise from Top Left – Back in Black Poster, The ‚ÄòAxecutioner’ tee design, Back In Black Exhibit

You recently took part in the epic Back in Black Tee Exhibit, what was that like? And will there be another one!?

According to the pictures, I had a great time! Pale Horse and Hydro 74 know how to put on an event, it was incredible. They really made all of us tee designers feel like rock stars. I hope they keep doing it, at least once a year. I think they’ve stumbled onto something truly unique. A lot of gallery shows can be a little stiff or elitist feeling but these events really knock down a lot of barriers and allow the viewers to interact with the art, and the artist even, in a completely different way. I’m really honored to have been apart of it and hope there’s an opportunity to work with them again.


Top – More from the Back In Black Exhibit, Bottom – Derek (far right) and Horsebites ( bottom left)

Whose work do take inspiration from?

Oh man, there’s soooo many artists that inspire me but if i have to name a few I guess, Tex Avery, John K, Frank Kozik, Jim Philips, Ragnar, Gunsho, James Callahan, and Godmachine. All those dudes make me want to cut my hands off and give up.

With all your love for music, what bands / artists do you have shuffling through your mp3 player at the moment?

I’ve been rocking a lot of Dillinger Four, Fake Problems, Obits, Shook Ones and as always a hearty helping of Municipal Waste. I also did a 7 inch for my friends in a band called The Swellers. I’ve been listening to the two songs they let me have, everyday, for about two weeks straight. It’s some of the best pop punk I’ve heard in 10 years. Can’t wait till their LP comes out.

How else do you like to unwind?

Traveling, the only way for me to really get away from work is to get away from everything. I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of working from home. There’s no 20 minute commute that separates the office from your home life. All I can really do is close a door and do my best to forget about it. I’m not complaining though, not having to put on pants is extremely liberating.

What’s the one thing that Derek Deal recommends everyone should do today?

Take off your pants

For more eye popping action you can visit Derek’s Deal Blog or to view his collaborative work with his new design force, The Black Axe.


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