Culture Shock: From Grip Tape To The Big Stage

Linas Garsys Distills Music Into Imagery

Mikee Riggs
5 min read
AFI xbones
(Linas Garsys)
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Linas Garsys is the artist and graphic designer responsible for the visual aesthetic of countless hardcore and punk bands. Garsys, who has meticulously helped develop the overall feel of a number of seminal outfits—Ceremony, Champion, Trash Talk and AFI, to name a few—has been active in the scene for many years. He was kind enough to take some time out of his ever-full schedule to talk about his roots and influences, as well as his relationship with hardcore legends like American Nightmare (of late known as Give Up the Ghost) and psychobilly mainstays Tiger Army, who, incidentally, will be playing at Sunshine Theater on Sept. 10.

Alibi: What was your first real experience with or interest in counterculture and extreme music?

Garsys: Easily, [it] was skateboarding in middle school. I was in fifth grade and moved, like, half an hour away from where I used to live—which wasn’t bad, but [still] enough to throw [my] childhood into chaos. There was another kid that skateboarded [at my new school] that had older sisters into punk, so he had insane skater cuts and was wearing D.R.I., Dead Kennedys and Fear shirts to school and was always [getting] in trouble and was just fun to hang out with. He was the only kid that had a half pipe in the area.

So it was punk rock from the get-go for you. Did the skateboarding scene have any effect on you in terms of graphic design or art style?

Absolutely. Especially when starting to develop my own personality and style. My mom would get offended [by] “Puszone” in
Thrasher [magazine] and make me tear that page out, she preferred I get TransWorld because she thought it wasn’t as vulgar.

So art came first, then punk and skateboarding, when did you start considering the idea of combining the two?

I just always sort of did it. When my parents divorced we moved and I went to a different high school and met other kids, one girl would make mix tapes, [and] she got me into Uniform Choice. Then this other kid moved from, like, a half hour north—he showed up at school with a shaved head and wearing X’s [on his hands]. From there I met his friends and they would have me paint on the grip tape [on their skateboards] and it just all kind of went from there.

What was your first album cover or big art job in the music scene?

The first time I did anything for a band, I did logo work for a 7” a friend put out. I did banners for shows and would give them to bands—[the] first two were for Judge and Gorilla Biscuits. The first record I legit got asked to do, I don’t remember. Maybe [the]
Time Flies 7” [by Youth Avoiders]? I was doing small work for friends’ bands always, so it’s kind of hard to remember.

What was it that led to the longterm relationships you’ve created with American Nightmare and Tiger Army?

[Working with] American Nightmare [came from] just knowing Wes [Eisold] and Tim [Cossar]. I knew Tim from Ten Yard Fight, and [from going to] shows and [through] friends … Wes used to roadie for Ten Yard Fight and his parents lived in Virginia [where I’m from], so when he was home from college we’d go to shows in the summer, hang out and be delinquents. After Ten Yard Fight broke up and they started American Nightmare, we booked one of their first weekend shows after the first 7" came out. … They saw my art and asked me to do a shirt for them. Tiger Army happened as a result of [having worked with] AFI. I met Nick 13 [lead singer of Tiger Army] at a record release show and we talked about art [and I] did some stencil things for them. … The thing that’s been the best about a lot of the Tiger Army art is that Nick and I discuss a lot of the themes and concepts for it and we’re able to hammer out tons of ideas. Because it’s more rockabilly, and lately more traditional country, a lot of the standard hardcore skull imagery doesn’t work.

Who would you say were your big art influences in your teen years and who are they now? Has anyone managed to stay at the top?

[In my] teen years … [it] was a lot of comic books, counterculture art and graffiti, Bernie Wrightson, Michael Kaluta, M.C. Escher, Albrecht Dürer, and Pushead. Nowadays I’m far more open to influences and I appreciate so much more. I mean, the other stuff is classic and I will always love them, but now I like seeing what contemporary artists are doing and the little twists they’re putting on things I liked growing up, making it relevant to me [now]. I always joked with my friend Tru … that we can drop out of hardcore completely once we’ve done all of the following things: do a zine, do a band, put out a record and meet the people who made you fall in love with it. I still refuse to try and meet Pushead.

Keeping it open so you can stay young. I know that feeling well, that’s why I never really seek out my influences. Keeps the artist shiny in your mind.

Exactly, I’d like to keep some things on the pedestals in my mind where they belong.

Linas Garsys

Tiger Army

Linas Garsys

AFI and Tiger Army art

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