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Home FEATURES Artist Interviews Chris Von Szombathy

Chris Von Szombathy
Friday, 25 May 2007 02:42
A visual artist/producer/bass player from Vancouver B.C. working on a new book with Drawn and Quarterly.

Chris von Szombathy is a visual artist/producer/bass player fellow in Vancouver B.C. Chris also makes some fine music under the title Audio Ahdeo Awdio (check our Podcast for a taste which you download here. Chris also is working on a book published through Drawn and Quarterly due out fall '07. Welcome Chris to the Fecal.

Age? Location? How do you pay the bills? School?

I am 27 and live in Vancouver BC. I work part time in a friends retail store which is nice. I also work doing freelance graphics/illustration type work, music production stuff and I make ringtones for cel phones. I went to Emily Carr for 4 years but bailed out right before I got my degree since all I could hear was music for a couple years so I figured I better get that out!

So you mentioned that your book is due out soon. Can you tell us about it?

The book is called 'Fire Away' and should be out this fall from Drawn & Quarterly. At least that's our goal for right now. It's really amazing that they've offered this to me and I'm really happy about it. I've been working really hard on it since last year and am really pleased with how it feels. I think it's going to do justice. It's based on auditory and visual hallucinations, kind of getting in touch with putting down another world on paper, what kinda shapes my reality I guess. A lot of the paintings, to me, are really horrific and frightening but people seem to get the exact opposite reaction from them which, i think, is good and always interesting. Any strong reaction is good.

I was listening to audio ahdeo awdio on your site and really enjoyed it. Can you tell us about the music?

Audio Ahdeo Awdio started as a cassette tape I made over one weekend on a dictaphone (download our podcast for some MP3s). I had never written any music before or really played any keyboards but it seemed like a pretty painless process and sounded neat so I made a couple hundred copies and gave them away. I think the best word to describe it would be 'playful', it sounds playful to me. The next 3 albums were all released on the same day last year after not making any more for 5 years or so. The new ones are a bit more 'complicated' since I now can have more than 1 track to record with. It's my idea of chamber music. It's heavy stuff to me! It's whistleable which I like. It's childrens electro. It's very.. ummm.. 'serious' to me but it doesn't get that reaction, again, which is good. Keeps you from taking yourself too seriously. Tour de Fours is something new I'm working on. That's been really great and people can sing along with that one. Good shower music.

Do you show or have shown in galleries much?

No, not much. Right when I was starting to get more offers to work with more folks at showsi bailed to try to figure out music. I did have my first solo show at this great gallery called WRKS DVSN here in town last year after not doing visual arts for a number of years. One of the catalysts for going into music was my sketchbook got stolen and I said "ah.. heck with it all". They called me and asked me if I'd like to have a solo show... Maybe return to doing visual work. It was a great show and really got me going again. Sadly the gallery got shut down by the city. One of a string of 3 or 4 last year here. Totally peanuts. I'd like to do more shows. I'm a recovering agoraphobe so I'm not out too much to see shows. I'd like to do some more though, it was a very introspective experience.

So how do you know the Fighting guys?

I know niall from the first day at Emily Carr. In fact, nearly all of my friends that I still have from there I met on the first day. I met Lukas through him, but I don't really know him as well. I do know Niall quite well though. He's an amazing guy. Very honest and he's been really supportive of me 'returning' as it were.

Why are there so many good artists from Vancouver?

hmm... are there? I guess there are! There does seem to be some good folks who have either come through here or are from here who do good stuff. I'm not sure about the 'art scene' though... I haven't been in contact with that for years really. Like I said, I can't always leave the house often or can really connect with people. I hear there's a lot of things happening it seems which I think is just good sense for a scene, people trying out stuff. There's a lot of kinda graffiti-low-brow-sketchy-doodle stuff from here which I'm not really too keen on myself. A lot of it, to me, is snoozy and maybe a little trendy, but there are some people who really do take the time to craft something amazing. There are lots of people here I really like and respect. I've never met Marc Bell but I get a certain sense from him I like. Drew Schaffer is amazing and so is Kennedy Telford. I like them lots as people and as creative people. They concentrate and I can smell that on their work. I think that's important. I hope I can affect people in the way they've affected me. But why in Vancouver? I'm not too sure. Maybe the landscape. That's what gets to me.. seagulls and that. You know what I'm saying! Gotta love the coast! Keeps me sane! haha.

How often do you create work?

Well, everyday I guess. Either working on sounds or drawing out little things. I like to work lots and I do work fast. It's just pathological I guess. I'm always told to do something either when I'm asleep or when I get up so it's really not that creative.. I'm just all trying to keep up. I'm at really at whim to that.. So somedays i'd really rather be painting but instead I'm at the synthesizer creating patches for some project that I haven't been made aware of yet. All I'm given is the sounds. I'm still learning to trust them fully.

Is the first album from AAA out on CD yet?

No, not yet. It will be soon though I hope. I still get people asking me about that every month actually. I guess it's about time!

Describe a typical Tuesday for you.

Well, I usually get up around 11 or so and write down whatever correspondance is necessary for the days workload, dreams/messages and such. Then I eat some fruit and make some tea. Meditate/concentrate, rebuild my shrines. Then generally I'm on the phone and/or reviewing what's due for the day. I'll usually play some instruments for a couple hours, go for a walk around the block or poke around the antique stores for anything of signifigance, clean the house. I like to do more serious sitting down and working starting around 6pm to about 4am. I like to cook a lot and I also smoke a lot so there's generally some of that in there as well. If it's a REALLY good day, i'll have some visitors that like my cooking.

What do you like doing when not working?

Not working? I'm never working! At least on making sounds or pictures, that's not really work, that's just what has to be done. What I do work at is trying to keep my mind even to maintain a decent quality of life. But when that's steady and I'm feeling good I like to go to toy stores and grocery stores. I really love to collect things that have the proper guidelines so I love looking for old tins. I have tons of old soda cans, boxes or various bits. In fact I am going to be doing a photoshoot of my cans with my friend Amy Pelletier who is a great photographer. Anything old.. especially if it's orange, light blue or pale green. I really like things in those colours. Good speaking colours.

You do poster design too. How did you get into that?

Unintentionally. I like doing things like business cards and greeting cards more. hmm... I like poster design... but it seems like a different world.. Design is interesting but it can frustrate me. It can really split my psyche so I try to just have fun with it. I do feel it's quite a seperate thing for me. I know why... but that's a really big answer.

What mediums do you enjoy using when creating work?

Well I really enjoy gouache. I use a lot of acrylic but I've been finding it too hard to do what I want to with. I'm still searching. I love rapidograph pens but I'm not using them much anymore sadly. My favorite pen was in my sketchbook when it was stolen. I'm starting to get into digital stuff now, arranging things in the computer, which is interesting... There's still a lot of wierd discussions... pro or anti-digital folks. Makes no sense to me. People are strange!

What were you like in high school?

Oh probably like most people think they were like in high school: terrible, awkward, horny. Did I hate high school? hmm.. It's a confusing time. I had some fun.. you learn about yourself. I went to an academic/sporto-guy high school. I lost a lot of friends my senior year because my mental health went down the tubes and I quit doing drugs. Once your health starts to detract from how social you can be you find out who your friends are pretty quick. It was pretty rotten near the end. I'd never go back to high school but I did drink a lot of chocolate milk. that's a good memory.

Tell us about your cat Coco. You made a whole album in eulogy.

Coco was a nightmare of a cat. He was pretty much psychotic. My mom and my sister both have scars. Everyone was afraid of him. Myself included. However, as he aged he mellowed a lot, he got a bum leg, you could pick him up if you wanted. He was strange, I've known a lot of cats and he was like a monk. It was very eerie after awhile. He was, mentally, a forceful animal. You could feel him looking at you, you'd slowly turn around and he'd be there, where he wasn't before. That cat could talk to you, and you can learn a lot from someone like that. He was all silence but... oh man.. Gives me shivers even now. Anyhow, he was pinned down but 5 raccoons and they shredded him up pretty bad. Me and my dad had to fight them off. It was crazy. He had to be put down. The songs were just given to me a day or two later and that became an album. He was a big black cat and had a profound effect on me growing up. He was a policing force, he was like an abusive father. I'm not sure why he was there in my life yet.. but I think I will. I see black cats all the time hiding in corners in my apartment or on the walls. It's like he was a part of that family materialized on earth. Like a kung-fu teacher! really hard on you, but that's how you learn. I've seen him in dreams. He's still the same.

For more on chris, check his site: www.chrisvonszombathy.com {moscomment}

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