Billy Morrison is one of the few rockers who can truly say he made it all the way to the top from the very bottom. 20 years ago, Billy was homeless and close to death. Today he is on the road with Billy Idol in support of the new Idol album (on which he co-wrote a number of tracks with Idol and Stevens) “Kings and Queens of the Underground,” and able to share his ultimate success story of overcoming addiction and becoming one of the world’s top rhythm guitar players. From playing guitar in the Los Angeles-based celebrity supergroups Camp Freddy and Royal Machines to joining rock band The Cult on their 2001 reunion to writing and recording with his own bands Stimulator, Doheny, Circus Diablo, releasing his own solo material, and playing guitar for Billy Idol since 2009, Billy makes music at all levels. With Royal Machines, Billy has shared the stage with some of the top names in music, including Ozzy Osbourne, Steven Tyler, Slash, Robbie Williams, Lou Reed, Ronnie Wood, Jerry Cantrell, and Dave Navarro. His solo albums “God Shaped Hole” and “Stimulator” are available on iTunes and Amazon worldwide.
Billy Morrison’s Art
In recent years, to further push the ‘multimedia’ tag he wears so well, Morrison picked up paint and canvas and proceeded to paint prolifically. He has now not only amassed a body of work worthy of his forthcoming show, but has also found a customer base that appreciates his darker introspective imagery. When asked about his new creative outlet and the subject matter, Billy simply replied..”I just paint what lives inside my head. Sometimes that’s skulls, hand grenades and naked chicks. Other times its a statement on something I see in the world that I want to comment on or draw attention to..”
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0:00:00.4 Michael Goodman: Hi everybody, I’m Michael Goodman with Artmatcher, the mobile app connecting art lovers, artists, galleries, art fairs, and art events. While we continue to build a great experience, we’ll be talking art with some of the industry’s most interesting and knowledgeable people. Whether you’re an art aficionado or this is all new to you, we’ll be here to provide valuable insight and hilarious good stories. Hope you enjoy our chat today and check out Artmatcher in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Welcome to another episode of Artmatcher, the podcast. Special guest joining us today, Billy Morrison. Billy, tell the audience a little bit about yourself.
0:00:43.1 Michael Goodman: Thank you for having me, first of all. Thank you for being here and making this happen. If you haven’t realized already, I’m English. The accent gives it away, but I’ve been here for about 26 years. Primarily had a career, still have a career as a rock musician. I was in the cult and I’ve been with Billy Idol as his rhythm guitar player for about 12 years now and a bunch of other stuff in music. Music has been in my DNA since I was, well, since I was 10 and I saw the Sex Pistols on TV. I was like, I guess even when we get onto talking about the art, the idea of subverting and especially subverting from the inside, which is a great concept that I like to talk about, that all came from watching those four guys on national television spit and swear and not play their instruments very well. And everyone had a reaction. So that in a nutshell is it. There was a period of 15 years where I disappeared in a narcotic haze, as we like to put it. But I have been back out of that phase for about 26 years ever since I moved there.
0:02:00.2 Billy Morrison: And and then and then we have all the art stuff to talk about as well.
0:02:06.5 Michael Goodman: Yeah. So this is this is so interesting to me when kind of an artist, like you’re an artist all around, meaning you have this music capability, you have this visual ability.
0:02:21.7 Michael Goodman: I would like to think so. I mean, I’ve done a fair bit of acting as well, which is also very artistic. I was Californication, bunch of movies. You know, I’ve never. Here’s the thing, Michael, I come from a very clear school of thought, which is it doesn’t matter how you’ve been trained to say something. What matters is you’ve got something worth saying in the first place. And that comes from the Sex Pistols. They were not trained musicians. But at the time, taken in context, there was something very important that needed saying in England. And they said it. And you can go through the the fine art world, the contemporary art world, and find a lot of examples of successful artists that were not necessarily trained, but had something worth saying. Same with acting. I mean, I’ve never taken an acting lesson in my life, but I’ve done a bunch of I guess my IMDb looks better than most people who say they’re actors. So here’s the thing when I die, when I put my head on that pillow for the final time. I’m not. I’m willing to learn this. Don’t get me wrong. This whole process has been.
0:03:38.3 Michael Goodman: It’s a fantastic learning curve, but I will be able to put my head on my pillow for the last time and go, you did a bunch of shit. Not you trained to do a bunch of shit. I actually did a bunch of shit and I’m having a blast doing it. Now, what happens if you’re someone like me is you fall in love with a creative medium and then you want to start learning more. Since my first acting role, I have studied. Since I first joined a band and played three chords and jumped up and down when I was a kid, I have now learned to play guitar properly. And you know, I’m a, I’m not going to say the word, but people know who I am playing guitar. And the same thing is happening with art. You know, I got in it primarily because of Warhol, because I was fascinated by again, that punk rock ethos. Andy was a punk and he woke up and went, I’m going to do this. And he just did it. And he took things like the electric chair and pictures of, of car crashes. And he turned them into stuff that these days people want to hang in their multimillion dollar mansions.
0:04:52.5 Michael Goodman: And that fascinates me. Now, along the way I’ve learned about screen printing. I’ve learned oil techniques, spray can techniques, acrylic techniques. It’s not that I don’t want to learn. I just think that it’s important to actually do what it is that fires you creatively. So yeah, I’d like to think I’m all round. What I find so impressive is normally, cause I’ve talked to various artists who’ve had success in one medium, whether it’s like music or acting and they’re, they’re kind of scared to jump ship into something else because I think certain things become second nature. And you can correct me if I’m wrong. Like, you know, you going on stage or on tour, it’s like, that’s like, that’s comfort, right? That’s home or it is. And this is the interesting thing that I think separates creative types, not, not good or bad, just there is a separation. I used the analogy the other day. There’s kids down the street that can play guitar. They’re 15 and they can play rings around me like phenomenal players, but that’s not the end of the puzzle. You also have to be able to walk onto a stage in front of 12,000 people and do that.
0:06:07.0 Billy Morrison: And some people don’t have that in them. So, you know, therefore I think that it is, it’s about finding all the pieces of the puzzle and the comfort zone. If you are the kind of creative that likes to live in your comfort zone, you’re never going to cross over into another creative field. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I think that if you are an actor and you’re doing your $20 million a movie career and you also like painting and you feel safe on set, but you don’t feel safe hanging 20 of your paintings in a room and asking everyone to come and judge you, which quite frankly, that’s what an art show is, is like you invite your closest friends to come and judge you, you know, and critique you and all that. There’s nothing wrong in that. I don’t have that gene. I jump in both feet. I’m not in any of the genres that I’m creative in doing it for approval.
0:07:10.6 Michael Goodman: Do you find yourself though, from the genres, like one genre, because obviously the music is influential into your visual career in terms of the graphics we’re seeing, right? There’s like very much so.
0:07:24.9 Billy Morrison: Very much so. I mean, it’s not very much so. I think that from a creative standpoint, it’s all about opening your eyes really, and your ears. I paint stuff that is centered around maybe stuff I’ve seen on the news, stuff that we’re experiencing right now. COVID was a great example. I mean, you know, we all got locked down and I turned my bottom floor of my house into an art gallery and painted up a storm because it was happening around me. When I’m out touring with Billy and I’m listening to all kinds of different bands, and I’ll see a band that makes me want to ram my head into a wall because it’s so violently musical, and that will come out in the next painting, you know? Or I will be on tour in Holland and I’ll go to some tulip fields and then I’ll just get inspired and I’ll be like, I want to paint flowers. I just think it’s about keeping your eyes open and every genre crosses over creatively into the next, if you’re someone like me. I don’t know about other people, but it does for me.
0:08:33.5 Michael Goodman: And another thing, because I’ve helped kind of build up artists over the years, and I find it’s even a bigger thing. You collect art as well. So being able to like create and then collect are two different things as well. Yeah, I mean, very, very different.
0:08:52.1 Billy Morrison: Some of the stuff that’s hanging on my walls is not the sort of stuff I would want to paint and vice versa. I would say, however, that one of my benchmarks when I’m painting is would I hang it in my house?
0:09:09.3 Michael Goodman: That’s interesting because as you said, some of the stuff you may hang in your, like what you may create may not be like what’s hanging in your house. Sometimes. And you know, this is very interesting because I would actually, I would say I’m striving. Look, sometimes you just paint because you have to and there’s something in your head and you just need to get it out. And if that turns into something that I wouldn’t necessarily hang in my house, that so be it. But I am striving. I paint for myself and my aesthetic. You know, we’re sitting in my house. You can see there’s a clear aesthetic, whatever, however you would describe that. And primarily, one of the things I want to do is create art that I would be proud if it was painted by someone else, that I would be proud to buy and hang in my house. Because all I’ve got to go on is my aesthetic. I, but here’s a great example, Rothko, right? I would die to have a Rothko canvas hanging in my house. I mean, oh my god, would I even attempt to paint two squares of color on a massive canvas?
0:10:22.0 Billy Morrison: No. I mean, he was the master and there’s something about the energy and the color combinations and the composition that he did. I don’t want to try and paint that. I’d buy one if I had the money, but I wouldn’t want to paint that. Does that make sense?
0:10:37.5 Michael Goodman: No, it does. I think one of the things that as I learn more about you that’s fascinating is a lot of visual artists, a lot of visual artists, and I’m not talking about, I’m talking about visual artists, there is a little bit, and maybe you need this as an artist, like kind of like arrogance of like, oh I wouldn’t like support, like some artists at the top, they’re supporting one another. They get the culture as much bigger than themselves. Right. But a lot of artists I find either mid-career or coming up, they’re like, I would never kind of like, they could appreciate, but they wouldn’t go to the extent of purchasing. And that’s the real support though that no one wants to talk about. Would you buy, like, are you, how are you supporting this artist? Coming to the show is one aspect, but one of the biggest compliments, at least for me as a creative, even myself, is it’s like the highest compliment when someone’s saying, hey, I’m taking my hard earned dollars buying your art. Absolutely. Look, every single painting I sell, I’m, first of all, let’s back up. Every, I’ve been playing music professionally for 26 years, and every time I walk on the stage, even now, I’m expecting someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, I’m so sorry, we didn’t mean you, we mean that younger, skinnier, better looking guy over there.
0:11:57.7 Michael Goodman: If you could just step out of the way, that would be so wonderful. I mean, it’s called humility, and I think you have to keep hold of that. You know, 27 years ago, I was shooting heroin downtown underneath a piece of corrugated iron. So for me to lose humility would be a travesty because everything that’s happened to me since then, since I got clean, is bonus. It’s quality problem. You know, if I’ve got a bill that I’m struggling to pay, that’s a quality problem because I didn’t have bills 27 years ago. Yeah. Didn’t have anything to have a bill for, you know. So with that in mind, every painting I sell, still, I am beyond grateful, beyond stunned. What an amazing gift that someone has entrusted their dollars, which let’s face it, society is all about money. They’re giving it to me for something that I’ve created, that stuns me. And the thing about supporting artists, if you look around my collection in my house, you’re going to see Plastic Jesus, you’re going to see Risk, you’re going to see Shepherd Fairy. I go to a Shepherd Fairy show and get cold sweats because I know I’m going to buy something because he’s my mate.
0:13:13.1 Billy Morrison: Yeah, and I think that’s, it’s interesting kind of understanding, like I think the culture in music is very supportive in that sense.
0:13:23.0 Michael Goodman: There are collaborations-Because it’s a communal-Yes, there’s a certain stigma about collaborations with some artists.
0:13:30.0 Billy Morrison: Not all, and I have definitely aligned myself with artists that do collaborate, do like it, support each other. I did some interior design consulting for a really nice house in Hollywood. And, you know, I went and I suggested that that person bought a Bleck Lorat and a Danny Minnick. Danny’s a great, you know, I don’t know, what do you call him, mid-career artist. I have no compunction in trying to get my friends to buy other of my friends’ art. Why not? Because somewhere, it’s happened to me, I’ll get a phone call from another artist going, hey, I’ve got a friend that wants to come and buy a piece from you. Well, that’s not going to happen if I’m not doing the same thing. Well, so that’s the interesting thing about it is, and what I’ve learned from the dealing world is, dealers, they essentially, they keep their collectors close to the chest.
0:14:32.8 Michael Goodman: Yeah. And so, I mean, like, these are the support system. I think in different businesses, like music, where it’s so scalable, you know, you’re doing a concert, 20,000 people, it’s that cumulative, every ticket holder, you know, and the accessibility to it is easier in terms of, yeah, you can get a VIP experience of it, maybe meet the behind the stage pass. Yes. But when you get to visual arts, especially when you get to like, certain numbers, I mean, your average guy’s not spending 100,000 or even like, if you even really think about the numbers, like, you know, 10,000, like that’s a substantial amount of money.
0:15:15.5 Michael Goodman: Oh, yeah. Well, there are similarities, but there’s a lot of differences and the accessibility is definitely a difference, especially once you get to a certain level. You know, I just, I think it’s about how you feel when you put your head on the pillow at night. I really do. I mean, I go to bed every night feeling like I’m a decent guy. And, you know, for instance, our mutual friend, Dominic Lopez, I just forwarded, I’m not going to name names, but I have a very prominent art collecting family and I saw six paintings in a gallery and was blown away. And I ain’t got the money. I also don’t have the wall space. I mean, look around, where would I put those? But I want Dominic to sell those for no reason. I don’t benefit. I just think he’s an amazing artist and I will, if I know someone that has the money and the wall space, I’m going to say, you should check this guy out. Cause it happens to me on a weekly basis. Someone will contact me going, Hey, so-and-so just mentioned your art and I’ve checked it out. And it’s like, can you, can I come and see your studio?
0:16:26.0 Billy Morrison: I want that to continue happening. Therefore, you reap what you sow. You put out good vibes for other people. You get them back.
0:16:33.1 Michael Goodman: No, for sure. I think karma is a big thing. And for me, even being, uh, coming from, uh, coming from going from artists to kind of distributor and stuff, when I opened my gallery, I just said, I want to treat my artists the way I want to be treated as a create, as a creator.
0:16:51.6 Billy Morrison: Well, I, I pride myself on having, I mean, this is a blow smoke up each other’s ass five minutes, but, uh, I pride myself on having a very good picker. You, you get, you develop a good picker when you live on the streets for, you know, three or four years. I was on the streets, not Hollywood homeless, not sleeping on friends couches because I didn’t have any friends. I was properly homeless, you know, living on the street, uh, and all that that entails. And it was pretty gnarly, but what you develop is a really good picker and you can smell bullshit a mile off and you can smell good people a mile off that’s life experience. And that’s something that, that only if you’ve lived that life do you get. So is there a concept of, is there a constant reminder of that? Just let me finish this because you’re like the end of that sentence. And the reason you’re sitting on my couch in my house talking to me, and we’re talking about working together on other stuff is cause my picker tells me you are a genuine guy.
0:17:48.6 Michael Goodman: I appreciate that so much. Don’t fucking let me down.
0:17:50.9 Michael Goodman: Oh no, no, that, that, uh, I live by my last name. Good man. What’s so amazing is I think, and, and this is going to be that experience that you had going from homelessness, assuming that that was the bottom.
0:18:09.6 Billy Morrison: It was. Well, yeah, getting shot was the bottom, but I mean, that’s a, Oh wow.
0:18:13.8 Michael Goodman: Okay. That’s a whole nother, uh, that adds a whole bunch of other layers to that.
0:18:18.6 Michael Goodman: Let’s say it was a bottom. But not having a place that’s home. Absolutely. Do you carry like some people it’s, it’s interesting cause I’ve met so many incredible people throughout my life and they all have these incredible stories of kind of like just experiences, just things that have happened that have shaped them the way they are. Yeah. And one of my mentors, uh, very well to do made a lot of his, uh, fortune in real estate. We’d go out to like super high end places. He was a very good client of mine. He refused to pay $3 for Parmesan cheese and he was not, he’s not, he wasn’t, he wasn’t a cheap guy.
0:19:04.5 Billy Morrison: That’s right. But he just felt paying $3 was like extortion.
0:19:09.3 Michael Goodman: Everyone has a line, I guess. And you know what I had asked him, I said, his name was Bill. I said, Bill, where does this come from? And he said, I grew up in North Dakota. I know what it costs on this stuff. Come from family thing. This is extortion.
0:19:26.2 Billy Morrison: In fact, if you’re spending like, you know, $50 on a dish, why are they charging an additional $3 on the Parmesan? And it was the point and no, and, and, and it’s interesting. So many people who didn’t have the context to stop a golf, cheap guy, you know, no, I think, I think that it, uh, whatever your story is, and I don’t know Bill’s story, but whatever your story is, does leave residue leaves a mark scars and everyone has a line. I cannot relate to Bill because I spend an inordinate amount of money on food and don’t care that comes from the fact that I’m a person who’s not a person who’s not a food and don’t care that comes. I know from, uh, are we just, are we just going to lay it all out there for just laying in a wonderful podcast that comes from digging in trash bins for half eaten Burger Kings, which I did.
0:20:18.4 Michael Goodman: So it’s more of like a rewarding, absolutely.
0:20:21.9 Billy Morrison: Every I’m 26 years clean and sober and still every restaurant I go and eat at, I am shocked and stunned and grateful money in my wallet to buy food. So I’m going to eat, I am going to have the truffles because I thought I was going to die and let alone get to live a life where I can afford $3 Parmesan. My line comes elsewhere and don’t ask me where, because I’m, but I’m sure there’s a line in my life where I’m not paying for something because I find it ridiculous. It’s just not food.
0:20:58.2 Michael Goodman: Well, my, my, my, my follow up to that is like subconsciously, do you find those experiences, um, kind of do they trickle into your art? Thousand percent.
0:21:09.3 Billy Morrison: My, my experience, especially being homeless is, is probably prevalent in 90% of everything I paint, even if you can’t see it, you know, and, and, you know, we’ve got the age old adage of, you know, art is subjective and don’t ask the artists what it means because like, and I believe that, um, many, many of my paintings will appear to you or anyone else as I love when some people start to deconstruct my paintings because they’ll go down a tangent and I’m just going to go, Oh, that’s, that’s, I see what that’s great. And in my head, that was not what I was thinking when I was painting, but that’s the beauty of art. Well, yeah, the visual imagery and, and, and there’s all kinds of stuff from my past in my paintings. I, you cannot help, but be permanently scarred and colored from a, a run like I had and, uh, or a run like Bill had, you know, I mean, whatever’s making him draw the line at $3 Parmesan, that’s a deep and meaningful scar to him and it’s going to be there.
0:22:14.9 Michael Goodman: Yeah. I think it’s, it’s, uh, it’s interesting how certain aspects influence other things, meaning like in the case of my friend, Bill, his father passes away when he’s really young. He’s the male of the family has to take initiative, you know, all this weight was on his shoulder and stuff. And, you know, it, it kind of, for him, when he, he came into my life in a way of like, I was just getting started selling art and stuff. And, and even the images, the images he got, I’ll never forget it. There were three images, uh, he purchased for me. They were portraits, one of, um, Humphrey Bogart, uh, Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. What a trio. Yeah. And he had like, they were giant paintings. They were six feet by four feet, just these three portraitures, uh, you know, on his house. And, and they really resonated with him. He’s an older gentleman and, you know, those are kind of his idols and stuff. And kind of what I know now about the art world to what I was selling then I’m going, Oh my gosh, these are like the most commercial type of stuff, but they resonate with Bill.
0:23:32.6 Michael Goodman: Yeah, they resonated, but also just it also, that was a huge part of supporting my career in terms of like, I’m trying to get these artists off the ground. Money needs to come in. He had the disposable income. And once again, that, that same guy who when spent three, $3 on Parmesan cheese, spend thousands of dollars on painting. So I was like, every, every artist needs a bill.
0:23:57.3 Michael Goodman: Yeah. And what I, what’s what fascinates me about your work is you are technically talented in terms of like, understanding a lot of people, you know, they always say that they can only draw like a stick figure. My brother’s a doctor for instance. But I said that when, when, when I started painting the, the situation, which I don’t want to go into, but you know, about in Argentina, that’s what I was saying to that guy.
0:24:28.7 Michael Goodman: I can, don’t be stupid. I can only paint stick figures, but I clearly look, I hate, it’s funny. I hate calling myself a rockstar. I hate calling myself an actor. And I hate calling myself an artist. Cause there’s some kind of bent humility in me that, that doesn’t want to go up against people that are truly trained and you know, all of that, but I am clearly all three of those things. I just hate using the words. Well, I think artists sums them up because, because, you know, I think about like creative. I like, I am a creative because every day of my life I create, whether it’s music or a role or a painting, I like creative, but I’m flattered to hear you say, I have technique because that is all organic. I mean, I know, but I probably shouldn’t be saying this in the fine art world, but I’m making that up as I go along. That’s the truth. It’s my DNA that’s coming out onto that canvas. Well, the reality to that is from my experience where I did go through kind of the academic school. What I learned about it is essentially you’ll have your professors that can give you the cheat sheets, but the most important thing is actually making art.
0:25:55.4 Billy Morrison: Meaning the professors would always push like, Hey, you gotta be painting. You gotta be painting like, okay, maybe I have, I know what a steppling technique is. I know so many artists and what I love about kind of self-taught artists is they find different conventional ways to do certain tricks of the trade, which is fascinating to me. Well, stippling is a great example. There is a painting downstairs that is going to live with you that is stippled. I didn’t know that the term was stippling and I didn’t know how to do it. I just wanted a textured small hilltops in the oil. So I just did shit until it happened. Now someone would come along after the fact and say, Oh, I like the stippling here. I didn’t know it was called stippling, but I figured it out because I know what the end result is. And texture is very, I love texture. The same with my palette knife work.
0:27:03.8 Michael Goodman: I’m sure there’s lots of academic phrase. I’m not putting academia down. I wish, look, it’s too late for me. Right? It’s too late. But I wish I had that background. It’s interesting because the tricks you learn, like I had a whole bunch of different professors, which I took different tricks that I then put in my own toolbox. And you can attest to this probably to music. I mean, you know, there’s just certain things some person’s going to tell you, Oh man, I’m going to use that. I’m going to use that. But the interesting thing about visual art in your absence, no one knows that.
0:27:41.2 Michael Goodman: Correct. So it’s like, they’re just looking, is this a successful image? And that’s why visual arts is so interesting, meaning there’s multiple ways. And, you know, I could describe it, you know, certain what I love is the actual process. So one of my favorite things I love to go over with artists is how do they splatter? And I’ve gone into like, I’ve gone into some discussions. Is there an aesthetically ugly splatter?
0:28:10.1 Michael Goodman: And everyone agrees there is meaning there’s too much blotch over there. Like it needs to be this perfect. But when you think about the madness of that, just think about the madness, like an unattractive splatter. And I, and I have thought about that, but it, but it’s an undeniable fact that you, you as the, as the critiqued, educated person that you are, I know you would look at a canvas and go, I don’t like that splatter. And you’ve got to be able to articulate why there, I know it’s crazy, but there is an attractive splatter. And, and, you know, obviously it’s a skill. No, it is. So when I, when I see, you know, some people, they’ll, they’ll, who use spray paint, they’ll spray the bottom of the can. I’ve seen Alec Monopoly actually do this and toss it.
0:29:00.5 Michael Goodman: I mean, I’ve, I’ve seen all of the techniques I’ve, I’ve adopted some, but you know, what you want to do is go to the trashcan around the side of my house and see all the paintings that didn’t make it when I was learning to splatter. Because I mean, there’s paintbrush splatter. What I’ve learned is size of the size of the dot. Do you want lines? Do you want little, uh, universe starry type splatter? Or do you want, I’ve just cut open my spleen type splatter. There’s all kinds and you can get it. Uh, I mean, I started watering down acrylic paint and using big brushes and standing a mile away to get those little water, the little watery things, but using, using splatters. Yeah. But using, using spray now, it’s just about, it’s, there’s different flicks of my finger. I use gloves. I spray into my glove, uh, on the right hand, and then I can flick different fingers for different size splatters, or I can give it a whole hand depending on what I want. And I’ve gotten pretty accurate and nine times out of 10 people have watched me splatter paintings and gone, hmm.
0:30:10.4 Billy Morrison: But I know where I’m putting it.
0:30:12.9 Billy Morrison: It makes you have an appreciation for Pollock, you know, once you get into the splatter game. This guy, now you actually know what he was doing there. There’s another example of an artist that I would love to own an original Pollock canvas. Can’t afford it, but I would, but I certainly would not put a canvas out there that is just Pollock-y splatter because, you know, I, I’m not going to fuck with the master, you know? Well, you know, it, it’s, it’s interesting.
0:30:39.8 Michael Goodman: And I would love to hear your take on this aspect kind of coming from your music background. I look at a lot of art, visual art, and I say, okay, derivative, derivative, derivative.
0:30:57.6 Michael Goodman: Your experiences in music, when you listen to music, new sounds, is there that same thought process about music? Cause it’s, it’s interesting, like, you know, you have that background in music, what you’re hearing and you’re like, is that a new sound? And then kind of, well, with music, I mean, I guess it’s, you could, you could relate it to art. There is chord structure and then there is tonality, sound, production, that kind of stuff. And I guess it’s the same with fine art. There’s imagery and then there’s technique. So what I’m saying by that is, there’s a, it’s not a school of thought. It’s true. Every chord progression has been done since, since music first started. There is no original chord progression. There’s only a finite amount of chords and we’ve all done them every which way. So what makes a song different is the way you structure that chord progression and the sounds that you use to produce that chord progression and melody. So a derivative work is when someone has clearly taken the chords from She Loves You by the Beatles and strummed them on guitar, much like the Beatles did. And the melody over the top is very close to She Loves You.
0:32:22.6 Michael Goodman: That’s a derivative work. I could play you 10 modern pop songs that are structured around the chord structure of She Loves You by the Beatles. I could sing She Loves You over it, but you wouldn’t have recognized that because it’s production, tonality, sonic, you know, the way it’s been built up sonically, tempo, all the other stuff, which in fine art is technique. So I would say most art has already been done. You know, a portrait of Humphrey Bogart has kind of been done, but you could do it in-Marlon Brando, I mean, I’ve seen probably a million times.
0:33:02.4 Billy Morrison: And Marilyn Monroe, right? With your Warhol. But there is technique, there’s color palette, there’s all kinds of things that make the end result look different. So derivative, you’ve got to draw your line somewhere. If a painting of Marilyn Monroe, no matter how it’s done, is derivative because Warhol did it, I think we’re going to be stuck in the mud in the art world.
0:33:32.1 Billy Morrison: Well, so that’s the most interesting thing about visual arts, meaning there’s these artists who come along, they do something that someone has never seen. And that’s why asking you about music, I saw a couple of videos where this guy was breaking down modern day songs that are actually like samples. And I’m like, oh my God. And then I’m not informed in the music world to maybe identify that. Maybe there are other kind of music buffs that are like, oh yeah, this is from that. And this is from-Well, very rarely do you hear music that has never been heard before chordally because there’s only a finite amount of chords. But yes, you do hear music that has been produced and sonically sculpted in a way that’s never been heard before. So to me, that’s technique in the fine art world as opposed to the image. That’s the way I look at it.
0:34:22.4 Michael Goodman: Okay. So I think with images, like for instance, like here’s a good example. Let’s say you have an image of a relative or someone you know, and they’ve passed on, but no one kind of document, like the only documentation of that image is the image you have. And you just know factually, this is when the camera came out, the only snapshot of before we were able to do that. And then you then create art off of that. That’s going to be a unique image that the world has never seen.
0:34:59.9 Michael Goodman: The images, but depending on how you create it, technique wise, so that the style down into a three color stencil and spray it with a smiley face, then you’ve got a Banksy right there, even though it’s of your dead uncle. So, but let’s say even let’s say you decide to say, you know, I’m going to do photorealism, like meaning the interesting thing about visual art, you have styles, you have like graphic art, Andy Warhol took pop art, which when people break down, what is pop art? Like, is it stencil? Like some people think pop art is stencil art. I disagree with that.
0:35:37.3 Billy Morrison: Yeah. No, but like, they, some people think the stencil is just essentially part of the process where you’re thinking about it.
0:35:44.0 Michael Goodman: You know, there’s, I know plenty of people they’ve used stencils. You have no idea they actually use stencils. And then there’s some people it’s obviously, they’re kind of showing that that’s part of the aesthetic. But when you think about pop art as a style, like, Oh, that’s like, there’s a lot of other stuff that makes it pop art. And that’s why it’s interesting when, when you start reading about art, like I have an artist, he considers himself a 21st century abstract expressionist, because you can’t be an abstract expressionist in 2022. That was a movement. That was a time. That’s like, and now that like going back to like, you know, your relationship to punk rock, like there was a period, like you could be a rocker, right?
0:36:32.5 Billy Morrison: Or, yeah, I do. I, my, my, I cringe when I hear people say, I am a punk because I’m like, well, you know, punk was like 14 months in 1976, my, you know, it kind of died a death. You can have punk ethos, you know, you can, you can have a punk attitude and a punk vibe. But I agree with you. Abstract impressionism was then done, but you can still paint abstract impressionist. Yeah.
0:37:01.7 Michael Goodman: You can do it in the same vein. And that’s what it’s so interesting. And I use interesting a lot is that like, there’s a time right now for a group of artists to be doing something into like art has this, these, and I can tell you a lot of the artists out there, you know, I don’t know really the terminology, but there, there is in, especially in LA, there was a group of artists. We all know each other that feel that feeling and are actively collaborating, helping, supporting, and pushing that movement, whatever the words are that describe that movement. I, I myself, I partnered with Risk and we put on a show called Degrees of Separation. The idea behind that title being we all know and help and collaborate with each other. And it’s just out there. You can feel it when you get out into the art world, especially the street scene. There’s a bunch of that going on. I, I’ve always wanted to be, I have no interest in hanging off a billboard at three o’clock in the morning. I love that people do that. I drive around New York looking for the banks and all of that stuff.
0:38:23.1 Billy Morrison: But I’ve always been more interested in the, the, in parentheses, the finer side of contemporary, modern pop, whatever you want to call it. So I’ve always been interested in canvas, wood panel, things that are going to get framed and hang and have a lifetime far beyond me.
0:38:43.0 Michael Goodman: I love that you brought that up because one of the big questions I get asked as someone in the art world of like, what do you think about street art? What is street art? And I always had a simple answer to that of like street art is art that was created in the street. If it was created in the studio, you can call it studio art or whatever, but I’d assume for it to be street art, it’s art that needs to live in the streets. And so when people ask me my thoughts on that, I think it is amazing. I, being a street artist, I think it’s amazing. I, being a business owner, I had a very different experience with graffiti. I always had a graffiti and street art are two completely separate things. And I had a whole different kind of, as someone who had like a small business and your shop gets tagged with a chicken scratch. Yeah. I grew a huge resentment to graffiti. And for me, it’s like, if you’re going to tag my store, put something beautiful that I can read.
0:39:46.3 Michael Goodman: Yeah. And, and you have to understand. Versus I’m taking territory on a personal business. But street art needed to evolve. It came from graffiti. You know, when graffiti started, it was chicken scratch tags on the side of subway trains. Those same guys are now creating insanely cool 10 foot high canvases. They, that was their trajectory. So I, I, you know, graffiti is different. And I mean, even now, if you look at the different types of graffiti that have, you know, you’ve got your wild style, which I’m a huge fan of. One day, risk is going to come to my garage and wild style the hell out of it. You know, I love that. I think it’s an appreciation of just a different style of art. And, and what I enjoy about my process is that I am immersed in, look, you know, you can bear me out. I have Keith Haring, I have Damien Hirst, I have Basquiat, Andy Warhol. And I’ve also been hanging out with guys that were painting New York subway trains with that little chicken scratch graffiti, you know, 25 years ago. And I have, I’ve been painting with them 25 years ago.
0:40:58.5 Billy Morrison: And I have, I adore Rothko and Richard Hambleton. And I’m pretty well rounded. And all of that comes out in my work. Mixed media, oil, acrylic, spray, stencil, the stencil thing. I’ve, I love images that are broken down into two, maybe three colors. Exactly. Like that’s fascinating to me. And that’s all in, in poster eyes and all of that stuff. You know, I find art and all its genres fascinating. I use that word a lot.
0:41:38.2 Billy Morrison: And that’s another thing, your kind of group of kind of artists that you work with, because you’ve done a collaboration with Risk. What? Done about six collaborations with Risk. What is that like when collaborating in the visual medium?
0:41:54.4 Michael Goodman: Because I know in music, it’s naturally a collaboration, most part, unless you’re like, I mean, there’s so many people involved.
0:42:03.0 Michael Goodman: It’s exactly the same thing. It’s natural. If it isn’t natural, you shouldn’t be doing it. I mean, when, when I write a song with, you can sit in a room for three weeks with a guy and not come out with anything good. That means there’s no chemistry. Same as you can be butting heads on an image or a technique with a fine, with an artist, a visual artist. Yeah, but it’s rare, like collaborations in that sense, especially like you’ve done collaborations where you’re using the same canvas.
0:42:29.2 Billy Morrison: Oh, that’s all of my, that is all of my art. Oh, really?
0:42:33.1 Michael Goodman: All of them?
0:42:33.7 Billy Morrison: So I’ve, I’ve collaborated with a bunch. There’s an illustrator, Joey Feldman. I’ve done stuff with Plastic Jesus. I’ve done stuff with Greg Auerbach. I’ve done stuff with Risk. I’ve done, I mean, I’ve done a Daffer. I’ve done loads of collaborations and to me.
0:42:51.2 Michael Goodman: But did you see it as like, okay, like the Daffer one, which I saw, which I saw. Was it like, okay, Daffer is going to do the background. You’re going to do the foreground?
0:43:00.8 Michael Goodman: Not really. I mean, I just, I, I did an image and Daffer came over here with his cans of paint and his brushes. I mean, I guess you got to have some trust because I just went, here’s a really nice, expensive looking piece that I have painted that I’m really proud of. Do your thing. Do your thing. And I did not say one word and I watched him paint around it and I was freaking out and he was freaking out, you know, and that was, that was different. The Risk ones we did from the ground up. And it was me, him, me, him, me, him. He’d come back. Like he started with, we just finished a 20 foot wide piece. It’s 20 foot by eight foot. It’s massive. And he did his basic background. Then I came along and I stanced with some stuff. Then he came along and he stanced with some stuff. Then I came along and I did some splatter. Then he came back along and he did some line work and everything I know about holding a spray can is thanks to Risk. That’s the power of collaboration. He was there the day I picked up a spray can for the first time ever.
0:44:15.6 Billy Morrison: Wow. I’d never held a spray can and this is years ago and I’d interviewed Risk on a radio show that I had and I looked at him and I said, I’m going to learn how to use a spray can properly. Not, not, you know, there’s, there’s a good way and a bad way. And then I was over at the compound with Risk and there was something that was getting tagged up and he gave me a can and I said, Kelly, I’ve never held a can. He said, just do this, do that, have a go. And I’ve spent a lot of time over there and I’ve, I soak, I’m a sponge. I’m watching him do stuff and I’m watching, but I’m learning and I’m pretty good with a can. I’m a sponge. I’m a sponge. And I’m pretty good with a can. I mean, no, I’m going to take that back. There are cats out there on the street. Oh my God. If you watch them with a can, a can of spray paint and they’re doing lines that people with pencil can’t draw. Dead straight, thin. I mean, there’s an amazing technique with that stuff. I’m fascinated with that.
0:45:19.6 Michael Goodman: I think it’s, it’s fascinating when you take those kind of artists that are trained under that pressure in the streets to do what they’re doing, because there’s like, there’s a performance at play versus doing studio work. Cause when you’re in the studio, you know, where there’s no cops driving past that. Yeah. But also your, your thinking is a lot quicker on that versus the studio could feel like a slow burn. And sometimes it’s, it’s excruciating. Meaning I know a lot of artists that have artists block. They’re just trying to figure out what am I going to do? What do I, as in the beginning of this podcast of what am I going to say? And then even when you finally get to the image, I always wonder, and I’ll ask you this question, the image that you have on the canvas, full honesty, is it the image in your head that you initially see?
0:46:16.8 Billy Morrison: Sometimes yes. And that is an insanely cool feeling. And sometimes it’s about as far away as it could possibly be. Now on a percentage scale, if you had to put that percentage wise.
0:46:28.7 Billy Morrison: Well, I mean, a lot of, not all, but a lot of my work is stencil work. And so that does minimize the chances of it coming out differently.
0:46:40.9 Michael Goodman: Well, you have the colors, you have the composition because from the production of your.
0:46:48.1 Billy Morrison: So I would, I would put, if I had to put a number, I’d put 50%. 50%. Because here’s what happens. I design an image and somewhere along the line, my perception changes by the time I start to put it down. The backgrounds, my backgrounds change dramatically. I would say 50% of the time, it is exactly what I imagined. There’s never a middle ground. This is interesting. You’ve got me thinking about this. It’s either exactly what I imagined or it’s something wildly different. I’m like, that’s really cool. The other thing I’ll say is people have no idea how many canvases I paint over or throw away. They only see the paintings that I finish and put out there in a gallery or on social media or wherever I’m putting out there. What people fail to understand, and that goes with music as well, is how much shit ends up in the trash before you get to the piece that you wanted to paint.
0:47:56.2 Michael Goodman: For me, when I think about that before I even get to the canvas, because you’re very methodical, you’re showing me some images that you’re going to do, there’s a process to doing it. I think when you start applying that process, so many magical things. That’s when everything changes. Oil doesn’t do what it needs to do. That’s about energy. Here’s a really important thing with my paintings, and it may come across, it may not, but when I’m doing my paintings, I’m always trying to get the right balance. When I finally get to the canvas and the paint, I’m sweating a lot of the time. It’s a very energetic thing, even if I’m spraying. I’m not the kind of artist that is pontificating over every brushstroke. I’m not knocking that. That kind of painting is incredible to look at, and I appreciate that. I want energy. It boils down to being an old punk rocker. It’s about energy and emotion and the word violence. It has a lot of connotations. I gravitate to violent music, meaning heavy metal and heavy rock. Look at the Sex Pistols, when they walked on a stage in 1977. Violent is a word that comes to mind.
0:49:23.0 Billy Morrison: It was a war zone up there. So I am drawn to fine art and contemporary art that has somewhat of an energy in it. That electric chair behind you, there is some violence in those brushstrokes, in that screen, right? Sure. Not everything. I mean, that’s a camouflage, but I bought that because it’s a good investment. When I paint, it’s an energetic process. That’s why things end up being… Sometimes I’ll grab the wrong color in a can and I’m like, oh shit, it’s green instead of red. All right, I’m going to go with that and I’m going to splat. It’s an emotional thing that I’m doing. Sometimes I look at it at the end and I’m like, oh Billy, that’s fucking rubbish. Sometimes I look at it and go, you couldn’t have designed that if you’d have tried. It’s amazing.
0:50:26.2 Michael Goodman: I can’t believe the hour is pretty much hitting. Where can the audience find you?