Love hurts

Smith Journal - - Opinion - In­ter­viewer Taz Liff­man •

BY RE-EN­VI­SION­ING ’80S POP BAL­LADS AS STEPHEN KING BOOK COV­ERS, ARTIST BUTCHER BILLY MAKES A NOVEL POINT: LOVE SONGS ARE MESSED UP.

Tell us about your­self. I’m a Brazil­ian artist with a back­ground in graphic de­sign. I spent the best of a decade work­ing in the cor­po­rate world, but got bored and started play­ing around with these mo­tifs and styles from the pop cul­ture I grew up with: cin­ema, comics, mu­sic, and video games. Un­ex­pect­edly, the side project grew to the point where I had to quit my day job. I’m now Butcher Billy, my artis­tic per­sona, 24/7.

What was the idea be­hind the se­ries ‘Stranger Love Songs’? Out­wardly, pop mu­sic and the hor­ror genre couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent, but they ac­tu­ally share some sim­i­lar tropes. Love song lyrics can be pretty messed up. The con­cept was to sub­vert or even just em­pha­sise as­pects of the lyrics through the hor­ror genre.

What drew you to old Stephen King book cov­ers? Stephen King al­ways brings a dark turn to an av­er­age day-to-day sit­u­a­tion: noth­ing is what it seems in his tales. Also, I re­ally love the big, bold, bloody red serif types that adorn his book cov­ers. The il­lus­tra­tions were al­ways sim­ple and un­pol­ished, yet strik­ing.

What is your artis­tic process? At first I just wanted to play with the dark feel and vin­tage de­sign of the book cov­ers. As the se­ries evolved, op­por­tu­ni­ties to ref­er­ence King’s other works kept crop­ping up. The flat yel­low and black colours of How Deep Is Your Love, for ex­am­ple, pay tribute to the orig­i­nal movie poster for The Shin­ing. You can see some of Car­rie in Lady in Red, and a few of the Chil­dren of the Corn in

The Killing Moon. There are also a few sub­tle homages to non-King works;

The Ex­or­cist, Black Sun­day and A

Trip to the Moon all get nods.

Do you have a favourite piece? ‘To­tal Eclipse of the Heart’ was one of the songs that first gave me the idea for the se­ries. The film clip is the creepi­est thing I’ve ever seen.

How are your art­works re­ceived in Brazil? My work is more ap­pre­ci­ated over­seas than in my own coun­try, which I find un­der­stand­able. Every­day Brazil­ians have more to worry about than pop art.

Any other projects in the pipe­line? I’ve re­cently been work­ing on three dif­fer­ent vinyl sleeve de­signs: one that’s for the sound­track of a clas­sic ’60s hor­ror flick, and two that are for episodes of an up­com­ing Net­flix se­ries. My sec­ond art book – Butcher Billy’s Strange Fan­tasy – is com­ing out in Oc­to­ber this year.

Where can we see more of your work? be­hance.net /butcher billy and on In­sta­gram @the butcher billy.

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