Scott Shellhamer likes his art and music heavy and loose yet organized. You could use those words to describe his band American Heritage and his own artwork. There is a chaotic nature to his art yet it is clearly rooted in a solid foundation. I recommend listening to American Heritage while viewing his work….the soundtrack to crumbling structure.
Ok…So what came first the music or the visual art?
I got into both at an early age. My parents made me start taking cello lessons when I was 5 or 6 years old. Then around 5th grade I told them to shove the cello up their asses and started playing drums instead. I didn’t start playing guitar until I rejoined American Heritage (I was originally the drummer). As far as visual art goes… I was always doodling as a youngster. I would try to copy illustrations from Mad Magazine, TV Guide, and CARtoons Magazine constantly. I think I’ve always taken music a lot more seriously than my painting, mostly because it’s more fun. Playing shows is a fucking blast. Sitting in a room by yourself having a fight with a canvas is less fun.
Have you always worked in your current style and if not how did you work before?
I have not. I spent a while using a pseudonym and painting cutesy characters. Granted, they almost always had inverted crosses on their foreheads and were miserable in one form or another. I put that style to bed after the Tetralogy show I did with Joey D., Emily Cunningham, and Francis Kmiecik 2 years ago. It had run it’s course and I can’t imagine myself doing more with that style than we did with that piece. That’s also the point in time where I started exploring abstract painting more. It was a good time to transition what I was doing into something else.
Who are your artistic influences?
Zdzisław Beksiński. His work has loads of implied narrative and emotion. Dark and brooding. I’m drawn to that bleakness.
Stephen Gammell. The “Scary Stories” illustrations had a big effect on me as a kid and I think you can see that influence in some of my work.
Daniel Craig Richardson. He’s one of these artists that doesn’t show his work to anyone. I’ve known him since the 5th grade and we lived together for a year or two. It’s a shame no one ever gets to see his work because it’s fucking awesome. He’s completely fearless in front of a blank canvas. I envy that about him greatly. His influence on me has been huge.
Ralph Steadman. In my early 20’s I really got into his work. I was playing with loose inking techniques back then as a result. I don’t think his influence really comes through as much now, but going through that period was really important to how I developed as an artist.
Kent Williams. I’m not sure he’s a direct influence on what I do but he’s someone who I respect a ton. His work is both technical and loose. I find that to be endlessly appealing.
Stephen Kasner. I’ve been a big fan of Stephen’s ever since I got the first Craw full length. This is why his art graces the cover of the new American Heritage CD. I’ve wanted one of his paintings on the cover of something I’ve done since 1994. I’m pleased it finally happened.
What words best describe your artistic style?
Sloppy and hopeless.
How do you balance doing artwork with being in a band?
I don’t really have any need for a balancing act. They are two completely separate things for me. The only rule I now have now about the two is that I will never do the artwork for a record I’m on. I hate a lot of what I do once it’s done and I get a little space from it. I don’t want to have that attitude towards my band’s album covers.
What do you hope the viewer will take from your work?
Depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and contempt for religion are pretty common themes for me, mostly because it’s what feels honest to who I am as a person. So I suppose I hope that the viewer can feel that a little bit in some way.
What is American Heritage all about? Any tour plans?
AH is about dudes who’ve known each other longer than they haven’t and live 13 hours away from each other hanging out, drinking 30 pack after 30 pack of Busch beer, getting shit done and being too dumb to quit. We’re all for nerd-meathead bro-ness. Touring is difficult because of our distance and Mike’s work situation but we are trying to do what we can. We live to play live, but we just don’t get the chance to do it that often.
Do you have any new music coming out?
Well the most exciting news is that American Heritage “Sedentary” looks like it’s finally going to see the light of day on vinyl. We’re pretty stoked. Other than that we’ve got a few new tunes written and a couple of cover songs learned. We tossed around the idea of just recording those and self-releasing it as a 10”. No more waiting for a year to put something out after it’s done. That could be in 2011 *possibly*.
Adam (also in Heritage) has a band called Heaving Mass that rips. They only have a demo out now but I know they’ve got more than an album’s worth of tunes written. Hopefully they’ll have a full length out soon. I played bass with them for a year or so when they were just getting going. Great dudes.
I’ve got a few other projects in the works but I’m not exactly sure how far away we are from recording something. One is a straight up rock band with people from Heritage, Ling Ling, and Electric Desert. There was some talk of my now fairly defunct doom band Exorciser (with dudes from Heritage, Surachai, and Beak) recording what we had. I’ve also started a sort of moody drone project with Surachai recently. I think once the two of us get a little less busy with our day to day that could happen this year. I’ve been trying to get a dbeat/grind project going for AGES but can’t find a drummer to save my life. Hopefully one day soon that will happen. There was some talk in passing recently about the band I used to play drums in (Ghosts and Vodka) having a vinyl release… But I’ll believe it when I see it. So in other words… I’ve got a bunch of stuff going on and all of it will or will not happen.
Who are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
This is always so hard for me. But I’ll give er’ a go…
Listening to now: Early Graves, Enabler, Hate Eternal, Lords, Nails, OFF!, Surachai, Trap Them, Ulcerate.
Stuff that always makes it back in heavy rotation: Art of Burning Water, Asva, Bastro, Black Flag, The Cardigans, Craw, Cursed, Death Breath, Darwinsbitch, Descendants, Disfear, Dismember, Drive Like Jehu, Entombed, Harvey Milk, Keelhaul, Melvins, Morbid Saint, Motorhead, Nasum, Pedro the Lion/David Bazan, Pestilence, Steve Reich, Rotten Sound, Sacrilege, Scorpions, Skinny Puppy, Skitsystem, Sleep, Soul Side, Tragedy, Whiplash, Wrangler Brutes to name a few.
Name one artist you would you like to see interviewed on Metal Band Art and why?
Stephen Kasner. I’d really be interested to hear his side of things. I hope he’s alright.