Lurking in the shadows in some half-forgotten Liverpool wasteland is a mastermind of the warped and twisted, plucked from some dark corner of the internet’s seedy underworld by the world’s biggest sleaze ‘n’ roll band. BONEFACE comes from another dimension, a world where everyone wears some kind of mask and no-one dares ask what lies beneath.
Described as ‘slimed pop art’, boneface’s work is a dystopian world of comic book oddities, a horrifying collision of Marvel superheroes and 50s Hammer Horror, all contorted bodies, angular shapes and devil-on-your-shoulder weirdness. Featuring superheroes and villains, leather-clad ghouls and skulls galore, boneface combines dark imagery with badass characters. It’s a perfect fit for the switchblade swagger of Queens Of The Stone Age, with whom boneface has struck up a close friendship. Developing a world of cover, video and poster artwork for QOTSA’s two most recent LPs – as well as the gatefold artwork for the Mad Max: Fury Road OST – has allowed boneface to delve deep inside his collection of weird and wonderful characters to bring to life a supreme visual realisation of the world hinted at by the music.
Boneface’s highly collectable work has not only been shown in galleries across the world, but stretches to character cards and posters that give more depth to the vaguely sinister ways of the universe that his characters inhabit. In April, he is coming out from his secret lair to showcase his works on the walls of Buyers Club, in his first solo exhibition. Boneface’s campaign to conquer the entire world is slowly coming together – we caught up with him before he disappeared down the rabbit hole once more.
There’s a recurring theme in your work of characters who wear masks. Why do you think you’re drawn to masked characters?
Growing up reading comics, watching horror movies and loving Halloween, I’ve always enjoyed masks and people hiding their identity. In a world where everyone posts everything about themselves all over the internet every single day, I think wearing a mask and staying anonymous is my countermeasure.
Masks inherently add a layer of mystique to a person: ‘Why are they wearing a mask? What does it represent?’ I always like to hide hidden meaning in things in my drawings, usually small details, that may or may not convey something – I also like to fuck with people, so a lot of the time symbols I use mean nothing at all. I sometimes use masks in this way. Also, faces are hard to draw.
How much do you think your own ability to hide behind a mask of anonymity allows you to lose yourself in your creations? Do you think you can reach deeper levels of creativity by keeping your artistic self away from the person behind the mask?
I wear a mask because, fuck who I am, that’s not important.
I always wanted to be a superhero – or villain – since I was a kid, so it just came natural to me when I started doing this to adopt a pseudonym and don a mask. A lot of my work is creating characters and world-building; usually there’s a bit of a backstory to everything I draw, so I guess the ‘boneface’ persona kind of fits into that world and helps in the sense that I can immerse myself amongst the monsters and freaks that inhabit it. Obviously, I don’t wear the thing while I’m working… not always.
What’s the theme of your exhibition coming up at Buyers Club?
As it’s my first solo exhibition, there isn’t really a theme per se, beyond whatever recurrent themes appear in my work. It’s more of a retrospective of what I’ve done so far in my ‘career’. I’ve chosen some of my favourite pieces from the projects I’ve done over the past few years to display the original linework, and got some huge, in-your-face, A0 prints of some other pieces.
If you could get anyone else to illustrate a skull mask for you, living or dead, who would you pick?
John Wayne Gacy. He wasn’t the greatest painter, but I know it’d be creepy as fuck.
Could you just draw what anyone sounds like from listening to their music? Or do you need to be embedded in their background and motivations like you are with Queens Of The Stone Age?
I think the reason my stuff compliments QOTSA’s music so well is basically because we have a thorough understanding of each other. I was never a massive QOTSA fan, but I knew the hits – No One Knows, Go With The Flow, Make It Wit Chu – whatever I’d seen on Kerrang! when I was a teenager; but even then I totally got what they were doing. Our collaboration started when Josh [Homme] saw an interview I did with Juxtapoz magazine, where I basically said I hated everyone, and explained my dystopian view on the world and everyone in it. He gets that and immediately got in touch and asked me to work with them. Our relationship now is very much like Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman; it’s a very specific formula that seems to work pretty well.
How far can your collaboration with QOTSA go? Is there a full comic series in it with the characters you’ve created?
People ask me about this a lot. The characters I created for the short film we did for …Like Clockwork seem to resonate with people and they always ask me when the feature length film or comic expanding on that universe is gonna happen. I think I’d much rather leave it where it is though. That 15-minute animation is its own contained story, you don’t need to know anything else about those characters. Like I mentioned before, they do all have names and backstories that I came up with while QOTSA and I came up with the concept for the film, but I don’t care to delve back into that world, at least not yet. Also, because animating is a lot of work – even though Liam Brazier did most of the heavy lifting, making everything move – and I’ve always been far too lazy to draw a whole comic book.
Why is art and illustration important to you?
Drawing is my outlet, the way I express myself. Without it I’d probably be some flavour of menace to society.
Boneface’s Die With Your Mask On exhibition at Buyers Club runs throughout April, with a launch event on Wednesday 28th March featuring Bido Lito! DJs.