You might have something made by him in your home. If not a record by The Real Danger, Nothing Done, Know Your Enemy, Uppercut or Astro Zombies, it might be some artwork (Mental and No Turning Back used his artwork for instance) or maybe you traded with him so he could complete his Descendents / ALL t-shirt collection. Or maybe not. Doesn’t matter. Let’s read on what Michiel Walrave has to say…
Hey Michiel, what’s up?
I’m good, thanks. Celebrating my girlfriend’s birthday today, hoping she doesn’t make me take her shopping… I didn’t get her a gift yet, so we’ll see.
Haha congratulations man! And good luck with that gift. So let’s see, are you working on any art at the moment?
Yeah. Just finished a drawing for Step Aside from the US, and right now I’m working on finishing a shirt design for All Aboard! from Germany.
What are you drawing for them? Like what did you come up with so far?
For Step Aside I drew a youth crew type character with a hooded sweatshirt reaching out to the viewer with an open hand, because the title of their EP is ‘reaching out’. For All Aboard! I drew another hand, but this time it has 12 pills in it – a reference to the bands album ‘Twelve little compliments’, which has to do with drugs I think.
I hope it does, for you that is haha. How does it usually work, I guess they usually describe what they want or do you get total freedom now and then too?
I get everything from super detailed requests for the most outlandish and specific stuff to complete and utter freedom to do whatever I want. Most of the time bands have a pretty good idea of what they want and I try to make it work, but venues give me free reign when it comes to drawing posters and basically anything goes.
Working as an artist is hard. No two ways about it. The pay sucks, bands can be a nightmare to deal with, and you never know what tomorrow will bring – which also makes it fun.
Did it ever not work out? That a band just wasn’t satisfied or something?
I’ve had a couple incidents where bands just fell off the radar, stopped replying to my emails and stuff…and ofcourse I have had to redraw some stuff but that comes with the territory.
True, did you ever refuse to draw something?
Don’t think so…I mean, sometimes bands will have bad ideas and I try to come up with something that will look better, but that’s about it.
What’s the design you’re the most proud of it, or the one you like the most?
I don’t know really…I make a lot of designs and sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping the client happy and trying to not put more time into it than I have to – my prices are still super low for bands so I can’t afford to work on a design for 3 days. So within that time limit I have to do the best I can. So basically I just go for something that looks good and gets the job done. Now, when I do some self-initiated work I tend to put more time into it..but none of this really answers your question, so I’ll get to that now; I really like some of the posters I did for De Melkweg and the skateboard designs I did…but nothing comes to mind as an absolute favorite…
Don’t worry about getting sidetracked. Just keep rambling, I like to hear that kinda stuff. I do agree on those Melkweg posters, there were some good ones in there. My personal favorite are the ones where a lot of stuff is happening, lots of little details, like the one I ordered from you.
So, art is your job? As in, does it pay the bills? If so, is it hard to get by or do you have a steady stream of work?
Yes, yes, yes, sometimes. Working as an artist is hard. No two ways about it. The pay sucks, bands can be a nightmare to deal with, and you never know what tomorrow will bring – which also makes it fun. I have no steady jobs, and by that I mean I always go from design to design, from day to day. Some of my friends have a few steady illustration jobs where they have to do a newspaper illustration every week, which gives them a tiny bit more certainty, but I don’t so like i said I just go from day to day.
That said, right now I’m working on a bunch of snowboard graphics for this new brand called Lobster, and I’m more or less their graphics guy right now, but even that is not something I can just fall back on.
I can imagine that being quite stressfull. I’ve been lucky so far with my own business, there seems to be work all the time (at the moment) and I hope it stays like that. But how do you deal with the lows? When there’s less work for you?
Sell shit on eBay.
The screaming hand. Best drawing / logo / design ever created.
Good old eBay haha. How about those 25 Ta Life designs you did? Did you ever get a copy haha? I remember you asking for them sometime ago.
I did artwork for a 25 Ta Life LP which was released by a German label, and the label sent me the LP’s and CD’s so no complaints there. Thing is that Rick took the artwork and printed shirts without asking me (which was to be expected) and when I found out I only wanted a shirt. For whatever reason Rick couldn’t get it together / was unwilling to honor my request, so I ended up asking various people to try and get a shirt for me when they saw 25 Ta Life play. Rick never came through and started getting annoyed when the third person came up to him asking for a shirt for Michael Wallrave (which is what ALL American bands I work for call me). In the meantime I just found it amusing, what with Rick’s background and all. It was to be expected, and sure enough it happened. Not a very exciting story but funny to me at least.
I don’t think I ever heard a bad Rick Ta Life story. Something else I just thought of, everyone is influenced (can be anything) when they create, what or who are your influences? And how did it / they influence you?
Skateboard artists like Jim Phillips. Well, mainly Jim Phillips. And tons more skateboard artist. It’s all about skateboard art for me. Apart from that, old comics like 70’s superhero stuff and 50’s horror and suspense comics.
One more to close this art talk off, if you could pick any artwork ever made, what would you have loved to come up with yourself? I for instance love the simplicity of the Black Flag logo, it’s really simple, but damn powerful and iconic.
The screaming hand. Best drawing / logo / design ever created.
Good pick. Let’s talk music. How about Nothing Done, you’re going to play your final show soon, apart from a show in Germany you haven’t been playing for a long time. What happened?
We’d been working on new ND material for a bit and were gonna release a new 7” on NJW records but things just kind of fell apart. I had too much going on – my artwork, my art collective at the time, and I wanted to take The Real Danger further and just focus on that. ND just stopped playing and that was that. We always talked about doing more stuff like play shows or record new songs but TRD kind of took over for me. We decided to play another show semi recently, just to see how it felt, but since then we have come to the conclusion that we should just lay it to rest. Ron from R’R Fest had been asking us to play for 3 years in a row, and this time we agreed, but then our drummer Alex informed us he wouldn’t be able to play. So that’s that.
Quick sidequestion, and the last one about your art, but since you just mentioned the art collective… What happened to Antistrot?
One day I visited the Antistrot website and saw the collective had broken up. In short: some members wanted to stop collaborating with others, but instead of calling it quits they decided to just kill off the collective as a whole. Five out of six main members including myself picked up where Antistrot left of but we don’t have a new name yet.
The second Nothing Done LP seemed to be a little too weird for most people to get into, but I think it’s a great record. I would even like to go as far as to say we were an underrated band.
Good luck! Looking forward to see what comes out of it. Anyway, back to Nothing Done. I do understand the reasoning behind quitting, such a shame there’s not going to be a last Nothing Done show though. How do you look back on that band now? Satisified with what you achieved? Highs, lows?
Yeah, we had a good run for a little while. I think we put out 4 solid releases: The demo, the EP, and two LP’s (not counting the second demo – that was just a pre-release type of thing). We played some amazing shows, especially in the UK. The second LP seemed to be a little too weird for most people to get into, but I think it’s a great record. I would even like to go as far as to say we were an underrated band.
That second LP was great! But underrated? I think people were into Nothing Done quite a bit? Or is my memory playing tricks on me?
From what I could gather at the time people were not feeling the Everybody Knows LP at all…I read some disappointed reviews around the time it came out, and the songs didn’t go over too well live either.
Like I said, could be my memory playing tracks. I liked it though. So your main focus bandwise is on The Real Danger now. I remember getting that demo CD at Johan & Suzanne Reflections Wedding Fest 😉 Loved it. What are the current and future plans for that band? Got a new record coming up or something?
Yes sir. We’re writing new songs all the time, but since we don’t live close to each other, rehearsing is a bit of a pain in the ass, and consequently we don’t do it that much. We will definitely record a new LP (our 3rd one) for sure, but my guess is it won’t be out anytime soon…more like February / March next year. We have 5 songs now and we need at least 5 more, and we don’t write songs that fast. On top of that we throw away a lot (and I mean a lot) of ideas as well.
Looking forward to that! What do you usually tell people when they ask about The Real Danger? Aside from saying you guys play punk rock?
Not much. I usually list our influences – Descendents and Face to face.
And what do you not tell?
That we’re old. Or wait, I do mention that all the time on stage, I don’t know why.
You feel old?
I do and I don’t. I feel a lot younger than I am, but when it comes to physical challenges like touring, or even playing shows or skateboarding I really feel that I’m not 16 anymore. matter of fact, I haven’t been 16 for over 20 years, haha.
I feel a lot younger than I am, but when it comes to physical challenges like touring, or even playing shows or skateboarding I really feel that I’m not 16 anymore. matter of fact, I haven’t been 16 for over 20 years, haha.
Haha. You’re going to stay young until you die. Let’s see, as for previous bands. There’s Uppercut of course, what do you want to say about that band? Saves me from asking the obvious.
Uppercut was my first real band. We started in 1995 and called it quits 9 years later. At the peak of our “popularity” we played some pretty memorable shows, especially in Zeeland and Brabant. We had a great ride I’d say…put out some terrible and some good records..we were really all over the place when it came to influences and styles, but we always played fast. Our final show was a lot of fun..within the first minute of the first song people had managed to literally wreck the venue by pulling apart the ceiling. I need to get the footage of that show (we filmed the entire thing with a professional camera) and put it online somewhere. Good times.
Yeah I’ve heard about that show. Sounds great. You probably answered it a bunch of times already but what made you guys quit that band, wanted to do something new?
Haha, that serves me right for asking such an obvious question. You also did Strip The Threads right?
Funny you should say that, because I didn’t. I played bass in Know Your Enemy. What makes the question funny is that my friend Sjarm, who played bass in Strip The threads, always gets confused about whether he played in Know Your Enemy or not. He didn’t. He did however play bass for Nothing Done when we first started out.
That’s what you get when you don’t proper fact checking before doing an interview haha. I don’t know why I thought that. I knew about Know Your Enemy and Harm being in Nothing Done though. What do you want to tell about Know Your Enemy. There should be some good stories in there.
I don’t know if the stories about KYE would classify as good. I do know that there always seemed to be tension between the singer and the rest of the band… It was just a weird band to be part of, but it was also a lot of fun. I had never really touched a bass guitar before but I think i did an ok job – I know how to play guitar so I didn’t really suck all that bad. Some funny stories I can think of are Mark (guitar) borrowing one of The Deal’s guitar amps but his chord was too short or something and he pulled the amp right off the speaker cabinet…I’ve never seen someone so worried about a piece of equipment. It ended up being fine though. Or the time where we played the Winston Kingdom in Amsterdam with AN I think…or Count me Out maybe, I don’t remember..before the show I took off my air max infareds and put on some Vans, and after the show my Nikes were gone..stolen. Bummer. Not realy a good story either but whatever.
Stealing. I’ll never get it. You just mentioned tension within the band, what caused it?
I think a clash of egos and different opinions on how to make the band work.
And how about Astro Zombies, the Misfits tribute band you were a part of? How did that happen?
After Uppercut released their 3rd album, I got an email from Maurice of Right Direction fame saying he loved the record and that he wanted me to record vocals for a couple of Misfits songs he and Igor (Backfire!) and Boris (Right Direction) had already recorded. The plan was to do a tribute album and maybe do a show with all singers featured on the record, like Polle from The Butcher and Joost from Discipline. As it turned out, we ended up doing a bunch of shows with just me singing. It was a cool thing to be part of for sure…I remember one show in Bar American in Middelburg where everyone just went absolutely crazy.
Know Your Enemy was just a weird band to be part of, but it was also a lot of fun.
Yeah I can imagine. The Misfits are great. Anyway, anything I missed? Any obscure side projects?
I was gonna say no, but to be honest there is one project that shouldn’t go unmentioned, and that is Chuck X Norris, a “band” I did with Benjamin from Upside Down and my friend Hamid Youth. The whole thing was influenced by the whole “thrash” thing from the late 90’s / early 2000’s with bands like Life’s Halt and What Happens Next? We played one “show” opening up for Tear it Up, and I honestly can’t remember a single thing about it..I know I played guitar and sang, but that’s about it. Must have been absolutely terrible.
I think I saw a flyer or something for that once. But if you describe it like that, it’s probably okay that’s all I know about it haha. But let’s get a bit more personal. The question I usually start with is, what’s your first memory in life?
That’s a tough question, because my childhood has been superbly captured on film and photographs by my dad. Seeing those pictures for years must have effected my memory, because I can’t say if I really remember something or that I just saw it in a photograph. Didn’t Emile from SOM mention this in his interview or am I making that up?
That said, I remember a lot of things about my childhood, like making certain drawings or playing with my Lego…then again, those drawings I still have, and the Lego too, so my memory might play tricks on me.
Yeah Emile said something like that. How was your childhood in general?
It was good.
And these days? I know it’s really general, but… Are you happy?
Some days more than others, but generally yes. I’m at a point in my life where I’m doing what I have always wanted to do, but I’m also experiencing the drawbacks from the choices I have made so far. I can’t really “go with the flow” so to speak, I always have to keep trying, keep hunting if you will for more work, better paying work, etc. Then I have my band which is basically a bunch of old guys without any real focus or goals (aside from playing shows semi regularly and making a new record) so that’s only about 80% satisfactory for me. Then there’s the question of do I want kids or not, and if I do, when?
I’m just listing a bunch of reasons as to why I’m not 100% happy all the time, but I guess it’s the same for almost everyone. But generally speaking I’m definitely not an unhappy person.
I’m at a point in my life where I’m doing what I have always wanted to do, but I’m also experiencing the drawbacks from the choices I have made so far.
Thanks for opening up like that. Yeah, I think that’s a good thing. Questioning your life, questioning your choices. So if you could change any of the choices you made, would you do it, and what would you do?
Hindsight is always 20-20, but I don’t know if I would change anything. For example, I was straight edge from age 20 up until age 30. I spent my entire time in art school sober. At the time it was the right choice for me, but I really do feel I loosened up more in many ways after I started drinking again. But to say I regret being straight edge for a decade, no, not at all. It’s just that looking back I can now get an idea of what could have been if I hadn’t acted a certain way at a certain time, but there’s really not much I can do about that now.
Could you give an example of that?
I think I could have achieved a lot more had I put more effort into making a living as an illustrator right after graduating from art school. Instead I slacked off for a good 4 years.
Any idea why you did that? Enjoying the good life?
Nah, just being lazy and unwilling to start a life filled with responsibilities. Back then I still skated a lot and Uppercut played shows all the time so I just did that basically.
So where do you see yourself in let’s say 10 or 20 years?
In 10 years? Playing music, doing art. Possibly with a couple of kids running around, or maybe not. Hopefully living in a bigger house or apartment, maybe even in a city other than Rotterdam.
Sounds good. Any goals, any boxes left unticked on that to-do list?
Not really…right now opportunities keep presenting themselves in a natural way, and I just try to seize the moment once it’s there, but I don’t really have any deeply rooted desires to say, travel the world, or take the band to a new level…I mean I’m not devoid of ambition but I’m not all that stressed out about achieving goals.
I get what you’re saying. Going with the flow. Here’s one I ask everyone: Are you religious or spiritual in any way?
Were you not raised like that, or was it a choice you made for yourself later on? I’m not religious or spiritual either, but I always like to know why people make those choices.
My parents were both raised Catholic, but they stopped believing before I was born. I did however attend a Christian school as a kid..prayers every morning, the works, but for some reason I never bought into it. My parents never told me the stories about Jesus and God were not true, they basically let me make up my own mind…so yeah, I don’t really know, it never made sense to me at all.
These days I have strong views on religion in general, but I really don’t feel the need to get into that right now. Talk to me in person and I’ll tell you why your faith is a lie haha.
I’m not devoid of ambition but I’m not all that stressed out about achieving goals.
Sounds tempting haha. You probably did a lot of interviews throughout the years, answering a bunch of the same questions over and over again. Is there anything that you wish you were asked but that just never came up?
Not really. I like when people ask me about how I write songs for my band, or get technical about my artwork and how I execute stuff. Sometimes people will ask me about my collections and pack rat mentality, and while that stuff is fun to talk about I don’t really feel the need for you to ask me about it now, but feel free to do so.
Well, I’m taking that chance because that reminded me of your Descendents t-shirt collection. How big is it now?
It’s big. I think I have roughly around 80 Descendents and ALL shirts in my closet, and with the band playing shows again I keep adding stuff to the collection because they keep releasing one-off shirt designs for every show.
Nice! Any other collections worth mentioning?
I have a ton of 80’s skateboards hanging on my walls, but I don’t actively collect those too much anymore due to lack of space and inflated prices.
Something else, you’ve been around in the hardcore punk scene for quite some time now, still loving it? Did it change?
I love punkrock and I love hardcore. I don’t really go to hardcore shows all that much because there’s virtually no current bands that I really like. Those bands get more than enough support from kids half my age or so it seems – I mean I do still read show reviews, I know about about current bands and I check out pics and videos…
TRD plays shows regularly so I still go to shows in that aspect, and I’ll go out of my way to see my favorite bands if they play here, but that’s about it. I also don’t check out a lot of other modern bands in other genres of music.
I feel you. I think that’s about it man. I’m out of questions. I think we pretty much discussed it all, the past, the present, the future. Your bands, your artwork, the collections… Did we forget anything?
I guess not.
That’s it then. Thanks for your time Michiel and good luck with whatever you’re up to next.
Interview done in Augustus / September 2011.