I appreciate your concern with respecting the right to privacy; feel free to post away as long as you don't include my last name. Here are some questions for you, some of which are boring, but necessary for my article. My piece isn't due until Wednesday, so no worries if you can't reply until Thursday night. Thanks for agreeing to the interview!
Some boring background info questions:
How old are you?I am 52 years old.
Have you always lived in Austin? How did you end up here? I was born, raised, and have lived in Austin for the vast majority of my life. As I child I lived for a couple of Years in Durham, North Carolina, and later in life I attended graduate school for Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
Are you able to make art for a living? If not, what do you do to pay the bills? No. I work part-time and collect disability. The part-time work consists of caring for an elderly family member in their home. As far as that kind of gig goes, it's pretty much NBA level in terms of compensation, a free apartment, a free car, and lots of time to work on art and music.
When did you start playing open mics? Where and how often do you play? I started playing open mics last Fall. I play at New World Deli on Mondays, the Posse East on Tuesdays, and the Songwriter's Circle (don't call it an open mic!) at Cheatham St. Warehouse in San Marcos on Wednesday. There's another one put on once a month at Malvern Books by VSA Texas, a state arts organization for people with disabilities, called The Lion and the Pirate.
What inspired you to make your comics on paper plates? Why is this more effective for you than constructing comics in linear form? My Thesis advisor at SVA, Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, suggested I work on paper plates because he saw that I did a round drawing, a tondo. His work involves the use of found materials often used in the production of art by children or non-professional artists; glitter, pipe cleaners, reflective tapes, colored tinfoil, paper plates, that kind of thing. I had the idea of doing comics with them. What the hell, why not? I try to make the comics as readable as I can these days. "Richy Vegas; a Psycho Memoir," is a relatively early work that is akin to a first-time experimental film by an overly-ambitious filmmaker; I threw everything but the kitchen sink into that one, and it shows. I still have to come up with my own language of presentation of the narratives because of the round format.
When did you start playing guitar and what inspired you to pick it up? I began a major campaign to quit smoking cigarettes in late 2001. In 2002, I decided that a constructive use for the extra money was to take guitar lessons. I started out playing classical guitar and trying to learn classical pieces. I started writing words and composing music, with the first such song coming in December of 2006. I was also in a band called Insect Sex Act until 2012. I did not play an instrument, I just did vocals.
How does your schizoaffective disorder shape your everyday life? What challenges do you face that most people wouldn’t realize? While the medications I've taken over the years, and my willingness to comply with taking them as prescribed, has controlled my symptoms very well, what my illness represents to women I might find attractive remains a big problem. The best decision I made to deal with this stigma is to quit drinking and drugs and at least remove those two strikes against me, and my commitment to abstinence from drugs and alcohol allowed me to focus on issues of love addiction that the substance abuse buried for so many years.
Is music/art the most effective way for you to cope with your fixations/obsessions? No. A viable support network of friends, family, and the medical/therapy/community support people is the most effective way to cope with the obsessions and fixations (read women) that, before treatment, served as a portal of entry for my depressive episodes, and thus my psychotic episodes. I'm with the critic Robert Hughes in his assessment that the American belief that art making is an inherently redemptive enterprise is a fallacious belief. Art making, whether visual arts, music, or literature can absolutely contribute to an art maker's downfall. For example, when Eric Clapton went into his most effectual rehab stint, they made him leave his guitar at home.
How do you feel about Daniel Johnston? I’ve seen people compare you two in reviews online. I would trade careers with Daniel in a heartbeat. I wouldn't trade the extent of his health problems and how they adversely affect him for mine for all the career success in the world, however.
Are you happy that you are relatively “undiscovered”? No. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, before he became my thesis advisor at SVA, advised me to forget about making it in the art world and get into film or music. My frustrations with the art world stem from the gatekeeper system that essentially makes it an oligarchy of influential dealers, curators, collectors, and to some extent, critics. This system seems to relegate the art world to a relative cultural backwater that puts too much emphasis on big money marquee names that can attract the attention of influential collectors. Whereas the music world and the film world, for example, are all about butts in the seats, and are, therefore, tons more relevant today than the art world. Matt seems to always need people to play at his open mic at the Posse East, and lookee lookee, I'm being interviewed. The self-published indie comic world, even though the elite achievers don't typically date supermodels and make millions of dollars as the elites in the art world can achieve, seems to offer me some hope for upward mobility as well for the same reasons; my money is as green as the next guy's if I want a table at a zine festival or comic convention.
That's about it, this is Rich saying thanks.