Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interview with Patrick Kindlon (Self Defense Family, Ashcan Press)

Self Defense Family (née End of a Year) are one of the most interesting bands on the Deathwish Records roster right now. They don't fit neatly into the hardcore or metal genres at all, nor even with the tiny contingent of ambient music Deathwish puts out. Nevertheless, they put out one of last year's best punk rock albums, one of this year's best punk rock singles, and they continue to curate the most entertaining online presence of just about any band in 2011.

Instead of all that, I'm gonna talk about comic books.

Patrick Kindlon, the vocalist for Self Defense Family, recently teamed up with Matthew Rosenberg to form Ashcan Press, an independent comic book press. At this year's New York Comic Con, they debuted issues of three new comics: The Urn, a revenge story about a member of a biker gang released from prison embarking on a mission to avenge his dead lover; We Can Never Go Home Again, a teen romance story with superpowers; and Menu, the Jack Kirby-esque saga of a man and his dog traversing a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

I didn't get to go to the con, but my good friend Harris snagged me the first issues of all three books. They're all pretty fantastic. As an animal lover and rabid Jack Kirby fan, Menu is the standout in my eyes.

Patrick was friendly enough to engage in some comic book chat with my via email. The interview follows:

Me: So you sing in punk rock bands, and now you're writing comic books, labors of love and tough gigs both. Which one of these things would you say is more of a grind?

Patrick: Comic books are way more of a grind because I’m trying to make a living at it. With music, it never occurred to me that you could make a living, so I never tried. Comic books, as an industry, are getting to that point where the percentage of people starving and doing it only for fun will far exceed those able to eat off it. Actually, it may already be there. But I’m trying very hard to get in and stay in before that tipping point has been reached and the door is closed. It’s worth noting that there’s a huge difference in the resources it takes to create a finished product. I can create music on a very simple and inexpensive home studio, pretend the lo-fi quality is a stylistic choice, and put it up on Bandcamp. Very little financial reward, but very little cost. Comic books are a very different thing. No one will accept a shitty-looking book as a stylistic choice and very few artists are willing to work for free. So there is a large outlay of cash for a minimal to non-existent return. That’s a grind.

Me: You seem like you're the main promotional voice of Ashcan comics, but Matthew Rosenberg is credited as co-writer on all of your books. Would you care to expand on how your writing partnership works?

Patrick: Just the opposite. Matt runs the @ashcanpress Twitter and Facebook and all that. I’m only good at getting the most negative sort of attention and if I ran those things I’d be a hostile weirdo picking fights all day. This industry has fewer than a half-dozen publishers and if I tell them all to suck my balls, it’s not a long career for us. So we keep me off Twitter and the other stuff as much as possible. Matt and I co-write everything. Sometimes the co-writer title is really just a way of saying we edit each other’s work for moron mistakes, and other times it means we sat in a room and fought for hours about nuances of the stories. Varies book to book.

Me: Next to superhero comics, crime comics are probably the most popular genre around right now. What made you decide to write a crime comic of your own with 'The Urn'? Any other crime comics you took as an influence?

Patrick: Crime is fun to write. It gives you an excuse to write violent, odd characters who move a story forward. I imagine everything I write is a crime story in some regard. There’s always a violent man or woman doing something wrong and someone else who has to pick up the pieces of it or stop it. Sometimes it just happens to be in the Sudan, or on a spaceship, or has some other odd mitigating situation or location attached to it. I wanted to tell a revenge story because it’s a stretch for me, intellectually. I don’t want to hurt anyone, so writing a story where the whole thing is predicated on “will the protagonist get the opportunity to hurt the bad guy?” is a step outside myself. I enjoy a lot of crime comics, but the chief inspiration for The Urn is 70s suspense cinema. I like the way people talk in movies from that period.

Me: Jack Kirby is arguably the most revered comics creator in history, and has inspired many direct homages, now including your book Menu. What about Kirby's work resonates with you?

Patrick: What resonates most for me is how weird he managed to get with straightforward stories and simple characters. Everything is down-to-Earth and relatable, but only under five layers of freaky. That’s very difficult to do and should be celebrated wherever we find it.

Me: Favorite comic book dog? Krypto? Lockjaw? Other?

Patrick: Rufferto, from Groo the Wanderer. He thinks Groo is a genius despite the fact that Groo is a certified moron. It’s the most realistic portrayal of a canine in comics and also one of the warmest. The issue where Groo “drowns” for a few pages and Rufferto waits at the waters edge for him to return makes me tear up every time I read it.

Me: Lastly, any idea when we can start finding your books in stores?

Patrick: We’re weighing the best way to approach this now. Do we go with THE distributor? Do we go with THE distributor’s microscopic competitor that is scrambling to make a dent? Or do we solicit the books ourselves and deal with no middleman at all? The honest truth is there’s no way to break even on any of those options. We will take a financial beating no matter which way you slice it, but minimizing the damage is attractive. We’ve just got to pick one soon and run with it. By spring you’ll be able to order some of our books at your comic store.

Thanks again to Patrick Kindlon for answering all my nerdy questions. You heard it here first, keep an eye out on your local comic book shop this spring!

-Michael James Roberson

- official website of Ashcan Press.
http://selfdefensemusic.com/ - official website of Self Defense Family.

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