Inside the shoebox of Matthew Volz

Sahara Shrestha

matthew volz drawing

When he's not drawing, Matthew Volz likes going to real estate sales: “I love finding hand decorated hangers,” he says, “when I walk into an estate sale, I guess because I have a beard, the people whose house it is immediately assume i'm there there to buy tools. I feign interest in the tools and work up the courage to ask, 'do you have any macaroni art or shoebox dioramas you made as a child?'”

That's sort of how he became good friends with Juan Wauters of The Beets: “He had shoeboxes full of tapes and I had shoeboxes filled with drawings…Juan and I have since worked on art shows, video projects, and whatever else we can think of.” Volz is, of course, that hand in The Beets responsible for the band's artwork— “It's like an art project, from the flyers and posters, videos, songs, live shows, banners.” Volz also designed the album art for The Beets' latest Let The Poison Out.

In other news, Volz annexed a massive scar on his arm after surgery— “The arm broke while arm wrestling in my friend Stoop's backyard in Queens. I beat a talented poet and a skilled architect, but lost to an amateur wrestler (LNW) who goes by the name of “Jailhouse”. Right now my street cred is at an all time low while my giant scar cred is at an all time high.”

Who are these KKK-looking people being bashed in the head and set on fire in the Let The Poison Out cover art?

That's the Unisphere in Flushing Meadow Park in Corona. The original idea was to have these people we hate getting assaulted at a picnic by a biker gang. I drew it a couple of times and the people we all hate look sorta like us and our friends, I guess that's the tricky thing with hate, sometimes you don't realize you don't hate someone until you've already set them on fire. So those KKK looking guys sort of represent whoever you choose to hate, it can change on a daily basis.

What does the record Let The Poison Out mean to you?

I think this is a really great album all around. The production has stepped up, which I think makes the lyrics and all the thought that go into the music really stand out. I spent a lot of time on the art for the album and I'm really happy with it and the way people have responded to it. The title Let The Poison Out is a reference to an event on the Howard Stern show where the inventor of the Sybian came in and officially became the weirdest guy in the world. We were all listening to this in the car on tour, I think we had to pull over to take it all in. I think the title has many meanings but I think most of all it's paying homage to the greatest entertainer ever— Howard Stern.

Do you also live in Queens? How do you like it?

Yes, I live in Queens and I'm quite fond of it. I'm a little biased because I was born and raised here and most of my friends and family are still here so its home to me. Its fun, and there's a lot of people I admire are from here: The Ramones, Paul Simon, LL Cool J, and Howard Stern! Also at Flushing Meadow Park [on the cover of the album] there's the Queens Museum, it's a great place that has interesting exhibits and has a panorama of New York built by Robert Moses that's really incredible!

Favorite comic book and character?

I love the art of Barry Windsor Smith, Sam Kieth, Richard Corben, guys like that with a real unique way of drawing. I love Bone, Stray Bullets, Flaming Carrot, X-Men, Concrete, Romance and Horror comics.

I like plastic man a lot because I like anyone who can turn into a chair, he's so weird! I always really liked Storm from the X-Men. Especially when she lost her mutant power to control the weather because her boyfriend was being a dick, she didn't let that get her down, she took this time to find herself. She started dressing more punk and got a mohawk. With no mutant power she proceeded to become the leader of the X-Men by beating then leader cyclops in a fight, and then with no powers went into the sewers and completely thrashed Callisto to become the rightful leader of the Morlocks! Storm is a really nice person with good intentions, I love it when people like that beat the shit out of people!

And you're into wrestling?

I love wrestling. It is one of the great American art forms in my opinion. I saw a documentary recently where a wrestler called wrestling the 'new jazz,' and I 100% agreed with that. I love the story lines, costumes, names of holds, all the way down to the fans homemade posters. It's this living breathing thing, it's really special. I love going to live events, I've witnessed fans throwing metal chairs into the ring nailing peoples heads during a Sabu match in a warehouse in Jamaica, Queens. When we first got there the ring announcer thanked “all the white people for coming out tonight.” After the match a bloody Axl Rotten was asking strangers over the microphone if he could crash at someone's house, I mean that's great! I read Eddie Guerreros autobiography “Cheating Life, Stealing Death” and after being fired from the WWE for drug use, he specifically cites trying to sell his own action figures in the lobby of the Elks lodge on Queens Blvd as the lowest point in his life. I was at that event and saw him in the hallway. It was weird to be reading a book and go “wow, I witnessed the lowest point in a mans life!” I recommend the book highly, I also recommend Ric Flairs autobiography “To Be The Man You Have To Beat The Man”, he tells many memorable tales, one of which him and Rowdy Roddy Piper going to Nicaragua to defend the belt against the local champ as soldiers stood at ringside with machine guns pointed at them. They caused riots, got paid in cocaine and went on like week long benders. I think wrestling autobiography is my favorite genre of book.

(An aura picture of Matthew Volz in Chinatown)

“I always like to try drawing something I never have before. This year I had the pleasure of creating a story about a giant from Japan, and the world's largest bowl of Ramen for Lucky Peach magazine. That was a great experience for me not only because it was a fun project to be a part of but because it allowed me to create something I would otherwise never have thought about drawing. That's a lot of the fun of drawing, going to new places. It can take me a long time to get what i'm seeing in my head onto paper. I often start a drawing very complicated, and little by little I strip it down. Sometimes it's not what you put into a drawing, but what you choose to leave out that matters. A good drawing for me is getting the most emotion in the simplest way possible. Sort of like the the way Raymond Carver writes short stories, it's not the amount of words he uses, it's his brevity that makes the ones he chooses to use even more important. I try to apply that philosophy to the way I draw.

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