Q&A: Brandon Boyd Chats Art With VISI

INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES courtesy of Brandon Boyd

Not merely the frontman for famed rock band Incubus, Brandon Boyd is also an accomplished visual artist. Apart from the band’s performance in Cape Town on Wednesday 28 February, Brandon is also showcasing his work at Gallery One11 on Loop Street in a pop-up exhibition entitled Opti-Mystic.

Here, he chats to us about his work, influences, and why he chose to take a record deal over an art scholarship.

Image credit: Julian Schratter

While many people know you for your contribution to the world of music, not everybody is aware of your passion for creating art. When did you first start painting?

I’ve been doing it since as far back as I can remember. Expressing myself through visual, non-verbal mediums was always how I communicated more of the complex and abstract processes that were happening in my inner world. There were a number of factors that taught me to meet the world quietly when I was a child, but the inverse effect of some of those same factors was an overwhelming desire to share what I saw through drawings, paintings and photographs.

When I was a teenager some doors broke down for me spiritually and I felt like I finally had given myself permission to use my voice and sing and write down the things that I saw, which led me on the path that I’ve been on for almost 27 years with Incubus. But my love and appreciation for visual mediums like painting never abated, they merely grew exponentially. So I’ve been working in these modalities side by side the entire time.

Does the art influence the music or does the music influence the art?

They have a tendency to inform each other. Sometimes they even spill out simultaneously, which must look pretty random if someone were an accidental witness to that nebulous process. I probably look a little insane…

What made you sign the record deal as opposed to enrolling in art school with a scholarship?

There was a brief moment where it was a real fork in the road! But circumstances back then made going on tour with the band seem like the wise choice (haha). I was only offered a very partial scholarship, if memory serves here, and I likely would have gone into massive student debt, which seemed more dangerous and impulsive than getting in a van with a bunch of stoners and peddling our songs around every bar and backyard in America.

Your work is a mixture of portraits and mysterious abstract shapes and patterns. How do you go about choosing your subject matter?

Yeah, the last few years I’ve been a little obsessed with compulsive line-work juxtaposed with more figurative watercolour portraits of friends and lovers. The subject matter isn’t chosen as much as it’s collided with. I have an approach to my creative process that isn’t terribly deliberate. I merely do my best to create an atmosphere and or an environment that invites inspiring moments, people, encounters, etc into my little world. Then I feel like it’s my honour and an expression of my Love (in the Universal/Cosmic sense) to report my experience in colour and in sound. I hope that makes a little sense!

What do you love most about creating?

What an amazing question. That’s hard to answer specifically though! I’ll do my best:

I suppose if I really checked in with the creative process it starts to flirt with ideas that drift into the spiritual experience. Not the kind you’d imagine at the end of a Hero’s Journey, like wandering into a long tunnel of light or seeing your dearly departed relatives greeting you at golden gates, no. But more so the opportunity to stare into the Abyss. That infinite void that waits after the last dream you had the other night, where you look into a fantastic Nothing and smile at the vastness of an infinite potential.

I almost never know what I’m writing a song about until long after it’s finished, I almost never have a clear image in mind of what I want to paint. I just sort of let go. Start. Like a surrender, like a medium at some nineteenth century seance armed only with candlelight, a pad and a pencil. Scribbles and psychobabble until somewhere in the spinning muck, there emerges a little message from what feels like someplace else, but probably is everywhere all the time. It’s almost, dare I say… fun (?) 

A fun remark about Art I read this morning is from a writer whose work I’ve loved for a long time, named Tom Robbins. He’s penned a lot of great books you should probably read; Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, etc.

“In the haunted house of life, art is the only stair that doesn’t creak…”

What’s next for Brandon Boyd?

Lots of touring this year and working slowly, but surely, on what will be my fourth book. I’d love to be in a zombie movie too. Just saying…

For more information about Brandon’s exhibition, running until 3 March 2018, visit Gallery One11 on Facebook. View more of Brandon’s work at brandonboyd.me.