From very early on, Jim Koch knew that he owned the drive and the sureness to make it as a bad ass graphic designer. What started off as simple doodles amplified into designing for JetPilots, Yamaha U.S.A , Marilyn Manson, Vanilla Ice, Motley Crue and more. His inspiration spirals from things that exude rockabilly, creepy clowns and hot rods. His obsession revolves around dark, twisted, edgy imagery. Koch now owns his own design firm and creates creepy, eccentric, beautifully ugly art by embellishing toys, clothing, muscular motor vehicles, booklets, and pretty much anything killer.
â€œMost people see my commercial work and think that’s what I do mostly. I am all over the board and very versatile with design, painting and production. I enjoy painting more than ever now. The creepy images seem to come out the most when I paint. â€œ
Format: Youâ€™ve pretty much played around with every surface that needs garnishing, how did you go from designing posters to figure design?
Jim Koch: I have been doing design for 20 plus years, so I am always looking for something killer to have fun with. I have also been a huge fan of the San Diego Comic Con for the last 15 years and attend almost every year. At the con, I ran into this guy named Dave, who designed the FLING monkey toy with adFunture. He gave me Eddyâ€™s contact info; Eddy loved my cartoons and made the Skeeter figure for me. It was kind of a weird collaboration because the people in Asia don’t really know anything about hillbillies, so adFunture didn’t know how to sell Skeeter. When I got my hands on it, I started marketing Skeeter to the weirdoâ€™s, to Hot Rod and to the rockabilly world.
Format: Which client collaboration would you say gave you your first big break? What did you design?
Jim Koch: Hmm, that’s a tough oneâ€¦so many people have given me big breaks as a designer. I would have to say Phil Johnson and Scott Burnsworth from Visual Army out of Australia. He keeps me rockinâ€™ with unreal projects. Phil is the man who originally designed the first checkered vans, the first to take Jet Skiing to another level with the big surf, fashion, invention and videos. He hired me as the designer for a company called Jet Pilot in â€˜89. I also have people like Vince Neil and Vanilla Ice to thank for letting me get my big toe into play with the big kids.
Format: Your earlier work shows loads of â€˜Sex, Blood and Rock nâ€™ Roll,â€™ where do you see the connection with toy design?
Jim Koch: Toy design has been in my bones since building model kits as a kid. Euro metal and punk was a natural shift of direction since that’s all I listened to as a kid. I blasted the sex pistols as I built my Farrah Fawcett Custom Van and Roth model kits. Now I can make the radical toys I dreamed of.
Format: Your creepy clown images immediately brought back memories of Stephen Kingâ€™s â€œIT.” What were you thinking when conjuring up these images?
Jim Koch: I am a fan of odd and weird characters, both drastic and goofy. I love the dark stuff as well as the silly hobo clowns. I believe clowns have a secret plan to takeover. Plus they creep me out, so doing clowns are always fun and mysterious.
Format: Was it your creepy clown imagery that made you a natural fit with Circus Punks?
Jim Koch: The Circus Punks project was mustered up by a couple bullocks from Fresno. I saw the first knock down dolls at Comic Con in San Diego around 2004. Since then, I have been a fan of anything corny, circus-like or hillbillyish; I was a fan at first site. My enthusiasm and designs were punk rock and the marriage was set until the frizzle fried.
Format: How did you get the attention of Play Imaginative and Touma?
Jim Koch: I am good friends with Darren from Play Imaginative. He and I met via e-mail and have been design pals ever since. We finally met, in person, at a San Diego comic con a few years back and partied like rock stars. Heâ€™s good people. Touma digs my design and customs. That’s how I did the Touma fiesta toy with Play Imaginative.
Format: With your hot rod background I thought you might understand why rockabilly is so popular in Japan, any thoughts?
Jim Koch: I’ve always wondered this. It seems to me that whatever fad or scene we Americans do, the Japanese seem to take it as their own and make it more over the top and even cooler. The rockabilly scene is radical in Japan, like the pumps and dresses that are super wild.
Format: Your work seems to be getting darker and darker, leaving the circus themes behind and moving into real desperation with the head hunter themes, for example. Where do you see yourself going in the future?
Jim Koch: My art is evolving to the dark side, [laughs]. Most people see my commercial work and think that’s what I do mostly. I am all over the board and very versatile with design, painting and production. I enjoy painting more than ever now. The creepy images seem to come out the most when I paint.
Format: There has always been a market for designer vinyl toys in Japan, Hong Kong and other Asian countries, why do you think the high end vinyl toy craze is so well received in the U.S?
Jim Koch: Itâ€™s just bad ass and cool! Also, itâ€™s a way for people to collect something that’s not a $5000.00 painting. Itâ€™s a way for fans to collect figures and prints and still be a fan of the designer/painter without spending loads of cash for original art. Itâ€™s still growing and exploding in great lengths in the USA.
Format: Now that you run your own design firm, who have you recruited as part of your own team?
Jim Koch: I have a few key partners who are helping me build my empire. I have a great assistant, a great web guy, and a handful of talent for audio and TV production for my commercial agency projects.
Keep your eyes peeled in 2009; Iâ€™m dropping a few original toy projects, headphones and a slew of skate decks.
More Info: http://www.jimkoch.com/
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