We Kill You started as â€œa fun thing to do” with its t-shirts and “exterior decorating projects” plastering the walls of the downtown core of Toronto. With the t-shirts still being pumped out (a new batch of shirts just dropped earlier this month) and covering the backs of some big shots in the music scene, including The Carps, Dead and the Devine, and the Farewell, We Kill You is making its mark in the music scene as well.
We Kill You now seems to be venturing out into other creative avenues. Recent portraits have been shown at the “The Green Show” in Oceanside, California, and other pieces were featured in “Joy Rides,” the internationally touring Bicycle Film Festivalâ€™s art show component along side artists such as Team Macho and Michel Gondry. Along with the portraits, We Kill You is crafting up some limited released figures, their own version of â€œswamp thingâ€ –with suspended surprises inside the mold.
Through all of this, Justin Pape, We Kill Youâ€™s mastermind and creator, found a moment to sit down and chat with us as he was pressing shirts for the upcoming leg of the Warped Tour.
“When I was younger I just started collecting Stars Wars toys. I wasn’t even a fan of the movie, but my family used to rent this cottage and we would stop at the Wal-Mart on the way, and the toys were super cheap so I just got into the Star Wars toys.”
Format: How did the We Kill You line come to be what it is today?
Justin Pape: Back some years ago probably 2003, I was lying in my parentâ€™s bed watching TV, just drawing. I drew the ghost character with the mouth on it, and thought â€œlet me try to draw other animalsâ€, and I drew the other five creatures. A little while later, I was walking through the ravine by my house, and I thought it would be funny if I glued a huge collage of these monsters all over the pillars under the bridge. So, I went home and photocopied some blown-up characters, and remembered from when I was younger the easiest way to make glue for paper was like the paper macher with flour and water, and did that, and just covered the pole with these things. I started doing it downtown, and then moved on to covering furniture in the garbage which is what I like to call â€œexterior decorating.â€ This is when I found out that there was actually some kind of movement called â€œwheat pastingâ€ going on around the world, which I had no idea about.
Format: Is it from this point that the clothing line kind of took place, or how did that form?
Justin Pape: It wasnâ€™t because of the pasting, but that sort of gave me an outlet for making shirts. When I was grade eleven, my close friends and I had this skateboard crew. I had just figured out how screen printing worked so we used to make shirts for our little crew that was called “Good for Nothing.” So when I started to get more into the pasting side of things, I thought why not just make shirts of this logo (the monsters). And it has grown to the point where I am now selling shirts through my website, all over the world.
Format: So do you still talk to any of the old skate crew, and do they know the part they played in We Kill You?
Justin Pape: Yeah well, my best friends Matt and Cam a couple of summers ago they opened a skate shop up in Northern Ontario and the second year Cam wasn’t able to work so I worked in the shop for that summer, and I guess that was the first, and pretty much only store that We Kill You shirts have were sold in. Cam is now on tour drumming for Crystal Castles and other than that we all have kind of gone our own ways, but I will never forget those times, because I have the damn logo tattooed on the inside of my arm.
Format: So tell me what brought you to go from shirts to making your own toys?
Justin Pape: For a few years now I have been collecting toys like Kid Robot stuff. I think Kid Robot had just done its first series of Dunnys. Madreal had just done a series of toys, I was just drawn to collecting these things. When I was younger I just started collecting Stars Wars toys. I wasn’t even a fan of the movie but my family used to rent this cottage and we would stop at the Wal-Mart on the way, and the toys were super cheap so I just got into the Star Wars toys.
Format: So I guess it is just a natural draw towards toys and figures?
Justin Pape: Yeah, I just started collecting Kid Robot things for a while, and spending far too much on toys. Slowly I talked to people on the Kid Robot forum and some of them asked me to customize the existing toys. And then Circa (nightclub in Toronto) had asked me to do a Labbit custom for the Kid Robot room on the opening night so I got to meet Paul Budnitz (the founder of Kid Robot) and he asked me to submit some Dunny designs. I was overwhelmed by that cause I wanted to make something super fucking awesome and I haven’t gotten around to doing anything yet, cause I am waiting for the perfect idea for that. I then came across this guy Le-Merde from Portland and he was making his own toys from resin. Since everything I have done I had done on my own, I thought I could do that. I researched mold making, found a place in Toronto that had the supplies. I have been banging the toys out since then. It has been doing super well. Every time I do some I end up selling to Toronto, California, Austria, and Taiwan.
Format: Is it something you will keep doing?
Justin Pape: For sure. It is messy, but I think that is because I am a mess, and am always messy with what I do. I really like doing it. I always am thinking of new characters to do and new color ways, actually there are six that I am painting in my garage right now. Five or six sets called “Like Father, Like Son.” Of the Monstre De Marais characters, one of the big ones and one of the small ones painted together as a set.
Format: You did a series of portraits on skateboards. What made you decide which faces would make the grade? What was that for?
Justin Pape: The show was in Halifax and the reason for the portraits is that when I am not doing We Kill You stuff I am doing graphic design. Over the years I was doing a lot of illustrated portraits of people, and I started to feel that my work was in two worlds–either it was We Kill You or it wasn’t and only the We Kill You stuff had a name. So I was constantly trying to find a way to bring the two together and so I thought, why not try painting.
Format: But the portraits were of specific people; were these people of interest?
Justin Pape: Yup, everyone that I painted on the decks has some kind of importance to the things I do in my life and that was called “The greatest humans ever invented….” The first one I painted was of Joe Strummer who is my ultimate hero in life, and the others were people who I think made a impact on the profession that they do, Wes Anderson, and his film directing, Erno Rubik who invented the Rubik cube which I think is the best mind puzzle out there.
Format: By doing those portraits and some of the other art you have done recently, do you feel that you have successfully joined your two worlds?
Justin Pape: Not yet. It is slowly getting there. I don’t think I will ever find that one thing. I don’t ever want that to happen to me–to find just one style that I love doing. Because some artists have this one style and do it over and over again and it works for them, but it gets to a point where I don’t know I just like change. I hate when people complain when a band changes their style or makes an album different then the last. Their album is still really good, but it is not like the last and people get pissed with that. In all honesty, who the hell wants to put the same t-shirt on every day?
Format: Which would win in a fight–a 40 oz steak, or a strawberry banana smoothie?
Justin Pape: I think the smoothie would win, because if a 40 oz steak feels anything like I feel after eating the 40oz steak, I wouldn’t be kicking anyoneâ€™s ass. I would just be sleeping.