Deeply rooted in San Francisco, and well known throughout the global art scene, Jeremy Fish combines cute and creepy on tees, skateboards, vinyl toys, and â€œa lot of other random crap.â€ With the launch of his Upper Playground backed superFishal clothing brand in 2007, Fish is back into apparel after a hiatus from his previous brand the Unbelievers. Format talks San Fran, skateboarding, art, mythology, and Disney with Fish, in this short, but informative interview.
â€œI had a hard time saying no to projects and opportunities over the last few years. It consumed me and I have become a bit of a crazed art factory.â€
Format: You moved from New York in 1994. What made you decide to go to San Francisco specifically?
Jeremy Fish: Francisco specifically? At that point in my life I was really skateboarding a lot and San Francisco was still the spot in the early nineties. Technically I moved to go to the San Francisco art institute, but the hills were calling me just as much as school was.
Format: What made you stay in San Francisco?
Fish: Because its the greatest city in the world. I got a really good job right out of school, and I was already in love with SF, so it worked out well. I got super lucky.
Format: How did you get involved in the skateboard industry?
Fish: That job I mentioned was in a print shop managing the printing of all the tees, stickers, decks and posters for all the skateboard companies in SF. It was like going back to school and getting my masters degree in high volume production screenprinting.
Format: What do you miss most about the Unbelievers?
Fish: Working with Scott probably. Our woodshop dudes made some of the best quality decks in the world, but Scott and his crazy ideas are what kept it fresh and interesting for me.
Format: superFishal launched this year. How does it feel to be developing your own brand again?
Fish: This time itâ€™s just me with no boss or partner for the first time, and it feels really good. Just my ideas and my direction. Working with Upper Playground has been really good to me. We have a good relationship to build this brand on.
Format: Would you rather see one of your decks hanging safely on walls or used roughly in the streets?
Fish: Regular decks are supposed to be ridden. The custom ones I cut out and paint are made from defects I collected from the woodshop dude with the unbelievers. Itâ€™s a good way to give them a new life hanging on a wall, because they will never get used for anything else if they are warped, delaminated, or drilled crooked.
Format: You describe your work as a combination of characters and simple symbols. Please discuss some of these characters and symbols, and why you relate to them.
Fish: Bunnies, beavers, badgers, turtles, skulls, hearts, cars, birds, daggers and dudes. They all mean different things to each given story. Animals make easy symbols with their given stereotypical attributes. ie: slow like a turtle, cunning like a badger and so on.
Format: Please speak about the influence of mythology on your work.
Fish: I enjoy the classic fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, and cartoon classics from the 60’s and 70’s. Not necessarily mythology as much as I appreciate the techniques of classic storytelling. Lessons learned both happy and sad.
Format: The Nike Skateboarding release in 2006 is a classic. Please discuss this project from its inception to completion.
Fish: Working with Nike SB was a really rad deal. All the corporate projects need to be approached really carefully. They babysat the production throughout to ensure a great final product. Part of my compensation was a catered party at their private skate-park for 100 of my close friends. Great group of dudes to work with and a fun and rewarding opportunity.
Format: In 2006 you also collaborated with Aesop Rock for The Next Best Thing. What drew you to working with Aesop?
Fish: He is one of my top five rappers of all time. I did backspins long before heelflips and drawings, and hip-hop has been a steady anthem in my life since I was 9 or 10. When he and I met we struck a mutual creative chord and built on a ton of projects together in the last two years. I love that dude, and the music he makes is precious to me. Itâ€™s been one of the best opportunities in my career thus far.
Format: Over the past few years, you have begun to consistently exhibit on a global level. What has been the biggest change for you personally during this development?
Fish: My detachment from the real world, my friends, and my family. I had a hard time saying no to projects and opportunities over the last few years. It consumed me and I have become a bit of a crazed art factory. I lost loves, good times, and precious moments with friends and family for what I want to do with my life. This shit is all consuming for me these days, and Iâ€™m trying to take steps to say no more and make more time for my life.
Format: Please discuss the Disney cartoon that you were developing.
Fish: It fell through. Time well spent though. I learned some good lessons about the entertainment industry. Itâ€™s something I really want to do someday, but on my terms under the right circumstances. Someday.
Format: Anything else you would like to discuss?
Fish: Anything else you would like to discuss? Right now Iâ€™m going to stay in SF for the better part of next year. I have a show in NY in the spring, one in Italy in the fall, and one in SF in December. Just juggling that with superFishal, and a couple new book projects. Seems like a good year to slow things down a bit, and focus.