Billy The Butcher's Pop Art Revival


Written by Fin Murphy
08 Thursday 08th August 2013

1) Firstly, considering the style and symbols you use in your work, do you consider yourself to be a pop artist?

I do, yes. I suppose I have always been fascinated by pop culture in general. It's the reason why I chose to be a designer in the first place. I used to say I was born in the late 70's, grew up as a child in the 80's and a teenager in the 90's, so probably I'm a living mashup of all the pop cultural references from these decades. I was practically raised by television and all that came plugged on it, like VCRs, video games, geekiness and alienation. 

2) Are you a big fan of video games and music? Do you approach them as a fan or do you appropriate them as an observer?

Interesting question. I'm a big fan of cinema, games, comics, music, tv and arts, but also an observer. I remember being just a little boy and reading music industry magazines - I didn't even know the music but I was interested in the stories, lifestyle and everything about that world. I guess I was always fascinated by cult icons - the way they can be larger than life, more than just normal people and become characters in people's minds.

3) Does it take a long time to figure out which people to mash up (i.e. David Bowie and God Of War) or do they come quite naturally? Which has been your personal favourite?

It usually takes some time to figure out the right take to the concept of a project, but I'm actually interested in the ideas that are really simple. As simples as ingenious. The ones that make people think: "How can I never though of that before?" I guess that's the common reaction to pieces like Ian Curtis as Batman and Sid & Nancy as Super Mario and Princess Peach, which I'm very proud of. They are mashups of totally opposite visual sources, but in the weirdest way they make total sense. That's what I try to achieve.

4) Considering your 'Gremlins' series, for example, are you more scornful or bemused by celebrity culture?

I suppose the celeb culture nowadays is not as interesting to follow as it was in the 80's and 90's as I recall, mostly because of the celebrities. Or I'm really drunk with nostalgia and it was always like that, I don't know. The truth is that I try to reference today's icons as much as I can, which is the case of the Gremlins Rehab series, but the appeal of the retro - to explore what truly makes something classic and established in pop culture forever - is much bigger for me.

5) A lot of your work combines technology with rockstars in a way which undermines their mystique. Were you surprised by the response from people online? Do you still believe in the 'rockstar' as a viable concept?

I guess you are referring to the 'Dead Rockers Modern Times' project. It's all about messing with peoples perception of their icons and influences in pop culture. When I started doing it I knew there would be some kind of reaction. Most people find it amazing, so much more then I ever expected. But as the content can be a bit controversial to some fans, they can get really annoyed and the responses can be quite funny.

For myself, I have to admit that any passional reaction to something I've done is great. I'm in this business to get people confused. If 50% of the viewers really love something I did, and 50% hate me because of that, it's the moment when I feel like a true artist.
I still do believe in the rockstar concept. Except that from the 50's until the 90's a rockstar could only be a musician, but nowadays it seems like they can be dictators, priests, entrepreneurs, marketers, programmers, bloggers, vloggers, pop artists...

6) As your art is so vibrant and humorous but also contains strong political elements, do you try and poke fun at the status quo or express unease at the figures you represent?

I have to admit I like to poke fun at serious statements. It's probably why so many people label my work as controversial. As a lot of it is based on the clash of concepts, I target the figures that people seem to care the most.

7) What was your take on the recent protests in Brazil? Do you plan to incorporate that into your work?

I did, actually. That's a project I developed based on the protests ( It features cartoon characters from Mauricio de Souza, who in Brazil is considered some kind of Walt Disney, mashed up with the corrupt politicians holding the power in the country right now. It also features a song from a Brazilian 80's band that is about childhood innocence and growing up losing it - the concept of the project was the clash of the innocence of children versus the criminal innocence that they claim, while the people suffer.

8) What do you think of the art market as it stands? Is it something you try to partake in or avoid?

The market is full of incredibly talented artists and no space at all. The same with the music industry or any other industry that involve arts. I guess talent hasn't been enough in a long time by now - you have to come up with something truly new and amazing that blows people's minds and make them pay attention. I prefer not to lose my time trying to promote my stuff obsessively, as I believe social media has been doing the work for me quite well.

Although my artworks have a lot of vintage influences, I just love the potential of the web to turn possible to google my name and see a blog in Tokyo posting my series, or finding an Instagram picture of a girl in Slovakia proudly wearing a t-shirt I designed.

10) What's your view on graffiti? It seems to be a big aspect of your work

I'm a frustrated graffiti artist, and you can see that through my work! When I go out in the middle of the night to wheatpaste prints in my neighborhood I feel like an art outlaw like Banksy or Kidult - only to find out that the stuff doesn't stick on the wall because I never make the homemade glue properly. 

11) What pieces are you currently working on?

So many ideas and so little time. I just released a new project exploring typography, soundtrack and quotes of classic movies, it's called 'Types, Quotes and 2 Smoking Design Tools':

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