Interview by Tobias Carroll
Chicago’s Mannequin Men play straightforward, rowdy, and incredibly catchy punk rock. Their second and third albums were released by the sorely missed Chicago label Flameshovel; following the release of the aforementioned third album, Lose Your Illusion, Too, they released a single on Hozac. Their fourth album, Mannequin Men, will be released next week on Addenda. On the heels of its release, singer/guitarist Kevin Richard and I discussed books, art, and cultural references via email.
Gary Panter has provided the artwork for several of your albums. How long have you been in contact with him?
I wrote Gary a fanboy letter when I discovered his email address somewhere on the internet. We were just about to put out Fresh Rot and so I suppose it was 2006. I was pretty effusive in my praise of him and so I think out of pity he agreed to do the record cover. As time passed he kept crossing our path which is awesome. A friend of Ethan’s is the publisher who put out his latest retrospective book and so now when we’re in New York or when Gary comes to give a speech in Chicago we hook up, eat Chinese food, and talk about weird dreams we had that week. He’s the coolest.
Where did you first encounter his work?
I suppose the first place I encountered his work was on Pee Wee’s Playhouse although at the time I didn’t know it was him. The first places where I was aware it was his work were probably the Jimbo cartoons and the covers that he did for Slash magazine which was a favorite score from older neighbors’ punk rock closets.
Your previous album’s title referenced Use Your Illusion. Where do you prefer to draw the line with respect to allusions to other works?
Well, referencing an album like Use Your Illusion certainly would suggest that we aren’t too particular with what we reference. I dunno, I think that it’s important to give touchstones sometimes because it allows for a more honest portal into the people making the art. Certainly, there’s a bit of a “ha-ha” attached to the Guns and Roses reference but a lot less than you’d probably think. Those records were important to me when I was younger. I used to walk around Sears while my dad shopped for tires listening to them on my walkman and feeling so cool knowing that if my dad heard what was on these tapes I’d be grounded for the rest of my life. There’s power in that and losing that is one of that hardest and most disappointing parts about growing up.
What have you been reading lately?
I’ve been reading a lot of [Robert] Walser’s short stories because they just cruise right along and are so matter of fact and Bruno Schulz’s short stories as well, just picked up Street of Crocodiles. As ridiculous as it sounds (and is) I mostly read a lot of poets. Berryman, Paul Celan, and Joe Wenderoth are currently leading that list. Oh, and I bought Ace Frehley’s new autobiography for tour. So a lot of stuff. (Author’s note: after the interview, Richard mentioned via Twitter that he’s also been reading John Fante’s Brotherhood of the Grape.)
Do the reading habits and preferences of the band’s members have any effect on one another?
Well, kinda, not really. I think the only thing that we all made each other read is Shakey. Miles got me into Black Hole, that graphic nove, because I had never read one before. Mostly, we just shrug off each other’s recommendations since we all have kinda different tastes.
(Photo: John Sturdy)