Dan Thrax is an Australian artist and musician with deep roots in the Australian punk scene – creating flyer and album art for local and international acts as well as playing in bands such as ‘The Fuck Outs’ and ‘Numbskull’.
When asked to describe the impact of discovering punk and DIY culture as a teen, Dan states,
“It was like diving into the fucking ocean when I first found it.
I had all these new ideas and possibilities thrown at me all at once, and it made me realise that I was the only person who had any right to dictate what I could and couldn’t do in life… and that it was okay to fuck up occasionally.
That’s part of being human.
It was (also) a massive influence on me aesthetically – anyone who’s seen me or my work recently knows it still is, and it also taught me that just because I didn’t have the financial means or contacts to make something happen, didn’t mean it was impossible.“
In addition to his art and music, Dan is also a lifelong comic fan. A medium he works in himself – running the Brainstomp Comix label to release his own creations such as his much loved ‘Nukesville’ series and the upcoming ‘Cryclops.’
With Dan currently self isolating and using his extra spare time to create art at a furious pace. We asked him some questions about music, growing up in Australia, comics, toys, COVID-19 and a whole lot more.
Read it all in the interview below…
Name + D.O.B?
Dan Thrax (or Dan Piazza, to the ‘rentals.)
Born 14 November, 1984.
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Sydney, NSW, Australia.
City, State and Country you’re from?
Originally from the Southern Suburbs of Sydney, Australia.
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, comic books, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
This stage in my life ended up influencing me more than I’d probably like to admit.
I grew up on a diet of Cartoons, Video games and any movies I could get my hands on that had sweet creature FX in them.
My obsession with Dinosaurs and TMNT (mutants in general, really) was forever being frowned up by my Italian grandparents.
* Age 10 – continuations:
I’d discovered the joys of drawing monsters at this point.
I’m not sure when exactly I started drawing, or where I learnt. It’s just a thing I’ve always felt compelled to do.
The obsession with creature FX eventually became a love of all things Horror, and the Video Store was essentially where my Saturdays were spent.
I’d also started gradually getting interested in music, primarily through older cousins who were attending music festivals at the time.
I got given my first guitar around 1996-97, I think.
Additionally, I’d developed a love of comic books by this time, starting out on DC/Marvel (probably influenced by the X-Men/Batman animated series), then eventually discovering the more underground publishers.
I’ll never forget reading Todd McFarlane’s Spawn for the first time.
* Age 15 – getting serious:
Two pretty major things happened to me during this time in my life.
One was, for the most part, a very positive event… the other, definitely not so.
The positive event was my first exposure to “Punk”, via a mixtape created by one of the kids I used to skate with. Up til this point, outside of the occasional glimpse of independent music via my cousins, I’d only really been exposed to whatever was on the radio, along with my Dad’s Deep Purple records, etc… so hearing these 2 minute songs expressing everything I’d wanted to say (about high school, individuality, etc), but didn’t quite know how, was mind-blowing.
The negative event is something I’m not really ready to talk about in a forum like this, but will most definitely get addressed in my work at some point in the future.
* Age 20 – young adult:
The majority of my twenties are a blur, but I’ll do my best. haha
My early twenties involved a lot of gigs, a lot of partying, a lot of stupid clothes and a lot of wondering whether the graphic design career I’d just finished studying for would eventuate.
The urge to start a band had always been there, but I remember it being really strong when I was about 23. This was also where I was at my most annoying/naive in terms of politics, activism, etc.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
If you’d asked me at the time, I would’ve said I was having the time of my life. But in reality, this was rough – The design career I’d worked to obtain just wasn’t happening, my illustration hobby was essentially sidelined, and in its place was a lot of behaviour that was COMPLETELY counterproductive to everything I knew deep down I wanted.
I mean, sure, I had a fun. But yeah… Stupid coping mechanisms!
* Age 30 – fully formed:
This is where I started to get my shit together. By the time I reached my late-twenties, I’d FINALLY managed to find myself playing guitar in a band (The Fuck Outs), and with that came a lot of offers to design fliers, merch etc… that was the thing that eventually kicked me back into gear as an illustrator.
It was still a pretty insane time for me mentally, but at least I now had a couple of healthy outlets to cope with it all.
* Age 35 – meanderings:
At the time of this interview, I’ve been booze-free for a bit over two years. It’s frustrating at times, and there’s a definite sense of feeling “out of place” at shows (and even amongst friends I’ve known for years)… but in the long run, I think I’m better off.
My illustration has rapidly taken on a pretty big place in my life, and to be honest, I’m happier now than I would’ve been if I’d landed that “ideal” design role when I was 21 – I didn’t want to spend my life doing art for trendy burger joints or the Liberal Party, or whatever.
I wanted to draw.
“Compete with the person you used to be.”
“Progress, not perfection.”
“What would Pushead do?”
When and why did you first start to make art and play music?
… and any pivotal artistic and music moment(s) / influence(s)?
The drawing/illustration has always been something I’ve done. I guess I only really started taking it seriously after I’d had a few other bands commission me to work on stuff for them, though.
Influence-wise, people like Pushead, Ben Brown and Jim Phillips made a huge impact, as well as anyone who manages to incorporate a weird sense of humour into their work.
Musically, I didn’t really consider it anything other than a way to kill time until I found the punk scene. The accessibility of the music, and the fact that I wasn’t expected to be a virtuoso in order to be considered a guitarist, that’s what convinced me I could play in bands, regardless of how proficient I was technically.
Pig Champion, Greg Ginn and Blackie from the Hard Ons are all big influences.
What do you do for a day job at the moment?
… and how does your day job impact / influence your artistic practice?
I’m actually shifting between freelance work and working as a cleaner at the moment.
I’ve found that the early morning starts at work give me the opportunity to get home before Midday, which gives me the rest of the afternoon to throw myself into whatever illustration project I’ve got going on.
Y’know that whole “work-life balance” people keep going on about? I think I’ve found it.
As far as influencing my art, I guess dealing with the public every day gives me just the right amount of cynicism/frustration to want to create, whether it’s through art or music.
Having a stable income has also made a HUGE difference in the sort of stuff I work on. I can choose my clients, etc.
Please describe the usual process involved with producing your art?
– your drawings and illustration?
2. Develop Concept
3. Pencil rough linework
4. Ink in lines/blacks
5. Perform mysterious occult ritual I shall speak no more of
6. Post finished illustration online for everyone to judge
7. Pace around nervously until someone likes my stupid drawing on social media
– your music?
2. Mash the same five chords together until something resembles a Verse/Chorus structure
3. Listen to Poison Idea/Negative Approach to make sure I haven’t just ripped off one of their songs
4. Discard the entire thing and write something new at band prac anyway.
Favorite other artist(s), musicians and bands?
Artists: Pushead, Jim Phillips, Todd McFarlane… but also Ben Brown, Ray Ahn, Glenno Smith, Oli Hastings, Jimmy Fatal, Steve Cohen, Spider Death, Emily Badsville… and a bunch of other guys ’n’ girls who draw!
Music: Too many bands to fucking list, but I’ve stupidly set myself the daunting task of illustrating the entire SUB HUM ANS discography song by song in my downtime…
so I guess there’s something about Dick Lucas’ lyrics that match up perfectly with my art style enough to call it an influence.
Any projects you want to hype?
My comic zine NUKESVILLE, about a post-apocalyptic wasteland policed by mutant cockroaches. That’s a thing I’m roughly two-years into publishing.
Another thing is a new zine that will be circulating very shortly called CRYCLOPS, which is a much more personal piece, but it’s got a cyclops in it… so there’s something for everyone!
There’s also a tonne of new work being posted on my Facebook / Instagram pages all the time, so people should check that out too if they can be bothered.
(Photos of Dan’s Nukesville comic below)
If people wanted to work with you, have a chat, or buy something – how should they get in touch?
Swing us a message via the Dan Thrax Illustration page on Facebook or Instagram.
Failing that, just come have a chat at a show.
COVID 19 Questions
Covid is impacting us all, bringing with it fear, sickness, financial stress and showing both the best and worst aspects of humanity…
Please share how Covid is affecting the various aspects of your life, namely:
– Your art practice?
Yeah, it’s a fucking worrying time to say the least.
I guess the main effect it’s had so far is that I’ve had all my shows cancelled, which sucks. However, the whole “self isolation” thing has given me a lot of time to work on stuff at home, so my creative output hasn’t really died down or anything.
It’s just a much more solitary process, which means a lot more freedom to create/discard what I feel is or isn’t working, and it’s less focused on bouncing ideas off other people.
– Personal relationships?
Let’s just say I’m currently utilising the SOCIAL aspect of “Social Media” and shitposting slightly less. haha
– Mental health?
Like a lot of people, my mental health has its ups and downs regardless of what’s happening in the world.
The “not-drinking” thing adds to the sense of disconnect in situations like this for me, I guess.
In saying that, I’ve got a solid network of people I can talk to if things go south, or I’m just lonely or whatever.
I think everyone needs at least three or four people they can confide in.
And what lasting affects do you think Covid 19 will have on humanity in the short, medium and long terms?
I’m not even going to TRY and predict what’s going to happen with any of this… I will however state that I hope we learn from it, and change the way we interact the planet and each other as a result.
I don’t want 2PLY to be our new currency.
On a lighter note, what is your lockdown outfit of choice?
[Please include a photo or drawing of it!]
Odds and Ends
What impact has punk culture and music had on your life and creative expression?
…and what does “punk” mean to you anyhow?
It was like diving into the fucking ocean when I first found it. I had all these new ideas and possibilities thrown at me all at once, and it made me realise that I was the only person who had any right to dictate what I could and couldn’t do in life… and that it was okay to fuck up occasionally. That’s part of being human.
It was a massive influence on me aesthetically (anyone who’s seen me or my work recently knows it still is), and it also taught me that just because I didn’t have the financial means or contacts to make something happen, didn’t mean it was impossible.
The DIY/zine culture thing TOTALLY changed the way I looked at the possibilities for my illustration.
As far as what it “means” to me… shit. I’ve been asked this question so many times over the years, and I guess the best way to sum it up is an “escape”.
A way to get away from all the voices in society telling me that I’ll only ever amount to my imperfections and that I should be more than I am by now.
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
This answer is going to be very boring, and only relevant to me… but I’d go back to visit myself when I was 15 and tell myself to be careful of who I did and didn’t trust.
What role did toys play in your childhood(s)?
I grew up amidst a swarm of different franchises releasing figurines, so toys were always present… but realistically, I was never really a “collector” of anything until I discovered comic books.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
They are somehow both, simultaneously.
What do you think the Australian zeitgeist is today?
At present, it seems to be a mix of panic and complete numbness, but I’m actually more interested in what it’ll all be like when this shit dies down.
Will we be even more scared than before, or will we be a society that rethinks the notion of what is or isn’t “essential.”
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Jane Lane, for being the only character in ‘Daria’ with an eye-colour.
*you never said it had to be a real person.
Does sex change everything?
It has the potential to… but not as much as money does.
What are the top 3 items you own?
A flat-cap gifted to me by my Grandfather, before he died.
A copy of the flier/shirt design I drew for the second (last-minute) Poison Idea show in Sydney, signed by none other than Jerry Fucking A!
A TMNT fridge magnet that will forever be the thing that encompasses my childhood.
For some reason the idea of Steve Irwin summoning an army of saltwater crocs by making weird grunting noises to help him defeat Chopper seems plausible, so I’m gonna’ go with Irwin as the victor in this instance.
Which cartoon character would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy and why?
Buzz Lightyea… nah, too predictable.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
I had a dream a couple of nights ago that I owned a talking Beagle who sounded like Christopher Walken, and the entire dream was centred around he and I arguing at the dining room table about the food budget.
I have no clue what any of that means.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for?
Hmmm… fuck knows.
If anyone has ever gotten anything positive from one of my comics or a show I’ve played, then I guess I’d like to be remembered by that particular person for that.
As long as something I’ve done in life has brought another person 5 minutes of contentment, I’m happy.