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Iconography: An Interview With Chris Mack

Author: Staff
Date: 09-28-2009

To hear an extended version of the significance behind the Super 8 graphic, click here.

To hear an extended interview section with the inspiration behind the transformer graphic concept, click here.


Chris Mack Interview

If you are a wakeskater, then you recognize that function is paramount when it comes to wakeskates. However, the power of a strong graphic concept cannot be underestimated, since graphics hold the potential to turn a functional object into a timeless piece of art. Consider how many wakeskates you've ridden vs. how many wakeskates you've seen and have had stood out in your mind for their visual presence, and this concept begins to make more sense.

In wakeskating, Chris Mack is the first significant artist to create an original graphic aesthetic that became synonmous with a brand. Mack collaborated with Cassette wakeskates founder and owner, Thomas Horrell, to create some of the most memorable artwork to ever grace a wooden canvas.

For those who are unfamiliar and for those who already know, here is a closer look at Chris Mack and his Cassette experience.

What was your working relationship with Thomas like? Did you find it easy to get right into the "Cassette vibe" and the concepts he had?

Mack: Thomas and I gelled quickly. I think our influences in art and also music helped us greatly. Every idea we both had was definitely on the same page. Thomas was very good in conveying his vision which made my job easy. Putting his ideas to graffix was easy.

Can you explain the evolution of the Cassette aesthetic and any influences on that? For instance, the first boards you air brushed for thomas had a "Cassette" theme but had a graffiti vibe, and later on the actual production decks became more simplified with technical line drawings and solid single color schemes.

Mack: I think the main focus in the beginning was simply expression. The graffiti was a one time thing. We wanted something to stand out when photographed. Since only a few other riders were getting coverage wakeskating, we thought we'd make the brand "Cassette" stand out. Then when we switched to the technical line art we were going back to the basics, [with the] cassette tape being the first form of recording data, [and] wakeskating or the actual foot to board with no bindings sliding on water being the beginning of all water sports/activities.

Also, is this (the airbrushing stage) when you first started working with Thomas on Cassette?

Mack: The airbrushing happened mid way through. Prior, Thomas was still on FullTilt and we were just working ideas out on paper. It was around 97-98.

How did the Cassette logo come about? Did Thomas come to you with a specific idea and say, "This is what I want." Or did you guys kick ideas around and settle upon the C logo that's now synonomous with the brand?

Mack: This actually is a funny story. We new wanted to use a cassette reel for the logo. How we were going to do it was another story. We busted open an old cassette tape, I think it was "Loverboy." Anyways we had the genius idea to put the tape on my scanner and then manipulate it in Photoshop. The tape wouldn't stay on the scanner and kept rolling off. We spent an hour trying to re-roll the tape. Finally our friend Jesse tried to slam the lid down as Thomas quickly put the reels in the scanner. We just went for it. What ever was on the scanner would be the logo. It just worked out. We looked like 3 monkeys fumbling over the tape reels. You had to be there.

Since your overall graphic style goes well beyond line drawings, who and what are your most significant artistic influences?

Mack: Artists like Derek Hess, Robert Williams, comic book artist Tod McFarlene, and grafitti artist Dolla Bill just to name a few

As an artist, what would you want people to recognize you for?

Mack: I think my style, the way I lay down my colors, and the looseness of my Line work.

After all of these years, what's been the most gratifying aspect of getting paid to produce art? Is it seeing your work on a larger scale, or developing new working relationships with other creative clients?

Mack: All of the above. Sometimes I take it for granted and then I'll meet someone who will go "You're Chris Mack. You did the Cassette graphics didn't you? I loved the super 8 deck you did. I had the best time on that board." Just knowing that the graphic stuck out enough in their mind and they attribute it in some way to their experiences they had in wakeskating is very gratifying.

Awhile back in a different interview, you mentioned that it's important for you to work with people that are on the same wavelength. Do you still find this to be true, or do you have to put that aside and recognize that you also depend on your artwork to make a living?

Mack: In my commercial work I've learned that all parties must be open-minded and take everyone's input into consideration. As the artist in the equation it helps to remember they came to me so there must be something about my style they like. I like the challenge and being able to put my own twist on things. Now in tattooing I find that people really don't have a grasp on what goes good on skin. So it's my job to explain and educate people on the whole process of tattooing. The whole theory of less is more is pretty much the golden rule.

What are you up to nowadays? Who are some of your current clients, and where might people see some of your work today?

Mack: Right Now aside from tattooing at my shop East Side Tattoo in Port Orange, Florida. I work for DNA Energy Drinks. I do all the graphics for the cans delivery trucks etc. I also get to do all the adds for our team riders like pro surfer Eric Gesielman, the DNA/BMX supercross team, and wakeskater Kyle Hyams just to name a few. I also am currently working with surfboard shaper Erie Peeples on the graphics for his custom wake-skates/surferboards.

Any thank you's you'd like to send out?

Mack: Man where do I start??? My parents, my girlfriend Dawn, my brother Jonny, Thomas of course, Sara Cline, Scott Byerly, Jeremy Ashe, my best friend Geoff Armstrong, my hommies Pete Triolo and Chris Hawkins, Erie Peeples. Darren Marks and all the awesome people at DNA Energy Drink. There's a lot of people I didn't mention, but I just thank them and God that I'm so blessed with so many good people in my corner.

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