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True & Self-Contained: In Conversation With Franz Stefanik of Dead Tired

Channeling devilish dreams for an enticing sight to guide their blistering message.

Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):

Tattoo culture and metal artwork are intersectional in more ways than one, so it’s only right that the latter serves as the beneficiary of the expansive craft of the former. In short, tattooists have been relied upon for countless tour shirt designs, album covers, website banners, and a plethora of other band-related visuals, and rightfully so. Though it’s not a new dynamic, it’s one that brings forth a unique characteristic that talents like Franz Stefanik have been able to exploit for their own musical ventures. Stefanik, a celebrated figure in Canada’s tattoo ranks, has established the visual identity of Dead Tired through art and music alike, illustrating multiple album and single covers while shredding along the band’s hardcore punk offerings.

Stefanik’s prowess will once again represent the latest from Dead Tired, Satan Will Follow You Home, which arrives this Friday, July 8th, via New Damage Records. In true punk DIY fashion, Satan Will Follow You Home was self-produced, self-recorded, and of course, self-illustrated, representing Dead Tired in their truest form. For Stefanik, it was all a matter of finding a lyrical and thematic commonality with his bandmates to begin constructing what would eventually become this third full-length album cover. "The artwork was based off of the dream description that George Pettit had," he mentions. "He sent me a well worded text describing his dream where he was walking by the old insane asylum here in Hamilton. Two witches emerged and one drank a bowl of blood and then burst into flames as two demons spawned. He then ran home to his family and went inside to his surprise, Satan was outside waiting for him. He woke up and the next day went on the very walk he dreamed about and on the side of the building there was graffitied 'Satan Will Follow You Home,' which he then took a photograph of and sent the band group text. Later, our bass player Nick Ball went and photographed it and it’s seen on the back cover of the record."

Artwork by Franz Stefanik

Stefanik continues, "I used the dream as direct inspiration and absorbed the words. With the assistance of a dose of LSD, I was off and ready to bring the words to an image. I feel captured in the dream-like quality as everything blends together and kind of tells a loose story. One shot on a piece of paper. Pen and ink. No loose drawing just drew it. Was a real trip!" There’s much to uncover throughout the black and white detail and it’s a testament to the investment he places within his work, especially if it's as wicked a dream as this. As a self-contained entity, Dead Tired certainly brings out a new side to Stefanik’s artwork that is perhaps untapped by the usual cycle of meeting the tattoo needs of others. It’s evident that there’s a distinct quality with exploring one’s own creative sensibilities.

"I try to keep the art styles very separate from one another. Tattoos are meant and drawn to be tattoos, to age and breath and grow with the added pressure of having a client liking it and want to wear it for the rest of their lives. With the band art, I can get a little weird and loose and have no expectations of the outcome. It’s true organic art, like high school doodles on the inside of a book or notes. I really think it’s cool to not overthink some art and the stuff I do for the band totally reflects that. With tattooing, I have to be a professional - mo drugs, psychedelics or alcohol. When I do band art, all rules are off. I love to dabble and see what the brain does and what you come up with organically. It feels like a weird science experiment." The results certainly speak for themselves.

Artwork by Franz Stefanik

Beyond having Stefanik involved in both sides of the album’s development spectrum, Dead Tired rely on the benefits of not sitting through the routine commission process that bands typically undertake whenever there’s no artist among their fold. Unfortunately, these relationships aren’t always fruitful for bands, resulting in disjointed audiovisuals and disappointment from both camps. With Stefanik on board, the band avoid that altogether and have a great time in doing so. He mentions, "I always try to get input for the art from the rest of the dudes in the band. However, they are always like, 'You’re the art guy so just do the art and I’m sure we will like it,' so that’s exactly what I do. They are always so supportive and love whatever I come up with. Like most artists, I sometimes second guess myself and I’m my own worst critic after the process is done, as I don’t put much thought or stress into doing Dead Tired art. However, every time we go by band votes, everyone votes against me second guessing stuff, so majority rules. As long as we keep pumping out tunes and records, I guess I just do the damn art." He’s illustrated every Dead Tired release so far and that’s sure to continue, especially with the arts informing the music, and vice versa.

franz stefanik
'Self-Titled' (2015), Artwork by Alex Snelgrove

It’s simply critical that both the musical and visual components exist as one cohesive unit, but Satan Will Follow You Home brought a unique challenge to Stefanik. "This was the first time that I drew based off of a theme that was assigned to me by George. It was nice having very loose direction as other times it’s not always easy to just come up with something 'cool' to draw. Like I stated earlier, this band has given me the visual outlet to be loose and not over think the artwork like back in high school. There was no thought to it, just kinda draw what feels right at the time. This time around, it was nice to work off someone’s experience and let it come alive on paper. Pretty similar to my tattooing career, people are always thrilled and beyond stoked seeing their ideas get made into reality. I had a good time showing George what he summoned in his mind and what I took from his dream. It kind of became both our shared dream… or nightmare."

Artwork by Franz Stefanik

Stefanik understands the significance of having a strong audiovisual relationship, especially in having them complement each other so seamlessly. More importantly, the attitude in which Dead Tired approach their art form is exactly what sets music's heavier genres apart, that being its raw form "It’s cool to have the two mesh. It’s like a time capsule of whatever you were experiencing at that particular moment of life. Art and music are very similar to how they are expressed. Sometimes, the less you stress about stuff while creating, the more organic and sincere it is. I never like to draw stuff over and over, or rewrite a guitar riff over and over, because it usually gets further and further away from what your gut instinct was telling you. Gut instinct is super important to me. It’s how you digest everything, like a song at first listen, a piece of art at first glance, a bite of food or a sip of a beverage at first taste. Gut instinct is uninfluenced, pure organic thought. No one is telling you if it’s cool or right or wrong, good or bad. I like that very much, kinda the most punk way of creating. It's also a decent band name… Gut Instinct."

Visual identity is a critical part of every genre and for punk, it was all signature to its grassroots, community driven DIY history. Raymond Pettibon and Black Flag are of course a major example of what I'm referring to - they're inseparable. It's through these historic punk and metal landmarks, as well as his own life experiences, that Stefanik draws heavily from in his Dead Tired and tattoo work. "I'm heavily inspired by the things I grew up with throughout my life. To say I wish I was so and so… at one point of my life, yeah. both in art and music and tattooing. Everyone wants to be their idols, so I spent years in growing pains creating something which stylistically wasn’t already done or looked too similar to so and so. Then, the more in life I do and create, the less I try to make it look like something that someone I idolize would do. Once you start letting go, that’s when your own style blooms and speaks for itself. Then who knows, you could be someone’s Pettibon or Jim Phillips. There’s always a never ending cycle of people looking up to one another sparking young people to create. To me that’s super rad."

franz stefanik
'Full Vol.' (2019), Artwork by Franz Stefanik

There are certainly lessons to be learned in finding one's own niche abilities and comfort zone, especially with a wealth of influence and competition surrounding every creative field available. It's really about expanding outside of that comfort zone where true artistic expression comes about. As Stefanik mentions, it's where he finds his truest form, which is key to the purpose for his talents.

In contemporary times, the arts play as significant enough a role as it always has despite the audiovisual disconnect that the accessibility of digital media can bring. They convey a message like no other and though the relationship to it is certainly not what it perhaps once was when vinyl was the dominant form of music consumption, the connection exists in various new ways. Satan Will Follow You Home is a record that serves as a byproduct of the injustice and unrest that plagues the worldwide sociopolitical arena and it is through their music and art that Dead Tired allow for their emotions, and dreams, to speak. In closing, Stefanik shares some food for thought.

Artwork by Franz Stefanik

"Art is a time capsule. I mean, in art history, we learn of all the eras in art. However, some eras are meant to be skipped. Certain things in art age well whereas others will never show its true nature of time and place. The digital era for me is the hardest struggle to understand and grasp. Not that I’m this artsy fartsy knowledgeable person in the art community, it’s just that to me, it seems so soulless.

When I consume art and music, I want to see and feel the person involved with it, not the middle source. Pen to paper or ink to skin or whatever medium it is, is so much different when there’s a machine of working parts that is using its computer brain to put your ideas to the medium. To me, that’s where the soul gets lost. The same goes for music. Digital amps and recordings and all this fancy bullshit takes away from the organic elements of creativity to tape. I think that’s why we’ve seen a surge in what works well and is timeless and sticks. Vinyl is back, appreciation for human craft is back. Even though it’s not perfect when looking through it with a fine toothed comb, it sure is the coolest.

Looking back through music and art, the most memorable stuff is the stuff that’s made organically with lots of time and effort put into it. To me, people are backpedaling a bit on technology and I am 100 percent okay with that. That being said, those who recognize what’s cool visually and are drawn to person made stuff (vinyl, paintings, hand made art, etc.) will forever be a timeless badge of being a badass. Long live ink and paper and long live the guitar amp!"

Satan Will Follow You Home arrives on July 8th via New Damage Records (Order).


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