Interview with Javi / Al Mal Tiempo

I met Javi through Ugly and Proud Records a few years ago. He ordered something and when I sent him an email about his order he offered to draw something for the label. We’ve kept in touch since then and he’s made the current U&P logo and a cover for one of the label’s releases. I decided to ask him a few questions about his life and here’s what he shared with me:

Hey Javi, how are you? Could you please present yourself? Maybe tell us something about you that even your friends don’t know?

Hi everyone. I’m Javi, a guy living in the North of Spain. In my free time I spend a lot of time listening to music, drawing and designing.

Something confidential might be the fact I feel better when swimming in the water than being on the ground.

When and how did you get involved in hardcore/punk?

I was in the university, somewhere in the late 80s, and I started exchanging music with a guy from the next door classroom. We were bored of all music that people usually listened to in the area. It was strange to hear the very word ‘hardcore’, it was very difficult to get that kind of music around here. Some bands from abroad had already started playing nearby, but the local scene was more of a metal and punk oriented. It was an industrial zone, and in the eighties there was a punk explosion.  I remeber when we got the first records with some US and German hardcore… It was incredible, the sound was totally diferent than the punk we were used to hearing. It was faster and more dynamic, we instantly fell in love with it….

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How’s life in Bilbao/Euskadi? Any cool spots/bands/people/organizations we should check?

Like I said before, it was an industrial zone, but in the 90s the industry went down. Now the city is trying to live of tourism, it has changed more or less on a 360º. If in the past there were many factories, grey sky and brown water now we have more parks, green areas and, most importantly, we got the Guggenheim Museum, which really put Bilbao on the tourist map. The only problem here is the weather, which is chillier and rainier than the mediterranean or Southern Spain.

About the scene, there are many punk bands, carrying the classic sound of the region. There are bands trying to sound like Tragedy and the crustier side of hardcore. There are also many bands with a heavy, stoner sound, but hardcore bands with the classic sound, the way I get it… definitely not many of them.

There are always people setting all kinds of shows. But in the past there was an explosion of punk. That happened in the late 80s and the beginning of the 90s. Many classic bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Verbal Assault, Scream, MDC… all of them played in squats, they were new bands back then, you know. Now bands don’t really come here. Sometimes old bands do come around and can bring many people to a show only because they’re a big name, but if it’s a young band, making the same kind of music people are not so keen to showing up. Yeah, I know, it’s crazy.

It’s really strange to see young bands playing around here. It was fashionable for a while. Many people, who went to see hardcore shows in the past are now going for more ‘mature’ music hahaha. I suppose it’s like that everywhere, but I can see that in the other parts of Europe many young bands are still able to play decent gigs.

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How DIY is your lifestyle, what are the things you prefer to spend some more time on, than go and buy them from a big store?

Like I said in the beginning, I spend a lot of time drawing and listening to music. I prefer to have a drink or see a show in a squat and not go to a club or a pub. I always walk and also swim a lot.

When did you start drawing? What inspired you to do it? Do you have any artists that you like/inspire you?

I don’t remember when I started. When I was growing up I was painting all the time. I was a very bad student, always drawing, never paying attention. I used to spend all my days drawing.

Of course I love and admire many artists, even though I try not to copy their styles. I try to explore my own. It’s impossible not to be influenced by all you see, but definitely not consciously.

Some of the names I can mention are Cameron Stewart, Charles Burns, Gabriel Rodriguez, Erik Kriek, Mignola, Evan Dorkin and more and more…

What was the first artwork you did for a hardcore/punk band? How did you decide to start making artwork for punk/hardcore bands and labels?

It was in the university and was for a band which was mixing metal and punk. It was a sticker (a horrible one hahaha). However, I never chose to be drawing for that particular scene. It’s just the people from hardcore punk bands that ask me to help them out the most. I’ve worked for thrash, ska, pop, folk music. I help to the person who asks me to help, not to the sound. I’ve met good and bad people in all scenes and subcultures.

Have you tried charging bands/labels for your work? If no, why? Would you consider living from drawing?

I never ask money from anybody. I’m not a rich man. The people who ask my help – bands, labels… they are not professionals. Usually they have their jobs, and they don’t make profit from music. They have to cover the recording costs, the mix and mastering, the printing of the copies. If I can save them my part, good!

Living from drawing? It’ll be great, but Spain is not a good place to live of that.

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I know there is a book collecting some of your work, can you tell us more about it? Where can we find it?

There is a book with some of my works called “Al mal tiempo, buena arcada” published by Banizu Nizuke. It was a big surprise to me. This publisher is putting out books about music and bands. They had something going on with show posters, artworks etc. So they asked me to compile some of my favourite works. And of course I did! You can find the book through this distro.

Can you share with us your favorite vegan meal/recipe?

That will be a local meal, named purrusalda. It’s made from potatoes, carrots, leek, pumpkin, salt, a bit of oil, then boiled in water on slow fire. Some make it with codfish, however, I’m not a vegetarian/vegan guy, but I always make it meat-free.

How can people get in contact with you? How do you decide if you’ll make a certain artwork?

You can contact me and see what I do on http://www.almaltiempo.com.

Any last words, shout outs etc.

Thanks a lot for the interest in my work. Take care and a big hug to everyone!

SEE YOU!

Niki G.

Releasing records with Ugly and Proud Records, booking shows with For The Kids Booking and trying to go to as much shows as possible all over the world! Loves vegan ice-cream and cookies + hanging out with friends.