Maxwell Paternoster creates some of the most unique artwork you’ll find in the scene today. Each piece pulsates with a nervous raw energy that can leave you twitching and gasping for alcohol. His world is wrapped in a twisted landscape saturated with toxic waste; a place where shriveled mutants with mile-high pompadours run wild with gun barrel eyes.
The discarded parts that are piled up everywhere are scavenged over by these freaky inhabitants, who cobble together bits of this and that to build incredible machines (which appear to run on either steam or contaminated jet fuel). The skies here are scorched with fire, and the roads are littered with the oozing limbs left behind by psychotic biker gangs patched in Hell.
Paternoster’s world is seriously twisted. You’re just as likely to die from radiation as you are to be run over by a gene-fused man-fly riding one helluva sweet chopper. But as dangerous a place as it is, I’d love to wake up there! Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to shoot lightning bolts from their eyes?
So it’s with great pleasure that I introduce to you the man behind such deviously clever apocalyptic work, one of my favorite artists out there today… Maxwell Paternoster!
Here in the USA, you’re probably best known for your work with Lowbrow Customs. How did that collaboration come about?
Oh yea, that came about thus: a few years back people were not all overFacebook and Instagram like they are now, and it seemed more about forums and blogs. I always used to try posting artwork onto the Jockey Journal forum, and also my buddy Richard Baybutt talked me into starting my blog Corpses From Hell. So from that I had my images seen by the guys at Lowbrow Customs. I can not remember the first image I did for them, but after that I have done loads of pictures for Lowbrow!
The Corpses From Hell site is always a blast to check out. What’s the story behind the inception of CFH?”
I started to draw pictures for some imaginary motorcycle gangs and stuff like that, then I thought Corpses From Hell sounded like a cool name. I initially used it just as the name for my website/blog, but it seemed to become very popular and everybody started to know me as the Corpses From Hell person. So it stuck.
Where were you raised, and what were the factors that led you to become an artist?
I was raised in Rural Suffolk in England; in the countryside. So yea, surrounded by fields, trees, and nature – ha ha! I do not know what the factors were that led me to do art. I seem to remember thinking it would be really cool if I could draw an awesome tractor, and to draw the engine. I think I drew some stuff and liked doing it, then some adults probably said it was really good, so I got it into my mind that I could draw and that I should keep doing it. Now its too late to stop – ha ha ha!
Were there any artists that made an impression on you while you were growing up?
I didn’t have much access to many shops or money to buy comics and stuff as a youngster, but there was a pile of British comics I always looked at. They wereWizzer and Chips, Beano, Dandy, and one called Corr!!, or something like that. Also loads of animation stuff on telly, Tom and Jerry and all those mad cartoons. I also liked an artist called Steven Wiltshire, who was on TV, and he could draw everything from memory.
You have one of the most recognizable styles in the motorcycle scene today. Were there any particular pieces along the way that proved to be significant in defining your style?
Ha ha! Not sure it’s the most recognizable!! Hah, maybe, I dunno. Until a few years back, I did not really do so much motorcycle related artwork. I had been focusing on developing my illustration style for many years in the world of art, comics, and illustration.
I was always a bike fan, and an artist, but did not mix the two things together because bikes were much less popular a few years ago. I drew bikes, but only for myself in my sketchbook. So I think my style was already sort of defined, but I just started to get a lot more motorcycle related jobs and projects.
So when did your interest in motorcycles begin?
I think I must have just been born with that or something. I saw some on TV and stuff, or in comics, or something, and I always wanted one. I wanted a dirt bike. But yea, actually, as a kid I had a two-stroke Suzuki 70cc step-through – ha ha! Then an MZ TS125 two-stroke, which father painted Mad Max on the fuel tank – ha ha!
Haha, too cool! Are there any artists out there today that you really dig?
Yea, loads – ha ha! Maybe too many to mention!! If you want to see something rad, look at Will Sweeney, for example. Also, look at the Koyama Press website; there’s a stack of rad artists on there!
I see that you’re participating in the “Live for Myself, Answer to Nobody” Steve McQueen exhibit, which is happening right now in London. What were the circumstances that led you to become involved in the show?
Oh yea, the Steve McQueen show came about through being involved in the bike scene here in London. We have been asked to participate in a few things now that bikes are in vogue – ha ha ha! For example, they opened a Belstaff store in London, and they wanted a bunch of bikes to ride about in front of the shop on opening night – ha ha ha! It was hilarious for us. I have no clue how I was selected for that, but yea, the Steve McQueen one was through my buddy, the photographerSam Christmas, who was in the show and opened the door for me and some other art people.
What are you working on next, Maxwell? Do you have anything in the pipeline that you’d like to share?
There is a bunch of stuff in the pipeline, a few tanks, and some preparation for a show in France (details TBC). Also t-shirts etc; a bunch of things. I want to do more CFH t-shirts and things too.
Lastly, if you could travel through time, where would you go?
Cool! Depends on how many trips I’m allowed, ay? Maybe if it’s many goes I’d go back to check out some dinosaurs, then go into the future a bit at a time to make sure I didn’t land when the earth was destroyed. But if I only have one go I might just stay here, actually – ha ha!
Haha! Thanks a ton, Maxwell, for setting aside some time for this interview. It’s been a blast speaking with the dude behind so many iconic images, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!