Mastrangelo is a punk. A low down, dirty punk… and I mean that endearingly. His work is fast and loose, like a guitar riff hammered out by a beer soaked Steve Jones dodging bottles at the 100 Club. It’s real, and from the heart. Full of swagger and purpose. Mastrangelo is that tease that keeps you crawling back for more.
He has an uncanny knack for the “hook”, which I can best describe as the ability to produce an image that instantly becomes etched in your brain. Check out the Manson piece below that he drew for Heavy, and then honestly tell me it isn’t one of the most iconic images in the scene today. Read the fuck on, foolish mortals. This film is about to begin.
Mastrangelo’s work lives on the edge, and by that I don’t mean some bullshit marketing description to signify that something is outrageous. By “edge” I mean that line where if you fall off one side you achieve utter brilliance, but on the other it’s nothing but limb-strewn carnage and chaos. Think of it like this: you’re coming in hot on a turn, when suddenly you catch the rear in some loose gravel. You’re either going in the fucking ditch, or you’re straightening her out and leaving a hot testament of rubber snaking across that old country road. Fuck yea! Living through those moments are what life’s all about, and inevitably those moments become the stories that define us. The stories we pass on to those who matter.
That’s the “edge” where Mastrangelo lives. The place where time stands still. The place between the frames of a camera. That place on the country road where your headlight reveals past conquests laid out in rubber.
Grab hold, we are about to begin…
Hey Mike! Can you tell our readers where you’re based?
I’m London based, and have been for all my 50 years on this planet.
Where about did you grow up?
I was raised in a little town just outside of main London Town… a very interesting place… a little place called Thornton Heath. It was the hangout in the ’70s for one of the first unofficial UK bike chapters: The Nightingales, who as a kid I used to walk past. Seeing these greasy bikers and their shinny machines had me jumping up and down! They looked dangerous. I ended up working with one of the members many years later and was told the odd story or two. Some of these guys were old English rockers from the ’60s.
Who were some of the artists you were digging back then?
As a kid, I was heavily influenced by American comics: old Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk, you know, the old DC and Marvel stuff. BUT the stuff in those comics that I loved were the ads for life-size Frankenstein’s, Magic Horses, ha ha. I also loved Aurora model kits and one day can across some old Roth model kits in a newspaper store near my grand parents home. Now those kits blew my tiny mind! Rats driving drag machines, brother Rat Fink on a motorbike, Angel Fink etc.
Being close to London also meant I’d be able to get great comics and magazines. We had a second hand book store near me which I use to go to when I was 14, and it had great comics, old Easyriders, but the best bit was it had a section in the back of the shop which housed adult magazines! Playboy, Knave, which was a classic ’70s adult magazine that ran a feature on the Hells Angels. I had heard of the HA through papers, but never actually seen pictures of them, and as you can imagine SF California was another planet! I loved the imagery of the bikes; those choppers where like flying saucers from another world. Another place, far far away.
I was also influenced by early skateboarders from the ’70s. It was a big thing for a short time, but again I found myself looking at the likes of Tony Alva and the Dogtown crew as something I really loved. Many years later when I worked for the Gun Club, I got to meet Tony Alva as his band The Skoundrels supported the Gun Club at an L.A. show. Seeing Evel Knievel jump was another big inspiration. I saw him jump at Wembley Stadium in 1975 and crash. It was amazing!
But without a doubt, it was the Dave Mann’s work in Easyriders that I loved. Frank Frazetta was also a huge influence, and someone I wished I could be as good as. I loved all his great movie posters. All those great Clint Eastwood film posters. In fact, the first film I took my now wife to was Every Which Way But Loose, which of course has the legendary Black Widows in it. I wanted to be a Black Widow big-time! Still do, ha ha! Also various artists like Charles Burns, Gary Panter, Spain, Roth, Robert Williams, Joe Coleman, and one of my all time favourite artists is Edwin Pouncey (aka: Savage Pencil). I have been a friend of his for years, and have some of his original art, but for me helping him with one of his greatest pieces of work blew my mind. In the ’90s he put together a fantastic LP called Angel Dust Movie Music for Bikers, a selection of killer tracks from various ’60s and ’70s biker movies with a beautiful gate-fold sleeve and picture disc LP.
Do you remember the moment where you realized art would become a lifelong pursuit?
Nope! Music has been one of my biggest loves. I actually came back to art about two years ago in a big way, but working in the music industry is the full time gig. I have to pay the bills and support the family!
As a very young kid I loved bands like KISS, Black Sabbath, Led Zep, Deep Purple, as well as old Rock ‘n’ Roll/Rockabilly. My parents loved music, and my father worked for an old ’60s record pressing plant so I was subjected to all kinds of great music. Beatles, Stones, reggae… loads of music! The art of LP covers always played a big part with regards to what records I purchased. Anything dangerous looking came home with me. I was lucky to live near the UK’s largest second-hand record store Beanos, and would take my pocket money and buy LPs by The New York Dolls, Stooges, Grateful Dead, and The Fugs, to name a few. I loved Glam Rock; that was the first thing that was mine. The Sweet, T Rex (Marc Bolan), Suzi Quatro, Slade, but PUNK really got me going!
I was 14 when punk rock broke, and I remember the first time I saw the Sex Pistols, along with The Damned, Ramones. It was dirty and dangerous. Music has been a big part of my life. In the early ’80s I got a gig running the fan club for one of my all time fave bands: The Gun Club from LA. I was also a huge Cramps fan, so I started doing fanzines, writing for music papers, and doing flyers for bands as well.
Over the last 25 years, I have worked in the music business. I managed a large second-hand record store, then went to work for Sanctuary Records by putting records out, and doing artwork for the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Fall, The Damned, Motorhead, and Black Sabbath (to name a few). In fact, I oversaw the transfer of music from original master tapes for the then recently discovered multi-track tapes for the first 3 Black Sabbath LPs when I worked for Sanctuary Records.
Most people tuning in for this interview will recognize your art from Show Class Magazine. How did you hook up with those dudes?
A few years ago I hooked up with an old friend Dean, who does DiCE magazine. I had not seen him in years, and as it turned out I’d bought some issues of DiCE but never made a connection for some reason. I’d been painting old Rock ‘n’ Roll stars like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Johnny Kidd in my style for fun, and one night when Dean came over we had some beers and I showed him my stuff. He asked me to do something for a possible DiCE cover, but it was never used as they changed the format and style..
I had so much fun doing it but it was a bit too cartoonish, I fear. My bike builder Benny Thomas said I needed to make the biker art more realistic, and that was sound advise which I thank him for. But seeing Dean and seeing what he was doing in LA made me sit up and want to do what I’d dreamed of doing for years: get myself a bike! Fulfill a dream. Here in the UK, Harleys are not cheap. You pretty much have to double up on US prices! Plus the old school chopper scene is pretty small, BUT there are some great people in it
It’s not been easy, but I got me a chopper! Then I wanted to look cool as F**k on it, so… I contacted Billy at Hellmutt Liners. We chewed the fat and got on well. I got a killer helmet done and am so afraid to wear it – it’s a work of art in its own right. But I saw he was selling a magazine called Show Class, a term I was aware of due to having read Hunter S. Thompson’s HA book.
I bought all the issues Billy had and was sold as soon as I saw it. It’s different to DiCE. I love both magazines but Show Class is a bit more dangerous, if that makes any sense at all? Billy put me in touch with Tim from Show Class as he’d been doing some stuff with them. I said to Tim “You know what the magazine is missing? A cool Dave Mann style painting like Easyriders. It’s got everything else but that.” Tim said yeah, then why don’t you do some paintings then. The rest is history, as I’ve been knocking ’em out like little baby turds ever since. They seem to love them (Tim and Zak).
It’s now progressed to the odd t-shirt design, other ideas, and with Tim and Zak calling me the out-of-house artist, which I guess makes me a part of the SC team (which is something I’m proud of). I like what they do a lot. For me the shame is I’m some 4,000 miles away from all the great bikes featured in the magazine. I really hope the people who buy the magazine like the art too. One of my recent ideas for those guys was the 49% SHOW 51% CLASS idea which they beautifully turned into tees and caps. I’m currently working on an original piece of art which hopefully will be received well by the scene in America. Someone will end up the owner of an original piece, which hopefully will mean a lot to them.
I also want to spread the word to the UK and Europe too. The scene here in the UK is small for the real old school bikes from the ’60s and ’70s, but we have some amazing bike builders here too. People who I admire: Benny at Boneshaker Choppers does some amazing builds, as does Andy at Pacoma Cycles, and the mighty Toshi at Bell 45.
That’s awesome, man! Will we be seeing a cover somewhere down the line?
Yeah, I done a nice front and back cover which I’m hoping will be used sometime soon, and I have ideas for an even better one, but my big problem is time. I hold down a regular job and do all my art in my spare time. I certainly keep busy, and just completed designs for Heavy, Sinner Supply, and am about to do a killer collaboration with Jesse from Rising Vision in L.A. More Reaper Madness…
Heavy Clothing recently put out your epic Manson tee. What’s it like working with Zak on Heavy stuff? Does he give you any indication of what he’s looking for, or are you given free reign with the design?
Zak is nothing but trouble. I tell ya that guy is so dark he scares me – way too much darkness. He’s trouble with a capitol T. Ok I’m lying, he’s very much like Tim at Show Class: COOL AS FOOK. Very easy to work with, happy to be hit up with ideas, and happy to tell you what he does not does not like. Straight talking mofo. That’s the way I like it. I’m pretty happy with the Heavy Charlie design I did. Zak’s also the other part to Show Class. Apparently those guys are sending me a Panhead for Christmas! I cannot thank them enough for liking what I do.
What are you riding these days? Are there any bikes over the years that you wish you never sold?
I ride Ding A Ding Dang My dang Along Ling Long. She’s my baby. A ’98 Evo Sportster chopper, shrouded shocks, ’70s Sportster front-end, 21″ front 18″ rear, which soon will have an original hamburger-style front brake and a vintage flamed Sportster tank (with great thanks from Dean at DiCE). She’s my first bike so I have never sold a bike. I’d love to have a Knucklehead hardtail, or Panhead, but for now that’s a pipe dream. I went for an Evo chopper as I wanted to have fun riding without too much hassle. I’m not gonna lie, I’m no hot shot in fixing these thing, but I’m learning a hell of a lot fast. I hope in a few years to go for a Knuck or a Panhead, but for now all I can say is that first ride when I got my bike home was worth all the pain in getting it!
Are there any new artists out there that you’re really digging, or inspire you to work harder?
Show Class always features some great artists. I like Tallboys work a lot! Toby Tequila is another kat who does some amazing work on the back of cuts. I just traded up an original of mine for a cut of a Reaper he did for me. Donny Gillies work is great too. Jesse at Rising Vision does some monster posters too.
What are you working on next? Got any new prints or projects we should have our eyes peeled for?
Show Class has a heap of art to roll with. There’s a great Heavy inspired poster. I’m working with Rising Vision in L.A. on a new t-shirt and poster design – a great collaboration with Jesse. Just finished two designs for prints and t-shirts for the mighty Angelo at Sinner Supply in Belgium. “Reaper Spelled Backwards is DEATH” t-shirt design he has total exclusivity on. That’s my baby and its a killer t-shirt. I’m also planning to do a few more affordable prints as well. I like to make my work top quality but also affordable to everyone, from the guy who has a very healthy bank balance, to the kid on the street who has to work his butt off for anything. I did 13 prints of “Reaper Madness”, signed and numbered, for a mere £35 each (about $45-$50 dollars). If you want an original, well that’s cheap too. People should hit me up.
I ask this closing question to everybody, because you never know what you’re going to get, and the answer is often filled with insight: If you could travel through time, where would you go?
This one is going to have two answers ha ha. I’d go forward a week so I could find out the winning lottery numbers so I could win!! That way I pay my bills off and get the bikes of my dreams! Or… take me back to L.A 1991 to Long beach so I can buy the Robert Williams “Zombie Mystery” painting I passed up on for $1500!!! Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers now owns!
Thanks a ton, Mike, for this opportunity to interview you for Doom Cycle. It’s been a blast, and I’m always looking forward to seeing what you’re up to. Cheers!