Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Waylon Bacon Interview
Renaissance Man 2017

Conducted and Formatted
By Anthony Servante

Waylon Bacon

The Modern Renaissance Man


I found Waylon Bacon while I was pinching through the free handouts at my comic book shop in Pasadena, California. He had left sample chapbooks of his artwork from his website Frownland alongside Marvel Comics and DC Comics promotions cards, local comic book convention flyers, and Indie Comic samplings. After leafing through the chapbook, I instantly fell in love with the dry layered humor of Bacon's characters, at once the archetypes from today’s milieu but also the universal everyman and everywoman no matter what era. Here were the characterizations of "The Neighborhood" by Jerry Van Amerongen, the irony of "Mister Boffo" by Joe Martin, the surrealism of "Angriest Dog in the World" by David Lynch, and a pinch of 1950s Beat Generation antidisestablishmentarianism. As well as some 1960s Underground Comix insight into the far-gone human stereotype of its time. When I asked him for an interview, he graciously accepted.

As I prepared my questions, I found that cartoonist was but one of his talents: He’s a film-maker, a satirist, an illustrator, a music video director and producer, and a reporter on the foibles of humankind, 2017. In short, he’s the Renaissance Man of today. And in an age where everyone thinks they are special because they blog, self-publish, know famous people on Facebook, and justify their existence by preaching to the choir, Waylon Bacon eats people like that for lunch and regurgitates his diet into his medium, and not just “social media”, the graveyard of self-proclaimed talent, but via the traditional avenues of Art, Film, Music, and Illustration. He is the real deal.
Time to meet (wait for it)…Waylon Bacon.

The Interview:

Anthony: Can you give us an overview of the work you’ve been doing for the last year just to catch us up?
Waylon: I've been drawing a weekly webcomic called 'Frownland', as well as promoting a short film I directed called 'The Ride'. I started both projects at the same time, around 2014, so it's been a very busy couple of years!
'The Ride' is a dark comedy (what else) that is based on a real experience I had in my early twenties. I was running late for work, and ended up encountering this little guy with dark eyes and braces who offered to drive me to where I needed to go. I stupidly accepted. He drove this white Cargo Van right out of 'Unsolved Mysteries', and he claimed to sell Espresso machines out of it. No sooner had we started driving than I noticed the back of the van was just filled with junk - old coffee cups, newspapers, and some tools. It was terrifying! But it turned out fine - he was just a well meaning weirdo. The film shows all of the scenarios I had played out in my head while the ride was in progress, as well as subtly presenting ideas about pre-judgement and race - the fellow was Middle-Eastern. It's got amazing performances from the two leads (Clinton Roper Elledge and ArmenBabasoloukian) and played at a number of festivals around California. It's really funny and horrifying all at the same time!

I've also been contributing art and covers to Beatdom, which is a literary magazine devoted to the Beats. It's great, because I get assigned the task of drawing people like Charles Bukowski and Burroughs, who have all of my favorite facial characteristics -- sunken eyes and big noses. I recently did their ten year anniversary cover and got to draw almost all of the Beats, plus pay tribute to Berkeley's recently defunct Cafe Med, which was  one of my all time favorite places to hang out.

Anthony: Where did this artistic journey begin for you? Can you tell us about your beginnings?
Waylon: Well I was always artistically wired; I drew as a kid constantly - at home, at school, at baseball games, at parties - I was glued to my little sketch books. I also come from a somewhat bohemian family - my Maternal Grandfather was a well-loved painter back in Flint, Michigan, and my mother is brilliant with watercolors. Plus I hated, hated school -- I had a really hard time with academics and was actually in Special Ed due to what we shall call mathematical dyslexia. So drawing was both a chance for escape and for a bit of self-worth.

Childhood Drawing

I got interested in film during my teens -  partly because it was just so damn challenging, and because I like telling stories. I've spent more time ripping my hair out over film projects than I have with almost anything else in this life, but I've also found it the most rewarding. Making a film literally mutates your existence - it's such an intense journey, and you're a changed person by the end of it. I love that.

Early Interest in Film

Anthony: Let’s talk a bit about film. What have you done? Who are your influences? 
Waylon: Waylon: I've made a handful of shorts since college, although I don't think I really found my voice until I made a short film called 'Poster Boy' in 2004. Prior to that, I had been trying to figure out what it was I wanted to say in my movies - I really liked Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, and Terry Gilliam, but hadn't found how those elements would go together into something that was all mine.

Poster Boy Still

With Poster Boy, I decided to just focus on the visuals. So it didn't have a script -- just storyboards. The idea was to make something that would resemble a really grotesque live action cartoon. The 'plot' is that a chainsmoker is accosted by a mob of anti-smokers who chase him back to his apartment, where his jaw suddenly rots off from cancer. He is then forced into being the mascot for an anti-smoking campaign. It was a double-layered satire, because I smoke and I know it's a dreadful habit, but I also find militant anti-smokers to be insufferable.

Poster Boy Storyboard

I shot it on a VX2000, which at the time was really a big deal. Although it looks like video now, I thought it looked pretty damn good then, which was in 2004. This got into the now defunct San Francisco Underground Film Festival that was run by Peaches Christ, and I was encouraged to submit again the next year. I did one film each year so I would have something to show there, and I really got to develop my craft watching my films sink or swim in a movie theater setting once a year. Then in 2008 I won a small grant through the SF Weekly and made a short called 'Help Wanted' -- it's about a college graduate who's getting a tour of a prospective job at a warehouse, where he learns that they kill hookers and homeless people and then dismember the bodies for shipment to an undisclosed location. It's really dark -- I had a lot of negativity in me that had been building up for years, and I just sort of vomited it out in that movie.

Help Wanted Still 1

Help Wanted Still 2

The next thing I got up to was a music video for 'The Lumerians', who are simply the best post psychedelic band on the planet. All their music is highly cinematic. That was an interesting situation, because I'd just moved to Los Angeles, and the original idea I had for the video turned out to be impossible with our limited budget. So I went out and shot this thing with a crew of people I'd only known a very short period of time, with a hastily revised idea, that had to be revised continuously during the shoot, including a last minute recast. It was nuts!

I've had a website up since around 2004 that has all of my film work on it, although some of the older films need to be replaced with higher quality uploads (something I'm actually working on right now). You can go to, which has links to all of my film work, as well as Frownland and miscellaneous artwork 

Anthony: Can you tell me a bit about your work with The Lumerians? I’m a big fan of the group after seeing them in concert. How did you hook up? 
Waylon: I've actually known members Jason Miller and Tyler Green since the early 2000's - they were part of a group of people I encountered at Death Guild who, like me, didn't really fit in - we weren't goth, but it was a fun place to be and you'd occasionally get the thrill of hearing Bauhaus or Joy Division played really loud. We all bonded over a love of weird music, particularly stuff like Syd Barret, Roky Erickson, or Scott Walker - any music were the sanity of the artist was in question. Jason's still my go to for new music - his record collection is astounding and varied. They both volunteered to work on 'Poster Boy', with Tyler as D.P. and Jason as Composer, a role I'm happy to say he still fulfills! I can't imagine doing one without him.

Anthony: What other bands or artists do or have you worked with?
Waylon: Not many to be honest -- I'm not sure if Music Videos are necessarily my thing, although I was definitely interested in trying it out for the Lumerians! However, I've had offers come my way, so it might happen again -- people really seemed to like the 'Life Without Skin' video.

Life Without Skin Video (Click Here to Watch)

Life Without Skin Still 1

Life Without Skin Still 2

Life Without Skin Still 3

Anthony: Before we talk about Frownland, can you tell us about the comic books, strips, and artists who have warped your mind?
Waylon: Well, there were always Zap! Comics floating around when I was a kid -- and obviously that influence is still there in my art. I also love Gary Larson's 'The Far Side' and anything that Daniel Clowes touches. I'm also a sucker for the New Yorker.

Anthony: And how did all that turn into Frownland?
Waylon: I was working on raising funds for 'The Ride' and realized that it would be at least two years before the film was done. So to have some sort of artistic output while that was coming together, I started to post a drawing a week to my social media accounts, which I called 'Sketch Sunday'. This got pretty popular among my friends and co-workers, and I started to get sort of ambitious with it -- working in punchlines and characters. Some of my friends suggested turning it into a regular comic, and after about a year, I gave in, mostly because I felt like I'd developed my work habits to the point where I could reasonably pull it off once a week. I decided to call the strip 'Frownland' as a tribute to one of my all time favorite musicians, Captain Beefheart (it's the first track on his album 'Trout Mask Replica), and as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the content of the comic.

Frownland Early Sketches

Anthony: Let’s jump into Frownland directly now. What is it? Why do you do it? I feel like I’m with old friends with the characters when I read it.
Waylon: Thanks!

My byline is that Frownland is a single panel webcomic that dissects human behavior with cynical abandon. It veers between self observation and external observation - making fun of the world around me. I'm a frequent, maybe even compulsive cultural critic -- I spend a lot of time in my head picking things apart.

There's no main character, so that the comic has a constantly shifting perspective -- I might do one about an asshole customer, and then another one about an asshole employee. It's sort of a celebration of misanthropy as a perfectly normal human past time.

Three Misc Frownland Perspectives

Humor with Human Insight

It's done in the single panel format, which goes back to my aforementioned love of the New Yorker and The Far Side.It's really taken on a life of its own -- I did a calendar last year that sold out, and the comic recently went viral over at! It's been very strange, fun, and exciting.

The Frownland Calendar

Anthony: Where do you plan to go from here with your career? Any other projects that we haven’t covered?
Waylon: Like all day job artists, I would love to be able to devote myself full-time to my work, be it film or cartooning. If there's any rich benefactors out there who'd like to give a hand, I'm a self motivated worker with over ten years in the service industry and will bring that level of discipline to my art career. I promise not to do drugs or drink heavily while I'm on the clock. 

Anthony: Can you share a few of your favorite Frownland illustrations and tell us a bit about the inspiration behind each one?
Waylon: Sure!

1 (Introverts): I know plenty of people who are genuine introverts, who struggle with interacting at parties or sometimes even one on one, so I've been rolling my eyes at the current appropriation of this character trait. It's very much a white culture thing to be excited about being marginalized.

2. (Ashes) This is actually based on a conversation I had with a friend -- what would it be like to be at the funeral of an ex-girlfriend? What would happen if, during the service, you thought about something you'd done together sexually? It would probably happen even if you didn't want it to. But I changed it to an old woman with the ashes of her husband in the comic because I thought it would be less sleazy.

3. (Melting Component). This was based on my first experience trying to order a salad at Tender Greens. I was with my family, and non of us could understand the ordering process. What's a protein? You mean chicken? I found it all really pretentious. I also find it Class-ist, because I have yet to be at one of these 'deconstructed' lunch spots that isn't expensive. Other lesser restaurants refer to the toppings as meat and veggies. How bourgeois.

4. (Bad Eye). Whenever I encounter someone with a lazy eye, I look at the wrong one when talking to them. And I'm sure anyone with this condition is used to it, but I still feel awful! This one was taken directly from life -- I went to the store to buy cigarettes, looked into the clerk's bad eye, and then went home and drew this comic.

5. (City). I just moved to Portland in May, and was talking on the phone to my oldest friend about how I wasn't sure I liked being in such a rural and friendly city -- I'm used to Oakland or Los Angeles. We both concluded that we enjoyed being in urban environments and being around people, but had no real desire to actually talk to anyone! I think this is pretty common for a lot of people who choose to live in cities.

6. (What If I'm The Asshole?) This was drawn really fast, because I had to crank it out at the last minute! I was on my lunch break at work, and had no comic to post for the weekend. I'd run through a number of ideas, but they all seemed redundant. This gave way to an introspective bout of self-loathing which finally cracked the idea for this comic.

Anthony: Thank you, Waylon, for joining us here on the Servante of Darkness Blog. Mi blog es su blog. 
Waylon: Gracias, un cafĂ© Americano, por favor.

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