[Without the proliferation of horror-themed tees available from outlets like Fright Rags and Rotten Cotton -- not to mention the rad Rue Morgue Finery you can score from our own Shoppe of Horror -- the world would be full of half-naked horror nerds. No one wants that. But there's more to it than covering our pasty, sunlight-deprived flesh with images of our favorite celluloid monstrosities. The best shirts are wearable works of art created by some of the genre's most talented image-makers -- a point that Rondal Scott drives home in his latest Sinister Seven.]
There are a select few reasons to be thankful for the explosion of horror-related films into the mainstream culture (Twilight is not among them), and clothing has to be at the top of my list. Sure, there were plenty of black-tee fashion statements before Hollywood’s horror boom, but only in the past decade have fans of the genre had such a wide selection of quality shirts to choose from. In fact, several clothing brands have risen from the bloody mist of Hollywood’s ritualistic feeding frenzy. Among those, Kyle Crawford’s Electric Zombie stands out as one of the best.
Crawford – a veteran artist in his own right – began his career working on apparel and band merchandise for groups like I Wrestled with a Bear Once, Mayday Parade and Paramore. Before long, his signature fusion of classic horror and pop subculture lead Crawford to branch out as a full-on provider of puss-infected, slime-inspired selection of apparel, giving birth to the monster otherwise known as EZ. We caught up with the mad creator to discuss his interest in the horror genre as well as the origins of the company and his vision for the future.
Thanks for hanging out with us, Kyle. To kick things off, how did your interest in horror movies come about?
I remember watching movies with my dad when I was super little (3-4 years old). The movies that stick out on my mind the most are Teen Wolf, Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Evil Dead 2 and The Fly. Not only that, but I lived on Elm Street from the time I was born until I moved when I was 5. So, of course, Freddy flicks became a cliché favorite, simply based on location.
So how did Electric Zombie come about, both the name and the clothing company?
The name originated from an old filename for a design I did a long time ago. It was a design for the band From First to Last. It had a bunch of zombies, electrical cords and lightning bolts. I named the file “electric zombie,” and it just stuck. I immediately started going by that moniker for gig posters I was doing at the time. I was working with two other clothing lines at the time. I had a falling out with them and decided to start my own. I didn’t want any of the ideas I had [to be overlooked] or buried and I figured people knew my stuff by then, so it just made sense.
How is a design typically brought to life? What’s the creative process from concept to completed product?
I have this weird way of thinking. I [tend to] have very specific ideas and concepts. I’m constantly having ideas and always writing them down, so when it comes time for a new line I already know what I want and who I want to work on it. If it’s something I’m not designing I’ll put together a file of examples – color schemes I want, positioning and sometimes a really crappy ten-second sketch. I’m very thorough and precise. There’s no crazy Willy Wonka action here.
You just released your Summer 2012 line. What are a few of your favorite pieces from the new release?
There are so many good pieces, but from an art aspect I would have to say one of my favorite designs is Griller (a continuation of last year’s Takeout design), which stems from one of my favorite childhood toys, Food Fighters. I had the idea last year, drew up the sketch and everything, but I decided to wait. The back of the design TOTALLY makes it. There’s also an awesome glow-in-the-dark, Attack the Block design, an awesome Gremlins design and a few designs that I did personally which I’m really proud of. Ecto and Popclaw are my hands-down favorites. It’s a really interesting line, there’s literally something for everyone. The custom stuff isn’t too bad either!
I don’t think it’s changed too much. Everyone progresses as artists – myself and the artists I hire all have – but theme-wise, nothing has changed. I haven’t altered my motto or my overall goal of the brand.
There are definitely crazier designs and a ton more colors. For the first two lines of Electric Zombie, I did everything myself. I folded, bagged, tagged – everything. Then I drove it to Merch Line, which was 15 minutes away from me. When I got the job at Equal Vision, which owns Merch Now, and moved to New York, I brought EZ with me. It was a perfect match. Now I can see everything get sent out, come off the press, look at inventory – it’s super convenient! To go from that to this was a huge leap forward. I’m pretty proud of my five-year run thus far.
What is Grave Takers and how does it fit into the EZ universe?
I felt like more serious custom items, like jackets, just don’t fit right with the Electric Zombie brand. With jackets and dress shirts, you just can’t get too crazy. I always wanted to go back and take some of the past EZ designs and just put the line work on them or simplify them to one color and print them on either black or white shirts. I still want to do the simple stuff with Electric Zombie, just more brand-name oriented.
With Grave Takers I wanted to do something completely new and different, but still give that horror vibe and theme. I want it to primarily focus on lots of custom garments and not have it be so t-shirt and pop culture-based. It’s still new and different and it will be awhile before it gets to the same level as EZ.
Before we let you go, do you have any final words, discount offers or regrets?
I’m very lucky to have been able to keep the EZ train going for almost five years now. I have lots of things in store all the way up until 2014 and can’t wait to unleash it all in the form of a five-minute Howling-esque transformation. Stick around and see what happens!
Rondal Scott is a Monster Kid at heart. He’s also a strange kid, which might explain why he started Strange Kids Club back in 2009 as a virtual clubhouse for collective nerdism that filters the underbelly of pop culture on a daily basis. He’s also hopelessly addicted to Red Bull and serves as Co-Editor of Fuel Your Illustration while not lurking in the shadows of the Rue Morgue forums…