Interview – Alex Pardee

alex pardeeSome may say art saved their lives, and they would not be lying. For the creative mind of artist Alex Pardee, picking up a pencil and drawing out a vast imagination of ideas was simply a hobby that turned into a passion, which in hand became a successful career. Having been the art director for The Used, designing album covers for In Flames, among others, Pardee’s illustrations have found their way into film as well. An avid Horror lover, Pardee has always dreamed of being involved in film mixing, and now teaming up with modern Horror giant Adam Green for the new film Digging Up The Marrow, that has become reality. Recently we sat down with Pardee for a look into his love for creating, the idea behind Digging Up The Marrow, his enthusiasm for Horror, and more. – You have been involved in art for many years now.  Tell us what first inspired you to start creating?

Alex Pardee – You know, I have been doing art for years, and do not know if there was actually a starting point of inspiration. I think weird shapes were just always the things that I was attracted to as a kid. I liked things that were different. Then when I got to about third grade, things like The Garbage Pail Kids came out and I started seeing more skateboard graphics and weird art. For me as a kid, that was always really attractive. I spent my childhood doing a mixture of drawing Garfield and drawing The Garbage Pail Kids (laughs). That is what originally started it, but over the years, when I was about fourteen or fifteen, I got diagnosed with depression and anxiety severely as a teenager and I missed a lot of school. I was actually in a mental hospital for a few weeks. During that time, when I felt really alone, scared, and alienated, one of the things that kept me sane was just drawing. I did not necessarily have a goal at that point, I just picked up a pencil and it made me feel better. I could not draw and I did not care. I just thought this is what I am going to do forever, or while it made me feel better. It just never stopped making me feel better, so that is my original art career. (laughs) – That is actually really interesting story. It is a great form of release, and you know you get to express yourself, so that makes great sense.

Alex Pardee – Yes, It has always been therapeutic in the fact that I have been able to carve out some kind of a niche and actually make it my job has been this cool bonus that I never expected to happen. I guess just because I kept doing it, it kind of happened on its own, which is rad. – Yes, totally. Speaking of making a career out of it and such, a lot of your art is really well know with Rock band The Used. You have done quite a lot of their album covers. You have really been their go-to artist. How has that been for you?

Alex Pardee – Yes, I was actually their art director for about five years from 2004 to 2010. That was amazing and was my first larger scale commercial job. I had done local band stuff, my own comic books, and some side freelance illustration gigs. Getting that first album,In Love and Death (2004), that was one of the life changing moments only because I had never done anything on that scale before . It was the first time I actually got a call from Warner Brothers saying, “We are sending a plane to come and get you,” and I was thinking, “What is happening” (laughing). That was the first big job like that, and then the relationship with the band over the course of those years was just incredible. They supported me 100%. They had said, “We’re just doing the music so you do what you do, that is why we hired you, so we will listen you.” Both my personal and professional relationship with those guys over the years was really helpful because I got to learn so many more things that I would not have had access to in a commercial art world by just basically going to school and getting this big job.

Reprise – Right, exactly, and that is a great experience. That feeling that you get, when you said, “what’s happening,” when you see that is actually working and your actually making something of this.

Alex Pardee – Yes, and I think actually one of the other cool side bonuses is that I was still trying to find “my audiences” at the time and I was slightly older than The Used;s fan base, so my artwork was being opened up to a whole new audience that I could not get to at the time. There was this whole group of impressionable kids. I finally saw how impressionable fourteen to seventeen year old kids are. That was really attractive to me because it was seeing the kids be inspired by something that I did in combination with something they did and it was just really cool. – Yes, totally, one can understand what you are saying and that is a great feeling. Your visions have not only been seen on album covers but also in comics and in films such as Sucker Punch (2011).  Most recently you teamed up with Adam Green for new film Digging Up The Marrow.  How did this project come about?

Alex Pardee – This was actually one of the most natural and cool experiences that I have done because, just like anything else, it kind of happens organically. It was totally unexpected. I do art gallery shows as well, and from some of my personal art gallery shows I add a narrative to the collection of art. It kind of sounds nerdy, but I will create an art show based around an idea, I will write a little story about it, and then that is what the art show will be. In 2009, at Gallery 1988 in L.A., I did an art show called “Hiding From The Normals” and there was a book that I created along side of it called Digging Up The Marrow. The art show itself was loosely about what I had done; I created this character, William Dekker, who was a detective. I, as an artist, had located this guy’s journals and he had written these conspiracy theories about monsters living underground and had all these notes and sketches. I created all the supplemental material for doing the art show and created an art show fixed around this supplemental material. I guess it kind of sounds pretentious when I say it out loud, but all in all, I made an art show about monsters underground. Maybe about a year later, I was a huge fan of Adam’s so I was at a Fangoria Convention, then I was at Adam’s Hatchet 2 (2010) panel, and I was pretty shy in person, but as he was leaving, I just wanted to say hi. We were just in passing, I introduced myself and said, “Hey, I know you are leaving but you have inspired me in the past so I just have this little comic that I did.” I passed it onto him and the comic was the book from the Digging Up The Marrow Art show. It was just a friendly hello, and then a couple of days later Adam had  actually called me back and told me this is cool and he had a similar idea for a long time. He thought we should talk about mashing our ideas together and make a movie out of this. It was that simple and I thought,” Really ? OK Cool. Let’s do it” (laughing). It was surreal.

Still from Digging Up The Marrow
Still from Digging Up The Marrow – Wow. That is actually pretty cool how that happened like that. That is a really cool story as well. As stated, the film is in fact inspired by your artwork. This is in fact your first full-length feature you have worked on as a producer.  What was that experience like for yourself?

Alex Pardee – I do not have anything to compare it to. It was a great first experience. I think that this production was very unique due to the fact that it was so intimate. I do not want  it to come across as if it was small, but as far as the people that were working on it, there was about twenty people all together, so each one of us shared duties. Each one of us did a little of the creative, a little of the producing, and a little of the errand running, but we all had major established rolls. I was pretty much in charge of designing the monsters along with Greg Aronowitz and Aunt Dolly’s Garage were in charge of getting them on screen. As a producer, we were all just sharing that hat and it was really cool. It just felt like friends making a movie, it did not seem that these rolls were so divided. It was cool. – This is a Horror film for Horror fans for sure.  You had the chance to work with Horror icons like Mick Garris, Tom Holland, and Don Coscarelli, among others.  Growing up a Horror fan yourself, was it a surreal feeling to be around such creative minds?

Alex Pardee – I think that it still has not fully hit me. I had been an observer and a fan of this world for so long that as soon as Adam and I became friends, Adam had worked his way into this horror genre for so many years, he happened to be friends with all of these other people that I had looked up to for so long. It was almost immediately that he said, “By the way, here is Kane Hodder, here are my friends” and I almost did not have time to be flabbergasted at the moment till afterward when it set in. The whole thing was so insane. I think in hindsight, with the exception off Ray Wise who I got to work with a lot, and talk to him about other films he had worked on. With the exception of that, I kind of just kept to myself and should have bugged people more (laughs).

digging up marrow poster_edited-1
RLJ – Seeing as you did have the opportunity  to work with the aforementioned film makers, do you think there is a possibly you will collaborate with them again in the future for another full-length film?

Alex Pardee – Oh yes, I would love to. I think my creative goal, ever since I became aware that I wanted a creative goal, was just to expand my world in every different asset. Sure I like drawing and painting, but I like finding ways to get that vision out in other ways whether it be animation, or phone application, a cartoon, or a something in feature films. I had a great experience due to this one, I have been a fan of it for so long, and I have always wanted to be a part of it. I hope there are more opportunities. If there is not, it is not going to stop me from creating more, but it would be great. Adam and I have talked about a bunch of other projects just by working together, so I think that friendship is not going away.

Still from Digging Up The Marrow
Still from Digging Up The Marrow – That is great and is something to look forward to because this film has got that documentary style to it, which is cool, and it has got an interesting story. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. covers music and Horror films.  If you are a fan of Horror films what are some of your favorite Horror films?

Alex Pardee – Until the day I do The ’80s is my major era. For some reason, all of my favorite movies have either “Night of” or “Creep” in the title. Creepshow (1982) is one of my favorite movies and Night of The Creeps (1986) is one of my favorite Sci-Fi Horror movies. Also, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and those movies. The ’80s Horror were really influential when I was growing up. Recently, and this is what I was kind of hoping would come across with Digging Up The Marrow, I really like when a film would give you the car keys to imagine something bigger and crazier. Recently when I saw The Cabin in the Woods (2012), to me that was just such a cool idea because it showed you this glimpse of this world that is so big. I want to see the stories of all the monsters, all these things, and  imagine how it would go. That to me is something that is a really cool thing to take out of movies. That is what I was hoping would happen with Digging Up The Marrow. We show you this glimpse of this possibly bigger world and maybe you want to see more of it.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
night of the creeps
TriStar Pictures – Yes, that is a strong possibility. People may be attracted to this and dig in deeper, and that is something redeeming about  a lot of the ’80s Horror films. The viewer really wanted to dig deeper into the stories like Freddy Krueger, Jason, and Michael Myers.

Alex Pardee – Yes, and it was not, at that time. The reason there was so many sequels is that you wanted to see them.. You just loved it.

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Feature image credit: Chloe Rice

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