Words from Shayna Yates

Whom are you listening to now?

It changes daily, but I just opened my playlist and right now it is Aphex Twin, Klaus Nomi, Nero’s Day At Disneyland, Cardiacs, Devo, Oingo Boingo, Queen, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Babyland, and Nine Inch Nails.

Where did the idea of the custom buttons come from? What was the oddest combination you’ve made?

The noun-fusing concept is an old surrealist experiment that I’ve been playing with for a while. I have a portable button maker, and last year I started taking it to craft shows and doing the drawings live. Setting the “noun + noun” parameters simplifies the ordering process, and ensures that the end result will be a weird surprise. It’s also convenient when you only have 5 or 10 minutes to draw a portrait to be drawing someone mashed up with Godzilla, because they don’t expect a perfect likeness.

Probably the oddest combination came from a friend who was trying to stump me. He asked for “quantum suicide + bait and tackle shop.” I had to do some Wikipedia research, but I remain un-stumped, for the record.

What do you feel influences your art the most?

As far as just imagery goes, I think it’s a randomization of all the visual elements I’ve experienced my whole life, as well as processing and reproducing what I know about all of the world and art history. Sometimes images pop into my head fully-formed, and I can’t ignore them until I spit them out. Other times I am attempting to illustrate a concept, but the resulting images are still informed by personal experience and will be naturally influenced by my white, North American, gender-biased, lower-middle-class viewpoint.

It seems like crafting is seeing a resurgence but still most people don’t know their way around a sewing machine. Where did you learn how to sew?

My family didn’t have tons of money, and we’d make a lot of our own toys when I was a kid. When I was about five I was jabbing my fingers with needles repeatedly, trying to hand-sew clothes for the Transformer and the headless Barbie, and my mom decided that maybe it was safer to teach me how to use the sewing machine. There were astronomically fewer bloody fingerprints after that, and I was making my own clothes by the end of elementary school.

Why do you think humanity so disconnected?

I am assuming you mean disconnected from each other? Like that feeling of being aware that terrible things are happening to other people, but being unable to feel anything about it? Some of it might just be the proliferation of media outlets. We are constantly bombarded with images of so much horror every day that we have to shut off any potential emotional response as a defense mechanism. If it all felt real, like it was happening to your family, then reading the newspaper or seeing a scrolling list of statistics about the war in Afghanistan would be sending everyone into fits of sobbing every few minutes. In an era of instant access to so much information, we have to eliminate some things as irrelevant just so we can go about our daily tasks.

People in high-income, capitalistic nations are also socialized to believe that wealth and physical property are the things that make them a success. People often define themselves by “things” rather than human connections, and people working endlessly for objects have less time to form bonds with other people or with their communities. It doesn’t help matters that the system we have in place keeps low-income people working overtime just so they can be in debt.

What was the last film that made you laugh out loud?

Dead Alive!

Who is the best batman?

I am partial to the Alan Moore and Brian Bolland combo as seen in The Killing Joke.

Where is the best place to get a bite to eat?

My kitchen, or anywhere with giant servings of breakfast foods, or giant cheeseburgers, or any number of Mexican restaurants in southern California, or somewhere with really good Panang…

Who would win in a cage match between R. Kelly or Bobby Brown?

I’m pretty sure Bobby Brown would want it more. He seems unpredictable, and has more intricate choreography, which indicates he may be more agile, and he has never incorporated sexual innuendo into lyrics about preparing lunch. I don’t know what the latter has to do with a cage match, but it might produce some good one-liners, e.g., “It’s my prerogative to toss your salad,” during the course of the match.

Tell us about Noise Gate?

I have always been a little shy and awkward and very nerdy, and wanted to try something that was the opposite of my natural inclinations. So it was on my bucket list to join a band and perform for an audience, but I’m not proficient enough in any instrument. I saw a craigslist posting that was looking for a performance artist to work with an experimental electronic band, and responded on a whim. Tim and Greg turned out to be nice guys who made fun music to draw along with, so I joined Noise Gate. We’ve played a few shows now. I usually set up behind Tim and Greg and make large drawings or paintings while they play guitars or keyboards and run everything through rows of pedals. At the last two shows I painted murals on giant thrifted bedsheets, and during one twenty minute set, I drew a seven-foot-long caterpillar. It’s been really fun, and I think it’s made me a little less terrified of talking to groups of people.

Do you have a favorite comic book series?

I really want Viz to publish the rest of Taiyo Matsumoto’s “no. 5” series in English, but I may just track them down in French so they’re easier to translate. Frank or Jim by Jim Woodring are both intensely superb. Jenny Finn, Grit Bath, The Eyeball Kid, and Chrome Fetus are also all series that blow my mind and make me want to work harder at the medium.

Sandwich or burrito?

Whichever is larger. I like to eat.