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MEET THE NIERATKOS - MARC MCKEE

If you started skateboarding in the early 90s chances are Marc McKee drew the picture on the bottom of your first board; he did most of the best-looking boards of that era.

If you were skating in the 80s you remember Marc McKee as the guy who finally got us out of our skull-rut; when every board had a skull and sword, skull in helmet, skeleton on chessboard and so on and so forth.

Maybe you're an unknowing fan of his early Big Brother art direction, since Vice has wished they were that magazine since the day they were born.

If you're young and your hat matches your shoes and you don't know shit about shit then you probably just know Marc McKee as the guy who did a St. Patty's Day t-shirt for The Hundreds a couple years ago.

However you know or don't know Marc McKee doesn't matter. What's important is that you show him respect because he is the man that single-handedly made skateboard graphics awesome/fucked up/controversial/naughty/sexy and bad ass.

This month he releases a book that collects some of his best-known skate graphics entitled, The Art of Marc McKee. I caught up with Marc and asked him about some of his naughtier decks.

Why do you choose to spell your first name wrong?
I don't know. My last name is the one that's more strange with the two capital letters. Two capital letters in one name seems kind of unnecessary.

How many cease and desists have you gotten over the years and which was the first?
There weren't that many compared to how many graphics that we did that we actually could have got sued for. I would say probably for graphics that I did, there were only about six or seven. I think the first one was for the Jason Lee American Icons board. There were two versions of that graphic, and on the first version it said pretty clearly on the six-pack that it was Miller Genuine Draft. So then after we got the cease and desist Mark suggested I change it to say "Macho Genuine Draft," which I thought made it even better.

I got a cease and desist from Major League Baseball and nearly shit a brick. What was your reaction to getting that first one? Which one was the scariest?
Of all the ones we got early on, I have to say, none of them really seemed that scary. Part of it was due to how confident Rocco was that we could get away with just about anything back then. It was pretty awesome. Plus we were still a relatively small company and I'm guessing the letters were sent as more of a formality since we really didn't have the kind of deep pockets that legal departments would really want to go after. There was one though that came much later that really did cause me to shit a brick. Around 2002 we got a letter from this company called Wet Products. They were a pretty small company that made water toys and apparently their company mascot, which they had trademarked in 1995, was called Wet Willy. And it looked very similar to the character I made for World even though I had never seen it before in my life. The copyright on the World Wet Willy was not until 1997 so we were fucked. We ended up having to settle out of court for a settlement in the mid 6 figures.

Which graphic would you say has caused the most controversy?
Honestly I don't think any of the graphics that were thought of as being controversial were really that big a deal. At least not compared to what we did in Big Brother a little later on. I guess there were some rumors that got circulated around the time that the Natas Devil Worshipper graphic came out since it was when he coincidentally broke his ankle, ending his pro career. And there was the fact also of how we tried to pressure Jason Lee into taking the graphic before Natas offered to use it. I read in an interview with Spike about how after he had been working at World for a few years he thought that things seemed to really have changed, with riders getting pressured to take graphics that they didn't want, and I think he was probably referring to that. So I guess that might have been the most controversial graphic, especially if it had a part in how World eventually became totally unraveled in late 1992 when all the riders quit and left to ride for other companies.

What has been the naughtiest/sexiest graphic?
I don't know, maybe the "Rear End Rudy"? The Randy Colvin girl board is probably the naughtiest, but I wouldn't really say it's all that sexy since the girl is drawn kind of weird. I think the remake that Deathwish did of that graphic looks a lot hotter. The girl on the Rudy Johnson Sparkplug was pretty hot, but then the giant sparkplug kind of adds a ridiculous aspect that kills the mood—haha.

Whose idea was it to put the Randy Colvin graphic in a bag?
Rocco's.

Which graphic do you wish you'd never done?
I don't know. I guess I try to live by the philosophy that you should only regret what you haven't done.

Has being a skateboard graphic artist gotten you laid?
No.

Ever get beat up or in a fight with a skater over a graphic?
No.

How did you start doing work for Hustler? How did that differ from the World process?
That came about after an art show back in 1992 that was called "48 hours." I had two paintings in it—the Guy Mariano Jayne Mansfield, and the Rudy Johnson Girl with the Sparkplug. It was a really fateful show—it was also when Dave Carnie first met up with Jeff Tremaine and the rest of the Big Brother staff, when he tried dropping flowerpots on Tremaine's head from 3 stories up. Anyway, the editor from Hustler was at the show with this artist called "The Pizz" (I don't know his real name), and they saw the two paintings and later that week the Pizz called me.

Working for Hustler was different from working at World in that it was more of a conventional illustration/commission setup. Before each project I would get a copy of the article to be illustrated, so there was a set idea I had to work with, as opposed to the free and open process of creating art for World. I didn't mind the narrow guidelines though since the articles were so out there to begin with. Like the paintings in the book, one is for an article that was on interviews with hookers about their favorite johns and vice versa.

Another was for Hustler Holiday Issue and it was for a bunch of X-Rated Christmas Carols. Plus I was really stoked to have some kind of connection and contribution to Larry Flynt's mag with all the legal shit he had gone through in defense of the 1st Amendment.

Was your freelancing for Hustler what led to Big Brother eventually being bought by Larry Flynt?
The way that sale came about was that World was using the same accounting firm as LFP in the mid 90s. That was how we found out that they were searching for magazines to acquire. It was through their accounting department.

Who drew the skater on the Metallica Big Brother cover? And why was it so shitty? And what is the story with Metallica even being on the cover?
Yeah, I drew that. It was originally part of an interview proposal that I had sent to the record company. Their publicist had told me that the only way they would do interviews was if they were guaranteed the cover of the magazine. So my proposal was to arrange a photo shoot where Metallica would get down on their hands and knees, like in the drawing, and a skater would ollie over them. Needless to say they did not go for the idea, but I still wanted to meet them, so I went ahead with the interview and ran the drawing from the proposal on the cover. The reason it was so shitty was because at the time it was when the album Load first came out, and I was seriously disappointed—I would say even traumatized—by how bad it was.

CHRIS NIERATKO

For more of marc's work go to http://www.skateboardgraphics.com/

To preorder The Art of Marc McKee go to http://www.winsthings.com/BOOKS/mckee/

And if you're in the LA area next Saturday, there's an opening March 19, 7-10pm and a book signing from 7:30-8:30pm. The exhibit runs until April 10.

HVW8 Art + Design Gallery
661 N. Spaulding Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 665-4898
HVW8.com