Earthquaker Devices Artist Talks About Comics and Designing Your Favorite Guitar Pedals
Matt Horak is an artist for Earthquaker Devices and his work can be seen on a number of their guitar pedals. But Matt's also really into comic books, so much that there's even a comic book on the Earthquaker Devices website. He's also worked on Spider-Man/Deadpool and The Punisher for Marvel Comics. Matt was kind enough to answer some questions about designing the art for guitar pedals, as well as how this collaboration between comics and gear came to be. Read on below for the full interview.
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"Guitars are lame."
GT: Earthquaker Devices is a pretty big name in the world of guitar pedals and they've always had incredible artwork on their boxes. Can you tell me a little bit about your history with Earthquaker? When and how did you start working with them?
MH: I've known Jamie and Julie (the founders of Earthquaker Devices) for years and got started at EQD boxing and shipping pedals. I graduated to circuit building and eventually we needed art for a new pedal, The Depths. It worked out OK so I have done the art for almost every new pedal since. Jamie was a graphic designer before starting EQD so he had established a really strong aesthetic for the company that I was able continue and hopefully build upon with my own work.
GT: Do you play guitar as well?
MH: Nope. Guitars are lame.
GT: Some guitar pedals have incredible artwork on them. Are there pedals with art that you really admire?
MH: There is a lot of cool stuff out there - and even more ugly stuff. For the most part I don't look at most of what other companies put out so I don't end up even accidentally copying someone else's art.
GT: Pedals like the Sea Machine, and Fuzz Master General have a lot of intricate details, and I like how the light on the Sea Machine is almost part of the art itself. When it comes to designing and coming up with the art for a pedal, what's your process?
MH: Most of the time Jamie will come to me with a name for the pedal, the knob pattern, and a description of what it does. Sometimes I've heard the effect ahead of time but often I'm just going off of the name and description. If I'm lucky I'll have an idea right away but often I'll Google image search the name and set off on an internet wormhole looking for some image or idea that can inspire a design. I'll then do some sketches, usually 5-10 different ideas, and show them to Jamie. We'll talk about which ones we like and sometimes I'll do a round of revisions.
Once we settle on a design I do a final drawing, usually on paper in ink but recently I've done the finished art digitally on an iPad for a few pedals. Then it's sent to Jamie and graphic designer Geoff Crowe to have the text added and be formatted for printing.
A spread from Horak's comic, Octo Skull. Click here for more.
GT: You've done a lot of work in comics, so I was wondering what are some of the comics you're reading these days?
MH: Well, I'm currently drawing Spider-man/Deadpool for Marvel Comics in addition to doing art for EQD so unfortunately I don't have time to read as much as I'd like. My stacks of unread books and comics keeps growing regardless.
The amount of good comics coming out now is really mind-blowing and it can be hard to keep up. That said, some of my all-time favorites are Akira, Stray Bullets, and the Hellboy/BPRD universe.
GT: Which artists or books have most inspired your work?
MH: I couldn't possibly list them all but some of my earliest influences were Hergé's Tintin and Ed Emberley's drawing books. Beyond that, my favorite artists that really drove me to pursue drawing comics as a young fan were Art Adams, Michael Golden, and Mike Mignola.
GT: So you have a comicbook on the Earthquaker website. It's very unusual for a guitar pedal company to make a comicbook. Was this something that you've always wanted to do? Can you tell me how that started? Was there any pushback when you brought the idea to the table?
MH: I had the idea brewing to do a comic using the names of our pedals as characters and places in an adventure story for a while. At some point I sat down and laid out the framework for the comic and pitched it to Jamie and Julie. They liked it right away so I set to work writing and drawing it. Of course that also meant I had to find collaborators and coordinate the whole thing.
Thankfully I brought in a great colorist in Chris O'Halloran and letterer in Crank!. They really helped bring the project together along with the rest of the fine folks at EQD who helped with all the logistics required to print and distribute a comic book. It was an amazing project to work on and I really hope I get a chance to continue the story sometime in the future.
Blog header image by Matt Horak, Octo Skull issue#1 cover. Get it here.