Musical Subcultures, Belonging And Art – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Subcultures and art

Well, for today, I thought that I’d ramble about the role that musical subcultures can play in being an artist. This was mainly prompted by some interesting news stories that I read earlier this year about the reactions to the plans for an official celebration of punk music in London this year.

A lot of people thought that such a celebration “wasn’t punk”, but my initial reaction to it was more along the lines of “Cool! Punk music is finally getting some recognition. Now, where’s the celebration of heavy metal?

To say that I have a complicated relationship with the punk genre would be an understatement. It was actually the very first “cool” genre of music that I ever discovered when I was a kid in the late 1990s. This was, of course, near the end of the wonderful (but brief) time when American punk music became sort of mainstream. Although this instantly led to me becoming a lifelong fan of The Offspring (and later to discover other great punk bands too), I’ve kind of had a sporadic relationship with the punk genre.

Thanks to discovering the heavy metal genre a couple of years after I first discovered punk, punk music has always been something that I seem to go through phases of listening to and not listening to. It’s still one of my absolute favourite genres, but whenever I’ve met people who are into punk music, I always feel like I’m “not really punk” by comparison. And yet, the punk genre turns up relatively often in my art (albeit mostly in subtle ways, unlike this painting):

Yes, I added myself to the background of this painting, but I'm probably the least punk person in it ("Days Of The Angel" By C. A. Brown)

Yes, I added myself to the background of this painting, but I’m probably the least punk person in it (“Days Of The Angel” By C. A. Brown)

I had the same sort of reaction when I finally discovered gothic rock during my very early twenties. Despite the fact that I’ve been interested in the horror genre, to varying extents, for most of my life. Despite the fact that I almost always wear dark clothing. Despite the fact that I was reading H.P. Lovecraft when I was seventeen. Despite the fact that Billy Martin/ Poppy Z. Brite is my favourite author. I still don’t really call myself a “goth”.

Because I was somewhat of a latecomer to gothic rock, I often still don’t really consider myself to be “really a goth”. This is especially true whenever I’ve met people who are actual goths. And, again, quite a lot of my art tends to be slightly gothic. Even when I’m not planning to make gothic art, my art can still have a slight gothic look to it. Like this:

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown

Ironically though, I’ve never had this problem with heavy metal music. As soon as I bought my first Iron Maiden CD, I was a metalhead. Whenever I’ve met people who are into heavy metal, I’ve never really felt like I’m “not really a metalhead”. Whenever I’ve been to metal concerts, I’ve just felt like part of the audience. Metal seems to be a surprisingly open-ended subculture in many ways.

And, yet, when it comes to making art, heavy metal imagery doesn’t really turn up as often as it “should” in the art that I make. In fact, my art often tends to include more punk and gothic imagery than heavy metal imagery. Even though there’s a good chance that I’ll be listening to heavy metal when I make most of my art, it still doesn’t actually turn up in my paintings and drawings as much as punk/ gothic imagery does.

I guess that, in a way, this is because subcultures are about more than just music. I mean, both the punk and goth genres have a surprisingly rich and accessible visual tradition. Gothic artwork is more about the levels of gloominess in a particular picture and the actual content of the picture (eg: settings, clothing styles etc..) – it doesn’t matter whether a picture is realistic or cartoonish, if it contains certain elements, then it’s gothic art.

And, since it looks really cool, most of my art tends to include gothic elements. Even if this is only the fact that my art tends to contain bold contrasts between light and darkness, this is at least partly a gothic thing. It’s also inspired by other things too, but it can still look fairly gothic too. Like in this painting:

"Behind The Wall" By C. A. Brown

“Behind The Wall” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, thanks to the DIY tradition of punk (something I really probably should know more about), punk art is meant to be slightly stylised and unpolished. It’s the eccentric artwork in a “Tank Girl” comic. It’s a cynical political cartoon. It’s a type of art where you can include hilariously grotesque things (eg: zombies etc..). It can be detailed or undetailed. It has to be at least mildly rebellious. Best of all, when combined with science fiction, it turns into the cyberpunk genre – the coolest sci-fi sub-genre of them all.

It’s an absolute joy to make art in this genre, especially when I don’t think that I am. Like in this very 1990s punk-influenced picture of some zombies that I made a while ago.

"Fake '80s Movies - Zombie Quad Bikers 2" By C. A. Brown

“Fake ’80s Movies – Zombie Quad Bikers 2” By C. A. Brown

Or one of my many 1980s/1990s-style cyberpunk paintings:

"Cityship Bridge" By C. A. Brown

“Cityship Bridge” By C. A. Brown

Heavy metal art, on the other hand, is often highly realistic. It’s a really awesome genre of art, but to make “proper” metal art (that could grace an album cover), you need to be able to paint or draw in an extremely realistic style. I am at least a few years away from being able to do this. Yes, I’ve made heavy metal-themed artwork, but I don’t know if I’d say that any of my art is truly “metal art”.

So, I guess that what I’m trying to say is that there is more to most modern subcultures than just music. When it comes to making art, there are probably a lot of other factors that will influence what kinds of art that you make. Trying to fit yourself into one genre will probably limit the kind of art that you make. So, just make the kinds of art that you think are “cool” and if anything from your favourite musical genres appears in them, then this is a bonus.

At the end of the day, you’re probably going to make the kind of art that you think looks cool. So, just make it and stop worrying about musical subcultures.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

12 comments on “Musical Subcultures, Belonging And Art – A Ramble

  1. I fangirled a little when you mentioned The Offspring, I don’t know anybody else who know them too. I think art’s art and music is music – labels take the fun out of things. And I absolutely love your art style, you are seriously amazing!

    • pekoeblaze says:

      LOL! I didn’t realise that The Offspring weren’t so well-known these days. Then again, punk music is probably less popular than it was in the 1990s/early 2000s. But, yeah, they’re a band that should probably be more popular than they currently are. I mean, they’re one of the very few bands (the only other one I can think of is Iron Maiden) who have never really released a bad album [well, possibly except for “Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace”. Even so, that’s probably better than many albums by other bands]. Then again, like with Iron Maiden, this probably also explains why there’s a 3-5 year gap between new albums these days LOL!!!!

      But, yeah, most people don’t really fit into one particular label when it comes to music. And I’m glad that you liked the art too 🙂 Thanks 🙂

      • I have no problem with that 3-5 years wait as long as the album comes out great 😀 I think the worse thing is when a band goes on hiatus and you have no idea when they’ll come back (I am glaring at you, Fall Out Boy and Breaking Benjamin). It is devastating on a fan’s heart – I am so glad those two came back though!

      • pekoeblaze says:

        Good point, although the wait can sometimes be a bit annoying – still, at least the Offspring have released occasional covers and a single since 2012. Although the hiatus thing hasn’t really happened to any of the bands that I really like (a couple of bands like Iron Maiden and Nightwish were between singers at various points, but they made an effort to find a new one as soon as possible), I can see why it might be upsetting/annoying.

  2. I couldn’t bear to fit myself into one genre esp. when it comes to music. I cut my teenage music teeth (title for song?) on the distillers, and I never stopped after that, heavy metal, gothic, punk, it’s all good : D


    • pekoeblaze says:

      Totally. I mean, there are so many great genres of music – and it makes no sense to restrict yourself to just one. As for The Distillers, I’ve only really heard two songs by them. I couldn’t remember the title of my favourite one (“Hall Of Mirrors”) until I looked it up online, but the other song I’ve heard is one called “City Of Angels”.

      • Oh ‘city of angels’ is good, that’s from ‘sing sing deathouse’, one of their early albums. You should give ‘drain the blood’ a listen, also ‘the hunger’ is actually a very beautiful tune, esp. if you play it on an acoustic guitar.
        I haven’t listened to them in ages though, might have to dig out the album. I bought the lead singers (Brody Dalle) solo album, it hasn’t grown on me yet though…


      • pekoeblaze says:

        I’ve just looked “Drain The Blood” up on Youtube and it sounds really cool, although I think that “Hall Of Mirrors” is a more energetic song. But, yeah, I can see why you might get the lead singer’s solo album, since she has a very distinctive singing style.

      • I think ‘drain the blood’ is more melodic, and poetic, so it really stuck with me in the long run. She really does have a rather beautiful smoky kind of voice, esp. in ‘the hunger’, also I was feeling a little nostalgic lol


      • pekoeblaze says:

        Good point, “Drain The Blood” is probably the more complex of the two songs. I’m just listening to “The Hunger” on Youtube too and, I don’t know, I think that both ‘Drain The Blood’ and ‘Hall Of Mirrors’ show off the more distinctive parts of Brody Dalle’s vocal style slightly better, although there’s a greater range of singing styles in “The Hunger”. But, yeah, when I listened to “Hall Of Mirrors” again, I also felt slightly nostalgic LOL!!!

      • Yeah, they really stand out beside the other songs : ) Glad I could prompt a good old moment of nostalgia, always fun! hehe


      • pekoeblaze says:

        Totally – plus, “Coral Fang” is probably going to be the latest addition to my CD collection too.

        But, yeah, I’d almost completely forgotten about this band, so thanks for reminding me 🙂

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