THIS IS MY METAL LIFE - WITH MARK DEVITO
(Graphic Artist, Merchandise Designer, Proud Father and Metalhead)
Instead of the usual talk about heavy metal bands – we decided to redirect our attention to people behind-the-scenes and delve into their "Metal Lifestyle". So, who designed your Metallica, Anthrax and Slipknot T-Shirts? It was the same designer that created the last two Motörhead album artworks! And I have the exclusive scoop on this designer's "Metal Lifestyle"! Let me introduce Mark DeVito!
|Mark DeVito with Mikkey Dee|
I started Metal Babies when my son, Aidan, was born back in 2002, as I was working at a music merchandise company and threw a couple of baby clothes up on the press and ran some joke stuff on them…"Never Say Diaper" and “Future Headbanger”, just for fun, for my kid and a few friends, and it took off! I started getting emails from all over; Japanese radio interviews, an article in Playboy, and wound up being asked to tour the line with Ozzfest! It was amazing, and a perfect fit. Everyone from my era was having kids at this time, and we ALL hated pastel onesies and the likes, so black metal baby clothes was what had to happen. It just blew up from there. Then, of course, like all good ideas, everyone knocked off my stuff, but we’re still the original all-heavy metal baby clothing company, which just saying it sounds hilarious!
|Mark DeVito with son Aidan|
Well, actually, I am “currently” still a graphic artist. LOL! I started drawing when I was a kid, and grew up around a bunch of rockers, so most of the first designs I was doing (while learning) was copying all the band’s logos on people’s army jackets, leather jackets, denim…whatever! Everything from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath. Then, I fell into the local bay area thrash metal scene, by drawing flyers, painting backdrops, designing logos and shirts for bands like, Legacy (now Testament), Exodus, Laaz Rockit, Ruffians etc. I have been going to concerts since I was 13 and have always been, and remain, a huge fan of metal music.
I got to meet Metallica at a lot of their house parties, and wound up designing shirts for them back in ’88 and have done projects for them for over 23 years now. Since, I’ve worked for bands like Anthrax, Slayer, Slipknot, and now have been working for Motörhead for the past 5 years. I’ve designed their last two album covers [Motörizer and The World is Yours], and design a majority of their t-shirts.
I have worked for a lot of companies and as an independent (for over 27 years now), and have enjoyed working with most of the top Metal and Hard Rock bands in the world, and it is an honour, to be certain. I always loved t-shirts, mostly because I would go to so many shows, that I started to collect a shirt from every show I would go to. I think it just became an obsession to be able to be involved with the bands I grew up with…it was either that or become a pizza chef. LOL! [We are glad you are not a pizza chef!]
|Queensryche 2008-2009 World Tour - women's shirt design sold throughout tour|
|Twisted Sister - World Tour shirt - used for stage backdrop and website logo/main page graphic|
That’s very nice of you to say…That one was always my favourite, and for some reason, there is something that is in the universe that prohibits the one you like the best from ever being popular, so there it is. I’ve only printed that design twice (took it on Ozzfest and it did really well), but it sits on the vine on the website, un-purchased! LOL!
I tell everyone that I came up with the idea as the result of three combined existences: love for metal music, sleep deprivation due to a new baby in the house, and a great deal of caffeine. I’ve always loved parody, and that was my first shirt for Metallica - a parody of the Capn’ Crunch box, “The Capn’s of Krunch” I’m a huge fan of comedy movies, the goofier the better, and music is my life, and since I can’t play a note on any instrument, I draw for bands, instead. Gary Holt (long-time friend and guitarist for Exodus) actually called me up with the idea for “For those about to Walk”! He’s a very funny guy; loves tongue-in-cheek stuff like me - the minute you take yourself too seriously is the point in your life where you lose your identity. I never take what I do too seriously, and hope that in my designs I help the bands laugh at themselves a little, because life is one big running joke, and death is the punch line. [Ha!]
|My unborn niece/nephew will be getting this.|
|Metallica 1988-1989 World Tour - Crew shirt design - used for tour laminates, posters and patches|
It comes and goes, as anyone can tell you, ebbs and flows. I’ve been doing music art for over 27 years, and Metal Babies has been going for nearly 10 years, and when you get a bit of recognition for anything you do, it’s a blessing. It’s not why anyone does what they do (or it shouldn’t be), because we do what we do because we love it, not to get accolades. And actually, we’ve only had one negative response from a media source, and that was because we were somehow lumped in with a very vulgar line of baby clothes, and they were an extreme right news organization. My mother-in-law is a pretty religious, and I have her seal of approval, that’s good enough for me.
|Heaven & Hell - Retail shirt design|
I grew up around a lot of music, both my parents and neighbourhood friends. I was always the youngest in the crowd, as I loved hanging with the older kids, because they listened to the cool music. I would be taken to shows by the older kids as a sort of “novelty”, like “look how young this kid is and his going to AC/DC or Aerosmith”…and I LOVED it. I started going to big rock concerts back in ’79, then when thrash metal started in the Bay Area, it was right there, and I went to as much as I could afford! It was more than just the music, it was a scene. It wasn’t Rockstars and groupies, it was friends and brothers. It wasn’t arenas and venues, it was bars and clubs. You would find yourself standing in between Paul Baloff (R.I.P. of Exodus) and James Hetfield, and they’d be arguing over who was heavier, “Tank or Warlock?” and they would drag you into the conversation to settle it! We were all friends and saw each other socially every weekend for years. There would be the same 20-30 kids at these little dives to see our friends play music, and when we blinked, they were playing the same music, only in coliseums and to 15,000 people!
I try not to impose too much on my kids, as kids are their own people, and are brutally honest when it comes to what they like and don’t…like broccoli. Though, I will tell you this. My daughter had her assessment for Kindergarten, and the teacher asked her to sing her ABC’s. My daughter, Wylder, refused. The teacher asked her, “Don’t you like to sing?” To which my daughter said “Yes!” She asked her to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Wylder yet again, refused. The teacher started to give up and then said, “Why don’t you sing a song YOU want to sing?” That’s when Wylder turned, stood up and started belting out, Highway to Hell. I gotta tell you, I’ve been proud of very little in this life but that day, I blushed with pride. LOL!!! My son loves AC/DC, The Ramones, L.A. Guns Never Enough and Humble Pie. He also listens to Fitz and the Tantrums, the Ravonettes and various Hip Hop stuff, and I just love the fact that he loves music. I recently designed a drum kit wrap for Mikkey Dee of Motörhead, and he [Aidan] really wants to play drums, so I think I’m going to be able to hook him up. Wylder asked for a little acoustic guitar, she loves AC/DC, Ramones and Gary Moore…so there’s that. LOL! [Parenting done right!]
|Mark DeVito's children Wylder and Aidan|
I work for Tinman as their art director, and Metal Babies is my side venture that I had before coming aboard Tinman, and I brought it over to Tinman as they run their webstores extremely efficiently and honestly. I plan and hope that I can grow along with Tinman, designing for our bands and giving them the level of service that we are proud to be able to offer. We’re as big as the big guys, just smaller. Seriously, we’re an independently run company doing good work for our clients, and every customer is important, like it should be.
The future for Metal Babies? Well, I have a couple of ideas to expand a bit, working on a book, friends and I are putting a documentary together about some of the art department experiences we had working at Tower Records, lots of things to keep me busy these days.
Would you like to add any last words for our readers?
Listen to what you love and learn to do what makes you happy, not what is to make you money. The money will come once you’ve done the first thing and then the money will not be as important. Stay true to yourself, your friends and family and you will not fail.
|Journey 2006 Tour - Main tour shirt / dateback|
For more information on Mark DeVito and his works of awesome Art please click here.
To access the Tinman Merchandising company or to view the Merchandise catalogue, please click here.
I have to admit that this is one of the more entertaining interviews that I have done in a long time! A grand thanks to Mark DeVito for doing this interview!