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June 21, 2005

{     Interview : Rockin' Jelly Bean     }    

Rockin' Jellybean is an enigma shrouded in mystery, wrapped in a Mexican wrestling mask. As frontman for the band Jackie and the Cedrics, he has been shaking up the Japanese garage scene for years, and his love of rock and roll is only trumped by his love of the female form. When RJB puts brush to canvas, or pen to paper, what emerges are some of the most titillating and visceral images imaginable. Hot-rod babes, stoner girls and sci-fi chicks, all rendered in a style that is equal parts underground comic and pin-up cheesecake. He draws from a vast pool of influences, though his work is unquestionably his own.

Crown Dozen: I first became acquainted with your work in 1997 after picking up the "Tokyo Trashville" compilation cd you worked on. I have to admit, I was drawn in by the cover art alone, having heard of only one band on the comp (GuitarWolf). I was blown away by what I heard and by the boner-inducing artwork you provided. Little did I know that I was also hearing your work, as Jackie and the Cedrics were featured on that album. You make the transition from rock star to hepcat artist look easy, but with the more recent formation of The Chopsticks, all the personal appearances you put in, and the increasing demand for your artistic talents, you must absolutely work your ass off! How do you do it? Are you even human, or some kind of cyborg sent here from the future to show us what cool really is?
Rockin' Jelly Bean: Yes, that's right! Definitely!

You get respect from a lot of the big names in lowbrow art, and I know that a lot of these guys are people you came up admiring. Who has been your greatest influence in terms of art/illustration?
In Japan, sometime ago, I did not have a particular style of art. Then, one afternoon, I found a small picture by Robert Williams in a magazine, a picture of a devil in the Vietnam War. I was surprised to see "reality" and "fiction" in one illustration. To me, it felt like a mixture of "art" and "cartoon". Then I made up my mind. This was the way I wanted to create my own artworks! So I think the most influential artist for me is Robert Williams.

Who have you been most impressed to meet in person?
I have met several great artists when I came to USA. The two I remember most fondly are COOP and VON FRANCO. First is COOP. He's the absolute artist. The first time I went to his house, I was surprised! It was like a treasure box full of junk. His garage had like a Thunderbird based Hot-Rod that was something I have only seen in books. And I thought....... I wanted everything in there! When I talked to COOP, he said that he created many artworks to earn money, yet afterwards he doesn't want to draw so much. But now Devil girl is such an icon for his art. A trade mark he created that defines his art style. Coop is one of the greatest "pop art" artists to me.
Next is this guy Von Franco. He looked intimidating to me at first. I later learned that he is a very cool and kind-hearted person. When I would visit his house, he would always show me how he designed these fantastic images with his big clumsy hand. Most importantly, I learned a lot about the spirit of an artist from VON FRANCO. For me, he is the greatest artisan and also my "art soul" master.
So these two guys are the artists I am most impressed with.

You have done a lot of work for the Velvet Hammer burlesque troupe, and every picture I've seen you in shows you surrounded by beautiful women. Plus, your wife is absolutely gorgeous! Does it ever get old? Do you ever have a hard time painting or drawing yet another lusciously curved woman?
It's very hard for me to draw charming and attractive women. So....I always have hard time when creating new artwork.

Do you ever find yourself sneaking peeks at fully-clothed women, just to get a sense of perspective?
Yes. I did it too much! So now and then, when I see a woman going up the stairs in front of me, I can sometimes sneak a peek at her panties to satisfy my curiosity. Anyway... I'm always looking for any inspiration for my art. It's not only from women but even dogs, cats,... anything! My total environment and all that I see in it, is my source of inspiration!

Burlesque has been booming these past few years, and the once lost art of the striptease is no longer forgotten. Your artwork caters to a specific audience, one that can appreciate the revival of the pin-up girl image. Despite the fact that it's a renaissance era forlovers of the female form, do you ever get any backlash from the politically correct crowd?
I have received no negative feedback yet. It's just my style with no strings attached or instructions on how to appreciate or not appreciate lowbrow art.

On the flip-side, have you noticed an increased interest in your work following this trend?
I have not ever felt like that so far. In fact, I don't believe my art, my music, or anything about me is trendy.

I am in love with the Barba Rockets! While you're drawing from some pretty established pools of influence with this concept and design, they definitely have their own thing going on. How did this idea occur to you, and what's in store in the future for these three sultry spacewomen? Please tell me that more animation is in store!
I had thought about this idea from long time ago. I think the BRP is not so special of an idea. It's almost normal that three girls become heroines. Of course I got some ideas from Charlie's Angels, Power Puff Girls, the Jetsons and stuff like that. But, unfortunately I don't have anything in store for the BRP. My friend Mike @ Erosty Pop has received some contacts of interest in turning this idea into a series or feature film. About a year ago, he was discussing with Rough Draft Productions to do something. Nothing happened though. Mike is now talking to some guy who used to work for Warner Bros. I leave it up to him. Mike is strict controller of Erosty Pop Los Angeles and my body guard sometimes!

When it comes to sci-fi, what are your favorite sources of inspiration (movies, music, artwork, etc.)?
The movie Barballera and much of the poster art from the 60's, are favs of mine. Including SF movies and cover art from SF based magazines (like fantasic adventures, amazing stories) are additional favs as well. Just about everything from the 60's era is cool with me.

You seem to have been a powerful force of influence in bringing hot-rod and custom culture, greaser tunes and surf music to the forefront of the Japanese music and lowbrow artscene. What are your thoughts on the state of this "movement"?
I'm not exactly that kind of artist. I like old cars, hot-rods and just about everything Ed Roth has done, but it's just one of my favorite things. You know? I do not think of myself as some guide or piper leading some kind of movement. I'm just expressing myself through art and music. That's all!

You're at the top of the heap when it comes to the garagey 50's-60's pop-noise Japanese sound, and some may even say you have single-handedly engineered the burgeoning Japanese garage movement. The "Jellybean's Jumpin' Jukebox" compilation is one of the most widely circulated touchstones for Japanese garage music in the US.

Recently this scene has been getting a lot of attention in the mainstream media. This coincides neatly with the 5,6,7,8's appearance in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill". Looking back on what "Pulp Fiction" did to revive interest in the American surf scene, do you see the same kind of exposure and success in store for J-garage, or is this just 15 minutes of fleeting mainstream fame?
I don't know what people in US are thinking about it, but for me, I do it just because I want to! All my friends in Japan playing in these types of bands, like the 5.6.7.8's, are not thinking anything about the trend. They just do what they want to do, just like me. Consciously, we never try to belong to this so-called trend. So, I have some reservations when being called trendy.

I'm curious- how do you feel about Tarantino's role as the round-eye champion of Asian culture? Whether I want to admit it or not, he's the reason a lot of people in the US were able to see films like Chunking Express or Iron Monkey and his latest film delves rather deeply into some staples of Japanese underground culture. You have strong roots in this scene, and I'm wondering if you see his influence as positive or negative, whether you view him (and other American artists who aren't above appropriation) as a huckster getting by on someone else's hard work, or a true fan just trying to spread the love?
I love old Japanese underground movies and culture. I do not feel too happy that Tarantino borrows this style in a superficial way, to produce a so-called Hollywood movie. Also, I feel saddened that Japan couldn't make a big and great movie influenced by our proud culture before Tarantino did it.

How do Japanese groupie-girls compare to groupies in other parts of the world?
No comment!

More than any other artist I know, (excepting maybe Los Straitjackets) you have embraced the culture and mystery of the luchadore. The Mexican style of wrestling has migrated over to Japan, forever infusing their performances with a flair for the dramatic, an air of the unknown, and a love of the mask. Like the great Santo himself, you have brought this drama and mystery out of the ring, making it a part of your everyday life. How did you first become acquainted with the lucha style?
To be totally honest, I'm not the lucha-crazy type fan or anything. But, I can appreciate and respect the heroic, mysterious, and sometimes comical demeanor of luchadores. So, I wanted to merge this enjoyable style into mine as an artist. But, more importantly, I sometimes notice being an artist is a serious thing. There would be no fun if it's just work to me. So, I found wearing my mask at the shows and certain appearances to make things funner. Also, because I don't need to comb my hair or shave my mustache!

Who are your favorite luchadores?
Santo, Mil Mascaras, Doscalas, and Destroyer.

The website we're interviewing you for chooses to focus on artists who are committed to being accessible, whether by offering inexpensive prints, affordable merchandise or a down-to-earth sensibility in general. You possess all three of these qualities. How important is it to you that an Average Joe can afford to own one of your pieces?
I just want cool boys & girls to have cool t-shirts and posters! My friends Mike @ Erosty Pop LA and Isobe @ Erosty Pop Japan worry about the prices and business side of it all. I just focus on creating beautiful art!

You have some amazing toys available, the Barba Rockets action figures are devastating (and I'm willing tomow your lawnfor a year for a complete set), and TheOysters set from Sony Time Capsule captures your style well. They also give those of us withless dougha way to bring home a real piece of the Jellybean experience. How are you feeling about these toys? Any plans to offer more? Are you into the vinyl and capsule toy scene at all, and if so- who's stuff do you love?
I'm not a toy collector... But, I do love toys! Actually, it was a dream of mine to make my own original toys. The Oysters and 6" Griffin will be available in the US market soon. I don't really have any favs of toys, I just love to play with them!

I'd also like to give a shout out to Mike Brazee for facilitating this interview, and a huge thanks to the multi-talented Momo for her invaluable assistance. (and for being so damn cute!)

    » Erosty Pop LA

    » Erosty Pop Japan

Comments

I, too have been a fan of RJB ever since his "Tokyo Trashville" cover. It was so damn sexy! As soon as I got a chance, I scoured the web looking for more images and info, but came up with very little. Let me tell ya...I praised God the day I found his original Erosty Pop site!

Posted by: Al aka El Negro Magnifico at May 28, 2004 1:42 AM

la verdad no ablo mucho ingles pero melatio mucho su pagian esta muyyyyyyyyyy chingona ademas deque tiene un muy buen contenido yo soy diseñador grafico y ago graficas para skateboard ademas deque tengo un colectivo de arte yamado df en kaos ojala les podamos mandar algunos de nuestros trabajos de la gente latina de mexico ok saludos y que viva mexico cabronesssssss.....

Posted by: jason one at November 3, 2005 3:25 AM

esta poca madre tu pag felicidades

Posted by: martin fernando at January 16, 2006 1:00 AM

yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh¨*

Posted by: postal at February 27, 2006 3:43 PM

manden mas dibujos de esos estan bien chacas

Posted by: luis at March 25, 2006 12:16 AM

excelente graficos. Saludos. Wikiki Bar

Posted by: wikiki at October 6, 2007 1:14 AM

Were can i buy erosty pop t shirts.

Posted by: Brett at November 15, 2009 5:20 PM

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.

Thanks

Posted by: Beetadvot at April 1, 2010 10:15 AM
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