artist spotlight : Vincent Marcone of My Pet Skeleton

He is the name behind many award-winning artworks, films, music videos, and album covers. Vincent Marcone is also a musician, forming one part of a trio in the band Johnny Hollow, an outlet that encompasses his dark and eerie imagery. He is the director of many visual works including The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow and most recently The Lady ParaNorma. Vincent Marcone is a man of many talents and we caught up with him to talk about My Pet Skeleton: a world where beauty and horror combine to create a dark and emotional journey into your subconscious.

portrait : Vincent Marcone and Bailey Northcott
interview : Tasha Farrington

[ additional content not included in the October/November 2012 Issue ]

We are creating some images for this issue of Auxiliary. I was hoping you could explain how: we’re going to start off with a photo of you, then how you would go about layering and putting it together, and what kind of elements you’re going use to create the piece for Auxiliary specifically?
Vincent Marcone : Well for this project, it’s going to be a collaborative piece between me and Bailey [Northcott]. We’re going to take a lot of Bailey’s photographs and when it’s in my hands I’m going to work with it almost as if it’s a collage, and then try to paint the elements, and the lighting so that it feels like it fits well with each other. Then at the end of it I’ll paint all the textures. In this instance, this will be more of a photo illustration and the three of us have talked about the concept from the beginning and we came up with a caterpillar and Alice In Wonderland, our own kind of weird, twisted version. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out because we just finished the photoshoot, but it’s a good place to start. When you start with a concept it can go another direction, but it’s nice to have a solid, fun concept to start with and see where it goes.

Because of the otherworldly and ghostly aspects of The Lady ParaNorma, I was wondering if you believe in ghosts or if you’ve ever had an otherworldly experience?
VM : I am by nature very open-minded and I consider myself a true agnostic. Some people think of that term as someone who is on the fence, but I actually believe that an agnostic has the most scientific approach to life. You’re not sure, either way, and you’re open to it, and you need a little bit of proof. I’m very open to the idea of ghosts and I would never say that they don’t exist. I haven’t had 100% proof either way that ghosts exist, but I have had a weird experience. I want to preface this by saying that I’m not saying that there’s ghosts. When I was around 24, my parents had a house that was in the middle of a forest, that’s where I grew up. And it was a rather sprawling bungalow, lots of windows, and it was creepy to be in a house of that size by yourself. I went there because they were up at the cottage and they asked me to take care of the dog. It was my dog and it was a German Sheppard. I went there to feed and take care of her. She wasn’t allowed in the house, but when I was there, I brought her into the house. I had to get up for an exam early the next day when I was going to university, so I decided to bring her in. I went to bed. And when I was a kid, when I was really nervous, and I was really nervous because I was by myself in this house, I would keep the bathroom light on in the hall, so that from the bottom slip of my door I could see the light pour in. That would make me feel comfortable that there’s just a little bit of light. It was my version of a night-light. So I did that, I was 24 at the time. The dog, when it was allowed in the house, felt privileged and loved it. She would go to sleep right away. But that night she was pacing back and forth and she wouldn’t go to sleep and it was really odd. I had to really calm her down. And I just felt a little weird as well, and just kind of calmed my nerves and then I eventually fell asleep after the dog had calmed down. What felt like maybe hours later, but probably fifteen minutes, I heard from my right ear what sounded like a booming German voice. I thought it was just lucid dreaming so I opened my eyes and the voice stopped. And I immediately thought, okay, it was my clock radio, which was right beside the bed. I thought okay, I’m just dreaming, I can go back to sleep. But the moment I thought that, I thought I’ll just look at the light underneath the door. The light was gone, and the dog was up sitting. And my heart obviously just started going. So I went, very cautiously, to the bathroom to see if the light had burnt out, and the switch was actually flipped. So I thought, “fuck this, I love my dog, but I’m getting the hell out here.” So I put her back in her pen, and I locked up the house, because I needed to get sleep for my exam the next day and then I went into my car and it wouldn’t turn over. And I was like, “this is like a Friday the 13th film.” On the second try it turned over and I got the hell out of there. That was my experience, I don’t know what happened, maybe it was a complex layer of coincidences that to this day have reminded me of this story. That would be my experience.

I think anyone who has ever lived out in an old house can agree with that feeling.  When you were telling that story, I was thinking, “oh my god I do that all the time.” 
VM : Especially when you’re away from the city, a house tends to, I believe, make more noise. You really can hear everything. It breathes and exhales, you know. One thing that I do think about too, is that with all the people that have died you’d think there would be more and more ghost experiences happening. It doesn’t seem to go up exponentially.

You’ve said before that you keep a dream journal… could you share a recent dream that you’ve had?
VM : That’s a good question. This is almost trite, almost cheesy. I had a dream just a couple of days ago.  A year ago, when I was at Fan Expo in Toronto, I was fortunate enough to meet Victoria Price, who is Vincent Price’s daughter, and I’m wearing her shirt right now. She’s a wonderful woman, she liked my art and she even wrote me a little note that she’s passing the torch on to Vincent Marcone, which was really very sweet of her. I was illustrating a pop-up book for Vincent Price that he had done. It was a children’s poem. I was pasting, in a very haphazard kind of way, all these bits of imagery hoping that he would like it when I presented it to him. And the book was slightly falling apart and I was really trying to polish it up and fretting over showing it to him. That was one. I’ve had a lot of dreams about hybrids.  Like animals that are weird combinations of each other. That comes back to me a lot. And I definitely borrow that type of imagery and put it into my work.

When I was working on pitching you to the editorial team, I was going through my CD collection and realizing I had like four or five pieces of your art right there on these albums and I was wondering if you have a feel for how many people might come to you through your album art? Do you get a sense of that?
VM : I don’t really know how many, but I know that a lot of people discovered me through the CDs. In a way, they can be kind of calling cards to your artwork. That’s why I take the project really seriously when I do it. A lot of Jakalope fans have come to me through the CD art, and have looked me up because of it. When I was a kid, the album art was what first really hit me, and affected me. It’s nice to know that my work is doing that for other people. On the sadder side of things, is that now it’s starting to disappear. There’s a difference between having a printed CD or album in your hand and flipping through it and a thumbnail image of it on iTunes. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I think it’s going to disappear, the printed version of the CD. Hopefully it will kind of take a new tangible form, what that is right now, I don’t know, but we are moving digitally. It’s an evolution and we can still break those barriers creatively but there’s a sadness for me in that. There’s something about just lying on you bet and listening to the album you just purchased and reading the lyrics and flipping through the book regarding the artwork as you’re doing that. Sitting in front of your computer isn’t the same thing.

Can you tell us about some of the different collaborations you’ve done with regards to your album artwork?
VM : Another band that I enjoyed working with has been The Birthday Massacre. They are just wonderful people, really fun to work with, and I’m particularly very happy with the last piece that I did with them for their album Pins & Needles. The band is doing well, they’re very popular, especially in my niche, and people have come to me because they’ve found that cover. That was a fun piece to work on. Probably the most difficult music video that I’ve done, is a band called Hourcast. It’s a full-animated video about five minutes long. That was a project that took eight months. Fully funded by the band. Again, they were true patrons; they allowed me to do whatever I wanted. Me and my team put together an animation, essentially a short film for them for their song “Freeze”. And that was really incredible to have that kind of power, and to have the band have that kind of confidence, just do whatever, here’s the money. And they were really pleased with it at the end of it. That’s makes it worth it at the end of it, because taking eight or nine months of your life, which is pretty much a baby, it takes so much out of you, so when you get that kind of feedback back, it makes it worth it.

When I look at your album artwork, I really seem to get an essence of what the music is. You find that little spark that matches the work.
VM : I do really pay attention to the lyrics and I think about it and meditate about it and listen to the work. I think that’s maybe why.

Could you tell us about winning a Juno? How did that feel?
VM : That was a lot of fun. I put a lot of work into the Jakalope project in general, especially the first album. I was really pleased with that. And being a Canadian, and for other people who don’t know what a Juno is, it’s the Canadian version of a Grammy. When they read my name, it was surreal, and it was really fun and just a really proud moment. I’ve got the statue in my studio, I pet it every couple of days. I remember watching the Junos as a kid, and being there felt so surreal. Whatever you say about getting a trophy or an award, when you’re actually there to receive it, there’s actually something that’s really profound in a way, as an artist. At least for me, because I cocoon myself in my studio. So, to actually be immersed in a party of that magnitude, that kind of celebration, is shocking, and a moment that I won’t forget.

You’ve also won two Emmys, so you’re racking up the awards here. How does that feel?
VM : The last Emmy was for a project I worked for as a creative director for the National Film Board. It was a project called Out My Window. It was the first 360-degree online documentary, and it really received a lot of attention when it got out there. The first one was a project I worked with on ABC Family and Disney, a project called “Fallen”. It was a series of games in the form of an object called an “oculus” and we created a lot of high-end animations that would be projected for kids to take them along a journey that would go along with the TV show. Essentially these are art projects that are online installation pieces, I consider them more than a website. There’s more of a gaming element to it. Again, I feel like I’ve had a really great bunch of projects that I’ve had the privilege of working on. When you get a project you really put your heart and soul into it, and when you get to put your heart and soul into something you’re more likely to be noticed I think.

I’d like to ask what the best advice you’ve been given is? Or what’s something you’d like to share with those trying to aspire to what you are doing?
VM : I think the best advice I could give would be to discover and be sure that you do what you love. That’s not an easy thing to come up with: you don’t just necessarily know, it’s an exploration to find out what you love. Once you know it, my advice would be to do it a little bit differently than everybody else. Really polish your craft: because then it will be noticed. Then you’re adding to pop culture in a different way. Then it becomes unique and a positive force. I feel that if you do all of that, money and career and achievement will come to you. You need to be positive about your work for positive things to happen.

Is there anything in particular you’re hoping you can shout out to the fans, let them know about?
VM : I would like to encourage people to keep going to the Facebook page for My Pet Skeleton. That’s where I really talk to people. I will continue to be putting out limited edition prints out there. I’ve been doing time-released editions. That’s been something I’ve been getting into. What that is, your audience gets to control the size of an edition.  As a print maker, you would do maybe ten pieces or one hundred pieces. You would sign them, number them and then you would sell them. But now, with technology, with the Internet, time-released editions just started to kind of percolate. I love the idea because your audience controls the size of an edition. So within 24 hours or 48 hours I announce this print is available, here’s your chance to buy it. A number of people will buy it and that becomes the size of the edition. There’s something really democratic about that. There’s an interaction with my audience that I really love about it, there’s a lot of energy there. And it really makes them become a part of the work. I love the spirit of that. That is definitely something that I’m focusing on.

For more on Vincent Marcone visit

view the full feature in the October/November 2012 Issue

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