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Plastic Crimewave talks zines and photocopy machines

Plastic Crimewave, aka Steve Krakow is a graphic artist, musician and independent magazine publisher from Chicago. He is a psychedelic specialist, penning a bi-monthly comic strip ‘Secret History of Chicago Music’ for alternative weekly Chicago Reader.

The Gorilla Perfume team invited Steve to craft exclusive perfume labels, decorate the vintage Gorilla Perfume tour bus, and throw up multicoloured murals at the Shoreditch pop-up. Steve invites us into his apartment in the Ukrainian Village area of Chicago, to get inside his creative inspirations.    

In terms of your artistic set-up, where do you create your best work and does your inspiration come solely from music? 

I do my best work sitting on my bed with a drawing board in my lap watching movies. I have a very portable set up and can work anywhere. 

Tell us about a few of your favourite independent magazines?

Because of the Internet most of my fave’ zines have gone. I like obscure music ones like: Ptolemaic Terrascope, Black To Comm, Creem, Search and Destroy, and punk zines. Zines were the only way to find out about truly underground sounds, and were done by passionate and knowledgeable individuals.

What inspired you to start your own magazine, The Galactic Zoo Dossier?

All the zines I mentioned above were inspirational, but, mostly, I just wanted a way to showcase all the things I loved, like pop culture weirdness, comics and psychedelic music. Hand drawing and lettering is the only way I know how - having access to free copy machines helps a lot!

So when it comes down to you creating a strip, what sort of subjects get your creative juices flowing and where do you start?

My original artwork can often be a lot of photocopied elements created by collage and copy. The original ideas come from quite ordinary scenarios - during the night or on the bus. I’ll do a thumbnail sketch, and then I work out an idea in pencil and ink it all up. Sometimes, I work in pieces, shrinking down individual elements via copy-machines, collage, copy again and then draw over that.

The Galactic Zoo Dossier was influenced by the Chicago underground live music scene, tell us a little more about why it’s the best city for music?

Chicago is totally diverse and unpretentious scene with righteous basement shows, cool clubs, enthusiastic youngsters, oldies, and weirdos galore!

Where would you take us on a night out in Chicago?

One block from my flat is the swell Empty Bottle club, which has everything from metal, noise rock, free jazz to new trendy pop bands. The Burlington has a great sound system and The Hideout has a nice homey vibe, or I'd take you to a secret underground loft show.

What's next for Plastic Crimewave?

At last seeing the publication of two things that have been in the works for years: A collaborative comic book and record with Japanese hairy psych band Acid Mothers Temple called: ‘Plastic Crimewave vs Speed Guru’ on Prophase records. I’m also releasing a compendium of my Chicago Reader comic strips - I prefer to call them info-strips – on Chicagoan Press. The book is due for release this year and features over 200 bands that I’ve covered in the newspaper.

Check out more Plastic Crimewave over at PlasticCrimewave.com

Gorilla Incense graphic artwork
Plastic Crimewave hero artwork

'I just wanted a way to showcase all the things I loved, like pop culture weirdness, comics and psychedelic music.'

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