Jeremy Fish loves a good story. And every seemingly random character and spooky animal crest he creates fits in somewhere - from skull-carrying bears and gun-slinging owls to smoking whales and silly pink bunnies. Born in New York in 1974, Fish moved to San Francisco, California in 1994 to attend art school and fell in love. Nowadays, he wouldn’t live anywhere else. Known to his friends as the King of North Beach, he works like a maniac on a diet of coffee, beer and the “occasional well done burger”. I caught up with him between shifts.
You've been interviewed a lot. Surely there's one golden Jeremy Fish nugget you've waited ‘til now to share with the world?
That I’m a nice guy.
Okay... Where did the name King of North Beach come from?
Umm, my friend Lizzy, I think. I used to joke with her about it. Now I actually hope to one day be the king of the greatest neighbourhood in the world. I think Aesop (Rock) refers to me as the K.O.N.B. as well.
The bio on your site suggests a mad, bearded hermit fuelled by coffee, churning out new work like a human art machine. Is that the reality?
Right. And how do you take your coffee?
Espresso and a ‘lil cold milk - because I’m lukewarm.
What have you got going on at the moment? What’s nearing completion?
I’m hard at work on my next show. It’s at the Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC this June. This body of work's all about capturing other people's stories and archiving the art of storytelling. Nowhere near completion sadly.
What kind of music do you work best to?
Hip-hop. Instrumental stuff for brainstorming and aggressive lyrics when I’m drawing or outlining shit.
Do you design your own tattoos, or is that like a band wearing their own shirts?
No, I don’t design my own tattoos. They’re done by Grime here in San Francisco. I don’t wear my own tee shirts either. Each year I get better at drawing. I don’t want to look at my weaker drawings on my body when I’m an old man. Onward and upwards.
What kind of art do you spend money on?
Concert and movie tickets. Finely crafted meals. Artistic beer.
How do you feel when you see someone else’s work and it’s obvious they’re a huge fan?
Go for it, just send me a percentage of your sales.
What’s the difference between influenced-by and a complete rip?
A subtle nibbler vs. a full blown biter.
Have you ever had a great story and struggled with the actual piece, or the other way around?
Constantly. Usually people don’t have any idea what the story is I used for inspiration. So if the image isn’t strong enough on its own, I failed. Sometimes I can see the story and all people see is a busy, weird piece of shit. It’s a struggle.
Where do all the stories come from, sounds like an animated show in the making?
My life, my bros’ lives, some dude I sat with in a bar, something from a movie, something from a song. Mostly personal experience...