Paper Rad is a three-person cyber tribe made up of brother/sister duo Jacob (29) and Jessica Ciocci (30), and Ben Jones (29). Though originating in Boston, they geographically traverse the Bermuda Triangle between Pittsburgh, Providence, and Western Massachusetts; a rare photo of them on their website shows them looking like Super Mario Brothers characters who have just liberated a thrift store of all its crazy-patterned and fluorescently colored items.
These are the "facts" about Paper Rad, but more important are the fictions, which are contained in their 2005 artist monograph-ish BJ and da Dogs and their new extended comic Cartoon Workshop/Pig Tales (both on PictureBox Inc.); and in TrashTalking (Load Records), an eyeball-searing DVD of vignettes released in summer 2006. A peep inside the Paper Rad-iverse reveals comics of Garfield in a wheelchair doing graffiti and Howard the Duck visiting a strip club, seizure-inducing Flash videos of Gumby having LSD daydreams (set to mind-fuck cell-phone techno), fonts last seen on Mac SE computers, and jokes about CD-Roms, ancient Egyptians, and nuclear holocaust.
"What is crucial to Paper Rad can never be captured in time or space, nor a big sticky Velcro net," says the collective, who chose to answer our questions together, like the giant, pulsating brain of postmodern psyche-out that they really are.
XLR8R: Has anything supernatural ever happened to you in the process of making art?
Paper Rad: I once drew a picture in my sleep. The paper was by my bedside and I picked up the marker and drew a mysterious doodle, a doodle from another world. I think experiencing art and pure creativity can be pretty weird and powerful and supernatural, but it's the most natural force in the world which we must harness for the good of the future.
How do you work together? It seems you collaborate, but you each have your own characters that you work on, such as Tux Dog...
It's like the Wu-Tang: Someone might make a beat, then others come in and layer other elements on top, then we all get stoned and shoot a gun on stage. Each of us is developing characters all the time. Tux Dog [a tuxedo-wearing dog] is nearly 20 years old. He is open-source now and free for anyone to use. In the beginning, each character was more played with by everyone, things were more mangled and confused and fun and fucked with–we were all exploring ourselves and each other. It is still like that but each person's style or character is more defined. I think that is a natural progression.
How old were you all when you got your first computer and what programs were you most hyped on?
Ben was 11 and he had a PC clone running DOS; he was into King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Word Perfect, and using BASIC to program text-only adventure games full of invisible amulets, troll encounters, endless ladders into the sky, and always a scary green bag of potion. Jessica and Jacob were 13 and 12 when they got a Mac SE. They were hyped on Hypercard, Dark Castle, Super Paint, Frogger, and Mac Drums.
A lot of your work has to do with interacting with stuff from the past: old computer applications, VHS tapes, Gumby. Are there any things from the present that you really identify with?
We are mainly interested in timeless beings or objects that transcend their earthly form. However, you could say that the way we construct narratives, the tools we use, [and] the language we use to express things is all informed by contemporary culture. The things we choose are very specifically things we do personally feel a connection to, generally a positive connection–for instance, Garfield and Gumby. It is important to be yourself in making art; i.e. dig inside to find those things that mean something to you–specifically you–and that is what other people will strangely respond to.
Is rave culture going to come back?
For us, the rave set a new myth-standard in our lives. When we perform live on tour, or create immersive environments, we strive to achieve an experience equal in power to that of a rave.
There have been great warehouse parties all over the United States recently; however, 75% of the people in attendance would hate to think of them as raves, even though they may be illegal, last all night, and for the most part the music is abstract electronic dance music. We like to call these parties "raves" because it is interesting and funny to mix up cultures–people get so caught up with definitions, they lose touch with what is really important: having fun, making jokes, confusing people, transforming nothing into something.
That said, it is Paper Rad's opinion that raves might be back but that will soon herald the untimely resurgence of swing dancing so that we must order a pre-emptive strike on the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
What is your connection to raves/rave culture?
Our "rave" experiences [include] a winter solstice pagan outdoor thing in New Zealand, Boston jungle parties and Toneburst events, Microrave in Western Mass (two people dancing), a dirty-rap drunk dungeon party last year, a five-minute "rave" portion of Andrew Jeffrey Wright's set at his weekly dance party Cold Retarded in Philly, and many amazing DIY parties/shows where we have totally lost ourselves all night freaking out to tweaked, scary electronic noises.
I think it has been important to us to be a sort of "outsider" to many cultures and scenarios. Is this what made us able to make our "rave" video in 2002? If we were true ravers, we maybe wouldn't have thought of making a rave video, because we would have been too deeply imbedded in the memories and maybe embarrassed or something. It wouldn't have seemed "novel," to put it plainly, or "magical," to put it more accurately.
What effect has your environment had on your art?
Our environment's effect on us has been "art." Dungeons and Dragons made some of us realize as kids that we can make, be, and do anything, and we can do it as a group, independent of environmental factors like money or resources. All we need is our imaginations. If you see something wrong or messed up or untrue around you, you gotta do something creative about it to change that; that's how innovation works. What really excites you and is true or meaningful to you? Find that and go to that, and then do what you can to make it bigger and more powerful, so other kids can see it and find it, and the beacon light gets stronger. Find its most powerful, positive essence and contribute to it.
Are you shocked at how popular your stuff has become?
If by "popular" you mean "having more pimples" and by "shocked" you mean "gassy," then yes, it is kind of shocking.
Do you ever experience seizures or motion sickness while working on your videos?
Yes, when we are doing them in the car on the way to the show. We also feel sick watching them after the show because we are sick of seeing them.
What was the last fight you got in?
Two years ago one of us was the DJ at a friend's house party. There were some large fellows who requested something by a West Coast gangsta rap artist I had never heard of. They were offended by my lack of knowledge in this area. Things escalated (including me patting the largest man on the cheek) and I ended up on the floor with everyone screaming, and me knocked out, confused, with a black eye. Now I know who the artist was and I would like to say: Sorry to the guy that punched me, and Mac Dre R.I.P.
What do you like to waste time doing?
What do you feel you would like your art to do more of?
Bring people closer to the healing light of the Universe, or make vegan pizza for us.
Are you sure the password to the rave is "rave"?
Yes, but make sure you print this answer in invisible glow-in-the-dark ink. [We tried but the ravers stole it all. Sorry dudes. – Ed.]
"Live at Club Sandwich Summer 2006" Mixtape by Paper Rad
Trick Daddy "Shut Up"
Freak Nasty "Da Dip"
Bow Wow "Fresh Azimiz"
Hot Boy Ronald "Wobble For Me"
L.A. Style "Balloony"
Starski & Clutch "Late Nite Freaks"
Rod Lee "Put Ya Handz Up"
Lil' Troy "Wanna Be a Baller"