Jeff Gaither: Louisville's Demonic Dalí
"Could it be... Satan?"
- Saturday Night Live, the Church Lady
He draws scary stuff.
Jeff Gaither, a Louisville native, has spent over 25 years of his life creating wicked artwork for the masses. From his initial claims to fame during his teenage years of fan `zine publication, to the more commonly known Guns N' Roses artwork on Use Your Illusion, Jeff has proven his talent to the world and goes back to the drawing board every day.
Gaither has done artwork for such nationally known bands as the aforementioned Guns N' Roses, Alice Cooper, The Misfits, Insane Clown Posse, Sevendust, Van Halen (both for the band and David Lee Roth!), Human Buffet, Rat Fink (Big Daddy Roth), The Accused, The Undead, G.G. Allin and many more. (That sounded like a late night infomercial, didn't it?) This is in addition to local artwork as well. Oh yeah, did I also mention he designs furniture too? Not a bad resume for a self-taught artist who works from his home here in Louisville, eh?
What kind of stuff has he done? Just album covers, 7-inch records, CD inserts, T-shirts, DVD covers, web sites, posters, key chains, pins, hats, stickers, tattoos, costume jewelry or even coffin-shaped skateboards from the Misfits through East Coast Skates (a rather large Internet company.) That's all. You can find what you are looking for that special someone's birthday or anniversary. For Christmas, Jeff's wife Teresa gets a painting of Jeff's creations. See it all at www.gaithergraphix.com, or you can email Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details about online poster sales, etc.
Our interview took place on the "first free day" Gaither has spent in some months. (I can relate.) Let's do it...
So how do you get this... creative?
Gaither has a difficult path to trace when it comes to the main roots of his obsession with frightening designs. A difficult childhood may be it, if you subscribe to the Freudian school of thought. Another is his fixation on horror movies: The Exorcist, Dawn of the Dead and the Evil Dead series are at the top of his list. The classics are so forgotten.
True stories from the Gaither abyss:
* Here's a little tidbit to make you sleep better tonight. Jeff received a package in the mail once from Big Daddy Roth of Rat Fink. Coupons for free pizzas. Lots of them. Turns out Domino's was a sponsor for a Rat Fink tour, and Jeff did many pieces for Roth. Gaither and his family ate pizza for a very, very, long time.
* Gaither has a lifetime supply of Exacto knives (you know, those really sharp things that you used to sword fight with in high school...) from the father of the Misfits frontman, Joey Only. This aids in some of the art that Jeff creates for the band. It helps that the Proedge Exacto knife company is owned by the above mentioned father.
* Screw magazine, a hard-core, national porno magazine, ran a few cover designs by Jeff in the '80s. Part of the deal was an advertisement inside the issue for Jeff's work. It was an accident that his home phone number went public that month across the nation, due to a lack of proofreading on his part. Calls flooded the household for quite some time. One of those callers was from a woman who was interested in purchasing art from Jeff. The caller mentioned that a picture of her was on a certain page, and Jeff should see the woman he was talking to. A woman was nowhere to be found on the page given, but a transsexual was front and center! It seems the woman on the phone had a little "artwork" under the hood herself.
* The actual phone conversation almost never took place, since Gaither was too afraid to talk to the `shemale' and instead tried to steer the conversation through his wife before finally being turned over to him anyway. The man was calling from Sacramento, CA and was requesting information on Jeff's drawings for his club. The conversation ended when Jeff decided to have a little bit of fun with the fearful fan on the phone. The question, "What do I have to do to get a piece of your artwork?" was asked; and the retort by Jeff was, "Send me everything you own." This joke manifested itself on Gaither's doorstep a week or so later, as several large packages were delivered of just that: everything this guy owned! Albums, clothes, models, etc... A literal translation prompted a stunned Gaither to pick out a few albums and other items and ship the rest back to California, along with the artwork.
Jeff Gaither's fans come in all shapes and sizes, as well as different sanity levels. He has received mail from fans in prison and even received strange phone calls at home from unknown sources that lead to suspicion of certain government forces - who are fully aware of his communication with such figures who are more well-known than one may first imagine. One thing for sure, there is always a story to tell in this business.
The art ties directly into the music.
The two are so interlaced they are inseparable. Fans of the metal/punk/hard-core genre who can visual the faces of the band before thinking of the artwork or logo era are few and far between. Image sells, and people love to see eye candy in record stores. One is as important as the other, from a marketing perspective, as well as an artistic point of view. The art should match the sound, Gaither believes.
His wife Teresa has seen the last fifteen years of his career (both good and bad) through their marriage, and also as the bookkeeper for the freelance business. Jeff commented that he works from verbal "contracts," and that face-to-face communication is key. If someone does you wrong; your word of mouth will hurt them worse than their small gain. This is the idea behind the oral contract and the nature of people.
So it lives on, as Gaither continues to pound the pavement for exposure. Every artist just wants to be seen, but nonetheless these are down-to-earth people. His dog, Candy Ass Gaither, his cat Kitty and his new cat, Kitty II, remain in his office, watching Jeff doodle his way one step closer to where he wants to be. His kids also draw, which he seemed to take pride in. His wife also writes romance novels. Jeff is a huge wrestling fan. Jeff Gaither does business the way everyone should do business. Honestly, sincerely, fairly and out of love for what he does.
"I've been screwed so many times." Gaither admitted.
Art is his release, as music is for many of us. I feel it is safe to say that any one of us reading this article would go out of our minds if raped of our trade. Kidnapped instruments or art supplies or whatever. It would hurt badly, real fast. Music and art go hand in hand.
Check out the web site to see Gaither's designs for yourself.
Keep sending me your local band information and comments to JJKSLACKER@cs.com or leave me a message at (502) 262-8728. Keep rocking' Louisville!