Bianco Meets: Johnny Terror
I first met Finnian aka Johnny Terror when I randomly came across his Instagram page and got hooked instantly. I saw his illustration of an undercover ninja wearing a trench coat smoking a cigarette and knew that once again the internet presented me some greatness in the form of this young and talented geezer. His very own style always reminds me of an even darker version of Ghost in the Shell mixed with more loneliness and the right Neo Tokyo ACRONYM gear. Kind of the perfect set tho! After a couple of drinks, some good days at asian warehouses and him constantly telling me im an old guy that goes home way too early (after just a couple of drinks) I finally found time to ask him more about his work, inspirations and his very own ways of being a Berlin ninja.
Hi Finnian aka Johnny Terror. First of all who is Johnny Terror and when am i allowed to call you Finnian?
Hey Bianco, my mother was born in Dublin so I have both Irish and German citizenships. She decided to give her children Irish names, something that I am very glad of! So I'm Finnian and everybody can call me by that name. Johnny Terror or johnnyterror on Instagram is based upon bad 80s/90s trash film villains that I used to watch a lot when I was 19 and maybe even stands for my alter ego that gets really pissed off when my pen doesn't work or my hand slips while drawing.
For those who might not know you, who are you and what are you doing?
I'm no one. Just a ghost in the endless urban void. I feel useless when I don't draw or don't do something creative.
By looking at your illustrations i can clearly see some two major inspirations, but are there any inspirations and motivations in your drawings that my eyes might not have spotted or that were hidden somewhere?
There is always subconscious inspiration that you aren't aware of really. I would say that's Berlin, Films and Music. Also a lot of Science-Fiction stuff as well.
Lets stick with the obvious stuff now, whats behind your love and dedication for Neo Tokyo and ACRONYM?
Okay, that's a big one. This term Neo Tokyo started to form itself in my mind after having seen Akira, Bladerunner and reading Neuromancer. I went out and just started walking endlessly through the streets of Berlin equiped with nothing but a camera and a sketchbook. It's vision of architectural moments that represent a rather futuristic dystopia made of metal, concrete and aluminium. Combined with the aesthetics of 80s futurism and human footprints in the form of torn down stickers and posters this creates an urban jungle from which I take a lot of inspiration. This is where Acronym fits in. I first saw pieces by Acronym on a blog that I value a lot called Otakugangsta. It was the fashion component that fitted perfectly into this bizarre realm of Neo Tokyo. It just started to become part of this giant bubble of inspiration and will continue to be so.
How did this all start, when did you realise you are actually not the worst illustrator ever and when did you find your own style?
I cant remember when it started because I've been drawing for my entire life. I'm definitely not the best but also not the worst, so when people come up to me and say "How do you do that? What's your secret? Can you teach me ?" then there is just one answer to that. The longest I can do without actively drawing is about three days and even then i catch myself passively sketching around on restaurant bills or leaflets. If you want to learn something then do it everyday and after a while it will be a part of your life. If you can't do it everyday then it's not what you're meant to be doing. It's that simple. You find your own style in everything after a while because you start developing this unique view on things that only you can convert into creative work.
If you could choose 3 movies, books, albums or any other piece of media that resembles your style and inspiration, which 3 would you choose?
Okay, that's difficult but I'll try to make it simple. If you want to know what I listen to when I'm sketching cyborg stuff then go to the youtube channel NewRetroWave, if you want to know what I read before drawing with my brush pen then get Neuromancer by William Gibson and if you want to know what I watch before coloring my finished work then get yourself the Akira DVD.
Since we already talked about Acronym, is there any other brand or designer that you would chose from?
I only have Nike shoes although I'd really like a pair of NMDs and Y3 Qasas. I test brands for their ability to inspire me. Among those that have prevailed are definitely Stone Island, Y3, Visvim, Guerilla Group and Comme des Garcons.
You also design clothes by yourself, can you tell us something about that?
Clothing is very important to me since it's just another aspect of design and wearable art or rather a mask to illustrate your own persona. From time to time I sit down at my desk and try to get away from illustration and focus on how to expand into new areas. These include trying to make fashion pieces, desks, busts or sculptures. You look at your cupboard and think "yeah that's cool and all but what if it had an extra thing or I could open it over there". Then you take that idea to the wood studio in your university and there you go. It's insane how much we can accomplish when we close the laptop for a few hours.
You are also into fake designs which i also pretty like for numerous reasons, whats your excuse for recreating original stuff with a Terror twist?
This way of recreating things stems from the general learing curve of illustration or creativity itself. When I was younger I copied a lot of different drawing styles from my favorite comic artists and they combined gave me my own view on things. So when I found the fake nike logo with "anarchy" written in japanese above the swoosh I just started printing shirts for myself in my university since I couldn't find a store where I could buy those shirts. And when I got my first sowing machine I started sketching pieces that were strongly copied from Rick Owens. Why ? Well, why not. Just wear it for yourself but don't sell them. Seriously. Respect others copyright, respect their work. Don't be a cunt.
Besides illustrations and your designs, I know you really care for other topics as well such as politics and other smart ass stuff. Please let us know whats important for you when youre not drawing something.
I read a lot about history, it's just something that interests me. It just helps you understanding the people around you. I often watch or rather listen to documentaries while drawing. I'm surrounded by arab people, I eat at my favorite turkish restaurant, I know people of several religions, sexualities and ethnicities. Multiculturalism and anti-fascism are definitely things that are important to me on a personal level.
Would you rather be rich and have lots of time to illustrate or get rich by working a shitload of time creating your illustrations?
The simple yet frustrating problem with doing anything creative is the financial aspect. Being good at something does not in any way mean that you'll be able to make money with it. Though I must say that I'm really happy with how things are. Whenever I do posters using silk screen printing they immediately sell in just one week brings in a lot of money. I still work a student job in the theatre which keeps me from drawing 24/7 so yes, i would rather be awfully rich and have plenty of time. Furthermore then I would finally have time for such nonsense like 3D-printing my own action figures and using my drawings to create wooden statues.
Since you are also living in Berlin how do you rate living here and working as an illustrator?
Berlin has a huge variety of fascinating architecture to keep your creativity running. You can just plug in your headphone and start walking into any direction when you feel like exploring. You can go out have a drink and meet the most interesting and fun people. You can connect to other creative heads, big and small. And you can swim in this giant pool of different cultures that clash in the most amazing way. Berlin, je t'aime , you dirty alcoholic.
What needs to happen with Johnny Terror next?
I think Johnny Terror needs to take risks, do the unexpected, explore new areas. I'm planning on releasing a photography book which shows my architectural inspirations. Furthermore I'm constantly sketching out fashion pieces. I want to draw short films in the style of Akira or Ghost in the Shell. I could go on and on with my list of things I want to do. You get the point. Explore, thrive, survive.