Ectoplasm: In the Art Studio with Incubus' Brandon Boyd

Visual artist and Incubus frontman

Seventeen years in the spotlight as the lead singer of Incubus have made Brandon Boyd understandably private, so when he invited the L.A. Weekly to his West Side, home studio for a glimpse of his creative space, I jumped at the opportunity. Boyd has been a visual artist longer than he's been a musician — drawing since childhood and more recently painting, so I was eager to talk to him about this less sensationalized aspect of his life — fine art.

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Boyd lives in a turn-of-the-century building that was once a brothel, but ghosts of unloved and underpaid harlots aside, the first detail I noticed were the shelves upon shelves of books, sketchpads, and drawing supplies that fill his living room. It had the comforting, lived-in feeling of an artist’s home. Prior to a tour of Boyd's kitchen-turned-painting studio, I kicked off the interview by asking about his current solo exhibition, “Ectoplasm,” open now through September 27 at the Mr. Musichead Gallery in Hollywood.

L.A. Weekly: How was opening night of “Ectoplasm”?

Brandon Boyd: It was good, especially for a first go. Nobody got hurt. This is my first solo show. All highly creative, intuitive, excitable people came. There was a cool buzz in the room. All of my friends who are artists were like, “You’ve got to wait for your solo show like it’s your virginity.” You’ve gotta wait ‘til you’re in love. [Laughs]

L.A. Weekly: How long have you been painting? Did visual art or music come first for you?

Brandon Boyd: I have been drawing and creating visual works my entire life, as long as I can remember. I’ve been painting more seriously over the past five years. Drawing is much more focused minutia. Painting, I realized early on… It's much more of a physical expression. Drawing and visual pursuits were first. Music came and found me in a way. Really what its about, is creative problem solving, and music is a lot more an expression of that than painting is for me. Music is a lot more like solving an intricate puzzle with moments of pure, random creative bliss… whereas painting is much more purely random creative bliss with moments of problem solving. It's the opposite. They are similar, just with circumstantial differences. I see them both as art, it's just choosing mediums. Each one is equally as fun and equally as challenging, but they offer just a little bit of something different. They're equally as important. I think if I didn’t do one, I would feel like something was missing. They key for me, especially getting further into my adult life, has been to learn to properly channel those energies when one rises up and wants to be heard.

L.A. Weekly: How did you decide what to include in the show? Is there a theme?

Brandon Boyd: There is a theme. There’s a thing I’ve been doing in my pen and ink drawings and I started taking it naturally into the canvas… It's these bulbous masses that are very organic looking and they turn and twist and fold. They go where they want to go. They are completely spontaneous and they get these beautiful, twisting, hair-like effects to them. So there was that natural tendency I was having. Then about two years ago the Met did a photography retrospective called “The Perfect Medium” that was on the spiritualist movement and they did a book about it. Basically, it was spirit photography and beautiful, haunting black and white images of mediums, spirits, people in séances and whatnot, from the turn of the century. I was fascinated by it. The photographs are really freaky. And most of them are quite obviously fraudulent, double exposures…

L.A. Weekly: Dark room manipulations?

Brandon Boyd: Yeah, stuff like that. Most people didn’t know enough about photography to know what they were looking at back then. They'd see a double exposure or a blur here and someone says, “That’s your uncle Peter who died in the war,” [laughs] like it's proof of the other world. For me, a particular fascination was of producing ectoplasm, the stuff pouring out of their mouths. They would use gauze or animal innards that they would hide when the lights were low, and they would distract with sounds and bump the table, and people would look at the table, they’d spit [the ectoplasm] out, basically saying, “This is the spirit world contacting us; this is the physical spirit matter.”

L.A. Weekly: What's the book called?

Brandon Boyd: It's called The Perfect Medium. It's photography and the occult. They started getting pretty good at these dark room manipulations so it literally stoked everyone’s imagination to the point where it created a movement. These images of the ectoplasm spilling out, I started to notice that the gauze stuff looks like what I draw. I really started looking into it and started incorporating those things. I started spilling them out of characters mouths and out of their ears… I found it interesting that the idea of a medium whose job it is to go into a trance and pull information of existence from a different plane or a different sphere into this world, is so much like the artistic experience. The creative experience is so little understood; I barely understand it and I’ve been doing it my whole life. It occurred to me that by doing these things and not knowing what I was doing, there was something else pushing through. That was really what comprised the series and that’s why I ended up titling it “Ectoplasm.”

“Ectoplasm” is open through September 27 at the Mr. Musichead Gallery, located at 7511 W. Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.

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