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ARYS Tokyo Talks is a monthly series that shines a light on our Tokyo network of creatives, artists and friends and family. Next to our base Berlin, we proudly call Tokyo our second home since the early days of our brand. You can find ARYS in interesting shops in and outside of the Tokyo concrete jungle and with this series we want to represent the people that help us, inspire us, and create their own story and legacy.
We start this series with German-born, Berlin-raised and Tokyo-based artist and illustrator Johnny Terror. Johnny made his dream come true and moved to Tokyo in 2019 to work on his career, find inspiration and cycle his way through narrow alleys and flashing street lights. We met the artist in early November to talk about his art, life, and everything Tokyo. Welcome to ARYS Tokyo Talks, Welcome Johnny Terror:
Hey Johnny, can you please introduce yourself to ARYS and our network?
I am a creator that goes by the name of Johnny Terror. The name is the product of massive consumption of 80s sci-fi films, comics and literature. I currently live in Tokyo. I have a deep fascination with the contrast between black ink and white paper and the drawn line itself. And I have grey-green eyes.
For those who are new to your work, how would you describe your art? Are you an illustrator, designer, or simply an artist?
I studied Visual Communication at the University of Arts Berlin. During that time I was part of the illustration class throughout all semesters. Academically and commercially speaking I am an illustrator. But I personally don’t put myself into a category. I like creating things. If those things are drawings on big pieces of canvas then at that moment I’m an artist, if I produce illustrations for a commercial client then I’m an illustrator and if I want to create clothing or sculptures or other objects then I’m a designer. I like the flexibility and freedom.
What made you move to Tokyo and what does the city mean for your work?
I was living in Berlin before and became bored by the rhythm of the city and its people. Everybody judges you and puts on a fake smile while they snort cocaine on the toilet of your gallery opening. I felt like I was stuck in a tacky 90s music video. Tokyo is different. People respect artists in a different way. Europeans tend to belittle artists and ask dumb questions. Japan has a very strong visual culture based mainly on manga. People who draw are seen as what they are: people who put energy into their passion. And let’s be honest, the food is better here, too.
You have done a few amazing projects already, can you please highlight us some of your favourite ones so far?
The first actual commercial project I took part in was also one of the nicest. In early 2016 I made a flyer for Acronym, which to this day is still one of the brands that I respect the most. I then went on to do a couple of commissions for Nike and Asics. I had many more clients that weren’t affiliated with the fashion industry but in my experience, I enjoy working the most with people or brands that make physical products or campaigns.
What are your plans for the future in Tokyo? Where is Johnny Terror heading to?
I will definitely continue to explore this city visually and artistically. My personal list of things for 2021 includes a wall mural, poster prints, small books and last but not least I want this city to be covered with my stickers. I’d like to bring some Berlin cheekiness to Tokyo.
What do fashion and functionality mean to you? What do you expect from your outfit and its design?
I see fashion as an extension of my identity as an artist. The areas I’m the most interested in are vintage military and workwear. Both have a degree of functionality and durability while being available at low cost and zero branding. I am an honest narcissist. I want to put my name everywhere and on everything. But I really can’t stand wearing things with openly visible branding. If you want to advertise your brand, make a poster. Don’t use the clothes I’m wearing as an advertising board for yourself.
In my eyes, an outfit needs to be minimalistic but futuristic/interesting at the same time. This goes for the choice of colors as well. A vintage piece like a Swedish army motorcycle jacket from 1961 will automatically have soul due to its age and will stand out with its massive durability. It can function as a visual stimulus from the past. A more modern piece can stand out with brutal minimalism (hidden buttons, hidden zip, no branding, synthetic fabric etc.) and thus can function as a more futuristic vision. All in all, I like it when fashion can bring me a sense of science fiction.
If our readers want to enjoy a Johnny Terror day in Tokyo, where should they head to, which places do they need to visit?
First of all, they need to get a bicycle. Nothing has ever been achieved or experienced by driving a car or riding a train. The day would start in my home district of Sangenjaya. Then down to Nakameguro to get a cold ginger ale at Breakfast Club, draw a bit, then onto the bike again. Uphill to Daikanyama to Tsutaya Bookshop. Look at graphic design books and take sneaky pics of the parts that I like (so I don’t have to buy the book, they’re all overpriced). Then back to Nakameguro for some udon noodles or straight to Sangenjaya for some ramen. After that, it’s straight back home to my desk. Sit down. Put on an audiobook or history documentary and draw until 02:30. Then sleep. And repeat.
Any last words?
Don’t focus too much on yourself while still focusing only on yourself. Keep your humor. Don’t pretend to be cool by not smiling. Ride your bicycle. Draw lots. Always remember it’s all just a simulation. Enjoy life. Don’t vote conservative.
Thank you a lot for your time