I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with designer Luke Williams ahead of his zine, “Cave Homo” release. We spoke about how he came to be involved in the project and how he along with skateboard legend Brian Anderson and photographer Christian Trippe combined their talents to create an innovative, fresh product and a show that brought another side of Brian Anderson to the world.
Many may know Brian from his years as a professional skateboarder, a world cup holder and Thrasher’s skateboarder of the year in 1999. Some may also know him as one of the few openly gay athletes in the professional sporting world, coming out last year in a groundbreaking Vice documentary. But what you might not know is that he also has a passion for art and design, both were on display at the recent pop-up for CaveHomo’s debut.
But more about that later… first let's go back about six months and look at what it took to get this baby born.
"I have been a designer for a few years, used to have blue collar jobs, went back to school in my late twenties. Did the 9 to 5 thing but started feeling like that is great, but its a different kind of creativity, not something you can take full ownership of, people are always dictating to you what you can and can’t do. So, I started looking for a personal project, a lot of people flaked out, or just weren’t up for it.
"When Christian (Christian Trippe) came to town on a six-month contract, we had met a year or so before, I said we should do a project together. So just off the top of my head I said we should do a zine, do a photoshoot and find a way to make the photography interesting, process it, give it different graphic treatments, break it up a little bit. I said 'We should do a tattoo zine on Brian Anderson, he’s a friend of mine and he is covered head to toe in tattoos.' Christian was staying in a photographer’s apartment that had a lot of backdrops, strobes, etc., all the equipment we needed. Brian showed up with three or four outfit changes and a leather mask which was kind of just a goof. We just did a bunch of things, took about 900 images. Brian also brought a bag full of hundreds of personal polaroids and his own sketch books.
"Immediately it turned into something different so we had to come up with an idea of how we were going to treat all this information and how we would process this whole thing. It took forever to go through the images and decide which ones we were going to use, really we had enough material to make a book but I don’t think any of us had thought that far ahead yet. We started just chopping away at it and putting stuff into layout and we came up with what this would eventually be. So it's sixty pages we ended up with, basically thirty spreads that you can look at for awhile because each is either this amazing image or it's full of drawings, or full of polaroids, the most concentrated, best stuff we could put in there. So really it was my idea and I pulled Christian and Brian together during those photo sessions. We ran a lot of stuff past Brian and we would always check with him to make sure he was cool."
And what about that leather mask?
"It was heartbreaking to me, stopped me dead in my tracks. I walked away for a few months because initially Brian didn’t seem all that super excited about them (the images) and said that he didn’t want to use any with the leather mask at all. And I was like, fuck, there goes my motivation because those were my favorite ones. The minute I saw the mask image that became the cover. I said, 'That’s the cover.' I called him, took me months to bring it up because I didn’t know how to address this stuff with him. I just ran it by him again, I mocked up a cover for him and said 'Look, I think this is what this should be, what do you think?' He said 'Its awesome.' Now the image is flipped upside down because it is Cave Homo and he is hanging upside down like a bat. Really, if he had said no, I don’t think I would have continued doing this. That specific image is the one I liked the most and it was the center of all my energy in the project."
How did you choose the name Cave Homo?
"On one of Brian’s sketchbooks that he gave us he had written in giant orange marker on a black notebook, CAVE HOMO. The minute I saw that I said, 'Well thats the title.'
"Brian was able to express himself in the photos in a way he has never been able to do before. I think that was powerful for him and I think that is why he has been so into it, because he didn’t have to be a skater bro, a role model... just creative. It’s not like Brian walks around the street in a leather mask. There has been criticism, people saying 'Just shut up and skate.' 'I don’t care if you’re gay.' 'I don’t talk about being straight.' This allowed him to express himself in a new way, just be free."
"This has been a huge project for me. It allowed me to come to terms with some of my own struggles, process and get out a lot of my own anger and some of the things I have held on to since childhood, which I did not expect. It has been an emotional weird journey for me getting rid some of the frustration I had been holding on to for a long time. This has really helped me with that in a big way along with being a huge creative outlet. It has been a giant learning curve for me. The project is completely self-funded between Christian and me. It went from a shitty tattoo zine, black and white, that turned to color and a much deeper story. I recently found out I have Lyme Disease so I have also been dealing with that while finalizing the zine. Luckily I have had Christian who has been published before, by my side. I have kicked things and I swore a lot, but this has been really great!
"I never thought that I would be working with a childhood hero. I never thought I would be working with another designer/photographer that I respected. I used to sit in my work truck and doodle, draw and dream about a day that I could do something like this, and it’s finally happened."
And now we are back to Brian Anderson and his own creative talents. He paints and sketches in his spare time. He does design work for Nike and his skating line and is active in choosing the artists that work on his team. Several of his original paintings were on display during the pop-up weekend.
If you would like to purchase a copy of “Cave Homo” - a limited edition of 666,