Whtebkgrnd, an artist that currently lives in Portland, Oregon is the web developer of SPF420.com, along with being hands-down my favorite visual artist, ever. I feel that generally speaking, we don’t hear many words from graphic designers – as if they go unspoken, and speak their own language through visual art, but I decided to sit down with Whtebkgrnd and chit-chat with him about cute things (READER WARNING: THIS IS NOT LITTLE, BUT IT’S CUTE. WE TALK IN DEPTH ABOUT OUR PITCHES TO MCDONALDS, STARBUCKS, ALSO MORE FOOD).
Liz: What is your favorite flavor of Starburst? This includes all kinds, tropical, special berry fruit, etc
Whtebkgrnd: I keep it pretty standard when it comes to Starburst, except for chrery because that’s horrible. So, my favorite flavor of Starburst is 100% anything-but-cherry. Like, Hi, here’s some delicious candy, but also some medicine.
Liz: That’s how I feel about the pineapple kind though – I feel like it’s horrible. Just seems like they “had” to do something tropcial as an obligation to their fanbase, some polarizing shit we’ve got going on in this interview
Whtebkgrnd: I know right, like, how do you even go more juicy and tropical than original Starburst? “Oh, let’s pick out some of those reject fruits no one can actually believe grows on a tree anyway”
Liz: Do you consider yourself pure for liking the 4 original flavors, or do you consider yourself an ‘old fart’?
Whtebkgrnd: Well, I’d say pure, because old farts are totally the people who had their lives validated by all the red packs.
Liz: Would you ever give a 1-pound bag of cherry Starburst to your grandmother as a gift, or do you think that would be an insult to not just yourself, but also her?
Whtebkgrnd: I feel like that’s a great way to get a haunting. I mean, the woman probably has lived her whole life dealing with life’s disappointments, but when she opens the box and sees that it’s an only cherry bag, terrible thought.
Liz: Nick Carter vs. Justin Timberlake – who would you rather kiss?
Whtebkgrnd: Eee, I dunno, Justin totally has a better face to kiss. Nick looks way too cold and clammy when it comes down to it. I feel like Nick is the wrong part of the mall and Justin is the Nordstrom anchor
Liz: Like, Nick Carter is in the “Payless Shoes” part of the mall?
Whtebkgrnd: Not even Payless, I’d say knife store/fantasy supplies
Liz: A store with nag champa candles, dungeons and dragons statues?
Whtebkgrnd: Yeah, like, way too many things that do nothing, might have a cape or two and like more “do not touch” signs than actual products.
Liz: Yeah, but don’t you ever think, when you go to those stores, “Thank god this isn’t MY style”?
Whtebkgrnd: Oh yeah, I mean I’ve tried to go in all positive and be like, “Maybe I’ll get that cool dragon statue/letter opener”, but y’know how it is. That dragon thing was like, $199. No way in hell.
Liz: What is your favorite Fanta flavor?
Whtebkgrnd: Oh snap. Strawberry everytime.
Liz: Faygo flavor: Go.
Whtebkgrnd: Moon mist. I just found out there was a blue Faygo Moon Mist. Berries with a real kick!
Liz: Best quick response we could ask for over here at 1833. Moon Mist. The traditional. Maybe you’re right, Whtebkgrnd – we are not old, just… pure. What is your opinion on the Eminem Vs. Insane Clown Posse war that occured in the early 2000’s?
Whtebkgrnd: I thought it was very nice of Eminem to give ICP some of his time. They really put a lot of hard work into their shtick and for someone like Eminem (who has that Dre backing) to reach out was really great. I think it helped both of them a lot, and who knows, maybe we wouldn’t have miracles without it. Plus, there’s a Wiki specifically for Eminem Feuds.
Liz: Did you know, that ther really are miracles on Earth – they fixed their ‘beef’ by one of the members of D12 taking Insane Clown Posse out bowling. Do you like to go bowling?
Whtebkgrnd: I love bowling. I hate going bowling because I’m so good at bowling. Like, I can’t go out to parties because I’m always killing it.
Liz: What if I said, “Whtebkgrnd, I need bumpers”. Would you publicly shame me?
Whtebkgrnd: I would support you and your bumpers and join you for an awesome game. I really feel like bumpers are a legit option for a different take on bowling.
Liz: It isn’t about bumpers being “easier”, it’s actually a creative way to bowl, like, a zig-zag effect that in a traditional bowling game, would automatically lose. I think it’s good that you respect my love for bumpers. It ties into your art a bit, don’t you think? Do you ever bowl with bumpers and think, “Zig zags, or that weird line I just drew with this ball – I’m gonna draw this out on Photoshop?”
Whtebkgrnd: I do take in lots of zigs and zags and such wherever they may be, but mostly I take the inspiration from the food area of the bowling alley. Most are immaculate time capsules and that’s hella chill.
Liz: Other ‘food area’ or ‘restaurant’ imagery that affects you? Early 90’s Taco Bell? Chi-Chi’s? Pizza Hut, even the feeling? Does Dave And Busters do anything for you?
Whtebkgrnd: I actually spend a ton of time at Dave And Busters in Houston
Liz: What draws you to Dave and Busters?
Whtebkgrnd: It was like, down the road and I guess my dad liked going there too. I loved it, but I feel it lost it’s initial charm after a quick remodel. More importantly, was the building down the street from the Dave and Busters – which was a weird Memphis milano knock-0ff styled building. Just a strip mall kind of thing and some offices upstairs. Either way, I drove past that thing almost every day. It has a big fake cactus and it’s awesome.
Liz: What other restaurants or vibes draw you in to inspire you with your art?
Whtebkgrnd: Taco Cabana, old Wendy’s, and James Coney Island. Taco Canbana is so perfect a dude ripped it off 1-for-1. They haven’t changed a thing and their food is off the chain. Taco bell, on the other hand, has, let’s be honest – been letting us all down. Where’s the Salsa Verde Doritos Loco? What’s the deal? Killing the Volcano Taco, just another reason we can’t trust a restaurant that sells clothing. I’m looking at you, Hooters, and Hard Rock. I would look at Planet Hollywood but why even bother. Also, I think al two-story McDonald’s are inspirational.
Liz: Have you ever seen a two-story Wendys?
Whtebkgrnd: I think so, yeah, in NYC. I might be wrong and it was just like a few steps up or down. But either way, McDonald’s really knows how to work with more space. We should all treat McDonald’s with more respect. I think the worst part is the division of fast food now, it needs to unite. I alos think a lot of people would be ashamed to read what I’m saying right now.
Liz: I think my favorite accent to McDonald’s was in about, 2005, they had a baby grand piano inside.
Whtebkgrnd: Those were weird times, I feel like they were a bit bored right about then. But it was kind of great, almost every one from that time, I remember going in, was different. Don’t forget the Nintendo 64 stuff they put in, too.
Liz: During the Nintendo 64 era of McDonald’s, did you ever have to deal with broken machines? Seems like they were abused, and not well-taken care of. Felt like McDonald’s could have started an ‘arcade’ out of this, really extending their branding.
Whtebkgrnd: Yeah, they really dropped the ball on that one. Although I can’t really put all the blame on them for the run down Nintendo 64’s, their controllers were ripe for breakage. I mean, I had some controllers at home with the same problems and less child/hand abuse. But that’s why they make real arcade machines.
Liz: Have you ever been to a McDonald’s birthday party?
Whtebkgrnd: Yeah, thankfully, I attended many McDonald’s parties. I’d totally eat some shitty burgers and shakes and fries if I was playing videogames all day.
Liz: What is the LEAST amount of fun you’ve ever had at a McDonald’s birthday party?
Whtebkgrnd: I think I got taken to one and had to leave before food even happened. Like, why even bring me! That kid probably doesn’t even remember that I showed up.
Liz: What were your summer vacations like?
Whtebkgrnd: My summer vacations varied, I was basically sent to some form of camp until I was about 10, then it was staying at home. Texas isn’t fun in summer so it was inside, then a trip to the anime store, then back inside.
Liz: What was your average anime store trip like?
Whtebkgrnd: Brave the heat/humidity, get some Gundam model and dream of a day when they would actually have at least 1-full series on VHS to rent.
Liz: Is there any scent in particular from your childhood that still triggers you today?
Whtebkgrnd: Sadly, only zoo smell and Greek orthodox incense. Which are like, the lamest scent triggers.
Liz: Zoo smell seems like a sad association, do you feel sad when thinking about it, or like, nostalgic warmth?
Whtebkgrnd: Totally nostalgic warmth. Yeah, it smells like exotic animal dung, but you can springboard from there. Maybe it’s some new drug I need to write about. “Hey, go smell a bunch of zoo smell, and then you can go *anywhere* in your memory!” I’m pretty sure most of the other smells that would trigger memory are from things that we, as a society, have realized were probably not the best – like diesel exhaust.
Liz: Do you have a favorite Spice Girl?
Whtebkgrnd: Early: Ginger – Late: Scary. I feel that’s fairly self-explanatory. I briefly followed after Gingers departure. It went by so quickly. Damn shame. S/O to the Jewish Community Center Houston for letting us use the old people TV to watch some Spice Girls MTV special.
Liz: Kill, Marry, Fuck: Hello Panda, Yan Yan, Pocky
Whtebkgrnd: Already in order. Yan Yan is totally marriage material.
Liz: Why do you feel that way? Like, the fact that you can dip on your “own terms”, the mutual respect?
Whtebkgrnd: Yeah, I’m a huge fan of things that leave me that option. So, Dunkaroo’s, those cheese and cracker things, and Yan Yan’s, vanilla Yan Yan’s, delicious.
Liz: Yeah, I love those cheese and cracker things. Did you bring those to school as a kid, or were you the jealous kid who never got to bring them to school?
Whtebkgrnd: Oh, no, I was totally stocked on those.
Liz: I was the jealous kid.
Whtebkgrnd: Hah I am so sorry. Did you get fruit leather?
Liz: No, my parents never joyed me. I might have had to trade Yugioh cards to get some of the snack gold.
Whtebkgrnd: I just got like, cheese sandwiches or PB&J, but my snack game was off the charts. I was always trading ’cause I was on the adderalls, and by that, I mean, the devil drug stole my child-level hunger.
Liz: So you slung your Handi-Snax for some Yugioh?
Whtebkgrnd: Man, I didn’t even think to trade for anything beyond a soda. I also saved so much money from Pizza Friday’s.
Liz: Have you ever counted how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
Whtebkgrnd: Hell no, as far as I’m concerned, I want infinite licks so I never get to that center. Blow-pops, on the other hand, that makes sense. Tootsie pop? Yeah, I’m gonna eat this orange-flavored thing, and then bite into this delicious earwax core, this ignites my 1930’s taste buds. I mean, it’s already offensive when people give you a tootsie pop in 2015. These aren’t hard times, we have flavor now.
Liz: How did you tell the first person you liked, that you liked them?
Whtebkgrnd: Totally passed a note, but she sat across from me in those elementary school desk clusters so it was mad easy. Then, after that, I developed the fear of talking to any crush, which I continue the tradition of, to this day.
Liz: You meet the person of your dreams. What do you plan as your first date with them?
Whtebkgrnd: Oh god, I’m terrible at dates. I apparently wooed my current girlfriend with hours of ridiculous television and movies, and sealed the deal with Nicolas Cage’s “Valley Girl”.
Liz: How many files on your computer begin with profane words, such as “fuck.jpg”, “pissshit.wav”, etc?
Whtebkgrnd: Surprisingly, only 31! Most are more reminiscent of groans, so like “ughhghghghghghh” or “COMEONANDWORK_2”
Liz: You have to sit at lunch with either the Casio or Yamaha ‘clique’. Who do you sit with and why?
Whtebkgrnd: Casio, I could never pass the Yamaha-crew grade. I mean, I feel like Yamaha, they wanna talk about music theory and stuff, while I just wanna make some beeps with a sick beepy drum loop. I bet the Yamaha table is pretentious about salads.
Liz: They probably like walnuts and white vinaigrette.
Whtebkgrnd: Ha, jokes on them, they were pecans.
Liz: Favorite Kid Cuisine?
Whtebkgrnd: Cosmic Chicken Nuggets. Also, I might add, any Halloween-themed Kid Cuisine was a favorite.
Liz: What’s your favorite condiment?
Whtebkgrnd: Fry sauce – 1 part ketchup, 2 parts mayo.
Liz: Do you have any other cute things to say?
Whtebkgrnd: One time I held a sloth, that was pretty awesome and humbling.