The Person Behind the Artist: Andy Singer

Q. Hel­lo Andy, please give us some back­ground about your­self?

I’m the child of a couple of middle class New York­ers in the 1960s. My dad was an attor­ney. My mom was a social work­er and act­iv­ist with vari­ous envir­on­ment­al groups and causes. These included pre­serving part of Breezy Point, New York for Gate­way Nation­al Park, the Sier­ra Club and NRDC. I’ve lived a sort of cook­ie-cut­ter middle class life. I went to school, went to col­lege, worked, got mar­ried and live in a house. I made the mis­take of being an art and art his­tory major in col­lege. So, when I gradu­ated, I had no use­ful skills. I stumbled around in vari­ous jobs and kind of slipped into car­toon­ing in the 1990s. I’ve done it off and on ever since.

Q. What are your main inspir­a­tions when draw­ing?

The news, nature, oth­er people, day-to-day events, music, sounds, art, everything is poten­tially inspir­a­tion­al. All you have to do is go out­side, read a news­pa­per or watch con­tem­por­ary tele­vi­sion or movies. The car­toons write them­selves!

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Q. Can you tell us some­thing funny that has happened in your career?

I have a good laugh about some­thing at least a few times per week but they’re not neces­sar­ily things that have to do with my “career.” I guess some of the hate mail I receive from people is very funny. I did the attached car­toon about myths that chil­dren told each oth­er when I was a kid. A woman wro­te into the news­pa­per and ripped me for “advoc­at­ing that people put pets in microwave ovens.” Mean­while I’d pub­lish some fairly rad­ic­al polit­ic­al car­toon in the same news­pa­per and no one would say any­thing. Some of the right wing lun­at­ics are fairly funny. They’ll write to tell me I’m ignor­ant, but their gram­mar, spelling and logic show they barely have a com­mand of the Eng­lish lan­guage or real­ity. In gen­er­al, my “career” is pretty bor­ing– neither funny nor excit­ing. When I’m work­ing, I sit in a room and draw pic­tures, read or look at e-mail.

Q. A lot of your car­toons are polit­ic­al; we take it you fol­low what’s going on in the world. When were you first inter­ested in polit­ics?

My par­ents were both inter­ested in polit­ics. From the time I was born, they were mem­bers of the “West Brook­lyn Inde­pend­ent Demo­crats” and my mother con­tin­ues to be act­ive in vari­ous polit­ic­al causes to this day. So I just sort of developed an interest in polit­ics by osmos­is. For me, polit­ics are a fun­da­ment­al ele­ment of being human. They are the pro­cess by which we col­lect­ively inter­act with each oth­er, resolve con­flicts and try to solve lar­ger social or envir­on­ment­al prob­lems. There are fam­ily polit­ics, neigh­bor­hood polit­ics, loc­al polit­ics, nation­al polit­ics and inter­na­tion­al polit­ics. Humans are polit­ic­al anim­als and I find those inter­ac­tions inter­est­ing, amus­ing and import­ant.

 Q. What are your feel­ings from Bush to Obama?

Besides being respons­ible for the death of half a mil­lion people, I feel like Bush dealt a huge eco­nom­ic and social blow to the USA, one from which we may nev­er fully recov­er. He dir­ectly flushed 3 tril­lion dol­lars down the toi­let on hope­less, point­lessly destruct­ive wars in Afgh­anistan and Iraq …and they’re not even over! For years to come, we’ll be pay­ing costs for all the injured vet­er­ans (over 50,000) and destabil­iz­ing three coun­tries, because you have to look at the impact that the Afghan war has on Pakistan. Bush expan­ded the use of tor­ture, and cre­ated a whole new lay­er of gov­ern­ment bur­eau­cracy (the “Depart­ment of Homeland Secur­ity”) to spy on Amer­ic­ans. He cre­ated Indef­in­ite Deten­tion (at Guantanamo and oth­er US mil­it­ary bases) and expan­ded the use of exec­ut­ive-ordered assas­sin­a­tions using the new drone tech­no­logy. On eco­nom­ic issues, his admin­is­tra­tion allowed cor­por­a­tions to run things and reg­u­late them­selves. The agency that was sup­posed to reg­u­late oil drilling had lob­by­ist-paid pros­ti­tutes sleep­ing with employ­ees while oil industry lob­by­ists basic­ally ran the agency. Energy com­pan­ies like Enron, and the country’s invest­ment banks were dereg­u­lated at the end of the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion and Bush allowed them to run wild. Above all, he was incom­pet­ent and appoin­ted some really stu­pid people to import­ant pos­i­tions at every level of gov­ern­ment.

Cer­tainly, Obama has been involved in many of these same activ­it­ies. A few he’s increased, such as the use of drone assas­sin­a­tions, but most of them he has at least tried to scale back. At the begin­ning of his first term, he tried to close the Guantanamo pris­on and have tri­als for many of the detain­ees in the United States but con­ser­vat­ives (includ­ing many Demo­crats) stirred up pub­lic res­ist­ance and blocked this from hap­pen­ing. He tried to get some kind of uni­ver­sal health­care because over 50 mil­lion Amer­ic­ans don’t have health insur­ance. This is one of the lead­ing causes of per­son­al bank­ruptcies and fore­clos­ures because someone gets sick in a fam­ily, loses their job, loses their health insur­ance (because Amer­ic­an employ­ers are source of most people’s health­care) and they can’t pay their health bills or their mort­gage. Or they use up all their money caring for a sick fam­ily mem­ber. So many people in the US wanted health insur­ance reform or single-pay­er, uni­ver­sal health care sim­il­ar to what you have in the UK. Mem­bers of Obama’s own party (The Demo­crats) joined with Repub­lic­ans to nar­rowly block “The pub­lic option” but they man­aged to pass a half-assed but not-unsub­stan­tial reform of health insur­ance that would pre­vent insurers from deny­ing you cov­er­age when you’re sick or have a “preex­ist­ing con­di­tion.” The minute it was signed into law, Repub­lic­ans sued in the courts (all the way to the supreme court) and fought, tooth and nail to block its imple­ment­a­tion. Same thing with gun con­trol, even as we’re one of the most viol­ent indus­tri­al coun­tries in the world. (Among indus­tri­al coun­tries, our murder rate is second only to Rus­sia). Obama has man­aged to with­draw troops from Iraq and Afgh­anistan over Repub­lic­an oppos­i­tion but, lit­er­ally, everything he tries to do, they blast it in the media and fight it in Con­gress. So, while I have a lot of cri­ti­cisms of Obama, he is many orders of mag­nitude less awful than Bush and many of the pos­it­ive things he’s tried to do have been blocked.

That said, the Demo­crat­ic and Repub­lic­an parties agree on more things than they dis­agree. Both signed off on the Afghan and Iraq wars. Both signed off on dereg­u­la­tion of banks, of deriv­at­ives, of mort­gage reg­u­la­tions and of the energy and tele­com busi­ness …and we’ve been liv­ing with the con­sequences ever since. I’m guess­ing it’s the same thing with Labor and Con­ser­vat­ives in the UK. Labor or Demo­crats will SAY they stand for cer­tain “pro­gress­ive” things but they end up sup­port­ing the same old crap— neo-colo­ni­al­ism or out­right imper­i­al­ism in for­eign poli­cy, dereg­u­la­tion, privat­iz­a­tion, etc. Blair signed off on Bush’s Iraq war …just like Hil­lary Clin­ton, John Kerry and many “lib­er­al” U.S. politi­cians. And only one mem­ber of con­gress (Bar­bara Lee of Cali­for­nia) even ques­tioned the war in Afghanistan—one con­gressper­son out of over 500!

Basic­ally, in Amer­ica both polit­ic­al parties sup­port policies that are tak­ing the entire plan­et to hell but the Demo­crat­ic Party is the slow train to hell, where­as the Repub­lic­ans are the fast train to hell. Because I’m in no hurry to go to hell, I tend to vote Demo­crat (or Green).

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Q. Some of your car­toons also show the cyber gen­er­a­tion what are your thoughts on where we are head­ing with tech­no­logy?

I think we’re becom­ing over­loaded with smart phones, social net­work­ing sites and oth­er crap. At least in the social arena, I think you’re going to see people move away from it in a few years. It’s a big waste of time and people need to turn off their screens and just chill out. We’ve reached a point where many people can’t just sit still and not be “enter­tained,” even for a moment. This is hav­ing a pro­found impact on our cre­ativ­ity. To be truly cre­at­ive, you need to be bored! Cre­ativ­ity comes from boredom—making your own fun in real time—reacting to and inter­act­ing with real­ity. I sup­port the inter­na­tion­al “Week Without Screens” pro­moted by La Décrois­sance and oth­er groups …yet here I am on one now, typ­ing this for you! AKKKKKK!!!!!! I’m also try­ing to pro­mote Inter­na­tion­al “Do Noth­ing Day.” May­be you can help me. What day should we make it? (I attach a car­toon on it).

Q. What are your future plans for this year?

I’m try­ing to fin­ish a book on Trans­port­a­tion Poli­cy in Amer­ica called “Why We Drive” to be pub­lished by Micro­cosm Pub­lish­ing in August. I am also co-chair of my loc­al bicycle advocacy group—The Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition—and I’m hop­ing to organ­ize some info-rides, sten­cil­ing and oth­er activ­it­ies for the group this sum­mer. I’ll vis­it my mom this sum­mer (she lives out in Cali­for­nia) and she is com­ing to vis­it us in a little over a week. I’ll help my wife dig the garden…Stuff like that.

Q. Finally who are your favor­ite Hip Hop artists?

BDP/KRS-1 is num­ber one! …And Pub­lic Enemy, Queen Lati­fa, Erik B and Rakim, Digit­al Under­ground, Mc900 Ft Jesus, NWA, The Coup …and, more recently, Mos Def and Immor­tal Tech­nique.

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To check out more of Andy Singer’s work vis­it his Web­site or Face­book group. 

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rish­ma Dhali­wal has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rish­ma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.

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