Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Mike Hinge 80th Anniversary: Matt Howarth

Matt is a writer/artist and met Mike Hinge in the early 70's and has written a personal Memoir for Mike remembering his taste in music and particular aspects of his working practice as well writing a short SF story "Domino Afternoons" inspired by the sad experience of clearing Mike's apartment after his passing and a link to a SF novel "Separation Anxiety" in which many scenes he wrote were inspired by Mike's art.

See Matt's work here:


Unlocking some Hinged Memories
by Matt Howarth 7/2011

            I was a kid the first time I met Mike Hinge. It was at a Philcon (the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention) in the early 70s; I was a fanboy and he had a table in the Art Show where he was displaying his art and selling his posters. I was familiar with Mike's art (from SF magazines and book covers) and wanted to show him my own (admittedly primitive at the time) art. He proceeded to (verbally) tear my work to shreds, heaping garrulous criticism on my formative art, probably in an attempt to get this fanboy to move along. Unknown to him, though, I was not insulted by his critique; I took his comments to heart and went off to apply his remarks to bettering my art. Much of my sense of design originates from his advice, and I consider him one of my mentors (although he would later rigorously deny that honor, not remembering our first encounter at all).
            The next time our paths crossed, years later at some other SF convention, it was our common tastes in eccentric music that brought us together and cemented a solid kinship that would last to (and beyond) Mike's untimely passing.
            While Mike's tastes were widespread (running the gamut from electronica to reggae to pop to swing bands), my interests tended to focus on electronic music, with strong concentration on the European scene in the 70s. Consequently, he would often pick my brain regarding what was happening in that scene. Mike was a data junkie, and would jot down a lot of my comments on file cards during our discussions for later reference use. Back and forth over the years, we turned each other on to a variety of bands.
            At some point (circa early 80s) Mike was staying at Neal Adams' Continuity Studios in NYC, where he had a niche for his drafting table and boxes of stuff and a ratty mattress shoved in a corner. I remember visiting him there one evening and we spent hours swapping sonic tales. While I had a strong interest in his art (his strong command of stylization shows heavily in my own mature art), the gist of our conversations usually concentrated on music. He would get very excited when I'd tell him about…say, the latest album by Ultravox, for his finances were never opulent, forcing him to appreciate a lot of stuff secondhand. In turn, he would dazzle me with discoveries he'd made scouring the discount bins of Manhattan record shops. That night at Continuity Studios, he pulled out one record and turned me on to Canadian rocker Nash the Slash (with whom I would, years later, form a deep and lasting friendship, working with Nash on several projects…but that's another memoir).
            Over the years Mike and I fell in and out of touch, but inevitably the Great Magnet would bring us back together. I spent a lot of the 80s hanging out in NYC, seeing a variety of concerts--and ran into Mike at many of these gigs. We would catch up on each other's doings, but invariably the topic of our discussions would devolve to music…and endure for hours.
            Years later, when Mike moved into Philadelphia, he would call every once in a while, to check in and chat…but what he really wanted was to be updated on whatever new music I had discovered. "This is silly," I would tell him. "Why are we wasting time talking about music when you could come over and visit--and actually hear some of this stuff?" But Mike was a recluse and would always beg off visiting for some dubious reason, leaving our exchanges limited to discussions about music. On a few occasions I recorded certain albums for him and sent him the tapes--this thrilled him. He was especially grateful for a live Can album I gave him one time; he really loved Can.
            Other bands that Mike enjoyed included: Magazine, Klaus Schulze, the Human League, Japan, Neu, Fad Gadget, OMD, XTC, Ornette Coleman, Led Zeppelin…oh, the list could go on and on. He had a REALLY big collection of music. He also had a lot of 60s Californian psychedelic rock (like Moby Grape). His tastes seemed to focus on experimentation; he was attracted to musicians who pushed the envelope and broke the rules to discover new sonic ground.
            It was only after his passing that I actually got the opportunity to see that collection, when I helped his friend Sandford Meschkow to empty out Mike's cramped apartment. As a diehard audiophile, I refused to allow that collection to end up in the hands of the Salvation Army or in a dumpster. I felt it only proper that his collection be disseminated among his friends who shared his tastes. It took a long time--it was a vast mass--but I feel I succeeded in doing the right thing. (I ended up keeping very little of his records for myself, only because I already had most of the stuff I would've wanted.)
During those post-mortem days, I also assisted in the gathering and organization of Mike's artwork (which was stored in the hands of a variety of his friends) to be handed over to an art agent for sale. At this time I got the chance to view his artist career in its entirety (for Mike was a packrat and never threw anything away). His range was incredible. While he is remembered mostly for his highly stylized SF art, he was an accomplished commercial artist possessing the adept skill of adapting his work to whatever style required by the job at hand. He designed several type faces, and built a few constructions that can only be described as futuristic machines with no more function than to be bewitching to the eye. He'd done numerous paintings, much to my surprise, since I was mainly familiar with his linear work. He worked big, often covering a wall with a sheet of paper on which he would do rough designs which would later be converted to smaller canvases. He kept a vast reference library, consisting of not just books but clipped pictures from magazines, all sorted by topic and stored in folders in plastic bags (to protect them from entropy). He had a sincere fascination for colorful lifeforms, like tropical fish (probably stemming from his youth in New Zealand).
At that point I found myself with a newborn respect for his talent…and a sadness that I would never get the chance to tell him about it. But then, I suspect Mike would've just waved a hand and dismissed my praise, muttering something about doing what was necessary to make it as an artist in the modern world…then he would pull a wad of index cards from his pocket and start interrogating me about what new music I'd found.


            Aside 1: As a workaholic, I'm constantly producing stories (graphic and prose). While the majority of my work is science fiction, sometimes inspiration comes from real life. My short prose story "Domino Afternoons" is one such, stemming from the experience of helping to clear out Mike Hinge's crowded apartment after his demise. 
(Read Matt's story here: http://onyxcube.weebly.com/)

            Aside 2: Being exposed to Mike Hinge's art en masse during posthumous sorting provided me with another such wealth of inspiration. There was a plethora of tantalizing imagery, for Mike's mind was a fertile one. I ended up writing an entire SF novel ("Separation Anxiety") in which many scenes were inspired by Mike's art. As one might expect, robots play a key role in the tale. Interested parties can check out the novel at: www.bugtownmall.com/New_Matt_Howarth_Stuff.htm

No comments:

Post a Comment