Bad Brains Frontman H.R. Has Created An Art Exhibit Based On The Band’s Music
There’s no doubt that Bad Brains are one of the most influential and important punk bands to ever exist. Formed in 1977 as a reggae and funk band called Mind Power, the Washington, D.C., quartet soon changed their sound (and name) and helped mold and shape the very essence of hardcore punk — even if that’s a term frontman H.R. Hudson would likely dispute.
Still, more than 40 years after forming, the band’s influence remains huge. While Bad Brains have broken up and reformed a number of times over the years, H.R. has also had a prolific career as a solo artist. His latest creative endeavor, however, is an artistic collaboration with his wife, Lori. The pair worked together on a series of paintings inspired by Bad Brains’ music, which are currently on display at an exhibit called i against i at LA’s Lethal Amounts gallery.
Above: Lori and H.R. with rapper Vic Mensa and Lethal Amounts’ Danny Fuentes.
To celebrate that fact, H.R. and Lori spoke to us about their favorite pieces and the inspiration behind them:
Don't Need It
Lori: This is one of the oldest Bad Brains songs and my favorite lyric out of that is, ‘I got my claim to fame, I got that positive flame.’ My process is more subconscious, I don’t always think about how I want to interpret the lyric, it just comes out. I drew a golden bird with a gold background and I think those colors are very spiritual. I just felt like the lyrics matched that somehow.
Lori: I wanted to do a portrait of HR. He looks kind of stoic almost and I feel like the lyric, ‘You don’t want me anymore, I’m sailin’ on,’ is someone who has accepted that he has to move forward and there’s no point in being upset about things from the past. That’s why he’s looking forward, but there’s still a bit of a storm going on in his mind.
H.R.: I was showing that a conflict was going on. It was about the back and forth between a man and a woman. The woman would always tell him not to go because she changed her mind, but he knew it was time for him to sail on.
I Against I
Lori: This is an image I’ve had in my mind for a while. It seemed to really fit — it’s a play on words, my eye and HR’s eye. With this song though, it’s called I Against I but the lyric goes, ‘I don’t want to go I against I,’ meaning that life is more about unity and working together. I also really love poppies and this just seemed really fitting.
The Youth Are Getting Restless
Lori: This song is timeless. I feel like it’s just as relevant now as when it was written decades ago because the youth are always going to be restless with the way the world is going and trying to figure out what they can do to change it. The image came from a lot of the uprisings going on in the world and in our country. It’s how I feel like things should be going in our country and hopefully will begin to go. Fists in the air, and people fighting for what is right.
H.R.: This was a reflection of what was going on during the times. The youth were expressing themselves and I was trying to make people aware that they were getting restless. Everywhere we go, they’re trying to remind people of what’s going on. I was saying that I understood what was going on at the time. I was trying to show them a positive mental attitude and keeping the spirit and message alive. All songs need a message and even today, the youth are expressing themselves a lot more and it’s always a sign of the times.
Lori: Foxes are my spirit animal. I wanted to make it a bright, colorful painting to talk about positive mental attitude.
H.R.: ‘We got that positive mental attitude, you know?!’ That was my favorite line in the song Attitude.
Lori: The lyrics are, ‘I’m in here, you’re out there.’ I think of this song as some people are more imprisoned in their minds or in their emotions and thoughts. Then there are other people that can be freer.
H.R.: This was when I owed my obligations to the government. I could barely hear the music, but I was just singing from my soul and spirit. I was just reminding people that I’m in here, and you’re out there. I really wanted to portray call and response.
Lori: This is another one from the song I Against I. This phrase is something in the song I feel really stands out in all of HR’s lyrics. The almighty, I chose to illustrate in a way that God is always in everything and with us, including a rose.
H.R.: I was reminding people that whatever we do, the almighty is watching over us and we must remember if we do something outrageous, the almighty is watching still. Kids at the time were so sporadic and unpredictable, diving on and off the stage. I was trying to control them but they were out of control!
House Of Suffering
Lori: The lyric that really stands out in this song is, ‘In this house of suffering, I got to let some joy in.’ I chose to illustrate that with really bright colors and lightning bolts. I wanted to ultimately show a bright spot in a dark place, that’s the joy.
He's Calling You
Lori: The lyrics in this song are kind of psychedelic. A lot of birds and other animals have iridescence and to me, that comes in waves. I was trying to illustrate the iridescence of a beautiful duck vibrating through the air.
H.R.: At the time, I wanted to express myself in a positive way and show everybody that the spirit was moving at a fast pace through each and every one of us. ‘Vibrating cosmic waves’ was like floating and how it was a way to remember that everything is cosmic. It’s an unpredictable sense of essence of what’s going on around us.
With The Quickness
Lori: Life is very short, so find your connection with the spiritual world now and things will be much easier. Your life will go more smoothly and have more meaning. The third eye I put on the man relates to that as well.
H.R.: I had a friend who was always saying, ‘With the quickness, go do this and go and do that.’ So I asked him for permission to name the song that on the album and he said yes. This was back in 1988, the band liked it so I did it
i against i is currently being exhibited at Lethal Amounts gallery in LA. Entry is free but you have to RSVP (HR@Lethalamounts.com ) for entry. If you’re not in LA, originals and prints of HR and Lori’s work can be purchased online.
Paul “HR” Hudson is the voice of hardcore pioneers Bad Brains, one of the most influential bands to rise out of American hardcore in the 80s.
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