AKA MAG is an urban/graffiti artist originally from New York City. MAG started his love for painting/sculpting/sketching in the cultural chaos of the 1970’s Five Boroughs of (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island). MAG’s playground was the subways, parks, rooftops, alleys, museums and zoos, the Hudson River, New Jersey’s Palisades and more.
PunkYourChucks.com is AKA MAG’s baby. Using specific paints, he hand crafts custom gear for people ranging from the Average Joe to Tommy Lee. Turning iconic soles into one-of-a-kind works of art has been making MAG almost as famous as the stars who love his work.
Tim BTS: Hello MAG! Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself to Blow The Scene readers around the world!
MAG: First off, thanks for asking me to do this! I love Blow The Scene….you guys really have a first-rate online magazine! My name is MAG and I’m a Custom Sneaker Artist from NYC. I’ve been painting sneakers for about 5 years. In the past, I’ve done everything from designing zoo exhibits, welding, USAF Veteran, you name it – I’ve tried it!
Tim BTS: What was it like being a street artist in New York City in the 1970’s?
MAG: NYC in the 70’s….it was a jungle….no kidding. You wouldn’t consider going to 42nd Street at night, although my crew and I did. The city, in one word was “gritty”. I fooled around with graffiti back then, but it was considered extreme vandalism. You didn’t broadcast it…unless you were in the Bronx…most cops had their hands full over there, so you could get away with it more. Washington Heights, where I grew up, was different…you tried to keep a low-profile.
Tim BTS: What gave you the idea to start PunkYourChucks.com?
MAG: I had a major welding accident. A one-ton snow plow fell on me during a welding modification job I was on. I was laid up for years…multiple surgeries. I was basically out of it….just sitting around in pain all day. I was bored out of my mind.
My wife, Gina, saw a pair of custom sneakers on the web. She surprised me one night, handing me a brand new pair of Converse Chucks and challenging me to customize them. The next day I handed it to her…she put them on EBay and sold them within 2 hours for $145.00. That was that….I haven’t stopped since.
Tim BTS: Wow! Now that’s the kind of opportunity we’d all like to see. What do you think makes Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneakers so iconic?
MAG: They look good. They’re sturdy and comfortable…as long as you put arch supports in them at my age…lol! The rubber toe and star symbol make them different than anything else….and, holy freak, have they stood the test of time!!!
Tim BTS: What kinds of apparel do you custom paint for clients? Is it just Chucks, or is there more?
MAG: I’ve been doing Chucks, Vans, Keds, Nike AF1’s, leather high heels, hoodies, vinyl toys like Munny’s-MADL’s. Just started doing cowboy boots….I am easily distracted, I have to try new things all the time….it’s a NYC neurotic-creative thing!
Tim BTS: It’s awesome that fans have a variety to choose from. Is every one of your products hand painted or are there other mediums you dabble in?
MAG: That’s my hook…everything freehand-painted! I never measure….I do not use rulers, templates, stencils, etc. Every font, picture, EVERYTHING…is by eye. I think my customers appreciate that. They understand that they are getting something unique, just for them… personally.
In my spare time…when I have some…I’ve been messing with tattoos. I have my own kit and been sticking myself over the past month or so! It’s really addicting!
Tim BTS: Let’s hope the next time I interview you, it’s for some awesome body art! How long on average does it take you to finish an order and ship to the owner?
MAG: Haha….funny you should ask that! We used to be able to turn a pair around in a week. Now I have so many orders, it’s been taking me 2 to 3 months to get around to a new order.
If a design is simple, it can take me about 2 hours for a pair. I’ve done complicated ones that take 3 to 4 days….10 hours a day.
Tim BTS: I can imagine. Hand painting the level of intricacy you do is no easy task. Doesn’t your artwork crack from wear and tear? I mean they’re shoes man, they take a beating.
MAG: When I first started, it was a hassle trying to find the right products to use, that wouldn’t crack or fade. Now, I have it down to a science…my own mix…the paint will last as long, or longer, than the rubber soles.
Tim BTS: Do you have a favorite piece or pieces of work to date? Which piece is it?
MAG: Yeah, I do have a few favorites! I love all the Celebrity Chucks I’ve made! But, my favorite Chucks are the “Marilyn Monroe/Andy Warhol” Chucks and the “Mexican Day of the Dead” Chucks…I also like the “Hippie Extra Highs” and the “Grateful Dead Knee Highs”! To me these 4 pairs look the coolest!
Tim BTS: Yeah! The Marilyn Monroe/Warhol shoes are really amazing. Who are some of the celebrities you’ve made gear for?
** Will Smith…this was a birthday present from Akiva Goldsmith (producer) to Will, on the set of “I Am Legend”
** Tommy Lee
** Jackson Rathbone…”Jasper” from the Twilight movies…he’s also in a band called “100 Monkeys”
** Mira Sorvino
** Kelly Clarkson
** Alexa Ray Joel
Tim BTS: Some of the pictures you have with these stars blew my mind. What was it like hanging with Tommy Lee?
MAG: This is kind of a funny story. I had written Tommy an e-mail, offering him a pair of custom Chucks…I am a big fan of his. Two months later, I receive this little obscure e-mail “let’s talk, dude”. So, I start writing him….every e-mail he answered within 24 hours…probably 20 or more. No one believed that it was him….I must have heard 100 times “do you really believe Tommy Lee would write you back all these times”…so I started doubting. He told me to go to Shea’s Buffalo for the Supernova concert…tickets and backstage passes will be waiting for me. I get there…no tix, nothing….my wife is there and some friends with the old “we told you so”! All of a sudden a runner comes down with an envelope…that’s right…”for MAG”!!! Dude, I was tripping out!!
We go backstage with his assistant, Tony Sullivan…..I’m standing there and somebody taps me on the shoulder…Tommy Lee!! I was freaking out! He was so cool and he loved the shoes! One of the nicest guys you would ever meet! He said the only thing is, they looked too new…”I’m gonna have to drag them behind the tour bus to make them more worn”!
He also hooked me up for the Toronto Show 3 days later…that’s another story..lol!!!
Tim BTS: You also have shots of you with Chris “The Birdman” Andersen. Is he as much of a badass in person as he is on the court?
MAG: Chris is another super nice guy! I think he does what he has to do on the court, but, is just another cool guy off the court!
He texted me all the time, during the season, to see how I was doing. Got us tix and passes at Madison Square Garden…great time!!!
Tim BTS: There are so many musical artists that you have themed shoes for. Are they all requested by the bands, or do you pick who to immortalize?
MAG: Usually, I do what the customer asks for. There are many times that someone has backstage passes and they want a pair for the band to sign. Sometimes the band requests it…other times, just their fans. I’m going to be doing a pair for Marky Ramone….he has a new band called “Blitzkreig”! I am super stoked about this….I’m a big Ramones fan!
Tim BTS: Seeing that we’re also Underground Music addicts, you have to tell us what kind of music you like. Who are your favorite bands and/or artists at the moment?
MAG: I am all over the place with my musical taste…Tupac, Van Halen, Chaka Kahn, Pink Floyd, Metallica, etc.!
At the moment, I’ve been pretty blessed to not only like some new bands, but also have the opportunity to meet them/hang out!
I have 3 favorite bands at the moment:
Sugar Red Drive…..some hard rockin’ kids (to me they’re kids) out of Poughkeepsie, NY…check out their hit single “Red Machine”….totally awesome! Hung out with them in Poughkeepsie, NY and Anaheim, CA!! PJ’s (drummer) mom, Susanne, and dad, Pat…. are some of the coolest people alive!!!
Living Dead Lights….RAW PUNK…the way you want it to be!!! Play it loud and heavy…love the songs “Live and Die”…”What Do You Do”!!! Hung out with Alan Damien (lead guitar) and Martin Kelly (bass) at Alan’s condo in Hollywood, CA!! Their CD is available at Hot Topic.com…they are also giving away a pair of my Chucks for their CD release contest going on right now!
Juke Kartel….awesome lyricists, awesome musicians! These guys are from Australia. Their live show is incredible! I had the pleasure of hanging out with them in Hollywood, CA at the Viper Room. Toby Rand (lead vocalist) is a prince of a guy! Listen to all their songs…my favorites include “If Only” and “December.” Their new album “Levolution” just came out in the USA last week!
Tim BTS: Now I have music to find. Haha. What brought about the line of Twilight sneaks? Are you a Twilight fan yourself?
MAG: At first, I thought my two girls, Nicole and Gabrielle, had a screw loose….they were HUGE fans of the books. Then they started telling me the story…I was into it myself. We’ve been blessed enough to be able to make pairs for the producers of the movies, Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen. We have also done Chucks for some of the stars of the movie…Jackson Rathbone (plays Jasper) and Peter Facinelli (plays Dr. Cullen).
We have been fortunate to become good friends with Kimbra Hickey…she is the hand model they used for the iconic cover of the first “Twilight” book. She is considered the “Hands of Twilight” and is such a great person…and a NEW YORKER! We’ve done a bunch of pairs for her!
Tim BTS: So how does one go about getting a custom MAG painted pair of chucks? Does one need to send you artwork, a description, or maybe both? What’s the average cost?
MAG: We have a form on our website at www.punkyourchucks.com …it is at the “Request A Custom Quote” link on the site. Just fill it out and submit it. You can put the description of what you want done and/or any links to your saved artwork. We will send a quote back to you with a method of payment…that’s it! Our Chucks range from $160.00 to over $400.00, depending on the style and artwork.
Tim BTS: Time to send some shout-outs and spread the love!
MAG: We love our customers! They keep us going and their awesome testimonials give me the incentive to do this every day!
We have some big things in the works…keep checking our website for updates….especially…HINT…if you ever wanted to customize your own sneakers!! This should be a “GO” on Jan. 1st, 2011!
We also have a Facebook fan page. We give away free custom sneakers and other cool prizes all the time to our fans. Just visit Facebook and do a search for “Punk Your Chucks”. Make sure to “LIKE US” on Facebook!
We also want to invite everyone to visit IndieGoGo “Tokyo or Bust” Campaign. Check it out and tell your friends! We’re giving away cool prizes to donors, including a “MAG Punk Your Chucks hosted Birthday Party! Got to www.indiegogo.com/punkyourchucks !
Shout out to my good Aussie friends…Michael Chin aka Tokyo Love-In and the guys at www.plumjungle.com, Pete Longworth and Christopher Baron…the most innovative video and music producers that I’ve had the pleasure to work with and call my friends!!
When all the cool new things happen… we will make sure that…BlowTheScene.com… is the first to know!!!!
– Interview by Tim Bonner
More fun Pictures of Mag with clients and custom art: