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The digital ghost – An interview with Johnny Terror

You will probably know Johnny Terror for his unique expression of art. Black ink on white paper, combined with futuristic artworks is his identity. Not only is he a talented individual, pouring the Japanese culture into his illustration, but he is also rooted in the same city as we are. His love for the culture made him move to Tokyo and work as a freelance artist. It´s like a match made in heaven. Therefore we wanted to introduce you to this tremendously creative artist by interviewing him about himself, his way of expression, and the background of our collaborative project. Stay tuned and enjoy!

Please introduce yourself and tell us something about you.

My name is Johnny Terror. I’m an illustrator, creator, artist. I’m a digital ghost.

Johnny Terror is a very catchy name. Where does it come from?

When I was younger I watched a giant amount of 80s/90s films. They all had villains with very cheesy names like Max Steel or Hans Gruber. So I called myself Johnny Terror.

Your art is a unique form of creativity. Please tell us a bit more about it: What is it about? Where does your inspiration come from and what are you trying to achieve with it?

I am inspired by science-fiction and techno. The artworks I create are just there to please my own brain. I often get ideas and need to immediately put them on paper or else I’ll get agitated and annoyed. 

I’m honestly not trying to achieve anything with it. “I want to achieve this and this with my art” always sounds like the artist is trying to reach a goal for his audience. What others or “my audience,” thinks about what I do is absolutely not of any interest to me. I draw what my brain tells me to do and what I draw makes my brain happy. That’s all that counts.

You were born and raised in Germany. How did you get connected to Japan? Where does the love for it come from?

I grew up in Düsseldorf, which has the biggest Japanese community in Europe (still only roughly 9.000 people). So I was influenced by Japanese culture at a young age. And when I say culture I’m not talking about anime or manga. I have a small amount of Manga that I read and very much loved. That’s all. I don’t watch any anime at all.

It is a big dream for many creatives to move to other countries. Japan is probably one of the most popular ones. Do you have any advice, since it can be very intimidating being exposed to a different culture?

Learn Japanese in advance. Be prepared to work a regular job for quite some time (artist visas are difficult to get and even more difficult to maintain). Every dish has either fish or meat in it. Japanese people are highly functioning alcoholics. Respect the elders.

Living in Japan is not that easy, especially when you are foreign and trying to work there. How is it going so far?

I can’t complain. But this pandemic really needs to hurry up and be over soon. It’s an absolute nuisance.

What is it like being a freelancer/ independent illustrator/ artist in Japan? For many people, this is probably a dream scenario! Do you have something else in mind? Maybe working for a specific company or brand?

I generally hate the concept of “real artists” not needing money or caring about “being commercial”. I love money and I love what I can buy with it (especially food and especially black licorice). I like making commissions for brands and companies but I’d rather chop off my right hand than work as an illustrator in a company. I am very irritating, arrogant, and narcissistic, and I have a gigantic problem with authority above me. It’s best for everyone that I stay independent. 

Mental Health, self-isolation, self-consciousness – these topics became very vibrant during the pandemic and our project. What were your ideas behind your design and where did they come from (especially during the pandemic)?

I think we all just needed to pull through this pandemic, either together or individually. It’s just a weird glitch in the matrix that will sadly probably happen again in the not-so-far future due to overpopulation. I think every aspect of the design was inspired by every aspect of the pandemic.

Slow days, grey days, same routine, isolation. I like being inspired by dark things. Happy things make me depressed.

How did you experience the whole pandemic (even though it´s not over yet)? Did you have some kind of mental breakdowns or creative lacks?

I honestly have to admit that it was pretty amazing and nice. I have a bicycle and I can stay inside and draw all the time. Most of the museums and cultural happenings were closed but those were only minor nuisances. I think the pandemic in Japan was very very badly handled by the government but at the same time, it wasn’t as severe as it was in Europe. 

Do you have any advice for others feeling the same way? 

Read a history book or a book about space! It’ll make you realize that we are unimportant individuals who have very little importance for the collective. So whatever bad thoughts or worries you have, drop them. Our lives are incredibly short and unimportant. Stars are exploding, gigantic meteorite clusters are crashing into planets several thousand light-years away, black holes are devouring everything around them.

The universe is expanding. All is good. All is fine. Enjoy life. 

Stay tuned for our upcoming project with Johnny Terror and make sure to show your love on our and his Instagram: