This article was originally written for an upcoming London publication Raw Edit, to be showcased either June, July or August 2013. Or so I'm told...

From being off his face in glitter wigs and straw hats in a night club, to tripping over his own feet on Astroturf power league football  pitches (he’s a cracking defender), to driving around, lurking in B&Q car parks trying to bum smokes off of me, you could say I’ve known Mark Breed for a long time.

But for those who don’t know, Breed started off as your everyday kid and became the creator of a “trashy clothing company” founded in January of last year, known as Hoodbats. Now shooting over six and a half thousand likes on Facebook, Hoodbats has become a bit of a worldwide phenomenon, adored from coast to coast, Australia to America. Straying far from the generic ideals of a street label with a bland logo, Hoodbats offers something different and rather special to its audience for it starts and centres on and around its core – the art; the true essence to a successful clothing label.

Breed supplies all the artwork himself for his products, art that is seeped in subtle satire, grim imagery, with rough lines and enough preternatural to confuse one self’s state of normality for an acid trip. “I try and delve deeper to find my inspiration especially to find an interesting subject for my next drawing. I’m not one of these guys who will put out t-shirts with weed on just to make loads of sales quick. It’s a cheap way to the top and I’m not buying”, says Breed. For someone who favours the antique and archaic to the here and now, the old, cabin in the woods, rustic way of life; stripped down and bare – it’s clear to see that this ideal holds influence in his art and ends up portrayed expertly.

Based in Peterborough, Hoodbats has now expanded nationwide, to having his affordable clothing stocked in store at Wonderland Vintage, a quaint boutique in Preston. His oozing charismatic persona hones in with a DIY approach scrambled up with anything spooskish and ghoulish (“I’ve always been interested in old Halloween imagery, mainly 60’s to 70’s stuff because almost everything was handmade”), and fuels the fire.

It’s as if his imaginative ways and outlet has started to create a creative media franchise – more than just a clothing label and selling artwork, but encouraging others to do the same, alongside dipping in with visual media works. Is it too soon to say he is a visionary? Breed could easily be coined as the macabre Daniel Johnston of the modern day.

I approached the big wigs at Raw Edit with the idea to follow him around for the day on their time, promising an amusing anecdote or two, along with a good piece of writing. Thankfully, after laughing at the introductory video of a middle-aged, long-haired stoner-rocker-hippy head banging and throwing the horns up to psychedelic sitar music on his official website, they gave me the green light.

Having turned down others previously bar two, I felt honoured and excited for the chance to sit him down and pick his brains; even Breed was, “I've had other people actually pester me but I'm actually excited for things like this. Can't turn down a little credit”. Breed later went on to say “Some dude came from London to interview me a few weeks back. It was awkward at start. It's just getting used to having people actually interested in interviewing me. Motherf***ing cray cray”. It’s his sincerity that catches me here; from that alone I can see he works hard and created this label for all the right reasons, and his success is thoroughly deserved.

With my back pocket stuffed with some paper, flooded with questions, I travelled over and was taken to his back garden, where he likes to hang out. When I arrived, he was just finishing up shooting tin cans with an air rifle sporting jazzy tropical beach shorts; black with green vines and pink and yellow petals, and, as it was a sunny day, a sombrero. He was incredibly enthusiastic and welcoming as we led the way into his shed. He hands me a beer, which, despite being humbling, flattens me as it blows my opener and first question, ‘Pick your poison, Mark. Milk and two sugars?’, out of the water. The silver lining to this however, is that it was a San Miguel, “I like to stay classy”. Cambridgeshire’s best kept secret has great taste.

How would you describe yourself to those who have never heard of you?
A careless soul.

Where are we right now? Describe this shed to me.
We are in the magnificent bat cave/shed in my garden. I've had this place as a drinking, smoking zone for a hefty six or seven years, and I've just slowly filled it with things I have accumulated over that time. Literally every scrawl on the wall and every prop in here has some kind of story behind it. Which is why this place, to me, is a shrine of youth.

You initially started out, when I first knew you, playing in really dark, hardcore bands which has matured over time to other musical outfits; so when did becoming an illustrator fit in to this schedule, and when did it take over?
When I decided to grow up a bit and realise I needed a job, I decided to study to ensure a decent living, however saying that I only finished college then went on to work at The Range [a large garden and furniture store] for two weeks until I was fired on the opening day. This didn't bother me because a few months before I had printed some of my artwork onto t-shirts, and it was selling pretty well. After this I decided to pull all my time into Hoodbats and nothing else.

Is your art influenced from music then, or how did your style come about? 
I believe that music can change the approach of what you draw. It never really changes my style. I never really had a certain style until after college when I went crazy experimenting with different medias. Even more so then I done at college. I really have no idea how it came about.

What would you say your other influences are?
I like delving deep with inspiration. I find inspiration in the most peculiar places. It's mainly photography that does it for me; old Halloween, carnival, and horror photography.

Your work has now created a solid fan base; you clearly have your own voice. How long did it take you to perfect your style to what we see today?
I would say around three years. If you check out the first illustrations it would seem I'm getting lazier but in actual fact I just think detail clutters my drawings. It's strange how much attention some of my drawings get even though some take me ten minutes. That's the kind of person I am. I'm always in a rush for no reason at all.

So what did you want to be when you were younger?
For some strange reason I wanted to be a gardener. I think Garden Force had me under some kind of spell. I just wanted to be knocking around with Tommie Walsh and Charlie Dimmock and her boobs.

When you started this project initially, you went under the handle ‘Creep it Real’ and then changed that to a slogan, and adopted the name Hoodbats for your brand name. How did that name come about? What made you think you needed to change?
Hoodbats came about from just changing ‘hood rats’. As my aim of selling trashy clothing came to mind I needed a name that would reflect that image. When I read the description of a hood rat, (roughly knowing what it meant before), I was hooked and had the biggest grin on my face when I realised I could change rats to bats; making it instantly gothy-er.

I read that you said “I feel like everyone who buys something from Hoodbats is a part of this small group or ‘cult’ of outsiders”. Is Hoodbats now becoming a cult? Is that what you’re aiming for?
I'm just trying to sell my clothing really but at the same time I get so much support from people and they tend to stick around. There was an incident where a company had kind of ripped off one of my shirt designs. Without telling anybody to do anything about it, my "followers" tore their Facebook page apart like a pack of wolves, leading to an email from the company asking me to please stop the horrible comments.

Tell us about your artistic process. Do you just let the pen do the walking with no rough drafts, or do you do line after line after line, rubbings out, tracing paper, pencil before pen, etc.? Is it your aim to capture ‘that’ moment, or whatever they say...
Thick black pen or a Sharpie, A4 paper, and let the pen do the walking. Majority of the time I'll throw away three or four drawings before I do one I like. I never really have an idea of what I'm doing. If I really like it I will trace it with the tablet so it's on the computer with smooth edges... Ready for a t-shirt.

You recently started drawing onto vinyls, beginning a small collection, to good reception too. I’m sure many can see this as the start of a big project. How do you come up with your ideas?
I'm stocked up on pre-orders however I actually scrapped that idea. The reason being is I was using fine tip paint pens that were around £4 each. The nibs on them would constantly snap or just leak, sometimes ruining the whole of what I just done. I had a huge fallout with it one day. I'm sure I'll find my calling soon.

Are they all spur of the moment decisions, or do you have any more projects in the pipeline (that you can let us in on)? For example, you’re a big skateboarding fan too – any ideas in that field?
All the actual Hoodbats designs have had a lot of thought into them. Like anybody whose brain is like a sieve, I have a notebook where I sketch ideas or just scribble filth into it. I never really started as a skateboarding kinda brand, I doubt I’ll be going completely into that direction. Wouldn't mind selling to skate stores though.

You’ve citied some key influences for yourself already, but what keeps you inspired? Boredom to draw, the buzz when you receive praise and good critique from fans, other artist’s work; fuel and yet competition?
I only ever draw when I am inspired. Sometimes that means sitting down in the shed, listening to music on my vinyl player, surrounded by good memories. I won't just sit and draw. It would be screwed up into a ball and thrown at the bin.

Everyone has their pride and joy as an artist; I myself favour between two specific poems I’ve penned – what currently is your favourite piece of work?
I literally only have one, and that’s the ‘bathead’. To this day I still haven't drawn anything as good. That is only in my eyes though. I'm too much of a critic on my own work. I'd love to read those poems though.

I imagine you get some pretty crazy requests from time to time to draw something garish and outlandish. I mean, I remember asking you to draw me a grizzly bear with toasters for feet – but what’s the weirdest request you’ve had?
One that made me laugh was an eagle coming out of an eagle’s chest. Eagleception?

What was the trigger point then, for you to think ‘right, this is getting some creditable attention, let’s make some money’? Or was that never really an aim?
It was never the aim. You see a lot of people trying to start up clothing companies because they have seen other people do it and that it looks easy. It's a lie. It's hard to actually get yourself known. I was just lucky I had my blog at the time. I started out selling just my illustrations on t-shirts as a kind of merch store. It was only after I had a run with some terrible jobs and getting fired I wanted to make it into a business.

Do you reckon you’ll get to a stage where you can do Hoodbats for a living and live comfortably?
I'm doing Hoodbats for a living now. I think with things like this you just have to believe in yourself and have some kind of faith. Hopefully it will take one t-shirt to just blow up and everybody buy it. I thought about this the other day, if all of my 6,700 followers on Facebook bought £100 pounds worth of t-shirts (unlikely but bare with me). I would make £670,000. Not bad.

What do you currently do in your spare time?
I just find people to bum around with (not literally bumming). At the moment my friends and I have a project going in the middle of the woods near me. Making a place to BBQ, camp and get weird.

Now for our favourite topic: music. What have you been listening to as of late?
Recently I’ve been listening to Grateful Dead, early Van Morrison, Connan Mockasin, and as always [Led] Zeppelin.

Tell us about your music projects.
I've started writing for when Kristian [Bell, of The Wytches] gets back from tour. There is also more Beach Whores stuff on the menu with even stranger videos.

And both NME, and the Independent and Guardian newspapers picked up on you guys?
Well at the moment it's really Kristian, Gianni, and Dan's thing. I'll be more involved when the second album has been started. Incredible though right?

You recently worked on the debut music video ‘Digsaw’ for The Wytches, didn’t you? Am I right in reading that you filmed it on just an iPhone?
Yep, just an iPhone with some filters on it. I also added many filters in using iMovie. I've moved onto Final Cut now so the next video (which I'm working on as we speak), will be one to watch out for.

Is visual media something you’re hoping to break out into as well?
Most definitely. I'm experimenting by myself at the moment. If you follow my Vine you might see some of the weird videos among the stupid videos.

You’re very passionate about your music, and I find you strongly opinionated, thankfully on the good spectrum. What are your top five essential tracks?
You know this is ridiculously hard. I might try picking some recent favourites:
The Growlers - Tijuana
Girls - Broken Dreams Club/Ghost Mouth
Bill Fox - A Little More Rain
Nina Simone - Just Say I Love Him
Grateful Dead - Cream Puff War

Can you recommend us any worthwhile artists, be it music or illustration, to keep our eyes on?
For sure. Check out Prettywhores, Robert Borbas, Ze Burnay, and check out Bill Crisafi's photos.

What is next for you? Be it this year, or the future in general.
Get a camper van and start taking Hoodbats on the road. The Bohobus...

Finally, what’s the dream?
My dream would be successful in everything I do. I've started looking at old video cameras because I want to start making some spooky short movies. Either that or I'd like The Wytches to get a record deal and just tour with them dudes.

After we concluded the interview, we finished the night by polishing off what beers remained and watching several episodes of How I Met Your Mother, before I rang for a taxi and made my way home. I spent the next few days thinking about this diamond in the rough character, Breed, puzzled and wondering where his charm and talent could derive from, before accepting that he truly is a simple man; answering all other questions my mind concocted.

His advice to others comes through his actions; it appears his credos was set in stone long ago, and to see that he won’t be swayed from this is incredibly delightful and refreshing. Always responding to customers and fans, and keeping that connection, that cult, alive, sticking to his original blueprint. I’m not sure where he finds the time to one of those handful of people that always seem to interact so well, let alone make music and single-handedly man his blogs and websites, along with all the drawing, stock taking, and other business work he puts in. Some would say his credos is just ‘stay true’, some would say it’s ‘keep it real’, but Breed prefers to word it somewhat differently...

To join the Hoodbats revolution, click here.

This interview is a bit of a lengthy one, so I do thank you if you read it. I felt somewhat annoyed when I submitted this piece, as it just ended up as more of an introduction to Hoodbats, which was something I didn't really want - but unfortunately due to lack of knowledge about the retail world, it was hard to get into the depths of talking about the process, hardship and everything in between of running a clothing label and Mark's personal life as a result; which I would have much rather preferred. We've taken it upon ourselves to try and come back to this in a year or so when I have a greater understanding, we are closer friends, and hopefully Mark is more successful. He himself currently is working towards purchasing a van and travelling around the country (and probably Europe now documenting The Wytches' success)  - but for now, we can use this as a starting point.

Image credit: Copyright of Mark Christopher Breed, 2012-2013: Source.

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