Josh Agle, (AKA Shag - take the last two letters of his first name, add them to the first two of his last name) is the guy behind some of the Dickies' best album and single artwork of recent years. We caught up with him in April of this year 2001....

Ciaron's questions are in bold, Josh's replies are in normal lower case.


How long have you been a commercial artist?

I've been doing commercial art for about 13 or 14 years. I worked while I was studying art, and it helped me pay my way through school.

Your style is quite a distinctive one, is it something you've consciously worked on or has it been a natural progression.

The style I work in now (the "Shag" style) is one of several styles I was using to do commercial work -- it happened to be my favourite, so I stuck with it in the fine art as well. Strangely, most of the Dickies stuff I've done has been in other styles than that for which I'm known.

Where do you draw your influences from?

I'm really influenced by commercial art from the '40s through the present, but especially from the late '50s and early '60s. Some of the advertising and television commercials from that era have tremendously influenced my work.

How did you get involved with the Dickies?

I got to know Stan Lee (and later Leonard) through a mutual acquaintance in about 1987. At that time they were recording their "Killer Klowns" ep, and Stan asked me to do the cover. It was my first record industry job, and I was really excited about it! I had been listening to the Dickies since the late '70s; there was a popular radio station in L.A. which played their stuff, "Gigantor," and "Tricia Toyata."

How many of their albums / singles have you worked on?

I'm going to have to go back a bit for this...

Killer Klowns From Outer Space EP
Roadkill 7"
Dogs From The Hares That Bit Us EP
Live album (something about Clones...? It's on ROIR records)
My Pop the Cop 7"
Free Willy 7"
All This and Puppet Stew LP/CD

I may have forgotten some...

Do the band approach you with the initial concept for the album or are you given a blank canvas (pun not intended!)?

Stan and Leonard always have a very clear concept for the art. They are creative individuals and I usually really like the ideas they propose. Occasionally I'll make suggestions, and I like to put my own little twist on it, but it's principally based on their wishes.

Could you talk us through the whole process, start to finish, of producing the artwork for something like the 'dogs from the hare that bit us' album?

With the "Dogs" album, Stan called me and told me the concept. He said the band was close to finishing the album, and he put me in contact with their label to iron out the details like payment and delivery. Stan's concept for the covers are usually taken from pop culture, and usually references something happening at the time of the recording. For this cover, he wanted Dalmatian puppies, because the live action Disney movie was soon to be released. He also wanted the hideous rabbit from the "Twilight Zone" movie (I had to rent the video to see what he was talking about!). I did a rough sketch and sent it to him for minor changes. Then I did a black and white pen drawing, which I scanned into my computer, using Photoshop software to colour and shade the image. The final image was then tweaked a little more to Stan and Leonard's specifications, and that's what ended up on the album cover.

Do you favour traditional painting methods or do you prefer to work digitally? Maybe a mixture of the two?

I use both methods, depending on what the job calls for. For the most recent Dickies album cover, I painted it entirely by hand, because they wanted an "old masters" oil paint look. Most of my career now consists of fine art which is shown and sold through galleries; all of that work is done by hand.

Have you been involved at all with the new Dickies album?

Yes, I did the cover. It was another great idea from the Dickies; sort of a whacked-out Punch and Judy scene. This will probably be the last work I do for the band, as my "real" career as a painter has really exploded, and left me no time for commercial work.

Do you get to hear any of the tracks before you begin working on designs?

On the early work I did for the Dickies, I used to hear the entire album, sometimes many times in a row, at Stan Lee's house. He was a late riser, and I'd go over there at 10:00 or 11:00 pm and stay until 2 or 3 listening to the tracks and discussing the cover. Now we do everything via e-mail and phone; I haven't seen Stan face-to-face in a couple years! I usually don't hear it until the record label sends me the final product.

What sort of music do you listen to - are you a Dickies fan?

I've always enjoyed what the Dickies do, and I'm pleased they've chosen to let me do some record covers. I think they are among the best live bands in existence, and I think they've made some pretty tremendous albums, too. Most of what I listen to now is old stuff from the '50s and '60s, not rock and roll, but soundtracks, jazz, instrumentals, calypso, and other non-lyric music. I think most lyrics are pretty inane, although I've always admired the way the Dickies can turn a phrase.

Do you have any messages for people out there in Dickie land?

My only message is that I think the band has gotten far less credit than they deserve. The marriage of poppy melodies and punk rock music has been making some bands big bucks in the last 4 or 5 years, and they all owe a debt to the Dickies.

We'd like to extend our thanks to Josh for giving us the chance to speak with him, and we would also recommend that you guys 'n' gals check out his web-site. This guy is good!!

www.shag-art.com