Local illustrator and writer Dustin “Dusty” Krcatovich will be moving to Portland shortly. Here’s his official exit interview.
MARK: Here’s your first question… Were you born in Michigan? And, if not, how old were you when you first moved here, and what were the circumstances surrounding the move?
DUSTIN: I was born and raised in Michigan, specifically Otsego… a small town off US-131, in between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. My parents also both grew up in southwest Michigan: my mom in Otsego, my dad in neighboring Allegan. With the exception of a brief stint on my dad’s part in Kalamazoo, they’ve lived in one or the other their entire lives.
MARK: But, if I’m not mistaken, you did live outside the state for a while, didn’t you?
DUSTIN: Yep. I lived in Portland, Oregon for about a year and a half, starting in 2006. Aside from that, I’ve been in Otsego, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, or Ypsilanti.
MARK: What brought you back from Oregon? It’s been my experience that people don’t generally return from there.
DUSTIN: It wasn’t the right time. There was life-progress that I thought would be easier to make in Michigan, where I didn’t have the handicap of not knowing what the fuck I was doing. Well, I guess one has that handicap anywhere, but I had a little more direction in Michigan than I was ready to muster in Portland.
MARK: So the conditions weren’t right for you to emerge from your cocoon as a fully-formed, radiantly-beautiful butterfly of a man… but now they are?
DUSTIN: Something like that. It’s a little more banal, though. It’s more that I now feel as though I can economically manage myself a little better, and make smarter choices, compromise with potential clients better… things like that. If it’s a matter of “becoming a man/adult,” it’s only inasmuch as I’m not as sensitive to constructive, or even non-constructive, criticism as an artist/designer… “The customer is always right,” y’know.
MARK: Did this awakening have anything to do with the epic dust-up between you and our mutual friend The Non-Local Banker?
DUSTIN: Yeah, I’ve got to get outta town before I make any other enemies.
MARK: I was just wondering if that’s when you officially gave up, decided that you had to play the game, adopted the “customer’s always right” mindset, and lost your last shred of idealism?
DUSTIN: It was a foregone conclusion. According to Ian Fulcher, I made that leap years ago. He loves to point out my tragic fall from punk idealism to shameless capitalism.
MARK: I think you still had a little fight left in you when you took on the bankers.
DUSTIN: Nah, I have a decent amount of fight left in me. I consider myself a “radical pragmatist.” There’s still a lot of stuff I have a big problem with, though re: capitalism, government, mass media, and the other usual suspects. However, as a friend of mine once said: “If you have cancer, you’re not going to go to the indie rock hospital.” I’m radical when it makes sense. Shooting myself in the foot doesn’t make sense. I’ve done enough of that to be limping for life.
MARK: So, what’s the plan? Back to Oregon? To do what?
DUSTIN: Yep, back to Oregon. Portland specifically for the city amenities, but Oregon in general for the natural beauty and milder weather. With the exception of working at Encore Records, I’ll be doing basically the same things I do here: freelance art and design, DJing parties/weddings/whatever, and writing… Hopefully a lot more of the latter than I do here, although I’m not making anyone, including myself, any promises.
MARK: Are you just learning how to write? Is that a skill you need to be successful in Portland?
DUSTIN: No, I’ve been doing it a long time, though I still feel like I’m learning. I used to write music and culture articles for The Ann Arbor Paper when that was a thing, with varying degrees of aesthetic success. I’ve been trying to write a graphic novel, as well as some other essays and a non-fiction book, but I’m holding myself to really high standards, so nobody has really seen much evidence of the progress. It’s slow going.
MARK: What is it about Oregon that you find compelling, other than the natural beauty and the weather?
DUSTIN: Not much. I mean, I like the “vibe” out there, I suppose. It’s as characteristically lazy and slow as it’s depicted on some sketches on Portlandia, or maybe more like the depiction of Austin in Slacker, although this is less true now that it’s such a hot place to move. It’s just a very comfortable place for me. It should be noted that I don’t give a rat’s ass about the music or art scene out there. There’s plenty of it, but I care about MAYBE 1% of it. It’s less interesting certainly than Detroit, and Ann Arbor and Ypsi when those are going full-steam… I actually think the time is ripe to be doing stuff around here, minus maybe Ann Arbor. That’s not my primary concern, however.
MARK: Since you brought the subject up, what’s your biggest gripe with the Ann Arbor scene? And how do you see it evolving in your absence?
DUSTIN: Well, I don’t really have a gripe about it, from a cultural standpoint; I’m simply not as interested as I used to be in such things, but that’s not the community’s fault. I will concede that I’d like to see more people do something that’s not a rock band, exercise a little more imagination, but that’s not a new feeling nor one that’s any stronger now than at any other time. Besides, if people like doing it, and other people like supporting it, who am I to say? Ann Arbor specifically is admittedly kinda lame at this point, just kind of a yuppie watering hole/undergrad pit stop en route to Brooklyn or whatever, but that’s not why I’m moving. Like I implied earlier, the proximity to Detroit and the tight-knit scene in Ypsi kind of remedy those issues. As for evolution sans moi, I’m sure the area’s propensity for transience will keep things fresh in one way or another. I don’t feel like I’m leaving too much of a mantle to take up, but I’m confident that there will be people around to do something comparable.
MARK: If I didn’t have my roots sunk so deep into Michigan, I’d consider making the move. I’ve always had a fondness for Portland. I know it’s become cliche, but it really is a great place. I just hope that, with so many young, talented people there, you’re able to find gainful employment.
DUSTIN: Me too. My goal is to not be dependent on the city for employment, because you’re absolutely right in your implication that the job market is horrible. It doesn’t have the infrastructure of NYC, San Francisco, and all of the other big cities that “the creative class” tend to migrate toward. The miracle of the internet age, though, is that it doesn’t necessarily matter. If I need to, I have friends who can get me a dumb service job, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can avoid as much.
MARK: I have to believe there’s always room for someone who can so deftly incorporate gynecologic imagery into his work.
DUSTIN: Hahaha, I was actually just writing the html code for the page on my portfolio that will feature that controversial image.
MARK: What’s left to do before you go? Is there a list of Michigan things that must be accomplished before entering this new phase of life?
DUSTIN: I’m trying to spend a little more time exploring and appreciating Detroit before I leave. I didn’t have a car from 2004-2012, so my visits in that time were pretty limited. I’d also like to get back to the U.P. I also might start a Link Wray-ish instrumental party band for the summer, if I can get my shit/friends together for it.
MARK: So how did you spend your time in Portland when lived out there before? What did you do for a year and a half>
DUSTIN: Drank shitty beer, walked and rode a bike a lot, worked at American Apparel, met my best friend Cait, played in a Replacements/Alex Chilton/T. Rex/Pavement amalgam power trio called FOREVER STOKED, recorded my best record, saw the legendary noise/improv band Smegma multiple times, did some of my worst cartooning since age 18, worked at a toy store, got offered a job at the American Apparel factory in L.A. that I ended up turning down, entertained my first serious suicidal thoughts, drank Everclear, got offered sex in a filthy house-party bathroom (same night as the Everclear), drank a ton of super-good coffee, put my finger in a sea anemone’s “mouth,” and pretended that I had a clandestine relationship with Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s) to entertain my hero Ricky Delucco.
MARK: Did Dov make love to you and/or photograph you?
DUSTIN: It never got that far. I was actually supposed to be his assistant’s assistant, but I never flew down for the interview. I’m sure, one way or another, I would have been fucked, though possibly not in a sensual way.
MARK: Is that why you came running back to Michigan… because you were jilted by Dov Charney? And how cool is it that assistants get assistants in LA?
DUSTIN: I actually jilted Dov. I was explicitly informed that casual sex would be an incredibly likely part of the deal, which was hard to turn my back on, but I just couldn’t see myself in L.A… The assistant who was trying to hire me actually died tragically a year and change later, likely due to overexertion from working 22 hour days and drinking endless amounts of Starbucks (but it should be said that that’s conjecture). She was my age. Weird.
MARK: Who is Ricky Delucco? (I’m too lazy to resort to Google.) And what has he done to earn your respect?
DUSTIN: Ricky Delucco doesn’t need to earn respect, he demands it. This is by sheer force of his beautiful aura and gregarious laugh. That said, he’s also an amazing draftsman and designer, one of those people that makes me look like a total chump by comparison, but nonetheless showers my work with praise. He also doesn’t prefer to be called Ricky, but I can’t resist.
MARK: Tell us about this imagined liaison with Dave Thomas.
DUSTIN: The imagined affair with Dave Thomas was just something that came out of a stream-of-consciousness conversation; the specific origins of which are a mystery lost to the sands of time. In other words, “you had to be there,” but besides Rick and myself, those that were there were largely unamused, so maybe being there didn’t help.
MARK: Did you take the person up on the party sex? I ask because I was once made a similar offer and declined. It was the only time I’ve ever been propositioned by an attractive young woman who was completely unknown to me, so I have fond memories of it. I was at a baby shower that had somehow evolved into something much different with the addition of strangers, who had apparently been drinking all day. A nice young woman, after a short conversation, asked me to join her in descending the stairs we were standing next to, and defiling the basement of the unsuspecting homeowner, at which point I had to tell her that I was the homeowner, the basement was already sufficiently filthy, and the woman standing about ten feet from us was my wife. I believe she moved on to someone else… I later had to stop her friend from having sex with another guest in our bathroom.
DUSTIN: I rejected the bathroom sexual advances, but I assure you that this was an accident caused by the aforementioned consumption of Everclear (side note: Art Alexakis of the band Everclear still lives in Portland, or at least he did. My friend Ami, who now owns Brass Tacks Sandwiches, used to work at an ice cream parlor at which Mr. Alexakis was a regular patron. She described him as being haunted by the spectre of defeat at every turn.) The woman who propositioned me had asked me prior if I had a girlfriend. When I said no, she said “SO IF YOU HAD SEX WITH SOMEONE TONIGHT, YOU WOULDN’T BE CHEATING ON ANYONE?”. She then suggested we go wait in line for the bathroom. When it was her turn, she said “would you care to join me?”, to which I responded “pfffft, we can’t both pee at once.” Later that night, I made some very dubious choices with one of my roommates, but I’m going to keep that one vague to protect the innocent.
MARK: Describe your work.
DUSTIN: Basically, I do illustration and design work, and I also moonlight as a DJ playing mostly 45s from the 1950s/60s. Some of the design work is done by analog means (pen and paper, rub-on letters, and the like), but most of it is augmented digitally in some way or another. My over-arching aesthetic is influenced heavily by pre-digital cartoonists and graphic designers (Robert Crumb, Milton Glaser, Seymoure Schwast, George Maciunas, Peter Bagge, Basil Wolverton, etc.). If folks are interested, they can view samples of my work at DustinKrcatovich.com. I also run a small art and sound label called FM Dust, which is currently semi-dormant but will rise again, just like the phoenix.
MARK: Was Ann Arbor too small for both you and Jeremy Wheeler?
DUSTIN: Probably, but he and I super-tight bros from way back when, so I don’t know if we’d see it that way.
MARK: If you could take one person from Ann Arbor with you to Portland, who would it be?
DUSTIN: Tough one. The first person that came to mind is my roommate, Jen Munford.
MARK: Do you feel bad for abandoning her?
DUSTIN: Nah… My departure just increases the likelihood of her continuing to like me. I do most of my sulking and complaining at home.
MARK: Will you be defacing any billboards before you leave?
DUSTIN: I wouldn’t dream of it. Not because it shouldn’t happen, just because I’m a wuss.
MARK: What did you learn from the exchange over the Bank of Ann Arbor’s “non-local banker” campaign?
DUSTIN: Not much. It was fun, if a little distressing, to watch that little gag open up old wounds and latent rivalries that have nothing to with me. Everyone needs to lighten up. Any high-falutin’ commentary from my end notwithstanding, it’s all just a joke.
MARK: Have you ever thought of seducing Dave Thomas’s daughter, Wendy? According to Wikipedia, she graduated from the University of Florida in 1983 with “a bachelor’s degree in consumerism.” I didn’t know that you could major in consumerism.
DUSTIN: I’m pretty sure that’s what most of the students at the University of Michigan are studying right now. That’s why downtown Ann Arbor’s a quasi-corporate food court now, and the closest thing to radicalism you usually see is either half-hearted, or perpetrated by people my parents’ age. I’ve never dated a redhead before, but I’d be intrigued to start any old time.
DUSTIN: Oh, man, I found some really mean comments about her after following those links. Poor rich woman. That said, I think I’ll pass. I did consider becoming a gigolo for middle-aged wealthy widows when I moved to Portland the first time, with the smokescreen of an artist/patron relationship, but I never followed through.
MARK: If you woke up one morning to find that someone had traded your feet for your hands, what would you do?
DUSTIN: There’s no PG answer to that one, my friend.
MARK: Yes, I think you’ll fit right in in Portland.
DUSTIN: I dunno, I’m scared of fixed-gear bikes and I’ve never gone mushroom-hunting, but I’ll do my best.
MARK: What’s the ideal job for you?
DUSTIN: Professional roustabout/drifter who owns a houseboat. I don’t know anything about that, though, so probably cartoonist, although I come in and out of that field of interest, and I worry almost everyday about early-onset arthritis crushing all of my dreams.
MARK: I don’t know it’s of epidemic proportions, but, as you mention suicidal thoughts, I feel as though I should mention that, as nice as Portland is, there seem to be a lot of people leaping off of buildings. It’s something about the rain. I don’t suppose it will be too bad for someone moving from the relatively sunless state of Michigan, but I thought that I should mention it. Be sure to take your vitamin-D and your light therapy lamp, OK?
DUSTIN: Thanks for the concern. There’s no two ways about it: winter in the Pacific Northwest is gloomy as shit. The one positive about snow is that it’s bright white (well, until it’s brown and slushy, anyway), so at least that offsets Seasonal Affective Disorder a teensy bit. That said, it’s usually about 15-20 degrees warmer in the winter in Portland, so it’s a tradeoff.
MARK: It’s at the forefront of my mind at the moment because I just recently got a text from a friend in Portland. Someone had jumped to his death right outside his office window. I suspect that a lot of it is the weather, but I imagine that some folks also move to Portland expecting for their lives to turn around, and then have to deal with reality. But, like I hinted at before, I don’t have any data to support the notion that people are taking their lives in Portland more than anywhere else. For all I know, we have more suicides per capita in Ann Arbor.
DUSTIN: I’ve heard that both Seattle and Portland have exceptionally high suicide rates. Rain and grey can do that to people. I’m steeling myself for it, though.
MARK: Do you have a question for me?
DUSTIN: Have you ever seen Pete Larson naked?
MARK: As you likely know, it’s very difficult to avoid accidental intercourse with one’s bandmates… So, do you have a final comment for the people of Michigan?
DUSTIN: Is it ever! Closing statement: so long, suckers. Nah, nah, barring unforeseen obstacles, Michigan will see me again plenty. This isn’t goodbye, just see ya later.
MARK: Oh, and I’ve just been asked by Concentrate Media, to come out and do some live exit interviews at Connor O’Neils on the 28th. Would you like to join the panel?
DUSTIN: Sure, why the heck not?
update: If you’d like to attend the Concentrate event on the 28th in person, and see me interview the likes of Dusty, Jacqui Robbins and Newcombe Clark, you can sign up here.
[Be sure to check out the rest of our Ypsi/Arbor Exit Interviews.]