Go ahead introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Brian Keller AKA Brain Killer. I grew up here in Chicago, on the North side. I’m a visual artist working in a variety of mediums including video, photography, illustration and Murals.
Growing up what had influenced you to get involved with art?
I just always had a natural affinity for it. Art came naturally to me. Growing up, I wasn’t into stuff that was considered ‘normal’. I was always into geek culture, before it was geek culture. I was into comic books, cartoons, sci fi, horror and more. I was huge into skateboarding and the art that came with it. Around the same time I was skating, I was getting into graffiti as well. I was just a shorty at the time, but REEM (RIP) from MAD Crew ended up showing me the ropes. He was a mentor to me; He lived down the street and I would go over to his house and learn all different types of shit. He introduced me to movies like Clockwork Orange, he got me into Punk and Hip-hop, and he just opened me up to a whole new world I didn’t know existed.
What was the first medium you got involved with?
-From that how were you able to transition into fine art/graphic design, cinematography, and directing/producing?
The first medium I got involved with was just drawing and later transitioned into writing graffiti. I first wrote Raid, but I never really got up outside of the neighborhood with that name. My folks were pretty strict because I was getting trouble in school, so I wasn’t able to get out as much and bomb. A bit later, I eventually moved away from my neighborhood at Irving and Pulaski into Portage Park, further west where I felt like the cool kid. In this area, the groups of kids weren’t really exposed to writing as much. I started writing DREAM. I got up a lot more with this name. Around the same time I was involved with Gallery 37, an after school art program that employed and taught CPS students art, it’s now called ASM. I started to hang out there and meet other writers from all over Chicago that were active and I was beginning to finally get recognition and respect writing Dream. After a few years I was beginning to get into some trouble and I realized I had to clean my act up and get into college. When I first attended Columbia, I majored in illustration and graphic design. I remember I had really wanted to create a comic book and the more I learned, the more I wanted to see my idea of creating a comic be something bigger. I wanted to see it animated. From there, I then began transitioning into film. Once I took my first film class, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I switched my focus over to cinematography and double majored in cinematography and art.
You stated how you’ve been creative your whole life. How would you describe creativity? Can creativity be taught or is it an inherent trait?
I would define creativity as the ability and desire to bring things you imagine to life. Creativity is a drive, it’s a force. If someone wants to be taught how to be creative, they are probably already creative. I think we are all creative in some way. It’s up to you to harness that energy into something real.
How was college experience for you at Columbia?
-Did college help prepare you for the real world?
I didn’t have the typical college experience other kids had, I didn’t really hang out or make friends. I already had some pretty intense life experience and was a pretty awful student up to this point. But Columbia taught me how to learn and take things seriously. In school I realized I needed to pursue what was going to make me happy for the rest of my life. I had worked a ton of menial or labor intensive jobs earlier that I knew I didn’t want that kind of life for myself. The fear of working a real job was my driving force.
When and where did you begin your career?
I bounced around doing some PA work. I was doing some apprenticeships; I tried to be a storyboard artist and day played as a grip on feature films. None of these jobs were allowing me to be creative in the way I wanted to be. I didn’t work this hard in school to just be a cog in the machine. At the time I had a friend in LA and he was telling me about a script he’d been shopping around and said, get out here. So I did. After living in LA for 2 months, I was already running out of money and I thought I’d have to move back. I took a job at a scene warehouse moving sets around. They offered me a job as a supervisor and I didn’t show up the next day. I didn’t move out all this way to work in warehouse. After a couple weeks I got a call from G4. A producer called me saying He liked my camera experience and wanted me to come in for an interview. I came in and got the job shooting and directing in game cut scenes. I moved up the ladder and became a producer, I was able to write and develop content and direct segments. G4TV was a lifestyle network with a focus on video games, technology, and pop culture.” (Creativemornings.com)
At G4 you were a part of the team to help launch G4’s flagship show called “Attack Of The Show”
How was that experience?
It was an awesome experience. It was what I had always wanted. I was getting respect for my ideas and what I was bringing to the table. If I had an idea in the morning, it was going to be on TV the same day. On the show we were able to showcase many different arts and talents, ranging from comic books, street art, music, and more. I was able to work with so many of my heroes and influences when I was a kid. It was a dream job.
What were some jobs/opportunities you had after G4?
I moved back to Chicago after my son was born. Back in Chicago I thought I’d be big fish in a smaller pond but that was t the case. I had some pretty tough years personally, financially, and professionally. I couldn’t find the right stride. It was like G4 made me a pop culture junkie. I was living the dream out in LA and I was faced with the decision to move back home, and it was hard. I never really found that new high again; everywhere I went it was just subpar. I was still able to work on huge projects after Attack of the Show, but it just wasn’t the same. I was able to work for Dreaming Tree Films as a Supervising Producer. I supervised production and was a part of the creating of two national teen filmmaker competitions. After that, I was able to work with Vimby. I worked with Vimby for 6 years. I was a director, producer, and editor of lifestyle web content. I was able to produce segments in art, counter culture, fashion, and music. We had some cool clients like Own (Oprah Winfrey Network), MTV, Seventeen Magazine, Puma, New Era, and Volkswagen. I also shot and directed countless spots for Walmart. From there I landed at The Onion where I was a Creative Services Producer for their agency Onion Labs
How was life like in LA?
Life in LA was awesome; I loved it out there. It was chill and slow-paced. I try to live a combination between Chicago hustle and LA. Chicago is my home but LA has my heart.
In 2013, you were able to win best filmmaker for the Chicago Reader. How was that feeling for you?
It was so awesome. I remember I was in a terrible mood and had to do a job in Iowa. I was sitting on this plane in Iowa and my buddy called me and told me I won best filmmaker in Chicago.
Explain the meaning behind your brand Brain Killer
Brain Killer – noun [breyn] [kil-er]
- A video brand
- The oozings of a shattered psyche.
I created Brain Killer in 2012. I was still struggling to find my creative outlet so I decided to start my own brand, and that’s when I created Brain Killer. With Brain Killer I wanted to make my own work with my own voice. I started directing music videos, art installations, and getting back into street art/murals. Funny thing about the name, I couldn’t stand it at first, yet I knew it was going to be the name that would take off.
Do you believe that emotions can influence your creativity?
-Has any experience then good or bad predicated the inspiration of one of your works of art?
Absolutely, my emotions influence all of my creativity. Emotion is everything. Technical skills are fantastic, you should always know your fundamentals, but for me, it’s more about me exposing all of my emotions into my pieces. As an artist you need to put yourself into everything you do, whether that’s happy or sad or whatever. So many of my recent pieces have been a representation of everything I’m going through. I’m currently working solely based off of emotion, drive, and being able to support my children.
Rewind back to your 16 year old self, are you proud of all the things you’ve accomplished and in the position you are in today?
It’s funny, I feel like I’m back to my 16-18 year old self at times. At the end of the day I’m still very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish and whom I’ve been able to work with. I’ve worked so hard for this and it’s always good to look back on the journey since day one.
What advice do you have for any young artists trying to brand themselves?
Well, in my opinion, the whole branding culture is both silly and necessary. I think we have gotten so caught up in trying to be famous and get our 15 minutes of fame on the Internet, that it’s perverted a lot of things, whether it’s sense of self, or how we treat others. But, if you have the right talent and right mindset, then branding yourself is absolutely necessary if you’re going to take it somewhere. Just do what you love, don’t worry about what other people think, and don’t try to be like anyone else. It’s going to be hard to not have self-doubt, but keep going, whether that is for your brand or for your art, just don’t stop. My Dad always told me this, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.”
What’s going to be next for you for the remaining years, what’s your legacy going to look like?
I’m going to take this as far as I can; there is no going back. My personal goal is just to be a better artist a better creative. Right now I’ve been focusing so heavily on art but I’m currently developing more video content and get that in front of the right people and the right studios. I want to leave a mark in this world. For me it’s not about fame, I really just want to continue to making a living on my terms and when I’m gone I want my kids to be proud of me. That’s why I do it.