Interview by Ryan Goldade and Patrick Giang
Words by Amie Nguyen and Ryan Goldade
Photography by Patrick Giang
Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
Joey: I’m Joey
Dora: And I’m Dora. I pretty much talk to wholesalers, coordinate things and do the shipping. Whenever we got shows, I coordinate flights and the shows.
Joey: I do all the design stuff. I do all the printing, the physical stuff. That’s me who does it. We screen print them ourselves. It’s all very low key. Nothing is outsourced. Everything from the labelling to the printing is us. All the way ‘til it’s shipped. Even all the shows, it’s us. When you buy from us, you buy directly from us. There’s nobody else.
Akumu Ink is inspired by Japanese culture and pop icons. Tell us about the creation of this brand.
Joey: In Japanese, Akumu means nightmare. It’s very much based off the concept of nightmares and scary imagery in Japanese horror movies. We try to do something with more of a dark mood instead of blood and guts.
Dora: Some other t-shirts have zombies and all these colors and you have to figure everything out while ours is straight to the point. We’re still evolving with our designs. Our first designs were very straight forward objects but our new designs are going to be more different.
It’s been said that some of your designs come from your nightmares. Tell us about the process of transferring your dream world into your reality.
Dora: I think it’s more of a nightmare to come up with a design. He has a due date and he dreams about it and has nightmares about it.
Joey: It’s more just like the concept itself instead of actually having the nightmares ‘cause I barely dream.
Dora: He barely remembers in the morning.
Joey: It’s just the concept. More haunted imagery than something crazy with just blood and guts. We’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before and be completely original.
At your studio, you have posters on your wall of horror movies. How do these movies give you inspiration?
Joey: When I try to come up with stuff, I try to put my mind in the mindset of the characters. I have a lot of drawings of the Joker from Dark Knight and I think, “What would the joker wear?” I’m always trying to figure stuff out like that.
Some of your themes are really dark while others have a cute twist to them. Tell us more about your different designs.
Joey: I always try to imagine what would sell more for girls or for guys, depending on the show that we’re at. We do a lot of anime shows and tattoo shows so we try to think about what our customers would want and I try to build images to offer to them.
As a side note, I used to work as a children’s story illustrator so I think the cuteness has transferred over in a scarier kind of morbid way.
Recently, you hired two writers for your upcoming Akumu Ink comic book. Tell us more about that
Joey: I used to do comic books before Akumu Ink. Nothing majorly published, just mainly independent. I wanted to go back and check it out again and create more stories for the characters. Make the brand not be so flat so you’re not just buying a shirt but you’re buying a world. We’re trying to get skins for laptops and iPads and such.
Akumu Ink has grown at a good pace over the last two years. What’s down the road for the brand and yourselves?
Joey: Get bigger. We’re trying to get to more stores and get our brand out there. We know that the people buying our stuff now. We just want more people to know about it.
What kind of projects are you looking to do in the future?
Joey: We want to do toys. We would love to do that.
Dora: We’ve done some research on the pricing and it’s very expensive so we’re not there yet. Right now, we’re still building the customer base.
Joey: A dream would be to go into vinyl toys.
Tell us more about the characters portrayed in your artwork.
Joey: We have the guy with the umbrella; he’s main one. They all have their little stories too. We’ve got a guy shooting himself in the head and he has a skull face. It’s kind of like, he’s dead and he’s shooting himself, how much more dead can he get? If you like horror and you like anime, then it’s a cute mix of both, which I don’t think people have been doing much of.
Based out of Montreal, how is the brand influenced from the whole culture of Montreal?
Joey: I always draw my inspiration from everywhere. I just take from what I like.
What is HYPE?
Joey: To make people want your product
Dora: Anything that’s cool enough that people would want it.