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Shaolin Shoppe on Vaporwave, Crypto Art, and the Best Kung-Fu Movie Ever
BY ERIC P. RHODES - Eric is an award-winning Crypto Art artist, renowned Trash Art artist, and creator of the iconic NFT collection, Unofficial Punks. Working exclusively in the Web3 space since 2019. 💬 Follow Eric on Twitter
Shaolin Shoppe is a crypto artist, bass player, and one of the OGs in the trash art space. He got into crypto art before it was cool, spending only 3$ to mint his first NFT. Shaolin’s style is influenced by vaporwave, trash art, and glitch.
Today we get to know the man behind the NFD (that’s not a typo), we discuss his art background, and Shaolin shares his favorite kung-fu movie and some valuable advice for NFT newcomers. Let’s jump right in!
What would the 10-year-old Shaolin Shoppe think about you?
He's probably just mad that I'm not a cowboy. I grew up watching westerns and I just wanted to ride a horse around and have a gun. Of course, I didn't really know what being a cowboy meant: I just wanted a cool hat and a lasso. So a 10-year-old me would probably say: What the hell dude, why are you at your computer all day?
He’d probably be impressed that I’m playing bass, but other than that, he’d think I was a nerd.
Which musicians inspire you?
Sublime definitely had a big hand in me going towards the bass. That was one of the first bands I listened to a lot. They also have some of the coolest basslines. I also stan The Doors and Jim Morrison really hard. When I was a teenager, I probably read all the biographies and articles about him.
What kind of music NFTs are you working on?
I'm trying to do something more polished than the things I've done before. The few music NFTs I've dropped so far are mostly improvisations. I’d start recording, play around with a looper, or play movie dialogues over it.
These days I’m trying to do something a bit more advanced - I want to write and actually structure a song.
I love jamming with my dad and we’re doing some great stuff together. We have this makeshift studio in our house. I actually used some of the first money I made as an artist to buy my dad an amp. He is so excited about it, I was really happy to be able to do that. So we jam together, I keep the beat for my dad, but he’s the lead.
I’m also trying to learn more about music theory. I'm not really good at learning this stuff by myself, but I’m definitely making progress. And hopefully all before too long have something really cool to show for it. Fingers crossed.
What’s your art background - are you also self-taught or did you go to an art school?
No school, I just learned myself. I first went through a vaporwave phase, and well, actually, I’m still into it. So, it wasn’t just a phase.
And for those who don’t know, vaporwave is a genre of electronic music, really it’s mostly slowed down 80s songs. The visual aesthetic is also a huge part of it.
Vaporwave always has really good album art and its own distinct style. I’d say vaporwave albums are almost judged as much on the aesthetic of their art as they are on the music.
The most famous vaporwave image is probably the album art for Macintosh Plus’ album Floral Shoppe. In fact, part of my name comes from that title.
And the Shaolin part? Where does that come from?
I just like kung-fu movies and the Wu Tang Clan. Shaolin comes from that, but I’m not really sure how I put the two together.
Speaking of kung-fu, my favorite movie in the genre is definitely the Drunken Master with Jackie Chan. It's maybe his third movie, he’s really young in it. It came out in 1972, I think. It’s really, really good. I highly recommend it - it’s a great mix of physical comedy and the story is quite funny.
Kung-fu movies, at least poster-wise, have a pretty awesome aesthetic. Do you borrow any of that and mix it in with vaporwave?
That's actually a really good question. I am not doing it consciously, but thanks for the idea. I’m definitely going to try doing something like that now.
What are some themes and ideas you explore in your art? What is your aesthetic?
Lately, I’ve been circling back to some of my early stuff. I did a collaboration with sgt_slaughtermelon that was really fun. That collab had me really exploring and going back to vaporwave aesthetics. It’s usually centered around a marble bust, and we were playing around with the idea of doing a series featuring different philosophers. We only made the one NFT, because I’m bad at following up, but I should definitely hit him up. That would be an awesome series.
Besides that, I've been exploring abstractions, playing with colors and patterns. I’ve made this one piece that I really like, it’s inspired by the ocean. It’s called Restless Seas - WizardX actually picked it up, and I was super stoked he wanted it in his collection.
So I’ve been holding this question for a little bit. You’ve dropped an NFD. Want to tell us what that is?
Yeah, it stands for non-fungible dick. My magnum opus! I’m kidding, but obviously, I like that work and I made it as a response to some trends I’ve seen happen.
You probably know that selfies of girls sell for a ridiculous amount of money. A lot of artists ended up being kind of disgruntled by it. Personally, I thought it was funny and you know, hate the game, not the player. I would do it too if I could get away with it.
Still, men can’t really get away with that. And dick pics are given freely and without consent usually. So I wanted to make a statement and make a male thirst trap. The actual picture in the NFT is a very pixelated version, I wanted to keep it tasteful. But you get the link for the full version on purchase.
It was a commentary on the inequality in the space and obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek.
How did you get into crypto art?
It’s a funny story - I jumped right in but I knew nothing about crypto, I didn’t even have a particular interest in it. That part grew with time. I came in as an artist who heard of crypto as a way to get paid for my art. I spent maybe $3 to get started, and that’s all the fiat I ever put into crypto. In the beginning, it was all about the art, and obviously, it still is, but I’ve been learning about crypto and it’s definitely been a great experience.
I think the fact that I didn’t know that much about the crypto market probably saved me from some headaches through the dips. I probably didn’t even notice, and I see newcomers these days obsess over charts, which is only natural. But, the longer you are in crypto, the less you sweat the ups and downs. Crypto is volatile and you better get used to it.
When I first started, gas prices were super low too. Today we’re happy if the fee is below $40. It sucks but I do hope that L2 implementation can fix that.
Still, I think we shouldn't really be translating crypto into fiat and look at it through that lens.
For people to really embrace cryptocurrency as a true alternative, they have to stop translating crypto into fiat. @shaolinshoppe
Do you think that will happen soon?
Who knows - maybe not soon, but eventually. I think as soon as you can buy physical goods with crypto and do it easily, that’s when we’ll see mass adoption.
Personally, crypto allowed me to keep my own hours, get paid for my art, and be self-sufficient. I think crypto has the potential to bring more freedom to people so they don’t waste their lives working 40 hours a week.
What are your plans? What's next for Shaolin?
Definitely going to continue creating art. I want to continue exploring abstract but also explore some other avenues as well. That kung-fu vaporwave idea, for example.
I also want to buy some more art - that’s the first thing I did when I made the first big sale. That, and music equipment, of course. But I definitely want to become more involved in the community. I have no intentions of becoming a collector, but there are some great artists and pieces out there that deserve support.
What advice do you have for new people coming into the NFT space?
Don't make shitty art. That should be obvious, but I still like to give that advice. Make something people want to see and enjoy. And remember, your collectors are important. At first, I was a little disdainful of the idea of having dedicated collectors. It seemed like you’re brown-nosing these rich people to get them to buy your art. What I’ve come to realize is that, while there are some elements of that, that’s not a bad thing. Collectors allow you to continue creating your art and the sense of appreciation feels good.
It's all part of the game and you have to play the game. So, don’t neglect the sales aspect of it, and don’t feel like you’re dirtying your hands as an artist. Be nice to people, don't burn bridges as I did, and give back to the community.
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