Ahead of OFFSET Dublin 2016, our good friend and former Editor-in-Chief of It’s Nice That, Rob Alderson, caught up with illustrator, rapper and Hate Mail creator Mr Bingo.
A F*CKING LONG INTRODUCTION
Most creatives are pretty vague when you ask them how they came to end up doing what they do. But Mr Bingo can tell you exactly how it happened – as a student at Bath Spa University he had to choose between focusing on illustration or graphic design at the end of his first year. Torn between the two, he decided to ask his peers to vote, and illustration won a landslide. The anecdote reflects some of the traits that have made Bingo one of the most interesting and unusual creatives working today – an eye for theatre, a sense of mischief and a refreshing willingness to follow through on his ideas. Since graduating in 2001 these instincts have served him well, initially as an illustrator working for clients like The New York Times, Wired, Byron and Runners Need, and more recently through his own artistic projects. Perhaps the best known of these is Hate Mail, which is exactly what it sounds like. Since 2011, masochistic members of the public have been able to order their very own abusive postcard, complete with an offensive sketch and a deliciously vicious barb. These range from the considered, “Your online dating profile is dishonest” to the joyously random, “You are shit with boats.” Last year he published 135 of his favourites in a book, Hate Mail: The Definitive Collection. It was funded through Kickstarter and the appetite to support this seemingly sadistic enterprise was enormous – he raised £100,000 more than his initial £35,000 target. This was in part due to the rewards available for backers, which included Bingo ringing you to up to abuse them on Christmas Day to the marvelous opportunity to “Get Sh*tfaced On A Train.” Following these particular excursions through Bingo’s social media was one of my genuine media highlights of 2015. Bingo launched the Kickstarter with a rap video, because of course he did. The three-minute film encapsulates what makes Bingo great; it’s funny, self-aware and takes something supremely silly very seriously. The rhymes range from the impressive to the knowingly clunky (uniform and unicorn, masochist and massive fist). In a creative landscape that can sometimes feel predictable and cynical, Bingo is anything but. He commits to those tenets that we hear a lot about, but which have become castrated by their over use – he takes risks, ignores received wisdom and follows his own instincts. This is a guy who once when asked about other creatives he admires, admitted that he didn’t take much notice of anyone else and was more likely to be found watching Come Dine With Me than poring over design blogs. Having known him for a few years – and been on the receiving end of his abrasive charm more than once – I decided it would be fun to channel the confrontational spirit of Hate Mail in this c*nt of an interview…
WITH A F*CKING SHORT INTERVIEW
You are known exclusively by your pseudonym Mr Bingo – is that because you’re a charlatan or a coward?
When I was 21 years old I started attributing work to Mr Bingo. It’s a fucking stupid name, a bit like The Arctic Monkeys; surely they regret that now they’ve all lost their teenage acne and started prancing around moodily in smart clothes in black and white photos? In answer to your question: yes, a charlatan.
Through your Hate Mail project you have sent personal abuse to thousands of strangers – does this make you feel good about yourself?
No. A few people pointed out that the Hate Mail project coincidentally began as I was coming out of a divorce. What it does do is that it allows me to take things I hate about people and get them off my chest. It’s a cathartic process. If I see some c**t travelling to work in a suit on a micro scooter, instead of holding that anger in and potentially building up to some kind of Michael-Douglas-in-Falling-Down moment, I can channel that hate into a piece of art and send it to a stranger.
You once described your personal motto as “Nothing matters” – is this nihilistic posturing or do you really mean this?
I really mean it.
Why on earth do you think more than 30,000 ostensibly sane people choose to follow you on Twitter?
Because I don’t Tweet about what I had for lunch, DIY, family, TV, babies, being bored at work, birthdays, Christmas, dieting, shopping, socialising and looking forward to the weekend.
You have developed an interest in rap recently – do you think the world needs another middle class white boy with an NWA fantasy?
Yes it does. Of course everyone hates a middle class white c**t stealing from other cultures that he can’t relate to, but I’m doing it under the thin veil of comedy which (in my opinion) means you can do whatever you like.
The sculptor Wilfrid Wood has made a sculpture of your head – would you say this is an artwork that the world really needs?
That’s two consecutive “Does the world really need this?” questions. F**k me, is the best journalist Offset could find? Anyway, no, but it’s something that I really need. Again, going with the charlatan thing, having a sculpture of your own head makes you look more important and successful and gives you a false air of superiority.
Realistically, do you think that this can all go much longer?
I think so yes. I need to come up with some new stuff, but hopefully I can think of something that people will be into. I know I’ll never be homeless. If things go really tits up, I’ll just open Hate Mail again and the rent will get paid.
Interview by Rob Alderson.
Portrait photo by Liam Ricketts.