ColumbusArts.com Artist: KENT GROSSWILER
As the most comprehensive online events guide and resource for arts and culture in central Ohio, ColumbusArts.com offers a virtual guide through the Columbus art world with a searchable database of events, concerts, performances and more. ColumbusArts.com is an engaging place for artists and arts organizations to share what they do, with thousands users per month. The ColumbusArts.com Artist Directory allows visual, performing and literary artists to create a profile and portfolio to showcase their work—for free—and enables art enthusiasts to easily search for and connect with them. Our monthly ColumbusArts.com artist profile series features interviews with a few of the many talented individuals who make up central Ohio’s thriving creative community. This month’s profile features longtime Columbus resident, Kent Grossiler. Grosswiler is a drummer, poet, creative writer, actor and a painter – and has his hands in many more creative endeavors than space for us to cover. Grosswiler has been a fixure in the Columbus music scene for more than 20 years as a drummer in countless, successful bands. He’s well-known in Columbus’ tight-knit arts community as a mult-talented, super nice guy—and has a bit of a cult following of his wildly funny and irreverent haikus posted almost daily on his Facebook page.
By Jennifer Sadler
GCAC: Tell us a little about yourself. Are you from around Columbus?
Kent Grosswiler: For the most part, I’ve lived here since 1980. I was born in St Louis, Missouri and lived there in the city until I was 10. I was the minority in the schools I attended. At recess I spent as much time trying to learn how to double dutch jump rope as I did playing kickball. I thought my friends at school had serious style. I guess some of that style rubbed off on me because in time I had appropriated how I walked and talked. I was aspiring to be a little JJ Walker or something. When we moved to Westerville in the middle of my 5th grade year, all I can say is it was a total culture shock.
GCAC: You’ve been a drummer in several bands over the past two decades, acted in a student film and did some work for MadLab Theatre in the late ‘90s. You’re into creative writing and poetry. And you’re a self-taught painter. These are all such different forms of creative expression. How did you get so loaded with this creative energy?
KG: The household I grew up in was extremely volatile a lot of the time. That atmosphere did two things, made me really anxious and caused me to detach and spend a lot of time in a fantasy world. My wheels were always spinning a million miles an hour and my imagination was inexhaustible. To this day I still struggle with staying on topic in conversations because my mind races and everything the other person says makes me think of 10 different things and each of those 10 things make me think of another 10. So then my head is filled with a hundred images or bits of verse, partial stories, snippets of music, and I’ll blurt something out that has nothing at all to do with what we were talking about.
I don’t want to razz my childhood without also adding what was beautiful about it. There was a wide variety of music playing constantly. My dad liked big band and Dixieland. My mom liked blues, R&B, Motown. One of my older sisters leaned towards heavier and harder rock and my other older sister’s taste was very eclectic. She’s who turned me on to Funkadelic, The Clash, Grandmaster Flash, Prince, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, The Talking Heads, etc.
There really wasn’t any censorship as far as what I could watch so I saw a lot of movies that probably weren’t intended for grade schoolers. The ‘70s really were an amazing decade for cinema. I was allowed to stay up late on school nights to watch Monty Python and Masterpiece Theatre.
My family and environment instilled in me an insatiable and voracious appetite for music, books, movies and art and I’ve spent the majority of my adult life cramming as much of all of those things as possible into my system.
GCAC: Who are some of your biggest creative influences?
How much time do you have because I’m really jacked up on espresso and can go all night on this one! Plus, it changes from day to day depending on my mood and neurosis but I’ll give it a shot. In no particular order: Children for sure. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to hold onto a little bit of whatever that special quality is they possess. With music – Funkadelic, Mick Taylor era Stones, The MC5, Captain Beefheart, Phil Lynott & Thin Lizzy, Betty Davis, Steve Earle, The Bronx, The Roots, Mike Patton, Clutch, drummers that hit the drums like they mean it while putting some swagger into it. Film – Stanley Kubrick, The Coen Brothers, Takashi Miike, Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, Ralph Bakshi, the original, unadulterated Star Wars. One of my all time favorite movies is Jean-Claude Lauzon’s Leolo. With writing – Chuck Palahniuk, Cormac McCarthy, Charles Bukowski, William Gibson, David Sedaris, Raymond Carver.
My homeboy Danny Bland needs to be on that list. He’s who got me writing daily haikus and he writes them daily as well so it pushes me to bring my best to the table every day. Plus, he wrote a book that’s coming out soon called In Case We Die. He treated me to an early reading and it’s amazing. Another of my favorite books is Craig Clevenger’s The Contortionist’s Handbook. With art – Robert Williams, street artists worldwide, comic books, Mad Magazine, old ‘70s movie posters, the many artists who have tattooed me.
Two other homeboys, Charles Wince and Rob Jones have to get a mention here too. If it weren’t for Rob, I probably wouldn’t even be painting. I always joke that if anyone has a problem with any of my paintings to take it up with Rob. Plus, my girlfriend regularly has various art projects going. She and I will burn through hours in our studio, each working on our individual projects, listening to music, checking each others’ progress.
How did you get into drumming? Do you have a particularly favorite group with whom you played?
My attraction to rhythm predates my memory. My mom told me I loved trains ever since I was a baby and I still love the sound of them as well as other natural rhythms. Once I started listening to music, no matter what the style was I’d always try to pick out the different instruments and the drums were always my favorite. I’d make little sets on the kitchen floor out of Tupperware and pots and pans. I’d play them with chopsticks. In school in St Louis, I’d play little beats on the tables and a couple of my friends would rap Sugar Hill Gang lyrics over them. I finally bought a drum set when I was 19.
Every group I’ve played in has had extremely special moments both musical and nonmusical, from amazing live performances to the camaraderie that existed through the duration of the projects. I’ve played with Creepy Pig, Devilcake, The Poets of Heresy, The Spectre, Big Ass Yard Sale, Jack Neat, Devil’s Choice, Eric Wrong & The Do-Rights, Shotgun Kelly and after a long hiatus I’m finally in another band, Zaius A.D.
You’ve been taking some creative writing classes recently. Have you always been interested in this form of expression? What sort of writing do you enjoy most?
I’ve been a story teller for years. It’s only just recently that I started writing stories down. I’ve written some lyrics to songs here and there in some of the bands I was in. I went back to college to get my bachelor’s in early 2011. Originally I was going to get a drug and alcohol counselor’s degree because I’d been in that field for almost eight years. I had an English class that first quarter and loved it and that was the end of that as far as my college career. I’m getting an English degree with an emphasis on creative writing. I need the deadlines. Left to my own devices I’ll paint and play drums. I hope with enough deadlines I’ll start writing more on my own because once I get started, I love it.
I tend to write the same as I tell stories or even play the drums to some extent. I’m really hyper. I pace a lot. I squat and bounce on my chair while I’m typing as opposed to sitting with decent posture. I enjoy creative non-fiction and fiction the most although I’ve regularly been told my fiction is thinly veiled non-fiction. I never confirm or deny that assessment.
You’ve been painting for the past few years. How did that start and where do you think it’s going for you?
My friend, Rob Jones, basically tricked me into being a painter. In 2005 he and I were hanging out and I thought we were just going to listen to records and drink coffee. He showed me his studio and asked me to paint the door. I can’t even properly describe how adverse I was to his request. I mean, I really did not want to do it. However, I didn’t want to look like a jerk so I painted it. It was horrible. I was over there a few weeks later and he asked me to paint the other side. I was kind of warmed up at that point and was enjoying the process a bit more. I looked at his paintings to see how to do certain things and asked him questions. So over the next five years, almost always in conjunction with hanging out with Rob, I’d paint a little, two or three paintings a year at the most. Around Memorial Day weekend 2010, we were hanging out, painting and enjoying one another’s company, and I got obsessed and haven’t stopped.
I’m still blown away that people respond to it the way that they do. I mean, people actually want this stuff in their homes. I feel like I’m getting better and recently have been doing some stuff I’m really proud of.
As far as where I’d like it to go? I’d be stoked for my work to continue to be seen by larger audiences. It would be wonderful to get some more traveling opportunities out of it. I got to go to Los Angeles with local artists, Charles Wince, for a month last year because of art. I left some paintings with people in LA and in a few places between here and there as well. That felt really good. If it doesn’t go anywhere I’d be fine with that too because I never planned on being a painter in the first place.
Any interesting events coming up where people can check out your paintings – or a site where you keep people posted about your latest creative ventures?
Charles Wince, Paul bearer and I are planning a group show at Chas Ray Krider’s Invisible Gallery in June. The only place my writing appears online is my FB page. If anyone reading this really wants to read some they can friend or follow me on FB. Just shoot me a little message referring to the GCAC article.
A lot of my friends have been on me to start a writing blog. I may need to heed their advice. My painting blog is engranajesdepulidolocos.blogspot.com/. You can also check out my profile on the ColumbusArts.com Artist Directory.
I’m also currently doing my first comic book cover for an issue of Ken Eppstein’s Nix Comics Quarterly.
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