For the creators, Martin French and Alex Davis, Head Dead West is a platform for exploring desires that often feel either endangered or unchampioned: the desire not to conquer earth but to steward it; the desire not to compete for cash but to create culture; the desire not to dull our capacity for awe but to celebrate everything with the ability to incite it. As originator of HDW’s brand and world, Alex decided its spirit required a visual expression that was at once hauntingly compact and fluidly energized – in short, that it needed Martin’s distinct artistic style to bring it to life. Fortunately, Martin resonated with the vision and agreed to illustrate four original icons. Even more fortunately, almost as soon as he finished, he proposed making four more – and then four more. The spirit of the brand’s exploration had taken hold. The HDW visual lexicon was suddenly alive and multiplying.
Today, Head Dead West is a full suite of symbols meant to simultaneously honor and haunt the roots of American culture as we know it. HDW parodies our longstanding Apocalyptic tradition while also shamelessly tapping it. It evokes our love of the wild while decrying our destruction of the environment. Most of all, the HDW symbols serve as modern totems to our undying spiritual instincts, a sense that the world is charged with far more mystery and wonder than we know, and that there is an unavoidable doom set before us all: the doom to choose the images and stories through which we will come to know each other and our world.
The elements we choose to mediate our identities matter – and they matter gravely. We become what we love. For that reason, far before HDW is a brand to have on your shirt, it’s a reminder to brand on your heart.