Rat Bastard Rockabilly sounds like a tough name for a tough guy, but when we talked to Chris Johnson the creator of the brand, he's the most down to earth and approachable fellow you could ever meet. Read more to find out about his brand, inspiration and products.
How did Rat Bastard Rockabilly start?
You could say that it all started about 10 years ago when I was living away from home .There has always been a creative side to my life and all the hobbies I have indulged in just added up to multiple talents. Drawing being the most prominent, I was hoping to use it to get into tattooing when I lived in California. I had a great tattoo artist at Uptown Ink in Stockton, California tell me at one point to get my art work out there and the rest would fall into place.
Life’s paths brought me back to New York and my interest in tattooing remained, but sewing came into the mix. A few skirts, ties and a wedding dress later (for my wife) I knew I wanted to start making clothes for people like me that love wearing things that matched my personality. Luckily I found my Sweet Pea to partner up with and run on the idea further. It all became official when I made my first batch of ties for Cats Like Us.
Where did the name come from?
The name actually stemmed off of the plans I had to get into the tattoo business, the Rat Bastard character was originally designed for Rat Bastard Tattoo. Well, as I said life’s many paths lead me to the rockabilly scene and I gave the business plans a makeover along with Rat Bastard himself. The actual “Rat Bastard” part of it, is courtesy of gangster movies; that point where they discover the snitch. It’s a guilty pleasure.
What are ALL the items you make? Do you make custom items? What is your favorite thing to make and why?
We make just about everything that can compliment the rockabilly wardrobe. There have been multiple items: ties, tie tacks, belt buckles, hair flowers, and t-shirts. We have done plenty of custom items, but we like to look at everything as being custom since it is all hand made. No two items are identical even though they are the same item. There have been custom western shirts made, but nothing that will be mass produced. My favorite thing to make has got to be the ties. They look great in the end, but the process is one that will test anyone’s patience.
Have you been trained in sewing/ crafting/ screen printing? What is your background?
Not to use a cliché, but I am self-taught. Well, maybe not 100% since my grandmother and home economics teacher gave me the lessons on the sewing, but everything else is just practice in the spare time. Sweet Pea has perfected the fabric hair flowers in her spare time too. This is all fueled by the desire to produce what others are not.
You seem to live the rockabilly lifestyle, what is your favorite part about it?
Aside from the fact the music has spanned half a century? Rat rods, pin-ups and putting a hillbilly twist on swing dancing has led to one of the best times ever. We have met some of the best people while running around doing what we do.
What is it like working with Cats Like Us?
Working with Cats Like Us is a lot like hanging out with good friends, because of the fact we are friends. We have to designate what trips into the store are for business and which ones are pleasure to avoid being there for hours chatting it up. Not that it’s a bad thing, but we all have work to do.
What are your plans for the future?
The future plans for RBR entail lots and lots of T-shirts. We are always working on new art and plan on doing a little more for the tattoo lovers out there. Paying respect to the old school is what we are all about here. For those of you who are wondering what that means need to get on Facebook and like us soon.
How can people get in touch with you?
A big THANK YOU to Rat Bastard Rockabilly for taking the time for this interview!