The Art of Sonny Kay
23 Jan. 2011

The Art of Sonny Kay

Sonny Kay is a visual artist/musician currently residing in Los Angeles, California. Kay was born in London, England on March 13, 1972 and raised in various locations including the UK, Barcelona (Spain), and Johannesburg (South Africa). His family relocated to Los Angeles in 1979, and to Colorado in 1987. He is the son of “Spaghetti Western” film director, Gilbert Lee Kay (aka José Briz).

In 1993, Sonny founded the independent record label Gold Standard Laboratories, known also as GSL, while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. During that time he was a member of the hardcore punk band Angel Hair (Gravity Records). In 1996, Kay (and GSL) relocated to Berkeley, California. By this time, he was vocalist with the “futuristic” post-punk band, The VSS. Kay founded the independent music distributor, Bottlenekk Distribution, in 1996 which resulted in a rapid acceleration in releases and notoriety for GSL. The label soon became synonymous with bands such as The Locust, !!!, and The Mars Volta. Kay moved to San Diego in 2001 and to Los Angeles in 2003. Between 2003 and 2006 he was vocalist for the post-hardcore/punk band Year Future.

After GSL ceased operations in October 2007, Kay began devoting his time mostly to art and graphic design. In 2008 he became creative director of Rodriguez Lopez Productions, a record label based in Los Angeles dedicated to releasing the works of guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and various other artists related to The Mars Volta. His photo-realistic collage art and/or graphic design has adorned album and CD sleeves for bands including Omar Rodríguez-López (for whom he’s designed well over 20 albums), The Mars Volta, RX Bandits, Red Sparowes, Thavius Beck, The Locust, Gogogo Airheart, DJ Nobody, The Glitch Mob, Female Demand, and others. In November 2010, Kay and painter Jeff Jordan presented a joint show of their work in Los Angeles, entitled Parallel Universes.

Kay was also a member of the bands Savalas (1991–1992), Subpoena the Past (1997–1999), and Optional Body (2008). He is credited with backing vocals on early releases by the San Diego grindcore band, Cattle Decapitation.

In 2007, Kay appeared in the as-yet-unreleased feature film, The Sentimental Engine Slayer, written and directed by Omar Rodriguez Lopez. Kay’s IMDB page also credits him with production design and title design for the film.

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