Atomic Pop Monkey is a one man design shop founded by Jonathan Krop in Berkeley, CA in the Spring of 2000. Since the inception
of my full time freelance career, I've been fortunate enough to primarily
have a client base comprised of musicians, record labels, artists,
small businesses, and organizations who I have been a
fan and supporter of.
I took the path less explored, which has been long and intertwined with experiences and challenges. I've always been a fan of art, music, literature, movies and had spent
several years studying and practicing in all of those disciplines. I was born
in San Francisco, and spent countless hours drawing. The attraction to art and primates was with me from an early age. Which lead to my first accomplishment at the age of 8 by winning the San Francisco Chronicle's Weekly Art Contest. My prize was a plastic key to the San Francisco Zoo and $ 2.00 for my crayon rendering of a scene from Planet of the Apes. My mother and Ithen relocated to Sonoma in the late 70's.
My introduction to computers began in 1980, when my mom bought me an Atari 400, which ran BASIC on 16K of RAM. My childhood friend Tim
Schafer and I spent our free time learning to program and writing
our own video games. Time was a far more accomplished programer, and my job was to design the 8 bit graphics; which at the time was done by coloring boxes on graph paper, and adding up the hexidecimal values for each row.
Shortly there after, I hit puberty and like most
teens discovered rock and punk music. I put aside the computer for
an electric guitar. One of the first concerts I went to was with Tim,
and we had the good fortune of seeing Frank
Zappa live in Berkeley - which turned out to be the only time
I got to see Frank Zappa perform live.
While in high school, I joined the newspaper staff for Sonoma High's "The Dragon's Tale", and along with
my friend Brian
Poshen, wrote a music column as well as provided cartoons and
layout. I had dreams of being in a band and began taking music theory
classes at the Santa Rosa Jr. College while
supporting myself by working for Elaine
Bell Catering, as well as doing some time in retail stores (record
and video.) I spent ten years catering, which taught me many things
besides food and wine. I learned how to deal with deadlines, people,
and crisis situations with grace.
While I remained "undeclaired", I took classes in Psychology, Philosophy, Music, and of course Art. Some
of the best advice I've been given came from the instructors I had. Kevin Fletcher encouraged me to experiment with various
mediums, and during a lecture told all of us: "Don't compete
with other artists, compete with yourself - don't focus on what other
people are doing, focus on going beyond your most own best work."
Elaine was more than just a boss,
in many ways she was a key person who knew more about me than I did.
Being an artist herself, in the culinary sense, Elaine noticed that I used to doodle on anything and everything put
in front of me. She was the first person to commision me to do art. She hired me to draw a series
of cartoon advertisments that ran in the Sonoma Index
Tribune. She also had me pick up the phone book and
take my art to a few local artists - Linus Maurer (friend of Charles Schultz and yes, THE Linus from the Peanuts, as well
as Stanley Mouse.) Both artists were gracious with
their time, and encouraged me to pursue art further. I was particularly inspired by Stanley's ability to combine art with music, and Linus was the first professional artist who looked at my work and encouraged me to go for it.
During this same time, my best friend Erik Hinke took
me to see a band I've never heard of before by the name of Redd
Kross. I left the show a huge fan, and felt a strong bond to their
artistic sense, as well as their on stage humor. I was also soon won
over by the underground films they stared in; "Desperate
Teenage LoveDolls" & "LoveDolls
Superstar" both made with their friend Dave
The bands I was heavily into at this time also included Jellyfish, The Posies, Big Star, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The
Cure, and many others. I actually even gave a fellow figure
drawing student and friend Sarah Wirt a (very
horrible) audition tape to pass on to Roger
Manning Jr. and Andy Sturmmer in hopes
of being able to audition for them when Jason
Falkner left Jellyfish, as well as sending one
to Redd Kross when Robert
Hecker left. Fortunately no one in either of the bands
recall listening to either submission. I hope that the evidence of
my guitar abuse has long been discarded and destroyed.
As the early 90's approached, I ran across a performance by a fiery
genius comedian by the name of Bill
Hicks, I remember laughing my head off at the time ath the PBS special, and made a
mental note to keep my radar out for more shows with him, and caught
him a few times on David Letterman, but lost track
of him. (I was to learn several years later that sadly he had passed
My friend Leif Maertens and I kept writing songs, but we started to realize that we should explore some of our other options. While taking classes at SRJC, we made out first short film with Brian Poshen called "Dummy Lip Afternoon" - a hommage to the low budget We Got Power Films, and satifying out Humanties Class midterm.
On Halloween Eve
of 1992, I was in a car accident that further made me consider the directions of my
life and career. I went to San Francisco
and looked at the Academy
of Art College, and was interested, but situations prevented me
for attending classes. I took the insurance money from the accident
and felt the smartest thing to do was to invest in a computer to help
me with school. After talking to my former math teacher, Darrell
Ross, I decided that with my artistic interests, the Apple
Centris 610 would be a good choice, and apparently is was.
My access to software was limited at the time, so I self taught myself
a lot using shareware and freeware programs, as well as 'breaking'
and then fixing my computer - mostly because I was interested in seeing
how the computer operated, and just what it was capable of.
A chain of events transpired that had me leave the quiet comforts
of Sonoma, and move back to San Francisco. The new scenery and opportunity
had me pursue a new career. I was able to get a few freelance gigs designing logos, interviewing bands,
and did some time in small print shops laying out restaurant and beauty parlor advertisements, menus,
and business cards, it felt like a small start in the
Eventually the print shop experience, and my tinkering ability
started to pay off, I was hired as a Mac Lab Tech at the Academy
of Art College. I was thrilled at being paid to 'geek out'
- fixing computers, learning programs, and being surrounded by graphic
design and multimedia tools, instructors, and students.
I saw this as a great opportunity to become a sponge, attending seminars, lectures, and classes - absorbing as much knowledge and experience as possible. I was
promoted twice, first to Lead Hardware Technician,
and then to Technical Director of the Computer Arts Department. I exercised my evolving skills in additional freelance jobs ranging from friend's indie
band T-shirts, logos, sites and CD covers to conceptual package designs for Galoobe Toys.
Primates, Music, Art, and Computers once again would collide as I had the opportunity of being a beta tester for a new video game, "9: The Last Resort". (The game was produced by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, and sported an all-star cast of voice-artists including Cher, James Belushi, Christopher Reeve, Tress MacNeille, Ellen Degeneres and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler & Joe Perry.)
Thanks to AOL and a 14.4 modem, I was making many new
friends in SF and all over the world. A few notible ones include Jone
Sonner, Val Yoder, Peter Ledebur,
and countless others who shared a lot of the same interests, and encouraged
me to keep after the dream. Paul and Peter introduced me to an odd cult movie by the name of "Heavy
Metal Parkinglot." The film led Paul and I to do my next hommage, a short documentary called "Spice
Girl Parkinglot"; in which we got our friend Paul
Hanson to dress in drag and interview the folks at a Spice
Girl concert. This no budget short found itself
as Editor's Pick of the Week at the now defunct MP4.com.
Paul and I caught wind of a Redd Kross tribute CD being made, and decided to contribute to it. Thanks to Paul's talents as a singer, drummer, bassist,
the lead guitar playing of our friend Brent Ratkovitch,
my rhythm guitar and nuance tracks came across reasonably well. The final song came out rather faithful to the original. Later on, lead singer Jeff McDonald commented to me that when he heard it, he initially thought it was an old demo recording they did. As the "Kross
Dressers" we covered the theme song to "Lovedoll
Superstar" ... and yeah sure ok, you
can listen to it here. It was all recorded at home by Paul on a Tascam 4-track in our house. We did 1 additional
track, a cover of Redd Kross' "Notes
& Chords Mean Nothing To Me".
I felt I had done my time at AAC, and resigned, to
cut my teeth in a few directions; I continued to do Mac Tech Support
by working for the Mann
Consulting company providing tech support for major ad
agencies, as well as my budding web and design skills to use at StreamEngine working on a Flash based tutorial system for SAT tests. I was offered jobs from Macromedia and FCB, both companies
were appealing to me, and I opted for FCB's position
due to there being more creative aspects involved, and it just felt like a better fit.
I still consider working at FCB as the best "day job" I ever had (even before "Mad Men" was even a notion.) Working under Mark Pratt, Garret Lenior, Erika Heggie, Gary Jones, and JD Michaels, I designed
and built the office's first intranet. Soon after, they handed over updating on
the company's main site to my duties, with additional projects for a variety of web sites.
I began to freelance more, I virtually "met" Dave Markey online, and helped him get We
Got Power Films designed and built in a manner that he could update himself. This was immensly exciting after having been a fan
of his films and videos for over a decade. My new friend Jone co-founded the Bay Area band Imperial
Teen in 1996 and they just happened to be produced by and be friends with Steven McDonald of Redd Kross. In 1999 between their 2nd and 3rd albums,
I was offered to redesign and update Imperial Teen's web site. Thirteen years later, I am working on redesigning their site for their 2012 release, "Feel the Sound".
During the mid to late 90's, I had also befriended Jeff and Steven
McDonald from Redd Kross via the internet -
interviewing them, emailing them, seeing them at shows, and having mutual friends. In 1999, Steven asked me "So when are we were going to do ReddKross.com?",
and I replied, how about now? I finally found the
niche I was searching for as I began creatively collaborating with
the very people who inspired me in the first place. I no longer felt like a fan, but as a friend, and as a creative collabortor and corroborator.
Late May of 2000, the big.com bubble bursts, and many
agencies restructure, are sold, closed, merged, and begin laying off hundreds
of people in my current field. I was one of those
casualties, and soon realized that for every job opening, companies were
literally receiving upwards of 450 resumes within a few hours. Yes, it was exteremely bleak. The day after I was laid
off, I talked on the phone with a new friend and client, Scott Hay from One Inch
Round. Scotty inspired me to look at this as the opportunity to start my own business,
and to try to freelance full time - so I took him up on it and within a week got my business license, my domain name, web hosting and started to dig my boots in.
In 2003, John Heyn and Jeff Krulick emailed me out of the blue, asking me to create the web site for the 15th anniversary
of their cult film "Heavy
Metal Parking Lot". Jeff Krulick had run across Redd Kross's site and followed the
links to me. That project made me realize that it was possible to get noticed and work with people who inspired or influenced you years ago without even having to solicite them. Soon after launching, the
site was listed in Shift Magazine as one of the year's
top 100 sites. As I started building a client base, I also began supplimenting my income with doing freelance and part
time work with DonorDigital.
Working with DonorDigital created a vast body of work and experience for me with the Non Profit Sector, including
the Humane Society, NARAL Pro-Choice America, The American Lung Association, The Polly
Klass Foundation, Amber Alert, Mother
Jones, the HRC, MoveOn.org!, Amnesty
International, and the amazing Senator Paul Wellstone's
final campaign before his premature death. Some of the work we had done
garnered noteworthy attention - such as the 2004 People's Choice
Webby Award for Best Activism Site (HRC.org and Millions For Marriage), and in 2005, the Golden Dot Award Nomination for best online political campaign (BushVChoice.)
Joe Regis (founder of Restless Records and then President of Rykodisc) called me and asked
me to do some online work for Rykodisc.
My first assignment was to reskin the Rykodisc site
for thier 20th Anniversary. I've worked with Rykodisc for several years, and had the opportunity
to work with many aforementioned creative muses of mine such as Frank Zappa, The Posies, Big Star, Bill
Hicks, and Brian Eno.
20 years prior, I was being inspired by those people, and now I was being paid to design and promote them. Quite an exciting time and a period of feeling validation.
The momentum carried, and I soon found myself also working with Misfits Records, The Misfits, The Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone Estates, Osaka Popstar, Barsuk Records for artists such as Nada Surf, Viva Voce, Death Cab For Cutie, Mates of State; Oglio Records and artists such as Shonen Knife, George Lopez, Barnes & Barnes; Neal Young's Vapor Records and artists Jonathan Richman, and Tegan & Sarah; Five Foot Two Records/Sympathy For The Record Industry and artists like The Muffs, and Anna Waronker; Hollywood Records; Sony, Nickelodeon, Patrick Park, Persephone's Bees, Tracy Bonham, Lisa Loeb, Josh Rouse, , Russell Simins (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion), Jason Falkner, Brian Reitzell, Ladytron, The Rocket Summer, Alana Davis, and many others.
Several of my CD and LP covers were featured in
the Spring of 2003 at the Richmond
Art Center's exhibit "Scenes
& Zines", which presented the best of the Bay Area's
cover art (CDs and LPs) and 'zines; "demonstrating that innovative
graphic design happens beyond the constraints of mainstream culture
In 2009, the Osaka Popstar CD I did the layout for, "Rock'Em O-Sock'Em" was featured in Smashing Magazine's top 100 Obscure & Remarkable CD Covers - along side Frank Zappa, The Sex-Pistols, Pink Floyd, Rush, and The Beatles.
In 2011, the CD cover layouts I did for the Misfits "The Devil's Rain" and JuiceheaD's "How to Sail A Sinking Ship" were picked the #1 & #2 "Best punk CD covers of the week" by readers of DyingRain.com. I also began collaborating with a new design shop in Los Angeles called Riot Structure - in out first year of working together - we launched over a half dozen sites - including Donna Loren, Lizzy Waronker, Anna Waronker, and "Hit So Hard".
I welcome select new assignments and projects and feel the best and
most exciting projects are yet to come,
inquires can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org