Sound and vision

Courtesy Chloé Trujillo

Chlo and Robert Trujillo's romance began in France, was rekindled in Tahiti, continues in California and takes them all over the world in the name of art and music.

Chloé Trujillo has visions. In a way similar to that of, say, Vincent Van Gogh, who viewed and then represented his subjects in a fashion that totally baffled others, or Frida Kahlo, who used seemingly unrelated surrealistic images and symbols to tell her own personal story, Trujillo uses everything from the ideas behind quantum physics to mystical imagery, folklore and ancient traditions to tell her own tale.

And she does it on surfboards, canvas, a pair of kicks or even a guitar.

Having grown up a bit rebellious in Paris in the '80s and '90s and studying at the Ecole du Louvre, it's no wonder Chloé applies a unique spin on traditional artistic methods. She created a signature for herself when she wood-burned an Aztec calendar onto the guitar of Robert Trujillo, a then-Suicidal Tendencies band member -- and now the bassist for Metallica, and Chloé's husband -- who happened to be playing in The City of Light. The two felt an instant connection and reunited once and for all when Chloé moved to the States and called Robert while he was on a surf trip in Tahiti.

More recently, Chloé's art is adorning surfboards and skate shoes in addition to her usual surfaces. We talked with the happy couple about art, music and the friendly chaos of the creative household.

Portfolio: Chloé Trujillo Chloé, I understand you come from a very creative family. Your parents were fashion designers and your grandparents were musical. Did they foster your artistic abilities at a young age?
Chloé: My mom was more pushing me into the art thing. My dad, because I was very good at math and science, was kind of telling me to put it aside and there's more of a career in the scientific world than the artistic world and blah, blah, blah -- even though he was an artist himself. But my mom would always paint at home. So I ended up stealing her stuff to paint on my own. After a certain age I confronted my dad and told him I really wanted to pursue art and not science.

I imagine you also developed a sensibility for sound early on. What did you grow up listening to?
Chloé: My grandfather was always singing and my grandmother was always playing the piano. He was my first voice teacher. So, Schubert, Mozart, Beethoven, classical music. As a teenager I was listening to punk rock and metal and death metal and all that. My dad was very much into rock like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and these kinds of styles. My mom was more like ... pop stuff. She'd listen to David Bowie, and what else --

Robert: I think Chloé's mom likes the '80s kind of pop rock. She liked the synthesizers.

Chloé: No, she liked the '60s at that time, when I was a kid.

Robert: Yeah, but they had synthesizers in the '60s, too. [Laughs.] The dad has more love for the hard-edge stuff -- even hard-edge jazz. She's a little bit more ... adult, contemporary pop.

Chloé: Anyway, I was really interested in music. I learned the piano, guitar -- I went totally into '70s rock, all the way through grind core, punk rock, death metal, all that stuff.

Which is probably what drew you to Robert.
Chloé: Yes. We met in the early '90s when Robert was still in Suicidal [Tendencies]. We had a common friend that introduced us. [To Robert:] You want to continue?

Robert: Our mutual friend, my best friend in Europe -- a guy called Doume --

I look at Chloé's art all the time and get all these crazy ideas. It inspires me. There's constant creative energy going on throughout our home.
Robert Trujillo

Chloé: He's my best friend in Paris. He was kind of like a big-brother figure to me. He'd take me out and then I was also kind of working, in high school, doing catering at shows and dressing rooms and stuff like that. Suicidal was playing in Paris a lot.

Robert: Over the years, time went by, and every once in a while I'd meet up with Doume, and Chloé would meet up with Doume, and we'd have a beer, whatever ... [L]ong story short, Chloé moved to New York, then Los Angeles, and when she moved to L.A., I tried to contact her. Then, 12 years ago, we went to dinner around Thanksgiving and we started dating. Now we have two kids and the rest is history. The Aztec bass came later. It was an experiment.

Chloé: This is what happened. You had a blank wood bass guitar in Paris and you handed [it] to me and I went to my art supplies in my dad's cellar. I had pyrography wood-burning tools from way back in the day and that's how I started doing the Aztec thing.

Robert: And it just kind of blossomed from there. It kept getting better and better. She started doing stuff with colors, and now I think I have about four. It's really exciting for me and our guitar companies because they love what she does. It became a permanent fixture to my instruments and my connection to the band, through that instrument.

Well, that's a pretty cool signature to have.
Robert: Yeah, and it even transitioned into a shoe model with Vans where the artwork is very similar to that on the bass guitar. Everyone loves that shoe. It's really exciting to see people wearing it because it all stemmed from that one time when she decided to get creative with that little wood-burning tool.

And that phone call in Tahiti?
Robert: That's so funny, because I remember being in Tahiti when Metallica called, and I heard them on the voicemail and they were saying, "Come jam with us." And that was on a Thursday, and literally that Monday I auditioned for Metallica. So that's very interesting that there were two occasions in my life -- one connected to my wife, and the other one connected to Metallica and my career -- and it all happened on the magical island of Tahiti. I like that.

Chloé, jumping off from Tahiti, can you tell me a bit about how and why you started painting surfboards?
Chloé: It was Robert's idea. We were talking about it and then Billabong sent me over a bunch of blank boards for me to paint on.

What's your technique?
Chloé: I have a guy who wants me to paint on the foam so it can be more permanent. But the way I've been doing it is painting them old school, with a paintbrush and acrylic on the board. But I have to sand the surface to make it more porous. Then I spray coat it and if the person wants it to be surfable, then I have to take it to get really coated thickly.

Is this something you want to keep doing?
Chloé: Yes. Ultimately, what I want to do is paint a bunch of boards and create a show with all the boards that I can take around to different surf locations.

Robert: Chloé starts a lot of different projects. She'll have a surfboard that's half done. Then she'll have a painting that's half done and she's wood-burning something.

Chloé: If you go in my studio, I have different tables and projects. Oil paintings waiting to dry, a surfboard, something else, jewelry, guitars, illustrations, scarves ... I move from station to station.

Courtesy Chloé Trujillo

Vans modified the Aztec calendar design Chlo wood-burned into one of her husband's guitars and found new expression for it on a shoe.

A typical artist. That must make your household a very creative place to exist. Music and visual art are so complementary and it seems that a musician and visual artist coexisting may not clash as much as, say, two visual artists, two poets, so on and so forth. Do you find that kind of harmony, or inspire one another?
Robert: For me, I'm so fascinated by Chloé's artwork and all the detail. That translates into her style, the way she dresses, everything. Right now we're building this house up in the hills, in the Santa Monica Mountains, and it's taking forever because both of us are really creative -- including our contractor -- so it's this crazy collaboration. I joke about it because the house is turning into an art piece. We've got mosaics everywhere, and obviously Chloé's into color, and it's a beautiful journey together, but sometimes I'm thinking, "Man, we're crazy."

But I look at her art all the time and get all these crazy ideas. It inspires me. I'm like, "Let's make movies about your art and let's make movies about this house." There's constant creative energy going on throughout our home. She makes fun of me because I'm always slapping and tapping on the bass guitar, and then I get annoyed sometimes because she's jumping around all the time; one minute she's painting a canvas, 10 minutes later it's a surfboard, 15 minutes later she's wood-burning a guitar.

It's always like that. Our kids are very creative, too. Our daughter draws all the time and my son plays bass ... there's a lot of creativity in the Trujillo household.

Robert, being so artistic yourself, who, besides Chloé, are some of your other favorite visual artists?
Robert: I love Raymond Pettibon. He has a studio right here in Venice. A friend of mine is [a] good friend of his. He did a lot for those Black Flag album covers back in the day and all the old punk-rock flyers in the '80s. He also did album covers for Sonic Youth; it has a dark feel and a lot of it is just ink on paper. I went into his studio and every object was drawn on, from dish soap to cereal boxes.

I also appreciate the classic artwork like da Vinci and all that stuff. I love going to the Louvre and getting lost in there. Chloé's grown [up] around all that stuff, whether it's architecture or classical artwork; she's lived in that realm.

You can view Chloé's art at Chloé She'll be showing her work at the Copro Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif., this month and at Burning Ink in Geneva, Switzerland, in September. She just finished a 13-song album, which she describes as "gypsy-ish rock," on which she worked with a producer who collects instruments from all over the world. She's also working on a scarf and handbag collection, available in select boutiques, as well as her surfboard art series, and has a signature DC Women shoe out as part of the brand's Artist Projects series.

Robert will be working on his documentary on the innovative Weather Report bass player Jaco Pastorius and waiting for his Metallica 3D film, "Through the Never," to come out. "It's like Mad Max meets Led Zeppelin 'Song Remains the Same,' but its own thing," he says.

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