Cohen’s company, Too Far Gone, has printed and designed artwork for an immeasurable number of acts in the last ten years, and is responsible for merch and posters for the likes of The Smith Street Band, The Bennies, Clowns and Poison City Records, to name a few.
Cohen’s use of bold colours and illustrations inspired by the artwork of the early ’90s punk scene used by acts like Hard-Ons, The Meanies and Massappeal have helped to visually define contemporary Melbourne music culture. But it’s a career that occurred almost by accident.
“The printing part just came out of necessity really,” Cohen explains. “I was drawing all the posters for the band I was playing in at the time, and so when it came time for a t-shirt, it was just natural that I had to draw the t-shirt design. Then, not really knowing anything about anything, I thought I had to be the one that printed them as well, instead of just paying someone else to do it.”
As soon as Cohen saw that first print of his own artwork way back in 2005, the seed was sown for what would eventually evolve into a full-time gig. “I guess just seeing my artwork on a t-shirt for the first time, that I had just printed, was a pretty sick feeling,” says Cohen. “So I wanted to draw another one, which I quickly did the next day then printed it. Within a week or two we had three new shirts. I haven’t really stopped since then.”
Inspired by this initial accomplishment, Cohen started printing more and more, firstly operating from his mum’s kitchen table, then moving into a mate’s garage for the first three years. “In the meantime I just got a job working for someone else, trying to figure out how to do it properly,” he says. “Then when I got fired from that job I didn’t get another one. That was about seven years ago.”
Now, a decade on from those humble beginnings, Too Far Gone operates out of a factory in Northcote and is constantly streaming out new designs and orders as one of the most successful merch makers in the country. To celebrate the company’s tenth anniversary, they’re now set to hold a three-day mini festival at the Tote, featuring international acts Annihilation Time and Lecherous Gaze, Cohen’s own band Flour, as well some of his past clients and other local favourites.
He admits, however, that the festival was a bit of a spur of the moment idea. “I had a pretty massive job on and was working overnight and then the idea hit me at about four in the morning. I started sending emails and I got a reply in the morning and it was, ‘Yes’, and then I thought, ‘Let’s do it’.
“I know the guys in Lecherous Gaze and I knew they wanted to tour again. So I thought the best way for me to make this happen was to see if I could get one Annihilation Time show as well. Lucky for me they agreed to do that because that’s their old band. So when I got the go ahead for the Annihilation Time show, I was like, ‘Alright sweet, let’s just organise the Lecherous Gaze tour around this’.”
Once the festival’s done, however, it’s back to work as usual. But what does Cohen see for the future of Too Far Gone? “There’s definitely no business plan. I’m definitely no business man. I don’t know anything about that kind of shit,” he says.
He does have somewhat of a plan though. “My plan has always been not to have to look for another job. So I’ll keep going and take the work while I have it.”
BY NATHAN WOOD