For Artists, By Artists: NFT Environmentally-Friendly Artist Collective ‘TestaMint’ Launches Today With Music Legends
On Wednesday, a legendary but new NFT artist collective known as TestaMint made its entry into the NFT world with the “Godfather” of the West Coast Graffiti movement, Kelly “RISK” Gravel, and Billy Idol guitarist, Billy Morrison, Jane’s Addiction guitarist, Dave Navarro, and Jim ‘TAZ’ Evans.
Launched by Jaron Hinds and Frank Agnone, TestaMint appeals to all demographics, serving as a “cross-over” among and between generations.
For the Gen-Z and Millennial demographics, who are in their twenties and thirties who have already jumped onto the idea of owning a piece of digital art, this phenomenon” comes as no surprise, given these two generations have grown up with the digital age, often referred to as ‘digital natives.’
However, for those generations which precede the Gen-Z and Millennial demographic, who are getting into their forties, fifties, and sixties, it’s a little harder to wrap your head around why the world of digital assets, which include cryptocurrency and NFTs is one to get involved in.
What You Can Expect From Today’s Launch
TestaMint is the brainchild of Jaron Hinds and Frank Agnone. Hinds, the President and CEO of Elevated Games is a full-stack game developer at heart, who has been writing code on the EOS blockchain for over two years, deploying commits to NFT standards daily, and deeply integrated into the Wyoming blockchain sector.
Agnone, who has worked in the entertainment industry for the past thirty-six years, is currently the Executive Producer for the legendary TV show, South Park, having been with the show since it first premiered in 1997 (almost 24 years ago), and serves as CEO and co-founder to TestaMint.
The initial NFT offering will include Future Jane, the result of a collaboration between Navarro and Jim ‘TAZ’ Evans, which started back in 1997 when TAZ was commissioned to create a show poster for Jane’s Addiction’s concert at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas. Wanting to bring ‘Jane’ into the digital age, TAZ chose a futuristic design and featured ‘Jane’ as a melancholy cyborg, restrained by techno-bondage information feeder tubes, and leased by BDSM straps.
Evans, as the founder of the TAZ collective, which is responsible for hundreds of gig posters, album covers, and rock ephemera has turned out numerous posters for bands like Foo Fighters, U2, Oasis, Jane’s Addiction, Green Day, Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, Ramones, and Metallica, as well as doing several high-profile album jackets for Beastie Boys, Beck, Aerosmith, House of Pain, and Neil Young.
However, due to timeline constraints, ‘Jane’ was never finished, thus giving birth to Jane 2.0. In late 2020, TAZ and Navarro decided to collaborate after being reintroduced by legendary graffiti art dealer and curator Eddie Dolandson, founder of GuerillaOne and member of The Seventh Letter, choosing to use the ‘Jane’ image as the basis of it.
Navarro referenced the original ‘Jane’ concept as being part of a poster 30-years ago that Jim did for Jane’s Addiction. “In 1997, we played at Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas,” which according to the former guitarist, was the last night the venue would be standing.
“The very next day, they blew up the entire venue and the hotel,” he told me. “The poster that Jim Evans created for that night had a cyborg that he lovingly dubbed ‘Jane’. And she was at the bottom of the poster, but at the time, the format of the poster wasn’t laid out in a way where we could utilize Jane in all her glory. So, when it came time to consider doing a collaboration, Jim and I were going to collaborate on a fine piece of art, with Jane the cyborg.”
What was originally intended to be a traditional painting, became something else entirely once TestaMint approached Navarro about the possibility of doing an NFT; “something that frankly, I wasn’t really even thinking about for this,” Navarro confessed. “But when we really looked at what we had and the imagery that we had, with the meaning behind it, it seemed like a perfect fit, because here we’re dealing with a cyborg that is trapped within technology. And now, here’s a platform that’s technologically advanced to showcase this character.”
For Artists, By Artists
TestaMint creates an entirely new dimension by launching one of the first environmentally-friendly networks, making it 66,000 times more eco-friendly than Bitcoin and 17,000 times more eco-friendly than Ethereum, according to the company.
Remember Those ‘DVD Extras?’
In a series of Zoom interviews, I first spoke with Agnone, whose creativity on the longest-running series on television, bleeds into this project.
While Agnone has no intentions of parting ways with South Park, he is now looking to rewrite the NFT narrative by injecting innovative strategies into an industry that has limitless growth potential.
“I’m an art collector; where I’d like to bring something home and hang it on my wall, and just look at it in my home, and not have to go to my device, computer, or phone to see the digital art,” Agnone told me via Zoom.
“I get why people like it, but for me, it needed to have a little more teeth than just some two-dimensional art, which obviously has started to evolve into three-dimensional content.”
What sets TestaMint apart from other NFT communities, is that each digital piece of art is also tied to a piece of tangible, physical art. Agnone’s input on the creative side, had everything to do with coming up “with other experiences that are appended to the digital piece of art that creates kind of a unique, exclusive experience for the person who initially buys the piece.”
“We’ve come up with some unlockable features, where we’ll append NFCs to the digital piece of art,” he explained, comparing these features to that of DVD Extras you would see for a film or TV show you purchase in-store.
“As part of today’s launch, part of the unlockable content, for example, would be as part of RISK’s launch on TestaMint, a video of RISK actually painting the piece that is being sold as a digital NFT, and maybe talking about the inspiration for that particular piece. We will probably do things like take those cans that RISK used to paint the piece, and maybe drop those into our community as well as potential gamifiable assets. We’ve also got the tangible physical piece, which will be sold along with it as well. For me, it’s about thinking outside the box as far as ‘digital’ and ‘digital only’, which is why it started to make sense on how we could make this work.”
In our Zoom call, Navarro described today’s state of NFT’s as the “PONG phase” of NFTs. “If you remember PONG, it was the first video game with just two little paddles, in a bubble going back and forth. I think that’s where we are with this technology right now, and I can’t wait to watch it evolve and become more expansive and more immersive.”
Credit: Hank Moore
Speaking to consumers and NFT enthusiasts, Navarro admittingly says that it’s hard for him to make a suggestion to any prospective buyer, because “that would be me assuming what their tastes are. So I can’t do that, as my tastes are vastly different than some of my best friends, you know? What I will say is that whether it’s an NFT or a piece hanging on your wall, invest in pieces that speak to you the most; the pieces that move you the most; the ones that you find the most compelling.”
As for other artists joining the NFT phenomenon, Navarro admits that the one thing he is realizing, is that “not a lot of people are considering aspect ratios; aspect ratios of monitors right now are typically 16 x 9, right? And people are making NFTs as squares, which leaves big black bars across your screen. If you were to put [these NFTs] on a giant monitor, attempting to display it in your home, there’s going to be these big, empty black spaces.”
In joining TestaMint, Navarro says that collectively, he and Evans wanted to “make something that we felt could be displayed on a regular monitor, turned sideways, and you could still get the entire piece because it fits within the aspect ratio of the screen. I think what is going to be the most compelling and exciting about viewing NFTs is seeing them on a massive scale because right now, everybody’s seeing them on their phone, which doesn’t offer much excitement. These pieces should not be ‘scrolled by.’ So, that’s why Jim and I went with something that we felt would fit the right aspect ratio.”
Navarro also said he created a soundscape that heavily influenced the Jane 2.0 piece, stemming from both his and Jim’s love of the 1927 film ‘Metropolis’, which was a groundbreaking silent film. “We loosely associated Jane with Maria from [Metropolis], so if you listen to the soundscape that I created for the piece, I took a sample out of the film, just as a tipping of the hat.”
The Future Jane series by Navarro and Evans will use this enhanced medium to explore the idea that technology is neither utopian nor dystopian, but rather the reflection of a contemporary state of being.
As for legendary guitarist Billy Morrison of Billy Idol, his exploration of punk rock led him down a foreseeable path of art and wonder. “I remember being ten-years-old, punk-rock in London, and a friend of mine took me under his wing, explaining that you can like The Sex Pistols, but you’ve also got to understand what led up to The Sex Pistols–its history. And part of that history was the New York Dolls, Iggy, and The Velvet Underground.”
In Morrison’s exploration of The Velvet Underground, he also learned about Andy Warhol. “I learned about The Factory, and the first piece of art I ever saw, which I now own, is one of Warhol’s electric chairs. At ten years old, I was fascinated that this instrument of death and destruction had been turned using color and repetition, into an object of fine art that people were paying crazy money for.”
Morrison’s involvement with TestaMint is simply “an extension” of that interest, as he told me. “From the beginning, music and art have overlapped. The album covers back when we had albums were works of art,” he told me via Zoom.
“Some of my favorite bands used some of my favorite artists to create those album covers, so, it’s just been an extension. I’m lucky enough to have had a decent enough music career, that I can relax into art. It’s very hard to earn money, playing music, and as much as money isn’t important, we all need it. And I’m in a fortunate position that I’ve had a good music career and still continue to have that, which allows me to relax into the creative space that is painting.”
When Morrison first met the TestaMint team in a creative environment, he wasn’t entirely sure how it would work, but that didn’t stop the flow.
“I remember telling Agnone that I have no idea what an NFT is, but I want to work with people like [him] because they have this punk rock spirit as well. That’s what attracted me to look deeper. I understand NFTs and I understood them very early on. I own a bunch of Andy Warhol, and anyone who knows or collects Warhol knows you’re not buying the image, because if you were buying the image, I could print it out in high-resolution on a piece of paper and stick it in a frame. What you’re buying is the signature on the estate stamp on the back. So, when TestaMint came to me with their crazy tech, I told them that you’re the guys I want to do this with.”
It’s 17,000X More Energy-Efficient Than Ethereum
Aside from the legendary creators behind TestaMint, what really caught my attention with this project, is how environmentally conscious the platform is, in comparison to other “eco-friendly” NFT platforms.
“TestaMint will be one of the very few eco-friendly NFT platforms, and that stems from building the platform on EOS, rather than Ethereum,” Agnone told me. “EOS is 17,236 times more energy-efficient than Ethereum, and 66,454 times more energy-efficient than Bitcoin, because of all this server mining going on around the world. Server sites are being built everywhere, and ultimately as we know, all of our devices are disposable now; they’ve got a short shelf-life, and that’s even the case on the server side.”
And where do these devices end up? They end up as waste or sitting idle as what CNET’s Halsey Minor coins as ‘zombie servers,’ in third-world countries, used to build homes for the homeless, while also sitting as garbage.
In describing TestaMint as “the most eco-friendly platform out there,” Morrison revealed that the value that he takes most from this project is the “little bit of explanation and behind-the-scenes of what goes into a painting.”
“As a creative, I’m embracing this phenomenon. This is happening, and none of us on this call, and nobody reading about NFTs has the power to stop it,” he continued. “I want to ride the wave and I want to create within the parameters that are NFTs and NFCs. I think the user has the responsibility of finding balance. If I was to give you a tour of my house, there’s many physical pieces of art, fine art that I can sit, look at, and appreciate. I can sit and look at that piece, admiring it for hours. I can also look at one, let’s say Navarro’s NFC that I’ve been staring at every day. For my collection, I’ve written electronic stuff that I normally wouldn’t put out, because I’m a guitar player. I’m embracing what’s been put in front of me, and I’m embracing it with guys that seem to have the same ethos, morals, and ethics that I do.”
At the end of the day, Agnone along with the rest of the TestaMint team want the NFT community to know that they will come into the ecosystem having a different experience than what they’ve had to date in the NFT world:
“…seeing that we’re really kind of breaking this current ‘digital only’ mold, to some degree, and offering a completely different experience. You can get your digital art; we’re going to gamify content as well that will stoke the secondary market and be a fun tool for the community, but these physical pieces available on the site today, I’m really excited for the NFT community. The artists are crazy excited that TestaMint is offering this business model, which they can wrap their heads around. It took a minute for them to wrap their heads around going to a digital space, but once we got them on board with the physical, it kind of sprung for them creatively, able for them to come back around to the digital world. The creativity that has been flowing for the last couple of months has been through the roof, and it’s crazy exciting.”