Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Joel Clark Interview

Heyyy! We asked Joel Clark some questions, and he answered! Joel is a Joel of all trades. He has written and cowritten a number of screenplays, helped design a Moby Dick card game, and is currently directing and acting in a film he wrote called XMAS IN JULY. No robot cats were harmed in the course of this interview. Enjoy!

Where does your creative timeline start? And what sort of trajectory are you noticing?

I grew up in an extremely rural part of New Hampshire--my nearest friend lived 10 miles away. So I spent a lot of time alone. I also had very little access to relevant music and culture until I went to college and was mercilessly attacked for having a tiny collection of CDs and 'still' being into Weezer. (I was lucky enough to have my older sister dub a tape of Weezer on one side and Rush on the other when I was 13. With Rush I was like whaaa? and with Weezer I was like yesssss.) Growing up rural certainly forced me to 'make something out of nothing' from day one. When I hit the world I was thrilled, and began consuming shit like Jabba the Hut, and when I started writing and creating things, they kind of spewed out my brain filter in a very weird way, ie any of my early things are kind of a mash up of outdated cultural references and incomprehensible babbling. In college I made sketch comedy with my friends in a group called Olde English (oldeenglish.org). I like to date myself by saying that this was before youtube, and it's crazy to watch the oldest of those videos, since the 'internet video' form didn't really have a lingo yet. A lot of those early videos are unwatchable in relation to standard format video sketches that are made today. God, I sound like a grandpa.

It's funny how the ubiquitous advice of 'do one thing well' is totally true but I continue to refuse to prescribe to it. I think I'll be 'just a writer' sometime in the future, but what scares me is when people are hemmed in by this idea not in terms of form but in terms of content--it's like, oh, you made a screwball comedy about hackers and people love it, now you can ONLY MAKE SCREWBALL COMEDIES ABOUT HACKERS. But that's maybe a personal perspective trap that I can't get out of, and it may fuck me over in the end, because I'll refuse to write the sequel to whatever and blah blah blah. Suffice it to say I'm wary of trajectories--I'm not a spaceship I'm just a dude.

Your work is all over the map in the most excellent kind of way, lets start with some earlier projects. You worked on a recent hit card game Moby Dick, or The Card Game. How did the idea for this project come up, and what was your role in bringing it to life?

My good friend and long-time collaborator Tavit Geudelekian called me up and asked if I was interested in doing some writing for a video game. This was around the time of Red Dead Redemption etc, so I was excited to learn about that form of writing. He asked me to bring some ideas for the kind of game I'd like to make. I told him something about sailing tall ships would be great and why not do Moby-Dick. He gave me a funny look because he had been thinking the same thing. We dreamed of a 20 million dollar 40-hour retelling of the story on xbox and ps3 with an open-world online multiplayer game-plus mode ending with the scuttling of the American whaling fleet at the start of the Civil War. Then we realized that would have been the greatest game of all time that no one ever bought or even attempted to play. Our friend, game designer Andy Kopas, joined up and brought the idea of making it a tabletop game. As it turns out, the Kickstarter platform was kind of quietly creating a tabletop game renaissance, and board games were getting superfunded left and right. Besides, there's something really classic about card games, a very sailor-like pastime. 

Overall it took about 3 years to make. We were joined by producer Mark Perloff and art director John Kauderer, whose work on the game is utterly terrific. My label was creative director, which meant a lot of different things. I worked very closely with John, sourcing about 100 images for him from weird archives and databases of photographs, daguerreotypes (finally learned to spell that one), and ambrotypes. My other big task was to make sure the game experience was directly related to the experience of reading the book. I'd been obsessed with the novel for a long time already, but this process took it to a whole new level. I spoke with some really amazing scholars about the various implications, inferences, internal allegories and whatever else that's inside that book. I wrote entries for each card on the game's website, detailing how the card was created and integrated into the system, and how each card is significant to the deeper thematic underpinnings of the book itself. I have my collaborators at King Post to thank for how well the game turned out. It's a beautiful object in itself, and the experience of playing it is I think as close to reading the book as we could have come.

Our new game, Beowulf, a viking raiding and trading board game, will be available in early 2015.

What character on the Pequod are you?

Ishmael is so prone to reverie and philosophical/emotional expostulation, it really seems that all the members of the crew are extensions of his own mind. Except maybe for Ahab. I don't know. I guess I'd like to think I'm Stubb, laughing all the way to the grave, but I'm probably more of a Starbuck--cautious, only courageous when I'm certain of a positive outcome. In my more neurotic moments I worry that I'm Bulkington--someone people are drawn to, who just suddenly disappears from the world. IDK BRO ITS PROBABLY A SPECTRUM

You cowrote the film Man From Reno which is out now. What's it about and what was the process like to write a film and see it become a reality? 

I've been lucky enough to collaborate with Dave Boyle on four feature films that he's directed, Man From Reno being the latest. Before this, we've done comedies (surrogatevalentine.com), but Man From Reno is a noir film, about a depressed Japanese writer and a small town sheriff who become embroiled in a sort of classic murder mystery. Dave and I wrote the film with our friend Michael Lerman, and it was a real challenge. When you write a comedy, its clear that some of the jokes won't land with an audience, but it's kind of okay, people leave the theater being like, it was pretty good. But at that crucial moment when the mystery of a noir thriller is revealed, you really put everything on the line. We've all seen a thriller with a bad reveal, and the knee-jerk reaction is 'this movie sucks' even if you liked the rest of it. Needless to say we went through many, many drafts, and agonized over how the information was being doled out.

I co-executive produced the film as well, and spent some time on set, which was a real thrill. Dave works with an incredibly talented crew, and the cast of the film is really top notch. It's amazing to see actors like Pepe Serna, who's been in over 100 movies, give a totally excellent take EVERY TIME. That guy is amazing. Ayako Fujitani, who's been acting since she was very young (she starred in the Gamera films as a girl), also never gave a bad take. I just thought that was crazy amazing. The film was shot by a genius dude named Rich Wong, and if/when you see the film, you'll notice that every shot is like, perfect. Dude is crazy good. We're up for an Independent Spirit Award in February, and the film will most likely be released in March.

Right now you are working on a movie as director and writer called XMAS IN JULY that your own company Nothing Pictures is putting out. It's Kickstarter tagline goes "XMAS IN JULY is a feature-length psychedelic adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. OMGGGGGG ROBOT CATS ON FIRRRRRRE++++++++". How has being at the helm of a feature length film been? Are robot cats into acting?
These pictures are all production stills from XMAS IN JULY

The robots have been terrific, great attitude, happy to be involved. But for real running a feature film production is insane. I've seen my friends and collaborators do it, but until you do it yourself, you really have no idea what kind of pressure is involved. Film is one of the most heavily collaborative forms--50+ people all looking to you to answer every question, and have a vision for a way forward. It's exhausting, terrifying, and really forces you to come to terms with your deepest insecurities. Don't get me wrong, there's lots of fun parts and I'm filled to the brim with appreciation for those 50+ people who said YES to the whole thing. Not to mention the kickstarter backers and private investors. It's amazing to have so many people prove, either with their time and effort or their $$$, that they believe in what you're doing. Of course, that makes you question what you're doing THAT MUCH MORE.

What's really crazy about production days, and I don't think I really conceptualized this before we started, is that every single take is pretty much as important as every other, and you have to maintain a level of focus and commitment through the fire of crazy circumstances and long hours. It's actually extremely difficult to stay focused through it all. We shot 18 days, 9 of them in a row--most of them 12+ hours. By the end, my apartment, my studio, my finances, and my relationships were all in shambles. But we walked through the fire and I think we captured a lot of really crazy stuff. My wife, Crichton was my co-star and she rocked every take like a BOSS.

The robot cats are my dark homage to Milo & Otis, a classic film alleged to have committed pretty horrific animal abuse (ie throwing kittens off of cliffs, etc. sorry to spoil the movie for peeps but its what happened). I figured making a film with robot animals would allow me to destroy them at will, without facing legal or moral consequences. SUPER DARK DRINKING GAME--watch Milo & Otis and take a drink every time you think one of the animals got, um, killed. Don't judge me, its a fun game if you're in a dark mood and you get really drunk.

When can we expect to see XMAS IN JULY?

Um. All I can really say is that during shooting I was regularly surprised by what I had written, and by the fact that we were actually shooting it. Every day I expected to finally have a straightforward day where it was just like, people talking or whatever. But every day had something that was utterly weird. I knew I was doing something right when each day freaked out a different member of the cast or crew. I even freaked myself out.

A lot of your projects are crowdfunded, how does that affect the way you work, and the outcome? 

Crowdfunding is extremely difficult, and it can put a lot of pressure on your social relationships. I could certainly be accused of crowdfunding 'too much,' and people chafe at being asked so many times on social media, over email, in person, etc. On the opposite side of that coin, I always try to not force it. Crowdfunding is funny like that, because in order to have a campaign succeed you need a lot of visibility, but that visibility also has an adverse effect on the people you're trying to get involved. We've all felt it, and I'm one of the main perpetrators in my community. But the reason to do it is clear--there are so many structures in our culture that are built to obstruct the relationship between artist and audience, its actually fucking terrible. It means that artists have to pander to these structures (advertising, distribution, marketing etc) in order for anyone to even see what they do. But the thing about pandering to mass culture distribution methods means that you have to break your own legs and offer up content that literally has broken legs. This is not to say that there's no quality work in the mainstream, but it's crazy to think of all the stuff that doesn't quite fit just never seeing the light of day. The more I'm getting into the business side of things, however, I don't really know if there is a light of day on the other side of distribution. But now I'm rambling. The real point is to create a one-to-one relationship between artist and audience, and asking your community whether or not they want to see what you do, rather than asking some marketing dude if he thinks your project has legs. Broken enough legs. Also, now all I owe are Kickstarter rewards and the product itself, not percentage profit or blah blah market success. I have no one to answer to except the people who judged the project online and said, sure, I'll pay to see that happen. That allows me to have real, true artistic freedom to do what I want, and I'm supremely grateful for the support I've received.

Any other projects in the works?

There's a lot more to accomplish on the XMAS film before I take on anything equally huge, but yeah there's always this and that happening. The next film with Dave Boyle is probably my top priority.

Do you have multiple brains?

No, but sometimes I can't shut the one off, so yeah, maybe. Also maybe in parallel universes I enact things that were only nascent germs of thoughts in this reality KNOW WHAT I MEAN??

I just want to throw out there that I have read your original script for Spring Breakout (a movie mashup of a prison break and spring break) and I still am waiting for that to come out.

Look for it 2018. No, I don't think anything will happen with Spring Breakout, but I'm actually way into that script. It has a pretty fun first act, some tripped out occurrences in the second, and of course it ends with tits and explosions. We've done a few readings, its always been fun. It's right up there with RA RA EGYPT, a full length ancient Egypt action comedy I wrote way back in 2007.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Leland Taylor Interview

Talking to Leland Taylor, cell phone blogger, skateboardist, outlaw tent wizard, and general good times machine, about his most excellent blog http://toolbag.tumblr.com/ !  The Toolbag Tumblr is a treasure trove of almost daily photos of, well, life.  Minutia to mayhem, Leland has an eye, what else can we say. Check out the interview, and check out the blog. Here it is again! http://toolbag.tumblr.com/

Where are you now?

Right now Im living in Seattle with an amazing girl. Packed up and moved east to west at the end of october for the sight of less snow.  

When did you start I'm A Toolbag Tumblr and what was the thought behind it?

toolbag.tumblr started 2008/2009. My friend Tim got me set up.  I remember we were in his kitchen and I wanted a website to post the photos I took on my "razor".  I would snap the photo then text it to my email and then finally post it on to tumblr.  I wrote a few pointless diary posts and some other things but it was mainly for cellphone photos.  I deleted it all at some point and on 01/9/10 5:06pm did my first photo text straight to tumblr once I realized they supply you with an email to text.  Thats what started this.
first ever toolbag post

Any initial inspiration?

Mark Gonzales.  He was taking photos on his sidekick and I loved the quality. 

Drinking Oly now?

I've had it a few time but to tell you the truth I'm hardly drinking, basically I haven't found my 379 locustfield or 30 mozart yet.

What kinds of moments trigger you to think "This is perfect for Tool Bag"?

The perfect moment is when I only have a few cares in the world, enough cold beer and a five-star camping spot. 

Let's see, lots of camping, skateboarding, skate spots, friends, good vibes in general. Are you into good vibes?

Thats my god damn modus operandi.

A good portion of your blog was really low res flip phone pictures. What about this medium did you like? Did you have any reservations switching to the higher quality photos of newer phones?

It was so pixilated and beautiful.  I would just point the damn thing out the window and he glare from the sun would be amazing.   Switching to iphone really hurt the toolbag.  I enjoy how sharp the photos are but its not the same as my samsung intensity.  With the Iphone I find myself taking lots of photos still but only on the camera mode and never sending them.  With the intensity it was more organic.  I would hit the button on the side to open the camera then snap the pic and a screen came up "text this photo?", damn right, right on the spot.  My own private twiter/instagram, without the data fee. 

Do you ever wish Tumblr would let you auto play some music on your page, y'know like Myspace did? What song would you pick right now?

Dude its gotta be corny because its my life since 2010 till now, Marvin Gaye - got to give it up

You've made a few zines of material drawn from this blog, tell us about those.

Boredom.  Wish I still had a cpoy of that one, "toolbag finepoint" I think.  Sold a few on tumblr which paid for the paper. 

Any plans for a I'm a Tool Bag coffee table book? I'd love to see some old flip phone pictures blown up real big! 
Man thats a great Idea, lets look into that.

How many posts? 

as of today 12/19/14 3:13pm, 8,404.  99.5% all cellphone photos

Monday, December 1, 2014

Waste Life

"Waste Life" series watercolor and ink on paper

"Waste Life" 2014

"Waste Bike" 2014

 "Waste Park" 2014

keep it wasted! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

David Barclay Interview

Today we are talking with David Barclay about his creative process, zine making, and of course, Tim Allen. 

Check out his website:

Your body of work is pretty sprawling, you've got music projects, zines, t shirts, maps. How would you describe yourself creatively?

Amateur artist, in the sense that we are all amateur artists.  This may sound naive, but almost all the music I've made usually has some sort of theme along the lines of 'everyone can/should be in a band'.  I guess I feel the same way about art or pretty much any creative outlet a person may have - at least as a counter to the constant 'your hobby is for professionals' message that gets hammered home 99% of the time we consume any type of art/music/craft/etc.

Let's talk about Tool Time. The lyrics are all inspired by the 90's family sitcom "Home Improvement" and the music is composed of samples of the 90's prog metal band TOOL. Do I have that right? How did this idea form?  Is there a live performance aspect to the project?

Yes, the music by the band 'Tool Time' is entirely created from samples of the band 'Tool'.  The original idea for the band was to be a power trio, where I (Al Boreland) play bass, Greg Prout (Tim Taylor) play guitar and some unknown person plays drums behind a white picket fence (Wilson).  Since the internet makes all novelty ideas into real, true, fruitful and meaningful ideas, I eventually (2+ years later) recorded a few songs under this original vision, using the Tool source material in the place of instruments.  
The subject matter of the music deals with Tool Time, Tim "the tool man" Taylor, Home Improvement, Tim Allen and all the boundaries between them.
I have played a few shows and one key aspect of the band is that I wear blue jeans on stage.  This is notable considering my personal history of never ever wearing blue jeans in real life ever in my whole life.

Your website nicesnacks.com has a lot of different offerings, most of them sold out, but it serves as a good history of your work. There's a sweet map of all of the vendors of maps of the homes of celebrities in Beverly Hills, a cassette tape compilation of one note guitar solos, and a zine about St. John's, Newfoundland that highlights Pontiac Sunfires in different locations.  How long have you been doing this, and what is the thread that ties all of these sundry ideas together, if any?

I started lumping music, t-shirts, internet stuff and zines together in 2008ish.  Some of the t-shirts were about songs that my wildly unpopular San Diego based band at the time (the endless bummer) was performing.  The zines were mainly a result of taking the unanimous and ubiquitous hobby of 'photography' slightly more seriously.  In general, many of these projects are based on the popular push to classify everything, something that the digital sledgehammer of the internet/computing really allows us to do.  I also really like the idea of large impossible tasks being broken down into trivial infinitesimal tasks, carried out over a long period of time.  This is something that people do in science all the time, and seems like an appropriate and personal approach to art/craft/whatever in the hyper internet/computing era.

You recently put together a zine of photos of closed or otherwise prohibited destination in Cape Cod, called Vacation Paradise. Did go out with a camera with this idea in mind, or did it come together later?

The original idea was to photography all the ice cream stands of Cape Cod in the middle of winter.  I spent a few days doing it, but was underwhelmed with the results.  In the meantime, I had been collecting photos of the wastefully excessive empty and boarded up summer homes as well as the hostile and elitist private beach/no access signs.  It was pretty obvious that even though these images weren't a strict visual collection like my previous zines, that they were a succinct summation of my relationship with this place, which was the original objective of photographing the ice cream places. (check it out here http://nicesnacks.com/shirts/zine_VP.html )

A lot of your work has a lot to do with location. Do you get inspired by places in different ways?

I think this is just because I like using photography as a tourist would, not as an artist or a studio?  I definitely get inspired by place quite a bit, but have never really questioned if that is a common experience or not. 

I've heard you have a very large record collection? 

Sadly, yes.

Any future projects in mind? Will you be DJing anywhere soon?

I've been playing a bunch in the band 'coach longlegs' but the keyboardist is going to Russia for a year, which means I'm going to start a new band.  I've been thinking about that almost everyday.  I've been DJing once a month in Cambridge at a weird sit down bar called River Gods (next night is November 22nd).  I've been slowly working on a project that involves me listening to radio stations from all over the world and listening to the 'best music' and 'top hits'.  That's about it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

John Denmat Interview

Secret Awesome artist feature with John Denmat! John currently works as a tattoo artist at Bambu Tattoo Art Studio in Providence, RI. We talk tattoos, rad drawings and podcasts.

Check his work out here: http://jdenmat.tumblr.com/

Do you remember what got the ball rolling for you creatively?
-Things really took a turn for me after college. I graduated from art school and basically went right into working the lowest paying jobs of all time (seafood restaurant, pizza place, grocery store). I barely did any drawing it was such a bummer! After a few years of that I realized I couldn't take it anymore and promptly quit my job, moved to Falmouth and met up with Zak and the rest of the SA crew and it really jump started my creativity in a huge way. Been drawing like a maniac ever since!

What sorts of things inspire/inform your work?

-So much! The more I open myself up to inspiration the more I can learn. Science, astronomy, science fiction and fantasy play a huge part in what I like to draw but I am also really inspired by the work ethic in others. My friends make so much amazing work that is way different from my own, and that really makes me want to get drawing.

You work as a tattoo artist, has your drawing style always lent itself to that, or have you had to create a style in tattooing that works for you?

-Tattooing is so unlike drawing in just about every single way. A lot of the stuff I draw tends to be highly detailed and geometric, and that's really no good for tattoos (Well, maybe not for beginners like myself. There are some amazing tattoo artists that specialize in micro detail and geometry). Learning to draw simplistically is challenging but it's fun because I feel like I am expanding my style.

You've also designed skateboards, album covers, and fabric for hats, is that a different mental process? Do you hope to do more things like it?

-It's so much fun to do that stuff! It is honestly something I wish I could go back in time and show to my younger self. I'm most proud of my collaborative projects and especially the other artists I work with, because they do all the hard work and actually make the thing! It's so cool to see an idea become reality like that.

Do you make art for the fame or for the immeasurable wealth?

-The thought of being either famous or wealthy literally makes me want to puke. I make art because if I didn't, my head would explode.

Your favorite music to draw to?

-I actually listen to a lot of comedy and science podcasts while drawing. The Best Show on WFMU, Star Talk Radio, Stop Podcasting Yourself, Stuff You Should Know and Superego are my go to podcasts. I also listen to a lot of rap music (what a horribly sentence that makes me sound like an old loser). I've been playing Freddie Gibbs and Run the Jewels on repeat lately.

What would your dream project be?
-Opening a permanent Secret Awesome gallery and studio space. In outer space. Tattoo studio adjacent. Reserved parking for me. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Today, Secret Awesome talks to Matt Good about his blog/bike schwag company, Bike or Garbage!

Check out the blog here:

And pick up the Bike or Garbage "Bong Water" BPA free water bottle at the Secret Awesome store:

What is Bike or Garbage?

I don’t really know, its kind of a joke? I think every kid who grew up skateboarding or riding bmx bikes, and has a modicum a creativty, might have/had at one point drawn their own little logo’s on their notebook, and thought about funny t-shirts they could make with inappropriate bullshit or jokes on them. I guess “Bike or Garbage” is kind of that dream thing of sorts for me. Its like a folder in my brain where I can put things/thoughts I find amusing, that may or may not pertain to bicycles.  

Where did the idea for Bike or Garbage come from?

It was pretty much just a dumb saying a friend/former coworker/former bike racer extraordinaire Toby came up with at work one day. Working as a mechanic, you see all sorts of different bikes. Some are cool, fancy, expensive, whatever, but most bikes, out on the road, the ones being ridden are old, poorly matained, and thus garbage. We were having a rough day, bike roulette wasn’t going so well (picking which work order to pull from the queue). Similar to actual roulette, where the particpants are hoping they don’t get the loaded chamber, we were each hoping we didn’t have to work on a shitbox bike. The kind of shitbox where the owner doesn’t want to spend the money it needs to actually work, or in some cases even be safe enough to ride. We’d ask each other “Bike or Garbage?”, and I ended up making a weird collage postcard thing, with a 4x6 photo I took of some crappy old bike locked up in NYC. I wrote “bike or garbage” in black marker and glued the paper to the photo. Bike or Garbage was born.

What do you prefer, bike? or garbage?

I prefer bike. I’m not into pedaling garbage, and noisey bikes drive me insane. If I’m unemployed for much longer, I’m just gonna make a career of oiling chains for people here in Portland.

Do you like bicycles?

Yes, I mean I moved to Portland, Oregon to pursue bike nirvana. And I guess it’d be stupid to keep 4 bikes in my small room, and one in the living room, if I didn’t. N+1, even if my girlfriend isn’t down

Whats your favorite to ride?

I don’t know, I just got a new stem for my BMX bike, so I’ve been kinda itching to ride that. My commuter bike is pretty awesome, full fenders keep me dry and I like my bar-con shifter setup. I have a Madone that was pretty much gifted to me, so to ride a fancy plastic (carbon) bike, for next to nothing, is cool too. Since moving to PDX, I’ve done some CX races which have been a blast. Even my fixed gear bike isn’t bad for being a POS.

Do you like drugs?

I like smoking weed, but thats about it. Drugs will probably ruin your life, recreational or performance enhancing. Play it smart folks.

What was the idea/inspiration behind the Bong Water water bottles?

Theres a few levels of inspiration. If you ever seen the bottles that look like a reappropriation of something you may have a personal affinity for, this is my version. Another level being, if you pay attention to cycling, there’s been this thing with taking drugs for performance enhancing purposes; doping. I’ve heard smoking weed referred to as “smoking dope” (not to be confused with smoking or shooting heroin) smoking dope, doping, see the lines I’m drawing here. Its also to be noted, weed is on the banned substances list. No UCI races for me.

And how  about the process of getting them made?

I had the BorG Tumblr going for a bit, and naturally wanting to take the next step towards small business owner/brand manager/creative director, that step was obviously get water bottles made of a sharpie doodle I did.
   Mentioning an idea you have for a thing you’re not so sure of, to your friends is a great way to get things done/follow through with plans. I didn’t actually have a computer when I did said doodle, showed it to Leland, (BorG Ad Executive) he was supportive. We scanned it into a JPG, created a bottle account with a special bike company who has a sweet water bottle problem. The design sat on Leland HD for about 6 months, while I moved to Portland for a bit last winter, when I got back to MA for summer, Leland said he’d throw down some money to offset the cost on the bottles, so that was a tremendous help. Once we had the funds allocated, we submitted the design. Surprisingly, the design was deemed printable. Stoner Mountain bike guy at special bike company, sent me some emails, took my money and the deal with the devil was done. We now own some water bottles in translucent green, with a shitty bong doodle on them. The IPO is coming soon.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

That's right, Secret Awesome is back! Its been a little while but we're back. We've got a new store with some sweet skateboards, artwork, and... water bottles? Check it out, and keep checking in here, we'll be beaming in all kinds weird vibes, good music, art and chaos!