Monday, August 24, 2009

Interview with Cult of Pop

The fine folk from Cult of Pop were deluded enough to think that my misssives are worthy of publishing. Here is a transcript....


What’s the easiest way to make a fashion statement?? Simple. Wear a t-shirt…. but not just any t-shirt, we here at the Cult recommend a 100% Australian designed Big Fat Robot t-shirt. Why you ask?? Well, because Mike Hepburn, the man behind the label is one cool guy (and you should always listen to cool guys!) and here’s the interview to prove it….

C.O.P- Tell us the basics- where are you from, where do you live now and what do you do to earn your crust?
I was born in the bustling metropolis of Adelaide, South Australia. My dad was in the Army, so I lived around a goodly portion of this sunburned land of ours. As an adult I spent over 6 years travelling and living abroad, mainly USA, Europe and Japan.

Now I have finally settled in my favourite city in the whole Milky Way, Melbourne (well, it’s on a par with Tokyo, San Francisco, Berlin and, of course, the sexiest Mmm-Class planet of all – Risa… yep, I’m a Star Trek nerd!)

I live with my wonderfully talented partner in a rambling, creaky old weatherboard in the inner northern suburbs. We are surrounded by art, more toys than a spoilt kid could shrilly demand, and curios from all corners of this glimmering blue globe of ours. Robots figure quite prominently (as you can imagine given my moniker) and I have a teak bar from the 60s which I can never seem to keep stocked.

All of this messy, drunky happiness is financed primarily by web design…


C.O.P- So you’re a web designer by day and a big fat robot by night- tell us a little about the two sides of your work??
I’ve been in the web design game for well over a decade now. It certainly is a fine way to pay the bills.

I love tinkering with code, and battling with alignment, but at night I happily shed the monogrammed tie of corporate bondage and pop on my Mexican wrestler’s mask of creative freedom. Whilst so garbed, I head into the vector mill to create my little guys. It’s my happy place. I will hopefully soon have more time to make the Big Fat Robot Empire even bigger and so much fatter.


C.O.P- You’ve been in the design game for a few years now- tell us about your artistic journey (where did it all start) and the highlights along the way…
I started as a scrawny Army brat with a large, Bert Newtonian head, and welfare glasses (the big 80s kind that all the cool kids are wearing in clubs these days – I bled for your ironic fashion!). Therefore, I was a weedy target in every school I went to. My skeletal limbs did not offer a decent upper cut, nor sufficient defence capabilities. The only thing they could do effectively, in my battle with the bullies, was draw delightfully slanderous renderings of their least favourite teachers. These skills, forged from fear, led to a lifelong passion of escaping the real world into my crudely sketched Land of Odd.

As I got older, and my body caught up with my hitherto out of proportioned head, I kept sketching, but got more and more immersed in the world of computers. As a result, I became a web designer.

The biggest highlight in my webby world was when I led a team of Web Wizards for Nike, and together our shiny, 72 dpi little gem won a Bronze Lion at Cannes.

C.O.P- T-Shirt design has become a huge industry now-for you, is it more business or artistic outlet?

To me it’s purely an artistic outlet at the moment. T-shirts are mobile canvases that have given me a forum to get my odd little characters out in the public eye.

The fact that other people dig my designs enough to not only buy, but wear them, makes me burst with delightfully surprised glee.

It was sites like Red Bubble that gave me the confidence to get them out of my many battered notebooks, and into the world. This oasis, in the violent seas of the interwebs, and the wonderful peeps I found there, actually helped me stride out of years of depression. These good folks and my colourful bunch of nuttery tore asunder a dark, passionless time.


C.O.P- What makes a good t-shirt design- because it is a lot different style wise than a canvas artwork, for instance?
To me a good t-shirt design has strong lines, colours that complement the t-shirt colour, and unique, poignant or odd subject matter.

T-shirts are wearable culture. With them you can ally yourself to certain movements or brands. They can be a body hugging, cottony signifier of what you believe in or desire.

C.O.P- What influences the designs you put on your own range of clothing? Who and what are your biggest influences now and why?
Pop Culture, DC and Marvel masters, Kustom Kulture, and Japanese culture, Zombie movies, and Hammer Horror classics. My studio is a bulging museum of pop-culture. Toys (Dunnies, Munnies, Qees, 60/70/80s robots, Star Wars – yep folks, I’m a nerd). Sci-fi, 60s/70s vampire DVDs are buckling my shelves. Old tattoo art (Sailor Jerry, and the more contemporary Angelique Houtkamp) fills me with lowbrow glee. As do pop-surrealists artists such as Mark Ryden, Audrey Kawasaki (soft palette with darker, erotic themes), Tara McPherson (bold colours and strong lines), Mike Giant, Sheppard Fairy (brilliant lines and an unwavering conscience),, Lori Earley, Tokidoki and the old master Osamu Tezuka (because I still study his work, like Astroboy, for his dynamism, proportion and sense of wonder). Romance, horror and sci-fi comics from the 50s and 60s. I’m basically that weird kid, that happily sits by himself in class. I refuse to fully grow up. Life is too short to be normal.


C.O.P- What’s next for you- you’re wanting to get a bit more into animation as well from what I hear??
Animation is definitely on top of the list. Every character illustration I do has a back story, each design is a frozen frame in a larger story. So the natural progression is getting my little guys and gals moving and talking. They have some tales to tell!

There’s a couple of animation examples on the interwebs. I did an ad for a Doritos competition, and an odd little, unfinished piece for a Canadian client. Click here to see both The latter involves a singing Salmon Dion.

I’m also prototyping plushes. And, a big dream is turning some of my characters into urban vinyl toys. Does anyone know anybody in Kid Robot?:)

Plus, kids’ books. I just bought Meomi’s Octonauts, lush design coupled with a rollicking good story for young and old. Awesome stuff!

Lastly, but not leastly, I’m happy to announce an exclusive to my good friends at Cult of Pop a beta Flash game- “The Mighty Fighty Cherubs” This is a rough, and very unfinished, idea of what a level in my “Mighty Fighting Cherubs” Flash game will look like.

On the drawing board is a much more elaborate multilevel/RPG/platform/puzzle-solving extravaganza with a witty story, a little saucy cherub lovin’ and twists aplenty. I will soon be working on it with a friend, who can actually code, so it will be considerably more complex and engaging.

Stay tuned, there will be plenty more button mashing where this came from!


C.O.P- What’s your idea of a perfect day? This should be easy, ‘coz you do now live in one of the best cities in the world (yes, I am bias!!)…
Yep, Melbourne does make a perfect day easy. Let’s see, I’d wake up, have a nice strong coffee, quickly followed by a slightly less strong, coffee. Check my emails and RSS feeds. Squeal with girlish glee at the overnight sales. Put the finishing touches on some work. Start another work. Watch a Star Trek episode. Get another tattoo. Meet my partner and friends at the Robot Bar, where I’ll sup on a few sakes. Go to an opening at one of the many fine Melbourne galleries. Then put on my best threads for a evening of Burlesque.


C.O.P- Lastly, you’re marooned on a desert island- you need to construct an “SOS” message on the sand- what font do you use??
A well kerned, bold, serif font with some extra faux bolding, a heavy stroke, subtle drop shadow, and a fiery glow effect.

C-O-P- here’s a quick artists impression for the non-designers out there… ;P We might add however, that if stuck on a real desert island wingdings is a perfectly valid font option, as is 4 palm trees, 6 coconuts, 3 hermit crabs and a shoelace (you figure it out….)


Anyway, thanks for your time Mike!!!

If you want to check out more of Mike’s ultra cool t-shirt designs then head over to Big Fat Robot…. ….do it, do it now!

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