Wednesday, December 31, 2008

a very petey year in review: 2008

well this is it. the end of a beautiful year. tomorrow is a brand new one. as my hot chocolate cools down, i take a wiggly flashback-style look at the montage of 2008.

• i got to be on vh1's 'i love the millennium' for almost 35 seconds, talking about spiderman. woohoo!
• 'sweep the leg' featured in MLB 08, on the playstation3 and xbox360.
• directed my first animated music video, and got to work with one of my favorite animation studios: ghostbot.
• went to billy zabka's wedding and didn't spill anything on my suit.
• neil and i wrote and recorded our second studio album, due out march 09. yay!
• played some great shows: linton music fest, sky show in new hampshire, … in san diego, .. in denver. met a lot of really great people.
• cornell university's renowned acapella group, the chordials, recorded a version of 'sweep the leg' for their CD 'smash'.
• finally put some artwork up for sale online at hooray for procrastination.

some great moovees and music came out this year. here are some of my favorites:

top ten movies:
1 the dark knight
2 wall-e
3 iron man
4 hulk
5 kung fu panda
6 quantum of solace
7 horton hears a who
8 pineapple express
9 tropic thunder
10 cloverfield

top ten songs:
1 grounds for divorce - elbow
2 lost - coldplay
3 modern guilt - beck
4 gran torino - jamie cullum
5 i'm good, i'm gone - lykke li
6 robots - flight of the conchords
7 another way to die - jack white + alicia keys
8 the scrolls - el rick haun
9 love save the empty - erin mccarley
10 ghosts - nine inch nails

so that's it i guess. i hope you all are having a great new year's eve. and i hope next year is superawesome.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

happy holidays!

i was joined by a few close friends to sing you all this holiday tune!

i hope your holidays are awesome!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

rock for hunger in orlando

hello everyone,
i'm gonna be at the 'rock for hunger' in orlando this weekend. i'm gonna have a booth there, and try to sell some artwork. so if you're in the area, please stop by! i'd love to say hi. (that rhymed and i didn't mean it (anybody want a peanut?))

this from the official site:

"On Saturday, November 15th, it's time for Orlando to Rock for Hunger once again! This year ROCK FOR HUNGER FEST 3 will be held at The Plaza Theatre. The lineup features over 20 artists including top local names, rising regional acts and chart topping artist KARDINAL OFFISHALL. The festivities will take place from 2pm until midnight with three stages filled with live music, arts and crafts and many great vendors. "

for more info, check out their site:

hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

sweep the commentary

hello leg-sweepers,
i just posted the audio commentary for the 'sweep the leg' video. it's from the DVD that we're selling on the astonish store. (feel free to buy that puppy if you don't have it yet)

here's the video with commentary by me and billy z.

(thanks jordan for putting this together. you rock!)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

interview with ’inner ear’

be sure and leave a comment on their page, so they think people like us. =)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


neil turned me on to this awesome UK band called 'elbow'.
check em out:
especially their song 'grounds for divorce'. holy crap. pure awesome.

i hope you're having a good wednesday. i might play volleyball a little later.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


my good friend jacob courtney helped me cover a coldplay song.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008


i just got back from seeing appaloosa, the new ed harris/ viggo mortrensen western.
i really liked it. it's the second time ed harris directed a film, and the second time he stars in a movie he's directing ('pollock' was the first). it's capably directed, if not a little clunky.

the movie is slow, deliberately slow. it is meant very much to be a classic western. the dialog is fantasticly curt and wry. the humor never seems out of place, and is never distracting. the two leads are as great as you would expect them to be. and it's fun to see them as partners rather than enemies ('a history of violence'). the sparse dialog allows for some great moments of silent understanding, and sometimes even tension.

to say the movie is slow, does not mean there's no action. with an 'unforgiven' flavor, the gunfights are appropriately real and explosively short.

it's a good movie. it's definitely worth seeing. but i'd love to hear what you guys think.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

saturday in the park with george

ok, well not really in the park. in my gloomy room.

oh, by the way, if you haven't heard it yet, or don't own it, you need to get hanson's new cd 'the walk'. holy crap! it's fantastic.

happy saturday

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

how tshirts are born (or ’more old tour footage’)

an informative and entirely factual look at the inner workings of the 'no more kings' merchandise sweat-shop.

please to enjoy:

NMK podcast 09 - how tshirts are born from pete mitchell on Vimeo.


Monday, September 15, 2008

two things i found online or "why i love the internet’

okay, one of my favorite indie animators is a guy named pat smith. i was reading his blog today and i found links to two other great sites.

when i first learned flash, i wanted to make all these cool experimental interactive animated playthings. i never really followed through, because i am a dorkface, but thank goodness this guy did:

(that site ate up most of my evening!)

aaand, last time i visited my parents, my dad told me he thought that i was too critical on my blog movie reviews. of course, defensive, i said, 'no i'm not! it's important to be critical of things!' or something equally whiny. anyway, i've been thinking about that a lot lately. in fact, i haven't posted any movie reviews since.

so when i found this: i smiled. i was reminded at how important it is to critically analyse art and storytelling. (that post is a long read, but worth the investment)

i hope you all are having a happy monday. i might go see 'burn after reading' tonight. maybe i'll tell you how i liked it =)


Monday, September 08, 2008

old nmk live footage

i was cleaning out my hardrive yesterday and i found some old nmk tour footage.
i'll post some more as i get a chance to comb through it.

nmk podcast 08 from pete mitchell on Vimeo.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

art for sale?

hello again,
i'm going to be working with topher at the label over the next week or so to try and get some of my paintings online in the astonish store. i'm really excited to see how that goes.

in the meantime, i set up a little shop at to sell smaller stuff: block prints and small works on paper. if you get a chance, i'd love it if you dropped by and checked it out.



Tuesday, September 02, 2008

thank you linton!

we just got back from playing the linton music festival in indiana. woohoo, it was awesome!
we played there last year and had such a blast. we couldn't wait to play it again this year.
we got a chance to unveil two new songs, from our new album (coming out early next year).

we met some absolutely fantastic fans. i got a supercool gift from karl and meg:

thanks guys! and thanks all of linton. we're already excited about LMF 09.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

woody harellson

go here. now.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

block printing zombies

hello friends.
i went to the art store the other day, which is becoming an addiction for me lately. i can't really afford to be spending any money right now, and what do i do? i go to the art store twice a week. yikes
anyway, i bought some linoleum blocks and some carving tools and started making block prints! i haven't done that since high school. it's so fun! i love being able to take a single image and make multiple iterations of it, altering each slightly.

i started printing on anything i could find:

i think i'm going to start selling these so i can afford to buy more linoleum blocks!
this may or may not be a severe obsession.


Thursday, August 14, 2008


one of my roommates, jacob, and i invented a new day: golfday
which involved us going to a driving range to hit golf balls, playing wii golf, watching a golf movie, and finishing the night with a blazing round of minigolf.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

dead anyway

i started working on a couple of new projects recently. one of them is an animated short film, about zombies (of course), tentatively titled 'dead anyway'. one night, when i couldn't fall asleep for a few hours, i played out the whole story in my mind. when i woke up the next day, i tried to write down as much of it as i could remember.

then about a week ago, i went to my cousin's wedding. i bought myself the crappiest flights ever, so i had a LOT of time sitting in the airport. in an uncharacteristic spurt of productivity, i used that time to map out all the steps needed to finish the animation. i even made little deadlines for myself for each phase, marking them in iCal.

so, while i was hanging out at the house today, i glanced at my calendar and noticed, according to my plan, storyboards were due today. yikes! i hadn't even started them! sooo i ran to 'fido', a little cafe here in nashville, and drew storyboards for 2 and a half hours.

the short will probably be around 5 or 6 minutes long, which came to 166 separate storyboard panels. very rough drawings of course. some of the major moments i might redraw, cleaner. i just spent the rest of my night importing the drawings into flash and arranging them in order.

next, i must make an animatic, which is sort of a roughly animated storyboard. my iCal tells me that's due friday. =)

here are two pages of my rough storyboards:

goodnight all!

Monday, August 04, 2008

amoebas on threadless

hello my little multi-celled organisms,
i just finished a teeshirt design, and i submitted it to ''.

if you get a chance, it would be a huge help to me if yall voted for it over at


Monday, July 28, 2008

tiny zombies

i keep getting sidetracked. this happens to me anytime i'm working on a project. i'm really obsessive about something when i first start it, but then my brain goes on tangents. it makes it hard to finish anything.

along those lines, i've interupted my zombie canvases to start making tiny little zombie watercolors. the good thing is, at least they're still zombies. which means i can kindof stay on task. progress? digress? dress?

so here's the last full-sized zombie painting. he managed to talk me into finishing him before i started on the little one.

and then here are some of the little zombies. they're done on a quarter of a sheet of watercolor paper. so 4x5 inches or something. also, there's a sheet of rough thumbnail drawings for possible new paintings. i like to work out the shape and composition at that size first. then if i like it, i redraw it bigger.

here are two of the small watercolors close up:

thanks for looking

Friday, July 25, 2008

the dark knight

hey yall.
i saw batman the other night, and again yesterday. imax style! holy crap! it's amazing.
if it's playing in imax near you, please see it that way. don't see it normally if you can avoid it. some of the scenes are simply breathtaking in imax. especially with that sound system! by the end of the film, i was sitting in a puddle of my own pee. too gross? sorry.

the movie is absolutely perfect. i had a little trouble with the ending the first time i saw it. something didn't sit right with me about it. like the writers were forcing us towards something. but then after the second viewing i was okay with it.

i know this has been said a million times, but it's such a shame that heath ledger can no longer give us spellbinding performances like this one. he is simple mesmerizing as the joker. in every respect. his mannerisms, voice, attitude. all perfect.

the other night i saw a special on the history channel about batman and all his gadgets. it was a really cool show, because they basically showed you that everything batman has is completely plausible. and in some cases, the military is already using a lot of it. i so love that christopher nolan went to such ends to make sure the series is grounded in reality. i mean, i love the tim burton batman(s?) as much as anyone, but i definitely prefer this direction.

yikes, that's a lot of babbling. in any case, see it. multiple times.

in other news, i just went to michael's crafts and bought a bunch of zombie-making supplies

and oh, here's that target lamp, graciela =)

-pete, the dork knight

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

listening party

we had the listening party last night at georgetown masters in nashville. it was a lot of fun. we invited everyone who was on the album, plus people from the label. we also had a few other friends come by. we put chairs in two of georgetown’s three studios.

it was so exciting for me to finally hear all the songs together, as one big piece. people responded very positively. it was very encouraging to have everyone noticeably impressed with it. neil and i are extremely proud of this album, and we’re both quite excited to get it out into the world.

Monday, July 21, 2008


mastering is the process of making every song sound like it belongs on the same record. usually it involves making everything a little louder. some decisions are made about lead vocals levels, to let them sit right above the instruments. we listen for clarity. we listen to make sure nothing is distorting, or is pushed too hard. this process usually takes a day.

my favorite part of mastering is the giant speakers we get to listen on. each speaker is taller than me. there’s a magic spot in the room to sit, so that you hear everything sonically just right. tomorrow night, we’re going to have a listening party to hear the whole album straight through.

[picture of speakers]

Friday, July 11, 2008

two more zombies!

hello again,
i just finished two more zombie paintings today. i bought a lamp from target, so i can actually see what i'm painting. =)
i'm thinking of making prints of this series to sell in the online store. is that a silly idea?


Thursday, July 10, 2008


we approached mixing a little differently this time. last album, neil and i sat in the studio with craig, our mixing engineer, while he worked. mixes take about a day per song, so we were there for almost two weeks. sitting. this time, neil decided to send a harddrive down to craig with neil’s rough mixes. craig worked his mixey magic and sent mp3s to neil for review. then after all the songs were at a comfortable place, neil came down to nashville for two days of final touches.
since i am staying here in nashville, it was easy for me to drive by the studio to hear craig’s progress. which was fun for me. it was exciting to hear how each song was progressing at this stage. a lot of times, craig has to make decisions about instrumentation. sometimes instruments occupy the same sonic space and it gets confusing. sometimes, he needs to punch a hole for the lead vocals to poke through.

[use critical hit verse example rough vs final]

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

zombie paintings!

hi superfriends,
i finished a couple zombie paintings today. here they are:

it's been raining a lot these last few days here in nashville. i hope that stops soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008


i really wanted 'wanted' to be good. i wanted to enjoy 'wanted'. i can say that i had fun watching it. but alas, it's not a good movie. not at all. i can forgive a lot in action films. especially when they try to create an interesting world, like 'the matrix', where the rules are different from our world.

in 'wanted', you have to be willing to accept a world where people can bend bullets. you have to be ready to suppress the gag reflex when watching a man leap through glass from one building to another. i can. accept that, i mean, not leap from buildings.

but whatever rules a movie sets up for its world, they have to be consistent. and the world of 'wanted' is not. and unfortunately, the worst infraction of its own rules happens at the film's climax.and then of course there's the message. the final line of the film made me feel a little annoyed. i said, 'really? that's really how you want me to feel right now?'

what did you guys think?

john hancock

we've been in the van for two straight days on our way to casper, wyoming for a fourth of july show.
14 hours yesterday and 10 hours today. so of course, the first thing we do when we get to town is go see a movie! woohoo! and already i love this town: there are four movie theatres within 100 feet of each other. next to one of them is an art supply store. and next to that is a commercial space for rent. hmm. i could live there and paint and see movies everyday.

ok, so on to hancock. superb! (that's super with a b). it was waaay better than i expected. it's very funny. of course jason bateman is amazing. i love that guy. i'll see just about anything with him in it (apparently they are making an 'arrested development' movie?).

it's a fun, unique story, with a lot of unexpected moments. the action is exciting. the performances are all great. the effects are sortof stinky. but they are consistent, so it ends up working as a 'look'.

anyway, it was a lot of fun. i'm interested to hear what you all think. tomorrow, i'm going to see 'wanted'. and then apparently we have to play a show? =)


Saturday, June 28, 2008

wall-e and vh1

i saw wall-e last night and loved it. it was adorable. it's another eco-film, but much more effective than m.night's the happening. also, the little short they show before the film is one of pixar's best shorts. i love the idea of short film as a medium. i wish more people did stuff in that realm.

the movie is very well paced, and manages to keep your attention despite the fact that there's very little dialog. it's a simple love story with lots of social undercurrents. somehow coming from pixar, none of it ever feels preachy. just cute.

the only thing i maybe didn't love was the use of real actors in the 'propaganda' footage. fred willard is in it, though, which is pretty rockin. i understand what they were going for by using real people for the old footage, and animated people for the future world. but it took me out of the world for a bit. felt inconsistent.

oh, in other news, i'm on vh1's 'i love the new millennium'. woohoo! so far, i only know for sure that i'm in the 2002 episode. but i'm hoping to pop up in more. who knows. lemme know if you see me =)


Friday, June 27, 2008

short nmk vegas video podcast

hello everyone.
this is just a quick video podcast i put together from some footage eric shot of us in vegas.
sorry it got all compressy. not sure why.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


we just finished putting all the finishing touches on everything. so now everything is officially recorded, and the next step is to mix it all. neil’s going to come down to nashville monday to start that. i’m so excited; it’s so close to being done!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


sadly, i was on the road touring while neil recorded the background vocals. but i just got to hear them and they sound fantastic! we got this amazing singer, brooks ritter, to sing on a few tracks. and of course neil sang on most of the stuff too. everything has a great michael jackson vibe. i’m loving it! sounds great with headphones on.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

what’s the buzz, tell me whatsa-Happening

hmm.. ok. so we're in vegas for a few days, and what do i do? i go see a bunch of movies.
the first one was m.night's 'the happening', which i had super high hopes for. i loved the trailers; the imagery was spookycool. it seemed like a darker direction for our old buddy.

let me interject here to say i hated 'the lady in the water', which i also had super high hopes for.

so, i've realized that m.night cannot direct humans. he suffers from lucas-disease methinks. he has great vision, super ideas, and great sense of building interesting, dynamic characters... but, he can't direct humans. i guess. in some cases, outstanding actors are able to bring it without his help. and in 'the happening' i think john leguizamo did just that.

now i love zooey deschanel and mark wahlberg. i really do. and this is why i must blame m.night. the script was awkward at points, which may account for some of the clumsy interactions. the overall premise is a bit of a letdown. not quite 'indianna jones 4' letdown. but still a heavy sigh.
all in all, this film seemed like m.night wanted to show these horrific scenes of people killing themselves, and decided to scribble a story to string them on. i give it a 55. it needs to repeat the semester. and bring in a signed note from mom.

in other news, 'hulk' was incredible (pun intended). seriously. a wonderful film. full review tomorrow.

i'd love to hear what you all think. maybe i'm just an cranky old man =)

Friday, June 06, 2008

resident wii-vil and the zohan

the past three nights in a row i've been up until 3am playing resident evil 4 on the wii. sooo awesome and creepy! i played it on the ps2 a while ago, but it's always so hard to aim and shoot when multiple zombie-people are trying to get you. but now, it's so much more fun! i feel like milla jovovich! (if i looked like her, i would make out with myself).

zohan: funny. not super funny, but funny. there are many moments where i was laughing out loud. embarassingly loud. and there were huge gaps in laughter. i think a lot of these formula-comedies have the same problem. they try to emulate the structure of a normal film. that is to say, they have a love relationship that misses and then finally gets it together. they have some sort of feel-good ending. some sort of character arc where our hero learns something. all the stuff that we expect from a real movie. but with a silly action-comedy like this, we don't need it. i think it actually gets in the way. i don't really care if zohan gets the girl. because he's not a real person to me. so i'd rather see more gags and moments.
napoleon dynomite works particularly well because it doesn't go for those moments. or if it does, it's in a severely downplayed way. it's more about funny/dysfunctional characters in situations, saying and doing funny things. sort of like my life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

thank you new hampshire!!!

ahhh! what a blast! we had a great time at the sky show 17 in new hampshire this weekend. rock 101 kicks booty! everyone from the station was super nice! and despite our band name, they treated us like kings. special thanks to the mosh pit. doc, laura, greg, roadkill, and scorch: i love you all and miss you already!
kim, thanks for taking us to the yummy tiny diner. it was a little awkward eating with a row of hungry people behind us waiting for our chairs =)
the fireworks were fantastic! they had their own soundtrack. i want my own soundtrack.
my parents were there. they had a lot of fun, and it was great to be able to hang out with them.

so i can't wait for sky show 18! (cut to: one year later, pete waits by the mail, where no invitation comes.)

we're in pittsburg tonight. sleeping. on our two day trek back to nashville. if you see us on the road, honk.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

indiana jones and the temple of scientology

sooo the continuation of the saga that we've been waiting 20 years for is finally here. and i gotta say, i was a bit sad. i won't go into too much until all yall have seen it, but i thought i'd give some general impressions:

1. premise - what??! the indy movies have always had fun curses and supernatural baddies, but this one goes a little too far.
2. action - the action sequences and stunts were a lot of fun. typical indy wackiness: swinging from rafters with the whip, racing against collapsing bridges, jumping from moving jeeps. most of these moments were perfect, but some were over-the-top even for indy. it reminded me of peter jackson's king kong in spots. i could almost hear the boardroom meeting. "hey, can we make it bigger?"

overall i give it a C-

in related news, i bought a wii the other night. so our extensive time in hotel rooms are a little more enjoyable now.

played a show in newport, rhode island the other night. it was awesome to see my family and some friends i haven't seen in years. tomorrow we play in new hampshire, at an awesome outdoor festival. i'm told there will be thousands of people there. that's a lot of people methinks. too many for me to buy gummi bears for.

anyway, let me know what you think of indy when you guys see it. misery loves company.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

horn tracking

we just finished tracking horns at this beautiful studio in lincoln, tn; about an hour outside of nashville. the studio is called darkhorse, and it’s basically a bunch of log cabins stretched out over these beautiful, soft rolling hills. each cabins is connected by cool wooden bridges.
max and his gang played fantastically. everything sounds so good! we had a lot of fun.

[video clip]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

go go speed racer

hi kids.
i saw speed racer the other day in wichita, in between shows. wow. umm. i think it was a pinata of flourescent cg candy. some of it is still in my eye. there's some really cool stuff, some great moments. but all in all, a pretty stinky film. i'm probably 25 years past their demographic though. the effects were on par with a sega dreamcast game, and the compositing looked like it was done in the trial version of after effects. but jack, from lost, is in it. and he was cool. and he did kungfu.

on a similar note, i saw 'redbelt' last night, and it was really good. slow, and not a lot of fighting (for a movie named after the highest butt-kicking accessory). but chewatel (the bad guy from 'serenity'), was fantastic. he's a great, honorable, likable character, but maintains a calculated calmness that implies tremendous confidence. the confidence of a jiu-jitsu mastah! in any case, if it's in town near you, go see it. tell me what you think. maybe me and billy zabka will remake it =)

Monday, May 05, 2008

"iron man" is superawesome

did anyone else see it? i totallysuperloved it. rdj is fantastic in it.
i want a metal suit now. and a pony.

soo, i'm going to wichita this week. that will be fun. neil is still playing guitar with us, which is ubercool. like a little mini nmk reunion.

indiana jones is out soon. woohoo!


Friday, April 25, 2008


lead vocals were fun. we usually get through a song a day. neil doesn’t like me to sing for more than 2 hours or so each day. usually he gets up early (waaay earlier than me) and edits together the stuff from the previous day. then i’ll get up. we’ll grab lunch, and then start tracking.
the first few takes, we run straight through. just for me to get a feel for the song and mood. neil gives me feedback on things to change, or things to push. then we take the song piece by piece. verses, choruses, and bridge. all separate. finally we do a few passes to get any parts that i didn’t do very well.
these songs have been a lot more challenging for me, vocally, than the songs on the first album. the range is a little wider. the highest points feel higher. we tried to get a little more character into the performances. things like that are tough to nail down.
all in all, i’m pretty happy with the way everything is coming out. i’m really excited to hear what these will sound like with horns and background vocals.

[video clip]

Friday, April 04, 2008

sheep in the woods

apparently this is old, but it made me laugh a lot when i found it today.

kristen schaal is on one of my favorite new shows, flight of the conchords.

how are you all on this rainy friday?


horn arranging

neil and i went down to nashville yesterday to meet up with our friend max. max is writing and arranging some brass and string parts for the album. he’s a great guy, and really funny. neil and i did our mouth-trumpet versions of what we had in mind and he asked, ‘what do you need me for? just do that!’
every time neil and i drive down to nashville it rains. downpour. buckets. only while we are driving. once we get there, it’s fine. and then, when it’s time to drive home: flood. monsoon.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

go fish cards

hey pookies.
i made a couple sets of ’go fish’ cards for my niece and nephews for christmas, and i had to make a bunch. so i had a few sets left over. we decided to put them up for sale on the astonish store, here.
i might do a normal deck of cards, nmk-style, depending on how many of these we’re left with =)
anyway, check em out. and let us know if you’d like to see more stuff like this. i like making things. that, and ice cream. i like ice cream too. maybe more.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

happy april foo’s day

yo foos. check it. no one played any april fool’s jokes on me today. i’m sad.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

background and layout design

i’ve never been good at drawing backgrounds. for some reason it just never works out for me. i guess i’m more interested in drawing goofy characters. thankfully ghostbot is brilliant at both. roque whipped up some beautiful background designs that completely stand on their own as art pieces. his sense of color and space make them really engaging. in the video, it’s hard to focus on the background because of all the wonderful action happening in the foreground. but it’s definitely worth your time to watch it again with an eye bent towards the great environments.
in ghostbot’s timeline on any project, they usually jump right on backgrounds and layout just after the animatic is complete. layout involves positioning all the key elements in the frame to create an interesting and functional composition. if this composition doesn’t work, then the entire scene can fall flat. sometimes layout are done in black and white, or shades of grey, just to block out the light and dark and large and small areas.
for this video, the backgrounds had to be relatively simple. strong graphic shapes, pleasing subdued colors. they couldn’t conflict with the action, but had to enhance it. enhance the mood.
here are a few layouts from roque:


next: the art of collaboration

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

terry fator on oprah!

hello egg-finders..
my friend terry fator (last season’s winner of the hit show ’america’s got talent’) was recently on oprah. they played a great little intro video about him, and then he performed a short piece featuring three of his impersonations. you can see the segment here:

he’s an amazing guy, and absolutely deserves all the success on the planet.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

happy easter!

hello my little chocolate bunnies.
i hope you all have a wonderful easter. wear cute little pastel dresses and carry little wicker baskets around all day. i’m going to wander around looking for rabbits to dip in chocolate.

since there’s almost nothing out in the theatre world these days, i’ve been renting a bunch of movies (thanks itunes!). some good, some bad. i thought i would give you my quick reviews to save you from repeating my potential bad decisions.

the assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford: very good. slow, but good. great dialogue, shot beautifully (if not a little forcefully artsy).

gone baby gone: holy crap, this was good. ben affleck has been on the wrong side of the camera all these years. this is where he belongs. the story is pretty heavy, pretty dark stuff. but the writing is smart, the performances are great. pretty weighty stuff.

then my streak ended. the following movies should only be rented if you won the lottery and are running out of things to spend money on: war, chaos, next and death sentence. i was warned about most of these by rotten tomatoes. i was warned and i ignored them. i have since clawed out my eyes.

then a surprise: 30 days of night. i thought this would suck (ha! a pun!), but i have a thing for zombie and vampire movies. thankfully i was wrong, it was very cool. the ending cheesed me out a bit, but i forgave it. it had a great look, it was well-acted and paced.

and then there are two that i feel weird about. the nines: pretty confusing (intentionally), but well acted and sort-of well written, except its premise is so silly that i don’t think it needed to be a film. certainly not a feature length film. it’s one of those endings that pees all over the audience.

and then last night was ’martian child’, which i wanted to see when it was in theatres, but it got slammed by rotten tomatoes. so i didn’t. but my curiosity got the better of me. i didn’t hate it. but it definitely could have used a re-write. maybe? i’m not even sure if that’s what was wrong with it. i mean, john cusack is always good, so it wasn’t that. i think the dialog, while smart, was a little goofy? or something. not sure. i liked it, mostly, so i would recommend it to you, oh dear chocolate bunny.

well that’s it for rentals.

then neil and kate and i took story to see ’horton hears a who’. it rocked! i laughed out loud several times. several embarrassing times. louder than i should have. the thing is, steve carrel and jim carrey aren’t particularly funny in it. in fact, i might’ve liked it more if someone else were in those parts. but the secondary characters are so charming! and the animators looked for every opportunity to punch up a gag, or make a moment. anyway, i am looking forward to seeing it again. that’s two times seeing.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

character designs 1

it was an interesting challenge for me, and for ghostbot, to design characters that were based on real people, but completely stylized and cartoony. there were four main characters that fell into this group, as well as dozens of other characters that weren’t based on real people, but had to fit the style of the video. we did a fair amount of back-and-forthing to get the characters to work. they had to feel connected to my drawing style, but also work for ghostbot.
my character, pete, took a bit of tweaking to get right. we wanted a strong graphic design to all the characters, and i liked the sort of squiggly flow of the arms and legs. so our first step was to get rid of any harsh angles: elbows, knees, etc. then we worked on getting a simple shape for the hair, rather than a bunch of scratchy, messy lines (which is what my hair really is). it’s always a delicate balance between reworking a drawing enough to get it tight and graphic, but also remembering to retain the charm and spontaneity of the original sketch. the cats at ghostbot have perfected that balance.
here’s the final pete design:

the co-star of the piece, and the second “character” to be fleshed out, was my car. the car was meant to be a makeshift version of KITT, from knight rider. the idea was that my character, who is obsessively trying to follow his hero’s footsteps, has transformed his beat-up gremlin into a crime-fighting super-car. he achieved this by taping some red flashlights to the hood. and probably adding a blinking red readout on the dashboard. oh, and he also installed the world’s longest sun visor.
in ghostbot’s version of the animatic, the car was dark green. but in the character design phase, they thought it would make more sense if the car wasn’t painted. but was instead a beige, primer color. ultimately, we went back to the green, feeling that it was closer to the black transam my character would be emulating.


next: background designs

Friday, March 14, 2008

LOST and found

woohoo! LOST was awesome sauce last night. i won’t spoil it for anyone that isn’t caught up yet, but i was so excited that i was right about ben’s inside man on the boat. i’m almost never right about LOST-related stuff. in fact i thought the polar bear was hurley in a bear suit. and i thought the smoke monster came from sawyer’s butt. i still think, at any minute, gilligan and skipper are going to appear. i haven’t given up hope.

so how are you guys? has anyone seen any good movies? these past few weeks have been horrible movie weeks. the top 5 box office leaders were all under 40% at rottentomatoes. yikes.

i just watched the trailer for the new edward norton hulk. i’m not sure what to think yet. i think it looks well written, well shot, and well acted. but the cg.. hmm. apparently hulk is played by eddie murphy in a muscley green fatsuit. at one point i heard hulk yell ’norbit!’


Thursday, March 13, 2008


an animatic is basically storyboard that has been timed out to play sequentially. it’s a great tool to test the pacing of a scene. some animatics can be as simple as a storyboard slideshow, while others can be quite complex, with camera moves and bits of action.

we did two major versions of the animatic. the first pass was one i had done when i thought the video was going to be live-action. so it’s a bit weird, compared to what we ended up with. but the big moments are there. then ghostbot remade the entire thing themselves, in flash. this way they could use that file to work from: updated assets, moments, backgrounds, etc.

i immediately loved the animatic that ghostbot sent me. they managed to make it charming and playful, while still being very loose and rough. it was wonderful, because it was very easy for me to get a sense of what the final piece would feel like.

animatics can be a tricky thing. just like demos for songs, you have to include just enough information to convey your intent, without including too much that people might get bogged down on (“can we make it less green”, “can the explosion look like a q-tip”). i think ghostbot hit that mark perfectly.

here’s a look at the progression of the action montage section of the video (the bridge of the song).

my storyboard version:

my animatic version:

ghostbot’s animatic:

thanks for reading/watching.


next: character designs

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


we just got back from tracking drums in nashville. it was supercool! neil found an amazing drummer, jason tiemann, to lay down some serious funk grooves for two days. jason was an absolute machine! everyone involved in recording was excited about the process. jordan came up from florida to film. he had me on a separate wireless mic. i kept forgetting it was on. so while jordan was in the other room filming jason drumming, or neil playing the b3 organ, i was in the studio making obscene noises. of course. or singing really bad harmonies to the playback. hmm. jordan’s going to have a lot of fun capturing all that footage.
we finished early enough that neil had a full day to record piano and organ. it was so fun! he was coming up with all these amazing space dance parts. our engineer, craig alvin, is unbelievable. his super attuned ear, and obsessive attention to detail got incredible sound quality from the drums. he’s also fun because he has a great sense of experimentation and play. he tried all these fun echo effects for the organ parts.
oh, and i ate waaaay too many tootsie rolls. uncountable. my teeth just gave their two week notice.

[video clip?] [stills from video footage]

Thursday, March 06, 2008

MLB 08 the show

woohooo! so neil just ran to the store and picked up the new MLB 08 game by sony, that 'sweep the leg' is featured in. it's the fourth song down on the list, too. which means you can see it right away when you go to jukebox mode. i'm so excited! our first song in a video game! now i'm still waiting to hear back about 'yars revenge'.
thanks so much to eddy and the guys at sony for including us in such an awesome game.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

michael video mentioned at cartoonbrew and coldhardflash

hey everyone, just a quick post to say that we were featured at cartoonbrew (a fantastic website devoted to great animation). the post is about halfway down the main page. or direct link here: direct link

thanks so much amid!


edit: i just found out, it's also featured on

Monday, March 03, 2008


before ghostbot came onboard, adam, neil, jordan and i came up with dozens of fun ‘moments’ that we wanted to see in the video. we were pretending that this would be the opening credits of an awesome cheesey cop show that never aired. we knew we wanted someone sliding across the hood of a car. we knew we wanted a big explosion. we knew we wanted crazy car jumps.

before we got together, i had the idea of making the video about me trying to be a good-samaritan vigilante-type hero. saving the world one cat-in-a-tree at a time. but i knew it had to be silly. big efforts for small outcomes. if a cat was stuck in a tree, i had to jump a car off a ramp to save it. if a lady needed help crossing the street, i would dive-roll somersault across traffic to get to her. i wanted my character to be so single-focussed on his task, that he often caused peripheral damage.

so when we all started talking, all these ideas started meshing together. a structure started to emerge. the early storyline had the explosion happening early on, with the jump off the parking garage as the final stunt. it lead into the ending of landing into the pool. so structurally, the storyline was very similar to what we ended up with. but once ghostbot came onboard, they helped to sculpt the story into something more cohesive. more connected.

some storyboard pages


next: the animatic - moving storyboad

don’t forget to check out ghosbot’s blog:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

more demos

we’ve got four demos done now:
dance alone
leroy and me
paper airplane
something to hide

we’re going to track drums in just over a week, so we gotta get a move-on to finish up the other demos in time. there’s four more that we’ve got in the pipe, but we’ll need to write probably another three or four after that. as of now, the other four we need to track are:
mayor of the moon
floyd’s bluff
no disassemble

Monday, February 25, 2008

jump in, let's save the world

hello everybody. a few months ago, me, neil robins (my writing partner/ producer), adam degraide (ceo of astonish), and jordan chesney (videographer), all got together in a little room in rhode island to discuss the ‘michael’ video. we knew it had to be as fun as the ’sweep the leg’ video was, but we didn’t want to cannibalize ourselves. once our ideas got rolling, it became clear that we wanted to do something in the vein of the spike jonze video for the beastie boys’ ’sabotage’. something retro, something silly. we wanted to reference old buddy-cop shows (essentially ‘michael’ is a buddy-cop song, only one of the ‘cops’ is a talking car).
but during the course of the discussions, our ideas had started to exceed our resources. we had cars crashing into storefronts, gas stations exploding, cars flying off the roofs of parking garages. great, fun stuff, but difficult to achieve. then we started thinking about the idea of doing an animated video, and it all started to come together.

a while ago, i was researching animation houses with the intent of doing a short, simple animated video for ‘mr b’. i found a small studio in san fransisco called ‘ghostbot’. they launched the esurance spy-action series of ads starring erin. their work is stylish and simple and super-cool. i contacted them about ‘mr b’ and they seemed excited to work on it. and of course, i was excited to work with them! soon, things started to shift, and we realized that it was too soon to make a video for a song that we weren’t planning on releasing to radio. it made much more sense to make a video for the next single. sooo i sadly told ghostbot that we would have to wait to work together.

once adam made the decision to do ‘michael’ as an animated video, i leapt for the phone to see if ghostbot was interested/available. they were!

(at the ghostbot studio in san fransisco)


next: a storyboard emerges

don’t forget to check out ghosbot’s blog:

Friday, February 22, 2008

working titles

right now i’ve got a couple of working titles. most of them are fleshed out lyrically. some i just have a general idea. i’ll have to match them with one of the instrumental pieces we have sitting around.

dance alone
leroy and me
paper airplane
the lonely futurist

Monday, February 18, 2008


recording demos is sort of like inking drawings in a sketchbook. the demos are not quite as rough as the initial sketch, but not nearly as polished as the final song. the purpose of a demo is to invoke the feeling and energy of the song, without getting hung up on specific arrangement ideas.

neil has this great new program for scratching out great drum tracks quickly. they are samples of real drums, so they aren’t quite as cheesy as the casio keyboard drums we used to demo the first album. it’s great because it gives us a pretty solid idea of the feel of the song. obviously when a real drummer comes into the studio to track, that’s when it really comes to life. but again, in the demo phase, this is just fine.
then neil throws down a guitar track and bassline. maybe keys or piano if he thinks the song needs that. i take this stuff into garageband until i figure out the melody and lyrics. it’s perfect for me, because it lets me play around with things, recording multiple takes until i get something i like. sometimes i just play with rhythm, no melody, no lyrics. when i get something that feels good i start scatting a melody of nonsense words. then its a matter of poring through my index cards, matching up phrases with the rhythm.

for this stuff, i’ve been sketching out a general format for each song. what i want to happen/say in each verse. progressing towards the them or meaning of the song. then i try to find the most concise or fun way to say what that verse needs. there’s a lot of back-and-forth going on at this point. push and pull. like a painting.
when i’m painting, it’s always a conversation between me and the piece. i’ll talk (paint) for a little, and then i’ll listen (look) for a little. i try not to push too much. i like to stop at points and see what the painting needs. it’s like that with songs too. sometimes i get stuck in the forest, and can only see tree trunks, and so i’ll bring it to neil. usually he’ll find a spot that’s out of place, or weak, or just not right. then i can go back in an rework that stuff.

then we record a scratch demo vocal, which of course sounds better than me singing into my macbook. everyday we burn a cd of our newest pass, and we listen to that in the car while we go out to lunch or dinner. that way we can start to make notes on what’s working and what’s not. and we know what to play with for the next day.

[studio shots] [audio clip? demo?]

Monday, February 11, 2008


songwriting has always been a tricky gypsy lover for me. like any creative endeavor, sometimes everything falls into place serendipitously, and you have a good song without much laboring. but most times, it’s a hard-fought battle to bend the wills of words and melodies. you wrestle them into submission, but not so hard that you hurt them.

the first album came with its own set of tricky issues. a lot of the songs were older songs, from college, that we had to rework. so they required new arrangements, new melodies sometimes, and almost always new words. ‘mr b’ is probably the song that survived the most intact from its first incarnation. most of his siblings on the album got wrestled pretty bad.

with this album, we are starting completely from scratch. all new songs, and all new ideas. which is a lot of fun for me. it’s like buying a brand new sketchbook. blank pages waiting to be filled. so this was a welcome challenge.

my approach to writing songs is a lot like how i approach painting. usually my first step is to get a kernel of an idea and then research it to death. i fill index cards with weird phrases and bits of trivia. character traits. possible titles. then i spread them all out on my floor and start making connections. putting cards together. re-ordereing and ranking. i think it’s important, when dealing with an open-ended problem, to limit the possible solutions that i’ll spend time on. so a good first pass is a shotgun approach. shoot wide. generate too many ideas. then filter them down. keep everything for later, but limit the scope of the material i have in front of me. i’ll have to do this a few times, each time whittling the cards down.

meanwhile neil is recording demo versions of the instrumentation for the songs. when he finishes them, i throw them into garageband and start matching up themes and ideas with songs that fit the vibe. then i can start playing around with melody and lyric ideas.

or [picture of index cards]
for example, here are a couple index card worth of goofy notes/ideas:

~another fine mess we’ve gotten into
me and leroy
hercules (to ioulaus)

~triskaidekaphobia (tris-ky-deka-phobia)
napolean? roosevelt? afraid of all things 13

~dirty harry had a magnum and magnum had a 45

~the serpent of the nile - cleopatra (medusa?)

~planet mercury has the shortest year
new year’s eve parties are more frequent?

i think i’ve got something for ‘me and leroy’. or ‘leroy and me’. that sounds better.

Friday, February 01, 2008


i flew to kentucky this week to hang out with neil. we’re starting pre-production on album two, which is very exciting for me. i love playing live; playing all the songs from the first album. but that project is over two years old now. so i’m definitely ready to make some new music.
we’re approaching this album a little differently from our last album. we’re hoping to make it a little funkier. maybe a little bit of a sixties and seventies vibe. (i guess we’re working backwards through the decades! the 20’s album should be awesome). so we’re referencing a lot of ‘sly and the family stone’, ‘bill withers’, ‘jackson 5’ and aretha franklin.
so the next step is to start writing and demo-ing songs. then we can choose the most successful ones and record them for real.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

happy oh ate

hello furry monkeys.
so i had this big plan to do a 'year in review' NMK style, but alas i am lame.
it was going to be filled with all the cool things that have happened this year for us. things like having our first album in stores, getting my first song on the radio, having my first music video played on teevee, winning our first awards. you know, that kind of stuff.

oh, and then i was gonna tell you all about the cool new stuff we're going to do this year. things like an animated video for 'michael jump in", a great dvd of the behind-the-scenes from the 'sweep the leg' video shoot, a new animated comedy series called 'found object theatre', beginning production of our second album. that sort of thing.

but i didn't. i never got around to doing it because i am a dork. so i apologize.
in any case, i hope the first two days of this glorious new year have been good to you. and i hope you have at least 363 more glorious days this year. i know i will.