Sunday, July 12, 2009

obey the groove video - making-of part 2: alchemy

there are an infinite number of ways to start any creative project. i’ve tried almost all of them. some of my favorite methods involve starting from a random prompt, and then trying to bend the chaos into order. i love starting music that way. i haven’t started much art that way. and i certainly haven’t started any animation that way.

i’m still in, what would be considered, pre-production for the ‘obey the groove’ video. it’s going to involve a lot of animation. a lot of things need to be designed. there are aliens, robots, a pete-headed planet, a petey cosmonaut, guns, explosions… all kinds of fun stuff. so i sit down to sketch. some ideas come out. but they are starting to look the same. i’m having trouble finding new, interesting designs.

then i stumble on this amazing little piece of software: alchemy. it’s an experimental new digital drawing and painting program. the concept is that it randomizes the drawing process just enough to spark new ideas. for example, there are modes which alter the brush width based on an audio signal. other modes pull random shapes from a folder and let you paint with them.

it took me a little while to catch on to the freedom this sort of approach allows for. but once i did, i started making aliens, robots and cosmonaut poses pretty quickly. i think there’s still a lot more exploration to be done. and as i said before, there are countless other interesting ways to spark the creative process.

what kinds of fun ways have you found to start projects? have you had any success starting with some sort of random seed? tell me some stories about your experiments.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

obey the groove video - making-of: part 1

our first video for this album is for ‘obey the groove’. the basic idea is: a planet, made out of my head, gets overrun with alien robots, and pete and neil cosmonauts come to save the day. there are puppets, and robots, and lasers. big fun.
after figuring out the rough timeline and plot points, i decided to do some concept paintings.

next i had to figure out what the robots might look like. i took a trip to the 99 cent store and bought anything i thought i could turn into a robot. then i went to a hobby shop and bought couple battleship models. i took all the parts and hot glued them onto the 99 cent store bodies i had built. after a quick coat of spraypaint, i went in and detailed the robots a little, until i ended up with this:

for the cosmonauts, i found a fantastic puppet builder and hired him. his name is russ walko, and this is what he built:

after seeing the little cosmonaut petey, i got quite giddy. i started talking to the puppet, tucking it in at night. i tried to feed him, but he wouldn’t eat. i told him he needed food and rest after his journey from space. he was silent.

next, i’m going to do a test shoot of the petey head planet. then i’ve got to design and build some more robots. finally, after the alien puppet is built, it’s time to shoot!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

fly me to the 'moon'

when you venture to make a film where one actor is essentially on screen alone for the duration of the film, you’d better pick a pretty interesting actor. director duncan jones did: he picked sam rockwell. sam is just enough equal parts quirky, charming, and dark to be engaging for any length of time. which is apparently at least 97 minutes, in this case.

this is duncan jones’ first film. and it’s great. while it’s a little reminiscent of a few other sci-fi classics, like ‘outland’, ‘2001’, and ‘solaris’ — great films to be reminiscent of, by the way — it’s strong enough and unique enough to stand on its own. of course, a lot of that rides on sam rockwell’s performance. too many of the reviews on call it a ‘tour de force’, which sounds like a bicycle race to me. i agree that it’s a great performance, but there are no bikes in the movie. only a treadmill and a few moon rovers. i hope people laud my first feature acting performance as a ‘tour de farce’. that is my hope.

i didn’t know this going in, but duncan jones is david bowie’s son. awesome. so he’s no stranger to sci-fi space odysseys. actually i would’ve peed myself if david bowie floated by on a tin can. and it’s apparent that duncan studied philosophy in school; the movie is more a thinking film than a doing film. there’s painfully little action in it. which is okay, except at one point the story seems to be heading towards a bit of a showdown, but then doesn’t. it was starting to feel like the end of ‘outland’, when sean connery is preparing to fight the small crew of professionals sent to take him out. as in kill him, not date him. although who knows how it would’ve ended up. maybe sean jumped to conclusions. maybe there’s a deleted scene somewhere with a shot of a backpack full of pinot noir and truffles.

i am a patient film-watcher. as long as the film deserves my patience. this film does. and i think it deserves yours.


for more about duncan jones read this interview: boston globe interview with duncan jones

Friday, June 19, 2009

pig pile

hey kids.
i designed another silly tshirt for
i figure, eventually, they'll print one. finger and toes crossed.

if you have time, i'd love for you to vote for it:



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

a week in vegas

terry fator's sister debi called me a few weeks ago, to invite me to a birthday dinner she was throwing for terry. i hadn't seen him since i went to the soft-opening of his mirage show back in february. that was an interesting time for me, because i had just driven from kentucky to l.a. and i hadn't found an apartment yet. i remember staying on billy zabka's couch one night thinking 'this is a little surreal'.

i got into vegas around 6, and terry's show started at 7:30. i quickly checked in to my room and ran to drop my stuff off before meeting terry in his dressing room. i put the keycard in and it made its little R2D2 noise. i opened the door to reveal an entire family of people, sitting on the bed, watching tv. one woman was in a towel putting on her makeup in front of the mirror. i slowly closed the door and backed away, as if from a wild panther.

after i got that sorted out at the front desk i went to terry's dressing room. it was full of family members and friends. people kept pouring in the door to meet terry and wish him happy birthday. suddenly i see kirk thatcher, a guy i used to work with at henson. we hadn't seen each other in years. stunned we both asked 'what the heck are you doing here?'

on our way to the theatre we passed comedian brad garret. he and his family were there to see terry's show. also, brad was in town for a two-man show he's doing with ray romano. we shook his hand and moved on.

we all took our seats in the terry fator theatre. my seat was just behind kirk's, so i could throw small things at his head. but then the usher signaled me. then terry's manager, john, started calling and gesturing to me. i looked up to see brad garret approaching my seat. the ushers checked my ticket and found that i was in the wrong seat. i was in brad garret's seat. he is a big man. i am a small man. but he was nice, and didn't kill me.

the show was fantastic. they added a lot of new material, and the pacing was great. kirk, who was a comedy writer and director at henson, was quite impressed with the show.

after the show, we all met at a restaurant in the mirage for terry's birthday dinner. there were maybe fifty people seated at the long table. i sat next to terry's wife, across from kirk. about halfway through dinner, robin leach and his date showed up. they sat next to kirk, across from me. for some weird reason, robin decided that i was short, and proceeded to make short jokes about me all night. it was very bizarre. at one point he called me a short kenny loggins. awesome.

the next day terry asked me to stay the rest of the week. he wanted to work on writing a song with me. it was a lot of fun. we played a lot of tiger woods golf on the wii. it has a frisbee golf mode.

i've been to vegas millions of times. but i've never stayed for more than three days. that's about how much vegas i can take. but something weird happened this time. i stayed past that threshhold, and suddenly that magic of vegas sort of lifted. it became a normal place for me. with a starbucks and a target. each day, driving from my hotel to terry's condo felt normal. i always used to wonder how people could live in vegas. and now i know. they live there just like they would anywhere. it was sort of a fascinated feeling, but i don't know if i should be sad that vegas lost its spark for me.

Monday, June 01, 2009

8 reasons you need to see star trek

jj abrams had, what i imagine was, a daunting task in front of him. rebooting a franchise as classic and beloved as star trek would require a delicate balance. he had to respect the source material and satisfy a notoriously obsessive and critical fan-base. at the same time, he had to reinvigorate the material so it would appeal to an audience who had never watched the original series. with this film, he succeeds wildly in all respects. here’s why:

1 the cast - manages to capture the essence of original characters, without ever becoming caricatures of them. each character gets to say a signature line or phrase. in some cases, the actors speak with the same cadence.

2 chris pine as kirk - pine does a wonderful job of maintaining kirk’s reckless, head-strong manner. he brings such charisma and presence to the role, that there is a distinct glimmer of a young shatner.

3 zachary quinto as spock - likewise, quinto digs into the core of spock. but much in the way daniel craig played an early bond, spock comes off as more human, more jagged.

4 eric bana as nero! - bana brings a ferocity to the romulan baddie, but also plays him very casual, almost condescending.

5 seamless, believable fx. - the characters felt like they were really in the settings, as opposed to feeling composited into a videogame.

6 good pacing, high energy - the movie has a great balance of tension, high-octane action, and light-hearted playfulness.

7 great music - the score, by michael giacchino (who i actually met when i worked at the henson company. he did music for our first two video games!), is never distracting or overpowering. and there’s my favorite beastie boys song - sabotage! woohoo!

8 the heart of a budding buddy-cop tale - this is my favorite thing about the film. the core of the movie centers on the importance of spock and kirk’s friendship - one that will become the backbone of all that the enterprise will accomplish. this was essential to the original series, as well as the films. spock and kirk, as characters, really make the perfect buddy team. they are almost complete opposites at first glance. spock tries so hard to conceal his human nature, his emotion. kirk lives by his. but in truth, kirk understands logic, and spock understands passion. they compliment each other, and magnify each other’s strengths.

so do yourself a favor and see this film. i saw it three times, and loved it each time.
have you seen it already? what did you think?


Saturday, May 02, 2009

some thoughts on 'wolverine'

after we left the theatre, most of my friends were pretty obviously disappointed. i didn't hate the movie, but i definitely agreed with their feeling. there were some things i could analytically point out as flaws, but then there were some other things that i couldn't quite put my finger on.

we got lunch and hung out and talked for a bit, and collectively starting making sense of why we felt a little let down. here are a couple of reasons:

1. wolverine isn't much of a hero in the movie. he sort of meanders through it all, as things happen to him. when he finally decides to act, it isn't really motivated anything noble.
i understand that in the comics, his character was always the reluctant/disconnected hero. but even still, he was a hero.

2. the effects are pretty stinky. there's a big moment in the film where wolvie admires his new metal claws, and the CG is so bad that it's almost laughable. even the audio is weird in that scene. it's like they forgot that the claws are the most important part of wolverine.

3. deadpool was awesome in the beginning. then they ruined him. poo.

4. kindof stinky pacing, and weird story point choice. there's this whole montage section showing wolvie through the decades, fighting in different wars. it made me want to stay in each one for a little longer. there could have been some great character building moments. but instead we got a slideshow.

5. it's not much of an origins story. it's more of a straight-up prequel. in an origins story, we want to see the hero figuring out his powers, making choices and decisions that set him on the hero's path. this was more of a fast-forwarded bio-timeline until he gets his metal bones and claws. then its a couple of mortal kombat fight scenes.

now, despite all this, i still enjoyed the movie. it's always fun to watch wolverine kick butt. and hugh jackman is great, liev shrieber is great.. i guess i just felt -- we all felt -- things could've been done better.

what do you guys think?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

pre-order the boombox!

may 12th is approaching! i'm getting pretty excited to find out what you all think of our newest concoction.

so, apparently you can pre-order it now, and you'll get it a week early. or so. or so i hear.
so clickety here: pre-order 'and the flying boombox'

we're working on getting the new nmk website up by then. it's gonna be a lot cleaner and easier to update. which is good, cause that means there will actually be new stuff on it periodically. unlike our last site. which was like an old sweater that i kept forgetting to wash.

things are a little bit on hold for the 'obey the groove' video. i'll let you know as soon as production picks back up on it. we're tweaking the concept for it, but it may or may not involve space puppets. and chocolate sauce.

also, i'd love it if you followed me on twitter:
that is, if you're not too busy following ashton kutcher.

cosmonaut petey - out!

Friday, January 30, 2009

'how i became the bomb' video

hello fishes.
i got the posters in the mail the other day. i'm going to mail out the pre-orders right away, before i send out the full announcement. i've been in kentucky for a while now working on stuff, and we just got hit with a ridiculous snowstorm. i'm hoping the roads will clear up soon enough for me to mail these out. my poor little miata was trapped under a mound of frosty white badness. which also stinks for me because i was planning on driving it back to l.a. this week. apparently jack frost disapproves of my plan.

in other news, i just finished working on a music video with my friend travis in nashville, for a band called 'how i became the bomb'. you can see it here: mothership. please let me know what you think. or you can leave a comment there. =)

i hope everyone is keeping warm. oh, i'm finishing up the album artwork for our new album. so, pretty soon it will be ready for the world!


Monday, January 19, 2009

poster update

hey monkeys.
i sent the files off to the printer on friday. so hopefully i'll have the finished prints sometime this week. i wanna send something extra along for the people who pre-ordered. any ideas?

also, i was at taco bell yesterday and hanson came on the radio again! i know i've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: their new album 'the walk' outright rocks. please check it out, and buy it, if you haven't already: hanson myspace. seriously well-crafted funky pop-rock. those guys know how to write melodies!

have a good monday night.

Monday, January 12, 2009

limited edition poster print

hello monkeys.
we have a new album coming out in march. so for the next few weeks we'll be offering some album one related limited edition poster prints, to make way for all the yummy new album two stuff we'll have! i'm gonna send out a mass email about it, once the posters are printed, but i thought i would post here first, in case any of you little fuzzies wanted to pre-order.

the poster is 11"x17" and is a limited edition of 200. each one will be signed and numbered on the back. they are $10 each. i tried to get em scratch-n-sniff, but to no avail. the only scent they had left was 'june beach volleyball sweat'.

anyway, click here to preorder: poster print pre-order