Interview with artist Dan Meth
Here it is. We are honoured to be graced with an interview with no other than artist and “webtoon” innovator Dan Meth. In 2007-2008, Dan created a series of wildly successful shorts for Channel Frederator called the Meth Minute 39. His first short, “Internet People” has reached over 3 million views on Youtube…
After the Meth Minute, he created yet another popular series, Nite Fite, and now makes brilliant shorts for CollegeHumor.com, as well as working on a full-length comic book. Read all about this and more below, as well as his views on art critics, borscht, and Phil Collins. Big thanks go out to Dan Meth for giving us this opportunity. Enjoy -Cody
Neotomic: Was most of the work for the Meth Minute completed prior to the series going online, or did you go through a grueling week by week process?
Dan Meth: I started producing the Meth Minute episodes about six months before the first episode aired. And as I recall, I had finished about 12 episodes in that time. And yes, the weekly schedule caught up with me and I was editing the final episode the night before it went live!
Have you considered ever approaching such a project of sheer size again?
Sure, but it would need to be different. Producing animation on such a tight turnaround by yourself is exactly what it sounds like: rushed. I’d like the next huge undertaking to be a longer animated film that I can spend a lot of time on and make it high-quality. The next project will look like real animation, not “webtoon”.
One of your most famous shorts from the Meth Minute is “Watermelon Nights,” featuring stop motion watermelons and music by influential underground musician John Crave. For those living under a rock, can you explain a bit about who is John Crave?
Well, I think John Crave is the one who lives under a rock, not those who’ve never heard of him. He’s an extremely mysterious and reclusive musician. He only performs once in a blue-green moon and releases music only in strange bursts every now and then. I discovered the song “Watermelon Nights” and knew I had to make a video for it. We never even met; I emailed him to see if was cool with it and he just replied “Yes”. He’s a total enigma.
Prior to “Watermelon Nights,” have you ever worked with stop-motion?
The only time I ever attempted stop motion before “Watermelon Nights” was when I was about 12. I made some play-do balls run around with a camcorder. I have no idea where that tape is!
Another of your cartoons,“Space Cowboy on Mars,” you’ve said was originally written by you in 8th grade as a comic book with innocuous teenage seriousness, and you often post your childhood drawings on your blog. Do you enjoy looking back at your old childhood work, and any chance we’ll get to read the original Space Cowboy comic book soon?
I really think the things I drew as a kid are amongst my favorite work. There’s a freedom and lack of self-consciousness that child artists posess which is hard to replicate later in life. Picasso once said he spent most of his life trying to unlearn all the talent he acquired and paint like a child. I’m inspired by all kids drawings, not just my own. Oddly enough though, I hate a lot of I wrote and drew between the ages of 14 and 18.
I’ve been meaning to scan the entire 8th grade Space Cowboy comic and release it as a PDF. My friend Benjamin Marra who provided the voice for Space Cowboy (and who is also an extremely talented comic-book artist) said that the original 8th grade comic “has a purity, lacking self-awareness, similar to the feeling one gets from Gary Panter’s work.”
Your first project to go viral was a immensely successful flash cartoon called “The Smart-Ass Guide to NYC,” featuring a map comprised of “webcams” of different NY neighbourhoods. Is New York City a valuable source of inspiration that may not necessarily appear elsewhere, or does Woody Allen over-romanticize?
NYC is so inspiring that you can’t even process all the things that can be inspiring about it. A sensory overload in many different layers. Every single time you ride the subway you experience a bizarre event, and it’s so frequent that it might only occur to you hours or days later if you remember it at all. It’s still a really diverse and interesting place, no matter how many people complain that it’s gotten too homogenized. Travel anywhere else in America and you will be reminded of how explosively unique NYC is. I guess that’s what I was trying to show with the “Smart-Ass Guide”; how each neighborhood is distinctive. However, I had just moved there when I made it so now I’d make better jokes. But no one looks at interactive Flash things anymore so I’ll make it a NYC video instead.
While attending Syracuse University you created an almost daily comic strip for the school paper, and now you’re working on a full-length comic book entitled “Future-Spy.” Can you tell us any details on the plot, as well as when can we expect it to be up for purchase?
“Future-Spy” is my relief from churning out animated videos every week. I’m drawing it on paper, at my own pace, and it feels nice. The artwork can have a level of detail that web-animation is often deprived of. I’m not sure when the first issue will be published but hopefully it will be by summer. The plot is about a spy in the future, naturally. It weaves together a lot of things I’m interested in like sci-fi, the Eastern Bloc, the 1970’s, beautiful ladies, and religious cults.
Another of your blogs is “Neil Young and Crazy Borscht,” where you liken different borscht you have consumed to Neil Young albums of similar quality. What makes Neil Young and borscht so comparable?
Like so much of my work, it started as a joke. It was originally just going to be a blog where I reviewed borscht and I was trying to think of a name for it. ”What rhymes with borscht… let’s see… Horse?”. But then I realized that there really is a connection. Neil Young albums and borscht both vary in quality and style to huge extremes. And there’s a lot of both out there to try. When I run out of Neil Young albums I don’t know what will happen. Frankly, I’d love to just travel around Eastern Europe and Russia trying borscht and writing a book about my adventures (any book publishers out there interested!?)
On your blog, you’ve declared March, Music Month, and your cartoons often feature lampoons of famous musicians. Does music go hand-in-hand with your art, and is your work itself influenced by music?
Music does seem to be a huge part of me and my work. I love almost all musical genres and moods. When I hear a song, I often can see a video being projected in my mind. And I also love the stories about the singers and how the music was written and recorded. I read rock biographies faster than any other kind of book.
On a serious note, art “critics” often don’t consider cartoons a legitimate art form, but your own work has proven otherwise that cartoons can be cleverly and ingeniously insightful, while backed by genuine talent. Do you believe cartoons and comics can be viewed as “high art,” and can they be held in as high esteem as a painting by Monet or Renoir?
In my humble opinion, I feel that many of the esteemed artists of the “high art” world WERE cartoonists! Picasso was clearly a cartoonist! So was Paul Klee and Phillip Guston. Toulouse Latrec was a commercial illustrator and so was Andy Warhol, The Breugels, Boticelli, etc. It seems like the people who make distinctions between cartoons and “high art” are never artists themselves. It’s the critics and academics who draw those lines usually. I’m quite certain that Michelangelo would have been a huge fan of Mort Drucker.
Do you ever listen to your critics?
Yeah, I usually read some of the critics on the comment boards. I’m usually trying to make my audience laugh, so if an overwhelming number are telling me that a cartoon wasn’t funny, it probably wasn’t. If I’m making a more experimental piece that isn’t as humor-related, then I might not care about the haters as much.
Any hints on what your mysterious new project “The Laszlo Project” is about?
Finally, Phil Collins recently announced he retirement from music. Are you as glad as I am, and was Genesis better before or after Peter Gabriel’s departure?
I actually respect Phil Collins and I’m offended by your comments. Just kidding, but seriously, I think Phil was a real innovator in electro-pop and synth beats and melody. Alot of todays music is descended from Phil’s Genesis sound. He will be missed.
Clearly, I am alone on this. Do you have an opinion on Phil Collins’ departure or what can be considered “high art?” Comment below or send us a message at NeotomicWebzine@gmail.com, and maybe we’ll post our favourites…
Check out more of Dan Meth’s amazing work at: