UNKL: We’ve missed the aching feet, talking from sun up till sun down and the smell of fresh vinyl in the air right before they turn on the AC and let the crowds through the doors. Hurts so good. These days, Toynami is our toy manufacturer so the UNKL presence will exist within their booth and not on its own as in past years. Both or one of us may make an appearance at SDCC this year, but UNKL will be represented there in some form without a doubt.
Laura: Things have been very quiet on the UNKL front for the last year and a half, I am only left to believe that you two are being guarded closely and protected by SUG and JunPo. A message on your site in January mentioned that there would be something UNKL related revealed at Magic in Las Vegas. Can you talk a bit more about that venture for those who were not able to attend Magic in February?
UNKL: We partnered with Fifth Sun on the apparel front beginning last year. We’ve always dabbled in apparel, but it was more about keeping it small scale and supporting the figures. We never treated it as our focus because we just didn’t have the time to really do it up right. When Fifth Sun came along we were ready to start utilizing some outside partners to hit our goals and expand UNKL. They get what we we’re trying to do and we felt like their perspective on where they wanted to take the brand on the apparel front was interesting. Now we’re able to collaborate with them on apparel, while staying focused on the figures and character development.
UNKL: Heck, the Viking from the Dreamers Series and the latest edition to the SUG line called SearchR are in the works and should be released soon. We’re really fired up about releasing them. There are so many new series’ and characters in the works that it’s difficult to only have two at the factory, but we are also working on some UNKL “Classics” as well – Characters people already know and love that will feature new twists and updates.
We did a very limited release of the GastroNormus Figure at the Con last year and have been working on a newer version of that one. Gastro is part of the DadGummit Blobs series that we’re having a lot of fun with and we’ll be bringing more DGBs to the masses in the near future in some new ways we haven’t explored previously. The character list runs pretty deep so it has been a real challenge trying to narrow down which ones will be going into production.
UNKL: We generally keep 6-12 of each, sometimes more, but unfortunately they’re packed away in an underground cave we rent from the government in the Nevada desert somewhere. We do have a small archive on display here at the office, but it’s not even close to everything. Derek’s kids as well as mine have great UNKL collections going. They have everything on shelves and won’t even let their friends handle them, because as the kids say, “My dad made these – They’re too valuable and very limited, so look with your eyes, not your hands!”
Laura: For some reason when I think of the phrase “UNKL Records”, I envision a group of Hazmapos with headphones stomping to the beats. What is the operating status of UNKL Records?
UNKL: We’re not sure ourselves. When we started UNKL we always wanted to give ourselves the freedom to do whatever we wanted. UNKL is our creative outlet and the music thing was one more way to push ourselves in new directions. It allowed us to do some interesting stuff like video walls that played behind the band while they tore up the stage. That’s the kind of thing that makes this fun. However ultimately, it’s always about the characters and we don’t want to loose focus on that., so for now it’s idle. That’s not to say that it’s dead, it’s just cryogenically frozen and we can thaw it out any time we want. If new music projects get us pumped, we’ll likely jump in…remains to be seen. Hazmapos are big metal heads, so when they listen to music they are always banging their heads. Currently they are listening to Children of Bodom a lot. They love Finnish metal. Terve! Needled 24-7 anyone?
Laura: Speaking of music, I know Derek is a fan of Mastodon but what are some of the other musical delights that you guys like? What are three cds on rotation with each of you at the current time?
UNKL: Hmmm. It’s always changing and varies depending on what we have to get done that day. If you stop by now you might hear Derek playing “Real: the Tom T Hall” tribute album, Suicidal Tendencies, Slayer and John Prine. He’s in a contemplative state at the moment. It’s sorta like the calm before the storm. I’ve been running the gamut from Detektivbryån to Boris to The National. Who knows. Tomorrow’s mix might include Aboriginal Polka Pop or Mozart. We’re always looking for something that twists the brain a bit to counter the old standbys. Derek is always switching between extremes…one minute it might be Willie Nelson followed directly by Arch Enemy, then a little Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass perhaps…We’re pretty manic in our musical moods, so we just go with the flow.
Laura: What are some inspirations for your creative design?
UNKL: Architecture is a big one for me. I like the over the top stuff that is really more sculptural, but still functions well. That balance of form and function is always inspiring. In general I consume any form of creativity and I’m most inspired when I look at something and think, “I don’t know if I could do that, but I’d like to give it a go”. I love looking at classic paintings because their themes and techniques are so timeless. How many times can you do a Madonna and child and still make it interesting? Recently I did a whole series of Dreamers pieces that explored our cotton candy world and these timeless themes – that was a blast. Photography as art is another amazing thing for me. Derek spends a lot of time silk screening. He feels it’s a great to get away from sitting in front of the computer and to get the hands dirty as often as possible.
Laura: With the recent accident of the Gulf of Mexico, were the Hazmapos deployed for duty? Do they see a way to assist and protect from the shorelines? Have you thought about creating a new sub aquatic figure to add to the crew?
UNKL: The Hazmapos have been taking care of things at the “source” and the boots on the ground belong to SUG and his crew. There are several amphibious or aquatic members of his team that are on site helping all life forms in need even still now that the spill has been capped. Still a lot of work needed for that area to recover.
Laura: If you could select another toy company and or artist to do a future collaboration with, whom would it be?
UNKL: That’s always a tough one. We did a few collaborations with Kow Yokoyama and that was pretty big for us because we love his work so much and it was interesting to see what happened when taking the two styles and mixing them up. We love Mars–1 but he’s so damn good just as he is, with no interference we don’t need to derail him. We have been talking to Super 7 about some collaborations so that would be cool for sure. We love those guys and have been close with them for years. What they do is so different from our style that merging the two could net some cool things. Otherwise, I think in the future I’d like to try collaborating with someone more on the storyline of a character. It would be interesting to work with David Sedaris or Zach Galifianakis to see what kind of worlds we could crack open together. I think imagining strange worlds can be easy, but giving characters the subtleties and quirkiness that we can all relate to is what makes their stories interesting and then when you put those interesting bits on steroids like those guys can…. Now that would be fun. I imagine It would be a very inspiring process that would move us to create some interesting new forms to bring the stories to “life”.
Laura: Do you see UNKL cross-branding more with companies such as Defcon (or others) in the time to come?
UNKL: We always want to stir it up. It’s fun to bring two worlds together so I think that will always be in the mix. The only thing that we require is that we like the products, people or company that we’re collaborating with. For example, I really like donuts. Dunkin Donuts makes donuts. We could get together and make a donut figure. They fry ‘em up and dust them with colored sugars and such. We could fill them with all kinds of fruity concoctions or creamy custard substances that resemble pure joy. Did I mention I like donuts? We actually do have some projects I the works that we call “UNKL Presents”. They are our take on existing characters and properties people are already familiar with, but we’re running them through the UNKL sausage grinder to see what comes out the other end.
Laura: What does the future have in store for Hazmapo? I love me some Hazzies and I am sure this is on the minds of many. 🙂
UNKL: We love Hazmapo too and have been really exploring them as of late in a big way. So, we have some new things in the works, but as you might imagine it’s top secret. I’ll just say that they’ve been doing some crazy stuff out there and we’re still trying to figure out what went down – they’re so secretive. Look for some new looks and sizes for Hazmapo figs coming up.
Laura: What can fans and collectors hope to see from UNKL over the next year?
UNKL: Some new and bizarre stuff, the return of some old favorites and some unexpected incarnations. That’s code for full steam ahead.
Laura: SDCC 2011?
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