Time waits for no man – so when you are a duo you can’t hang around waiting for very much at all! That said, whilst these two don’t stop they do quite like to spend time in the company of Vinyl Abuse. We caught a few moments with Nanospore’s Paul and Ben to find out why they do what they do and what’s next on the agenda.
So Nanospore, how has your day been so far?
Paul: Hectic dood! I’m sleepy. This GR2 show is exhausting me, yet fulfilling at the same time. Long hours on my feet, and breathing in all sorts of delicious fumes. Oh hey, can we cuss in this interview?
Ben: Gallery shows are always a fun yet frenetic experience as you might’ve witnessed first hand when we were in Berlin, nothing goes according to plan.
You worked with Phalanx to produce the Nanopsore toys. How did that relationship come about?
Paul: It was a real positive experience. For me, I always enjoy challenging myself in trying something new at least once. We produced the first Nanospore series blind box figs as very much a big experiment. We created the little guys from the ground up – from design to sculpting prototypes to complete packaging design to wholesale and distribution and marketing them. Phalanx also had never produced mini figures prior to ours. They were gracious and ballsy enough to try it. So it was like a life-size project that consumed a year of our lives. I learned a plethora of things about life, toys, and business. Can’t buy none of that with dollars.
Ben: I think we learned to appreciate a damn good toy design. Before, when we just were consumers, we just only knew what the final product was. Now that we’ve been through the whole process, I really do appreciate a damn good toy or design and have much appreciation for someone that tries something new toy/design wise.
And several series later, what’s next on the toy scene from you guys?
Paul: We’ve got a few top secret projects coming up with some international toy makers, but it really is unfortunate that we can’t divulge who or what at the moment. As for the Nanospore toys, we are currently sculpting the next series of prototypes and working on some more lifestyle oriented products.
Ben: Talks of new toy projects come and go, the ones that are meant to be are the ones that stick and sometimes that process takes a bit of time. We’ll continue to do Nanospore toys until the day that my life becomes just one big Nanospore.
It’s fair to say that – in the toy community – you are most well known for the ‘spores. Perhaps you should explain what else you do!
Paul: Right now we are focused on breeding an entire aesthetic rather than exclusively a figure/toy or character or set of characters (although character design is always something that I love). There is a lot of work that we do (personal, commercial, property-driven) that doesn’t necessarily revolve around characters.
Nanospore is a multi-disciplinary studio with current focuses in design, illustration, fine art, animation, motion design and direction, property development, toy design, and apparel. Perhaps in a few years we may change a few of those courses. A lot of what the studio is about is essentially pursuing happiness and being honest to ourselves. Everything else kinda comes second.
Ben: Yeah, I mean my whole motivation is that at some point our aesthetics or thoughts become influential in media and culture. I spend a lot of time looking at something and thinking: ‘Man, I wish I could do that, I bet we could do something fucking awesome with it’. I think that’s why currently we have a whole list of directions we’re trying to do, we really do want to have an imprint in our world.
Animation, Graphics and Illustration is for dorks right?
Paul: Fuck yeah it is.
Ben: Almost as geeky as my Sunday mornings in PJs eating cereal and watching the original Macross TV series on DVD.
Your animation work has a real luminance and cinematic quality to it. Where do you get your inspiration for this approach?
Paul: My assumption is that you might be referring to some of the environmental stills that we created for the realm of Nanospore. Those were created a few years back with the intention of fleshing out the universe in which Nanospores call home. The cityscapes suggest a semi-socialist metropolis where most adults are nothing more than work-drones, and the latchkey kids left in the industrial and slum sectors catch onto the hardly-threatening invasion by the Spore species.
It’s safe to say that Ben and I are really into animation, the moving image, and the way it can potentially narrate ideas far beyond anything portrayed through live action. Having said that though, paying really close attention to great cinematography in films is also something I do as well. It’s difficult to make awesome fiction without revealing believable scenarios or characters to the viewer first.
Ben: I used to watch 6 hours of TV a day, I now currently watch maybe 3 movies a week on DVD. The most influential moment in my youth would (aside from getting bitch slapped for not eating all my peas at dinner) be when my brother came home from the city college (after my parents made him take collegiate calculus classes when he was 13, I was 7 by the way) with the poster of Akira. We previously had no clue what the movie was about, when it came out and where. All we knew was that it was a film, and it looked RAD! When I finally saw the movie on VHS I knew that some sort of animation and storytelling was why my parents copulated, conceived and gave birth to my sorry ass. Since then I watch anything, as long as there’s great blocking, storytelling and lighting. I think that’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from. Porn’s the exception of course, but maybe because it’s the antithesis of the previous and that it requires no conscious thought.
Explain which part of the Nanospore creative process you individually work on.
Paul: These days it’s very much a mishmash of things. Ben and I have slightly different backgrounds in that he worked within the traditional animation industry after college (he went to work for an animation studio we shall refer to as ‘DW’ and was offered a position at ‘PX’), and I went on to do more experimental motion based animation for music vids, commercials, etc. Aside from that, we were both educated as illustrators from the same school.
Sometimes it’s as simple as one of us beginning a work, and another finishing it. Other times, it’s a whole lot of passing back and forth before coming to a finish.
For example, in terms of character development, I think I have a knack for creating ‘creatures’ out of thin air, whereas Ben is more fluent with figurative characters. This was key when we were fleshing out the universe in which the Spore and Sapien races coexist. In terms of animation, I’m fluent with using Adobe After Effects as a motion/2D animator would, whereas Ben uses After Effects for cell animation through a frame-by-frame process.
Ben: What’s nice about working together, is that there’s non stop ideas on a concept or image. When I do work on my own there’s always a point of ‘well, what do I do with this now’. As a collaborative process, there’s always creative energy going from at least one person. So really, the line is getting blurred. We don’t have a formula at all.
When working together, are there a set of Nanospore unwritten rules which you both naturally adhere to?
Paul: Hmm rules…Ben is a morning bird and I’m a night owl. There is probably no one occupying the studio between 4am-9am, since we work on separate yet overlapping shifts. It’s unwritten that I’m in charge of meeting the New York morning deadlines, and Ben would have to take the subsequent conference call while I go home to sleep.
Ben: I have this staunch rule about meeting deadlines. I hate having to fail on deadlines. Other than that, I think we both know that we’re trying to kick ass at all times and always trying to keep an eye out on modifying or re-inventing our work.
You do your own things too though – and recently did at Giant Robot in San Francisco – is this the end of Nanospore or just a chance to stretch your legs?
Paul: Yea, we did a group show at GRSF, and we were representing ourselves as individuals. I think this is just something that we need, a sense of release for purely personal ideas.
Ben: I like to see it as that time when Ghostface Killah, Rza, Gza, Old Dirty, Method Man, Inspecta Deck, Raekwon, Masta Killah and U-God started making solo albums. Although, rather than making a mediocre sophomore album Paul and I still spend the majority of our time still being Nanospore LLC. The GRSF show was a pleasant experience.
You have a new show – a collaboration with Cupco, how did you get together with the master of plush?
Paul: Actually Eric Nakamura of Giant Robot paired us up – he thought it’d be fitting for us to be in a two “entity” show together. And he’s right. Cupco’s stuff is awesome, and I’ve admired it from the moment i saw it.
What can we expect to see at SNOITON?
Paul: We are doing a number of collaborative pieces with Cupco. those range from hand-painted “Nanoco’s” (Cupco dolls with Nanospore heads) to a huge SNOITON figure to a very limited tee shirt piece. I consider the shirt a “literal collaboration” because each of us designed a shirt, and we essentially tore it down the center and sewed it back into..well.. the collaboration piece. they come in mens and womens. only 200 made.
Other than that, we have been creating several silkscreen paintings. A good amount of process has gone into these pieces. There will be some editioned prints in the show too.
What the hell is a SNOITON?
Paul: Snoiton is a deity that represents preconceived thought. It’s also a certain word in backwards form. So, by that alone, everyones’ visual interpretation of it should be slightly different. We have yet to see what Cupco came up with, but i’m sure it’s going to be fucking nuts.
Ben, you are notorious for being a drunken toy celebrity – which rehab clinic has the hottest chicks and why?
Ben: jesus…. All this work and that’s all I’m known for?! Holy crap! What have I done?!
I dunno about rehab clinics, I haven’t stopped drinking yet. Besides, I can’t afford the one that the Olson twin goes to.. what’s her name… Ashley Kate Jojo Beth Lu Anne.. Olson… twin….. yeah.
Los Angeles is the city you spend most time in. Where else have you been that you have thought “hey, this is pretty cool”.
Paul: Taipei, Tokyo, Kyoto, San Francisco, New York, Paris, and I want to explore Hong Kong a bit more.
Ben: Berlin was a real fucking treat dude, remember that time we went to get Doner Kebabs at like 4 in the morning after going to some hip hop club with pina colada’s drenching the floor and Nichole was like totally sweaty?
I hanker a dose of my homeland and want to go to Seoul every so often. The food is ace and the alcohol is cheap, they have these rad little trucks that park on sidewalks with roll out tents that serve piping hot food and alcohol until the sun rises. *sigh*.
Tokyo is cool, but I had a better time in Toyama which one friend referred to it as the Kansas of Japan.
And where would you like to go to see if it really is as cool as you think it might be?
Paul: Alaska, Iceland, Vancouver, Sapporo, Sydney, Melbourne, London, Sheffield, Portland, Shanghai.
Ben: Moscow, Thailand, South America, Canada, Europe, anywhere really. Hell, put me on a boat to the Arctic, I don’t get to travel enough.
Tell us something you’ve never told a media outlet, such as a toy based news website, before!
Paul: Oh gosh, let’s see. I crapped my pants in class as a 6 year-old and uncomfortably hobbled home.
Ben: Sometimes…. . late at night…… when I’m home alone….. I question the existence of an all knowing, all loving diety. Then I look over and see my photo of Natalie Portman circa. The Professional (aka Leon), and realise that yes, there is. It’s name is Natalie.
If you could have one Inspector Gadget type inner-gadget, each, what would it be and you might as well tell us why?
Paul: I would have a computer grafted into my forearm. Or maybe a mental capability/memory erasing magnet installed into the palm of my hand. Just waving my arm around peoples’ heads would cause them to forget about their fears, worries, inhibitions, or even the ability to have an inner monologue.
Ben: A wet bar, in the cavity of my torso. Do I need to explain? GO GO GADGET dirty martini with 2 olives! Yowza!
Either of you had any fun juggling funbags recently?
Paul: I don’t understand this question!
Ben: My mastery of the English language is second best to you Sichi. Say WHA now ?
Are you packing heat?
Paul: LOL. Of course I pack heat. Who doesn’t?
Ben: This better not be a trick question, and ‘heat’ in the UK doesn’t stand for anything slightly perverse.
Complete this sentence: You can never have too many…
Paul: Nanospores. Friends. Mp3’s. Eggos. Computers. Ideas. Dreams.
Ben: Benjamin Lee’s. That’s right. I said it. Waddup?!
If your life depended on it which would you chose to do:
A. Commit Crimes Against Humanity.
B. Dance naked next to the Playboy mansion pool.
C. Commandeer the Mystery Machine (the transport of choice in Scooby Doo) and drive it to your parent’s house and declare your imminent marriage for Velma (the ugly girl with the rollneck sweater and glasses in Scooby Doo).
Paul: I would D. THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER!!
Ben: Y’know…. I always figured Velma would be down to make homemade pizzas and watch DVD of a Truffaut film on a Friday night. I have this feeling that Daphne would be that girl that made you buy her everything and would refuse going to a dive bar (pub to you UKers) on a Thursday night. Or make you hold her purse and coat. Or maybe made you do things like doing her homework. I’d choose C. A little make over could do wonders *snap snap.