When I met Ken Wong (a.k.a. Monkmus), I was already a big fan of the videos he made for his cousin, Kid Koala. It turned out that my friend and Giant Robot contributor Aaron Stewart-Ahn had commissioned Monkmus to direct the “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” video for Death Cab For Cutie. So I was excited to join them, as well as yet another mutual friend, artist Dan-ah Kim, for dinner at my favorite vegan Thai restaurant in Silver Lake. Monkmus and I hit it off, and I interviewed him for an article that ran in Giant Robot 55. We kept in touch. I asked him to contribute comic strips for GR's back page, and since he moved to L.A. we've made a point to hit up Kings hockey and Dodgers baseball games now and then. So when he mentioned to me that he would be relaunching Monkmus.com, I figured it was a good time to get him back in the mix.
GR: I went to your new site and it’s beautiful. Do you see it as something for fans, clients, or something else?
M: Thanks for the kind words. Right now, the framework is in place from which I intend to expand, entertain, and update readers and clients on all things Monkmus. I’ll be adding to it on a weekly basis to maintain interest in the site and my work, but it’s more of a place for people to drop by, chill out, and watch and read stuff–a one-stop compendium for fans and clients alike. Updates will be added in the “lounge” section, where there will also be links to my blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages. I’ve got a weekly comic strip that will premiere on the site, as a well as a shop to be added later in the year.
GR: In the press section of the site, I re-read your GR interview for the first time since it was on the newsstands. I must say, it was awesome. Am I delusional or was it pretty good for you, too?
M: [Takes long drag of cig and exhales slowly.] Hells yeah.
GR: What have you been doing since then? Any projects we should know about?
M: At the start of the GR interview it mentions that I was on my way to New York City from San Luis Obispo. I was flying there to meet with Simon & Schuster, expecting it to be a meet-and-greet to suss out if there would be any potential for future projects together. The folks were super great and I walked out of the building with a children’s book deal that day. I’m currently aiming to have the first book completed this year, which means it won’t be on the shelves until 2012. It’ll be released by one of their imprints, Beach Lane Books.
Otherwise, I’ve directed four more Sesame Street shorts (one below), made commercials for caffeinated aspirin pills for the Latin market, and created “’Tween the Cracks” comics for GR.
GR: Receiving the comics that you contribute to the back page has become of my favorite parts about working on GR. They always make me laugh during the roughest part of deadlines. The themes are always disturbing and the tone is much darker than most of your other work. Can you tell me about the process? Should I worry about you?
M: “’Tween the Cracks” was my first attempt at doing a comic strip for a mag, so a lot of experimentation has gone into it. The art style has changed from strip to strip, as I grappled with the format. With no restrictions of a set audience, I kinda just let my mind wander… Hm, maybe you should worry? I think I’ve always gravitated toward darker elements and humor, which has been a good thing, because it’s kept my work from getting too sappy or saccharine.
GR: I see that you’ll be selling prints of your work in the near future. Is that something you’ve always wanted to do, or is it something that you’re doing by popular demand?
M: It’s definitely by popular demand. I’ve entertained the idea of selling prints in the past, but there’s been a lot to learn on my part–specifically, how the process works and what’s the best way of going about creating and selling prints. The first series will definitely be the bunnies from the Death Cab For Cutie video, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” that I directed. I’ve had a lot of requests for those bunnies from the moment it was released. To this day, I still receive numerous requests for bunny artwork. My aim is to have the prints be identical to the original art and archival in quality with a limited run.
GR: You’ve actually been in L.A. for a while now… As a guy who’s lived in several cities, do you like it? Does it even matter where you live if you work at home in your pajamas?
M: Pajamas? There’s no better sensation than one’s bare ass resting upon a cold vinyl seat… Ahhhhh.
As for where I reside, I guess it would be way more cost effective for me to live in Oklahoma and, yes, I have actually given it some thought but I don’t know anybody who lives there. This has been the third time I’ve moved to L.A. Combined, it’s the longest I’ve lived in any city since I finished school, so, in a way it feels most like home to me. I have a lot of friends here, and I’m very familiar with the city, which makes all the difference. The first couple of years I came here for work, I didn’t like it that much. But once I found my haunts and knew where I was going, I began to enjoy it more. The really impressive thing about this city is that there’s no end to the exploration possibilities; I’m still always finding new and exciting places to visit and eat at. There are a lot of gems in L.A. that can take years to discover and then there’s always new stuff popping up. The weather ain’t bad either…
See more work by Monkmus (plus Mogwai, Badly Drawn Boy, Dublab, etc.) and get to know him better at Monkmus.com!