Monday, November 28, 2011

Meat Bun Interview The Men Behind the Meat

Meat Bun is a t-shirt company and no it's no edible t-shirts, so please don't go up to people who say they have Meat Bun brand shirts and try to eat them off them.

This will lead to awkward situations.

 Meat Bun produces some of the finest video game t-shirts out there. I've been to probably a dozen events they've participated in or been at, seen them take a amazing talent pool of artists to design their shirts and soar to new heights of products that we wear to remind us of games we've played and continue to play.

I've been trying to interview them for a while and finally did. Here's my interview with Meat Bun.

Gentleman, at least I assume you’re all gentlemen,that last time I saw all of you together was the Olly Moss one man show at Gallery 1988 or at least some of you at the SUPER IAM8BIT show at IAM8BIT … Gallery?I did, perhaps see one of you at the Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom Fight Club in LA done by IAM8BIT?  What I’m getting at is there are three of you? Correct?

Yes, three owners. We also have 4th person, Dan, who handles our shipping and fulfillment.  You'll see him at shows and events like EVO.

Good! So please state your names and any side jobs you do that others might know about or might not know about.

Mike McWhertor, also at Game Trailers.
Jason Rau, also at Camera Control.
And Scott Spatola, also an IT/network security consultant.

I think I've enjoyed Meat Bun since an early article on Kotaku about it where Micheal or one of you is where an M shirt and Sakura is in the background playing DS. You've been around for almost five years and are a well known video game t-shirt company.

Thanks, that was a fun shoot.  We threw in a fan/friend JayJay cosplaying Sakura for fun.  She's great, and actually helped inspire our Emperor of Muay Thai design.

Now then, how did you three/ two create Meat Bun? I’m guessing over beers and friendship and gaming? Possibly a murder cover up that you will no doubt lie about with beers and friendship and gaming. Meat Bun was created in 2008, but were aspirations for it earlier? From what I’ve searched through Kotaku’s history about Meatbun, Michael and Scott (Ha Micheal Scott, The Office reference)  were friends and created a t-shirt company. Sadly, Scott doesn’t seem to work for Kotaku or did you Scott? Intern or friendship?

Mike and I have known each other for years.  We went to college together.  The idea for Meat Bun was hatched in 2006 at the Tokyo Game Show.  I was freelancing for Kotaku at the time, doing some photography for them.  We came across some shirts in Japan that were video game related, but that we'd actually wear.  So that lead to us giving it a go in the States.

How do you pick what games are given homage? Are you staying dear to your hearts or what you think others will remember and love?

We only work with games we like, and mostly IP's that companies are not doing their own thing well with.  If a company (Valve) is making a great (Half-Life) shirt, we won't touch it.  But we'll make a Typing of the Dead shirt in a heartbeat.

Let’s go into you artist alley, how are they picked or asked to make designs for your shirts? I really enjoyed your Soviet Propaganda line, which isn’t in stock right now, by Nina Matsumoto. How did you get her for an example?

She first helped us with the Giant Robot/Ouendan design we created.  We fell in love with Nina ever since.  Her talent is seemingly limitless.  We also think up concepts, then have fun seeking out the best artists for the job.

What’s the usual amount of time asked for something to be created? Like the time frame for the artist to get it to you or is there more to that?

Well, we have a seasonal schedule we like to stick to, but we can and will move things around if it mean we can work with an artist we really love.

After getting the image, how are the colors chosen for the shirts, does it lead to fights and name-calling?

No, we work really well together.  We digitally mock up a variety of colorways, then discuss what looks best, and factor in what seems to sell well.  Lavender is a tough sell, but we are not afraid to use colors if we really think it works.

Any other artists done the line you wish to court or like to send a shout out to? I know I’d like to see some stuff from Lamar Abrams, Corey Lewis and Brandon Graham.

Yeah, we have a few artist we are courting.  You named some good ones there.

How are the shirts made?

Well, first the mama shirt falls in love with the daddy shirt, then they give each other a very special hug.

(I guess the process of how or where they're made is a secret)

Scott, you’re a really nice guy, in the multiple times I’ve met you you’ve been courteous, helpful, and know about games. So I’m sorry to ask this, but how did Kotaku-Tan get made. I hate Kotaku-Tan. I hated the design immediately, which made it hard to believe it came from Jason Chan. I own the Zombie Playground print he made, I framed it. So I like his work, but Kotaku-Tan? Blech. I guess it sold out or landfill?

Hahah!  Yeah, that design was for Kotaku fans only.  We knew that going in -- that we were going to make something that not everyone would like/wear.  It was actually something Jason Chan came up with.  We were playing around with inside jokes that long time Kotaku readers would get -- the cake fetish, using pink fish to censor nudity, Brian Crecente's long black flowing hair.  We wrapped this up in moe anthropomorphism, to symbolize the "otaku" side of Kotaku.  And believe it or not, it was a hit!  Even Cliffy B. was hitting us up for one, but we had sold out.

Do you have a connection to the Street Fighter Clubs or does Capcom just really dig your shirts featuring their fighters?

Both.  We were invited to the first SFC in the bowels of Skid Row in LA, and asked to take part in the second SFC in NYC.  We did the posters, shirts, and bags.  Someone actually asked us if they could get our design of Guile getting electrocuted tattooed on them.  We said yes, only if he sent pictures.

You recently did a pop-up shop with Giant Robot and have been a part of Game Nights, how has that been going? Do you feel you need community out-reach with your t-shirt company?

Giant Robot is awesome.  We have been fans of theirs for many years.  And our fans are becoming their fans and vice-versa.  We are thrilled to be working with them.  The best part of the pop-up shop was being able to meet with our customers directly.  They are so knowledgeable and cool -- I was blown away with how many references they pick up on.  Nothing gets by them.

The photo shoot by Tom Troutman for your 20xx line is stellar, why did you decide to have one? Do I spy Evangelion shoes on the blond chick in the Beautiful Spring  pic or I’m I just seeing purple and green shoes?

Yeah, Tom and his girlfriend knocked it out of the park.  We came to know Tom because of a picture he posted on our FB page.  We are big fans of his Silent Hill style photography.  We hope to work with him a lot more in the future.

What’s the hardest part about working at Meat Bun? I assume it’s a side business, so that can eat away at other jobs, does it hurt?

The hardest part is not being able to give it our full time attention.  We still need health insurance!  But our aim is to grow Meat Bun big, and into something that will support us full time.

You’ve been selling your tees at multiple gaming events for a while now any memorable stories from one? Any new events the public should be aware of happening in LA. Anime Expo perhaps?

EVO is the crown jewel of the fighting game tournament series, and our favorite venue.  Las Vegas is a fun spot to unwind at after 3 days of manning a booth, eating free samples of Gamer Grub (a caffinated form of Chex Mix, I think).  Last EVO I met Kayo Police.  Some fun stories surrounding that!

What’s the greatest part of owning a video gamet-shirt company?

Working with artists we are fans of, then a few months later having the shirts we had only dreamed of hanging up in our closets.
(Hah, the SNES car from Giant Robot at Pixel Pushers)

Favorite games currently?

Dark Souls.  And Skyrim.  And Dark Souls.