Matt Furie

SUPER FURIE ANIMALS

Matt Furie’s artwork is probably the closest you’ll ever come to taking a stroll through Sesame Street. Well, perhaps a more accurate description would be a stroll through Sesame Street after hot-boxing Oscar’s trashcan, because after visiting Matt’s psychedelic monster metropolis, anywhere else looks like Pleasantville in comparison. His vibrantly coloured pencil drawings are a feast for the eyes, depicting creatures far and beyond the outskirts of anyone’s imagination. Where else are you going to find scooter-riding Falcors, werewolf families and intergalactic snakes under one roof? Matt also draws a hilarious comic, titled Boy’s Club, which follows the lives of four young, lazy and irreverent monsters. Having just wrapped up his most recent show, Animal Style, at Giant Robot New York. Matt took the time to speak to us on Halloween costumes, night terrors, and what inspires his otherworldly critters.

Is your relationship with monsters any different now than it was when you were younger?
It actually hasn’t really changed that much between then and now. In fact, last night I was watching a DVD of an old cartoon I used to watch called The Flight of Dragons—it’s like a made-for-TV movie and John Ritter was one of the voices—and I realized that a lot of the dragons’ faces and their characters as well as a wolf character and other different characters kind of influenced me, I guess.

Subconsciously?
Yeah, I guess subconsciously, because a lot of those characters ended up looking like the ones that I draw now.

Your comic, Boy’s Club, is hilarious. Has anyone in your life inspired the unique humour of the characters?
Um, yeah. I guess not specifically any one person, but a lot of the jokes in there are actually—like fart humour and barfing—a lot of it is kind of based on true stories. And yeah, for that book I thought it would be funny just to make their apartment or wherever they’re living just kind of mysterious and basically keep it limited to just these four characters. But I’m gonna have a new issue coming out and there’s actually a new character introduced in that named Bird Dog, he’s like the pizza delivery guy.

Your colour choice is so aesthetically pleasing. Do you mind talking a bit about your relationship with colour?
Yeah. I limit my materials to coloured pencils and markers and stuff like that. So I think naturally it just looks bright, or maybe like a children’s book illustration. I think when you’re doing weird creatures and monsters, colour takes it to this other place.

There’s a ton of familiar characters seen in your drawings. For example, Freddie Krueger, Alf, Big Bird, etc… That being said, how does television culture influence your work?
When I was a kid I used to watch a shitload of television all the time. And I think it’s also a way that I can relate to people, you know? I can’t really talk about sports. I’m not very good at that. It’s just something that’s cultural. There are a lot of cultural signifiers, like everybody knows Freddie and Big Bird and they’re also things that I was into as a kid. I tend to go back to things that I was into as a kid when I draw because I just kind of enter that mind-frame when I sit down to draw. I don’t know whether it’s consciously or subconsciously but I just try to tap into that kid part of my brain.

The awesomeness and hilarity of your drawings sometimes masks serious issues, like the birds who have unknowingly eaten all the plastic. Or in Boy’s Club when Pepe dreams of frolicking in the forest and wakes up only to ask what’s on the nature channel. What do you make of that kind of tension?
My perspective with plastic is kind of hard because I really love packaged foods and toys, DVDs and stuff like that so I think there’s a lot of really cool, positive things that come from it. But then there’s a lot of stuff that’s bad because of the overproduction of plastic. So there’s a balance to my perspective on that. I think it comes out in the way that I draw. I’m always kind of thinking about the days “long ago.” There’s just a lot more distractions these days whether it’s TVs or cellphones or iPads, just so many distractions, especially for kids. I think it’s hard to appreciate bugs and nature when we have all these crazy distractions, you know? It’s just a little bit disturbing. I mean, maybe it’s just half in my head and half-based on what I see in the news and stuff like that, but I just feel like an impending doom…

Your creatures are so otherworldly it’s hard to imagine what inspires you to bring them to life. Dare I ask?
I draw a lot of monsters eating little frog guys which comes from, basically, life eating another life, fear of being eaten. I read this book on Maurice Sendak, who wrote Where The Wild Things Are. He was explaining how a lot of his stories come from a childhood fear he had of being eaten. That was some suppressed fear he had. So I thought that was interesting. I also know somebody that has night terrors. So at a certain part during the night there’s a chemical that’s released in your brain that’s supposed to put you into a sleep-induced coma. But for him that doesn’t exist, so he actually hallucinates all kinds of animals and crazy creatures. He’ll actually describe them to me so I’ll use that as a reference point. A part of him really believes in this other dimension and that he’s actually seeing behind the surface of reality.

Do you believe in that?
I don’t know. I like to keep an open mind about that kind of stuff. I’ve been watching a lot of X-Files and Unsolved Mysteries lately…

Do you ever dabble in creative realms outside of your artwork?
I kind of have a side project called Beef Mouth that I’ve only performed a handful of times. It’s a music project where it’s basically just me with an acoustic guitar and this weird way of singing.

It’s our Halloween issue so I have to ask, what are you dressing up as this year?
I’m actually going back to this strip in LA, I think it’s Melrose or something like that. But there are these hilarious outfits that these chochy guys wear, like jeans with these weird tattoo prints on them and little diamond studs and shirts with tribal designs. It’s kind of hard to explain but it’s a certain kind of style.

Like a Guido? Jersey Shore?
Kind of, yeah yeah! It’s like LA’s version of Jersey Shore. I’m going to try and get together a Jersey Shore-style outfit with the necklaces and stuff like that.

Are you going to get a spray tan?
I’m kind of tanned already just from being in the sun but a spray tan would be pretty hilarious.

What about your monsters? Do they celebrate Halloween? What would they dress up as?
I guess they’d just dress up as other monsters.

Not humans?
Mmmmmm, nah.

[www.mattfurie.com]

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