making mistakes since 1986

Sam Gaskin & Simon Hanselmann: “in conversation”

The following was conducted via Facebook messages between 9/5/12-9/15/12.

SG: I guess the first thing I wanna talk about is using a consistent cast of characters and not getting bored. How do you do it? Although it’s important to be a good artist and storyteller, first and foremost, I feel like there’s a natural advantage to having regular faces that readers can follow. Mine seem to run thin pretty quick, I don’t know how Jaime Hernandez has kept it up all these years!

SH: Hey Sam, got derailed last night. My buddy Grant came round and we got really high and lay around in hammocks in the summer air and had an “artist’s meeting” (we’re pitching shit to Frederator together and just got another art-show and a bunch of other “business ventures”).

Anyway, CHAT. (i wrote that in an Alan Partridge “voice”… do you know Alan Partridge?)
Right now I feel like I’ll never get bored of Megg, Mogg and Owl. I just LOVE drawing them and i KNOW them. I actively HATE designing new/other characters. I’m just really, really heavily into M&M. They’re the only thing i have any interest in. I think I have a little bit of an OCD problem in regards to my drawing process. I find M&M quite flexible though. They do fun shit. They do dark horrible shit. They run a criticism column. I’ve got hundreds of pages of stuff planned out for them to do…

I just hope i can keep it interesting for readers and not have it be like the simpsons (which I still enjoy, unlike a lot of people, but it is clearly just fucking OVER. They’ve done everything they can do with that group of characters. I want to age my characters. Like Buddy Bradley).

SG: (((OCD vs. ADD))) Totally cool, tell Grant I said “hi” (HTML FLWRS 4 LYFE)! I actually love Alan Partridge, “sport casual”. Should we include every part of this in the transcript? Maybe so…

I actually wanted to talk about that too, do you smoke weed while you’re working? I find that I usually can only play music when I do, as far as artistic pursuits are concerned. Whenever I draw high I totally lose all sense of proportion, style, etc. I basically forget how to draw entirely. Although, a lot of people tell me that they CAN’T draw unless they’re high. I find what really helps me is watching tv or movies, having them on in the background somehow keeps me focused. Is there anything that helps keep you on track?

SH: I’m fairly high all the time. I’ve basically been smoking every day since i was 15. I sometimes find i draw tighter when i’m REALLY stoned. It seems to help me focus, and i get all blissed-out, marveling at the magic and beauty of “process”. I would consider myself a “stoner”, but a highly-functioning “stoner”. I work assembly line style, and i like to work all-day stretches of non-stop drawing. I love the line-confidence that builds up after 8-10 hours of solid scratching. I also make NO corrections (like no whiteout or anything) due to it soaking up my watercolour. So if i fuck something up i just have to move on. This can be scary sometimes. Drawing is scary. I do consider myself a bad drawer, and a lazy drawer. I get a lot of shit done, but i rush everything. I think I’m mostly chasing the feeling of finishing something. Sometimes i forget to eat. Sometimes i wrap my pens in bandages because it hurts to hold them. I love feeling bodily pain from TOO MUCH drawing.
It’s all i care about doing.

Background wise yeah, i love DVD’s. I listen to music when i write but I’m always watching stuff when I draw (I say watching but I mean LISTENING). I watch things that wont distract me too much but also won’t bore me. Some favorite drawing-boxsets from recently are the Larry Sanders Show (perhaps my favorite show ever), the Trip, Peep Show, Black Books, old Simpsons (always), Sabrina the Teenage Witch (a huge inspiration)…

Movies are less good because there’s a shorter time between having to change discs and break a flow.

I am also dangerously addicted to Red Bull.


SG: Dude, never mind that, legalized in Colorado and Washington! That is a BIG deal.

Haha I would say that you are far from lazy, but that’s the next thing I wanted to touch on is time consumption. It seems like you draw all day, every day, which is a tenacity that blows my mind. You hand color nearly everything, which is something I just started doing regularly with this McDonalds comic and, of course, it takes like 50% more time to finish a page (although the figures are simpler, so maybe not?). Like me, I know that you play music too, is there anything else that you do? I find that because I dabble in many different mediums, I often feel like a jack of all and master of none, and that maybe if I had the drive to focus on just one thing, I might be more successful at it. Is it safe to assume that the other things you do are more like hobbies? Also, what is your music like? What is the music scene like in Australia? I’m really only starting to get familiar with all the newish indie rock bands there like Peak Twins, Full Ugly, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding…I really like them, but they’re not real out there or anything. I was going to say Justice Yeldham, but he is from New Zealand and that would be offensive. ;-))))

Also, I should say that I am on board with everything you are saying except for the Red Bull. Jesus christ, man, that shit will stop your heart.

SH: What’s legalized? Weed? I’m getting all my news from Tumblr GIFS.

I really do have to quit the Red Bulls. My Girlfriend has gotten me to stop buying the BIG ones at least.

I’ve considered trying to learn photoshop or whatever people use to digitally colour stuff but every time I ask anybody about how to do it I get bored. It sounds like an enormous hassle. Maybe even more of a hassle than brush colouring. Plus I very much like mixing my own colours and watching them swirl together, glistening in the lamplight.

I used to do a lot of sculpture and diorama stuff but i kind of stopped doing that. I used to make video puppet shows for years but i stopped doing that. Last year my Girlfriend and I staged a live late night talk show. It bombed and we stopped doing that. I ran a cassette/CDR label from ‘06 to ‘11 but i stopped doing that.

But yeah, all of these things were just hobbies or fleeting obsessions… nothing serious. Comics is my true love and the thing that i feel is actually worth the time i put into it. I’ve pretty much stopped making music though too, i kind of got bored with it. i did everything i could do with it with the amount of effort i was prepared to put into it.

here is a brief musical history:
I have always sucked at music. I have 0% skill. I just WANT to do it. When I first started living in Hobart a lot of my friends were in grungy bands and there was a lot of experimental, bipolar noise stuff going on. I was in a band with my friend Karl for a few years. We were called Horse Mania. It was a double keyboard setup with lots of pedals. We were known as the worst band in town. Volatile, sloppy drunks. Famous for our nervous breakdown train-wreck performances, heckling of other bands and Albums that came with 60page comic books. We played a show on our one “Mainland” tour where everyone including the sound guy left the room. Mission accomplished.

In 2007 we broke up and i started doing my solo thing “Girl Mountain” (15 releases to date), which is kind of on hiatus now, except for special occasions. Sometimes I play guitar, sometimes I play a Casio SA-10, sometimes i have an IPod backing track of distorted synth beats and scream a lot, sometimes i just moan into a contact mic my girlfriend made. I play drunk, and I usually take my shirt off. I think of it as being genre-less. It just is what it is. if i had to try to assign a genre it would be “Shitcore” or “Lazy Noise”, perhaps “Emo Blowhard” or “Shit Phil Elverum”. The best time for Girl Mountain was when i lived in the UK, it was so easy to get gigs. I think i did around 40 gigs over that two-year period. I played some hilariously ill-fitted bills and pissed a lot of people off. And some cool noise conferences. And some largish festivals. I even got over to NYC and played Silent Barn, that was a fun show.

I barely know what’s happening in Melbourne right now musically because i don’t leave the house much. I’ve heard all the bands you’ve listed and they’re okay (and i’m surprised you know these fairly obscure new Australian bands). My favorite Melbourne band is Dead Boomers. The guys in that run a label called Sabbatical that puts out a lot of good noisy stuff and organizes cool shows (including putting out my Girlfriend’s stuff. She makes vocal-based noise stuff under the name Juarez. Although she’s kind of over that now and is focusing on field recording and composition. She’s studied with Chris Watson and Hildegard Westerkamp and fancy people like that. She’s preeetty cool.) My other favorite Melbourne band right now is Brother’s Hand Mirror (Grant’s abstract Hip Hop project). They played a show a few months back at Grant’s warehouse home that was being vacated. More than a thousand people showed up and it was fucking crazy. One of the best shows i’ve ever seen. Better that Lightning Bolt. Better than Swans. There were billowing clouds of weed smoke, people suddenly dancing on podiums, sweat and glitter flying everywhere. It was absolutely magical. Grant is magical.

But yeah, FUCK music and puppet shows and installation art. COMICS COMICS COMICS.
I’ve got another art show with grant coming up in January and I’ll play a set for that. But I wont rehearse.

PS. I have a Bandcamp. it’s

What kind of music stuff are you doing? I’ve read that you make music but have no idea in what capacity.

HOLY HELL! Legalization in Colorado AND Washington?! That’s fucking crazy. And some good business sense.

In 2011 i went to Amsterdam. It was pretty fun but a little weird. We got way too high and there are a lot of creepy gangs of jocks and dickheads wandering around. My Girlfriend and i had a bit of a panic in a falafel shop. We mostly spent our time bailed up in our hotel room chain-watching bad sitcoms. We went to the Reichsmuseum and the security guard asked us if we knew where we were and what we were doing. I was very sad when we had to move on to Paris.

HAHAHA! I just found yr Bandcamp! Your stuff is kinda similar to mine but a fair bit better musically. I’m into it. I wanna play a shitty house show with you one day.
All cartoonists should be forced to also be musicians.

SG: Sorry for interruption in correspondence, was at Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival! Truly amazing weekend, picked up your Space Face comic, it’s a handsome little muffin. You have to come next year, the afterparty is always so much fun, I kissed all the boys and headbutted all the girls. Patrick Kyle refused (I will get you, Patrick). I think Inés Estrada lost her mind. I pulled down my pants. Molly O’Connell almost gave me a concussion.

Yes, listening to your music, I can tell we are on the very same wavelength. Let’s go on tour in Europe next summer! I actually played a show in New York on Friday too where I totally bombed, which sucked, but was also kind of cool because that hasn’t happened in a long time. My approach is generally non-abrasive, so everyone talked over the whole thing. I’m kind of over harsh noise in most capacities, I just want to be Kate Bush or Cat Stevens. I’ve been lucky enough to play some local shows with a backing band lately, all improvised with slight instruction, about 6 or 7 really talented folks playing wingnut reggaeton while I howl (big ups to John William Moloney who facilitates my every move), it’s basically me living out my Sun Ra fantasy. Otherwise, I play guitar/trumpet in a free-form group of local wackjobs called Egg, Eggs, and guitar/vocals in a garbage punk band called White Crime, which I think is my favorite. I’m really awful at guitar, but I have it tuned so that I can just lay one finger across the fretboard and whatever I play will sound good, makes you feel like a god in that moment. We used to play totally sober because we had to drive to all the shows, but now that’s not the case, we just keep getting better and better, one friend said it was like seeing a totally different band (in a good way). But yeah, I also do a small, infrequent record label called Faux-Pas Recordings, new LPs coming from Tracey Trance and (D)(B)(H) very soon.

I’m happy to hear that you’re able to maintain a relationship with your kind of drawing schedule! I feel like I’ve known a few people who have had break-ups caused by the need for personal time to get work done. I haven’t been in a proper monogamous situation in a really long time, for several reasons, one of them being my reluctance to give up being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. But you’re also not working a day job at the moment, right? What kind of income does your art provide? I get really frustrated when people piss and moan about not being able to make a living off of comics, music, etc. Sure, I would love to, but I don’t expect it, I just want people to be able to check out my stuff, get it in their hands. The dream for me is to have the resources to release things in desired format upon their completion, not 6 months-1 year later. I want to make books, I want to make records.

SH: Yeah, I figured you were just being busy having loads of fun at BCGF. That afterparty sounds like a Megg and Mogg comic…I’m definitely coming next year.

I’ve got this artshow in Madrid in like May or something and i want to try and get over for that somehow, too. European super tour for sure. it’s super easy to get shitty gigs. We could even start a boyband and do separate boyband shows on the side. You sound crazy fucking busy with music stuff. I have a cassette coming out of a noise thing i was in like 7 years ago… but that’s it. No concentrated time for music anymore, ENDLESS DRAWING FOREVER.

Jess (girlfriend of 4 years) seems to deal okay with my endless drawing and my endless babbling about drawing. She reads comics and stuff but she’s not super into them or anything but she kind of ends up reading everything i buy. We met through music, through Grant (HTML flowers) actually. I was living in Grant’s “Mom’s” garden shed at the time. It was disgusting and beautiful. I was just riding bikes all day and getting fucked-up and doing little tours with Grant. We were both on Government pension things for our various personal problems and were just drawing all day and goofing around. Then I met Jess who was around the “scene” and we had a beautifully goofy, awkward courtship and then I fairly abruptly moved to the UK where she was studying and I was living with her near a huge fucking deer park. David Attenborough lived two blocks over and Mick Jagger lived about 8 houses up the street, he has a glass elevator. Jess and i both got jobs in bookstores (I also had dalliances with cleaning pigeon shit out of aircraft hangers and camping equipment sales)…

Anyway, we both like to avoid people for the most part and just focus on our shit. We live out in the leafy suburbs about 30 minutes by train from the city. While i’m drawing Jess blogs or reads or messes around with recordings or whatever and we make time for walks and nice dinners. We get on really well. We play Nintendo together and she swears like fucking crazy. I uh, I’m a pretty lucky guy. And I probably did less work when i was single. Single people go to parties all the time trying to get laid and stare up into the sky for hours in romantic stupors.

I’m back on the “Government fuck-up benefits”, yeah. No day job. Comics isn’t exactly pulling in much money. $100 here, $50 there. I guess it sort of almost maybe might cover my pot soon. I’m getting by and i’m allowed to just draw all day and thousands of people are looking at my tumblr and i’m making friends and having fun. I have no complaints.

Recently i’m starting to get some different kinds of opportunities coming my way though which might see some actual “profit” sooner or later. There are a lot of books i wish i could buy. And i’ve developed a taste for expensive food. And holidays.

Also: more BCGF gossip/dirt, please! let me live vicariously through you. (also it’s material for Truth Zone)

SG: You should check out Conor Stechschulte's report on the Closed Caption Comics blog for all the true grime, lots of wrestling photos, documentation of my new Muppet Babies tattoo…also, all the best cartoonists have mustaches now. Fact.

Your name came up a lot too, man! I have to say, this is the first time I’ve been truly excited about what’s going on in comics in a while. Like two years ago, I was bored to death by most graphic novels that were coming out, and there was also just this huge glut of anthologies, people just doing little bits and pieces. I couldn’t even keep up, I didn’t WANT to. Things just seemed weird and cold and disconnected to me (but maybe that was just me). But now, especially after this past weekend, I couldn’t ask for more. People aren’t trying to “challenge the medium” anymore, they are just cranking out the pages of hardcore storytelling, and encouraging each other all the way instead of questioning their intentions/legitimacy/whatever. Zine publishers like Oily, Hic and Hoc, Space Face, and Retrofit are making dreams come true on the cheap, and that is very, very exciting to me. Your comics are like the full encapsulation of that to me, Simon, fucking getting it done. Annie Koyama gave me a button this weekend that said “fuck the haters” and, normally, I would think something like that was really dorky, but in the context of which I received it, that button is not coming off my bod, no way.

Okay, I think I’ve said all the dumb things I’m gonna say, stop before I just make a list of names of all the peace warriors out there. I think I am just going to post this on tumblr. Anything more you want to include?

SH: We’re not going to talk about Sinbad?

SG: Whatchoo know about Sinbad?

Ed. postscript: Apparently, I did kiss Patrick Kyle, but was too drunk to remember. My sincerest apologies to Patrick, I love you very, very much.

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