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Apr 16, 2008

Interview with MAD

[Jeremy MadL (aka MAD), is one of the leading American artists creating designer vinyl today.  We recently chatted with him about the upcoming reintroduction of the Mad*l's with the release of Phase: 3 right around the corner and his Stuff I Made solo opening tomorrow (4.17) @ myplasticheartnyc.  Enjoy and be sure to click through to enjoy the whole interview complete with several never-before-seen pics].

Can you tell us just a bit about yourself and how you got into the crazy world of designer toys?

My name is Jeremy Madl... most people know me as MAD.  I'm 31 and live in Kansas City with my wife and 3 kids.  I've been designing toys and other products professionally for about 13 years.  I now make a living running 2 companies where I design and manufacture toys of all shapes and sizes for a wide variety of clients.  I also have a steady workload of collaborative projects in various mediums based off my 2D illustrations and artwork. I got into designer vinyl about 7 years ago as a collector.  My job at the time was with a creative agency in LA, where i was thumbing through a magazine called Milk.  In it were all types of crazy Japanese toys, and I started seeing these dope figures.... I was hooked from then on.  I HAD to find away to get into this, so started to concept my own platform figure.  Around that time a few companies in the US started popping up and I showed the Mad*l's to all of them.  After many "no's" I landed my first production deal in 2002, which started everything rolling.  Soon after I began designing on other peoples toys, and the rest is history.

Mad*l Phase: 3"

Your upcoming 'Stuff I Made' solo show @ myplasticheartnyc marks the return of your mad*l figure  with the release of mph's Black Guard exclusive.  Where has Mad*l been and what's he been doing ?

It's been a while hasn't it!?  The Mad*l's kinda fell off the map there for a bit, but have been really busy the past year.  I regained the rights to the brand in early 2007 and started manufacturing them myself with my company SOLID.  Now that I'm in charge, the direction of the brand is going to be more in line with the original concept.  I'll be taking the Mad*l's beyond designer toys and into lifestyle and apparel merchandise... all the while still growing the figure line.  I want it to be a tool for my friends and clients to work into their projects, so I'm really trying to focus on that for the upcoming year. 

There's already a handful of new figure designs that will be exclusive to certain clients and stores, so things are really just starting to get fun. The Black Guard is the first painted production Mad*l in almost 2 years, so I knew it had to be as close to perfect as production figures possibly can.  Working directly with the factory has allowed me to explore things that were never an option before.  I'm very excited about the quality of the pieces, and hope that people take notice.  I've always been very particular with the quality of the Mad*l's and feel I've surpassed the previous releases.    

Tell us about the Mad*l's origins.  Where did the idea come from?

The Mad*l's come from a few things... my 1st son, an Etch-A-Sketch, crazy figures I had no info about, and a need to still do my own art outside of my day job.... My 1st son was born in June of 2002 so the basic design was based on a kid's proportions.  A few months later while sketching ideas, I roughed out this fat little figure in my book.  It wasn't much, had a couple of accessories.... basically a daydream to make some dope figures like I had seen in those Japanese magazines.  I had already been collecting Kubricks, so the idea of a platform toy really interested me, but the fact it was so small i didn't like.

I wanted to mx it up with the vinyl figs I was seeing and a few days later while brainstorming (aka playing) with an Etch-A-Sketch, I thought it'd be cool to do a design based off it.  Something simple and clean, yet still representing the Etch-A-Sketch.  I then started brainstorming all the different graphics and characters that could be applied to the form of my base figure design and "poof"....  the Madl as a platform concept was born.  I even went as far as hand sculpting the figure and painting up an Etch-A-Sketch set that came complete with packaging mock-ups.  I still have it in a case on my shelf.... and no its not for sale.

You're now producing the Mad*l's on your own.  What's that been like?  What rules and what blows (if anything) about running the whole show?  Any surprises?

It rocks.  Hands down the most fun I've had in years!  Overseeing everything is a lot of work, but I knew what I was getting into through my experience designing mass market products.  I'm very passionate about my work and know how the final product reflects me, so I'm doing my best to make sure that comes through in all the product I make.

What blows?  Hmmm.  The biggest thing is the financing or should I say lack of...  I'm doing this run on my own, so its a careful balance of what I want, and what I can afford.    

Do you have more freedom to push design limits now that you're producing the figures?  How much do technical considerations around printing influence your designs?  Do you think about it at all when brainstorming new designs?

Mos definitely!  I've already started pushing things in Phase:3. One of the designs has pierced ears, which isn't that big of a deal, but something simple like that adds to the character.  Phase:4 actually has a few more tricks planned, but you gotta wait!   I don't really worry about much in the brainstorm phase... mainly try to just stay loose and rough.  After I find a style or concept, I then start the development process.  From the very beginning I consider the manufacturing of the piece and try to merge the logistics with the concept.  Seems to have worked so far.    

Phase: 3 features three characters.  Tell us a bit about 'em. Were these the first three that came to mind when designing this phase?   Do any of them have  special significance ?

There's Aidamon, Army Bot and SlamAidamon is the 3rd "monster" design  based off my kids.  Aidamon is based off my youngest son Aidan.  Previous monsters includes Billymon (my oldest son William) and Domimon (my godson Dominik).  Now that I have a little girl, you can bet a Maemon will happen.  The Army bot / Black Guard stems from seeing armies of toys, and my of love designing robots... things just clicked.  And lastly, there's Slam.  He's just a badass.  I always wanted to incorporate big earings into a design, and figured doing a guy all tatted up made the most sense.

They weren't designed to be Phase: 3, but were picked out of my library of designs.  I actually do lots of design mock-ups when I'm bored with whatever else I'm working on...  its just a way to goof off and have some fun.  No one ever sees them (unless I leak em on my flickr) so I just went through those and picked.  I had enough designs to plan out both Phase: 3 and Phase: 4.    

Beyond the return of the 5" mad*l, you're also about to release a 10" version as a DIY edition. What colors are  you planning and are you going to release fully designed editions as well ?  When can people pick up the DIY editions?

Well for now there's just the Blank white versions its an open run, but the first shipment is 1000 pcs. and I'm already working on a small SDCC run of GID Blue Blanks with a store (More details on that later though).  The DIY's are shipping with Phase: 3 and should be available in stores by the end of May. I've thought about doing some 10" production designs, but don't want to just regurgitate old designs.  They'd have to be for something special if I do them.    

You've gone to town on the 10" producing several sweet customs for the show.  Tell us what went through your mind when you had the first blank 10" in front of you. Did you know exactly what you wanted to do?   Will we see a 10" custom group show?  When ?

Yup, the customs for the show are all on production blanks.  They are the very first production Mad*l's made by Solid, so it was only fitting to use them for my first NY solo show.  It was pretty damn cool the first time I held one.  I had 15 of them delivered and I just sat and stared at them for days.  By the time I started sketching I had all the art planned out in my head, so it was just a matter of execution. I've done over a hundred custom 5" Mad*l's, so the shape was familiar, but the hardest adjustment was the time it took to do the larger pieces.  I have a custom show planned but its not with 10" Mad*l's... :)    

You've been in this game for a looong time.  How do you think the industry is doing at this point?  Any surprises?  The good, the bad and the ugly?

It's gotten a lot bigger, which has led to mini-figures (large quantities) and variants (larger orders for the factories).  It's also leading to over-production.  The market is becoming flooded.  Some blame companies like KR for it, but I see them actually being a good thing.  They've got the machine working very hard getting products out at an amazing pace.  The quality is usually pretty good, which is expected for the amount of product they're doing. They're bringing in new collectors who will eventually bring more collectors to the smaller companies.

There's also a trend for artists to start making things themselves which is where' I'm at.  Crews like Jamungo, Unkl, Shawnimals, etc. really are better off.  I see this really becoming  the future for more established artists.  You maintain more control of your product.  It's a lot more work, but the end result is better for the artist and collector and the market in general. 

It keeps it very personal I think.  I want people to realize that when they buy my toy, they're buying my art in every sense of the word.  Yes a factory is making them, but overseeing every aspect and streamlining the design process to improve the product makes it mine.

The big question is variants...  I see the bigger vinyl companies making larger numbers via more variants.  Its not a good or bad thing... just a business thing.  Which is flooding the market and commercializing it a bit to far IMO.  I know why it's done, and I've even done it with projects  but I try to keep it within reason.  2-3 variants is cool, but seriously... do we really need 12-15 of the same toy?

With the Mad*l's there will only be 1 variant per Phase.  It makes that variant special, and if a store really wants an exclusive, then they can get their own brand new design made. Surprises?  Who knows... you just have to keep adjusting.  Right now I'm just trying to keep lots of different projects going in a variety of mediums, stay on top of my business, and try to have a little fun at the same time.

Things come in cycles.  Trends come and go.  Right now blind-box minis are all the rage.  What's your take on this definite trend?  Here to stay ?

I see the need.  I've got some in the works, including the Mini-Madl's, but they're a ton of work, so I try to avoid them. Doing platform blind boxes isn't as tough, but origina mini-figures can become very labor intensive.  Whether you like the artist's style or not, everyone should appreciate the time and effort that goes into them.    

Now… here's the portion where we try to get you to spill things publicly that we already know ;-)  Beyond the 10" do you have any plans to go bigger on the Mad*l ?  Also, what's next from you in terms of self-produced figures?

High Gloss Jet Black 3 foot Madl*'s!  You heard it here first, there will be 50 pcs made. (25 Black and 25 White)  13 will be for my Subscribers, and 10 will be up for sale.  The rest will be for my personal stash and customs.  I'm also planning another artist show in 2009 with these so stay tuned for info. (and please don't email me asking to be in it... the lineup is already set).

Up next Mad*l wise is the MAD*L Heads, Phase:4 and the Mad*l Mini's.  Outside of the Mad*l's, I've been working on the Guardians Vinyls. I'm really going for a different style with them, so it's taking a while.  SOLID will manufacture them, so it's also a matter of financing (the downside of doing things yourself is dropping the coin to  make stuff).  I've also got a lot of clien- based projects coming up.  More Kidrobot goods, Kaching goods, Jamungo, and much much more.    

Before we go…  Let's do some quick hits…    

Favorite drink to chug while working

Diet Coke.  It's my coffee.    

Most underappreciated artist

There's a few... Scribe (in the designer toy world), Mr. Jesse Hernandez, Delme, Kenn Munk, Dacosta.    

Most Overrated artist …

Yeah right... like I'm gonna step in that one!    

Best Toy of '07…

Kaws Nexus Wood [email protected]    

Toy you're most looking forward to…

My Kidrobot figure :)

Posted by Jack @ 12:54 PM in Interviews | Permalink  | Comments (0) |


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