DMT Dreaming with Mr. Muffinhead
Who is Mr. Muffinhead?
Oh, he's just me in a party mood. The trade name of the firm, a whimsical CEO, a scrapbook of phantoms, a dream dictionary—all of those things.
You're from LA and mentioned in a video with James St. James that a major difference between New York and LA is NYC's openness to confrontation. How has that changed you as an artist since moving here?
I'm not sure that it has. If anything, the city will either melt an artist down into something golden for itself to play with, or it'll just chew you up and spit you out. For me, the pieces were already in place.
What is the general reaction to your work when you're walking down the street?
People here are wonderful when I'm out and about. It feels similar to what a bungee-jumping experience must feel like—you get a little nervous just before walking out the door, but once you've plunged in, it's magical. Mostly they just want to know where the party is and [if they can] take a selfie. Children are hesitant but extremely alert. The people I come across are almost always complimentary and eager to tell me so, which definitely fuels what I do—I want them to be inspired, maybe more than anything else.
You speak often about the beneficial effects hallucinogens have had on your art. What do you think about the stereotype that artists and drugs go hand-in-hand? And what are your thoughts, in retrospect, on how hallucinogens have specifically shaped your work?
I guess I do play directly into that stereotype, but hallucinations have just always worked for me. I'm also one for simple daydreams and visions—anything that is untethered by reality is helpful to my work. I think artists thrive when unencumbered, so the lure of a free ticket to the unknown and the ability to see between the lines and puppet strings is potent, and the relationship is inevitable. A lot of the characters I create could easily have walked straight out of a DMT dream and some of them probably originated in that dimension.
After a few experiences with hallucinogens, I find that there's an intimate conversation occurring, even more so than it being a handy textbook for abstract shapes and their maneuvers. For me, it can be a reassuring communiqué. It’s also not hesitant to clearly state its purpose.
Your art often involves extremes—how do you know which ideas to follow and which to ignore?
I tend to stick with the ones that elicit an emotional response. Most of my memorable pieces start with a sketch and me laughing out loud at the result. Most of the good stuff comes from the deepest deep, though. You've got to mark the parts where the cracks set in—that's the job, creatively.
What are you thinking about when you transform into Mr. Muffinhead?
Oh God, ‘WHAT TIME IS IT?’ is my usual mindframe. I'm honestly a bundle of nerves until the headpiece and gloves are on and I'm where I need to be on time. And then, there's this lovely release which lasts a few hours and gets me through the evening.
What’s been your favorite reaction to one of your pieces?
Nick Zedd wrote on my 'Death of Muffinhead' movie poster he'd given me, ‘To my favorite artist in the world. You are the greatest. I love you, Nick Zedd.’ I had to keep looking at it to see if he was just messing with me and it's still totally unreal. I have out of body experiences when people compliment me—it's almost like my system rejects it so I don't get lazy.
I was doing the KaPOW! outfit on a train going downtown and this sweet kid was sitting on his mom's lap and read me out loud, saying, ‘Look Mom, he's like a karate fighter, a famous clown and a fairy.’
What kind of impression do you want to leave on the city?
I just want to leave a warm ray of joy, you know? You want to try to leave a teeny little lift, partly because I've been met with such sweetness here—such support where I'd never expected it.
As an expert on the NYC club scene, what do you wish woud change in Clubland? What do you hope stays the same forever?
As a not really anything expert, I always hope for a more imaginative stretch to the proceedings. I'd love to see more video artists, more sculptors, more mixed media artists get involved. After all, it's a cultural mish-mosh—it should represent the most extreme and colorful elements of us all. We benefit as a culture creatively, when we combine our talents and shoot—and that's the way it needs to be. At the same time, nothing good will be attained through uniformity. Clubland cannot be the mainstream. Forget the contour, get in a fight and show up at the party with a busted lip and a party hat. That's New York.
I like Dolly Dharma a lot. He's this great, post-sort of anti-club kid who shows up with a full 24" pizza on his head—he's fantastic. I like most anything artistically that poses a challenge to the present.
How is Clubland’s reaction to your art different from the general public's?
Actually, they're similar, but club love, for me, is the bottom line. I'm like Grandpa Munster nowadays, though, but I get treated overall really sweetly.
What nightlife trends do you think will influence the art and fashion scenes this year and vice versa?
I think you'll start seeing some 3D print and design in Clubland produced by some young, talented artists. More art in nightlife is always a must, period. Mugler will have a big year and it will be a year of big, zig-zag extremes. Glitch will play a big part, but what will come after that will be incredibly interesting...and I'll keep making weird city ghosts.