Six Dumb Questions with Tim Granda of Planet of Doom

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tim granda

As Riff Lodge Animation was making the first announcements about what its animated film, The Planet of Doom, would entail in the process of partnering different artists and bands with each other to tell an overarching narrative written by David Paul Seymour and animated/directed by Tim Granda, it was obvious it would be a significant undertaking. That has proven to be the case even when one factors in the successful Kickstarter campaign launched to fund the endeavor, and with no fewer than 17 bands and 12 graphic artists locked in to participate — plus more to be announced — it’s an achievement even in the making in terms of the logistics and coordination involved on the part of Seymour and Granda.

The Planet of Doom stands in the tradition of music-driven animated tales like Heavy Metal, telling a tale wound around warriors and revenge and motorcycles in space, and so on. With an accompanying soundtrack set to feature Wo Fat, Orchid, Cirith Ungol, Slomatics, Mos Generator, Elephant Tree, Slow Season, Phillip Cope (ex-Kylesa), Vokonis, Messa, Mother Crone, the just-confirmed Space Witch, as well as Destroyer of Light, Order of the Owl, Ironweed and Granda himself, one anticipates it will lack nothing for heft, and as both Granda and Seymour will design their own chapters along with Skinner, Adam Burke, Alexis Ziritt, Jason Cruz, Burney, Simon Berndt, Brian Profilio, Maarten Donders, Gorgeous George and Forrest Cavacco, there’s no less visual scope involved than audio. It’s a massive, comprehensive project.

Accordingly, it’s going to be a while before it comes together. Still, Granda was kind enough to take some time out recently to discuss where he and Seymour are in the film’s making, how the idea and screenplay came about, some of the details of the plot, what’s involved in bringing bands and artists together, music as a storytelling vehicle and more. You can find the complete Q&A, along with some screen grabs of the work in progress and a test animation of The Planet of Doom‘s opening, below.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

THE PLANET OF DOOM LOGO

Six Dumb Questions with Tim Granda of Riff Lodge Animation & The Planet of Doom

How did The Planet of Doom come about? What inspired you to take up a project of this magnitude? How much was Heavy Metal an inspiration?

When David Paul Seymour left his 9 to 5 job to strike out on his own, I half-jokingly mentioned to him that we now had time to make an animated movie. To my surprise, he was thrilled with the idea, and from there we had many conversations about what we’d like to do. David had written a story a while back that we thought would be perfect to build a film around, and after a few tweaks, like moving the location from Asia to Europe, we were off and running.

The film Heavy Metal was a big inspiration to us. We’ve been huge fans of both the film and magazine ever since we were kids. When the magazine shared the news of our Kickstarter last year we were beyond stoked.

In addition to Heavy Metal, there were a lot of films from that era that made an impression on us. Stuff like Fantastic Planet and Gandahar by René Laloux, and just about everything by Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, American Pop, Wizards). All of these films proved that animation can be more than just kids’ fare. Unfortunately, the medium has become soft and cute again, so it would be awesome if this film could help usher in a new wave of animation aimed at adults.

Tell me about the process of picking and coordinating with different artists to get them involved. Frankly, it sounds like a nightmare from a logistical standpoint. Do different bands require different styles of art?

When we we’re starting out, it was decided that David would come up with a list of bands to reach out to while I’d focus on the artists. There ended up being some crossover, but that’s the general approach we took. The majority of folks we reached out to jumped at the chance to come onboard, and we were thrilled at the level of enthusiasm we were seeing for the project. It all came together really fast, much quicker than David and I anticipated.

Initially, we’d let folks pick the chapter that interested them, but as time went on, we did some reshuffling with the matchups to bring folks together who’d really nail a specific section of the story. Grouping Maarten Donders with Messa was one of them, as was Gorgeous George and Slow Season. In the end, I think we struck a killer balance of calculated moves and “happy accidents,” where a band/artist combo came together by chance that was better than what we could’ve imagined.

Is there an overarching story to the film or is it vignettes? Can you talk about some of what we can expect in terms of plot?

The film is your classic revenge tale, in which our hero, Halvar, sets out to defeat the deadly beast Mördvél for the slaying of his bride. While the roots of this type of story go back to ancient myths and fables, we feel it’s the film’s presentation that will make it unique.

One of the things we loved about Heavy Metal was the format. We really dug how the style of art changed from one sequence to the next, as if you were reading an issue of their magazine. But rather than use a plot device like the “Loc-Nar” to tie a series of unrelated segments together, we wanted to stick to one story that’s split up into a series of chapters, with each being told by a different band and artist.

An idea I had from the start was not to use any dialogue, and instead let the bands tell the story through their lyrics, sharing the task of narrator, more or less. The process generally went like this: each band was given only a brief description of their chapter by David so they’d have the freedom to add to the story as they saw fit. From there, I’d expand upon the lyrics and David’s outline by writing lots of additional scenes in a detailed, shot-by-shot screenplay that’s timed to the music. This would then be passed along to the band’s artist to create a storyboard from.

What issues have you come up against in making the film? How have you dealt with setbacks or these challenges?

Though it’s been a year since the launch of our Kickstarter, we couldn’t start production until we knew we had the funds to pay everybody. After the Kickstarter was successful, bands were given the green light to start writing their original music. As you can imagine, that’s not something that happens overnight. Bands might be touring, or taking some time off, but ultimately, they would all need to find the time to get together and write then book a studio. We also had some bands and artists who bailed, and a few that we had to let go, so that slows down the process too. Ultimately, it all worked out for the best because we couldn’t be more stoked with the talent we have working on the film.

Fortunately, nearly all the music has now been turned in. Screenplays have gone out to their respective artists, and we’ve approved quite a few storyboards from them already. Right now I’m animating the chapter featuring musician Phillip Cope and artist Skinner, and after that I’ll be moving on to David’s and Mos Generator’s. Approved art is coming in all the time so I’ll be jumping from one spot in the film to the next as stuff comes in.

What’s the timeline on completion? How much is left to do?

I’m hoping to have the film done by the end of 2018, which is going to be quite an undertaking since I’m the only animator. The artists in the film are only supplying me with a stack of drawings; they won’t be the ones animating their work. It’s my job to cut up all the art into thousands of pieces and bring it all to life. The process is long and laborious, so while we’re shooting for 2018, it may come in later than that.

The Planet of Doom website

The Planet of Doom on Thee Facebooks

The Planet of Doom on Instagram

The Planet of Doom at IMDB

Riff Lodge Animation webstore

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The Planet of Doom Trailer Premieres; Kickstarter Launched

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 10th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the planet of doom trailer

The title The Planet of Doom has been tossed around for the last eight months or so as artists Tim Granda and David Paul Seymour assembled the team that would bring their story to life. Today the real process of completing the animated film for its stated 2017 release date really begins, with the premiere of the first trailer and the launch tomorrow of a Kickstarter to help fund the remainder of the project.

One need only to look at the roster of bands — The WellGoyaMos GeneratorSummoner, and so on — to know this is a project made with a strong love of music in mind. I’ve only seen the trailer, but it’s plain to see the inheritance from a landmark blend of heavy music and animation like 1981’s Heavy Metal, and the elements of fantasy, beard-clad motorcycle warriors, bizarre (and mostly unclothed) Amazonian-type tribes, and of course a fair heaping of monsters, not only bring these ideas to a new generation of fans, but push those boundaries further with the scope of the project itself.

That said, I could gush and go on and on about the admirable undertaking that is bringing so many artists and bands together for one special project, never mind the distribution at film festivals and three-band package tour (will be very interested to see who winds up on that) to come, but this isn’t a time for a review. You’re better off watching the trailer itself — you’ll notice the Mos Generator right away — getting the details and grabbing the Kickstarter link so that when they open it up tomorrow, Monday, April 11, for contributions, you’re ready to go.

Trailer and info follow, with thanks to Seymour and Granda for letting me host the premiere.

Enjoy:

The Planet of Doom official trailer

Riff Lodge Animation has launched the full-length trailer and Kickstarter campaign for its highly anticipated animated tale of metal and art, “The Planet of Doom.”

The creative duo of Art Director/Writer David Paul Seymour and Director/Animator Tim Granda—the team behind the heavily buzzed-about music video for Conan’s “Throne of Fire” (watch it here)—now offer a full-length animated tale set to 14 of the heaviest new stoner-rock and doom-metal tunes this side of Valhalla.

“‘The Planet of Doom’ is very much in the spirit of music/animated films like ‘Heavy Metal’ and the works of Ralph Bakshi,” said Granda.

Added Seymour, “It’s a tribute to heavy music and the art that accompanies that type of music. With this film, we’re seeking to encapsulate the music and art community that Tim and I are a proud part of with one epic body of work. We are also naturally bringing in all sorts of fringe countercultures who’ve attached to this same community—bikers, skateboarders, comic book and sci-fi fantasy fans. It’s a really vibrant and diversified community and we’ve certainly brought in the right ambassadors to represent it properly.”

“The Planet of Doom” contains no spoken dialogue, opting instead to regale the revenge tale of hero Halvar through the lyrics of the film’s original music. The story unwinds across 14 song-chapters, each interpreted by a different artist-and-band team, including Orchid, Conan, Phillip Cope, Wo Fat, Mos Generator, Slow Season and The Well, paired with artists like Skinner, Vance Kelly, Jason Cruz, Alexis Ziritt, Adam Burke, David Paul Seymour and legendary tattoo artist Forrest Cavacco.

The Bands
Orchid
Phillip Cope (Kylesa)
Conan
Mos Generator
Wo Fat
Slow Season
Scorpion Child
Summoner
The Well
Order of the Owl
Mother Crone
Destroyer of Light
Goya
Ironweed

The Artists
Skinner
David Paul Seymour
Vance Kelly
Jason Cruz
Alexis Ziritt
Adam Burke
Maarten Donders
Tony Papesh
Scott Trerrotola
Simon Berndt
Burney
Gorgeous George
Brian Profilio
Nicholas Coleman
Tim Granda

Every fan of the project can now be a part of “The Helping Hands of Doom” fundraising campaign, which began last March when it raised more than $20,000 in support from company sponsorships. Through the film’s Kickstarter campaign, which launched today, fans can show their love by helping get this worthwhile film underway, while getting some prized goodies in the process—everything from an HHOD official shirt up to having yourself featured in the film as an animated “extra” and more! Fans and supporters can donate to the film at www.theplanetofdoom.com.

“The Planet of Doom” will screen at major music and film festival events, as well as on a cross-country package tour with three of the film bands once production is completed.

The Planet of Doom Kickstarter campaign (starts April 11)

The Planet of Doom on Thee Facebooks

The Planet of Doom on Instagram

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The Obelisk Presents: 10 of 2015’s Best Album Covers

Posted in Features, Visual Evidence on December 4th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

I didn’t get to do this list last year — at least not that I can find — but especially as vinyl continues to grow as the dominant media for underground and/or heavy genres, it seems more and more necessary to highlight quality cover art as a focal point. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. There were way more than 10 badass album covers, and I’m hoping you’ll add your favorites to the comments on this post, but these were some of the ones and some of the artists who most caught my eye. A few of the names are familiar — one artist also appeared on the 2013 list — and the work of some was new to me, but all made striking impressions one way or another in a range of styles, and I hope you’ll agree.

No need to delay. Let’s dive in:

Ordered alphabetically by artist

Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake

ruby the hatchet valley of the snake

Cover by Adam Burke. Artist website here.

Formerly (or at least sort-of-formerly) of Fellwoods and currently also playing in Pushy, Adam Burke‘s style has become essential to the aesthetics of doom and heavy rock. His work for bands like Ice Dragon, Mystery Ship, Pastor, Mos Generator and a slew of others — including me — never fails to impress with its deep colors, natural tones and, in many cases, a sense of underlying threat. So it is with Ruby the Hatchet‘s Tee Pee Records label debut, Valley of the Snake (review here). Burke presents the title literally as a winding serpent in the sky becomes a river leading to a waterfall, the colors of a sun either rising or setting giving a glimpse of the otherworldly while the earth below is presented in darker browns and the jagged rocks in the foreground. There were a few candidates for Burke this year, but this one continues to stun.

Elder, Lore

elder lore

Cover by Adrian Dexter. Artist website here.

A record that, for many, defines 2015 in a major way, Elder‘s Lore (review here) is not the first collaboration between the Massachusetts trio and artist Adrian Dexter, but the results this time around are particularly satisfying. And since we’re talking about vinyl, the creativity in the gatefold design and the other pieces Dexter contributed to the album proves no less impressive than the progressive turn Elder took in their songwriting — a fitting match in scope and execution. Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman RecordsLore has pushed Elder into a different echelon entirely, and this will not be the final year-end-type list on which it appears around here, but Dexter‘s work, detail, subtlety and use of color for the cover simply had to be seen to be believed.

Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Cover by Josh Graham. Artist website here.

Though he’s perhaps best known for his work doing live visuals over a stretch of years for Neurosis, Brooklyn-based Josh Graham‘s list of cover art accomplishments also include Soundgarden, KENmode, Vattnet Viskar and his own projects, A Storm of Light, Battle of Mice and Red Sparowes. With the cover for the self-titled third album from fellow New Yorkers Kings Destroy (review here), he seemed to encapsulate everything the War Crime Recordings release was driving toward with its urban crunch, aggression, and the feeling that all of this is a part of something larger and barely understood. Is it a bowl? Part of some ritual offering? Is it a drain? The expertly manipulated photography takes landmarks from the city and turns them into something as beautiful as it is malevolent, and Kings Destroy lived up to that standard on the album itself.

Snail, Feral

snail feral
Cover by Seldon Hunt. Artist website here.

Every bit worthy of the frame it has. Going back to pieces for Neurosis, Isis, Made out of Babies and more, Seldon Hunt‘s work is always widely varied, covering a range of styles and media. His piece for Feral (review here), a pivotal fourth album by West Coast heavy psych rockers Snail (released by Small Stone), seems to play off the single-word title in portraying a threatening vision of nature. At the bottom, we see human skulls as giant snails, weird glowing dogs and a deer with yellow eyes and snakes entwined in its antlers survey the landscape of huge mushrooms and sparse grass. Behind, two tangled trees add to the sense of foreboding, and a sky that runs from black to red speaks to a night that doesn’t look like it’s about to end anytime soon. Is this Hunt‘s vision of nature’s revenge? Either way, it’s engrossing in its three-dimensionality.

Valkyrie, Shadows

valkyrie shadows

Cover by Jeremy Hush. Artist website here.

Valkyrie‘s third full-length, first for Relapse Records and first in seven years, Shadows (review here), was a classic guitar rock fan’s dream come true. Brothers Jake and Pete Adams led the band through cascading solos, memorable songs and unpretentious vibes. The cover art by Jeremy Hush stood out to me particularly for the violence of its depiction. We see smaller blackbirds using spears or arrows to attack a hawk, and three on one is hardly a fair fight, even with a bird of prey, as a skull looks on from nearby grass. What I don’t know, ultimately, is whose side we’re on — ravens are hardly a traditional harbinger of good fortune — but somehow not knowing that only makes the piece more evocative, and from the detail and use of empty space in its parchment-style background to the struggle it portrays, Hush‘s work certainly grabbed attention.

Ahab, The Boats of the Glen Carrig

ahab the boats of the glen carrig
Cover by Sebastian Jerke. Artist website here.

A Germany-based painter who’s done art for Desertfest Berlin, Colour Haze, as well as the Freak Valley and Keep it Low festivals, Sebastian Jerke contributed several artworks to Napalm Records this year. He’ll continue that thread in 2016 with Greenleaf likely among others, but in 2015, his pieces for My Sleeping Karma and Ahab especially stood out, and the latter most of all. The funeral doomers don’t to anything on a scale less than grand, and Jerke‘s cover for The Boats of the Glen Carrig (review here) offered scope to match. Its sea monsters have breathtaking color and detail, and are familiar and alien at the same time, the central figure’s human-esque hand drawing a crowd either awed or looking to feast. This was one you could stare at over and over again and still always find something new.

Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere
Cover by Tim Lehi. Artist website here.

I actually saw when Acid King unveiled the cover for their first album in a decade, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (review here), that there were some people giving them shit for the artwork out front. Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and if you ever wanted to find a bunch of conflicting ones look no further than the internet, but excuse me — it’s a wizard (Hell, that might be Gandalf), riding a tiger, in outer space. If there’s any part of that that isn’t frickin’ awesome, I’m not sure what it might be. What directive tattoo artist Tim Lehi was given going into the project, which would eventually surface on Svart Records, I don’t know, but it’s hard for me to listen to the far-no-farther out riffs of “Center of Everywhere” and not at very least want to be that wizard. Riding that tiger. In outer space. I’ll defend this one all day if necessary.

Serial Hawk, Searching for Light

serial hawk searching for light
Cover by Samantha Muljat and Sara Winkle. Artist websites here and here.

If I had gotten to do this list in 2014, Samantha Muljat could have easily appeared on it for her manipulated landscape that adorned Earth‘s Primitive and Deadly. For Serial Hawk‘s debut album, Searching for Light (review here), she’s partnered with Sara Winkle, whose work ranges from commercial design and album covers to animation and more. What the two offer in their work for Serial Hawk is a blend of the real and the unreal. We don’t see the face of the photographed subject, but she leads our eye toward the white circle, which, on a horizon could be the sun, but here seems to have descended to the field, landed there toward some unknown purpose. The tall grasses seem to fade into a wash of lighter green, but note the angle of the arm on the right side and the legs toward the center is nearly identical and seems to be working opposite the windblown direction of the field surrounding. Like the piece as a whole, it’s as much natural as unnatural.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux]

various artists electric ladyland redux
Cover by David Paul Seymour. Artist website here.

My notes for this list contain no fewer than three separate entries for Minneapolis artist David Paul Seymour. There’s one for ChiefsTomorrow’s Over (review here), and one for Wo Fat‘s Live Juju (review here), but when it came time to pick just one, nothing stood out like Magnetic Eye RecordsElectric Ladyland [Redux] (review here). The full-gatefold spread is my favorite album cover of the year — and a good deal of this year’s covers were by Seymour, who has become nigh on ubiquitous in heavy and psychedelic rock — and for Jimi Hendrix, who’s been portrayed so many times it would be impossible to count, to show up in an original way in an original setting, it showed creativity on a scale fitting to the logistics of the compilation itself, which pulled together groups from around the world in due homage to Hendrix‘s 70th birthday. Its colors, its shading, its strange mercurial pool and waterfall — it’s just perfect for what it was intended to do.

Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science
Cover by Alexander von Wieding. Artist website here.

He’s split his time these last several years with his one-man band incarnation Larman Clamor, but Hamburg’s Alexander von Wieding continues to find time for copious design work for the likes of Brant BjorkKarma to BurnEnos and more. This year, in addition to a logo for a forthcoming The Obelisk t-shirt, he also did a cover for a split between Larman Clamor and Blackwolfgoat, whose Darryl Shepard also plays guitar in Kind, so to have him also illustrate that project’s Ripple debut, Rocket Science (review here), only seems fair. I’ll make no pretense of being anything other than a fan of von Wieding‘s work, and he’s in his element with Rocket Science, line drawing a spacescape with a crashed ship manned by what appears to be a frustrated chicken and rabbit (“Rabbit Astronaut” is one of the song titles). A lizard looks on and sticks a forked tongue out at the scene, and as mountains and planets loom behind, von Wieding reinforces a charm in his work that has drawn bands and labels his way for the better part of the last decade.

Like I said at the outset, there were far too many covers for me to call this list comprehensive — right off the top of my head: SunderGroanMos Generator/StubbMonolord (that solo figure walking into the lake continues to haunt), BaronessHigh on FireGraveyardMonster MagnetThe MachineEggnogg/BorrachoEcstatic Vision, Uncle Acid, on and on — but these were just some that particularly resonated with me. If you feel like something was criminally ignored — maybe I missed it — please let me know in the comments.

And thanks for reading.

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