Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pheaturing Joey Spiotto

Hello, everybody, welcome to the Phile for a Sunday. Evacuate in our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances. HA! All month has been Star Wars Month here on the Phile as you may know. Before we talk more about Star Wars let's see what else is going on.  So, who saw "Duets" the new show on ABC on Thursday? Kelly Clarkson is in it so you know I saw it. I didn't know it was possible for me to like Kelly even more, but I do.  Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend got married one day after Facebook raised $16 billion on the stock market. Zuckerberg listed the 10 things he loves about her, while she listed the 16 billion things she loves about him. Their reception was annoying, though. Right when everyone got used to the seating arrangement, Zuckerberg changed the layout for no reason. After losing billions of dollars, Zuckerberg is being sued for hiding Facebook’s weak financial report. Apparently he put it somewhere no one will ever look... Myspace. President Obama tossed around a football at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears. Obama told Biden to go long. Then, he hopped into his car and drove away. While attending meetings in Chicago this week, President Obama stayed at a hotel instead of his own house. It was annoying. When he asked for a wake-up call, they just showed him the latest poll numbers.  Have you been watching the NBA playoffs? The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs  after just five games. Yeah, the Lakers fell fast... which explains their new name: the Los Angeles Facebook Stock. DC Comics announced that one of its existing superheroes will be reintroduced as gay. Or as Aquaman put it, “Why is everyone looking at me?”  An 83-year-old man in the U.K. recently became the oldest living kidney donor in history... which is pretty cool unless you’re the guy who just got an 83-year-old kidney.  Members of the Secret Service told the Senate that there’s an unwritten rule amongst agents that what happens on the road stays on the road. Not to be confused with that WRITTEN rule... that they shouldn't have sex with prostitutes.  Here’s an election update. Mitt Romney met with a group of wealthy Latino business owners. Or as Romney calls them, “the Juan percent.”  Britney Spears is planning to launch a new fragrance called Fantasy Twist. That sounds like something John Travolta gets at the end of a massage.  Here is news from the greatest company to work for ever... a Disney cruise employee is being investigated for stealing a passenger's iPhone. If he's found guilty, he'll be given a really tough punishment... eight more years working on that Disney cruise. Or he'll be sent over to Star Tours where I will be his trainer.  Okay, I mentioned Facebook and it seems everyone has Facebook. Check this out, kids.

Remember the Cantina Band from the original Star Wars film? Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes as real Star Wars fans know them as. Yep, that is really the band name. Anyway, they are like the Beatles of the Star Wars universe. Don't believe me? Take a look.

Well, this weekend is Star Wars Weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios and I was surprised they are selling another inspirational poster with bad language on it again.

All month I have been showing you real licensed Star Wars products that are out there for you to purchase. It seems George Lucas doesn't care what he puts the Stars Wars brand name on. This is something I would want. This delightful piece of merchandise is so ridiculous that it was actually created as an April Fool's Day prank. It got so many requests for the item that they ended up getting the rights to make the sleeping bag become a reality.

And now from the home office on Coruscant, here is today's...

Top Ten Lesser Known Goals Of The Empire
10. Making Lucas pay for the Holiday Special.
9. Spread the freshening power of Tic-Tacs across the galaxy.
8. To finally figure out life's greatest mysteries. Who is Keyser Soze, figuring out the Colonel secret recipe, and how they get the caramel inside the Caramilk Bar.
7. To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. And disintegrate them. 6. 6. A Starbucks on every planet.
5. To provide the galaxy with homely family cuisine at affordable prices in a slightly nostalgic, but overly annoying atmosphere.
4. As the galaxy's largest construction outfit, bringing down the Steel Workers' union dental plan became paramount in the fight to lower overhead prior to the redoubling of efforts.
3. Secret co-production of Dangeresque 1, 2, & 3
2. Make Mon Mothma kiss Jabba.
And the number one lesser known goal of the Empire is...
1. Make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

Alright, all month I have invited my good friend Jeff Trelewicz to the Phile to talk about the Star Wars films one by one and we have finally reached the original film. So, please welcome back to the Phile Jeff in a pheature I call...

Me:  Hey, Jeff, welcome back to the Phile. We have finally made it to the original film. Do you call it Star Wars, Episode 4 or A New Hope?

Jeff: It's great to be back on the Phile. I refer to it as either Star Wars, or Episode 4.

Me: I refer it to as Star Wars. Do you remember when and you first learnt about Star Wars?

Jeff: One of the first movies I ever saw in the theater was actually Return of the Jedi. It was either that or The Black Cauldron or Muppets Take Manhattan. Those were the first 3 movies I ever saw in a movie theater. So that would be the first time I heard about Star Wars.

Me: The first time I ever heard about Star Wars was we were at Macy's at our local mall on Long Island and in the kid's clothing section I saw t-shirts with C3-PO and R2-D2 on it and another one with an X-Wing and right away I loved the look. I asked my dad what was that about and he said it's a new movie coming out called Star Wars and I knew right away that was something special. Okay, I have to ask... Who shot first, Han or Greedo?

Jeff: There is only one correct answer. Han shot first. End of argument!

Me: Jeff, I am sure I have readers who have never seen the Star Wars films or have done and have a few questions. Wanna answer some?

Jeff: I will do my best to answer any and all questions posed to me about Star Wars!

Me: Cool. Here we go then, when Luke has an argument with Owen and Beru and storms out, Beru says to Owen, "He's too much like his father", to which Owen says "I know. That's what I'm afraid of". But if Luke is like Anakin (as Owen and Beru fear), then what caused Luke to not go to the dark side like his father did, if Luke had all this frustration of wanting more control in this movie like his father did when he was younger?

Jeff: I think the main reason Luke never went to the dark side like his father was he was never pushed that way. The death of Anakin's mom and the dreams he had of Padme dying was enough to push Anakin to the dark side. Luke never knew his parents. He lost friends in the fights, but not anyone so close to him that he would go to the Dark Side. But if you think about it, we saw glimpses of the dark side in him during his lightsaber fights with Vader.

Me: Good answer. Okay, what did Obi-Wan mean when he said to Vader, "You can't win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine"? Also when he said "Strike me down", did he specifically mean taking Obi-Wan's life?

Jeff: Obi-Wan, I believe, was referring to the fact that he would transcend death. Even after he died, he was strong. He was able to communicate from beyond the grave and teach Luke and talk to Yoda. He helped guide Luke to help blow up the Death Star! Yes, I think the "Strike me Down" comment meant death. If you got struck with a lightsaber in anywhere other then an arm or a leg, you are dead. Sure we saw hands get cut off, but if you hit someone in the chest or head? Dead Jedi!

Me: A Guest at worked asked this question... I read that Mace Windu was originally going to be in this movie. Is that true? Do you know the answer, Jeff? I do.

Jeff: I had not heard anything about Mace Windu being in the Episode 4. Not sure how he could have been since he died in Episode 3, and it took place so many years after Mace's unfortunate (but not bitch like) death.

Me: Good point, but Mace Windu was originally gonna be in Episode 4. The name "Mace Windu" dates back to the very first story treatment that George Lucas wrote in 1973, however the character bears no resemblence to the distinguished Jedi Master of the prequel trilogy. In the rough draft, the name is given to a brother of Leia's, while a later draft has the character as a friend of Luke's. The name was ultimately dropped from the script entirely, only to be reintroduced when choosing names for the Jedi council members decades later for the prequels. Next question, I never understood why the officer who is disrespectful to Vader in the meeting on the Death Star calls the Force an "ancient religion". If I remember correctly, at the moment, Vader only mentions the Force, not the Sith or Jedi. Since it has only been 19 or 20 years since the Jedi were defeated, wouldn't the Force still be something that a lot of people, around age 35 and older, could remember and have knowledge of?

Jeff: I think the officer was more referring to the fact that there wasn't many at the time (other then Vader and the Emperor) who could use the Force, so it was ancient. No one else could use it. I am sure he had heard about it growing up and all, but it wasn't practiced by many.

Me: This has bothered me since I saw The Phantom Menace... Why isn't Darth Vader's and Obi-Wan Kenobi's duel aboard the Death Star as good as the lightsabre duels in Episodes 1, 2, & 3? Is there any reason, Jeff?

Jeff: Part of the reason why the lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader wasn't as epic in Episode 4 as it was in Episode 3 was age. Obi-Wan was a much older man and couldn't do all the same moves. Plus think about the setting. Everything added to the epicness of that fight, including where it was held. It's much different then fighting in a cargo bay. Plus Obi-Wan knew he had no chance of winning. That's why he pretty much commited suicide in the fight.

Me: Well, I think that wraps up everything for the original Star Wars film. I am sure I have more questions though. Next week come back and we'll talk about my favorite Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back.

Jeff: I look forward to discussing your favorite movie in the series. Mine too! Until then!

Today's guest is the 17th artist to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Art Gallery. He is an illustrator, artist and concept designer. Please welcome to the Phile, the very talented... Joy Spiotto.

Me: Hello, Joey, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Joey: I'm doing great! I spent most of the weekend playing "Skyrim"... So it feels nice to come back to the real world for a bit.

Me: And then you're on the Phile... Where are you from, Joey?

Joey: I was born in Pasadena and grew up in a city called La Verne in Southern California, home of the worlds largest indoor car wash as well as the church from The Graduate and Wayne's World 2. It's a pretty exciting town.

Me: Okay, I have to talk about the fauz... or phaux album covers you have created which are so fucking cool. Not only have you created the front covers, but the back covers with song titles and even a record with the label. What the hell? Bloody amazing. What was the first one you did?

Joey: Thanks! I'm glad people are digging them. I've had a lot of fun creating them. The first one I did was River Tam and the Fireflies for the show Crazy 4 Cult at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. I was having trouble coming up with ideas for what to do for the show. It was my first Crazy 4 Cult show and I really wanted to do something unique. I am a huge "Firefly" fan so I knew I wanted to do something with Serenity because it hadn't been done for that gallery show yet. A trip to Disneyland helped inspire the concept after a ride through It's A Small World. I thought it would be cool to have pop-culture characters represented in that Mary Blair style and then it all came together.

Me: My favorite is the Conan one you did. Did you ever send a copy of the picture to him?

Joey: Cool! Thanks! I had a lot of fun with that one. I grew up watching Conan so it was a lot of fun to go through old clips looking for ideas. I'm not sure yet if he's seen it or not.

Me: How did you come up with the song titles and concept?

Joey: The song titles are always made up of references to whatever the album is. And most of the time, they're albums of stuff that I'm a huge fan of so I know a lot of inside things that only diehard fans would get. For instance on the back of the Fireflies album, there's a "Blue Sun" logo in the upper right hand corner. Someone could watch the entire series and movie and never pick up on what "Blue Sun" is. It's everyone throughout the show, in the background, on t-shirts, screens, etc. I love those little nods to things and so I try to hide them everywhere on the artwork including the running time of certain songs.

Me: Your art on them is very retro. Did you have albums when you were a kid?

Joey: I did. I grew up in a house where my parents had a pretty big record collection. Growing up in the 80's, vinyl was on it's way out and cassette tapes were in, but we still had a Playskool record player. We listened to a lot of kid friendly music like The Monkees and "Sesame Street" songs. I think the record I remember most was the "E.T. Read-Along Adventure" from Disneyland Records.

Me: I have to ask, did anybody ever think these were albums, the ones you created?

Joey: Yes. It doesn't happen often, but some people have placed orders through my Etsy store, and then a few days later I get an e-mail saying "uh... where's the record?". I think some people just don't take the time to read item descriptions. It would be pretty awesome if those songs were real, but they aren't, and I'm pretty clear about that in all of my descriptions.

Me: You met Joss Whedon and the cast of "Firefly" and showed them the "Firefly" album cover. What did they think of it? I have a picture of you and them here I grabbed from your blog, Joey.

Joey: That was a pretty incredible experience. I had met Joss a few years earlier at a Comic-Con party I crashed. He was one of the few people dancing and having a great time, and I couldn't pass up an opportunity to talk to him. So I jumped in and danced with him. I wish all of my celebrity encounters happened via dance party. But I got to formally meet him last year at the "Can't Stop The Serenity" Charity event in Los Angeles. I had donated a Fireflies album signed by some of the cast/crew to an auction. Joss and Nathan Fillion were at the event and I asked the organizers if I could get them both to sign the artwork. I was a little nervous, obviously. Standing in front of me was Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his creator. But they were very nice and seemed to like the work a lot. I had just finished the artwork for the next Crazy 4 Cult show where I did "Sing Along with Dr. Horrible" and they seemed to enjoy that artwork a little bit more!

Me: Were you nervous showing it to them?

Joey: Yes. As an artist, it's always a little intimidating to put yourself out there in front of the world. The internet can be a harsh place to live, but the artwork had been such a huge success online, I felt like they would probably appreciate it. I was a little nervous, but they were really great and had some great things to say.

Me: Did Joss tell you anything about The Avengers movie?

Joey: LOL. Ha! No. And I wouldn't have wanted him to. Spoilers would really ruin things.

Me: I like the other album covers you did like the Guns n Roses one with Skeletor and He-Man characters. You need to make a Foghat one somehow. My dad would've loved it.

Joey: Wow! My dad is a big Foghat fan! The Guns n Roses / He-Man mashup was just something I did for fun. I was listening to a ton of "Appetite for Destruction" and was having a nostalgia trip through Eternia. It seemed like a match made in heaven.

Me: If anybody asked you to design an album cover for real, would you do it?

Joey: I think it depends. I LOVE music. I have great respect for anyone with artistic talent. I feel a little bit like i'd be ruining the mystery of it all by putting my work on the cover as a representation of the songs included inside. I always associate albums with their cover art. They're kinda an entry point into that world and so I'd feel a bit distracted by being a part of it. What I'd love to do is design concert posters or t-shirts for bands.

Me: Joey, when did you first become an artist?

Joey: I don't know the exact moment I became and artist because I always was just drawing. I think everyone has the ability to be an artist, the game Draw Something for the iPhone proves that. It's all about communicating ideas through visuals. So, the more you do something, the better you'll get. I drew a lot as a child and I stuck with it. I also had parents that encouraged me to continue with it, so that helped. I can never remember a time in my life where I wasn't an artist.

Me: You must've grown up drawing space things and robots, am I right?

Joey: Yep. I also drew a ton of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was a big TMNT fan as a kid. I also draw a lot of Simpsons characters, which came in handy a few years later in life.

Me: I like the Marvel super hero designs you have done, especially the Deadpool one.

Me: That was for a Marvel video game project, right? What video game, Joey?

Joey: Thanks! It was very early early work for an upcoming Marvel MMO. I can't say it was directly for the game because at the time when I did those it was just style exploration. I'm friends with the Art Director and he asked me to do some designs in my own style just to kinda put something on the wall. So, it really was just me drawing a bunch of characters I loved but hadn't actually ever drawn before. 

Me: Speaking of video games, you also did design work for the game "Dead Space" which I never heard of. I don't play video games, so you'll have to excuse me. Do you play video games apart from "Skyrim"?

Joey: Oh man. "Dead Space" was a dream come true. I do play video games. A lot. My parents bought us a Nintendo when it came out. I was 5 years old, and it changed my life forever. I have been playing video games for over 25 years now and they continually amaze me. Getting to be a part of a team creating a game that a lot of people loved really was a proud moment for me.

Me: You created the look for the characters in "Dead Space". Did the video game company give you any guidelines, or were you free to do what you want?

Joey: Yeah. I worked at Electronic Arts up in the Bay Area for about 3 years. After I had finished working on "The Simpsons Game" I moved onto "Dead Space". It was very early in pre-production and the artwork that had been created already blew me away. They had contracted Ryan Church to do some work and I love his stuff. It was a new direction for EA. I was a big "Resident Evil" fan and they were going that route so I was pumped. Anytime you work on a project like that, it's going to be a team effort. I had a great team and everyone had feedback into everything. I worked directly with the Art Director Ian Milham and Executive Producer Glen Schofield to develop the looks of the characters. We would have meetings where the character department would get together and analyze everything and make changes accordingly. It's a really fun process and something I miss. I don't get any of that sitting alone in my apartment working on my own things. So there's a huge tradeoff with the freedom that comes with being a freelance illustrator. I really miss working with a team on something everyone is passionate about.

Me: Let's talk about "The Simpson's Game", Joey. This I have heard of. Were you a fan of "The Simpsons" growing up?

Joey: That was the first big game project I worked on. It was an excellent experience. I was a HUGE "Simpsons" fan growing up. Like I said earlier, I liked to draw characters from "The Simpsons" as a kid, and so getting to do that for a job (and much better quality at 25 years old than 10 years old) was incredibly fulfilling.

Me: What did you think when you were first offered this job?

Joey: It probably went something like this, "So, let me get this straight. You want to pay me to draw the Simpsons?" followed by a lot of yes's and where do I sign's. I also had never worked at a big corporate studio before and I loved it. EA was an awesome place to work. It's like it's own tiny city in the middle of a Silicon Valley corporate park. They have an arcade, a big soccer field, a full gym and basketball court, and it's very own Starbucks in the lobby.

Me: I am guessing they also had strict guidelines. Am I right?

Joey: Yes. We worked closely with Gracie, the production company in charge of "The Simpsons" television show. So we had some definite guidelines we had to adhere to, most of which was in the name of authenticity.

Me: Joey, what is your favorite thing to draw?

Joey: Right now I'm having a great time doing various albums based on popular culture things. Each one is like an entirely new project but set in the same style so I get the hard part out of the way. The fun is creating all of it and not just the drawing. I love finding clever inside jokes to hide throughout the work.

Me: You're also working on a chidren's book right now, right?

Joey: Sort of. I started a book project to try it out and see how it went. I have since gotten a literary agent who has been very helpful in helping guide me. So I'm still navigating the murky water that is the childrens books industry. The first book I wrote we decided wasn't quite ready for primetime so I've been developing a few other ideas and going back and forth. It's a long process for sure.

Me: Do you have children of your own? I don't.

Joey: I am getting married in June, so hopefully in a few years I can answer this question differently. I do have 3 nephews and one shiny new niece. They are all awesome!

Me: Are you just drawing the children's book, or writing it as well?

Joey: Like I said, I'm doing both, but it's not quite figured out yet. It's much easier for me to separate myself from the writing and want to go headfirst into the artwork, but as a writer you really have to nail down your manuscript before you can think of putting pencil to paper with artwork. So I'm in the in-between phase on a few different books.

Me: What is it called, can you say, and what will the artwork look like?

Joey: I can't quite yet discuss them but one is in a style that I kinda took inspiration from Eyvind Earle, he developed the look of Disney's Sleeping Beauty. The other book I'm working on is in the style of my albums with a nod to Mary Blair. As you can see, I love Disney artists. Maybe someday if I ever get good enough I'll attempt Glen Keane's style, but that guy is really untouchable to me. His work is the epitome of inspiration.

Me: So, the Phile has a book club. When it comes out I will have you back and feature it if you want. Whatcha think?

Joey: Yes please! Hopefully sooner than later!

Me: Joey, I am guessing you use a lot of tools. What do you use?

Joey: Well, I work digitally now. I went to college at Art Center in Pasadena where I learned Photoshop. I've never looked back. I currently have a 24" iMac with a 13 year old Wacom tablet. I'm about to invest in a 24HD Cintiq and a Mac Mini for my next working set-up. I do love working hands on with materials though so when I do the gallery work, I really enjoy putting the framed albums together. I'm working on one now that is one of the coolest gallery show's I've ever been involved in yet. I can't wait until it's out in the world.

Me: So, if you were gonna create a logo for the Phile, what would it look like?

Joey: It probably wouldn't look as great as a flying filing cabinet. That is excellent!

Me: Joey, thanks so much for being on the Phile. I wanna write lyrics to your songs on the albums. Go ahead and plug all your websites and I wish you lots of luck and continued success.

Joey: Thank you for having me! I always appreciate hearing from anyone who is kind enough to contact me to talk about my work, so I thank you for your interest in what I do! If you'd like to see what I'm up to, I regularly update my blog which can be found at: I'm also currently working on a personal project "A to Zombie: An ABC's guide to the Zombie Apocalypse". You can check it out at: Follow me on twitter! @joeyspiotto and you of course can always find all of these links via my website

Me: Please come back on the Phile soon, Joey. And keep up the amazing work. And good luck at your wedding.

Joey: Thank you, Thank you, a thousand times, Thank you.

Well, that about does it for another entry. Thanks to Jeff as always and to Joey for a great interview. Joey is one of my favorite artist's I ever had on the Phile. Okay, the Phile will be back tomorrow with Alumni Robert A. Medeiros, lead singer for the band The Clarences. Then on Wednesday it's musician Jimbo Mathus. Next Saturday, not Sunday it's teenage singer Bree Rose and on Monday Alumni Marc Savoie from Infinite-Lane Highway. And coming up real soon, the 500th entry with rock and roll icon Dion! Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. May the phorce be with you.

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