A Closer Look at Video Artist/Media Critic/Comic Book Writer Death By Media Man
For some reason I haven’t talked much about my band, Spacelord, here on my own website. I honestly have no idea why, and I’ll be changing that as we get closer to the release of our third album. But for now, the focus isn’t on me, but on the video artist and all-around raconteur Hank Pattison, who under the nom de bombe Death By Media Man, created the video for our song, “Enemy Lines.” I interviewed the man!
How did Death By Media Man get started?
I was feeling good about having self-published my second novel, DOCTOR DESTROYO, when an artist friend of mine remarked that he’d be more likely to listen to my novel if it were an audio-book he could put on while drawing.
That’s where the idea of doing a podcast & video channel for storytelling really took root. I liked the idea of the internet being a bit like a modern take on sitting around a campfire, telling stories.
But going back to high school, I had a lot of love for the Christian Slater classic, PUMP UP THE VOLUME. The idea of the pirate radio DJ, spouting nonsense and weirdness, it’s always held a lot of appeal to me, and that’s somewhere at the core of what DBMM is.
You’re truly a multimedia artist, given that your writing for comics, short stories, video production, and media criticism all feel very tied together. How do those elements intersect for you? How does, say, a piece analyzing The Boys and your own comics writing feed into each other?
I like to hope that performing media-analysis makes me a better media-creator. I suspect I could have a more successful youtube channel if I just focused on the media-analysis-videos aspect, talking about movies & TV shows & comics, and I really enjoy media analysis as both an audience and a participant, but what I love most, is getting to tell my own stories.
I always loved the idea of being an avant-garde “experimental video artist”, and the funny thing about being an artist is, you just have to do it, and then you kinda are one.
Two of my literary heroes, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison had a habit of trying to work what we sometimes refer to as the “kitchen-sink” genre of writing. As in, this is a horror, but it’s also a comedy, and a drama, and a philosophical study. And a poem. And a play. And a joke. It’s everything, and the kitchen sink.
By that theory, shouldn’t set out to write a “western” or a “comedy”, you should set out to write stories about people, about what it feels like to be alive, and being alive is feeling all things. Sorrow, anger, happiness, confusion…
So hopefully, the more I experiment with different forms of media – videos, text, audio – the more thought will go into how I craft those expressions. Editing audio impacts how I think about sound. Editing video impacts how I think about time and structure.
Your video production style is very distinct, with some elements of collage, surrealism, culture jamming, and found footage. What, or who, are some of your influences in terms of creating videos?
That is an excellent question, because I am for sure not somebody with any formal training or education, and I’d honestly never really thought about that before!
I am the MTV generation, yo. Directors like, Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino, Greg Araki.
And then there’s Grant Morrison, one of the biggest influences on my style, and lifestyle, who was himself heavily influenced by the beats, the surrealists, William S Burroughs doing his cup-up technique, not unlike the Beastie Boys remixing funk songs to make hip hop tracks. Remixing, resampling.
Past that, youtube. Especially Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media!
There seems to be a hidden world sitting just beneath our reality in much of your work. And it’s a creepy, ominous hidden world. Is there a unifying narrative or theme to this weird unreality that you depict?
I suspect that has a lot to do with how I see the world. There is what we see, and there’s what we don’t see. The miles of shit-filled pipes running beneath every amusement park.
I love feeling creepy, writing creepy stuff, creating creepy mindsets. But creepy, out in the open, in the light of day, tends to be just kinda gross, or silly. And that’s fine, when you want it. But sometimes what makes a thing creepy, is not being able to see it fully. Just getting a sense of a thing. A suggestion, that allows your mind to fill in the blanks.
This also gets the audience to do the heavy-lifting for me, while I get to focus on the fun stuff, like glitching out the art or making subtle references to comics and TV shows I like.
What are the underlying themes you explore in your different types of work? I can see some clear ones emerging, but without telling you what I think, I’m curious if your intent as the artist matches my perception as a viewer.
In the styles of Grant Morrison and Alan Moore, I think making art is a form of magic. Not to say that I think writing Game of Thrones turns George Martin into Jon Snow, but I do think writing can open doors where there might not have been a door before – doors in people’s miiiiinds. (woah!)
I am a far-left dope-smoking surrealist, and I want to see more of that in the world. I think it’s good for society to have some weirdoes thinking about weird new shit, sometimes without purpose, just doing a thing to do it. “We learn something every time we try something new,” as they say in the Invisibles.
French Situationists had the dérive; a walk without a destination, trying to take old streets from uncommon angles and see the areas differently than you would ordinarily, thereby making a safe and familiar city seem like a strange and unsettling and exciting new place to explore.
I think some art needs to be made in a similar way, just made. Or rather, you make it, and sometimes it turns out society will find a purpose for it. It’ll turn out to be just what somebody needed to jog them loose from a groove, to make them laugh or cry or feel something that’s almost impossible to put into words.
And at the same time, I do think art should be political. If you’re writing a story about a “hero” then how is that hero defined by their “villains”, and who do you think the real villains in life actually are? Should it be Batman hunting down the Joker, or Dexter killing serial killers, or Detective Freamon in the Wire going after crooked politicians who steal funding from community programs?
As an artist, all of your work, your cosmology of authorship, all illustrates your worldview. Your level of compassion, of empathy, your fears and desires. What you think is right, and wrong. What you regard as reward, and punishment.
I love abstract ontological philosophy, and I love meat and potatoes, old fashioned pulp-noir cyberpunk stories. And on a real good day, you get to have a little both, sometimes so subtly, that you don’t even know they’re there.
What’s in the near future for Death By Media Man?
Some real cool stuff! We’ve got a short-story coming out in a Black Metal Horror anthology, and we’re regularly developing the comics for ANONYMOUS CUBED and TECHNOCRAPPERS, with plans to do more comic work in the future!
So, more comic books! More audio-stories! More abstract creepy videos! More comedy and feeling good!
It’s gonna be real exciting stuff to get to share!