Meet Morgan Taylor, the creator of our favorite Gustafer Yellowgold! Morgan answered all of our burning questions- everything from where Gustafer came from, to why he writes about food, to what his superpower would be! Check it out below, and keep an eye out for brand new Gustafer Yellowgold videos rolling out all this week HERE on batteryPOP!
batteryPOP: How did you come up with the character of Gustafer Yellowgold? Is it based on something in real life?
Morgan Taylor: The visual character of Gustafer existed from back in the mid-90’s when I was a record store clerk. I used to doodle him on the new-release board. He sort of hovered within my imaginative subconscious for years, only coming out onto the occasional bar napkin. In late 2003, I began a picture/CD book project using some of my more whimsical songs I was not using with my rock band at the time. Once I saw him on paper, as the first person of these song lyrics, the universe kind of just unfolded before my eyes. I had all the pieces in different corners of my brain and they all came together for this book, with no pretense of demographic or intention, beyond an innocent expression of music and fun. It’s ironic, because I tried for so many years to get various bands off the ground, but i wasn’t until I loosened my grip on all that type of concern that my career actually began. I started thinking about things more in the terms of Jim Henson and Dr. Seuss rather than Radiohead, Coldplay and the Strokes. I strongly believe that an honest expression of true art is a social obligation. What I ended up finding that year was my true voice. And that’s when people really started reacting to what I was doing.
batteryPOP: You work a lot with your son on this project. Has being a father changed how you create and perform?
Morgan: My eldest boy, Harvey, has a really keen sense of observation and he’s always been right by me, watching me draw, playing in the background while I sit around working out new songs. When I make a new DVD, it’s like there are TWO being made at once. The one I will release myself and then the Harvey version that he’s also drawing. He’s begun working out his own characters and songs now too. It’s so much fun to see. You can see his work on this new DVD/CD. He drew and/or designed the title cards that appear before and after every song! I wouldn’t say it has changed the way I create, but I have had to learn how to organize my time better, since I work from home mostly while doing the creative parts. I want to be a very present father, but still get everything accomplished that is needed.
batteryPOP: Your DVD came out on Sept. 4th - what can you tell us about it? Is there anything else in the works that you can tell us about?
Morgan: This new one is all food-oriented. I think one time a reviewer once complained that I “wasted a lot of food” in my videos, which I thought was a really interesting way to look at it, seeing as it is all animated colored pencil drawings. I may have taken that as a challenge to see just how far I can take the concept of food misuse. I’m strongly opposed to real life food waste, but for Gustafer’s weird world, a pair of goggles made out of onions that let you constantly cry seems like fair territory for a song idea!
batteryPOP: You have reached so many people through your music. What do you think makes Gustafer so special that it resonates with people of all ages?
Morgan: I think it’s because I’m really targeting the overlap between the child’s imagination and the parents’ inner-child. It feels familiar and comfortable to the parents and the mellow, cartoon fantasy parts really absorbs the children. (Please see pie chart).
batteryPOP: What is the process of animating your music videos? Does it take you a long time? Have you always been an artist?
Morgan: I hand draw all of the art for the animation, and I have animators who do the actual work for that part. It takes about 2-3 weeks to finish a song’s worth of illustrations and prepare them for animation. Longer than it takes to record and mix, for sure. I’ve always been drawing cartoon characters and superheroes since around age 4 or 5. Always a big Marvel Comics fan, Snoopy & Peanuts, Garfield, Popeye and Simpsons characters were always some of my favorites to draw.
batteryPOP: What do you like best about performing live shows using your animations? Is it cool to see those drawings brought to life in such a big way?
Morgan: I enjoy the reactions to the mixture of what’s going out. These crazy, illustrated, humorous animations combined with Major 7th chords and 70’s soft rock type of melodies. And seeing the parents and children connecting over it all. When I see them look each other in the eyes after a moment they both enjoyed, it’s REALLY the Golden Zone moment.
batteryPOP: Gustafer Yellowgold's new music is all related to food- what is your favorite food, and what is your least favorite?
Morgan: I have to say, I think perhaps I’m working out some of my own food issues through these songs. Food is such powerful and complex thing. We need it to survive, but it also can make us extremely ill and even kill us. We use it for reward and and restrict it for punishment. It’s the source of so much joy and anxiety in our culture that it permeates our media to the extent that we have an entire television channel and hundreds of magazines and blogs dedicated to it. There’s really no end to what you can take from the topic. It blows my mind when I hear a song that is just about eating it! I have some food allergies and dietary restrictions, and I’ve struggled with weight yo yoing my whole life. I think that’s why Gustafer only SMASHES desserts, only THROWS pancakes, only PUNCHES cheese.
batteryPOP: How does your writing/creating process unfold? Do you usually draw it out first and then write the song to go with it? Or the other way around?
Morgan: I tend to start a few different ways. Many times I’ll start with an intriguing song title. If it sparks the imagination, I just see where it leads. I had the title “Panther Stamps Pants” on my marker board for two years before I figured out what it meant. (It became a popular song from the 3rd Gustafer DVD/CD “Mellow Fever” about a very fragile pair of bell bottoms). When I’m writing the lyrics I can sometimes visualize what might happen on the paper at the same time.
batteryPOP: How is performing live different from recording something in the studio? Which do you like better?
Morgan: Well, performing to an audience I finally get to see what works and what doesn't as far as live material goes. I find that the funnier songs seem to work better in a live setting. I really judge the success of a live performance based on how big the laughs are, and how the crowd is connecting on a humor level. I guess in a lot of ways it’s like standup comedy. I don’t know if I have the audience or not unless they are laughing, and I feel they get my type of humor and jokes. And yeah, sometimes it falls flat!
batteryPOP: Where does Gustafer come from? What does he miss most about his home?
Morgan: The premise of the world of Gustafer Yellowgold is that he is a friendly, young alien who came from the Sun and landed in the woods of Minnesota. He lives with a pet eel and his best friend is a fashion-obsessed pterodactyl who lives down the road. He misses his family and his old dog, Ray. But he wanted to leave the Sun to feel the cool weather and greenery of Earth.
batteryPOP: How did Gustafer end up in Minnesota? Is there anywhere else on Earth he would like to visit?
Morgan: He dialed in the navigation controls of his Sunpod vehicle to “cooler” and “greener”.
batteryPOP: What is Gustafer's favorite thing about Earth?
Morgan: Pinecone sandwiches.
batteryPOP: If you had one superpower, what would it be? What would be your superhero name?
Morgan: The ability to make Cinnamon buns have no negative effect on the human body. I’d be called Cinnabunzer.
A special thanks to Morgan for answering all of our questions, and don't forget to check out Gustafer Yellowgold videos HERE on batteryPOP!