Interview w/ Animator Rémy M. Larochelle

Where lowbrow art meets high concept you're sure to find a quirky artist named Rémy M. Larochelle feverishly toiling away at his "gigantic" one computer-one person studio in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Larouchelle is certainly no stranger to the world of edgy artwork, counting amongst his many influences the likes of Sam Kieth's The Maxx, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, John Kricfalusi and Dave Cooper (to name a few).

Having first seen his work thanks to a chance encounter with the Behance Network, which featured a proposed Doritios EXTRAVAGANZA! short, my mind immediately flashed back to those late nights watch MTV's Liquid Television and I just knew I had to know more. Luckily, Larouchelle was willing to talk without the use of jumper cables and a delicately placed cutip and offered the following glimpse into both his creative process and many influences.
Thanks for joining us Rémy! Did you know from an early age that you wanted to be an animator?

As a kid I actually wanted to be a scientist to discover new species in the deep jungle. My uncle was an animator at the NFB and he introduced me to flip booking. I guess it all started there. Really early in my life I was giving life to my doodles!

Were you inspired by any specific cartoons growing up?

Yes, Le Roi et l'Oiseau (Paul Grimault), Fantasia, Les Maîtres du temps (René Laloux & Moebius) and of course the Saturday morning cartoons like Astro, The Smurfs and many more.

Growing up I was more into comic books. The Maxx was a revelation to me, I mean the mix medium the composition of the drawings, I was fascinated.

Did you study animation in school?

HA HA HA, No! I was struggling between being a painter or a filmmaker. So, I did my Fine Arts at Concordia University in studio art, where I studied painting for two years before I transfered into film production at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. I still love both mediums. I feel like 2D animation is a combination of my two passions, I never intend of doing it, it just came to me naturally.

Your 2003 feature length stop-motion film, Mécanix, has been described a mix of Jan Svankmajer's Alice and David Lynch's Eraserhead. Where did the idea for that story come from?

It came from dreams I had experienced. I wanted to do an experimental horror film like the German Expressionists. Mécanix is a visual driven film, the story line is really simple. I've tried a lot of old school techniques with Mécanix; stop-motion, pixilation and optical printing. Mécanix was shot and edited on 16mm.

Mécanix is a strange film even for me!

How long did it take to create?

Mécanix took 4 years of my life.

Mécanix was considered an Official Selection at both the Lauzanne Underground Film Festival and the Fantasia Film Festival. Did this recognition bring you many new opportunities?

I wish it did, but Mécanix is an experimental piece and it's really hard to watch. Mécanix is not for everyone. It's like Begotten (E. Elias Merhige) or Tetsuo (Shinya Tsukamoto), these films obey no narrative rules.

So after a couple of festivals I got a distribution deal but nothing more. Even getting Mécanix into festivals was really hard.

After that I concentrated myself into screenwriting my next feature. I thought with Mécanix under my belt I should be able to find a producer or an agent! But nothing is that easy in life. What was I suppose to do with a head full of ideas an no money to put it on film? Give up or keep trying?

In 2006 three years after the completion of Mécanix, 2D animation appears in my life as a solution to continue my filmmaking evolution. Suddenly people were interested in my work, and I started to do music videos and advertising.

Over the past couple of years you've also done quite a few music videos. Do you have a favorite band or genre of music you listen to while you work?

I love music videos and I love making them! These days, music videos are getting better and better.

I love listening to music when I work. Here are some bands I listen to while I'm animating: We Are Wolves, the Black Lips, Death From Above 1979, The Did, The Dead Weather, Beast and Air.

Your style definitely has an offbeat edge about it, much like John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy) and Ralph Bakshi. Have you been influenced by any artists/animators in particular?

My 2D animation was influenced by the lowbrow art movement and my skills come from the graffiti. I did a lot of spray paint murals when I was younger. As the graffiti movement became part of the lowbrow, I was just drawn into it. From there I started following the work of Camille Rose Garcia, Jeff Soto, Gary Basement and Alex Pardee.

John K and Ralph Bakshi are artists that I admire and I get compared to them a lot. But my biggest influence in cartoon is Dave Cooper. I just love the way he draws.

Do you have a set process you follow or do you prefer to work more organically? What tools do you use to animate?

I love animating straight ahead. I work with Toon Boom Animate Pro on a Cintiq 21ux mounted over a draftsman desk.

Are there any shortcomings or technological advancements you'd like to see that would make animating easier?

It's already crazy! I draw on a screen! With the touch screen technologies everything is changing.

How do you approach character design?

Good question. Well, it depends of the project... I always start with an overall style. Then I create the characters and the world base on that look.

What's the animation scene like in Montreal? Is there anyone in particular whose work has caught your attention?

Montreal is a great city for artist of all kind. It's cheap and it's a good mix between the North American and the Western European life style. The art scene in general is really good. Even though I'm still dreaming of living in New York or L.A.

Is there anyone from Montreal that I should be mentioning, well yes. There is
two lowbrow painters that I love: Jonathan Bergeron and Astro. Also, there are two artists who work with me sometimes; Dulciane Désautel and Keven Synnott.

What projects are you currently working on?

I'm working on a new animated music video at the moment and I'm preparing my next painting show for October.

Before you go, what's the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?

Freezing living fishes to see if they can come back to life when they unfreeze. The answer is no, but you have to try many times to be really sure.


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