Interview: Stefan Horn (Jack Slater, Excrementory Grindfuckers), part 1

13 months ago I interview Jack Slater’s bassist Chris. Jack Slater have since then disbanded, and former members have started various other projects. Stefan Horn, Slater’s former singer, is probably the busiest of the bunch, so I asked him for an interview.

We talked about different topics and the interview turned out to be pretty long, so I decided to split it into two parts. You can read the first one by clicking the ‘Continue reading’-button below, and the second part will follow tomorrow.

Today’s part mostly deals with Horn’s flash cartoon project Tooncraft, and tomorrow you can read a bit more about his work in music, with Jack Slater and the Excrementory Grindfuckers, and more.

Dose of Metal: Hey Horn, how are you doing?

Stefan Horn: It’s holiday season, Christmas has passed, new years eve is up in a few days and I am just relaxing and catching up on some TV shows I’ve missed in December. I would say everything is fine, I guess!

DoM: 2011 has been an eventful year for you. Jack Slater disbanded, you joined the Excrementory Grindfuckers and you resurrected your flash cartoon occupation with Tooncraft. Looking back at 2011, was it a good or a bad year?

Horn: I don’t really categorize years in good or bad. Good and bad things happen every year. Even so called bad years in my life normally had a positive effect for the future, I try to take life as it presents itself and make the best out of it. But yeah, if I had to categorize 2011, I would say it was quite good overall. I had some amazing experiences I will never forget and made up my mind in which direction my life should go in the next years.

DoM: Let‘s talk a bit about your flash cartoons first. How and when did you first get into flash design?

Horn: First of all, I am not a designer. I have no design education at all and I don’t want to be  disrespectful to true designers and their skills. I’m just a regular self-taught guy who creates small videos and people happen to like them.

I started using flash in 2000 because I wanted to do some flashstuff for our Jack Slater website to spice it up a bit. To make the learning process a little bit more entertaining for myself I created a small flash cartoon animation called “Mr. Eyeballz – The Gym”, my first ever flash piece that started it all. I released the small video on our Jack Slater website, people liked it, I had fun creating this stuff and made more. A few months later I created my own site for the cartoon stuff and it went uphill quite fast from there.

El Tonno - Bro'coli (German)

DoM: Ballz, your former website, was very popular in German speaking countries. The mainstream took notice of you when you started making cartoons for the TV show ‘elton.tv,’ a shortlived show featuring Elton, a protege of Stefan Raab. How did you get the deal for ‘elton.tv’?

Horn: Total coincidence and luck. They featured my website as “homepage of the week” in the TV show, but they never told me beforehand, friends had to call and tell me my website was just featured in German television, wow! The appearance drove a lot of visitors to my site and produced costs for the immense traffic.

The next day I wrote an email to the elton.tv production and said “hey guys, thanks for the feature and all, but it would have been nice if you people contacted me first so I could have prepared for the traffic and stuff! I sit on a bill from my webspace provider now, how do we handle that!?” and I added a little sentence “And by the way, if you guys ever need some flash cartoon stuff for your show, I can make you a weekly little sequence or something if you like, call me! ;)”

I was sure never to hear back from them again, but what the hell, I had to at least try to get some money back for the traffic costs, right, hehe… surprisingly they sent me an answer: “Hey, we like your stuff, can you come to our office tomorrow?” I did, we discussed a few options and agreed to do a weekly flash cartoon segment for the upcoming seasons! Awesome, my shitty cartoon stuff in German television, haha!

DoM: Ballz had to shut down after you‘ve gotten into trouble with the GEMA. As I understood it, you had to pay a big fine for using a song by Annett Louisan without her permission in your Mähtrix cartoon. I remember you continued for a while after that, trying to get bands, not affiliated with the GEMA, to send you songs for the use in your cartoons. What exactly made you decide to close ballz for good?

Horn: I’m just gonna say this: I closed my site 2005. With up to one million unique visitors per month my website was quite large at the time, before sites like YouTube and Facebook and the modern socialmedia stuff even existed. With the success came a lot of attention and I had to be more and more careful about everything I do, because for every little misstep people would try to gain financial advantage. German copyright laws for the internet weren’t up to date, hell, we have 2012 soon and still GEMA and YouTube haven’t come up with a solution how to handle the situation. I didn’t have the financial background to battle and pioneer for some sort of creative and free internet. I turned around and walked away.

Mementoon (German)

DoM: A couple of years later, you‘ve started Tooncraft. You‘ve now released quite a few cartoons on Youtube and you‘re slowly but surely building a new fanbase, consisting of old ballz followers and new fans. Are you satisfied with how things are going so far, and what do you want to accomplish with Tooncraft?

Horn: In fact I’m still just getting started right now. A few months ago I started to release small toons to get back into the creative process again, I hadn’t touched flash for 6 years. This December I did an X-mas special, one cartoon a day, as sort of a test phase to see if I want to get back in the scene again and if there still is an interest today. The internet changed quite a bit over the last few years, there is an abundance of entertainment on the net today, who knew if people still would like to see my stuff? But everything is cool, I am satisfied with the result and sort of overwhelmed by the love I get from new and old fans.

My goal is to again be able to be self-employed and live of the things I love. I like to entertain people, make them smile and give them a good time. My music “career” is quite okay and successful, but that’s just a very important and time consuming hobby of mine, nothing to pay the bills with. But I don’t want the weekends with my band to be an escape from my boring day job. I need to do stuff I like, everything else is just a waste of time. It will take some hard work and time, years maybe, before Tooncraft can provide this, but I am willing to put in the effort and believe I can pull it off.

DoM: Beside using completely new ideas, you‘re also using old characters from the ballz days. What made you decide to want to establish a new name, Tooncraft, instead of using the already known ballz moniker?

Horn: I needed a clean start and sleeve. I want Tooncraft to be his own thing and not just ballz 2.0. I am 33 years old now, I am the same guy, but I have also changed over the years, like everyone else did, too. Of course I use old characters and stuff I still like, but I drop the stuff I don’t want anymore. Besides, I don’t own the old URL anymore, so that was never really an option.

DoM: Your cartoons are mainly targeted at German speaking audiences. If you had to pick one cartoon to show it to a non-German speaking audience, which one would you pick?

Horn: I can’t really answer that. Language is the most important aspect of my humor, I’m not an awesome artist or animator, the fun comes mainly with the words I use and how I use them. Plus I try to incorporate different ideas and styles in my work. Every cartoon is different, some more silly, some more stupid, some more serious. Everyone has to decide for himself, what kind of stuff he likes. But…

DoM: Do you plan to release an English language cartoon in the future?

Horn: I will experiment with English in the future. I’m German, my English is okay, but I’m far from a native speaker. If I manage to transport my humor into a foreign language, I would like to start doing two versions of at least the bigger toons, with a German and an English dub. Maybe we will see how that turns out!

Ich bin Lama! (I am llama!)

DoM: Are you llama?

Horn: Yep, with all my heart.

DoM: Where the fuck is the 14?

Horn: Mementoon will show you the answer.

Check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Stefan Horn.

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