Gustafer Yellowgold is playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts this weekend. Well, technically Gustafer isn’t – he’s a cartoon alien from the sun, after all – rather his creator Morgan Taylor will be performing. I bought a DVD/CD of Gustafer ages ago when my boys were younger and really into the kiddie rock music scene, back when Nickelodeon still played music videos by the likes of Laurie Berkner and Dan Zanes. It was a great time in kid music, when songs appealed not only to children but their parents too. I suppose that music scene still thrives even if they don’t show any videos on TV anymore. (Who watches TV anyway?) My children are bigger and we do enjoy listening to indie rock music together.
I spoke to Morgan over the phone recently to find out more about his Costa Mesa show and what he’d been doing since the mid-aughts when he created Gustafer. We continued the conversation via email too.
MARCIE: What inspired you to create Gustafer Yellowgold?
MORGAN: “I was between bands in New York City and wanted to begin a new project that incorporated more of my talents and passions. I’ve always enjoyed cartooning, but was mostly focusing on music and songwriting for a long time.”
It’s one thing to get inspired to create a character and quite another to keep it going for years. I am curious and so I ask Morgan.
MARCIE: What inspires you day-to-day to create Gustafer cartoons and songs?
MORGAN: “Whenever an idea strikes me I will write it on my marker board on my office wall. Sometimes it will come in the form of a song title, like “Panther Stamps Pants” I has sitting as just a title for months until one day it hit me that it should be a song from the point of view of the Pterodactyl, then the images started appearing in my head. The pants would be very fragile, right?
So I worked from the idea that he just lost his favorite pants, and what emotions would arise.
MARCIE: You mentioned during our interview, how you loved Kiss as a kid. Now that you have your own kid, do you encourage pretend play? Come to think of it, do YOU still find yourself pretend playing too?
MORGAN: “My boys don’t need encouragement to pretend play at all! They are boiling with creativity themselves. Ironically we don’t watch much TV at all in our house, so pretty much all of their playtime is either creative or outdoors! I’m, lucky that my job I’ve created for myself is mostly pretend play! What if Gustafer did this..? What of Slim licks his eye..? and so on..But all within the framework of carefully crafted pop music.”
When we spoke we talked about how these days you can easily get your work out there via the web instead of going through traditional channels.
MARCIE: What social media channels are you most active in as Gustafer Yellowgold?
MORGAN: “YouTube has become ubiquitous in our society, so that channel is fantastic for someone like me. Any creative people who want to get their stuff out can just do it. It’s amazing. The goal is to make the content compelling enough to make the public want to share and talk about it. I’m on Facebook too of course, but sometimes I reach burnout point where I can’t handle any more details about other people’s lives. My own details are difficult enough to keep straight!”
MARCIE: Do you find that some videos/songs do better than others in terms of LIKES and engagement on Facebook and YouTube, for example?
MORGAN: “Cakenstein was a turning point for me. Something about it strikes chord with people in a different way than what has preceeded it. A conflict/resolution scenario is not always a part of my videos. Many of them are just vignettes. So Cakenstein stands out in that way. It feels more satisfying perhaps. I’m really paying attention to try and meet more of those types of criteria going forward. And of course I always try to make the songs as catchy as possible. Hooks. hooks, hooks! And sinister flying cupcakes!”
MARCIE: Do you have any advice for young musicians/artists?
MORGAN: “My big lesson to learn was how to use my limitations as pathways to playing up my strengths. Growing up, I wanted to be a Marvel comics comic book artist. I really studied
and practiced drawing realistic body anatomy, but at a certain point it became clear to me that i was better at more cartoony looking figures. SO I played to that strength.
Same with guitar. I wanted to be a flashy player like Edward Van Halen, but years of practice had me no where near him. But I WAS good at complex chord figures, and bass guitar,
so i worked hard to practice those things. And now my guitar vocabulary is large enough to where it actually is an important part of my writing. As I’m coming up with songs I’ll try weird chords under the melodies in my head and “accidentally” find something good that way. Basically it’s all about finding YOUR voice. YOUR sound. But it’s a blast working your way there too.
MARCIE: Lastly, what can we look forward to at your performances at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa?
MORGAN: “Sunshine. Fun. A celebration of creativity.”
You can purchase tickets to Gustafer Yellowgold at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts here. For more information, visit scfta.org and gustaferyellowgold.com
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