A Sit Down With the Man Behind “What the Hec?”
A definitive answer.
Maybe you’ve heard of this thing called Instagram, maybe you’ve been bunking in a spider hole for the last few years getting your Brendan Fraser on. We don’t know and we’re not here to judge. However, if you do happen to own a smart phone and have felt the urge to keep up with the times and have made the infinitely wise decision to follow Mass Appeal, then you likely know about “What the Hec?” Over the past five months, we’ve posted a humorous animated short every weekday from Brooklyn-based artist Hectah. “What the Hec?” wrapped up its first season last week (now on YouTube above), and for those wondering about the future of the series, or what the hell goes on inside of Mr. Hec’s brain, we bring an intimate sit down with the man behind the madness.
Mass Appeal: So how are you doing Hec?
Hectah: I’m fine. Thank you for asking. Not too many people ask that.
MA: What is “What the Hec?”? How would you describe it?
Hectah: A chunky brain fart. It’s like a dingleberry.
MA: But what is it literally?
Hectah: You have brainstorms, then you have brain farts, and then you have dingleberries. It’s a cartoon; an animation for 15 seconds.
MA: How’d you come up with the idea?
Hectah: Like that exactly. It’s kind of like when you work in advertising there’s always brainstorm meetings and I’m the one who comes from… I wouldn’t even call it left field, maybe…
MA: The left parking lot.
Hectah: Yeah, the left parking lot or something like that. The tailgate. So, I decided to take my act on the road; from the conference room to actually animating it and seeing what other people thought about my shitty ideas.
MA: But it’s specific to you and your ideas. What is it about you as the animator that makes “What the Hec?”?
Hectah: I like having fun, man. I like looking at things in a different way. I like to break things down and put them together how I want. Or, I see things very literal and take it from that.
Hectah: It’s funny, ‘cause in the beginning people in the office and some people that I knew loved it, but a lot of viewers, they didn’t really know how to receive it, they were like, “What the heck?” But not in a good way.
MA: It can be confusing.
Hectah: It’s confusing. It’s like, “What did I just watch?” So I got a few harsh comments in the beginning. A few people, I wouldn’t call them haters; sometimes you don’t see eye to eye with somebody, it doesn’t mean they’re a hater. They could be an asshole, but it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily hating.
MA: What do you think changed over time so that people who didn’t get it at first eventually got it and eventually publications started to pick up on it?
Hectah: I think, like anything, if you just continue doing it, people will get it. It just takes certain people to acknowledge it. Basically it’s a lot of bandwagon. People don’t think, people follow. It just takes a few of the thinkers to actually say “Oh, this shit is dope.”
MA: From the outlets that interviewed you, what was their perception of “What the Hec?”? From what you could gather.
Hectah: I guess at first they didn’t really understand it. They were like, “So it’s a series or whatever on Instagram? How is that possible? How can you get people daily to commit at a certain time to Instagram? That’s not a television.” But at the same time, I’m sure people had these conversations when television dropped. People that were used to radio at 8 o’clock to listen to “Superman,” when TV dropped, were like, “You’re gonna stare at a TV the same time every day? It’s not a radio.” I think phones are obviously the new medium to get entertainment. Phones and iPads and tablets. It’s interesting because it’s kind of experimental and seeing what people like and people’s commitment to it.
MA: They’re 15 seconds long and because they’re drawn, that’s got to take a decent amount of time. Can you tell me what your process is like?
Hectah: I wake up every day, 5 in the morning and I begin to edit the sound. I give myself a time limit. Usually I’d say at max I can only spend half an hour chopping up the sound. And then after that I say, “By this time, I need to have this drawn out so I can begin animating it.” So then I can animate it and actually go to work, to my 9 to 5 like the rest of the world. Some people might think that there’s a team of people or this is what I do from 9 to 6 everyday or whatever. I wish.
MA: It’s all you.
Hectah: But I kind of wanted it like that, though. I could’ve gotten help, but I wanted a challenge and when I started, it was like that, so then when it started picking up, I didn’t want to switch the formula.
MA: How did that challenge evolve? Did it get easier or harder for you the further into it you got?
Hectah: It kind of stayed the same because I kept learning more and I kept getting more ambitious. If you see the early ones, they didn’t have backgrounds. The early ones were actually just straight punchlines. The very first one was Rick Ross being homophobic. Theres a long silence and he goes “Pause.” And that was it. It was super dry humor. And then as it evolved, I added more layers.
MA: Was something ever particularly difficult for you? You said you give yourself a time limit, but what happens when things get out of hand?
Hectah: Things always get out of hand and that’s when I have to say I’m running late or something. A few times I started and about an hour and half into it and the idea wasn’t working, so I started on another idea. And there’s a few times where the computer kept on crashing because that’s what computers like to do. Ay! If the “What the Hec?”s had a candle in it, that candle thing made it crash. There’s like two or three that have candles in them then I stopped doing candles.
MA: As you’re trying to get this done from 5 in the morning to before 1, you’re feeling the pressure to get it done, is it frustrating at all?
Hectah: No, no, no. It’s fun. I’m laughing as I’m drawing it. As you do it, its the process. Sometimes it’s hard. Like the “Growing Pains” one, the dad, which is…
MA: Alan Thicke
Hectah: His face is so… I don’t know. Drawing it was hard. He just looked like an average white male and I could not nail the way he is. I drew a whole bunch of him and I couldn’t get it. And then once you do it, you go through that frustration, then when you do it, you find it… I don’t know. Like I’m laughing as I’m doing it.
MA: So you wake up at 5 in the morning, do these illustrations, come to the office, put in a full day’s work…
Hectah: I work on all kind of stuff from sneakers to music videos to soft drinks commercials. I’ll go home and still work on other stuff. I did the Christmas sweater for Okayplayer that Jimmy Fallon wore on “SNL” and Time Magazine in their article about Questlove being the coolest guy of the year mentioned it as the coolest Christmas sweater ever.
MA: So it seems like you have more time in the day than everyone else. How do you get it all done?
Hectah: It is like that. I have more time on my clock, I guess.
MA: How? Do you not want to share the secret?
Hectah: It’s hard to explain. Less thinking, I guess. I spend less time thinking. Thinking takes up half of people’s day. People go on the Internet and they look at something and think about it and that’s about half of their work day right there. Then they’re on the train, watching TV, or in a relationship and they’re thinking. They think too much.
MA: But surely you have to think in order to come up with the “What the Hecs?”
Hectah: All the ideas for “What the Hec?” came out of two sit downs. In mid-November, when I started it, I came up with enough ideas to last me ’til about February in maybe about 40 minutes. Not 100% exactly what’s going to happen but more than half of the idea, what it is. And then when we started hitting January, I decided to sit down again, give myself an hour and I jotted ideas. I had enough ideas to go to maybe mid-May. And I will sit down again at some point and do the same thing.
MA: But then you have ideas like the Justin Bieber one.
Hectah: When Bieber landed in prison, within 12 hours I got so many people going “You should do a Bieber one.” I was like “ehhhh, I’m not TMZ.” Then Jason Goldwatch was like “You should do a Bieber one.” And you know Jason, that’s not his cup of tea. So then I was like, “Alright, cool-muthafuckin Goldwatch thinks I should do one, I should do one, maybe I’m overlooking it.”
MA: So Season 1 is over. What are the plans for Season 2?
Hectah: Plan for Season 2 is to get the artists to come in and do voices, to have some kind of original crazy things.
MA: So take it from skits and movie rips to…
Hectah: Original content. I think a lot of them, they’re personalities and who they are is what makes it ill. And they seem to like it. It’s been retweeted by quite a few people: Danny Brown, Raekwon, NORE tweeted twice, Cam’ron. Who else? Mac Miller did it. A few others that I’m missing.
MA: When will “What the Hec?” be back?
Hectah: That’s a good question. I don’t actually know the answer to that cause I haven’t thought about it. See that? I’m not thinking about Season 2. There’s a few “What the Hec?”s that were too long for Instagram and I didn’t want to do a disservice to the idea. So those will kind of leak out sometime in the spring. There’s this documentary that I’m doing animations for. I’m trying to work on a pilot. So there are a few things in the works that will occupy my time outside of just work. It’s hard to know exactly when it’s going to come back, but there’s going to be a few leaked “What the Hecs?” here and there. Or if something super topical comes up I might be inspired to do one for Instagram, for the people.
MA: Drop it on ’em. So is there anything you’d like to say to the fans, to the supporters, to the Instagram likers who want more?
Hectah: Yeah. Thank you. I hope to come back soon and give you guys more stuff that makes you say “What the heck?”