Originators: John Zobele
For this installment of Originators, we chop it up with John Zobele aka MrHappyFace.
Pick up Issue 52 or 53, flip it around and understand that we have a deep appreciation for art here. It’s why we let artists design our back cover. We began as a graffiti zine, and as our scope widened to other art forms, so did our interest in art itself. In line with that sentiment, we bring you Originators, an ongoing series that profiles visual artists working behind the scenes to produce the art, television, and work we can only describe as dope.
John Zobele, aka “MrHappyFace,” is a multidimensional artist currently attending Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA for film. His work is absolutely insane, spanning from damaged VHS tape/.GIF-type videos, to weird experimental beats and electronic music. We can describe his work like making a collage of audio and images, compiled of all things Zoebele adores, and heavily crafting it so he can call it his own. It’s like sampling, but much more trippy and riddled in psychedelic decaying influence.
Dude’s also got crazy work ethic. He’s put out several albums under a handful of different aliases and continues to go to school and chop up some videos for the Internet. Simply stated by the man himself, “When you don’t have a job, it’s easy to find things to do.”
We had the chance to chop it up with MrHappyFace about his film career, music, and his entire style.
Mass Appeal: Who are you and what do you do?
John Zobele: Heyo, I’m John Zobele – student, artist, entrepreneur and a man of many talents. Up in central Jersey, born and raised, in a library or computer lab is where I spent most of my days, sittin’ back making YouTube videos all cool, and mixin’ music inside after school.
MA: What are some of your inspirations?
JZ: I’ve got a bunch of inspirations. When it comes to music, one guy single handedly got me into Plunderphonics, Prefuse73 – he’s got the sickest beats this side of the globe. As for art, there is Kim Asendorf, Bjørn Melhus, Kurt Hentschlaeger, Jacob Ciocci, Jamie Hewlett, and the renaissance masters. For film, inspirations include Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Sally Menke, Verna Fields and Walter Murch.
MA: I know who Prefuse73 is, but who is Plunderphonics?
JZ: Plunderphonics is basically super tight chopping up of music and mixing it with all types of songs. Almost like a mashup, but the point is to not know what the sample is in the final product. Here’s an example.
MA: This stuff is insane . . . What do you think of the Internet?
JZ: The Internet is my religion. Truly, I can’t go without my computer for more than a week. I’m so connected that one time I went on vacation for a few days and people online thought I had died.
MA: How has that influenced your work?
JZ: As it pertains to my work, well I’m not quite sure how it’s inspired me . . . Not so much the Internet per se, but the people I’ve met through the web over the years. If it was just me at a party it would be dull, but with a bunch of people hoppin’ about, that makes it an experience unlike any other.
Some pieces of mine use little snippets of video, nostalgia, and people’s lives, to convey a message or look cool. This use of sampling is something of a trademark. I used to be all about original pieces – Hell, I drew shit tons of cartoons as a kid, but after growing up a bit, I saw the art in taking someone else’s work and making it your own. The disregard for copyright made me feel like a rebel.
MA: You do sort of collaging with videos, then? Kind of like sampling in hip hop to make beats, you’re using someone else’s work to make your own.
MA: How could you say the Internet hasn’t really inspired you when the genre of vaporware and some of the decay stuff you’ve done is solely on the Internet. I mean, they’re very Internet-based things.
JZ: I wouldn’t say there are Internet-based things. I’d say they are things that people make that end up on the Internet. The Internet is just a way to build up these communities of peoples and gives them a place to gather – a centralized hub. The Internet itself is servers, cords, silicone. I don’t think those have inspired me, just what we do on it – that’s what gets my creative juices going.
MA: What is the order of importance in what you do? Do you make music above everything else, focus on videos second, clothing third?
JZ: Film is first. It’s where I started online, about six or seven years ago when I made my first online account on YouTube. I can’t remember what my username was at the time ’cause I got suspended for posting some “Family Guy,” clip. Anyways, the one that followed was “mrhappyfacefilms,” which is part of my Internet persona today.
Second, I’d say visual media, like my recent to.be t-shirt collection, and my other digital art pieces, including my video collages.
And finally would come my music, I feel as if its my least strongest asset but still strong enough to continue on with.
MA: Are you currently working with any film?
JZ: Nothing right now. When it comes to video work, I’m “spontaneous.” I just get an idea, I do it, I upload it, I’m done. I’m at school to learn more about film, specifically film editing. I’m not sure how I’ll get a job with how I work, but for now, it works for me.
MA: So you’re mostly going for editing or would you like a bigger job in the industry?
JZ: All on editing. Can’t stand being on set. It’ll be nice to be in a dark room with the light of a computer screen silently making magic happen.
MA: Do you wear your own clothes?
JZ: Sometimes. I have one of my shirts, the other ones are just designs waiting to be printed on a shirt. They’re expensive on my budget, so I can’t order all my shirts. Unfortunately, given my husky appearance, XL just barely cuts it for me. I don’t personally make the shirt that gets shipped off to you, I just design it and let to.be do the rest of the work.
If you haven’t heard of to.be, you should go check it out right now. It’s a site where you can make your own audio visual experiences and have them printed on a shirt. I’ve met the guys behind to.be and they really are doin’ a bang up job on the site.
MA: Do listen to your own music?
JZ: Sometimes. Usually when I do it’s either for nostalgia or to see if I can fix something or add something to make the album version better.
MA: Explain to me all of your musical projects and their differences.
JZ: It all started one day in history class when my goof ball teacher brought up this program where he’d play these silly sound effects. I asked him what program it was. It was Fruity Loops. That’s how I started making music.
bye-product: Est. 2010. First of my many projects, I consider it my best solo project. I’ve released seven albums (working on eight now) and a shit ton of EPs and singles in between. The first two albums were me trying out music for the first time, not knowing much about it besides from some piano lessons from when I was younger. I just used to build in loops and sample sounds. That got boring after a while, but by the time I was done with album two, I found another program called Virtual DJ. Now, I know it’s no real music producing program, but I loved the simplicity of sampling in it. I’d just take a six second cut from here and a 12 second cut from there, and mix it together to get a new, weird sound. I used this technique for my next three albums, where some of my most notable works are from. But when I got to the point where I had perfected my craft by album five, I decided to give Fruity Loops another go. Since album six, I’ve been making most of my music in Fruity Loops, making tracks from chopped up samples, but this time, tighter and more condensed.
chris†††: Est 2013. With the ‘net art and vaporwave craze that happened over the last two years, I decided to get on the bandwagon. Not for the fame or glory, but for the nostalgia. I make all my music live in Virtual DJ and I wanted a chance to do it again. Just so happens people liked it. It was also in this time I saw a bunch of artists not getting any recognition for their music, so I decided to make another music label for them. With only a small handful of places that supplied vaporwave at the time, like Fortune 500 who seem VERY selective on work, I wanted to make something for the everyday artist. That’s how Business Casual ’87 was born.
Stab Something: Est. 2012. Me and three other artists (sontuk, ethernet, hrmnzr)
wanted to start a ‘net band. The first two dropped out and me and hrmnzr were left, thus Stab Something was born. hrmnzr, or Melanie Stanley, is a really cool gal who I found after she was the only one to buy my “so” remix album back in 2011. After that she joined my label [at the time], and since then we’ve been good friends. Stab Something is the combination of my sampling style and the original composition from Melanie. So far, we’ve had one album, an EP and a single. I’ve been really bad about sending her samples lately… Hopefully our next full length album will be available by the end of this upcoming summer. I really need to step up my game.
cordless soul machine: Est. 2011. After a year of making music under bye-product,
I decided I wanted to make some more experimental music. Made with Virtual DJ sampling tracks, and slowly scanning it, it creates a choppy, yet ambient sound.
MA: You have a fuck load of work for a 20-year-old.
JZ: Well, when you don’t have a job, it’s easy to find things to do. Lord knows I need one.
MA: What do you plan on doing with your film degree? What would you like to ultimately end up doing in film?
JZ: I don’t quite know, exactly. Unfortunately in today’s world, you seem to need a college degree to do anything worth doing, and ever since I started in 2007 on YouTube,
I’ve been all about doing film stuff. It just seemed like the best place for me.
MA: Do you find importance in a college education or rather a portfolio of work?
JZ: Yes and no. It’s beneficial if you know that you can succeed in your field of study after college. If you don’t know or have doubts, I’d say switch majors or drop out. College is fucking expensive – it’s no use having piles of debt if you can’t pay them back. Don’t mean to dash any dreams, but that’s where I stand.