Remember the time that school friend of yours linked you to Salad Fingers and you were simultaneously amused and irrevocably damaged and horrified by the post-apocalyptic, Flash-animated creep-fest and haunting soundtrack? Or a bit later on, when your other friend told you about Devvo, this web series he'd found about a pill-munching, northern scallie that seemed kind of like a documentary, but also far too harrowing and depressing for the main character to ever be real?
Both of those era-defining classics were made by David Firth, who, since you've moved away from the darker corners of the internet and into the soft, welcoming confines of Reddit and Pinterest, has been slaving away in his bedroom-cum-studio in Leeds, making videos that are equal parts twisted, absurd, hilarious, distressing and brilliant. If your brain hasn't melted in on itself after watching his recent Sock 5: Three Skins Without Men, you need to spend less time on 4Chan.
Turns out he's working on his first feature-length film – The Meadow Man – so I delved into his macabre mind for a little while to find out just what that's going to entail.
VICE: Hi David. Are you aware that if you miss out the dash in your website fat-pie.com it sends you to a chubby porn site? Because I now am.
David Firth: That’s not intentional. I really wish they’d let me have the domain without the dash, because I’m sure the chubby porn people are getting lots of my traffic.
That sucks. So, I hear you’re working on a feature length film.
I am, yeah, but it’s taking a long time. It’s like Duke Nukem Forever – imagine it like that.
That took so long to come out.
Yeah, 12 years.
And it was shit.
Yeah, The Meadow Man is gonna be terrible. The worst film you’ve ever seen.
David (left) with Devvo.
You're too modest. What style of animation are you going to use?
All different types. I’ve done some cut out stuff, some stuff with photos and I did something where I filmed over the top of some footage with some 20-year-old acetate I found in my house. The characters are going to be half-photo and the background's going to be photos and art drawn on paper, not digitally. It’s like a big, messy, dark, scribbly, animated collage.
Wow. What’s it going to be about?
All I can tell you is that it’s gonna be incredibly bizarre, dark and psychedelic. I want the viewer to get slightly lost, but not get lost and be annoyed. I want them to get lost and enjoy it. Then find themselves. It starts with a man in a very confusing job. He doesn’t even know what his job is, in fact.
What happens to the man?
There's no way I'm telling you that. As soon as anything’s said about the story, people will try to predict what happens and decide it's crap before they see it.
Sock 5: Three Skins Without Men.
Are you working on anything else alongside The Meadow Man?
Yeah, I’m currently working on something that's just as big as The Meadow Man. It’s supposed to be a TV series. I've spoken to quite a few channels about it and they’re always like, "Oh yeah, yeah," then they go off and talk behind closed doors. I don’t want anyone to come in and start fingering with it and people don’t like that. But it’s probably the best thing I’ve written. I’ll always do loads of little things alongside each other.
The general consensus online for the last however many years is that your art is directly influenced by psychedelic experiences – is there any truth in that?
No. I’m interested in the ideas of psychedelic thoughts, but my mind is damaged enough, so if I did anything hallucinogenic I’d probably end up in a mental home for years, just rocking backwards and forwards.
Your animations always seem to take place in these kind of dystopian worlds without ever fully explaining the environment. We get glimpses of what appears to be a skin-stealing oligarchy in Sock 5: Three Skins Without Men, but it never fully makes sense. Is that intentional?
I think if we lived in a dystopian world, we wouldn’t see the whole picture – we’d just see little hints of it now and again. So I like to hint at things and let other people decide what they’re there for. I like running themes as well, and the skins were a running theme in Sock 5.
Sometimes I put an interesting visual in and develop the story around it and sometimes it’s the other way round. There’s no real concrete process I go through. If there was I’d get really bored, so I have to come up with a new one every time. The only rule of the Sock world is that it’s supposed to be like a dream, in that it doesn’t make sense.
Most of your animations feel a bit like dreams. Or nightmares – I'm not sure.
If something doesn’t make sense, but in some ways it does with some inconsistencies, I like that. That’s where the influence of dreams comes through. There’s not some deeper hidden message to it like some people think.
Just to clarify, though, The Men From Upstairs is an intentional metaphor for pooping, right?
Well, yeah, but that was just to wind up those people who like to overanalyse my cartoons.
Are you mainly going for a funny or a creepy vibe?
I don’t think there's any kind of goal, really. A lot of people find Salad Fingers really sad and touching, but when we were coming up with the dialogue we were just laughing a lot. The darker it is, the funnier we find it. Maybe I’ll put a laugh track on in future so people know.
A lot of your characters seem to live this really depressing, banal existence. Why's that?
I just have a lot of interest in people who can somehow live with being really banal and dull, which comes out in WallerFM because its parodying the people who listen to local radio. To me, they’re very weird, but I’m sure I seem extremely weird to them.
Above is an exclusive trailer of The Meadow Man, which you can expect to come out whenever David finishes it. Until then, check out David Firth’s work on fat-pie.com.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_A_Shea