I spent a few moments conversing with Ferris, thankfully via email, because if you’re actually talking to him in person, the dude will just start to rant and rave about Donnie Iris and every single time, we end up listening to the entire Iris catalog including the recent holiday album. Let me tell you, this can kill an entire weekend.
But enough about all of that, let’s spend a moment or three learning about Suburban Metal Dad and the man behind the madness.
For those who have been blissfully unaware of its existence, can you give us a brief rundown on what Suburban Metal Dad is all about?
Suburban Metal Dad is a 30-something guy who’s a husband, father, and lifelong music fan. He grew up as a heavy metal dude, but took the same musical diversions many punk & metal people do. As a kid, authority figures frustrated him. As an adult, they infuriated him. And that constant barrage of aggravation from middle management and other dolts at work drove him back to metal. Filled with righteous rage, he is metal thrashin’ mad, with nowhere to put it. I’m surprised more grownups don’t listen to metal. It’s a great way to vent.
Like most guys from his generation, he’s torn between his day-to-day responsibilities and perpetual adolescence. Everything would be right in his world if he could get a nap, watch a couple Star Wars flicks back-to-back, and never have to deal with the pinheads at work — but life just never seems to work out that way.
He stockpiles fireworks and owns firearms. His first response to a problem is to punch it or burn it down — but he has to be a responsible role model for his kids, so he’s constantly forced to dial it back. He likes Twitter. He hates Facebook. He is anti-smart phone.
Over the course of the last year, he’d considered quitting the world altogether, but he recently decided to give it another chance. These are the adventures of Suburban Metal Dad. It’s not always very metal, but neither is his life of an aging metalhead.
Depending on what I’m doing that day, an SMD strip may be like Peanuts with Megadeth references, The Family Circus with poop jokes, or The Far Side with the F word. It’s all very poorly drawn and lettered. But I’m working on it.
This is your debut plunge into the world of webcomics and it seems like you’ve had a lot of fun with the strip so far, adding a daily “soundtrack” and even teasing story arcs as they start to develop. Where do you want to take it from here?
I’m about to launch my annual Christmas extravaganza, which will be three weeks of daily holiday-themed strips. It’s a combination of story arcs and some random scenes from the warzone that is December. I dig Christmas.
The strip will continue to have the Sort-Of Soundtrack, which is an optional random metal song that you can play in another window while you read the strip. Some are old-school jams, and some are breaking new hotness. I’m going to generate some original multimedia content when I get a minute.
I’d originally intended the strip to have a lot more random bullshit and workplace humor. And I have notebooks full of those ideas, but there’s only so many hours in a day, you know? Basically, you’ll get a balance of story arcs and gag-a-day material.
We grew up watching the popularity of newspaper comics fade out as the artists themselves fought against censorship and shrinking column space. The webcomic seems to be the brave new world that works past a lot of that. Were there any of them that you were reading early on that gave you inspiration to start your own comic?
Comic strips and heavy metal are two of the very few things that have held my interest since I was a kid. I’m a huge Peanuts fan. When I was in grade school, I’d buy the morning newspaper just to read Bloom County. Calvin & Hobbes. Far Side. I’d planned to run a lot more Far Side-style strips that were random, left-field, standalone gags, but the strip has steered itself toward story arcs and making fun of people.
God forbid, if you get burned out, will you take the traditional comic artist route and merchandise the hell out of SMD with plush dolls, daily calendars and greeting cards?
I eagerly await opportunities to whore myself out. Right now, I accept commissions to create unique, hand-drawn strips and posters in which I mock figures who are similar to your boss and co-workers — but legally distinct. Shirts are on the way. And I may print up some compilations that have production quality on par with my artwork.
You’re a big fan of Danzig and Donnie Iris. How do those two exist peacefully in the same universe….and why should we listen to Glenn Danzig in 2011?
I think most serious music fans have a favorite group or genre that serves as a case study for their understanding of the musical world. Like how Chuck Klosterman effectively wrote his master’s thesis on 80s hair metal. Me, I’m a Misfits guy.
Danzig and Donnie Iris are two figures who are both iconic and obscure, depending what corner of pop culture you’ve planted your flag in. Both have connections that run further than most people realize. Danzig wrote songs for Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison. Donnie Iris & the Cruisers are a prime example of a band that’s great but didn’t get big breaks.
As a writer, I’m more interested in groups that didn’t achieve the highest levels of success, stories like what you see in the movie That Thing You Do!. Like, OK, you got a little taste of success — then what do you do?
Anyhow, to answer the second part of your question, Glenn Danzig has given us every reason not to listen to him in 2011. And I say that as a huge fan. To commemorate the Halloween season, I’d just written a four-part series called “Defending Danzig” for Metal Sucks, one of my favorite music websites. And then Danzig had his onion soup/deathbug debacle at the Texas FunFunFun Fest in November. So I capped off the series with a coda called “Not Defending Danzig Anymore.”
That Texas show was on my birthday, too. If it had been on the next day, I was thinking about flying in just to see him play the Samhain/Misfits/Danzig set. But since it was on my actual birthday, I chose to stay home and eat cake with my family. Another landmark day in the life of this Suburban Metal Dad.
We should shed some light on the excellent book that you wrote for the 33 1/3 series about Slayer’s Reign in Blood album. Do you feel like you were able to explore every crevice of that album to your satisfaction? What was your ultimate takeaway from doing that book?
I think I was able to get a good grip on Reign in Blood. I recently sent someone a copy, and I found myself reading the book. It’s been out long enough that I’d forgotten some of the details, episodes, and quotes. So that felt very validating: for me to read it as a fan and think, “Oh, this interesting. There’s some good stuff in here.”
That said, I wish I could have got Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King talking about their lyrics more. But the band just aren’t introspective guys, and they’re not storytellers. They’re like athletes who just saw an opportunity, made a move in the moment, and moved on.
And I think that’s what I took away from the book. Reign in Blood is a thrash metal classic that was released on Def Jam at the rap label’s prime. But none of the people involved — producer Rick Rubin, engineer Andy Wallace, label head Russell Simmons, hell, the band themselves — really approached the record with the intent to create a certain kind of thing. They weren’t trying to create a record that would reverberate in a certain way for a specific niche of music fans. They were just executing their current ideas to the best of their ability. Regardless of medium or genre, real artists tend to say that’s how you should do it.
Beavis and Butthead are back in 2011. Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Thumbs up. Way up. They’re still brilliant. And now, compared to the stars of Jersey Shore and 16 & Pregnant, they actually look brilliant — you don’t have to watch between the lines to divine their sage wisdom. And honestly, in my world, they’re not back; they never left. Since they left the air, I don’t think I’ve gone 48 hours without making a B&B reference. My Twitter feed will confirm this.
Any parting shots for the Popdose readership to keep in mind?
Make some comments. Let me know what works for you. I know the artwork is shoddy. The more I work on the lettering, the worse it gets. The strip actually exists as an outlet to develop my storytelling chops for a larger, unrelated project. So, essentially, you’re reading my demos. And thanks for reading. Also, you can count on my love.