Carl King: New England Institute of Technology Research Report Interview

In September 2011, I was the subject of a research interview project by Tyler Shaw, a student at New England Institute of Technology in Rhode Island.

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Carl King is a creative person and entity. Musician, Composer, Writer, Animator, Web Designer, Visual Artist, Web Personality, Videographer, Audio Technician, and Author are some of the many hats King wears any given day. He works with various well known people in the creative fields of video, audio, music, and design. Self-employed and ever expanding his skill set, King takes on creativity as a profession every day. With over a decade in the creative media field, Carl has worked in (through) the various scenarios a creative person finds themselves in before (hopefully) finding their calling. In his authorial debut, “So You’re A Creative Genius, Now What?” King highlights how to (keep) be (ing) creative. How does he know this? Because he has experienced failure and success in each field, and is aware enough to know why.

Carl King IS a creative genius of the 21st century.

How did you get into the field of creative media?
“I saw Steve Vai playing his big heart-shaped guitar on MTV and wanted to be like him. I was about 13. Looking back, the late 80s / early 90s MTV was a huge influence on me. The humor, the weird art. I have the feeling their studio was infested with art school freaks. I watched it probably 6-8 hours a day while practicing guitar. At the end of high school I got a job stapling paper in the back of a print shop, and the owner taught me typesetting. I started designing business cards and flyers for local businesses. It was a walk-up while-you-wait type of thing. I learned a lot about running my own little factory / assembly-line and organizing my workflow. After that I went to community college for music, then went back into graphic design for a small advertising agency. All that time, I had also been writing for a regional magazine, INK19. Around 2005 I got into video production with one of my friends. We made some weird stuff, including the Sir Millard Mulch Ibanez videos. When I moved out to Los Angeles I went back into print design. Then I started doing web design, because that’s what everyone wanted. Then back into video production, which led to me opening a full-time studio with editors working under me. Around that same time I got serious about writing — wrote a book (got it published by MWP), a bunch of screenplays, and just finished the 1st draft of a sci-fi short story. Then I got into animation. I see a lot of similarities between the forms, so it’s not that hard to move laterally. “

When and why did you find it hardest to make a profit?
“Music. It was ten years crossing the desert before I finally got paid for any of it. Then all at once, I made around $30,000 over a couple of years off a bogus record deal — which really confused me. By that point, I was so disillusioned by the music industry, and so sick of music, that I wanted nothing to do with it. I can barely listen to music now, unless it’s for a project.”

What changed to make your business and image more profitable?
“I offered myself to anyone, for any service they needed, for any price. Word spread, and the people who paid me a lot made up for the people who didn’t pay me. Soon I found myself with way too much work, with everyone wanting me to do something for them all hours of the day, and making more money than I’ve made at any other time in my life. But I think the biggest thing was just being in Los Angeles, because there is such a huge market here for people who need stuff done. Everyone is always making something, an album, a film.“

What makes a creative media profession worth waking up for?
“I’m disgusted with the world around me, and I hate feeling trapped in someone else’s little game — where I have to pretend to be an employee. It allows me to most freedom and power out of all possible situations so far. I always have to learn, solve new problems, and it funds my own projects.”

Do you prefer diversity or a singular job (i.e. Writing vs. Editing) in any given work day?
“I like the diversity. Although what I call “shoveling” has lost all novelty and Zen. I find no peace at all in doing repetitive, non-thinking work. So working long hours on purely mechanical tasks has no value to me. I’m too old for that. I’d rather work a few hours and be highly productive, and spend the rest of my time thinking, looking for ideas.”

Do you think expanding ones skill set is required to stay current in media?
“It’s funny to me, because I don’t feel I’ve ever gotten to 50th level with any of my media worker characters. I learn the fundamentals in each form and then figure out how to be productive with it. There’s always that point where I consciously decide, “I don’t want to know any more.” I don’t care at all about fancy equipment or knowing everything inside-and-out. I only want to know how to get specific results and make stuff. I think the opposite mindset holds a lot of people back. For instance, in my recent Frank Zappa cartoon, all I knew how to do was animate the face, and move the arm up and down. So that’s all I did, and it worked. People loved it. The desire to stay current is probably just an excuse to not get anything done. I think that my results lead people to believe I know everything about a form, but I don’t. I only know how to do what I’ve done.”

Could expanding one’s skill set also be a disadvantage?
“It depends on if what you are making can be understood by the people you’re supposedly making it for. In music, yes. Especially when the audience is expecting to hear players who are on a kindergarten level of skill. Writing is another area where people overdo it. We have to remember that the purpose of art is to communicate. It’s not to show off. Still, a lot of what I make is for myself, and then I hope other people will appreciate it.”

How do you approach a commissioned project? Does what kind of project it is change how you approach it?
“I try to get inside the head of the person who’s paying me. I try to focus on what their actual goals are, vs. what they think their goals are. Especially with web design, I have to tell them, “Most people will look at your site for 30 seconds, and everything aside from the front page pretty much doesn’t matter.” I tell them to keep it simple. So often they think that a good website should be complicated. I don’t know why. I realize that many of the things people have paid me for are just for their own narcissism, rather than communicating to an audience. It’s like no one looks at their websites except them. The most important thing is to pick the people you work for. You have to be vigilant in spotting those people who are energy vampires. They tend to be people who want to talk on the phone. By default I say no to their projects. My belief is that people who talk a lot don’t know what they want.”

Which area in media do you prefer working in?
“I don’t have a preference. I love the idea of cartoons because it puts everything together for me. Music, art, writing. All one thing. I enjoy being the producer, because I know how everything fits together. But what I enjoy most is getting to share my disgust. It’s the one thing that personally qualifies my work as good.”

What are the most common types of jobs you are commissioned for?
“I’ve turned down almost everything this year, but I get a ton of people wanting websites. I’ve started getting animation gigs, which is exciting.”

King, C. (2011, September 11). CarlKingCreative. Retrieved September 11, 2011, from
King, C. (2011). So, You’re A Creative Genius, Now What? Retrieved September 11, 2011, from Duck In A Lightbulb: