Christian Jacobs is a former child actor and the co-creator of the award winning kid’s television series “Yo Gabba Gabba!”. He also fronts the popular ska-punk band The Aquabats! under the pseudonym of The MC Bat Commander. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Christian recently about the group’s current tour, the bands successful kickstarter campaign and when fans can expect new episodes of “The Aquabats! Super Show”.
Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the bands current “Holy Guacamole Tour”?
Christian Jacobs: We did a previous tour in July however this tour sort of marks the first headlining tour we have done in some time that has gone east of the Mississippi. These shows are reuniting us with the “Legion of Righteous Comrades” who this last year helped us raise money to film new episodes of “The Aquabats! Super Show”. We have ten episodes shot and we are going to be shooting one more once we have the guest star lined up. These are fun sized episodes meaning they aren’t as long as the previous episodes from season one and two but, they are still a lot of fun. This tour is kind of recognizing the completion of those episodes and all the merchandise that we designed for that campaign. Getting out and playing is a way for us to meet up with the fans that helped keep the Aquabats! alive and a chance for us to say thank you for the support. From that Kickstarter campaign we have been able to film the new episodes, record an album, prepare to start another album in December and to do this tour. This band has been around the block a few times and the fact that there is a new generation of fans coming out to the shows and helping us put out new content has been just great.
AL: What was it that appealed to the band about using Kickstarter?
CJ: Us doing a Kickstarter has been talked about for a long time. We hesitated a bit as we are old-school. I was worried that we might look bad asking for money in this type of way and we were very nervous. I think a lot of people have the perception that with our previous things being successful there should be no reason why we can’t put new stuff out on our own. Sadly that’s not always the reality and that’s what happened for the Aquabats! We did try other networks when The Hub folded however, sometimes when things fail a stigma can often get attached to those associated making it difficult to keep going. We knew that people liked the show and wanted to keep it going so after meeting up with a couple guys who had experience with fan funding they gave us some great insight that helped us change our minds and see fan funding in a different light. Everyone who donated is a big part of what we accomplished. It’s like they are all producers which I think is very cool.
Ian Lawton: How do you come up with the characters for the show?
CJ: A lot of the things you see on “The Super Show” I think are influenced by stuff we watched as kids growing up. Everything from “Godzilla” movies to really weird Japanese kids shows and some of the shows from Sid and Marty Krofft who put out “Land of the Lost” and “ H R Puff N Stuff”. A lot of the characters we write and come up with are in a way homage’s to those things. Characters like Cobraman! came from Japanese common writer shows, Space Monster M was this weird Gung Ham hybrid robot that we loved. We wanted to create characters that our kids could be introduced to in a fun way while at the same times we as parents could watch and reminisce about the shows we used to watch. We had the same idea when we were putting together episodes for “Yo Gabba Gabba”.
IL: Can you tell us about the cat that shows up throughout the Aquabats! series?
CJ: That is actually a fox and he is hidden in every episode that we have done. Our special effects guys name on the show is Joel Fox. He does all of the weird lead in screen effects like floating pizzas and fingers turning into bananas. That stuff never ends up in the actual episode but it’s there and the beginning of each segment. Joel is sort of an enigma as he never tells us what he is going to do. Being he is our good friend we got him this fox costume and hid him in all the shows. He is somewhere in all the new upcoming episodes as well. It’s going to be harder to find him but he is there.
IL: Do you have a favorite character that you have come up with?
CJ: I really like all the Aquabats! character because they are just really funny. Each character is sort of an extension of the guy who plays it. The Bat Commander and I our definitely not the same guy but maybe some of our personality traits cross over. I can be a little like the commander but not totally as he is kind of a jerk sometimes. It’s all satire for each of us. I do like how we have evolved over time and how we can poke fun at each other through the production. Pilgrim Boy is a favorite as he is one of the original characters we came up with back in 1996. We had written out a bunch of the episodes at that time and the shape shifting pilgrim boy was a part of that. Cobraman! is another great one both on stage and on the show. The guy has snakes for hands which he shoots live snakes out of. (Laughs) Plus he has a very funny voice. Silver Skull is a good character as well. We sort of gave him this Bane type voice as that was a big joke at the time.
AL: Is there a time table for when we will see the new episodes and album?
CJ: We finished recording the album in July however due to everyone having family stuff going on and our producer being away it took awhile to get all the mixing done. We have it all completed know and would like to have it out around Halloween given a lot of the songs have a spooky vibe to them. We aren’t sure if that will give us enough time to promote it so aside from as soon as possible there is not a solid time table for that. We want to make sure we have good promotion in place and a couple videos as well. The new episodes of the show will start airing around September 20th on our YouTube channel.
AL: One of the things you do outside of the band is summer drawing classes for kids. Can you tell us about that program?
CJ: My brother Parker does these drawing classes and he always recruits me to come and help. It’s always a lot of fun. When we were kids we didn’t have distracters like phones and tablets so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves. Technology is wonderful but I think when you have a lack of resources you have more of an opportunity to use your brain and be creative. By having these classes my brother is able to teach kids how to doodle and how to use their imaginations. The classes are designed to be free flowing and not necessarily about how to draw something right but more to challenge your creativity. You won’t be drawing a bowl of fruit to look like a bowl of fruit. Instead you might draw whatever you want and have it fighting something inside comic panels or creating new characters no one has ever seen before. It’s a way for kids to bring their imagination from their heads directly to their hands. In this day and age it’s great to encourage kids that they too can create things “Fortnite” or “The Aquabats!”. Growing up we had punk rock to inspire us but we want to get kids going even younger and that’s a lot of what “Yo Gabba Gabba” was about. It’s extension of doing things yourself with the ideas being geared or aimed at young people. You don’t have to sit and wait for the next thing. You can be the next thing. With YouTube and all these things there is no reason anyone can’t if they really want to.
AL: Are there other projects outside of what you have already mentioned that we can be watching for?
CJ: We have been talking about and pitching new shows ever since the network we were on went out of business. There are just so many places to pitch new ideas that we have been going practically non-stop. We haven’t quite struck gold yet but given our track record with “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “The Aquabats! Super Show” we have a solid formula. The ideas are there we just have to get them out there while juggling families and all that. We do plan to tour again once the new record is out and we are on the hook for one more record after that as well so we have a lot that will be going on. If you had told me twenty five years ago that we would still be doing this in 2019 I would have laughed at you but it’s really great that we still are able to do this and we really enjoy it.