Daniel Robert Epstein: First an easy question. Are you guys both white?
Matt Maiellaro: We are both white.
DRE: What made you decide to have Schoolly D do the theme song? Heís the Waylon Jennings of the show.
Dave Willis: Did you come up with that?
DRE: No I read that somewhere. Iím not that cool to think of that.
DW: I donít know if youíre in the underground of The Dukes of Hazzard. We wanted to come up with some really hardcore rap to give the show street cred, a tough feel and to scare white people at home. I donít think either of us really listens to rap that much. Our boss suggested Schoolly D and it worked out great.
DRE: Obviously you work with Schoolly D a lot. Does he watch the show and know what the hell is happening on it?
MM: He watches the show and loves it. He loves cartoons and just a big goofball. We work with him a lot over the phone.
DRE: Does he improvise much?
DW: We started to write for him and it just felt weird. So we kept pushing him to do it in his own words. What I am going to write? ThatísFrylock is dope? We finally told him that this is just another weird thing that Shake does and we need to get out of that scene so he comes up with something like ďDamn Shake, you crazy.Ē Then weíre stuck with it.
DRE: Matt you donít do as many voices as Dave.
DW: He does voices.
MM: I do Err of the Mooninites, I did the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past and occasionally I do Satan. I sang the birthday song.
DRE: Is the show improvised at all?
DW: Itís improvised when we go in to record the show. We write what we think is really funny then luckily we have a great cast that can take lines weíve written and give us more than what we thought of. Especially Dana [Snyder who does the voice of Master Shake]. Heís a nut in the booth and he comes up with shit thatís way better than what we wrote.
MM: Itís in the same vein but with better wordings.
DRE: Whatís it like being the most popular original cartoon on Adult Swim?
DW: Itís great. We get lots of attention, huge raises and yeah [laughs].
MM: Can we quote you on us being the most popular cartoon on Adult Swim?
DRE: Well youíre the first DVD to be released from them along with Space Ghost.
MM: We keep being told that Family Guy is the most popular.
DRE: I said most popular original cartoon.
DW: I see.
MM: We are the only cartoon done for them thatís based out of Atlanta [Cartoon Networkís headquarters] at Williams Street.
DRE: What was the initial impetus for Aqua Teen? I know in an episode of Space Ghost he went to go get fast food.
MM: We wrote that script a number of years ago, it got rejected but we always held onto it.
DW: We both really liked it.
MM: When it came time to do something new we thought these characters could hold up as their own show. We pitched it and they hated it. Then they gave us the money and we did it.
DRE: Does anyone still hate it there?
DW: They keep their hatred secret.
DRE: You canít hate something that makes you money.
MM: We make them a lot of money.
DRE: How long after doing the pilot did the show get on the air?
MM: We worked on the pilot a lot and thought it was the best thing we had ever done. Then six months passed. I think we started on the second episode while the first one was in this horrible Ishtar like production. We started the second one to ensure that we would get a series out of it.
DRE: Is there a special reason that Shake is the asshole? Do you have a problem with milkshakes?
MM: I think we just thought he was the leader of the group and who should be the asshole, but the leader. Do you mean like do we have a personal thing against milkshakes as opposed to french fries?
DRE: I guess so.
MM: Then yes.
DW: Mattís mother was killed by a milkshake.
MM: It was a colossal milkshake.
DW: Itís only recently come out in therapy.
DRE: How was doing the commentary on the DVD?
MM: On the first one I was like a deer in headlights. That happens to me when you put me in front of a microphone. Dave is a little more used to it. But then we got a lot more people involved in it and it was a lot of fun.
DW: Itís a little awkward. Itís just get on the microphone and do this. Plus we were doing it at eight in the morning. We all hadnít gotten together in a long time so we went out drinking the night before so you can hear our headaches on the commentary. Then next time we did it in the evening with beers.
DRE: I remember when Ben Edlund was doing The Tick comic before the TV series happened. He loved doing the comic but he didnít want to be remembered just for The Tick. You have a lot of other projects you want to do but would you be unhappy if for the rest of your lives people asked about Aqua Teen Hunger Force?
MM: Right now that wouldnít be too disappointing. We both like the show a lot and people donít ask us too much about since weíre in Atlanta.
DW: 15 years from now if we are deriving all of our money from going to small sci-fi cons in Phoenix maybe I wonít mind too much. Weíd like to do other things. Matt wrote a zombie movie thatís coming out.
MM: [laughs] Wait its not coming out yet but it will.
DW: Awful Bloody Zombie Massacre, is that the name?
DRE: Do you have a director yet?
MM: Itís in the way pre-production stages.
DW: Did I say coming out? I meant coming out of the printer [laughs].
DRE: Aqua Teen Hunger Force is funny show. But are you in any way baffled at just how big of a following it has gotten?
DW: I donít really ever hear that. I just went to 15 year high school reunion and its not like I was looking for attention or acknowledgement but no one I went to school with knows what it is. When you say hardcore following I wouldnít say I am personally aware of that.
DRE: Then you guys have never typed Aqua Teen Hunger Force into google.
DW: Weíve done that but its all about the DVD and where itís being sold. I wouldnít say we are oblivious but weíre just trying to do the best show we can.
DRE: So have both you guys only written on Space Ghost other than Aqua Teen Hunger Force?
MM: Space Ghost was the meat of it and weíve thrown out lines for a Sealab script or a Brak show. Everyone kind of works on everything around here.
DRE: Whatís it like working on a show thatís written only by the two of you?
MM: We work really well together and it is fun. We rarely ever get stuck. We can write scripts fast and we have a good process. I look forward to getting together on Mondays, getting away from the office and working on one script.
DW: Weíll debate each other on stuff but there isnít really conflict especially in the script form. I think both of us are willing to back off of a viewpoint if the other one is really strong about. It makes it better that itís just the two of us. If it was five or six of us weíd never get anything done.
DRE: How long does it take to write a script?
MM: We write a first draft in one day. It might be two hours or eight hours. Thatís one 15 minute show; sometimes we donít have an ending. Then weíll mess with it during the week when we have time. Then we just go record it.
DRE: Thatís really quick.
MM: It is. Last year we did 24 episodes and we had to haul ass because not only did we have to write them but weíre also producing, casting and doing everything. We might have six shows in the finishing stages at one time. So we were slammed and the only way to write 24 was to do them that fast. I guess weíre lucky that they came out good.
DW: Itís not like traditional animation. If something is really falling flat we can get rereads and changes but I think we just got in a groove last year where we were just cranking them out one a week and not overthinking them.
DRE: Are you guys against low wages in Korea and thatís why you animate the shows on Adobe?
DW: We lavish our animators in Atlanta with money.
Obviously Korea is halfway around the world and weíve never even tried that process. This is a lot more fun. We can sit there and do it either with a compositor or an editor and make it work right there and then.
MM: Itís flexible so if we donít like it we can tweak it right on the spot.
DRE: Did you guys ever do that test on the internet ďWhich Aqua Teen Hunger Force Character Are You?Ē
MM: Where is that?
DRE: Itís some long stupid name. Type it into google.
So are the main influences on Aqua Teen Hunger Force bad Hanna Barbera and comic books.
DW: I would say never either one of those.
MM: Itís not TV shows because I never watch TV. I would say really bad horror movies, Hong Kong action films and heavy metal.
DW: I tend to watch a lot of comedy like the basic stuff Mr. Show, Larry Sanders, The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I would say that Mr. Show is my favorite show of all time. I donít even know if you could call it an influence but I guess it is.
DRE: Matt have you seen any good Hong Kong action films lately?
MM: I watch the same ones over and over. Bullet in the Head, Once a Thief and The Heroic Trio.
DRE: How did you both get on Space Ghost originally?
MM: I came on in 1991 after they put together a pilot when they were first thinking about doing it as a series. I got hired because I had worked with one of the producers in the movie business. I didnít have a job so thatís how I started.
DRE: Dave, are you there?
DW: Iím sorry Iím doing the ďWhich Aqua Teen Hunger Force Character Are You?Ē
I was hired by the guy who does the voice of Brak.
MM: When I quit Dave showed up a month later.
DRE: Is Evan Dorkin grumpy?
MM: Yep. I think heís rude and you can quote me on that.
DW: Here we go Iím about to get my answer. Iím Frylock.
DRE: Whatís the reason?
DW: It says youíre the true leader of the Aqua Teens. Youíre wise and powerful unlike your teammates who are always getting into trouble. You keep everyone in line without pushing people around.
MM: I canít find the link.
DW: Iím emailing it to you.
DRE: Are you in two totally different places?
DW: Weíre just two offices away from each other. Sometimes we instant messenger each other.
MM: Are you excited about the new Dawn of the Dead movie?
DRE: Itís hard to say. I watched the trailer I donít see the point of remaking it but its got Sarah Polley in it and sheís good. What about you?
MM: Iím excited but I agree about why would they remake it. But they remade Texas [Chainsaw Massacre]. I canít wait to see what they did with Dawn of the Dead.
DRE: Itís nice to see a good zombie movie. I didnít like Resident Evil too much.
DW: Theyíre making a sequel to that.
MM: I didnít know it was that big.
DRE: Anyway I laughed out loud when Shake was watching Assisted Living Dracula.
DW: Thatís Grampire.
DRE: You did that with another live action film you made.
DW: Vegetable Man. That whole movie will be on the second DVD.
DRE: How long is Grampire?
MM: Itís like a minute long.
DRE: Did the reruns of Futurama and Family Guy help you guys out?
MM: It helped out the block for money and ratings. But as a person working here I donít see how it helped us.
DW: I think it gave the block a higher profile without jeopardizing what they are trying to do here. It certainly has gotten good ratings.
DRE: But it doesnít make you upset?
DW: Iím not offended especially if it helps enable us to do what weíre doing. I felt for years we did Space Ghost in a vacuum. There were no other shows around it and as a result it never got promoted too much. It felt like a pet project but a fun one. Now with the whole block of shows I donít resent it at all. People could end up watching us as a result.
DRE: How about that there is going to be new Family Guy episodes?
MM: Itís fine. Let them do it.
DW: I think itís a good show. Iím probably not as big of a fan of Futurama as I am of Family Guy. Futurama never quite did it for me.
DRE: How old are you guys?
MM: Iím 37.
DRE: How long have you been working together?
DW: About five years.
DRE: Didnít you two meet at college though?
MM: I was on the Wake Forest University campus working on Hellraiser 3 while Dave was going there.
DRE: The best Hellraiser, no Iím just kidding. I like CD-Head.
MM: I think Dave came down to visit the set one day but I didnít know him.
DW: Yeah I was just an undergrad there. It was funny that years later we discovered that.
DRE: Matt you worked on quite a few genre movies.
MM: Yes Darkman was the first movie I worked on. I got on that after I wrote Sam Raimi a letter watching Evil Dead 2. He just called me up and I got the job. I did Basket Case 3, Hellraiser 3, Children of the Corn 2, Kleptomania with Amy Irving, Ring of Steel with Joe Don Baker and Ruby in Paradise.
DRE: You got to love Joe Don Baker.
MM: You got to love him when he cusses you out.
DRE: What happened?
MM: I walked into his trailer and said, ďOk Mr. Baker theyíre ready for you.Ē He turned around and said ďDonít you ever fucking lie to me again.Ē That was the first thing he ever said to me. He was right because theyíre never ready for you when they call you.
DRE: So it wasnít that he had a sense of humor but heís just psycho.
MM: I think he was just tired of doing these really bad movies and didnít want to be told what to do by an assistant director.
DRE: Are you guys married?
MM: Iím engaged.
DW: Iíve been married for a little over a year and Iíve got a baby coming.
DRE: What kind of girls were you into?
DW: Suicide Girls! Of course.
DRE: Had you heard of the site before?
MM: I had heard of it before but never checked it out.
DW: I did a search for Patton Oswalt and I found his interview. We used him fairly recently for Aqua Teen.
DRE: Do you get guest stars because they are fans? Like Danzig for instance.
MM: Danzig was someone who we thought would fit the character perfectly. But the other guys especially David Cross are cool. We go after people we like and not just people who are huge names.
DW: Not to bust on The Simpsons but itís just become, trot out whatever guest star wants to be on. There are a lot of hysterical people out there.
DRE: Itís become like hosting Saturday Night Live.
DW: Yeah and we get people we admire like Brian Posehn, Patton and Zakk Wylde. Danzig was perfect for the role as himself. We kept racking our brain just in case we couldnít get him. Gene Simmons and Alice Cooper just arenít as funny.
DRE: Where did he record it?
MM: In LA. But we worked with him on the artwork. He really wanted to have a say in how he looked.
DW: Yeah we kept having to pump up his pecs [laughs].
DRE: Do you guys draw well?
MM: I donít.
DW: I donít either but I draw slightly better than Matt.
MM: Iíve been drawing the Phantasm ball for 15 years.
DW: He doesnít really doodle as much as continue to draw that one ball.
DRE: Whatís coming up besides more Aqua Teen?
DW: Weíre working on a show called Squidbillies.
DRE: Is that hillbilly squids?
MM: Yep in the Georgia mountains.
DW: They fight and fuck each other.
DRE: Is it going to be on Cartoon Network?
MM: Yep. Itís really in the beginnings of development.
DRE: Anymore guest stars coming up on Aqua Teen?
MM: There will be but we donít know who yet.
DW: Weíre just getting back into it. Last year was just a monster year.
DRE: Did you guys take off for a while?
MM: We took our vacation but then we worked everyday on the DVD. We havenít really had any time off.
DRE: You can sleep when youíre dead.