AF: Other than your work in Shoujo, what other high-profile stuff did you do?
KB: I did this on purpose too. Um, I've actually been in comics and the industry for a really long time. Basically twelve years now, but basically, I was doing everything while I was behind the scenes. I would do the occasional pin-up or usual whatever, but I didn't want to put anything out until I was worthy. I did a couple of books previous to this, but I drew the entire thing all the way through and put it in a drawer, and they'll never...they'll never see the light of day at all.
KB: That's because I knew. I loved the story, but as I learned how to write better and read more stories and stuff like that, I started to see the faults in it.
You know when you first start, you're like, "Oh, I'm in love with it!" And you can't see anything wrong. But I dunno, I started to look more critically at it and I realized this isn't something that I really wanted to put out, because this isn't my best work. So actually, what made the big difference was I was in love this story before...this vampire story that you're never gonna see. Never gonna see!
And then I got injured. I got tennis elbow in my right arm, which is my drawing arm, and I couldn't draw for eight months. I couldn't do anything. I couldn't type. I couldn't drive. I couldn't do anything with my right hand for eight months, and during that time while I was vegetating and wasn't allowed to draw or do anything, someone asked me if I could do some T-shirt designs for them. And I used to work for a T-shirt company, and this ironically is the T-shirt company that gave me tennis elbow by working there in their very un-ergonomic environment and, um, they're like, "Cool, we need some T-shirt designs."
"We need, like, five T-shirt designs that are going to be targeted towards a young female audience. And we're gonna put them on girl's T-shirts and sell them in Macy's or whatever."
I'm thinking I need to draw five chicks, basically. And I have no idea what I'm doing, so I just start. I start doodling this girl and she's all action Posey. And okay, they wanted it kinda manga style, because they just started to figure out, "Hey, people are buying this. Oh yeah."
So I start drawing this first chick. And this first chick turns into Kiana, who is the main character in Oasis Destiny.
I had no idea what I was doing. I was just drawing five girls, and I was, "Oh, I'm gonna give each of them a theme." And each of them is going to have their own thing. So there was a nature girl, and a technology girl, and there was, like, the fighter, which I didn't really have a name for at first, and there was, like, the artsy-fartsy one. And as I was drawing them, the story just started to build in my head. It's, like, as I'm sitting here, I'm drawing the characters and I start drawing them on the computer, and I, like, start seeing the personality of the character. It just starts to come out from the pictures, and I sent the T-shirt designs off for them to print, and the next couple of days I'm sitting here and this story is, like, starting to evolve in my head. I'm like, "Hey, this is pretty cool." (laughing)
But that's because I didn't have the plot to start with; I just had the characters to start with. And that's what you should do when you are writing. You should start with the characters. And over the remainder of my healing time, I had basically thought up this whole story. And as soon as the very, very moment that my doctor gave me the okay to take off all my braces and start drawing again, I just started tearing this thing out. It was like it had been trapped. It had been trapped!
And I had this major awakening, because I hadn't drawn in eight months. My style had evolved during that time even though I hadn't physically done anything, just from what I had seen and what I had sponged up. And so, I popped out this story. And I copied the first chapter and I sent it off to my friend, Jamie. Um, Jamie and I, we're not like best buddies, but I had met him through my other friend, Chynna, many, many times and I knew that he's a good editor. Not like the kind that is either too jaded that they can't really tell you anything good or that they're just going to blow sunshine up your ass all the time. He actually has, you know, good things to say, creative things to say and helpful things to say.
And I brought him the first story and showed it to him, and he told me what my strong points and where and what I needed to work on. And actually, I forgot about something else first. And then, but when I sent him the story, I was, like, "Anyway, I've been working about what you said and this."
And he goes, "I love this. I think this is very well written. I think it looks good. Unfortunately, we don't do super-hero comics." And technically, it's wasn't...okay; in a way it is a super-hero story, because in a way they are phenomenal human beings, but, um, he's like, "You should try Antarctic Press."
Now, I had had bad luck with Antarctic Press before, because last time I went to go see them, I don't know who this was, but they never look at me above chest level. Which is like, [*gesturing upwards*] "Hello? I'm up here!"
And so, I kind of had bad vibes from them. I wasn't really sure.
And he's like, "No, no. Go back to AP. Go back to AP, because these are the people you should try out."
And so I submitted that first issue to them and I was contacted back immediately. And they're, like, "Yay! Yay! We like it. We want some more."
And that's when I said, "Okay, well, I'll finish it up." And then I brought it to them.
So it's, like, yeah. Because a lot of people can, like, you know, "Here's a first chapter," and they can't produce nothing after that. So here's, oh, a 120 pages worth of work. It's lettered and layered out, and that's what they took. So I don't know how I got onto that subject...where was I? What was your original question? (laughing)
AF: Uh, something about Shoujo.
KB: Oh...oh oh, yeah! Oh yeah, that's right. That's the reason I had nothing else, because I didn't want to put anything else out. 'Cause there's a lot T-shirt designs. There was what? 300 cable car designs?
I was working for a T-shirt company that was making T-shirts for the SFO airport, and my boss was obsessed with cable cars. Anything had to have a cable car in it. It was also the year 2000, and so we were doing year 2000 T-shirts. And I had one...oh, I have to describe this to you because it was beautiful, beautiful. This guy was so obsessed with cable cars that...check this out, it was a shirt that said "I survived the year 2000." And it shows, like, these rocks and lava, and the 2000 is made out of these lava rocks, and it's just spewing lava like some catastrophic event is happening. And I show it to him and he's like, "Can we put a cable car in here somewhere?"
"Like what? On fire?!"
"Yeah, we can have those little half burning tourist coming out."
"What are you...What is with you?!"
And he was dead serious!
And I'm sitting there looking at him as if he's got lobsters coming out his ears. And everybody else in the art department is looking over at me with these blank expressions. It's, like, we feel for you. We really do. And he walks out of the room. And oh my god, we're laughing so hard. It hurt so bad. There was, like, tears spurting out my eyes. And I...I don't even want to imagine what his bathroom must look like with his cable car soap, cable car wash cloths, and I don't know what. It was crazy. It was really crazy.
"*Ding Ding* I hear the bell. I love the bell."
Okay, it was rickety, dude.
Anyway, anyways, anyways, yes. So that's why I didn't put anything out, because I wanted the first thing to be something that I wasn't gonna regret. See my friend, Chynna, her first thing she put out, she doesn't want anybody to know it existed. See, she was first published when she was eighteen years old, but she doesn't want anybody to know about that old story, because she looks back and is, "Oh god, what was I doing?"
And I didn't want that same thing to happen to me after having watched it happen to her. So when I put something out I wanted it to be something I could be happy with, even now that it has finally come out in Shoujo and the story's three years old. But anyway, I can do better now. I know I can do better now, but then...back then that was good. That was my good stuff. But you know, I know I can do better, but I don't regret it at all. And I don't look back and think, "That sucks." I never do that anyway. "This sucks." So yes, does that answer your question? I'm sorry...I'm rambling so much.
AF: No, this is perfect. Let's see, you also write music. What kind of songs do you write?
KB: Any kind of songs.
AF: Any kind?
KB: Uh, any kind. The only kind of music I don't like is country music. I think that's because I grew up in a town full of country music lovin' folks and, uh, I didn't fit in there very well. My...my parents are both musicians, and so I guess it was genetic on some level. Even when I was really, really little I was writing songs. I had this, like, toy piano with, like, sixteen keys. Really the "*dink dink dink dink*" kind, but I was still...I couldn't read music, because I never took any music lessons. But I was playing everything by ear, and so I would write these little songs in my head, and I'd play these little pieces on this cute piano. It was so cute! And then they got me a real piano when I turned ten, and then they got me another one when I turned sixteen, 'cause that one broke and then...
Yeah, I write any kind of song that's good. I actually got my original nickname "Karaoke Kate" because, um, my boyfriend at the time, we were walking somewhere and there were pumpkin bugs--these little black and orange bugs--were everywhere. And he kept saying, [*in in semi-singing voice*] "Pumpkin bugs, they're everywhere. You can throw them through the air, and watch them land."
And I'm, like, "Yeah."
He's, "Make a song out of that!"
And I'm, "Okay."
So on the walk home from the school where we had seen the pumpkin bugs, I had written the "Pumpkin Bugs" song by the time we got back. And I got back to my house and I started playing it on my synthesizer, and I'm, like, singing him the "Pumpkin Bug" song.
And the "Pumpkin Bug" song ended up being incredibly popular. I went on, um, Ultima Online actually with my character Karaoke Kate, and people, they're always asking me, you know, "Sing us the song. Sing us the song." So I would type out the "Pumpkin Bugs" song for them. And I had the whole area going, "*Doot di do. Doot di do*." And walking around singing the song. (laughing)
I like to write songs that make people laugh, but most of them are about art or things that happen around me. I write a lot of songs about my life. So the rest of them are pretty bummed out sounding ones, when I'm in, you know, my angst phase. The, you know, "Oh god, the world is a dark and lonely place."
A lot of them are really cute, because I love to have people laugh so much. So I'm always writing about my pets or fuzzy slippers or whatever. They're kind of off the wall, but...but they're fun and, you know, it makes people smile when they hear about, say, my dog singing about hamburger for "An Ode to Hamburger."
She loves the stuff. She's so cute about it. She does this little thing with her hands. It's the praying paws. She puts her little paws together like she's praying for her life.
[*Katie claps a few times and demonstrates the "praying paws" and then breaks out into an uber-cute voice*]
She does this little "*annt* Ham-bur-ger. Hamburger, please, please, please."
And you...you just can't deny...
KB: She does! She prays for her life! Then she rolls around on her belly and I'm like, "Pray for your life!" And she's like, "Okay!"
Random Passerby: Hi, Katie.
Random Passerby [to the man sitting behind us]: Hi, boyfriend of Katie.
KB: "Boyfriend of Katie." (laughing)
So, yeah, um, I just write all kinds of songs. I write all kinds of music, and as long as I've lived, I've never taken music lessons. I was in choir singing for a long time, but they never taught us how to sight-read. So I can never sight read, but I can play anything by ear.
And, um, anyway, any time I get something stuck in my head, I have no way of getting it out except for this little sixteen key keyboard, and then the piano. And finally my dad got me a midi program, and it was liberating, because all these things...I would hear them in my head and I could only play so much on the piano, but now I can, like, orchestrate. Even though it was little "*dink dink dink*" kind of sounds, I could still orchestrate it. And it was, like, finally, like...the drums and kind stuff that I couldn't play before were finally all coming out and it was so great. I went nuts. I had that midi program and I was just cranking them out like, "Oh god, and there's this one, and there's this one, and there's this one." I just kept making more, and more, and more, and it was insane. And then, I was, like, "Oh no!" And now nobody listens to midi anymore. But I've still got them. I've still got them. And they sound really great on my computer. Not so much on other people's computers, but yeah.
AF: That's always how midi is.
KB: Yes, I know. It sounded so beautiful on mine that I listen to it on someone else's and like, "Oh no! Stop that! Stop!" Because the voices I picked, you know, on mine that sound like tympani's sound like somebody hitting, like, coffee cans on there's. And, like, that's not quite the effect I was going for. It was like the "*boom boom boom*" to the "*bank bank ba-baannk*." "No, no. Stop. Just stop. Turn it off." It was not good, but yes. So that!
AF: You ever made a music video? Like an anime music video?
KB: I want to so bad. Actually, I want to make an anime music video with my characters from Oasis Destiny. I found the per-fect song for it, but I don't have any freakin' time.
AF: You'd animate it?
KB: Oh, if I had any freakin' time I would so love to do that. I could use, like, my animation background. I know I could. But yes, if I had time, I would love to do an AMV. I would so love to. I hear all these songs, and I see them in my head. It's like, "Oh god, if I found a way to do this." Oh, let me add another thing to my crazy repertoire of things I'm doing.
AF: You could stay up 'till, like, five o'clock in the morning.
KB: I already stay up 'till five o'clock in the morning! That's my normal hours.
AF: Mine too.
KB: I do. That's my normal hours. I don't get up until noon most of the time. I kind of have to do that, because if I, you know, stop working I just...I get all bored. And that's fine. I need to be doing something. So yes, I'll work literally until I can't keep my eyes physically open anymore.
AF: So other than your "Fuzzy Slipper" song, is there anything else that fans of your work might not know about you that you might like to share...other than what you've already shared?
KB: Is there anything that people don't know about me? I'm so talkative. I don't think there's anything that nobody knows at this point.
KB: Everybody knows that I love chocolate, like in an obsessive kind of way. I have to have it. It's my brain food. I have a bag of semi-sweet morsels on my desk. Like, skip the fru fru little candy bag. I don't need the caramel or stuff in there. I just want the chocolate. So it's just like, *arrgmp arggmp arggmp*. [*picture massive shoveling action at this point*]
Like my mouth is all brown, that's right, um...
I don't think there's anything nobody, um, well, that's weird, because there are some things that people don't know about me just because I am a really private person. My public life I have all over the place. You know, any question they have for me, I don't try to withhold the stuff I do about my wigs. I don't want to make it a big secret, because I'm more than willing to share that information, and that's fine. Um, as far as, like, I don't ever really want to be famous. I don't want to get to the point where I have to hide or get behind really big walls like Madonna does or something like that. I'll...I'll never be as famous as Madonna. That's ridiculous. "I'm more famous than God!"
But no, I like my privacy and I like the fact that, you know, I have this way to show people things, like, through my work and through my web site or things like that. But in my own home, I'm a pretty private person and I don't watch TV. Everybody's like, "How can you not watch TV? Are you not an American?" And I don't like pizza and I don't drink. I'm just...I'm totally just not right. I'm not right in the head.
Um, yes, actually that was a big thing in high school. Everybody assumed because I was so weird that I must be on drugs. But I never, ever, ever did drugs. Which, like, all the cheerleaders were, but, like, I wasn't. And they're like, [*in a Jeff Spicoli voice*] "You're a weirdo. You must be, like, high."
"Like, no. I'm not high. Actually, I'm just naturally weird. I just came out this way. And 'hi.' Not high, but hi."
Yeah, so I just went to my ten-year reunion and I met up with all these people who were always, like, "You were always, like, trippin'."
"Like, no. Really I wasn't. You were trippin', and that was why you thought I was trippin'. But I was, like, always sittin' there, like, dude, your fly's open. And yeah, we don't really want to see that so much."
Um, I don't really think there's anything people don't know. I don't have any deep dark secrets.
AF: You can't really if you're at an anime con, because people ask you anything.
KB: Well, I know people ask me...you know, actually people don't! They're, like, intimidated to even talk to me. "I'm cute! By golly, I've got kitty ears on!"
"Oh god, she's scary!"
Okay, no. I am kind of scary. I am kind of scary to my students. I've had a lot of people tell me, like, "You're very intimidating." How the hell can you be intimidated by a 5'4", 110 lbs. whatever?
*ROAAARRR!!* I'm a gorilla!
No, um, I dunno. A lot of people find me intimidating. And that's something about me. In Ninja High School, Yoshiko is totally based off of me, because I've got this...this sweat-sugary outside thing that, you know, "Let's be friends. Blahdy blah blah. But I'm a total psychopath!"
KB: Oh no, I am! If people piss me off...Oh, I am not afraid to go to the mat. Go to the mat and pick up chairs and slam 'em into them. And *unnh*.
Yeah, I'm very...uh, I can stick up for myself. So I'm cute and cuddly, but I've got cat fangs. *grawwr*
So yes...and I have to go pee really bad.
AF: And I'm out of questions.
KB: Okay, well that all goes together then, doesn't it? Where's the bathroom?!
[*Katie's boyfriend quickly rattles off some directions and she darts off down the hall screaming*]
And there you have it, dear readers. The Renaissance Girl has spoken. From her humble beginnings as her father's programming guinea pig to her Ameri-manga work with Antarctic Press and even her uplifting songs (catch them at www.katiebair.com!), Katie Bair is one person in the industry who is constantly striving for even greater heights. Here's hoping we get that Oasis Destiny AMV one day, but until then, you can catch her distinctive art style every month in the pages of Ninja High School!