Matt Walls aka MattyBoomBatty of ‘A.O.I Toys’ outta Convict Town aka Australia is a rare breed in the art toy scene – a man very much unafraid to tell it like it is. From initial challenges, to success and the issues in between.
Matt’s simple advice to burgeoning toy makers: “If you LOVE it, do it. If you don’t, stop…it’s that easy.”
(Picture below of a pile of ION Men by ‘A.O.I Toys’)
Most famous for his ION Men series of 7 part mini vinyl toys, he initial gained a foot hold in the scene, and experienced his first challenges and success, via his first company ‘Smash Tokyo Toys’.
So get up to date on Matt Walls history -with ‘Smash Tokyo Toys’; and future – with ‘A.O.I Toys’, by reading the Art Talk below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Matt Walls – Dawn of Time
City, State n Country you’re Repping?
Brisbane- QLD, Australia
Describe – a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. A.O.I’s pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, women, school, college… ANYTHING man.
* age 10 – pre pubes:
I saw this guy do a nudie run threw a hotel pool area then run into a pole and knock himself out.
Then all his friends FREAKED OUT and didn’t know how to deal with it so they left him there in the nud.
* age 15 – pube rage:
This guy used to bully the hell out of me so on the last day of school before two weeks holiday I took a frozen rat from biology class and put it in his locker and after holidays it had putrified the entire school.
* age 20 – acceptance of pubes:
At 18 my fathers’ secretary banged me then shared me with all her 35 year old friends. Freaked me out, she picked me up the first night I ever went to a night club and said “Heeeyyyy, I know you!”
Wait, did you want toy stuff?
(Picture below of some art depicting the many versions of the ION Men by ‘A.O.I Toys’)
“Give and not take.”
I don’t have any really…I suppose old shit like New Order, Van Halen, Electronic, Boxcar etc You know all these weird alternate station bands?
Well my car radio hasn’t worked for years and there’s no stereo in my house so I just don’t know any bands.
I used to meet a lot of famous bands and I’d never know who they were.
Favorite TV show(s)?
I don’t watch tv and when I do it’s a year later after the show was large…pisses people off.
I just finished Breaking Bad so now when I want to talk about it people are all “DUDE! That finished 10 months ago!”
Wow, this is going to date so bad.
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
Sp-ort? What’s that?
This’ll sound weird but I used to be a champion speed skater. Now my GF is a roller derby girl so I’m back into skating.
I’m still a skating LEGEND just old…and tired….and fat.
(Picture below of some red vinyl ION Men)
The Last Starfighter.
Favorite books and comics?
Stardust and The Dark Knight Returns.
Is the rise of ‘art’ toys an indication of the changing nature of ‘art’? OR just a bunch of nerds with too much $$$ and time?
Dude, how many “Art Toys” do you see running around these days? All I see are toys that guys paint their ideas on. they’re not “art”. Putting a cute monkey or a robot on a blank dunny is not art.
When I think of “Art Toys” I always think of Frank Kozik or Amanda Visell.
Something like Kozik’s Mecha Nana is what I think of as art….not a fucking skull Dunny, some blank with Marvel characters painted on it or a skull-headed leprechaun with “attitude” flipping the bird from The Bronx with three Zs in its name that some guy says is “designer”.
(Picture below of a white version of the Mecha Nana by Frank Kozik)
You mentioned in your ‘Top 5 Toys’ post, that your favorite toys are flesh vinyl – specifically the M1GO Godzilla 1973. Why the love of naked toys?
It’s stupid, but unpainted toys to me, have that whole “straight out of the vat and unsullied” vibe. Knowing what I know about production and the differences between big machine produced stuff in China and the small run produced vat sofubi in Japan it’s just a beautiful thing.
Unpainted collectors know what I mean…painted toys are hot but they’re not as raw.
(Picture below of 2 of Matt’s M1Go Godzilla’s)
What are your thoughts of the toy forum scene as a way for fans and artists to communicate? Is it a real ‘community’ or just a virtual locker-room shit talk?
I don’t know, I’m not really a forum guy.
I think forums have always been good for bringing people together since I remember what the world was like for collectors BEFORE the internet but they’re also a good place for trolls and rabble-rousers.
What does your wife/girl/woman/family make of the whole perpetual adolescence/Peter-Pan/man-child aspect of toy art + toy collecting?
I used to be married to someone who never supported a single thing I did, she couldn’t even tell you Seismic Ace’s name.
Now I have a crazy awesome roller derby girl who, while not into toys, appreciates design, form and function etc and is still filled with a childish wonder.
I dragged her to every toy store in Japan and then let her shop for a week, we balance out, plus I know women’s fashion and can shop with her for hrs…she loves it.
You hear those guys who say “My wife/GF HATES toys…” That’s bad man. I’ve been there, show them the door.
If you’re with someone who is totally intolerant of what you love, that’s the WRONG person for you.
Do you think once an artist has re-used a piece of pop-culture, it becomes harem for another artist to use it/spoof too? …I am thinking of ‘The Sucklord’ + ‘Boba Fett’; ‘The Mark Ultra’ + the hangman mask head; ‘Buff Monster’ and ice-cream etc.
Yep. It sucks balls too how people snap it up and pay ridiculous prices for it from dudes no one has ever heard of as well. Any fucking guy can stick a Stormtrooper or Darth Vader head on ANYTHING these days and people buy it.
If you’re not NY Super Sucklord FUCK OFF….
I made resin for years and I can tell you it was $1 a pour for 3 inches of resin and it’s NOT HARD. Joe Fucker punching out 30 figs an hr from lego moulds and trying to charge $60 a toy while pros are spending $15k making toylines at factory and struggling to sell them at $10 each.
Makes you angry man.
Wait, people are making ice-cream shit like Buff Monster? Weird….what a weird thing to want to go out and copy right!?
I like that Kris Dulfer guy and his Boba fett resin toys, guys like the Godbeast, you know, pros who have been slinging resin for years like Paul Kaiju but not just any guy who just throws shit together in their backyard and then runs around calling themselves a “toy designer”. It’s embarrassing.
In the end, if you have a good, original idea…people are going to buy it right?
I always said “Material shouldn’t matter, good design should matter.”
You and I have discussed privately about the issues you have faced breaking into the toy scene… Care to elaborate more for those at home?
Same issue everyone has DON’T MAKE A TOY JUST BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT because YOU WILL FAIL like the 3000 guys every year who release ABSOLUTE SHIT TOYS with no marketing, no advertising and no research all because they put it up on a forum full of their peers or showed it to some designer they LOVE who said “That’s awesome!”
Here’s the tip: “Toy Designers are professionals…they don’t run around telling people their ideas are shit.”
No one told me Seismic Ace was shit. They all said it was awesome and I should do it. It was shit.
I did it with no money, no ideas of how to design or make a toy, no research, no contacts in the toy industry, no skills and I did it because I loved it, thinking it was going to be the GREATEST TOY EVER MADE AND EVERYONE WOULD BUY IT AND LOVE IT. No one bought it and everyone hates it.
I can introduce you to 500 guys just like me with the same story and every guy who comes to us for advice doesn’t listen because they think their idea is the greatest toy ever made because Mark Nagata or Frank Kozik said it was cool on some forum somewhere this one time.
$10k later and there’s 1000 unsold toys in their garage or sitting in a warehouse somewhere.
5 guys make it in 2000, just because you think every guy makes it, doesn’t make it true or because you see EVERY guy getting an art show at TAG or every new sofubi guy gets o/night success. No, they are the tiny percentage of guys/girls all around the world who didn’t fail or give up…..that month.
Think I’m kidding? Go to spankystokes.com and go back 2 years and start going through it and look at all the toys you’ve forgotten about and guys you’ve forgotten about.
Why the change from your original name ‘Smash Tokyo Toys’?
It wasn’t working. When I switched to Japanese toys it was pointed out to me that the Japanese wouldn’t understand and would think we were “SMASH” from Tokyo.
(Pictures below of the Seismic Ace figure from ‘Smash Tokyo Toys’ – from sketches, to sculpt to released version)
Why the name ‘Any Old Ion’?
We’re NOT actually called Any Old Ion, We’re called AOI.
There’s a porn star in Japan called AOI and she’s a registered, licensed dealio so on the web page I threw the full name up on there in case I got sued.
It was one of those things, I think Spankystokes called us that in a write up once then EVERYONE started calling us Any Old Ion and now it’s stuck.
It’s A.O.I., easy to remember and if people ask what it stands for I say “This.” then they ask what it means… “I don’t know, it’s a play on ‘any old iron’.”
ANYOLDION is my PS3 name.
What was it like working with ‘Turbo Pistola’ on the sculpting for your ‘ION Men’ figures?
Great, he’s the greatest designer on the planet.
All the toy turnarounds were done by pencil old school without the use of computers at any stage.
We used photocopiers and ink to recreate how toys were made in the 60s. Don’t know if that was on purpose or because we’re shit but I’ve continued that with my paper inserts. No technology.
(Pictures below of some of the pencil sketches by Matt n Turbo Pistola for the ‘ION Men’)
What was it like working with ‘Siccaluna Koubou’ of Japan on the manufacturing for your ‘I.O.N Men’ figures?
The best, have you seen the crazy detail on those?
The Stroll head has a 1mm door on the back of its head with tubes and wires inside!
I went to Japan recently and went to the workshop with my lady and we had a really good poke around. We held some of the many toys Miyazawa has sculpted, looked at the iron molds and saw some wax sculpts etc….
I don’t think people have a full understanding of what these “master” artists do until you meet them. It was impressive.
(Picture below of Matt with Ricky Wilson aka ‘Velocitron‘ in Japan, being shown toys at the Siccaluna studio)
What is the back narrative to the ‘I.O.N Men’ figures?
Long and involved.
Basically the Nazis created Seismic Ace in WWII and trained 5 young super orphans to pilot him.
On their first mission the allies hit him with a mortar salvo and they were all killed because no super robots have seatbelts in early sentai so when they fall over how do the pilots survive right?
So the allies capture him, put in seatbelts, take off his head and replace it with a new head which costs 17 thousand dollars (it’s the 40s) and Centurion 17K is born.
The Japanese retaliate by building the first nuclear robot Kumatank (Beartank) but the war ends.
In 1990, Earth gets invaded by aliens with adaptive tech and the two robots are rebooted….and quickly trashed.
Japan reveals they have used the alien tech to build a brace of new robots…The ION Men, piloted by Flamingo Pilot G and her sisters Death Metal Babe 90, Sonic GoGun and Twister BooBuns….because only women have the skills to pilot 600ft tall metal death….of course.
It’s on like Donkey Kong.
How did you come to connect with ‘Lulubell Toys’ as one of the major sellers of your creations?
I asked, they said yes.
Wait, maybe Velocitron suggested it, then I asked, THEN they said yes.
It’s generally that easy. Usually you just approach a store and see if they are interested. A lot of stores will want to go through a distributor to buy your toys though. I have a distributor for Smash Tokyo Toys but I have to distribute ION Men myself.
Lulubell are the best place to sell sofubi so I jumped on it.
Matt Art + General Questions
Describe the method of making a ‘Any Old Ion’ piece? (dot point all o.k.)
– It’s hard, man….really hard.
– drill arm and head holes, maybe a min each one. One slip, bin.
– Put all joints together for entire run, maybe 1.5 hrs.
– Stick in heads…HOURS with bleeding fingers. Heads are spiky.
– Form up legs and torso. If inserting paper inserts, cut out inserts. Whole run of inserts…2 hrs cutting, 1 hr inserting.
– Doing special parts like capes 3 hrs.
– Whole run time – 6hrs maybe? Never all at once, if there are two people only 1.5hrs.
(Pictures below of Matt holding some parts of the ION Men)
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
Maybe original rehashed crap?
Dude, nobody has done what we did and nobody gives a shit.
Guys in America no one has ever heard of can release one mini tomorrow and go STELLAR o/night, get shows at TAG, be in all the magazines, get a fucking art card, get a Dunny, get three companies do toys with them and be completely gone next year and guys will whinge and bitch and whine ALL OVER THE INTERNET about how unfair it is.
Why is it unfair?
That dude’s success doesn’t effect me. I know EXACTLY why my stuff doesn’t sell and theirs does. It’s a fickle, small niche industry and a THOUSAND guys are releasing toys every day.
Maybe five guys make it large….not EVERY guy is making it big and even then there is no BIG unless you are super corporations.
If you LOVE it, do it. If you don’t, stop…it’s that easy.
I’ve got one more toy in me, then I’ll stop and wander the Earth like Bruce Banner.
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (toys, drawings, paintings, anything)?
Duder, I can’t even draw with a crayon, I make toys and that’s it. I’ve never been a designer or an artist.
I’m that guy like every other guy who loved toys and robots as a kid who so desperately wanted to grow up and make toys.
I meet so many guys now who collect toys and they all say “Man, I would do ANYTHING to have my own toy;” and I tell them “So go do it, what’s stopping you?” and they can’t believe it, it blows their mind.
They all think it’s this unattainable thing or some secret society. Fuck it, anyone can do it.
I’m almost completely retarded, ask anyone in the toy industry and they’ll tell you….yet I did it, it was easy.
People come to me for advice now because I’m honest and upfront and I won’t try to convince you your idea is great and to go for it…I tell you the negatives first and there’s A LOT.
I dove straight in with no knowledge of what I was doing and got BURNED.
It took years of research and learning to get the ION Men right and I had to go to Japan to find out everything I learned about sofubi production was wrong…that was just last month.
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
Never. I hate the Art Hustle. 😉
Wait…do you mean Designer Toys?
When TOY2RUSA announced their MiniQee production I thought it was a big opportunity so I wrote to them and said I wanted to be in the first lineup with my Beartank.
I commissioned a very famous designer to do the design.
I don’t even OWN that toy and I always find it ironic that aaallllll the guys who collect that artist don’t have my Beartank in their collection but pride themselves on their complete (xxxxxxxxxxx) collection of art toys by THAT guy but f#######kkkk me, they’ll NEVER buy my stuff!
(Picture below of the ‘Smash Tokyo Toys’ Beartank Mini Quee)
Any formal art training? Or pivotal moment/influence?
None, zip, nada.
I like robots, big, stupid Go Nagai looking robots who couldn’t possibly exist because they don’t have leg joints, or their transformations are impractical or seem to have weird proportions or wrong scales when they combine from vehicle to robot, that stuff.
I think that what Frank Kozik did for the toy industry was pretty inspired and his story is very interesting, I like the way he does business and how he got all his shit together and basically said “Fuck what everyone thinks, I’m doing this and I’ll stick to my guns regardless.” I like that.
“If you hated me then, you’re really going to hate me now.”
Favorite ‘other’ artist(s)?
Don’t have one….I collect M1Go and Super7 Mummy Gators only these days.
I respect all the guys/ladies who have all the skills I don’t, like sculpting and design, and I marvel at what they do but you know what? None of them talk to me or collaborate with me so I just get on with my own thing….It gets done when I can because it’s not a one man operation but I’m only one man.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
There’s a million other guys competing with you….being Australian and competing with Ashley Wood?
Being ignored by Ashley Wood? I don’t know…
(Picture below of a bagged n tagged ION Man/Men)
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
Doing what I want with my own toy line and expanding it because really, I’m not in it for money or fame….which is why I’m still around.
What, to you, are the best and worst aspects of being an artist in Australia – a place previous Art Talk subject Mr. Ray Ahn critiqued for being culturally barren and backwards?
In the toy industry….like any industry we are reviled by everyone else.
A HUGE toy designer said to me recently when I said “Dude, there are no big toy guys in Australia…” (thinking we were talking about sofubi)
“What about Ashley Wood?”
What about him?
Seriously, what has he done for Australian toy guys in Australia? I don’t know a single Australian toy guy Ashley Wood has even given the time of day to. Do you? Certainly not us indy robot guys. So who else?
All the big names I KNOW you are thinking of that I know… don’t live here anymore they live in the USA and dude, ***I*** live here and I’m telling you toys are dead.
5 years ago there were whole aisles for TFs and SW toys, now there are 1 metre spots.
The toy aisles are shrinking, collectors import everything, there are NO designer toys sold in stores, no sofubi and specialist toy stores open up here all the time and are gone in a year or two because people won’t pay AU$25 for a 3 inch Dunny they can get online for US$4.
What were the highlights and why from your recent trip to toy-mecha, Japan?
Nakano Broadway Mall and Shibuya Mandarake.
Japan was the most insane place, everything you have ever heard is true, no matter how far-fetched…probably not exaggerated at all.
I bought hundreds and hundreds of dollars of toys super cheap and I ate as much as I could and didn’t make a dent in my savings.
(Pictures below of the Seismic Ace keshi by ‘Smash Tokyo Toys’ x ‘Rampage Toys‘)
In your ‘Clutter: 5 Quick Ones’ interview you mentioned your day job working with terminally ill children. What does your job entail and what are some highlights n lowlights?
I’m a multiple-impairment specialist and I have various hats.
Right now I’m a teacher but because our kids are both seriously physically and intellectual impaired I am required to do a lot of Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy which can also require splinting kids, manipulation, certain other procedures like tube feeding, lifts etc occur depending on each child’s illness.
Not a lot of regular teaching gets done.
It changes from year to year depending on…circumstances…I suppose… is the delicate way of putting it.
Teaching kids to walk whose drs say it’ll never happen is a highlight, you can guess the lowlights.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Uh….I’m doing minimum sprays with John Connor Trimmer of ‘A Colorful Monster’but not sure how we’re releasing yet. Either SDCC 2014 blowout or Designercon.
I like what I’m seeing from him so far.
(Picture below of the ‘Monsterforge‘ x ‘Smash Tokyo Toys’ Brains)
Any major projects you want to hype man?
Starting sculpts soon on new minis….
I’ve always wanted to do a female pilot for the robots and I have a cool idea for something that’s never been done so I’m on it.
There’s a bunch of pilots and we can just do one or two in different colors in this style I’m thinking of and I’m hoping there’s a certain niche crowd that will go BANANAS for it.