Section TOOL


First, could you please introduce yourself for those who don't know you yet ?
I'm Meats Meier, I'm an artist and animator. I've been an artist my entire life. I started out as an airbrush artist, became a t-shirt designer, and then discovered digital art when the first Photoshop came out. I've worked in pretty much every artistic job in the CG industry, and also do illustrations for magazines and packages.

When did you start making CGI, and what were the important steps of your career ?
I was really lucky, I was hired at a video game studio where I was paid to learn 3D. It was a time when video games were just starting to turn to 3D (games like Virtua Fighter), and the company needed to jump in to survive. At the time, it was harder to learn that it is now, it was still really complex, but I could see the benefits so I didn't mind revolving my life around it so I could harness the artistic power that it provided.

Has your experience in the cinema industry been good ? Can you explain what's your role in general ?
I only worked on movies for about a year and a half, but it was an amazing time for me. I didn't really know what I was doing at first, it was like throwing a baby into water to teach it how to swim. I learned so much. The hours were really crazy, I didn't have much of a personal life, but it was really worth it. My role was as a technical director/compositor. I worked at a company called "The Orphanage", they split off from ILM, the makers of the Star Wars movies. Their goal was to try and have one artist do as much on one shot as possible, which means you may do some of the modeling (creating the characters) and do everything down the line to final compositing.

You also work for commercials and video games ; did you find the same interest in all these different mediums ? Is there another form you'd like to work with ?
When it all comes down to it, most of the techniques are the same. The process is mainly different depending on who you're working for. Everyone has different expectations and working process. Commercials usually have really fast deadlines, and you find yourself getting burnt out if you do it for too long. They want results, and they want them quickly. Video games can take a couple years of your life, they are the type of project that can go on forever. They all have a lot of great things about them too, I don't want to sound negative. Whenever you spend time passionately working on something and you actually finish it, it's the best feeling in the world.

In addition to your art, you teach and make tutorials ; is it important for you to pass your knowledge and experience ?
I think it's very important to pass on knowledge when it comes to 3D and digital art. It's a completely new art form, and it's changing very rapidly. I've always considered myself a bit of a Johnny Appleseed when it comes to 3D. I'm very excited about it, and I want to get as many traditional artists into it as possible. It's a lot easier now to convert than it was 10 years ago. Now it's everywhere.

How did it come for you to work with Tool ?
I just got an email from Adam Jones one day asking if I'd be interested to work on the stereoscopic cover artwork for the 10,000 Days album art. Of course, I was extremely interested, I was always a big Tool fan, and obviously a big fan of stereoscopic art (as well as holographic, anaglyph, and basically anything 3D). The CD even won a Grammy for "Best Packaging" that year.


Can you relate the way you build the artwork for 10,000 Days and the animations for the concerts ?
The characters and objects are more or less sculpted inside of the computer using programs like Maya and Zbrush. I can paint them and give them surfaces that mimic real world objects like metal, skin or anything I can dream up. I insert "bones" into the characters, and then can puppet them and animate them the way I want them to move. The real magic happens when I hand over my finished animations to Breckenridge Haggerty (the video guy for Tool), and he re-mixes them to match the music as it's being played. I'm always blown away by what he can do, and the level that he can bring to my work.

Did that new exposure change anything in the way you work and/or the way you're considered ?
Not much has changed for me. I've gained new fans because of the exposure, but I'm a behind the scenes type of guy. I'm rarely recognized on the street or anything like that. To be honest, I wouldn't want much of that type of attention. I promote myself, but it's always in the focus of trying to get more work. Any exposure is great for that. I just want to keep on being able to do what I do, and not have to get a job flipping hamburgers or something like that.

And what's your opinion about the other artists in the entourage of Tool ? Did you know them before ? Did they change anything in your way to approach your art ?
I'm extremely impressed by all of the the members of Tool, and the artists associated with them. I had met Cam De Leon and Chet Zar before working with the band, they are two artists that I really look up to. Alex Grey is another that I've always been amazed by. Working with him on creating a 3D version of one of his art concepts was a dream come true. I was surprised how nice and humble they are all. It seems to me the best artists don't have to be cocky, their work speaks for itself.

You seem even more involved in Puscifer, like you've been part of the family from the start of that project.
I was introduced to Maynard by Adam Jones at a Tool rehearsal, and started working with him right away. He needed an artist to realize some of his visions for the project, and I felt a strong connection to the whole concept of Puscifer. I just love the free-flowing creativity and talent that's associated with it. I've done three music videos, lots of art, created most of the live animations for the show, and have filmed a good deal of the shows on stage with them. I'm looking forward to putting some of the footage together, they put on an amazing show. Anyone that has a chance to check it out, I highly recommend it. Just leave your expectations at the door, as he says. It's very different from Tool, as you might imagine.

What kind of technological progress are you waiting for or that you'd like to happen ?
I was lucky enough to start working on 3D at the very beginning. When I started, it was very, very slow to do anything. Nowadays, it's a lot faster, but it has a long way to go before I'm not waiting for the computer to figure out something. The holy grail for digital art is "real-time" graphics, where you don't have to render anything overnight ; what you see is what you get. That way, I can try many things without having to take an hour coffee break before I see the results.

Finally, do you have a specific project you'd like to concretise one day ?
I'd like to have my own solo art show someday. I've had offers from galleries, but I haven't had the time to really focus on creating my own personal artwork for awhile now. I guess the main thing I look forward to is free time. I'd love to create my own art again soon, and just get really creative without any boundaries.