Interview With Artist and Co-Owner of Hi-Fructose Magazine, Daniel "Attaboy" Seifert.

"The world is full of fun and ideas. If you can’t find it, you’re not looking hard enough." -Daniel "Attaboy" Seifert

Photo by Ransom and Mitchell

Daniel "Attaboy" Seifert is a multi-talented artist and businessman that has channeled his intense work ethic and creative energies into numerous endeavors. 

Daniel’s art has successfully transitioned into different mediums of entertainment (he spent years studying design and has collaborated with industry giants like Hasbro), ranging from toys to animation which speaks volumes about both his artistic, and business acumen. He has also become a published author producing lighthearted children's literature.

It was along with fellow artist and wife Annie Owens-Seifert, that he was able to create the now iconic Hi-Fructose Magazine, that has become a staple in the modern art community. 

With it’s unique take on contemporary art, Hi-Fructose has witnessed a meteoric rise to prominence since it’s inception in 2005. The magazine has since featured a plethora of high profile creatives from around the globe operating in various disciplines. Recently, the publication has even created it’s own exhibition entitled Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose that showcases the evolution of the property and some of the artists they’ve featured over the years. 

With his quick-wit and humorous, yet insightful commentary, it was a joy to speak with Daniel about his life, work, and the origins of the monolithic publication.

Prox: Tell us about yourself. 

Atta: What kind of question is this? Do you just ask questions to people you know absolutely nothing about? One could view this sort of thing as an attack, no? Well, I do. At least say “Trick or Treat” if you want candy if you come to our door without a costume. (Sorry, it’s been a rough year) Hello. Let’s start over…

Prox: Where did you grow up and what motivated you to pursue a career in art?

Atta: I grew up in a town called Rocky Point, NY. On Long Island, with a short stint in Lauderhill, Florida. As for motivations, they’ve certainly changed over the years. I knew early on that I needed to do something different if I was to be happy. I also knew I needed to support myself while doing it. I was surrounded by creative people, like my brother Charlie who was a D.J. and video person and break dancer and horrible Scrabble player. My grandmother operated a ceramic studio with classes several times a week out of her home. My Gramps was and is a magician, and a raconteur of sorts. And my mother creatively overdoes everything holiday related.

I recently saw a home video compilation which Charlie made (he passed away in March of this year from Huntington’s Disease) and I learned that I was a completely surly kid. My little brother was a happy ham of a performer and Charlie the life of the party and my Dad a hilarious quipster. But once I left for art school, I became a homogenization-hybrid of all of their personalities. I am truly happy now. Frustrated a bunch, sure, but happy. Just wish I could go back to when I was a young kid and slap myself sometimes. So yeah, I have skeletons in my closet, which I’ve made from the bones of self-imposed unhappiness. 

I used to worry that being happy and finding a partner would change my art. Guess what? It did, Thank God (or whomever). I needed art to express my unhappiness. Now I’m happy and don’t need the art in that way. Which I think makes the art better. Maybe not for others visually, but I no longer completely care about that. And that makes me happy.

Prox: What has been the most impactful influence on your art? Is it any particular artistic (or spiritual) discipline, philosophy, or substance?

Atta: My wife Annie Owens has a huge impact on what I do and how I do it. I used to have an insane work ethic and lived in an apartment devoid of useless furniture like bed frames or chairs or couches. I didn’t believe in salads. I ate color-themed meals. I destroyed my health for some sort of unattainable militarized art/work ethic. I had no conversations that didn’t involve projects, all the time. I thought that would make me a better creator. It didn’t. Work is important but often perspective is more important. Where you apply pressure makes a difference. Just ask that guy over there bleeding to death… Go ahead, ask him. I’ll wait. But, ask him soon, because the floor is getting slippery.

Prox: There is a wide range of chibi-esque characters that make an appearance in many of your pieces. Where did these characters come from and why did you to decide incorporate mature, surrealist elements into them?

Atta: Not sure how that works, but I love to draw people in, then dement them. It’s hard to find the right balance. My latest book, The Book of Hugs and The Little Book of Butts, does that in the right way I think, or so people tell me. I published a book called The Polka Dots Learn to Polka, which kids really like to act out and have their parents read to them over and over. It forces parents to at least act like fun people. There’s no way to not at least sound silly reading the book aloud. The characters there are dots with legs. A round version of a stick figure. 

Another book I did, published by Immedium (who published the hugely more successful Octo Nauts books), and completely missed the balance it seems. It’s both too old, and too young for readers at the same time. Which means it’s an innovative disaster. But I like it (every other day, usually). At least it’s not patronizing. A live version of it was performed at a local theatre called the Dark Room on the suggestion of my wife. We’re both Edward Gorey fans. And he used to have his books acted out. I may work in a sometimes-conventional way or theme but it’s a failure to me if these things aren’t personal in some strange way. I like words and pictures and how they react to each and with each other. In the end, they are diary entries for me, I guess.

Since creating a short for Disney called Too Many Robots, I’ve been doing projects of various mediums in and out of Hollywood. Several made it to the lofty contract stage, many are in a “vault”/ a development limbo after being bought by a big network. I also did a little YouTube Series called They Actually Made That?! Where I described items I find in my office. The first episode has over 3.5million views or some such and was featured on a daytime talk show as a debate topic. That was weird. The rest of the episodes didn’t get the same traction, though I like them better. 

I’ve another project called the Loyal Order of Snowmen, which I co-created with the fantastic writers Steve Bencich and Ron J. Friedman is set to be a feature animation. So lookout. 

Prox: When did you decide that you wanted to be involved with toys and children’s literature? How does the headspace for these projects differ from your other works?

Atta: I graduated from the Toy Design program at FIT in NYC. I really don’t do many real toys any longer, but I apply the idea generating techniques I learned there on EVERYTHING I do. It’s my way out of any crisis, actually. Creatively, or otherwise. The world is full of fun and ideas. If you can’t find it, you’re not looking hard enough. Pain and hate exists, too. But we all need something to fight for, right? 

Prox: How exactly did you and Annie come up with the idea of Hi-Fructose? 

Atta: She may have different takes on things regarding the magazine. Here’s my two cents though: We found most magazines to be too inclusive. We weren’t cool enough or rich enough or street enough to read them, or so it felt like. I think we subconsciously needed something to work on together, to learn to work together. We did everything backward though! Started a magazine, then moved in with each other, then bought a house then got married. We never imagined it would grow into what it did. There’s an exhibition touring the country now called Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose. It’s presently at the Virginia MOCA, and then it goes to Ohio, then to the Crocker Museum of Art in Sacramento. We’ve learned a lot being part of such an endeavor. Some good, some to discuss at a later date.

Prox: Had you always wanted to be involved with a magazine? 

Atta: My first inclination is to say no, but when I really think about it, I’ve always liked printing and multiples of things, and books. My friend Steve and I made an underground paper in high school and distributed it. I think the teachers mostly understood it, though. And mass production still fascinates me. And what makes other people excited about those things, especially when they were weird, funny, or insane. To me that’s a form of art. And bringing strange things to life is something that I’m passionate about. Can you be a designer without knowing how to use programs? I don’t care.

Prox: What’s the significance of the name?

Atta: It’s bad for you and good tasting? Some fancy (and barely readable) art magazine described our name in a review recently better than I could. Something about the high and low art worlds. I dunno.. I used to, but I think I forgot. 

Prox: Could you discuss some of the nuances for us? What are some challenges that we can expect to encounter if we plan on creating a publication and how can we mitigate them early on?

Atta: What would the fun be of creating a print magazine if I told you all the thousands of mistakes, errors, pain, sacrifice, and personal and physical expense it takes to make work correctly? ☺

Prox: What are some things that you picked up at some of the top companies that you were involved with that transferred over into your management of the magazine?

Atta: How to deal with creative people and give quick, constructive input. That reliable people are gold. That it’s important to pay people on time. Ideas are important, but deadlines moreso.

Prox: What typically dictates the kind of art that makes it into each publication? Is there a particular message that you look for in each selected piece or is it focused on the aesthetics?

Atta: Annie and I look for different things. But surprisingly many of the same things, lately. But sometimes it feels as if the magazine tells us what to put in, where to go next. We like when artists take risks after finding success in a particular thing. It’s hard to do. And as artists ourselves, it’s something that I feel that we both admire. Our choices aren’t based on marketing tie-ins like many other magazines. In that sense, we try to respect the reader with our editorial. Maybe that’s one of the reasons people say the magazine ‘feels different”. That and the writers we’ve hired to bring stories to life in an intelligent but interesting way. That, and it’s an actual print magazine, which you can smell, borrow, lend, tear, destroy and enjoy. I don’t know. Annie may have something different to say…

Prox: Ultimately, what would you like your work and Hi-Fructose to say about yourself and the artistic community?

Atta: I think that’s for other people to decide. 

Prox: Favorite hobbies?

Atta: Haven’t found any that I don’t absorb into what I do on a daily basis. It’s actually a problem. I’m very bad at relaxing. Except when watching movies. Lately, I’ve been playing around with cardboard. But that’s kinda turned into a thing. I’ve recently started making up games. And in 2017 hope to launch some, including one game, which my friend Jim Dubois came up with, called Vampires Vs. Unicorns. We developed it together and it has the art of Travis Lampe and Travis Louie. It’s kinda insane. So there’s that. When not doing that, I really enjoy eating popcorn at the movies in the middle of the day while most people are at their jobs, but haven’t done that in awhile. And going to museums and the discount grocery store to try out discontinued failed food items. I also don’t fly on airplanes. This year I went across the country by train twice. Like a land astronaut. This weekend I’m dressing like a no budget Krampus and giving horribly wrapped awful gifts to people. Orson Welles is my spirit animal, which I shall not want.

Prox: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?

Atta: There’s so many… the director Stephen Chow, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Charles Addams, Mark Ryden, Marvin Glass, Jack Kirby, Wayne White, Dave Cooper, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Jacque Tati. I’m also really into The Mighty Boosh, and Sifl-N-Olly. 

Prox: Tips for aspiring artists, visionaries, and businessmen?

Atta: Surround yourself with people who make and create things. Even non-artists, if possible. Scientists, dancers, people who are passionate. Avoid the word “meh”. The art world can be insular. It’s great to have influences but your path is going to be your own, especially if you are to succeed in finding a distinct place for yourself. Relationships don’t have to hurt your creativity; in fact it can make it even better, if you find the right one. Use the shittiest materials to experiment on and stop being precious. And go for a gawd damned walk every once in awhile.

Prox: Information on upcoming projects and releases?

Atta: The 42nd volume of Hi-Fructose arrives in January. Look for that on shelves. And look for the 4th Hi-Fructose Collected Edition Box Set in 2017 and two other special Hf books. And from the Yumfactory: Vampires Vs. Unicorns! And the Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose exhibition book by Baby Tattoo Books is now out, but there are only a limited amount of copies left. I’ve started to put some of my latest things on Instagram, check that out at @attayumfactory Let’s make 2017 a year where the ODD get EVEN. Thanks!

You can learn more about Attaboy and Subscribe to Hi-Fructose, here.

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