Q&A: Clint Weiler of Punk Rock Toy Company Aggronautix
When you think of punk rock collectibles, you probably conjure images of limited-edition Subhumans 7″s or screen-printed NOFX gig posters, but Clint Weiler, who runs a small punk rock toy company called Aggronautix, is hoping to change all that. For the last several years, he’s been releasing limited edition bobblehead dolls featuring a who’s who of punk icons, including GG Allin, Jello Biafra and Keith Morris. We sat down with the toymaker to get the scoop on how the dolls came to life — and how they get from idea to your display case.
Where did the idea to do punk rock bobblehead dolls come from?
My main gig is publicity for a company called MVD, and I’ve been doing that for over 10 years. MVD releases a lot of punk DVDs, vinyl and all sorts of stuff, so I’ve been working with bands like The Dwarves and The Meatmen and Merle Allin, who has the rights to all of GG’s stuff. So I’ve known these guys and I’ve done publicity for all of their projects. I’m a big punk fan and I like designer toys so I wanted to do some punk rock toys. Once I started researching it and saw how expensive it was to make vinyl stuff, I was like, “Alright, I guess I better just do bobbleheads for now because they’re cheaper.”
Most designer toys are made of vinyl then?
Yeah, those kind of anime-looking toys you see are all made out of vinyl. There’s a big vinyl underground toy collector thing. I talked to Dov Kelemer in L.A. who has a toy distributor called DKE, and he said he would carry the G.G. bobblehead if I made it, even though the [toy collecting] community isn’t into bobbleheads. But he liked the idea because it was like an anti-bobblehead. Normally, they’re athletes or movie starts or whatever, so that was the perfect one to start with.
Can you walk through the process of designing and getting one made? You have to get permission first, right? You can’t just make money off of someone’s likeness without asking.
Correct. After that’s all set, I have a team. A guy named Craig Holloway, who’s well-known in punk and hardcore circles, as THE guy that illustrates punk and hardcore stuff. He’s amazing. So I take the concept to him, with whatever photos I have and any ideas, and then I have him illustrate it. Or I get photos of the person in their actual position — if they’re alive — and then we develop it from there. But he’s the one who does all the initial illustrations. Often it’s based on an iconic photo or iconic look. It tends to be pretty easy most of the time. Like the GG for instance, there’s a whole bunch of different looks you could do, but the jockstrap was sort of the notorious one.
Do the initial illustrations have to be from a bunch of different angles or in 3-D or something?
It’s what they call a turnaround. You’ll have the front and the back and the sides so that the sculptor can sculpt it accurately from all angles. The sculptor sculpts the mold out of clay and all points of the process have to be approved by the artist or management too. So for every drawing, sculpt, sculpt with paint — all aspects of the design need to be approved. It’s a pretty long process. It can take a few weeks just for that. Then once everybody agrees on everything we start manufacturing it. It comes from China and it gets here probably six weeks or so after that barring any customs issues.
Why make them limited edition?
When something’s numbered and it’s limited it has more value, even though it’s a piece of plastic essentially. When something’s done it’s done. I’m not making more of them. For instance, the Milo from The Descendents doll sold out pretty quick, and people have been emailing me asking when I’m going to make more. But I’m not. I’m going to make a second version of it, but it’s going to be different.
Is it always the same number that you manufacture?
No, most of them are 1,000. The first GG I did was 2,000. I just did a Mojo Nixon that was 500 and that sold out in like a month, which was surprising to me, but he did a tour on it, which was kind of cool.
How do you decide who you’ll create a bobblehead for?
It’s just people I like. Right now I have a pretty good backlog of stuff I want to make, but I like to gauge it through Facebook. I’ll do polls to see who’s ranking higher. I like to do historical people mostly, people that are legendary in the punk realm.
Are there people you have tried to get that have said no?
Yeah, plenty. And some people just don’t even answer me.
Would you consider doing more modern punk icons like Fat Mike from NOFX, Tim Armstrong from Rancid or Billie Joe from Green Day?
I would. I was actually talking to NOFX about it. I did Andrew WK and he’s even more modern than NOFX. But I know him personally and he wanted something cool for the Warped Tour so we made that.
Do you think that you’ll expand your line to include other things?
For the punk rock market, if there is such a thing, the bobblehead pricing is right. The sculptor’s work isn’t cartoony and its pretty realistic. The heads aren’t oversized or anything. I like what’s going on with everything now but I would like to try a vinyl doll or something down the line.
Is there anybody else that makes punk rock toys? Haven’t The Ramones had dolls?
People have made Sex Pistols stuff — a company called Medicom made some awesome Misfits vinyl dolls that were super-limited. I have those fuckers. It took me forever to find them on eBay and they were expensive too. A company called Mecca in Jersey just did an Iggy Pop more realistic sculpture kind of Todd McFarlane-style thing.
How many different dolls have there been?
Handsome Dick Manitoba from The Dictators was number 14.
And how many are sold out? Original GG, second GG, Mojo and Milo – so four of ‘em. And Roky Erickson is getting ready to be sold out too.
Check out all the latest from Aggronautix on their website.