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Artist Spotlight: Freddy Loper

Hello again!  We sincerely hope you’re enjoying the Artist Spotlight series we’ve recently rolled out.  Our debut installment was with Nick Mulpagano and you can check that out HERE.  Nikos Dresios was next in line and that conversation is HERE.

Next up, we’ve got a very good friend of mine, Mr. Freddy Loper.  All the way down in Florida, Freddy as been running Mirror Image Masks and is responsible for finishing some of the best Myers copies in this hobby.

I’m not big on long introductions; especially since this interview itself is so long!

Now, on to us running our mouths:

Zac Crook:  Are you ready?

Freddy Loper:  Let me get a beer.

ZC:  I’m printing that.

[Both laugh]

ZC:  So, question number one:  How did you get  your start?

FL:  Well, I guess the first thing would’ve been doing resin kits.  That would’ve been in my early 20’s.  You know – Swamp Thing, Wolfman, Michael Myers, Leatherface.  I actually first saw Halloween when I was a kid.  I watched it with my grandmother. You hear that a lot, actually, which is kinda cool.

ZC:  Really? That is cool!

FL:  Yep. On Beta Max!  With Grammy.

ZC:  How old were you?

FL:  Let’s see…  Probably about seven, eight years old.

ZC:  I remember my dad said he saw it on TV while he was babysitting his brother.   He was probably, like, nine or something.

FL:  [Laughs]  He must’ve about shit his pants.  That’s funny.

ZC:  So, you’ve been into horror pretty much since you were a kid.  That’s pretty cool.

FL:  Oh yeah.  My first lunchbox when I was in kindergarten was a KISS lunchbox.

ZC:  That’s killer, man.

FL:  Yeah.  I pissed my pants that first day at kindergarten, but I had that KISS lunchbox, so I was golden.

ZC:  “Golden” in more ways than one.

FL:  The teacher wouldn’t let me use the bathroom, man!  So, I pissed my pants holding that KISS lunchbox.

ZC:  I would’ve done the same thing.  I would do that today.

FL:  KISS kind of – even though I’m not a huge KISS fan, as far as their music – as for their characters, I was just huge into them.

ZC:  I think their image ushered in a lot of kinds to get into them.  There was nothing like that at the time.

FL:  Nope.  For sure, man.  And a lot of my toys were, like, the Remco Classic Monsters and, like, this eight-inch Frankenstein, Dracula.  I love that shit.

ZC:  What was the first mask you ever got?

FL:  It would’ve been in the 70’s, and it would’ve been a Ben Cooper Gene Simmons.  Okay, so, check it out:  I was all insecure and my mom was a really sheltering kind of person – and she wasn’t digging it – but my dad was more, like, mainstream and my grandmother was too.  My dad was in this, like, Columbia House 8-track club and he ordered me a KISS 8-track.  So, my first costume – probably was in one of the same years that I got the lunchbox –  would’ve been the Gene Simmons Ben Cooper costume.  Then, the next year, they were all sold out of the Gene Simmons, so I got the Paul Stanley one and I wasn’t happy about it!  I wanted to be Gene Simmons every year.  [Laughs]  Too bad he’s a dick-head.  [Laughs]  I’m thinking about getting my Gene Simmons tattoo turned into Medusa.

ZC:  You’ve said you learned how to use an airbrush while you were working at a taxidermy shop?

FL:  Yep, that’s correct.  I did that for seven-and-a-half years.  I got to see everything.  Nile crocodiles; white tigers; everything, man.

ZC:  That’s super-cool.

FL:  I did the eyeballs.  [That’s] what I mainly did.  We made replica eyeballs for every kind of animal, pretty much.  Birds, deer, fish – whatever.

ZC:  How long ago was that?

FL:  That would’ve been, um, about when I was 23.  Something like that.  Supporting my family – sitting there painting and airbrushing all day with lead paint.

ZC:  Dang!  Lead paint?

FL:  Mm-hmm!  Oh yeah.  The pearls and stuff that we used were all lead-based.  Plus, we were using all kinds of rubber and vacu-forming and epoxies, molds – everything, man.  Vacuum chambers.  It’s kind of “mask stuff”, really, though I didn’t think of it at the time.

ZC:  So, how did you go from that to working on masks?  Did you sort of say, “Hey, this is the same technique; let me try that”?

FL:  Nah – I guess it would’ve been the resin models and stuff.  The monsters and all of that stuff.
Let me get another beer.

[Both laugh]

FL:  Yeah, it would’ve been through all that.  And then, being a guitar player for all those years, I started having a lot of problems with my ears.  I had gotten away from painting and the resin kits and all that stuff, [but] I’ve always been a horror fan and would collect horror stuff and movie posters.  I’ve always been a collector and I was a huge toy collector.  I mean, I had anything from the eighteen-inch Kenner Alien to Star Wars stuff and Shogun.  I’d collected a lot.  Then, once my ears started messing with me, I was kind of – I’d always kinda searched eBay for Myers masks, so I bought one, and I wasn’t impressed with it at all.  So, I sent that one back.  Then I started looking for blanks, and then I just slowly started painting.

And Nik [Dresios] was in Canada at the time, so I would just see his little website that he had set up.  To me, the NAG stuff was just great, but you couldn’t really get it because he was working on Riddick, I think it was.  So, finally, he retooled the 75K and I got a bunch of those blanks from him.

I guess I’m jumping around.  The first thing that I did was I bought a Night Owl “Closet Monster” and I redid it.  So, that would’ve been the first mask that I ever did.  I wish I could find it.

ZC:  Did you sell it?

FL:  Yeah, I did.  I’d like it back.

ZC:  Maybe somebody who reads this will have it and get a hold of you.

FL:  Yeah!  That’d be cool, man.

So yeah, the first one wasn’t that great, but people seemed to think I did well on the hair, you know, so I thought maybe I had a knack for that.  And my mom always did hair – that was her profession.  So, I was in that stinking beauty shop a lot of my life, and I hated it.  But, maybe I learned something.  [Laughs]

ZC:  You learned it by osmosis.

FL:  Maybe so!

ZC:  So, you officially started Mirror Image Masks in 2011, is that right?

FL:  Yeah.

ZC:  How did you come up with the name “Mirror Image”?

FL:  I had a Fender Jimi Hendrix “Mirror Image” Strat.  You can look them up – it’s pretty cool.  It’s right-handed, but it’s totally flipped.  It looked like a left-handed guitar.  Even “Fender Strat” was written backwards but, if you look at yourself in the mirror, you can see it says, “Fender”.  It was called the “Mirror Image Fender Strat” and I thought, “Huh, that’s a cool concept”.  And then I was like, “That would be a cool name for a mask company – Mirror Image”.

ZC:  How did you first start putting it out there that you were going to offer that service to rehaul and finish people’s masks?

FL:  It was really slow, man.  It’s definitely a hard hobby to establish you name in for sure.  I think the biggest thing that helped me was that I wasn’t interested in it for the money – at all.  I just did it because I liked it.  Then – like I said – slowly, I started finishing masks and I would sell them.  I just learned and learned and learned and just really worked hard at it.  I mean, people would actually comment, and they’d be like, “Aw, don’t burn yourself out, Freddy,” because I was just throwing them out there, man!

ZC:  Driven by passion.

FL:  Yeah, and I had lots of time to just learn and fiddle with it.  I was obsessed.

ZC:  In the time that you’ve been doing all of this, is there anything that – every single time – is a big challenge for you?

FL:  Just wanting it to be perfect and being a perfectionist.  I’m kind of my own worst enemy, I would say.  And I’ll drive myself crazy with paint mixes, because I don’t have a set formula for what I do.  I kind of wing it and eyeball it every time.

ZC:  So you don’t have a “secret recipe” for the Mirror Image “Myers White”?

FL:  Umm, I mean, kinda. I kind of do.

ZC:  I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of lifecasts of your friends’ faces in your clubhouse [“The Dawg House”].  Is that just something you did for fun?

FL:  Basically, it was Cornbread [Loper’s close friend].  He’s like, “I’ll buy the stuff if you’ll do it.  It’d be cool to have all of our brothers on the wall – all of their faces”.  And he said, you know, “Think about how many of us are already gone.  It’d be really cool to have some of those, you know, if they were still here with us”.  “Immortalized,” was the word that he used.  So he bought all the stuff and, uh, I’d never done a lifecast before.  [Laughs]  So, just me and him drinking beers and listening to music and it came out great!

ZC:  I was talking with Nick Mulpagano and he said the first lifecast he did – he didn’t use enough Vaseline, so he had to bust it off his face with a hammer.

FL:  [Laughs]  That’s hilarious!

A  buddy of mine from Indianapolis came over.  I picked him up in Fort Walton and he stayed with me for a few days.  We were over at the “Dawg House” and me and Cornbread were like, “Let’s do his lifecast,” so he’s like, “Alright, let’s do it”.  So, we went back into the house and I started – and I wasn’t experienced enough to know that, really, the main thing is to explain to the person, in casting, everything that you’re doing.  So, we got halfway through it and he’s like, “No, no, no, no, no!”  He was freaking out, so I pulled it off and sorta got a half-assed cast out of him.  He was like, “I thought I was going to have to beat my head on the floor or suffocate!”  It does freak some people out, actually.  But, I sent it home with him, and he’s got it in his little collection.

ZC:  Talking about your buddies and Cornbread and everything makes me want to talk about [your] logo and how that all came about.  It was originally designed by one of your close friends, but you wanted a few changes and for me to make a big, woodburned sign of it for you.  You offered to make me a killer H1 in return, and I ended up with that beautiful “Nightmare Unlimited”, which was one of your personal blanks.

FL:  Right!  That’s everything that “AHTB [All Hail the Brotherhood – Loper’s group of close friends]” is about, man – friendship, brotherhood, and working together.  It’s not always about the almighty dollar.

ZC:  Like, with us, you saw some woodburning work I did for James [Carter] and liked it.  [You] asked me about getting something done for yourself, and through that process – you wanted some tweaks done to your logo, which I helped out with.  Then, through the whole bartering process, we just became good friends and, I mean, you’re one of my good friends at this point.

FL:  Oh, man!  Absolutely!  Likewise, man.  Absolutely.  It’s a good thing, dude.

[More on our trade in THIS VIDEO]

ZC:  Like I said before, that’s kind of what this community is all about – stuff like that.

FL:  Yeah, and a lot of people have given up on the community, but we never will.  I’ve seen ups and downs in the community, and I know some really good people – they just don’t want anything to do with it.  At all.

ZC:  Why do you think that is?

FL:  I mean, there’s drama in anything.  I don’t care if you’re on the Pensacola Fishing Forum or in my Homeowners’ Association here.  There’s bickering, you know?  “Your dog’s been running down the yard here, you know,” and they post it on Facebook.  Or, “I wish people would stop leaving the trash cans out in the road”.  I mean, it’s the same thing, but with the mask thing, it’s just like any other hobby.  I mean, there’s jealousy, there’s rivalry, there are people who don’t like other people – some people just aren’t nice.  You know.  So, you just have to take all of that into consideration.  I don’t know.  There’s always the asshole in every crowd.  You can print that.  [Laughs]

ZC:  I will.

[Both laugh]

ZC:  That’s why it’s a good idea to just keep your head above it, steer clear, and remember why we’re all here, you know?

FL:  Yeah!  I mean, I love people.  I love good people, and that means more to me than the masks, you know?  I’ve let people come here that I’ve met through the mask community and let them stay at my house.  Have shrimp boils and look at masks all night and just bullshit, you know?  And it’s some of the best times of my life, man.  I’m very blessed that I’ve found this hobby and that I had a knack for it.  And the extra money is nice – it helps, you know?  Because, hell, I’m ballin’ on a budget!

ZC:  I hate to go on about negative stuff, but there has been a lot of talk lately about people getting their masks done by, like, you or James or Nick or Justin one of the people who are really prominent in the community and then flipping them for, like,  twice what they paid.  It seems like there’s a lot of stuff like that going on that’s centered around money, so it’s nice to sit down and talk with someone who’s not concerned with all of that kind of stuff.

FL:  Yeah!  I mean – like, say with my mask that I had [75K New Mold].  I had an offer on that personal mask of mine.  This guy had been trying to get it for a year, easily, and I just didn’t want to sell it!  I never did.  It was funny – I had a dream the night before that I sold that mask.  And in the dream, I sold my two Leatherface masks and I felt bummed, because I really like those a lot.  It’s cool to have something that you didn’t make, you know?  Those two masks – those Connor Deless masks – are great!  So, I woke up later and said, “You know, I think I might be ready to let that H1 go and make another one.  I think it’s time to make another one,” and that evening, that guy messaged me.  Finally, I went ahead and sold it.  So now, I don’t have any masks that I could call “personal copies”.  I mean, “personal” means that you’ve had it; you’ve loved it.  That mask I did in 2015, so it’s pretty personal, right?

ZC:  You haven’t really had a ton of “personal copies”.

FL:  No, man.  I had the H2 that Matt Burgett got, who is an awesome guy.  He lives right here by me.  He’s been over several times.  And I loved that mask.  Best H2 I’ve ever done.  And that [75K] was my H1, so it’s time to make another one.  It’s time to go through my personal blanks and pick the next one.

ZC:  Do you have any contenders that are kind of weighing on your mind for your next personal H1?

FL:  Yeah, it’s either gonna to be my “Castle” that I have – it was one of the early pulls from the mold that Nik made – it’s either gonna be that or a “98” of some kind.  I have all of the different “98’s”.  I think that the best H2 is the, um, the “98-“, um…  God, why is my mind doing this?

ZC:  It’s all that beer.

FL:  It’s the beer, man!

“New Mold” – that’s it!  It’s called the “98 New Mold”.  It’s a little bit smaller.  That makes an amazing H2.  I have one of those.  That’ll be my next H2.

ZC:  You’ve said you and Nik are pretty good friends.  How did that start?  Did you just kind of admire his work and get a hold of him one day?

FL:  He’s a buddy of mine.  Absolutely.  [We] just kind of started talking and [I started] ordering stuff from him and we just became buddies, man.  He was always with me, man.  He’s never been bad to me one time, man.  For sure.  I judge people on how they treat me.  He gets things done fast.  I’ll have customers – they’ll say, “I ordered – I have two blanks coming to you and it’s been a while,” and I always reassure ’em.  “I promise you – it’s on its way”.  Get out your globe and look [at] where Greece is at!

ZC:  Since you’re such a collector, what are some items that are on your “want list” still?

FL:  I want: another Kenner Alien – because I always loved that – a Shogun Godzilla, a Gre-Gory Bat, and that Shogun Rodan.  And a Kraken!  I want a Clash of the Titans Kraken toy.  “Doll”.  I want a doll.  [Laughs]

ZC:  What are you looking for, mask-wise?

FL:  I would like to have the “deluxe” [Don Post] Hyde.  I have the one version of the Hyde, but I would like the “deluxe” one.  And I would like an Eerie – Cousin Eerie to go with my [Uncle] Creepy.  But, those blanks are, like, $1,500 – just for a blank.

ZC:  Really???

FL:  Yeah, they are.

And I have probably twelve NAG blanks here – that are mine as well – that I need to finish at some point, but I always feel bad doing a mask for myself when I have customers waiting.

ZC:  Well, sometimes you’ve got to shoehorn some “me” time in there.

FL:  Yeah, which is another thing to add.  I started off as a collector, and enjoying, you know, the forum and writing stupid shit.  I mean, I was a newbie, you know?  But, once you get to a point to where you have a lot of customers and, you know, forty or fifty masks waiting, it’s kinda hard to be a collector.  It’s kinda hard to voice your opinion – you have to kinda lay low.  You can’t really express yourself like you would.  Make sense?

ZC:  Yeah, and that’s the type of stuff that musicians and actors deal with too.  They have to be very careful about their conduct in public.

FL:  Yeah.  It’s kinda like you.  Say, you hate Gibsons.  “Oh, they break.  The necks just pop right off of ’em,” and if you’re a Gibson dealer, a customer’s gonna come in and you’re not gonna say, “Well, yeah, Gibsons suck.  Yeah, I’m a Fender guy.”  I mean, you’re only hurting yourself.  You know?

ZC:  One hundred percent.  Even when I go to Wal-Mart now – this town is so small that – owning the only music/guitar shop in town, even when you go to get some groceries or Burger King, we run into a lot of people we know from coming into the store.

FL:  Yeah, I bet!

ZC:   So if you’re mad at the service at Taco Bell; they didn’t put lettuce on your Chalupa or whatever, you can’t pull back through and be like, “What the HELL??”  You have to be like, “Excuse me.  You’re probably super busy and I don’t mean to be a pain, but could you please rectify this situation?”

FL:  Mm-hmm.  Exactly.

ZC:  Hey, happy birthday too, by the way!

FL:  Aw, thanks man.  My birthday is actually on the 13th, though.  I just had it set to the 10th on Facebook and didn’t change it back.

ZC:  You’re a liar, then.

FL:  I’m a liar.  Like Henry Rollins.

ZC:  Yeah, you’ll tear my mind out.  You’ll burn my soul.

[Both laugh]

ZC:  Well, Freddy, I really want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me.  We’ve covered a lot of ground here, man.

FL:  Another thing you can put in there, man – and this is all true – is how grateful I am for [Michael-Myers.net] and it giving me my start and a chance and just for all the friends that I’ve made in the hobby.  It’s a big part of my life, man.

My girlfriend says I talk to my mask friends more than I do her!  [Laughs]

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