INTERVIEW | Niki Koh
Our bud Niki is an amazing drummer, and an even better human being, who moonlights in a killer math-rock/emo/whatever band called Forests outta Singapore. Instead of punishing him about how great his band is and wanting to dive deep into their songwriting process, we chose to punish him about his other passion – making vinyl toys. Since we don’t know SHIT about this world – we thought we’d throw some questions at the dude.
Go listen to Forests.
Niki hanging with none other than Neckface at Comic-Con.
UA: Yo Niki! So you’re currently on tour with Forests? Where are you and how’s it going???
Niki: The band just came back from Kuching, Malaysia. Played the Sunbear Festival, our first rainforest set, and also our first outdoor set that rained throughout.
UA: OH?! That must’ve been tough…but let’s step outside of the world of music for a bit. I saw photos of you at a stall at Comic-Con. What’s up with that?
Ooooh! My wife and I both flew out to Los Angeles for Comic Con! Our friend Henry hooked us up with a table. I’ve been collecting vinyl toys for a while now, and it only made sense for me to start making my own. When the opportunity arose to sell our toys and art in LA, we sprung right on it. My wife, Zan, has the most unique art style which I really love. She is also the artist that created the latest Forests’ album art.
Check out Zan’s art at https://www.instagram.com/zcxz/
UA: Dope! But before we get into creating your own toys (sick by the way!), can you tell us what got you into collecting in the first place?
Niki: Definitely my mother! I would bug her to at Toys-R-Us for all the Biker Mice or Street Shark figures when I was very young After I started working and getting a paycheck, I would try and buy the toys that I could never afford or missed when I was younger. That’s how everything snowballed.
UA: For sure – even as a grown-ass adult myself I’ve been collecting those toys that Super7 have released of music figures hahaha…it’s not even the least bit weird. Above you mentioned “vinyl” toys. Can you tell us what that is?
Niki: Super7 reaction figures are a gateway drug to everything else! Hahahha…
Here’s a definition I grabbed from collectiondx.com: “Soft vinyl known in Japan as Sofubi, Soft Vinyl is a PVC powder suspended in a resin-like matrix. It is typically roto-casted, and toys made from soft vinyl are typically hollow”. Think of the classic Ultraman or Godzilla Bandai Kaiju figures.
Niki’s personal collection
UA: Gotya! And creating these toys is it something that doesn’t need to be mass produced or is a minimum quantity required that would break the bank?
Niki: It’s essentially the same but made with greater care and artisanal hand-painted. The molds are really expensive, mass-produced or not.
UA: So as you were getting into it when did you decide to try and create your own?
Niki: I’ve only gotten one mold made so far, and it was sometime early last year. I had to save up for years to finally produce my first vinyl figure.
In the painting process of his first figure.
UA: In terms of what figure you wanted to create how did you go about getting it done? What’s the whole process?
Niki: I knew very early on I wanted to design and create my own figures, I knew I just cannot afford to. I can’t draw to save my life. I’ve tried sculpting physically, with clay and wax but am no good with my hands! All my creations so far have been sculpted digitally, both with Zbrush and Nomad Sculpt. I need the ‘ctrl+z’ more than anything when I’m working.
UA: Can you take us through the full process? Did you have to draw a character first? How did you decide on that?
Niki: It begins with an idea and a very very rough sketch. (I don’t have it anymore, lol) Then I’ll take it into the software and try my best to sculpt it as close to the sketch and modify it where I see fit.
UA: So rad! But with your character did you already have an idea in mind? What was it inspired by?
Niki: I’m a huge fan of classic b grade slasher movies, and ultra-violent video games hahahha…I take a lot of inspiration from Diablo 2.
UA: And then once you draw it out where does the molding etc get done?
Niki: Once I get the 3D exported, I’ll then send the file to the factory to get the wax made. With the wax, a metal mold can be formed. Once the mold is made, the soft vinyl can be slushed and made.
UA: Yeah that’s for sure the best way to look at any experience like this – building connections with like-minded people. Any last words to wrap this up?
Niki: Keep calm and collect toys!