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Don't Be Hating the Hate Song: An Interview with Fred Grisolm

Fred Grisolm is the creator of two of the funniest, filthiest webcomics since Look What I Brought Home. Hate Song updates three times a week, and Filth Hole updates twice a week.

Hate Song is your standard webcomic about people who screw dolphins, poop out of their finger tips and practice their porn star moves onhinged wooden models. Filth Hole is your run of the mill, webcomic team-up where everyone runs naked on the streets asking their friendsto "split them open like a tauntaun" and use them for warmth, but, you know, not in a gay way. Both comics come from the dark and twisted mind of Canada's Fred Grisolm. Fred writes and draws Hate Song three times a week, and co-creates Filth Hole with California webcartoonist Jamie Dee Galey twice a week.

I caught up with Fred at last years STAPLE! convention in Austin. I'd chatted with him for probably a year online before I ever met, yet I'd never seen a picture of the guy. Fortunately he wasn't hard to pickout, with a dirty army jacket and an old yellow hat, Fred looked like the kinda guy that would be toiling away on his weirdo comics in a dank basement somewhere drinking Rickards Red and maybe throwing darts at a stuffed cat. The highlight of Fred's booth (beyond the pointy nipple button packs) was his portfolio of originals; I was surprised by the delicacy and detail of the fine brush lines. Fred's a pretty talented artist.

Beyond poop jokes and insane situations, this guy really has crafted his art. I set down the portfolio and started to tell him how impressed I was. That's when I noticed the sign he was holding with big bold letters calling me a homo. Now, that's the Fred Grisolm I know.

So, hey, how's it going?

Not to bad. You?

Where did you get the name Hate Song from?

Well, when I first started the comic, I had a list of names I wanted and none of the domains for those names seemed to be available. About 80% of them were taken by domain squatters and the others were being used for sites that didn't seem to update.

Some of the original possibilities were: Trout Lake, Bacon Hammer (don't ask), Pus Eye, Acadia Ave and Salisbury St (after the street I grew up on in Oshawa - 552 Salisbury St. was another possibility, but I didn't think that the people living there now would be too stoked on that). Eventually, I just grabbed a stack of some of my favourite CDs and started checking out song titles. Eventually I came across Hate Song by Eric's Trip) and saw that the domain was free and felt that the name fit.

I noticed your site's archive starts at 41, where's the other comics?

Right around the same time that my lady went into labour with Teagan, my site crashed due to a harsh increase in traffic. It took me a few days before I could attend to it and my previous host wanted me to pay a $100 fee before they would reinstate my account. They felt that I was abusing the bandwidth (on which they claim to have no limit). Anyhow, I moved hosts and took this as a chance to rebuild the site with wordpress/comicpress. I just haven't had a chance to get all of the archives up.

Maybe by the time this interview runs?

Where did you get the name Orest Laudermilk from?

Well, I went to high school with a dude named Orest and the character is (very) loosely based on him. Actually, Orest is sort of an amalgam of two skids I went to high school with.

Orest was the type of dude who, in grade 8, would always have a bottle of Southern Comfort in his bag and want to skip out of school and get drunk. He only had one Iron Maiden shirt that he would wear every day. In grade 9, I think he might've got a Slayer shirt.

Laudermelk is the name of an author of school text books. Janet works as a book buying assistant at a college and came across it and thought that it was a funny name. She told me about it right around the time I was naming the characters and I thought that it was pretty great too, so I stole it for Orest and Mr. Laudermelk.

Does it really take you four hours to pencil one comic?

No. It takes me four hours to pencil, ink and scan the comic. It takes me an additional hour or two to colour and letter it.

I think that part of the reason that I'm so slow is that I don't typically thumb out my comics. I just dead right in with the pencil and figure it out as I go. For the most part, I only have a general idea of what will happen in the strip, so that leaves a lot of figuring out while I'm drawing. The dialog is generally written after the comic is drawn. That's why I went back to computer lettering - it allows me to tweak the dialog right up until the last minute, which is something I really enjoy.

I don't think you would take this as an insult, but your comics are notoriously some of the most offensive ones on the Internet. Being your own editor is there any line you won't cross?

Hmmm... You know, I really don't think my comics are that offensive. They're a little dark maybe, but that's just how my sense of humour is, I guess.

As for lines I won't cross...I don't know. I have to look at everything as it comes. It's not really been an issue, because if I have any boundaries, I guess that I probably intuitively don't write outside of them.

Have you ever taken any comics too far?

I don't think so. What do you think?

I did get a lot of angry emails off one of my early strips that has an AIDS related joke in it. I didn't think that it was offensive, but I guess some people did. That is something I don't get - in society, it's ok to joke about murder and even death by accident, but as soon as you joke about diseases, you're a dick. Other complaints I've received in the past include "too much poop" and one from someone who didn't think that it was cool for me to write about myself having sex with Jon Rosenberg in Filth Hole. They were offended.

Recently you did a comic that mentioned human-dolphin sex and you linked to the article you got the idea from. Do people just send you strange stories and ideas for your comics or do you seek them out?

I just happen to come across them. Anytime I come across an article that I find interesting, I'll generally save it to my hard drive, just in case it vanishes. I actually have a couple of complete websites saved to my computer, which I'm glad for.

There was one site that this dude created where he was looking for a woman (or several) that he could start a commune with. It was pretty amazing, lots of fucked up stuff about him keeping a baseball bat under the bed in case he needed to beat a prowler down; plans to be a completely self-contained society and a stunning "erotic" photogallery.

What's your wife think of your comics?

She loves them. She's often my litmus test for jokes and has a pretty filthy sense of humour -- although you would never know it to meet her.

Has having a daughter changed your comicking any?

Yes and no.

My days are pretty hectic: I get up at 6am and get ready for work. I generally don't get home until close to 7pm at which time I usually end up having to take a nap for about an hour. I get up, eat, hang out with the lady and baby and try to work on the comic. Weekend should be better, but that ends up being the time that I have to get caught up on shit I've ignored throughout the week.

Before Teagan came along, time was always sort of tight for me. However, now I have much less of it, which makes it harder to find the time to work on Hate Song. Additionally, a couple days after she was born, I got a gig lettering manga for North American distribution. It's good work and I'm hoping that I can eventually quit my day job and work on lettering for my main income, but for now it's on top of all of the other stuff that I'm already doing. Now, most of my weekends are taken up by lettering. Beyond that, nothing has really changed.

I'm not concerned that I'm going to go "soft" because I have a kid.

You had some of the books from New Reliable Press at your booth, how did you hook up with those guys?

Urm...the easiest way to describe it is that I'm sort of a silent partner.

What are some of your favorite comics?

On the web: Achewood, most of the stuff on Dumbrella, Cat and Girl, Dinosaur Comics, etc... Of course, Orneryboy and The Comic Strip by my Canadian homeboys Michael and Jason. Lately I've been digging White Ninja and have just started digging through the archives of Stuff
Sucks
and Dr. McNinja. Basically, anything that is on my links page.

In print: Anything by Chester Brown, Dave Cooper, Daniel Clowes, Jason, Peter Bagge or Chris Ware. I really dig James Kochalka's SuperFuckers, but haven't been able to get into his other stuff. Lately,I've been reading a lot of stuff by Johnny Ryan, Jordan Crane, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Liz Prince, and others. I just read Lewis Trondheim's A.L.I.E.E.E.N., which is beyond amazing.

Overall, I still prefer print to web, but I'm starting to find more and more on the web that I enjoy.

What would you consider your inspiration?

Anything really.

I get inspired from films quite often. I'll make a lot of obscure film references in Hate Song. Only people who've seen the films would get the references. They're usually pretty subtle and aren't integral to the story and/or gag ever. I'm sure that I'd have fewer readers if I had jokes that required readers to have seen "Death Laid an Egg" in order to understand.

A lot of the stories in Hate Song are usually based (loosely) on something that's happened to me. Characters are often based (loosely) on people I know.

Where do you see Hate Song in five years?

Probably on the Internet. I have been talking with a friend about the possibility of making a live action Hate Song short film. I was doing a lot of film making before starting Hate Song and have been itching to jump back into it. However, it's really just talk right now, so who knows if it'll ever happen. If it does, I'm going to play Tim, so I better learn how to act (and also grow some chest hair).

You write another comic with Jamie Dee Galey on art, how did that come about?

It started with an article by Joey Manley about how all of the popular comics were all fart and dick jokes and how the Internet was going to soon shift into a "new age" of webcomics that were more story based. (I'm paraphrasing to the max here.)

The article created this big to do in the comic community and there was an assload of drama and infighting. It was completely silly. I don't agree with Joey - the Internet is infinite and there are enough readers out there so that any type of comic can survive. His article seems to be based around the idea that there can only ever be X amountof comics with a decent readership, which is not the case.

There isn't a limited number of spaces at the table, it's infinite. The article seemed to be based around daily hits, which is not necessarily the best way to tell how popular a comic is. A gag strip has an incentive for readers to check in everyday or 3 times a week or whatever. But, a comic that is a continuing story, one that has more depth, doesn't have that same incentive. Readers may only check in once a week to read a chunk at a time. So, while both comics may have 7000 loyal readers, only the gag comic is going to show 7000 daily hits, while the story based comic may only show 1000. Does that make sense? I'm sort of rambling at this point....

ANYWAY, as all that shit was going down, I wrote a quick little comic sort of making fun of both sides. I didn't have the time to draw it and Jamie happened to be on MSN at the time so I asked if he wanted to. Originally it was going to be a one off. The reaction to the first strip was good, so I took a Hate Song script that I had not been able to use and amended it to fit a similar format. That one also got a lot of great feedback, so we decided to do it as a regular thing.

You have a lot of merchandise and books, what do you have for sale and where can people find it?

Just head on over to my site and click on "merch".

What advice do you have for young artists looking to promote their webcomic?

Fuck webcomics. Go to school. Become a lawyer.