Conskipper may be brand new, but our journalists have been covering the world of pop culture conventions for years. The following interview was originally conducted by John Evans as a freelancer on September 24th, 2017.
David Liebe Hart first rose to a special kind of fame throughout his beloved appearances on Adult Swim’s Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule. Whether it be his unique puppetry, his interesting musical performances, or his vivid storytelling, fans of his various appearances always have a specific segment or two they can point to and exclaim their love. Hart can most recently be seen on Awesome Show‘s 10 year anniversary special, and he has taken to the road for an all-new tour in support of his new Space Ranger album. Nick Banks and I sat down with David during the New Haven stop of his tour to conduct an interview on his recent works and to delve deeper into the supernatural topics we first discussed with him last December (You can check that out by clicking this link). What began as a simple interview quickly turned into a trek across New Haven in search of train tracks, churches and tacos. What follows is my account of that odyssey.
When we first arrived at Cafe Nine to conduct our interview, Jonah Mociun, David’s infinitely patient and accommodating bandmate/producer/manager/etc., informed us that David was currently away from the venue. It turns out he was making his way across town by foot, stopping at as many local churches as he could find along the way. Hart is a deeply religious man, and his creative process has resulted in a variety of new modern Christian songs. One of those songs is the yet-to-be released “Oh God’s Love is Like a Sunshine.” He delivers a handmade packet of music and contact materials to each church he finds while on the road, in hopes that they will begin to perform his music during their services. Jonah eventually reached David by phone and found out where he was in the city, then he picked him up and they returned to Cafe Nine for our interview.
In December, David outlined in explicit detail his encounters with a variety of supernatural and mythical creatures. That didn’t stop him from re-sharing his unbelievable encounter with an aquatic bigfoot when he was boy. He added, however, that he once came into close contact with a polar bear that basically sat on him. Fortunately it didn’t attack, and it eventually calmed down and wandered off. We revisited his experiences with “The Pickleman & Mr. Moose,” the subjects of a popular song he would perform later that night. Those are the nicknames for the ghost dogs who haunted David’s former house in Chicago. One new detail he added was that he had a “beautiful antique dragon chair” (with a dragon painted on it) and the Pickleman would sometimes manifest in the chair and “sit there all night.” He added that he is currently working on a comic book about those ghostly critters.
We touched on some new topics as well. David told us about the “Ghost Frog,” a supernatural encounter he would also document in a new song on the tour. The way the story goes is David used to have “a beautiful 5 gallon tank” in his bedroom “filled with all kinds of fishes.” He paid his sister an allowance to feed the fish, but she stopped doing it and they all died. “One night the frog came back as a ghost and he was very angry.” David specifically reminded us that this occurred at a different address than the location of the Pickleman haunting.
David also discussed another extraterrestrial phenomenon he experienced as a boy in Wisconsin. The way he told it, he was camping with his dad and “a great big UFO landed right there in the backyard!” While he couldn’t provide more details on the events of that night, he said that, “after that, you couldn’t grow anything there. It was radioactive earth.”
With the incredible success of It in theaters this summer, we wanted to know if David had any stories about his experiences with clowns. He said he once knew one named Cookie The Clown. The memories seemed positive, as David said, “He liked me a lot.” However, there was another clown named Garfield Goose Show who, “dressed up like a ghost and scared (him).”
We wanted to know if David was an avid fan of horror films. He said his favorite horror movie is Chucky, because he likes the idea of a possessed doll. That makes sense given David’s fascination with puppets and dolls in general, and his close relationships with his most famous puppets. He added that he also likes Halloween 13. Did he mean Halloween, Friday the 13th, or one of their respective sequels? I’ll leave that one up to you to figure out!
Throughout our interview, David asked us a couple of times if we could drive him around so he could look for some more churches to deliver his materials. Once we finished chatting, we hopped in the car and and began our mission, promising Jonah that we’d be back before the start time for the show. David asked me to turn off the air conditioning because he was concerned it would affect his voice for his performance. It’s been unseasonably warm in Connecticut, and the car began to slowly increase in temperature as we winded our way through one-way streets, neon signs, and the old brick and mortar establishments of downtown New Haven. There was a lot of road work going on during this particular night, and David expressed his concern over the increased police presence in town. On our first church stop, he told Nick that he was happy Nick was there to walk with him with all of the police around.
Seeing as it was after 7:00 PM on a Monday night, all of the churches around town were closed, so we looked for mail slots that were large enough to accept David’s big manila envelopes with handwritten information. David wanted to find more churches than we were able to locate on such short notice, but the clock was inching closer and closer to the start time for the concert. Before we made our way back, David had one last request: Could I get him some tacos? Jonah had bought him some Indian food a half-hour earlier, but David took a bite or two and left the rest. He said Jonah was always getting him ethnic foods, but he prefers tacos. He requested only beef and cheese on his tacos, but he was disappointed when I returned and they didn’t have any lettuce or tomato. Fortunately, the miscommunicated oversight didn’t prevent him from scarfing them down as we returned to Cafe Nine.
Just as we neared the parking lot from which we began our trip, David had one last request: could we show him some of the local train tracks? It turns out that he’s deeply fascinated by trains, and the New Haven Railroad Line (now formally known as Metro North) is one of his favorites. In light of the time crunch, we couldn’t see any trains; but David would later perform a song about the legendary path of tracks which stretch from New Haven to Grand Central Station, to the delight of his fans.
David was back on time for his concert, and he was all business with regards to the start of the show. He slipped into an astronaut suit for his performance, and Jonah put on a mask and wig combination just before starting the concert. The stage setup was minimal, with Jonah providing all of the musical elements through his custom made instruments which include Donkey Kong Bongos and a computer keyboard connected to the front half of an acoustic guitar. David’s famous puppets Chip, Markkama (he clarified to us that this is the original spelling of her name, NOT “Macama”), and Jason would all make an appearance during the show. Some fans may not know how much of a treat it actually was to see all of those puppets in the same room. During our interview, David told us that Chip was once stolen out of his apartment by a British lady. Chip made his way back to David under remarkable circumstances. Hart said that the British lady sold Chip to a restaurant in L.A. and a fan spotted him “hanging upside-down in the restaurant” and bought it from them, thereby rescuing him. David told us that Jason is in need of repairs… some of the springs in his mouth need to be changed out. Regardless, all of the puppets performed well and looked to be in tip-top shape under the forgiving glow of the multicolored stage lights.
The setlist touched on every element of David Liebe Hart’s stardom. In addition to the puppet performances, there were mini-sets of ghost songs for Halloween, songs about aliens, songs about technology, and songs about trains. There was an “Ask David” session, where fans could ask him anything that might be on their minds. In our session, David told the crowd that his favorite breakfast is homemade fluffy French toast with syrup. During a comedy bit, David provided surprisingly accurate imitations of his Awesome Show colleagues, James Quall and Neil Hamburger (Gregg Turkington’s alter-ego). If you can’t hear a good “spaghetti and meatballs” joke from Quall himself, Hart as Quall is certainly the next best thing!
Needless to say, the fans were loving every minute of it! Hart’s performance was a professional mix of the weird and the unusual. His vocals were tight and he sang brand-new songs with the same level of passion and expertise as his old classics. While he didn’t perform any of the songs that made him famous on Adult Swim, he had some clever variations that touched on some of the same motifs and themes (fathers and sons, electronic communication, expressions of love, etc.) with new electronic background musical arrangements. Throughout the concert, I witnessed fans with wide smiles on their faces as they connected with David and his performance. There was a respectful feeling in the air and David was praised for being himself. Sure, his songs are silly and his stories are anything but typical, but there’s a communal sense to his shows which spell out the fact that we’re all in on the joke and we’re all enjoying this together.
Ever the road dog, David Liebe Hart’s Space Ranger tour will span numerous stops along the United States and Canada between now and mid-November. Catch him soon, because even if you don’t get the chance to take him to some churches and taco joints, you’re guaranteed to have a blast wherever you may see him!