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Business is Boring: LIVE – The Art of Making Things Happen, with Dick, Otis and Sarah Frizzell

‘Business is Boring’ is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.

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This week is a special Business is Boring, our first live event, recorded in front of a studio audience at Seafarers & Ostro.

It is also a special show to have such a great panel -and three people featuring at once for the first time to chat about the art of making things happen, with a special focus on doing things creatively.

We have Dick Frizzell, artist, legend, top man and someone who has contributed so much to our national vernacular, from Ches n Dale to recontextualising the Four Square fellow through to the Mickey to Tiki Tu Meke that has taken on a life of its own.

Dick is joined by Sarah and Otis Frizzell, partners in business and life and being generally awesome with creative food brand The Lucky Taco -found in Supermarkets and their food truck – and they both have backgrounds in making things happen in adland and also music, tv, radio and art.

Either download (right click to save), have a listen below, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

Let’s talk about a way in which all three of you have been really successful in extending what you do, which is collaborating. Lucky Taco has amazing collaborations with other local businesses that have given you new audiences and you’ve collaborated a lot, Dick, with brands over the years. What does it take, in your experience, to make a good collaboration?

Dick Frizzell: In my case it takes a six foot six young German entrepreneur to walk into the studio saying ‘you know, Dick, I think it’s time to put the work to work’. And boy oh boy, now look at us, doing a cookbook.

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Photo by Emma Armitage

Who was the six foot six German entrepreneur?

DF: Christian Casper. Just a young guy, big fella, 35 or something. Stalked me on Facebook, he had this idea, and it was an iPhone cover. We did the iPhone cover and it was remarkably successful. He got them manufactured in China like that and sold them on Grabone like that. Then he came up with this concept of putting the work to work. He reminded me, which I’ve never really thought about, the idiot artist, that everything I’ve ever done in my life I actually own the rights to. Literally. All those paintings, all those drawings, all those other things except for the School Journal, which the government owns. The pukeko and the ponga tree, all that stuff.

Otis Frizzell: Every image, intellectual property. Just because you painted it 20 years ago doesn’t mean you can’t put it on a t-shirt now.

DF: He looked at the Mickey to Tiki poster and said ‘that goes on and on, why don’t we do that.’ So we managed to get the rights for that back of the Christchurch City arts gallery. Then he said, ‘this image is just as good, and this image is just as good.’ So now we’ve got a printing/publishing company and we just publish these things. I don’t know who the hell buys them but they just go. Every now and again I’ll autograph an edition with a felt pen.

OF: In my world of collaboration with Mike Weston as Weston Frizzell – we invented another human which is confusing for people – my friend’s Mike Weston, I’m Otis Frizzell. When we do art together it’s called Weston Frizzell. People are like: aw I’ve never met this Weston guy.

People are like ‘how do you collaborate on a painting?’ Mike had an idea to do a painting that said Behave instead of Beehive. He’s not a craftsman but he’s a good idea guy. He gave me this napkin with a crappy drawing on it and he’s like ‘maybe we can steal some Hotere writing and write the Behave in a stencil.’ Then it’s like ‘maybe a bit of Gordon Walters on the doorway in the Beehive’ and I’m like ‘yeah let’s rip off Walters completely and make the whole thing like a Walters. Then when I sign it Frizzell, do a vague Dick Frizzell-Otis Frizzell signature and we can rip off Dad as well.’ So we kind of went back and forth with this idea until it was finished. Then once it was finished, he was like ‘well who owns it?” Well it’s 50% authorship really, we’ve worked on it together. So let’s both sign it. But Otis Frizzell and Mike Weston was too long so we just Weston Frizzell. So that’s where that happened.

We sold these paintings. They were very successful, we made a lot of money. So we did another colourway and another colourway and then it was all over and I was like there’s still money to be made in these. Well, we can do screen prints. I remember because we did some screen prints, they sold very well. But someone rang us up and was like ‘listen, I’ve got one of the original Behave paintings and I’m really pissed off that you guys have done screen prints cos I’ve got a black Behave and it was one of ten. And now you’ve done 150 screen prints.’

I was like ‘screen prints are different. They’re a signed edition, but you own a really beautiful painting.’ But he was like ‘I kind of feel like you’ve ripped me off. So I said ‘look, I’ll buy it back off you now for twice what you paid for it.’ And he was like ‘really?’ ‘Yeah, immediately, today.’ He was like ‘why’s that?’ I said ‘because they’re selling for four times what you paid for it since we put the screen print out. He was sort of like ‘oh I’ll hold onto it then, thank you.’ That’s sorta what happens. He couldn’t get his head around it. He’s like ‘well I don’t want people who can’t afford a painting to have the same image as I have on my wall.’ He flipped it in a weird way, but he’s still got it now.

DF: I knew the guy that owned the original gouache drawing of Mickey to Tiki, had it hanging in the wall of his house. He used to call it the Source of the Nile.

Do you ever look at it and think that the Nile has got a bit longer than you would like? Do you see some advertising for a real estate thing and think ‘ah they’ve got that on the wall, those bastards’?

OF: If it becomes sort of omnipresent, it’s kind of awesome.

DF: People get Mickey to Tiki tattooed up their arms and across their backs. It’s just fabulous.

OF: We’ve got a [Roy] Lichtenstein poster in a really beautiful frame on the wall in our bedroom. I could never afford a Lichtenstein but it’s such a cool image, a female hand with red nail polish which is like Sarah who always wears red nail polish-

Sarah Frizzell: Before I started hospitality.

OF: -with a spraycan. I love it, but it’s just a poster. It doesn’t mean the original is any less amazing.

DF: It’s all about the image.

OF: Share the love. Let people buy a poster.

DF: I’m glad I’m not an abstract painter, I can tell you that.

OF: People wouldn’t buy those posters.

DF: What can you do with it?

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The eternal question. Sarah, talking about some of those collaborations that you guys have made with Mini or with other food suppliers, how does that go and what makes one of those successful for you guys?

SF: I thought I’d made up the term ‘brandmance’ but I don’t think I did, I must’ve seen it somewhere. Basically when other brands have a crush on each other – ‘oh I like what you’re doing, let’s hook up and have a little brand baby, let’s make something new’ – I like to think of it as a romantic interlude.

The first one was with Mini and this was when we made our first batch of hot sauce down in Hawke’s Bay, and both of our cars are pretty old dongers. We were like ‘we need a cool vehicle to go do this trip’. Because we’re quite brazen, and kinda cheeky but in a nice way, we put on social media ‘hey we’re doing this, anyone know any hook ups we can get a brand vehicle?’ Someone put us in touch on Facebook with Simone Mearns, thank you Simone, she’s the marketing manager for Mini. She was like ‘our account manager loves you guys and loves what you’re doing, she’s gonna let you borrow her car to go and do this trip and we’ll put Lucky Taco decals on the side’. No shit.

OF: Delivered to our house, a brand new Mini with the skull all over it.

SF: We were just like little kids.

OF: At the time I was driving a 1997 Honda Shitbox.

SF: We were so pumped, we couldn’t believe it. Then of course the reality hit when we came back. We did social media things like ‘guess how many bottles of hot sauce will fit in the Mini’, so it was kind of all-encompassing and we’d tag them in. Even though they’re a huge global brand they really liked to support small, local businesses. We genuinely had a really good relationship with the team there. Then when we came back we were like ‘we’re gonna have to give the car back and this really sucks.’ Then they were like ‘well, you know what guys, if we do some planning together and some contra, we’ll hook you up with your own car’. And they did. So last year we did Taste of Auckland and we did Mini tacos, baby ones for free. So we’ve done a lot with them in contra for that, but brilliant relationship and we have an awesome car that we didn’t pay for. So that’s awesome and that’s just being cheeky on Facebook.

DF: My young German, his favourite saying is ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get.’ It sounds pretty straightforward but of course it’s asking is the tricky bit.

OF: But it doesn’t always work. I know Simon is just getting to this. We did a brandmance with a brand and it worked really well and it got our little skull all over every supermarket in the whole country before we were even in supermarkets. It was very good to get the brand out there and they came to the truck and were doing giveaways. They were way bigger than us, it was quite exciting and we did a line with them. We liked their food and we liked their attitude. But someone got a great idea to do giant lifesize cut-outs of Sarah and I with sombreros on and bring it to the truck so you could get your photo taken with it.

SF: I was so mortified.

OF: We were like ‘that’s extraordinarily inappropriate and verging on racist’.

DF: Indian headdresses would’ve been much better.

OF: So you’ve got to also be careful of your brand like that because even though we were well in line, we were the prize at a party where you could a taco truck at your house, and they were like ‘we’re gonna have blow up cactuses and everyone can wear sombreros and those silly moustaches’ and we were like ‘huh’.

SF: They did that really well after we flagged that.

OF: They instead got flowers and pots and bunting and did a really tasteful job. But it was like just don’t get carried away in this weird Mexican thing. You’re one step away from doing an American Indian call. There’s shit that you gotta be aware of, to align yourself with.

DF: There’s always a line.