If you’ve been to a convention or paid any attention to the hobby in the last decade, you’re probably familiar with Adrian Drake. Whether you call him The Drake, The Prize Sniper or Johnny Old-Guard, just don’t call him late to the building party. The Drake’s website BrickFrenzy was one of the first LEGO sites I encountered in the year 2000 when I began searching the internet for LEGO.
Although his high water mark was undeniably “Badger Badger Badger Badger”, The Drake has put his stamp on just about every theme in the book and inspired a generation of builders.
I sat down with The Drake in the Louisiana Superdome, the largest dome stadium in North America and the only domed structure large enough to contain our collective MOCs, fans, and egos. We talked about who’s was bigger, old Trek vs. new Trek, and LEGO.
Keith Goldman: You are the creator of the Tribunal, the largest science fiction SHIP on record. What are its official measurements and how do you react to the persistent charges that it closely resembled a giant tampon?
Adrian Drake: The Tribunal is 487 studs long, which is 12 feet, 8 inches, and roughly 20 inches in diameter. All told it weighs around 118 pounds. I’ve estimated it to be about 40,000 pieces. As for its tampon-ness, I just have to accept it and laugh it off. It’s not like I can say that it doesn’t! But that’s how the source material was, so that’s how it is.
You might wonder why I didn’t make it a bit longer and break the 500 stud barrier. To be honest I had no idea how long it was going to be until it was done. I based the entire scale of the model off the size of the 4×4 quarter domes that make up the fuel tanks, to scale to the source artwork I used. By the time I knew the length it was too late to rebuild something to add even 13 studs without it looking tacked on.
More of Keith’s interview with Adrian after the jump:
KG: Do you have any obsessive/compulsive tendencies where LEGO is concerned, and what percentage of chaos within your collection can you tolerate before you feel compelled to sort? What percentage of your collection is sorted?
AD: My collection is extremely rigorously sorted, as a collection that numbers over 400,000 has to be. As such, at any given time probably 95-99% of my collection is sorted. I will tend to accumulate unsorted cruft and partially disassembled creations until they reach a volume of 4 or 5 blue LEGO bulk tubs worth, then do a mass sort. I don’t sort frequently, and dislike doing so, so I optimize it as best I can when I do.
KG: You have experimented with a great many genres, is there a specific one that gave you difficulty or that you would never return to?
AD: I’ll probably never build large scale artwork-type sculptures and mosaics again. I went through a big phase where I built a lot of them, but since then people like Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kenney have perfected the art of AFOL sculpture, so there’s no incentive for me to work in that style. I will continue to use sculpture in my other creations though, such as with the Dewey and Spock’s Ship, as very few people build large sculptural space creations.
I relish taking on extremely difficult challenges with my builds (the Blackout and Voltrain are specific examples) so there’s nothing I have tried to do thus far that make me think “oh I can’t do that”. However, I choose not to work in Mindstorms robotics or hyper-realistic trains, as it’s not my expertise or interest. I keep meaning to build another castle or large Technic vehicle, but I keep putting it off.
KG: Over the years I’ve heard people speculate about would happen if there was a high profile media case involving an AFOL pedophile. How do you think that kind of situation would impact the hobby?
AD: It’s not something I’ve ever really considered. As small of a community as the con-going AFOL community is, I can imagine that it would do some significant damage to the reputation of adult LEGO builders. There’s only a few thousand people nationwide who consistently go to these events, so it’s a relatively small group compared to, say comic convention attendees. Would the community recover? Probably. Would it be painful and damaging to the various con hosts? Definitely. I would expect that attendance would drop, both from public day and also from families that are full paid attendees.
KG: I’ve been witness to and participated in electoral fraud for convention awards and I’d be surprised if you hadn’t as well. What is your take on awards and the judging process that goes with it?
AD: Whenever you have the public involved in voting, there’s going to be issues. It’s well known that public voting will almost always be the biggest, shiniest creation on display. As someone who in the past has been accused of prize sniping, and who has won his fare share of awards and trophies I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed the way things roll. However, it does tend to lead to smaller but equally (or even more) impressive creations being overlooked.
In fact, at BrickFest 2006, the space coordinators created the Adrian Drake Memorial Prize Snipe award, bestowed upon Danny Rice’s fantastic Porphyrion because the voters overlooked its splendid design and detailing.
What also happens in this case is there are usually too many creations for the public to be able to process, so the theme coordinators need to whittle down the choices. But then the coordinators can stack the odds for their own friends by excluding creations.
What’s the best way to do judging? Hell if I know. I think the impartial judge is the best option, but it’s also one of the most difficult to get organized, because finding an impartial judge who has the time to do the job, knows enough about building in multiple themes to be able to judge accurately, and who isn’t going to be influenced by friendships in the community is very hard. For accurate judging, it’s also important to have accurate categorization of creations, which is usually left in the hands of the creator, which leads to confusion as to what is small, medium or large.
KG: Give us your take on model contests, both online and at conventions. What has driven you to participate in so many over the years?
If I get an idea in my head about building something, no matter how insane, say the Jetson’s Tower, or Blackout, or a weaponized turkey mech, I feel obligated to complete the project.
When I was heavy into building for contests, I would get an idea for an entry and feel obligated to build it, regardless of whether I’d think it would win or not. I am constantly challenging myself to build beyond my current abilities, or to build something that nobody’s ever done before, and it’s when I challenge myself that I feel most rewarded by my creations.
Contests can be a great tool to help someone seed an idea for their next build project and in general, I like them, except when they devolve into attempts to win swag. People should build for the sake of building, not because LEGO or the fest organizers are going to give you a $50 set at Brick Fair because you built the biggest space ship. In fact, the last few first place awards I’ve gotten have been trophy only, with no prize involved at all. I’m obviously not doing it for monetary gain. Am I doing it for ego? Probably. Who doesn’t like to be recognized for their work?
KG: Give me an old building fad that could see new life in the months and years ahead?
AD: What are the kids going to latch onto next? That’s a question I really can’t answer. Space has always been strongly fad-based, and I don’t think I have yet seen an old fad make a strong come-back. The newer kids coming into the hobby want to put a stamp on the community with their own new “thing”, so I don’t see something old, like Pods or Hovercars really making a resurgence, unless the kiddies decide that it’s cool to be retro.
Moonbase would be nice to see get a renaissance, but it requires a pretty strong community base and some substantial parts collections to make work.
Almost every major builder from the heyday of Moonbase is on a significant building hiatus (we’ve all grown up and many of us have kids now) so I really don’t see it coming back, which is a shame.
However, I’ve seen what can happen when the current community gets behind something, such as the post-apoc layout at BrickFair 2009, and the Zombie layouts at the last two BrickCons. So maybe they’ll keep taking the apoc theme farther and farther into the future until it catches up with Moonbase. Now that would be nifty.
KG: When BrickShelf went down a few years ago it caused panic in the streets of LEGO-town. At the time you spearheaded a drive to archive certain MOCs for posterity. Give me your best Doomsday prediction of something that could shake the community in the same way, and how would you respond to it?
AD: The death of Flickr would be devastating to the community. Brickshelf and Lugnet are basically obsolete at this point and have been pretty well entirely replaced by Flickr. Flickr serves as an image server, community organizer, and social hub of a great many LEGO communities, both small and large.
I suppose that if Flickr went away, people could migrate back to Brickshelf or to MOCPages, but Kevin Loch has made it clear in the past that he’d let Brickshelf die if he could, and MOCPages has a reputation of being awash with substandard creations, so finding the gems among the chaff would be even more of a challenge for the bloggers.
As I’m one of the few AFOLs with my own domain, the death of Flickr wouldn’t keep me from putting my creations on the web, but it would make it more difficult to publicize them.
However, the beauty of the community latching onto a large, corporate-owned site like Flickr over AFOL run operations like Brickshelf, Lugnet, or MOCPages is that it’s far more than just LEGO, so if Flickr were to die, some other site would most assuredly pop up to fill in the vacuum. AFOL-only sites are more likely to just go poof and die, never to be recovered.
KG: Will small minded FOL’s ever stop hating on playas who build big?
AD:Nope. It’s the price we playas pay for being awesome.
KG:If you had to pick only one of your MOCs to go in the great FOL time-capsule, which would it be?
AD:Probably Blackout. It’s one of the most technically complicated creations I’ve made and one I’m extremely proud of, and it isn’t huge but packs in an enormous amount of detail. It wasn’t even an award winner at the fest I took it to, but that doesn’t matter to me. Blackout was one of those challenges that I gave to myself and thought it mad when I started working on it, but made it work.
KG: If you had to pick only one of my MOCs to go into the great FOL time-capsule, which would it be?
AD: I’ve always been a big fan of Final Flight of the Nova Taurus, because of the way it combines a pretty nifty ship with some great terraining and clever little details. Castle has always been at the forefront of terraining, and it’s always good to see spacers building something that isn’t flat.
KG: If time, money and proximity were not an issue, give me 2 builders besides me that you’d like to collaborate with on a project?
AD: Nathan Proudlove is a Renaissance Man builder like me, dabbling in many different themes and styles and doing brilliantly at them all. Combining our backgrounds together into something new and exciting would be a thrill. I’d love to be able to eat his brain and absorb his powers.
Being that I’ve been a part of the AFOL community, attending shows and doing community projects since 2001, I’ve worked with many American builders. I’d love the chance to work with some of the builders who live elsewhere and don’t get to travel to the US that often, like Pete Reid, whose eye for greebling and neo classic-space aesthetic really are great to behold or the mysterious organization known as Lugpol, who churn out awesome creation after awesome creation.
KG: What’ is your favorite comment or review you’ve ever received on a model?
AD: At BrickCon 2009, Michael Giacchino, composer of the Star Trek prequel movie, was in attendance with his son. If his and his son’s interest in my Spock’s Ship model wasn’t cool enough, he sent a text message to JJ Abrams himself, including a picture of the model. JJ’s response was “Holy ****! I want one!”
So JJ Abrams saw, and coveted, my model of one of the ships from his movie. It doesn’t get more awesome than that.
KG: And finally, good sir, who controls the action?
AD: Your mom, of course.