The Squid was lucky enough to interview Rich Kearney, A.K.A. Cerebral Customs, back in 2018 when his company was in its infancy. Since then, he has been commissioned by some big names and even took the time to make Pops of the Squid Squad! (We were very honoured.) We sat down with Rich for a catch up to find out what’s been popping.
Emily: Hello again! It’s been a while, but for readers who didn’t manage to catch our last interview, can you tell us a bit about yourself? What inspired you to make Pops and how did you come up with such an awesome name for your company?
Rich: I have been an avid horror fan since about 1992 when my cousin Danny let me watch Poltergeist whilst babysitting. My favourite franchise is Hellraiser and my favourite horror movie is Candyman. I accidentally stumbled into making Pops after a close friend of mine wanted some wrestling figures made and we decided it couldn’t be that difficult. After they were made, he told me I should try Funko Pops, and here we are four years later (three years with the company). Growing up a wrestling fan, my favourite wrestler was Triple H, who was also known as the Cerebral Assassin, so it was a direct take on that!
Emily: That’s an amazing introduction to horror, I must say! Congratulations on the well conceived concept. Walk us through the process – how does one make a Pop?
Rich: The initial process doesn’t take too long at all – about three days – but my waiting list adds time on. First we decide on what’s being made, then I find the perfect parts, like I try to match the hair as closely as possible, and if need be, sculpting may be required. Clothing is usually easy to find parts for as there are so many options available. The next step is sculpting anything that’s needed followed by painting. Once that’s complete, we get the details for the custom box: name, pictures and a colour/theme. It can be anything ranging from a standard colour like blue or a themed box for your favourite sports team.
Emily: That is so well thought out! So how have you progressed with your set-up/designs and what’s changed since you first started?
Rich: So much has changed – my office is bigger, I have more parts in stock (over a thousand random heads and bodies), I have changed to a much higher quality of paint and sculpting material, and I also print boxes in-house now as supposed to out-sourcing.
Emily: Has it been difficult to motivate yourself throughout lockdown?
Rich: In all honesty, like so many other people, it’s been super hard. I found the only way I could stay motivated was to take everything week by week.
Emily: That’s a good idea! What’s the most popular Pop you’ve made?
Rich: The most popular Pop I have made is the Chester Bennington Memorial Pop. I have made over one hundred. The beauty of the Pop world is the amazing variety and creativity. I am inspired by this on a regular basis.
Emily: That is beautiful! What other famous faces have you immortalised into a Pop?
Rich: I’ve made a range of celebrities including renowned musician and Dru Hill member Sisqo, all the way to the horror God Tom Savini, and I have about ten due out after lockdown to wrestlers such as Tommaso Ciampa and the cast of Heart Break High.
Emily: Tom Savini, wow! Well that moves me nicely onto asking what horror Pops you’ve made!
Rich: I have made so many – one of my main sellers is Candyman. I must have made 30 of them by now! I have also made various characters from The Creeper (before Funko released one), Vinnie Jones in Midnight Meat Train, all the way though to Art the Clown and Ted Bundy.
Emily: That’s incredible. How do you come up with fresh Pop ideas, given the restrictions from bigger brands such as Funko Pop?
Rich: At the moment, it’s really hard. Funko produce so many more a year than what they used to so I’m constantly designing something then a month later Funko announce an official one. I tend to watch a lot of TV in the evenings and always have a note pad with me to jot down ideas.
Emily: Who would you most like to make a Pop of?
Rich: There are two very high on my list: Clive Barker and Robert Englund.
Emily: Is there anyone you would really like to work with?
Rich: I have recently spoken to a member of the Manic Street Preachers to make a set of Pops for them to celebrate the anniversary of their Holy Bible album, which is a total dream come true as I’ve always wanted to work with them.
Emily: I’ve seen from your Instagram that a few celebrities have shared your work – that’s amazing!
Rich: Ah, thank you! I have had various shares of my work. The creator of Red Dwarf shared a photo once of some of my early work. Current AEW wrestler Cody Rhodes also shared my work last year as well as Mrs Hinch. I tend to reach out to a celeb and in turn their friends reach out to me, which is great!
Emily: So what’s next for you?
Rich: I intend to work as many conventions as I can once we are out of lockdown. My main two I’m aiming for are For the Love of Wrestling and For the Love of Horror.
Emily: How can people reach you to order a Pop?
We would like to thank Rich for chatting with us again, and we look forward to seeing what “Pops” up on Cerebral Customs in 2021!