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An Interview With Hundar

Brett Hundley (Hundar) sits down and discusses his work on Cow Chop, Machinima, and Muscle Party.

Brett Hundley — photograph by Wes Ellis

Brett is no stranger to content creation and the internet; he has been around since the days of Machinima, and he continues to make unique and engaging content through his work on Muscle Party.

I sat down with Brett and talked about his experiences on YouTube and Twitch throughout the years, including his time on Cow Chop, and his current endeavor with Muscle Party.

The Early Machinima Days

Before assisting James and Aleks on their work through The Creatures or Cow Chop, Brett was a part of Machinima when it was first created, and continued to work on different projects at the company, mainly with such projects as Machinima Realm.

You started on YouTube back when Machinima was still around, and I know you did a few different things with the company. What first got you involved with Machinima, and what was it like working there?

“Joel Rubin and I started at Machinima back in the Fall of 2010. At the time, I was between gigs — the last show I had been working on was casting for a show called ‘Deadliest Warrior’ which was on Spike TV. When you’re inbetween TV seasons, sometimes there is just this long period where you’re just sitting on unemployment just waiting to see, ‘is the next season starting?’”

“So, I was just playing World of Warcraft, running a WoW guild […] and my two roommates who were also working with film had actually started at Machinima before me. [Machinima] wanted to branch out with RPGs through Realm, and so they asked, “do you know anybody?” So my roommates explained that their roommate was unemployed and just playing World of Warcraft all day, and has a film background, so maybe he is who they are looking for. So I went in and auditioned and started on that team, and Realm was the first thing I had worked on.”

[Brett then went on to explain how Machinima Realm evolved over time, and how YouTube has changed over time as well.]

“It went through a lot of iterations over the years […] it started as an MMORPG channel, and eventually morphed to fully take advantage of the Minecraft-era. In its final, major transition while I was there, we transferred to League of Legends.”

“Certainly, in those early days, it was very wild west and nobody really seemed to have a grip on best practices, or I’m sure if you were to look back now, you’d be like, ‘why does every video have identical thumbnails? Why do we upload in 360p?’ But we were like that, and for the most part, it found an audience, and then as we evolved and grew with the platform, we really shaped it in a lot more specific ways as we went along.”

Were you involved in anything else while working for Machinima?

“No, once I started, it was kind of an ‘all-in’ thing. I think eventually that third season of Deadliest Warrior happened, but I just turned it down. It was a big shift for me, so it pretty much got my full focus.”

Beyond Machinima

Brett had done a lot for Machinima, and in time, his on-screen personality had grown in popularity and in branding himself. At the same time, the company had grown into something a lot larger than when it was created.

Did you ever foresee yourself starting your own channel while you worked at the company?

“In the very loosest sense […] it wasn’t something that I was pursuing before Machinima, but it was always in the background, right? At one point I got my Twitch account partnered just by virtue of the fact that I did work at Machinima. So, it was kind of a background thing, but I feel like those days we were so focused on what we were already doing that was so bizarre [laughs] so expansion wasn’t something I had thought of too much at the time.”

Was there ever a moment where you felt as if the channel or company had grown into something much bigger than when you had first started?

“The Respawn guys had already blown up, and there was this sense that, ya know, they were the popular show in town [laughs]. They were also the first ones that sort of welcomed me in over there, people like Sark, Hutch, and Nanners — who were all really nice. But I don’t know, cause you get little senses of it, right? Like I had never really traveled the world […] but now I’m like, ‘okay I’m at Gamescom, I’m hosting something with Sark on the Rhine River,’ and it’s kinda crazy that [Machinima] could support all of this. There were a lot of little moments like that.”

Brett and I reflected on his time helping Cow Chop get started, his behind-the-scenes and on-screen work, and how it was working and starting a company as unique as Cow Chop was.

What was the process like when you were helping out with the creation of Cow Chop?

“Oh man, around the time Cow Chop was starting to become a thing — towards the end of Machinima — I was on good terms with Aleks […] he had always told me I should be the manager of their group, which was The Creatures at that time. But then towards the end of the channel, I did come in as a manager, along with somebody else who came along to co-manage.”

“A lot of my interactions were just with Aleks and James, so when the conversation inevitably became, ‘wow it would probably just be easier if we just split off,’ and trying to work with this other manager […] we were reaching that point of ‘let’s just split,’ since it would be much easier creatively if we could just sort of take it in its own direction.”

“So when they pitched it, the thought for me was, ‘alright, this is a little scary,’ and at that point, I had been at Machinima for about 5 or 6 years […] but the timing was right. It really became this new thing — they left behind their previous thing, and I had left behind Machinima, and we both sort of embarked on this new destination.”

What was your favorite moment on the channel, and did you ever have a feeling that the channel had peaked or there was a moment where the channel was reaching its peak?

“When we started the channel, I was working remotely. I was doing a lot of business stuff and checking in with them, but I was slightly removed from the everyday existence of whatever was happening. That first trip when I went out there and they were like, ‘well cool, we’re gonna shoot with you for like a week’ and we shot the video where I broke through the door, we went to the river, and we all tried not to drown in the river […] suddenly it was like, okay, not only do I work for this channel, but I’m a part of this channel.”

“And then from there, there are a lot of memories, but they’re really tied to spending time with the people that were involved with that project.”

“Stuff like our Amazon Prime Time episode, where me and Trevor took over — that’s a big one for me, or even going to the Grand Canyon.”

“As far as a peak goes, other than being tied to certain videos doing well, could we take over an Amazon and have people not complain that Aleks and James weren’t on? Could we do a weird series where we’re just winging it as we go? Could we do a food series and turn it into a weird thing? A lot of it is more little micro-victories like that.”

Life on YouTube

Here Brett and I discussed some of the policy changes on YouTube and his experiences with managing a YouTube channel, including what sort of struggles they may have faced with Cow Chop keeping YouTube videos within guidelines, or if anything had to be reevaluated due to concerns with the way YouTube handles certain content.

“As far as the content goes, it’s not like we had any illusions that if we shifted the channel into some ad-safe territory, that is was going to be well-received more than it was already received.”

“In a lot of cases too, adding and doubling-down on the lore of, ‘oh, we’re the bad boys of YouTube — we got a video taken down and oh, we got a channel strike or a community strike!’ It’s not like we were trying to do those things, but if it happened, at least it added to this ongoing narrative.”

“It’s weird to think about it in retrospect though, right? If those obstacles hadn’t existed, would it have gone further? I don’t know, but I almost view it as an inextricable part of the DNA — just the struggle of something like this that we were trying to do, and being at odds with the place where you could find it, and riding that out all the way till the end. That was just kind of a part of the story, I guess!”

What was your perception of YouTube when you first joined, and what have you seen change since then? Is there anything you believe would improve the platform significantly?

“Not to rely too heavily on that analogy again, but it’s true. When we started, it really was the wild west, and the odds of you going onto YouTube and finding something that you truly would not have expected to find in those days is, to me, much higher than it is now; just the idea of a world where you could wander around and explore YouTube and find a video of FilthyFrank cooking a dead, fetal mouse that he just found, or like ‘Hair Cake’ or something like that. I would see things like that, and even as someone who was well-versed in internet culture, I would be like, ‘oh my god, this is on YouTube where Jenna Marbles posts vlogs?’ — it was really anything goes.”

“I feel like in a certain sense, that transparency [from the platform] really isn’t there. For someone that’s been on YouTube for over a decade now at this point, I gotta talk to someone that does analytics and have them be like, ‘well, right now the meta is longer videos again, and this is why this video — ’ and I don’t know, you just don’t always feel like you’re caught up to date on things or you’ll be told a version of something that’s ever-shifting.”

Life After Cow Chop

Brett and I discussed his life after Cow Chop, and his experience transitioning out of his previous role and moving forward onto different projects.

Obviously, since the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the Cow Chop channel has been inactive. Do you ever miss working in that environment, or are you kind of happy to be able to take a step back on that front since you were working there for so long?

“The things you take for granted when you’re in the swamp of actively trying to run a business, or you go into the warehouse and there’s roaches, you know what I mean? All the little shit that makes day-to-day stuff kind of annoying — and then you get out of it, and you’re on your own, and you realize that working with a team, and holding yourselves accountable by virtue of the team, not having the burden of, ‘if I’m not 100% today, then nothing happens.’”

“And it was more fun sometimes too. I miss just plopping down on the couch, and really even if you don't have a high concept of it, the trust that you have in the people that you have been making stuff with for a while where you can just sit down and know, ‘this will translate.’”

Mini Cow Chop reunion — via @BreadHungry on Instagram

“Yeah, I miss all of that stuff, absolutely. It was nice being free of all the shackles of the business side of things, but in many cases, I’m still managing stuff. ”

Muscle Party

Here we discuss his channel conceived and started at the very beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, what his vision was, his current endeavors, and what he plans to do moving forward.

Let’s talk about Muscle Party. How was that initial transition from working on a channel such as Cow Chop’s onto your own channel, and what was your vision of the channel when you had first started uploading content and streaming?

“Going back to your previous question about Machinima, where you asked if I ever thought about doing other stuff — Cow Chop obviously brought me to a level that I had never experienced before in terms of people paying attention to what I was doing. So I figured I was never going to stream unless I could do it on my own terms, cause I didn’t want to just be putting it into the background, and by the end of Cow Chop that shifted a bit, as this would sort of be my new creative outlet. So when Cow Chop ends, all of these little ideas I had, or these creative concepts, like instead of producing the cooking show, I’d produce my own stream — that would be the whole thing.”

“The inception of Muscle Party though was an absolute bloodbath in the sense of it seeming to me that it would be a fun transition, but here was this massive, overpriced warehouse full of crap that has to go somewhere, you still have to pay these bills, you still have to pay your own bills, here’s this global pandemic that’s gonna mess with you, and let’s follow it up with the death of a family member — it was just every sort of mental thing was just piling on at once.”

“Thinking about the first year of it and what it was, it does feel like some sort of dream that I just stumbled through. There’s really no way for me to think about it in an objective way, you know what I mean? It’s just all bizarre.”

One thing I have noticed from a lot of the content creators and people I have talked to is that they struggled really hard to find motivation during the pandemic. How did this affect you while trying to start your new channel?

“I mean, my experiences were not really unique, especially considering everyone went through their own personal experience with COVID […] but really just finding people to make content with. I was struggling with motivation for a while about what to do with it. It took some conversations with some people in the space, and one particular conversation was just like, ‘Listen, man. Just make something, and if it sucks, at least you made something and for that week you’ll have made something and won’t think of IF you made something.’”

What has been your favorite upload or stream on your channel so far?

“I liked where we started with Muscle Party. The first big stream where we burned the couch felt kinda cathartic, and I’m sure it probably felt that way for a lot of viewers as well. We had launched in a way where it felt as if it wasn’t just like, ‘okay I’m streaming Fortnite in my spare time.’”

“ Some of those first streams — whether or not they were what I was going for, they at least felt like we were shooting for something. I actually don’t enjoy working out on camera, it’s just really annoying [laughs] and everyone watching will just watch what you’re doing and pick it apart or whatever. But the early streams were nice because seeing everyone watching live was making me want to do it.”

What are your plans moving forward?

“Now that the freedom to go out and shoot a video in the wild has opened up a bit, there’s some stuff Garret wants to do that’s more live-action, stunty-vibe, so we’ll see how that goes! It is just a side gig currently, because I am working on E3, and it’s all very much time-consuming, but with that comes a little bit of freedom that didn’t exist this time last year […] now it’s nice because it’s like, ‘oh, what do we want to do? You want to hang from a tree and box? Okay, how do I not kill you while shooting this video?’ [laughs] but we’re able to take the time and not do something just because I HAVE to do something.”

If you want to follow Brett on his current endeavors, go subscribe to his channel ‘Muscle Party’ and give him some love over on Twitter. Special thanks again to Brett for sitting down with me!

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