Sock Puppet Parody Makes The World's Most Fascinating Parody Videos. With Socks.
Reno's Chop Shop Saloon is fortunate to be located where it is. As a part of the main cluster of Deep Ellum's streets, it receives plenty of the trendy neighborhood's foot traffic. At the same time, it's at the far edge, out near Malcolm X Blvd., in a nook not everyone knows exists. It's the type of bar you find yourself at if you're looking for it and completely missing when you aren't. Most of the time, Reno's Chop Shop is nuzzled in its little quiet corner, as an island unto itself.
That's not the case tonight.
Tonight, roughly a dozen people armed with socks, screens, mics, metal shelving and a camera have taken over the center of the alley running alongside Reno's and it's as lively as all hell. The dozen seem to be in various states of hurried — some try vigilantly to smooth out wrinkles on black fabric covering the top of the shelving. A few meander, making slight tweaks to light heads positioned around the alley. A duo tackles the set-up and operation of the camera jig.
The last two of the group are sitting calmly behind the shelving on bar stools with long, thick wool tube socks pulled over their arms to the their elbow. Johnny Zero, one of the socked duo, sits rigidly with his arm away from his body while another person tinkers furiously with the sock. The woolen foot insulator is adorned with yarn hair on its would-be dome and holds a tiny paper cup in its right hand. The cup has an even smaller design on it–a tiny blue explosion graphic with the words “Sock Puppet Parody” adorned in yellow text.
Brady Tulk is the director and editor behind a YouTube series called Sock Puppet Parody. The name is about as accurate as it gets: “Sock Puppets Who parody Popular Rock and Metal Songs.”
“It started with me doing an Indiegogo campaign for a band called Rivethead,” says Tulk in between bites of barbecue.
The series is one of budding popularity. The channel has just under 50,000 subscribers and their individual videos have views ranging from 100,000 to 800,000. With that sort popularity, it's safe to say that Sock Puppet Parody is on its way to potentially becoming a viral sensation.
The idea started when Tulk tried to get funding for his Dallas-bred metal band, Riveted, through a marketing scheme. After a few weeks, it became apparent that the Indiegogo campaign just wasn't working out. So, Tulk looked for inspiration. Lo and behold, in Rivethead's jam room were several sock puppets made by a fan. “I just meditated on it for a couple of days,” Tulk says. “It finally hit me. I was like, 'Oh, I can get little instruments and drums and make a video!'”
With the help of Johnny Zero, who essentially served as a producer, Tulk created what he calls a low-quality music video featuring sock puppets. At the end, two titles pages read: “Don't let this happen, Help Rivethead make a real music video!”
For all intents and purposes, this was the very first iteration of Sock Puppet Parody. Three sock puppets with flimsy paper instruments thrashing around in front of a cardboard backdrops with flames made out of colored paper. The night Tulk posted the video, the Indiegogo campaign received over $1,000 in donations. Still, at the time Tulk thought the idea would be just a one-off thing.
“About six months later, we had just got back from a Static X concert and [Zero and I] just thought 'That guy would be a perfect sock puppet,'” he says.
The pair were talking about the late Wayne Static, frontman for the band. He boasted one of the most iconic looks in the metal scene with his foot-long hair spiked up and a braided beard. Zero and Tulk decided that they wanted to keep working together and develop their skills — Tulk as a director and Zero as a producer. After that Static X concert, they committed to the idea of making a season of sock puppets parodying popular rock and metal music and throwing them up on YouTube.
It's October 2014, and the Sock Puppet Parody crew are one month in on their YouTube season. They've published three videos so far — covers of Nirvana's “Smells like Teen Spirit,” a Skrillex parody and the idea that started it all, Static X's “Push It.” The fourth video of the first season is about to drop, Slayer's “Reign in Blood.”
Their sock puppet cover band of Slayer, “Stayner,” dropped “Raining Bleach” on Reign in Blood's 28 year anniversary. And the video sort of blew up. Well, ain't no sort of.
Metal news sites caught wind of the comical cover of one of the most sacrosanct songs in the history of the genre, and they ate it up. wrote about it, FuseTV, metalinsider.net, Alternative Press and Loudwire sent tweets to their combined 900,000 followers. To top it all off, Slayer itself shared the video to its 680,000 followers.
The popularity of later videos in the series also earned notice from members of the bands Sock Puppet Parody covers. Slipknot frontman, Corey Taylor, gave a nod to the awesomeness of Sock Puppet Parody, and during the filming of a Pantera cover, the group managed to get Vinnie Paul to stop by and do some puppeteering, as well as make a quick cameo at the end of the video.
All of this thanks to the viral success of that Slayer video. “Stayner sounded, to me — the singer, the music — everything sounded like something Slayer would have done,” J.T. “Kitty D” Longoria says of what you could call their breakout hit.
Longoria is the man behind the music for the videos. The videos are unique in that respect — besides the production quality being far greater than you'd expect for sock puppets, the music is all top notch and recorded in studio. It's also all original, as Longoria prefers to make an adaptation for the new format.
For the Slayer parody, Longoria worked with Benjamin Shanks, vocalist from the local band Insinnerator. His guttural voice gives the illusion that Tom Araya himself is belting out the lyrics — until he belts out phrases like “Awaiting bleach cycle,” and “it's not colorfast.”
After that video took off. It seemed that Sock Puppet Parody had established itself a core fan base. After trying out a few different genres, the team decided that metal would be their core fan base. So they excavated that gold mine with some top notch parodies: Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Slipknot and Pantera.
While the team is definitely partial to metal, they still make videos which hit on different genres. Sock Puppet Parody have videos for punk fans in the form of Sex Pistols and Green Day, and alternative fans can enjoy some Radiohead and Nirvana. Their upcoming video set will introduce even more variety — they released their first foray into rap with a cover of NWA's “Straight Outta Compton.” The next video they plan on shooting is a Beatles parody. Realistically, Sock Puppet Parody has an endless slew of popular music to keep this series going as long as it wants.
“We have a lot of big plans, and I think it could double our fan base,” says Tulk of the upcoming videos. “Some of the things we're doing are totally new, but I don't know how much of it I can share right now.”
Once the set for their “Straight Outta Compton” spoof is ready, the recording begins. Everyone on set is rounded up to either be behind the camera or manning a puppet. Two cardboard cut-out cop cars are in the foreground moving back and forth, similar to NWA's music video for the song.
Fires are lit in little tin canisters behind the main stage. A strobe light whirs behind everything, throwing its undulating light on the scene. Above the stage there are seven sock puppets being operated. Beneath is a cluster of people with moist foreheads and burning thighs. Each recording is about three minutes long. Still, the group relishes its breaks.
After a handful of takes, Tulk and Zero decide that the footage they have is just what they need for the video. That's pretty quick, they say later, as some of the other videos have taken dozens of takes to get the recordings they needed.
The final cut of the “Straight Outta Compton” parody debuted today with a special team only screening at Gas Monkey Live last night. The finished product is something that's very on brand when it comes to Sock Puppet Parody videos even though the music N.W.A. isn't of a genre you'd expect the guys to tackle. But, all the quirks are still intact. The music video has high-quality visuals and sound recording and lots of puns.
Most importantly, it's a lot of fun.
Sock Puppet Parody's videos aren't just someone throwing a sock over their hand and mouthing the words to popular music — there's an entire set, customized instruments (re: sock Tom Morello's guitar reading “Sock the Arms”), stage lighting and even pyrotechnics. The sound quality is top notch, as the music is recorded in an actual studio using the vocals from local musicians in the Dallas area.
Even the sock puppets are taken seriously — a dedicated artist who creates the sock doppelgängers, Carolina Govea, uses all the nuances of the real person to bring the socks to life. When you see the socks in the Rage Against the Machine video, there is no mistaking which sock is Tom Morello and which is Zack de la Rocha.
On top of appearances, Tulk and Zero stress the importance of placement and movement. They tell their puppeteers to watch specific live performances of the bands, and if a certain musician is always on one side of the stage, then the sock will be on the same side.
Easily one of the top uses of Govea's talent was in the “Straight Outta Compton” video. You know immediately which socks are Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, respectively. The cop socks have full cop attire. And not only did she have all of these socks ready to go for recording, she is there on hand to fix any “wardrobe malfunctions.”
Once the recording comes around, it's all hands on deck. No matter what their job descriptions where prior to the recording, everyone becomes a puppeteer once the camera is rolling. This means there can be as many as a dozen people working at once to operate sock puppets. The once organized “stage” becomes a large mass of people stuck in various stages of crouching. Each puppet is operated by one or two people, depending on just how much movement is required.
All of these lasts for three to five-minute intervals, and the team is lucky if they get the footage they need in under five takes. But the production quality wasn't always as great as it currently is on Sock Puppet Parody. After all, this is a conception that started with a few people in a garage filming hand puppets thrashing around.
Eventually, their ideas, and perhaps their popularity, got too big for a couple of people and a garage.
“Metallica was different,” says Zero of one of the most popular videos to date. “It's Metallica. You can't do this kind of crunched up and cheat it to make it look good.”
So Tulk and Zero started reaching out to find other locations to film. After a while and finally contacting the right people, they ended up securing Gas Monkey Live for a recording session.
“We tell them we're headed that way, and they're expecting four guys,” Tulk says. “We brought more than a dozen people to Gas Monkey.”
They showed up with all their people and all their gear. Soon, they had a sock-pun riddles parody of Metallica blaring through the sound system of a venue that holds 2,500 people with an insane production value to match. All that effort — for a Youtube clip.
“That has to be a record,” Zero says, chuckling to himself about the absurdity of it all. “The sound guy said something like, 'Now I've seen every band, I've seen everything. I can die now.'”