H-Gun Labs, officially, H-Gun Corp. (1988–2001) was a film/animation consortium which started in Chicago and expanded to include a San Francisco studio. H-Gun began as a collective of students from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College in Chicago who were involved with making art, film, and music. Originally, UNGH! was the name of the band formed by founders Eric Zimmermann and Benjamin Stokes. The band nearly got signed to major recording label, but the group disbanded. Once they began making visuals or music videos for the music they were producing, and for other recording artists, they created H-Gun Corp. The name was loosely referred to as "The Lab" or "H-Gun Labs."
The H-Gun family of friends, collaborators, fine artists, studio technicians, musicians consisted of core group of employees and many freelance and independent contractors. H-Gun gained attention by being a Chicago based music video company when at the time the industry was dominated by East Coast and West Coast production companies.
Their early videos included work for their own band, Ungh! and led to commissions for the following recording artists: Ministry, LaTour, Nine Inch Nails, Revolting Cocks, Public Enemy, De La Soul, Megadeth, Smashing Pumpkins, Killing Joke, Meat Beat Manifesto, Young Black Teenagers, Son of Bazerk, Anthrax, KMFDM, K Solo, Mr. Lee, Rights of the Accused, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, I Mother Earth, Prong, Consolidated, 808 State, Crystal Waters, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Melvins, SNAFU, Offspring, Infectious Grooves, Suicidal Tendencies, Fleming and John, Josh Wink, The Orb, Rise Robots Rise, Nude Swirl, Diamanda Galas, Lead Into Gold, Pigface, New Order, Fear of God, Brian May, Living Colour, Next School, Treponem Pal, Shaman, Poe, Skid Row, Mind Funk, Fred Schneider, Holly Palmer, Wax, Mint Condition, The Hangmen, Corrosion of Conformity, Teenage Fan Club, Supersuckers, Girls Vs Boys, Iron Maiden and many more.
The two original founding members were Eric Zimmermann and Ben Stokes. Quickly Eric Koziol a fellow School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) collaborator and freelance producer/assistant director, Jim Deloye joined the company and became shareholders. Other contributors to the H-Gun chemistry and artistry were Eric Matthies, Wing Ko, CW Hayes, Elizabeth Biron, Barbara Schwarz, Dawn Rubin, Adrian Dimond, Maximum Greyspace, Craig Coutts, Roxanna Markewiecz, Mak Knighton, Dawn Smallman, Damon Mena, Laura Dame, Robert Bial, Jason Voke, Chris O'Dowd, Tau Gerber, James Colao, Vello Virkhaus, Davey Force, John Goodman, Ivan DeWolfe, Jon Schnepp, Patsy Desmond, Danielle Beverly, Ty Bardi, Sheleigh Highsmith (now a psychiatric nurse practitioner), and scores of interns, freelancers, friends and collaborators.
The artists at H-Gun approached filmmaking in a renegade style and in some cases defining "run and gun" style of filmmaking. The work was purely experimental and raw. In some cases footage that would normally be considered "outtakes" was included into the edits. H-Gun were early adopters in the use of Apple Macintosh computers and the earliest versions of animation software. As the company evolved, so did the visual styles that the collective pursued. H-Gun became one of the few (at the time) companies in the world that would shoot its own live action film, design its own motion graphics, 2D and 3D animation, and integrate the work into its own finished pieces. The progression of the work created by H-Gun garnered world-wide attention. The work has been curated by museums, chronicled by newspapers, and TV shows. Recently Soundgarden re-released the videos H-Gun produced and directed on its CD/DVD release "Telephantasm." H-Gun's work often won international awards with Promax / BDA, International Monitor Awards, Billboard Music Video Awards and the like.
As H-Gun evolved the company worked with directors Frank Kozik, David Yow, Paul Andresen, Nancy Bardowil and Spike Jonze on various videos either as director or co-directors. H-Gun videos were often featured on marquee MTV shows such as 120 Minutes, Headbanger's Ball and Beavis and Butthead. H-Gun evolved from music videos into doing major content like network ID's, commercials, and show opens.
In Summer of 2000, the company decided that it would close its doors and that the owners would remain friends and explore other creative endeavors. The official closing date for the last delivery of commissioned work was January 2001.
Noteworthy videos: Soundgarden "Jesus Christ Pose" Soundgarden "Rusty Cage" Anthrax - Public Enemy "Bring Tha Noise" Nine Inch Nails "Down In It" (also brought international notoriety and FBI investigation into the rumor that Trent Reznor was killed based on a super 8 film camera that got away from the film crew.) Nine Inch Nails "Head Like A Hole" Meat Beat Manifesto "Helter Skelter" Skid Row "Monkey Business" The Orb "Toxygene" Public Enemy "Night Train" Son of Bazerk "Change The Style" Young Black Teenagers "Loud and Hard to Hit" Megadeth "Holy Wars" (coincided with Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the lyrics very close to what was taking place)
H-Gun crews spent time filming in several parts of the world and around the USA: Paris, London, Vancouver, BC, Toronto, Ontario, Sydney, Mexico City USA: Chicago, Houston, NYC, LA, Detroit, Spring Green, WI, Miami Beach, San Francisco
Where are they now? Various former members of H-GUN currently play roles in animation, design, visual effects in LA, San Francisco, Chicago and NYC.
Founding member Ben Stokes is also a musician, recording artist and founding member of DHS (Dimensional Holofonic Sound) and Tino Corp. He also collaborates as a creative member of Meat Beat Manifesto. Stokes continues to do tour film work for DJ Shadow, and his own freelance VFX / Design artist clients.
Former founders, employees and freelancers are still involved in TV, Film, Music, Animation, Design production in the USA. Damon Mena is owner of Transistor Studios in NYC and Melbourne. Former Intern, Jared Plummer is owner of Haus in LA, CA. Jon Schnepp has been contributing to the world of funny and cutting edge content creation in LA, CA via his enterprise King Robot.
- Cartoon Network
- Turner Classic Movies
- Comedy Central
- MTV Latin America
- E! Entertainment Television
- Nickelodeon Russia
- Discovery Channel
- Food Network