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TheInterviewer's News

Posted by TheInterviewer - October 21st, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 171

Interview By: @The-Great-One


Today's guest has been with us four times previously. He was the first interview done with The Interviewer. Today he is here to shed light on where Newgrounds is compared to where it was. From the 25th Anniversary, to the death of Flash, and the ambitions he has for Newgrounds in the future. I am most pleased to welcome back the Founder and CEO of Newgrounds, @TomFulp




Q: 25 Years. Most sites tend to fall into obscurity after that period of time. Newgrounds though hasn't. Through the dot com bubble rise and burst. Through YouTube becoming a dominating force and failing. Newgrounds has stood the test of time. How does it feel that this site has lasted this long? Did you ever envision its longevity.


A: I think Newgrounds has lasted this long because it’s an idea; it comes from an appreciation for what the web gave us and a desire to live up to that potential. Newgrounds came from a place of celebrating an open platform for creativity, vs coming from a business plan.




Q: Flash is going to become discontinued by the end of the year. You and Mike have been working on things such as the Newgrounds Player and Ruffle. What more can you tell us about these projects?


A: Newgrounds Player was created as a way to run Flash content after Flash has been removed from browsers, while Ruffle is the ideal long-term plan to continue running Flash content in browsers, without Flash. Mike created Ruffle because he knew the Flash runtime couldn’t be depended on forever, even outside of the browser. Created with the Rust programming language, Ruffle is open source and has attracted a lot of smart people who are helping to move it forward. Currently Ruffle can run a lot of the animated content on NG as well as a good number of AS2 games, such as Alien Hominid.


Anyone can help with the development of Ruffle and you can directly sponsor Ruffle on GitHub. Newgrounds has been a diamond sponsor from the start and I’m a big cheerleader for Ruffle, while smarter people work on the actual development, solving difficult problems.




Q: What is your position on the Mobile presence of Newgrounds going forward? Will Newgrounds be able to run on Smart TVs and consoles that have mouse and keyboard support?


A: I would love to have Newgrounds on Smart TVs, at least as an app to watch animation. So many of these things come down to resources and needing money to fund the development of individual projects. The same goes with a mobile app; it would be very expensive to do it properly and there’s no guarantee it would succeed, no guarantee it would even be accepted by the app stores. I’m a big fan of the open web and I like to give people a reason to bypass the app stores.




Q: One thing you used to do that I miss were the Newgrounds Broadcasts. Where you would browse the portals for content and talk to the members of the site. Why did you stop doing these broadcasts? With the advent of Twitch will we see a possible return of them?


A: The broadcasts stopped when we shut down our streaming server, as part of a hardware downsizing to reduce rackspace expenses. We were working towards giving artists a streaming platform and the timing would have been great, but instead downsizing, planning for the death of Flash and adapting the site for mobile became the priority. NG wasn’t hosted in the cloud back then, we managed physical servers in downtown Philly until 2016.




Q: There were nominees for the 2013 Tank Awards, no voting or winners were chosen. I know the trophies were not cheap to make and that was one of the reasons it stopped. Will we see a return for these awards, at least in text form like the Daily Awards?


A: Like everything in the 2012-2013 era, there wasn’t money to make more trophies, at $500 apiece. We’ve had several false starts in the years since and still would like to get the trophies going again. We’re currently working on a trophy system overhaul that will let us award digital tank trophies, at which point we might assemble a panel of judges and retroactively award 2013-present, even if we don’t have physical trophies to hand out.




Q: We have spoken about the Writing Portal / Literature Portal on multiple occasions. You mentioned Medium.com as an example of what the Lit Portal would need to be. Will there ever be a Lit Portal on the site or are writers to be forever delegated to the Writing Forum and News Posts?


A: A Writing Portal is still on the wishlist. It’s hard to say when, given how many items we have on the list for the existing portals. I’d like to be a lot happier with the state of the other portals before we consider adding a new one.




Q: With Flash being discontinued, it will be easy for people to get their hands on Flash software for free. With Swivel being able to convert Flash to different formats and Ruffle coming out to emulate Flash, is there still a reason for new animators, developers, and programmers to pick up Flash for their creations?


A: It will be interesting to see if Ruffle inspires people to revisit Flash, as a sort of demo scene if nothing else. It’s hard to recommend Flash to newcomers because it’s essentially dead software that will no longer improve. It would be nice to see something new come along that matches the features of Flash, with an eye towards the future.




Q: We have had creators leave the site for bigger things. Newgrounds is a great platform for people to make a start, hone their skills, and then move on. You have stated in the past that you are happy Newgrounds was able to do that, but at the same time you wished they would stay. If they still refence Newgrounds as their building block why does it matter if they leave? Why would you want them to stay?


A: I think the expectation was that people would move from Newgrounds to something different from the web, for example film and television, or a game studio. When someone becomes popular on Newgrounds and then moves to YouTube, it feels like a lateral move. It shouldn’t be necessary, but YouTube offers the potential for more audience and money as you grow. Newgrounds would ideally be competitive with YouTube, which is the big challenge. 


In the case of people simply growing up and becoming busy with life, I’d love to see them pop in once in a while to make a post or write a review. There’s always a new generation of artists coming up on the site but it’s great to see old faces in the crowd, even if they aren’t uploading stuff anymore.




Q: When we last spoke we talked about Randy Solem's passing and the uncertainty. You want Newgrounds to outlive you. Is there a plan in place when you're gone? Who will run the site without you here?


A: I have various ideas for what might happen but nothing is set in stone and much will change in the years ahead. There are people perfectly capable of keeping NG going without me around, though. Hopefully NG will be economically sustainable before I die, so it doesn’t have to be sold off or shut down.




Q: You have toyed around with the idea of a live action portal. You have stated it as an invite only basis at first. Why is this? What content would be allowed and not allowed with such a portal?


A: If Newgrounds had a live action portal, the goal would be to host independent short films. What we would want to avoid is vlogs, Let’s Plays and whatever someone decides to record on their phone any given day. It’s not just a matter of the vibe of the site; we literally couldn’t host the thousands of hours of content people would upload every day if the barrier to entry was too low.




Q: With the Supporter Upgrade, Newgrounds has attained many supporters. There are perks for supporters no doubt. Are there any new ideas for perks for supporters?


A: We float around different ideas but I prefer our limited development resources go towards features that benefit everyone. I want people to love NG so much that $3 a month feels like a no-brainer just to keep it going.




Q: Where do you see Internet as a form of entertainment and work within the next five years?


A: The introduction of mobile disrupted the traditional desktop user experience, however mobile interfaces aren’t evolving so quickly nowadays and COVID is bringing a lot of students back to laptops and desktops, when otherwise they may have never left their tablets. The next disruptive device will likely be Apple’s AR glasses and I could see needing to adjust our layout and interface for an AR experience in the future. If the glasses are “insanely great” as Steve Jobs would say, a lot of us may stop straining our necks to look down at phones. Maybe the future will be a fight between the desktop and glasses, vs desktop and phones / tablets?


With Newgrounds, we have years of work on the to-do list. The same way we had to shelve a lot of ideas in 2012 to focus on post-Flash and mobile, our plans will continue to evolve based on the changing environment. Our goal is to be more iterative with the site from now on, vs finding ourselves in a situation like the 2012 redesign, where we spent four years developing something that already felt outdated by the time it finally launched.




Q: What can we expect from Tom Fulp in the future?


A: Nightmare Cops! And of course I’ll be here on Newgrounds every day, doing Newgrounds things.




Tom has always been a brilliant man. Someone who started something a long time ago and with the demand only growing more and more wanted to share it with everybody. Find a way to give back as much as he can to the talent and creativity. Newgrounds is a place where you can gain some fame for sure, but mostly it is a place to grow and expand on your skillset. For me, it was a place where I was accepted and a place where I found out who I was. I imagine it is the same or at least similar to a lot of other people I've interviewed in the past. Tom is always doing something for Newgrounds in one way shape or form. I know Newgrounds loves Tom and everything he does.




The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions

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19

Posted by TheInterviewer - October 20th, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Lost Episode: 8/12/2007

Interviewed By: @The-Great-One


POST COMMENTARY

This was the first one. The one that started it all. It is as cringe inducing as you can imagine. Which if you look back to Interview No. 1 with Tom Fulp on The Interviewer page, they are not too different in terms of quality. Everybody has a starting point though. It even brought up one of the more cringeworthy moments of my past here on Newgrounds with this bullshit.


Ladies and gentlemen this is the interview in which I conducted with Alvin-Earthworm through the system of a PM Message. These questions were truthfully asked by myself and the replies are directly from @Alvin-Earthworm himself. If you do not believe me then you can PM him yourself.


Alvin-Earthworm is a grand sprite movie animator winning many awards for his series Super Mario Bros. Z. By working hard during the day and doing Super Mario Bros. Z as a side hobby he has become more successful than ever. This is the interview in which I conducted with him.




Q: What are your thoughts on the Super Mario Bros. Z Series?


A: Well, first and foremost I am very surprised at it's success here on Newgrounds, as well as the huge fanbase it has recieved over the course of the six episodes so far. I hope the fans will stay tuned 'til it's conclusion.




Q: Can we expect another big surprise from the Super Mario Bros. Z Series like in Episode 6?


A: There will be plenty of surprises in store. Naturally I'm gonna keep them to myself. Don't wanna spoil it for you. ;3




Q: When You Finish the Super Mario Bros. Z Series will you get permission from Nintendo and Sega and make a DVD?


A: I seriously doubt it. There is a chance I will have to pay licensing fees if I do consider it, but I'm not exactly made of money.




Q: Do you remember theSPA? Your comments on there were beneficial first, until the sprite haters entered. Do you have anything you wish to tell the sprite haters?


A: There is a lot of things I'd like to tell them, but I'll limit it to one. If you don't like it, Don't watch it




Q: How long does it usually take you to make a sprite movie, not including your daily life chores?


A: With the time and motivation, it would take about a fortnight. But sadly, both are very rare for me.




Q: What inspired you to make Super Mario Bros. Z?


A: I was inspired by other sprite animations here on newgrounds, so I decided to give it a try for the heck of it.




Q: You were once featured in a collab called Beat up Sandbag which won a Daily 2nd Place. What can you tell us about your work on this collab?


A: Nothing much really, I enjoyed working on it and it was a nice diversion from working on SMBZ.




Q: Are you a fan of any other flash artists on Newgrounds?


A: Quite a few. Kirbopher15, Randy Solem, Daniel Sun and LGDVegetto to name my favourites.




Q: After your success on one collab are you willing to make another one?


A: Depends on my time and motivation really. I have a very busy day job that leaves me too tired to even bother working on SMBZ let alone a collab.




Q: Is there anything you wish to tell us about any upcoming works in the near future?


A: All I have planned at the moment is finishing the first saga of SMBZ. If it's still popular by that time, I'll consider working on the SMBZ feature length movie that lies between the other sagas.




This is Interview #1. I have interviewed Alvin-Earthworm. If you would like me to interview somebody else then please inform me by PM System.




POST COMMENTARY

This interview wasn't anything spectacular. It was posted on my main page which I felt people didn't care about. Now they do for some reason or another instead of my project pages. It was popular, because Super Mario Bros. Z was on fire on the site. It wasn't really a proper interview, just a fanboy asking fanboy questions. It was though the first.




The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions

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Posted by TheInterviewer - October 13th, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 170

Interview By: @The-Great-One


Today is a special day for The Interviewer. Two interviews on the same day. These do have significance though to be connected. They are both underrated talents who have just started to become blips on the radar of Newgrounds. Not only that, they are also contest winners! Today's guests are the winner of the 2020 Art-Inspired Music Contest and the winner of the 2020 Music-Inspired Art Contest. I am pleased to welcome @littlbox and @Karlestonchew.


In this second part we will be talking with @Karlestonchew.


[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]




Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?


A: If I had to guess it would be around 2010, though at the time I only really knew Newgrounds as another site for flash games. It took me probably until around 2013 to connect the dots and realize that all my favorite animators I’d watch on YouTube were from Newgrounds. That all being said I didn’t create an account until 2015 and posted art very occasionally. I mostly just lurked and watched animations. Back then I was mostly posting art to DeviantArt and Reddit. About a year ago though I became way more active here, and Newgrounds was (and still is) my number one place to post my art. I realized just how much more I liked Newgrounds in comparison. DeviantArt is a little too “cliquey” in my opinion and reddit is just huge and of course anonymous, so it’s hard to meet other artists and collaborate or grow any sort of following. Most importantly though, Newgrounds feels like a community that’s main objective is to promote and create quality content, while the others are just companies trying to make a buck.




Q: At what age did you become interested in drawing?


A: Like most kids I loved to doodle and create my own comic books, but I don’t think I really focused on improving and putting more thought into it until I was probably 14 or 15. I got myself a Huion 610p drawing tablet, since it was the best bang for your buck tablet at the time, and used that thing all the way until a couple months ago when I upgraded to one with a screen. If they still make them I’d still recommend them as a starting tablet.





Q: When rtil was here we talked about charcoal drawing. It is an artform that I love. My favorite piece by you is Charcoal life drawing. What can you tell us about working with charcoal and how this piece came together?


A: This piece was actually an assignment for a college drawing class I was in and was drawn from a live model. We spent the first class with the model and then were sent off to finish it based off a picture. My apartment was right next door to the art studio, and we had 24 hour access to the building so I spent a couple late nights figuring it out. We did a lot of work in that class with charcoal, so I got decently acquainted with it. I’d say if you’ve never used charcoal before and you’re used to drawing in pencil, charcoal is pretty easy. It erases right off (within reason) and unlike a regular pencil can get super black so you can create very strong moments of contrast with one tool. That being said, it’s messing, which is certainly one of the reasons I haven’t revisited it since that class. You also have to be pretty careful with it since it smudges easily unless you use fixatives. I gave that piece to someone as a gift and had to apply the fixative indoors since it was winter, and my apartment smelled like spray paint for a week.




Q: One piece I was drawn to was Streetwear Girl Painting/Study. You said you were using streetwear subreddits to practice drawing clothes. Why do you recommend this for those looking to draw clothes and outfits?


A: Yeah, I have two main points about that. One, I think that the outfits you’ll find on there are a lot more interesting than say just some dude with a t-shirt and jeans. Sure, you could draw/paint “t-shirt guy” and come out of it gaining the same knowledge of how clothes mold and form to the body, but would you want to hang that on your wall? What people on these subreddits are trying to do is create something new and unique yet fashionable, so just like a piece of art it’s nice to look at. It’s distinct enough that you could draw some of these people and have a pretty interesting character in the end. Which brings me to my second point, studying unique fashion (like streetwear) is great practice for character design. I definitely wouldn’t call myself a character designer, I mean I’d love to be, I’m just not there yet, but I would say probably at least half of a good character design is the costume the artist puts them in.




Q: You started experimenting with pixel art for Pixel Day 2020 with Pixel Subway. Why did Pixel Day inspire you to give this art form a shot?


A: This one’s got a pretty short and simple answer. I had wanted to try pixel art for quite some time, and I mean when’s a better time to give it a shot than for a day themed around it?




Q: Looking at your works, your line work and color is incredible. It seems you transition these skills into your pixel art seamlessly. Is the transition that easy or is there something different about it?


A: I would say that I think for me pixel art makes some things a lot easier while other things harder. When it comes to landscapes and colors, it’s easier. Landscapes with normal digital painting are pretty tricky for me. There’s just so much I want to include, and I have to really measure and plan things out in my head. On pixel art that process is made much easier since I’m so limited. And then colors are made easier since when I put together a palette beforehand I know what I can expect later on, with painting you can blend together thousands of unique shades of colors just from two base colors (I guess technically infinite with traditional paints). What’s harder with pixel art for me are living things. When I draw a person or tree, I prefer a level of detail that often isn’t there in pixel art. In my most recent pixel drawing Tire Change I spent most of the time just figuring out the trees in the background.




Q: Your take on abstract art entitled Delicious meal! is as enticing as it is disgusting. How would you define abstract art? Could you use this piece as an example?


A: In the context of a painting, abstract art to me is about trying to convey whatever feeling/mood a realism piece is while doing in a non-objective way. Meaning you can’t recognize anything in it as something you might see in your everyday life. Using this piece as an example, you can look at it and be frightened and a little grossed out (which is what I was trying to do to viewers) without recognizing something as a body part, blood, or something else. Although, I admit I cheated a little by adding those teeth in the top middle there. It’s difficult to define and I think that’s the point, which is also why it’s so controversial. And I totally understand the controversy but trying it out myself made me appreciate some abstract artists a bit more and gave me a way to rationalize why I might like or dislike an abstract piece. This all of course ignoring those billionaire art auctions where finger paintings are sold for boatloads, that’s a whole other rabbit hole.




Q: Havel the Rock Pixel Portrait is another wonderful piece of pixel art. It seems inspiration struck when you were past bed at a reasonable hour. When did the inspiration strike and what made you want to keep going until it was done. What advice do you have to give to other artists who get struck with inspiration out of nowhere? How can they cope with it?


A: This one was something I decided to do when I was feeling a little bored of another painting I was working on. It was meant to be a doodle to help me relax before I went to sleep, but I ended up spending a lot more time on it. I knew that if I didn’t finish it that night, I probably wouldn’t revisit it, so I just kept going through. The advice I’d give is if inspiration strikes and you have your tablet or sketchbook available, draw it right then and there, it’s worth it in the end. I’ve tried writing my ideas for drawings down for future me to draw and it never works, I just can’t see it the same way. Don’t let sleep stop you, caffeine does wonders.




Q: You entered the 2020 Music Inspired Art Contest and came out in 1st Place. What drew you to this contest? How did you come across the song Outside? What about the song made you bring us Quiet Crossing? Why pixel art for this piece?


A: The biggest reason I wanted to do this contest is that I saw it was run/judged by some of my favorite artists on Newgrounds. Sevi and Miroko I admit had been recent discoveries, but I have been following Sabtastic’s art since I was in high school, a lot of my first digital art had been demon girls inspired by her drawings. Getting judged by some artists in the community I really respected was enough convincing for me. For the music I had been listening to the album EPIC by PICE (Andersson187 on Newgrounds) which is just an amazing collection of chiptunes. I thought this would fit great with my recent pixel art kick so I put two and two together. I was undecided between two of the songs on the album, Outside and Another Time, but as I got closer to finishing the piece I thought Outside just fit better. Both songs are very relaxing, and I wanted to match that. Then to find inspiration I went on google street view in Tokyo saving snippets I liked to use as reference.




Q: With different pieces of your pixel art there is some animation to them. Have you ever thought about making a movie or a game?


A: Yes! I’d really like to do something like gatekid3 and Andyl4nd do here on Newgrounds. Their pixel art animations are great and are leading me to discover a whole genre of animation I feel like I’ve only seen used to tell stories in video games, but not in stand-alone movies. As for a game, I have some coding experience and have made a couple pretty basic games a while back in Java and C++, though I’d probably use this opportunity to learn something a little simpler and more made for making games since there’s so many great tools out there now. I have some ideas, so both are quite possible.




Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of art?


A: Ah, this question took me a bit to think over, and I was almost tempted to give you a textbook definition but I’ll interpret this as “what art means to me”. Art for me is balance. I’m an engineer by trade which is quite different from creating art. Both allow me to be creative but in different ways. I love my job, but art gets my brain working in a different way and keeps me sane. I think everyone finds something like that whether it’s music, writing, so on, but for me it’s art.




Q: What can we expect from KarlestonChew in the future?


A: Well, it’s October so you can expect something spooky coming this month. Also, I’m playing a very small part in an awesome collab recreating Neil Cicierega’s The ultimate showdown that will be out in December (link: https://twitter.com/CollabShowdown). And for the far future maybe that movie or game we talked about.




Karlestonchew brings life to pixel art like I haven't seen in quite a long time. His interpretation of the song Outside into Quiet Crossing just matches so beautifully. If only we could have seen the picture form in his mind while the song played. Thankfully he was gracious enough to share it with us. Mark my words, I expect him to be a game changer on this site within the coming years.




[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]




The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions

SUPPORT ON PATREON | SUPPORT NEWGROUNDS ]


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Posted by TheInterviewer - October 13th, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 170

Interview By: @The-Great-One


Today is a special day for The Interviewer. Two interviews on the same day. These do have significance though to be connected. They are both underrated talents who have just started to become blips on the radar of Newgrounds. Not only that, they are also contest winners! Today's guests are the winner of the 2020 Art-Inspired Music Contest and the winner of the 2020 Music-Inspired Art Contest. I am pleased to welcome @littlbox and @Karlestonchew.


In this first part we will be talking with @littlbox.


[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]




Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?


A: I first found out NG existed back when I was 12. I was a huge fan of Robert Benfer at the time (aka @Knox - creator of Klay World), and learned he had gotten his start on the site. When I learned that it wasn't dead, I decided to open an account. I didn't know jack squash about animation, so I tried making some hybrid stick figure animations under the name @plasticapple. They didn't really go anywhere, and I got bored.


I opened up a new account in October 2016 under @littlbox. I uploaded a few animations and collab'd a bit with one guy (@Prinkles if you're still out there, love ya man), but then went dormant again.


Finally, at the beginning of 2018, I decided to really take creating online more seriously, and started using littlbox as a start-off platform. I must've made "Lip Heads" around this time, and just had fun experimenting with different stuff.


Over time, I was able to meet new people on Newgrounds, and a lot of them I would now consider close friends. So I have a lot to thank this site for.




Q: You started playing music at the age of 6 on the piano. What drew you to the piano? How did that spur your music education? How long have you been playing piano?


A: My sister took piano lessons when we were both younger, so I would always hear the piano. Finally, I was able to pick out "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" by myself one day, and I must've been so proud that my parents decided to put me on lessons as well.


For a long time, I was going down the road most kids go down when they take piano lessons as a kid, wherein they're in it for a bit, then as they get older they lose interest and move onto something else. But for whatever reason my parents kept me in lessons, and I'm glad they did, because once I turned 14 I hit my second wind. My high school held guitar lessons, and once I learned chords, a lightbulb went off in my brain. Suddenly the eight years of mindless practices on the keyboard made total sense.


By no means would I consider myself a good piano player, but I'm decent enough to pick out what it is I'm looking for at the moment I need it. My biggest inspiration on the instrument would have to be Ben Folds - he's exactly the white geeky piano rocking hero I needed in my teens, and I still respect his abilities to this day. Plus Ben Folds Five is one of the greatest bands of the 90s. Fight me.


But yeah, I've been playing the piano for 14 years now. God, that's a long time.




Q: I am from the state of South Carolina and know of Safe Harbor. I thank you for contributing towards it with the proceeds of your album Name Your Price that you made during a Senior project in high school. Could you tell us more about this project and album? What made you decide to donate to Safe Harbor?


A: Hey! Fellow South Carolinian!


But yes, the first album I made was a senior project called Prototype. I was really into bands like Grandaddy and Guided By Voices at the time, and I was able to play around in that "indie rock" realm. Making that album was so much fun - I was able to spend class time at home just writing and producing songs. And I took it real seriously too. It's amazing how early in the morning you'll wake up to work on a project.


The project had to benefit the community in some way, so I decided to donate all the proceeds I made from copies of the album to Safe Harbor, a non-profit set up to shelter and aid victims of domestic abuse. I thought their mission was very cool (and needed - South Carolina is one of the top states for domestic violence cases), and in the end I think I was able to donate around $60 or $70 from the album sales to the cause.




Q: In the past I have spoken with HaniaCaylerJazzaCyberdevilMistyEntertainment, and the aforementioned JohnnyGuy. They are all singers. You join them with your voice. When and how did you start singing?


A: I started singing because I had to. Getting other vocalists never even crossed my mind.


One of my biggest mentors and friends, Shelby Bryant (fantastic and talented individual, seriously. I maintain an NG account for him to showcase this man's awesome music, you have to check it out - @ShelbyBryant), helped me experiment with my voice, and encouraged me to try different styles and whatnot. I wouldn't consider myself very good technically speaking, but I've definitely progressed, and now I'm at least able to have fun with it.


Plus, it gives me a good excuse to scream. xD




Q: Who is Chicken Dave and what is Chicken Dance?


A: Dave was a guy I knew in high school. He was strange - sometimes he would just start acting like a chicken in class randomly. Sometimes for a few seconds, other times for minutes. One class that's all he did. He learned that I recorded music, and he wanted me to produce an album for him. It all took place in a one-night session in his bedroom. It was exhausting; he would make up the songs on the spot, and keep changing things as we went along.


Sometime after the album MUNKY TITZ came out, he stopped coming to school. I heard he got arrested for squirting shampoo in a cop's face.




Q: Why is Swiss Army Man the greatest film soundtrack? What inspirations do you take from it for your music?


A: Swiss Army Man was one of those game-changing movies for me. It was basically the right movie at the right time, and the soundtrack blew me away. It's almost entirely acapella, and gives a very American feel, with the main theme blending with "Cotton Eye Joe" and "Jurassic Park" to uniquely reflect the journey the main character goes through in retrospecting and introspecting. It's a movie that stands on its own, and it's still my go-to when someone asks for my favorite movie. I think the main inspiration from the film and soundtrack is that you don't have to be restrained by what everyone else is doing. You can take from it all and make it your own. 




Q: Your first submission to the Audio Portal would be entitled Project 9. Looking back on your first piece, how do you feel you have grown as a creator from then to now?


A: I went through a brief phase where I thought I wanted to be a chiptune artist. I was too lazy to learn Famitracker, so I downloaded some Nintendo soundfonts and used this theme I had laying around for a long time as the groundwork for the track.


It's always been hard for me to see progression in my own stuff, but I would have to guess that I'm no longer tied, or trying to tie, to any one genre. I just write songs, and I steal from whatever I think will sound good with it.




Q: Right after Project 9 we move to a piece that I quite like called Playing Numbers. You stated it was based off of a theme that you didn't do anything with. What was the theme for? What made you want to turn it into something for Pixel Day?


A: Haha Yeah I was doing a lot of that around this time - finding old stuff and making it new. The theme I had written inspired by this girl I had a crush on at the time. It's one of the few times I've written something directly inspired by somebody, and as such it holds an interesting place in my heart. I think I was just happening to work on it around Pixel Day, so I gave it my best to contend for it.




Q: What is Flow Down Stream?


A: FDS was this sort of recurring collab hosted by a couple of people. Each video had a certain theme, and everyone involved made a short clip with that theme in mind. The result was very surreal and stream-of-consciousness. I was really into that sort of thing, so I sent off "Lip Heads", and they invited me into their Discord server.


It was a lot of fun. Met some really cool and talented people along the way, not least of whom was @GoodL, who became the main curator behind the project. Unfortunately the project fell apart in the beginning of 2019, and it's been dormant ever since.




Q: When JohnnyGuy was here we talked about The Newgrounds Podcast. You were part of the precursor to this podcast called A Couple of Crickets. When and how did you become a part of A Couple of Crickets. Why and how was the transition to The Newgrounds Podcast made?


A: In late 2018, I DM'd GoodL asking if he wanted to do a podcast. We had done a couple of tracks together, but not much else as far as collaborating went. We chatted a bit though, and we were both going through a phase where we felt we needed to put out content consistently. So I figured a weekly podcast was the easiest and probably most fun way to accomplish that. He came up with the name A Couple of Crickets - only later did we realize (and heavily exploit) that it's acronym was ACOCk.


When we began the show in January 2019 we had no idea what we were doing. We were essentially meeting each other every week. As we continued on, we figured out our audio personalities, we started going in a very NG-oriented direction, and talked with a bunch of cool people along the way. It was insanely fun to do.


Around Christmas we began to lose steam. I think we both just got tired and wanted to do other things. So we ended in January with an interview with @TomFulp. What a way to go out, right?


Oh yeah - around this time there was some other Newgrounds podcast hosted by @willKMR called GroundsPatrol. Our podcasts would fight to the death a lot, and this got both parties a bit of attention. The biggest difference between our two podcasts was the structure. Whereas ACOCk was very loose and conversation-based, GP was very on the ball and well-structured.


GP ended in late 2019, and around this time we started talking about making a new podcast with the best of both worlds. The idea excited us all, and after ACOCk ended, we got to work on what became the Newgrounds Podcast.


Around this time I became much busier with other things - I was holding down a job at a grocery store and working on a documentary, and podcasting became less and less of a priority. So, I stepped down from being a permanent host, rather joining in on crew conversations and the occasional episode.


Now that I'm in school, I'm not really involved with NGP anymore. The door's open for whenever I want to come back, but I'm fine with just listening in with everyone else.




Q: You competed in the Art-Inspired Music Contest and took home 1st Place. We talked with JohnnyGuy about the creation of the contest. What drew you to compete in it this year? You stated that you found your piece as the first thing you saw in the Art Portal. What about Disgusting on The Insides made you create a song of the same name? What can you tell us about the lyrics and how you built the story around the image?


A: It still dumbfounds me.


I had originally "competed" in AIM 2019, but my track was too short to be considered for competition. Important lesson, kids: Sometimes it's best to read the rules before doing something.


As for the @MrCarlKarlson's piece, it stood out because, apart from it not having a girl or boobs as the main subject, I have a soft spot for robot pieces. And something about a robot throwing up what appeared to be green goop just got me excited.


I don't think I've ever written an actual song based on an image or artwork, but it was incredible how quickly it all came together. It tells the story of a self-loathing alcoholic robot who begs forgiveness from someone whom he's betrayed over a weirdly jazzy backing track.


One more time, thank you to @Troisnyx, @vocaloutburst, @Seth, and @Random-storykeeper for hosting AIM this year. There were a lot of amazing submissions, and I'm glad something about mine stuck with you.




Q: There are two songs that I would like to know about. The first is a bizarre song that I find disturbing and hilarious. christopher columbus the bisexual time traveling robot. I love this and I don't know why. How the fuck did this come into existence?


A: How does anything come into existence in this beautiful, beautiful world?


Over the course of a month, my friend @Dogl and I decided to make a punk album under the name George Washington Carver (@GWCtheband), the famous peanut scientist whose gonads have been a question of scientific curiosity. That song in particular I had actually improvised in a room with friends about two years prior, and decided to pop it's head back up during this project.




Q: The other song I want to discuss is my absolute favorite out of your works entitled B i r t h. It does have traces of your original track Project 9. It is a beautiful piece that I listened to over and over while working. What can you tell us about this piece?


A: This was one of the "demos" of that theme, and was something I had put together in a day with some recordings of my backyard and minimal instrumentation to give it an ambient vibe. I'm really glad you enjoy it. :)




Q: I'm gonna switch gears because although we've focused more on your music attributes, you've stated in the past that you are a filmmaker and you have series on YouTube. What can you tell us about your animation and sketch works?


A: I definitely consider myself a filmmaker first and foremost, although I realize that my film and video work hasn't been as consistent an output as my music. I have/had a recurring series based on my original "Lip Heads" short that I may/may not return to later on down the road. Animation is a fantastic field, and I have enormous respect for people who choose that road, but it's definitely not a main focus of mine. Other than that, I do the occasional short film, sketch, and music video, not to mention I try to get away with as much live-action on Newgrounds as I can.




Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of music?


A: Music's, like, whatever man.


I'm not sure how to answer this - it's such an odd question. We are living in a time where there is so much intermingling of audio and creativity on the internet. SO much. So when I listen through audio tracks, and something very very weird pops up, my immediate thought isn't even "is this music?", but rather "is it cool?"


So if I had to give a more specific definition, music's whatever is cool, at least to me.


On an unrelated note - "Is This Music?" by Teenage Fanclub is one of my favorite tracks ever. I'm going to make a movie just so I can have that song roll over the credits.




Q: What can we expect from littlbox in the future?


A: A lot...just not for a while.


I'm currently in film school right now, and it's the first time in a very long time where my main priority isn't what I'm going to publish online. As a result, I'm taking the time to play around with ideas, to find what purpose drives me, to hang out with cool people irl (albeit in masks).


Of course, the biggest thing I'm working on right now is Your Friend Logan, a documentary on the brilliant and late Logan Whitehurst. We've had to delay production to next summer due to COVID, but I'm still excited for this project, and I can't wait until we hit the road and start interviewing people.


So basically, I'm taking a time out to be Conner for a while. But when littlbox does come back, you better be ready. :)




littlbox is a musician I had not heard about until this contest began. HIs music pulled me in pretty quickly though. Shortly after I concluded this interview, littlbox begun being invited onto different podcasts to talk more about competing in the Art-Inspired Music Contest, his music experience, and just himself in general. I just absolutely love hearing him talk about music. He could have his own music class honestly.




[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]




The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions

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Posted by TheInterviewer - October 7th, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 169

Interview By: @The-Great-One


PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 ]




Q: Closing Scene and See Ya Later are two similar songs that have some inspirations from Hayao Miyazaki. You joined the Anime Society around your college years. Which anime would you say have given the most inspiration to your music?


A: With regards Closing Scene and See Ya Later, they were also inspired by Joe Hisaishi’s musical scores. Incredible composer! Indeed I was a member of the Durham Manga and Anime Society throughout my 4 years at university. In terms of the anime which have been the most inspirational to me... that’s a really tough question. It’s different depending on which of my musical projects I’m thinking about, and of course there are a tonne of anime soundtracks which haven’t explicitly been much of an influence but I simply love too!


For Better Than The Book, The Pillows’ soundtrack to FLCL and the show itself were an incredible influence! If we’re talking about J-rock in general though, then there’s a fair few bands which have been featured in anime I’ve not seen which are probably an even bigger influence. Kishida Kyoudan & The Akeboshi Rockets are amazing, as are OreSkaBand. Actually one of the biggest expanders of my musical taste which introduced me to a tonne of great bands was the AMV HELL series. That showed me Ellegarden which was a huge influence on BTTB!


For Jabun, no doubt Yoko Kanno’s Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex soundtrack was a big inspiration to me, especially in terms of sound design. Some of the newer stuff I’m working on is heavily influenced by this, and Yoko Kanno’s a fantastic composer whatever she’s working on! Kenji Kawai’s Ghost in the Shell and Innocence soundtracks were fantastic too and Hiroyuki Sawano’s soundtrack to Attack on Titan and Kill La Kill have definitely influenced my soundtrack work as Jabun. There’s waaaay too much great anime related music I could talk about!




Q: The Legend of Zelda series is a favorite of yours. What is it about the games that you like? Does the music by Koji Kondo have any influence to your work? If so, then how?


A: Ah man, I do very much love these games! The name Jabun even comes from one of the characters in Wind Waker, that giant fish which you can’t understand unless you play through the game a 2nd time! One of my early experiences of the internet was joining a Legend of Zelda forum back in the day called “Great Deku Tree Forums” and Jabun was my chosen username. It kind of just stuck as an online persona after that, and later as my musical artist name.


I love the stories and characters in the LoZ series and the franchise has brought me to tears on many occasions. It's so heartfelt and moving. I love the gameplay; the puzzles and dungeons, the direct platformer type combat, rather than the turn based battle style of Final Fantasy. I love the worlds they’re set in and the cross-game tie -ins and references, the mini-games too. My first LoZ game of my own was Oracle of Ages for the Game Boy Colour and it blew me away! Although I didn’t have a GameCube at the time, I remember watching my friend sailing around the vast ocean in Wind Waker too during my early teen years. It was so peaceful and relaxing, and man oh man, Koji Kondo’s music was beautiful! I don’t think his compositions have directly influenced my own musical work but I certainly enjoy it. I’m sure if and when I get to doing more orchestral work at some point, the music of LoZ will definitely have some sort of influence!




Q: You entered the Avid and Talenthouse competition at one point. While following this story I did not see you post if you had won or lost. What can you tell us about this competition? What were the results?


A: Oh whoa, I don’t actually recall this competition at all (just looked it up on my news posts and apparently it was back in 2013?)! Since I don’t remember, there’s really not much I can tell you about it... apologies. I definitely didn’t win though that’s for sure! I’ve entered a fair few online contests in the past and the only one I recall placing in was 3rd place in the US judge selections for the Korg Monomania Monotron synth sound design contest back in 2011. That was fun! I made a helicopter sound which apparently went down very nicely!




Q: Besides your work with Cyberdevil, the first song I ever heard by you was entitled Better Than The Book - Artificial Ignorance. When would you say you were first introduced to Ska? Could you define it for our readers? What was your take on it when making this song?


A: Oh! Going back a couple of questions, actually I’ve got to give my most influential anime for Better Than The Book without a doubt to Digimon: The Movie for introducing me to ska punk when I was a child! The soundtrack to that movie (the English dub) was incredible: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, Smash Mouth, as well as a tonne of kid friendly but incredible pop punk courtesy of Jasan Radford, Jason Gochin, and Paul Gordon! I didn’t even know what ska was back then, but loud guitars, walking basslines, off beat skankin’, and blaring horns blew my tiny mind and would stick in my head for the rest of my life! The Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack was similarly an inspiration and introduction to ska punk. Zebrahead even worked on some of the Sonic games!


So I guess I was first introduced to ska when I was 12 or so, but back then I didn’t really know anything about it. I’d also heard bands like Madness and that was pretty catchy though I didn’t know much of that either. It was only later that I’d learn more about Ska’s history and it’s certainly an interesting one!


First of all (to the best of my knowledge), Ska is a genre of music which started in Jamaica in the 1960s. At its core, it’s generally characterised by a traditional rock band arrangement with an added brass section. A typical ska band could be 1 or 2 lead vocalists, a guitar (or 2) and bass, drums, and a 2-5 part horn section (for a 3 piece, maybe a trumpet, tenor sax and trombone for example), maybe organ too. You’d often have the instrumental players doubling as backing vocalists too. There’s definitely a crowd vibe about it in my experience. Sound wise, off-beat “skankin’” guitars, walking basslines, and “bubble” organ were signature sounds of the genre which resembles fast upbeat reggae. Ska in Jamaica would later evolve into the slower more well known reggae. 1960s ska is referred to as the 1st wave of ska, or Traditional Ska.


In the ‘70s and ‘80s, immigration would bring Jamaican culture and ska music to the UK, where it would merge with the current UK punk scene to become what was known as 2-Tone, or 2nd Wave Ska. This is where bands like The Specials and Madness come into the picture.


Fast forward a little more to the late ‘80s and the popularity of 2-Tone would cross back over the Atlantic to the USA to influence American pop punk and bring about the rise of ska punk bands. More upbeat and hyperactive than ever, with groups like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less Than Jake, and Reel Big Fish, Ska Punk would come back into popularity throughout the ‘90s as the 3rd wave of ska. This and beyond is where most of my ska influences come from.


Ska’s popularity peaked around the turn of the millennium before falling back into obscurity as a “dead to the worldwide mainsteam” genre in the ‘00s, though the underground scene is very much alive and there is still a big ska punk community in Japan and other places too. With things rising under the surface and sub genres such as Ska-core gaining momentum there’s been talks in recent years of a 4th wave coming, but we’ll have to wait and see! Ska is certainly gaining popularity as the butt of jokes recently (Brooklyn 99 anyone?), but it’s all in good fun!


In terms of my take on ska, especially in Better Than The Book’s Artificial Ignorance, it’s all about having fun, telling stories of life, and often putting a smile on bad situations (within reason). If you watch almost any slice of life anime, you’ll no doubt hear those off-beat skankin’ guitar chords and cheerful melodies in the background music at some point! It’s a form of catharsis for me, a letting go of negative feelings (in Artificial Ignorance’s case, about having your trust broken) and just having fun while venting those emotions. That philosophy goes for a lot of my tracks as Better Than The Book. Ska is the music of life, at least that’s the impression that I get!




Q: sorohanro is not an unknown name here on the site. He is the creator of the theme song for The Interviewer. You have had the chance to work with him on two songs, Forward and Two. What can you tell us about working with Mihai?


A: As one of my first clients as a mastering engineer Mihai taught me a lot about working with people in a professional way. Forward and Two were tracks I mastered for him, but jazz was not a genre I had much experience working with at the time, and it was a difficult dive in for me. While I ended up making some fairly decent masters which fulfilled the requirements he’d asked for, I was unsure of myself and it wasn’t my best work, and although fairly happy with the results he called me out on it honestly. It turned out that rather than focussing on my lack of jazz knowledge and trying to compensate, I should have been following my gut of what I thought sounded good, rather than trying to match reference tracks I had no experience with. That was a hard to hear but very valuable lesson that improved my mastering technique greatly and one I cherish from Mihai. He was very nice about the whole thing too, and although it’s not on Newgrounds, he ended up getting me a fair amount of work mastering some other projects he was close to after that. Working with Mihai was a great learning experience and I’m really happy to see he’s still making music and doing well. He’s an honest and encouraging guy with a big heart. Very easy to work with too!




Q: A favorite of mine by you is entitled Mr. Knife. It was made for a Tiny Tim style animation. Who approached you for this song? How much did you know about Tiny Tim before making it? What was the process in making it?


A: Haha, seems like a lot of people like this one! So Mr. Knife was originally supposed to be used in the animation “The Best Pokemon” (https://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/650456) by Dieseling but because of timing and changes to the production it didn’t end up making it into the final animation. I knew a little about Tiny Tim before writing this, mainly from horror movies, such as Insidious. “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” and “Livin’ in the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” were the only tracks I really knew, and I still don’t know much about him apart from that.


The process for making Mr. Knife was a fun and experimental one! Tiny Tim was very much known for his ukulele, but I didn’t have one, so to try and emulate that sound, I put a capo high up on my acoustic guitar and shoved a sock underneath the strings by the bridge to get that classic muted tone. Laying down the bass, drums, percussion, and additional strings was quite normal, and writing the lyrics was good fun. For once, I think they came quite naturally! Singing was just a case of singing very high to try and impersonate Tiny Tim’s falsetto style and that was ok too, although not something I do often. The real magic of the production though came in the mastering. I wanted to have it sounding more era specific so I added effects to degrade the audio like an old worn record. Without changing the pitch too, I sped the track up juuuuuust a tiny bit, enough that it wasn’t super noticeable but so that the vibratos of my voice seemed just a bit more quivery than natural, raising the hairs on the back of my neck in uncomfortableness. It’s almost like a vocal uncanny valley. I was super pleased with the way this one turned out!




Q: What was the evolution behind the song GG [Good Game]? What was the Guitar Guitar Remix Contest?


A: So GG started as simply the entry to the Guitar Guitar Remix contest but later evolved into what would become track 08 on my 2nd full-length album as Better Than The Book, Hopes and Dreams. Guitar Guitar is a big music shop chain over here in the UK and they were running an online contest back in 2015, though I can’t remember what the prizes were. The challenge was to create a track which used the samples they gave you, which if I remember correctly were all from one of the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators (the Sub I think), and a Korg Volca Bass synth. You could do anything you wanted with them, so I used them in the backing electronics and laid down some guitars, bass, and drums in a very Better Than The Book pop punk style. The whole thing was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered (and the artwork drawn) in less than 36 hours, so it was a pretty rough rush job and I didn’t have time to write any lyrics. Instead I played a synth lead to fill in the space of the vocal melody. No wins for me again this time but it was good fun!


Years later, I finally wrote some lyrics for it so the whole track got an overhaul with extra parts added and a new mix / master for 2019’s Hopes and Dreams album. I also did a silly MLG dank meme remix April Fool’s prank with it in 2018 “MLGG” when I was working on the album. That went down a treat!


For the Better Than The Book live band, which was formed at the end of last year (2019), I stripped down the arrangement to a traditional 2 guitars, bass, drums, and vocals set up. It was easier than having to rely on live synths or a backing track and I think it works really nicely, though with the whole COVID-19 situation, we’ve been unable to go out on the stage and play it yet... might be a while now...




Q: What can you tell us about working with Cyberdevil on Better Than The Book - Head Above Water? How did this project start and when did you both know it was done?


A: It was a blast! I approached Cyberdevil about the project while I was writing and working on the Two Years On album and asked him whether he’d like to lend his voice for a guest verse on a track with the working title “HipHopPunk”. It started out as just a simple groove on my MPC which I’d been sitting on for a while, and while I was working on the instrumental, we discussed it and drew up some contracts for royalty splits and all that jazz. I can’t remember whether I sent him just a work in progress instrumental to work with, or whether it already had my vocals on it (probably did have my vocals), but I’d set aside a verse for him and he came back with an outstanding and inspirational first draft rhyme for it. It was glorious! I think there may have been a couple of small edits, but CD had really nailed it! We made sure his lead part was sounding the best it could then I wrote out some suggestions for any adlibs and he adlibbed a couple of extra bits too I think. After he’d finished recording all his parts (this was all done over the net btw) and were both happy with the performance, I took all the material to get it mixed ready for the album. Unlike our previous work together where I was more writing for him, this time he was the guest on my track which was a slightly different dynamic. As soon as he was happy with his performance, it was really (bar a few checks that he was happy with things) up to me when to call the track done as it needed to be consistent with the rest of the album. I think Head Above Water was one of the final tracks to be finished on Two Years On, due to the collaborative nature of fine tuning things, but the time taken was well worth it! It was truly an honour to have Cyberdevil featured on one of my BTTB records!




Q: My absolute favorite song by you and what I believe to be your best work is entitled Better Than The Book - You've Got A Lot To Say. I especially love the lyrics here, they resonate with me on a different level. It is not necessarily a sad song, more bittersweet than anything. Where did the idea for this song come from? What was the process you took in writing and recording it?


A: I really appreciate those words man, it really means a lot. As a warning to those reading, the story behind this song isn’t a pleasant one and those of you who know me closely already know what it means to me. Sometimes writing a song isn’t particularly because I want to, but more that I have a compulsion to. There are times I can’t cope and need to be able to express myself in order to gain something positive from negative experiences and You’ve Got A Lot To Say comes from the absolute darkest moments of my life.


That said, you are correct, I think bittersweet might be the right term for the mood of this song and I wanted to keep the overall subject of the lyrics vague and relatable to as many people as possible. You’ve Got A Lot to Say is about being there for someone you care about and them in turn being there for you in the hardest of times. In this case the lyrics are me speaking to my girlfriend and trying to comfort her (and myself) after the sudden and tragic death of her mother. The song is dedicated to her mum in the album credits.


My girlfriend’s mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in late summer 2017 and it was a long and heartbreaking journey until she passed that September. We were with her by her bedside when she passed and although I’m glad we were able to be there in those final moments, it was an experience I wouldn't wish on anyone. The whole family was devastated, and although You’ve Got A Lot To Say existed already as vague instrumental ideas before then, the track took on a whole new meaning to me after that. I wrote the lyrics while we mourned, and when it came to recording the song the following year it was painful, but something I needed to do to process all we’d been through. My voice is being pushed to its limit, and bending those 12-string notes in the solo until the guitar was screaming was tearing up my fingers, but it couldn’t be done any other way. I can’t really explain it. It was catharsis. It was processing something I’d seen that I couldn’t really understand and that had changed me drastically. It was trying to show I cared, to show tribute and respect, and also move on. It was putting a fragile piece of myself out into the world so that if anyone found it, they might find some comfort, and something good could come from something so terrible.




Q: You not only play and sing the music, but you write it as well. In a song, which would you say you tend to focus or prefer more when composing your song or listening to music, the melody or the lyrics?


A: I think it’s a delicate balance between the two. For me the instrumental parts come much easier to me than the vocals when I’m writing, and the lyrics are often the most difficult part. I feel like the melody usually comes naturally to the words though, it’s almost like the words are telling you how they want to be expressed once the lyrics have a tangible form and are set in stone.


When I’m listening and composing music though, I think the lyrics are less important than the overall melody and vibe of the track (but can still have a lot of importance). I want my lyrics to mean something so I tend to really focus in and work hard on that when writing and let the melody come naturally to them, but if the melody and track feel bland afterwards, then it’s just a poem with music, but not a great song. I think the key job of a good music producer is to let the lyrics and song tell you how they want the track’s arrangement and mix to express them in the best possible way. Great lyrics are always something to aim for, but if presented poorly they can’t make the impact they could have, so if I had to choose, I think less “good / deep” lyrics presented amazingly actually works better, certainly from a commercial point of view. I think there are plenty of examples in the modern chart music industry with questionable lyrics which take this idea to the extreme.


Of course ideally it’d be nice to have great everything, but sometimes “great” lyrics aren’t what’s needed or the most important part of the song. I think about how many songs I don’t even know what the lyrics mean because they’re in a foreign language, but they’re amazing pieces of music! Melody and music are universal; lyrics are usually language locked.


Long story short, I focus more on writing lyrics because I find them difficult, but overall I think melody and music and the appropriate presentation of a song is most important.




Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of music?


A: Music is the expression of melodic and/or rhythmic sound with a purpose. It could be almost anything from minimal ambient background soundscapes to pretty much ignore while you do something else, through to loud and heartfelt anthems that make you want to sing along and dance. Of course not all “music” is to my taste, but I think it’s important for people to be able to express themselves!




Q: When writing a song, where does the first words come from? When does the pen strike the paper and when do you know it is done?


A: I’ll assume we’re just talking about lyrics here. Often when I have song ideas, a line or 2 will just come to me, almost always at the most inconvenient time and I’ll have to jot it down before I forget. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve jumped out of the shower with a towel around my waist (if that) to grab my phone and quickly record a voice memo for a song idea. The process after those initial ideas is a long and difficult one though. I’ll usually grab a guitar and start demoing out a preliminary song structure and make a blank lyrics sheet to fill in with ideas. Once I have the song structure set in stone and a basic instrumental demo (at least rough guitar, but usually some bass and drums too and any other key instruments), I’ll gather ideas for lyrics and slowly fill in the lyric sheet. Sometimes it’ll be a verse which comes first, or a chorus, or something else, and often I’ll have multiple versions of the same section, sometimes completely different, other times maybe only subtly different. I’ll record ideas over my instrumental demo and work on the track exchanging lyrics until I’m happy with it all, then leave it for a while and come back to it and see if I’m still happy with it. If it’s a yes, then I know the song is done and it’s time to record it properly once all the song writing for the rest of the tracks on an album or EP project is complete!




Q: What advice do you have to give to aspiring musicians here on Newgrounds?


A: Practice and learn your craft and tools, and only focus on / put your energy into what you need to as to not overwhelm yourself. Collaboration / working with the right people is a good way to break habits and get you thinking differently and grow as a musician, though be selective about who you collaborate with, you need time to grow with independent study too. Try not to let criticism get you down, but don’t ignore it if it’s structured (of course you can ignore any non-constructive feedback). You’ll eventually get the hang of what things to take to heart and what things to ignore. I’m a firm believer that the apparentness of good music production and songwriting is a delicate balance of personal artistic taste and technical ability.


Doing cover songs is a great way to practice your recording, production and performance technique too without the added pressure of songwriting. It’s super useful for experimenting in new styles and genres you’re unfamiliar with too. Dissecting and recreating tracks from scratch is a very good way to learn how other people produce and structure their songs too from an arrangement and writing point of view and will no doubt improve your own songwriting / production vocabulary.


Another great thing to do is to use reference tracks when you’re mixing / mastering (or even writing). Take a track that you think sounds amazing in the genre you’re working in, and have it playing in your session so you can A / B how your production sounds compared to theirs. How is the vocal and drum level? Do I need more highs on the guitars? I notice a high synth pad adding excitement to this section; shall I try adding something similar to my track in this section which feels a little bland? etc... Remember to turn the reference track down to match the level of your own mixing session.


There’s also a big saying in music production “don’t mix with your eyes” meaning to use your ears to make decisions when producing and not relying on the numbers shown on your equipment. It’s a saying with good sentiment, but remember that meters and scopes are there to help you make decisions too, and as with all tools are incredibly valuable when used correctly. Make friends with your peak and RMS meters, your spectrum analysers, your gain reduction meters, and vectorscopes! They might not add anything to the sound, but when you’re having trouble hearing something, it’s these and your eyes which can help you see and hear things more clearly. They’re great for making objective comparisons to reference material too!


Take your time on projects, but make sure to finish and share them, and allow yourself to make mistakes. There may be times where you don’t know where to go from here so ask for advice from someone knowledgeable that you trust. You don’t have to do everything alone. Full disclaimer: I very rarely release a track (especially an album/EP) without sending it to a trusted source first for them to tear it to pieces so I can build it back up again even better (from a technical mixing/mastering point of view). It’s easy to get lost in your own projects after working on them for a while so a fresh set of trusted ears is always useful. Remember to take breaks too. Also remember things don’t have to be “perfect”, but of course strive for the best of your ability. You’ll know in the back of your mind if there’s something that doesn’t feel quite right in a song or a mix, so don’t be lazy, ignore it, and rush to release it; fix it and keep working until you’re happy with it. Try not to think of every new project as having to be your magnum opus that has to be the best thing ever. Each project is a stepping stone on your journey, and it’s ok to sidestep or even go a little backwards before going forwards again. Remember that when making music, unless you’re doing it for a client or collaboration where it’s someone else’s vision you’re having to interpret, do it for yourself and make it the best track YOU think it is. If other people enjoy it, then that’s a bonus! Remember to start small too. Don’t have your very first project be a 1+ hour album! Start with some singles or an EP and work your way towards bigger things. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose motivation otherwise.


Finally, you don’t need to be the best or have the best gear. You just need to do your best and make the best of the tools you have and have access to at the time. As you grow, you’ll realise when maybe it’s a good idea to save up for some clearer headphones or monitor speakers, but make sure your purchases are actually for a good reason, not just “because you think it’ll make you sound better”. Of course I believe it’s good to reward yourself for good work and new instruments / equipment can help inspire new routes of creativity, but make sure you make good use of what you have and invest in yourself wisely. A £1000 hardware compressor is going to be pretty useless if you’ve not learnt how to use the free compressor in your DAW (and there are some great free 3rd party VSTs)!


Of course it goes without saying too, but just be respectful, honest and open with people. It goes a long way and while people won’t usually thank you for it, it keeps doors and paths open.




Q: What can we expect from Jabun in the future?


A: Better Than The Book was supposed to be taking to the stage for live shows this year, but 2020 was a bit of a write-off with the whole lockdown situation and so I’m not quite sure when that’ll be on the cards again. On the bright side I’ve had plenty of time to write and compose more music so there’s a tonne of stuff to come in the pipeline!


In November I’ll be announcing my 2nd album as Jabun which will be released mid December, and another Jabun album will be released early next year as well, probably around March / April 2021 (that one’s still in the works). They’re both experimental explorations of sorts quite different from what you’ve heard from me so far so I hope people get a kick out of them!


I’m also sitting on another 70+ minutes of more traditional Jabun demos for another album (maybe split it into 2?), as well as 20+ minutes of rough demos for the next Better Than The Book project. I’ve been drowning in admin work for that December release lately though, so writing’s on pause until I’ve cleared all that away, but I imagine there’ll be either another Better Than The Book or Jabun album (or both) coming at some point in 2022 (maybe late 2021 for one of them if things go smoothly)! There’s lots of stuff going on with these upcoming releases (as well as recently released ones) over on my Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/NickStanding) if anyone wants an early sneak peek! I’m sure there’ll be more collaborative projects to do at some point too!


It’s always a busy time over here! I honestly can’t see an end to it, nor do I want to!





Jabun is a rare talent that you don't see in too many musicians nowadays. He is a musician of many hats which is what a lot of musicians used to be like. His songs are not factory produced by writers who are looking for that zany lyric or melody that will stick in people's minds. He makes music that not only he likes, but he thinks people will like. He is truly one of the best here on the site. I know this interview was in three parts, it is the longest interview I have done to date, and I felt it needed to be. Jabun's story needed to be told and I wanted you to experience the journey in hopes that it would inspire you. If you're a musician just starting out, I hope you learned something today and will take it with you.




PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 ]




The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions

SUPPORT ON PATREON | SUPPORT NEWGROUNDS ]


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Posted by TheInterviewer - October 7th, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 169

Interview By: @The-Great-One


PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 ]




Q: During your time at college you did open mic nights, studied music production and recording. What can you tell us about your experiences during open mic nights? Any songs from this time period become a part of Newgrounds and future albums?


A: To clarify for the overseas people, this was during university rather than Sixth Form College. The open mic nights were really good fun and a great way to get out in front of people and perform in a reasonably low stakes environment, especially as these would have been my first solo public performances. You’d get a free drink if you performed and the crowd were generally very friendly. It was this punk pub / bar in Durham called The Angel which was a 5 minute walk from where I lived at the time. One of my housemates organised a fair few of the nights so I tagged along and played. It was a pretty regular thing, maybe a few times a month!


During this time I wasn’t really writing any music of my own so I just performed cover songs: some blink-182 and other pop-punk and rock stuff, nothing which would later go onto Newgrounds or be in future albums unfortunately. It wouldn’t be until a year or so later that I’d start writing music again, though I was regularly studying recording and audio production at the time.




Q: What can you tell us about your work on Better Than The Book - One Small Step. What does Better Than The Book mean as a title for your projects? What were some of the difficulties you had to face when making this first album?


A: Hehe, this is a question I get a lot! The name Better Than The Book formed in defiance of the frequently used phrase, “the book is always better than the movie”. Blanket statements like that are a pet peeve of mine even if they’re often true, so I liked the sound of that against-the-grain title for a musical project, especially something with the rebellious associations that punk has. Better Than The Book was originally used in passing as the name of a fictional ska punk band in a story I was writing in my late teens before I started writing my own ska and pop punk music. One of my first songs as Better Than The Book “Watching Airships” which is on the One Small Step EP, makes use of imagery from that story, and when it came to releasing my first demos in summer 2012, I took the name from that made up band and made it into the one for the project! Funnily enough, Better Than The Book has done much better than that book!


One Small Step was my debut EP, and my first release as Better Than The Book. It was written and recorded in the summer of 2012 while I was still living with my parents after moving back from university. I used 1 mic, an sm58 which was the only mic I had at the time, one bass and one guitar, and it was all recorded in my parents’ living room. The drums were this ultra cheap set of samples that cost me less than £15 for the whole set if I recall, and I’ve been using them for Better Than The Book and much of my production work ever since. The whole EP was recorded in Ableton and I didn’t have an audio interface at the time, or even anything to control the level of the single going into the line input on the front of my laptop, so I had to turn the amps up to the right level to get a good signal to noise ratio, and be super careful with my mic technique to make sure I didn’t clip on the input. I think my only costs when making the album (apart from time and electricity) was to buy a pop shield for my microphone, maybe £20 or so? It was an absolute shoestring budget production!


I had help from my friends too. There were some gang vocals which I called my friends to come and help me record, and one of them, Andy (different Andy to the Crow’s Wing Andy) ended up playing guitar on “Woof Woof, Nag Nag” too. He was a closer friend to my brother at the time and apparently my bro had been playing WWNN on the piano to him while I was still at university. I told him “if you like it so much, you can play guitar for it” and the rest is history! I think he’s doing gang shouts of every track too and we had some great times jamming out those tunes! Funnily enough, his band at the time also placed in that top 3 for the battle of the bands when I was in Lupus Atrum! Neither of our bands were the winners, but it sure is a small world (or maybe just a small town)!


When it came to mixing, I just had my iPod ear-buds and a set of old Logitech computer speakers for listening. This was before I was making any money from my music and I hadn’t splashed out on a set of studio monitors or even headphones yet. I remember doing the final tweaks to the mixing and mastering in the living room sat on the floor in front of my dad’s hi-fi stereo speakers with my laptop (a 2008 Dell running Windows Vista, which I’m still making music on to this day) resting on one of those things you put your feet up on when you’re sitting in a chair. It was such a haphazard and cheap production, but what I didn’t have in tech I made up for by asking for advice when I needed it. One of my dad’s friends, Martin, was a music producer and had been subtly supporting and nurturing my recording side since I was a teen. He got wind of the project, so when I thought it was done, I sent him the preliminary final masters and he had a few pointers to get it sounding better with minimal effort. I followed his advice and called it done! It was an amazing first big project to undertake and I learnt a heck of a lot from it, especially from working with other people and listening to people’s comments. It’s also the only BTTB release that was cut to CD: a limited pressing of 50 copies. I’m sure I still have half a dozen somewhere I‘ve not yet managed to shift!




Q: Architecture of Modernity is a cover of the song Architecture of Modernity by the band Lights, Camera, Attraction!. What made you want to make this instrumental cover? How did you come to join this band? What was your experience with them?


A: I was really into chip-tune at the time and this would have been a little while after I joined LCA. It was really just a bit of fun, but also doing covers like this was a good way to really get to know and learn the songs (of which I had a fair few from their past discography to get through). Architecture of Modernity was the opening track of their debut EP “Everyone’s An Architect” and I thought it was great! It was also a nice bit of extra content to give to fans while we were preparing / working on the next EP!


I’d been a fan of LCA for quite some time before I joined. They were one of the big local pop punk bands, and my friend Sam (of Crow’s Wing and later Lupus Atrum) played bass for them. The Andy who played on Better Than The Book’s Woof Woof, Nag Nag, was their sole guitarist, and I knew the drummer, Lee, from secondary school. The vocalist, Ben, I only really knew as part of the band. Around the end of 2012 I think, Sam picked up a contract playing bass on a cruise ship tour’s functions band and asked me whether I’d want to fill his spot in LCA. I was delighted to take part and pretty soon after I was accepted as a full member of the new line-up! I played bass and sung backing vocals, as well as launched a few samples from my MPC during our gigs. We played a lot in Brighton and the Sussex area and it was a blast! We even played a couple of tracks from my One Small Step EP too, though slightly edited for LCA’s arrangement.


Once I was settled in a bit more we started writing together and made plans for a 2nd EP which would become “From The Ground Up”. I contributed to a fair few tracks and ended up producing that EP for them which was a brand new challenge. Working with live drums again, as well as lots of (bedroom) studio time, but it was good fun at the early stages. Midway through the production though, the practice studio we went to for rehearsals was shut down and we had to find a new place to jam. The new place we eventually settled on was at first a dream come true! Amazing acoustics, much closer to home, and cheaper, but I really didn’t get on with the guy who ran it. It’s not like we were at each other’s throats, but we were on very different pages. After a few practices he wanted to get a bit more involved with the band, acting as a producer and from there it was downhill for me. We did a few recording sessions with him while I was mixing our upcoming EP, and they were ok but we never got any finished products to show for it. To me it was all just a waste of time. LCA had a bit of a bad habit too when it came to unnecessary spending, and I on the other hand wasn’t doing so well financially at the time. Towards the end of the EP’s production it seemed like the rest of the band were getting pretty jaded, about the project in general as well as gigging. We’d be spending all this cash on practice studio time at a place run by someone who basically took the fun out of the project for me, then not really putting that time to good use.


It came to a point where I was in the position of either staying in this band which didn’t seem to care what it (or I) was doing, or be able to maintain a long distance relationship with my girlfriend, which I very much did care for. Pretty much a no-brainer... I committed to finishing the EP I’d started and still look back at it and much of our gigging and jamming with fond memories, but I’ve no regrets leaving LCA, and it seems like it was the best decision for all of us. They bounced back a while later with a new bassist and I got back to Better Than The Book with new vigour to pursue my debut full-length album Two Years On where I could express myself at my truest. It was a sad and uncomfortable time for a while, and it took a long time for Andy and I to really become good friends on the same terms again. I know this doesn’t apply for everyone, but leaving a band is like a break-up to me. It was years later when I finally called Andy again to go out to our old favourite coffee place to rekindle our friendship. He’s playing drums in the BTTB live band now so I’ve no doubt things are very good again!




Q: What can you tell us about Serenade #1: It's Much Too Late?


A: There’s not much to say about this track, just that it was an acoustic cover of “It’s Much Too Late” by Alice Cooper, one of the tracks from the Dragontown album. Alice Cooper was a huge influence of mine back in the Crow’s Wing days and this track is one which I’d taken to playing on the guitar for quite some time. I think it’s a great song.


Originally I’d planned on making more of these cover song videos, but I guess it kind of just fizzled out after the first one. At the time I would have been working on Better Than The Book’s One Small Step EP and things just kept getting busier after that! I also wouldn’t say I’m too confident speaking when it comes to video, even to this day still not so much. Apparently I’ve always been a good band front man but I really don’t know how I keep ending up in that position! I feel like I’m better suited to a support role!




Q: When you first hit the scene on Newgrounds you announced yourself as an Audio Mastering Engineer. What possessed you to want to offer your services to the Newgrounds community?


A: It was more like when I re-joined Newgrounds as a community after a period of absence, than when I first started. It was spring 2015 when I really started putting myself out there as a Mastering Engineer. At the time I had a few years of experience mastering singles and albums, a fair bit of it being freebie work or my own work, and a little bit of paid work. I was gaining confidence in my own ability though I still had much to learn, and the best way to learn was by doing it for other people. Having grown up as a music producer on Newgrounds, I thought it would be one of the best places to start offering my experience and services. It wasn’t just a case of improving my own abilities too. The thing I wanted most was to help people express themselves in the best possible way. When I mastered tracks, I wasn’t just giving them the finished product, I’d let them know my process, things to watch out for to help improve next time and get better at their own craft from what my past experience could pass on. Each client / job was a give and take relationship. I’d gain new experience and a bit more money to live off and they’d gain a polished project and the knowledge of how I’d gone about it so they could apply similar strategies themselves in the future if they felt comfortable to do so.


Over the past few years I noticed too that if you’re offering something of value, people only really take you seriously if they’re paying for it, and a suitable rate too. The amount of people who’ve wasted my time with projects or treated me like crap when offering a “favour” has taught me that the hard way. The exchange of a suitable amount of money for the time you put into something is as much a means of living as it is a symbol of respect and professionalism. I always write up invoices and contracts and again having learnt the hard way, while I can be flexible, I’m committed to charging what I feel I’m worth. If I’m spending 2 hours on something, I’m not going to charge a fiver for it. Also, you don’t need to be the best to be able to offer a service and charge for it, you only need to be able to offer a quality service. I think that’s something many people don’t realise. If your clients leave happy then you’ve succeeded and you should keep doing what you do. If not, then it’s a learning experience. Adjust how you do things and try again.


That’s not to say I haven’t worked on passion projects with people for free or low pay, but that comes with an already established level of mutual respect, it’s not something you’d often have with new clients. Pick your jobs wisely. If you’re doing something for low or no pay, make sure it’s something you actually want to do and are willing to put the time in for with potentially no end results. Otherwise you can find yourself becoming bitter.


At the same time as offering my services as a mastering engineer I also offered audio post-production services for animation. The story of how I got there was similar in terms of past experience, and for me this was another passion thing I felt someone needed to do to help improve the community.


When I first started on Newgrounds, independent animation felt like it had a long way to grow, but fast forward 10 years and you had amazing graphics animations and voice acting, some of which could have been at Disney level! For some reason though, there was a very apparent neglect in the evolution of the soundscape of animations, particularly the quality of the mixing and audio post-production. Graphics, voice acting, sound effects, were great but the quality of the audio very much separated these projects from their professional counterparts in the cinemas or on TV. For musicians, it seemed like the quality of music production had increased with the access to affordable technology, but in animations the audio seemed stuck a decade or so in the past. There were so many beautiful animations which were let down by bad sound mixing. I didn’t really know if it was that people didn’t care or that they didn’t have the means to make things better. With such big projects too, often people seemed so focussed on the visuals, the character acting, etc... that the actual mixing of the sound was merely an afterthought, if a thought at all. It very much saddened me, and I felt like I had to do something proactive to help. It was one of the only areas in independent animation which I didn’t feel was growing as fast as it should.




Q: When Hikarian was here we talked about Tales of Zale. How did you two come to meet and what can you tell us about working with Hikarian?


A: Ah Hikarian! Such an incredibly talented animator, director, writer, and more, and one of my favourite people to work with! I had been following her work for quite some time here on Newgrounds and was captivated by her amazing animations back before we worked on Tales of Zale together. Just watching I could see so much potential in her animation vision, and on a whim, I contacted her to ask whether she wanted any help with audio post-production. Sure enough she let me have a shot at mixing a short scene from the (at the time) upcoming Tales of Zale Episode 1, and she must’ve liked the results because I’ve been mixing Tales of Zale ever since!


Hikarian is not only an incredibly hard working and gifted animator and writer, but she has this amazing attention to detail and command as a director that I’ve not seen quite so much in anyone I’ve worked with before. She knows exactly what she wants, what bits to ask help for, how to organise a team and when to ask for a second opinion, how to keep everyone motivated and happy. Super easy to work with, really friendly and bursting with drive and passion but this balanced laidback aura which makes it such a pleasure to work on her projects.


I have 2 moments that really stand out to me when we were working together. The first was when I was doing the final audio post-production for ToZ Episode 1 and she called me out on something she didn’t like: “There’s something a bit off about the reverb in this scene; I feel it’s a bit too bright for the room”? We had a chat and she pointed out that I’d mistook the wooden floor for concrete and not taken account of the hole in the ceiling where the sunlight was pouring in! A quick adjustment and things were sounding much more appropriate. THAT kind of detail is why I love working with Hikarian! The other time that stands out was when the audio team got mixed around a bit and I was working with an unfamiliar foley artist / sound designer. We’d had a meeting together with Hikarian to discuss the direction of the sound in this particular scene and I thought we’d got everything sorted but when it came to putting things together though, it appeared there’d been a miscommunication and I was having trouble with the audio I was given. I asked the new sound designer about it and things got a little heated quicker than I expected. I wasn’t sure what to do, but before I’d even had a chance to think, I got a message from Hikarian asking what’s up. I explained the situation and she quickly solved the issue very nonchalantly in a way that made everyone happy. It’s great to have that kind of director who can resolve those problems so quickly and painlessly.


I’ve been working with Hikarian for a few years now on Tales of Zale and having seen her growth, I can say with certainty that the direction she’s heading is one destined for greatness! I feel privileged to be part of that journey and wish her all the best in what she’s doing. She deserves all the success animation can give to her!


I’m very much looking forward to working on ToZ Episode 3 too! It’s going to be a blast!




Q: Cyberdevil joined us not too long ago. When he was here we talked about the collaborations you did with him. One thing we weren't sure about though was who contacted who first, even I couldn't find that when researching him and I couldn't find it researching you. Who made first contact?


A: Hehe! I read that interview with great delight! Cyberdevil will have to clarify this, but I’m pretty sure I made first contact. I remember hearing him on a track and thinking, holy moly this guy’s voice and lyrics are incredible! He really reminded me of Del The Funky Homosapian who featured in the early Gorillaz records! I messaged him as soon as I could about working together. Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made on Newgrounds!




Q: When I asked Cyberdevil what it was like working with you, he had this to say...


Jabun's a humble dude. Very positive, forthcoming and easy to work with, not to mention incredibly talented with all that involves music. Hopefully these almost-yearly collabs are still far from over!


What can you tell us about working with Cyberdevil?


A: Hehe, very kind words, CD and indeed I’m looking forward to the next collab too! Working with Cyberdevil’s been great! He’s an incredible guy both musically and socially. I’d say I come from a rock/punk background with an interest in hip hop and rap, but we both have a huge shared interest in nu-metal , and working on the more hip hop fusion side of things with him has been a super fun challenge. He’s really opened my eyes and expanded my horizons to the world of hip hop music too with some great recommendations which have become big parts of my musical taste. Lots of thanks and praise to Cyberdevil for everything he’s done to enrich my life both when we’ve been working together or just chatting casually. I’ve no idea how many emails it’s been throughout the years!


The guy is of course super talented too. I love the way he handles his lyrics and it’s always a pleasure to see what he comes up with next! He even has this amazing habit of suddenly writing in rap verses during emails which is an incredible treat! Very chill and positive guy, super fun to chat to, and great to make music with. He’s an exceeder of expectations and a great friend I cherish.


Also if you’re reading this Cyberdevil, thanks so much for introducing me to cloudberries and cloudberry jam! It’s been a game changer!




PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 ]


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3

Posted by TheInterviewer - October 7th, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 169

Interview By: @The-Great-One


Today's guest is quite possibly one of if not the hardest working musician here on Newgrounds. With his project Better Than The Book being a success here on Newgrounds and acclaim for his assistance towards other musicians here on the site. His skills are incredible as a composer, lyricist, singer, and guitarist. His story is long, but an amazing one and I wish for you to read it all the way to the end. I am most pleased to welcome, @Jabun.


[ PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 ]




Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?

A: Man... It was so long ago... I can remember browsing in my teen years to watch all the cool flash animations back in the day: Egoraptor’s “Awesome” series, Legendary Frog’s stuff, “The Matrix Has You”, “The Decline of Video Gaming”, “There’s Something About Halo”, and their sequels, Adam Phillips' Brackenwood series, the list goes on! I’ve always loved animation and it was amazing to me as a teen that people were making these incredible projects independently!


I don’t remember quite how I stumbled upon Newgrounds itself, though I imagine it was through my friends who were pretty savvy when it came to “the places to be” on the internet, and NG was definitely one of them! I joined to upload my own creations: the music I recorded with my band(s) or solo at the time, though many of the earliest projects were actually uploaded on my brother’s account. A lot of this was before the days of YouTube and SoundCloud, when people still had MySpace pages for their bands, and Newgrounds was THE place to upload and share your music. I guess it was a familiar place I enjoyed, as well as a necessity at the time.




Q: You and I have something in common. We both began our craft at the age of 6. That's when I started writing. You started with the piano and the cello. How did you start playing these instruments though? Who introduced you to them?


A: When I was very young there was a piano at this children’s club my brother and I went to, and when I got to primary school and heard the piano being played properly for the children to sing along to, I guess it really resonated with me. I remember at age 6 my brother and I asking my mum if we could learn and she went above and beyond to support that. We looked for teachers but none of them would take “2 young boys who would be too hard to teach” on for lessons, so she talked to the pianist at our school, and after some convincing, though she’d never taught anyone before, we became her first students. My dad was working overseas at the time and unbeknownst to me we didn’t have a lot of money (not that at age 6 I really knew the value of such things). After being “tested” to make sure we could concentrate on learning and had a musical ear, my mum, with only £200 in the bank, contacted a piano tuner to help her look for a piano for us to start learning on. After finding one and organising for it to be moved into our house and tuned, she only had about £20 left. I only found this out about a year or so ago! I have so much to be thankful for to her and my dad for supporting my bro and I back then!


My interest in cello came shortly after that when the person who would become my first teacher came to visit our primary school to show us what the cello was all about. Much like the piano, I was instantly captivated! At the time he was building his own cello too, and bought quite literally a treasure chest full of parts for his unfinished instrument to show the school. Yet again, it was a case of trying to convince my parents to let me learn and sure enough they supported me with that too. Again, I have so much thanks to them for all the support when I was so young and didn’t realise how money worked!




Q: We have had the chance to talk with other singers here on the site. MistyEntertainmentHaniaCayler, and Jazza. At what age did you start singing? What choirs did you sing in?


A: Ah man, I used to sing Hania tracks back in the day with the piano! “Softly I Sing” is an oldschool favourite! I don’t really remember when I started singing generally (I’d definitely have been singing at school or along to CDs & tapes as a child), but I really started to focus on it when I joined my first band when I was 14. I feel like that’s when I actually started to think about how I sing and focus on improving my voice and technique.


With regards to choirs I’ve sung in, it was just the one when I was in Sixth Form College: the East Sussex Academy of Music (ESAM) Lewes Choir. It was compulsory for music students to join the choir there, but I had a lot of fun. I sang bass. On the topic of large ensembles though, I actually played a lot more in orchestras as a cellist. The Mid Sussex Strings and Youth Orchestra (and Junior Strings when I first started), the Downlands School Orchestra (at my secondary school), the ESAM Orchestra, and Hatfield College Orchestra at university.




Q: You received a guitar for your 14th birthday. Who gave it to you? Did you play guitar before receiving one for your birthday?


A: That would have been my parents again, and I’m sure my mum did most of the research to find it. The guitar was actually a joint present for me and my twin brother, but he’s since got his own acoustic and so our originally shared one has sort of become mine, following me to University and beyond. It now sits on a stand within arm’s reach of my studio chair!


I didn’t really play guitar before being given that one, no, though my dad had a left-handed acoustic in the house for a little while during my early teen years which he was planning to learn on. My bro and I fiddled on that occasionally and awkwardly before receiving our more appropriate right-handed one. Funnily enough, although my dad got rid of that left-handed guitar years ago, he still wanted to play and was planning to start after retiring, so my bro got him his first electric guitar for his birthday last year! He’s been learning slowly but surely since!




Q: You constructed your own double neck guitar at the age of 15. Why would you want to build a guitar from scratch? What was the process that came into making it? Have you made other guitars in your time? What songs have been made with this guitar?


A: At the time I started thinking about building one (2004/5), double neck guitars were very difficult to come by and even the cheapest ones would be £500+ but limiting in terms of features. The only ones I could think of were the Epiphone (£500+ at the time) and Gibson (£2000+) SG double necks, both of which only had 20 frets per neck (same as a standard acoustic) as opposed to the 21/22/24 fret standard of most electric guitars, and had “tune-o-matic” style bridges which I am not a fan of... I really wanted to be able to express myself musically and was very much into my progressive rock and metal at the time. There was no point in shelling out £500+ for a double neck I wouldn’t be happy with, so I didn’t really see much of an option. If I wanted one, I had no choice but to build it myself, and I relished the challenge!


Almost everything guitar-wise I had up until that point had been second hand because that’s all I could afford. In fact I only bought my first brand new electric guitar in 2017 (my first brand new bass would be in 2010/11). My dad was an aerospace engineer and having stopped working overseas when I started up at secondary school, our family garage was now filled with countless tools. My great uncle and a few family friends did some woodwork too, so any tools we didn’t have we were usually able to borrow. The idea of building my own guitar was something definitely inspired by Brian May of Queen, who similarly built his own “Red Special” guitar in his teen years, as well as of course my first cello teacher who was playing his own hand built instrument for much of our lessons together. I think there’s something really special about crafting your own instrument, like building your own voice from scratch. Much like vocal chords, no-one else’s will be quite the same as yours, and it becomes a unique part of your identity, both sonically and visually on stage.


I started mocking up guitar designs in MS paint of all things, splicing together pictures of various guitars and drawing in the bits that didn’t exist (like the headstock shapes), and even made a tiny 4” model out of wood. Having not been around for much of my childhood, it was an amazing bonding experience for my dad and I to build this thing together in my teen years and I think he appreciated it as much as I did. I remember getting a book on how to build an electric guitar and buying and taping together a whole load of graph paper, then sitting on the wooden dining room floor designing this thing from scratch, marking measurements, drawing circuit diagrams for the electronics to get all the tones I could possibly want, then when that was done, making thick cardboard templates as a proof of concept. Once I was 100% sure where I wanted to go with it, we started researching where to get the wood, electronic parts, etc... I remember us driving to collect what would become the body wood and it being so big and heavy I could barely lift it! The $ to £ rate was pretty good at the time so we ordered most of the electronics and hardware from the US. I dread to think how expensive it would be to build another one today!


The whole thing took about a year to build, and it was finished a little before my 16th birthday. Long summer days and weekends routing, sawing, sanding, soldering, and drilling (including accidentally into my dad’s hand...), but it was an incredible journey! The whole thing cost just over £1000 by the end of it, a bit more than expected, and I had to work at the local Tesco every Saturday until summer 2007 as soon as I could get a job to pay my dad back for it (I still have the IOU spreadsheets!), but it was totally worth it! That guitar has seen me through some great gigs and recordings, even after snapping the whammy bar and having to replace one of the bridges, replacing a set of tuning heads, and worst of all having to steam the glue of one of the necks apart to replace a broken truss rod! It’s still going strong (touch wood) and currently lives right next to me in the studio even closer than my first acoustic!  


Sadly, I’ve not made any other guitars in my time, though I’ve built a handful of effects pedals, and modded plenty of instruments for other people as a side job as well as a couple of my own. It’s always great fun! Lots of stuff I have has been customised like that, buying what I can afford and then improving it to the best of my ability for my own needs. Effects pedals, synths, guitars, it’s nice to be able to make things really your own if you feel they need improvement.


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In terms of songs with my double neck “Satin-X” on them, I’ve been using it on recordings since my first band Crow’s Wing’s stuff, all the way to my most recent album as Better Than The Book “Hopes and Dreams”. It’s one of my workhorse studio guitars since it’s so versatile, though it’s pretty heavy so there’s been many long recording sessions that have given me a dead leg! The Satin-X double neck was heavily featured on Better Than The Book’s “Two Years On” and “Hopes and Dreams” albums, almost on every track. You can hear the 12-string side especially for the solos on “The Bigger Picture”, “(The Travelling To See Eva Song)”, “You’ve Got A Lot To Say” and “Hopes and Dreams”. Most recently, the Satin-X was featured on my new side project Jabun [Alternate Reality]’s debut track, a metalcore cover of Kesha’s Warrior. I think it was the sole guitar on that song apart from for the guitar solo.




Q: When and how did the band Crow's Wing form? What were your rolls in it?


A: Crow’s Wing would have formed shortly after getting that acoustic on my 14th birthday (spring 2004). My friends were getting into music too and a few of them had started learning instruments so we’d commandeer music practice rooms after school and jam. Originally 6 of us, myself and my brother Eamon on guitar, Sam on Bass, Andy on Drums, James on guitar and Kevin on keyboards, a few weeks of jamming sorted who was really interested in playing and shortly afterward it was just the 4 of us: myself, Eamon, Sam and Andy.


Back then Eamon and I didn’t have electric guitars of our own, heck we had just one acoustic to share between us! There were these 2 beat-up electro-acoustic guitars with maybe 2 or 3 strings each at school and so Eamon and I would bring packets of strings with us and string these things up every week whenever we had a practice session for MONTHS, taking them off at the end of each rehearsal! We started by playing covers of rock songs we liked, the first being Paranoid by Black Sabbath, then Crazy Nights by KISS and Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, before moving onto more challenging things like Iron Maiden when we could actually play well enough. I brought my first electric guitar from eBay in September that year, £112 for a beat-up Yamaha Pacifica 112, a little Marshall 15 watt combo amp and a guitar stand, cable and tuner, and my mum drove me an hour away to a McDonalds car park in Chichester to pick it up (thanks again Ma)! By this point the 4 of us in Crow’s Wing were practicing around each other’s houses over the weekends and after school regularly, but it was still just the acoustic guitar shared between my brother and I. Eamon was playing most of the lead parts and solos, and I was mainly focussing on chords and lead vocals. When we came to our first practice with my new electric, I was so excited, but then realised Eamon would need to be heard more than me... Disappointed as I was, I sucked in my pride, picked up the acoustic, and he played my new instrument instead. It was a strange moment, but we sounded a whole lot better for it. Eamon picked up his own electric guitar from eBay shortly afterwards, and the fully functioning formation of the band was complete! I’m sure we decided on the name by putting papers in a hat and drawing one out at random. I remember putting in the name “Tinned Piranha”, but I’m happy with the name which got picked!


Crow’s Wing would continue until 2008 when we headed our separate ways for university, with a slow fadeout during our Sixth Form years as we were in different colleges. At the start, I was lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, but by the time we stopped regularly jamming, I was sharing some lead guitar roles with my brother, playing keyboards (organ, piano and some synths) occasionally, as well as playing (Sam’s) bass whenever we jammed “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz! I’d also somehow become our main sound engineer and producer when it came to recording our music, though the song writing was an “each person writes their own song and presents it to the band” kind of situation. My recordings with Crow’s Wing would be my first, and we ended up with 4 tracks by the end of it. It was an amazing early learning experience and my gateway to music production and recording.




Q: When and how did you become a member of Lupus Atrum? What can you tell us about the song Face the Omega?


A: So this is a bit of a strange one. In my first year of Sixth Form (2006/7) I spent most of my time in the music department hanging out with the other musicians. I think it was Thursday lunchtimes where I’d have my guitar in, and a couple of my friends were free, so we’d jam in the drum room. Ali was on drums, Alice was on bass, and I was on guitar. We’d jam anything, but usually something simple we could pass a solo around on, a blues, occasionally some simple reggae or ska or something like that (some foreshadowing there). We’d even swap instruments occasionally for the heck of it.


Anyway, a few months into this, Ali finds out there’s a battle of the bands on and says he needs a lead vocalist / guitarist for it, so I said “sure thing”. He’d gathered a few people for it: a music tech student called Nathan who was amazing at guitar and could do super high vocal harmonies effortlessly, Jack from my friendship group who was a bassist, then there was me on lead vocals and guitar, and Ali on drums. Everyone did harmony vocals in that band, and the genre was: power metal! Strangely, I kind of didn’t feel like a proper member of the band despite being part of its founding. For me I was just doing Ali a solid so we could compete in the competition, and it was really more him and Nathan’s project at the core. They chose the songs to cover and did the bulk of the writing (Ali’s lyrics mostly I think), and Nathan acted as recording engineer and producer when we did any recording. They were phenomenal musicians and it was great fun playing with them though there was definitely a different power balance compared to my days in Crow’s Wing. My whole stint with them was probably less than 2 months and I was really just there to compete in the competition. Highest judge votes in the finals, though I can’t remember whether we placed 2nd or 3rd overall. Unfortunately, the BOTB finals were the same day as my younger friends’ secondary school prom, so we didn’t have much of our fan base there for the finals either. I left after that little mission was accomplished and we’d finished our recordings. Funnily enough I did actually see Lupus Atrum in concert the summer afterwards, with a different Nick on guitar, and Sam (the bassist of Crow’s Wing) on lead vocals! They were great too!


Face The Omega was the only song we wrote and recorded while I was there which had lyrics. We had another called Point of Impact, but that was an instrumental. I’m sure Ali wrote the lyrics to this one, and apart from performance, I wasn’t involved with the technical aspects of the music production or the writing (unlike in Crow’s Wing). Nathan handled the engineering and production. We actually had 2 versions of this song and the vocal melody was slightly different when I performed the song live. There wasn’t much time between being given the words and learning the song and going on stage so it was very much performed as best I could at the time. Usually when I would record, I’d also take the time to properly write guitar solos, but for this track, it was a bit of a rush, and so they were all improvised. I think we recorded all my parts in an afternoon at Nathan’s parents’ house, and as such I’m not quite happy with my solos on this recording. I’m sure the ones I did live were better, but it’s a nostalgic snapshot of a very specific time in my life! You can see my double neck in that video too, as well as that later gig after I’d left where Sam’s on the mic! Good times!




Q: You are a musician that wears many hats when in music. From guitar player, to vocalist, and lyricist. What is your process for juggling all of these? What advice do you have to give to those who are looking to do it all?


A: I think the notion of doing it all is a bit of a misconception. It’s more of an illusion than anything, at least I feel that way when it comes to my own hats. In reality, I feel like my skill set is wide-spread but not really as deep as it could be compared to someone who specialised in one specific thing. It’s like life is an RPG and time becomes the experience points you can use to level up each of your abilities. Some people would put all their time into boosting their bass guitar playing stat for example so that they could play any genre under the sun, learn pieces super quickly and improvise comfortably on any scale. Comparatively, my bass playing is narrowly specialised. I live and breathe ska and punk bass styles, but put some soul or jazz in front of me I’d have no idea what to do! It’s similar for my guitar playing, and lyrics I find very challenging to write because I don’t put the time in regularly to nurture that skill, it’s more that I brute force my way through with it whenever I do need to write lyrics and it takes me ages! On the other hand, I’m consciously and constantly trying to develop my music production skills, really pushing and challenging myself as much as I can, and after years of almost daily practice, it comes quite naturally to me now, though of course there’s still much to learn and improve on.


Juggling lots of things might seem daunting too but for me I feel like it’s a strength. When you’re focussed on developing one thing for a long time it can go one of two ways: either you’ll keep getting better at it constantly, or you’ll start to stagnate and hit a roadblock where you’re not sure where to go and how to improve. That’s when juggling things has become really useful to me. If I feel like I’m stuck at how to progress more as a guitarist, I’ll switch over to focussing on bass, or vocals, or keys, and I’m on a roll again! It’s a big reason I have 2 main writing projects, Jabun and Better Than The Book. When one big album project is finished, I’m often exhausted and it takes a while for the writing ideas to flow again for that style, so I’ll just switch over to the other project and it’ll be a change of pace and scenery. I don’t think I could write BTTB albums back to back every year, but alternating projects (and even doing collaborative ones in between) keeps me energised for both!


It’s all about what you really want to do too, and there’s definitely an element of compromise to it all. There’s simply not enough time to max out all of your skill stats. For some people, being the best at one thing is the goal, and that could be true if for example you’re a musician in a function band where you need to know 200+ cover songs and be able to quickly learn more each week. For others the compromise of doing well with a small section of lots of things is worth it for their own purposes, and that’s what works well for me. In that case, it’s about switching off from the things you don’t need to work on to prioritise and maintain the areas you do.


Much like practicing anything too, the more you juggle things (correctly) the better you’ll get at doing it. Try to start small and add to it gradually. I had a great head start learning both piano and cello at a young age, but I’m positive anyone can pick it up with the right strategies; it’s just like learning multiple subjects at school. Start with jugging just 2 things which synergise. Perhaps vocals and guitar, or recording and mixing, or even writing lyrics and singing. When you’re comfortable with those, add something else, and so on. For me, learning guitar wasn’t so hard because I already had the finger strength and basic string instrument principles from cello, and from guitar, it was much easier to pick up learning the bass, etc... It’s about finding a natural strategy to practice those skills, and balancing the time to develop and maintain them as necessary.




Q: You went to Durham University and graduated with a Masters Degree in Physics and Mathematics. Why not pursue a music degree? Was this a fallback plan or something to cover bills while in pursuit of your music?


A: I always felt like a career in physics or the sciences was something expected of me from a young age, and I enjoyed studying those subjects so I thought that’d be the best thing for me to continue with at university. Of course there was the whole “physics graduates on average make blah blah money” propaganda that was fed to everyone by the schools and universities so I’m sure that had an influence too, but on the whole, it was something I was good at and wanted to know more about at the time, and I didn’t think I’d be able to study them to the level I wanted to as simply a part-time / casual interest.


 


For my A levels, I took maths, physics, chemistry and music (and a pre-professional music performance course), and by the time I had to choose what I wanted to study at university, I was content with the composition techniques and music history I’d learned and wasn’t really interested in formally studying music further. There was also an aspect of chasing grades to musical instrument learning too. You had to have a grade 8 in an instrument to be accepted into most university courses, following strict rules on what you had to / could learn, effectively to jump through hoops and tick boxes to meet standardised requirements. Once I’d decided that I didn’t want to study music further in a formal setting, that freed me up to learn whatever I actually wanted to on the piano and cello, rather than the limited set of pieces and techniques you needed to pass to get to university. It was liberating!


There was also the aspect of what I wanted to do in the future which at the time I wasn’t sure. Realistically, I didn’t see myself as going into a music career as a performer or academic, it just seemed too distant a goal for me, and I didn’t feel additional qualifications would help me either. That freed up my musical energy to focus on things I really wanted to learn for myself, like music production and exploring more experimental techniques and less “academic” genres. Music had been a huge part of my life for almost as long as I can remember, so I put all my free time into my own musical self-exploration outside the confines of academia. Physics and maths on the other hand was a blast to study! Very little essay writing and in a nut-shell it was all about solving (often very difficult) puzzles and problems rather than learning facts. It was more about seeing the world from a different angle and gaining / developing the skills to apply that to other areas of life rather than just the narrow scope of science. It was hard work but often fun!


 


When I finally graduated in 2012, I took that summer to apply the skills I’d learned to record my first original tracks as Jabun as well as Better Than The Book’s debut EP One Small Step, and it was a super fun adventure. Meanwhile I was starting to apply for physics / science related jobs not because I wanted to, but more just because it was expected of me, and I didn’t enjoy any of it. I was applying for all these things that felt alien to me just because of the salary and because it was what I was told I should do. I didn’t get any interviews, just in my mind the dissatisfaction of lots of time wasted chasing someone else’s dreams for me. On the other hand, I started actually making money from my own music, and by 2013 people weren’t just asking to work with me, but also giving me money to do so, for music and for audio work on animations. I figured why waste my time pursuing something that I don’t enjoy and that’s going nowhere when I’m finally having a blast doing something I love and being paid for it! Somehow, my casual hobby had become my source of income, and my plan A of physics (really other people’s plan for me) had become a tentative plan B. I figured I’d just drop the plan B! I was in a lucky position where I could put all my energy into nurturing my own music / audio production business, so I stopped everything else and just focussed on that, and I’m still doing it today! There didn’t seem like there was any point in having a plan B, it’d just take away from the plan A!


Now that’s not to say that the decision hasn’t made for a bumpy ride, but it’s a road that’s been true to myself and that’s been incredibly rewarding! Sure, I’m certain my bank account would be a lot happier if I’d have given up on music and kept looking for physics jobs, but even with all the headaches and occasional financial uncertainty, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing now, even 8 years later, and I’ll be continuing down this path for as long as I can!




[ PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 ]


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6

Posted by TheInterviewer - September 16th, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 168

Interview By: @The-Great-One


[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]




Q: One of the most influential games on Newgrounds and an all-around classic that has its own day dedicated to it is none other than Pico's School. How did you end up making the music for this classic? What was it like working with Tom?


A: I'm still shocked to this day that I even got to write the soundtrack for a game I played so many years ago and is one of NG's most well-known games, it's surreal man. I had played that game a lot back in the day. 


In 2016, Tom was cracking down on copyright issues with submissions to avoid getting complaints from different companies, as it was becoming a bigger threat for Newgrounds potentially getting DMCA'd off the internet, so he wanted to be safe, and either take down toons, or replace the music with new music.


He could have asked anyone to write the soundtrack, but he asked me? I still ask myself why, I can name at least 3 musicians who would've done way better of a job, but I made sure I did it justice the best I could, and he was really happy with it. I'm really honored he chose me out of anyone else, he tells me he likes my music and it means the world to me. He's one of the greatest friends I could ever have, and been a role model since even before he first contacted me for the game deal. 


He wanted to keep the vibe of the old soundtrack, understandably, but with my own spin on it, that's the short version haha. I even made a behind the scenes video on the process.




Q: Scrotum 1 was the first movie to be submitted to Newgrounds. It was unfortunately removed at one point due to copyright music in it. This would be replaced with music by you and brought back to the site. How did you come across this task? What is the difficulties in replacing audio in a movie with another that is suitable and keeps the intent of the original creation intact?


A: Continuing from the last question, same deal pretty much. Tom asked me to make a song for this one right after I finished the soundtrack for Pico's School. Being asked to compose music for the very first portal animation is another insane honor haha it's awesome. I'm just surprised Tom looks so highly on my music, I've seen so many great musicians on this site that could blow my music out of the water easily.


Tenacious D inspired me for this track, as well as the original song for the animation. It was different than anything I had done. It was a simple tune, so it was actually pretty easy for that song, I felt inspired.


I don't think this is the best example, given it's under a minute of an animation, really short, but in general, depending on what you compose for, I think it's ultimately up to you to decide if you're feeling it or not, if you'll have fun and have the confidence, if you vibe with the person hiring you and they really like what you're capable of. Ultimately, you don't want to stray too far off into "trendyville" as I like to call it, but pay respects to the original, while putting a sprinkle of something of your own.


You can still make an original tune, but go with what you love, go with what you feel fits the character and the tone of the project, and what is asked of you. Just pour your soul into it and let it come naturally. If you aren't feeling that at all even after some days, don't do it, just admit it's not your jam and it's okay to say no sometimes. Do what you feel, have fun with it. 




Q: There are two songs where you showcase your singing that I quite like. They are JG - Somewhere Out There and JG - Heads or Tails. You have shown us your skills as a writer. Is creative writing different from songwriting or are there more parallels? When writing a song with lyrics, is it important to focus on lyrics first or the melody? Could you use these two songs as an example?


A: I'm actually not the proudest of those nor fond of them in all honesty haha. I appreciate it though, but I feel there are other songs that really show off my singing better in the later years than those. For Somewhere Out There, I was inspired by Radiohead and I love Folk Rock music, especially from the 60's, 70's and 90's.


Heads or Tails was for a girl I really liked at the time. I made more piano songs back then, Phyrnna inspired me to do that, I love her music. I wish I could make piano songs with an actual keyboard though. I'm broke. I appreciate the compliment about the lyrics though. Back then is around the time I started making my songs more poetic. I definitely incorporated that more as I learned more about writing.


Writing is whatever you want it to be. I know songs that don't rhyme, some that do, there's a lot of writing styles out there. It's just a matter if you want to make it into a song or not. It can have the usual song structure with verses and a chorus/hook, or it can just progress without a returning melody. I've seen a lot of different kinds.


Honestly, as far as what comes first, I've done either or. I can't remember which came first with those songs, but I believe it was the lyrics. Sometimes I get a random idea in my head for a melody and I write it down, then seperately write out lyrics to what I'm feeling at the time, and plug it into a melody I've made that works, and change up the lyrics to match the timing and feel. Sometimes, the lyrics inspire melodies though. Do what you feel, it goes both ways.




Q: When Cyberdevil was here we talked about Rap as a genre. He would have this to say about the genre:


Rap, to me, feels like an amplification of the story-telling potential that music has, with or without the art of wordplay. Like a bridge between poetry and sound.


You yourself would present us with a rap track entitled Trixsta-AntiMax. How did you come up with this rap? Would you say your definition of rap is similar to Cyberdevil's or is it different?


A: I'll be honest, I feel like Trixsta didn't consist of my best work lyrically. Kid Projekt, my changed rap artist identity, I feel is more true to me. That's when I put more work in the lyrics and sound instead of trying to be everyone else back then. But, my lyrics were simpler, and were like anti-gang, anti-violence, and still are, and that hasn't changed. You'll hear that in Antimax. It's about not trying to be the best rapper, like anyone else, it's very anti-drug as well. Don't let people speak for you, just do you and try your best in life.


I agree with his definition though, absolutely. It's your story you're trying to tell, your identity. The problem is, not enough people in the Hip-Hop industry seem to realize that, they try to act tough and want to flash their gold or disrespect women (objectification, though nothing wrong with being sexual, it's more so how it's all portrayed in male rap videos more than anything else, or what labels try to get some female rappers to do, look up the original female singer of The Black-Eyed Peas and her story) to gain attention as a part of the culture. Honestly, that's always been a problem, and that's why I wrote against it, on top of diss songs being a problem. It's enabling depression and insecurity. 


It's a copy/paste formula that "works", but has no identity. It's just a lifestyle, even if it's what you're raised around or what you know, doesn't mean it's going to reflect who you are specifically, or how you feel. Don't try to be everyone else, be you, no matter what anyone else says. Just have fun, do what you enjoy and want to express as an artist. I've seen some successful rappers go against the usual, and it's awesome. Childish Gambino, Eminem, Logic, A Tribe Called Quest (group), The Black-Eyed Peas, the list goes on.




Q: As a voice actor one sketch that made me piss myself with laughter is Terrible Play Director. We have the Muppets and Sesame Street characters from your youth now on the Audio Portal. What made you want to bring these stories to the members of Newgrounds? Will we be hearing more from this Terrible man?


A: Haha, you know, as terrible as the voice acting is for the main character in that, I'm surprised people like it. The funny thing is, this was a short series I did back then, around when I started first uploading voice acting clips to Newgrounds, I think? I wanted to incorporate all my Muppets impressions into one thing somehow. 


Before that, I had the Terrible Radio DJ or whatever that was called, had him in like 2 or 3 things. He never really had a name. Basically, he's terrible at everything due to his attitude, and always being so clumsy about his jobs, constantly job searching. I dunno, thought it would be funny. I haven't really wanted to revisit him since, but if I did, I'd definitely improve on his voice. 




Q: You've started podcasts and have even joined others. When and how did you come to start podcasting? When and how did you become part of The Newgrounds Podcast?


A: It was around 2015 when they first introduced the Podcast category to the Audio Portal. I was already doing a video update series on my YouTube channel called The Faction Report, so I wanted to make a podcast version of that called Factioncast. It was mostly updates with my life and creations. It's part of how I coped with my loneliness, as I was really insecure. 


Eventually it turned into Talking Real a year later, and spanned for 5 seasons, until the finale I'm going to record soon (if I haven't already by the time this comes out). I experimented a lot with this series. It went from me talking about random topics, to my life, updates on my projects, to theories about movie and game sequels or existing games, and reporting on Newgrounds stuff.


When The Newgrounds Podcast was announced and looking for hosts, I applied, auditioned, and got in. I was really happy. WillKMR did one of the best interviews of me during his GroundsPatrol days, which I was always a fan of, so when I heard he was a part of it, I was excited (it also helped me get in there as he also liked my podcast work and we talked about it in the interview on his show).


It was a lot of fun, I've been on hiatus with the show for a few or so months because the guys insisted I focus on my therapy and finding my happiness, and I'm glad they did, I was honestly not okay. Sometimes you need a friend to tell you when to stop, to slow down, or if you're drinking too much and a friend says "hey this is killin ya man you gotta stop". I wasn't drinking, but ya know? I'm possibly coming back soon, we've been talking about it.




Q: Out of all of your works, my absolute favorite by you is entitled Day of Dreams. You said it was a remake of an old song you never released. What was the old song and why didn't you release it? What made you want to remake it before release?


A: Aww haha thanks. I don't think that was mixed well, but I appreciate it. The story behind that, in 2011 (or 2010 maybe) I was making my first ever soundtrack for a friend's game that never got finished, and based on what he described for one of the tracks, I ended up making a faster version of the original (which I honestly prefer over the remake). I didn't release it because I wasn't allowed to understandably release any of the songs while the game was in progress. 


Kind of a shame, I like some of the music I made for him. Some of it ended up in my music packs on my website that people can use for games in my music store.




Q: Your absolute best song out of everything I believe to be Your Symphony. I absolutely love love songs and this one is simply beautiful. The way you weaved the words around the melody in a perfect marriage of music was just splendid on my ears. It was for Back-From-Purgatory, a musician who I had the privilege of interviewing in the past. What can you tell us about Back-From-Purgatory? What was the final straw that made the music come from within you? How did Back-From-Purgatory respond to the song?


A: Aww, thank you. I don't really agree though, mixing could be a lot better, but I'm glad people enjoyed that. I wrote many songs for BFP (now known as Purgy, or maybe something else, I'm honestly not sure, they kinda distanced themselves from NG years ago). 


I worked on that song for weeks, I worked super hard.  In all honesty, as embarrassing as it is, it was a love song. I put a lot of heart into it. They told me I should release it and they ended up really liking it, even though they didn't feel the same about me, and we stayed friends. Unfortunately, due to things of my own fault of being not the best person before I got therapy, we had a falling out. It's a shame, they're really a kind person and I always loved their music, they've always been a huge inspiration for me since around 2011 or 2012 for some of my music.


BFP inspired me to challenge myself, push myself harder with music, bring out more emotions in my music, as well as taught me a lot as a friend, and they forever changed me. I'll still never forget it. I feel bad for how I treated them being unaware of my bad tendencies before I got help, but I wish them all the best. Mostly now they're on YouTube.




Q: You are the co-creator of the Art-Inspired Music Contest. A contest that is still going strong after all of these years! Where did the inspiration for this contest come from?


A: I still can't believe it. It's crazy that it's still going.  @Random-Storykeeper has done an amazing job since I passed the torch to her with organizing the contest every year. I'm really proud of her and everyone she works with on the teams. Originally, after my 3rd album as RealFaction (Planet Pulse), I had the idea of making a completely new album, some concept I've never seen before; music inspired by artwork.


I ended up making a couple songs for it as a result, showed them to my friend, Phyrnna (back then I think she was still going by HalcyonicFalconX).





Q: What can you tell us about the creation of Pixel Day?


A: I was always trying to pitch new ideas for Newgrounds to Tom, helping out in any way, since I've always been passionate about NG. Sometimes I'd find bugs, or make suggestions on site features that could be implemented. I noticed NG didn't create a new original holiday (or very many) for years.


I had two things in mind when creating Pixel Day, having the idea in 2015. I wanted a new NG-exclusive holiday to bring more people to Newgrounds every year, true to NG's roots as a 90's game industry-inspired platform with the look. I remember Tom saying "it's like a game" when we talked about the site layout inspiration. The earlier layouts also echoed Philly in some ways, where NG is based. I also noticed in the contests, pixel artists weren't really competing, and it was hard to.


Pixel art is a thing of it's own, I felt it deserved it's own contest for NG, along with the music, the games, all of it. Something to celebrate the game scene part of NG's origin and inspiration. Something that celebrated the 80's 90's, pre-3D gaming. The idea mostly came from not only that, but the Newgrounds Inspired Music Contest I did in place of the Art-Inspired Music Contest for NG's 20th anniversary.


I had an artist make an overworld map, and the contest had artists I've been a fan of for years, we had made them animated "boss" sprites. A couple things stemmed from this. One, how cool would it be to have an actual game like this, and two, how cool would it be to have this kind of contest happen every year on a wider scale? Boom, Pixel Day. The game is Newgrounds: Zero Hour, and I'm still looking for a dedicated programmer. After trying 3 programmers, it's been frustrating haha. I just want someone who wants to do it for fun, like everyone involved.


It makes me happy Pixel Day is still going every year, and Tom stated it was his favorite NG holiday in the wiki. I literally cried when I saw that, it's such an honor. I love contributing new ideas to NG and helping the community, giving back because of what NG and the people have given to me. I love you guys, this is my home.




Q: You've been through a dark period lately. I won't dwell much on it and you have said a lot in your news posts. You have changed your username from RealFaction to JohnnyGuy. All I have to ask is this. How are you feeling?


A: If anyone wants to read those posts for the long detailed version, go for it. Most of my life, I battled Depression. I was not happy with myself, or my life, and I struggled to figure out why I wasn't happy. It took me years to really develop and understand the layers and layers of issues in my mind that I overcame, but therapy helped me more than anything, which I've been in since March, and I feel so much better.


It's weird, for once I don't worry, I don't feel insecure, I'm not worried about finding success anymore like I was, I was too reliant on that, about pleasing others, because of how I felt I kept failing myself. When I realized my achievements didn't affect how I felt, after giving up everything for 2 weeks, feeling nothing was going to change no matter what I did, wondering what the point of doing anything was anymore, that's when I knew I had to really think on things.


I was too focused on trying to make something of myself and my life, I wanted to take care of myself and I didn't know how to, it felt like I had no control and everything was fighting me. I had to accept I can't control everything in my life and focus on doing what I enjoy, having fun, not trying to make others happy. If you're not having fun, not doing what you enjoy, then something's wrong.


Going back to Simple Sight, that song is a big part of it, when I looked at things through that type of lens. I ended up getting harassed on youtube over the years and there was a large portion of the Castle Crashers community that never saw me as a person or my other music, I ended up getting 10,000 subscribers on youtube because of the song, just for them to wait for more news on one song...which is really weird to me. 


A lot of my work eventually got an average of 200 views on youtube (I'm still thankful for that support), but I never had that problem on Newgrounds, a lot of my work is supported here. It used to bum me out, but I was too worried about pleasing the toxic part of that community (though many have thanked me for the song and I appreciate that), which I won't anymore. I gotta do my own thing. 


That's why I'm changing my name, to distance myself from that song and that part of the community, who just kind of leech me. I do appreciate those who enjoy the song, but I mean the people who just pretend to support me and only want more of that same thing. Thankfully, NG never gave me that problem and showed me immense support, along with my small amount of supporters on YouTube. 


I guess I was just tired of people seeing I was only capable of one thing, when I went to school for audio mixing, and came so far with my music, and no matter what I did, it didn't seem to matter to them. I was too thirsty for money, success and validation. If I had blown up, I would've never been truly happy, I wouldn't have realized what I do now. The pandemic helped me slow down and see why I wasn't happy, and overcome my Depression. I'm thankful for it. 


You see these celebrities get big and you hear that they aren't happy, and the attention is too much, when they're having trouble battling their inner demons they don't have time to face anymore due to their busy schedules. Even famous people aren't fully happy with themselves or what they have. That's why therapy is important, finding what makes you happy, radiating that joy to yourself and giving back love to the world. Just have fun, do what you enjoy. That's what I learned.


JohnnyGuy is my real name, and more of a reflection of who I am now, than the origin of the name RealFaction. I'm more focused on fun, comedy, everything I ever enjoyed, and my name always sounded like a cartoon character. I always saw myself as a living cartoon character, so it's fitting. What's crazier is, I got this name from being adopted at birth. What are the chances, right? 


RF was more a search for truth and expressing my honesty, but also a cry for attention. The posts explain the meaning of that more in full, but yeah.




Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of music?


A: To me, it's therapy. It's a form of expression, but also an audible expansion of expression emotions, moods, thoughts. Certain notes hit certain emotions, certain vibes, translating emotions to help you feel and understand them in a way you didn't know you could before. It evokes emotions, brings comfort, helps you cope with certain emotions, and can be impactful. It connects a lot of people, brings us together, further expresses what we feel.




Q: What can we expect from JohnnyGuy in the future?


A: I'm working on some comedy music coming in the soon future, advice podcasts I have planned (and a few different things I wanted to try with my podcasts), I'm writing a new book (a very jokey story at that), working on the VA Collab for Newgrounds that my friend Corey is heading. I've written a few skits for that and voiced in a handful of them. Jack Serious, a well-known character of mine, will be in that. It should be out sometime in October or so, hopefully, so it'll be soon.


I'm still doing my radio show, potentially doing The Newgrounds Podcast again, and will be releasing gaming videos on my YouTube channel. I also have my new rock project A Silent Voice, as for anything else I'm doing with music, I'll have to see what happens. I'm just doing things for fun now, enjoying life.




I have been listening to RealFaction since I've been on Newgrounds. He was one of the musicians on the site I would always listen to if I saw something of his pop up on the Front Page, the Forums, wherever. He is an outstanding talent and an even better friend to those lucky enough to know him. His contributions to the Newgrounds community, to the composers, to the artists, and to the voice actors of Newgrounds is immeasurable. He is truly one of those rare gems on the site that should not be taken for granted. One of the pioneers and veterans of Newgrounds. His skills and suggestions have gone on to improve not only the Audio Portal, but the site as a whole. I'm surprised he is not an Audio Portal Moderator due to his helpfulness to others. Time can only tell though.




[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]




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Posted by TheInterviewer - September 16th, 2020


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Interview No. 168

Interview By: @The-Great-One


Today's guest is certainly not an unknown name here on Newgrounds. You've heard his music in titles such as Pico's School, Castle Crashers, and NG: Zero Hour Demo, which he was also the director and organizer for. His songs have delighted many Newgrounds member with Clearing the Sky, Piercing Lazer - Simple Sight (Instrumental), and Neon Highway. That is just to name a few. His voice could be heard through The Newgrounds Podcast. He has contributed to the site as one of the creators of the Art-Inspired Music Contest as well as Pixel Day. During his tenure here on Newgrounds he went by the name @RealFaction. He has recently changed that name. I am most honored to welcome, @JohnnyGuy.


[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]




Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?


A: It was 2003, and I think it was during an Easter afternoon dinner at my aunt's house, where the family gathered, as usual. My cousin (who was like a big brother to me at the time, some years older than me) wanted to show us a cool side of the internet. He got on my aunt's computer (or maybe was my uncle's) and showed us Newgrounds.


Keep in mind, this is when the hentai ads were still abundant on the front page, I was like 11 haha. He even said, "I probably shouldn't be showing you this". He showed us these cool Newgrounds toons though, like T-rated stuff. When I got home, I looked up more and more. Me and my other cousin who was with us at the time (and came over to my house a lot) would always browse NG, watching the animations and playing the games.




Q: How old were you when you were diagnosed with asthma?


A: Honestly, I can't exactly remember, but I think I was around 8? But it came and went. It didn't affect me for so many years, until I was 21, then a year or two later it went away again. It only sort of flares up if I'm around smoke, but it doesn't really bug me anymore, I haven't needed inhalers for years, thankfully.




Q: What age did you start playing piano?


A: Age 6. Mom knew a piano teacher in the neighborhood, I forget how, but I went for 2 years. I regret not continuing. Over the years, I always checked to see if whenever I went over to someone's house, if they had a keyboard, or piano, and I'd play it. I do miss it.




Q: In the past we have spoken with Jabun, Hania, Jazza, MistyEntertainment, and Troisnyx. All of them have shared their stories about singing. You are added to this list. How old were you when you started singing?


A: Oh man, all great artists. Thanks! Honestly, according to my mom, I've been singing since around age 5 I think if I recall? Back when I was forced to be a sheltered religious kid, I used to be in a church program for kids, we would go every Wednesday. I was in the choir of that program, and back then of course I wasn't great, since I was just a kid, for many years I didn't have the voice I really wanted, but yeah, about 23 years, most of my life.




Q: When you were 8 years old you knew you wanted to be a film director and a writer. How did reading The Chronicles of Narnia inspire you to write? What events at this age inspired you to pursue these crafts?


A: It started with 3 things. My love for Steven Spielberg movies (movies in general, and anything with Robin Williams in it, who was a huge inspiration of why I am who I am now, since I was a kid), Lego Studios (a computer program Spielberg & Lego made together so kids could build sets with legos and make stopmotion films with editing software and a camera, it was revolutionary), and the book, The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.


Ironically, I hated reading back then. Found it boring. I was impatient, wanted picture books. I can't remember exactly how it went down, but I think my mom grounded me, and forced me to read that book. I was furious, screaming, hating that I had to stay in my room. At first, I was just skimming the book on my bed, but when I actually read more, I was captivated at Lewis' use of imagery, the first time I saw what that was. It was the first time I realized you could describe things in such a way, painting pictures with words. I found it beautiful and inspiring.


From that point on, I made poetry for years to start off with, then eventually, these short little movie scripts I would type up (normally sci-fi, stuff with aliens). Eventually I gave up on that dream, because when we looked up how expensive film school was, and how slim of a chance it was to make it big, and not having the equipment, or funds for equipment, I was at a loss. 


So, instead, I made silly videos with my friends, and had a show called JKTV, which technically is still running, but had a long hiatus since 2012, up till a couple years or so ago. It started in 2005 when I was 13. It was vlogging, before vlogging was really a thing, and filming me and my friends being silly, and sometimes making comedy sketches for fun. One episode we did stunts with fire, and was compared to Jackass by my friends. Some episodes ended up with me running from my dad, as he yelled, "Get that camera away from me". Good times.




Q: Your first story on Newgrounds is entitled Late Night Matinee (Zombie story). A fantastic horror story that I'm surprised hasn't been turned into a movie or game here on the site. Where did the idea for this come from? Will we see an expansion on it in the future?


A: Woah, I forgot that thing even existed! Haha, you're bringing up things even I forgot about. Has it really almost been 10 years? Thank you haha, though I have my issues with it, compared to how I write now. That was the year I really started writing more, thanks to my English class (or rather textbook since a lot of the time I worked in one room at a desk with other kids, it was a strange secondary school) assignments. I think the details could be better, and there's no separation in paragraphs, it's such a pain to read haha. Kudos for getting through it.


I can't remember why I wrote that story to be honest. I can't remember if it was for a contest, or if it was just something I wrote for fun based on an idea I had in my head (but most likely). As far as I remember, I thought the idea of a zombie story in a multiplex would be cool. As far as a game or expansion, honestly, you're best off playing the Dead Rising series. The first one goes through a mall, the games are expansive in general. Lots to play with.




Q: You've been working on a book. A science fiction, psychological thriller, about drugs and walking in another person's shoes. It has been six years in the making. How are you coming along on this book? What more can you tell us about it?


A: That passion project of mine is Venturescape, indeed, but it's been more than 6 years. Originally it was going to be a book, titled "Iris of Rose", but that was a working title, and for years I struggled to title it. I started writing it in 2010, when I was 18. I hand wrote the first 100 pages in class, of the first draft, when I got frustrated with Geometry, and needed breaks for stress relief. Then, I was working with a couple artists to make it a comic, but then that didn't pan out.


Eventually, a voice actor who I met at the time, suggested it be an audio drama series, and I liked that idea. In the Summer of 2017, I released the first episode of the series. It took 2 years for me to release all 11 episodes of season 1, mostly due to waiting many months on a couple voice actors for lines, having to replace the actor of one character a couple of times. Though, I did all the editing myself, on top of the writing, directing, casting, audio mixing, searching for sounds, music, I made the theme song, I acted in a few small parts, it was a LOT of work for one person.


I have the series on Newgrounds too in a playlist. The versions of the episodes with the artwork (videos on YouTube) are linked in the episode descriptions.


The only things I mainly didn't do were most of the voice acting, drawing the characters in the visual versions for the episodes on YouTube, making the sound effects, and most of the music. I wanted to take years to sharpen this story, to make it everything I wanted it to be. I kept it underwraps, almost no one knew about it for years. I learned a lot about writing along the way, with the feedback I got from the few friends I did show.


I thought about doing season 2, I've had stuff written for it for years, but I don't really want to take on all that work for that audio drama series again, as fun as it was. If I could do anything I wanted, I'd have an animated series of it. But, another thing I wanted to do, that is hopefully going to be done, well....someone I've been a huge fan of on NG for his games since I was a kid, has been a friend of mine some years now since I'm his favorite musician apparently haha. 


He wants to make the series into a game with me, he's really interested, and I really hope we can after his current works! As far as telling you about the series, well I've already said a lot for this question haven't I? Check out the trailer in that playlist, it's about a bleak future (which I predicted would look like our own eventually, some of the things in the story have come true in recent times, keeping in mind I wrote it 10 years ago) where the economy is crashing, and revolves around a group of people's experiences, dreams, with this medicinal lucid dream-inducing drug that gets life-threatening, and turns into a national crisis due to what it does.


I won't spoil much, but there's much more to the story you think. The characters meet up eventually, and you see the story from all their perspectives in the different episodes. It tackles different issues people struggle with, like suicidal thoughts, insecurity, depression, putting you in their shoes to look behind the scenes at why people are the way they are. It's heavily focused on character development. People have told me it's helped empower them with what they're going through, and that's exactly what I want the series to do now, and in the future. I want to do so much more with the series, it's my biggest passion project.




Q: You became interested in voice acting at the age of 11. You were usually left alone and created worlds. How did this develop over time? Did your time in theater expand your skill range?


A: Watching Robin Williams movies, Jim Varney movies (you know, the Ernest series), various cartoons, and stuff like the Muppets and Sesame Street, plus being homeschooled and having a lot of time to myself and the T.V., I wanted to have fun, and I was bored. My first impression was Kermit the Frog. I was, and still am a huge Muppets fan. Also watched a lot of Batman: The Animated Series. Huge Mark Hamill fan.


I thought it was fun to experiment with my voice, seeing what I could do with it. Alas, my time in theater didn't really do much for me. If anything, it was just a fun experience, but didn't really help me with that much, just gave me more experience with script memorizing and being on stage (god it's frightening haha).




Q: At the age of 14 you were playing Halo 2 with your friends on XBOX Live and one of them was talking about FL Studios. This would be the start of your music career. What is the whole story in detail? It starts with Celldweller and grows from there.


A: Well, it was the start of me LEARNING how to make music digitally haha. My career didn't start until September 2006 when I signed up to NG as RealFaction, but I took months learning from my friend Jayson (my closest friend most of my life, he's like my brother over anyone else, came over a lot) experimenting with the program with me. 


He's the one who told me about Celldweller and got me into making music. He sometimes brought over his guitar and I'd film him playing. He got me into a lot of the bands and artists I still listen to today. He always brought this zipped bag of cd sleeves, I don't know the proper term for it, but pages and pages of amazing albums. He'd show me some of them every time he came over, I got through a lot of them. 


When I heard how Celldweller was a one-man-band, I wanted to do that. I wanted to do it all myself and have fun with it. I loved that debut album of his and still do, and his other music in general. He was a huge influence to my music for many years, especially with Piercing Lazer, alongside video game soundtracks inspiring me being a gamer most of my life.


I actually did a podcast series called Reinvention, going over my career. The first episode expands on this.




Q: What can you tell us about George Clinton's influence on your works?


A: I love George Clinton & Parliament. They are the Funk pioneers and masters of the genre. He inspired some of my music, like this tune I did for Jaxxy played at the end of one of her toons she asked me to make back in 2011.


I can't say he influenced a huge amount of my music, but definitely some of it.




Q: There are two songs from a project entitled Piercing Lazer that I wish to discuss. The first being Clearing the Sky. In the past you have called it overrated and overplayed. Could you elaborate further? Do you still believe this to this day?


A: Yes, my Electronic/Industrial Metal (though more Rock these days) side project I started with my friend Dustin back in 2007. Well, I guess I can see the appeal to the song, but I guess it's more so I'm just surprised so many people were drawn to a song that wasn't really EQ'ed at all, or had much in layers to it, not any real bass to it either, there's a lot missing.


I like the percussion though, I admit the melody is catchy. I was inspired by Cobra Starship back when they were one of the hottest bands back then. I wanted something rave-y, but also with hard percussion, something dancey. I was very experimental back then.




Q: The next song I wish to discuss is Piercing Lazer - Simple Sight (Instrumental). It would later on become known as the Necromancer's theme in Castle Crashers. How did this song come into existence? How did you become part of the Castle Crashers soundtrack?


A: Oh boy....I've got such a love/hate relationship with that song. I'm glad people enjoy it though. Oddly, it's one of the only songs, if not THE only song to not have been picked for the game by a contest they ran on Newgrounds. I didn't even know about the contest until some months after, which is odd, considering I was usually up to speed with anything NG back then.


After the Piercing Lazer debut album in 2007 I did with Dustin Dean (longtime friend of mine) was finished and released late in the year, I started writing music for the next one. January 2008, I made Simple Sight, before it was known as the Necromancer Theme. I was inspired by the sounds of Slipknot and Celldweller, something fast-paced, with a fun beat, really playing with the drums. 


I didn't like how FL Slayer sounded by itself at that point in FL Studio (thank god I stopped using FL Slayer it sounds awful), so I wanted to smooth out the sound and put on another layer on top, that electronic sound with the "guitars", which has become a signature sound for Piercing Lazer over the years. I call it the "peanut butter synth". I wanted something experimental, high energy, and video game music was still a huge influence on my work. I love Industrial Metal, what can I say?


For months, it just kinda sat there, but after Clearing the Sky got Top 5 Weekly audio, Tom Fulp checked out my other work, and I think he was the one who emailed me about it directly to my email outside of NG to ask me if they could use it for a boss theme.  I lost my mind. 16 years old, getting a video game deal? That's almost unheard of. I was overjoyed, and I'm still thankful for the experience. 


I'm just surprised people like it so much even though I didn't EQ it or anything at all, I made it in like 3 hours. I had fun with it. People for years kept begging me to make more versions of the song and I did, regrettably enabling it. I'll expand more on this later when I explain my name change.


Ultimately, this has been a strange journey with this one song, making so many versions, seeing many people doing great covers of it over the years, and I'm soon releasing the final album of Piercing Lazer called "Crypt: The Simple Sight Collection" which I'm hoping releases very soon (if it does before you post this interview I'll send you a link) with Simple Sight 2020, the FINAL version of the song Dustin and I will ever do haha. 


This is the first time we've done a full collab since the debut album together, he's doing some screams and a guitar solo, and he's helping me mix the vocals and solo in. It'll be $2 until Halloween on my BandCamp page, eventually hitting digital stores for full price in October. 23 songs, every version I've made, including spin-offs, instrumental versions, lyrical versions, the new version, and some of my other new music. It's a farewell album.


I do hope people enjoy the new album, has some of my new music too. Here's the trailer.




Q: The Monthly Audio Contest 2008 for August and September you would compete. You would receive 1st Place for your entry entitled Hank's Return. To celebrate Madness Day that month, the theme was around the holiday. What made you want to enter? You were surprised that you got 1st Place, why was that?


A: That was the first Madness Day Audio Contest, I couldn't believe I won. So many other entries I thought sounded better than mine. Again, I didn't use EQ, so the mix was horrible, I have no idea how I won that, but hey, Krinkels liked it, the other judges liked it, and I was rooting for the others to win. I'm surprised they didn't, but I'm honored. It's surreal to think Krinkels and I have been friends for years now haha. 


I've always been a huge fan of Madness, one of my favorite series on Newgrounds. I love Tricky the Clown, especially. It was really ahead of it's time in the early days, always well animated. I made 10 Madness-related songs, I entered some other years, even composed music for the winning animation of 2014 that for some reason has now vanished, I wish it wasn't deleted off of NG, it really was a beautiful toon. I can't wait to see what else Krinkels comes up with.


Here's the playlist of the Madness songs I made over the years in order.




[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]


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Posted by TheInterviewer - September 1st, 2020


Index Page | Official Thread | Theme Song ]


Interview No. 167

Interview By: @The-Great-One


Today's guest is an artist whose works show off the beauty and mystique of the female figure. From his works on pieces such as Green Lady, Pilot, and Two Lungs Breathe as One, for which he won an art contest for under the same name. I am most intrigued and pleased to welcome, @A-lieN.




Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?


A: My first exposure to Newgrounds was back around 2009-2010, one of my close friend that I went to karate class with, visited my house and noticed that I had my own computer. He started showing me all sorts of stuff he found on the internet, one of those things being a flash game on Newgrounds. I noticed he scrolled over a lot of other games in the process and wanted to try them after his visit. Newgrounds quickly became a place I would visit quite often after that since it seemed like it had tons of content to play. After a while though I started to get into other hobbies, school work became more demanding and I found other things to do in my free time like browse Youtube videos, make little tunes using ProTools that came with my digital piano and play video games that weren't just flash games. My visits to Newgrounds sadly became less and less frequent. My reintroduction to Newgrounds came in April of this year, I wanted a place to put my artwork, but also to get a little feedback. Newgrounds seemed like a good place since it doesn't compress your image and people could rate your artwork anonymously, giving me an idea of what people liked based on what I posted, the system isn't perfect but I tend to get more feedback on Newgrounds than other platforms.




Q: At what age did you become interested in drawing?


A: I think I have been drawing since from a very young age. At that age I was drawing and doodling because I found it fun and I was just playing around. I started to become serious about pursuing art around middle school. At first I wasn't too sure about fully committing to it, but finding all the resources online gave me the confidence that pursuing art as a career wasn't such a far fetched idea. I decided to go to an art highschool and planned to go to college for art, but there were some complications with getting into college since I was not a citizen of the U.S.. My family figured that trying to get appropriate papers to stay in the U.S. was not really feasible anymore. I disagreed, but I understood why they felt that way. And my formal art education ends at highschool, but I have kept studying and with the plethora of free resources online it was incredibly interesting and sometimes overwhelming! As much as I endorse learning art by yourself, nothing can replace a good teacher, they can really help you save a lot of time and energy by simply pointing you in the right direction.




Q: Looking through your works I am reminded of Edward Hopper. You both do incredible things with lighting and you both seem to have a fascination with women. How do you explain the concept of light in a piece? What is your fascination with women in your pieces?


A: Thank-you for saying that I have great lighting! As to how I explain lighting and the concept of light in a piece that is a topic I am very interested in and have read extensively about, so instead of writing your ear off for this one question I'll try to condense all that I've learned in the past years about lighting. There are basically two main resources that I use when it comes to understanding light and color. "Color and Light" by the incredible James Gurney; and the concept of "Physically Based Rendering" or "PBR". In summary the first resource is just a really good book on how to pick colors and I'll just tell you to read it, or at least skim through and take inspiration from all the great illustrations the book has in it. As for "PBR" it's more commonly associated with 3D renderers like Unity, Unreal and all the different game engines out there. "PBR" however isn't an algorithm or an amazing new piece of technology, it's more of a philosophy, a way of thinking about light in a more accurate and scientific approach. Simple principles like the conservation of energy and the fresnel effect can take your shading and lighting to the next level. A third resource i like to refer to is "Stylization with a Purpose" a Games Developer Conference presentation by Valve the developers that created the amazing and stylish game Team Fortress 2. The presentation emphasized the importance of "Readability", the idea that the shapes you use should immediately and boldly say what you want the audience to think about, the way they did this is by making absolutely sure that the shadow shapes of every character was clear and identifiable. This doesn't just apply to characters it also applies to general illustration and something I personally want to get better at.




Q: You don't seem to post on the forums much. How and when did you come across the Two Lungs Breathe As One Art Competition? What can you tell us about your entry Two Lungs Breathe as One? Will we see your works in future contests?


A: I mostly lurk the art forums looking for people who want help with their art, but I always feel like the advice I would give them would come off as unhelpful or hostile so I generally decide against it at the last minute. I came across the competition when I was lurking around and thought it might be a nice change of pace for me. I also wanted to see how I compared with other artists. When I tried to make the piece for the competition I was stumped by the prompt, the only thing I could think of was how symmetrical our lungs are sans our heart. I decided to make a piece that had a very symmetrical composition but with the two halves being different slightly and having the two figures doing the same action, hence the prompt. As for future art contests I will definitely try to make an entry, but I really want to put in a good effort into my entry and not make an entry just to make an entry, unless the time limit catches up to me!




Q: My favorite piece by you is entitled Senior Employee. You said you were practicing a new painting process. Could you elaborate for us?


A: The new painting process I was practicing was more of an exercise and an experiment. I think most artists have heard of Peter Han's advice to beginner artists to draw with a pen, a medium that doesn't allow you to erase your mistakes. This seems counterintuitive since all beginners do is make mistakes! But what it does do is make every mistake very painful, rather than something you can erase and do over and over again. I wanted to do something similar but with my brush strokes, so I set my brush to full opacity at all times and tried to make every brush stroke count. I found that the best way to go about it was by making new brush strokes on new layers and once you're satisfied you tweak its color by locking the transparency. It helped me think more critically about my brush strokes, but it was a very time consuming process. I would like to revisit that way of painting but I will have to get faster and better at painting overall.




Q: What I believe to be your best piece is entitled Painting Demonstration. This is where I found your lighting to be absolute perfect. I love that there are people painting a person painting. Where did the sketch for this piece begin. When did you come to look at it and say it's done?


A: It started out as a way for me to study hand poses. For me studying hands that aren't attached to an arm doesn't seem to be too helpful for me, in order for me to study hands I have to attach it to a whole figure so that I can properly assess it's proportion compared to the rest of the figure. I find studying hands this way to be more helpful. One of the hand poses that I find to be interesting and challenging is holding a pencil, this is where the sketch came from since I needed a figure to have an excuse to be making that hand pose in the first place. I found it weird that I was drawing a person drawing, so I just took that idea and took it farther.




Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of art?


A: In my opinion art is anything that can evoke a certain emotion or reaction from an audience. Of course the emotion or reaction has to be relatively strong. For example, a guy getting on the bus isn't really art, but a guy wearing full plate armor or cosplaying as Iron Man getting on the bus is art, it might not be your type of art, but it evokes a much stronger emotion or reaction from the people on that bus. I think it's easier to understand if I compare art to writing, writing is something that most people understand and do quite often. Asking what is art and what isn't is like asking what counts as writing and what doesn't. Shakespear, text messages, business ledgers, 4chan greentexts, excel spreadsheets, these are all written works. But random indecipherable texts like "fmA-_---nf Afd //*de=3+" isn't a written work because there is near to no meaning to be extracted from it, art is the same way. Of course as to what makes GOOD art, that's a more complicated question and probably not within the scope of this question.




Q: What can we expect from A-lieN in the future?


A: I am planning on continuing making illustrations and hopefully try to get some employment somewhere as an artist, If that does happen then I might upload less full illustrations. I also really want to teach art, but I want to first get to a level where I would consider my skill level to be worthy of teaching. At some point down the line I would like to make my own game, but that's a far fetched goal and I'm not going to be focused on that any time soon.




This was a small art contest on the forum that I was looking forward to contributing to as a prize. I was hoping that an unknown would come through it, and I was not disappointed. A-lieN is a skillful artist, whose lighting and modeling is quite the breathe of fresh air here on the site. If he decides to embark into animation at some point, I am most sure it will be phenomenal!




The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions

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