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 ]