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 ]
The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions