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.
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 Hania, Cayler, Jazza, Cyberdevil, MistyEntertainment, 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