Interview No. 33
Interview By: @Ryanson
On Newgrounds, the list of great musicians worthy of being mentioned is few and far between. Even fewer are skilled enough to have program their own flash games. How many of those few can say they have created a mini-Internet phenomenon (I'm not sucking up, am I)?
Evil-Dog is among the best known Newgrounders, one of the few and modest gods (lol) in the community. His love of punk music and considerable talent are obvious, even if one looks at Punk-O-Matic 2 alone. But if you take it all in, everything he's done... he's really something.
Luckily, even with his incredibly busy schedule, he was able to take a few minutes out of his day to answer my questions. I'm so excited that he responded after so long a silence, that my wit is unreachable. I can't make a funny. Boo hoo, woah is me. But let's get to why you're really here... here he is, @Evil-Dog.
Q: First off, thanks for taking the time out to do this. How is life in... Canada?
A: It's my pleasure to answer your questions. And life in Canada is great although I haven't seen many places around the world, I've only traveled in the U.S. I bet nort west Europe is great to live in, like Sweden, Denmark, etc I like the 4 seasons we got here, we get a taste of everything throughout the year.
Q: Could I maybe get a song dedicated to me? :)
A: Haha, if I do that for you then I'd have to do it for everyone, I'd spent the rest of my life making dedicated songs :P
Q: Alright. Now, this interview will be posted several places, so for those who may not know: who are you, and what do you do?
A: I'm Evil-Dog, I'm a modest God. Haha I like saying that. Nah, my real name is Marco Arsenault, I'm 29 years old and I live in Montreal, Canada. I've studied computer science and math in order to become a game developer. I've worked 5 years at Ubisoft Montreal on games like Rainbow Six Vegas 1, Far Cry 2 and Avatar: The Game. I've been making Flash projects for a long time, movies and games but since January 2010, I have my own company, Evil-Dog Productions. That just means I just stay home and work on my own games. I believe I'm mostly known for the Punk-O-Matic games and I'm now working full time on a bunch of new games. I'm also a long time musician and some people may know me for my punk and ambient music, but that's probably mostly on Newgrounds.
Q: How long has music been in your life, and how did you realize your love for it?
A:I've been listening to music as far as I can remember, I even listened to rap at some point, could you believe that? :D
The defining point in my life is when I was 17 (or 18 maybe), I bought a guitar and an amp for only $100, best deal in my entire life. I was still using that guitar until recently, 11 years later. But before that, in high school, I was in a music program, so I learned piano, singing, musical history, the trombone. I'm convinced all this planted a good musical seed in my mind, gave me a good ear and a sense of rhythm but that's hard to tell. Maybe I had it to begin with, maybe I didn't.
But I love music, mostly punk music.
Q: What were you doing for a living before you started on Newgrounds?
A: I started on Newgrounds in 2003, so I was in school and not working. I've had small jobs before during high school but luckily I didn't have to work during my later education.
Q: And what first brought you to Newgrounds?
A: I can't even remember, I was learning Flash, making little crappy animations, I must have stumbled on something on Newgrounds that I found great. This is so far away, seems like I was always on Newgrounds :)
Q: So... what inspired you to create the Punk-O-Matic, easily your most well-known game? Why'd you make it?
A: Punk-O-Matic is the result of combining everything I liked at that time (things I still like today): programming, animating, composing/playing/listening to music. The idea came during one of my trip to my father's place who lives 10 hours from here. I was coming back to university and I was riding in the back seat of my friend's car back to university from the Christmas vacation and I designed the game on paper right then and there and then skipped a lot of classes making the game :D
Q: Haha. One of the most notable things on the original Punk-O-Matic, besides the used of real bands' music, was the skit. It was pretty hilarious the first time I watched it, and I've heard some fans quote it pretty recently. How did you, or whoever wrote it, come up with it?
A: It was totally Icewolf's idea :) But I thought it was a cool addition to a music gadget which gave it some soul. That's why I pushed this aspect in POM2 with 45 funny little clips :D
Q: Who else worked with you on the original Punk-O-Matic?
A: Icewolf is the only other person who worked on Punk-o-matic, he was the voice actor as well as the sketch artist for the special characters in the Dude!!! clip.
Q: How did you get the idea to expand from a handful of riffs in the first to an entire collection of usable chords, solos, and melodies in Punk-O-Matic 2?
A: Since I made POM1, I knew I wanted to push the composition aspect much further. I also knew that by doing so I would lose a lot of casual gamer who enjoyed pressing random in POM1 and enjoying the song. POM2 requires more effort to make good songs because you have to have a better sense of music but it's for the best in my opinion. I wanted to give a lot more controls with the manual riffs which are basically all the pickings on all the chords and notes. But I also wanted to keep the spirit of POM1 and continue giving sets of pre-made/more complex riffs that people get to choose from. It's like POM1 on 8 chords or something like that. It was simply the logical follow up to me.
Q: On both Punk-O-Matic games, I noticed many of the reviews weren't actual reviews more than just songs they had made and wanted you to listen to. Is this what gave you inspiration for the "Share" feature you eventually put in on POM2?
A: If you're talking about the Newgrounds version, then it's a special new feature for Newgrounds only where it submits your song on the Newgrounds user content system. But both games were designed to let people share their songs. The share system was there on POM1 so I definitly anticipated that people would like to share their songs.
Q: Do you pay attention to the creations people make on your game? Any favorites, if so?
A: Honestly, I was bored of POM1 after like a week, I thought all the songs sounded the same and was very impressed at how so many people were playing and kept playing for such a long time without getting bored. So I never really listened to many POM1 songs, but POM2 is different, there are still many contests going on at punk-o-matic.net, the community website. I judge these contests so I listen to a lot of amazing POM2 songs. I'm still blown away by some POM2 compositions, which tells me I succeeded with the riff structure in POM2 :)
Q: Some artists find that their most successful work is not their best or their favorite. Some may even find it overrated. Do you yourself agree with this in terms of the POM games?
A: It's undeniable that tastes are and will always be a personal thing. Every artist will come across successes that are not in line with their own favorites. That's unavoidable :)
Personally, I often find people being crazy about some of my stuff while I find it quite normal and subpar haha! I can only be glad about that, it's great that people like what I do. All that applies to music, movies, games, etc In the case of POM, I was blown away by the response toward POM1 and I was underwhelmed by the response from POM2, but that's to be expected, it's a much harder game.
Q: You also did all the music for the game Newgrounds Rumble. How did you go about getting the assignment?
A: NegativeOne is a good friend of mine so I knew he was making the game :) So he either asked me or I volunteered, can't remember. I think I offered.
Q: How did you get chosen? Surely there were others considered. Or were you the first and only choice?
A: That I'm not sure, I think I offered myself and they accepted right away.
Q: The main theme of the game is based on the old Newgrounds theme. Were any other pieces of music based on or inspired by anything else on Newgrounds?
A: Nope, only the main theme was a remake of the Endless Handbag Loop and NegativeOne specifically asked for that, to really have the newgrounds spirit in the game. Some of the other tracks were made from scratch to fit the theme of the level and character and some other tracks started from in-progress pieces I had laying on my computer that I revamped to fit the game :)
Q: You have a wide plethora of music here on Newgrounds and with your other projects. Any one song of yours that defines you as an artist? Lyrically, stylistically?
A: I never had lyrics on my music until recently with Tetris On The Toilet, even on this one, the lyrics aren't mine. I think my recent punk songs define me. One in particular? I don't think so.
Q: Some of your songs in your band Chucks Nation started out as solo songs. Why and how did they turn into songs by a full-fledged band?
A: Yes, "Chuck's Rage" became a band song and "Alone" became "The Awakening" on our album. My solo work is always up for grab by the band, when it fits with the style of the band and when Eric, the bassist/singer of Chucks Nation, can find fitting lyrics, which isn't always easy with 2 lead guitars usually going on. We tried other solo songs with the band, like "Correction" and "The Quest Of Your Life" and failed to bring them to life with the band. Surely we'll try again later.
Q: Are there any other bands you've been a part of besides Chucks Nation?
A: Nope, Chucks Nation is my first and only band so far! I started it with Rich, my long time friend and drummer of the band.
Q: Any songs of yours that define Newgrounds as a website?
A: I don't think any artist's song defines Newgrounds as anything. Newgrounds is really the coming together of all the creative mind and the people who enjoy their creations. It's a success from the mass, not from the individual.
Q: Speaking of... any favorite movies, games, or artists on NG?
A: That's a pretty tough question. You know what, since 2003, I've always been a fan of the artist SickDeathFiend and his gory zombie movies and now I'm working with him on games. Who would have thought? There are many amazing artists and creations, I cannot single one out :)
Q: Anyone you'd like to collaborate with?
Q: Musically, you seem to mix punk, rock, and metal together. Who are some of your inspirations?
A: For the punk aspect, I've always been inspired by NOFX, Bad Religion, Pennywise, Lagwagon, etc. All these great 90s punk rock bands. But I'm also amazed by movie scores and melodic metal so that will always transpire through my composition. It's undeniable that my main genre is punk rock, not rock nor metal.
Q: Besides being a musician, you also make and program your own games. How long have you been doing that?
A: I started everything I do around the same time after high school. I started working with Flash, my studies in programing and bought my first guitar, all that about 12 years ago. I've been doing all that since then, they are my 3 passions!
Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a game programmer?
A: The first time I bought a computer when I was about 15 years old. Right then I started programming little things and I knew I wanted to make cool games.
Q: And how did you prepare for that?
A: I fooled around with the computer, programming little applications with batch files haha. I knew I was going into computer science studies after high school and I did just that. The school system here is different but basically I have 2 diplomas in computer science and have always been doing things relating to games. Some programmers prefer other fields, analysis, databases, management, etc. I was definitely aiming to make games. That was crystal clear.
Q: Anything in the future we should be excited for?
A: Since I have my own company now, you should be excited for all the games I'll be working on in the future haha. Horror and zombie games, the next Punk-O-Matic game, etc. I put my heart into whatever I do so whatever it is, I'll put everything I got into it.
Q: Is there anything you can tell us about the next POM game? How long will this one take? :)
A: I know POM2 took 6 years to come out after POM1, but that's because I was at university, working, etc. Now making games is my full time job so POM Pro won't take as long :)
However I have many other projects, and POM Pro will still be a side project. POM Pro is gonna be more like a music software and less like a game; it won't have the story mode and the concert game-play where you play the notes. It will rather have more precise riff placement, lagless playback, an expandable riff bank, more band and jam room customization, possibly tempo control and instrument effects and a lot of other stuff :)
Q: What's on your iPod or CD Player as of late?
A: I'm the kind of person who sticks with what he knows so I still listen to Bad religion, Propagandhi, NOFX, Lagwagon, Millencolin, the same stuff I was listening to 10 years ago :D
Q: Any place in the world you want to visit?
A: Yes, since my wife (yup, I'm married!) is Cambodian, I definitely wanna go to Cambodia, Thailand and japan as well. Asia basically ;) I'd also love to visit the north west Europe, maybe chill out in Amsterdam :D
Q: Any words of advice you can give to all the musicians out there?
A: Do what you like, whatever people say!
Q: Some of your favorite albums?
A: Bad Religion - Stranger Than Fiction, The Gray Race
Pennywise - Full Circle
Rise Against - Appeal To Reason
Q: Any advice for wanna-be game programmers, too?
A: Start small! Thinking too big will usually result in failure. Gotta start small and build on your experiences.
Q: Do you drink? If so, what's your drink of choice?
A: Everyone teases me cause I drink "girl's beer" like Smirnoff Ice and fruity stuff like that haha! It's usually stronger than beer and taste better :) In the end of the day, whatever gets me drunk :D
Q: Will the world end in 2012?
A: It will end just like it has ended with the hundreds of other false predictions :)
Q: Are there any big secrets you can tell us? C'mon -- we'll keep it quiet.
A: Nope, I'm an open book :)
Q: Thanks for your time. Any last words before I make this all neat and shiny for The Interviewer?
A: The Internet is an amazing place which allows me to make what I love for a living. That's quite something! :)
Thanks for interviewing me! I'm honored!