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Interview with Back-From-Purgatory - Part 1

Posted by TheInterviewer - September 2nd, 2012


Interview No. 101

Interview By: @The-Great-One

Today's guest is an underrated musician here on Newgrounds. From his works in the Heavy Metal genre with -Stay Thy Hand-, to Trance with -Tick Tock-, and even Drum N Bass with -Dropped It, Sorry-. He has defined himself in many different genres and continues to do so to this day. He is none other than @Back-From-Purgatory.

[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]

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

A: I actually first found Newgrounds way back in Junior High School back around 2000-2002, somewhere in that time frame. Back then, it was cool to go on sites the teachers frowned upon, and back then Newgrounds was still more or less adult oriented. So naturally, I found out about the site through my friends who would bring up the site in on the PCs in the library of the school and they'd play a hentai game or something with the speakers turned up to see how fast a teacher would come shut them down. That's how I was introduced to the site.

As for why I joined, I actually can't recall the year I had first joined, but it was around the same time I found out about the site, and I think in the end, I joined up because I was just another angsty teenager and Newgrounds had a lot of outlets for rage in for forms of flash movies/games. I honestly don't remember when my first account was made, or what my username was back then... But I later signed up as my current alias of Back-From-Purgatory in 2004 to start submitting my music shortly after, as it was around this time that I really started to get into writing my own music, as terrible as it was, as it is with most starting musicians.

Q: How did you discover music and what inspired you to make music?

A: I've been around music my entire life, I had literally be introduced to music before I ever left my mothers stomach, as my dad used to play bass for a rock/country band. So naturally, when I started school, they had an option to sign up for band class in grade 5, so, that's exactly what I did. I started out playing the clarinet, and a year later moved onto tenor saxophone, and a year after that, I was tutoring people.

Unfortunately, in grade 8, my family up and moved, and the band program in my new school was extremely elementary compared to the national award winning orchestra I was playing in before. I was more experienced in music than the teacher was... So after a year of frustration there, I dropped band class and instead picked up my dads old bass guitar and started to teach myself bass, because my family couldn't afford to keep my tenor sax.

As for inspiration, it really came from a lot of places... I was fascinated by watching my dad play live, as much as I wasn't fond of the music he was playing, the idea of playing in front of an audience like that, sharing your soul, so to speak, was just something I wanted to experience for myself. And I had gotten a taste of this while playing in the orchestra, as we had played for national competitions in front of theaters full of people. It was exhilarating being able to share something that a group of people had put together, as well as play our own rendition of famous songs from movies or composers.

Q: When did you first pick up the guitar and how long have you been playing?

A: As mentioned above, I first picked up a bass guitar when I quit band class back when I started grade 9. I guess I would've been 15-16 at the time. In any case, I was in my rebellious stage as all teens go through, so I had picked up a bass guitar and started to teach myself to play rock/punk music. Stuff like AFI, Sum 41, Linkin Park, etc... A year after I started playing bass, I got kind of bored of playing a "support instrument" and opted to switch to a 6 string guitar, which I had got as a hand me down from my dad.

I then started the learning all over again, relearning songs I had learned on bass now on an electric guitar. I never took lessons, but I had the advantage of understanding music and rhythm from my time in the orchestra. And I've been playing and teaching myself guitar ever since, which would be somewhere in the ballpark of 10-11 years.

In the later part of those 10-11 years, I had actually started taking guitar lessons to try speed up my learning, and had intended to use it as a way to force myself to learn music theory as well so I could audition for a music course in college. However, I ended up being a better guitarist than my teacher, so I dropped the lessons a week or two later, and continued to just teach myself as best I could.

As a fun side note, the guitar I got as a hand me down from my dad 10-11 years ago... I still use that same guitar for most of my metal songs. I also now own a 7-string Ibanez, but most of my songs are written and performed on the 6 string that my dad gave me a decade ago.

Q: If I'm not mistaken you have a liking for Opera do you not?

A: I wouldn't say it's a genre I listen to a lot, but I do have a certain respect for it, yes. I'm very open to music, there's very little that I simply don't enjoy (Country being the one genre I simply can't stand).

But Opera music, you find a lot of unique story telling elements and themes that you don't generally find in most other styles of music, and listening to it from time to time helps to inspire me to find new ways of writing my own music.

Q: Discovering Electronic Music is a 1983 documentary, following how electronics influenced music creation. You stated in a thread the following...

"Is it wrong that I now understand how synth sounds are made better than I did before?"

What did you mean by saying that? What did you learn from this documentary that you didn't know or thought you knew?

A: Back then, I literally knew nothing about how electronic music was made, as it wasn't until around 2009 that I even attempted to make my own electronic music outside of short little songs I randomly threw together in my very early years. That video, while old, it clued me in on a lot of things I didn't realize before, like how oscillators work, or how certain wave forms emit certain types of sounds.

Really, I still can't say I'm all that knowledgeable of the more in dept workings of electronic music, but that post, that video triggered a few light bulbs in my head when thinking about electronic music. When I looked at my own synths after watching that, I started to understand how each knob would influence the sound that would come out when I hit a key on my keyboard.

There's really so much to learn about how synthesizers work, creating sounds from practically nothing, from a plain flat sine wave, into a fully fleshed out lead, bass, pad, or ambient texture. The possibilities really are endless, you're given a canvas of which to project sound and you can twist and shape that into practically anything you can imagine if you have the knowledge to do so.

Q: What was The Metal Collab?

A: One of the attempts for the metal artists of the Newgrounds Audio Portal to bring their talents together to create something worthy of notice. It's no secret that metal on newgrounds is largely overshadowed by other genres, and it wasn't any better back in 2009. It's actually something I'd love to see people do more often, as it gives metal artists a chance to shine, to steal the spotlight away from all the electronic music that usually dominates the charts.

Unfortunately, the collab never did actually finish, and just sort of slowly faded into the abyss, as a lot of collab attempts seem to do when involving so many people.

Recently, I had hosted the Metal Themed MAC (Monthly Audio Contest), with prizes provided by Mr. Tom Fulp himself. While certainly not the most active contest ever, it brought out some great talent, and those that won were featured on the front page of Newgrounds for a week as a result, which I hope inspired more metal artists to up their game and let people know they're there.

As a metal artist myself, I'd really love to see people who write metal really get some more exposure. Not just on Newgrounds, but everywhere. I find a lot of artists writing really great stuff are often overshadowed by generic garbage that you often hear on the radio.

Q: You talk a lot about different programs for making music. What programs would you recommend and not recommend and what do you use?

A: People do ask a lot about how they should get started with music, and often my first suggestion will be FL Studio, as it is arguably the easiest full featured DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to pick up and learn. I find people often underestimate the program because of it's colorful and simple appearance. Honestly, it always has, and always will be my first suggestion for people looking to get into electronic music. It's a great program.

FL Studio is also my go to DAW for electronic and orchestral music, and I will often program MIDI parts for orchestral or electronic parts in FL Studio and later transfer them over to Reaper to record the guitar parts over top.

Alternatively, I have spent a little bit of time with Reason, which I would also recommend, although to more experienced artists, as it is a little less newbie friendly. Once used to it however, there's a lot of great stuff you can do with Reason, and the automation process in the program I find is leagues better than FL Studio.

In terms of recording, you'll often hear me throwing the name Reaper around, which in reality is also a full featured DAW, but personally, I prefer using it solely for the purpose of recording live instruments, as I find the MIDI interface to be fairly clunky and hard to use, so when I can, I try to avoid writing orchestral/electronic parts in Reaper.

Reaper is where I record pretty much anything that involves live instruments (I.E. Guitar, bass, vocals). The interface is sleek, and when not trying to fight with the MIDI interface, it works great for putting out metal I find. It also allows me to use my Line 6 POD X3 Live as a soundcard with puts a little less strain on my PC while recording.

People also often ask about free programs, to which my usual suggestions are LMMS (Linux MultiMedia Studio) for electronic music. It is MIDI based, so you can't expect any truly amazing sounds out of the program, and I personally found it a little hard to work with in comparison to FL Studio or Reason. But it is completely free, and it's a compromise like anything else.

I would also suggest Audacity for recording artists, it is what I used in my early years when recording my guitar. It has quite a few built in effects, including a nifty tempo changing effect that gives you the option to maintain the original pitch. Which I have made great use of while learning songs or trying to figure out notes while transcribing or working on a cover of a song.

Q: What can you tell me about the Underrated Audio Collab? Apparently a little drama was stirred up in there.

A: Yeah, that was one guys attempt to help get some underrated audio artists more exposure, and unfortunately, the very nature of the collab invited conflict of the "You're not underrated" variety. You see this sort of arguing on the forums all the time, people say someone is underrated then someone else gets upset and says they're not but "these guys are" or "I am".

It's an unfortunate and unavoidable side effect of creating a flash project that is based around underrated artists.

In the end, I'm still not entirely sure if the guy I had a little encounter with was just messing with me or if he was actually upset. But it turned out ok in the end and everyone went on their merry way. The flash was released and those included got a bit of extra exposure, which is something a musician can never get enough of. It's our lifeblood, the more exposure, the better!

Q: Your first submission to the Audio Portal would be entitled My first improv.. How did you record this song and looking back on it, are you still proud of it?

A: Oi... That brings back memories. Well, that song I actually recorded with Audacity (The free recording program I recommended earlier), as this was long before I ever got Reaper. Was also before I had any fancy equipment, I was recording using the built in distortion on my dinky little 25 watt Fender practice amp via a cheap USB mic that I just put on the ground in front of my amp while I played.

Looking back on it... I can hear the same style in "My First Improv" as I do in some of my later songs, just more polished and easier on the ears. I try not to regret anything I've uploaded or look back on it and wish I had never done it. Because after all, I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't written that stuff years ago. I like to look back on my old stuff and see how far I've come. It helps give a sense of progress, that I'm improving as time goes by. So while I won't say I'm overly proud, I will say that I'm glad to have done it and uploaded it.

And I hope in a few more years, I'll look back on what I'm doing now and see even more progress.

Q: Your first steps into FL Studio would be Prelude. Certainly a fitting title to dramatic opening. How was it working with this program for one of your first times. How long did it take you to make this song?

A: While I don't think Prelude was my very first song out of FL Studio, it was certainly one of the first songs I did using the program. And I can honestly say, at the time, FL Studio was over my head. Prelude, I basically found a few cool sounds, slapped them together in what I thought sounded like a decent song and uploaded it.

There was no automation, no dynamic range, no creating my own synths. Prelude is as simple as an FL Studio song could really be. But we all have to start somewhere, right?

As for how long it took, I really couldn't say for sure, but I do remember that this was back before I actually bought FL Studio, so I was working with the demo version of the program, which did not allow you to save a project to work on it later. So I likely spent no more than 2 hours on the song. And regardless of the actual time it took, I guarantee it took longer than it should have considering what the song contained.

Q: Eternal Beginning gives us some more guitar work from you. When it comes to writing music, how do you go about writing music. Could you use this song as a demonstration?

A: Eternal Beginning was actually one of my more progressive songs back then, and I think it'd serve as a great example for how I generally write music.

First and foremost, you'll notice that most of my music tends to progress along, I don't often write stuff that is very vocal friendly, so I make up for it by writing songs that move along as a story would. There will be soft sections, melodic sections, heavy sections, and occasionally chaotic sections. I strive to keep my music moving forward, instead of revisiting themes and passages constantly as you would hear in a typical mainstream rock song where the structure is basically intro, verse, chorus, verse, break, chorus, outro (Which variations of course).

I believe that if someone is going to revisit a melody or theme of a song, that melody/theme should be interesting enough that people will want to hear it again. Otherwise, it's better that you push the song forward and introduce a new "section" as I call them, like a movie pushes a narrative forward from one scene to the next.

Unfortunately, this can be hard to do than you'd think, and it doesn't always work out. I often find myself struggling to come up with a new section for a song after I feel I've sort of played out a climax in the previous section. It's a trap I often lay for myself, is building, building, and building, only to find that once it reaches a climax, I don't know how to follow it up. Which is why I often use a section based writing style, the song will shift moods and continue to move forward instead of trying to really elaborate on a section that would only end up causing the song to sound redundant.

It's a complicated process, as any musician can tell you. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes what sounds awful to me will sound amazing to others. And on top of that, you are your own worst critic, I'll find myself trashing ideas that others will later say they loved and I should have kept working on.

Overall though, I truly believe music needs to come from somewhere, from emotions, from an experience in your life, not from a textbook about music theory, or a shallow song about something you've never experienced yourself. The most powerful and moving music comes straight from the soul, and I prefer to keep writing my music with this in mind. I try not to force myself to come up with something "just because".

Q: Back From Purgatory was said to be an intro to an album. It works as a great intro theme for you though. What made you want to plan an album though and how come the album was not released?

A: Actually, there's a funny story behind that song.

Originally, that was the outro solo of a song I was writing about a friends World of Warcraft character, a troll warrior to be exact. Unfortunately, this section sounded completely out of character compared to the rest of the song, but I thought it sounded cool, so cut it off the tail end of the song and decided to use it for an album I was trying to work on at the time.

The album, as you mentioned, never saw the light of day, in the end, I wasn't confident that I had the talent or the right material at the time to put out anything of any real worth, so I had opted to scrap the idea of an album until later down the road.

And here... 5 years later, I am actually working on a full length album, which I have titled "To The End Of The World", that will feature metal, orchestral, and trance/electronic music. I'm confident enough in myself now that I can put something out that people will enjoy, and people have shown interest via preorders of said album. I have a couple previews up on my profile of songs that will be on it.

I don't have an exact release date for it yet, but it will be out before the year is done, and I'll be posting updates on my progress along the way.

Unfortunately... The song "Back From Purgatory" will not be making an appearance on the album.

[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]



This is a cool interview, I enjoyed reading it.

" I find a lot of artists writing really great stuff are often overshadowed by generic garbage that you often hear on the radio." I love this.

Well drifting bard, I can tell you have a least one strong root planted deep with us.....with METAL!!!!

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