Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Episode 5: Trent Anderson

Welcome back to Super Awesome Show, everybody! The show took a break following the great earthquake and tsunami that had caused tremendous damage in Japan. While I have been feeling much sadness and anguish for my country, my creative projects have helped me stay focused and afloat. The S-aas’s mission is to unite the world through art, and I feel that supporting the creative industries the way I can is my small contribution to keeping spirits up. S-aas plans to feature more artists from Japan in coming months. I want to represent the strength of Japan that we all believe in. Thank you for your support.

Tonight, our guest is Mr. Trent Anderson, a drummer and member of an American funk-infused hard rock band Bang Tango. S-aas’s first musician guest! Welcome, Trent!

Would you please introduce yourself and Bang Tango?

Sure, well as you read my name is Trent Anderson, and I play drums for the band Bang Tango.
Bang Tango started around 22 years ago, on the legendary Sunset Strip in Hollywierd, Ca. The first few records the band released were put out by a label called MCA records.
The band shot a number of videos that were played in rotation on MTV, (back when they played videos and not bad reality TV shows) in the last decade, Bang Tango has released 2 new CDs. This year we plan on releasing another one (cross your fingers we get the money we need to record it).

How old were you when you first started playing drums? What was your first ever encounter with drums like?

I was 7 years old, my Mom and Dad bought me my first set of drumsticks and my first practice drum pad. I was in heaven, my Dad told me that the only way I would ever continue to play drums with his blessing was to make sure I practiced every day, lol. I think he may regret those words, drums can be really loud. At that point I fell in love with music, it’s kind of a release for me, anyone that knows me well, knows that I walk, talk, eat, and well many other things with my iPod strapped to my side and my ear buds in. I just feel better inside when I listen to music. Maybe it’s a way of my body soothing itself, not sure why it does that but I know I have some kind of A.D.D. so it helps me to focus sometimes.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll super star?

Not sure if Rock Super Star is what I am, I am more the guy that plays in Rock Super Stars bands and side projects.
I like being a drummer for hire. With Bang Tango I am a full member and own a 4th of the current band’s interest. With that interest come bills and responsibilities. I do play in other
bands once in a while, but I just get hired to do that stuff.

What/Who are your biggest musical influences?

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, Terry Bozzio of Missing Persons, I love old funk music and old R&B, too.
Drummers in the 60's and 70's really had to play well, there were no computers to fix things for them.

Many people know how to draw but I think the great artists have something more than just skills. In your opinion, what takes one to be a “great drummer”?

Personality and heart, I know a lot of skilled musicians that can play anyone’s songs perfect, I unfortunately am not one of them. The great musicians I know play with heart, and when they play their own music, you can kind of see what kind of personality they have, as if it is kind of flowing out of the instrument they are playing.
For example, let’s take the band Van Halen, many guitarists can play like Eddy Van Halen, many singers can jump around and act crazy like David Lee Roth, but those guys are the originators of that. When you see Eddy playing, he is jumping around, making faces, and moving with the guitar. I have never met him, but I have heard that he is a little out there, no one else plays like that, you always hear people saying "Man, that guy plays like Eddy Van Halen!” but when was the last time someone said "Man, Eddy Van Halen plays guitar like such and such".
Same thing with Dime Bag Darryl of the band Pantera (whom I have hung out and jammed with) his guitar playing is one of kind, and his sound is very unique. Off stage, he is just as intense (not nutz, and he is a very nice person) and as high energy as he is on stage. When I got the honor of jamming with him, he was very focused and very in the moment, just like his playing is.
Yes, the greatest musicians out there are the ones who walk their own walk and set the trends, not follow them. You can learn all the scales, and rudiments you want, but when it comes to making great music, if you ain’t got personality or heart, then all you got is a song full of notes, and rudiments, no message.

Bang Tango goes on many tours around the country. You are on the road more than anyone I know. What are the awesome things about traveling with the band and performing in different cities?

Lol, hmm awesome, ok when I was in my 20's, everything was amazing about touring, new places, new people, bad food, no food, new adventures, everything. Now that I am a little older, my attitude has changed a little. I still love the part about new places.
The last time we were in Colorado, the band went to the hotel where the movie "The Shinning" was filmed. They got cool t-shirts and pictures there. I was very sick with the flu and stayed at the hotel. We had 2 shows there in 2 days at the same club, and it really sucked because that is my favorite type of show. I usually get to go out and check out the town and see some things (good and bad sometimes) I may never see again.
Anyways these days I go a little more mellow, I sightsee when I can, I check out aquariums, and places like that. For the most part though, if I wasn't getting paid, I would rather stay at home
with the Wife and watch movies, but that is only because for the last 18 years of my life I have spent it traveling with bands.
If I’d never done it though, I never would have been able to see things like the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach, the sharks they were pulling out of the water in Destin, FL, the Empire State building, the top of the Rocky mountains, the bay in Seattle,
the rims in Billings, MT, Dog Beach in San Diego, Juarez, Mexico -before it was really dangerous- as well as many many other great things. I would have never met so many great friends, people that still to this day I talk with, and hang out with. I would have never gotten out of the small suburb I grew up in. And I probably would not be the person I am today, and I for the most part like that person.

Is being a rock musician as glamorous as we are made to believe?

Ok hold on, hmm maybe we should ask my Wife this question, she has seen first hand how “glamorous” it is.
Some shows you are in a great room like the House of Blues or The Hard Rock cafe or playing a great casino show. And then some nights, you are playing a dump with a crappy p.a. and no stage. The music life these days, is very up and down.
And even when you have the nice dressing rooms with the private showers, and big nice hotels (we get them every once in a while) it’s still not very glamorous. And it still can be a daily grind of traveling for hours and sometimes over night to get to the next show. You get there and some days you have to go directly to the club, some days no shower, just drive and play, drive and play.
But when you do get the nice stuff, well, then it all seems to make sense. I know it may sound a little insane and some may ask "why do you do it?" Remember this, most musicians are musicians because they are a little left of center, and the things that make most people happy are kind of boring to most of the musicians I know. We live for adventure. A lot of guys that I know who leave the music biz, get involved with extreme sports, and take it out to the
next level with that.
Hmm, I think I keep doing it for the high I feel when you’re out there and making your own way. I will have to think about that a little.

How do your experiences as a professional musician shape who you are? And how does your personal life influence the music you make?

My experiences have made me smarter with the choices I make about my career. I have made some poor decisions in the past and I am still making some. These days, my personal life, well every business decision I make, I always have my Daughter and my Wife in the back of my head, I always try and make choices that will not harm them or get in their way.
As far as the music in general I let the heart do that. Music will come out if you feel it, and I never try and write for the radio, if you follow a trend you are already 2 years behind.

What are your rock ‘n’ roll super star secrets to entertaining your audience? We won’t tell : )

Again, personality and heart, be yourself and be real. If you feel like acting like an idiot, or rolling around on the stage, or wearing something that no one else ever would, do it! If you believe in it, and it comes from your heart, then by all means that is the secret. I play and entertain from the heart. No one ever made it in the music business by playing it safe.

Please keep us updated on the Bang Tango tours and shows.

Bang Tango

Bang Tango on Facebook

Bang Tango on Myspace

Thank you, Trent, for making a visit to S-aas! It was awesome talking with you! Your overflowing energy and passion for music are very inspiring. Hope you have more exciting adventures on the road as well as more quality time with your family!

Thank you all for tuning in for another awesome episode of Super Awesome Artist Show! And be sure to stay tuned for more fun!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Episode 4: Nate Gross

Welcome back again to Super Awesome Artist Show! I hope the past three episodes satisfied your hunger and quenched your thirst for creative inspirations.
I’m very excited to have another talented guest. Geez, will I ever run out of awesome people to talk about? Heck NO! Please give a toasty welcome to the CEO of Outcast Games and the creator of Pit of War, a MMORPG, Mr. Nate Gross!

Thank you, Nate, for joining us. Let’s talk about Pit of War. Will you tell us about the game?

Pit of War is a game about gladiatorial combat, is played in your browser and requires no download.  The backdrop is a brutal land known as the Great Realm where might makes right and martial prowess is revered above all.  I think the strap lines for the game pretty much sums it up:

Forge Slaves Into Gladiators.
Gladiators Into Gods.
Gods Who Call You Master!

It is kind of like Spartacus and Conan smashed into one other.  The premise of the game is you are the Master of your own school of gladiators like Proximo in the movie Gladiator, or more recently the lanista Lentulus Batiatus played by John Hannah in the Starz TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Spartacus: Gods of The Arena.

When you first join the game, you are brought to the slave market where you look over potential gladiators and upon reaching a decision you purchase your first slave, give him a name and then choose a specialty for him to study.  In ancient Rome all gladiators had a specialty like the famous Net and Trident gladiator known as a "Retiarii" that many of us now associate with gladiators or the "Myrmillonis" who carried a gladius and shield.  In Pit of War, our goal was to capture the spirit of Ancient Rome but then transplant it into a dark and brutal fantasy world.  One of the ways we did this was by keeping the concept of gladiators having a specialty, however the specialties we came up with were more suited for the Great Realm.  So, now that you've got yourself your first gladiator you are then introduced to your school and taught how you can equip your gladiator with armour and weapons, choose skills for him to learn and then head into the arena to do battle against other players from around the world!
How did you come to creating the game? Was it an idea you’d always had or something that came to you one day?

Pit of War has actually been in my mind for a very, very long time.  When I was growing up I was introduced to some arena style games that were played via snail mail around age 13.  In those days we called them PBM (Play-By-Mail) and you would basically send instructions to the moderator of the game and then wait two weeks to get the results, haha!  Hard to think that was even a viable business these days, but back then Al Gore hadn't invented the Internets yet. ;)

Once the Internet did become available I began writing a game called Pathocrom that was similar to PBM games I played in the past and released it sometime in the early to mid 1990s and used it to help pay for my college tuition.  At this point it was the birth of what was known as a PBEM (Play-By-Email) game and I believe Pathocrom was one of the first in this genre.

After I graduated from college I entered the professional workforce and began making games for a living at various companies and Pathocrom slowly died and began to collect dust until one day many many years later I decided to take it off the shelf as it were and bring it back to life.  After working on it nights and weekends I finally had something that I felt would capture the spirit of the new generation of gamers yet still had a lot of the old school mechanics that captured so many gamers in the past.  What was missing of course was some very cool art to go along with it.

I understand you have a super talented team of artists from various countries, and they provided the art for the game. How was art-directing and managing such an international production?

Yes, I have an amazing team of artists who all worked very hard to create the look and feel of Pit of War.  When I was in need of art I went to the website and just started looking at hundreds and hundreds of artists portfolios to find the artists who I felt had the chops to work on Pit of War.  The first artist I found was Alex Boca from Romania (  When I first approached Alex, he was very excited at the opportunity to work on PoW and right from the start helped create the look and feel for the game.  Alex became our main concept artist and created everything from the gladiators to the weapons and armour.  Without Alex's insane imagination PoW would look very very different and wouldn't be nearly as awesome as it is today.

I was then fortunate enough to stumble across one of the most amazing galleries I had yet seen and the creative genius behind it was Russian artist Viktor Titov (  Viktor is an absolute master of lighting and upon seeing Alex's concepts he immediately went to work painting over some of Alex's work and then creating his own.  There are so many words I could use to describe Viktor's work and at the risk of getting an R rating for this interview the best phrase to describe his talent would be "Fucking Amazing!"  Viktor really helped bring to life many aspects of the game and the general consensus anytime someone sees the game is "Wow!  Who did your art?"

I then tapped the talent of a Polish artist Grzegorz Krysinski (Gregor) (  Gregor is an amazing painter and without his awesome touch key aspects of the game such as the weapons and armour wouldn't have the polish and "wow" factor that they do.  Gregor took Alex's concepts and then really brought them to life in a way few others could have.  Gregor was also responsible for a lot of behind the scenes artwork that isn't shown in the game but was crucial for helping us find the look and feel of the game. Where Alex was doing tons of B&W sketches, Gregor was doing a lot of full color artwork to help guide and create the final product.

I was very happy to be working with Eastern European and Russian artists because to be honest their styles are very different then what we see a lot of today from Western European and American artists (and very different than Asian artists).  Not to say the latter aren't good, simply the team we put together had a different style and were able to create a unique look that still felt somewhat familiar but was actually quite different than what we normally get.  For example, Alex is a huge Warhammer fan and you can see some of that come through in his art, but in directing him I encouraged him to really go beyond that and find his own way and by the end he really had.  We've all seen big monsters with skulls on them and what not but when Alex does it is another story, it's hard to describe with words but when you see one of his pieces you can see it immediately.  I still remember the first time I saw the concept for the main page of the website where the two gladiators are facing off and the one on the right has the severed torso of a past victim tied to his shield!  I was speechless, the raw awesomeness and brutality of that one piece summed up the entire game, it was truly the cliche of a picture is worth a 1000 words.

One difficulty in managing and directing an international team like this was obviously language and time zone differences but also everyone had different holidays based on the country they lived in and finally there are always cultural differences that spring up from time to time that you have to take a step back and think through and recognize that everyone is different and it's ok.  Ultimately though it was a huge success and I wouldn't change anything, all our artists kicked major ass.  We had our problems as all studios do but in the end it all came together through a lot of hard work and dedication and my hat goes off to them.

Have you always played a lot of games? My favorite games growing up were Golden Axe and Virtua Fighter. What were yours?

Oh, yeah, I started playing games when I was about 5 or 6 and starting programming them when I was 10.  My favorite game huh?  That is always a tough question.  I'd have to say some of my favorite games are: Astrosmash, The Zork series, Dragon's Lair, The Bard Tale, Might & Magic, Balder's Gate, King's Quest, Full Throttle, The Ultima series, Diablo, Doom II, Half-Life series, Mortal Kombat, Starcraft, King's you can see it's a tough call to name just one.  I tend to like adventure games, strategy games and fast action games.  Where possible I prefer to have a deep engaging story line something the industry has embraced for many genres now.  Even some FPS games have a great story line now and that has come a long way from the days of just running around killing Nazis, but then again there is something to be said for a game you can just jump into have a great 5 or 10 minutes of playtime and be done.

How did you get started in the game industry?

Like many my age I started playing games around 5 or 6 on the ColecoVision, Atari and Intellivision and then got an Apple IIe around age 10 and started programming on it in BASIC.  I'm mostly self taught and then in college after much soul searching I went into Computer Science.  I hesitated because I struggled in Math and was worried it would be too hard because of all the Math that was required.  I worked my ass off and with the help of one of my girlfriend's in college who was a math wiz and one of my math professors I managed to actually pull off a 3.5 GPA in math! haha! :)

When it was time to submit my resume I compiled a list of over 100 game companies in Excel and sorted the list by distance from my house (yeah, I can be pretty strange at times) and then I started firing them off starting with the closest.  This was during a time when pretty much every game company had a requirement that in order to get a job with them, you had to have already shipped a, it was a catch 22, how do you ship a title if no one will hire you if you haven't already shipped a game?  That isn't really the case nowadays but it was truly a pain in the ass when I was pounding the pavement.  After some time I got four interviews and was soon to be introduced to the hell known as a game programmer interview.  All my college buddies who went off to Aerospace or the Financial world had a fairly easy time relative to what I went through.  Most game companies I interviewed at gave me at least a four to five hour interview that required me to stand in front of a bunch of senior guys and write out answers to questions on a white board and go in a room and code solutions to problems they gave me.  They didn't care about my grades or my degree or who what school I went to, all they cared about was could I answer their questions.  The fact I made my own game and ran my own company in college got me the interview but now I needed to prove myself to them.  My longest interview was a few years later that spanned three days and totaled 14 hours!  Anyhow, I bombed the first interview and felt so embarrassed and crushed I think I cried the whole way driving home for fear I had chosen a career path maybe I shouldn't have. But a few days later I had another interview and then another and by week's end, I had three offers on the table.  The ironic thing is without the first experience where my spirit was crushed, I don't think I would have done as well in the next few interviews.  They were just as grueling but I now knew what to expect and found out some areas I was lacking in and brushed up on them.

What are your principles in creating good games with replay value?

One of my main goals in making a game is making it in such a way that after I've been working on it for a year or two, I still want to play it. Many people in the industry are so tired of looking at the game they worked on that they don't want to play it anymore, so I try and make sure that it has all the things it needs so I'm still interested in it later.  I worked for Blizzard for a few years and they've always been and still are one of my favorite game companies and the Blizzard motto on game design is: "Easy to play, hard to master."  I think that little phrase sums it all up.  If many of your design decisions are made with that in mind, you are on the right path.  Another Blizzard philosophy is "It's ready when it's ready".  This talks about not rushing a game out the door to make some holiday or financial quarter so the share holders will be happy which we see a lot of since bean counters are running so many game companies now instead of gamers. 

I read an article about making smaller games like browser games and what not and the author was essentially telling everyone to rush things out as quick as possible and dump shit into the players laps and iterate on it as quickly as possible so you can know if it is something the pubic will want.  While I understand what he is trying to say and achieve, I'm just not a fan of dumping shit into a potential customer's lap.  It is too easy to get play testers to figure out a lot of the issues and then by the time it gets to the players it is a fun game or figure out it isn't a fun game and cancel it.  Of course iterating even once it is out is fine, but I find it disrespectful and insulting to think you should pawn crap onto the masses and expect them to stick around.

Many people are developing games for apps, XBLA and other online communities nowadays. What do you think of this phenomenon?

I think it is great!  The Indie developer has a good chance to make a living now.  It is of course going the way it usually does because now big companies with lots of money are entering this space as well, so the bar for these kinds of platforms gets higher and higher and eventually the small guys will get pushed out again, but that is just how the world works, survival of the fittest.  There will always be room in niches and ultimately the consumer wins by having lots of options to choose from.  The other problem with things like the Apple's app store or any solution where they have a top X list is if you aren't in the top X your profits really reflect it, and in order to get in the top, you need to spend a lot of money on advertising or truly have an epic game that spreads via word of mouth.  If you are ever selling multiple widgets and want to unload more of one than another, just tell everyone it is ranked #1 and watch it fly off the shelves!  We Humans love to be sheep!

I’m sure Pit of War keeps you pretty busy every day, but any new ideas or future plans for the project? Personally, I’d be interested in seeing an art book of Pit of War or maybe a comic book.

Oh yeah, we have lots of plans from epic adventures in the form of conquests to underground unsanctioned pit fights in the black market and numerous new specialties for gladiators to choose.  There has been talk of a comic and I'd like to actually include the player's gladiators in it so it would be a sort of living comic and actually be tied into the game.

Great! So awesome to talk to you! It’s been so very inspirational and educational. Thank you for such an honest and insightful interview, Nate. I'm looking forward to talking with you more when your future plans and projects are active. Hope more people join Pit of War so my savage gladiator (actually, I own two dudes now but one dies all the time, tears) can beat them up.  : ) Just jokin'!

And, thank you, super awesome viewers, for joining me on this episode of S-aas! Hope you come back for more awesomeness soon!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Episode 3: Dan Segarra

Welcome back to S-aas! Our guest tonight is a talented animator and artist Mr. Dan Segarra. Enjoy the show!

Are we live? ...testing.

Yes we are! Wave to your family and friends, Dan! 
OK, that's enough waving. Stop! Stop before you knock over- Uh-oh...
Well, thank you, Dan for joining us. Would you be so kind to introduce yourself to the world?

What do you like about art, world? there reading this blog. What “draws” you to art? Why do you do it? My name is Dan Segarra, I animate for Sony Imageworks, and I draw and animate because I love reaching an audience.

What is it that draws you to the art of animation? How do you describe your relationship with animation?

Ha! Check it out, I've already answered this question above.
So why does the audience matter? Who cares what others think about your work. That's true but you can learn a lot from how a group of people react to your work. If you do your art in a closet and never show anyone, it may be art to you, and you might be fine with that, but your audience is important because they are real people like you and me. They smile... they cry... they laugh... get angry... maybe they even get inspired! Maybe they'll go out into the world after looking at your work and try to make people feel what you made them feel with their own work. Your audience is real, you are real, and art is made to express your reality to others.

I know you’ve worked with various kinds of characters, creatures and animals. Is there a particular type of character you enjoy animating the most?

Emotions! I cannot stress that enough. It absolutely doesn't matter what I animate as long as I have the chance to make it emote. I'm a computer animator that came from a drawing background. Whether you're drawing something by hand, or animating a character in the computer, I think feelings are the most important element to any art. The goal of any animator is to make a character feel sincere, believable, and real. And as valuable as it is emoting with a character in animation, I believe it is just as valuable to emote a feeling with any art that you do.

How awesome is it to work on feature films in the same studio with other talented animators and artists?

It is a great experience being able to work with such a great team. Although there are many talented artists who work at Sony with me, all of them started somewhere. And many of them struggled and worked incredibly hard to separate their work from others. These studios are filled with people just like YOU, whose efforts to animate on these films matched their desire to do so.

I understand animators use mirrors when they need visual references. Do you dance like a chipmunk and make faces in front of a mirror? : )

On my first day at Rhythm & Hues, they asked me if I'd like a mirror and I asked “Why, do I have food in my teeth?” lol In actuality I use a mirror on occasion, but I shoot reference very often. Visualizing my shot before animating is incredibly important to me. Everyone visualizes their own way and my way is from writing notes down and shooting video reference.

Do you ever catch yourself “people-watching” with those super special animator eyes of yours even when you are just hanging out at a Bakers Square or a park?

Haha :) My eyes are just like yours... well maybe not exactly because of my Lasik surgery. lol But besides that, I see just the same. Everyone pays attention to different things and whatever that may be for you, you can bring that into your art. Personally I'm a pretty sentimental guy, and I tend to like the sentimental shots. I excel in those because of who I am and what I pay attention to in life. So when I'm animating my shot, and the shot calls for something emotionally draining, for example the shot in the Yogi Bear movie when he gives up being himself and takes off his hat and tie, I begin drawing from my life during the times when I felt like giving up. And I've gone through many of those moments. I know what it feels like when you want to give up, so I put that into my animation.

What is your old time favorite movie or TV show that you think had great influence on you?

Little Mermaid was one of the animated films that really influenced me. I was about 9 years old when the height of Disney animation began with that movie, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, etc and that's what really rooted my interest in wanting to pursue my career into animation. The accumulation of all my favorite animated films as a young adult directed my animation career as I started watching more and more of them to this date.
How do we stay informed on what awesomeness you are up to?

My next animated film will be coming out Christmas of 2011. It's called Arthur Christmas. I think you will enjoy it, I've only seen an animatic with the storyboards up to this point because it's still in it's early stages but from what I've seen it is a fun film that'll touch your heart because it doesn't miss the true meaning of christmas.
Besides that, if you'd like to bookmark me, you can do that here:

Here is a direct link to my reel:

...or stay inspired with work that inspires me. You can find that here at my blog:

We are all looking forward to seeing your works on big screens. Please keep us updated on your future projects and success. Thank you again for taking your time to visit Super Awesome Artist Show!

Stay inspired! Because those who are inspired are the ones that inspire others.
Thanks Pinc Bullet, it's been a pleasure. :)

Thank you for joining me! Stay tuned, everybody, and brace yourselves for another exciting episode of Super Awesome Artist Show!