EDIT 7/3/18: Hoping this is the last draft, forgot a few things regarding 2016-related stuff about school, Pico's School, Pixel Day, NG: Zero Hour, etc.
This is Part 2 of Reinvention: The Audiobiography of Real Faction.
Part 1 is here: https://realfaction.newgrounds.com/news/post/1010652
2013: Clocks EP with Zoozbuh
So, I was actually doing music for a while now for a developer called Coded Emotion, still in the works with a few games over the years, been a long work in progress. Not sure when my songs will ever see the light of day for that, but we'll see. They pointed me to an awesome youtuber named Zoozbuh who has an amazing voice, suggested we should collab.
I got in touch with him, and we actually worked very well together, it was a more poppy album, but I liked it. He did some of the instrumentals, but I did most of them. We both wrote lyrics and I also sang on it as well.
2014-2017: Flareheart Studio
For about 4 or 5 years, I actually did commissions for people, but 3 of those years, I got a bit more organized, and made a business with an official name: Flareheart Studio. I had a studio built specifically for me to go over there and mix on monitors my friend Jayson sold to me, we had it soundproofed with foam, painted, it was a nice space, but small. I had my friend Brandon aka "Day Dreamer" come over there a few times to record vocals for his rap songs, nice guy. I also made beats for him sometimes.
I learned a lot over the years about running a business with the experience, it taught me a lot actually, I'm glad I learned all the stuff I did. I learned about the psychological stuff behind it as well, and started doing sales. I started getting a lot of work, and money in the hundreds, I was amazed people would pay me that much to get me to write something custom for them, it was great. Most of my work was being asked to write themes for youtube channels.
A few of those channels were big names in the video game youtube channel world like The Autarch of Flame, RabbidLuigi, The Fiery Joker, and people within their network. It helped me get views, to an extent. It was nice.
However, it got so much, I had no real time to myself, and it became stressful. I started tossing and turning not getting much sleep at night, and I was dragging, getting behind on everything. It got so bad, I was a month or so behind on work. I realized, it was mentally damaging me, and I had no time for friends or fun, made me depressed. So, in 2017, I eventually got burned out, so around November, I stopped doing commissions.
Originally, when I started this business, I think it was around 2012 or 2013 that I wanted to challenge myself more to make more genres of music, because I love a LOT of music genres, and there's only a few I really don't like. So, I wanted to challenge myself to see how many styles I could pull off right, and it ended up being around 30 (including subgenres). That is quite the achievement. Dubstep I sorta pulled off, but was probably one of my weakest genres.
If you're wondering all the genres I've ever done, here's your guide: I've made Drum 'n' Bass, Liquid Drum 'n' Bass, House, Trance, Techno, Dance, Electro-House, Electro-Swing, Jazz (both smooth slow jazz and Swing, and normal Jazz I guess?), Rock, Metal, Progressive Metal and Rock, Rock, Folk, Tropical House, Chillstep, Dubstep, Nu-Metal, Industrial Metal and Rock, Power Metal, Ambient, New Wave, Synthwave, Hip-hop, Modern Rap, Trap, 8-bit/Chiptune, Cinematic, Orchestral, Classical, Punk Rock, R&B, Indie Rock, Classic Rock, Big Beat, Funk, Downtempo, Comedy, Doom Metal, Death Metal, Groove Metal, Power Ballad, and Country (regrettably, but was more of a joke).
I think that's all of them? So wow....okay, that's like 46 styles of music, way more than I expected haha. I'm kinda proud of that, and impressed. I tried doing Reggae once, but god it's hard, and I don't have the proper stuff to make it good, when I attempt something, I want to do it right in my eyes, or ears rather. I don't want to half-ass it, I want it to feel right, sound good. Also, Glitch-Hop is hard, I love it, but it's one of the genres I can't pull off very well, so I haven't got a song out there in that genre either.
I've kept a playlist of almost all the work I've been commissioned to do on my youtube channel on my page, called "Themes/Commissions". Some of the stuff I mentioned in all this before and after, was also commission work. Eventually FlaheartStudio.com became http://www.realfaction.org, my official website for my fans. It'll tell you all the albums I've released and been a part of, plus the other things I do.
2012-2016: The Box Series, Reviving Piercing Lazer
So, I was in love with a girl for 7 years, and I was hurting for many reasons in my life fighting depression. The Box Volume 1: Dark City was a concept album that was symbolic for me opening my eyes, starting to wake up and realize what things really were, to try and run away from my self-abusive nature, to fight my depression. There were also songs about the things my friends were going through. I wanted it to be like a comic book story, but in audio form, hence why the album art looks like that. I started writing material for it in 2012, and was released the year after.
So, the concept was, there's this girl named Farrah (the character on the album cover), who lived in Dark City, a cruel, demented, filthy place, full of the worst people with mean intent. Think of Gotham City, but much worse. She was abused physically and emotionally, never really knew her own identity, had no sense of who she was, just trying to make people happy, in hopes she would be loved. She hated herself, never feeling she was good enough for anyone, stepped on and treated like a zombie doll.
So, "zombie doll" it was. That was the basis of her look, she's not literally a zombie, or a doll. But, she was dead inside, she felt that way, because of the pain. I know people who went through so much, including myself, they felt numb inside, feeling like they lost that spark, and didn't have the energy to have hope anymore. The girl was inspired by that girl I was in love with for 7 years, she was always getting into these abusive relationships, and I believe for a time, she sold drugs.
Her boyfriends abused her, and used her, pretty much treating her like a doll that felt dead inside. So, Farrah's look was symbolic. The blonde hair looked better, and I didn't really want it to resemble her. I told her I loved her, it made her happy, but when she told her bf about me, the manipulative piece of shit who controlled her and didn't want her hanging out with guys, stole her phone and cussed me out over text threatening to come over to where I live.
I was terrified at 17 years old, so I lied said I didn't love her, but it broke her heart. Down the road she forgave me, but I was nice to her, made her smile, she always gave me this look no one else gave me, twinkle eyes, and a smile, tight hugs. Like, she felt safe and herself around me. I'll never forget that.
In 2014, I was already writing music for The Box Volume 2: Regeneration, which was a heavier, but more emotional album. The concept of this album was, Farrah escapes her abuser, and Dark City, to venture out in the countryside to find herself, to see her reflection, to finally see the beauty within herself she never saw before, discovering who she really is. It was my hope that this album would wake the girl up so she would escape her abusive relationship, and see someone loved her, cared about her, that she was more than she thought she was.
In September, I had a chunk of money to pay my friends, and their friends, a small crew of people to make a music video to the single, "Into the Sun", which I consider to be one of my best songs (even though the mixing wasn't the best on my end, I needed help from @SkyeWint, wasn't cheap). I put hundreds of dollars into this song with the mixing and the video. It's still on my youtube channel if you want to look it up.
I wanted to do something different with the artwork, so my friend Carmen gave me an interesting photo she took and edited, after I gave her my ideas of the concept, she gave me photos she took, so I picked that certain one with the water, and asked @Aki-Carlito an amazing artist, to blend art with reality, making a hybrid picture, she also did the title. It looks badass, and is one of my favorite album covers to this day.
But, eventually, she pushed me away. When I tried showing her the music video on Facebook via tagging, she untagged herself and never spoke to me again, yet she didn't block me, it was weird. She wasn't straight with me. I had done a lot for her, and eventually she just became a different person I didn't know anymore. I can't tell you how much it hurt for many years.
My friend Jenny voiced the intro, a poem I wrote. I thought it would be a nice, cinematic type of way to open the album, giving Farrah a voice, since that was basically what the theme of this album was, her speaking up for herself and voicing what she wanted most. The album came out in 2015.
I should also mention in 2015, I met my biological father, Todd. He and his family were great, got to meet my half-brother Michael. I still haven't met my half-sister Amber, but someday. We talk online sometimes.
2015: Self-Titled Album
To be honest, this one was...more of an evolution of my electronic sound, experimenting. But, not much else. I wanted to experiment with dubstep a bit. A couple of them are commissions. Really, it is just a compilation of songs I made that year and prior, so there's no real theme. That's why I didn't know what to name it. The art is by @Animattronic and Seco Pro.
2015-2016: Self-Discovery, School, The Other Side EP, 10th Anniversary
For a while, in 2015 I went to school for Audio Engineering, to improve my mixing. I already had failed college once some years back, but when I heard about this school from a girl I dated, I decided to go. It really helped me improve my sound dramatically, but my grades sucked, so I dropped out from feeling not good enough, defeated. I hated myself and my failure.
Along the way, I was interested in bringing Piercing Lazer back by remaking Risen From the Deep that year. It was the first song I made for what would be The Other Side EP. I wanted to reinvent my sound, and try new sounds. It was a personal album about fighting depression and emotional abuse, it was a spiritual succesor to The Box series. I originally thought of doing The Box Vol. 3, but with the stuff I was writing, sounded more like Piercing Lazer, and was better suited, though is sort of a sequel to that.
Rainbow-haired girl? Not Farrah. That's more of an embodiment of me. The album cover I had asked @SeafoamPanda to make, it was finding a light on the other side of the darkness, and like a tribute to Pink Floyd's "Darkside of the Moon" album cover, they were one of the bands influencing me, and I love them. I'm wearing a brown Pink Floyd shirt as I'm typing this, not kidding.
This album was more of me facing my inner demons and trying to see the value in myself as a human being, and realizing how I've been treated like I'm less than a human being by past employers, which is where "Nothing to Sell" came from, I wrote lyrics to it because I originally wanted to sing over all the songs, but just wasn't feeling it.
The Secret was a concept of me having two sides arguing with myself inside my mind. There was the child, and the father. The father was the abusive side, telling the child, my true self being afraid to express who I really am and believe in myself, being told to sit in the dark room. The father yelling at the child represented me everytime I tore myself down for messing up, imagining I was shouting at someone else the way I shouted at myself, and it broke my heart. And yet, I still did it to myself because it was so hard not to, because of my anxiety and depression, because of what I dealt with growing up.
So, it was a very human album, being in touch with your humanity, your self-worth. The sound was a mix of new bands and old, I wanted to experiment with new sounds, as well as revisit some of the old Piercing Lazer sounds, but most of the songs were more light, more emotional. I wanted to make Simple Sight (part 2), because for so many years, I was trying to prove I wasn't a "one hit wonder" to the thousands, millions who listened to that song, wanting them to see I make other music like it, and better.
Nothing I ever did worked. I kept getting asked to make another version after version of the same song, instead of people simply clicking on my youtube channel to see I had better stuff out there. I was trying to draw their attention, which leads to a point I'll get to later on in the next chapter. So, I made a song with that good ol' Piercing Lazer sound from the second album like Simple Sight, and basically just slapped Simple Sight (Part 2) on as a title just to draw people in, it was BS basically haha.
But, it's what I had to do. Granted, it did start to pull some thousands of views, which I was happy about. Though, I was hoping more people would buy the record. I kept talking about a deluxe edition with vocals, but it just never happened. I still want to do a version with vocals, but I'll get to that in the next section. It was probably my best-selling record though to date, and it got a decent amount of attention on youtube.
2016 was also my 10-year mark for making music, and on Newgrounds with this account. In 2015, I started working on Roots Canal, the 10th anniversary album. It was revisiting my original styles in my earlier years, but also experimenting with new styles. I gotta say, a couple of the songs got quite a bit of attention. I guess officially, that was my final Real Faction album, under that name, anyway.
The album cover was by me, it's an edited photo of the colorful musical tunnel in the Detroit Michigan airport, probably the most amazing airport I've ever seen. It was during my transfer on my way to Philadelphia for Pico Day 2016 at the Newgrounds Office. I made a video documenting that, by the way. @Animattronic did the sweet logo for me. Over the years I've had new logos and new art but I can't quite remember everyone who did what.
Also, I believe it was 2016 when I started making music for a game that @OrangutitanGames is still working on. Hoping it gets released, I made 18 songs for the game, it's looking good so far. I can't really talk about it much until it actually comes out. I also made a song for another game they're making. If either pop up, I'll talk about them.
Also, my "step-sister" visited with her boyfriend at the time, they were known as Pennyworth. We collabed and made a song called "Over", inspired by 21 Pilots, and Nine Inch Nails. The result was pretty dope, not gonna lie.
This is also the year I started attending school off and on for 6 months, until I dropped out from failing so much and being so far away. I had to drive an hour and a half there, hour and a half back, twice a week. Wasn't good for me fuel-wise, but also the distance just sucked in general. I will say it wasn't a wasted experience and because of it, has immensely improved my mixing, a lot. It was a fun experience.
2015-2016: Pixel Day, Zero Hour Game, Pico's School (The New Soundtrack)
In 2015, we celebrated Newgrounds' 20th anniversary with collabs. I came up with the idea to make a tribute video but also doubling as a special contest video for what was the Newgrounds-Inspired Music Contest. It was a variant of the Art-Inspired Music Contest, so A.I.M. didn't happen that year, call it a spin-off contest. Basically, it was centered around the idea of making songs inspired by anything original from Newgrounds, but also having a "game theme", sounding like a video game soundtrack. This was a fun contest.
The tribute video featured pixel art of the judges of the contest, being ScepterDPinoy, Samination, JohnnyUtah, MindChamber, Phyrnna, and me. All of the art was by the lovely JinnDEvil , and animated! There was a "story" as if it was the opening to an old platformer video game, about the "Zero Faction", the judges being the bad guys, and you beat them by winning the contest. I thought, "what if we actually made a video game out of this?" and basically did.
I wasn't sure who to contact to make the game, but then an awesome game came out that year called "Project Dimentia Bodhisattva", made by a guy named TwinBlazar (go play it, it's a masterpiece https://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/660664) made in 3 years, by himself! Art AND programming! That's impressive. When I stumbled upon the game, I spend hours trying to beat it (and I did), I knew he was the guy for the job, so I asked him, he said yes.
I called upon the Newgrounds community to find artists for the project. This consisted of many, including TwinBlazar himself, me (for a couple assets), Xavy-027, Gatekid3, DemonQueen402, Otone, StevenNG, and MisMash. We also involved MindChamber as he drew concept art/ideas for a boss fight in the game. The game would be called Newgrounds: Zero Hour. The demo was released late 2015, with a high average rating, and now around 70,000 plays I believe? It was to help advertise Pixel Day, and many people enjoyed it, it was inspired by games like Metal Slug, and Megaman X, presenting challenging boss fights.
The story behind Newgrounds: Zero Hour, takes place in an alternate timeline based after Pico's School (funny, I ended up doing the new soundtrack for the game, I'll get to that later). 1 year later to be exact, on Pico's birthday. It opens with the school being on fire again, putting Pico in almost the same situation in the events of Pico's School, but something's different this time. The bad guys have stronger powers now, and Cassandra is wielding a spell book found in the basement by the mysterious "Orange Wizard", who's identity is unknown, other than he was a normal NG citizen in Flash City, until something unknown happened, and he revived Cassandra and her minions, to destroy the good guys, and bring back the Blammed from the dead.
In this game, Tom Fulp is Pico's father, and they live together. There's more to the story, but I won't spoil it, I was basically the main director, designed some of the level structures and gave basic concepts, and the writer for story and dialogue. I added a couple original characters of my own, and one of them was supposed to show up in the secret level 2 accessible in the demo, but that part wasn't done yet. I eventually uploaded a walkthrough of the 90% complete level 2, with a certain user as the boss, I made an original boss theme just for the fight, and I still love that song. Still not released, but will be a new song finished this year for the next Piercing Lazer album.
Secret level walkthrough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTcG4R-0wwQ
I came up with the idea for Pixel Day, since Tom's theme for Newgrounds according to him was basically a "video game world theme", it's supposed to feel like a game interface. I said basically, "what if we brought that to life by taking what we did for the anniversary contest, and turning that into a full-blown holiday with a contest?", and he loved the idea. I felt NG needed another original holiday, but one that really reflected what it was about, but also good for pixel artists. Anything before 3D gaming was celebrated with pixel art, chiptune music, pixel games, and pixel animations! PIXEL! Tom and I judge the contest every year with the ocassional extra help from Luis.
Tom Fulp has even updated the NG history page recently, going on to say it's his "favorite annual event on the site". I cried when I saw that, I feel really honored. See for yourself: https://www.newgrounds.com/wiki/about-newgrounds/history#wiki_toc_23
Me and the team worked on the game until...the programmer (TwinBlazar) and I had disagreements, but ultimately I could have communicated better, I wasn't the nicest back then. I was rushing the full game for a January 23rd, 2016 release date (For Pixel Day), like the jerk I was, and we were only almost half done. I still feel bad for my unrealistic expectations. I still want to finish the game, and BomToons has shown interest for later this year. I haven't heard back from Luis, but I would love him to be involved too somehow. I plan on finishing the game, eventually, somehow.
Pixel Day was a success, and is still an annual event to this day. Tom is cooking up big plans for 2019's Pixel Day, and I know for the most part what's going down, and will be the biggest one yet, hopefully.
Later in 2016, Tom was cracking down more on copyrighted music to not be used in submissions, so a lot of songs got replaced or the submissions got taken down. Tom decided to upload a new version of Pico's School with the new soundtrack since it had copyrighted music samples in the game. He wanted me to recreate the feel of the old soundtrack, but also something of my own flair too.
I made 4 original songs for the game, and it's such an honor, because I made the soundtrack to one of NG's most iconic games that I ended up playing as a kid. What are the chances, you know? Tom's offered me a lot on this site and I've left a lot of history here thanks to him. We talk every now and then...actually I'm going to message him right now!
2016-2018: The Underground Collective, Kid Projekt
The Underground Collective is something @ForgottenDawn and I came up with, it's basically a group of us underground musicians, an open group where musicians can come and go, making variety albums. The first album, Vol. 1, was really just us doing whatever, making music for the record and getting us out there as a group.
The next effort was a tribute to our own @I0TA who keeps changing his damn name...haha. It was called m0lecular: Soundwaves of Liberty, and released the next year. He's done a lot for the NG community, and for my contests, he's a generous guy. He makes good music too.
Vol. 2: Sounds of the Future was an idea pitched in the forum, a concept record. It was released this year. Basically, a fun project which challenged us to make songs about what we thought would be what music is like in the future, or our interpretation of futuristic music, what we wanted it to be. Our next endeavor will either be a side album for fun, or Volume 3, which could be another concept album. It's a fun project that promotes creativity for underground music.
Kid Projekt is basically well....the idea of me pursuing my rapping skills further than I normally have in the past. But, it's basically representing me being wacky and childish sometimes, but also Kid is an acronym for "killing inner demons", facing my fears and such, but this project was representing also that I'm working on myself constantly, and wanting to spread positivity to the world, instead of this garbage rap promoting negativity and BS, everyone copying each other, mumbling, and putting no real identity in the music. I want my identity, my personality in these songs. There's too much hate in music and not enough love, REAL love.
I had started working in late 2016 on this record, I ended up making at least twice as many songs to start out with, but I didn't finish a lot of them. I wasn't sure what I was using and not, I just wrote down lyrics, made beats, and wanted to keep a central theme. I wanted the first record to not be too serious, except in a couple songs that are personal, but more of a fun, upbeat album to dance to, with positive messages.
Fun Fact: I did all the artwork this time, I'm proud of myself for that.
The second album I want to finish this year, which will be more serious, and deep. One song is about my grandma who passed away in 2016. She inspired me. It'll be a more personal album for me, and one of the last albums I ever make.
2018 & Present: What's next?
(EDIT: I'm not quitting music anymore, but I might cut down on it due to many other projects, instead of albums next year I'll be releasing more singles in the future, but we'll see what happens. Below is what I felt before now.)
So, you might be asking, with as much fun as I had, and everything I've done, what made me want to quit making music? I'll tell you. Part of me did have fun, but I also realize it's not been a passion, but a hobby for me. I was doing it for the wrong reasons, I guess. I mean, half-wrong, half-right.
I kept feeling so down that I kept getting "one hit wonder" shoved in my face, and people complained that I was complaining about it, like the people of youtube didn't really care. I kept getting thousands of subscribers, but my view count didn't change at all. Averaging 200 views per song, unless it was Piercing Lazer-related or Necromancer Theme-related. They didn't care otherwise.
I was never really given a fair chance on YouTube. I don't consider those people my supporters, except those that actually watched my videos and listened to my songs. But you know who DID give me a chance and supported me? You guys; Newgrounds. What didn't get thousands of views on youtube, some of the songs got a lot more attention here. I had a fair chance. Thank you for that.
12 years is a while. But, when I realized the "one hit wonder" thing made me feel so down, and making music alone wasn't making me truly happy, that's when I realized, that's not what was making me happy, but my mindset was all wrong, but now that I realized that, I'm enjoying it more. I began to question what I wanted for my life, what I would be passionate about, that's been a tough one. I'm passionate about writing, I know that much, I love bringing stories to life, maybe I'll pursue that, like I have been with Venturescape.
I realized a lot of what I did was because I was trying to reflect and recreate things I like, for attention, and in fear of not having a stable future, also. This year is the 15th anniversary for the Audio Portal, it's a big deal. There's a big collab involved, and I'm making music for it, potentially voice-acting, maybe? I got the main lead role as the main character, Darnell. I'm pretty proud of that.
I also have a lot of songs finished I haven't ever released, so old music in the vault to release. Also, unfinished songs I plan on finishing for the final Piercing Lazer and Kid Projekt albums. This year I released The Other Side pt. 2 which I started work on in 2016 parallel to the Kid Projekt album. It sounds more spacey, and has somewhat more of the old Piercing Lazer sound. The artwork I did which is actually an old photoshopped photo of me, mixing it with space.
The single is once again, a Simple Sight-related song...but it'll be the last. But, it was fun to make I have to say, I wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my big hit for the fans, and put a twist on it; make a happy punk rock version, AND mash it up with melodies from my first hit, Clearing the Sky. I thought it was a cool idea.
Another thing I did for the 10th anniversary is release Parallel Universe on my bandcamp page, the album Simple Sight is on, but was rarely seen online due to the hacker incident, but thought i'd wait until now to remaster it for the anniversary. Every song is remastered, and the rare 2008 vocals on Simple Sight, that version is there too.
I've been looking for singers, mostly now a female singer for the next Piercing Lazer album, which will be a 2-parter. Now, this one is special, because I've been working on the songs off and on since...I want to say 2014, at least, maybe before. I've been really nesting on this one. It's a tribute album dedicated to @Back-From-Putgatory, heavy inspiration there. It's a concept album telling a story. I don't know what it'll be called yet, but hoping it'll be done by the end of this year, we'll see.
I'm not sure exactly what I'll pursue with my life, there's lots of room, I'm thinking maybe writing, maybe more, we'll have to see where my life goes. I've finally been getting Venturescape going again, I wanted to reinvent myself, so now there's a new story to be told, a new me. I'm in pursuit of my happiness, and though I haven't found it yet, I'm happier than I was now that I realized all this.
Talking Real will still be a thing, so that'll still be my life-update podcast series, I'll still voice act and be doing Venturescape, not sure what else though after I finish the unreleased material and release it all. I'll still be running the contests like the Art-Inspired Music Contest, organizing NGADM until someone else takes over, and Pixel Day, so no worries! I won't be as active, but I'll still be active and around doing things. This is just a preview of what's to come for 2018. Love you guys!
It'll be fun when I get to record audio versions of these entries, that's why I titled it as an "audiobiography" instead of autobiography, clever right? Well, I like it. It'll be my new podcast series, not sure when I'll start releasing them though, probably closer to later this year, not sure. I need to take my time to think on this. See you guys soon, coming up next is unreleased songs, and Castle Crashers gameplay (I hope)! Later!
- Real Faction