Community Member Spotlight: BonsaiK

Matt Kuliani | 8 Sep 2010 16:00
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For those of you who are avid lurkers of the forums, you have probably come across the popular "relationship thread". BonsaiK handles the thread and he does what he can to help the loveless and love-lost. If you want to help or need some help in the arena of love, jump on over to the thread; if nothing else, it's entertaining and worthy of giving this week's Community Member Spotlight to BonsaiK!

Here are his answers to the interview questions:

What first brought you to The Escapist?

I was having a chat with a work colleague a few years ago, one of the few work friends I can actually discuss games with. At the time he also did a bit of freelance game-reviewing for music publications, so he was always getting sent free games before the release date, therefore I'd hit him up occasionally for advice on what to buy. We were talking about BioShock, which I bought not long after release day, on his recommendation. The conversation we had went a little like this:

Me: I bought BioShock the other day.

Him: Cool. What did you think of it?

Me: It's good, but it's so close to System Shock 2 that it basically is System Shock 2, just with a superficial graphics update, a few gameplay features removed and the names of things changed to reflect the different setting.

Him: It's funny you should say that, there's this guy who does really funny reviews of games, and he basically said exactly the same thing you just said. You should check him out, do a Google search for Zero Punctuation.

So I took his advice, found the BioShock review and was thoroughly entertained. To this day, it remains the only review of Yahtzee's that I'm 100 percent in agreement with. It took me a bit longer to discover that there was an entire online magazine attached to the Zero Punctuation rants. So all you people whose relationships I helped fix up, or who ever asked me a question about the music business, you can thank that guy who led me here.

What is your favorite thing about The Escapist?

The forums. I still watch videos and read articles a little, when I feel like it, but I go on the forums every day. I have it on in the background when I'm at home and work, it's good entertainment because all sorts of random things come up and it's a good way to expose myself to many different points of view. Reading through the forums, you can really get a unique perspective on human nature that you can't get through normal social interaction. I don't agree with the majority of what a lot of people have to say, but in a way that just makes it more interesting. It would be a boring world if we all agreed on everything.

If The Escapist suddenly disappeared, what is the first thing you would do?

Hit the "refresh" button a lot.

A zombie is attacking you and you were caught off-guard. You are startled, start running and notice a bag of marshmallows. What do you do?

I'll assume for the sake of this question that I'm running from traditional "slow" zombies - I'm not a very fast runner so "fast" zombies would probably have killed me before I even had a second thought. Anyway, I'd probably grab them and keep running, if they weren't too far out of the way. Later, if I were able to reach a safe haven, I'd try to find some place with internet access, get on The Escapist, and run a search for threads that mentioned both marshmallows and zombies. People here are always discussing useful zombie survival strategies so I'm sure someone else before me has figured out something useful to do with them. If I couldn't find anything, I guess I'd eat them, but I'm not really a big fan of marshmallows so it'd have to be a food-critical situation, I'd eat my emergency chocolate first ... I do have emergency chocolate, don't I?

What is your favorite movie and why?

I have to pick just one? Okay then ...

There could be several possible responses but I'll go with Bigger Than Tina, simply because it's a film that I think few Escapists have seen and more should check out, specifically those asking me about music industry stuff or submitting demos to me. This Australian film about a solo performer striving to be "bigger than Tina" flopped when it came out, and many people I show it to don't really "get" it, but whenever I show it to someone involved in the live music scene, or studio recordings, they can't stop laughing. It's a perfect portrait of all-too-common self-delusion in the music business and the woes that it brings.

What is your favorite type of music, band, and how did you first discover it/them?

My favorite band right now is Millionaires, and my favorite kind of music is whatever the hell you call what they do. Electro-dance-pop? Crunkcore? [insert your favorite set of expletives here]? Call it what you want - I think it's brilliant. I found about them through the power of The Escapist. Someone made one of those "The Worst Music Ever!" threads on the forums nearly a year ago, and Millionaires' "Alcohol" video featured fairly prominently.

I scour threads about bad music with religious fervor, looking for awesome music, because anything that inspires extreme negative reaction from a large group of people is obviously touching a nerve, and music that touches nerves is something that interests me - I get so deadened by thousands of identical bands that for me to even notice something anymore it has to really be different or stand out in a major way.

Millionaires sure does that, but it also does a lot more. When I heard that song my first reaction was "holy shit this is brilliant" and my second reaction was "why the hell didn't I think of something like this" ... then I found that that their other songs are even better.

Obviously, people reading this will have something to say about this opinion, but I think their music is brilliantly constructed, it seems simple and catchy on the surface but there's a lot of detail in the sound that makes it work, it's really densely-packed music, but everything in there is functional, nothing is superfluous. I think there's a far greater art to creating something like that, that's immediately catchy, than some prog-rock thing where the ideas are very spartan and stretched over a longer time period with lots of needless fussing about. Getting straight to the point is always preferable to beating about the bush.

Also the lyrics are so great, they know how to pitch to their target audience and also wind up their detractors at the same time. The group definitely alludes to the idea that they're being persecuted simply for being themselves and having the audacity to make music that some people might happen to like while at the same time possessing minimal talent, yet they're going to keep right on doing whatever the hell they want anyway, and too bad what anyone else thinks. I think that's a powerful statement, and one which isn't lost on their fanbase - Millionaires are far closer to the spirit of punk, in my opinion, than a thousand Sex Pistols, Clash or Ramones soundalikes.

The wonderful irony is that it's their haters that draw them so many extra fans. Thanks to forum users on places like The Escapist and elsewhere inadvertently publicizing their work to people like me who had never heard it before, I now know about this excellent group that may have passed me by. Thank you, The Escapist!

What do you do for a living? Do you find it interesting?

My main money-earner at the moment is music teaching. I do a lot of other things too that make varying amounts of money, all music-related. I do odd jobs for a couple small record labels, I work a lot at a radio station, do production work for bands, graphic design, play in my own groups, a whole bunch of stuff. The teaching is the only consistent money-spinner right now though. It's pretty interesting, and certainly challenging, although it depends on the student, too. It's definitely made me a better musician. I'm completely broke all the time though (music industry downturn grrr), so by the time anyone reads this I might have picked up another job in the "straight world" to supplement what I do.

If you could change one thing about The Escapist, what would it be?

I'd probably make the content a little more mature. I don't mean "mature" as in "explicit," what I mean is I'd have the magazine content assume that the reader/watcher was an adult, not a teenager, and generally take on a more mature tone.

Now that might seem a bit silly, because demographically we have more teenagers here, but I remember being a teenager reading computer magazines in the 1980s. I noticed an odd trend in the print publications of the time, that I've seen repeated ever since in every single magazine with a gaming focus - the longer a magazine existed, the more juvenile the content became.

Maybe editorial pressure along the lines of "we need to appeal more to the kids" was the cause, maybe it was something else, I'm not sure, I guess I wouldn't have any way of knowing the root cause. All I do know is that it caused the complete death of my interest in those magazines. One of my favorites back in the day was Zzap 64 (a Commodore 64 gaming magazine) which I used to read religiously.

Even though I was barely a teenager when I first started reading it, the gradual changes in presentation to something less serious and more kid-friendly annoyed me - I felt that the underlying message there was "because you're still playing with your Commodore 64, we think that mentally you're a stupid kid who hasn't outgrown his toys." While [I]The Escapist[/i] is certainly nowhere near the level that Zzap! 64 dumbed itself down to in its latter days, it does seem to include content from time to time that seems to be there so the magazine can be perceived as "zany" or "fun" and I don't think that's necessary.

A good online magazine should be fun anyway simply by virtue of stimulating the brain and having well-written, fantastic, engaging content, which The Escapist already has, so why not leave it at that?

Do you like bacon?

No. I don't eat red meat in general - apart from kangaroo which is fantastic and which I think more people should eat. Incredibly lean, environmentally-friendly (unlike beef which is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to the planet) and oh-so-delicioso (cookie for reference).

If someone gave you a million US Dollars, tax free, and you were required to spend it instead of investing, what would you spend it on?

I'd buy property. I don't know - does that count as "investing"? I think any expenditure is an investment. Even if I were to spend it on hookers and drugs I'd be "investing" in a good time ... but I wouldn't do that, I'd prefer a longer lasting investment, something that would bring returns down the track or at least stabilize my financial situation for the future. Get nice and poor for a few years and you start to appreciate the value of financial stability.

Actually, I ran into a fairly large chunk of money awhile back (not a million though) and I did buy property with it so I know for a fact that's what I'd do. Owning property is awesome, when I think about how I was smart enough to buy the apartment that I'm typing this response from, I always think about what Ice-T said near the end of that song "Rap Games Hijacked" about how people in the rap game running around wearing gold chains should get themselves some real estate instead ... that's a great song about the music industry in general, now that I think about it I could have just linked people to that video instead of starting a whole thread about the biz - he answers just about every question in that song that anyone would ever need to know ...

If you would like to nominate someone for an upcoming Community Member Spotlight, feel free to let me (that is, Kuliani) know through a PM! When nominating, please tell us why this user deserves to be in the next Community Member Spotlight and provide links if possible.

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