Games Meet Metal: Blast Beats and Boss Battles with Journal's Joseph Van Houten!

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Blast Beats and Boss Battles with Journal's Joseph Van Houten!

(Alright, it's that time again to harass the member of an up-and-coming band into admitting his nerdiness to the world. This time,we get Journal's Joe Van Houten to show his old school Final Fantasy and Mega Man love. Also, go pick up their latest cd Unjorla  at their Bandcamp page.)

GMM-Can you give a quick rundown of Journal's history, for those who may not be familiar with you.

Joe-Journal was officially formed in 2005 by Joseph Van Houten (guitar), Justin Tvetan (drums), and Mike Zanolini (vocals). We've undergone some lineup changes, over the years. Our current lineup (2010) is Joseph Van Houten (guitar), Justin Tvetan (drums), Danny Paul (bass), and Tony Juvinall (guitar). We do not have a vocalist, at this time. We are four very regular and quiet guys that, for some reason, enjoy playing music that is quite the opposite of regular and quiet. We do, in fact, enjoy listening to many different types of music. Many people have caught on to the fact that we enjoy video games; especially the 8-bit classics. This often presents itself in our music, as an influence, though it is often disguised by noise and chaos. In 2007, we managed to release our first record, "Casualties of War." This album was well received, by those who actually heard it, but we were still a relatively unknown band, so it is unlikely that many people heard it. We do offer Casualties of War for free download, for those of you who are interested. Contact us: In 2010, we released our full length album, "Unlorja," which seems to be on a lot of people's radar this time around. Unlorja is an 80-minute album, based upon a very detailed and original story that was written in the likeness of a classic Squaresoft RPG. It has a tremendous amount of material, and so it is a lot to digest, but if you like metal and videogames, you should give it a shot. We are quite proud of it.

GMM-You guys are pretty open about your love for video games and it's influence on your music. What games do you feel had the biggest impact on the band?

Joe-Undeniably, Journal's hugest musical influences (from video games) are the entire Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda series. Justin and myself (Joe) have had a certain obsession for these games for the better half of our lives, and they definitely curved our musical direction, since we began this project and even before Journal. It is not enough to say that Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) and Koji Kondo (Zelda) are musical geniuses that produce very memorable compositions of immense quality and emotion. That has always been obvious to me, even before I picked up a guitar. More importantly, the imagery of those games is what is so inspiring, and the music just enhances it perfectly. The goal of Journal is to take the listener, as well as ourselves, to another place that we can imagine a very colorful and detailed alternate, other-worldly existence - in some cases to tell a story. Other times, we just wish to convey some emotion, intensely. The Zelda and Final Fantasy series have definitely helped us determine a clear path forward, musically, to meet this goal.

Some other influential games franchises are Metroid and Megaman. There are tons of NES and SNES games that impacted us – too many to list. Most of the Squaresoft RPGs off of the Playstation 1 and 2 were very influential. Let’s not forget Legend of Dragoon, ChronoCross/ChronoTrigger. I really could go on for days.

GMM-With 2010 coming to a close, what were some of your fave games of the year?

Joe-Although past Final Fanstasy games have been more impressive, we still do not overlook Final Fantasy 13, as a fave. Metroid Other M also makes the list. To be honest, with all of the work that we did for Unlorja, this past year, in combination with a new born baby and school, not a whole lot of gaming took place in 2010, besides the above mentioned. But don't worry, we'll be catching up soon ;)

GMMWho's the biggest gamer in the band, and why?

Joe-This is a very tough question. lol

I can tell you that Tony (guitar) isn't huge into video games. He likes them, but he's just not as big of a loser as Justin, Danny, and myself :) You see... He actually has a life. Hahaha. I'm exaggerating. Justin, Danny, and I probably play a somewhat equal amount. It sort of just depends on what is going on in our lives, at any given time. None of us play video games to the point that we cannot hold down jobs, be there for our families, or keep this band moving, but we do find some hours to play throughout the week. Now if you would have asked which one of us was the biggest gamer 10 years ago, prior to responsibility, I might have to say me. After school, I used to do nothing except play guitar and video games. I would even forget to eat or sleep sometimes... Seriously... Sometimes I would forget to eat for 16 hours or more because I would get so into those RPG games. I don't recommend this lifestyle.

GMM-Unjorla is one beast of a record and musically complex as all hell. That leads me to believe that a few members may have some schooling in the finer musical arts. Anyone go to college for music?

Joe-As I mentioned before, Justin did play drums in his school band. He took 2 or 3 music theory and history courses in college. I have never taken any music theory. I can't even really read music very well - maybe note by note and very slowly. I am self taught. Justin and I had a lot of weight on our shoulders, to write Unlorja. During and before that time, we lost our vocalist, 2nd guitar player, and bass player. I believe that our newest members, Danny and Tony, have studied some music theory, but I don't believe they took any formal college courses for it.

GMM-Unjorla is a concept record. What's the central theme theme behind it?

Joe-Unlorja is a classic tale of good and evil. Four very special life-forms inhabit another world, called Viela, which they are born to protect. One brother is very rebellious and desires ultimate power found in a Velvet Ribbon. To acquire this treasure, he betrays his brothers and sister. The ribbon renders him a God, and only the one brother, who still lives, can amend this tragedy that threatens to destroy Viela. The songs are broken up into chapters of the story. The character voices are represented by the vocals. The music goes from movement to movement to paint the imagery of the story.

GMM-Back to gaming for a sec. It seems every time the gaming industry throws a heavy metal inspired game our way, things tend to go flat. Brutal Legend was a lame RTS, Splatterhouse was a buggy mess, or the game is just outright cancelled. Ozzy and Metalocalypse games, anyone?
If you had the chance, what would you do differently for a metal game that all these companies seem to keep missing?

Joe-Hahaha. Should I hold my tongue on this? No. I’ll be honest.

What I propose goes deeper than suggesting “improvements” to help this genre of games derive success. Instead, I will say this: Don’t make games about metal. It is a very dumb idea that only a handful of people will find enjoyment with. Video games are cool. Metal is cool. Metal music playing in the background of a video game can be cool. Metal inspired by video games can be cool. A video game about metal – not cool. Your Metalocalypse suggestion is the only idea with any promise, but even then, the success of the game would have to be based primarily on comical value. To each his own, I suppose, but I just can’t take this genre seriously. They would be among the very last types of games I would play. I would have to be extremely bored and with no other options, to justify playing a game like this.

GMM-Journal just acquired the services of PR firm Team All About The Music. What does that mean for the immediate future of the band? Perhaps a full-fledged tour in the new year?

Joe-Prior to TAATM, Journal was a 100% do it yourself band. We’ve literally done everything for ourselves, including promotion. Of course there are drawbacks to these methods. Not a whole lot of people want to hear us tell them that we are worth listening to. They want to hear what an outside source has to say on the matter. Furthermore, our list of contacts and connections don’t go very deep. We really need people who understand the music business to help us spread the word. In just the short time that we’ve been working with TAATM, they have already brought us a great deal of attention that we would not have had otherwise. It is definitely possible that if we continue at this pace, big things are going to happen for Journal in 2011. If the right tour comes along, buckle your seat belt, and prepare for a face melt.

GMM-Speaking of tours, what would be the dream tour for Journal to be on?

Joe-Journal’s dream tour would be Dillinger, Between the Buried and Me, Animals as Leaders, Dream Theatre, and the finale: Nobuo Uematsu as the conductor of a massive Final Fantasy symphony. This would effectively target our key demographic, without question. Not to mention – this show would be amazing fun.

GMM-One more gaming question, and we're done. You're on a desert island, yet it inexplicably can power a small cottage with an entertainment system and one game console. The catch is that you have to choose that console from all that were created. From the PS3 to the original Pong. Which do you choose and why?

Joe-We choose suicide. What a cruel question! :)

We would choose an ultra powerful and advanced computer console with an emulator that would allow us to play any game that we wanted.

Ok Ok… I know what you meant. Time to be serious. The NES had some of the most fun games we’ve ever played. A lot of them had amazing music too. There are so many fun games, and it was one of the first gaming consoles to sell so successfully. The drawbacks? Well… Some of the games were basically impossible to finish – no matter how much you played… and even if you beat the game, you only got to look forward to a single screen ending saying “Congratulations. You won!” Additionally, there were sometimes flaws in the programming and even the translations. Lastly, the console limitations prevented game designers from being able to expand upon story or character development very much because the cartridges didn’t contain enough memory space to go in very much depth. The playstation 1, 2, and 3 have come out with some visually stunning games. Sometimes they get carried away with the graphics and forget about the story and the character development, but there are quite a few very fun games that are very memorable. The Wii and gamecube have some awesome games (such as Zelda and Metroid), but on average, the games seem pretty childish to me. I can’t comment too much on the Xbox since we tend to be more interested in action/adventure/RPG type games, and the Xbox seems to be better at first person shooters and sports type games. Drum roll please…. If we were stuck on an island with any single gaming console, it would be the 16-bit SNES. There are endless titles that are so awesome. The graphics, by today’s standards, aren’t the best, but they were a huge jump from the NES, and there is enough detail in the art to understand everything that is going on. The gaming plots, story, character development, and the endings to most of these games are fantastic. They are a ton of fun. They have less glitches than most gaming consoles. The games are robust and will pretty much play forever, without breaking. Most games have a reasonable amount of difficulty, but not too much to where you can’t finish the game. Here are some titles to prove my point: Final Fantasy 2 (4 in Japan), Final Fantasy 3 (6 in Japan), Mario RPG, Mario World, FZero, Mario Kart, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, A Link to the Past, Secret of Evermore, Street Fighter 2, Megaman X, Earthworm Jim (1 and 2), Breath Of Fire (1 and 2), Final Fight, Super Punch Out, Killer Instinct, Illusion of Gaia, Star Fox, Yoshi’s Island, Secret of Mana…….. Just to name a few. This is definitely the console you want to take with you to this God forsaken island.

1 comment:

  1. Video games ON metal is dumb,
    a video game based on the story of Unlorja would be AWESOME!