Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ninja Mountain - the awful, terrible truth!

I thought that listeners to the Ninja Mountain Podcast might appreciate a little rundown on just how it got started. I just realized that we've just passed our 16th week. FOUR MONTHS! We really had no idea we could do this thing weekly for so long...

The story behind the Ninja Mountain podcast is really two stories - there's the podcast, and there's Ninja Mountain, the group.

Long before our podcast took the universe by storm, Ninja Mountain existed as a loose collective of artists working in the Fantasy/SF/Horror genres, mostly in the field of Roll Playing Games, Collectible Card Games, and the like. The initial gang mostly met at the forums, and put together the core group at that time. And it's still going strong, with a stalwart cadre of 20 or so artists who meet online to discuss their latest jobs, sketches they've done, art they dig, and just shoot the breeze.

I was invited to join (totally out of the blue - I still don't quite know how!) way back in mid-2005. I realized pretty early on that this was a perfect coterie for me, in that I don't really feel too comfy in public forums, but a nice small, talented group like this would be just right.

You can see a list of most of the members here:

(And an aside - I really don't know why more artists don't do this! A smallish private league of like-minded artists is a really good idea. We don't do projects together as a team, or make calendars or have bake sales. Just hanging out to talk art and stuff. Suggestion to the world: you should try it!)

Anyway, some time last year I got it in my head that we really had a lot of fun talking to each other, and we had some really kickass artists on the Mountain, so maybe, just maybe, a Podcast would be fun, and a good way to get our names out there some more, as all freelancers must. And because, you know, all the really cool kids are doing it! And aside from all the artistic talent, I was pretty sure that having such an international bunch (North America, South America, U.K., Northern Europe, and Australia all represented) would make for some fun-sounding discussions if nothing else.

Now, as with any project involving artists, it took a lot of time to get it together. ("Herding cats" is a phrase not altogether inappropriate for the process). Not that people weren't interested, but we all had to figure out when we'd have the time, and I had to figure out how to make a podcast from different locations, and we needed to discuss just what we could possibly talk about. After all if we were going to talk for a WHOLE HOUR wouldn't we run out of things to say?

(Actually I knew all along we'd be fine with that. I mean, have you ever sat at a convention and listened to a gaggle of artists chatting? We're talkative folk. Just try and stop us...)

Finally, a date was decided upon. Jeremy McHugh, Jon Hodgson and I were ready to do it! I would record and edit, Jon made the music and stings for stitching parts together, and Jeremy - at literally the last moment before we started recording - volunteered to be the MC. A great call that turned out to be! You can hear the fruits of that labor in our first astounding episode, made way back in the distant past: January of 2009.

(For those wondering, we were then and still are as of this writing doing things on a very low budget. We use Skype to conference, which is free. I record with CallRecorder (the only part of the process that actually cost anything), then edit in Audacity and mix tracks in Garage Band. Oh, and Jeremy and Jon do backup recordings, which have come in handy in the past!)

That first one went pretty well for us. With Jon's great sense of humor, Jeremy's sonorous tones, and, um, me, we thought we had a good core group. From there things gelled pretty quickly. The inestimable Andy Hepworth joined in the very next week, not only making a great addition to the mix (as our only Anime expert, for one thing!) but also giving us the vague idea that 4 or 5 was a good number to shoot for in the weekly cast.

That lineup stayed consistent for over a month, but in March, for episode 6, we finally started getting some more Ninjas to join in, and things have been on a constant roil since! That episode Kieran Yanner joined us for the first time of many, and Scott Johnson joined us for the only time so far (though we keep hoping for another!).

Other Ninja Members started coming on more frequently after Kieran and Scott broke the ice. Also we've had one special guest, superstar illustrator Von Glitschka. Hopefully we'll be getting some more guests on again soon.

Here's a list of everyone from our collective who's been on so far, roughly in order of appearance, with their inaugural episodes in parenthesis.

Jeremy McHugh (1)
Jon Hodgson (1)
Patrick McEvoy (1)
Andy Hepworth (2)
Kieran Yanner (6)
Scott Johnson (6)
Anne Stokes (8)
Ralph Horsley (8)
Mattias Snygg (8)
Scott Purdy (10)
Socar Myles (13)
Sam Araya (14)

Wow - what a grouping of talent! You can find links to all of them on the aforementioned Ninja Mountain home page. And as you can see, there are still several more Ninjas we must yet coerce into making appearances.

Of course we're still going strong, and have even had a few shows now without Jon or me. Jeremy's record is still 100% though, but he has the vigor of youth. We record pretty much every Wednesday, though some Tuesday sessions have happened as well. It's in the evening for the UK crowd, which is noon (or maybe 1:00) for me on the West Coast U.S.

Oh - and our blog is HOPPING! Loads of great comments from listeners every week, with good discussions and ideas for show topics and just some nice feedback on the episodes. If you haven't left a message there yet, you really should. After all, it's our only payment.

Well, I guess if that was the sort of thing you are interested in then you may have found it interesting. Now you have a bit of history and context for the weekly madness - I beg you to use your knowledge responsibly!

If you have any questions I didn't answer (but really, what are the odds of that...) feel free to ask!


Cacodaemonia said...

I'd been wondering how it all got started. An interesting tale, sir. :)

Ninja Mountain said...

I'm glad you think so! I went to bed wondering if I'd just bored the internet to death, or if someone would think it was worth reading. So thanks for the note! :)


P.J. Magalhães said...

Awesome, great read. I was hoping for more info on the process of getting the group together in the first place, since i am taking your advice (well, i think i took inspiration from you guys and decided to do one before reading this, but same as). Every name we come up with is already used. Plus getting people to actually say they want to be a part of it and be active is a nightmare! LOL

but the name! gaaaaaaarh

:D Cheers,

Patrick said...

Hey, PJ!

For more in-depth history into Ninja Mountain, check out the episode of Escape From Illustration Island that we were on. We go into painful depth about the beginnings of the group. It's actually a very fun episode.

I've been in some rock bands in my life, and believe me a good name for any group of creatives is hard to find and agree on! Try a "band name generator" program, those are good at kick-starting ideas. :)

Patrick said...

And btw: find EFII, Ninja Mountain, and other fine artists' podcasts here at the Visual Artists Podcast Network:

P.J. Magalhães said...

Thanks for that Patrick i am headed that a-way right now! :)