Interview with GRIDLINK: The Player Of Games

Extreme music and video games, Jon Chang’s passions are at the core of what Legacy Future represents. Involved in the music scene since an early age, he’s been the singer of seminal grindcore act Discordance Axis. His lyrics were deeply influenced by science fiction, video games, anime and mangas.

After D.A.’s demise, he continued to offer  quality music for a decade  via his new bands Gridlink and Hayaino Dasuki, while at the same time developing concepts, graphic novels and games via Echelon Software and the Black Powder Red Earth series.

Jon having recently announced his retirement from the music scene, which ended in a bang with the final Gridlink album, “Longhena”, we grabbed him up for a quick chat, catching up about his past and current endeavours.

The music

GRIDLINK "Longhena"

GRIDLINK “Longhena” inlay artwork featuring Nea Dune

Longhena represents 40+ years of living set to music.

-Jon Chang

LF: I totally respect the decision of bands who want to stop their careers decently (instead of possibly embarrassing themselves and alienating their fans) and you’ve already explained the reasons why. I just wonder: aren’t you going to miss doing vocals? Do you plan on experimenting on another project or do you strictly exclude this possibility?

Jon: I don’t presently have any plans to create new music.

LF: I couldn’t help myself but associate this variety with Hayaino Dasuki, as if the heavy/speed metal influences and overall otaku concept slipped through to Gridlink’s music, somehow combining both entities for the final bang.

Jon: Longhena represents 40+ years of living set to music.

LF: Did you feel that with “Orphan” you peaked in terms of aggression? Was that possibly a reason that you pushed in a different direction with “Longhena”? The acoustic and orchestral parts/instruments give to “Longhena” an almost soundtrack-ish dimension. Did you have something similar in mind or did it occur to you afterwards that the album had this quality?

Jon: Our goal as creators was to always make something that expressed who we were as people. “Amber Gray” was about as balls out as GridLink could go on a record where Orphan has a lot of nuance, some of which was lost in the mix/recording process. Longhena has a lot of emotions tied up in it and the complexity you are referring to is the execution of ideas we had since day 1 in the band.

LF: Why do you think Takafumi tried this different type of riffs (I’m thinking of a song like “Ketsui” for example) that we weren’t used to until now? Did you had a discussion at some point where he told you “man, I’m going to try something different this time”?

Jon: We had used this kind of layering on Orphan but because of the density of sound and style of tuning, it didn’t really come through as clearly as it does on Longhena. I feel the sound of Longhena is the goal we had when we started GridLink.

LF: You did almost no growls this time. How come?

Jon: I don’t think the growls don’t fit the way Takafumi writes guitar.

LF: You mentioned in an interview that the recording this time was digital. What exactly do you mean by that?

Jon: We recorded via Pro Tools vs onto Tape.

LF: Does this means  all the previous Gridlink and Discordance Axis albums were recorded on tape?

Jon: The first Discordance Axis EP was recorded to digital media.

GRIDLINK "Longhena"

GRIDLINK “Longhena” cover artwork featuring Nea Dune

Lyrics/art

  I don’t find myself interested in art that is not personal.

-Jon Chang

LF: Combat and military operations are widely used as analogies through the album’s lyrics (and Gridlink’s in general), which is no surprise given your professional involvement via Echelon and Black Powder, Red Earth. Are those just lyrics or something more? Reading them, I have the impression that they’re more like scenes that somebody might put himself onto while daydreaming, or before sleep, etc. The sort of mind state that a gamer gets into when he falls to bed after an intense gaming session, or when you watch a movie that really moves you…

Jon: It’s part of my daily life so it became part of my music.

LF: A big part of your lyrics have always addressed personal issues. Did/do you feel comfortable exposing your feelings and to what extend do you mask/code specific situations? For example, “Constant Autumn” seems to refer to a personal situation like divorce/separation…

Jon: I don’t find myself interested in art that is not personal. Making it or engaging with it. I also don’t find myself engaged with music/film that is all surface and no depth.

Iain M. Banks "Look To WIndward"LF: Before I listened to “Longhena” I’ve started reading the novel “Look To Winward” which I didn’t have the time to finish yet. I wonder if the song of the same name is inspired by it? (I couldn’t tell by reading the lyrics…)
You’ve been inspired by Iain M.Banks in the past for Discordance Axis. Please tell us to what extent his work has had an impact to you and what are your feelings about his demise.

Jon: Banks was an incredible writer that could wind very personal depth into incredible works of fiction and science fiction. His death is a terrible loss.

LF: How did you hook up with Nea Dune? Did you want people to associate Longhena with the female figure that Nea plays?

Jon: I searched for months to find the right model to express the concept I wanted for the cover art. Nea had been at the top of my list, but being based in Croatia she was outside of my budget until she planned a US Tour. She has incredible range and was great to work with. I am hoping to collaborate with her on other future projects.

LF: How did a Gridlink song ended up in an interrogation scene at Homeland? I guess it’s thanks to your contacts in the military/security sector?

Jon: I believe a consultant for the show referred the show creators to us. They contacted Hydrahead and we agreed.

LF: Did you like the series in general? What about Season 3’s ending?

Jon: To be honest, I’ve only seen a few episodes. I don’t have a whole lot of time for TV ^_^

LF: Are you satisfied with the reception/sales of the BPRE novels?

Jon: So far, things are going very well. We had a few things going against us when we started. Not being a cape/hero book there hasn’t been much/any attention paid to the series in the mainstream comics press. That said, the books continue to sell every month 🙂

LF: The action of some military contractors (like Blackwater) is controversial. You’re working with them and they’re also the heros of your graphic novels/games. What are your views on the moral dimension of the subject? I’m also curious to know what do you think about the US foreign policy since 9/11, aka the War on terror.

Jon: I think that a lot of people have opinions informed by speculation, ignorance and predisposition. I know that just because people have a voice, it doesn’t inherently make a word they say worth consideration. In the US, people are very polarized and very ignorant. It’s pretty embarrassing. US Foreign Policy and the GWOT are very complex issues and couldn’t possibly be addressed in a single paragraph or even few pages, so I will not comment on it here.

Black Powder Red Earth concept art

Black Powder Red Earth concept art

Video games/Black Powder Red Earth

 LF: Did you ever get any inspiration for your vocal lines from video game soundtracks and sound effects?
Jon: Without a question LOL

LF: Did you ever get any inspiration for your vocal lines from video game soundtracks and sound effects?

Jon: Without a question LOL

LF: Are there any other video games that have inspired you for Longhena except DoDonPachi?

Jon: Too many to name LOL Everything from Final Fantasy to Front Mission to Red Dead Redemption and Ketsui.

LF: Ever had the offer of including music from any of your bands to a video game?

Jon: We have created music for animation and games, though none of it has ever been used.

LF: What is your favorite video game music ever?

Jon: I think my favorite soundtrack overall remains Final Fantasy X

LF: You were a Call Of Duty 4  fan and you’ve declared yourself impressed by the Titanfall beta. I guess now that the game is officially out are you already playing it (when you’re not answering interviews, that is)? What are your first impressions?

Jon: It’s very fluid and frenetic. I see many hours poured into it over the next few years LOL 🙂

Black Powder Red Earth

Black Powder Red Earth isometric action game coming out sooner or later!

LF: Do you regret that the first BPRE FPS game never got released? [For more details about the cancelled BPRE FPS , read this interview I did with Jon Chang a few years ago, back at the time when the game was still under development]

Jon: It’s a little painful. I feel like we developed a lot of concepts that none of the publishers believed in at the time and then later had internal studios execute. I can see many elements of our design in Battlefield 3 and CoD MW specifically.

I feel like we developed a lot of concepts that none of the publishers believed in at the time and then later had internal studios execute. I can see many elements of our design in Battlefield 3 and Call Of Duty 4 specifically.

-Jon Chang

Visualization shot for the new Black Powder \\ Red Earth game!

Visualization shot for the new Black Powder \\ Red Earth game

LF: How is the BPRE RPG game on facebook doing?

Jon: We abandoned development of it 2-3 years ago and started work on a new BPRE title which we are still working on between contract work that keeps the lights on.

LF: You have a new isometric action game coming. When should we expect it out and on what platform(s)?

Jon: No idea when it will be done honestly LOL It will be initially developed for Mac/PC computers.

LF: What is your favorite video game hardware?

Jon: Dreamcast or desktop.

Limited Edition Black Powder Red Earth print

Limited Edition Black Powder Red Earth print. Available at: http://blackpowderredearth.com/print.php

LF: Are you a retro hardware collector and if yes, how do you cope with the problem of physical space?

Jon: Not anymore. I had a problem of physical space LOL

LF: What are you going to do/play when finished answering this interview?

Jon: I have design work on the new BPRE game waiting for me. Developing two maps and then finishing a few additional set pieces for our demo level.

LF: All right, thanks so much for your time! Let’s finish this up with you telling us what is the strangest thing you ever saw during your trips to Japan?

Jon: People dressed as Third Reich SS soldiers. Always feel a little weird about that….

DISCLAIMER: Interview originally conducted by Panos Agoros for a feature printed in Metal Hammer Greece‘s issue of April 2013. Used with kind permission.

Interview with GRIDLINK: The Player Of Games was last modified: July 13th, 2014 by panos.agoros

Posted on by panos.agoros in call of duty, F.P.S, Gaming, Movies/Series, Music, Retro, video game consoles

About panos.agoros

Music and computers. The same two passions that Panos has ever since he was a kid, have defined the path that he would follow in life. He studied computer science in Paris-France in the early/mid 90's and is an IT engineer, providing since 1999 Mission Critiical support for enterprise environments. He is also known to be a retro hardware scavenger and old computer collector. His love for music pushed him to become actively involved in the scene. From November 1995 until the early 00's he ran Chaotik Webzine, a pioneering music webzine and the first to provide coverage for both the metal & hardcore underground. He is for the last 15 years an editor of Metal Hammer Greece, the biggest music magazine in the country. He rans a small record label and distro, Blastbeat Mailmurder, and is also the vocalist/lyricist of critically and fan acclaimed astrogrind outfit Dephosphorus. In his lost hours he does field recordings and manipulates sound waves for his experimental noise/ambient Kommpound.

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