Discover more from Tone Glow
Tune Glue 020: Josh Mancell
An interview with Josh Mancell, composer of the 'Crash Bandicoot' & 'Jak and Daxter' soundtracks, about sampling Godflesh, being inspired by Cabaret Voltaire, and working with Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh
Josh Mancell (b. 1969) is an American musician and composer who was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where he learned how to use MIDI software. His familiarity with Studio Vision—the first commercially available sequencer on a personal computer that allowed for both MIDI sequencing and digital audio editing/recording—came in handy when he moved to Los Angeles and joined Mutato Muzika, a music production company started by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh. He would soundtrack the Johnny Mnemonic (1995) video game, and then work on Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series. Throughout his time working on these projects, he drew from a variety of musical influences—Mouse on Mars and African Head Charge, Cabaret Voltaire and Stereolab, Coil and Massive Attack.
Mancell has also composed the soundtracks for various movies and television shows, including Bongwater (1998), Clifford the Big Red Dog (2000-2003), and Gary the Rat (2003). He’s also been a member of numerous bands, including The Wipeouters, a surf rock group that featured three members of Devo. He is currently in the indie rock band Exploding Flowers, who have released two albums—Exploding Flowers (2011) and Stumbling Blocks (2020)—and are finishing up their third. Joshua Minsoo Kim talked with Mancell on October 8th, 2023 via Zoom to discuss the series of events that led to working at Mutato Muzika, the artists that informed his video game soundtracks, the difference between composing for video games and television, and his love for both Nurse With Wound and The Hafler Trio. After the interview, read a list of 20 albums that informed the soundtracks for the Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter series.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: I know, you were born in Ann Arbor. Can you describe for me what it was like growing up there?
Josh Mancell: It’s kind of a bubble world in terms of cultural stuff. It’s a college town and is historically a very left-leaning hippie town, if you will. By the time the ’70s rolled around, that was definitely still the vibe there, even though I didn’t really recognize it as a kid. In retrospect I’m like, “Oh yeah, that was definitely still the ’60s” when I was growing up in the ’70s. I went to a good public school. We had music as part of our curriculum. It was very much a blessing to have free music from fifth grade onward. I was a sort of regular kid who collected baseball cards, and then switched to buying records and learned how to play piano and drums. I moved to New York for college when I was 18.
You said that the ’70s still had traces of the ’60s. What sticks out to you as representative of that?
I can’t say anything concrete from my own memories. You know how everyone makes up their own memories just based on other things, a little bit? I’ve seen photographs. My parents were a little bit too old to be hippies. I don’t know what that generation is called. My dad was born in the late ’30s and my mom was born in 1940. My dad was a professor at Eastern Michigan University, which is in the town next over, but they both went to U of M. My dad was sort of a latent hippie. If you look at photos of him from the late ’60s, he’s pretty clean-cut. By the time the mid-70s roll around, he’s got big hair, the way my hair gets, and a full beard, and we’re driving around the country in a VW bus on a three-month road trip. That happened in the mid-70s, rather than the late 60s. There’s a little bit of a lag time.
Were your parents big into music? Did they play music around the house?
I don’t remember it being a nonstop thing, but my dad was and still is very into cool jazz. He’s really into Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck, and lots of bossa nova. My mom really likes soul music. She really loved Al Green back then. But collectively, they were listening to stuff that was in the air at the time, like Chicago and John Denver and that middle-of-the-road ’70s stuff. The first record they bought me was The Beatles’ Red Album (1973), so I felt like they opened up the right door at the right time. I think I was eight years old. I was very into The Beatles as a child, and they encouraged that. They bought me Magical Mystery Tour (1967) and Abbey Road (1969) and that jump started my own independent study.
I love that the compilation was the gateway for you.
The whole K-tel thing was such a reality too. I remember ordering a record called Pure Rock (1981) off the TV for like five bucks, and maybe an extra two dollars for shipping. It showed up and it was just basically the hard rock hits of the day. It had Jefferson Starship and ZZ Top, that sort of stuff. To hear all this at 11, I just felt like, “I’ll stick to the Beatles for now.” I think I bought my first record when I was 12, which was Loverboy’s Get Lucky (1981). That’s when I turned on the radio and it was a little bit easier for me to digest because I could just turn it on and off as I pleased, rather than dedicating myself to a whole 45 minutes of listening.
You play piano, drums, and guitar. How were your experiences playing in bands as a teenager?
I did start off on piano. My parents bought me a little Steinway—upright. I played piano from age 8 to about age 11. When the school started offering the music class and the music program, you could basically pick whatever instrument you wanted to learn. I didn’t want to do it because I felt like I was already into piano, and why would I want to learn two instruments? I felt like it was just gonna be more practicing. My mom told me, “You should play percussion because it’s fun and it’ll help you with your rhythm.” I don’t know if she came up with that herself, or if someone put that in her head, but I remember sitting in the kitchen and her saying that. And, lo and behold, two years later, I kicked the piano to the curb and I was a drummer with a drum set. I had fully sold my soul for rock and roll (laughter).
As far as bands go, I had a couple of people that I got used to playing with when I was 13 or 14 years old. This one woman—she’s a woman now, but she was a girl back then—actually both these people were pretty accomplished for young teenagers. This woman, Kari Newhouse, was writing her own songs, she was on The Mike Douglas Show when she was like eight years old or something. I was really lucky to play with these two. I was still trying to figure out how to hold a steady beat. We mostly played Kari’s songs. We would sneak in an easy Cars song or something like that. I didn’t really feel like I was official until I started a punk rock band with a couple of friends from summer camp and this other guy, who we just thought would be a great lead singer. He was this big menacing dude. That was my main band, a hardcore band, around ’85. It was only a couple of years but it felt like forever. It was maybe two and a half years. But we recorded a demo and we played shows in Detroit. We were just teenagers but we were driving ourselves to Detroit and playing shows and house parties, just kind of doing like the local indie punk band thing. And trying to keep up in school too.
Kari was living in Portland for a long time and then she moved back to Michigan a couple years ago. We’re still friends. The other guy, our bassist Dan, I’m still very close with. Every time I come back to Michigan, we do a little pickup band with my brother. We just do covers, it’s fun. I’m definitely still in touch with my roots there.
Can you talk to me about this hardcore band? In the ’80s, this was primetime.
Actually, it wasn’t primetime (laughter). We were running on the fumes of hardcore because we started in ’85. The primetime was when we were in fourth and fifth grade. I’m talking about hardcore, not punk rock. Minor Threat, suburban American hardcore. Not like Sex Pistols, or any of that stuff. A few of us had older brothers. My friend Keith had a brother who was two years older and a really good guitarist. He turned us onto things like Minor Threat, Misfits, those kinds of bands. By the time we got to age 14 or 15, it was still very current for us, even though a lot of those bands had already either gone metal or had broken up. To be in a hardcore band in the mid-80s wasn’t totally outlandish, but in retrospect, you realize all the great hardcore bands like Hüsker Dü had already turned into something way more advanced. The Meat Puppets, Minutemen, the list goes on and on of bands that were able to take hardcore and evolve. We were still playing four on the floor, thrash basically.
I’m trying to get the timeline down. When did you go to Sarah Lawrence College?
’88 to ’92. I graduated from high school in 1988, went to New York until ’92, and then moved out to California that summer.
I know that at Sarah Lawrence you had a Music for Film class.
Yeah. Once I set foot into taking my first music composition class, there was an orchestration class and a music for film class. It’s such a small school. It was basically one teacher teaching five or six classes that were sort of related to composing. My teacher had scored a handful of films in the ’60s. That was legit. He knew exactly how to teach us what the process was about, what it was like to sit in a spotting session, and what a temp score is. I feel like my college experience was right in the middle of the old world and the new world. We were still writing scores out on paper, but then I also took a music production class. By the time I was in my senior year, we actually had a computer in the studio, and that’s where I learned how to do MIDI software stuff. If I had been a year older, I wouldn’t have had that experience and wouldn’t have landed the job. It’s the whole sliding doors thing. I felt really lucky that I was able to learn a more modern way of making music before I got out here.
Who was this teacher that you mentioned?
His name was Meyer Kupferman. He was an adventurous 20th century concert composer. His big hook to get us to do his Music for Film class was that one of his students in the ’60s was this guy, Michael Small, who did the score for Marathon Man (1976), The Parallax View (1974), and Klute (1971). He became the go-to guy for paranoid ’70s thrillers. His stuff is amazing. I still listen to those scores he did. He did so much with like, four instruments. It’s really effective stuff. He unfortunately died of cancer in 2003. That was my teacher’s big source of pride: “See? I taught someone who made it!”
Were there any specific things you feel like you learned from Meyer, aside from the nitty gritty technical stuff?
He was strictly a music guy. He didn’t know anything about recording. He was literally just like, notes on a page. It’s weird, I felt like I had to unlearn some of his stuff. He was so idiosyncratic about the way he did music, which I guess I still take with me. I almost feel like I’m not really “properly trained.” I feel like I understand the form and the idea of putting together strange ensembles and things like invented scales. Instead of doing like a mode or a particular key, you can just do two triads on a keyboard that don’t necessarily go together, but if you use those six notes over and over again, it turns into a thing. It’s kind of like 12-tone music where your ear sort of adjusts to it. He knew his traditional stuff too. I composed for smaller ensembles like a little sextet and a woodwind trio. In my senior year, I actually wrote an orchestral piece. I think that’s where I was able to apply more traditional ideas and concepts about orchestration. He wasn’t just out there making noise. He was a jazz clarinetist, so he knew his stuff. But he was also very interested in pushing his agenda, his way of doing stuff to his young disciples. It’s kind of a hard question to answer.
Do you have any fond memories of him from college that stand out?
Yeah, he led an improvisational ensemble. That was another thing where he would just recruit hard and find people who played instruments, whether it was guitar or flute. For me, it was percussion. He would come up with a concept for an improvisation or he would pick three players to be the leaders and then we’d all have to tune into what they are playing. It was a really cool exercise in learning how to listen to other musicians. Even though I was only really in a couple other future bands where we did sort of like a psychedelic improv thing as part of our set, I would always harken back to that. He had a way of teaching us how important it is to listen to the other players and not get trapped in your own bubble of making your own noise. You have to perform collectively.
I didn’t. In my senior year, I was very much pushed by this composition teacher and my music production teacher to move out to California and give it a go. While I was at school, I made a list of people I knew who had older brothers and sisters, or a cousin or an uncle that was working in the business. I made a week’s worth of lunches and coffee plans, just to ask for advice. I knew that asking for work would be kind of off-putting. It was more like, “Hey, how does someone get involved with the industry?” Just asking them questions about themselves, basically. In that process I met with Mark Snow, who was the composer on The X-Files. Super nice, really sweet guy. He invited me over to his house and we hung out in his backyard. We just talked and listened to my demo tape—I listened to my demo tape with this guy (laughter). But he was just like, “You know what? I have a good feeling about this.” He could have totally been feeding me but he was just such a sweet guy. I was just like, “Oh yeah, Mark Snow!” (laughter).
I was also friends with someone whose uncle was working on a TV show that Mark Mothersbaugh was doing the music for. I grew up a huge Devo fan. When I was done with the Beatles, I switched to Devo at age 11 or 12 and really went hardcore with them, so I really wanted to meet him. I knew that it was not a huge operation at that point—Devo had sort of settled down, they hadn’t played live in two or three years. He had just done Pee-wee’s Playhouse and had just started to do network shows. I didn’t really think that there would be an opportunity to work for him, but I definitely wanted to meet him. So I went to his house and hung out with him. I watched him do a session with Bob Casale. It was just a really amazing thing to sit down at his house and witness all this. Then I said, “Well, I’m moving to LA.” He was just like, “Great. Keep in touch.”
This is all pre-internet. I literally called him, when I moved out, at his house. He remembered me and was like, “Oh, welcome to LA. Good luck. Keep in touch.” So I did that again. I waited another six weeks and I scored a student film during that time. I thought that merited a phone call, just to let him know. And then, by the third time I called him at the end of that summer, he was like, “Oh wow, it’s so weird you called. I was just looking for your number because I fired my assistant, and I need someone new to come work at the studio.” I was already working two jobs, so I didn’t want to totally burn those bridges quite yet. So I was working from midnight to seven at an office, and then part time at Santa Monica Public Library in the late afternoon. I was able to kind of rearrange everything so I was working at this office from five in the morning until like, one. And then I was working at the library like, two days a week, and at Mutato three afternoons a week. After about a month of juggling all that, he was like, “You want to come work full time?” And I was like, “Hell yes.”
That’s a ridiculous schedule.
I don’t think I could have ever pulled it off at any other point in my life. Just to be a crazy 22 year old… I was so stoked to be in LA, it was just, anything goes.
Was this when you ended up working on Johnny Mnemonic (1995)?
I started working at Mutato in ’92. Basically, I was just there as an assistant. I was picking up lunch and taking gear to go to get it fixed. After about a year, I started to get more involved with the studio projects and helping out with sessions. I was doing some very primitive sound design for commercials, really easy literal sound effects drops.
However, the thing that actually got me the job was that the MIDI software program that I learned in college was the same software that he used. Right off the bat, that was one of the first things he asked me, even before I started interning there. He asked, “Do you know Studio Vision?” And I was like, “I sure do!” (laughter).
I knew that there was maybe a possibility of hopping on some stuff. I jumped on a couple of kids TV shows and helped out. He had two satellite composers working with him on a couple of kids shows. I was able to do a half an episode of this and a half an episode of that. Then Johnny Mnemonic showed up in 1995 and I still wasn’t quite ready to spearhead my own project. I worked on it with this guy who was one of the Mutato session guitarists. He knew how to write music and was very savvy with the mixing board. We both worked on Johnny Mnemonic, which was a really labor intensive job of building ambiences and writing music, but also the whole sound job. After I got on the other side of that, that’s when I happened to be standing in the right place when he got the call about Crash Bandicoot (1996).
I’m curious how it was to work on Johnny Mnemonic, with the dark ambient undercurrent in that film. There’s only so much you can do in a video game, versus working on an actual film.
There were two categories. There were parts of the game that you were actually just watching, that was more like the score. The other category was the fight loops, which I wrote first. These were little minute-and-a-half rhythmic loops to go with the fight scenes, and that’s where we set up the tone. They wanted it to be futuristic and industrial sounding. There’s a little bit of Nine Inch Nails, but also, because it was a Sony project, they gave us a bag full of CDs and said, “If you want to sample any of this stuff, go for it and we’ll work out the details.” I was like, “No way.” They had really cool stuff. I remember I sampled guitar chords from Godflesh. I still use this stuff if it’s appropriate. I really chopped it up. There are no real melodic phrases or vocals or anything like that, so I felt I could get away with a lot. I don’t know if you know much about the Crash soundtracks, but there was a demo that I did for the “Snow Go” level in Crash 2 that everybody hated. It was too goofy or whatever. But the lead instrument is a piano sample from a Boo Radleys remix. Really random.
I didn’t realize it was a straight up sampling thing. I knew there was the National Percussion Group of Kenya, but I didn’t know about these other samples.
It was pretty minimal. The first game definitely pulls from that stuff. Those samples came in handy when I was trying to deliver stuff that sounded legit. It was less about the vocal samples. I’m actually surprised that they kept those in, because initially, that was maybe going a little bit too far. Because it was like, “Why are we putting in these Kenyans?” It was kind of borderline decision-making (laughter). But they stayed in. It’s funny—that piece of music for the Papu Papu boss level, that drum loop is pretty much as is from the sample CD. People have sent me music that uses that exact beat.
Did you talk with other people who were working on video game soundtracks who were doing a similar thing, who were sampling this range of songs?
Not really. The whole sampling thing was in the air. I’d been listening to a shit ton of hip-hop since the ’80s. So to hear how A Tribe Called Quest used their samples, there was definitely an awareness of music being this kind of patchwork of sounds and obviously, it got really played out. A lot of it’s kind of cringy to listen to. But if you wanted to do something that felt contemporary, that was one of the tricks: to have a dissonant sample that you could throw in there to jar people. I don’t really remember talking to anyone. It was just sort of like, we all did it. Everybody was buying the same sample CD-ROMs. You kind of want to be the first one to do it, even though no one really cared except for the composers.
I’m curious how working on that soundtrack was for you. It’s a very percussion-based soundtrack. But most of the sounds I remember from playing Crash are him doing his spin, breaking boxes, collecting coins and things. Did you think much about how those other sounds would factor into your compositions?
We sort of did it in tandem. I didn’t really know that it was going to be this pinball machine thing. And that guy, Mike Gollum, is really cool—nice guy, obviously very talented. I had to talk to him on the phone for a couple of things, but I used a lot of those samples without knowing what other sound effects would be there. One of the things that I think about in retrospect is like, I was using a lot of hard sound effects, especially for the jungle levels. There’s lion roars and frogs and birds. I just kind of threw them in there and figured that, if they didn’t like them or if they conflicted with Mike’s sound design, they would take it out. But as far as I can tell, he wasn’t really doing a lot of layered stuff. He was doing more hard effects, Foley kind of stuff. My whole thing was to create this environment that you really felt you were in. Even if something was happening off camera, like a roar or a tribal chant or whatever, I wanted that to help put you in the place where you were playing the game. I hate to say immersive because that’s such an overused word, but that was the goal: to really immerse the player into this. And it’s because the visuals were so strong. You couldn’t not do that, you know what I mean? The fact that you were running toward the screen, that whole 3D reality was such a heavy thing to look at and you really wanted to feel like you were in it.
Were you big on video games prior to being asked to make soundtracks?
As a kid, I was all about arcade games and had a home Atari. I’ve said this in interviews before, but my two favorite games did not have music in them, which is sort of ironic.
Which two games?
It was Tempest (1981), which was a very elegant, lovely looking game with really cool sound effects. And Pitfall! (1982), which was a real primitive Atari game, but it’s kind of got a Mario or Crash vibe to it, being a platformer. But there’s no music in it, it’s just really basic sound effects. I never played Nintendo or any of that kind of stuff. I always felt like I had aged out of video games by 1983, or whenever. I was like, “I’m done with this.” They were always in the background though. My friend’s little brother would be playing Mario, and I’d be like, “Oh yeah, video games!” But I didn’t really care about them.
Were you looking to any other art to understand how to make your soundtrack for Crash Bandicoot more immersive?
They did give me a creative brief. Not to launch into the whole saga, but Universal interactive and Naughty Dog butted heads in the beginning about a lot of things, because Universal was the boss, but Naughty Dog were the developers who brought the game to Universal. We were all about the same age, in our 20s. They wanted it to be different sounding and the Universal people wanted it to be more traditional sounding. I had to find a way to please both. Before I started, the Naughty Dog guys gave me a cassette of Dead Can Dance. I knew who they were, because my high school girlfriend was into all that 4AD stuff. But I listened to it and I was like, “Ah, this is cool.” So I knew that they wanted it to be sort of ambient. Not like The Orb, but kind of environmental. And I knew that they wanted a percussion thing because that sort of puts you in the jungle. In a lot of ways that played to my strengths.
Once I did the “Hog Wild” music, I kind of got a collective thumbs up from Naughty Dog and from Universal because it was very tune oriented. That set the tone for the rest of the games, I think. That’s where the seed was planted. To have it be goofy and funny, but also using some weird sounds. I kind of had to teach myself how to write really tonal music, because my college training was not about writing little catchy tunes. There’s some sound effects in there that I put in that kind of accidentally go with some of the action. If you’re playing it and you’re bouncing off of things, I put in boingy sounds, so every 10 or 15 seconds you’ll bounce off of something and hear the French horn flourish. I wanted it to have this dynamic quality.
Right, the music makes sense with the art style in general because it’s also goofy and fun. I know you had to change parts of the soundtrack for the Japanese version of the game.
That was a very fast exchange. I think I was done with the Crash work for the regular game, and then there was a call that came in, mildly panicked, like, “Oh they don’t like the boss music. Can you write some boss music?” I think I had like a day and a half to crank out these tunes. The only reference they gave was like Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade. I didn’t know what that was. I asked people, and they were like, “Oh yeah, I remember that when I was a kid.” I think they changed the music for it throughout the decades, but I finally figured out that it was like Mario music. Not to diss Mario music because I think it’s really good, but it was just a very tuneful, bubbly kind of thing. It was something that was less weird. That’s kind of where I went with it. It’s not very good. It doesn’t rival any of the other platformer music of the day, but it works. That whole thing lasted like five seconds. As soon as I knew that they were happy with it. I just said, “Alright, fine.” That was embarrassing, but whatever.
Were you making other music while in LA?
I was in a punk band in California for three years. At that time, we were literally just doing it for fun. But then we got really good. We were putting out singles. We didn’t tour at all, but we opened for The Dickies, we played The Whisky. For a local LA band, four guys who were pushing 30 and not really taking it that seriously, we actually got pretty far. But we really enjoyed working with each other. It was a great way to spend a weekend. We were actually practicing in a basement. There’s hardly any basements in LA, because of asbestos and earthquakes and stuff. It felt like we were regressing into this comfort zone, this teenage thing, but once we once the ball started to get rolling, it was like, “Oh, we’re actually a real band. We’re playing three times a month.”
What was the band’s name?
We were called The Millionaires. We put out two singles on our own label, Teen Patriot Records. We also have a self-released cassette EP that has a song called “Curse of the Mummy,” which was later the basic foundation for “Hang Eight” from the Crash 2 soundtrack. We were kind of a Misfits/Ramones hybrid, pretty simple stuff. Maybe a little bit of Supersuckers, New Bomb Turks, the stuff that was current back in the mid-90s. We never put out a full length. This is kind of funny. I actually wrote a chapter about this in a book about the worst music gigs ever. It was co-edited by this guy I went to college with, who I also played in a punk rock band with in the late ’80s. He compiled all these people’s stories of their worst gig ever. I’ll cut it really short: We played this gig and there was some static between the singer and guitarist, because we had been offered a gig at The Whisky and the guitarist said no, because it was date night with his girlfriend. Me and the bass player didn’t even know about this. This was just between those two guys. So we get to the gig and the singer dedicates a song called “Head Case” to the guitarist’s girlfriend. There was this total delayed reaction where like, three pregnant seconds passed, and then the guitar comes off and they’re brawling on stage. We continued after that.
We were attacked by another band at another gig because we played a song too long. They actually came up on stage and started ripping our instruments away from us. It was on the Sunset Strip. It wasn’t teenagers, it was people well into their 20s, being total assholes. It was kind of remarkable.
How did your experiences making the first soundtrack inform creating Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (1997), with Crash Bandicoot: Warped (1998), Crash Team Racing (1999), etc.? It feels much more new wave, especially on something like Interstate ’82 (1999). I know you had a band with the Devo guys at one point.
Everybody was sort of touch-and-go with the first game, in all aspects. The expectations were not really defined, except that they wanted it to be successful. I asked myself “What’s the environment? How can I make music that sounds like it belongs in this environment?” It was literally just the jungle and the lab. When the second game came around, there was a lot more variety in terms of where you are. I always look to the visuals and the gameplay for inspiration and direction, because the closer I got to making music that sounded like what it looked like, they were happy with it. At times, it resulted in some cliché moves, like, “Oh, we’re on the Great Wall of China so we’re gonna have this Chinese sounding music.” But I just tried to make it my own without being disrespectful.
How would you approach that? There’s a lot of steel drums in the second game, for example. How were you making sure these things came across tastefully?
I think that the only thing that kept me in check was like working with Dave Baggett, who was a Naughty Dog guy. He was their lead programmer—the first person Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin recruited for the company—and he was also a big music fan. We would get together pretty much once a week and sit in the studio and listen to the music I had done. I would burn a CD for him and he’d take it to Naughty Dog. They’d play these CD demos all the time to see what they liked and what they didn’t like. I felt like they were almost doing endurance tests. There was the “Snow Go” track they didn’t like, and then they had to listen to it for hours, so that’s when they really started to really hate it (laughter).
I think it was just through Dave that I was able to compile like, “Oh, they like this kind of thing. This is a little bit too busy. They like this instrument.” You just kind of learn as you go. Honestly I don’t remember doing a whole lot of heavy overhauls. When I was archiving the stuff to CD-R, I basically put on all the final versions and then interesting outtakes. There really aren’t that many interesting outtakes from those three games, to be honest. We pretty much nailed it on each one. But there were tweaks within there. I remember that airplane level, “Mad Bombers,” in Crash Warped. It was really hard to get something that was militaristic and fun. That was a weird one.
Do you have any favorite memories from working on the soundtracks for these three games?
The “Hog Wild” thing was the real happy memory I have, because it really let me know that I was on the right track. That’s always a consideration when you’re working with a new client. You’re a little bit at loose ends until you can make them happy, because you can get fired at any point. So to have that reassurance from everybody was like, “Okay, I can do stuff that they like. Let’s get to work.”
There are some that felt like they came out fully formed. I get a little nostalgic when I hear the “Dingodile” but I don’t really remember writing it. When I hear it back, I think, “That’s exactly the kind of music I wanted to write for this video game.” It encapsulates so much of the energy level, the goofiness, all the gratuitous chromatic stuff, and there’s even a didgeridoo in it.
I know that you also made the soundtrack for Bongwater (1998). Obviously that’s a very different task than making a soundtrack for video games. How was making the soundtrack for a film like that? Did you learn anything from that process?
Yeah, that was the first feature I ever did. In some ways, the way it was set up was very similar to Naughty Dog in that I was working with a team of people who were all my age, more or less. That was really fun. I was actually aware that this was a moment in time. There was going to be a movie about slackers in the ’90s. I was going to Portland to visit my then-girlfriend—she’s now my wife—and her twin sister lives in Portland. I had already bought the plane ticket to go there the weekend before I had my first meeting with Bongwater, and it takes place in Portland. I felt like all this stuff kind of came together. I really felt like these were peers I was working with, the director, the post-production supervisor. These are people I’m still friends with because we all went through this first thing together. The music for that movie is kind of all over the place. The director put in a temp score of stuff that he liked, not real conceptual. He put it in a lot of Yo La Tengo and Tom Waits, an eclectic variety of things. So I did my best to get the vibe of each piece of temp music. There’s only one recurring theme that we had to nail. Other than that, it was almost like doing sound-alikes.
I do want to ask about Interstate ’82 because of how much of a new wave soundtrack that one is.
That was a really effortless one. I felt like I really just had to go back to being a teenager watching MTV all the time. I worked with the director on that. I didn’t have to hear from Activision or anyone else, it was just me and the director. He had already done Interstate ’76 (1997), which was actually a pretty successful game. It has live musicians playing the most bitchin’ authentic ’70s funk you can imagine. I still have the soundtrack, it’s really good. That’s what I had to live up to. But I also feel like that game came out in 1999, so I don’t think people were ready to go back to the ’80s. So they really went for it and made the lead character drive around in a DeLorean. There were guns and coke. It was really kind of Miami Vice. If you’ve listened to the Interstate ’82 theme song, it’s basically a bite of Miami Vice.
Rather than rip off songs, we kind of ripped off bands. I gave the director a list of my favorite bands from the era and he added in a couple more. He wanted a Gang of Four thing, I wanted a Prince thing, but he didn’t want Prince. We just sort of whittled it down to like 15 tunes. It’s quite a bit of music, actually. From there, I just closed my eyes and said, “Okay, what’s the lost Police song? What’s the lost 2 Tone Records song?” It was such a joy to work on. This is stuff that I didn’t even know if I’d be able to pull off. I’m not really a songwriter, but I knew the sounds and the vibe pretty intimately. And I had access to all the Devo stuff. I didn’t use a ton of it, but I had a Roland Jupiter in the studio and I was like, “Ah, shit, that’s the sound! That’s the Gary Numan sound!” I was so stoked.
Do you know the song “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie? There’s an effect on the piano, a weird delay thing, this detune thing. Mutato had that box but they had never used it for anything because it was so specific. He plugged it in. I called up a piano sample immediately, and I was just like, “Oh my god, it’s ‘Ashes to Ashes!’” I didn’t get to use it. But it was stuff like that where you’re just like, “Oh my god, it’s right here. I can make this sound semi-legit.”
That’s so cool you had access to that technology.
And I had great LinnDrum samples. That was another thing. The LinnDrum is such a key part of a lot of that stuff. There’s a lot of live drums too. I had this killer drummer, this guy Neil Taylor. He plays on the homages to the B-52s, Adam & the Ants, Gang of Four, Duran Duran. I also had the bass player and guitarist that I was in a band with play. We replaced all my MIDI mockups. Not to congratulate myself too much, but I was doing that soundtrack at the same time I was doing Crash Team Racing. I was switching gears every two or three days: I’d work on Crash Team Racing, have a meeting, and while I’m waiting for feedback I’d go back to Interstate ’82 and crank out another couple tunes. It was totally back and forth for that whole year.
I love the Jak and Daxter soundtracks. You were talking about Cabaret Voltaire earlier. It seems like so much UK electronic music is embedded into the soundtracks. I’m curious how you decided to approach these works with a more dance music feel. What were you thinking about and listening to at the time? What were you told to capture?
It was a little less defined, mainly because Naughty Dog had become a bigger company. Dave Baggett wasn’t working there anymore, which is a real shame. I’m still friends with this guy—we really got along well, and still do. I had to revert back to my mentality around the first Crash game, which was sort of like, “Okay, this is another environmental jungle kind of thing.” I wasn’t able to really upgrade too much in terms of sound quality, because it was still a MIDI soundtrack. We didn’t stream audio until the third game, so I still had to deliver this technically limited kind of score. One-note samples for each instrument. It was tough. But stylistically, I don’t think I went too far off the grid. It’s a pretty mellow soundtrack. I don’t think it really demanded anything more than that. The first game was so different. There was the deliberate makeover that Jak got from the first to the second game. In the first game he was barefoot, he doesn’t talk, and he was kind of this jungle boy. It was a pretty chill game. We really wanted to address the fact that we had these wide open, free-roaming environments. We wanted the music to feel a little bit more spacious.
That makes a lot of sense when thinking about Crash. That’s a game where you can’t ignore what’s on screen, because it’s so compact. Jak is so different.
Crash is very tunnel vision. But with the Jak thing, I remember the first time I saw it I was like, “Oh my god.” You could basically not even play the game, you could just run around. The first piece that I wrote was the “Sentinel Beach” theme. That was actually supposed to be the main theme for the game, but they didn’t end up having a main theme. I definitely got a mixed reaction from that one. I think there were quite a few people at Naughty Dog who were expecting something more orchestral, kind of fantasy. I just wasn’t able to pull it off. I didn’t have the bandwidth to do anything remotely believable or orchestral, and I probably didn’t have the chops either. So I kind of had to go with what I had. I think at the end of the day, people were pretty happy with it. Once we went to Jak II, I had to really switch gears and make it more aggressive. That’s when I started incorporating more orchestral elements, not entirely, but just some more cinematic approaches to things.
I tried my best to rise to the occasion of it all. They never gave me any real specific direction. It was so chaotic. That was the thing about Jak II. There was kind of this panic in the air because Grand Theft Auto III (2001) had come out, and that had suddenly sent shockwaves in the gaming industry. Everybody had to do these gun-heavy, macho games or whatever. To me, anyway, the direction of the game felt pretty forced. They made a game that has that vibe, so I just tried to follow suit and be as crafty as I could. I’m thinking, like, “When can I have a little bit of a string-y background here? Instead of having a bass guitar, can I have marcato strings and have it sound believable enough?” We also tried to do this interactive score thing, which was really hard.
How’d you even approach making that?
We used MIDI sequencing. With that, every instrument is played individually, and you sort of overdub upon yourself. You add instruments, and you just keep on layering and layering until you have something that you like. Each one of those instrument parts has its own set of information. They call it a piano roll because it literally looks like a side-to-side scroll where it’s represented on a grid. If you stretch it out, it makes it longer. If you move it up and down, it changes the pitch up and down. It’s a very visual way of doing things. We sort of experimented with this in the first game, but we used it to help the player navigate the different environments. We would have these separate instrument tracks that would play through the entire theme, but they would be muted until you got to this particular place, and then they would become unmuted. This was like what we did in the village. If you listen to the village music, it’s very basic. There’s a bass part and a conga part, and all of the melodic instruments change based on who you’re talking to.
When it came time for Jak II we had to do the same thing, but we had to be even more direct about it. There had to be something that kicked in when you’re using your gun, or when you jump on the hoverboard. It was really hard to upgrade the sophistication of the music itself and address this. Nowadays, when you’re streaming audio, it’s a little bit more forgiving in terms of delivering separate tracks. Obviously, interactive scoring has evolved since that and we were at the very beginning of all of that. It ended up being more percussive sounds that would kick in. We had to be sparing with the backbeat because it sounded too Crash-like in a lot of circumstances. We had a lot more pulsing four-on-the-floor stuff, or stuff where the higher-end instruments are the ones that are more rhythmically active, rather than drums and bass.
Was that a thing that you constantly had to think about with the Jak games—to make sure the soundtrack doesn’t sound too similar to Crash?
Yeah, that was always a comment. I think it’s because they had been working with me for four games and they knew all my moves. I wouldn’t say I was a very experienced composer, and those were the main things I worked on for those years; I was kind of trapped in the Naughty Dog world for seven years. But I was scoring commercials and the Clifford the Big Red Dog TV show and all that, so I had busted out. But Naughty Dog knew me and they were expecting it to sound a certain way. Truth be told, a lot of it does sound kind of similar, especially that first Jak soundtrack. There’s some stuff in there that could be put in a Crash game and not feel too out of place.
You mentioned that on Jak 3 (2004) you had streaming audio. What sort of things were you then able to do that you couldn’t previously. How did you take advantage of the streaming audio?
I tried to create music that had more of a flowing feeling to it. I think everybody was really relieved and exhausted when Jak II was over because it was so hard to make it happen. My point person was basically the lead sound designer, and he was just like, “All right, we’re not going to do any of that interactive shit. You can write some music now. I’m going to come over and we’re going to give you a list of the levels and a verbal description. We’ll assign each one a number in terms of energy level, like 1, 2, or 3.” It was really open. I knew that a lot of people wanted orchestral stuff, so I tried my best to have things that were a lot more orchestral flavored. That was my goal. When I listen to it now, it’s like, oh okay, I was kind of turning the formula on its head. The percussion is used as more of an accent rather than driving the songs.
That level where you’re jumping through the rings, that one really had to feel like you’re flying. I had a little tambourine thing to kind of keep a pulse going, but for the most part it was harp and strings that were rapidly moving to really feel like you’re soaring. All the lower-end stuff was there to come in and maybe take over the arrangement. Those pieces are a lot longer. The Jak 3 themes are between two and three minutes long, as opposed to one and two minutes long. There was a chance to really get into the arrangements a little bit more. That’s my favorite of the bunch, just because I can hear myself feeling liberated from all the technological stuff. There’s some joy in there (laughter). It was like, “Oh my god, finally.”
When do you feel like you truly got a handle on individual instruments and the weight they could hold, in terms of texture and messaging? And is there a piece where you feel that’s most successfully accomplished?
I did a fair amount of independent study. This maybe goes back to my college years because I did learn some real basics of orchestration. There are definitely conventions and rules that you follow, and if you’re able to do that, it’ll sound like something. A lot of it was me kind of winging it. It was almost like the Interstate ’82 thing where I kind of knew what I wanted it to sound like and getting there was just sort of like finding the right channel. I didn’t really struggle with it at all. I don’t remember writing any of the Jak 3 stuff. I really don’t. Maybe that “Subrails” theme, that crazy thing that’s kind of techno. I remember I had it playing so loud. I remember Mark Mothersbaugh came in the room and asked, “What the fuck are you doing?” (laughter). I was just like, “I’m working man!”
I was looking at action soundtracks to feel inspired. I don’t even remember what I was listening to, probably John Williams or something like that. There’s a theme in Jak 3 for “War Factory” that has two different versions. One of them just used an earlier version of the beta testing. It has this French horn triplet thing, and that’s the machine. I was like, “That’s a total Star Wars thing.” I remember that as a kid, and that was the kind of vibe I wanted. I wanted that French horn, short, staccato, rhythmic thing, and then just wrote something around it. I wanted something other than percussion to create the rhythmic engine.
Were there specific things with the Jak games that you were trying to capture, in terms of feel?
I remember when I was writing “Metal Head Hunt,” I was listening to a lot of Massive Attack. There’s a little bit of that in there. Throughout all these games, I was listening to a lot of Adrian Sherwood production, of course.
Oh my goodness. I’ve been telling people forever that dub reggae is the most influential thing in music. I feel like I hear every single artist who matters today talk about how dub reggae influenced them.
Yeah. Because it takes it out of the song world and this whole narrative of lyrics and whatever, to something a lot more instrumental. All dub music sounds like soundtrack music to me. I can picture stuff in my head so easily. I love African Head Charge and Dub Syndicate, all that Lee Perry stuff. I could go on and on about dub reggae. And going back to my Twitter comment, Tortoise was definitely in the air, making instrumental music with vibraphones and two bass lines going at the same time. [Editor’s Note: I made a tweet about Tortoise’s TNT (1998), which Josh Mancell responded to, and which led to this interview]. And Stereolab, oh, my god. I listened to so much Stereolab. There’s a thing on Crash Team Racing where I was inspired by the little trumpet “ba ba ba ba” from “Lo Boob Oscillator,” off of Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2) (1995).
I was listening to so much music. I was playing in a lounge band, I was still doing the punk band for a time. So I was constantly listening to stuff and I would just feel my brain pull me, like, “Oh, what’s that bassline? I want that.” Definitely Massive Attack and their record Mezzanine (1998). It had such a huge influence on anything and everything because it was just so well done. It’s this beautifully constructed sonic masterpiece. It’s so good.
Yeah, it sounds expensive. Everything is just really immaculate on that album.
For sure. I was reading some interview with them during that time period. The guy who ended up leaving after that album, Mushroom, I think he wasn’t into the heavier, more rock sounding stuff, so he was not involved with that interview. But the other two guys were like, “Oh yeah, all we do is smoke a bunch of weed and listen to A Tribe Called Quest and The Dark Side of the Moon (1973).” And I was like, “Yeah!” (laughter). Even though I was never much of a weed smoker, I just felt like, “Yeah, that’s all you need. Some Pink Floyd and some good solid rap or dub or whatever.” There’s a Dark Side of the Moon rip off on the Jak 1 soundtrack. The weighted piano chords on the “Citadel” level are definitely from “Time” by Pink Floyd.
It’s interesting that you mention Stereolab because you also commented on my Moonshake tweet, and these bands are all in a similar zone. I’m now thinking about Seefeel too and other stuff on Too Pure.
I didn’t really get into Seefeel and Scala and that stuff until a little bit later. I remember I bought a Pram record from some guy on eBay and then out of nowhere he burned two CDs worth of music, and there was a lot of Seefeel.
I know you’ve said Mouse on Mars was a big influence too.
Big time. That was something that Dave Baggett and I were totally into. Twift (1997) and Autoditacker (1997)—that sensibility was stored somewhere during those Crash soundtracks. It was zany. I hate using words like that, but it really was just a kind of idiosyncratic, wild electronica.
The first show you worked on with Mark was Adventures in Wonderland. I’m curious what it was like making soundtracks for these children’s shows? I watched Clifford and the Shorty McShorts’ Shorts growing up, but not that. What’s your approach with soundtracking children’s TV?
I think the most important difference is that television is a linear narrative. There’s a beginning and a middle and an end. There’s a story, and it’s all predetermined. Addressing these things that are not going to change makes your job fairly easy once you have an instrument palette that works. With Clifford, once the theme song was written, they basically wanted that vibe. Those kinds of instruments, that kind of warm piano, very organic sounding things. But as far as how it was scored, for animation, that has a whole different set of concerns. Because there’s animation—like Mickey Mouse, that sort of thing—where you’re addressing every single physical movement. And then there’s the opposite, which is a little bit more modern, where it’s really minimal. I did that show, Gary the Rat. That had a few sight gags, but for the most part, it was just awkward pauses and punctuating. More blocky and less of the little itsy bitsy flourishes and [Looney Tunes composer] Carl Stalling kind of stuff.
But going back to what I’m saying, with games, you have to capture the spirit of the level, and more broadly, you have to write music that could be placed anywhere in that gaming experience. Obviously, games have evolved to where they behave a lot more like cinema. Even the Naughty Dog games, Last of Us and Uncharted, they’re very movie-like. That’s where they wanted to go. Early on they were like, “We want to make movie video games.” With that said, there’s a lot more full-motion video, when there’s a cutaway scene where they tell you some story. That became such a huge part of it. Even with the Jak and Daxter games, that’s what makes it feel like a movie. That’s what Johnny Mnemonic did too. Like, here are these sections where we’re going to tell you the story, but for the actual gameplay music, you have to be a little bit more broad-minded in terms of like, “Okay, this is a fast level, you’re being chased.” You don’t have to score it per se but you definitely have to capture something that feels like it belongs in this type of level.
What are you up to nowadays? I know you have your band.
Yeah, Exploding Flowers. We’re going to do a little mini tour next week. We’re going to play up the coast. We’re almost done with our third record and it’ll be on Bandcamp. And then I’m working with this singer from England on a couple of tracks. She’s actually done some vocals on video game soundtracks. I went to Manchester last year, because the Manchester Video Game Orchestra did three medleys of my stuff. I went over there and did a guest lecture at the College of Music. I met a bunch of people. I have a couple other ongoing, remote recording projects. As far as the scoring goes, I feel like the pandemic really slowed that whole world down for me. I did a couple of little documentary things. I’ve been tinkering away at this science-fiction film and that’s really sound-design heavy. The director is doing this on the side, so there’ll be long periods of time where he’ll be working on visual effects, and then he’ll come to me and say, “Oh, we’ve got a new section.” And I’ll get to work on that. So it’s a little bit here and there. I’m filling up the days.
Do you still keep in touch with Mark or the other Devo guys?
I’ve had to contact Mark over the years for various things. There’s a potential soundtrack deal that might be going down that I can’t say too much about. I had to text him earlier this summer about getting together to work out some technical details on that. There’s just been weird little things. My friend had a line on this organ that was being used at this world famous Marionette Theater in LA, and they wanted to get rid of it. I was just like, “I bet Mark would want it.” I texted him a photo of it and they basically just gave it to him (laughter). Just little things like that. But I haven’t done any work with him at all. Really just sort of like doing post-game stuff. When we did the Jak vinyl, I had to make sure that it was cool with him that I was spearheading that and choosing the tracks. He was just like, “Yeah, that’s your deal.”
Do you have any fond memories of these guys? Obviously you loved them growing up.
For a long time, I kind of had to keep all that stuff to myself. Though, I have a Devo tattoo so it wasn’t a secret (laughter). Bob Mothersbaugh and I had studios that were next door to each other. I was playing drums on the Rugrats All Grown Up! show and he plays the guitar on the Devo rip off on Interstate ’82. So we had this kind of organic relationship. I don’t really have any specific memories, it was just a really bizarre and beautiful experience. Unfortunately, Bob Casale died about 10 years ago. He was such a nice guy, and so open and willing to share all his knowledge. I really miss him.
Was there anything that we didn’t talk about that you wanted to mention?
I don’t think so! It’s always nice to have someone who’s curious about all the influences. I usually shy away from that question, because I kind of have to explain who Stereolab is to so many people. I knew that you know a lot of this. The fact that you posted about Moonshake was like, okay, you are operating at a higher level. So it’s more fun to talk about that stuff. Even though I’m not literally ripping them off, at least most of the time, it’s part of my DNA. I listen to so many different kinds of music all the time. It has to come out of me in some fashion. Do you know who Nurse With Wound is?
Oh yeah, for sure.
That’s actually how I became friends with the guy that I worked with on Shorty McShorts’ Shorts.
How did that happen?
That was a Mutato project. It was one of those things that was coming down the pike and it was a self-contained job. Mark asked me, “Do you want to do it?” And I was like, “Sure, I’ll do it.” I had met this artist, performer, and animator, Stephen Holman, a few years before. He was working with another performer on something for MTV. I kind of knew who he was. English guy, kind of quirky. He came into my studio for a meeting and I had this little stack of Nurse With Wound CDs, and his eyes just completely bugged. He was like, “Am I really looking at a stack of Nurse With Wound CDs?” I just said, “Yup.” He was like, “Okay, we’ll talk after this.” So we had our meeting and our spotting session and then we talked for like three hours about Steven Stapleton and Throbbing Gristle. It’s the whole Throbbing Gristle universe of experimental, UK stuff. We just fully dorked out. We still hang out. We still trade files. I can’t really afford to keep up with Nurse With Wound, but for a long time, I would buy the cheapest copy I could find of certain things. But I do have a stack of vinyl of at least 24 Nurse With Wound artifacts.
I have been trying to interview Steven for years. I got so close once. If I recall correctly the only person who had a phone was his wife. So it was very convoluted and there was a miscommunication and we couldn’t do the interview.
Someone at Brainwashed did it, the mini-documentary. I thought that was a huge score since they actually got to go to his house. I met him once. He was doing a live show at Amoeba. It was him, a woman that was playing cello for Current 93, and maybe Colin Potter was there. I can’t remember. There were just three or four. There was a nice, little bunch of maladjusted Nurse With Wound fans out there and he was just sitting there drinking a beer. I came prepared, I had my Soliloquy for Lilith (1988) insert for him to sign (laughter). His eyes bugged out at that. He said, “You know that’s one of my favorites of my own stuff?” I was just like, “Well, it’s one of my favorites too.” We didn’t talk for very long, but I was just kind of like, “Thanks for doing everything you’re doing, man. We really appreciate it.” He was very smiling and I think he was very happy to have someone say that.
Did you ever listen to the Hafler Trio?
Man, don’t get me started.
I interviewed Andrew McKenzie. One of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done, he had so many great stories.
I went through a long period of being very obsessed with his output. Hold on a second, let me uncork my stack here. (Mancell shows a stack of Hafler Trio CDs). Here’s the Autechre collaboration. I have his books too. I have Plucking Feathers From a Bald Frog. I have so much Hafler Trio stuff. The thing that opened the door for me on all this stuff was Cabaret Voltaire. When I was 30 or something like that, I had always known who they were, and then someone played “Nag, Nag, Nag” and I was just like, “This is punk. This is cool.” I think I’d thought of them as more dancey with a lot of samples. Chris Watson from Cabaret Voltaire was one of the original Hafler Trio, so that’s what got me rolling on that. That’s another expensive habit, you know. Have you read England’s Hidden Reverse (2002)? I don’t know how hard it is to find, but it’s the definitive book on Nurse With Wound, David Tibet, Coil.
I haven’t read it, no. It’s funny you mention Coil. My friend mentioned how the Jak soundtracks sound like Coil.
I was listening to that stuff back then for sure. I remember listening to a lot of Musick to Play in the Dark (1999). I love all that stuff. If you can track down that book, it’s worth the effort.
It looks like it just got repressed though. David Keenan, the writer, is great. He’s written a bunch for The Wire.
That magazine still intimidates me. I have a handful of issues from the last 20 years, but I never got a subscription because I was like, “I don’t think I could absorb all this.” I listen to a lot of stuff and I’m pretty nerdy, but that’s a lot.
Yeah, I like writing for them because it’s nice to be able to make obscure references and have it be okay.
To that point, my friend Richard loves to tell me, he would reference Sade at any place where he felt it was appropriate at The Wire. I think he had like one person that knew that Sade was totally deep. She’s another one of my great loves. She gets kind of pigeonholed in that light jazz or whatever.
I went to a film screening a few months ago where they played the 35mm print of the music video for “Smooth Operator,” which was incredible.
That’s so great. I saw her when I was in high school. She was touring her third album. I had like, 10th row seats, right in the center. I was just like, “Oh my god.” She’s the best.
I asked Josh Mancell to list some of his favorite albums. The following is what he sent me.
Here’s a 20-album list I rattled off. I didn’t overthink it and therefore probably missed a few big ones, but I think it’s a good snapshot of what was in heavy rotation for me in my Naughty Dog “era”—20 albums that may have slipped into my subconscious while composing for the Crash and Jak games. These are listed in no particular order.
Stereolab - Dots and Loops (1997)
Kraftwerk - Computer World (1981)
Massive Attack - Mezzanine (1998)
Coil - Stolen & Contaminated Songs (1992)
African Head Charge - Environmental Studies (1982)
Sandoz - Digital Lifeforms (1993)
The Monochrome Set - Volume, Contrast, Brilliance… (1983)
Aceyalone - All Balls Don’t Bounce (1995)
Mouse On Mars - Autoditacker (1997)
Moondog - Elpmas (1992)
Scorn - Evanescence (1994)
Yellow Magic Orchestra - ×∞Multiplies (1980)
Digable Planets - Blowout Comb (1994)
Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92 (1992)
Dead Can Dance - Spleen and Ideal (1985)
Colin Newman - Provisionally Entitled the Singing Fish (1981)
Casual - Fear Itself (1994)
Broadcast - Work and Non Work (1997)
Suns of Arqa - Revenge of the Mozabites (1980)
A Guy Called Gerald - Black Secret Technology (1995)
Thank you for reading the twentieth issue of Tune Glue. (Aku Aku voice) Ooga Booga.
If you appreciate what we do, please consider donating via Ko-fi or becoming a Patreon patron. Tone Glow is dedicated to forever providing its content for free, but please know that all our writers are paid for the work they do. All donations will be used for paying writers, and if we get enough money, Tone Glow will be able to publish issues more frequently.