Alex Morris of Mosh Pit the game
When I found out someone was making a game for the iOS platform about moshing I was pretty curious. How would it work, who’s behind it? Stuff like that. When I heard bands like Underdog and Crown Of Thornz would be used in the game, even more so. So I decided to get in touch with Alex “Uncle Al” Morris, the guy behind it all. Here’s what he had to say.
Hey Alex, what’s on your mind? What are you up to at the moment?
At this very moment? Promoting like mad. I’m totally engulfed in my baby (Mosh Pit matinee) and it’s all on how many eyeballs get a look at this.
For people that don’t know you, or don’t make the connection.. What’s your link with hardcore?
Jeez, where do I start? Ok, I’m a real old fart from the 70’s and 80’s. I grew up in Queens, same as the Ramones, The NY Dolls, Kiss and Christopher Walken. I pretty much lived the punk rock era close up and spent my formative years hitting the clubs downtown- Max’s Kansas City, The Mudd Clubb, Danceateria and of course the Mecca of punk/Hardcore- CBGBs. Being both a musician and an audience member I was exposed to it on a daily basis. In ‘78 I went as a guest of an ex-band of mine to see the Ramones at Queens College, totally ripped my brain to hear raw hard music blasting in my ears as kids threw themselves at the front of the stage. That set my course- only hard, fast rules from now on.
In 1979 the torch of punk was passed on to other cities- London, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington DC. NYC punk influenced the rest of the world, they took hold and made it louder, faster, harder. The one crucial element was that the audience of these bands became more involved with the overall scheme of things. No longer content to just being bystanders and observers, people at these small venues became an integral part of the show- pogoing, slam dancing, skanking and stage diving. That year I was told by a friend that if I liked that kind of thing, go see The Bad Brains at CBs- another mind blowing experience. They pushed the energy limit up ten notches.
Myself and others created a “crew” of people who would all hop in a car or van and travel up and down the eastern part of the US- New jersey, philadelphia, Boston and of course DC. We were the NYC crew who ruled dancefloors and stage dived our way across the scene. We’d go to see the Minor Threat, SSD Control, Iron Cross, Jerry’s Kids, D.O.A., Gang Green, FEAR, dozens of others.
The Dead Kennedys played a show on Staten island one night, so our whole lower East Side crew hopped the ferry and went. When we got back I talked with my friend Vinny Stigma, we decided that punk was done, hardcore was the way to go. Vinny set out to create Agnostic Front, I held back and waited to create my band. That occurred while I was working security at the A7 club on Avenue A in the East village, circa 1982. Running the door was this crazy punk kid who had his own style of moshing and stage diving, Jimmy Gestapo we called him. I said one night “Yo Jimmy, let’s start a band” he said “Crucial!”. So we gathered up a couple of others- Adam Mucchi bass player from AF and we drove around looking for a drummer, spotting Harley Flanagan on the street. Jimmy yelled out the window “Hey Harley, we’re starting a band, wanna come?” Harley said “Crucial, man!” and hopped in the car.
We went back to my place on the West Side, sat on amps and plugged in our guitars, drank beer and smoked herb and started making up songs. Jimmy said “I wanna make a fun song” so we wrote a song called “Fun”. After a while we realized we had something going here, Jimmy said he could get us to play a show that night (this was New Years Eve 1982) at the Plugg Club. We busted our brains thinking up a name when we all at once turned to my refrigerator that had a poster on it called “Murphy’s Law”. We all looked at each other and said “AGGGHHHH! MURPHYS LAW!!!”
So that night we showed up, told the guy at the door we were one of the bands playing (what the fuck did he know? He just let us in, we weren’t on the bill) We ran on stage, asked the band getting off if we could ‘borrow” their equipment (NOBODY said no to us, especially Jimmy) and Jimmy yelled into the Mic “YO! happy new year! We’re Murphy’s law and this song is called “FUN!”. Suddenly the place went nuts- people started ripping up chairs and attacking the stage and after two songs the stage collapsed. The owner ran up to us, we thought he wanted to kill us. He pointed a finger at us and said “You guys wanna play here next week?”
So, yeah, I had something to do with hardcore.
Suddenly the place went nuts- people started ripping up chairs and attacking the stage and after two songs the stage collapsed. The owner ran up to us, we thought he wanted to kill us. He pointed a finger at us and said “You guys wanna play here next week?”
Haha, wow. That’s probably the best (and longest) answer I’ve ever got to that question. Great. So let’s talk about this game. It’s probably the first “hardcore” game ever right? Or do you know of any other ones?
As far as I know it’s the only thing like it out there. They say if you’re going to create something, make sure it’s about something you know about and love. Well, I know and love mosh pits and hardcore. What you have is just the starting point, I got plans to make this grow like a weed.
True, I totally agree about the “you gotta love what you’re doing” part. As for the game, I had a chance to play around with it a bit, but how would you describe it to someone? And why should people spend their hard-earned money on it?
It’s music, it’s fun, it’s cartoons moshing, it’s a mosh pit in your pocket and what could be more fun than that? For $2.99? Hell that’s a bag of fries and a beer- cheap beer!!
Good point haha. I loved the song choice. How did you make that selection?
All those bands are personal friends of mine I got to know from playing and representing on the NYHC scene over the years. They’re authentic, I’ve seen them and their crowds in action. Most apps or games use either generic music or pay large fees to put name acts on their game, I went to those who paid their dues and deserve wider recognition for their talents. I wanted some old school real deal, but also I intend to introduce a new generation of bands in upcoming upgrades.
The criteria for choosing those songs is that they had to be between 2:00 and 2:40 in length and had to have a consistent beat or rhythm in order for them to play right with the action of the game.
Cool you’re also going to showcase newer bands. As for those songs, how did that work exactly? Did you pick songs from your collection you loved, tried them out in the game to see if it worked and then asked the band permission or? Must have sucked to drop an awesome song because it didn’t exactly work in the game.
Pretty much what you just said. I had lots to choose from, so I narrowed down the criteria: It had to be within 2:10 to 2:30 long to fit the gameplay, it had to have a steady “moshable’ beat, though speed changes were fine. A lot of songs have breakdowns and mosh parts, as opposed to giving one the urge to kick it all the way through. Also no long feedback intros, no mic chat.
Another thing I had to consider was language- no loud “FUUUCKKK-SHITTT” lyrics- Apple rejects stuff they consider obscene and I was concerned about getting rejected over something small like that. I’m looking into trying to sneak all that in on the upgrade songs because a lot of HXC music does that.
Yeah I know, they’re really strict with their approval. Did you get approved right away? Because I’ve heard horror stories from developers.
Actually it got approved TOO quickly. I was told it was about a two week wait to find out, so I added an additional ten days after that amount figuring I’d have enough time to pre-promote it. They gave me the thumbs up two days after I submitted it! Unless you show naked bodies or the app freezes up a lot they usually pass you.
Most apps or games use either generic music or pay large fees to put name acts on their game, I went to those who paid their dues and deserve wider recognition for their talents.
Anyway, how did you come up with the idea for the game? Did it came to you in a dream? Or were you moshing hard and saw people playing with their cellphones around you?
I haven’t moshed in years. Wait, that’s not true. I went to see Agnostic Front and H2O in Sao Paulo recently and when Toby announced my presence I felt I had to kick it one more time for the kids. That was fun.
It came to me in little pieces but one day I just took out a piece of digital paper and drew out a cartoon mosh pit, it just grew from there. I had developed an interest in animation and bought a program called Toon Boom and started making cartoons of people jumping around to music.
It started looking like a game so I took it further, started researching the internet about gaming and soon had a blueprint for MOSH PIT. It was a two year long learning curve but it was a creative challenge. I’m an internet junky and to me it’s pure information waiting to be picked up and absorbed, a free college education. There‘s a lot of tech rabbit holes to run down into, I got lost a lot, but i found out that you don’t have to know everything, that there’s other people with other skills (like C coding) that can carry you over those dead ends. If I had to wait to learn C++ this thing wouldn’t get off the ground for another five years.
That’s so true. I’m a webdesigner and I educate myself every day on the web, reading stuff, trying things out. That’s the only way to keep up with what’s happening. Any tips for people out there that are toying around with the idea to create their own app? Aside from reading articles on the subject that is.
I guess you should approach it just as you would approach putting a band together- first question should be where do you want this to end up? If you want your band to play a small local club for a laugh, you build that kind of a band. if you want to play huge stadiums you build and write for that.
Always have an end game vision, then work your way back. Now of course I can’t say I’m an expert on building successful games because I haven’t made a dime off of MPM..yet.
So how did the people react that had a chance to play with it yet?
I had some friends beta-test it for me and they seemed to love it, although a few of them had a hard time figuring out exactly how it played, that’s why I’m including “Mosh Pit for Dummies” instructions on my website.
Yeah, that’s the one thing I had in the beginning too. I was pressing buttons and mainly listening music but didn’t really had an idea how to score points at first. How about integrating a short video / tutorial in the game when people run it for the first time? Put some humor in it, don’t make it too long? Maybe for a future update?
Too late to put it on the game for now, it’s locked up and in iTunes. But you figured it out, right? I’m doing a video now that I’ll be putting up on Facebook and the webpage for the site. The game is going to evolve, more challenges, multiple players, sharing over the web. I want to keep people tuning in for what’s next.
There will be more characters, more challenges and a few things I’m keeping under wraps that will make this app revolutionary for hardcore and kids worldwide to join in on.
Now you turned in the final version to iTunes. How pleased are you with the end result yourself? Anything you would like to change, or ideas for updates already?
I think it looks great, but like all games this is just the start. They say don’t fuss too much over the initial game, get it out there and improve it as you go along. Due to limitations on funding and the desire to put it out, I went with that advice and I’m glad I did. This start out version is complete in it’s own but there’s room to expand and I’m going to let users chime in with suggestions and ideas. I’m already lining up more bands to create an eventual catalog of dozens of bands. There will be more characters, more challenges and a few things I’m keeping under wraps that will make this app revolutionary for hardcore and kids worldwide to join in on. I saw HXC and it’s good and bad sides, I want to preserve the good that served my generation well and pass it on to the next.
Nice. I also like the part about letting the users chime in. Going to be interesting to see how that develops. Creating an app like this probably isn’t easy. What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating the game?
As I said earlier the tech stuff. I lived the nexus between creative hipster and tech nerdster, it ain’t pretty, but like punks and skins there are ways to unite and have fun. The challenge mostly is carrying a vision on your own, that you have to sell that vision to others.
These days you see a lot of Kickstarter projects, you went at it the oldschool way though. You got NYHC “scenestars” (hate that word) to invest in the project. How did that go?
Really good, I send my love out to my brothers in the NYHC scene who I grew up with who gave me faith in my ideas. Rather than approach strangers, I went to those who knew and trusted me and some of them had to scrape through these hard times to come up with the cash to make this happen. We’re solid with each other and that’s from being NYHC.
They’re not going to kick your ass if the game doesn’t do much I hope though haha?
Hey, at least I’m not pulling a Max Biallystock by selling them more than it makes (that’s a “Producers” reference). It’s risk venture stuff, things all capitalists understand. You can invest in an app game, you can invest in a dry cleaners, there’s no guarantees but with good planning and hard effort chances are good there will be success.
How do you think it will do? Is this going to be the new Angry Birds? Seeing dollar signs already?
Hell yeah, I hope so! I’d be lying if I said I did this strictly for the joy of it (which it was), I’m damned near broke and getting old, dammit! That lousy recession dried me out. Seriously though, I hope this makes me something, as it will for my investor friends who also can use it, but also the bands who will get a nice cut for their efforts and talents. Most of them are also getting old and the road wears a man down, you know what I’m saying?
At least we can say this is non-polluting. no plastic, smoke or ozone. I’m selling data to entertain, to take one’s mind off the ugly world for a minute. I intend that if this is really successful to plow some of that back to causes that need help- human and animal salvation, endangered species, save the oceans and rivers- I’m all about those things.
A priest came up and yelled “get the fuck out of here !” and Ray ran out the door with me on his shoulders and threw me into the snow. That was my first mosh pit.
Nice. Let’s hope it will be successful then. Virtual moshing for a better world. Sounds good haha. Any cheats or easter eggs in the game we should keep an eye out for?
No, I’m too simple to come up with that kind of stuff. Let the gamers think that up.
Selling apps is actually real hard because there’s so many of them out there, you’re like one tree in a whole forest. It has to do something to stand out, be different but still you got to get eyeballs on it. So I’m going the social network route with a Facebook page. It allows me to promote and let people know it exists and if they like what they see, they pass it on. I’ve been having a lot of fun posting photos of shows and bands and previewing the artwork of MPM, people seem to dig it. Make sure you “like” the page, that’s real important
To close this off, favorite moshpit you’ve been a part of or your best mosh memory?
That’s a tuff one, there were so many. The Ramones at QC, my first Bad Brains show in ‘81. I had no idea what to expect. I showed up at CBs wearing cover-alls covered with punk buttons and patches. After five minutes every button and patch was ripped off.. Rock hotel shows, road shows, Murphys law shows…
I was at a high school dance at St Lukes in Queens back in 1969. The band was really ripping fast, unusual for a dance. The girl I was dancing with was too slow so I just pushed her away and started acting like a little maniac, jumping around to the music. All the kids made a circle around me, wondering what the fuck was wrong with this kid and laughing. I ran around in a circle, jumped off a table and onto the back of my fried Red Ray Gallegher who carried me through the crowd on his shoulders. A priest came up and yelled “get the fuck out of here !” and Ray ran out the door with me on his shoulders and threw me into the snow. That was my first mosh pit.
Hahahaha, that’s the best possible ending for this interview, thanks!
Thanks for having me over, Pim