Interview of the damned
Gabez talks to Mathew Brazillius Smith about Nightlight, night-life and nightmares.
The clock strikes midnight. Most people are in bed at this ungodly hour, but not Mathew Smith. He has work to do. By day he is a mild mannered janitor, but by night he becomes MJ, vice president junior of the illustrious Nightlight Productions. His mission? To create LucasArts inspired radio plays freely distributed on the Mojo network. He darts through cyber-space like some virtual manifestation of Robin Hood. Rob from the rich, give radio plays to the poor.
Acting on a tip-off from an anonymous source I managed to track him down in his Australian fortress of evil, after he grudgingly accepted to be interviewed. “I don’t usually agree to this sort of thing”, he snarled, extending a pallid hand in greeting. I declined a handshake mumbling some excuse about having hepatitis and instead got straight to business with the questions. First and foremost on my list was why radio plays? “Well why not?”, he quips. “The way I see it the Internet is perfect for that medium. I can broadcast free stuff where I want, when I want. And there’s not a thing you can do about it”
And perhaps he’s right - what can we do about Nightlight Productions but sit and listen to their hilarious shows? Take Lost Cause, for example, a parody of Star Wars. “It’s as plain as you can put it.”, explains MJ. “The villains (Darth Vapour and Number Two) are given much more of the spotlight, Lube Skystalker and his fellow lackeys really couldn’t give a wookiee’s arse about the rebellion, and the Dud Star is a fast food restaurant unlike anything the galaxy has ever seen” The show has already completed a ten episode run that can be downloaded off the web-site, and the second series is currently running at the time of publication.
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH
But MJ isn’t content with just stopping at Star Wars: “Nightlight Productions is also making a show called Beneath Monkey Island. It’s a series between two pirates: the always famous Guybrush Threepwood, and the legendary Carl, Swordmaster of Jambalaya Island. Carl has been recruited by an ‘anonymous rotting corpse’ to go to Monkey Island and retrieve the legendary three monkey idol, but Carl is very much an Eddie Murphy character. So there’s a lot of Beverly Hills insult swordfighting to look forward to!”
Indeed, Beneath Monkey Island is what Mathew Smith fondly refers to as “pornography for the ears” and “better than being buggered to death by a Satanist” (he’s hopefully not speaking from experience from the last one). But things aren’t always rosy in radio land; BMI hit snags being a community project. In other words normal freaks from the Internet leant their vocal tallents in exchange for a series of “coupons” that MJ promised were redeemable at certain supermarkets (this is in fact a lie - I know, I’ve done my research into this guy’s past and I’m telling you this coupon project was never legal. But that’s a story for another day). Anyway, there was a slight problem with this plan: it was bollocks. “The quality of recording in some cases were noticeably dodgy”, admitted MJ after I‘d spiked his drink with mescaline. But does this mean the end for a Monkey Island radio play? “Absolutely not”, he maintains. “It’s going to be entirely scripted and recorded in the studio instead. I’m not sure of the exact outcome, but I promise it’s going to be superb or not happen at all” So you heard it here first - look out for Beneath Monkey Island sometime in 2030, when we’ll be living on the moon and have robot slaves to scratch our arses for us.
LIVE AND LET DIE
By this point MJ had become noticeably relaxed, shaking a goblet of beer around in one hand and waving vaguely in the air with the other. Midnight is the only part of his day when he can truly chill out, being as it is after his work but before he begins on editing the recordings. Internet radio is a harsh mistress, it seems. “It’s a long and drawn out process.”, he sighs. “I have to come up with an idea, write the radio play, arrange a recording time, somehow finish a very weird script the night before the recording, travel to Newcastle, record it with ‘the guys’, travel back to Sydney, let it sit on a CD spool for months until you get around to it, realize there isn’t a song for it, on a trip to Newcastle for a completely different recording record a song in the studios with some backing music, do some editing, mix some sound effects in, make the webpage and then break some promises”
But even now he is philosophical and relays some pearls of wisdom on me: “The most important part of a radio play, no matter what anyone tells you, is voice first, story second. Because it's the voice that tells the story. And if a number of the voices are bad, or don't suit the character, or is really badly acted, then people won't even listen to it.” What we all really want to hear about, though, is Tierra De Los Muertos, AKA the Grim Fandango radio play - the very thing started this whole damn craze in the first place. “There’s really not that much of a similarity between that LucasArts game and the radio play, though” insists MJ when asked about a possible connection. “Rather both things merely share the same inspiration source. I was initially inspired by Sergio Aragones comic about the Dia de los Muertos celebrations in South America, but, yeah, if you like Grim Fandango then you’ll like Tierra too”
For those who don’t know, Tierra De Los Muertos was a ten part internet radio play about a DOD reaper who gets a shock one day when a live person ends up in the land of the dead. The story involves a prophecy being fulfilled, an irate Scotsman (what Scotsman isn’t irate, I wonder) and even Death himself (not itself; this is death the person not the event). There are also plans for a sequel, a book, a movie, a game, an action figure set, a rights selling, an unofficial game and then finally the degeneration of Mathew Smith as he implodes into himself and becomes a teapot. “My life long ambition”, he tells me.
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN
Admittedly the man in black (that’s MJ, not Batman) has other tricks up his sleeve: “I’m making an epic radio drama called the Howard Saga that’s very loosely based on Australian politics and my own personal experiences of sheep buggery”, he slyly revels exclusively to Mojo readers. “But don’t tell anyone about that yet”, he adds as a joke. “Seriously, that’s not a joke”, he additionally quips. “If you print this I swear I will hunt you down and drink your blood.”
In fact, it seems that MJ is full of jokes as the clock chimes one. One particular recording anecdote catches his memory: “The guys who perform in my radio series, Stuart Moncrieff, Stanley Brain, and Lawrence Aitchison, often get a little too much in character”, he nostalgically recalls. “For instance, I found out that whilst Stuart was playing the Evil Doctor Beazley he got his nipples pierced (and despite my surprise, managed to stay in character), and I got attacked and half mauled while he was in the persona of Brownie the Bear.”
Hilarious stories, but our time is running out and I’m soon pushed outside with mumbled excuses and thankyous and a hasty “I’ll e-mail you soon” even though we both know that no such thing will happen. The bastard. I hate him and yet… I also love him. At least I think I do. Maybe not. Maybe all I love is his radio plays, and who can blame me?
I feel old. Who am I? What have I become?