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Interview with the creator of PHONGO

phongo original logoWe had a chance to interview Niels Hlawinka, who has created an iOS video game that features DJ Qbert as a character! Niels lives in Germany and spends his time skratching when he's not designing websites and building cool apps for FatSack Games

ADA: How did you come up with the PHONGO character?

Niels: In 2005 I had a little online clothing store besides my main job (I always loved cool street fashion) where I imported underground clothing labels to support and sell in my country (Germany). It was then that I created the company name as Phongo-Clothing Co.

The name comes from Phonograph, meaning turntable, and with the G it brings a little bit of craziness to it.

phongo characterI love funny names :D ... ALSO - (this was the main reason) I think all of us turntablism nerds know, after you practice 5 hours of hardcore beat juggling you have a crackpot brain… then you are PHONGO... so that's why his eyes are like that (also to symbolize vinyl records).  And so for this project we created this little character PHONGO in a cartoon form.

ADAWhen did you first get the idea for the game?

Niels: I had the idea maybe two years ago to create a little adventure game with PHONGO (or DJ related characters), all together from the turntablism crew we had with DJ KidDioxin (me), DJ J. Flummox, DJ TechNick, DJ Triangle, and DJ D´La.

ADA: How long did it take to develop the game? Did you draw the characters by hand or was it done digitally?

PHONGO - sketch

Niels: In this case we developed for nearly 5 months. My designer drew it firstly by hand and then colored it out digitally. We had a lot of problems because was our first app! We learned a lot from the mistakes we made.

PHONGO - colored

ADA: What other games inspired you to come up with this one?

Niels: I look always for some trends on iTunes. This first PHONGO game should really only be more of test for me to see how it's all working with the iTunes App Store. And I thought this is the best time to use PHONGO and a Scratch DJ themed game. But because it´s my little baby, it took much longer then expected. I wanted all to be perfect here and there. And in the meantime a couple of other apps I had in the pipeline were ready long before PHONGO.

ADA: Who did the soundtrack? Sounds awesome!

Niels: Thanks bro, really happy to hear this!!! The music on the Main Screen is from our scratch crew "Phongolicious“ we had back in the days. The background music when you play are from my homies from 1000records.

adventures of DJ Phongo

ADA: What other games have you made? Where can we check those out?

Niels: At the moment it goes really fast. I have this little developer team and they work like crazy bastards on new graphics. You can check www.fatsackgames.com for all our games.

ADA: Where did you learn to program games?

Niels: I have a awesome team around me which I work with. We work under the name "FatSack Games“ and try to put cool apps out - My personal objective is awesome graphics. There are a lot of games out there with really crappy graphics.

ADA: Can this game be played on a regular computer, or is it only for smartphone or tablet?

Niels: At the moment all games are only available for iOS devices.

ADA: What has been the response so far from people who played the game? What kind of feedback are you getting from DJs, what about from non-DJs?

Niels: OK we have sadly not many downloads for the game. But from those who have downloaded it, the feedback has been awesome. Everyone loves the graphics and these cute characters. It's one of my favorite games too and we put a lot of love in it.

PHONGO - dj qbert characterADA: Why did you want to feature Qbert in this game? 

Niels: When I started scratching and researching the internet in the late 90's, I found fast the Invisibl Skratch Piklz. Since then I followed them. I bought their first Skratch Videos on VHS and learned a lot with them back in these times.

ADA: Tell us more about you.

Niels: I'm 36 years from Germany (near Stuttgart) - My main job is designing and developing websites, SEO and online marketing for companies. With apps/games I started in the beginning of 2013. I'm addicted to turntablism, especially scratching since 1998. Was crazy times then... coming home from school and immediately to the turntables, practicing up to 8 hours all through the night... :D

ADA: How did you get into scratching?

Niels: I was always fascinated about turntables and especially scratching. When I was 15 I got my first cheap reloop turntables and was a proud Vestax 2 channel Mixer owner. One of the first Vestax Battle Mixers you could get in this times. Maybe someone remembers these gray mixers with a red Vestax V on it (think it was the PMC 03A - 1st Special Funkmaster Flex Edition Edition).

But I mixed not much then - I didn't know how it all worked and where I could learn. Scratching in particular, was a big mystery for me... In the mid 90s when I was 18 I was in the electronic music scene. Instead of buying my driving license with the last money I bought two Technics turntables and mixed a couple of years with house records. Hip Hop was always with me and after playing a lot of parties, I wanted to go back to my Hip Hop roots. I bought a Technics DMC Mixer and started to practice scartching. I had no clue how scratching could work. I bought a lot of VHS tapes from DMC and the first learning videos from the Piklz they produced these times, to learn how it all works... What is a Chirp, a Flare, Crab and so on.. Nobody in my area was knowing what a "2 Click Flare“ and so on :D. So nobody could show me anything… without Invisibl Skratch PIklz and Qbert I would never have reached this level back in these days.

ADA: Do you think this game will expose more kids to scratching and turntablism?

Niels: No I (sadly) don´t think so. :] But it would be awesome if I could inspire some other people to start scratching!

ADA: It seems like a lot of scratch DJs have been influenced by video games. Why do you think there's not been more games to feature scratching? Other than DJ Hero, which is totally different than this style of game, I can't think of any other games to feature DJs or scratching.

phongo game

Niels: Because it brings no money for big companies. :D

Look for example at the Skate video game titles, EA stopped it because it was bringing less revenues. But there is a really huge community out there who waiting for a Skate 4 title (me too) :D.

Sadly all depends on money in our world. I need to earn money too to get my investments back. But I make this mostly for fun - I have a main job, so it's not important to earn money off this... when it comes then it comes.

I think especially scratching speaks only to a very small targeted group (like how Norway evil death metal represents a subculture). To hear these sounds for more then 15 minutes you must be born to really like it! :P

When we looked back in the times VHS tapes from DMC Championships a lot of friends of mine who had nothing to do with scratching and turntablism, couldn't watch them with me very long. Because these sounds were too stressful for them... I watched it all day and night long ..muuahhahaha :D

ADA: How do you feel about the current state of scratching/turntablism?

Niels: Hmm... nowadays it's awesome technical. I mean technical because of what tools the turntablists can use... to make loops, patterns and stuff and with Traktor/Serato implemented in the mixers. There is awesome potential and there are some sick dudes out there :-)

rocket phongoADA: What's next for you as a developer? Any plans for a PHONGO sequel?

Niels: Yeah for sure! Two PHONGO titles are in development :] - Not really a sequel, it is like Flappy Bird, but we made it with PHONGO now. We called the game Rocket PHONGO, it hopefully hits the iTunes store end of April. And another one where PHONGO is a skater, but I can´t say any more at the moment.

ADA: What's next for you as DJ / scratch musician? Where can we hear your stuff?

Niels: Aargh damn nothing really, I'm too focused at the moment on my app business! But we're jamming anyway from time by time in my homies studio. When we have some cool stuff together I'll shoot you a message! :]

ADA: Where should we follow you?

Niels: We have a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/FatSackGames and a website www.fatsackgames.com, or www.grid-factory.com.

ADA: Anything you'd like to say to everyone reading this?

Niels: The FATSACK Games team want to say a big THANK YOU to all who are supporting indie developers or underground artists for their hard work.

ADA: Thanks Niels, long live PHONGO!

Niels: Thank YOU mate!!! May PHONGO be with you :))

Cheers
Niels & FatSack Games Crew

Download PHONGO from the Apple Store 

PHONGO - promo

Check out more of ADA's Interviews:

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