Earlier this week, Dj CUTMAN was fortunate enough to catch up with Ninja Brian of Ninja Sex Party about his remix, NSP’s upcoming album of cover songs entitled ‘Under The Covers‘, and their new backing band Tupperware Remix Party.
Cutman: Who are you, and what do you do?
NB: Well do you want the in character bio or the out of character bio? Well, of course if I was fully in character I wouldn’t be talking…
Cutman: You’d just be flipping me off and giving me death stares
NB: Yeah, Hard, super hard, then I’d just appear behind you and murder you. What’s Ninja Brian’s Bio? He’s a ninja that plays the piano, that’s basically it. We don’t have much of a back story for him, he exists, he always has, I believe Ninja Brian’s immortal.
Cutman: So he’s an immortal, piano playing Ninja…
Cutman: From this earth?
NB: His official birthplace, is in, at least in one of our videos is listed as Tokyo, New Jersey.
Cutman: Oh, The great Tokyo New Jersey, that’s just south of Trenton I believe.
NB: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. The city that lights and hauls the world.
Cutman: Tell me a little bit about human Brian, we know you have a PHD, but have you been playing music your whole life?
NB: Yeah pretty much since I was you know, 1st or 2nd grade somewhere around there, I started with piano, and then just kinda kept it going from there, it started when they sort of give you an instrument or make you choose an instrument in school, I picked the sax, when I was whenever that was, I was 10ish, 4th grade/ 5th grade.
Cutman: I picked Saxophone too!
NB: Me too, actually for a long time, up until about 10 years ago sax was really my main instrument. Yeah, all through college mainly, most of the performing I did was saxophone, I essentially didn’t perform at all on piano more or less from high school through when I graduated college.
Cutman: So do you think we can look forward to any kind of Ninja sax solos in the future? I mean it is the sexiest instrument.
NB: Well let’s just say we were talking about the live shows that we’ll be doing, although we don’t have any dates, there might be some careless whispering.
Cutman: Ooooh, I would love that! So you used to be a professor, is that right? What did you teach?
NB: Yeah, that’s right. I taught, theoretical, well I was a professor of theoretical physics, so I taught kind of just the standard undergraduate and a little bit of graduate physics classes, but my research was in string theory, and particle physics, super symmetry, stuff like that.
Cutman: That sounds very either, important or difficult, I’m not sure which.
NB: It’s certainly not important.
Cutman: It’s not important, no?
NB: Nah. You know, well, it depends on what you mean by important, but like, was my research ever going to do anything for humanity? No. It was purely theoretical. It has no practical consequences, it was just kind of like, ‘let’s try to understand the universe better’.
Cutman: What made you switch from Theoretical physics to Ninja Brian and being on Game Grumps? It seems like a pretty big gear shift.
NB: So I’d been doing NSP, Danny and I started NSP in 2009, what I was doing at the time, I was a I was a post doc at this place called the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, so I was living in suburban New Jersey just outside of New York so going in Danny and I would do NSP there, and essentially since 2009, my academic career was going on, and NSP was kind of ramping up, and roughly about a year ago, NSP it started doing better and better, and it was taking up so much time that essentially, had really 3 full time jobs, I was a faculty member, so I had to do teaching and research, I had Ninja Sex Party, I also have a 21 month old daughter. So I was kind of a parent, a ninja and a professor…
Cutman: And that was just too much?
NB: and one of them had to give, and it wasn’t going to be the parent thing.
Cutman: Of course, and it certainly couldn’t be the Ninja, I mean that’s a lifetime commitment.
NB: Well, right, It was honestly like look, I gotta make a decision, at the time I was, I don’t know, 39 or whatever, if I’m going to be a big career change, it’s now or never. So I just kind of y’know, made the leap and when I made the leap, Game Grumps was likely to happen, so that was another thing, we could get health insurance, and that sort of thing. It’s kind of like, boring adult stuff.
Cutman: You get health insurance from Game Grumps?
NB: Yeah, yeah, absolutely, I’m an employee of Game Grumps. I mean, Game Grumps is a company, you know, it’s Arin’s company, and we get employees with insurance and all that stuff.
Cutman: That’s awesome, that kind of shatters my whole view how useful YouTube is. Well, You guys are absolutely prolific.
NB: Yeah dude, the schedule is nuts, it’s much more nuts for Arin and Danny than it is for any of the rest of us, because those guys put up two a day, so their recording schedule is just insane.
Cutman: Are they recording, playing video games, and doing the commentary every single day?
NB: No, because we need to free it up so other people can record too. They usually record 2 long days a week, and then the other days are left for me, Barry, Ross, and Suzy to record.
Cutman: What’s your role in Ninja Sex Party?
NB: Well I guess, basically the division in Ninja Sex Party is I handle all the instrumental stuff and Danny does all the vocal stuff, and we’re very collaborative. We can give each other lots of feedback on what we do, but I write and arrange all the instruments, in that sense I’m producing but I don’t do any of the mixing or master. We have mixers and masters that we work with, we’ll try to work with a few different people. That’s mainly what I do, is all the writing and arranging of instruments and then Danny and I, we write the lyrics together.
Cutman: Awesome, so what’s the process like starting a Ninja Sex Party song?
NB: It almost always starts with instrumentation, like the jam first, so, I try to mix it up, what instrument I start with every time, just to try to get different feels.
Cutman: Now, are you producing on actual physical instruments, are you producing with software? How do you do it?
NB: It’s all software, I usually, I always use Logic. In the past it was all digital instruments. Now that we’re working with TWRP actually every NSP song for the foreseeable future is going to be live band stuff, TWRP is the band.
Cutman: Right, Tupperware Remix Party, you guys jumped on and played a nice set together at MAGFest.
Cutman: ‘Under the Covers‘ which is the first cover album from Ninja Sex Party. What it was like working with cover songs, as opposed to original music, was it more of a challenge, was it easier than writing your own songs?
NB: It was definitely easier for me, because y’know, we only picked songs we like. So it wasn’t like the challenge of writing a song and hoping that people like it.
Cutman: You know everybody likes ‘Take on Me.’
NB: Yeah, exactly, we put a few deeper cuts on there like Madrigal by Rush. Which is a great tune, and also, what’s another one that’s sort of a deeper one, there’s 2 more, ‘The Burning Down’ by Kings X, and ‘We Close Our Eyes’ by Oingo Boingo.
Cutman: Oh I love Oingo Boingo, I had a period of my life where that’s I listened to…
NB: Oh dude, me too, me too! Like, ‘Nothing to Fear’ I think is one of my favorite albums, I just love it.
Cutman: It looks like from the track list the only band you’re repeating is Rush, are you a big Rush fan?
NB: One of my favorites, but I think Danny’s all time favorite, so he’s just a huge Rush fan. It’s sort of the way the album came together, we did, there’s just two tracks that are just me and him, ‘The Last Unicorn’ and ‘Madrigal’ so it’s all digital instruments and voice, and then once we started doing stuff with Tupperware Remix Party, as well it was be stupid to not have them play ‘Subdivisions’ because they’re so awesome, it’s Danny’s all time favorite Rush song, and we wanted to do it, we knew they would totally kill it, which they did.
Cutman: So what’s it like working with a full band now going from virtual instruments, controlling everything yourself to now having other players?
NB: It was very different for ‘Under The Covers’ than it will be for NSP, or it is for NSP, so with ‘Under The Covers’ we had a few things that we sent them, like with Kings X, I had done a totally digital arrangement for it and just kind of sent that to them. But actually a bunch of them we were just like “Go nuts!”, you know do what sounds fun, and we’ll give you notes on it. My approach largely to working with other musicians is surround yourself with people you trust to be awesome, and then let them be awesome. I don’t like to kind of, micromanage. With NSP, we’re just about to film a music video for an NSP track called ‘Eating Food in the Shower’…
NB: Really, highbrow stuff.
Cutman: Yeah! I can tell!
NB: And with that one it was much more, I have an arrangement, I sent them the arrangement which I just put together on Logic, and they were strongly based off that. So the original stuff it will definitely be more “Hey guys, here’s what you should do, and then mess with it as you feel appropriate.” but with the covers, they had a lot more free range with what they wanted to do.
Cutman: Are you waiting to get their recordings basically to write to or are you writing to little scratch tracks, and saying here’s what we’ve got, fill it out, and then putting it all together in the studio?
NB: We send them essentially scratch tracks of everything with the instruments and the vocals, so we’re not waiting on them to write anything, we only send them completed songs.
Cutman: Oh, that’s smart.
NB: Otherwise, I think it just sort of wastes time, coming back and forth.
Cutman: Yeah, totally, and everyone’s busy.
NB: The challenge with them of course is they live in Toronto, and we live in LA, so unfortunately we can’t just get in the studio with them and jam and see what works.
Cutman: It seems like the production quality is getting a lot higher on the NSP videos, do you think that with the rise in production quality, is it more fun, or less fun to get these videos recorded?
NB: It’s definitely, a little bit of both, on balance it’s way more fun. Because now, in the last few videos, actually we had a really, really big video we shot for, so the last NSP album, Attitude City, there’s this 8 ½ 9 minute thing, 6969 which is a little bit proggy, sort of a story song kind of thing, we did a full week long shoot at the YouTube space in LA last June, and that we had a crew, we had people building sets, and a Director, a DP a full on crew of probably about 20-30 people.
Cutman: What was that like, working with such a big crew?
NB: It was nuts. I mean it was very educational, you know because neither Danny or I had worked with anything that large before. So a lot of it was interesting, essentially we worked with a producer who helped put everything together, the producer for that one was the guy Jason Serrato, who has helped us produce a number of our videos now. It’s just like, okay here’s what you need, and it’s like “Oh, we need that? We need someone to do that? Okay, that’s interesting.” We really don’t know what we’re doing with that stuff, so we’re relying on people who have the experience and kind of learning as we go, which has been a lot of fun. The challenge is that there’s a lot more moving pieces, and organizationally it’s a lot harder to get everything together, scheduling a week when 30 people can all show up is not an easy task. So from that, it’s certainly not fun to figure out when everyone can show up, but actually getting on set and doing it is awesome.
Cutman: Did you find that YouTube or your producer or anybody tried to take creative control over your project?
NB: We had full creative control, the producer will offer suggestions, like “Oh well, maybe a space orgy will be hard to film” or that kind of thing. It’s obviously, you start from “We want everything” and then you scale back when you realize things are hard to do. YouTube, it’s entirely self funded, so YouTube let’s us use the space, any channel, with, I think it’s over 10, 0000 subscribers can reserve the space there, I think that’s what the rules are.
Cutman: This is in LA?
NB: Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s actually an amazing resource. Yeah, it’s in LA, but they have spaces in other places too, they have one in London, they have one in New York I think, one is coming to Toronto, maybe they have one in Paris and Tokyo, they have like 5 or 6 cities around the world where they have these spaces. It’s just called YouTube space LA, it’s amazing, I mean we were in a full on sound stage, it was a big ass sound stage. It’s a real game changer, 6969 in particular, it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done. We’re still in the middle of doing post production on it.
Cutman: I listened to that ballad so many times when I was working on my remix of ‘Samurai Abstinence Patrol’, dude, I went through that album, it was just on repeat for days and days.
NB: That’s awesome, thank you! I gotta say your ‘Samurai Abstinence Patrol’ remix is amazing. We just geeked out when we heard it.
Cutman: Thank you so much! I played it at MAGFest, you guys gave me the hand off at MAGFest going from the TWRP / NSP show to the DJ Battle, and while playing my remix as a little I like got this idea for the final chorus, it was waiting at home to upload at home and then I was like “I no I gotta fix this last chorus.” I don’t think I would have gotten that inspiration if we hadn’t had had that back and forth stage little exchange. It just sparked something.
NB: That’s great, I can’t wait to hear the final version. It’s amazing that you say it wasn’t the final version because I was like “This is amazing!”
Cutman: Thanks! The draft of it came together in like, an hour. It was awesome, then I spent weeks going over the mix, and going over the mix, and downloading new plug ins. And, yeah, I’m really happy with it.
Cutman: ‘Under the Covers’ drops this Friday, March 4th from Ninja Sex Party, where are you gonna be able to get it, where do you want people to get it?
NB: We like CD Baby, which is an amazing independent music distributor, actually we’re here in Portland, signing CD’s. We work closely with those guys, if you get it from CD Baby you can order physical CD’s, or downloads, and they offer the option to do high quality downloads, not just MP3’s if you want FLAC or something like that.
Cutman: Brian, thank you so much for your time today! Be sure to check out the brand new album Under the Covers and check out the new NSP backing band Tupperware Remix Party, Brian, thanks so much for your time!
NB: Thanks man, take care!