These freaky guys came to our attention recently with the release of Backmask, which we instantly fell in love with. They have been awesome enough to take a little time to answer our questions. And we’re so glad they did. Check this out.
Freak of the Devil
APG: First up, who are ya?! Introduce yourselves, (right on)!
Jasper: Hey I’m Jasper. Chaotic good programming wizard, constructor of false realms and true heir of the inaccessible manifold in the crystalline time fortress on Ganymede.
Jeff: I do the art shit… UI, logos, merch, sound design, web design, bad words, blah. I fumble through videos… idfk.
APG: We’ve only just become aware of Freakshow Industries ourselves… how long have you been about?
Jasper: Our corporation hatched sometime in January 2017 but we all have been quietly toiling away, playing with weird ideas for many years without really pursuing anything too aggressively. In the last year Jeff and I decided to really push forward and manifest our strange dreams.
Jeff: I mean, really we just went live like mid June or something. Only close friends knew what was up before that. But this has been an all consuming passion project for me for the last year or so. Anyways definitely the slow burn goes back way farther
APG: So how did it all come to be?
Jasper: Jeff and I met while working at iZotope. We built a handful of products together there and after our team was dissolved we started talking about making plugins together for fun, without any guidelines or limitations or taste. A while after we had both left and moved on to other gigs we ended up creating some stuff that we thought the rest of the world might be into.
Jeff: Yeah we were on the creative effects/instruments team for a few years at iZotope. Things ran their course there and we decided it was time to make the real shit happen on our own terms, doing what we do best without creative limitation. Ralph came on later. Long story.
APG: Ralph? Who’s Ralph?
Jeff: Ralph is one of us. He’s just not into the interview scene. But he’s been whispering his dark words into our ears this whole time. One thing we want to clear up though… some people have incorrectly assumed that he worked for iZotope and they are wrong.
Jasper: It’s probably enough to say he has experience in our industry and we can leave it at that so we don’t fuck up his NDAs and legal stuff.
APG: And now let’s talk about Backmask [we bloody love it, check our review!]… what was the reasoning behind creating this bizarre plugin?
Jeff: Well, we just had a ton of weird ideas. We wanted to build *something* to start and the initial intention was to hit our simplest interesting idea… just to get a sense of what it was like to do our own thing, on our own time, in our own way, without all the infrastructure we were used to.
I figure if we’re not nervous about our ideas we’re doing something wrong.
So Backmask started as what we thought was a simple concept… a tiny plugin that we’d maybe give away for free with a little apology letter attached. The plugin grew organically as we worked on it and the project turned out to be anything but simple. As we got farther down the path we started to think of it more as a real thing that we’d actually want to sell.
As to the “bizarreness,” that’s just us. Learn to expect it.
Jasper: This is what a plugin looks like when two very weird creative types have literally no barriers applied.
APG: So what’s next? More plugins? Tell us there’s going to be more plugins!!
Jeff: Well yeah more plugins and more merch. We have several effects in progress right now with the next ridiculous thing likely being released this fall. I figure if we’re not nervous about our ideas we’re doing something wrong.
Did someone say “Free Beer”?
APG: What’s the deal with the ‘Steal this plugin’ idea?
Jasper: We could talk all day about this, hopefully we can do something short enough to be readable! When you are starting a new plugin company you have to confront this reality pretty early on: What are we going to do about piracy? The two approaches plugin companies generally take are to either embrace some futile DRM that universally hurts the end user experience or to ignore piracy. I like to think we are taking a new path…
Jeff: There are complex moral, philosophical, and practical issues at play here and honestly it’s challenging to talk about. We all have our own angles on this stuff. I guess one boring, non-romantic, oversimplified way of looking at this is that the stealing scheme is a confrontational way (using humor, satire and honesty) of approaching an alternative pricing model. Please do not take that out of context. It is only one small part of the story.
Jasper: For sure, the pricing thing is a one of many many parts of it. So attempting to steal a license, basically unlocks the opportunity to pay what you want. Let’s say for the sake of argument we will only be paid full price by 25 of every 100 people. That’s actually pretty good and we would probably make a decent amount off of that, but that leaves 75 people in a weird state where they are diving into some pretty dark areas just to get our product. We can assume those 75 are all immoral wrong doers who are deeply flawed, or we can take a step back and say…’ok, why are good people doing this and how do we embrace them for who they are?’.
We straight up want to engage with all 100 and maybe some of them will change their minds and pay us a little bit in a traditional pay what you want model and those people then end up with a legitimate full “normal” license. Those that follow through with stealing receive a license that is internally marked as stolen, but with no consequences.
Jeff: That bit about our intent to engage with all potential users. That’s important. We are starting out here as nobodies with no credibility or reach. We’ve decided that we need to make bold moves to get anywhere. That we need to be flexible with the realities of the industry to get this work out there and in use by as many people as possible.
Right, so it’s a business and yeah we want and need money for this work… but payment by you, the consuming user, is optional. The cost is that you have to take and stand by a sort of moral stance to get at your license… which, to me, is entertaining. Like, we really wanted the whole crime hole thing to be funny and way more interesting than a simple boring download button.
This lead to our approach to the crime hole. Like I said before, it’s a confrontational approach. But despite what it may sound like, we hold zero resentment toward people who use the features of the crime hole. We put the damn thing there… how could we get mad about people using it.
We trust random people we’ve never met to make a choice… whether they buy, underpay or steal. They decide where they stand and what the work is worth to them. Then they click a button and we bite down on a stick and hope it doesn’t ruin us.
Jasper: Another one of the many things to consider is that especially with software, the notion of free and stolen are so easily blurred. I’ll make a quick analogy to the physical world to try and explain. We left a cooler of beer open and nobody is watching it. We even made the door to the room with the beer one of those sliding open doors that senses the person coming. We even say “Hey everyone this beer is easy to steal, check it out because maybe you would want to buy it?” It is still for sale up front, even if we choose to not be mad when we find some missing. Is the beer free now? Are you a thief if you take some, even if it was super easy and there were no consequences? Do those answers change if the room that contains the beer is owned by the beer company versus someone else? What if the beers were in some kind of quantum superposition and could be in many rooms simultaneously and were infinitely replenished at negligible cost?
So the single mouse click that enables a person to get value for nothing, would normally be on someone else’s website that hosts cracked software or whatever, and we decided to just own it ourselves. It doesn’t mean we like it, or even approve of it, it doesn’t mean the plugin is free. It just means we are being pragmatic about what is happening in the world, and want to have positive interactions with our ENTIRE user base. So we built the crime hole. That final ‘steal’ click bypasses our payment systems without our immediate knowledge and basically acts as a keygen for anyone with a verified (to follow anti-spam rules) email address. A nice consolation prize for us is that we get their email as a byproduct of this approach and can promote our future stuff to a big audience.
Jeff: And so now we’ve gone and jammed our fist into the hornet’s nest with this. We’ve totally put ourselves out there vulnerable to destruction with these policies. I guess that’s the cost of doing our kind of business… operating on trust. We trust random people we’ve never met to make a choice… whether they buy, underpay or steal. They decide where they stand and what the work is worth to them. Then they click a button and we bite down on a stick and hope it doesn’t ruin us.
Jasper: There is so much more to talk about with this, but I don’t want to overwhelm people. I don’t think we have all the right answers, but I am confident we are starting to ask the right questions.
That was DEEP… let’s change the subject…
APG: What are your favourite plugins on the market today?
Jeff: Most Native Instruments shit really. I’m way into it.
APG: What was the last album you listened to?
Jasper: I am super into “Unfolding The Future With Amateur Space Jazz” by Danny Wolfers right now, check it out!
Jeff: Carpenter Brut “Trilogy” is the last thing I *remember* listening to.
APG: Finally, do you have any parting words for our readers…?
Jasper: Backmask is basically just our test flight, so stay tuned. Lets get fucking weird together.
Jeff: I want to express sincere appreciation to all of the users and especially anyone who’s written to us with encouragement and kind words. We’ve been completely shocked by the huge response and the reactions we’re getting are such a great inspiration to keep on pushing shit darker and darker.
Ultimately we seek to move expectations in this industry to a place that challenges everyone. It’s all in the service of art and its evolution. It will all take time and we might be completely delusional even trying… who cares.
APG: Thanks so so much for taking the time to talk to Audio Plugin Guy. It has been great fun, fascinating and very enlightening, we really appreciate it and look forward to whatever is next from you guys!