By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed horror adventure game Downfall: Redux, followed by interviews with the game’s creator (Remigiusz Michalski) and the unforgettable voice of Agnes (Tina Beaudry). Another performance that immediately stood out for all the right reasons was the voice of the troubled main character. AMO is therefore delighted to present an exclusive online interview with Jesse Gunn, the voice of Joe Davis, who also contributed some memorable music to the game’s soundtrack as solo project Warmer!
Hi Jesse, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
You’re welcome Martin, I’m happy to be here.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I grew up in Northern Idaho in a small town called Sandpoint. Just about 50 miles from the Canadian border. It’s pretty small town. Just about 8,000 people live here now. I’ve lived here off and on most of my life. I grew up in a very artistic environment. My dad is a Jazz drummer, my younger sister Tawnya is a singer, and my mom is an artist in a lot of different media. Music came naturally to me at a young age and I never took lessons so I wrote what I played on the piano. Lots of experimentation and learning patterns and shapes. When I finally took some music classes in college I felt like I was finally getting a dictionary so you could know technically what language you had been speaking for so many years. Being self-taught makes you find your voice in a way that a teacher just doesn’t.
How was Warmer born and where did the name come from?
As for how it was born: Warmer was originally a 4 piece live band. I had been in several bands already in Idaho and my best friends at the time were all musicians. Three of the members were myself and two roommates (Jake Gormley – bass / Josh Vitalie – drums) and Adam Moore the lead guitar player moved up from Portland, Oregon when the band was getting ready to record our first full length album. That album Pyro Plastik was never released. I actually thought it was lost for good as the hard drive with the master files was long dead. I recently found a copy of that album on CD and remastered it. No one has ever heard it except for a few friends and the band. I have plans to release it for free sometime in the near future as a gift to fans of Warmer. Even though it was a 4 piece band, I was doing most of the primary writing. Everyone else fleshed the songs out in ways I definitely could not. It’s quite a bit different as a live band compared to what you hear me doing now, but you can definitely hear similarities. Long story short, the live band dissolved before the album got released and I kept the name going.
As for the name: the first EP Warmer – the cover is symbolic of the concept. A heart in a block of ice plugged into some tube preamps and run into a speaker. Warmer. What is it? I explained to Adam Moore (consequently the same Adam Moore that was the lead guitarist in Warmer – Live is also a really talented visual artist and did the cover for The Decisions under the pseudonym LÆMEUR) I feel warmer with music. Music makes my heart beat. Without it I’m cold. The emotional expression. The cathartic release makes you warmer. It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around. It can mean so many different things. I wanted to have a name that invoked curiosity as to its origins.
How would you describe your music?
As far as genre goes I sway a lot in an out of certain styles. On The Decisions I dip into a lot of different styles. Classifying it is a really hard thing to do for me. If you ask me, what does this song specifically fit into, I’d have a much easier time doing it. I think you could say I tend to be in the vein of indie electronic art rock. If I had to sandwich most of my music into a spectrum that would cover the majority of it I think. When I write music is comes straight from how I feel. Right from the gut. People tell me one of the things they connect with most in my music is the emotional honesty they hear. I really am happy to hear that, because that to me is what is so lacking in most music today. I can process something to death and make it so perfect tonally and timing wise but you lose all emotion. Too much of that is going on in music today. Just because we have all the tools to do so doesn’t mean we should be so surgical about everything that we lose the feeling that made you write the music in the first place.
In the last 7 years Warmer has released 5 albums and many soundtrack scores for films and games – can you tell us about some of these projects?
Boy I need to update my Bandcamp page. It’s actually been 11 years and 6 albums now. 🙂
My first gig scoring for film was for a company in Baltimore called Area 13 Films. Horrible B movies. I did the majority of their movie theme songs and their weekly sketch comedy show My Show Is Better Than Your Show. Since then I’ve worked on several movie soundtracks. Silent Hill: Requiem would be the most recent. Video game wise I have worked with several companies. Big Block Games as their all around sound guru and soundtrack scoring for Pyrodactyl Games.
You recently voiced Joe Davis in Downfall: Redux (you’d previously voiced the character briefly in The Cat Lady). How did you first become involved with Remigiusz Michalski and his games?
I met Remi about 8 years ago in an adventure game forum online. I used to participate in their weekly song writing competitions to try to get my name out there with developers. I was browsing through the forums and I kept seeing people referring to Downfall and how utterly twisted and messed up the game was. That certainly piqued my curiosity. I downloaded it and played it and was totally impressed. I hadn’t ever been truly scared in a video game. Remi made me feel genuine fear. The way he used timing and forced you to make really hard decisions. I loved that about it. I emailed him and showed him my music and he liked what I did. We chatted briefly about working on something together in the future and 2 years later I get an email from him asking me to voice Joe Davis in “The Cat Lady.”
How would you describe the character of Joe Davis?
Joe means to do what’s best but I feel like he has a severe lack of impulse control and planning. To put it lightly, the guy makes some pretty bad snap decisions and has to find a way to deal with the consequences. I think there is a little bit of Joe Davis in all of us. We all want to find ways to justify the bad things we do. We all tell ourselves little lies to justify our actions to ourselves. The big difference is Joe doesn’t seem to have much control over how far he’ll go to cover up his own deeds. The lies he tells himself are so far from the truth it’s driven him mad in a way. I think with the right circumstances we can all end up in denial as far as Joe is in Downfall. Fortunately very few of us are ever in such dire circumstances.
What previous voice acting experience did you have?
The Cat Lady was the first game I had done voice acting in. Since then I’ve done Doc Apocalypse, the Apotheosis Project and most recently, Downfall.
How did the recording process work and how did you find the experience?
Downfall was the easiest game to read for in many regards. First I was playing a character that I already understood. I knew who he was and where he was coming from. That is the biggest hurdle to overcome. Who is this person? Once you understand that, the rest is getting into the mind-set of that character. Another way that made it much easier is Agnes (Tina Beaudry) and I read many of our dialogs together so the natural chemistry of being in the same room and playing off each other in regard to tone and pacing made it feel much more natural. Many times you are reading for a part and the person you are having this conversation with is quite literally on another continent.
You also contributed to the game’s soundtrack as Warmer (the Original Soundtrack was composed by Michalski‘s brother, micAmic). How did you choose what music would best fit the project?
This is where I am hands off. Remi has full control over choice and placement. What I have always done is send him mixes of new music as I get it done. If he likes something, he uses it. There is very little expectation on his part for what I deliver. It’s always been a situation where I let him use whatever he likes how he wants to use it. I just write how I feel and focus on making music instead of writing for a specific scene or whatnot. There is one scene that only Remi and myself probably know the reason he chose the song he did. It’s a bit of an Easter egg. If fans ever figure it out, the meaning is crystal clear.
What did you think of the finished game?
I really love the animation style and the voice acting of all the characters. The story is fantastic. I literally cried twice playing the game. Remi has such a good handle on toying with your emotions and that’s why I love his work. It’s one thing to play a game where you blow things up into tiny bloody bits and get your gore satisfaction, but it’s a totally different end of the video game spectrum that makes you sincerely care about the characters. Remi makes you really care about his characters, and he gives you some gore at the same time – not many game makers straddle that line.
Who or what inspires you when creating your music?
It’s really my perspective on the world. I usually write from my own personal experience of something I’ve witnessed first hand. I think that is why people feel my music in emotionally honest. It’s not been filtered out. Being raw and vulnerable lets people know you in ways they wouldn’t otherwise. One of my biggest influences is the album The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails. That was the first time I had heard someone talking about real intense personal anguish and emotional pain. Another is the late David Bowie. The way he paints a picture with music is nothing short of extraordinary. Pink Floyd is also an influence, not so much musically, but how they put together an album into a cohesive story.
If possible, would you like to reprise the role of Joe Davis in any future R. Michalski games?
I absolutely would.
What’s next for you Jesse?
This week I’m actually packing up my house and studio and moving to Eugene, Oregon from Sandpoint, Idaho. So in my immediate future it’s driving 400 miles to a new city with new people and places to explore. As far as music goes I am not focused on any project right now. After an album release I am usually pretty uninspired and just want to avoid the studio. In a month though I’ll probably be bored to death because I don’t have a big concept album to work on. We shall see.
Thank you for your time! I really enjoyed your voice acting and music as Warmer in Downfall: Redux and I’ll look forward to your future projects!
You are quite welcome Martin. Thanks for the interview. 🙂
Stay tuned for AMO’s final Downfall: Redux interview coming soon – with the voice actor of Ivy Davis!