Part 1: Interview with Steve Sinclair


Steve:                   She had found a cassette tape of a 20 year old mix of the second album I never finished.

Sheldon:              Really?

Steve:                   And she was listening to this.

Eric:                        No way.

Sheldon:              Really?

Steve:                   She was, is this you? Is this your music? You know.

Sheldon:              Welcome to the War with Art. Today we’re going to do something a little special. We’re going to start with our very first interview.

Eric:                        Yes.

Sheldon:              Today we have Steve Sinclair joining us.

Steve:                   Hello.

Sheldon:              We’ll give Steve an intro in a second. But I wanted to say that I’m Sheldon, I’ve never been interviewed for a podcast, that’s not true. But, you know, I know what they look like, or sound like.

Eric:                        I’m Eric Vedder, I’m excited to interview today. Our guest is a special person to all of us.

George:               Yeah. I’m George Spanos, I make music as Threat Machine, and I’m very excited to welcome Mr. Steve Sinclair. I just gave it away, didn’t I? Did you guys-

Sheldon:              No, it’s cool. We said who it was.

Eric:                        Not paying attention, clearly.

George:               I’m watching the levels.

Sheldon:              What we figured here is, this is our first one. So we’re going to try to figure out how we’re going to do this. I think the structure we’re hoping for, Steve, was to, first of all, maybe you could just tell us a little bit about yourself, instead of us trying to read … Like, I was looking at your Twitter bio, I just saw like pink shorts, and stuff like that. I didn’t really feel like I could summarize it well.

Eric:                        Yeah, it was very classy.

Sheldon:              So I was wondering if maybe you could kind of give us a lead into who you are and what you’re about.

Steve:                   Yeah, well, thanks for having me on the podcast. I didn’t know we had to hold hands like this for the whole thing. So I’m a little taken aback by that.

Sheldon:              That’s why it’s a podcast.

Eric:                        It gets, it makes sense. Give it ten minutes.

Steve:                   But it all makes sense, listening to the other episodes, why they’re so intimate. I’m Steve Sinclair, I am, my job title is creative director on a free to play game called Warframe. If you haven’t played it, you should.

Eric:                        Yeah, you should.

Sheldon:              Indirectly, that supports this podcast. Yes.

Steve:                   I am, I’ve worked in the video game industry since the ’90s, and that’s kind of been my dream job forever. I listen to the War with Art, because I also am trying to, for the last 20 years, try to become a musician again. That’s kind of where I was before, when I was in college I was in a rock band, and telling my parents that I was going to make music for a living. My mom once screamed at me that it was a pipe dream, and so on. Then I kind of just found my way back to something else that I found really interesting and creative, which was programming. So here I am in your little podcast den.

Sheldon:              Okay, so, what was the name of your band, first of all?

Steve:                   My band was called Gargun, and we used to gig around here in London, Ontario. It was, I remember the best show we ever played, we made 800 bucks, and we also got a case of beer with it.

Eric:                        Yes.

Sheldon:              That’s pretty good.

Steve:                   So, yeah, we got it, ’cause that was a part of the bar and the door you got. Then we sold Tshirts, and CDs, and stuff like that.

George:               There was a merch table.

Steve:                   Yeah.

Sheldon:              You’re really old. So how long ago was that? 800 bucks was an …

Steve:                   Yeah, so in adjusted dollars, that’s probably $8,000 today.

Eric:                        Could have bought a house with that back then.

Steve:                   So yeah, I think it’s really interesting, and I think the podcast has a really cool niche that it’s kind of speaking to people that are trying to make art, trying to find the time, and trying to maybe get out of themselves and maybe have the confidence to maybe risk that again. So, it’s been awesome.

Sheldon:              So, currently, obviously, you dedicate so much time to Warframe. But outside of that, what are you doing right now? What are you doing creatively outside of that? Even though that’s a huge outlet for you, I’m sure.

Steve:                   Well, it’s interesting.

Sheldon:              What are you doing outside of that?

Steve:                   Sorry, I’m trying to do like podcast … I’m trying to do the interesting …

Sheldon:              I don’t think anybody’s really noticed that, though.

Steve:                   Okay. Sorry to draw attention to it. What I am doing right now is getting back to music at very infrequent intervals, and trying to find that part of myself again, that is, hasn’t really done much in 20 years. I have a daughter who bought a Walkman, because she thinks Walkmans are cool, which is mind-blowing, right? ‘Cause I’m looking at it, and I’m like, that was the worst thing that ever happened to recorded music was cassettes. So, certainly, I had no fond memories of that. It was Vinyl, and then it was cassettes, then CDs happened. But she, you know, it’s fascinating to watch her think that things are cool, go back to these times before she was alive. She like Nirvana, she wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye yet. She had the cassette, she bought the cassette player. It was the Sony Walkman, if you’re old enough, you remember the waterproof Sony Walkmans.

Sheldon:              Yeah, yellow.

Steve:                   Right, the yellow? It had the clasp, and the buttons were kind of rubberized, you remember that?

Sheldon:              Yes.

Eric:                        Yep.

Steve:                   Had two AA batteries, I think, to charge it. Anyways, got some AA batteries, and what did she produce? She had found a cassette tape of a 20 year old mix of the second album I never finished, and she was listening to this.

Sheldon:              Really?

Steve:                   And she was listening to this.

Eric:                        No way.

Sheldon:              Really?

Steve:                   She was, you know, is this you? Is this your music? You know. So we hooked it up to the stereo, to the fancy speakers that my good job allows me to afford, and I listened to what I had made, like a different person had made it.

Sheldon:              Wow.

Steve:                   I think, you guys have talked about this a few times in the podcast. I didn’t recognize that person. I was, like, depressingly impressed, if that is the way to say it. I thought, oh, shit, that chord change, that structure, that timing difference. Can I still produce that? Can I still create that? Is that gone? The guitar skills had atrophied significantly. So now, back then I would have killed someone for a four track. Now the technology means that anyone can have something in their pockets that can do a pristine, high quality, high fidelity, multi track recording, which I love that part. I love the layering, and the exploration of an idea in that way. So, that’s where I’m at. I bought a Mac, I bought a second monitor, so I can get my … You guys were talking about tools in your podcast. I’m a Reaper guy, ’cause Protools is pretty intimidating for me. I’m trying to make this kind of sort of sloppy, prog rocky, Alice in Chains-ey kind of junk.

Eric:                        But something captured you, though, from listening to that first, like listening to that cassette back, right? So it wasn’t necessarily the recording technology, it wasn’t the tools in that sense as much as it was the vibe, right? That’s the thing that probably caught your ear again. You’re like, damn, I forgot about some of this cool stuff that I was able to do.

Steve:                   Yeah. Maybe, I don’t know if that … I don’t know if you’ve talked about this, maybe, as much, but for me, the creation of music was, I like all these bands, I like all this stuff. But, it always is not quite exactly what I want to hear. So I’m going to try to make that. So when I heard it back, I’m like, okay. I’m not trying to say, this is arrogant. But I heard it back and went, shit, I still haven’t heard this type of music delivered in the way that I would’ve wanted to hear it. So I’m going to try to make it again.

Eric:                        That’s really cool.

Steve:                   But, you know, it felt, I don’t know. Then, my daughter learned some of the songs on her guitar. That just like-

Eric:                        A trip.

Steve:                   Yeah, that was, to see her, and like, I could hear her playing, and I looked over, and it was the most surreal. It was like, almost out-of-body experience to think that. And of course, she’s a fantastic guitar player, she’s already two years ahead of where I was when I was her age. Yeah. So it was hearing that, and going, okay, never finished it, this isn’t done yet, and I think when you get in your 40s, you maybe have this kind of problem of, well, which side of hell am I on yet? Wouldn’t it be cool if I could actually make something the 20 year old version of me would be surprised and impressed with?

Sheldon:              So did this re spark your interest in wanting to do music again? Like, how long ago did this happen for you to be … Like, was that the thing that kind of motivated you to kind of start doing it again?

Steve:                   That escalated it dramatically. I think, I love, I resist trying to buy new guitars and stuff like that, because I have so many. So, I like, I still like music, and all through my life, for me, music has been the most significant therapy. Anytime something awful has happened in my life, playing the guitar would be some kind of strange solace. I’m not sure if that’s how you guys are. But, I guess, maybe it’s part of the flow state where the world is gone, and now you’re somewhere else. So, it wasn’t like I completely stopped playing. I would do so, a few Warframe livestreams, before we started working on stuff that we couldn’t show our players because it was so secret. But I would do livestreams, and I’m on my guitar, and playing. I thought, that would be sort of goofy to show them how E minor works, right? Maybe in my head, I was like, I’ll take some of the mystery out of this, because it’s really just math.

Steve:                   But, that moment when my daughter started playing back and saying, here’s this thing, you never finished the lyrics, like there’s just bed tracks, maybe drums and rhythm and guitar, and seeing that it was way better than I would have expected. I thought, it’s cool. Not let’s take it seriously. You know the story, ’cause I’m like, then I bought the mixing tool, now I’m trying to educate myself. It’s a terrible rabbit hole of complexity. Because I’m a programmer by trade before I got into creative directing, because I’m a dabbler, but so obviously, here I am, still dabbling in mixing. But in programming, we say if you’re not afraid of multi threading, you don’t know enough about it, right? So, that’s what, now, music has become, is how do you get all that juice out of that 44 hertz or whatever.

George:               It’s funny, because that’s exactly, that sentiment, it’s fascinating because I think about that a lot, too. I think, just when you think something is easy, or when you think you’ve grasped something, its’ like, nope. When you think you’ve got it, chances are, there’s something you don’t understand. That cockiness can get you in trouble, right? Then you just think, hey, I’ve, I know it all. Then, you don’t.

Steve:                   Programming, I mean, I relate a lot of the stuff to programming, because I, when I talk to programmers, there’s something, you guys have your disciplines, right? Writing, and visual arts, and music. I’ve always felt like programming, a lot of the programmers I know are kind of amateur musicians, and they dabble in those things. There is something extremely deeply creative about programming. So I do, I am caught between those two traps, because when I’m feeling creative, right, like this weekend, as an example, I’m always left with the agony of choice.

Steve:                   Do I walk upstairs and go into my little recording studio and work on this 20 year project, it’s not that, I started with new ideas, or do I take a left turn and go and write new things to make Warframe more interesting? Both of those are very creatively fulfilling. So that’s a very long question to your answer which is, what are you doing that isn’t Warframe? It’s like, fighting the tug of war with being drawn to try to be musical as well.

George:               So back to your band, because you, you still have weekends where you get together with you … Are there old band mates that come into town and you kind of relive that? Have you listened to the tape together that your daughter found?

Steve:                   Yeah, we have.

George:               What’s there? Are they going through that same thought process too? I know this is, like that weekend for you, or these weekends you do, that’s … Are you recording?

Steve:                   We are. We’re trying to create, we’re trying to sort of … So I’ll work on the songs, and then literally, we’ll get together twice a year. So it is a glacial pace. It is awful. Yeah, I’m not sure how it is for the other guys. I can’t really speak for them, because in that context, on the-

Sheldon:              Maestro.

Steve:                   Benevolent dictator.

Steve:                   That’s right. Like, I’ll write and do everything, and then they’ll come in-

George:               So you play guitar and sing-

Steve:                   The singing, the bass, the program the drums, like I’ll do all the stuff, because I want to just make and find the song, and that sort of thing. They don’t really have the equipment to be able to contribute independently. So they have to come to my house. Then we kind of … It has become entangled in friendships, because, okay, bass player, I’m going to delete the track that I made, and you’re going to play it, and it’s just going to be you. You can probably play the same notes, you’re probably going to make the same choices. But this will be you, you’ll be on here.

Sheldon:              Your interpretation.

Steve:                   You know? I don’t think I answered your question very well.

George:               No, it’s good. Well, I guess I was getting at, so you write the songs, you, like your primary role, I guess, is writing the songs, singing, and playing guitar, and then you’ve got a drummer and a bass player.

Steve:                   That’s right, yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. It’s fascinating.

Sheldon:              So those sessions-

Steve:                   The feeling of inadequacy, I think, is really interesting. The podcast that you guys did … You know, like, the imposter syndrome sometimes can be a bit trendy, maybe, I think. But I think it is interesting that I really struggled with that, because artists identify themselves, like it’s a part of their identities, so integral, right? So I have been struggling with that, even now, figuring out what kind of music, what’s the 20 year old version of me? What was his, ’cause he was just a total asshole. I was an awful, awful band mate to be in. So it’s really interesting to finally be a little less harsh and try to welcome them back. Do you have an opinion? And then they look at me and go, huh? He’s asking me? You know? It was funny, ’cause the last time they came up was a couple of months ago. I played what we had, and then I just ripped it apart, and I said, it’s just awful. This part doesn’t mesh with this. They spent an hour convincing me it was fine.

Sheldon:              Then you let them convince you. Well, for the time being.

Steve:                   Until they left. Until they left. Then I destroyed it.

George:               So then are you, you said your 20 year old self. So is your music kind of following the same pattern? Because it’s the same band name, probably, right? It’s the same lineup of people. So I guess my question is, are you, from that tape that your daughter brought you, are you trying to recreate that? That exact kind of concept? Or are you trying to just do something that’s cool now, with new ideas?

Steve:                   Well, so, I’m not sure what your ego episode number is. But, it is not me trying to recreate that, it is me competing with that. Simple as that.

Eric:                        Competing with your old self.

Steve:                   Competing with my old self, yeah.

Sheldon:              I think we covered-

George:               We touched on that in one of the episodes.

Steve:                   That, for me, is kind of like the specter of aging, I think. It was really, really hard to listen to a better guitar player, and know it was me. That was really hard.

Sheldon:              That is such an ego hit, like a punch to the gut.

Steve:                   ‘Cause I took my path, I walked away from that path. You know? I wanted to make more than $800 a month from a single gig. But, well, that’s not completely true. I loved Quake, and I taught myself programming one summer, ’cause, and I was just as passionate as I was about music as I was about programming. But, it was, as you guys know, there’s only so many hours in a day, and I felt like I really needed to specialize in order to kind of get good enough to be worth something.

Eric:              I wonder what your 20 year old self would think of you now?

Steve:                   Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know. He’d be quite offended, I think. You sold out, man.

George:               Sold out, man.

Steve:                   Yeah, for sure. He’d be pretty happy in that he was so driven, and so competitive, and really, in ways that are negative, I think. So really, I was … When we would play a show, and no one would be there, it was the worst fucking feeling I had ever felt in my life. So, I hated being in the band, because you have to play live. I hated it. Troy, one of my best friends in my whole life, I grew up with, who played bass, he loved playing live. He could be playing, I’m speaking for him, but he loved the act of doing that. He loved the performance. If there was even one person in the room. It wouldn’t matter to him.

Steve:                   Well, I’m sure he would love a score of very attractive women dancing around in front of him, throwing bras at him. But he loved the act of performance. So much so, that when we get together, I’m kind of an emotive, like, what songs am I going to fix? We need a bridge because this change doesn’t work at all. What he wants to do is learn them and perform this. So we end up kind of like a band practice on songs that aren’t even done yet, you know? Because I think that’s kind of where he approaches it.

George:               I was just about to say, it’s interesting … I’ll say it, it’s interesting. But you, it seems like, just my observation, you are, you’re a programmer, you’re the analytical thinker in that sense. You’re very, it’s funny, because I don’t want to say regimented, because you’re not, in a weird way, but you are. So he’s, it sounds to me like he was the kind of jazz, improvisational type of personality. Well, I know the notes I’m going to play, we’ll see, I’ll end up in a G major, I’ll get there at some point. But for you, it seems like it had to be a certain way, and it had to be a certain structure. Whereas he reveled in the fact of just, hey, let’s play live and jam.

Steve:                   He still does. When we talk about it, ’cause for me, it feels years off. I admire that you guys are, you create like a conclave of deadlines for each other, I think that really is important. I’ve talked to you about this, George. I still struggle with figuring out how to give myself that deadline. But, so, when we talk about it, he’s saying, wouldn’t it be cool if we played live here? He knows that I just abhor this idea. Right? But, ’cause, middle age version of me is less of an asshole, I’m like, that’ll be great. We’ll do that, if that will make you happy. But, yeah, that’s the thing. But again, I think, I feel weird talking about it for this long because it really is like a four hours, six hours a week kind of like right now.

Sheldon:              Do you guys have, in your mind, are you guys thinking about releasing … Like, in your head, do you think about that? Does that come up, the pressure of, I want to finish this particular album? Do you hit that? Or is it, is this more of a journey-

Steve:                   It’s not a journey. It really is about having the thing. When my grandmother passed away, last year, it was the end of her life. She knew it, and she was totally fine with it. She would call me on the phone, and she had a screeching voice. Steven, she would say, she had a screech. Loved the woman, she just had this screeching voice. She didn’t have a good, you know some people don’t have a good phone voice? Where they have the volume is wrong?

Steve:                   So she’s screaming in the phone, she was a very abrupt woman as well. Like, as soon as the phone conversation was done she used to hang up. There was no, you hang up, no, you hang up. She’d just go and plow it into the handle, the latch. So she’d call me, and she says, you have to come see me. You’ve got to come see me. I don’t know how much time I have left. So of course I would go see her, and I would bring my family, and we’d spend time with her. All she had left, she’d given everything away, all she had left was paintings she had made.

George:               Very cool

Sheldon:              Oh, yeah.

Steve:                   She was, you know, she kind of had a thing. She would paint cottages, water colors, she would get them printed from the printer that used to be downstairs from the old DE office, when we were on Fullerton. She’d get printed there, and she would complain about the, you know, maybe there was a little bit of color separation, she had very specific complaints. She would get them printed, and then she would bring them around to the small gift shops, like the place in a market that might, they’d have the little rack, and you’d turn it, and there’d be post cards, and then there’d be gift cards. She would sell these to these places, and I don’t know how much money she made. But she made these things. So all the stuff she had, she wanted to give crap. Do you want my dishes? Do you want this stuff?

Steve:                   Well, god damn, did I ever want those water colors, you know? I wanted that artifact that I felt made more, it was an important mark on the world that she had made beyond the junk she had accumulated in her life. So that’s a prized possession. For some reason, I think when you’re close to someone who is leaving the earth, you think about when you’re going to leave the earth. For my daughter, who has learned to play one of my songs, two of my songs, god damn do I ever want a piece of, well, maybe the thick or the thin vinyl. I think, you know, it’s important to me, not that I would have adoration of anonymous people, but that I would leave behind something that was extremely personal rather than a bunch of shit that you could get rid of in a garage sale. For me, that’s the album. So I gotta’ finish it before I die.

Sheldon:              Yeah.

Steve:                   No, I need to finish the…

George:               We’ve kind of, I think we’ve touched a bit on that. But that’s an interesting topic, because, like, I think we all kind of, I know I feel like that too.

Steve:              That could have been the fears episode, like, not getting done what you’ve kind of set out to do. As you get older, you get the pressure of time, and death. We’re not even that old. But people around you, that you grew up with, are older, and passing, and yeah.

Sheldon:                   It’s funny because video games are an interesting one. Because for a while, for me, I used to think to myself, like, the video game products I worked on would be like, well, that came out in, whatever that console generation. Well, I guess, that’s dead, and things like art, and records, and things like that, those are going to stay around forever. But actually, people are still playing games from the dawn of the games industry. I don’t want to delve this into games, but you have legacies-

Steve:              Then there’s preservation, now, is actually an interesting movement, because people, like us, have grown up as that’s an important cultural artifact. It is, it’s still, because it’s, there’s a volatility in the digital nature of, say, maybe the old Commodore 64 games, where the original source code doesn’t exist, you can’t get a copy, and you need to find some BBS archive. So I do, I think, I agree, and I don’t think my sense of self-worth is necessarily tied to getting a multicolored vinyl press, because I’ll do red. I’ll do red.

George:               I would imagine that with whatever the art style is though.

Steve:              I guess I’ll do red art them.

Steve:                   Sorry, just to, I guess it’s the accessibility too. Whereas to play an older, like to go and play, what gun did you make, dad, on Unreal Tournament? Right? Video games are, and they are arts, film critics be damned, they are absolutely art. But they are an expression of a very large body of specialists collaborating to make something that is all of theirs. I think it’s great, and I think it’s an important thing. When I see the way my daughter reacts to music, then for me, that hits harder, and more personally-

Sheldon:              On a personal level, for sure.

Steve:                   But, of course, I have very emotional memories of some of my favorite video games as well. So that’s why, you know, it’s an embarrassment of riches for me, because I get to do both of those things. But they don’t both get done.

George:               There’s a lot of sacrifice.

Steve:                   Yep.

George:               The album that you’re working on with these guys, are you in conflict sometimes, that maybe you have other ideas that you want to do, and that’s just something from the past and you leave it there? Has it spurned new ideas, or like, I’m going to do this solo, because those guys are not around? You maybe have way newer ideas that maybe they wouldn’t get behind? Or are you just focusing on this one thing?

Steve:                   Yeah. I think, now, their participation is kind of an important aspect to it. I’m not even saying that in terms of the writing process. It is sort of like an expression of love and loyalty more than it would be, what are they bringing to the tables in terms of, oh, John has a great idea. He might, he probably will. But that isn’t really, there’s never really been those conflicts because I was such a dictator in the old days, and I just said, this is how it’s going to be, and you’re going to play to the metronome and shut up, go into the basement. So it is, having mellowed with age. So no, I don’t feel that right now. It’s important to me to have acknowledgment of that history as part of it. Yeah. It’s weird. Isn’t it, so strange, I think you guys touched upon this as well, is I can’t imagine what this podcast would be like with a bunch of people that were literally starving artists. You guys talked about this a few times, what if your life depended on it? You guys didn’t-

Sheldon:              We were talking to this.

George:               You wouldn’t make the podcast. You’d spending all of your time working.

Steve:                   You guys didn’t get into that. I mean, even if I think about some of the early video game stuff that I worked on, and even the early, early days of Warframe, even George, the relationships I had with you early were extremely conflict driven and really were transformed as things started to work, and people started to get into the game. For me, I could let go of that kind of fight or flight aggression. That’s how the band felt, back then. Now it doesn’t, right? You seem all chill, oh, I want my friends to come over. If they get a bad idea, it’s fine, I’ll just change it when they leave. It really is sort of different depending on the stakes.

George:               Do you think you need a bit of that conflict, though? Like in any, I know, maybe it’s the cliché to say that any, that artistic venture needs some kind of conflict, or the starving artist, or whatever. Do you think that there is a bit of a place for that sometimes? I know even, and again, not to bring it back to Warframe, but we fight in the office about certain things, people have ideas on things.

Eric:                   I never fight.

George:               But, I guess, it depends, where is that person coming from. I guess, is that the differentiating factor? Is it coming from a place of love? It could probably apply to the band thing, too. Is this person just doing this just to subvert me, or just to get their opinion across, or do they care so much about the project, and they have an idea, and they want their side to come through?

Steve:                   Yeah, for me, I always want to, when you look at the way people talk about the people they’ve worked with, right? First two years of Warframe, I didn’t care about how anyone felt. I just cared that we would survive. Now, when I see someone, you might see a programmer or a designer come and have, what I think, is kind of awful of an idea, or maybe it is underdeveloped in a severe way. If they care, then let’s do it. If they care, and let’s do it, and let’s try to figure it out in the wash. I think that’s, because they’re coming from an honest place, and from an impassioned place. But, that’s, I’ve only been able to kind of unclench because things are working well for us. Now we need those additional perspectives, we need to not let the executive, the leadership burnout kind of pull the wind out of the sails. You need new people coming in and saying, oh, that’s old Warframe, I’ve got all new ideas, and try to give us space for those people to own something.

Sheldon:              It’s interesting, you just touched one a question that we had for you as well, when we were talking about, you’re dealing with a massive project that you’re the creative director of. Then you’re working on your own stuff. How do you cope with, do you ever feel like your burning out?

Steve:                   Yeah. I mean, I know you guys so well. So I remember very specifically an awful night with Sheldon, where we were sitting in Milos’, which is this craft brewery. You know, that’s the problem with craft breweries, is they’ve always got those friggin’ IPAs, right? So it’s basically, it’s like, lemon, but poison. It’s poison lemon, it’s usually like 100%.

Sheldon:              It’s a bottle of wine.

Steve:                   I remember sitting across the table from you, Sheldon, I don’t know if you remember this, ’cause the chances are you weren’t making memories. Warframe had just had it’s second really good year, really good year. I had lost that kind of, it felt like a Rocky movie, he wasn’t as much the underdog, anymore, remember?

Sheldon:              Yeah, he was the champ.

Steve:                   Doesn’t he get-

Sheldon:              Show boating? It’s three.

Steve:                   Oh, three. Yeah, yeah.

Steve:                   Sylvester Stalone had already wrote all these, the great stories. He’s like the Shakespeare of modern times. I just, I felt like I was adrift. I didn’t know what purpose I had anymore, because I was so used to that fight or flight mode of really paving over people to just get it done, and to do it fast, and not listen, because we’re out of money, and we’re going to close the doors. Because I was a very senior employee, the owner would say, here’s how much runway we have, here’s how much runway we have. Here’s how running on vapors we are. Here’s the law about if you have to lay people off, here’s how they take everything that I own. Those sorts of conversations. So, god, I’m getting anxious even thinking about that time. But once we got through that, then it definitely was a weird form of burnout. But I’m very cyclic in my burnouts, ’cause you guys probably know me very well. So how do I get rid of my burnout? Maybe you could splice me into your burnout episode. Because I have so many kind of interests, I do task switching to avoid burnout.

George:               It’s a conscious thing? Like, ugh, I’m getting tired of this, I better work on this other thing.

Steve:                   It’s conscious in that I know that I do it now. A great example is signed distance field fonts. Right? It’s just some goofy rendering tech feature that makes the UI of a game look better. Should I be doing a million other things? Yes. But, god damn, there’s no way you’re going to get me to do them right now, because I’m going to do this one thing, I’m going to finish it, I’m going to ship it, it’s going to be done and it’s going to be awesome. I get really excited about it. So that’s-

George:               It’s almost timed.

Steve:                   Hmm?

Sheldon:              It’s almost timed, as I think about it. You kind of have these timed interviews, like just after the chief war push equals a new year, like you’re going to pick something crazy awesome to do. But it’s totally not what you think you should be doing, or what you’re getting pressured to do.

Steve:                   Yes. It certainly is, like, I get chided for it from my peers who know, hey, how’s that quest going? Great. Why are there font, like big capital As on your screen? That doesn’t like …

Sheldon:              That doesn’t look like the script.

Steve:                   Yeah, the people in my life well … Well, I suppose that they humor me and they just wait for me to get it out of my system.

Eric:                        So you’re able to deal and ship things and get things done at work. I, this is a question I always ask you is like-

Steve:                   Haven’t brought it home, have I?

Eric:                        When can you bring that home? It seems like you’ve learned so much in five years. The way that you handle burnout is, as you just spoke to, and some other things. You passionately finish it, and you put out. What are the tricks that you are doing that maybe you’re not applying, or want to apply? What’s the hold up man? That’s what I kind of … Does it bother you that you’re not able to do what you do at work at home? When it comes to completion, I guess.

Steve:                   Right. My creative battle is to be in the privileged position to have two creative outlets, one that I know will increase the longevity of Warframe, and all that means for me, and all that means for the people of the company, employees. I’m not trying to sound like a martyr, that that weighs heavily on me. But that is, my self worth is really tangled up in that. When I said, like, do I turn left and go to the laptop and work on the sacrifice quest, or the SDF fonts, or whatever, or do I turn right and go up into the music room? It literally is that. Both seem to lead to good outcomes for me in different ways of measure. I feel, sometimes, maybe a bit selfish when I go up the stairs and get the guitar. When I think, well, you know, I’ve got some tweets, some people are bored, and they want some endgame. Those sorts of things-

George:               Obligations, almost.

Steve:                   Or, you know, console performance isn’t good, and I’ve got a couple of ideas on how I can help that. Warframe is from that size, like, gardening. It’s never kind of really done. You know? If you leave it too long, it kind of gets messy. So I always just kind of feel like-

George:               Pulling weeds.

Steve:                   Pulling weeds, and kind of maybe changing some things, rearranging some things.

Sheldon:              That’s the struggle.

Eric:                        I find it fascinating, that’s why I brought it up.

George:               Do you feel, I feel this sometimes, that creativity is a muscle. You’ve got certain creative outlets, you can’t work legs every day. You’ve got to work arms.

Steve:                   George, that’s a big problem for you.

George:               Yes. I just-

Sheldon:              Switch to legs dude. Your arms are dope.

Steve:                   You guys don’t know what we’re looking at here. Just for people that are listening-

Sheldon:              There are no pants allowed in the podcast.

George:               Yeah, it’s a no pants zone.

Eric:                        George is doing legs constantly.

George:               I kind of feel this way, that I need to have that respite, I need to have that other thing to focus on now and then. Then I find it actually makes me better and more engaged when it does come time to do the other thing. You know, vice versa, it works both ways.

Steve:                   I was really fascinated when you guys were talking about the rituals and the things that you’re trying to do to kind of be productive on your projects.

George:               Reward system?

Steve:                   Yeah, that was really interesting how, again, just reflecting on the differences between you three and how, like you are very, Eric, you were very hard on yourself with like some other form of entertainment that might even be kind of happening in parallel, right? Then, Sheldon was very kind of very, about repetition, like a monk kind of thing. I was saying, you’re the intellectual, all right, so it’s like, there’s a little bit of math, there’s an equation to these kind of structures. You know, you didn’t really have one. You didn’t have one. ‘Cause again, you’re the feeling artist. It’s just like, which I think is probably why you chose music. The great thing about music, I don’t know about drawing, but I feel like drawing, the paper is not helping you. It’s just there.

Steve:                   But with music, you can strike an instrument, and the instrument is going to respond, and in ways you didn’t even intend. There’s not often, like I have to do a bit or writing for work. It’s not often, I find in writing, there’s not a lot of happy accidents. There’s, sometimes, it almost feels like music is like mining. You can just chip it away in there, not even fucking know what you’re doing. Like, oh, cheese, right? There’s some kind of harmonic distortion, and you’re like, oh, that’s what it is, or you’ll be playing the melody, and you hit the wrong damn note, ’cause there’s this very powerful physicality to it. You go, of course, it has to be this wrong note. That’s the song now, that’s the hook. That’s what makes it special. So error is really fascinating to me. I didn’t answer the question.

Sheldon:              That’s good. Maybe we should save the answer for part two. How do you guys?

Eric:                        Yeah, I think that was a great part one. I really liked that last thing you said about the paper not offering you any help, ’cause it certainly hasn’t helped me. I like your, what you said about music too. That was the first thing I thought about, when we had an earlier talk about music, we talked about the fundamentals, and I like to have the structure, and George did, and you were like, no man, just go in. You know how to read some music. But you’re like, I don’t know how to do that.

Steve:                   Like the professor is Sheldon, Eric is the carpenter, and George is the mystic, right? George is like, the art is going to find me. I’ll just wait for it.

Sheldon:              Divine inspiration, man.

Steve:                   Then Eric is kind of like, well, I got to have blisters for me to be able to make this art. Sheldon is just like, if I just have the right information, then the art will actually come out through synthesis of this information. I’m not pigeonholing you.

Sheldon:              No, I love that. I wrote the paper.

George:               Maybe I did tell you guys about that time Jimi Hendrix talked to me in a dream, so there is that.

Sheldon:              Part two, part two.

Steve:                   Wait a second, I do think I’ve heard this before.

George:               I think there was a drunken talk about that. I’m serious. I’m not into that stuff, but-

Sheldon:              That was a memory I didn’t think I created, but I did.

George:               But, I talked to him in a dream.

Sheldon:              You know, now that you’re saying it …

Eric:                        Sometimes you regret creating memories.

George:               I didn’t get any of the guitar skills, but we had a convo, me and my buddy Jimi.

Sheldon:              I like to think that it is starting to come back to me now, because we do have a lot of drunken talks. Anyway.

Eric:                        Well, thanks for listening to this week. We’ll be part two with Steve Sinclair.

Steve:                   Thanks you guys.

George:               Thank you, Steve.

Steve:                   Oh, yes, my pleasure. It’s been great, thank you.

Sheldon:              We got it.