Pro Juice Profiles: Guerrilla Artists on the Cutting Edge of All Things Digital | Jim Moynihan aka Spoonbill
By Ariel Nishli
Tastemakers and fans of delectable eye and ear candies have spoken. They want to know who designed the choicest treats on their Pinterest boards, the animators behind the most viral of videos, and what VJs concocted the laser art spectacle at last weekend’s rave, let alone who produced the unworldly beats spun by the DJ.
They want to know whom these artists are, the ones who remind them that our world is a beautiful place, and that in the digital world anything merely imaginable is just as real as a stretched canvas and smeared palette.
To answer the call, we’re running a series profiling five of today’s hottest indie digital artists. At one point, each was selected to reveal some of their craft secrets to the world on KoldCast TV’s Pro Juice, a show that brings the best tips, tricks and showcase clips to legions of creative types from the world of digital media.
Hosts Arlo Enemark and Nick Calpakdjian bring their fast-talking, shoot-from-the-hip style to talented artists who peel back the curtain to show you how the magic is made. Pro Juice has an indiegogo campaign in the works to bring you Season 2, a truly innovative multi-platform production for which they’ve lined up an impressive cadre of talented new digital artists.
THIRD of 5 in the SERIES: JIM MOYNIHAN AKA SPOONBILL
In Episode 5 of Pro Juice, we meet electronic music producer Jim Moynihan, the man behind the bird. He talks technically about the 100+ tracks required to create an all-encompassing beat, gets into his organization method (color coded, by frequency), and how he scours live session recordings for bits of gold that eventually become thru lines for a complex multi-genre song. It’s all quite complicated, but as any artist knows, simple is complicated.
Click to play Episode 5 of Pro Juice
And Spoonbill’s finished product is just that. Simple. Sleek. Elegant. His music is an amalgamation of various styles and genres that blend together into something entirely unique. Airborne’s track “Catfish” sounds like a Klezmer band, the Lost in Space robot, and Buddy Rich were locked in a room together and told to create magic, or else. Check it out and a few more of his tracks below. We caught up with Spoonbill at his nest to find out what just makes him tick.
What are the most formidable challenges facing independent digital artists today?
I would say the biggest challenge is just getting noticed amongst an ever-expanding sea of digital art. The sheer volume of work being created these days means it can be harder to be recognized for quality and original production.
What are the benefits and drawbacks to working as a “guerrilla artist” rather than as a company man for a major label, design company, or advertising firm?
I suppose the main benefit to working in “guerrilla” fashion is the fact that you do not need to abide by what is popular, trendy or by what sells. This leaves you free to craft unique and self-fulfilling works… like a true artist. I suppose the drawbacks are that you need to work harder to be recognized for your achievements without a large marketing team behind you.
How did you get started as an artist and what kept you going?
I come from a family of fine artists, so while I was growing up I was always exposed to the arts. Seeing my parents working in a self directed capacity on personal projects was inspiring. I began playing percussion and drums as a kid, and then I shifted my focus to samplers and electronic music production after finishing High School. I started working as a furniture and consumer product designer but continued to work on my own music production purely for personal enjoyment for many years until finally, I decided to start to release my tunes.
I think the fact that I enjoyed the process and was making music for myself rather than for hire towards a third party’s objective helped me continue to develop my ideas and finesse my skills. After my music started to gain more exposure, I naturally shifted my focus from design to music and sound production.
How has the digital artistry landscape evolved over the last several years? In what direction do you see it going?
Well, I think digital art is slowly becoming more accepted by the mainstream as a worthwhile medium. In saying that though, there is also a greater appreciation of handcrafts, perhaps as a throwback reaction to the burgeoning medium. This appreciation also applies to digital art too though, in terms of the techniques utilized. Blanket plug-in digital effects to handcrafted work are popular, compared with self-produced effects.
What are some of the most innovative projects you’ve worked on?
I work with a Melbourne-based interactive games lab called Current Circus and we are currently developing a music game that utilizes depth camera interactivity, similar to the Xbox Kinect. The idea is that you can sequence and perform music via gestural movements in space, creating the sound like a conductor.
How important is a show like Pro Juice in helping to promote independent digital artists’ work as well as provide new opportunities to emerging artists?
Pro Juice is a unique program showcasing an insider’s view of how artists work, which is an excellent resource for budding artists as well as good exposure for the artists on the show. As mentioned, it importantly showcases independent art, which is rare in today’s marketplace.
Tell us a personal story, point of view, or anything else you’d like to share with the world!
Making electronic music is my work, my passion and pretty much my life! I thoroughly enjoy the craft and the process as well as being able to share my creations with people around the world that share a similar aesthetic. The art form involves periods of solitary work, collaborating and recording with other artists and musicians, as well as performing live for audiences. It’s a very diverse craft that is stimulating, challenging and downright awesome.
Ariel Nishli is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall. He’s got a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007, he worked in the motion picture literary department at ICM, then moved on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and journalism when he’s not obsessing over this magazine.