GEEK ROOTS AND GAME ON: FREDDIE CARLINI OF MIXTAPE MASSACRE
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GEEK ROOTS AND GAME ON: MIXTAPE MASSACRE
Whoa! First Episode! Get to know Austin and Mike a little better. Austin Romero also goes by Mike Rome when he is with the WWE. Learn about all the different names Austin has. Mike Aiello is a world class theme park entertainment designer. Also, Mike had Popeye curtains in his room. More importantly we talk with our friend, Freddie Carlini - co-creator of a freaking awesome board game “Mixtape Massacre. Find out more about this incredible board game from their website.
Mike: Hey everybody. Well, this is the first episode of We're Grounded. I'm Mike Aiello. This is my brother from another mother, Austin Romero, otherwise known as-
Austin: Mike Rome. WWE.
Mike: It'll be there. It'll be there eventually.
Austin: All right. That's good. The magic of after effects.
Mike: Yes, yes. Or just the text button on Premiere. I am not skilled in the editing-
Austin: Listen, I wanted to make it sound way cooler than it actually was. Do your magic, Mike.
Mike: No, because everyone's going to watch this and go. He's not using any after effects. This is all bull crap.
Austin: It's like, wait, which one's Mike and which one's?
Mike: That's what we're going to call you by your real name, Austin in this. So there is no confusion between the two of us.
Austin: I like it. I like it.
Mike: But for anyone watching, if the person's wearing a jacket indoors, it's Austin Ramiro.
Austin: Wow. Wow. Wow. That's where we're going today. All right. Okay.
Mike: I lost my headphones. I was laughing so hard.
Austin: That's what you get.
Mike: This is all very professional. This is all very professional.
Austin: Well, it is what it is.
Mike: So if somebody listens to this or watches this many years from now, we're in the midst of a quarantine of a massive pandemic. Hopefully there is a year from now. I mean, that's the bigger question. This may be-
Austin: Yeah. Right? It'll all work out. It's fine. Listen, I've had so much time. I've been in the office, I've been working on stuff. So much room for activities now, projects galore.
Mike: Yeah. So the hope is that a year from now. And if you're listening to this the first time in the year, 2021 or 2022, we're in the midst of a global pandemic and we're all in our homes. And when we do leave, many of us are choosing to wear masks. Some are not. But again, choice is absolutely yours in how you want to live your life. But we thought-
Austin: Some people walk around and pretend to be Bane.
Mike: Right. Yes.
Male: Oh, this global pandemic. I'm going to go get some sausage.
Austin: I don't know why he chose to go get sausage right there.
Male: I have developed some sort of craving.
Austin: Bane's pregnant. He's having pregnancy cravings.
Mike: He owns his own deli. Bane owns a deli.
Austin: There you go.
Male: Welcome. Would you like some cold cuts.
Mike: What? Do I want what?
Male: Cold cuts.
Mike: I'm sorry. I can't, can you?
Male: [inaudible 00:02:59] cold cuts. Would you like some sliced meat? Assorted and varied by their flavor and type.
Austin: [inaudible 00:03:11] I have a mask, I can use it.
Mike: Yeah. You actually have a Bane mask, right? That you're using.
Austin: It's an actual legit mask to protect me from the world outside my doors here.
Mike: That's pretty cool.
Austin: But, yes. It looks like a Bane mask.
Mike: So anyhow, we're all dealing with that. But Austin and I... And then we, at some point in this journey where to be joined by our other really good friend, Scott Garland he'll join us on occasion. Whenever he's not world traveling or somewhere where he can't be with us. We all thought it would be fun to do something that no one's doing right now, which is-
Austin: No one. Literally no one.
Mike: No one is a start a podcast or a video cast.
Austin: We're breaking the mold. We're ahead of the curve.
Mike: I mean, this is revolutionary.
Austin: Super revolutionary. People are going to look back 10 years from now and be like, "Hey, remember when those middle aged men started that podcast. That was life changing."
Mike: I mean, we're breaking new ground here in having two geeks, talk about pop culture and the things that they love. This has never been done before.
Mike: No. So I'm very proud of us for thinking of this first.
Austin: We're going to win lots of awards for being so just ahead of the curve and just groundbreaking, like we are.
Mike: Yeah. So we called this thing We're Grounded and it can mean really anything to anybody, I guess. For us, it's in that we're very much grounded in all things that are nerd, and geek, and horror, and comics, and movies, and music, and vinyl. And it's something that has really been in our childhood. Brought up in the eighties and early nineties, our formative years. And embracing all of these amazing pop culture nuggets that have... Not only things that we love, but have also influenced us in the paths that we've taken in our life up to this point.
Austin: That's true. That's extremely true. And when you were talking about this, it's interesting. I'm looking at the back of your room right now. I was paying attention to what you were saying, and I was listening to you truly, but I was also looking at all that stuff you have in the back there. And how different, our rooms are. I mean, how it's similar, but how different they are and how on kind of different sides of the spectrum here. And if I were a kid and I were to be grounded, I would be okay with being in either of these rooms. I'm just saying.
Mike: Yes. Well, I get yours is very much a museum piece. Everything's displayed so nicely. It is all in glass cases and organized. And whereas mine looks like the warehouse from Indiana Jones. Which is musty and who knows what's back here.
Austin: But you've got books and you've got your glasses on. You look so smart. You look so intelligent.
Mike: I place books here, because in most of the news interviews that you see nowadays, the intellectuals like to place books behind them to then actually show visually that they are well-read. If you zoom in on their books, they're all like psychology books, and books about politics. If you were to zoom in on my collection, it's all eighties movie novels and Stephen King. So it's actually all rotting my brain rather than forcing me forward in my intellectual goals.
Austin: Listen, it's all relative. You say rotting, I say, give me those books over theirs. Take those all day.
Mike: The really cool thing is that we've been able to... Well we should probably tell everybody who the hell we are and what we do, right? Because there's a lot of like, "Why should I listen to these two idiots?"
Austin: Seriously? Yeah. Why should I listen to you? You want me to go first?
Mike: Yeah. You go first.
Austin: Oh man. So I guess if you don't know me, my name's Austin Romero also known as WWE's Mike Rome, Ring Announcer for Monday Night Raw on the USA Network.
Mike: Which okay. Hold on. How cool is it that you work for a company that as a kid, you watched on TV?
Austin: Yeah. It's pretty insane. It's pretty insane. I remember being a kid watching, Junkyard Dog and Hulk Hogan and just listening (singing). All that stuff. And then, skip ahead, I'm not going to say how many years later. But skip ahead some years later. Montage.
Mike: He's shy about his age.
Austin: Nah. I'm old. And then I'm introducing Hulk Hogan to the ring or Undertaker. Or these guys that I watched. So it's actually really cool. And then to be a part of a company that's ever evolving. And also being a part of the new generation of talent that people are going to look back 20 years from now. Like, "Oh, I remember Seth Rollins. Oh, I remember." Whatever, it's pretty cool to be a part of that. And it's also very weird for me. It's very surreal. I don't even think about it. To me, I'm still here in this room. I'm this nerd. I'm this guy.
Mike: I was going through some old [inaudible 00:08:44] photos the other day and I found you and I-
Austin: Sapling Treebeard.
Mike: What's that?
Austin: Sapling Treebeard.
Mike: So, should I tell it or do you?
Austin: Yeah, you tell it.
Mike: When he was in the process of being interviewed by WWE. And that courting process that occurs if he's the right fit. He had a headshot. And we, my wife and I... My wife's name is Summer. We were texting him, his headshot with new names and new monikers that we thought WWE would call him. Because in that business, you're never playing your own name. You're always, not really a character because you're you, but there's a pseudonym that you're given in that business. Not only the wrestlers, but also the onscreen talent. And so we had done all of these headshots of his face, his baby face and the new names for him. And one of them was Sapling Treebeard. Which I thought would have been a much better name than Mike Rome.
Austin: Sterling St. Pierre was another one.
Mike: Sterling St. Pierre.
Austin: I don't know. I don't know how none of those got passed. Just, I don't know.
Mike: Well, I'm sure you submitted the list, and it was-
Austin: Absolutely. [crosstalk 00:10:09]
Mike: It was looked through exhaustively.
Austin: The day you sent it to me. I'm sure they circled back around to Sapling Treebeard a couple of times. They're like, "Oh, maybe?"
Mike: They're like, "Mike Rome? Sapling Treebeard? I'm going to flip a coin. Mike Rome. Okay."
Austin: Mike Rome it is. There it is. Well, and also it was my middle name and my last name, like half basically.
Mike: I'm partial to Mike as well. So it's all good for you.
Austin: What's weird, the first time that we came back after that, it's like, we hung out like in public. Somebody was like, "Mike." And I'm like, "Huh, Oh, wait, no, you. Me? No, him. What? Oh well."
Mike: You get used to being called that. The memory I had was I found a photo of you and I, and Caden, my son at NXT. I think it may have been six months before you got hired. In the audience watching NXT. So it's just cool the journey that you've had. But also you're in an industry that is very much the realm that we live in. It's a genre industry. In that there's a very unique core audience that loves wrestling that would consider themselves nerds and geeks. And again, kind of this ilk.
Austin: Ilk, good word.
Mike: And now call that your profession right now. For right now, we'll see where this takes you. But the fact that you've got this kind of gig based on a love that you had. I've been a major wrestling fan for my entire life. So it's just cool, that journey. I interrupted you. I'm sorry.
Austin: No, you're fine. I wanted to see where you were going to go with that. I actually remember going... What's funny to touch on what you were just saying, as far as going back and seeing NXT. I've seen those photos a couple of times, and I was going back through those photos. And I actually saw two of the people that I work with right now had their debut matches that day. Against The Iconics actually now. And Peyton Royce was actually in one of those photos. And it was her first match as an enhancement talent in there. And I was there for it.
Austin: It was interesting to see that because to see where some of the people are now. And to see some of these old photos that I had, that I didn't even realize I took of people in the ring. I was like, "Oh my God, I have this. This is crazy." So it's so weird now just to be on those journeys. But they all start somewhere. I was at theme parks and doing all kinds of random stuff. And playing all kinds of characters. And getting to be people that I've seen in movies and stuff like that. And that's where we met. We met at Universal Studios and you've had quite... Universal Studios, you've had quite a journey there. I want to know more about you, Mike Aiello.
Mike: Well, you know. We'll tell everyone. So for me, my pop culture upbringing has led me to an awesome career working for Universal Orlando Resort for the last almost 25 years, almost. In all kinds of roles. I've been a performer. I was the Skipper on the Jaws ride. Killing the shark 80 times a day. And an awesome path there that eventually led me to being in more of a creative role with the company. And helping to create a lot of the content that is enjoyed by millions of people from all over the world. What I'm really passionate about is obviously behind me, you can see the horror genre. And that love, and that passion led me to become the creative director for an event called Halloween Horror Nights here in Orlando. And leading an amazing team of people, creating living nightmares. An event that that promotes horror.
Mike: And the idea of being able to walk into a living horror film. Either something from a movie you've seen, or being able to create stories, and characters, and scenarios of our own making. So I've had an awesome, awesome job that directly represents how I was brought up. Which is, again, I think for both of us, that is the unique thing for a lot of people that end up calling their job is also their passion. And also they've grown up with. I think that as such the unique thing in both of our lives. And in a lot of people that we know. And people that call home pop culture. And being able to make a living out of the thing they grew up with. Again, being grounded in your room when you're a kid was like the best thing for me, because I was surrounded by all my favorite stuff.
Austin: It's true.
Mike: And that permeates. So whether it's Halloween Horror Nights or creating stuff for Wizarding World. For me, it's just been this awesome symbiotic coexistence between all the things that I love and being able to translate those things into a real world attractions. So it's cool. It's cool. And I directly relate and see that the influence of what I do now is directly representative of everything that I surrounded myself as a kid.
Austin: So how did you get into all that stuff?
Mike: Oh, well, horror for me was a passion that I know my dad had as well. He was a massive classic monster fan. So although I wouldn't be considered a monster kid because that era is really in the 1960s and early to mid-seventies are the monster kids. The ones that were growing up with the Aurora model kits and Famous Monsters Magazine. Which lasted several decades. That was definitely my father's formative years. But I was very influenced by him in that respect. So horror for me, the classic monsters were just something that was on the same line as watching Smurfs every day as a kid. It was watching classic monster movies and then-
Austin: Oh Papa [inaudible 00:16:39].
Mike: That was all on the same line. And it just grew. And then as I got older... And not too much older, because I was pretty young when I watched a lot of the horror films that I've grown to love today, probably too young. My parents did not really monitor or care about the things that I was watching.
Austin: Look how you turned out.
Mike: I know. Look at that. Reading Fangoria Magazine, or going to the video store, movie gallery and perusing the horror section. And being terrified of all the art on the boxes, but also being completely taken by it at the same time. I think the fear and the trepidation almost fueled my fire to want to watch it. Which I also think is something that a lot of people that love horror, the reason why they love it is that it really touches that nerve in the same way that riding a roller coaster or jumping out of an airplane. Although it's less dangerous watching a movie, but... Oh, there's your lunch.
Mike: Hey Vanessa. I think all of that is inherent in why people love horror. And for me, it was the road, man. I got in that car and I hit the pedal to the metal and haven't looked back since
Austin: I love it, man. I think it's funny because we both have a love for horror, but for me, when I was a kid, I was absolutely terrified. And I feel like my parents built up this irrational fear when I was a child, because they didn't want me to watch that. Or it was that timeframe where parents are like, "Oh no, you can't watch that. It's bad for you, or whatever." But it was more of a joke. And now it's more serious, but back then it was like, "You can't watch this, or whatever." So I would sit in my bed and I would hear Jaws for example. And I'd hear dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, and I'd be sitting in my bed. And I remember not being able to go to sleep and hearing Child's Play, hearing Chucky. All that stuff and hearing him chant. I'm like, "Oh my God."
Austin: And I remember the first time I actually sat down and watched that stuff. And being scared but happy, excited scared. It was just this real crazy mix of emotions. And I was like, "Oh, I wonder what this is. I wonder what this is." And then you just start peeling it back. Because my stuff started more in comic books. Obviously you can kind of see where [inaudible 00:19:14]. So stepping over into that side, it was great because I already liked in comic books, I already leaned more towards the villains or the antihero or the hero that's kind of a bad guy or a badass. I don't really know, but I definitely love villains. So going into the horror side. I was like, "Oh, these are my heroes. These are great."
Mike: In the comic book realm when you talk about the antiheroes... I know this, but Batman is a character that you identify with. It's one of your favorite characters. Batman Beyond, I think it's probably the apex for you, right?
Austin: Yeah. I don't know why. I don't even know where the Batman Beyond... I love Batman just in general. Batman's great. I like Iron Man. Iron Man's one of those guys who's very hard to get along with, but he's ultimately a good guy. He just wants to do things his own way. And I think Batman and him are very similar in that aspect. But I like Joker. Joker's one of those villains where you're like, "Oh, this guy's so awesome." And Batman Beyond was one of those things that I think, because the animated series was out and it was such a good cartoon. That cartoon was so far ahead of its time. And when it ended, I was like, "What am I supposed to watch now?"
Austin: And so then Batman Beyond came out and it was the story of this kid who stumbles upon old Bruce. Bruce is retired. He can't do it anymore. His body, just even with the suit that he built, he couldn't do it. And this kid ends up getting the suit and trying to figure out who killed his dad. And I was like, "Maybe I could get a suit and maybe I could go kick some ass." It was like, I don't know. There was this weird... It's the same thing. You relate to things and you're just like, "Ah." Anything that's more relatable. You automatically get sucked into like, "Oh, I can totally do that. Or maybe that's something? Maybe I can get bit by a radioactive spider." Random stuff.
Mike: Yeah. What was your room like growing up? What was your domain as a kid? What did you surround yourself with?
Austin: Man, GI Joes. I mean, I think I had every GI Joe known to man. I actually had vinyl when I was a kid, Michael Jackson's Thriller. I had a lot of vinyl in there. Comic books, lots of comic books. My dad was into Punisher War Journal, that was his huge thing. So I remember reading that. Which he also had detective comics, because he always read the darker comics. The comics that were with murders and somebody had to solve it. Or maybe not solve it. Maybe just kill everybody for murdering his family. You know what I mean? So that was what I was reading as a kid. So, while you were watching horror movies. I was reading comics where this dude gets murdered and now that he's going on a rampage to kill all these other people. Just opposite sides of very, kind of like similar in that aspect.
Austin: I was reading all these dark comic books. Like, "Man, this is crazy. No matter what happens, he always finds a way to come on top. And he's the detective and he could do all this stuff." And I just fell in love with Batman. That was my thing back then. I remember reading... And then eventually I stumbled into Captain America, and Silver Surfer and the Avengers and that kind of stuff. I feel like I got my foothold in DC Comics first and then kind of went back and did Marvel. I mean, Punisher is Marvel and I did read that, but that was definitely my dad's more than it was mine.
Mike: Yeah. That's funny too, because I think there's a lot of people that kind of follow the same path. As a kid, you were... There's very few people I know, when they were younger that read both. You either seem to be a Marvel person or a DC person. Because I was definitely a Marvel kid, but as I've gotten older, I've skewed over to DC.
Mike: ... I've skewed over to DC, especially even the last five, six years, I've read more DC than I have Marvel.
Austin: It's flipped for me.
Mike: It's just funny the way people interpret those two companies. But then, you get all this independent stuff now. I mean there's stuff [crosstalk 00:23:23] much.
Austin: Yeah, there's so many options now, but the thing with DC comics is the characters are so iconic. Even though they haven't necessarily nailed them in the movies completely yet, and they're still trying to figure out their stuff, you know who those characters are. Whereas a lot of people may not have known, with the exception of Wolverine or a Captain America, they may not know exactly who some of these characters are until the Avengers movie came out or whatever it was. So it's interesting to see people go backwards. For me, it came down to storylines. I remember reading [Christ's on Emp Urs 00:00:45:58]. So I remember the last big storyline that I really enjoyed, which is a while ago, was Kingdom Come. And that was the last DC Comics thing I really enjoyed.
Mike: Oh, and Alex Ross, man, you can't beat him.
Austin: Oh, dude, you cannot beat Alex Ross.
Austin: You can't see it. I got Alex Ross right here, all the Batman. It's underneath the sleeve. If this thing wasn't so hard to unroll and do... Or you can see some of it right there. Right there, Robin.
Mike: While you've brought that up, I think one thing we got to do at some point, knowing this is also a video, is whatever you get next, we've got to document.
Austin: And you're getting one too. Frankenstein, we're doing it. Nope, we're doing it. We're going to document Mike's first tattoo. But see, if you think about it, even Marvel Comics, they've come out with so many storylines since then. They had Civil War and... What was it? Secret invasion. They had storyline after storyline after storyline so it just sucks you in. And I remember going for so long reading that stuff and I was like, "Yeah, recently there hasn't been a lot." But that was why it switched for me because I felt like the quality of stuff that was coming out was so much better with Marvel at that time. But to each their own. Now I really Power Rangers Comics and random stuff. I'm onto all these indie comics now, so I'm all over the place.
Mike: And looking at your backdrop, Power Rangers is another major love for you. What led you to that? What was it about a Japanese children's show reedited and reformatted for an American audience recast and then most of the characters are dubbed?
Austin: It didn't start there, that's why. It didn't start here. So I lived in Japan for two and a half years when I was a kid. My parents were military and-
Mike: Oh, my God, I don't think I knew that!
Austin: You don't know this?
Austin: So I lived in Okinawa, Japan for two and a half years. I can't even explain to you Japanese TV. For me, it's super cool. I enjoyed it, but there's so much of it. There was only a couple of English channels, so you start stumbling into other things. So [Kamen 00:45:58] Rider was one of the shows, Black and Black RX was one of the shows that I watched over there. I remember rushing home from school to watch it and I had no idea what was happening.
Austin: But the cool thing about the Super Sentai, which is the Power Ranger stuff, and then the Kamen Rider stuff is that it was so easy to follow that you didn't necessarily have to speak the language or understand all of it because you knew that there was five superheros here and they had normal jobs and they were doing this and this and this. And then there was some space invader who was going to try to take over the world or steal the resources or whatever it was at that time. And they would morph into their superpower team, they would fight them and then everything would be cool. And it was this never ending battle. You know what I mean? So it was super easy to follow.
Mike: Yeah, and so over the top.
Austin: Here it was more over the top. Over there it was a little over the top, but it wasn't as crazy if you watched the originals as opposed to what came over here. I grew this love for it because it was the only thing I could watch that I really understood what was going on, that and Kamen Rider. So when I moved back over here and they were like, "Hey, this [inaudible 00:27:26], that looks so familiar!" And I had all these toys from Japan and I was like, "Oh, I know what this is. This is crazy." I watched the original series there and I watched the one here.
Mike: So you were already in the know. So all these kids that were discovering it for the first time, you're like, "Yeah, man, this is..." And you already had the toys, that not even existed yet over here. You were ahead of the curve.
Austin: I was, yep.
Mike: That's wild.
Austin: That's why it's funny because everybody's like, "Oh yeah, you like Power Rangers. How did you get into that show?" Because I was a little past that age group that was in that, but because I loved it for so many years prior to that, it was a cool thing. I was living in Tennessee at the time. We had just moved to Millington or Memphis and it was weird because I didn't have any friends and I didn't have anything yet because I just moved there. And then they were like, "Oh, they show Power Rangers?" And I was like, "Oh, that's so cool," because it was something that gave me comfort over there. So then it gave me comfort over there when I moved back to the States. So it was cool to bring that over. Then Dragon Ball came out over here and then Dragon Ball Z. It was just like I was back in Japan.
Mike: That's wild. So your room, very much GI Joe comic books, Power Rangers. Mine was classic monsters and movie posters and John Carpenter. And that juxtaposed with Star Wars. I had all the Star Wars ships hanging from my ceiling. My mom, anytime I'd get a new ship, I'd play with it and then we would rig it with wires and put it right up into the ceiling.
Austin: That's so awesome.
Mike: Yeah, and so I would create a battle above me. So my ceiling was Star Wars. Everything on the walls and below was all pretty much movie posters and horror.
Austin: Did you put one of those star projectors up there so it looked like they were battling?
Mike: No, I didn't have anything like that then.
Austin: And you know what?
Mike: That was-
Austin: Oh, go ahead.
Mike: That was when I was a little bit older. It was the horror stuff, because actually I found a picture of my first bedroom. It's from 1987. I think I was nine. And it's my sister and I sitting on two chairs in my room watching a tiny black and white TV. I'm probably watching Saturday morning cartoons on it. And there's a Star Wars fan club poster on the wall, Return of the Jedi, from the fan club. I have Popeye curtains because I-
Austin: I need to see this photo.
Mike: I'll throw it up here. I loved Popeye as a young kid. I have no idea why. I watched the cartoon and was for some reason I loved the song-
Austin: G, g, g, g, g, g, g.
Mike: ... And my grandmother had made, out of sheets, bedsheets, she made Popeye curtains for my wall so that's in there. But that black and white TV is very meaningful to me because on that TV was the first time I ever saw Frankenstein, was on that black and white television. It was airing late at night. I was up well after than I should have been, but I always turned on my TV and watched whatever late night TV that that TV could pick up. And there was a showing of Frankenstein and I remember vividly lying in my bed. I had my covers over my head, lying on my stomach, facing the television. And during the creation sequence, when the gurney's getting risen into the air, the lightening is firing, I remember the strobe effect from the black and white TV hitting my whole room and looking up at all of the shadows that the spaceships were creating on my walls and on the ceiling.
Mike: And it was just this very vivid memory I have of that scene and how it affected my environment as I was watching it. That's been a permanent memory of mine throughout my whole life. And that again, like I said, classic monsters was the gateway. And then it was '80s slashers. And then it was, as more of a teenager, watching a lot of the exploitation from the 1970s. It was the building blocks for me. And I'm a child of John Carpenter, The Thing, Halloween, The Fog, those three films are probably my favorite of all time. And everything about it, the look of it, the soundtracks, the synth texture that it has, that still exists today.
Mike: It has evolved. The whole synth wave '80s movement has just totally reengaged this generation. And so all of those things were literally the building blocks for me. That was my room growing up. And so I loved being in it. I had no problem. I didn't get in trouble a lot as a kid, but when I did, if I had to go to my room, I was like, "Okay!"
Austin: I want to go be around my horror posters.
Mike: Yeah, and it hasn't changed. That's the other cool thing, I think, for people that are like us, is we continue to surround ourselves with the things that we love. And we've all got a room in our house that is filled with the things that make us us. And it's why-
Austin: The only thing that changed is that you just collected all the things that you couldn't necessarily collect when you were younger. And you just started stockpiling like, "I've got my own money now."
Mike: And that didn't even exist. That's the other beautiful thing about today, is there are so many avenues to get a relic, something that you hold an emotional attachment to based on the thing that you love. It all exists now. Whereas it really didn't back then. I was on online earlier looking at a bunch of websites that are leading the way in remastering-
Austin: Could you get that before?
Mike: No, you couldn't get that.
Mike: Like for film, the fact there's The Arrow and Severin and Shout Factory, all these great companies that are not only remastering and reviving a lot of the older films from when we grew up and earlier, but also combining that with so many awesome special features and interviews and documentaries and original trailers and all of this stuff that exists that people and companies that are collecting and ensuring that there's a preservation of a lot of the stuff that existed when we were young and before. None of that stuff existed before and it's such an amazing time to be a geek.
Austin: Dude, it's crazy to think of all the stuff like... I don't remember what year it was, but I feel like there was one year where I vividly remember starting going, "Wow, there's a lot of comic book stuff out here. There's a lot of stuff you can get now. It's crazy." And so I started buying stuff because I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to find it because when I was a kid you can never find anything. You were like, "Man, it'd be awesome if I had this. It'd be awesome if I had a bat signal on my house. It would be awesome if I had..." You know what I mean? There was all these things. And now I have a bat signal on my house. I have all these things because I think in the beginning I was terrified of not being able to find stuff. And then now it's so abundant to be able to get stuff.
Austin: Even going back when I had GI Joes. You can find that stuff everywhere, but back then you couldn't find certain people. They were not there. I had these little Star Wars... Did you ever have those little, they were the sets of each scene? So like the scene on the Death Star where Luke gets knocked out of-
Mike: Was it the little miniatures?
Austin: The little pewter... Yeah, did you have those?
Mike: Yes, they're in my garage right now.
Austin: I still I have them too. So you couldn't find those, you couldn't find those anywhere. It's just random things that were out that you couldn't find, but now you can just go online, type something and there it is. It's just crazy.
Mike: Yeah, and do you remember in the Death Star Play Set there was a... It was a trash compactor and there were the tiny orange pieces of foam that you had to put in there, that was all the garbage. That was the garbage for the trash compactor. I still have that orange foam. I still have it in a bag.
Austin: Do you? I do not have the orange foam.
Mike: All that foam is now one singular piece that has all fused together. It's nasty, but I still have it.
Austin: I wish they made toys like that still, man. Those things were indestructible. The pieces for the Play Set were weird, like the doors that always flew open that fit back together. You had to pop them back in, they didn't necessarily little glass pieces and stuff or they were plastic.
Mike: Oh, in the Empire Strikes Back. Yeah, where Luke flies out of the window, yeah. Oh my gosh.
Austin: Some of those were hard to like put back together, but just feel like toys were made so much better back then. Everything's just so plastic-y now and just-
Mike: Absolutely, except for NECA. They make really good figures.
Austin: Agreed, Sideshow Collectibles is another one.
Mike: Yes, the biggest goal here for Austin and I is to have a reason to talk about this stuff, even beyond what we normally talk about when we're together. But I also think another cool aspect, and hopefully we can do this, I think we're off to a good start, is also bring some people in that also share the same passions and have been able to create for themselves, whether it's a career or they've been able to filter that passion into something that can be enjoyed by a lot of people. And we're going to bring people on that share that same love. Again, it's just once a month what we normally do hanging out, we can let everybody else hear as well, I guess, right?
Austin: Exactly. Yeah, why not? We'll just bring you guys in on the journey. This is basically literally we get together probably once a month and have dinner at... What is it, Crooked Spoon? Is that what it's called?
Austin: And then just sit and we just talk and talk and talk when [Scotty's 00:45:58] not traveling. It's usually three of us. Sometimes it'll be two of us. Sometimes it'll be three. It'll never just be one. We'll have some fun. I like the guests that we have coming and lined up. I think they're all pretty cool in different ways. They'll all have passions of different things and that's the cool thing, is people who follow you, Mike, may not know some of the things that you're into. They may have a good idea, but they may not know everything. Some people that follow me may not know everything about how I found the things I like now. So it's cool to peel that back and then we can help do the same thing for some of the guests that we have coming on. Peel some of those layers back so people go, "Oh, I didn't know that!"
Mike: And I think we can guarantee you this is always going to be fun. It may not always be polished because that's the only thing too is we're-
Austin: Who needs polish?
Mike: We're learning all this stuff as we go. I'm not the most technologically advanced person that has ever been on the planet, but I'm learning. But again, the point of this is just to have fun, talk about the things that we love, talk to other people about the things that they love, what drove them, what they're passionate about, what drove them to do the thing they're doing now. And yeah, that's what this is going to be. That is we're grounded. We're grounded in all the things that we love and the things that we're passionate about.
Austin: Here's my random thought for this moment. I'm totally going to segue in a different direction because this is... I don't know why this has been sitting in my head. All I can picture from what you said before is you getting grounded and you walking in your room and on the wall, you just go and look at your Hellraiser poster or your Halloween poster or whatever you have there and just go, "Ah..." It's seven year old Mike just going...
Mike: Pretty much. Yeah, and again we can-
Austin: You're going to ground me?
Mike: Ask my sister. I was not a bad kid. I rarely got grounded growing up, but I never denied a motion to go to my room ever. That's why I like this room. I come in here. My family whom I love, I've got two kids and a wife and they're doing their thing and I find a moment in my day to retreat to my little piece of heaven, which is this space.
Austin: You shut the door and you lock yourself away.
Mike: That's right.
Austin: I love you guys, ugh.
Mike: Well, I'm also blessed. I've got a 14 year old son who is also a carbon copy of me. And I did not do that on purpose. I did not drive him towards anything. I just exposed him to things.
Austin: Yeah, and here's the thing and I can actually comment on this because I remember when [Kayden 00:41:19] was much younger and he wouldn't go around anything scary. Say we walked into a restaurant, for example, just as a random example, this didn't actually happen. We walk into a restaurant and there's one of those old, creepy things, the candy where you go to grab it, then it goes, "M, m, m, m, m, m!"
Mike: It was during Halloween.
Austin: Was it during Halloween? It didn't happen. It's a hypothetical situation, but he would not walk past it. He had to walk all the way around the restaurant and come in the other side because he wouldn't walk past it. And now the dude is sitting on Minecraft and all these other things and designing his own Halloween horror nights and watching all these movies. My favorite is reading his critiques after watching the movies and how well thought out some of them are. He's like, "You know, I really liked how this happened, but I hated the arc and this and how she did this and she should have gone over here." And I was like, "What? How old are you?"
Mike: I know, he's an old soul. He is a very old soul.
Austin: He is very much an old soul.
Mike: But yeah, so-
Austin: I feel like we should bring him on here at some point.
Mike: You bet we will.
Austin: Kayden's movie review.
Mike: He'll do this so much better than me. In fact, after that episode, you'll probably go, "Hey-
Austin: You're fired.
Mike: Yeah, Mike you're fired. Get Kayden in here and do it. And you know what? I'd be supportive of that. I would allow that to occur.
Austin: We should do a one minute Kayden horror movie review. When a new movie comes out, we should do that.
Mike: We should. Yeah, no, we'll make-
Austin: One minute.
Mike: We'll figure out what our segments are. What are our bits?
Austin: This bit is me eating this sandwich.
Mike: And it fell out! That was so funny.
Austin: And that's how you fail at making a joke.
Mike: No, you repelled the joke.
Austin: I meant to do that.
Mike: That's right. So we should probably get to today's guest or this episode's guest because there'll be cases where we'll do an interview that won't be in real time with how we're we're recording this. But today that is the case. We've got an interview later with Freddie Carlini. He is the co-founder of Bright Light Media, which is a creative design house. But their big claim to fame, at least right now, and very successful, is he co-created a board game called Mixtape Massacre, which is a '80s horror slasher infused board game that is super fun to play. It's steeped in nostalgia, steeped in '80s horror pop culture, has a retro '80s vibe to it. They even have their own playlist on Spotify that you listen to while you're playing the game.
Austin: That I did not know. See, I learn something new every day.
Mike: And I'll let him talk about all this stuff, but it came out several years ago, but since then they've developed expansions for it. They have a sequel game that got released. There's a new expansion coming out, I believe, in a couple months. So awesome '80s based horror board game that you and I have played-
Austin: Yeah, and you know me. I'm not a huge boardie. I don't really collect them. I play them when I'm with you. And I like playing them, but I don't own a ton of them. I grew up playing Sorry and Monopoly and stuff like that. So when I got to play that, the Mixtape Massacre, it was cool because you get a selection of all the quintessential archetypes of villains from the '80s, like the clown, the little girl, it's all this random stuff so it's cool because I'm like, "Oh, I don't even know which one to pick." Aren't there the antihero things on there too? Like-
Mike: Well, that's how the game has actually evolved over time. It started... Well, you know what? We should let him-
Austin: We'll let him, yeah.
Mike: Just let him.
Austin: Either way, it was really cool to play an '80s game that was '80s fun and slasher. You can also villain versus villain. It was super cool.
Mike: Yeah, it's really well done. The mechanics are very fun, but also it's very easy to pick up. So we're going to talk to him about not only his company, but the game. The real thing is talking about what drove him to do this. What in his life is he passionate about that has allowed him to siphon that into this medium. So it should be a fun interview. We'll just go ahead and go to that now. What do you say?
Austin: Let's do it.
Mike: All right, here is our interview with Freddie Carlini, the creator of Mixtape Massacre.
Mike: All right. We are back and we're with Freddie Carlini with Mixtape Massacre among all kinds of other things. I don't want to minimize what you do, but we're super happy to have you on, man. Thanks for doing our first episode.
Freddie Carlini: Thanks for having me.
Mike: It's great. We've been connecting on Twitter for a while now, but never actually talked face to face. So I'm super excited about this.
Freddie Carlini: Yeah. Thanks for having me, guys. I'm happy to talk with y'all.
Mike: Yeah, man. Yeah. This is my buddy, Austin Romero. You've not met him yet, but he's also a fan of the game. We've played it together with my son.
Freddie Carlini: Awesome.
Austin: Big fan of Smiley.
Freddie Carlini: Always with the clowns.
Mike: But so tell me about... What we were talking about on this podcast is not only just talking about people that are doing really great things, but also the things that drive them. Austin and I, we've managed to form careers around the things that we love. This whole podcast is about bringing together people that have been able to do the same thing, that have these passions, that have these drives and then have transferred that drive into something that not only something they love, but also it can be enjoyed by other people. So, that's what this is about. Obviously with Mixtape Massacre, there's a lot of love in this game. I mean, it is in every single aspect of it. There's '80's, horror, slasher, amazing passion in it. So talk to me and Austin about the things that drive you and how it led to baking that into an awesome board game.
Freddie Carlini: Sure. Yeah. So I was brought up in a household where I had three older brothers and one little sister and my dad was really bad at managing the differences in age groups. So I was exposed to horror very young. I think I was five or four when I saw my first horror film, probably.
Mike: What was it? Do you remember what it was?
Freddie Carlini: I cannot for the life of me, because it's such a blur, how much I saw when I was young. But I would probably say it was probably either A Nightmare on Elm Street or a Friday the 13th because those were, in my house, rampant.
Freddie Carlini: Yeah. But I remember the one that was pinnacle for me. And it's funny because it does not age well, but at the time it was great for me, was Hell Night with Linda Blair from The Exorcist. This movie, my dad had saw in a hotel while he was traveling for work and he came home and he went to Beachmont Video, we lived in Cincinnati at the time, he went to Beachmont Video. He brought this home. He goes, "The kids have to watch this." And my mother hated when he would say that. She hated when he would bring these horror films home. He's like, "You got to watch it." So the whole family, and my sister must have been like, I mean the age difference with all of us is three, four. So she must've been two at the time.
Freddie Carlini: And he's got the whole family watching this thing and we're really into it. And I remember there's this one scene involved in the stairwell where there's a shadowy area. And from then on out it scared me when I would go down our stairs in the middle of the night to get a drink or something like that. And I remember that having an impact and from there I just was hooked on horror films.
Freddie Carlini: I would go with him. Anything that had a cool kick ass cover, I would want to rent immediately. He would let me get House. He would let him get Bad Taste. He would let me get stuff that my mother would just shake her head at. But he would also tell her, he goes, "Gail, he's fine. He loves this stuff. It's good. It's good." Yeah, I mean, that's where I got my taste for loving horror films. I thought it was just the coolest stuff. I thought the art especially was so unique, the way these covers were drawn. And I've said it a thousand times, but sometimes the covers were 100 times better than the movies. But I just loved watching these things.
Freddie Carlini: And I loved the curiosity of just going through those aisles, finding something with a cool cover and being like, "All right, we're checking this out tonight." Horror just stayed with me. It was something I always loved. I always liked the macabre. I always loved dark imagery. I was a huge Tim Burton fan when I was a kid. I thought those movies were great. And then as I got older and was doing my own business, my partner, Matt Corrado, we own a company called Bright Light Media and we do everything under the sun that involves media. We work with apps. We work with web development. We do mural installations for companies. We do graphic design, branding for tons and tons of companies.
Freddie Carlini: We work with everyone from small businesses to fortune 500s. It's what we always wanted to do. We always wanted to be able to be creative, use our skill sets and create things. But we had always had this background talk of, we should do a comic book or we should do an animated show or we should do something like that. Because we had the skill sets and we know how to do this stuff, but it's just always just talk. And then about seven years ago, I got sober. I quit drinking and I was spending a lot of nights hanging out with friends at homes and stuff like that. And they were bringing out board games and I was always into games, but I could see amidst the people playing, you could tell who your hardcore gamers were and you could tell who your people were who never played games.
Freddie Carlini: And the problem with that at any game night is that certain people aren't going to want to wait two hours to learn the rules. There are people who aren't going to wait two hours to figure out how to level up their character and play RPGs and stuff like that. You need something that's like Cards Against Humanity, but a little more fun and a little more interactive. Something that everyone can join in and have a good laugh with. And I was looking at the kind of games everyone was playing and we were all commenting on the fact that, they were like, "You know, there's no slasher horror games." And I was like, "That's a good point." I was just sitting there and I was like, "How the hell is there no games like this?"
Mike: And this is back in 2015, 2014?
Freddie Carlini: 2013, 2014.
Freddie Carlini: I was like, "That's a really good point." I think there was maybe one in development. It was called Camp Grizzly. And it's one of the guys from Pixar and one other guy did a game, but it wasn't to the level of game I wanted it to be. And so I went home. I started wireframing. I basically started doing skeleton work. Like, "This is how it will work. This is how the board should be. Let's make it very retro and have a Clue look to it so people who've never seen a board game will go, "Oh, I know how this works. I know how to move. I know how to do this stuff." So-
Mike: So for you, the start was mechanics-based first, knowing you wanted something horror but then it was mechanics for you as a starting point.
Freddie Carlini: Absolutely. Because it was almost like deconstructing again. Because some of the stuff, it's funny, some of the negative comments we get about our games are always from hardcore gamers and it's like, "It's too easy." I'm like, "Yeah. That's not a problem for me." Because what I'm trying to do is I want to get people who never play games to sit down and play a game with friends. People who are like, "I don't want to play that. That looks complicated. That looks stupid. That looks ridiculous." I want people to sit down and be like, "Oh I get it. Oh, okay, I understand how to move. I understand that I want to get to locations," and stuff like that. Something that seems easy. And then the trade-off for us and the secret for us is once you get them into it, then we can release expansions that make it harder, make it harder, make it harder.
Freddie Carlini: And all of a sudden you've got people who've never played board games, playing games. And that was our mission. It was, "Let's make a cool game that involves slashers, but also get people who never play games to start playing board games."
Austin: It's funny you said that because I was just saying this to Mike earlier is, Mike plays board games all the time and he's got a bunch of them. I've played a couple. I don't play them as much. I'm more of a video game guy.
Freddie Carlini: Sure.
Austin: But it's funny because we've sat down on some games where it takes us two to three hours to break down the rules and understand. And then even through the game, we're like, "Wait. Okay, wait. If we go here, then we have to do this and then this happens." And I'm like, "Oh God." And I remember sitting down for Mixtape and playing it I'm like, "Oh. Okay, cool. Let's go." We were in the game really fast and we were doing this and then he gets to your thing and then you're villain versus villain when you had a heads up and then you're traveling the board. It was so easy to play that literally his entire family, all four of them, and then myself and my girlfriend and she never plays. I can't even tell you maybe the last more game she played was maybe Monopoly and she raged-quit halfway through and that was when she has a child.
Austin: So she actually played this all the way through because it was something we loved. We loved horror. We loved '80s. We got to choose our classic archetype of who we wanted to be. Obviously Smiley I went with. But it was just one of those things where it was like, "Dude, it was so easy to pick up." So hearing you say that, it's cool to see how much thought was put into that, because it really is super easy to pick up and play. Not just for me, but for somebody who doesn't play any games.
Mike: Because there's this, even on some of the games I'll bring over to his house, I'll have to, if I've never played it before, I've got to set it up myself first, actually run through just by myself, pretend there's two other people there and play a game to try and just figure it out so that I've got a shorthand when I'm going to other people's houses.
Freddie Carlini: Absolutely.
Mike: And that's not something that we to do with this. The other thing, too, that I love about the game as we're playing it, and I think it's also, obviously Austin and I've got a love for horror and my son does as well, we'll play and also start creating our own storyline scenarios as we're playing, as we're traversing the town, Tall Oaks, and start filling in some narrative, not blanks, but just creating our own beginning, middle and end as the characters interact-
Freddie Carlini: For sure.
Mike: ... or as we're going in for the kills, filling in some narrative of just hypotheticals of how would this happen. I just love that aspect about it.
Freddie Carlini: Yeah. And that was the fun of it when Madden... What happened was I had developed a wire frame and then I brought it into the company and it's Matt and Mary Joy and myself, and we sat down and started skinning it. Matt was like, "Oh, it'd be really cool if we make the PlayStation's knives." I was like, "That'll be a really cool theme. And everything should be tapes. It should be tapes all across." And as we've done expansions, it's like, "We need cartridges. We need composition books." All this stuff from when we were kids that we had, and it was cool because as we're trying to figure out the killers for the game, it's like, "Okay, let's go back to all these movies we used to watch."
Freddie Carlini: We have people who come up to our tables at cons and stuff and they just immediately assume like, "Oh, that character is this character." And then it's fun because you'll have other people who come up and then they'll see a different character in the character. And it's working because what we always try to do, a perfect example is The Legend. It's the character on our box. He's green hair and he's got a white mask. People are immediately like, "Oh, it's Jason," or, "Oh, it's Michael Myers." But then as you start to peel back the layers, his whole getup is the bad guy from Cobra. It's all these references. It's all these references to things we love. Even if we can be like, "All right, put this button on this person," or, "Put this glove on this person." Throw in as many Easter eggs as we can without getting sued, kind of thing.
Freddie Carlini: It's like, what can we get in here that, if you are really good with movie trivia, you'll get it and if you're not, well, no one's going to notice and it's great. That's what we tried for so much is it's just this big nostalgia bomb. And it's something that... It's funny, my friend Tommy used to always say, he'd be like, "What are you going to do with all this useless knowledge?" Because he always talks about like, "You don't go to trivia nights or anything. What are you going to do with it?" Then when the game came out, I was like, "Oh." He's like, "So this is what you're going to do with all this stuff." So, it's been fun.
Mike: Well, let me ask you. Knowing how steeped it is in nostalgia and the retro feel, when you're attacking the entirety of the game, how do you balance that nostalgia factor versus the new ideas you want to bring to the table? How does that balance work?
Freddie Carlini: I mean, basically it's give the people what they want, to an extent. And I mean, we saw it in our latest Kickstarter campaign. I think so many people thought because the game dealt with aliens that we were really going to go hardcore into James Cameron's Aliens or something like that. And I think when we revealed the Queen and people saw it for what it was, they were like, "What the hell is this?" And 80% of our audience was like, "This is not what I was expecting." And I think they were expecting an alien queen, like the movie. But as you start to look at it, you're like, "Oh, this is kind of like Invaders from Mars or, "Oh, this is kind of like Night of the Creeps." Like, "Oh, okay. I see what they're trying to make reference to here, make fun of." It's fun because we got to pull the...
Freddie Carlini: But at the same time, that creature is just something Matt came up with at the same time. It's like, "These are all the things we want in it." And Matt's like, "All right, but I'm going to make it look this way and I'm going to do this with it and I'm going to have fun with it and I'm going to make it our own." And that's always important to us.
Freddie Carlini: I mean, even when you see The Legend, it's really cute. We've had some kids send us pictures at Hallowe'en who dress up as the characters.
Austin: That's awesome.
Freddie Carlini: And I love it because I was like, "That's awesome because they're starting to see the characters for the characters and not just for the reference points and things like that." I think it's something you see with a lot of media out there that references things, but starts to make its own thing. Like Rick and Morty. It is Doc and Marty to a T, but four seasons in it's got its own story going on. It's still making those fun references and those jokes and things, but it is its own entity now. And I think that's the cool thing about our culture and how we always love to reference things. But eventually the reference itself and the joke itself becomes its own entity and grows into something of its own. And that's what we've done with the game is, we'll start with some reference points.
Freddie Carlini: It's like Stranger Things. Stranger Things came out a year or two after our game came out and we were stoked because we were like, "Oh man, people are really loving this whole '80s revival and people are loving this nostalgia thing." And that show, there's scenes in it that are literally shot verbatim, like-
Freddie Carlini: Close Encounters. You see it when she opens the door and things like that. And I'm just like, "That is so cool." I'm so happy to see this stuff because it's like, for those movie nerds, you get that little treat real quick and you're like, "Oh, that's cool. I get what that is." And then other people are just like, "Oh, that just looks pretty."
Mike: Keying into that, I know for Horror Nights, that whole '80s retro vibe is so in now. And to be able to transfer that into an event and have that live and breathe in an attraction-based realm, just like you as a horror fan, you're like, "There's now a vessel that I can transfer all of this passion into and not only bring it to people that already love it, but at the same time and just like your game, you're also able to open some eyes for an audience that has never experienced those things as well."
Freddie Carlini: Or audiences that have always been turned off by it.
Mike: Sure. Yes.
Freddie Carlini: It's funny how people immediately hear horror and they think, "Trashy. Disgusting." And then all of a sudden you put it in a game form and they're laughing and they are playing it and they're like, "Okay, this isn't as bad as I thought it was." Or, "This isn't as atrocious as I thought it would be. This is actually kind of fun and this is kind of silly and we can laugh at it." And that's a win for us, when we get some mom and dad to sit down with their kids and they're playing it with them and they see the positives of it.
Austin: I got to ask because you have so many expansion packs now, and then you have one coming out, was it, invasion.
Freddie Carlini: Invasion.
Austin: So the expansion packs, did they start off with something like, "Oh, these are things that I wanted in the original game when I did this?" Or are they things that came later after you saw it being played after it went out and you were like, "Oh, we should've add this and this should've happen?" Or if it was like, "Oh, I've always wanted to do these extra things. They were wishlists on the first release?"
Freddie Carlini: It's some and some not. It's crazy. Escape from Tall Oaks is its own game. You play as the kids, and you're trying to escape the town and the slashers are coming after you. We originally, when we first did the game back in 2014 and we kickstarted in 2015, we originally were thinking like, "Hey, could we put a second board on the flip side of the game and you could play as the kids?" And we were like, "Oh, that'd be really cool." And then we thought about how much development time would go into that and it's like, "Well also, it's going to take away from the other game and it's going to mix them up. That might be too much to put into one game. Let's hold off and switch it over." So things like that.
Freddie Carlini: But with the Black Masque expansion, which was the second product we made for the game, and it was crazy because when we went out to do it, people were really pumped for it. And we weren't expecting that. We just thought, "All right, we'll put some extra stuff out and people will be interested in it." But the Black Masque came from just going down a well of like, "All right, we did all this. What else can we get into the game? What other funny references can we make? What's missing from the game right now?" We would take this construction of what people expect from a game and peel back layers because we didn't want to make it too hard. But we're like, "Now that we have people playing it, we can add those layers in and people will know how they work because they're already used to playing the game."
Freddie Carlini: And that's where the expansions come from, is that we want to make it harder. We want to add more mechanics, but we don't want to scare away the people who are novice or feel like this is way too much. So it's the part that we like to do with expansions.
Freddie Carlini: There's a lot of companies that expansions are basically just, "We added a couple of characters and here's a couple of new cards." We take it as like, "We're going to add characters, cards, but we want to add mechanics to it and layers to it and make it harder. For those people who are so good at the game now and play it all the time and are addicted to it, let's throw them a curve ball and see how they react to it." And the response has been really cool. I mean, when we ended up doing Escape, people lost their minds because they were like, "Wait, not only is it its own game, but we're going to be able to put both boards together and play slashers versus survivors. And we can play..." Because the really cool thing that we also try to do because it's cool to keep putting stuff out, but our worry always is, "Are we putting this out and this is going to get neglected?"
Freddie Carlini: Because as a collector, I want what I bought... It's like buying Madden and then next year I'm buying Madden 2017, 2018. It's like my old game is no longer good. We were like, "Okay, when we put out Escape, that board can be attached to the old board. They can just play with 12 slashers, go at it, kill each other. Or they can detach the boards and play all the survivors together and go at it. Or..." It's this thing of just trying to give people as many options to keep using all the things that they're paying for so that they're getting the most bang for their buck.
Austin: I love that.
Mike: Well, and I think you bring up a good point that I think is sometimes lost on certain avenues, certain games, certain elements that they're constantly creating new content is they may change one or two things, but it's core is still relatively the same. Whereas all the expansions you guys have done and then Escape being a completely new version, not only further the storyline, but you're introduced multiple mechanics, multiple ways that are able to change the original game. You can plus or minus at your discretion.
Freddie Carlini: Ab- Go ahead.
Austin: No, no. You go.
Freddie Carlini: Well, I was just going to say, the storyline part is the thing that's important to us. It's like as much as you want to make a cool game, you want to make something that keeps progressing the story and keeps making it like, "How insane can we make this game?" Because we always just joke, "Who the hell would live in Tall Oaks?" just given all the things that occur there. And it's funny because if you're actually paying attention to just the little by-lines in the back, all of this is happening within four to five years. So it's just like, "What the hell is this?"
Austin: What an awful town.
Freddie Carlini: Exactly. It's like, "What is going on there?"
Austin: I thought it was cool that you're talking about bringing in different groups of people. So Mike and I were talking earlier about how I always lean towards the villainous characters or the antiheroes and he's towards villainous characters. However, my girlfriend, when she played it, she wanted to be a survivor. She likes more of those characters. She likes the heroine, the chick that's a bad ass that's going to go in. Everybody leans towards something different. So adding those different pieces in there is just grabbing in one more person that can relate to something in that game and that's awesome.
Freddie Carlini: And we have to play with all the stereotypes from all the '80s. Not just the archetypes, but you have your stereotypes. You've got your goth chick. You've got your-
Freddie Carlini: You've got your cheerleader. Yeah. And it's just like... Yeah, exactly. You get your killer Santa.
Mike: This is my favorite. This is my favorite.
Freddie Carlini: It's just this fun of all the things that have gone... Because part of the thing with the horror genre is that everyone does those archetypes over and over and over again. And it's that fun of...
Freddie Carlini: ... over and over and over again. And it's kind of that fun of like, okay, well, let's just do that archetype one more time and put our own little spin on it. And it's the same thing with the stereotypical characters. One of my favorite movies is Cabin in the Woods because it literally does in a movie format what our game does is that it's all these monsters are existing, all these stereotypes are brought in and they start doing the things that they're known to do and live up to the stereotype. And it was just kind of like, it'd be cool to put that into a game format and see who's going to be the baddest of the brood? Who's going to be the kid that actually survives in a situation like this?
Austin: I will say this, the last game we played, his daughter beat us.
Mike: Yes, she did.
Freddie Carlini: I think I saw. Was that the video your wife put on Twitter?
Freddie Carlini: Yeah, I was cracking up. We were all cracking up at that. We were laughing pretty hard.
Mike: She obliterated us. Absolutely obliterated us.
Austin: Yeah, it wasn't even close. Smiley, lost to her. For some reason, I kept running into her on the board, and every time she beat me to the point where I was like...
Mike: I love the choice that sometimes happens when you're playing where, again, you want to get as many victims as possible but then... For me, I think in that game when she won, I knew I wasn't going to win. So then it was me, "Okay, I'm just going to try and take everybody out now."
Freddie Carlini: Exactly. Yeah. We run into that a lot. People tell us about their game groups when they see us at cons and they'll always be like, "Yeah, my friends are really preoccupied, like trying to get through the town and collect things. My approach is always just to try to go after my friends."
Mike: You brought up Cabin in the Woods, what are your other go-to horror films? What have you rediscovered? Because I'll give you an example. The other night I watched RoboCop. I had not seen RoboCop in probably maybe 10 years, and I put it on and I love it. I mean, I've always loved the movie. I just hadn't watched it in a while. And I'm looking at it going, "Oh my God, this movie has literally everything."
Freddie Carlini: Everything.
Mike: It world builds in the first two minutes with it's ads and the newscast with Leeza Gibbons. And then it goes into this amazing story of the ultimate dad, ultimate good guy. Then this horrible, horrific thing happens and he becomes a man made of metal. And then it's just a B-movie, Ray Harryhausen spectacular.
Austin: Full force.
Freddie Carlini: Full force. Exactly. Full force.
Mike: Rediscovering that again was just such an awesome thing. Have there been any films lately that you were on a show for a long, long time that you've picked up again?
Freddie Carlini: I watch a lot of movies. You'd laugh. It's funny you were mentioning RoboCop because literally the hallway in my place is Alex Murphy posters. So it's just like five different prints of RoboCop done by different artists.
Austin: That's awesome.
Mike: So you're a massive fan of RoboCop?
Freddie Carlini: I'm a huge fan of RoboCop.
Freddie Carlini: It's actually the [crosstalk 01:12:14] rated R movie my father introduced me to because his friend across the street was a cop and he loved RoboCop. And then he gave us the VHS and I was like, "Dad, this is incredible." But movies I've rediscovered. I won't lie to you. I have, in the living room is just a wall of DVDs. Because of my work, I love background noise. And background noise for me is sometimes music and it's sometimes re-watching movies that I love. I'll put on anything in the background and just kind of pop up while I'm working and then go back down. That's like meditation for me is just watching these things I know, repeating the lines that I know, things like that. So I don't know if I'd say I've rediscovered anything because I probably watch everything like four or five times. I mean, I have favorites like Demon Knight from the '90s is a movie.
Mike: It's wonderful.
Freddie Carlini: We had just done Monster Mania early in the year. Or no, it was last October. We did Monster Mania, and Billy Zane was there and I got to meet him. And I got [inaudible 01:13:24] in L.A., they had this original print of Demon Knight, the poster. And I picked that up and then I took it to that, got it signed by him. I was just talking to him. He's a really nice guy. That's like a movie I love. And you talk about world building, that movie was one of those movies where when it ended, I wanted more. I was like, "Hold on. So that key, there's all these history to it. And there's this guy chasing after her now. Where's she going? What town is she going to?" And apparently at some point they were supposed to make those movies and it never happened [inaudible 01:13:55].
Mike: Yeah. William Shadler's talked about it. There's going to be this whole kind of lineage of this key.
Freddie Carlini: I love old movies like that, Deep Rising. I'm a big aquatic horror fan.
Freddie Carlini: I will watch aquatic. I'll go see anything. And I also have a irrational fear of sharks. So my girlfriend, when she takes me to shark movies, I feel like she gets more entertainment out of watching me jump than she does out of the movies, but I will go see any shark movie that comes out. Just about any shark movie.
Austin: The Meg.
Mike: You share that fear. You share that fear with Austin.
Austin: I don't know why. I really honestly, I think it's because I feel like my parents religiously watch Jaws just to freak me out before I ever saw it. Because I was telling them that I literally wouldn't try to go to sleep, and you would just hear, "Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun." And I never seen the movie. I just heard this score and the score terrified me. So anytime, I just built up this irrational fear. Now it's a fascination of sharks. But we went to go see The Maid recently, and I was like, "Oh God!" Deep Blue Sea, all those.
Freddie Carlini: 47 Meters Down. 47 Meters Down.
Austin: Oh yeah.
Freddie Carlini: Oh, good Lord.
Mike: Did you see... What's the latest? Underwater? Did you catch that one yet?
Austin: Hell yeah.
Freddie Carlini: Loved that. I actually loved that movie. That movie, who was I talking to about it? I think it was Ryan Turek. I was talking about the fact that that movie and Life, I feel like would make a great double feature of two movies half the world didn't see. Just, they're really good sci-fi movies/horror movies that just didn't get the audience, but are so good in my opinion.
Mike: Visually, that movie was amazingly done.
Freddie Carlini: Yeah, incredible. Again, I don't want to spoil it for people, but there's this one scene where she's walking underneath these things and it just-
Mike: The reveal.
Freddie Carlini: Yeah. The reveal and the claustrophobic nature of it is just like... I was like, "This is fantastic." But yeah, no, I watch a lot of movies. I mean, you can kind of tell I watch a lot of movies. Because that's the other thing about our game is like there's not just references to horror films I love. Mary Joy, Matt and I, we make references to music we love from that era. We make references to tons of films we loved from that era.
Mike: Yeah. I think you've got a Die Hard reference in there. You've got-
Freddie Carlini: Absolutely.
Mike: I think there's a Goonies reference in there.
Freddie Carlini: Easily.
Mike: Oh, and I was telling Austin, because we've done it, I love the fact there's a Spotify playlist you can put on to give you your mood and your atmosphere while you're enjoying the game.
Freddie Carlini: It's funny because when we were making the game, we were just listening to tons of that music. We were like, "I want to listen to New Order. I want to listen to Misfits. I think we're alone now, I want to get in the mood." And it was funny, as we were doing it, Mary Joy and I were like, "We should just make a playlist so people can listen to this while they play." And I was like, "That's a good point."
Mike: Yeah, it's perfect. It's perfect.
Freddie Carlini: And that's the whole thing. It's this big love letter to these are the things we loved as kids, this is what we grew up on. Enjoy it.
Mike: Yeah. I can definitely relate to that, man. How do we, in any way possible, able to transfer all of this passion and love we have for these things so that other people can enjoy it because they love it too? And like I said before, being able to open our eyes to people that haven't engaged with it before, or to your point, haven't wanted to engage with it, and how do you create doorways that are assessable, that begin to light that spark, however bright it gets, but at least there's an initial flame there that someone can go, "All right. I like this. I appreciate it." And hopefully that flame grows and they become massive fans and want to dive further. But that doorway is so important, that initial step in getting folks engaged with this type of genre. It's an awesome thing to have the ability to do that.
Mike: So let me ask you this, obviously you've got the latest expansion in Invasion is forthcoming. And congratulations on another successful Kickstarter campaign for that.
Freddie Carlini: Thank you.
Mike: Has there been things, and I get this question too and [crosstalk 01:18:32].
Austin: This is literally where I was about to go. I was literally about to ask the same thing.
Mike: It's difficult to answer cause sometimes things that fall away end up becoming things you'll do later, but have there been things that there's been cutting room floor that you know you're never going to use? It's a great idea, but somehow it just doesn't fit. Has there been anything like that in your process?
Freddie Carlini: I wouldn't say cutting room floor. It's funny, so we had developed an entirely other game, and then pushed complete pause on it because we started developing Escape. So it was like a whole other game, not Mixtape related. It is horror related, but it's not Mixtape related. We had started developing it. I'd probably say we put about a year's work into it.
Mike: Oh wow.
Freddie Carlini: And then we hit pause on it. And I was just like, "We should really do the survivors' side of the situation." Because I was like, "People definitely want that." We kept getting requests. People were like, "When will we get to play the survivors and stuff?" And it was like, okay, people really want this. And it's funny because you want to keep your audience happy, but you want to keep creating new stuff too. And I love creating stuff for Mixtape, but I think now that Invasion's in manufacturing and production and stuff like that, I think we're probably going to go back and revisit that specific project that we were working on and try to get that done.
Freddie Carlini: But, I mean, the list of stuff we have for Mixtape now and coming is insane. It's so funny, because every time we do another expansion, it's like, what can we cover? What can we make fun of? What can we do with it? And it's amazing to me how much we can... Some people would say you're drying the well, but I feel like we've broken through and it's like there's so much more under there that we can do with this. Ways of playing, different mechanics we can throw in, different pieces we can throw in that are going to make people like it again. It just makes the game feel fresh. It makes the game feel new.
Mike: Yeah. Well, and the fact that you've created Tall Oaks as a... it is a world.
Austin: Standalone. Yeah.
Freddie Carlini: Exactly.
Mike: It can be however large or as focused as you want it to be. It is your Castle Rock. Which again, and we've done it too. All right, we've got Carey, Ohio. Carey, Ohio is our Mecca of all the insane, maniacal, blood-soaked incidences that can occur, it happens in Carey, Ohio.
Austin: Stupid Carey.
Freddie Carlini: I remember when I went to Horror Nights last year, the thing there that I really loved that, it wasn't one of the IPs, it was the Yetis.
Mike: Oh God.
Austin: The Yeti was great.
Freddie Carlini: It was. Because when I walked in I was like, "Oh, it's cold." I was like, "Oh, this is really cold in here." And then the house starts getting torn apart. And then you go into the caves. I definitely know my friends must've jumped at least two or three times when people came out of the cave parts. I was like, "This is awesome."
Austin: Let me tell you-
Mike: Go ahead, Austin.
Austin: Every year I go with Mike to Halloween Horror Nights. Every year we do a walkthrough, we hang out, back when he was working for it. It was kind of like a victory lap walkthrough and just see what he created. Now it's just like a fun, like, "Let's go watch and hang out." So last year at Yeti, one of my favorite houses, by the way, it was the first time I've seen him jump numerous times in the same spot every time because they placed in two different spots, there was these two just great scares. One of them was you come around the corner, there was a guy there and then the Yeti would come and he'd reach his hand through and he'd do whatever. Then you're looking at that and you turn around and all of a sudden, this Yeti pops out of this leather covering with fur and everything, and it would get him every time. Then I would slow down because I'm like, "Here he comes," and he forgot about it again. And then it would pop him and he'd just... Every time it got him. Every single time.
Austin: And then on top of that, that house had a really slow roll scare. And I've probably been in that house about 45 times through the run. I felt like in this one scare, it took me almost 30 something times to actually be able to see it played out. There's a guy where you come around after that and he's telling me, he's like, "Shh," like he's telling you to be quiet. He's telling you to be quiet. It's like, "Why are you telling me to be quiet?" I kept walking through there. And finally I saw that a Yeti comes out through a door, and the guy who is behind the door, because it opens, the Yeti doesn't see him, and he comes up to you and then he leaves, the guy's still there. There's so many layers.
Mike: He kills him. The door slams open and smashes him.
Austin: Yeah. It gets rid of him.
Mike: Yeah that was Charles Gray. Charles Gray was the show director for that maze. That was his idea. That was his gag. It was brilliant.
Austin: It's a slow roll, but it's so good.
Mike: And I imagine the process is similar too, Freddie, like when you're going through. Because I know Yeti was just, we threw a bunch of archetypes up on a whiteboard, and some things that we've done before and then a lot of things that we hadn't, just started crossing things off that we thought, "Ah, maybe not." And then dwindling that down to a list that, here are some characters that also come with an environment, but not only as a character, but it coexists with a very unique environment.
Freddie Carlini: Absolutely.
Mike: And that's something that is doable and something that people will understand very quickly again just based on site.
Freddie Carlini: Absolutely. Yeah.
Mike: I imagine going through characters for you in the games, that's probably a similar process of just throwing stuff at a whiteboard and kind of seeing what sticks.
Freddie Carlini: Yeah. My friends always make fun of us and say we're like the two guys in Cabin in the Woods that are taking bets on the board. They have the board behind them and they're like, "All right, who had the merman? Who had the merman?"
Austin: Placing their bets on it.
Freddie Carlini: It is like that. Because one of the things we make sure we do is that when we pick an archetype, we don't want it to just be an archetype that you only see in one kind of movie. Like Smiley, for example, is like the character you love. How many killer clown movies can you think of? It's just a laundry list, and it's like this is something you see in so many movies. So yes, we have to have it in there. You have Sarah and she's kind of like a mix between Samara from The Ring, and she's like the Exorcist, and she's like the girls from The Evil Dead with the chains on their arms, trying to come out of the thing. And it's like, how many times have you seen the gaunt girl with dirty hair hanging in front of her, trying to come after you? We're always of the idea if you've seen this character at least 10 or 12 times in films, they should be in the game because that's an archetype that people obviously love, because they keep making films like that.
Freddie Carlini: We've got the bad dad who's one of our booster packs, and it's just like-
Freddie Carlini: Yeah, a stepfather or Jack Torrance. There's so many bad dad figures throughout [inaudible 01:25:26] is like we have to have this in the game. That's really how we kind of go at it is we throw a bunch of things up on the board and it's like how many movies can you think of that has a character like that? How many movies can you think of that has a character like that? What kind of references can we make to it that'll make people kind of smile or laugh? Things like that.
Mike: Yeah. It's awesome, Freddie. We love playing it. We've done the Black Mask Expansion. I haven't gotten to Lockdown yet and I haven't gotten to Tall Oaks.
Freddie Carlini: Lockdown is going to be fun for you guys because that's a split expansion. We tried to do that in between. So we did an expansion for Mixtape, then we did, with Escape we did a split one that half of it works for the old game. So now when you play with the killers, you can have weapons and you can find weapons in buildings and things like that. And then you also have another enemy, it's Sheriff and he's actually coming after you. If you're making noise or killing people too loudly, he'll come for you kind of thing. But then the other flip side is you then have pieces to then use in Escape where you can play as the Sheriff. Or there's an anonymous character that one of the kids can turn out to be a killer and start going around, slitting the other kids' throats.
Mike: Oh wow.
Freddie Carlini: It's, again, one of those things where we wanted something that was between, so that both games, if you're an owner of both games, this expansion is going to just be useful, like crazy for you. It's awesome.
Mike: It's so fun, man. And thank you and your team for putting it together because it is unique, man. And again, there've been games since when you guys came up with the ideas for this in the early 2000s, since then we've got so many horror games now that are existing.
Freddie Carlini: Absolutely.
Mike: But I do really enjoy Mixtape in that it is versatile, it's flexible, it's easy. But again, the complexity comes with how you want to engage it, and I think that's such a brilliant format for you guys. And the fact that this is so story-driven, it's so much fun. So thanks, man. Thanks for bringing it to us and all of the people that love this type of thing.
Freddie Carlini: Absolutely. Thanks, man.
Austin: I got to ask. Hold on. I got to ask this because you mentioned this earlier. You said Invasion is about to drop, obviously. And you said that you had other things in mind and other future stuff. Can we get a tease or anything that wouldn't ruin something but just a glimpse into your mind of some stuff that you've got planned for the future maybe?
Freddie Carlini: Sure. Okay. So two things we have planned coming up, one is holiday focused. I'm not going to say what holiday. But it's holiday focused for Mixtape. And then the other, the key word I would use is myth. It's myth focused. It's something we've wanted to hit on for a while because it does take place in a small town, and all small towns have urban legends and things like that. So we were like, "What could be the big myth that occurs in Tall Oaks with everything else that goes on there? What could be the myth?" So we have a thing called myth. That's what I'll say.
Mike: Awesome. Awesome.
Austin: Love it. Love it. I had to, I had to ask. Got to ask.
Mike: Freddie, thanks so much for being in our inaugural episode.
Freddie Carlini: Thanks for having me. [crosstalk 01:28:52].
Austin: Thanks for being grounded with us.
Mike: This will either be... And it won't be because of you, it'll be because of us, this will either be the first of many, or it will be the singular episode. But either way, we're starting on a good point and we ended with a great point. Thanks, man.
Freddie Carlini: Thanks, guys. Thanks for having me.