ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Mike Niemietz

By Monica Wang

The first time I met Mike, Sebastian had invited us to a group chat on Facebook with Emily to discuss starting this very blog (as well working on other Materia Collective PR/Marketing material).

Out of all of us, he seemed the most excited and innovative; Mike brings so much experience and vision to the table that sometimes I wonder how he can be so optimistic and forward-thinking (in a good way). But for a group as boundary-pushing as Materia, such a creative mind can only help push those boundaries even more.

Viking Jesus

When I asked him how he got his name “Viking Jesus”, Mike explains how the nickname came from two different things. At his first Video Games Live performance, the entire show had been live-streamed on Twitch, where the chat kept calling him “Viking Jesus” in the comments based on his appearance. Both terms had also been used as monikers for him in high school, so the name just stuck. His background in video game journalism is just as impressive as his fan-given title. Having aspired to become a writer for sites such as IGN, Mike wrote critical video game reviews for video game blogs in high school (during class, no less). In college, he continued to write for a few websites, and, in his words, “went to E3 [aka Electronic Entertainment Expo] a few times, did some freelance work, [and] started and left a pretty popular podcast”. Though he has left that world behind him for the most part these days, he hopes to return to video game journalism in the future.

Name? Mike Niemietz, AKA VIKING JESUS

Musical Background (What sort of musical projects are you/have you been involved in? How did you get started in music?)
I was fortunate enough for the Video Games Live concert to be doing a show in my hometown (a small Chicago suburb) back in 2012, and I’d been in contact with VGL head honcho Tommy Tallarico before as a journalist. When VGL came to town, he said he’d love to have me jam on stage with them. That show was streamed over the internet where the community gave me the name “VIKING JESUS” and I’ve been releasing music under that name ever since.

What was the first video game you played?
The first game I ever played is a tricky one. I’m pretty sure it was TREASURE MOUNTAIN on MS-DOS. I do, however, remember the first game I ever beat was DOOM when I was a kid. Probably the reason the game still holds such a place in my heart today. The E1M1 theme was the first thing I ever performed live on stage.

What does video game music mean to you?
Video game music is special to me because it most easily triggers memories of the moments from games they’re from. Play the right song and I could suddenly be reminded of how awesome a boss battle was or how incredible the environment was in a game or be sad that a character died. It’s a powerful thing, man.

Why did you participate with the Materia Collective? How did you get involved?
I knew a ton of the people involved already so it was just an inevitable thing, I guess. I wasn’t involved with the first few projects but loved the idea of the world’s most talented video game musicians coming together to make their own tributes to the most beloved games of all time. It was an honor to become part of it.

If you could have any dream job in the music world, what would it be?
Oh geez, this is a tough one. For the longest time it was just being an in-house guitarist for a company like Square Enix or Nintendo, but after going to a pair of Hatsune Miku concerts in the past week I think it’d be cool to be a Vocaloid producer full-time and maybe be able to perform the songs live.

 Probably something revolving around performing in general. My favorite place in the world is on a stage.

How do you deal with constructive criticism?
Like many creative types I know, no one criticizes my work more than me. Typically when someone gives me criticism, it’s at an already finished product that would be a pain in the ass or wouldn’t make sense to go back and change it. So I take all the advice and filter it into my next projects. Things like altering my guitar tone, taking a different approach to arrangements, etc. have all been a result of people being like “Hey yo try this sometime.”

In an alternate reality, what would your passion be instead of music/video games?
I’ve always been fascinated with the world of voice acting. I used to run a video game podcast where it was a usual thing for me to deliver news and reviews as a different character. If I hadn’t put so much time into music, that would probably have been the path I took. Hell, it’s pretty close with the path I’m already on, so who knows what the future holds?

What inspires you, as a musician?
The community. Much of the video game community is notoriously cynical, but I think with the kinds of things we do that we find the best of the crowd. One of my favorite things about performing with VGL is the meet and greet we do after the show where we get to meet the crowd and have a good time.

I always meet such great people and try to have a conversation with everyone about the kinds of games and music they like and ask them what kinds of songs I should cover next. There’s no greater feeling than having a kid tell you they want to get into performing music because they loved seeing you perform, and that in turn inspires me further to up my game.

What’s something about you most people might not know?
This one is tough. I’m usually a pretty open book to fans, friends, etc. Probably that I’ve listened to more Japanese pop music than metal over the past several months? I really want to get into Vocaloid music production if I ever manage to get around to replacing my decade-old laptop.

If you are in a room of 50 strangers for an hour, about how many of them would you introduce yourself to and/or try to get to know?
None of them. I’m a very shy person when I’m in a group of strangers, so I might talk to people if they walk up to me and start talking, but if I’m left to introduce myself? I’ll probably just hang out in the corner and check social media constantly for the hour.

What age would you want to be/look like forever (physically)?
Ah, this is a tough one. I’ve always said I can’t wait to be old and gray and have my beard reach my knees, but who knows how well I’ll be able to play guitar then, you know? Knowing my busy self I’ll say I’d stick around 30. That’s probably the last age I’ll have any real energy to go for months without a real day off.

If you could make any fictional character real and also be your best friend, who would you pick?
Callie from Splatoon! She seems like so much fun. She still has this child-like excitement about things and I love that so much. I see the world kind of the same way, even if it’s been known to get me in trouble sometimes.

Favorite Pokemon? Legendary: Mewtwo, Non-legendary: Nidoking

Favorite color? Red!

Favorite video game/soundtrack/song?
Game: Okami
Overall soundtrack: Xenoblade Chronicles
Song: One Winged Angel (Advent). That’s right, the badass version with the orchestral metal arrangement. So great.

Favorite Meme?
So doge, much meme, wow

Who do you main in Super Smash Bros?
Sonic/Charizard/Mewtwo/Roy/Anyone but Olimar

If you had to pick and emoji/emoticon to represent yourself, which one would you pick?
\m/

Most anticipated game?
Tie between Persona 5, Final Fantasy XV, the inevitable next Splatoon game, and Kingdom Hearts III.

BONUS:

Any musical endeavors you haven’t done yet that you want to tackle? Different genres, games, instruments?
I’m always looking to evolve and take on new challenges and explore new things. The thing that comes to mind the most is wanting to add more electronic elements to what I do now like a lot of the music I’ve started listening to over the past year. Unfortunately, I’m notoriously impatient when it comes to learning how to use music software, so this particular goal will likely take longer than I’d like it to.