From the Realm of Dungeons & Dubstep
Artist credit: Shikono Foxwolf
Leading the charge for Tiny Waves 2022 releases, CloudNinja is an African American dragon with a love for fighting games. He produces melodic dubstep out of Las Vegas and is the founder of the Skulltunes Project, based on the game Skullgirls. His latest single “Amara Woods” is a melodic future bass track that will transport you to a distant realm of dragons, satyrs, and magic. Join me on an epic quest to learn more about the lore behind CloudNinja and “Amara Woods.”
All good heroes have an iconic name, and CloudNinja is certainly one to remember. How did you come up with the name?
CloudNinja is funny because it was actually built off of an old scuffed username. I wanted a new name that reflected the style of music I was making and that better reflected who I was. I’ve always been a huge fan of Greninja from Pokémon and had an old OC named Cloud, so I created a mashup of the two. And thus, CloudNinja was created.
Tell us a bit more about your general background. What was life like growing up? What got you interested in music?
I grew up playing and modding Nintendo games, mostly Mario Kart, Mario Galaxy, and other platformers. Once Smash Bros came along, that’s when I got into fighting games. Then I grew into games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat in high school. As for music, I never really listened to music outside of what I heard in the games that I played. It wasn't until I got into the old Sparta Remix trend that I got more interested in music as a whole. I’ve always wanted to be able to bring to life the music that I imagined in my head, and I also wanted to be more involved in niche communities. So, making music seemed like a fun way to tie that all together.
How would you describe your musical style? Do you lean more towards those video game sounds you heard growing up, or do you prefer other genres?
Back in the day, when I was just a young little lizard, I found the Sparta Remix meme on YouTube. It was entertaining and catchy, and I wanted to be a part of the meme. But I was just a young kid who didn’t have the money to buy fancy production equipment or software, so I would just open multiple YouTube tabs and “mix” music by listening to different beats at the same time. I then started using a video edit software to make mashups of others’ music, until I eventually got the demo version of FL Studio and was able to make my own stuff. It took a lot of repetition of making the same thing over and over again, making it better each time, before I started to find my own sound.
By the time I was 15-16 years old, I was done with the Sparta Remixes and growing out of my “internet phase” and really wanted to hone my craft with electronic dance music. I was inspired by the music I would hear on Monstercat, so I spent time in the DAW learning how to make actual EDM. You know, it’s funny to think about: it all started with a meme and wanting to be a part of a meme – ten years later, I’m now on a label and releasing tracks. I went from remixing others’ beats to becoming my own cinematic melodic artist, making dubstep and chill stuff like garage and house. The process itself has become super easy too: think of a theme, get a chord, find a nice melody, sketch a drop. Everything else comes naturally.
Let’s talk more about “Amara Woods” specifically. What inspired the track?
“Amara Woods” is interesting because it’s actually really old. Back then, a good friend group I was in was doing a D&D campaign. I wanted to do an album based on those D&D characters. This particular tracks is based on Amara, the satyr featured on the album artwork. Turns out, however, that making songs based on other people is more difficult than you may imagine, and I became burned out and lost inspiration. Finishing “Amara Woods” has felt serendipitous in a sense because it was the first character-based D&D track I worked on. A chill future bass track that really had nowhere to go until Tiny Waves picked it up.
What has it been like working with Tiny Waves to bring this track to life?
I first found out about Tiny Waves when some of their music was recommended to me on YouTube. Later on, I heard about them again through my good friend Duzzled, who suggested I submit some of my work to the label. I sent an email and got accepted. The process has been pretty smooth since then. I’m not super active in the community, but everyone is very chill and supportive.
Going back to the topic of D&D, you have an original character, Kumo – what’s his story?
Kumo is really a mascot of CloudNinja. Think of it like an anime: CloudNinja is the show, and Kumo is the main character. More recently, my music has started to tell Kumo’s story while older tracks may just have a hint of his presence within them. You’ll definitely be seeing more of Kumo in the future…just not yet.
You mentioned being a big fan of fighting games, and you recently competed at EVO 2022, playing “Skullgirls 2nd Encore.” Tell us more about your love of that game and how it prompted the Skulltunes Project.
This year was my first time ever attending EVO, and I am 100% going back in the future. I didn’t really get into Skullgirls until 2021 but quickly became a fan. I decided to go for Skullgirls 2nd Encore at EVO, initially being seeded 248th, and I managed to break the Top 48 and place 33rd overall. I wish I could have gone further, but I was disqualified due to problems with the building signal causing miscommunication for TO. Still proud that I got 33rd, though, so I’m happy.
The Skulltunes Project, simply put, is the combination of Skullgirls and EDM. The project itself started as a bit of a joke. At the time, I was uninspired with the music I was working on and was lingering in the middle of a collab EP. I wanted a sort of “background project” to keep my creative juices flowing, so I decided to make a song based on a Skullgirls villain. No one else had done it before, and it ended up doing really well, so I decided to release a sequel. That second track got a LOT of attention, even from the Skullgirls developers. After that, I decided to make it into a series and make a track for every character. Now I’m a known figure in the Skullgirls scene. Sometimes you just gotta do the things that others aren’t doing.
What are some other past projects that you’re particularly proud of?
“Necrosymphonic” stands out a lot because it was my first non-remix track that was so successful. It was a collab with The Diamond Planet and Xerxes: an orchestral, impactful, melodic dubstep song that hits hard in the chest and makes you shiver. The Skullgirls devs even shouted it out on their main Twitter account. That, combined with the fact that the song was really well made, make it stand out in my list of past projects.
On the flip side, “Worlds Gone Beautiful” is a very melancholic song, deep and heavy in some places, that was inspired by Lily’s Propsal from SCP Foundation. I took some liberties to make it my own, and it was my first SCP-related track. It’s a song that I’m proud of in spite of the fact that it didn’t perform the best.
Artist credit: XerxAppleStix
What are you most proud of with this latest release, and what do you want listeners to focus on when they hear “Amara Woods”?
As I said earlier, I’m just happy that it’s finally releasing. The song is old, so it’s nice to see that it will finally get some love. I especially want everyone to focus on the atmosphere of the track. It’s meant to be very relaxing – just a satyr chilling in the woods. I hope you can see yourself in the story that’s being written. Focus on how you feel when listening and really mellow out in the theming of it all.
You’ve already been on an incredible journey – what lies ahead for CloudNinja and his followers?
I am very far from where I want to be. I’m on that road, but I’m still struggling with the same hurdles as other musicians like finances and recognition. Right now, I’m at a decent spot but want to get to a place where I feel seen and appreciated for what I do. It can definitely be hard to put yourself out there and have equal footing with your peers. I still feel small, but I’ll keep working hard to get to be where I want to be. Truthfully, I don’t wanna be famous for money, but I DO wanna be famous so I have more people to play games with, haha.
In terms of specific projects, I have the Expedition LP – a very long EP sequel to Hideout – that will explore Kumo and his universe and story. I do also want to continue with fan work, but I’ve been taking a break from Skulltunes to focus on preparation for Evo, Expedition, and original projects. It really all depends on how much time I have, since I’m also going to be starting some IT classes. It kinda feels like I’m sitting on the edge of a cliff and trying my best to climb up. I’m gonna do what I can to make it, though.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those in the fighting game or EDM scenes?
To those in the fighting game scene, my best advice is to not worry about placing at tournaments or rising to the top and being the absolute best. Just focus on improving your own game. Did you do better this tournament than the last? Were you able to take one more life or go one game further? Focus on the process of improving over time because each of those little steps is an accomplishment in and of itself.
For those in EDM, honestly, just make what YOU want to hear. Don’t focus on what’s popular or the next big thing. You are your own producer, and you should make what you want for who you want. If you wanna make fan stuff like a song for your favorite game? Do it. You wanna get experimental with something that you love the sound of but others might not? Make it anyway. Produce for yourself, and others will join you along the way
Any final words that you’d like to share with our readers?
Please, Liam, for the love of GOD, fix Valentine's bypass and blindness. I beg. Also, for the love of God, make more melodic dubstep, people. We need more orchestral EDM producers!
With Kumo, Amara, AND Tiny-chan by his side, CloudNinja is sure to succeed on his journey to musical and fantastical greatness. Much more lies ahead for him and for you, so make sure you follow CloudNinja on Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, and YouTube. You can also show extra support by becoming one of his patrons on Patreon! And, as always, be sure to follow Tiny Waves on all our social media for upcoming releases and incredible music.