Let me say that I was a little bit skeptical about the idea of clan members’ interviews. I was concerned about the privacy, and if you respect one man’s privacy it’s hard to get something of less than boring from his words. But after I’ve read Mope’s and Sape’s interviews I had to change my mind. So now it’s my turn to accept the challenge of interviewing a clan member, and, for the occasion, I’ve chosen one of the two clan founders: our wise man, ZaPaTa.
This is an important thing I learned. It’s good to be exposed to impulses no matter if you like it or not. You will learn to handle them and to find yourself in it. It’s better than lock yourself away with all the stuff you like and never renew yourself.
“This is a picture of my new desk (by moving out recently, I had to reinstall and enlarge a bit my studio). You see I have a nice rural view. I hope I can work there some day for (a part of) a living. Notice my new Italian coffeemaker, Biondo!”
Biondo: Hi, ZaPaTa. The idea of these interviews is yours, and yours was
the first interview (that sober, but professional interview with Mope). Where did you get the first idea?
ZaPaTa: A friend of me spoke about a forum online for music lovers. Since they always talked about music, they didn’t know each other well and so they started doing interviews. I was triggered by that idea because we all play SG and we are all *LAME* so it seems like a good idea to go a little in depth with the people behind the clan.
Biondo: Let’s start from our beloved game. Can you remember how did you
hear about Smokin’ Guns? How long ago?
ZaPaTa: I’ve found it in a list of free FPS games on Wikipedia! You might know that Jesse and I played Urban Terror for a time. We both had a bit of an old computer, so we had to look for something basic. I did find UT too aggressive. It’s all running and shooting and restart 🙂
So SG looked in the beginning something worth trying. And we stayed. It’s about 1,5/2 years ago.
Biondo: SG is known for being a dated game: low graphic details, slow pace, many bugs … maybe more suitable to an old man like me than to young player. Besides the fact that you had an old computer, why do you like it so much? And what would you like to change in it?
ZaPaTa: Well, I’m a man for basics. Basic is the opposite of luxury. Just check graphic design or illustration. ‘Less is more’, you know. Basics are solid and endure for long. Luxury always have to be updated, doesn’t last long, you can be for or against it… I often read Epicurus (happiness is to be found) simplicity looks like the key of happiness. I tend to older music, basic ways of expression like blues or old reggae. So I always tend to older games because nowadays games always tries too hard to be realistic. Older games knew how to bring the essence, stripped off of all superfluous.
Biondo: Have you any meaningful memory of particularly funny situations you have met playing SG?
ZaPaTa: Before I moved out, I played next to Jesse (literally, i sat next to his computer on the desk). If one of us was camping we just looked to each other screen to find him. We typed things like: ‘Jesse! Long time no see’. Or if there was a die-hard camper I went on spec, while Jesse could hunt him down. Sorry for all the people we fouled like that, those days are over.
Biondo: Fun family play, I see, though not the most fair behaviour, I have to say. Which are your favourite server … your favourite map … your favourite weapon?
ZaPaTa: Server: BB, but Circus is doing a nice job! Map must be Hang’em High. So well made, so vivid, so in line with the theme! Weapon: well, Colts if I have to be reasonable. But when the game doesn’t makes any sense to me I like to go running with a ‘winnie’. It’s not a good weapon but I love the sound of it.
Biondo: With “winnie” you mean Winchester 1866, I suppose. I like its sound too, but I find it totally useless in game. Tell me another thing, why don’t you play Bank Robbery?
ZaPaTa: I’m an impulsive player, I don’t like hiding at all. So I must be the first man down each time. And than you have to wait… and wait…
Biondo: Why did you choose Zapata as your name?
ZaPaTa: Originally we thought, since it was a Western game, everyone would be playing with an historical name. I picked Zapata. My girlfriend is born in Mexico, so Mexico has always been this mystic ambient for me, I’m interested in that country. And Zapata was a rebel, that’s always a roll I aim for.
Biondo: Every player has his own favourite verbal expressions, when playing; for instance, I use a lot “lol”. Do you have any?
ZaPaTa: I often use one out loud, “Damp rag!”. It’s a joke with our Belgium fella Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the EU who got an insult by Nigel Farage for being so boring. It’s a national joke now 🙂
I often got those games where I get shot, time after time without making one kill. I feel like a towel then. So, ‘Damp Rag’ games.
A “Wordle” of ZaPaTa’s most used words in game.
Biondo: Hehe, I don’t see any trace of words like “damp” or “rag” in your Wordle, but I can see a huge “lame” and a big “lameclan.tk”. This means that the clan is really in your mind.
Changing direction, are BallerBude statistics important to you? I mean, are you the kind of player that often checks his personal skills/ratio in BB pages?
ZaPaTa: At first not because 1. I didn’t know such thing existed so I didn’t aim to make them good. And 2. my score was often mixed with that of JJ, because of our same IP. Now, with moving out I got a new start (new IP) so I try harder now.
Biondo: What tremendous force pushes an adult man to play a computer game for hours, months, years, for me is still a mystery. Do you play, or ever played, other games with the same assiduity you have played SG?
ZaPaTa: I’m an addict of boardgames! That’s even stranger. Adult men play it for years, in championships and travel the world for it! I’ve been to a conference in Essen, Germany, this year to buy my games (you won’t believe: I bought a pair of old games out of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Basics!).
But apart of that, I never had a game like SG I could play that long. But playing with people you start to know and understand, is a complete different level.
Biondo: I agree, with you about your last sentence. Having human interactions in the game, is not only part of the fun, but maybe its main fun.
ZaPaTa: Yes, it might be of a greater importance than the game itself.
Biondo: What originally gave you the idea to found a clan? Who had the first idea, you or JesseJames?
ZaPaTa: I was looking for a job in those days so I had time. Jesse came home from school I believe and I told him ‘I made a clan’. Before this, we asked to join a clan but none of them accepted us 😀
So I believed I could do him a favor and make a clan of his own. Silly story.
Biondo: So you created the clan, but Jesse is the real reason behind it. Tell us about “The Rules”? Where did they come from?
ZaPaTa: A good marketeer will tell you that if you want to do something good, you have to be different. So we made the rules we found lacking in the game. Fairplay, be a sports… Luckily we found a home in Baller, with Doc and @Spi who believe in the same rules.
Biondo: When I joined the clan there was also a member named Mikke. Who was he, anyway?
ZaPaTa: A random guy, the first to join us. So we were happy we got a member! But he didn’t give a damn for the rules. Reality check!
Biondo: Ideas are often so hard to implement. Could you share some tips on how some other would go about creating and maintaining a new clan?
ZaPaTa: Hmm tough question. I believe that the success of the *LAME* clan got definitely something to do with the members and their dedication and skills for the clan (nice graphics for the site, or great historical articles for example). And also our ‘age’. So my advice? Work with people with a good reputation and who are playing the game for a long time. Be friendly, maintain a good reputation and have a bit of luck.
Biondo: Is there a reason for colours/stars in clan name, or it was just an instinctive choice?
ZaPaTa: Very instinctive, they had to be different and stand out.
Biondo: Generally speaking, what do you like, or dislike, of the idea of “clan”?
ZaPaTa: Like: Playing with a clan makes it a really multi-player game for me. Otherwise you just play with a bunch of people and you say ‘Hi’ and ‘GG’ and that’s it. Playing with a clan means you know each other skills, tricks, you know who’s behind that name. And since we play from all different countries and cultures, there’s always something interesting to learn.
Dislike: I like to bring people together and do something together. But playing with people from all over Europe means there is a limit to your possibilities. Imagine how great it could be to go on a walk in the forest together! But this is impossible and so it’s a limit to our possibilities. This limit can cause frustrations too, like when we don’t understand each other due to our English or a wrong sentence, and so we offend another member.
Biondo: Yesterday it was the first clan’s birthday, I think that you and JesseJames should be satisfied with the actual clan. It has grown fast, both in members quantity and in online presence, it’s an international, multi-cultural and multi-sex clan, where strong players and weak players are able to cohabit, and with a good fame. But, is there still something you’d like to change/improve?
ZaPaTa: Thanks! It does sounds good this way!
It’s strange to be a clan and to play DM all the time. So I’m always looking for ways to give the Clan a meaning. By weekly DM’s, by exercising TDM or by getting in touch with each other. I’m always thinking of other and new ways of creating reasons why people won’t leave us 🙂
Biondo: I know you are a guy full of interests and occupations, it seems like your days have more than 24 hours. So let’s enter ZaPaTa’s real life. Would you like to briefly introduce us to “the good, the bad and the ugly” of your country? What are some of your favourite things about the town where you live?
ZaPaTa: Belgium is a small and mostly insignificant country. There is almost no Belgian culture (or it’s a fake towards tourists!) Truth is, we are most of the time influenced by neighbouring countries and that makes us an international crowd. This is the good because we have a lot of cultures coming over. More than countries, I believe in the existence of a few European metropolis (by linking up all so called towns and villages and cities because in reality they are making one big city), and the one close to where I live is the axis Lille, (Roubaix,Tourcoing) than following the river Lys in Belgium (entering in Menen and Kortrijk) towards Ghent and Antwerp. This is the ugly. On the other hand, where I live (close to the French border, in Belgium), this metropolis is very thin, only a few kilometers of industry and houses close to each other. My new house is really on the edge of this ‘city’. On my South there is a really rural scene and on my North is the river and so are cities. So the good thing about my new place is that I’m moving in the right direction. I hope one day I can move more to the south where there are lesser houses and more nature. But here it’s already a bit more quiet and on a sunny day I can take a walk in a bit of nature.
“View to the South of my new house, rather strange view because it looks very rural but it’s in fact lying between some industries. It’s an old traditional farm.”
“View on the river Lys, to the North of my house. Jesse is now living on the other side of it. This is also a pretty green spot.”
Biondo: Tell us something about your work; you said you are a graphic designer and an illustrator. Every artist makes art, but they might have very different reasons for doing so. How and when did you first become interested in art/illustration?
ZaPaTa: At home, when I was I kid I did two things: playing outside and drawing. At school, I scored the best points in drawing classes while I was a disaster for Mathematics.
Biondo: So art is something you have in your genetic, but we know that you also attended a traditional art school. What was your experience like?
ZaPaTa: I have mixed feelings about Art Schools. Art is a way of a very free expression. So how can you teach to be free? I studied in Ghent, there is one of the major art schools. It was a tough time, I don’t like cities and big crowds. On the other hand I learned a lot there, and what’s more important, a school triggers you to be for or against something. In my case I was mostly against ‘it’, but it always triggered me to find my way, to do it as I would like to… And that takes study too. This is an important thing I learned. It’s good to be exposed to impulses no matter if you like it or not. You will learn to handle them and to find yourself in it. It’s better than lock yourself away with all the stuff you like and never renew yourself.
Biondo: Looking at your creations I see that you are talented in both fields, illustration and graphic design. But I feel that you love more illustration over graphic design; or, at least, I love your illustrations more, with their handcrafted style, those inaccurate and liquid brushes, their dreamlike-symbolic-surreal strength (as in the series of Enoch). To our benefit, can you criticize your own work, telling us something more about your art?
ZaPaTa: I recently read an artist who told ‘drawing helped thinking’. This also counts for my work. It’s always a note, or a track of a reflection, a meditation on themes. That’s why there are always spiritual, historical and mythological influences. Storytelling, and telling about our thoughts makes us human and we have done it for ages. We still long for a magic world and some of us do believe in the supernatural. The Enoch project for example was a way to both draw and do some personal spiritual research (it’s about dealing with God by speaking and reasoning in terms of the negative to create a supernatural truth. So the only truth about God is he is not good, nor bad…). The result is often a drawing that works as a kind of a question, not only for myself but also for spectators. A fact is that my images often work as a way to peak into the human depths. Each person gives a different explanation to an image and so tells us something personal about himself.
Biondo: Enlightening answer. Now that you told it, I can better understand that sense of disquiet that I feel looking at your creations: they don’t provide answers, they arise questions.
ZaPaTa: Call them an invitation to (re)start wonder about the nature of the world, yes, they are about questions and the stuff we don’t know. It’s a hard thing right now; now analytics, statistics and science that tries to explain everything are all over the place.
Biondo: I see also that you like to play with different materials and to experience different techniques, from PC to silkscreen to scratched dias. Which are your “weapons” (software, inks, techniques …) in both fields, graphic design and illustration?
ZaPaTa: My main way of working is silkscreen, but since I can’t do this at home right now, I’m looking to find a way to translate this style into a new medium. That’s the reason why you find so many different techniques. I also try to mix this way of working with my bare hands with working behind a desk, behind Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign to make this graphic work more layered and more touchable. Currently I’m in a bit of doubts concerning my illustrations, I have to find a direction, or a larger project to work on, to make it something serious where I can earn something off it.
Biondo: Who or what are some of your influences? What contemporary artists/designers/illustrators do you admire?
ZaPaTa: Most of the time, it’s the other way round! I make something and someone else tells me it looks like something inspired by Raymond Pettibon. I’m more looking for inspiration all the times (I love learning and I’m very hungry for all kinds of knowledge) for my themes instead of looking to other artists. I fear there are almost none. But my inspiration comes out of a lot of fields: folklore, ancient tales, the bible, Buddhist lecture, mystic writings like Saint John of the Cross… One I particular like is both a mystical writer, poet and painter: William Blake. Great artist.
Biondo: Didn’t know Raymond Pettibon, but it’s true, there are significant similarities between his works and yours. And your love for Blake is perceivable. Too bad that you don’t contribute graphically to this blog. Why so reluctant?
ZaPaTa: I don’t know, actually. It looks like I got always something to do and no time to make something for the clan. It’s stupid because this would mean that the clan is never a priority.
It’s true that the clan is pure recreation in my free time, but that makes it just so valuable.
If I come up with a great idea, I’ll post it.
Biondo: Apart from visual arts, do you practice any other creative activity, like writing or playing an instrument?
ZaPaTa: Like Jesse, I’m often busy with collecting and mixing music. And in the spring, I hope to be able to grow my own vegetables and do a little gardening.
Biondo: Free time is sometimes more valuable than paid one. Besides playing SG, how do you spend your free time?
ZaPaTa: Well, besides drawing and graphic design (besides my day-time job I do this also in my free time. It’s a bad habit because I’m never able to clean my head properly)? I run with some other folks a comic library, and I play and collect boardgames. I like reading and good food (home cooked too) or just have a nice time with friends and a good beer or wine. Didn’t try the *LAME* traditional wiskey yet.
Biondo: Can you tell us of a book, among those you’ve read recently, that you particularly loved?
ZaPaTa: Yep, last one that I liked very much was “Siege of Heaven” by Tom Harper, a book on the first crusade with some beautiful detailed and historic writing on ancient cities like Jerusalem, Antioch and Gizeh. Besides historical fiction I like a good fantasy book too. I’ve read for years nothing but the books of Markus Heitz.
Biondo: Do you like Western movies?
ZaPaTa: Yes of course. I like the epic storytelling, the slow approach of montage (but what’s slow, telling a lifetime in 3 hours?) and of course the settings, the ambient, and the fact there’s never a fully good guy in it. There’s always this threat of betrayal and danger.
I very much like Sergio Leone’s movies of course, but I’ve in fact only recently started with watching them properly, so it’s impossible to talk about ‘the best’ western.
Biondo: I know of your social involvement for Africa, and with the Rastafari movement. Would you like to tell us something about?
ZaPaTa: Another tough one. I could talk for hours on this issue and I’ve been thinking for days to give you a reasonable answer. Ask a Jew to explain his religion in a few lines!?
I’ve been interested in RastafarI since I was about 15. I read everything I could find locally, but with Internet, I could finally make contact with other RastafarI members. Internet has been a true relief, but by that time I was 20 and, I guess, passed the age of doing something in a folly, like many youths that ‘try to be a rasta’. One of the important things I can tell you about, is the fact ‘we’ don’t have a dogma. One is free to believe and to do, we don’t have an official ‘ritual’ or ‘church’. We live the mystic life, like early Christians or followers of the Gnosis. On the other hand, lack of an official doctrine makes a road of doubt and questions. That might be the reason why I will tell you I’m a RastafarI and at the same time I’m not… It’s not up to me to decide (and by the way, this is just a word, but what does it mean?) RastafarI is a way of living and a spiritual guideline. It’s not a religion, but more of a perspective. When I’m in doubt, I ask myself how (a) RastafarI* would approach it. I have made many decisions this way.
I can’t explain you the meaning and the essence of RastafarI here, but if you ask me to mark some highlights I can give you the following. Just remember that these highlights comes forth out of a spiritual order. So ‘we’ do believe in a God and in His earthly rule.
Some highlights: The need for education, equal rights for all, no racism, the restoration of Africa, the need for a spiritual place and sacred rituals as a way to connect with the divine. The golden rule (love thy brother as thyself). The victory of good over evil, love over hate. The need for peace worldwide. A different government, justice and consuming pattern. The importance of respect of nature, a natural lifestyle, a more humble and thankful attitude… I hope you start getting a picture now.
*RastafarI can mean a lot of things. First there is Ras TafarI, HIM Haile Selassie, our guide. RastafarI can be short for ‘RastafarI people’. So one who is a rasta, is a RastafarI. It’s also a plural word. If we speak of the movement, we don’t say Rastafarianism. We say – again – just RastafarI. Basically, this is because this movement follows the teachings of Ras TafarI, the Ethiopian emperor.
Biondo: I knew that I was posing a tough question, but thanks for your informative answer. I’m starting to get the picture, yes. And what about Africa?
ZaPaTa: For the future, we watch always to the USA and their culture, strangely. RastafarI teaches that original culture comes from Africa and so defends its values. If we want to know the future, we believe we have to watch to Africa, and learn the importance of peace and Independence there for the whole world. On a spiritual level Ethiopia is the promised land. Did you know there are Jews who traveled to Ethiopia instead of to Israel, they believe Ethiopia is the promised land because it is claimed that the Ark of the Covenant is to be found there. They are called Falashas. It’s a bit too much Indiana Jones for me, but there is a deeper root in that story that convinces me that Africa will play its part sooner or later.
Biondo: We’ve talked about culture. Now, how do you relate with nature?
ZaPaTa: The way I feel best is by leaving all things behind and go for a walk or a little trip on my old bicycle. I need nature very much and I often feel caught by the concrete around my daily life. I hope I’ll be able to live a more rural life in the future anyway.
Biondo: Besides from running in the main street of Dry Gulch, do you practice any other sport?
ZaPaTa: Not on a serious level. I also was a disaster in sports at school. But I take dance lessons now. That’s something complete different and must be the reason why I like it, in fact. I’m as much surprised by that fact as you must be!
Biondo: Let’s close with cooking. Would you make us the present of a Belgian food recipe you particularly love?
ZaPaTa: In Dutch it’s called Preischotel. Prei is leek and schotel is stew. So let’s called Leek-stew? It’s very easy but very tasty. And leek is my favourite vegetable…
Ingredients (for 4 persons):
- gr 600 minced meat (mixed beef and pork is preferable)
- 2 pieces leek
- mashed potatoes
Slice the leek into small pieces.
Cook the potatoes and prepare your mashed potatoes.
Bake the minced meat (possibly with a sliced onion) crispy and brown. Add spices if necessary, like salt and pepper. Put it on the bottom of a suitable baking dish. It should make a nice layer of meat.
Stew the leek. When ready, put it on top of the meat layer in the baking dish.
Now add the mashed potatoes as an equal layer on top of the other two in your baking dish.
If you like, you can add some rasped cheese or a small amount of bread-crumb on top of it.
Put the dish in the preheated oven at 150°C for half an hour.
When ready, slice a nice piece and serve delicately in the original layers on the dishes.
Biondo: Thank you, ZaPaTa, I have to say that you truly answered! And with honest, inspired and wise answers.