Fearmoths The Untold Story
By Regicide, Shanethewolf v.1 and Ultimate Gas
The following article is based on a true story. Some of the names have been changed and some of the events have been embellished to preserve anonymity and privacy.
I don't know how you feel when you think about Shanethewolfthedog and The Fearmoths: amused, frustrated, irritated, or maybe you are just sick of hearing about them. For a scener who showed so little talent, there's no denying that Shane has created a lasting legacy.
Since their first appearance The Fearmoths have been shrouded by mystery and many people have wondered about the men behind the faηade. Are they all a figment of a lonely man's imagination? Is Shane even a real person or is he the alter ego of some other scener Wade, Pete, Syphus, Darkus, EvilPaul, Butler? Most UK sceners have been accused of posing as Shane at some point and maybe some of us have.
The truth...not everyone involved with The Fearmoths were sceners, but there were a lot more people involved than one might guess, and even more than you or I will ever know.
Imagine a group of local friends who hang out, visit each other's houses, play a joke and have a laugh, play video games and create fun things on their computers. That's how it was to be a Fearmoth. We were the clowns in a digital circus and our story begins back in the early 1990s...
Chapter 1: The Early Years...
The premature nightfall of winter had enveloped the streets along which I walked. Jeremy lived around the corner from my house, so I hadn't far to travel. I knocked on his door and waited for his mum to open the window. She did so, and I climbed inside.
I trundled upstairs into Jeremy's dim and musty bedroom to find him sitting in front of his computer, spellbound by the flickering screen. "I'm just finishing my Christmas animation", he muttered. The screen displayed a snowy scene with white mountains set against a star-speckled sky, while a young boy shuffled towards a snowman.
Barry was sprawled lazily across the bed eating a dog biscuit and observing the screen from afar. "What do you think of Jez's animation?" he asked.
"It's cool" I replied. I meant it too. I always enjoyed watching my friends being creative and was fascinated by the insight into their mental worlds. The animation had Jeremy's trademark style about it, which reminded me of comics like The Dandy and The Beano. Jez was such a nice guy and it was easy to think this is how he perceived reality: a world where police reward you for honesty, where teenagers walk old people across roads, and where your only fears in life are the local bully stealing your sweets or the parkie catching you on the grass. Despite the sometimes violent content of his animations, they originated from a very innocent mind.
Barry, on the other hand, wasn't a particularly creative person and had no desire to make it in the scene. He just enjoyed the camaraderie.
There was a knock at the door and Jeremy leapt from his chair and raced downstairs to answer it. He returned with Graham on his back. He had brought his sound sampler and was waving around a floppy disk. "I've done some more work on my Christmas module," he announced, stepping down.
While we often worked alone in our own bedrooms, creating music, graphics, anims and demos, everybody congregated at Jeremy's in the evening, where we would observe each other's creative efforts, play games, listen to heavy metal, make puppets and eat junk food. There was something about Jeremy's room that drew us there night after night. It was like a secret and impenetrable den, set far away from life's burdens and the gypsies that hunted us down.
Jeremy loaded Octamed and let Graham take control of the Amiga. When everyone was silent, we sat and listened to his module. He had managed to capture the essence of Christmas in his work and Barry initiated the dancing.
Jeremy had asked Graham to bring his sampler with him that evening so that he could sample some sound effects for his animation, but before we started, it was time to stock up on snacks. We took a light stroll to the shop, discussing new game releases, plans for new demos, The Munsters, or anything computer related. Along the way we noticed Porky carrying his disco equipment into his garage: milk crates, bicycle lights, microphone, a wireless and lots of wires.
"Hey lads, disco starts at 8. Gonna have special guests, karate and stunt show," he informed us. Porky was a simple kid who fancied himself as a Blackpool entertainer. When his mum went out to play bingo, he would put on discos in his garage and invite friends and neighbouring kids. His events were more like variety performances than discos, with jokes, stunts, competitions and dancing, among other acts. Using his vivid imagination, Porky was able to transform a little garage filled with milk crates and cables into a spectacular event. We always played along, applauding, interacting with make-believe guests and found the whole thing hilarious. Maybe, just maybe, there was part of us that laughed at him rather than with him, but he kept us entertained the whole time.
"Who are the special guests?" Jeremy enquired.
"We got Cannon and Ball, Victor Meldrew, Jimmy White and Robocop," he said proudly, convinced of his own lies. "There's gonna be some standup comedy too. How about this one...it's a bit blue, so adults only...What did the policeman say to the parrot?"
"I don't know," we said, eagerly anticipating his answer.
We burst out laughing. Porky smiled and revelled in our amusement for a while, then he fell silent and a solemn expression came over his face. "It's not funny though cos my gran died the weekend."
We attempted to console him through our laughter, but we all knew this was another one of his lies. He said this every week.
We promised to go to his disco another night when we were less busy. Porky spoke into his wristwatch and was joined by his dog Jim. They ran on ahead into the night, towards the chip shop.
Back at Jeremy's, Graham set up the sound sampler. We decided we would need samples for footsteps in snow, church bells, and the voice overs. We ended up digging our fists into a bag of rice in order to make the footstep sounds. The voices proved less successful, but at some point during our attempts Mike and Stephan arrived. We explained what we were trying to do and passed the job to Mike. To our surprise, his usual grouchy temperament yielded to a loud high-pitched voice: "Hey mate, you got a scarf? It's a bit chilly out here". It was perfect! We added the sound effects to the animation and sat back and watched the end result. We followed this with another round of applause, turned out the lights and let it play again and again until it etched itself into our minds. It was nice to see in motion, but secretly all I could think was, "It's too short."
Nonetheless, everyone felt satisfied to have contributed in some way, especially Mike, who was particularly proud of his voice over work and was rewarded with a nice hot bubble bath. But whose name should headline the production? Jeremy and Barry had formed a duo called Death Handlers, Mike, Stephan and others had their own group called Bird Wank Stoppers, whereas Graham and I were already part of an active UK scene group. After much debating, we decided to merge into one group... that group was known as Prophesy.
More Prophesy productions followed with contributions from all members. Graham and I continued to participate for the sheer fun, but were starting to get established in the scene and couldn't have our handles associated with demos made with demomakers and animation players.
Chapter 2: The Alleged Rebirth of TRSI
On cold boring evenings, I would often find Graham at home, logged on IRC under a ridiculous name and talking nonsense. I cannot explain what pleasure he derived from this, but he would roll around the floor laughing and snorting then show us the logs, as if he'd created a work of art.
For a long time he steered away from scene channels, tending to favour those related to Science Fiction or religion. The members were so humourless he could string them along for hours with absurd and surreal topics - like convincing people he lived with a ghost, that his granddad was trapped under his bed, or stories about bee catching and teasing gypsies. I was always overwhelmed by his creative genius and how he came up with such random and detailed scenarios. I wanted to capture it and share it somehow.
Finding biscuits and composing music were two of Graham's three talents; the other was writing. He would write poems or short stories that were so surreal and far out I started to question his sanity, but in the right place in the right era they may have been heralded as ingenious works of literature.
What none of us realised is that Graham had an addiction to prescription drugs ever since his teens. I cannot claim to understand his condition, nor the effect of the drugs he was taking, but there was always something different about Graham. He lacked social grace and was aloof, as if wrapped up in a world of his own creation. He was also impulsive and would blurt out incongruous phrases or do something really odd (like peeling potatoes on the bus or playing Kerplunk in posh restaurants while he waited for his meal) without regard for anyone watching.
I will never know if the drugs were responsible for Graham's odd behaviour or an excuse. What I did know is that without them he sank into dark moods that would go on for days. His dreams were haunted by a man called "Slovenly Mick" who gave him tasks to carry out the next day. Should he fail or refuse, he was convinced that Mick would kill him in his sleep. During these moments he was kind of unsettling to be around.
I logged into #amigascne numerous times and noticed someone under the name "Swd/TRSI" or something, but I was busy in private chats and didn't pay much attention. About a month or so later I went round Jeremy's and Graham was showing off more of his IRC logs. After reading all the Sci-Fi and religion ones (and laughing politely) I started reading one he had captured from #amigascne and learned that this Swd stood for Shanethewolfthedog, who was in fact Graham's latest pseudonym. He'd been creating quite a stir by telling people that TRSI were coming back and he and his (fictional) coding buddy, Lipstick, were taking over and working alongside Unreal, Lazur and other respected sceners.
I was pissed off and kicked him in the face! When it came to scene matters, I took it all very seriously. I had always hoped that my friends would share my love of the scene and we could work together, but at this time I felt Graham was mocking it. Luckily, Jeremy was there to act as the mediator. We agreed that he would never make reference to me.
As time went on I saw this Shanethewolf character was earning quite a name for himself, albeit for the wrong reasons. Although I was initially annoyed, I started to find his fake interviews and wind ups very funny. People were taking Shane very literally and it was like watching some prank interviewer like Ali G, Dennis Pennis or The Chuckle Brothers.
When I spoke to Graham he told me he was going to reincarnate TRSI with Shanethewolfthedog as the new UK leader. He, Jeremy and Barry had already started working on an intro in Videotracker (an Amiga demomaker). Their thinking was that sceners would rush to see the intro just because of the TRSI name. Personally, I think they overestimated TRSI's popularity they hadn't been a respected demoscene group for a long time.
I was appearing as an extra in Keeping up Appearances that week, so I downloaded the Shanetro via an ftp site like most people. I was shocked and appalled, and worried in case there was any association with me, but when it was over I couldn't contain my laughter. I wondered about all the baffled sceners who would believe that forks crossing spoons and Workbench voices were all part of TRSI's big comeback. More to the point, what must the real TRSI members make of all this? It was one of the most audacious things I'd seen during my time in the scene. Knowing how seriously sceners take their hobby, this was sure to cause an outrage!
Next time I went round Jeremy's house, my friends were on a high, discussing ideas for their next TRSI release. I was getting established in the scene now and I had plenty of people looking at my work, Graham had won a couple of small competitions with his music, and had rescued a dog from a tree, yet no reputation to speak of, so from their perspective all this exposure was quite a novelty. What's more, I had never seen them so motivated. There were 6 of us at Jeremy's house that day, some of whom had pens and paper and were sketching pictures and storyboards, and noting ideas.
"How about we do an animation demo of The Ear Brothers?" Graham suggested. The Ear Brothers was a concept that Graham, Barry and I had come up with a few years ago. It started as a practical joke on some kids we knew: we led them to believe it was a new game for the Super Nintendo and they should ask their mum for it. The more they asked about it, the more detail we provided. The kids got so fired up about it, they even started yelling "The Ear Brothers!" and their catchphrase "Lift me up" at the top of their voices. They even got hold of some cardboard tubes and started shouting through them. It became a personal joke among our friends and we said we'd love to produce the game some day.
I was persuaded to come up with some designs for the Ear Brothers while the others worked on the concept for the demo and Barry ate a dog biscuit. I worked in Deluxe Paint and sketched out my vision of the Ear Brothers, Marioots and Kenut. Everyone seemed to love them. Jeremy took over and animated them attacking a rabbit. The idea being they would feel guilty about it later on and would have to deal with emotional torment a new feature for video games!
I thought it was just a preliminary draft, but a few days later my friends revealed a finished executable, along with speech and sound. It was hideous and noisy, and resembled the handiwork of a deranged lunatic, but was kind of funny for that very reason.
"Surely you're not going to release it," I asked.
"We've already uploaded it!" Barry told me.
It wasn't long before the official TRSI members were on the case, spreading textfiles denouncing these releases and ordering them to be nuked on all bulletin boards. That's right...the legendary TRSI were under fire and their only response was a textfile!?! Not an announcetro or a magazine article, just a mere standalone textfile. I was sorely disappointed in them. It was then I realised how desperately the Amiga scene needed some life and activity. That's what my friends were doing in their own way. They weren't skilled sceners, but they had heart and were doing something!
The next project was an invitro to Porky's Disco. As far out as this party seemed, it was all based on a real person and a real event. I got on board with this one and contributed some animations and some of the text. Jeremy's mate, Phil, was round at the time and it turned out that he had once belonged to an old (and fairly good) UK scene group and he agreed to compose a little module for us on the spot. Just like me, he didn't want his real scene reputation tarnished so decided to make the contribution anonymously. We didn't mind Shanethewolf or any of the other fake names taking credit for our work. To us it was not about recognition; it was about fun.
Shanethewolf was quickly becoming a household name in the scene, even more well known than Arthur Scargill, Dennis Norden and some leading coders. Graham was on IRC most nights posing as Shanethewolf, provoking reactions and stirring up "publicity", as he called it.
In between releases, he started writing party reports featuring fictional events and various existing sceners, some of whom took it in good humour while others were actually creeped out.
Nobody knew what to make of him...Was he for real? Did he believe his own hype? Did he genuinely believe he attended these parties and met these sceners? Did he have some kind of mental issues?
In truth, Graham was a gifted writer, and creating characters was his forte. What made Shanethewolf different to most characters and comedy personas was his interaction with his audience. I didn't see it at the time, but Graham was working on a piece of living, spontaneous and interactive fiction and his obsession with IRC was no different to a writer's obsession with his latest novel.
Chapter 3: The Rise of The Fearmoths
Things with TRSI had turned nasty. "Shane" and "Bloner" (aka Graham and Barry) were receiving a lot of hatemail and threats and we all decided it had gone beyond a joke. What started out as a little mischief was now turning into something very hostile.
Mike and Stephan suggested the same prank under the name Melon or Kefrens, yet most of us agreed that the joke had gone on long enough and was no longer funny, especially Graham and Barry who had been receiving the threats. It was time to go back to Prophesy or come up with a new group. After much debating, Graham released an intro declaring the (fake) TRSI division dead, and the arrival of Camel Kaos was announced.
Jeremy had been working on a little bonfire night animation which we turned into a parody of a fireworks warning advert. We rushed up an intro sequence and we threw it all together in time for an Italian party called Spoletium. Apparently it was very poorly received at the party and nobody appreciated the humour. Jeremy, Barry and Graham were really disheartened and wanted to go back to using the TRSI name or some other established group.
I found this whole debate stupid. The whole purpose of our anonymous group was to have fun, to exercise our imagination without worrying what anybody thought, but now everyone was thirsty for fame and appreciation.
At this time, I wasn't having a whole lot of fun being a serious scener; I put myself under a lot of pressure, I was constantly trying to meet deadlines, and most projects I worked towards seemed to fall through. Prophesy/TRSI/Camel Kaos or whatever was such a nice way to wind down. It was my chance to have fun, experiment with new styles and ideas, work alongside my friends and enjoy their creativity. I expressed my thoughts to the group and everyone agreed that fun should come first and foremost. That's what ALF would do.
Graham was always a bit of a wildcard, however, and I believed his mind was still set on notoriety. We never knew what he was getting upto on IRC or what responses he wrote to his emails. We suggested that we drop "Shanethewolfthedog" from our memberlist, but he insisted that the name and character should stay. Another thing, he wasn't happy with the name Camel Kaos. I'm not sure why, but he didn't like it, and since we were looking for a fresh start, we decided on a new name.
The Fearmoths were born!
Incidentally, there has always been a clue to Shane's true identity circulating the scene, but we didn't know it at this time. One of Graham's early modules contains a sample, which when reversed, chants the Fearmoths catchphrase: "Burning people, eating dogs, Fearmoths". The module, for those sleuths among you, is called "Flight of the Arachnid".
As a first release from The Fearmoths, I suggested something a little more traditional to build some bridges with the scene...a "good deed". Diskmagazines were always desperate for support and I figured the Fearmoths could make amends for their mischief by producing an unexpected publicity intro for Showtime. Yes, it was my idea and my intentions were actually sincere. I got Graham to email Ghandy for some headlines while I came up with some basic graphics and Phil (who was spending more time with us and really getting into the spirit of our group) came up with some music. Once again, both Phil and I agreed to let Shanethewolf and his gang take credit. It wasn't meant to be anything groundbreaking, just a little headline intro to drum up support and last minute votes. We hoped people would look past the lack of code and see a cute little design-tro, but to our disappointment the Showtime team hated it and denied all association with it. Well, that's how it seemed at first, yet the intro was actually released in the same archive as the magazine and acted as the official intro for that issue. Regardless, I kept my head down.
I did my best to keep out of any interactions my friends had with sceners, but I decided to invite "Shane" to participate in an interview. It was a chance to do a bit of damage control and get across the Fearmoths' philosophy of fun in the demoscene. Although Graham was Shane's original creator, I conducted most of this interview with Jeremy. I felt that Graham was too focused on infamy, whereas Jeremy would portray the Fearmoths in a better light. In fact, if you've ever had any civilised communication from "Shane", there's a good chance you were talking to Jeremy (who also posted on Pouet and IRC as Ultimate Gas).
You sometimes hear about writers, comedians, sailors, ventriloquists and alike who start inheriting traits of their characters or personas. It was a fine line that separated Graham from "Shane" at the best of times, but he seemed to be spending more and more time in character and we started to fear that he was losing sight of his identity. To make things more complicated, Graham was trying to portray Shanethewolf as a schizophrenic and wanted people to think his friends were all imaginary and he had multiple alter egos. He even started inventing fake new members to lead people into thinking he'd gone mad.
The rest of us didn't know whether Graham was really losing it or if we were being played the same way he played the scene. When he visited my house or Jeremy's house, all he wanted to do was type on IRC. He'd gone from funny and eccentric to just plain weird.
We thought about killing off The Fearmoths until one day Graham arrived at Jeremy's house with a pad full of sketches and notes. "I've got an idea for a demo," he began. "It came to me while I was on the toilet at work..." He proceeded to elaborate.
A few weeks later we released John Thaw. The music, the concept and the storyboard was all Graham's creation and though I pixelled the graphics, he directed me every step. He knew exactly what he wanted from start to finish. I left the graphics with him and he assembled the intro in Videotracker. When I saw it a couple of days later, I loved it. It was Graham's humour and creativity at its most surreal. What's more, it actually proved to be the most popular release with other sceners too.
I finally felt like The Fearmoths were getting on the right track and I was ready to give them my support.
Chapter 4: Moths to a Flame
I remember the day well. I was watching The Camomile Lawn when Barry called me. "Some wanker has just wiped out my hard drive with a virus!" he whined.
"Are you sure it's a virus?" Barry wasn't very tech savvy so I assumed he'd just disconnected his mouse or something equally dumb.
"Yes, I ran an intro and it came up with a message about Shanethewolf then next thing I know it deleted my hard drive!"
"What intro? Where did you get it?"
"Some guy emailed it to me at the Bloner address. He said it was a 4k intro and he wanted to join Fearmoths."
"You idiot!" I said, shaking my head with disbelief. I couldn't believe he so heedlessly ran an executable file that was emailed to him, especially after all the threats he'd received at that address. "Why did you run it? Have you been in touch with Stephan? He's the hard drive expert and might be able to get your files back."
"Yeah, he said he'd try for me. He's looking at the virus now and says he's gonna upload it to the ftp sites."
"What? He's gonna upload the virus? Why? Do you think he meant it?" I asked, starting to panic.
"Yes, I think so. So what should I do about my hard drive?"
Stephan could be a dick when someone pissed him off and I knew we had a problem. I cut the conversation short and called Stephan. "Barry told me about the virus..."
"Yeah, I've just finished uploading it to the amigascene ftp. After all, it's supposed to be a 4k intro so lets share it with the scene," he said with a self-righteous tone, as was his way when he got angry.
I was lost for words. "Because...it's not going to the guy who sent it, it's going to lots of innocent people. How would you like it if it was you who downloaded that?"
"I don't download 4k intros," he responded, completely missing my point.
I put the phone down on him and logged onto the Internet looking for the virus. It was useless, I didn't know what it was called or anything about it. I was not particularly sympathetic towards Barry as he only had games on his hard drive anyway, but I knew that others stood to lose a lot more. I mean, these were sceners and creative people who might end up losing ground breaking code, music or graphics. I knew how heartbreaking that could be!
By the time I found out more, it had already done its damage, warnings had been issued and efforts had been taken to contain it. I never understood why Stephan released that virus, but I have not spoken to him since that day.
I did, however, manage to retain a copy of the email that accompanied the virus. It read:
My name is Ryben Koszlak. I am very new to the scene and i saw your prods on aminet. i am searching for a group to join. i am a coder and a part time graphician. i have included a 4k intro for The Party as an example what i can do. So if you are in need of a coder/gfxman please mail me as soon as possible so i can add some logos and other info to the intro. Thanks in advance!
I don't think we'll ever know who this Ryben was or why he sent the virus to Bloner's address. Our guess was that it was some disgruntled and overly serious scener carrying out one of his previous threats. It was, however, completely uncalled for. We were just having harmless fun, and though I didn't agree with Graham's mischief on IRC, that's all it was. It was just harmless mischief. He nor Barry nor any other affected scener deserved that virus.
Because Stephan was a peripheral member of our group he got away scott free. I was tempted to make his name and phone number public, but I'd already seen how extreme some sceners could go so I decided to cut him a break. Instead, "Shanethewolf" took the entire blame for the virus for coding it and distributing it. Since Graham was the main man behind the Shane character, he started to fear the backlash would be directed towards him. The poor guy knew nothing about the virus and suddenly his email box was full of hate mail, some of which contained small executables and similar messages to the one from "Ryben". Needless to say, he didn't run any of them and he soon stopped logging in altogether.
That was it! The Fearmoths could never recover from this. Everybody hated Shane and all who associated with him. Even if we reincarnated Prophesy and changed handles, people would recognise our style and the programs we used (i.e. Videotracker).
I was particularly worried. If anyone discovered my association with Shane or the Fearmoths, I would surely lose many of my closest scene friends and my days in the scene would be over. I'd probably start receiving some of the hate mail and viruses that were going Shane's way.
No one would believe that Shane was innocent, and even if they did, he'd be guilty by association. We figured the only option was for Shane to take the blame and for him to disappear without a trace. Jeremy and I came up with another interview where I would chastise Shane for the virus and run him out of the scene in disgrace. It was a chance for me to air my genuine views on the incident. I hoped that Stephan would read it, but I doubt he ever did.
Chapter 6: Back from the Dead
Shane and The Fearmoths had been laid to rest and having put the whole saga behind me, I continued with my scene life. Eventually I packed my Amiga away and continued my computer activities on my new PC.
Some of my Fearmoth friends bought Playstations and trumpets, others followed my transition to the PC, but when we hung out together, we just played games or went out to bars. Gradually, Barry stopped visiting, as did Phil. Our days of making animations or demos were behind us, yet Graham continued messing around in non-scene forums and chatrooms, teasing people with his surreal tales. During his quiet moments at work, Jeremy joined in. It was a way for them to kill time I suppose.
One day, Jeremy and Graham visited my house and I decided to show them a few PC demos I'd been downloading. I introduced them to some demo sites, including Pouet. That very evening I noticed Shanethewolf appear on Pouet.
What was Graham thinking, logging in as Shanethewolf? He hadn't used that name for years and here he was using the name in the one place it would be least welcome. I guess in his mind, he never did anything wrong, but the scene wouldn't see it that way and I feared he had just provoked a bee's nest.
However, not many people knew of Shane's previous reputation, and to my surprise he even had a few fans. Of course, he had his enemies too and I can't blame them. After all, not everyone realised that Shane was a character, and most people assumed that this was the same man who spread the virus.
Shane started uploading all the old Amiga demos from Fearmoths, Camel Kaos, (fake) TRSI and even a few from Prophesy. Amid the accusations and criticism were calls for a new Fearmoths demo and a sprinkling of positive feedback. What's more, it appeared that some people understood and appreciated Graham's sense of humour and the creativity of the Fearmoths.
Chapter 7: Back in Business
While Graham continued trolling on Pouet and various non-scene sites, Jeremy began researching ways a non-coder like himself could make PC demos. With some pointers from fellow sceners, he discovered Moppi's Demopaja and set to work immediately.
I was busy with more serious scene projects and forging a name for myself by more conventional means, but watching Jeremy messing around with Demopaja got me intrigued. When he and Graham presented their new demo, I was not impressed however. It was supposed to resemble a dark dream sequence, but it basically entailed a bunch of zooming pictures and ripped music, so I offered to give them a hand redesigning it.
I was new to PC graphics and didn't know much about layers, masks, transparency and alike so it was a learning process for me...one that was overdue in fact. By the time I finished it still looked like an amateur effort, but I'd added some masks, subliminal images and recoloured the photos and it had a bit more atmosphere. They were really happy and released the demo as "Ban the Orphan".
In between fooling around on scene forums, they started striking up conversations with fellow sceners who wanted to get involved in their projects. Some even offered to remake some of their original Amiga demos. Jeremy and Graham got various work colleagues interested in what they were doing too and The Fearmoths soon had a lot of input coming from all over the place. Meanwhile, I sat out and just observed.
There came a point where Graham and Jeremy started taking different directions. While Graham worked on weird and wacky projects, Jeremy wanted to try a more serious and artistic direction. Personally, I liked what Jeremy was doing and he seemed very enthusiastic about my participation. He wanted to use a poem I had written called "The Little Things", which he, our friend Ian and I turned into a slideshow. The scene responded very well to it.
Since Graham hadn't learned how to compose on the PC and our cameo musician, Phil, wasn't around much, The Fearmoths had used a lot of ripped music. However, Graham and Jeremy proposed some ideas to various sceners, one of whom was a talented and versatile musician who assumed the handle Rahman.
What many people don't know is that Graham and Jeremy do have a serious respect for the scene dating as far back as the 90s and had a handful of scene mates of their own. Jeremy is like an encyclopaedia of early Amiga demos and even has a sense of oldskool pride. Graham attended a party, and placed 3rd in the music competition. Inspired by groups like Budbrain, Animators and Decay, they just chose to take a less serious path than most conventional sceners and take a light-hearted attitude to it all.
Some sceners appreciated that philosophy and many revealed that they too have alter egos and participate in fun groups and trolling. From Jormas to Minimalanimal, The Fearmoths were not the first and sure won't be the last.
Up until now, the character "Shanethewolf" had been headlining all demos and taking credit for everybody's work and ideas. Graham had been leading people to believe that Shane was a one man show. I never had a problem with that, but now we were working on more serious ideas I decided it was time to assume a pseudonym of my own. Regicide was born.
Jeremy, Rahman and I set about creating a David Lynch inspired mystery demo called "Alter Ego". The 3d was awful, the graphics were tatty, but Rahman really came through for us with the sound direction and atmosphere.
After this, Rahman and I decided to help Graham realise his lifelong dream of creating an Ear Brothers demo. I had so much fun creating the graphics for this, despite their simplicity, and I also contributed a lot towards the humour and ideas. When I saw the finished prod, I loved it. I still do. It is truly unique.
The Ear Brothers was intended as our last project for the scene before moving onto non-scene projects.
Chapter 8: Comedy Writing
Graham had always been keen on writing comedy, and I had recently come into contact with comedy writers at university. If I wanted to take our ideas further, I needed to invest in their help so I introduced them to The Fearmoths.
"This is comedy gold!" one of these writers told me. "I've got a spot on a local radio show and we're always keen to promote new writers. Have a go at writing some scripts and we'll try and put something together."
Between us, we decided to make The Fearmoths into a comedy group of sorts, comprising various quirky characters. We started developing blogs, stories, standup material and we even found a few willing actors to participate in some video sketches for Youtube. This was in addition to our radio scripts.
We had characters like Dr Beard a wannabe pimp; Bjerte an emotional Icelander; Rob Raven a failed Karate Sensei; The Urban Hunchback and more. We also considered a sketch involving Shane and a bunch of puppets, dolls and teddy bears, each representing imaginary friends, but Graham rejected that idea.
I re-designed the Fearmoths website where we started uploading our stories and blogs. Graham started using some of our material to troll various forums, create pages on myspace and generally get some feedback. Some of the material flopped, yet some of the newer characters and the blogs were very well received. It even got to the point where we started receiving a lot of fan mail and pleas for more material.
Personally, I thought we had a lot of potential, but it was a short lived venture. There were just too many people involved and too many creative differences. Some of us wanted to keep the humour dry, the characters believable and blur the line between reality and fiction, yet others wanted a sitcom style format or wanted to exaggerate our characters into obnoxious caricature.
Comedy is an intricate artform and entails more than just stupid voices, silly faces, crude behaviour and dancing around like morons.
The whole concept of Shanethewolf and such characters was based on them being convincing. They were not characters people laughed with, but pitiful personas people laughed at, and for that to work, people had to believe they were real. The best comparison I can give is Karl Pilkington. It is generally assumed that he is a real person with a unique and often absurd perspective on life, but would his fans find him so funny if he was revealed as a creation of Ricky Gervais or Stephen Merchant?
In the end, we lost actors for our sketches and missed out on the local radio spot, but we really didn't want to pursue what was being suggested. Maybe somewhere down the line you will see what we had intended, but for now, the ideas are on hiatus.
Chapter 9: The Masquerade of Shanethewolf
I would have liked to make new demos and continue working with The Fearmoths, but I had too much going on outside of the scene and had lost my interest in computers. Rahman became occupied with work, burglary and family, Jeremy had to stop computing for a while due to medical reasons, and Graham had no will to continue making demos alone. He continued trolling Pouet, but that was all he managed to do.
Some months later Graham announced that he was about to embark on a tour of America from which he hoped never to return. It was such a spontaneous decision, but within the space of 3 weeks he had booked his ticket, sold his chimps and was bidding me farewell.
Before leaving for the States, Graham decided to relinquish his alter ego. In a rather solemn and uncomfortable conversation, he told me, "I'm hoping Shane won't follow me where I'm going and I can become someone different." It sounded cryptic, but I knew what he meant.
The mastermind behind Shanethewolfthedog was gone.
Shane V2 (aka ShanetheTiger and ShanetheTurtle) arrived on Pouet some time later under a different account. This was Jeremy's initiative and some of us ex-Fearmoths began using the account whilst bored at work or university...or when drunk or high. Because we rarely saw each other any more, it was our way of keeping in touch and keeping our personal humour alive. I always disliked the Pouet incrowd, their WAGs and ass kissers so if we annoyed them in the process, I consider that a bonus. Besides, until they delete the gay porn movies from the demo archives, they're in no position to be criticising anyone for trolling.
It became quite amusing to see people trying to work out who Shane was. Many assumed it had to be a single established scener in disguise and passed around various names. Sometimes they came close, but no one knew the full story and the more of us who used the account the more it confused people.
In what turned out to be a bad decision, Jeremy decided to take it one step further and release Shane's Pouet login details via a secret part of The Fearmoths website in an attempt to confuse everyone even more, but it ended with god-knows-how-many users trolling as Shane and half the UK scene getting blamed. From that point on, I can't even guess who used the account and I lost interest in what "Shane" was posting. It may have been one person who took over and stepped into Shane's role or it could have been many sceners. I honestly don't know, but as far as I'm aware, his antics remained innocent.
Pouet moderators won't ban members for advocating child porn (Steohawk), racism, or posting images of seal clubbing and burning kittens (Dila), but they banned Shane's account for posting nonsense.
Evidently, the scene is full of self-righteous hypocrites who have been quick to judge and condemn the concept of the Fearmoths and all who participated. But ultimately, we are good guys who were just having fun in the scene and expressing ourselves creatively.
Chapter 10: The Fearmoths Alumni
Last I heard, Jeremy is bald. He is also the father of two children and dedicates his time to his family. He has no interest in the scene any more, but still likes to reminisce about the good old days.
Stephan and I haven't spoken since he released Ryben's virus. I passed him in the street a couple of years ago and tried to say hello, but he blanked me.
After many years, Barry and I re-established contact and we recently spent a night in a bar reminiscing over old times and old friends. He never did recover his games after the virus incident. He's happily married now and his wife has huge tits!!
I also re-established contact with Phil and we spent an evening watching old demos not long ago. He started showing interest in the scene again, but won't be logging into Pouet any time soon.
Mike joined the army full time in 2002 and has been serving in Iraq since 2005. He is still proud of his voiceover work for our Prophesy animation.
Rahman is busy looking after his family and pet leopard, and has no immediate plans to return to scene activities.
Graham has not returned from his expedition and has successfully left Shane behind. That is not to say he has stopped creating characters, personas and works of fiction. Aside from writing and performing as part of a theatre group, he has a new alter ego now that he has been secretly harbouring for many years. But even if I told you the nature of this persona, I doubt you would believe me. Co-writing this article is his first contact with the scene for 2 years.
As for me, I still enjoy demos and hope to participate in the demoscene when time permits. I had good fun, made some cool friends and learned quite a lot from working with The Fearmoths and maybe one day we will re-unite somewhere beyond the scene.
It is only fitting now that I pass the final over to Graham...
Hi sceners, I see Regicide and Ultimate G finally let the wolf out of the saucepan. There is not a lot to add except for greetings to all my old pals and enemies, and my sincerest apologies to anybody I offended or disrespected.
The Fearmoths was a fun chapter in my life if only because I got to share some good laughs with my friends and see some of my crazy ideas come to life. The demoscene was never the right place for Shanethewolf in my opinion, but thank you for enduring my presence.
I can't count how many times I was told "Get a life" or "You need to get out more", and I'm happy to say that's exactly what I did! 2 years ago I was sat in a dingy office, avoiding my boss and faking work while filling Pouet with my zany drivel. Today I'm typing from my trusty laptop while sitting on the viewing deck of an express train, hurtling through the Rocky Mountains. Last week I had to row across a lake to get to my bed, last night I slept in a king size hotel bed.
Life is short. Either learn to have fun in the scene or get out and see what the world has to offer!
Graham (the original Shanethewolfthedog)
Regicide, Shanethewolf v.1 and Ultimate Gas