An Interview with John, Co-Founder of Ultra Rare
Ahead of The Horrors II dropping on 2nd July, we sit down with one of the brains behind the madness to discuss playground trading cards, horror films and comic books!
2021 has been a banner year for WAX so far. Millions of accounts have been created, strong communities have been forged, and of course, a plethora of exciting, creative, high-quality projects have found their home. One such project has been a backbone of the WAX community since the year began – Ultra Rare.
Now just a day away from dropping their 4th major series – The Horrors II – when the team arrived in January, they quickly gathered a huge following, which has only continued to grow with each release. That’s no surprise – their uniquely gruesome illustrations and high-calibre effects easily put them in the upper echelons of WAX projects, and inject some serious FOMO into the community!
Ultra Rare are one of the stalwarts of WAX, and after this interview, you’ll understand why they’ll continue to be so for a long time to come.
Stick around to the end of the interview for our Ultra Rare Interview Card, dropping Saturday at 22 UTC!
Pssst… once again, there’s three hidden claim links to previous Interview Cards within this article. Happy searching!
Hydro: Hi! Could you tell me a bit about yourself, your background and how you got into NFTs?
John: Hi! I’m John, and I’ve been working in the creative industry for a number of years now. Before NFTs, I was a screenwriter here in the UK, writing on films and TV shows. Way before that, I trained as an illustrator and animator, so creativity has always been in my blood.
Richie – my partner in Ultra Rare, who I’ve been friends with for the best part of a decade now – introduced me to the idea of NFTs many years ago. I’d ignored his tip on Bitcoin, so I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice! Then, Garbage Pail Kids released on WAX. I’m a big GPK fan, so I was all-in on those. And we quickly realised – this is it; this is that thing we’d talked about years before. As soon as AtomicHub released the Creator Tool, we started creating. And that was that really.
What is the idea behind The Horrors, and what has changed between Series 1 and Series 2?
When we began our project, we looked at the market and what we felt it was missing. There were lots of GPK-inspired parody sets, but there wasn’t much in the way of dark, adult material. I’m a big horror fan, so I pushed us down that route. I remember being fascinated by horror cards as a kid in the playground, and I wanted to capture that spirit with our set.
Although it was only January when we released our first series, I think we’ve come a long way and learned a lot since then. With every release since, we’ve pushed ourselves to make something better than what came before it. With Alien Horrors, we introduced colour (The Horrors: Series 1 cards were all black and white), with Horsemen, we introduced animation. The Horrors II feels like a culmination of everything we’ve learned up to this point. With over 1300 unique NFTs, it’s been a huge undertaking – almost twice the size of Series 1. We’re very proud with what we’ve achieved and can’t wait for people to crack their packs!
You mentioned being introduced to NFTs many years ago – had yourself and Richie been collectors before you started with Ultra Rare?
I’ve always been a collector, ever since I was a kid. My original GPK sets are amongst my most treasured possessions. Before NFTs, I was a big retro video game collector – I think I’ve got around 500 SNES games.
Richie was a crypto guy and a pro poker player before this. He gets the gamble and I understand a collector mindset, which makes for a good combo in this space. I’m very proud of the fact Ultra Rare has turned Richie into a proper collector. He loved the flip before all this!
Who, or what, inspires the art behind your collections? Are their particular pieces of media (film, comics, music etc.) that have informed your work?
Wow, that’s a tough one! I love an array of pop culture, which all finds its way into our sets. The movie-inspired sets we’ve done, and Alien Horrors in particular, all wear their influences on their sleeves. More generally though, I’d say our trademark black & white style is hugely influenced by Sin City. It was a big reference for myself and our lead artist, Macauley Etherington. We share a lot of love for the same video games and movies, so we have an easy shorthand when it comes to references.
Got to ask – what are your favourite video games and movies, both retro and more recent?
Favourite games – I love loads: the Legend of Zelda games, anything by From Software: Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro etc. Super Castlevania is my favourite on the SNES. Most recently I’ve really liked Hades, a rogue-like on the Switch.
Film-wise, I love a lot of 80s horror: Nightmare on Elm Street, Fright Night, especially The Thing – my favourite all-time movie. More contemporary stuff – things like Hereditary and It Follows, which there’s a little nod to in Horrors II.
What do you think NFTs have done to the value of digital artists and their work, and how do you see this developing?
I think NFTs have been incredible in terms of empowering artists. The arts are a notoriously difficult sector to make a living in, but here we’re seeing artists thriving. If you can build a community and create something cool and fresh, you’ve got a great chance in this space.
It’s hard to know where we go from here, but I see NFTs opening up interesting pathways into conventional media, such as films and music. I love to experiment and I feel the medium encourages that as it’s so new and accessible.
Speaking of inspirations, are there any other NFT artists/collections that you admire, WAX or otherwise?
I’ve been lucky to work with some great artists in the space already. We’ve had Puma and Schwarzbacca work on The Horrors, two of the best effects guys on WAX. I’ve always been working with artists like Gary from Dusty Pixels, Renderhead and Dirty Flapjack – artists whose work I really like. Personally though, my favourite collection at the moment, outside of Ultra Rare, is Chain Creatures. I really like what those guys are doing.
What is your favourite card from The Horrors II and why?
Ahh man, now you’re asking! There are so many awesome cards to choose from – The Mad Scientist, Horror Kong, Loup Garou – it goes on. Then you’ve got Glass and Living Legends – some of my favourite variants we’ve done. If I had to pick one though, I’d go Medusa Colour Guest – it’s just so clean and bold.
Your art style has certainly won a dedicated fanbase! Are there any plans to branch out beyond NFTs into other media (e.g. prints, merch, physical cards)?
We’ve talked about merch and it’s something our community have asked for, but it’s not something we’ve wanted to rush into. We’re a digital company first and foremost and that’s where we’ve focused our energy. But in time, I’m sure we’ll do something.
In terms of other media, we’re moving into comics next, but I’m also very keen to get into gaming. I’m a huge gamer myself, so that’s where I’ve always seen us ultimately heading.
As with the physical items though, it’s not something we’re rushing into even though it feels like every project around us is. We want to do it properly and take our time with it, so when it comes, it stands up on its own and it’s awesome. We’re working on it behind the scenes – and what we have planned is very exciting – but no announcements planned for the immediate future.
You’ve dropped a few series on WAX now. What has your experience been like in the WAX community thus far? What hopes do you have for the future of WAX?
The WAX community is amazing and we’ve really found our place here. I think with the pandemic and people finding themselves isolated, finding a home in the NFT space has been a godsend for me and many others I imagine. As for the future, it’s hard to know where any of this goes, but hopefully we see WAX become the genuine King of NFTs.
Macaulay did a piece of collab art for WVM, who we interviewed last week. Are there any other collaborations we can look forward to in future?
We’re always working with different projects and artists, so there’s a tonne of stuff in the pipeline. At the time of writing, we’re just about to drop a collab with Writer, the team behind CryptoFinney. Beyond that, we’re lining up another collaboration with Alien Worlds, as well as signing up some great artists – Dirty Flapjack, Dusty Pixels, DedHed – for a set we’ll be releasing later in the year. I’m getting the art through now and I’m already pretty excited for that one!
These first 6 months of 2021 have been incredible for WAX NFTs. Could you let us know what plans you have up til the end of the year, and maybe beyond? Where would you like the future to lay for Ultra Rare?
As I mentioned earlier, after The Horrors II, comics will be our main focus. They were always where we heading from the start – it just took us a little longer than we anticipated to get the tech right. But we’re seeing it now and playing with it, fine-tuning that user experience. I think people will be really excited with it when we unveil it all.
We’re in discussions with some super interesting projects outside of the space, and we have a couple of collectible releases lined up, but the next instalment of the Horrors series won’t be this year I imagine. A games world is our ultimate aim and that’s where we’re heading long-term – something that that will take everything we’ve done so far to another level entirely.
Quick-fire question time!
What fuels you?
Bringing happiness to our collectors.
Long-term, which will be the predominant currency, crypto or fiat?
One unusual fact about you?
I’m a doctor!
You can invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner. Who do you choose?
Sir Alex Ferguson, Stanley Kubrick, and Hidetaka Miyazaki.
Let’s stoke some local rivalry… Magpies or Black Cats?
Black Cats. (This is the wrong answer!)
What is your purpose in life?
From chatting to John, there’s no doubt as to why Ultra Rare is enjoying such a great level of success. The love, determination and passion for what they’re doing is resulting in some simply outstanding work, which only continues to get stronger with each new drop.
At a time when fear, uncertainty and doubt are creeping into many collections and project, both new and established, it can be difficult to know which project to invest in. There’s none of that fud here. Ultra Rare are doing things right, they’re in it for the right reasons, and we’re incredibly privileged to have them as part of the WAX community!
To mark the interview, we have our Ultra Rare Interview Card, dropping this Saturday at 22 UTC!