Welcome to another edition of Community Outreach! It’s been a while since the last time we’ve taken a look at the wider world of BattleTech, one that is still as vibrant and alive as ever. This time I am honored to introduce a big personality and iconic voice in the world of BattleTech YouTube videos: “Tex” from Tex Talks BattleTech!
As usual, we’re going to get into Tex’s head to really find out what makes him tick, how he got into BattleTech, and why the Steiner Scout Lance is best filled with a quad-pack of Awesomes.
Sarna (Sean): Who are you? Briefly introduce yourself.
Tex: Howdy, I’m Tex of the Black Pants Legion. I am a delusions-of-adequacy YouTube channel with a peculiar array of very odd things. I’m a huge lore nerd for BattleTech and sci-fi in general. I truly feel as though I’m really not altogether very remarkable. Over the years I’ve held a lot of jobs and had a lot of very strange adventures. At current, I feel honored to have the opportunity to be featured in your most magnificent periodical. I fucking love Sarna. You guys are great.
Sarna: Aww, thanks! So what exactly IS The Black Pants Legion? That is, how would you describe it to someone who doesn’t know much about it?
Tex: From the outside in, people would probably see us as a cult or a very strange think-tank. In recent years I’d like to say we’re a ship of strays adrift on the ocean of our times. I’m the man on the tiller. The Black Pants Legion started as an experiment; I needed an outlet – to just create for the sake of creation. I’d then gone through some fairly challenging and traumatic life events and I just needed to do something to be creative, and goofy, and have fun. Years later I’m getting interviewed by Sarna – again, something I can hardly believe. Through the years, I’ve met some phenomenal people in the Legion, and I’ve been lucky enough to use it to do some good in the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a major positive impact in other people’s lives and I treasure that opportunity. It’s tremendously humbling as an experience.
As for what it is? Hell, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you its fun, and sometimes that’s all something needs to be.
Sarna: Now, who is “Tex”? Is that a persona you put on or just a nom de plume? How would you describe it?
Tex: I achieved the appellation indirectly by nature of once-upon-a-time having a rather heavy Texas accent. Though I’ve since divorced myself of the southern drawl, the nickname has stuck despite my best efforts. In reference to is it a persona? I certainly hope not. That’s something I’ve consciously fought against my entire time in doing things online. I find our culture somewhat worships the idealized version of a character – what is sold to them. I loathe that.
Do I wind myself up or jump into some things with more energy? Sure. I think I do that because it’s my creative outlet and I’ll down an assload of coffee before preparing to do whatever awful madness I can come up with. It’s a lot like putting on a suit and tie for work, you do your best but ultimately you’re still you.
I’d hope to never willingly put on a persona; I can’t stand the notion of putting on a fake face for the sake of popularity or commercial gain at the expense of a fanbase. It very much runs against the grain of my character. People online call me Tex, but so do my friends. I’m the same person throughout. Though, perhaps I may venture that in “meatspace” I’m a great deal more shy or reserved. It’s one of my autistic tics I believe. Being able to see your audience makes things different for me, sadly. Randolph P. Checkers though… That’s a different person altogether.
Sarna: What made you want to start the Tex Talks BattleTech video series?
I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world.
Tex: I had gotten into an argument – as nerds do – over the internet. Specifically, we were furiously shitposting about good and bad tabletop settings. My counterpart was making the assertion that Warhammer 40K was the grandest space-opera ever written and my blood boiled. This aggression could not stand. My response I believe verbatim was, “You’re wrong, Fucko.” He, being my friend and a classic contrarian said, “Okay, prove it.”
And here we are. He admitted to being moved by the last stand of the Black Watch, or in his words, “Manly tears were shed.” I believe I won that bet. And yet I can’t stop making them…
Sarna: When did you start Tex Talks BattleTech?
Tex: “Start” is hard to pin down. I think I had a long-standing desire to dive into the lore because I firmly believe BattleTech is a wonderful community, a wonderful setting, and supported by the best fans in the goddamn world. However, given the above-mentioned impetus, we started June the 5th, 2018. One day short of our channel’s 7th anniversary
Sarna: Now let’s go back. Waaaaaayyyy back. When did you get into BattleTech?
Tex: As a young lad with limited social skills in the vast desert of the modern social world, the outcome was predictable: I was a game store geek. Initially I wanted to get into 40K because, by God, it seemed glorious to me. The local game store had one of those enormous true to scale Astartes standing in the lobby with his bolter. It struck me with total awe. However, 40K required enormous sums of money and time for a handful of badly struck miniatures. When I was introduced to the BattleTech people, a kind neckbeard loaned me miniatures and taught me to play, encouraging me throughout. He even helped me select my first minis and helped me find out what I’d do best with. It was more inclusive and kind than anything else I’d ever experienced up to that point.
I was, oh, perhaps 12 years old. That’d have made it late summer of 1996. The summer before I’d had a lot of fun with the masterpiece that was MechWarrior 2 but I really had no notion of the setting’s depth beyond stompy robots and “SYSTEMS ONLINE” giving me a wonderful feeling. It still does.
Sarna: What’s your Favourite ‘Mech? An all-important question. :)
Tex: The AWS-8Q. The best 80 tons money can buy of Inner Sphere steel. Did I mention I like to run Steiner-esque scout operations? A lance of Awesomes will beat the brakes off anything you throw at it. Unless it doesn’t. But hey, dice are bastards.
Sarna: What parts of BattleTech do you play? Perhaps a better question, what HAVEN’T you played?
Tex: The answer is yes. I’ve played the RPG(s), the PC games, MechAssault (ugh), and tabletop. Nowadays I play the Roguetech Mod for BattleTech (2018), Mechwarrior Living Legends (the fan project), and on occasion, I drunkenly stumble around in Mechwarrior Online quoting Macho Man Randy Savage. Because, to quote the Macho Man himself, “Sometimes you must expect the unexpected in the Kingdom of Madness.”
Sarna: How has “Tex” collaborated with official BattleTech content publishers, such as Catalyst, Harebrained Schemes, or PGI? If you haven’t, do you know if any of those folks have seen your work?
On occasion, I drunkenly stumble around in Mechwarrior Online quoting Macho Man Randy Savage. Because, to quote the Macho Man himself, “Sometimes you must expect the unexpected in the Kingdom of Madness.”
Tex: Insofar as I am aware, the only people “aware” of me in any real sense are the modding communities and by extension the BattleTech community. I often put in my credits the disclaimer: “If the people who invented this stuff found out about what I do they’d whip me with a belt.” I was made aware recently that I was mentioned or at least spoken of politely in the latest Kickstarter AMAs for BattleTech’s Clan Invasion Pack from Catalyst.
That being said, I would be truly humbled if they knew of my “work” and didn’t immediately click down-vote. Again, I am surprised to be featured here, let alone known by the greats who forged this magnificent setting. I see myself as just a voice in the choir. There are plenty of talented people very much interested in BattleTech and me surely least among them.
Sarna: Let’s talk numbers. What’s your most viewed video?
Tex: This is embarrassing but I had to look as I didn’t know off-hand and I highly distrust YouTube’s metrics. As it turns out, it’s the UrbanMech video. Figures, people love the damn trashcan. Then again, you rightfully should. It’s the most adorable platform for an AC/20 I’ve ever seen.
Sarna: And which video is your favourite?
Tex: That’s a hard one. My crew and I really love what we’ve done recently with the Amaris Civil War. Our storyboarding/editing/scoring process really brought that one together. We’re driving like mad to get part 2 out because we see part 1 as one of our greatest achievements yet. We spent our time and went overboard in a few sections but dammit, It’s BattleTech. It’s worth it. A very close second are all the memes we made for Steiner Scout Squad. Because “Scouting” something with 100 tons of Lyran ‘Mech is utterly brilliant.
Sarna: Which video didn’t hit as well as you thought it might’ve?
Tex: Easily the Catapult episode. We went with a lot more overt comedy than we should have, and in retrospect, some of the meme-ery was over the top. I mean, we had a whole JRPG spoof of a battle scene in which a Mad Cat trounces an inner sphere lance. While funny, it just was a bit much. Also, the Tukayyid video hit a bit softer than I thought it would, but we turned it around as fast as we could to make it release on the actual anniversary of the battle. Also, I think it may have upset a few Clanners as evidenced in the comments. Some people just hate Comstar I guess?
Sarna: How long does it take to create these videos? I know that something like the Catapult video (which I actually liked a lot) won’t take as much time and effort as the Kerensky-Amaris Civil War series, but if you had to give a rough estimate how many hours does it take per 30 minutes of YouTube video?
Tex: That is a HUGE variable. Here’s the basic breakdown from what notes I can gather.
Stage 1: Research. See what information is out there--sources, images, anything that can help us. This can take a month or two as was the case with the Amaris Civil War/Coup/Collapse of Star League as the subject is rather broad. However, with something like a single ‘Mech, that can take a week.
We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project.
Stage 2: Script. This can take a month or so, but sometimes as little as a week. Depends on what time I get as I tend to work an unhealthy amount of hours in the week. But I generally run 10-15 drafts. Each time I write I find something else I want to say or change how I say it. Sometimes things can be rather funny in your first run-through, but by draft 15 you just go “ugh” and delete paragraphs at a time. This also helps me control tangents. Kind of. Somewhat. Sometimes.
Stage 3: The editing. This is where Mike and Madasgardian come in. We start to storyboard and come up with ideas, themes, chapters. This is generally a 2-3 week process, though real-life events in “meatspace” can certainly delay it.
Stage 4: Scoring, my guys Goat, Kumakin, and Dr Jekyll come in at this stage. Some music is from epidemic sound or other licensed sources, but we do create quite a bit of music in-house. They’re great. We sit around and watch the video without music and then obsessively try to match the “action” with themes that fit. This takes a few days at least.
Stage 5: Final cut, 2-3 days. This is where we add funny nonsense, usually.
Some of these things can be done simultaneously, like writing and research. However, typically from start to finish, we’re looking at a month or so. As for hours? I can only guess. We try not to count because this brings us a lot of joy. We all love to create and that’s what brings us together. It’s a passion project. That and, well, the other things we’re interested in doing. However, those project(s) hinge on obtaining IP rights to even try.
Sarna: Can I request a video topic?
Tex: Sure. Anyone can. I do polls every so often to let people decide my list of topics and then narrow down from there based on what I’d find interesting. If you got an idea, shoot. I’d love to hear it. I see this as a community effort and I’m just some surly voice that likes his whiskey.
Sarna: What’s in store for Tex Talks BattleTech in the future?
Tex: Immediately, Part 2 of the Amaris Civil War. At current it’s threatening to become a feature film. However, Amaris did a load of bad shit and that takes time to explain. Further, the Amaris Coup and Civil War sets the scene for what follows in the setting. I can’t just gloss over it and say, “Welp, and stuff happened,” or people would lynch me. Well, they still might. #RememberTheBlackWatch.
You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy.
Sarna: I noticed the ‘Mech-related Tex Talks typically has more entertaining fluff than the more historical reviews do. Why is that? Is it just easier to insert fun fluff when talking about a typically dry subject like a ‘Mech’s history?
Tex: Well, look at car reviews. Anyone can stand in front of a car and go, “This is a car, it possesses an engine,” and then drive it around a track to show how many seconds it took with your foot to the floor. Or, you can be Top Gear. Or Regular Car Reviews. You have to inject something of yourself in everything you do. For me, it’s just goofy jokes and comedy. For something like the UrbanMech, you can’t not have comedy. If I did a dry seriousness with the UrbanMech the community would smell a rat. Then they’d mail me loaded diapers or something.
Sarna: Where do you get all those great pictures you use in your videos? Besides Sarna, of course. I ask for my own future reference as much as I do this interview.
Tex: Sarna at first, but then we started acquiring a metric f-ton of original Battletech Technical Documents. The Amaris Civil War Part 1, for instance, drew heavily from the Liberation of Terra I and II supplements. Older BattleTech books can be had for relatively cheap. I happen to have a collection at the moment that’s rather impressive.
Sarna: Anything else you’d like to share? Feel free to get shamelessly self-promoty :)
Tex: Oh hell, I’d like to thank Mike and Madasgardian (my editors), my gifted music people, my fans and the BattleTech community. Again, I feel superbly honored to have been given this outlet and place to express myself. There are many more that are deserving I’m sure. I just want to say this, for the record, there has seldom been a piece of fiction more meaningful, entertaining, and thoughtfully constructed than the BattleTech franchise and I feel at this juncture it is right to say it’s in the hands of the fanbase to keep it alive and well. We must be good custodians of it to pass it on to future ‘Mech pilots. Also, death to Clanners.
As usual, a thousand gratitudes to Tex for agreeing to sit down and talk about his work. I’ve been told Part 2 of The Amaris Civil War is going to be a big one and I can’t wait to watch it.
And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.