"Only thing I left out was: I'm a Vietnam vet. United States Marine Corps. I was an engineer. I blew shit up and loved it" - Doug "Foe Hammer" Johnson
I got a chance to catch up with the man behind Foe Hammer Custom Joysticks. Doug Johnson is an incredible builder, and with the help of his son, Sheppard, He's an even better designer. I had to interview Doug because of his incredible attention to detail, and fascinating luxe design aesthetic. Doug is a vet in the game and probably makes some of the best-looking fightsticks to date - he's even offering to teach young people how to make their own.
Him - Can you introduce yourself to the readers who may not be too familiar with your work? Tell us a little about yourself.
Doug Johnson - I've been around the FGC since 2010, use to be the owner of Dough Johnson Enterprises, custom furniture and cabinet shop in Colorado. I've been a cabinet maker for 35 years and I enjoy working with wood and the designing end of it.
Him - So I gotta ask, you're obviously an expert craftsman, how did you get into making fightsticks?
Doug Johnson - Long story short, a local gamer mom brought the kid into my shop, which we recently had moved. He shows us what he bought online: a 6 button fightstick. This particular custom looked like a first attempt, and the kid told me he paid to have it made, and then a light came on. From there the young man educated me on the FGC, I saw some tourneys and that was it. I called Sheppard, my son, and we formed up FoeHammer Custom Joysticks. Sheppard is to this day a key element in the design and artwork development of it.
Him - Do you have a favorite game?
Doug Johnson - Honestly I'm not a real gamer, but when I did go to EVO I was always watching Street Fighter. I did like Killer Instinct a lot. I still suck at gaming, needless to say.
Him - How has the public response to your product been? Mostly positive?
Doug Johnson - For the most part, the gaming community has been great, but I can't say there hasn't been any negative talk. Some gamers have outright told me to go away, but here I am, going onto 70 years old and still supporting the FGC the best way we can with some low-cost sticks and some killer art.
Him - Wait - Why are people in the FGC telling you to go away?
Doug Johnson - Because they think I'm not relevant to the gamers, but I am, they just don't get it. Sheppard and I have gone as far as to not raising our prices in the last six years just to keep it easy for the young folks to get into it. We've had so many price increases on materials we use but not once have we raised prices. We absorbed the increased cost, which inevitably cost us. We're still here because we like what we do.
Him - Wow
Doug Johnson - Sorry, don't wanna sound whiny. They also, I guess, just don't like old guys in the game. Who knows...
Him - You think they are intimidated by the price?
Doug Johnson - Everyone else's prices have noticeably increased, so I just don't know. We do have a lot of customers that say they're more than happy with our cost and they appreciate our price points. We just sent one more cache to a client that has bought 7 fully loaded custom cases from us, all Venom themed, and he never once complained about the cost, so go figure.
Him - Your stuff is absolutely incredible. How do you find inspiration for the work you do?
Doug Johnson - I learned from my son Sheppard that everything is art. It's just how you look at it. I think that's why some of his stick ideas were so out there for me. Nowadays, it's just looking at everything with an objective eye. Sometimes I'll even wake up in the middle of the night with a new shape or degree of a cut.
Him - Are there any materials or styles you haven't been able to work with yet but plan on it?
Doug Johnson - Wood has been our main source of materials, but we have been experimenting with plexiglass. We have looked at everyone's plexi designs and shapes, and unfortunately, to me, they are basically the same. We, on the other hand, have tried to simplify and streamline by eliminating parts by actually bending plexiglass. We have even gone as far as to bend up to 5/8 inch thick plexi with mixed results.
Him - What sort of advice can you give to people who want to get into this type of work?
Doug Johnson - Advice from the old, is to try everything. Don't limit yourself to any one thing. Practice, practice, practice. When you think you got it all figured out… well… if you do, then you're gonna find out otherwise. We even just recently started showing our trash can with dead cases cause we thought we knew it all - wrong!
Him - Do you have a favorite piece you've done so far?
Doug Johnson - I think to this day my favorite was one of Sheppard's designs, the Star Wars case with the ball-top being the death star. (And Steve, one of the cleanest wire guys out there did the LED, that one was by far my favorite.)
Him - Absolutely amazing. What other things are you into or like to do?
Doug Johnson - I found myself getting burnt out from time to time, so I go down to the range. I love shooting my guns and just relaxing.
Him - Any plans or goals for FoeHammer in 2019?
Doug Johnson - For 2019, our goal is to teach anyone how to build their own case before I finally give up. Tricks of the trade, simple ones, and some tough ones… all before I go.
Him - Thank you so much, Doug. I'll have to take you up on that. Any final thoughts?
Doug Johnson - My final pronounces for the FGC - I remember my first EVO and how great the atmosphere was, but after another EVO I could see the change coming. Folks would do a little trash talk here and there, it's normal I know, but now I watch and read instead of going cause unfortunately this has gotten to another level. It's not just me seeing it, I have watched James Fink read the riot act to our gamers, and a lot of them still don't get it. What the FGC doesn't realize is that you have gamers from around the world for the most part and it's amazing how we all get along, unlike much of the rest of the world.