The Arcade Interview with Ben Briggs

The Arcade’s Gameboy interviews Benjamin Briggs, and talks about his new album The Briggs Effect., Magfest, and more. Uncut interview is available for listening online now.

Gameboy interviews Ben Briggs on The Arcade show, Saturday January 26th. Ben talks about his new album The Briggs Effect, as well as Nedarpalooza 2012, MAGFest 11, his experience in the community, his new video game livestream, and more.

Creating music since he was 14 years old, he has become a great part of the community — you can check out Ben’s video game remixes on ReMix:ThaSauce, and more of his music on his OCReMix profile.

The show aired live on the 91.1 KLSU FM website, but you can still listen to the full, uncut The Arcade’s interview with Benjamin Briggs, and don’t forget that Ben’s new album The Briggs Effect is also available for purchase!

Wardriver Presents Meteocrity Vol. 1 by Meteo Xavier

Meteo Xavier talks about his original album and shares some insight on composing video game soundtracks.

I got the chance to chat with Meteo Xavier about his recent release Meteocrity Vol. 1. The album is a follow-up to his 2010 album Espers and is a collection of original material primarily composed on commission for video game developers. Meteo has made various connections with the arrangement community over the years, having been posted on OverClocked ReMix on more than one occasion and calling upon members to assist in the mastering of Meteocrity.

Among the things that inspired Meteo to put the album together, he noted that “I just got really sick of [the tracks] being on my hard drive purely unused after they failed to be published via the programmers and gaming leads that originally had hired me.” One of his intentions was to create a music portfolio for future video game commissions using the unreleased compositions. He also specified that, “I wasn’t in any position to do another major project like my previous album. My hope was to show I could do more than experimental-sounding, heavily layered atmospheric pieces.” He considers game composers as influences in his own video game music. “Like every pretentious kid with FL Studio and a bunch of free soundfonts, I studied them in hopes of eclipsing them in the grand delusion that is my foray into music. I would have to say I took to Motoi Sakuraba and Hiroki Kikuta the best. Their music was the easiest for me to learn and digest. My rather repetitious forms come from Kikuta and my tendency to completely change up my tracks and have them go on forever came from Sakuraba.”

Elaborating on the “strict commissioner demands” mentioned in the Meteocrity Vol. 1 release notes, Mateo had a lot to say: “Much of my early days trying to earn EXP as a composer were spent being far too naive and earnest for my own good. Granted I wasn’t very good years before, but I genuinely believed I could rise to the task of being a not-for-pay Mitsuda and Uematsu. I had no idea what I was getting into – a sentence that basically is my music career in a nutshell. Spending hours making changes, waiting weeks to hear responses, and then after much severe burnout finding out the tracks won’t work or the game is cancelled basically means ‘strict commissioner demands’ is the utmost generous term I can have for the freaks I used to work for.” Recently he has discovered more pleasant employer, stating “Mark Udit is my first paying employer and was good to work with. I’m currently working on a soundtrack for a Tower Defense game by Mike Bosetti for Android that I should be finishing up on.”

Meteo has expressed that his technique for composing video game scores and for creating standalone music are both the same. “I sometimes go in with a specific idea of what I want to do, but the music will not let me control it; it does what it wants to and my job as composer is basically to clean it up. Sometimes it starts with experimenting with sounds and structures and just playing around, and a lot of my music starts out as just practice or something I made that I kinda liked and saved to develop into something later.” He went into further detail on his process for creating a game soundtrack: “If I go in straight to do a new game track from scratch, I typically try to start with drums and bass to get a groove and some energy going first. I listen to it and see if I can build something off of it, then I go in for chords and rewrite the bass to accommodate the chords. I usually only do for about 4-8 bars and then add the accompaniment frills – arpeggiations, motifs, stabs, what have you – fill it up as much as I want, then I write a melody on top of it and use that for a start.”

Daniel “Usa” Lippert and Jordan “bLiNd” Aguirre were involved in the mastering of Meteocrity Vol. 1. Meteo described how this process came about: “When it came to do mastering for the album, the guy who was previously set up to help me basically screwed me and Usa offered to do it at a severely reduced price. bLiNd also mastered five tracks for me originally for a game I worked on in November 2010 and did a sweet job. I was extremely fortunate for their help and generosity. Daniel and Jordan are two of the nicest guys in all of Christendom and I will bludgeon anyone who says otherwise.”

Meteo explained his decision to release Meteocrity Vol. 1 on the Wardriver label. “I’m friends with my brothers’ old bandmate of whom I approached with the idea to do a free video game album for and he liked it. But at the time telling me he’d master it and put it on there, he was also putting off his commitment to me to go on tour twice and basically leave me in the lurch. I looked for other netlabels and there is a surprising dearth of them for just original video game material and someone finally said Wardriver. I quite liked the idea of working with them to get this album through and, I hope, help get even more traffic and attention their way. ThaSauce treats me with respect as an artist and I cannot let that favor (because that’s what it is these days) go unrewarded.”

Meteocrity Vol. 1 is available for free alongside other artist releases on Wardriver. Meteo expressed gratitude regarding the response to the album. “I want to thank everyone who has posted anything anywhere promoting, endorsing and enjoying this album. Plus those who helped me bring it to life in the first place.”

Thomas Nelson, remixer Ghetto Lee Lewis discusses his Rainless Days album

Video game arranger Thomas Nelson aka Ghetto Lee Lewis talks about his original debut album.

Thomas Nelson, better known in the arrangement community as Ghetto Lee Lewis (GLL), took some time to answer a few of my questions regarding his recent original album Rainless Days. It is the first album he has ever released, featuring somber and reflective solo piano. Nelson is no stranger to the remixing community; several of his tracks are posted on OverClocked ReMix covering games from Dragon Warrior to Tales of Phantasia in the style of trance. With Rainless Days, he uses his raw skill on the keys for an assortment of self-composed material.

As he mentioned in the description of his album page, the release “marks a transition in my life, going from a failed marriage and life of depression to being able to move on with my life and find happiness once again.” He elaborated further on this period of change:  “My wife filed for divorce back in March I think, and so I had to move out. We were married for just over two years. I’ve been living in an apartment with a roommate since then.” Nelson remarked on the album’s title, and how lack of rain “is a metaphor for the emptiness and loneliness I’ve felt for much of my life.” In his Nevada residence, the desert climate is such that rainfall is seen as a special and uplifting event.

Nelson started work on the album on June 6, 2011 and developed it over the course of the month. “I recorded “Song for Miku” about a week before I started on the other tracks.” He noted that the majority of Rainless Days was composed and recorded in about seven days, and completed over three weeks. Nelson produced the album himself and used a mastering preset created with the help of Prophecy. The release carries a floral motif, particularly a rose on the album cover and the song titles “Roses in June” and “Sunflowers”. Nelson acknowledged this as being a deliberate theme. “Flowers are often a symbol of beauty and romance. They can also signify change, since flowers bloom, they wilt, and they die.”

As Nelson specified, the album “was performed on a Casio WK-1800 76 key keyboard, recorded to MIDI into FL studio. The samples are from Tonehammer Emotional Piano sample library.” Nelson has been outspoken on his views of performance versus sequenced piano, which he reaffirms when he cautiously states, “The interpretation of dynamic changes during a performance isn’t supposed to mathematically follow what’s written on paper. Any experienced performer knows this and is able to give music proper rhythm and emotion during a performance. However, it’s just simply not easy to put down on a sequencer.” He also prefers to play an acoustic piano rather than a keyboard, but is unable to move one into his apartment for the time being. “I hope to upgrade my gear to a more playable MIDI controller, probably to a Yamaha KX-88.”

Two songs on Rainless Days make direct references to people with whom he has been acquainted: “Song for Miku” and “Jenni’s Song”. He explained, “I met Miku playing an online chat game, and kind of fell in love with her. I was going through severe depression at the time and she inspired me to actually do something about it. We had kind of a falling out later, but that’s beside the point. I met Jenni playing that same chat game, and became good friends with her.” He was informed of an attack that caused her to be taken to a hospital. “Her song was really just about how I cared about her and didn’t want to lose her. Luckily, she had a speedy recovery, and she’s fine now.”

Nelson is an avid participant in competition compositions. He recalled the time when his interest in compos began. “I met starla during a Las Vegas meetup, and she told me to start participating in One Hour Compo. I’ve entered a few other ones in the past, just because I thought it would be fun, and I had friends who were entering to compete against. So I’ve done OHC on ThaSauce a few times; I’ve done FLMC, PRC, BEER (on OC ReMix), and a few others.” Although compos are generally done to hone one’s craft, he also stated that he hasn’t “really participated in enough of them to improve my efficiency. If anything, I think recording this album helped improve my efficiency of creating new music.”

He acknowledges many inspirations for his music in general. From within OCR, Nelson cites Prophecy, bLiNd, DJ Carbunk1e, FFmusic DJ, Spekkosaurus, Russell Cox, goat, Sir NutS and SgtRama. Outside the community, his influences include Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Robert Miles, Tiësto, Rammstein, Danny Elfman, Nightwish, Juno Reactor, Master P, Dr. Dre, Journey, Guns N’ Roses, Enya, Nobuo Uematsu, Koji Kondo and Koichi Sugiyama.

Rainless Days is available on Bandcamp to stream for free, or as a paid download. Nelson hopes that listeners will support him though his commercial release. “By supporting my music you’re helping me pay rent, buy food, and make more great music. Recommend it to your friends and family too. Thanks!”

Brandon Strader discusses his album, Always Remember

Video game arranger Brandon Strader talks about his recent original album featuring guests from the remixing community.

I asked Brandon Strader some questions about his recent release Always Remember, an original album developed in a two-year period and covering a diverse selection of styles. It is the follow-up to his 2008 album Life and features guest artists from the fan arrangement community. He described his experience working on Always Remember as an “emotional rollercoaster”, though he was quick to cross out or miniaturize this phrase in promotional materials.

Brandon joined OverClocked ReMix at around the age of 15, in 2001. “It was Final Fantasy VII that got me interested in game music back in 1998, and I submitted and failed a Kingdom Hearts remix in 2001, so… OCR can be directly linked to me using and learning Fruity Loops to say the least! But without that knowledge, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” He made a number of connections through the community and culled talent for his Teen Agent arrangement album The Root of All Evil, released in 2010.

The download package for Always Remember includes photos of various collaborators on the album. Brandon explained, “I just tossed ’em in so people could see if they wanted. The pictures are also on the trailer on YouTube.” All the guests featured on the album are members of OverClocked ReMix: Michelle Kwan goes by the handle rhapsodos; Beth Carter releases works under the name Wildfire; and Deia Vengen is DragonAvenger, an OCR judge.

Daniel Lippert, better known in the arrangement community as Usabell, was responsible for the drumming on Always Remember. Brandon had contacted him in the initial stages of development. “I had some ideas and sent him full MIDIs of the songs once they were written so he could play drums… Most of the songs weren’t even written at the time. It’s been a couple years but I remember asking him pretty early on, if not the first thing then pretty close.” Brandon was also very accepting of Daniel’s feedback. “I’d take it from Usa. He’s already helped me a ton with learning some production tricks.”

Brandon’s interest in the community extended to composition competitions. One of his first One Hour Compo entries made quite an impression in 2009. In “My Kitty” he sang about a kitten being his favorite thing, and he meowed on microphone using AutoTune. He went on to pitch-control an actual cat with the Antares software in another entry, continuing an apparent feline theme. For compo he later wrote “Out of Control” that also deals with animals, depicting chaos in the forest and all the wildlife eating each other. Comical munching and growling can be heard under the layered guitar work.

He eventually reworked “Out of Control” as a song for Always Remember. Brandon reached out to Ben “bjkmenu” Kimble to redo the vocal, and he happily obliged. “He really wanted to do it ‘cause he loved that song. [The tracks] ‘I See’ and ‘Thankful’ also have bits from OHC. I wrote stuff that I thought was fun or nice, and they became full songs.”

As the name implies, the song “For My Parents” was created with Brandon’s mother and father in mind. “I made it for my parents with my 7-string guitar. I think it’s the first solo I ever recorded with it, nice whammy bar usage in it. It’s almost like a Dragon Ball Z stand-off song. I may make more songs in that style on future albums (For My Parents Part 2?) and have them all link together stylistically.”

The album is dedicated to the memory of Brandon’s great grandmother Maxine Strader, as well as Gregory Burr. He was “a cousin who shared my birthday, but was older, a father of a good friend who had a newborn baby at the time he passed.” Brandon noted that the album itself carries a somber tone in some of its tracks. Always Remember is his first mass-produced album, and is limited to 100 physical copies. It is free to download from Bandcamp, and both the CD and digital version contain tracks exclusive to each other.

Interview with a ReMixer: Sixto Sounds

The hardworking Texas native Juan Medrano takes time out of his busy day to be interviewed in this classic. Or something. It was conducted in February, so enjoy this article from Mirby’s personal archives.

Originally Posted at Feb 17, 2010 5:47PM PST, updated on November 3, 2010 10:41 PDT for ThaSauce

Juan P. Medrano, alias Sixto Sounds, is a man who lives by his state’s standard: Everything’s bigger in Texas. His remixes are big on the rock, heavy on the guitar, and huge on the quality. Whether it’s remixing a track from a classic Ninja Turtles game or from a recent entry in the Tales of series, he’s doing it, and doing it well. Being a contributor to OCR for 5 years, half the time it’s been around, he’s built up a stable of 20+ tracks, including one to the Dwelling of Duels that’s been accepted and updated over at OCR and a self-admitted ThaSauce exclusive. I recently interviewed him, and this is what he had to say.

Mirby: What started your interest in video game music?

Sixto: Hmmm… well, as a kid i didn’t play video games THAT much. I dabbled in a little Nintendo, little bit of Sega. But there were some games like Punch-Out!!, Afterburner, Sreet Fighter 2, [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV] Turtles in Time where the music just kind of stuck with me. In my head I could always here the music being played by a live band.

M: I was the same way (just different games).

S: Anyway, once I picked up guitar at around 11-12 years of age, I pretty much forgot about video games; wasn’t till maybe 2004 that a friend shared some MP3s with me. Remixes from OCR; It was Prot’s Brainsick Metal and djp’s GerudoInterlude.

M: Two of my favorites! Nice!

S: Yeah, that really drew me into the site and that’s when I started listening to the music of all these older games I used to love…

M: And that’s what started your interest in remixing tracks yourself, I take it?

S: Yeah, exactly; I figured, why not?

M: Are there any tracks you’ve done that you’re more proud of, or like more, than the others?

S: Let’s see… Well, my favorite one might be my Super Hang-On remix “Burn, Baby, Burn.” I think I like it the most because, well, I went in with the idea of making it sound a certain way…

M: Actually, I haven’t heard that one. So I’m going to get it now. I actually have no idea how I missed it…

S: Hehe. I wanted to give it this 80s kind of feel. Not so much 80s metal or anything. Also, this was the first time I was able to get everything sounding just the way I wanted.

M: That’s pretty cool! To continue, which do you prefer; solo tracks, or collaborations?

S: I prefer the solo stuff. To be honest, i’ve never really collaborated, per se… Except for one time, with zircon, on the FF7 project [Voices of the Lifestream].

M: Lunatic Moon?

S: Yeah. In that track, zircon and I wrote together. In all of my other collabs the music had pretty much been written out already.

M: Great track, one of my favorites. Especially with your 45 second or so guitar solo type thing.

S: I do wish I could re-do it; it’s not one of my favorites.

M: Ah, well a true artist in never satisfied with their work, I suppose.

S: True that.

M: Any tracks you’d like to remix in the future?

S: Tons!

M: Such as?

S: Well, I’ve got about 23 project tracks i’m working on; stuff from Megaman X games, Final Fantasy 9, the Dragon Quest games… Lots of stuff. Plus, I’m going to be remixing another track from Turtles in Time, which is probably my favorite game soundtrack.

M: For the Boss Themes project?

S: Yeah.

M: And it is a fairly epic soundtrack.

S: That it is.

M: Fun game too, for that matter.

S: Definitely, even today. That re-shelled version is so great.

M: Re-shelled? Is that some sort of re-release for XBLA or something?

S: Yeah; a remake of the arcade game in 3D. It’s really fun when you play online with 3 friends.

M: That it would be.

M: Do you have a favorite track from a game?

S: Hmmm… That’s a tough one. It would be a toss up between Ken’s Theme in Street Fighter 2 or Sewer Surfing from Turtles in Time.

M: Both of which you’ve remixed.

S: Right!

M: Do you have a favorite video-game composer?

S: I’d probably have to say Motoi Sakuraba. I love Nobuo [Uematsu]’s Final Fantasy stuff, but I dunno…

M: He’s pretty cool. Tales games and Golden Sun, that’s all that really needs to be said

S: I’ve always liked how Motoi writes; more of a modern style. Yeah, I love the Tales soundtracks and the Star Ocean’s.

M: I always liked how there’s a Sakuraba (and Sakuraba III) in Tales of Phantasia. One last question. What do you enjoy most about remixing?

S: Well… I like recording and mixing music. Period. I just love doing it. It feels like it’s something that comes naturally to me. Remixing video game music, though… I guess I just love being part of such a big community, being able to make something that other people enjoy. I still haven’t met any of these people as I’ve never been to MAGFest or a meetup, but I’d like to some day.

M: Well you’re being interviewed by one right now. Thank you for your time. It has been an honor, Sixto.

S: Anytime.

You can find Sixto’s page on OCR here: Artist: Sixto Sounds (Juan P. Medrano), and his page here on ThaSauce at Artist: Sixto Sounds – ReMixer. I’ll keep interviewing them as they come, so stay tuned. Until next time, game on!

Interview with a ReMixer: Gecko Yamori

Daniel Bärlin, alias GeckoYamori, is well-known around the interwebs. Whether it’s some old remixes of his or switching music from Super Nintendo games to Genesis instruments, he’s all over the place. He took some time out of his day earlier for a brief interview. This is the result.

Daniel Bärlin, alias GeckoYamori, is well-known around the interwebs. Whether it’s some old video game remixes of his or switching music from Super Nintendo games to Genesis instruments, he’s all over the place. He took some time out of his day earlier for a brief interview. This is the result.

M: What started your interest in video game music?

GY: Nodding my head to NES music I guess, I’ve been into it for as long as I’ve been into games.

M: I take it you’ve been into games for quite a while then?

GY: For as long as I can remember.

M: Nice. Same here! I honestly can’t recall a time when I wasn’t playing games. Hehe… Okay, next question. What started your interest in remixing?

GY: It just came sort of naturally since I’ve always had an interest in creating music, I had been into tracker music and such before I started remixing.

M: Makes sense; pretty much the same reason I started to make music. That and JH bugging me. Are there any tracks you’ve done that you’re more proud of than the others? Or that you like more?

GY: I am honestly not that fond of my early work in general, though I guess that applies to most musicians. I think Mega Man 2003 (really made at the end of 2002) has aged decently compared to the others, even if it might be a rather uninspired mix from a creative standpoint.

M: As I said in another interview, think it was sixto’s, a true artist is never satisfied with their work.Are there any remixers you haven’t collaborated with in the past that you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

GY: Nekofrog keeps bugging me to collab and I’d like to, but neither of us have really pushed it enough to make it happen so far.

M: That would be a great remix; I’d love to hear it myself. Any tracks you’d like to remix in the future?

GY: I always try to give undermixed games some more attention, I have tried several times to remix tracks from Unreal and Red Alert, but I never show anything publicly unless I think it sounds awesome.

M: That’s a good reason to show it off. Hehe… Do you have a favorite track from a game?

GY: I suck at naming all-time favorites, there’s always something I will prefer over something else at different times. But from the above mentioned games, in Unreal I keep coming back to the Sunspire song and another called Surfacing, and in Red Alert I am more partial to the downtempo tracks like Snake or Vector, rather than the more popular metal stuff.

M: Well I never play favorites. I have like a list of 5 all-time, no wait 10, or 15… See, it just keeps getting longer! I can never decide which ones. Hehe… Do you have a favorite video-game composer?

GY: Same as with songs, I can never pick a single favorite. So I will settle for three favorites from Japan, Europe and Emerica. Naofumi Hataya, Tim Follin and Alexander Brandon.

M: I feel dumb for not knowing who Naofumi Hataya is…

GY: He composed for Sonic CD, parts of Sonic 3D, and Golden Axe 2-3.

M: Ah, well that’s some good music then. Lastly, what do you enjoy most about remixing video game music?

GY: Oh, I actually hate remixing video game music. I’m just in it for the fame.

M: Well I guess fame could be enjoyable… Thanks for your time; this was a fun interview!

GY: You’re welcome.

You can find Gecko’s page on OCR here: Artist: Gecko Yamori (Daniel Bärlin). If you haven’t done so before, stay tuned to ThaSauce here for more articles and such from myself and others!! Until next time, game on!