The Arcade Interview with Ben Briggs

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!


Following their amazing performance at MAGFest X, the EARTHBOUND PAPAS gracefully held a Q&A panel the following morning that we were able to attend. Suffice to say, we learned tons of things about some of our favorite composers, including lighter facts about their personal lives (all of EBPs apparently love steak and beer, would rather ride chocobos than cars, and listen to the Doors) and their subsequent experiences as songwriters, as members in a band, and at Square Enix.

An official MAGFest video of the EBPs panel has been embedded above. Although we’ve managed to cover the entire transcription of the EARTHBOUND PAPAS panel below for instant gratification, the band answers almost every question you’ve been dying to know about video game music composition, dealing with issues of what Final Fantasy VIII song you should play to propose to your girlfriend to more serious matters of dealing with the evolution of gaming hardware and the reality behind dealing with composition as a career.

By the way, have you heard about the EARTHBOUND PAPAS remix/arrange contest? If not, you should keep informed to win a chance to be a guest performer on the next EBP album!

[EXPAND CLICK HERE for the complete transcription of the EARTHBOUND PAPAS Q&A Panel]

ANNOUNCER: Well, first off, let’s give a round of applause from these guys coming all the way to MAGFest. Applause and whistling.

HANYUDA: Ah, good morning everyone. My name is Arata Hanyuda, the drummer of the EARTHBOUND PAPAS. Thank you for coming.

HIROTA: Did you enjoy yesterday’s show? Round of applause and cheers. Thank you. I’m the bass player, Yoshitaka Hirota.

UEMATSU: Good morning, I’m Nobuo Uematsu. Thank you very much for coming, we really enjoyed last night’s show. Thank you very much.

NARITA: Good morning. I’m Tsutomu Narita, keyboard and guitars.

OKAMIYA: Hello? Hello. Laughs. You all rock, no, no, you rock. My name Michio Okamiya, guitar.

TRANSLATOR: Okay, my name is Shida. I’ll be translating this panel. So, do you guys have any questions now? I don’t know how we’re gonna do this, but let’s line you guys up in front of the microphone and have you guys ask questions.

INTERVIEWER, roughly translated: What are you favorite foods?

HANYUDA: Hamburger. Hamburger and steak.

HIROTA: Sushi and steak.

UEMATSU: I like ramen and steak.

NARITA: I like pasta and steak.

OKAMIYA: Sandwiches and steak.

INTERVIEWER: We all know Nobuo likes Sam Adams, so what’s your favorite drinks in Japan? Type and brand if you could, please.

OKAMIYA: Abashiri Beer. And steak.

NARITA: Green soda.

UEMATSU: You mean, Japanese brand?


UEMATSU: Abashiri beer is very good, you know?

HIROTA: Um, miso soup. And steak.

HANYUDA: Gravy sauce on steak.

INTERVIEWER: I just want to ask some of your favorite compositions that you made that may not be the fan favorites that we might really know that much that may be personal favorites?

UEMATSU: “Slam Shuffle”. Applause.

INTERVIEWER: As some of us know, the EARTHBOUND PAPAS CDs that you brought along are completely sold out and I was just wondering if there’s any chance they might be put up on American sites, like and the like for other people to purchase?

TRANSLATOR: Okay, you can buy it from Dog Ear Records website and he can tell you more about that, he’s from Dog Ear Records. Points at representative off-stage.

INTERVIEWER: Oh hi. This goes for all of you, or mainly Nobuo. When you come up with music, how do you know when the scene’s going to fit when you make the music in your games?

UETMATSU, trans.: You kind of have to do it when you’re so close to the deadline. Smiles and nods head.

INTERVIEWER: Can I get a hug?

UEMATSU stands up and places arms in hugging motion. INTEVIEWER runs up and gives Uematsu, the rest of the members and translator a hug. Laughs and applause heard all around.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much for the great concert last night. My question is for composers who have done both animation and video game music. What are some of the challenges of animation versus video games in composing music?

UEMATSU, trans.: Probably the biggest difference is, well, first of all, the technology is so advanced now, so, sound quality-wise it’s not that different. But for anime music, even if you compose a long piece, they may use a second of it or two seconds of it.  And for video games, you don’t know how long the player is going to spend on certain stages so you kind of have to worry about the loops.

INTERVIEWER: I’m just wondering what other projects you’ve enjoyed doing in your time before this span? What ones were your favorite to work on? Anything ranging from games to performances.

TRANSLATOR: You mean the whole band?


UEMATSU, trans.: I have worked on so many projects but nothing in particular stands out because I love them all. Particularly speaking, Fantasy Life which is a 3DS game which is coming out pretty soon, I composed a bunch of different styles of genres and composed about seventy to eighty different pieces of music. It was a really different side of me and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

HANYUDA, trans.: When I worked at Square Enix on Final Fantasy XI, we did a lot of fan festivals and that was probably the most enjoyable thing.

HIROTA, trans.: Well, I can’t speak the title, but there’s a PS Vita game that I worked on and I have tended to like recent games more. And also, playing in the rock band that I really love.

TRANSLATOR: I’m sure he’s talking about EARTHBOUND PAPAS.

NARITA, trans.: I enjoy all the works that I am involved with, but particularly Green Saga, that’s the TV animation that I worked with Uematsu-san. That was the first thing that I worked on with him and that was probably the most memorable thing.

OKAMIYA, trans.: You may not know this, but I worked on this software on DS that’s a KORG DS-10 and also the Black Mages.

INTERVIEWER: Good morning. You guys had an awesome concert last night. I want to know what your favorite moment was or a memorable moment while you were recording for your new band.

NARITA, trans.: There’s this song called “Homecoming” on the EARTHBOUND PAPAS CD. It’s the last song. And when we recorded the percussion loop, we got together at Uematsu-san’s place and we surrounded the microphone and just played a bunch of instruments all together. I remember that quite strongly.

UEMATSU, trans.: We recorded a lot of stuff in my home studio and there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about if you do that: there’s no fee for renting the studio so you can keep doing it for as many hours as possible, but I probably spent more time for smoking and drinking. Laughter and applause ensues.

OKAMIYA, trans.: For Black Mages, everyone brought their arrangements and we played exactly from the sheet music. But this time, we kind of brought in rough ideas to the studio and we worked together as a band and it felt really like a band.

HIROTA, trans.: There’s a song called “Bo-Kon-Ho-Ko” on EARTHBOUND PAPAS album and there’s a place that I do rap. Murmuring laughter. I recorded and dubbed two different voices, a regular voice and also a lower, registered voice. And in the studio, I would be talking in the lower voice and everyone would make fun of me.

HANYUDA, trans.: The girl who worked at the mastering studio…. she was really cute.

INTERVIEWER: I guess just had a question for everyone who had worked at Square [Enix] in the past… What was it like working with the whole team and working with Sakaguchi-san [former president of Square Enix] and in the end, when the game is finished, coming together and seeing the fruition of all your hard work?

UEMATSU, trans.: It’s been twenty-five years but the best experience was the company was really, really small when I joined. There were only about twenty people and Sakaguchi was only a college kid back then… But because of the success of the Final Fantasy series, the company kept growing and to see that happening was the best experience.

HIROTA, trans.: I remember exchanging letter openings with the staff and sound effects teams. When I went to the refreshing room, Uematsu-san would be talking to other staff members and if I listened too closely, they were thinking about jokes to tell to people. I remember that strongly.

HANYUDA, trans.: I appreciate Square Enix for having me meet Uematsu-san and also the video games. Pause. And also meeting my wife at Square Enix.

OKAMIYA, trans.: The first I worked on was Final Fantasy IV, and I initially joined the company as a PR person and Sakaguchi-san told me not to play music as much, just to focus on promotion. But Sakaguchi-san also plays the guitar and his effectors are, I have his effectors and it says Hironobu on it, his name. And I have a twelve-string guitar, which was owned by him that he got from Uematsu-san.

INTERVIEWER: Good morning, first I’d like to say thank you for answering our questions this morning. My question is directed to Nobuo: you’ve worked with a lot of different technology through the evolution of video games from Nintendo to today. Each system has its own sound, so my question is what technology was your favorite to work with?

UEMATSU, trans.: I’m not really particular about the hardware and technology. I think what moves people is the melody, great melody, so I don’t really care about the hardware or what hardware I work on.

INTERVIEWER: Also, one more thing: earlier this morning, my friend dropped his wallet in the lobby and someone on your team picked it up and returned it so he’d like to thank you.

HANYUDA raises his hand and nods. Loud applause is heard.

INTERVIEWER: Good morning. First of all, thank you for a wonderful concert last night. It was an honor to listen to you all play. My question is a little similar to the last one. For those of you who worked on composing for Famicom and Super Famicom, and also composed for the modern systems, did you find that you had to be more creative to work within the limitations of the older hardware or do you find now that you can really express your full creativity now that there’s, you know, one compressed audio in the new systems?

UEMATSU, trans.: The ones with the limitations, you can be more creative. When you work under limitations, you have to look at certain things and you really have to be creative and you think a lot. Now that you don’t have any limitations, you don’t really do as much work.

INTERVIEWER: Hola. Tu eres… Okay, well, you describe your music and your songs as being your children. He describes his music and his melodies as his children. Well, I would like to show your my firstborn. My first child. Plays guitar.

HANYUDA gets up and begins playing drums. When INTERVIEWER stops, members of EARTHBOUND PAPAS clap.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you. I guess for question, it would be: If you were a ‘summon’, if you had to choose to be one ‘summon’, which ‘summon’ would you choose?

HANYUDA: Ifrit! Noticeable surprised gasps and cheers.

HIROTA: Shiva.

UEMATSU: Shiva, me too.

NARITA: Mogri.

OKAMIYA: Bahamut.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you for being here, so happy to be able to talk to you. I want to ask my girlfriend to marry to me and I want the tone with a piece of music from Final Fantasy VIII. I was wondering what piece I should use.

UEMATSU: “Eyes On Me”.

HANYUDA, jokingly: “Don’t Be Afraid”. Band members clap in unison.

NARITA: “Maybe I’m a Lion”.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you coming out to Washington D.C. to play for us last night. This is a question for everyone — if you could be a creature from the entire Final Fantasy series as a pet, which creature would you pick and why?

NARITA: Moogle. [Trans.] Because a moogle is comical.

UEMATSU, trans.: You know, the vehicles are really bad for the environment so I would ride on a chocobo.

HIROTA, trans.: He would like to take a walk with a Cerberus.

HANYUDA: I’d like to rave with Knights of the Round. Laughter.

OKAMIYA: Gilgamesh. Cheers heard. [Trans.] I’d like to have a younger brother like Gilgamesh.

INTERVIEWER: You guys have written for Final Fantasy for a long time and you’ve done a whole bunch of similar situations for compositions; you have a battle situation, a boss situation, a world map. How do you avoid writing the same melodic ideas, or having a varied piece every time composed for similar situations?

UEMATSU, trans.: I feel like I’m making kind of similar things all the time. Is that okay? Giggling heard in audience.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much for the excellent concert last night. I’m just curious, what are some of the highlights of MAGFest that you’re going to tell people why we’re so awesome? [This is] for everyone.

TRANSLATOR: Square Enix… or….

INTERVIEWER: No, just in general. Like the concert last night.

UEMATSU, trans.: They paid for the meals.

HIROTA, trans.: So much beer.

HANYUDA, trans.: The nice environment. View and everything. The lady who came in last night for the session, she said she was going to Kushima to volunteer for nine months and I was very, very impressed by that.

NARITA, trans.: I love this place, it’s beautiful architecture, the hall is great, the hotel is great, and the lighting show downstairs… Ogawa-san there ran down as soon as he saw it and took a bunch of pictures.

OKAMIYA, trans.: I don’t see these community-based events in Japan that much and I would love to come here next year, too. Please give some hands to the staff, to the people who worked on the concert. They worked very hard. Applause all around the room.

INTERVIEWER: Hi, my question is for Nobuo. How you were approached to compose the opera from [Final Fantasy] VI and what was the inspiration behind it?

UEMATSU, trans.: I had never written anything like that before and Sakaguchi-san said like “let’s do something fun, something bombastic” so I wrote my first opera piece. As soon as the game came out, Koichi Sugiyama from Dragon Quest, he called me up and he knows for opera — he’s a trained composer — and he said, “why didn’t you talking to me before you wrote it?” Laughter.

INTERVIEWER: I was a piano player when I was a kid and came home after playing Final Fantasy VI and told my mom, “I think there’s a video game that has Beethoven in it”. I didn’t know at the time that it was you. You’ve been a huge inspiration on my life, I’m now a composer. I just want to know, was there ever a turning point in your life that gave you as much inspiration as you’ve given me?

UEMATSU, trans.: I had a lot of LPs back home when I was a kid, but they’re mostly classical music. I didn’t really think about doing music for a living but when I started listening to rock and pop jams, I felt like “maybe I can do this”. That was my turning point.

INTERVIEWER: First of all, thank you so much for coming here, I’ve been in love with the Final Fantasy series for a long time now and it’s just a great honor to be able to meet you and hear you perform live, which was a fantastic performance last night. I was wondering, what’s kind of the process for the creation of character themes? How do you draw inspiration to really capture the essence of Final Fantasy characters in music?

UEMATSU, trans.: I read the dialogues quite a lot before I compose anything, and I think about what kind of voice the character has and what kind of character or personality he has, then I make it.

INTERVIEWER: I’m very nervous. First off, I’d like to thank you for last night and staying late to sign those autographs. That was very gracious of you. We all appreciate that so very much. My question for you is: is there any American music in particular that you like or that has inspired you? For everyone.

UEMATSU, trans.: I probably know about American music more than any one of you here. Laughter. I grew up listening to a lot of American music because I wanted to be, decided to be a composer when I was in middle school and I thought I’d obtain Japanese music from somewhere else so I didn’t listen to and shut out a lot of Japanese music. I’d spend a lot of time listening to Top 40s Billboard hits.

INTERVIEWER: What about the Doors?

UEMATSU, trans.: We listen to Doors and I love it.

HANYUDA: Metallica. Laughter. Especially “Fight Fire with Fire”. Do you know that?  And “Battery”.

HIROTA: Nine Inch Nails. Cheers heard. [Trans.] I was inspired more by American rock music than Japanese music.

NARITA, trans.: I listened to quite a lot of classical music and film scores as well as rock music like Metallica. My dream was listening to New York Phil and Chicago Symphony here in the U.S., but another dream came true before that, which is performing to you as a rock band.

OKAMIYA, trans.: They said what I wanted to say. Laughs. Was going to name some professional wrestlers. I love funk music. Other than what Uematsu-san said, I listen to Parliament, they’re from D.C., and I listen to Trouble Funk and James Brown. And Michael Jackson. Applause.

INTERVIEWER: I wanted to thank you, first of all like everyone else, for coming in and performing for us last night. My question for you is: how did you come around forming the name EARTHBOUND PAPAS?

UEMATSU, trans.: I don’t really know, but there’s an album called Earthbound by King Crimson and if I just named to band Earthbound, it just sounds like we’re a progressive band… So Earthbound would be kind of a hardcore, progressive rock band so I put PAPAS so it just sounds like middle-aged men playing rock music. Laughter.

INTERVIEWER: Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Uematsu-san. I have two questions. First one is for the whole band.  For example, I know Hirota-san has arranged and written for tribute albums that came out this year and I’m wondering besides the music, what are some other video game soundtracks that you’d like to arrange professionally or to perform as a band?

TRANSLATOR, talking of HIROTA: He said that doesn’t exist. Band members laugh. So I was told.

HIROTA, trans.: I’ve known Mitsuda for quite some time since I was a teenager and I worked with him again on Shadow Hearts and I’d love to do some work on his music.

UEMATSU, trans.: Nothing negative, but I’m not really interested in arranging music. If you’re talking about the human body, I make the heart — the core of the human body and arranging is like changing, so I’m not really going to take any arranging jobs. I’m more interested in composing.

NARITA, trans.:  I worked with Uematsu-san quite  a lot, but I’m a composer myself so I really do enjoy the composing part. I’ve worked on this game called Unchained Blades Rexx and I really enjoyed composing for that game, but as far as arranging goes, arranging Uematsu-san’s music is the best.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, and real quick, Uematsu-san, since we’re both progressive fans and I took a raincheck in Baltimore, can you put me in the Full Nelson really quick?

UEMATSU stands up and obliges INTERVIEWER’s request. Cheers heard.

INTERVIEWER: Good morning. I have no regret in beating a dead horse by saying thank you very much for making the trip down here. We hope you’ll be coming back down to MAGFest in the near future. My question is for all you: what would you say your mantras are, or just words to live by, things to believe? What would you say would be your personal words to live by?

UEMATSU, trans.: The most important thing is you do it without thinking, without worrying about things.

HANYUDA: Take it easy and have fun.

HIROTA, trans.: There’s a Japanese old song saying that, “A moment is like a dream, so be passionate about the moment.”

NARITA, trans.: Just like Hanyuda-san said, enjoy your life.

OKAMIYA: Don’t take fear! Laughter and applause.

INTERVIEWER: I’ve been listening to the Black Mages since high school, so thank you. Please come back to MAGFest in the future. Clearly, this community is built in large part by arrangement in video game music, fan reinterpretations of the original work. What sorts of fan works have you heard and which ones do you enjoy?

UEMATSU, trans.: “Dancing Mad” arrangement of the band that went before us. I had never thought of playing that song with three guitars and it was so, so wonderful.

HIROTA, trans.: Me too, “Dancing Mad” from yesterday.

HANYUDA, trans.: I saw a guy who posted a video on YouTube, he’s playing one of the Black Mages songs and I thought he was better than me.

NARITA, trans.: The band the day before yesterday, they played “Those Who Fight Further” and I really like that, and also “Dancing Mad”, I ran around like a kid and took a bunch of photos. Laughter.

OKAMIYA, trans.: We didn’t have that much time to listen to bands  and I was I had more time but same, “Those Who Fight Further” and “Dancing Mad”.

INTERVIEWER: I’ve been really inspired by anime and game music, specifically Japanese video game music so much so that I have started a show. I was wondering maybe what inspired or attracted you to the industry? I’d also be honored to give you a CD.

UEMATSU, trans.: I don’t know what to answer to this question because a bunch of people asked about inspiration quite a lot and I get inspired by anything, my iTunes has about 80 gigabytes of music. I listen to classical, jazz, rock, and it’s a shuffle, so that’s where I get inspiration from. I’d love to get your CD.

End of panel.


Wardriver Presents Meteocrity Vol. 1 by Meteo Xavier

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.”

Double Interview: New EPs by Amphibious and ProjektZero

I recently got the chance to interview Amphibious and ProjektZero about their respective EP releases: Oceans and Getting to Know You. Both artists have associations with the arrangement community, so I asked them each about the stories behind the making of their tracks, their influences and how creative competitions have affected their work.

Amphibious – Oceans EP

Amphibious has gained a reputation for creating ambient, chilled music with fluid movement. To that end, his release Oceans is a concept EP, specifically referencing a journey through the sea as a topic. Amphibious explained his motivations for exploring a musical narrative. “I’ve always been told my songs remind people of water for some reason, and the ideas I came up with definitely had that vibe, so I decided to add a theme to my EP. It also sort of fits with the name Amphibious, which is cool too.”

Work on the album began in early June and continued over the summer. He stated that, “I’d been experimenting with music a lot over the last year or so. I got Komplete in May for my birthday, and I spent a few weeks learning the various things in the package. But for the most part, the songs I started never did get finished. One of my roommates and I were talking about how I didn’t really see many through to the end, so I decided I’d take this summer as an opportunity to change that. I sat down and got some ideas ready. That is when I started to work on my new songs for the EP.”

Meteo Xavier contributed the EP’s artwork. Amphibious initially created a cover image himself, and related an anecdote to that effect: “I knew my artwork was bad when I originally made it, but I figured something quick and shoddy would be better than nothing. I got a few comments on OC ReMix about how bad it was; Meteo in particular wanted to redo it himself and I guess he decided to whip something up quick. I’m really happy with it, he did it pretty quickly but it’s infinitely better than what I had before.  Many thanks to him.”

When asked about the contributing factors to his musical style, Amphibious noted that “This particular album had a lot of influence from David Arkenstone. He did a lot of world and Celtic music such as the tavern music in World of Warcraft, but he released a chillout album that I absolutely love. ‘Plunge’ in particular draws influence from that.  I would also say the Metroid Prime soundtrack has had some influence on me as well.”

The track “Pelagic Fortress” on the EP started off as an entry for a composition competition.  Amphibious shared his thoughts on time-constrained musical gatherings: “When I first heard about compo, it seemed like a cool idea, but two hours sounded so short.  However once I tried it, I was pretty amazed at what I could come up with in such a short time frame. ‘Pelagic Fortress’ in particular fit the theme of my album very well. Overall the compos definitely have helped me with efficiency. And having a theme given to you is sometimes a helpful way to come up with new ideas.”

Oceans EP is currently available at Bandcamp for free, or pay-what-you-want pricing. Amphibious is pleased with the response to the release, noting that “I’d still consider myself a bit of an amateur, and there have been some fair criticisms, but some people have really enjoyed my stuff and I’m very pleased with that.”

ProjektZero – Getting to Know You

Matt “ProjektZero” Rittinghouse identifies with the nerdcore scene, though his music has recently gravitated away from his rap roots and toward groove-based, melodic pop songwriting. His EP carries a unifying concept, as he expressed that “the theme with Getting to Know You is that I wanted each song to provide some glimpse at me as a person, or the things I feel. ‘Loop On’ deals with relationships; ‘331’ and ‘Mannequins’ deal with friendships and isolation; ‘The Stand’ deals with my geekier tendencies; and ‘Fake It’ deals with this sort of transition out from my teenage years.”

Untested Methods and zircon are credited with mixing on specific tracks. Matt explained how these collaborations came about: “I met Eric (Methods) at Nerdapalooza 2010. I’m a huge fan of a lot of his remixes, but I’m probably a bigger fan of the chiptune-infused synthpop style he has developed in his independent work. He and I are both music production geeks that use FL Studio, so we’ve been chatting fairly regularly since Nerdapalooza, and we’ve tried several efforts at collaboration along the way. This was just the first one that made it to a finalized, published product.”

Matt considers zircon and the OC ReMix community to be a great motivation and influence on his production. He elaborated on zircon’s contribution to the EP: “I’ve had zircon on my contacts list since he did a series of FL Studio production tutorials a few years back. I had been struggling very, very hard to mix ‘The Stand’. I’d worked on it for eight hours a day, for three days straight, and had finally just fallen into despair over mixing the song. So I shot zircon a message, and he graciously offered to help me out. He pretty much saved that track from falling apart.”

Getting to Know You includes a cover version of a song by Brad Turcotte called “Fake It”. Matt expressed his desire was to cover this song, and include it on the EP. “Through my old school nerdcore ways, I’m hip to a place called SongFight, where Brad is a regular competitor. I feel like I’m a broken record for saying it, but I’m a huge fan of his work, and his entire album Out of It is absolutely classic to me. I specifically chose ‘Fake It’ because I felt like it sort of encapsulated the changes that I went through in college. I think that song feels like every twenty-something’s anthem.”

JG Hollowell, also known as Mithurn, provided the second rhythm guitar heard on “Loop On”. Matt talked about how they both became acquainted: “JG is an old, old friend of mine. Probably since before I started making music, or at least somewhere around that time frame. I met him through an MMO, but it just so happened that he lived in Charleston close to me. I went off to college, but met back up with him shortly after I graduated.” Matt also remarked on their collaborative process by saying that, “He presents a whole different dynamic to songwriting when I work with him. I can’t just fall back into sequencing; I have to work live. I’m playing guitar and singing, trying to come up with melodies or chords on the spot. He has a lot more of a free jam session background, and I strongly respect that. ‘Loop On’ evolved from a jam between us.”

The track “Mannequins” on the EP originated as a track ProjektZero made for a compo. Matt expressed his thoughts on the composition competition experience, stating  “I absolutely feel that the compos benefited me. I’ve put out six albums since I’ve started doing them. Of course, most of those directly came from the compos. This new EP is more refined, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the compo experience. The advice and the high pressure trial-and-error was just invaluable to shaping my songwriting.” He agreed that the mannequin concept from One Hour Compo was somewhat unusual, but felt that “that’s what was liberating about it. I couldn’t get lost in the theme, specifically because it was obscure. So to really thrive with mannequins as a concept, you had to make it your own. And I think that’s what made that week’s theme probably my favorite one of the entire series so far.”

Getting to Know You is available now at Bandcamp with free or name-your-price options. The cover art was created by Brett Houston.

Metroid 25th Anniversary Fan Album Harmony of a Hunter Released

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the Metroid franchise. I spoke with Darren, founder of the Metroid enthusiast website Shinesparkers, about the fan arrangement album he directed titled Harmony of a Hunter. The release features thirty-six tracks covered by twenty-four artists paying tribute to the Metroid series in a variety of genres.

Darren expressed his passion for the franchise and detailed his inspiration for taking on such an album project: “I noticed that Nintendo seemed quite focused on celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda franchise, and I felt that Metroid was becoming overlooked. So I thought to myself that if Nintendo can’t do anything to mark my favourite franchise, then I would. It turns out that I wasn’t alone because a lot of people in the community wanted the anniversary to be marked and this is what gave me the determination to make this project work.” Darren also felt that music of the series was deserving of tribute, as he states  “Metroid has a great deal of memorable music that compliments the atmosphere that the series gives”.

The project began in December 2010 and involved a great deal of artists and other specialists in its creation. Darren spoke of how his communication skills came of use in directing the album, which he felt was an crucial component of directing the project: “In my opinion, communication is the key element to ensuring a project like Harmony of a Hunter works. I worked as closely as I could with people and offered suggestions and critique on certain tracks. I offered my thoughts where I felt they were needed but never pushed, demanded or limited the creative flow of the individual. If I did, the album would never have had the diverse range of talent that we have. I also feel that the project would have become more of a chore than a celebration. Asking for a track to be handed in by a certain date with no further communication just wouldn’t work.”

Harmony of a Hunter carries a wide selection of styles and genres. Darren expressed his views on this eclecticism and the cohesiveness of the release as a whole: “I feel the diversity of the album was important because I wanted an album that would appeal to as many people as possible.” He commended Lee “The Orichalcon” Barber’s mastering of the album under the circumstances, as he reveals that “Lee has done a great job at blending some of these tracks into others which surprisingly, flow very well. Due to the nature of the project this was always going to be a tricky to master, but Lee has previous experience with mastering projects and I trust his judgment and his skills.”

Darren reached out to the OverClocked ReMix community when he conceived the project: “I have always admired musicians such as The Orichalcon, DarkeSword, zircon… and in the early days of the project I wouldn’t have even dreamed that they would have contributed to this. I am so very thankful that they did because their contributions have been excellent.” At one point, some discussion had taken place regarding possible endorsement as an official OC ReMix album; however due to Darren’s goal of releasing it on the Metroid anniversary, this was not feasible.

Harmony of a Hunter is available now at the Shinesparkers fan site, which features exclusive content related to the Metroid franchise. The album landing page was designed with the help of Erik “VikingGuitar” Peabody, incorporating artwork contributed by Nate “FoxxDragon” Horsfall.

Thomas Nelson, remixer Ghetto Lee Lewis discusses his Rainless Days 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

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.

Raptr Interviews the Mustin

No, that’s not a typo. No, I’m not talking about the rapture. I’m talking about Raptr, the video game community of over 8+ million users (and incidentally home of the former head truck driver). They’ve recently started a weekly podcast and in their latest episode Mustin talked a bit about the OneUps and what’s in-store for them in the next coming months.

You can check out the full interview in the podcast on Raptr’s blog:

Interview with a ReMixer: Sixto Sounds

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 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!