IP: Having studied music, myself, up until my second year of college, I've always enjoyed how the score of a movie can result in being more dominant than the story itself. How do you fell this translates over to video games?
Mazedude: Well in general some games are big on making the story a big deal, and some just want some sort of quick setup so you can start fighting. Me, I like the story games more. :) And I wouldn't say that the music is more dominant exactly, but there are certainly cases where it's better than the game. I remember Tommy Tallarico showing me a piece of the Advent Rising soundtrack while it was still in development, and he was real proud of it (with good reason). Then the game came out, and didn't do so well in the market. But I still listen to the soundtrack once in a while.
IP: You are a prominent artist in the OC Remix community. However, you remain on the fringe — so to speak — in terms of your musical selections. Games like Blaster Master, Deadly Towers, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus and Rygar are all titles that your have made remixes to that hardly anyone else in the community has touched. What is your motivation for selecting the scores that you do?
Mazedude: Heh, every game you listed was something I played as a kid. And that's what the remixing scene is for me in part — nostalgia. It's not just about "making cool music." If that's all there is, why pick game music music in the first place? Why not film scores or rock bands? The reason I like arranging the game music field is because in doing so I'm bringing back the memories of having fun as a child, and thus reliving the experience of hearing that song for hours on end while I played the game. So while it's not true for every single piece I've done, more often than not I like to pick music from a game that meant a lot to me, not necessarily what's the most popular. And plus, I'm very big on doing what hasn't been done before. And when I came along there were already a whole bunch of Mario and Zelda remixes, so I didn't feel the need to cover anything from those games specifically.
IP: Speaking of Rygar, this is one of my all-time favorite NES games. Not 10 minutes after my first play through when I was a child, I was turning the volume up on the television to experience the soundtrack in all of it's glory. You've remixed three Rygar tracks. I've caught flack for defending this game's soundtrack by many of my peers. Why did you choose to highlight the game's soundtrack for the music community?
Mazedude: Like many others, as a child I took a tape-recorder to the TV, and recorded my favorite game music so I could listen to it later, while doing homework or whatever. One of the games I recorded a lot of tracks from was Rygar. Not all of the music in it was great (what was the deal with that 4-note castle theme???), but a lot of it I just really loved. In fact, as soon as I learned how to write music in 4th grade, I dabbled with a brass quartet arrangement of the cavern theme. My first arrangement ever. Never got recorded or anything, but I remembered it many years later when I joined Overclocked, and decided to bring the theme back another way. I've done three Rygar tracks — the two featured on OCR, and my "Shadow Puppets" arrangement of the floating castle theme, available for download in the Bad Dudes EP # 1 here - www.baddudesmusic.com.
IP: Ok, this will be the last time I mention Rygar, but your Trippin' on Snails is one of the hippest remixes out there. Is there any hope of seeing a full cover of Rygar's soundtrack done in this style?
Mazedude: Well, I get bored very easily, and seldom do the same style twice. So that request is doubtful. But I'm glad ya like the tune; that happens to be my wife's favorite as well. :)
IP: Now that I got my fanboy compulsion out, let's focus on some other works of yours. Your latest piece for the Bad Dudes EP "Jingle All The Way," features your remix of Ghosts & Goblins, Ghosts 'N Condoms. How did you go about taking a four second clip of music and building it to what you did?
Mazedude: It took quite a few tries actually. I tried slowing it way down and make it Halloweeny with organs and bells... didn't work. Tried industrial, didn't work. Then one day I was goofing around with some synth samples and made that opening bit, and then just built it from there. If you listen carefully, you can hear the initial 4-second riff embedded into the chords, the bass line, the synth lead... it's all over the place. Sometimes it's slowed down, sometimes it's turned upside down, but it's in there the whole time. It's a technique that a lot of classical composers used to do back in the day: they'd take a motif, sometimes as short as 3 notes, and use that as a building block for an entire work. I guess this is my way of trying to do the same thing, but electronically.
IP: The Wily Malfunction lies somewhere in between genius and insanity. The anticipation of hearing the main theme's resolution at the beginning and then being smacked in the ears with Wily's malfunction, thus preventing the listener from hearing the resolve has got to be one of the most difficult things I have heard. It really serves as a great metaphor for Wily's robot designs. Your thoughts on this piece?
Mazedude: Well, the initial notion behind this work is as simple as "Hmm, I want to do a Megaman 2 remix... but EVERY theme has been done before... well, except for that chromatic and looping Wily stage theme... but how can I make that into a full remix?" This was a rare instance also where I'd work on it for a bit, put it down, come back a few months later, doodle some more, leave again, and so on. I couldn't decide whether to make the whole thing chippy (with the sounds in the beginning), or whether to have it switch over to standard electronica, or combine the two, or what. Eventually I explored all the options to a point where I was able to weave them together into a cohesive mix, and... there's the piece. Very difficult, but a lot of fun.
IP: Super Mario Kart's Trippin' on Rainbows is another piece of your that sticks out in my mind of being pure gold. The beginning is very uneasy, but there is a calm once the muted trumpet comes in. And then, like a spring of hope, the main theme comes in with the trumpet being serenaded by a great alto sax accompaniment, all the while an industrial beat drives the piece. Your thoughts on this piece?
Mazedude: I don't even remember what my initial ideas on this were, but the piece pretty much took over once I started. I think this was my first foray into the realm of acid jazz, but once I got rolling it just took over and went all over the place. That's actually some of my favorite type of writing, where it just all happens in a rush and I'm not even sure what happened when it's over. And I also have a really hard time doing any single style by itself. Like, doing straight-up jazz is hard for me, but mixing it with acid and industrial elements, now that's more like it.
IP: And alongside all of the jazz and electronic beats in your pieces, you have Island of Zeal which is layered with so many colors that it's hard to describe. While the original has a steady, almost mombo feel to it, your arrangement's manner in how it layers the melody gives it the feeling of jazz, symphony and a boy's choir, all in one. How were you able to bring so much depth to one piece?
Mazedude: Ah yes, my very first piece on Overclocked, the one that started it all. I guess the inspiration for this came from a few places. I wanted to stay true to the original, but it felt rather empty at first in my version, so the added layers were more to fill it out than an attempt to make it sound deep. The oboe complimented the sitar nicely, the harp complimented the pizzicato, and so on. And I love playing with ethnic instruments in general, and since this was a piece with ethnic elements, but wasn't exactly supposed to sound like world music in a specific genre, I felt comfortable bringing in other exotic elements that wouldn't typically match... like the pan flutes, and choir.
IP: Surface of the Moon from Final Fantasy IV is both eerie and compelling, much like Super Metroid's Norfair Deathmarch. What does it mean for you to be able to explore the darker side of video game scores?
Mazedude: Well I like a good challenge, so I sometimes pick the stranger, more chromatic tracks to work from. I could list a whole bunch of pieces I've done from some very bizarre source material. Just check out my Earthbound mixes. Crazy. And plus sometimes they're just the tracks I like and remember the best; when I played through FF4 that moon music really grabbed me, as well as the Norfair theme. So when I tried to think of what to remix next, those came to mind.
IP: Can you give us any preview of what is to come from the mind of Mazedude?
Mazedude: Well I'm not one to give anything away that's not entirely finished, but I can tell you that I've finished some tracks from the upcoming Megaman 9, Tim Follin, and Wild Arms projects. And the Bad Dudes have joined with OCR for a "Heroes vs. Villains" project, where the Bad Dudes claim a villain to the corresponding hero tackled by an OCR-person. Read more here. I've claimed Mother Brain, while my friend, Big Giant Circles, is battling me and taking Samus. :) And ya know what, here's a special treat. I remixed a few themes from Kirby Superstar a while back for a remix project that I just learned has been canceled. So they're free. Enjoy.
- Mummy Dance - http://mazedude.com/music/Mzd-Mummy.mp3
- Samurai Kirby - http://mazedude.com/music/Mzd-Samurai.mp3
IP: Is there anything else you would like to add to the interview?
Mazedude: Just to all the aspiring musicians out there, if you're looking to get into making music, make sure it's something that you have fun with, and only write music that you'll enjoy listening to. It's amazing how many composers out there never listen to their own work. Either they write for technical reasons, or because they want to sound like someone else, or because they're making what they think other people will like. And they're not happy doing it. Me, I listen to my music all the time, and I know full well that there's a lot of my work out there that people DON'T like. Because I didn't write it for them. I did it for me. :)
IP: Thanks, Christopher, for taking the time to let Incoming Pull's readers see the man behind the music. I know myself, as well as the gaming community, anxiously look forward to seeing what other remixes you come up with.
Mazedude: You're welcome. Normally this is where I'd plug my music website, but ironically haven't had the time to finish it yet. But stay tuned to ocremix.org and baddudemusic.com for fun stuff coming up. My next works include some more stylistic mimics, some bizarre homages, and even more crazy fusion.
IP: Thanks again, mate. I really appreciate you corresponding with me. (I'll keep holding my breath for a Trippin' on Rygar album.)
Mazedude: Dude, I really like how you asked about specific tracks. Usually the questions I get are vague and all-encompassing, like about what programs I use and stuff. It was fun to stop and think about specific tracks, and answer questions related to them. Thanks for that. I hope your readers enjoy the interview.