It’s the third instalment of Musical Mayhem! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaas.
This is probably one of my favourite things to do, but it’s also one of the most time-consuming: I have to have those initial chats with each of my guests, then go off and actually write a whole piece of music, which takes probably a good five or six hours for a two-minute little track. For those who are interested, I’m currently using free software called MuseScore, and it’s… well, it’s alright. It’s designed to allow people to create scores, or sheet music, and it does that rather well for a little bit of freeware, but it really isn’t designed to play that music back with any sort of decent quality. I have been investigating upgrading my software, since this is now something I’m getting really quite into and I’d like to be able to do it a bit more better, and I think I’d like to be able to use FLStudio (formerly known as Fruity Loops), which would give me much better control over how the instruments sound and generally make the tracks sound much nicer. As it is, I’m able to create a rough appropriation of the notes that the instruments would play, but I can’t actually make it sound as if there’s anything other than a rubbish little MIDI thingy chirping it.
So watch this space. The problem is that if I want to upgrade, I’m going to have to shell out some money – not a massive amount, but enough that I can’t really justify just doing it. Maybe I should start charging people for this service! (Alternatively, if anyone knows any cheaper/ free options, let me know.)
Anyhoo, we’re sticking with MuseScore for now, and our next guest is Nathan! You can find him on Twitter here, or over at his blog, Hurricane Thought Process. In case you’ve forgotten, or haven’t read the first two instalments with Kim and Hannah, the way that this works is that I sit down with my guest for a bit of a chat about all things music and gaming, and then write a track for them based on what we’ve discussed. Text in bold is my guest – so Nathan this week – and italics is yours truly.
A quick note of thanks-slash-apology to Nathan, by the way; this instalment has been a long time in the making and with most communication taking the form of very sporadic Facebook messages, but he’s been a really good sport about the whole thing and I really enjoyed talking to him.
So I’ve found that a good thing to start with is having a quick chat about the kind of games you played as a kid, or when you first got into gaming, and the tunes from those days that have stuck with you. It’s a good base to go from, and it usually leads to some nostalgic thoughts!
I can remember them all fondly. Games I used to play as a kid included: Hook on the SNES, Skullmonkeys, Crash Bandicoot, PaRappa the Rapper, Resident Evil and Sonic the Hedgehog. The tunes that stuck with me would have to be the Uncharted theme songs and John Williams, so Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and ET. But my all time favourite piece of music would be in Uncharted 2 when you first see the pirate outpost! It’s just well done and epic.
Skullmonkeys is a weird one in that I thought nobody really knew about it but everyone I’ve spoken to about games lately seems to be bringing it up!
Just for people who don’t know, do you think you could quickly sum up Skullmonkeys in a sentence or two?
So Skullmonkeys was a title on PS1 that followed the protagonist, Claymen, as you travelled through an Alien planet in a similar style to Abe’s Oddworld. But it was a very bizarre claymation game, fighting off skullmonkeys.
What amazes me about it is that the whole thing is totally claymation, so basically animated in the same way as a Wallace and Gromit episode! That must have taken some doing.
Yeah, it was a fantastic game! Also the music was brilliant: weird 70’s funk.
I just brought it up with my other half, who is now fondly reminiscing about an A4 sheet of paper she had with lists of level passwords on because it didn’t have a regular saving mechanism.
Yeah, God, that was a pain. Or collecting enough orbs to get the bonus level.
I sort of miss games that used passwords to save, although it was much too tempting just to find one with tons of lives and skip ahead. Seemed like too much hassle to do it all yourself when there were just a few letters you could put in to blaze right to the end.
Or ripping the sheets out of code books.
That was just me being lazy though… Oh, yeah, those little books must have had a field day with password-saving games!
Or the infamous Codeshark discs.
Never actually used one of those, believe it or not. Don’t think I knew where I’d get one as a kid
They were great but took up loads of memory: a whole 4MB!
On what, one of the old 8mb memory card things? Yeesh.
Yeah, poor Tomb Raider made the chopping block to make space.
I remember spending a lot of time going through those old cards and deleting save files I didn’t need any more, just cos you always had to make more room for stuff.
The good ol’ days of gaming.
And bloody Kingdom Hearts letting you have 99 save files when realistically that would never all fit on one memory card anyway! Dumb thing. Anyway, you were saying stuff like John Williams, so kind of epic music, and I guess Uncharted is probably a similar sort of style? Never actually played an Uncharted game, to my eternal shame.
Yeah I was in an orchestra band and played in New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well the Royal Albert Hall in London, so I appreciate the great epic themes in movies a lot. As for Uncharted, the music just increases the vastness of the game.
Wait, for real? That’s awesome! That makes you infinitely more qualified than me to be doing this, how have I ended up being the one interviewing you?!
Yeah, I did it in my 7th and 8th grade year in middle school. I played the trombone and tuba, as well as sousaphone during parade season.
Nice. I haven’t a clue what 7th grade relates to in British years, how old would that be?
Ah, okay. [That’s about Year 8 for us Englishfolk, if I’m not much mistaken.] I feel really underqualified to be the one asking the questions now, y’know.
Ha! It’s okay, don’t think so.
I don’t think I’m going to be able to make something up to the standards of full orchestra John Williams epic-ness, just to warn ya.
I’m sure whatever you do make will be legendary, dude.
I mean, we’ll get on to what you’d like me to write for you, but I feel like there’s still discussion to be had before we get there… Would you say that games with big orchestral soundtracks are the only ones where the music’s really stuck with you, or are there a few earlier/ simpler tunes that you really like?
I think that the games with big orchestral pieces stuck with me when I was older as I appreciated them more, but little tunes I enjoyed would probably include the likes of the Sonic theme or even The Legend of Zelda in 8-bit, they’ve stuck with me.
I heard a theory that your favourite Zelda game is usually the one that came out when you were 12, or something like that.
Mine was on GameBoy, black and white!
Which one’s your favourite and which one would have come out when you were about 12?
I think Twilight Princess would be the closest to that age for me and it probably is my favourite, so I guess there’s some merit to the theory.
The original is my favourite, but Ocarina of Time was out when I was twelve
Let’s just quickly talk about music in a non-gaming context: is the kind of music you like in games also the stuff you tend to listen to just generally? Like, is your music of choice on a day to day basis sweeping orchestral goodness?
Music choice from day to day varies from drum and bass to classical. Love all music really!
Ah, you’re like me. My everyday playlist for just walking around from place to place has Chopin and Rammstein right next to each other. Is there anything you don’t enjoy?
Not too keen on happy hardcore…
‘Happy hardcore’? I’m intrigued…
It’s like a high pitched annoying techno.
I feel like I’m going to have to go and check that out now.
At your own risk my friend!
Ah no this is definitely not for me. [I’m not going to link to anything, but you can Google it if you’re really curious.]
I did warn you!
There are very few whole genres I’ll just write off and assume I won’t like a single song, but that might be one of ’em. Any particular favourite bands/ artists/ songs/ pieces in among your enormous and varied collection?
Yes, so Reel Big Fish, Sublime, Green Day, Sum 41, My Chemical Romance, Basement Jaxx, Prodigy, Pendulum, Fall Out Boy, Blink-182, Panic! at the Disco…
Wow, them’s some classics!
Haha just a few! My music library is so odd.
So thinking about the kind of tune you might want me to write for you… I guess we’re looking at an orchestral pop-punk… epic… John-Williams-meets-slapstick-skate-punk-cum-electro-rave?
OMG, that already sounds amazing.
It’s going to be a really big challenge! Can we maybe try to narrow it down just a leeeeetle bit…..?
Yeah man, maybe… orchestral pop punk!
So talk me through what you’re imagining – doesn’t have to be anything technical or genre-related, it can just be a feeling. The first two briefs I’ve had have been ‘something that makes you feel like everything will be okay’ and ‘something out of a really tense and scary level’, so you can be as broad or as specific as you want.
Thinking about boss battles build up… I shall have a think. There’s a really tense piece by Greg Edmondson: ‘Sink or Swim’ from Uncharted 3
I’ll give it a listen! I think – hope this is OK – I’d rather not do another tense one straight after the last one. Something boss-battle-y might work rather nicely with the epic orchestral pop punk theme, though.
I just found my performance from Carnegie Hall on YouTube! There’s a few pieces on there that have stuck with me from that: the second song is called ‘Deep in a Bog’, and it’s a brilliant piece with a lovely build up and nice bass clarinet solo.
I wish I’d done some more of that. I was in orchestras and choirs through school and college, but I never got to play anywhere like that! Oh, I can show you something cool, though, two seconds…
Some of my greatest memories were in school band; we did parades as well.
I’m not actually in this one, but this is my old taiko drumming group who’ve played in Japan, New York, London’s Albert Hall, all sorts. Yeah, I really enjoyed being part of that sort of thing but looking back on it now I wish I’d made more of it! I miss that stuff.
Me too. Those beats are amazing, though!
I’ll definitely check out your video when I have a chance.
No worries, dude.
I should have some time at the end of this week to just sit down uninterrupted and start work on this, so just to recap: We’re going for epic orchestral boss battle with a pop-punk twist. Still happy with that?
Yeah man, sounds good, and no rush.
Awesome – hopefully I’ll have at least a start of something going on by the end of the weekend!
Awesome, really looking forward to it!
[Some time later…] I’m just getting into the swing of it and I just wanted you to know that this is BY FAR the most instruments I’ve ever used and the sound quality of my shitty free software is not designed for this but fuck it, imma push it
Haha, I feel honoured dude.
[Even more time later…] It’s done. Right, I feel compelled to say a couple of things. First, ‘orchestral pop punk’ is a hard-ass brief. Second, I’m not good at doing these like ‘songs’, so what I’ve ended up with is much more of a track that jumps around, which I’ll attempt to claim is totally deliberate. So there’s a few things borrowed straight from pop punk at the start, namely the most classic of all chord sequences, the I-V-VI-IV!
I sort of imagine this as a boss battle with a really lame guy who thinks he’s a rocker but doesn’t know any other chords so the party keeps interrupting with weird stuff like V minor, then they fully interrupt him and launch into an epic bass solo!
This part isn’t really orchestral or pop punk, it’s more of a concession to the ‘gaming’ aspect and boss battle feel. Boss is then sad, so he does a IV-V-VI sequence, which the party decide to go along with and make more awesome for a bit… Until then just changing key for no good reason and beating him down to the epic tune of MORE INSTRUMENTS THAN MY SHITTY SOFTWARE KNOWS HOW TO DEAL WITH.
So you see, it’s not jumpy and inconsistent, it tells a story.
Anyway, here it is!
It’s called ‘All The Small Things (That Can Kill You, Horribly)’.
Dude, that is bloody awesome! Really love the woodwind in the beginning, and when it kicks off I actually imagined fighting an 8-bit rocker boss!
Sweet! It was so hard to do orchestra and pop punk at the same time that I basically had to just sort of have them both happening around each other, heh.
Also love how it feels like you’re watching an 80’s action film where the hero finally beats the villain. Kinda Back to the Future meets Running Man.
I’m glad you like it! It was really hard, but I think I’m as happy as I could really expect to be with how it turned out. Do you want to do a quick thing telling people where to go to find more of you?
Yeah, my blog is njwall93.wordpress.com, and my twitter is @demwalls!
Awesome! Thanks a lot for being involved and I hope you enjoyed it! Sorry it took a while, heh.
It was so worth it. Any chance or way to get it as a ringtone? And thank you!
Errrrr, I have no idea. I can send you over the MP3 file, or you might be able to download it off SoundCloud?
I’ll do that when I’m home!
Not sure how you then get from there to having it as a ringtone but I feel like it should be possible.
Man, I really love this. Should be a new genre!
It’s a relief! I’ll inevitably do a bad one before long if I keep doing this, but everyone seems to like em so far!
The title is awesome too.
Heh, I usually come up with the titles first and work off that.
I wish I could use computers to make music. I need to get back into playing, really, I do miss it.
I’m investigating some better software at the moment; what I’m using now is really just for creating scores and not designed to play them back with any kind of decent quality. It’s just crappy MIDI instruments that I don’t really have any control over, I’d like to get some stuff with mixers and effects and whatnot.
Well, if that’s with crappy software you have true talent.
Aww, you lovey chap you. I’m blushing!
Haha, I have that effect on everyone.
Well thank you very much for your involvement and your kindness, it was a lot of fun. And I learned about happy hardcore so I feel like a winner!
I am sorry I introduced you to that, so I shall make up for it by introducing you to the most amazing music I know: Metalachi! And you’re most welcome, I really enjoyed doing this.
And that’s Musical Mayhem part 3! Hope you enjoyed reading and listening, and there’ll be another one soon enough (I think next on my list is either NekoJonez or Robert, the guy who’s been hosting the Blogger Blitz, so it should be a good one!)