A while back, I promised Ian that the next Musical Mayhem could be with him, as a way of congratulating him on the resounding success of his Blogger Blitz event. Unfortunately, I took flipping ages to do the one with NekoJonez, so this is a little bit… post-end-of-event. Nevertheless, we’re here now, so let’s dive in!
As usual, this takes the form of an interview about all sorts of things, followed by me writing a track for my guest and then coming back to quickly discuss what I was able to come up with. For those who are overeager, you can skip to the track itself simply by clicking here, but you’d miss out on a lot of good stuff if you did!
By the by, previous chats have explored a few avenues, but this might be the deepest and least music-related one so far. Ian will be in bold and I’ll be in italics.
Sorry there’s been a bit of a delay – I know we were going to do this as a post Blogger Blitz celebration sort of thing – but I think I’m ready to get working on another Musical Mayhem now! You probably already know, but basically we’ll just chat about your gaming and music tastes and such, so we don’t need to set a particular time or anything; we can just message as and when. You still up for it?
Well, the first question I usually ask is a pretty simple one: what sort of games got you into gaming, and have any of their soundtracks stuck with you?
Well, I started with the Nintendo 64, so my earliest gaming memories are with huge games like Ocarina of Time and Mario 64, but also weird off-the-wall stuff like Mystical Ninja: Starring Goemon! and Mischief Makers. Those songs absolutely stuck with me. Ocarina of Time has a fantastic soundtrack with Song of Storms and Gerudo Valley both being particularly memorable for me. Koopa Road from Mario 64 (the song that plays during Bowser stages) is great as well. And I still catch myself humming songs from Mystical Ninja and Mischief Makers even though it has been significantly longer since I experienced those games.
I think almost everyone I’ve spoken to (not that it’s been that many) has mentioned Zelda as an early influence on their gaming, and of course the soundtracks are pretty great too. I heard this theory that your favourite Zelda is usually the one that came out when you were around 12; I think for me, that’d be Twilight Princess, and funnily enough that is probably my favourite (it’s the first I played all the way through, too)!
That would be Wind Waker for me, and while that is certainly a wonderful Zelda game I wouldn’t say it is my favorite. For me my favorite Zelda kind of goes back and forth, but I’d say Majora’s Mask is at the top of the list more often than not. Fantastic music in that game – darker, more pregnant with meaning and feeling. I still get a little uneasy when I hear Skull Kid’s theme, and Oath to Order gives me chills. Really though the Zelda series as a whole has excellent music!
Wind Waker has one of my favourite tunes in Zelda, which is just called ‘Staff Credits’ – it’s this sea shanty sort of thing that sounds both jolly and epic, a bit like the open sea (although I saw Blue Planet last night and that wasn’t that jolly).
To quote the wonderful James of Quickly Tap X, Wind Waker has a great “plinky-plonky” sound that really evokes the idea of the sea and sailing. Honestly one of my favorite video game songs ever comes from Wind Waker, and it’s the music that plays over the introduction when it is telling the history of Hyrule and the hero of time. It has simple instrumentation but the music has an epic, historic feel to it that pairs really well with the artwork for that sequence. Side note, I have not seen Blue Planet but if it isn’t jolly I’ll probably keep it that way!
Oh, shoot, I just realised you’re not British, you probably have no idea what I’m on about with Blue Planet! It’s a show about the sea, basically – David Attenborough must be a name Americans would know, right?
… (Sorry for assuming ignorance!)
… (Oh, Lord, now I feel like a triple asshole for name dropping a show you might not know about then assuming you wouldn’t know about it and now I don’t even know what)
Haha, no worries. I didn’t even think about the cultural difference and just assumed that it was a new movie I hadn’t seen any trailers for. I am what my contemporaries might describe as “out of touch.”
It’s a documentary about the sea narrated by David Attenborough, whom you might know but who’s basically considered a national treasure over here.
Yeah, I’m not familiar with the name. I knew basically nothing about the UK before becoming a blogger, and now I know a tiny bit more than basically nothing. I blame the education system, I haven’t studied geography…well, since Wind Waker came out!
We’re a nation of… well, normal people, I guess, but then again my definition of ‘normal’ probably evens out at ‘British’! I’m told that the fact that we consider a couple of hours to be an extremely long time to travel to get anywhere is something that probably sets us apart from most Americans.
Yes, that part I am familiar with. I can travel for more than 2 hours and still be in the same state – my mother lives 2.5 hrs away, for example. It’s not unusual for me to travel nearly that long for work purposes.
We’re basically just a very small country, even if we probably don’t like to think so!
Aaanyway, I think just ‘N64’ in general is a pretty solid choice for good OSTs, but what about non-gaming music?
Ah yes, the actual topic of our discussion resurfaces, haha. I listen primarily to rock music, ranging anywhere from what one might describe as “classic rock” (Queen, Metallica, and the like) to heavier fare such as Three Days Grace or Disturbed. Head-banging, fist-pumping, fight the establishment ’cause the world is a mess kind-of stuff. Which I guess you could say is ironic since I’m a pretty tame guy in real life.
I’m kind of similar, actually; I probably come across as a classical-music-liking sort of person – and I do, to be fair, but I also really like stuff like Royal Blood and Babymetal and Led Zeppelin and Rammstein and AC/DC and various other hard rock things from both modern day and eras gone by…
I heard once that listening to those kinds of music could actually help a person to be mild-mannered because it gives them an outlet for their stress and tension so they don’t let it out in a more unhealthy way. Perhaps we are examples of that trend!
That sounds totally possible! I do feel like I get to let out some latent rage through listening to that sort of thing. Then again, I also think I sometimes get to let out emotions that I don’t want to keep inside by listening to much gentler stuff – Jose Gonzales, I’m listening to a lot of lately – or even vaguely spiritual stuff, despite not being what you’d call a spiritual person at all.
I can understand being in the mood for softer tunes from time to time. For me, a song really has to embrace a specific approach to appeal to me. I have slow melodic songs that I enjoy and fast upbeat songs I enjoy – it’s the middle ones that don’t grab my attention so much. It’s interesting that you bring up spirituality as that has played a big role in my own personal music history. As a Christian I grew up hearing a lot of hymns in church and there are certain hymns that still really stir me to this day – I sing hymns a lot as lullabies to my son. The unfortunate side effect is that I went through a phase when I was younger where I thought the only kind of music that was “okay” for me to listen to was intentionally spiritual/religious – those feelings came from a place of doubt and immaturity, though. I’ve learned since that there is value in learning from people unlike yourself and grown to enjoy art from all sorts of places. I say all this to say that I appreciate that you listen to some spiritual music despite not identifying as a spiritual person. I wish when I was younger that I had been more open-minded to experiencing things from worldviews unlike my own.
It’s interesting – I’ve known many people who were religious and many who weren’t, but pretty much universally the ones I get along with are the ones who are more open to things and experiences outside the stuff that might be expected of them. I will say, though – when I say spiritual music, I’m talking mostly hymns or instrumental stuff. Even when I identified as a Christian, that sort of overtly religious rock-pop was a bit too much for me! I do very much like music from outside my culture, though, whether that be something that’s geographically or linguistically separated from me or just something that’s not part of… the standard repertoire, I guess!
Oh gosh, I am with you on the Christian pop! I hate that stuff. With religious music I listen to the same heavy, rebellious counter-culture stuff that I do with secular music. I also love to hear music from other countries, particularly when it comes to instrumentation. In Super Mario Odyssey there is a kingdom (I won’t spoil which one) that is themed on traditional Japanese/samurai culture and the music there is so incredible – I could listen to it on loop.
You know, I’ve heard people say that they can’t stand music in a language they don’t understand, but I almost think it’s better that way. Like my preconceptions of what the words might be saying can’t get in the way of the sounds or something.
That’s an interesting way to look at it. Since you can’t understand the words you have to focus more on how the musical aspects of the song really make you feel – I can certainly get behind that! I will say that my personal music collection does not really include anything from other languages, but that I guess has more to do with accessibility and exposure. I’m less likely to hear music in another language if I don’t actively seek it out, therefore I haven’t heard as much and haven’t purchased it. At one point I was super into fantasy languages and wanted to learn the language from Fire Emblem Path of Radiance because there is a beautiful song in that game I wanted to be able to sing along to. The name of it slips my mind now, though.
I do like songs with great lyrics, but I guess if I can’t understand them I’m able to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume they could be really good even if I have no idea! It makes it more about the phonetics, I guess; Icelandic, for example, is just really flippin’ nice to listen to, even if I don’t know what the heck they’re on about. The thing about accessibility is a great point, though; you do have to know where to look and seek it out deliberately , since the names of artists or songs won’t be something you’d just offhandedly Google!
For sure. It’s almost like the whole dubbed vs. subbed thing – do you listen to it in the original language so you experience it musically and phonetically as intended, or do you listen in your own language so you can understand but risk losing some of the original intent behind it? It’s interesting to think about. Luckily with games most music is instrumental so you don’t have to worry about it, you can just enjoy the unique sounds another culture has to offer.
Dubs vs subs is a debate I don’t think I’ll ever have the energy to get into! I usually watch an episode of each and see which I prefer – it tends to be subs, but I’m not a purist either way. (I think I find it hard to ignore ‘annoying’ voices when I know what they’re saying, whereas if a voice is done badly in Japanese, I can’t really tell too much so it’s basically okay.) Are you a fan of anime, then? (A ‘fanime’? Har-de-har.)
I love the art style but I haven’t watched a lot of shows. As a teenager I watched all the anime that came on Toonami – Dragon Ball, Tenchi Muyo, Yu Yu Hakusho, Rouroni Kenshin (I’m sure I spelled half of that wrong) – but that’s about it. My wife introduced me to Death Note recently and I am very much into that show, though, and I’ve always loved Hayao Miyazaki’s films. I’m ultimately most familiar with anime courtesy of video games that have been influenced by it. Games like Phoenix Wright, Zero Escape, the Battle Network series of Mega Man – incidentally, these are all games with fantastic music as well!
I think watching anime was what first made me realise that there was modern music in other languages – obviously I knew there must be but I’d never thought to look for it. I’d been in a few choirs so I’d sung stuff in Latin, French, German, various African languages, I think maybe Sanskrit one time, but I sort of hadn’t thought that there would be more modern stuff out there too.
For me it was learning Spanish in school. We listened to a pop song from a Spanish-speaking country and all us self-centered teens were like “oh, it makes sense that popular music in another country would be in their own language, never thought of that.” It was interesting because the literal translation was something like “I love women who wear pants” but the song is about appreciating strong women who work hard for what they want.
I’m not really sure how I got into anime, come to think of it – probably Miyazaki for me too – but you’re right that anime-styled games are often pretty sweet! I do like a good untranslatable idiom, though; Portuguese, for example, has one that translates roughly to ‘I am done as far as beef’ which means ‘I have a problem’. There’s also ‘bread, bread, cheese, cheese’, which means ‘easy peasy lemon squeezy’. And my favourite, to be ‘at least as good as corn and potentially even slightly better’ is to be sexy.
That’s golden! I’m gonna tell my wife when I see her later that she is slightly better than corn and see what she says. I’ll be sure to let you know what happens, haha!
I’ve never personally tried it, but presumably if you’re Portuguese that’s the pick up line to end all pick up lines.
I knew a guy in college who legitimately picked up his wife by doing the “if you were a pirate, would your parrot be on this shoulder or THIS shoulder?” and put his arm around her. So apparently that one is pretty solid!
Wow. I guess a girl who goes for that one would have to be wife material, as they say! I know a guy who hasn’t married his boyfriend (yet – we’ll see) but they’ve been together a while and his opening line was ‘if you were a Transformer, you’d be Optimus Fine’.
Man, so many good choices here. The world of pick-up lines can be either really fun or really disturbing. I had to look up that pirate one to remember it correctly and the other ones I found in the process were significantly less tasteful.
There are some kind of adorably bad ones and some which are just a little bit…. um… yeah, not tasteful! I do like how this interview part always ends up talking about a whole load of stuff other than just music; I feel like I’ve got to know everyone a lot better through doing this thing.
For sure! They always seem to be different conversations too – I don’t think our discussion has quite turned out the same as the one you had with Kim or Jonez, for example. It’s quite educational!
Oh, yeah, Jonez and I got chatting about Dutch phonology and Kim… I think we ended up having a bit of a natter about 80s clubbing. It’s always different! There is one topic I’d like to quickly go back to, actually, if you’re okay with it – just quickly, and then we should probably return to music and then wrap this thing – and that’s religion. I’m always just curious to know what… I guess what people’s faiths mean to them, what their story is with it and so on. Just from a kind of anthropological or sociological perspective, I find it really interesting to hear about different people’s experiences on that front. But I realise it’s not something everyone wants to talk about, so don’t feel you have to!
Yeah sure, I’m happy to talk about it! So for perspective, I grew up (and still live in) what’s referred to in the States as the “Bible Belt” – Christianity is very prevalent here culturally. My mother and grandparents are all Christians so I grew up in church. When I was 7 I had my first religious experience, I guess you could say – I vivisly remember in that moment acknowledging that I believe God is real and choosing to identify as a Christian. I was baptized and became a church member. When I first started college I originally was majoring in theology – I wanted to be a worship leader. But getting really deep into the “politics” of religion – arguments about predestination versus free will, for example – really soured my experience and was harmful to me spiritually. I felt like there was too much focus on trivial matters and not enough focus on actually making a difference, so I changed majors and stayed away from being a professional Christian, so to speak. Since moving away from the church as a profession faith has still been a big part of my life. My wife and I attend church regularly, we take our son, we teach him songs about the Bible and would like to see him follow in our footsteps and become a Christian someday. I try to live my life in a way that lines up with Scripture – I fail at it regularly but I always strive to do a little better than I did the day before. As far as what faith means to me (to actually answer your question, haha): I know that I am a broken person. I have at the worst times in my life been arrogant, hateful, misogynistic, and bad at decision-making. I have found that by following the teachings of the Bible and looking at Jesus as a role model, I am better person for it. The Christian mentors in my life have taught me humility, respect, forgiveness – these are all important skills not just from a religious perspective but a human one. There’s a mathematician, I don’t remember his name, but he said something like “if I follow the Bible and it turns out that God is not real, I still have lived a good life that contributed to society.” I truly believe in an afterlife and that following Christ is the way to get there, but even if that doesn’t pan out I’ve still been a part of a community that is supportive and – when operating at their best – makes a difference in the world. I understand there’s a dark side to Christians as a “community” that is playing out in a very scary way when it comes to politics, so I’m not saying that every version of Christianity is healthy for society by any means – I disagree very strongly with what my representatives do and say in the name of God. But a healthy interpretation of Scripture develops positive behaviors that are great for the disenfranchised.
Wow, that’s a lot of really interesting points and I feel bad that this is the one I’m latching onto immediately, but I think the mathematician you’re talking about is Blaise Pascal; it’s known as Pascal’s Wager, and it’s often oversimplified to something along the lines of ‘if there’s no God, I don’t lose out if I believe, but if there is a God and I didn’t believe then I will lose out, so I may as well believe’. It’s not really as simplistic as that, as you point out! I find the thing about being a better person because of your faith interesting, because I think that religion has probably done a lot of good through making people want to be better people (I respect that you point out both that and the negative things people have done in its name, though I tend to think those people have missed the point). I also think, though, that the fact that you want to be a better person probably means that you would be striving to be better even without your faith, if that makes sense? I don’t think you need to be religious to be moral (there are some interesting statistics on how many people do think it’s a prerequisite over the years) but I think it’s great if you feel that having faith inspires you to try harder!
Oh yeah, I don’t think religion is a prerequisite for morality, but in my personal experience that was the thing that helped me to become a more moral person. I’ve seen some people assume that since Christians believe that everyone is a sinner that they believe humans are by nature evil, but not everything that is considered a “sin” is a morally reprehensible thing to do. “Even an unbeliever knows how to give good gifts to his children” – being a good person is totally possible on a strictly human level. There are people out there who aren’t spiritual who are way better people morally speaking than I am – spirituality just happened to be the thing that helped me to become a better person myself.
I think that’s how I see it, too – everyone has the capacity to be good, but some people focus on different things or have a different catalyst that helps them achieve that. It might be a faith or it might be becoming a parent or something.
For sure! I appreciate, by the way, that you have asked about this and been open to the discussion in a respectful way – with the modern political climate it can be kind of intimidating to talk about my religious beliefs. It means a lot that you have been respectful and genuinely curious!
Well, thanks! I think ‘respectful and genuinely curious’ sort of sums up how I feel about it, and I feel like more people could do with adopting that rather than feeling some kind of weird compulsion to tell people who disagree with them that they’re wrong. You mentioned raising your child as a Christian, and you also mentioned that being exposed to stuff outside your own worldview was good for you: do you find it hard to work out the balance of what to… I don’t want to say allow your child to experience, but I feel like when I become a parent I’ll probably struggle to know whether to raise my child on my own beliefs (which is the tempting thing to do because of course I think they’re right!) or to let them decide themselves or deliberately expose them to as much different stuff as possible or just gently steer or… yeah, suffice to say I feel like being a parent is probably very hard, not that that’s news.
That’s definitely a tricky thing. I want my son to grow up a Christian because, as you said, I think I’m right and that’s the right thing to do. But I don’t want him to grow up with the same implicit biases and problematic theology that I did, and I want him to understand other cultures and be open-minded to them. So do I take it upon myself to teach him other cultures but risk him learning them through my biased lens? Is he really choosing Christianity if he chooses it just because I did? I think the best we can do is teach our children what we know and believe and then be supportive of them if they choose to question that and explore something else later on.
That sounds healthy to me; you probably can’t try to raise them with no beliefs at all because… it seems like it’d just be weird. Just making sure they know they can question stuff and that there are other points of view from an early age is probably the best way of doing it!
That’s the best way I can figure out, at any rate. I want my kid to feel like he can come to me with hard questions about things, because being able to talk openly about difficult subjects with his mother and father will be a good practice for him to be in to so we can help him to make responsible decisions about things that will have a more immediate effect on him.
For sure; you want him to be able to make as many decisions as it’s safe and practical for him to be able to make for himself, but also feel that you guys are there to support him with that. I assume. Again, not a parent, although I do treat my pet rats like children. Who’d have known when I started Musical Mayhem that topics of discussion would include religion and parenting? Hm. It’s all incredibly interesting to me, but maybe it’s time to bring this one to a close for now…
Yeah, gotta keep things brief enough for readers to stay engaged! So I guess it’s time to settle on a song idea?
I rather like going off on odd tangents, but I realise that the point of this is to do music stuff, so yeah, let’s engage! Basically I usually just ask what sort of track you’d like me to do for you – it can be as broad a brief as you like, though. Kim just said something uplifting, Jonez said electronic-y trance-y… whatever you’d like, and I’ll give it a shot!
Okay. Well, do we want to try to keep it somewhat on-topic and do something inspired by a different culture? We’ve talked a lot about other languages and worldviews and the like, so maybe something inspired by musical traditions from another country. Is that too broad?
Oooooh. I like that.
Cool! If you’re inspired and have something specific in mind then you can run with it – I consider you the expert here, so unless you need my input to help solidify anything then I’ll let your creative juices do the talking, haha.
My initial thought is that I have a taiko drum soundset I’ve been dying to try out, but I don’t want to go purely Japanese… possibly some taiko fusion with a bit of something else yet to be defined!
I can certainly get into some taiko drums, so that sounds pretty great to me!
THEN IT’S ON!
Sounds good! I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!
I never quite know what I’m gonna do either! Word to the wise: this has been known to take a while. Efforts will be made to minimise the duration of the while, but you never know what’s gonna pop up and slow ya down!
There’s no rush. This is your show so take whatever time you need to make a product that you are satisfied with.
I’ll do me best!
[… some weeks later…]
TADA! It is, as promised, a taiko rock thing fusion thing… named ‘everygoodADVENTUREbreakstheRULES.jpg’… because the best way for an mp3 file to break the rules is to be named as if it’s an image file.
First reaction: I love the title! I really enjoy the piece, too! The intro with the drums is catchy and sets my foot to tapping. My favorite part is at 1:10 when the strings come in, it really sets a strong tone and I can clearly visualize a scenario in my head. The whole song to me feels like the build-up to a boss fight in a video game. I picture, for example, the Final Fantasy VII cast running through the factory at Shinra just before a mech comes crashing down to try and take them out. I think the consistent drums throughout are part of what makes that happen, it drives the song forward and keeps you feeling the need for motion.
It was interesting trying to do this because I hadn’t really done such drum-heavy stuff before – I hadn’t used the taiko drums and I hadn’t really done anything in the way of heavier rock type stuff either, so I’m glad it turned out OK! I think I’d like to listen to some more of those bands you mentioned and then give the bassy/ metal-ish parts another go; if there’s anything I’d like to improve it would be understanding a bit better how to write that kind of music.
I think this was a pretty solid first swing at it, I definitely could hear the inspiration from that element of our discussion. The fusion of those different sounds was cool to hear – I personally do not have a lot of experience hearing taiko drums and metal together, so this was a new experience for me from a listener’s perspective too.
I don’t know if anyone has experience of those things together, but we do now!
And soon enough our followers will too! You’re welcome, followers.
So is there anything you think could have been done differently? Other than possibly just spending a bit more time researching the genres and making em more smoothly fit together and such?
I agree that a better understanding of both genres going into this could only be a beneficial thing to engage in. I’m curious, did my description of my reactions to the song line up with your intent? Was the idea of a build-up to something what you were trying to convey?
I think I started out hoping I could do something like:
-Blends into a couple of metal verses, passing over to regular drums
-Then taiko comes back and both are working together
-Then some sort of drum-off between regular and taiko drums to finish!
What ended up happening was that, being still pretty noobish at mixing, I found it hard to get them to line up against each other so as to both be audible the way I wanted, so it turned into something that just shifts from pure taiko into a metal-type piece that just carries on being inspired by the rhythms. If that makes sense!
Yeah, I went back and listened through again with that vision in mind and I can hear what you’re going for there. I love the idea of finishing out with a drum-off – in the words of meme culture, “that’s so metal!” So the next step there might be to experiment around with the mixing a bit more to be able to do the taiko and regular drums together in the way you originally intended. Maybe see if there are some songs out there that do something similar to help you get the hang of it?
I think that would be the thing to do: get a bit more familiar with the genres and how they work, as well as with the technical side of how to mix things, and see if we can’t do something better!
I agree, I think that would take this nifty musical experiment to the next level. You did a great job just with what you already knew – a little practice should allow you to realize the original vision you had for your work!
Well this whole thing is as much a learning experience for me as anything else. I’m extremely amateur at the whole music-making business, so I’m hoping that through doing these little experiments, trying lots of different styles based on what each person likes, I should be able to get better each time!
That’s a great way to learn! Each person you interview puts a different skill set to the test, and as you write each piece you get more experienced with the theory and the software – plus your readers enjoy it and it’s fun for the interviewee too. Everybody wins and learns a little something.
It’s a bit like Mega Man. I absorb the powers of all of my fallen foes! Um.. interviewees.
If that’s the case, the next person you interview should be whoever is weak to the power of taiko drums and metal. I have no idea which blogger that would be, haha.
I have a feeling someone might have already expressed interest in being next, and I think it was either Athena or Teri Mae. If the latter, I’ll be interested to see whether she says Zelda style or… something else!
Both of those would be great options, so either way I’m looking forward to seeing more of these in the future! And watching you eventually defeat Dr.Wily with the power of sweet, sweet tunes.
Well, thank you very much for participating in my journey to ultimate victory.
It has been a pleasure! Thanks for the fun song and great conversation!
And there you have it! It was a fun one, and a learning experience (both for music and just in life) and all that good stuff, so I’m glad Ian was my guest! To be totally realistic, I don’t know whether there’ll be another one of these for another month or two, but rest assured that I will be working on one! They’re just… extremely time-consuming. But proportionally rewarding, so it’s all good.
If you enjoyed Ian’s insights into all the things, check out Adventure Rules for more awesome stuff, including a recent collaborative Q&A that I got to take part in. He’s a smart feller, and a good one too!