Over Clocked ReMix Interview Part 1
Interview by Jamie Davies, July 2008
Arguably one of the most talked about games for the PSN and XBLA is the updated version of Street Fighter II Turbo HD from Capcom. A long time favourite with thousands of fans stretching across the globe, the game is getting a serious make over everything from bringing the visuals into the High Definition era to sprucing up the games music tracks. To work on the music Capcom have brought on board members of OverClocked ReMix, the community based music remix site which takes video games music and gives it a fresh spin.
In part one of this two part interview we speak to David W. Lloyd (djpretzel) and Larry (Liontamer) Oji about their background, OC ReMix and working on the game.
CA. OverClocked ReMix has a long and well established history on the Internet how did you come to start working on a commercial release?
David W. Lloyd (djpretzel): While OC ReMix focuses on releasing individual mixes one at a time, every once in awhile we also do album projects, where artists get together and focus their efforts around doing multiple mixes of a specific game, composer, etc. Weve released albums for Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country, and most notably Final Fantasy VII with our Voices of the Lifestream album in 2007. Shael Riley and Stephen Malcom-Howell (a.k.a. Malcos), two veteran OC ReMixers, put together an album of Super Street Fighter II Turbo mixes called Blood on the Asphalt back in 2006, which was well-received. Capcom noticed the album, liked what they heard, and contacted Shael, who in turn contacted me. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity to be featured in such a classic remake!
Larry Oji (Liontamer): Weve got to give a lot of props to Shael for organizing Blood on the Asphalt. We wouldnt have been hired for HD Remix if it hadnt have been for him spearheading the album, as well as Stephen coming in to help finish it up as the assistant producer.
CA. Do you tend to get much feedback from developers on the remixes of their stuff put up on OC ReMix? Any notable mentions, both good and bad?
LO: Hiroki Kikuta of Secret of Mana fame mailed djpretzel and thanked him for his arrangement Tidal Sequence; Tommy Tallarico, Alexander Brandon and Dave Wise have also personally thanked ReMixers for their works, and Jeremy Soule and George The Fat Man Sanger have even contributed their own arrangements to OCR. I actually maintain a page on OCR that catalogues feedback from industry figures, because its important for others to know that were the real deal when it comes to honouring game music. Perhaps because all our music is available for free and we work to raise the profile of game music and composers, weve never gotten any complaints. Were very thankful that all of the feedback weve received from composers and other game developers has been positive.
CA. How did the actual remixing process start for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix? Where do you begin in tackling such a mammoth task?
DJP: We had a great base of material to work with thanks to Shael and Blood on the Asphalt. We started with that, and also used some existing SF2 mixes from OC ReMix that were released outside of that project to fill in the gaps. So, when we looked at everything we already had, there were only 5 or 6 stage tracks we needed to do from scratch. However, each and every stage theme needed a fast version, Capcom requested several specific edits for each piece, and we also need to do the ending themes quite a bit of work! Luckily weve got a huge community of talented and capable artists able to handle a variety of styles and put things together very quickly. Things never would have worked if we hadnt been systematic, so we tracked the status of each piece on a spreadsheet, coordinated through email, and just took things a step at a time.
CA. What’s it been like working with Capcom and Backbone Entertainment?
DJP: Illuminating! I suppose my major concern going into the project was that, because OC ReMix is so diverse and because its a community of fans, a major company like Capcom might have a hard time working with us in an orderly, professional fashion. To avoid miscommunication and minimize drama, we decided early on that all communications would go through me. I acted as sort of a middleman, so Capcom didnt have to keep track of over a dozen artists all over the world, and I relayed the edits Capcom requested to individual ReMixers. Sometimes these requests were very general things like this needs a more electronic feel and sometimes they were VERY specific, e.g. More Cowbell! It was an iterative process, and some tracks went through 5+ versions before they were approved, but because we stayed on top of things, all of these edits were tracked and made relatively quickly. I think the entire process serves as an excellent model for corporate interaction with fan communities.
CA. Various Capcom titles are getting the updated treatment for the download services. Has the recent stuff for titles like Bionic Commando Rearmed, etc. had an effect on your work?
DJP: Rearmed I think was announced after wed already begun working; all of us are gamers, so we do stay on top of things, but I think each individual ReMixer that was involved with this project was first and foremost following their own inspiration, rather than looking for examples from other remakes. Theres a tendency to always equate remixing and soundtracks for game remakes with electronica while theres certainly a good bit of it on HD Remix, Im especially proud that we managed to include other genres as well, in keeping with OCRs goal of appreciating a wide variety of music.
CA. Street Fighter II has a pretty rabid fan base (and that’s putting it lightly). What can they expect from your work on the game?
LO: They can expect some really cool takes on these classic themes! All of the stage themes are instant classics, so the ReMixers didnt want to mess with success, but youre going to hear some excellent interpretations that sound completely at home in the Street Fighter universe. And we hope that when all is said and done, people get curious about the new music and head over to www.ocremix.org to learn more about the people who made it.
CA. Have you had any public feedback on what you’ve done so far and how’s it been?
LO: Even just checking out comments on the net, weve gotten some very positive feedback, whether its reactions to the stage themes or fans just hearing that OC ReMix is involved. We even got some good negative feedback on Guiles and Vegas stages once some footage went out on Capcom Digital Day; the artists caught wind of some reasonable criticisms and applied them to revisions of the themes. In Guiles case, Jimmy Hinson (a.k.a. Big Giant Circles) was able to get Justin R. Coleman to layer some live guitar work over his existing guitar synth for a fuller, more realistic sound. And in Vegas case, José E. Felix (a.k.a. José the Bronx Rican) added some additional string elements to enhance the traditional Spanish feel within the laid-back, urban flavour of his arrangement.
As far as OC ReMix goes, anyone that thinks comments on gaming news sites, gamer blogs, YouTube videos, etc. completely fall on deaf ears is wrong. I cant say we see everything, but were on the net, and were reading everything we can. You cant please everyone, but its pretty easy to tell when youre failing on the Internet. [laughs] With this project though, weve had overwhelmingly positive feedback on the music, and its a great sign.
CA. Are you big Street Fighter fans? How’s that had an impact on your work?
LO: Im a huge fan. Street Fighter II was mythical back in the day. I loved watching people play it in the arcade, and I loved playing it as a kid on the Super Nintendo. And while Im only a casual gamer (in other words, you can kick my ass), its been my favourite game series of all time. The more recent games like Street Fighter Alpha 3, Capcom vs. SNK and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike are a big reason why Im into game music in the first place. I literally wouldnt be here talking to you, Jamie, if it hadnt been for the impact of those specific soundtracks.
I think our fandom has only had a positive impact on the project. All of the ReMixers on board with HD Remix are extremely creative and talented musicians. I would have been worried coming into the project with HD Remix being so high-profile, except that Ive heard so many great OC ReMixes from these guys in the past. So I knew from the get-go that everyone would do a great job, especially for an institution like Street Fighter that we all grew up with and respect.
DJP: My mom actually let me take a sick day from school back when Street Fighter Alpha was released for the PlayStation just so I could pick it up that morning. Obviously, when youre contributing music to a remake of an epic title that redefined gaming itself, you wanna make sure you bring your A-game. As far as we know, this is going to be the version of this game well be playing for years to come, and if the music blows, hell, were the ones that are going to have to listen to it, too! Everyone on the project respects the source material as much as humanly possible, and it showed in their dedication and flexibility in working with Capcoms requests.
CA. Obligatory question – who’s your favourite Street Fighter character?
LO: Ken, without question. Once his personality and moveset differentiated from Ryu, he was my guy. The flashiness of the flaming Dragon Punches and multi-hit Hurricane Kicks always appealed to me more than Ryus raw power. Ken was always a more interesting character to me. Guile (with a nod to Charlie as well) is a very close second. I love the capability he has to play offensive defence, as it were, with his charging moves.
DJP: Sheng Long; see EGM for the code.
CA. If you had to pick, what’s been your favourite Street Fighter track(s) to work with and why?
DJP: Well, I technically only worked on E. Hondas theme, so I guess thats been my favorite to work with. If I could have chosen any theme, Id probably have wanted Kens theme, but Juan Medrano (a.k.a. Sixto Sounds) did a fantastic job on it. Only a few mixers did multiple themes, because a lot of different folks worked on this!
LO: For me, its strictly in a producer role, but I mentioned earlier that Jimmy Hinson was doing Guiles theme. That was easily my favourite track to commission, because I lobbied pretty hard to lock him into the soundtrack. When we first saw Guiles theme in action with the actual gameplay, it was just seamless.
CA. Obviously working with other peoples tunes is something you’re used to doing, but would you say its sometimes harder to remix someone’s work instead of starting from scratch?
DJP: Arranging is definitely easier in the sense that youre not starting from a blank slate youve got an initial source idea, however complex, and you can key in on pieces of the melody or accompaniment and make decisions about what youre going to keep, elaborate on, etc.
However, it can be harder than doing a completely original piece in several ways. For one, theres additional pressure not to trample over a classic tune with your arrangement: people get emotional about this music, and if you respect the composers, youre going to feel obliged to make the most of their pieces with your mix. Beyond the pressure to do the original justice, it can also be difficult to take something someone else made and make it your own without feeling like youre trapped in someone elses body. Music is a living, breathing thing, and arranging someone elses compositions means getting inside their head to a certain extent, and reconciling the way they think with the way youd approach the same idea. That balance can be tricky, especially when youre arranging music that is extremely unlike anything youd write yourself, but its also the best, most enjoyable part to get right, when everything clicks and you know youve got a synergy going.
CA. What would you say have been your main challenges on working on the game?
DJP: Musically, I think we did a great job coming up with arrangements pretty quickly and tailoring them to Capcoms needs. If anything, the main challenge working on the game hasnt been in what weve actually been tasked with, its been in trying to get the word out about it, trying to decide how to possibly line up OverClocked ReMix to do similar projects, and how to ensure we make the most of this opportunity, which is very unique. To our knowledge, this is the first time a major commercial game has featured a soundtrack essentially made by the fan community, and the biggest thing weve been concerned about and challenged by is that we set a positive historical precedent.