July 5, 2006 1:15 PM |
David Lloyd, better known as DJ Pretzel, began OverClocked ReMix (OCReMix for short) in 1999 as a home for the reinterpretation of videogame music. Seven years later, the site has accumulated almost 1,500 songs by 466 ReMixers, a community of over 20,000 members, and it's own weekly podcast.
The site's mission statement is to "prove that this music is not disposable or merely background, but is as intricate, innovative, and lasting as any other form", which it does through not simply remixing the music, but rearranging it - thus the use of capitals in "ReMix", a spelling coined by Lloyd. The site has seen submissions ranging from house, to hillbilly, and prog to thrash, all quality controlled by its board of judges, helmed by Lloyd. We spoke to him regarding the site - its history and its future, and its highlights.
(Click through to read the full feature, including plenty more Pretzel-centric information!)
What is your background as a gamer?
My family had a Colecovision, 2600, and C64 at different points during my childhood, but I really got into gaming when we purchased a Sega Master System and I started playing games like Shinobi, Phantasy Star and Alex Kidd. Definitely fell into the Sega camp, which put me at odds with 90% of the kids at my elementary school, but I’m a loner anyways, and while the NES had its share of great games, Phantasy Star in particular I feel was a cut above. Later I did get a NES, then a Genesis, then SNES... got into PC gaming. In general, as my time grew scarcer, I gravitated away from RPGs and towards reflex/skill based games like Ridge Racer 4, Street Fighter Alpha, etc., but I still miss the genre.
Probably my favorite RPG was Lunar for the Sega CD - they made a PlayStation version, but I swear, the Sega CD version had a soundtrack that was ten times better. I’m far from hardcore, but I’ve played a good variety of games on a good variety of systems. In all instances, music was one of the criteria that highly affected whether I’d stick with a game long-term - it’s probably more important for me than for the average gamer.
What is your background as a musician and fan of music?
Both of my older sisters were in band in school, as was I - trumpet, and then euphonium. They both also took piano lessons; I did not. Interestingly, I’m the only one who still regularly plays a piano, or keyboard instrument of some kind, even though I’m self-taught. There might be a message there, I don’t know. Inexplicably, though great fans of music, my parents have almost no musical ability whatsoever, whereas we three are all at least what I’d call competent - I think it skipped a generation.
At any rate, when I was 10 or so Emily got a Yamaha PSR-something synth for Christmas, and a couple years later when she lost interest I think I bought it off her for $20. Besides just writing the types of limited compositions that were possible with something like that, I actually got into programming sounds - it was one of the few PSR models that let you design your own patches using basic FM synthesis, and I loved it. I decided that, whether or not it would end up being my job, I loved working with synthesizers and electronic music, and eventually convinced my parents to buy me a Casio CZ-101, my first “professional” synth.
Though it was again very limited, it was 100 times more programmable, and I had fun designing my own sounds. From there I started upgrading and building a makeshift studio, with more and better gear. When I finally got my Ensoniq ASR-10, which all my initial mixes were made with, I was about 16. I spent the next three years doing originals, learning the instrument up and down, and then in 1999 started OC ReMix.
As a fan of music, my background is... that I love it. Some people say they like ‘all genres except rap’ or the same for country, but that’s usually a bland answer from someone who doesn’t actually remember band names or specific songs. In my case, I literally love songs from every genre. Bars, restaurants, no matter where I am, I’m always trying to identify what song is playing, by what band. Outside of it not being related to my profession as a software architect, music plays about as big a role in my life as it could.
Who are your personal favourite game composers, and what are your favourite game soundtracks?
It’s hard to choose, but Yuzo Koshiro and Tokuhiko Uwabe (“Bo”) are two of my favorite composers, and the OSTs for Revenge of Shinobi (Genesis) and Super Castlevania IV (SNES) two of my favorite scores.
When and why did you start OC ReMix?
Late 1999 - there were two motivations. One was that I wanted to force myself to do more music, as I was slipping a bit, and was also interested in learning aspects of arrangement. The other, stronger factor towards creating a public, open-genre, open-platform game remix website was that nothing like that existed at the time, and I was 100% sure that it should. I didn’t necessarily think it’d grow as quickly as it did or reach the point where it is today, but I knew it was a niche that needed to be filled.
How much time do you spend working on the site?
Probably an average of 10 hours a week; less when I’m taking a bit of a breather, and far more when I’m actively developing a new feature, working on one of my own mixes, or helping coordinate a site project.
Do you have any favourites from the site?
I love ‘em all. If forced at gunpoint to choose, highlights would include Star Salzman’s ‘Pillar of Salt’, jdproject’s ‘The Ken Song’, Harmony’s ‘Dragon Song’, and (with humility!!) my own ‘Love Hurts’ mix. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Are there any games you would like to see done that haven’t been?
The main theme from Mega Turrican is amazing and deserves some coverage; there’s just so many great games out there... I’d like to see more Sega Master System and TurboGrafx-16 coverage in general, because those are underappreciated consoles with a wealth of games that had great music. Ninja Spirit, Legendary Axe, Phantasy Star... I plan on doing an Aztec Adventure mix this summer, and that’s yet another game that hardly anyone knows but which had some really catchy tunage.
On the flip side of that, are there any games that you feel have been done to death?
Square, Capcom, Nintendo. Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Mega Man, Zelda, Mario...but not “to death”. “To death” would mean I thought that the range of creative options for rearranging music from those companies and those games had been depleted - far from it. Those games have great music that deserves the attention it gets, and people are still finding new ways of interpreting it - it’s far from dead. However, with so many games and even systems that haven’t been explored yet, it’s sometimes a little dismaying that ReMixers’ attentions focus on some of the same titles.
The community built around the site seems very active, especially in term of reviewing submissions and the like - was this something you expected when you started the site?
I expected it would grow, but it’s reached a level of notoriety and activity that I wouldn’t have imagined six years ago. So, yes and no - I did envision things becoming more interactive, submissions picking up steam, interest growing. But I didn’t know it would continue doing that for five years, and become what it is today.
The trend’s continuing - we’ve got various site projects that cover the entire soundtracks to games, like the recently released Street Fighter 2 project ‘Blood on the Asphalt’, new mixers are sending in their stuff and old ones continuing to come up with fresh ideas, and in general I feel like we have the same type of momentum we always did; nothing’s slacked off, everything’s cumulative, and I’m just happy mixers and listeners alike are still adding so much energy to the site. It’s really less of a website and more of a concept, and the enthusiasm with which that concept has been embraced and continues to be embraced is fantastic.