OSV: What are some of your own memories from the Double Dragon series?
Jake Kaufman: I remember putting the songs on a cassette tape (along with Ninja Gaiden and TMNT) and bringing it to school with me in a Walkman. I … wrote a rap which I performed over Ninja Gaiden for a class project in 5th grade. One of the first instances I can remember in my lifelong history of making crowds of people uncomfortable. As for Double Dragon, the game, none of my friends or I were good enough at first to beat the entire game, so each time we reached a new level or unlocked a new move (hair-pull kick!) it was a major event. We had strategy sessions where we’d try to plan our path, including co-op responsibilities, through a level. Our little clique determined who we associated with by their knowledge (or lack thereof) of the “scroll the midboss off the screen” trick. So, you know, nothing major, just a casual fan with barely any nostalgia.
OSV: When you accepted the job of creating the sound and music for Double Dragon Neon, what did you decide would be the most important quality to this all new soundtrack?
Jake Kaufman: FUN! Right behind that, though, was that hard-to-pinpoint quality of clearly pandering for nostalgia without being the least bit cynical about it. It’s actually pretty hard to write excellent vocal tracks, regardless of what decade they’re from. Hit singles are hit singles. I believe I fell short of that goal, due equally to limitations in my own skill, budget, and time, but I had a phenomenal time anyway. I tried to really “nail” the styles I was dealing with — both with the original DD arrangements, and my original tracks. Imagine thinking to yourself, “holy shit, I finally have the opportunity to totally unload on a Stan Bush homage” or “I just wrote a TV cop drama theme out of DD1 Mission 2, a song I’ve been playing on the piano and imagining in this style since 1987!” That’s a good time, right there.
OSV: Can you tell us a little bit about your gear set up for this particular game?
Jake Kaufman: This time we got into an actual recording studio, for both the voiceover and the songs, and had access to a great vocal booth, a talented engineer, and good mics (We used mainly a U87 and a Blue Woodpecker, and threw a few others on as needed). I tracked all the guitars at odd hours of the night in my office studio, using my Ibanez RG2550e and my shitty-but-reliable Mexi-Jbass, recorded through a DI into Guitar Rig. All the synths and sound libraries were virtual. I want to make special mention of Impact Soundworks’ fantastic drum library, Groove Bias, which I used in the more funky tracks, such as “Final Palace”. This is not a paid endorsement: I haven’t found another drum library that sounds more incredible in 70s/80s pop. I mastered a lot of it on an Otari MX5050 tape machine, barring any revisions or re-dos, for which I used an analogue simulation in Izotope Ozone. I also tried to program synth patches (using NI Massive and FM8, Zebra2, and Arturia CS80v) that are period-accurate (recreated the “Sail Away” chimes on “Mixtape – Balance”, for example. I used a ton of Korg Legacy Wavestation, even though the Wavestation is from the early 90s; I already beat myself up over this, so you can just leave me alone, you jerk. God! What a mean jerk.
OSV: No you’re the jerk, dummy! So, did you use any influences from outside of video games, such as 80’s music or Boyz II Men?
Jake Kaufman: Listen to the Mixtape tracks alone! (http://youtu.be/Lu5xSqddhNk) Beastie Boys, Whitesnake, Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth, Aerosmith, Huey Lewis, Peter Gabriel, Paula Abdul… I badly imitate EVERYONE! The real reason I wrote separate unique tracks for each one of the mixtape songs (i.e. the “special moves” which you assemble into a custom moveset, represented by cassette tapes in your inventory) is because I wanted to have a chance to write original tracks in each of those styles, and I knew such opportunities did not come often. To me, that was worth staying at the office until 3 AM for a month straight. My wife is a very special person.
OSV: You have now worked on Contra, TMNT, and Double Dragon. Is there any more childhood dreams left for you to realize?
Jake Kaufman: Of course! Among the two dozen-odd franchises that STILL make me convulse when I think about working on them someday, the Mega Man and Castlevania creators still haven’t hired me yet. Well, not true, the Mega Man 9 guys DID hire me, but only for a track on the Chiptuned Rockman arrange album. I want to score a full game! But there are dozens of other series, from Battletoads to Sam’n’Max to Gradius, which I’d love to work on. I would also like to score a porno (with epic Hans Zimmer orchestration) and work on a children’s album (not at the same time, of course) with chiptune stylings and rad vocals. Audi, there are SO MANY IMPORTANT THINGS to do! The idea of someday running out of goals and getting bored is completely baffling to me.
Double Dragon Neon releases on PSN TODAY! Join in on the official listening party with Jake himself and his wife Kristi on Noise Channel at 7:00pm PDT.Tags: 5 Quick Questions, Double Dragon, Double Dragon Neon, Interviews, Jake Kaufman, PSN, virt, Wayforward, XBLA