In the past couple of months, there have been a surge of concerts that have blown audiences away. This concert series is not a mixed bag of video game music like Video Games Live or PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, but focuses on one game series – The Legend of Zelda. Having been to many video game concerts myself, I have not run into an official video game concert where the music director actually arranged the music specifically for a 100+ piece orchestra. Not even the Final Fantasy concerts (“Dear Friends” “More Friends” “Distant Worlds”) hit that mark as they were (mostly) just live performances of arrangements made for previous albums. The music was always there, they just brought together musicians and perform the pieces live. But this is where The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of The Goddesses hits an entirely new realm of concerts for Americans: instead of ripping the music from the video game, or old work being replayed, why not arrange an entirely new piece for the audience?
Recently, I had a chance to talk with the man who arranged the music for these Zelda concerts, Chad Seiter, a man who has put a lot of hard work into the arrangements. I sat down with him at his concert at E3, he was nice enough to share his passion and love for what he called The legend of Zelda: Symphony of The Goddesses.
Read the interview after the Jump.
OSV: Thank you for taking the time to schedule this interview; would you like to tell us about where you’re from and how you got started in this business?
Seiter: Sure! I’m originally from Michigan, I’ve been here in Los Angeles for about 10 years writing for Film, Television, Games, and Concerts…
OSV: Concerts! Yes, I do remember you helped with Star Trek
Seiter: Yes, I’ve worked with Michael Giacchino, who’s here tonight.
OSV: Oh is he?
Seiter: Yeah, he’s my mentor, we sat together. We worked together on Lost, The Incredibles, Star Trek, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible 3.
OSV: I would love to pick your brain on some of the projects; Star Trek had a really good composition but Ratatouille is amazing though.
Seiter: I worked on all those, and then it came time to where I was ready to move on from Michael; I was lifted out of the nest, and then we started this.
OSV: I was going to ask how you guys got involved to get this…
Seiter: Well, me and Jeron Moore, my good friend, we literally sat down and said “Let’s start a concert series… What could we do?” And we both kind of looked at each other and went “…Zelda!” So then we took it to Jason Michael Paul, the executive producer of our show, who had the contacts at Nintendo. We pitched it, we put together this big document with budgets, blueprints, and everything else, and it shot through the ranks of Nintendo! Within days, we heard from Miyamoto, and he was like “Aw lets do this!”
OSV: That’s awesome.
Seiter: And here we are today. No roadblock through this project. Synergy is amazing!
OSV: I agree! By the way, you guys are going on tour aren’t you?
Seiter: We’re all over the country!
OSV: Yeah, like I’ve noticed on your site, this is the first stop on your tour…
Seiter: This is not; we are actually in the double digits of shows we will be performing, and we have more shows ahead of us than we had behind us!
OSV: I’m happy for you, the concert was totally awesome. So, a little sidetrack, I’m going to ask if you’ve taken part in any arrangement communities like OCR, VGMix, etc.
Seiter: I wasn’t really a part of OCR, but I was always a part of VGMix. I put up some arrangements way back when. I did one called “Final Fantasia” and I was kind of like the orchestra guy over there, which was fun.
OSV: You have a very interesting way of mixing different segments and melodies that I have never seen anyone else perform in remixes.
Seiter: Well, what I do is that I take – I have a very cinematic way of approaching it. Instead of doing a regular arrangement – even though it is an arrangement– I like to take the theme and make it my own, and put it in my own world, and if you listen to my old music, it doesn’t sound that different from this stuff. I took a lot of classical settings, like our song “dungeons” kind of beings like “The rite of spring,” and you know, there is a little Satie in there at some points, and I kind of got a lot of Jerry Goldsmith – my favorite composer of all time. Yeah, this is everything I love; 90 minutes of everything I love, and Zelda!
OSV: How did you get into games, in general?
Seiter: I’ve been playing Zelda my whole life. I’m 29, about to turn 30. Zelda is 25, I’ve grown up playing it. When people ask me “was this hard to do?” No, this has been 25 years in the making, so when I put it down on paper, it kind of just – happened!
OSV: Is there anything as far as what we’ve heard that you kind of went “Hmm, I don’t know about this song, maybe I want to tweak it up a bit.”
Seiter: You know, there are always those things that bother you, and you also remember the parts you don’t really like. I remember during Wind Waker, when we were performing it in Vancouver, during half the piece I was down in the basement of the Vancouver Orpheum throwing up because I had food poisoning. So there are things that kind of stick with you, and the music has a lot of memories in them. It’s funny. It’s all kind of part of it.
OSV: Oh no! But I think I understand what you’re saying. Because I tend to nit-pick when I’m arranging stuff. I don’t know how difficult it is for you, but see, for me you just make the song and once it’s done, just get it out of the way, otherwise I’ll keep revising it.
Seiter: Well that’s where I wrote the music to the first season of the TV show Fringe, and not to mention 6 years on the TV show Lost, and the TV show Alias before that, and the thing you learn about Television is, it’s a boot camp for music. My record is about 30 minutes of music in one day. ONE DAY. And I had to orchestrate it for the orchestra the next day. So, you learn to work quickly, and you learn to trust your instincts. All of this(The legend of Zelda: Symphony of The Goddesses) took about two to three months. And that was with the administration of putting the project together – you know, booking the orchestras together; less fun stuff, putting together a budget and negotiating them to where you want them. It’s a whole different world.
OSV: Was there a favorite instrument of yours that you were like “I wanna use this….”
Seiter: Lots of french horns! In fact, most symphony orchestras have four french horns, we have six! Only budget reasons why we don’t have eight.
OSV: When I came in and sat down and when I looked back, I noticed that not all the seats were filled all the way. But by the time the show started, I look back and you guys had a full house! Basically, a full house sitting down to hear Zelda tunes. And that’s the kind of stuff I personally love. All these people coming together, and there are so many of us.
Seiter: Yeah, people coming together. I love that there is this thing that binds them; everyone is bound by Zelda, and their love for it. It makes its own community. That’s what I liked about VGMix and OCR is that they had these tight-knit communities of good friends. The same idea applies here on a much bigger scale. And we all got to listen to cool music, or at least what I hope is cool music and just enjoy it.
OSV: What I heard tonight was pretty damn good! I was mostly surprised by the mixing of Zelda melodies, getting them to work with your arrangements. What I actually didn’t expect was, it’s really organized. Way more organized than I anticipated. You had movements and you separated each Zelda classic into its own movements. I have not seen that before in other video game orchestras.
Seiter: We flushed out a story board. It’s called Symphony of The Goddesses, but it is literally, the orchestral textbook definition of a symphony. We made sure that the story was all laid out, and we organized the timeline, and we made sure that we hit everything we needed to hit in order to accurately tell the Zelda story.
OSV: And the video by the way…
Seiter: Yea, that was all edited by Jeron Moore, and he did a great job. It’s no easy task to edit that stuff, especially if you want to present it in a cinematic fashion. Like, I wanted it to be like a film score, and he created the film accompanying it.
OSV: I was thinking that there would be something from Nintendo where they were like “Grr, we wanna do this, and that and…”
Seiter: Well they approved everything and I worked closely with Kondo-san to make sure the arrangements were up to his standards, which is no easy task being that he is probably the greatest thematic writer of our time.
OSV: Yes, definitely.
Seiter: Everyone knows The Mario Bros theme.
OSV: Ha, DEFINITELY. One last question. To the fans who may want to purchase your music in CD or Digital download format, is there any place they could go to purchase these Zelda arrangements?
Seiter: Unfortunately not. The only way they can hear any of it is with the Zelda 25th Anniversary CD that came with Skyward Sword. While we did a recording session and while only two movements from the symphony were included, we did actually record all 4 movements, and hope to do something with them one day!
OSV: Thank you for your time, Chad!
You can check out more info on concert information at http://zelda-symphony.com/.Tags: 25th Anniversary, Arrangements, Chad Seiter, Interview, Interviews, Jerry Goldsmith, Koji Kondo, OCR, Orchestra, Satie, Symphony, Symphony of the Goddesses, The Legend of Zelda, VGMix