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Doujin, Game Music

contra-4-rocked-n-loaded-roundtable-1-recruit-camp

Contra 4: Rocked n’ Loaded Roundtable #1: Recruit Camp

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It seems Konami’s classic franchises are everywhere these days. We reviewed Contra Rebirth last month, there was the announcement of Castlevania: The Concert, Castlevania Rebirth is set to whip some ass on WiiWare sometime soon, and even Sparkster is coming back to consoles next year.

But what we are gonna do here concerns a gem that came out in 2007, Contra 4. You see, there is an arrangement project in the works for this game which is wrapping up, and anyone who’s played this game know it has an amazing soundtrack, composed by Jake Kaufman, better known as virt. We thought it would be fun to talk to the guys behind this project about the the process of getting a remix project together and discuss the reasons why they chose this specific game. We are proud to present part 1 of this roundtable, which should be highly interesting to any fan or musician out there.

So please enjoy Part 1 of the Contra 4 roundtable after the jump!

OSV: Alright boys, let’s get this party started. Please introduce yourselves.

Snapple: Hey, I am Andreas Kotsamanidis, also known as Snappleman, and I cover and arrange video game music! I have previously worked on projects such as Kong in Concert, Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream and I was also the project leader on Project Chaos: A Sonic 3 and Knuckles Arrangement Album.

Tony: I’m Tony Dickinson, I likewise cover and arrange video game music. My main instrument is the bass guitar but I also play most of the guitar and keyboards on my tracks. I participated on many Dwelling of Duels over the last 2 years.

OSV: So it’s safe to say you got quite a lot of experience with arrangement projects, Snapple.

Snapple: Are you trying to tell me I’m gay?

OSV: Oh, absolutely not. What’s the reason behind you choosing to do a project for Contra 4?

Snapple: Well, when choosing to do the album, Contra 4 was a no brainer. Jake Kaufman is a fellow arranger and close friend of mine, and him getting to write the soundtrack for a Contra game was a bit of a huge victory to everyone in this scene, since early Konami soundtracks are one of the main reason most of us here do what we do. I figured, what better way to honor him, the Contra franchise, and this scene, by covering his music.

OSV: How do you go about starting an arrangement album?

Snapple: The first thing you need is a complete lack of sense of logic, because if you really think about how long it takes to get this organized and completed, you’ll never want to do it. Then you start a list of the artists you want to be on it. In the case of Rocked ‘n’ Loaded, I opened it up to anyone and everyone. All people had to do was send me a demo of their vision of a song, if I liked it, I’d let them get on board and finish that song.

OSV: So all of the artists on the album came to you with demos?

Snapple: Not exactly. The only artist to still be on the album after sending me a demo is Christian Pacaud, who was the first one done with his song. Quickly after starting the project I realized that the open demo approach was not working, so I started asking people I knew to get on board. Each person I asked has a very specific and unique style that really works best with the songs they’ve chosen or have been given to arrange.

OSV: Ah right, from the names I’ve seen on the bill I can certainly agree with that. Can you tell us the final list of artists on the album then?

Snapple: Considering how we’re still recruiting for little bits of songs here and there, I can’t really say who will be in the final roster.

Tony: The personnel have changed many times over the progress of the album, people have come and gone, some have come and gone again. At this point the line-up is Snappleman, norg, BrainCells, Dan Behrens, virt, Norrin Radd, Christian Pacaud and myself. There are a few new faces on the project, such as Chris Dlugosz, Marc-André Gingras and Travis Moberg, all of which are good friends of other remixers. So as Snapple hints at, things could change any minute!

OSV: So you actually got Jake himself involved? What can we expect from him?

Tony: Well, if anyone knows how to do this music right on this project, it’s him. How many remix projects ever have their original composers participating? You’ll just have to wait and see what he has in store.

OSV: Can you tell us anything about the new guys?

Tony: Marc-André Gingras is a guy Christian Pacaud knows. I don’t know much about him myself, except that he’s a prominent guitar player in Quebec.

Chris Dlugosz plays keyboards in Danimal Cannon’s band Arm Cannon.

Travis Moberg is a guy I know that I’ve been making music with since we were 13. We’ve pretty much been in every single musical project together. He plays drums on “Neo City,” “Harbor” and “Jungle Hard.” He also sang on my “Knights of Hyrule” track that I made for DoD February 2009.

OSV: Tony, you’re the co-director of this album, how did you get involved with Snappleman?

Tony: Project Chaos was one of my favorite soundtracks and games of all time. Snappleman had some of the best remixes I’ve ever heard. I became a fanboy pretty quickly. It wasn’t until early March 2008 that I decided to find his AIM address and ask him some technical questions about music. After I made my first YouTube video and showed it to Snappleman, he wanted me to play bass on the “Ocean” arrangement. It was only that one part for a while, until Snapple needed “Neo City” and “Harbor” to be taken care of. I volunteered and started working on them, but Snapple then gave “Harbor” to someone else. Later I received “Base” to do in full, too. Since I love this project and the music so much, I eventually became assistant director.

OSV: So now that we know how the concept of the album began, tell us about how the actual work starts, and how it differs from working on an album of original music.

Snapple: Well, the work usually starts with the song I like most from the soundtrack. I load an MP3 or WAV file of the original song into my sequencer and start learning it. This often poses a problem because tackling your favorite song first leaves you with songs you like progressively less and less to work on (but in the case of Contra 4, all the songs are amazing so that’s not a problem). That is the major difference between this and an original album. You know exactly how many songs you will do and what the compositions are, it’s very much more of a job than it is to sit down and write original music that just comes out naturally.

Tony: To me, arranging always seems to come easier than writing original music. That’s probably a good explanation as to why I have so many more arrangements than original tunes. When arranging the Contra 4 stuff, I spread around Jake’s numerous melodies, harmonies, and other various music lines to different instruments. Guitar and bass riffs are mostly original, except for the obvious stuff, but I still try to capture the essence and feeling of the music with the original riffs. A lot of arranging of this type of music I do in Guitar Pro because of the prominence of guitars and I can really work out riffs easier. If I were doing something with less guitar prominence I’d probably arrange right into Cubase…

(To be continued…)
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You can follow more progress at the Contra 4: Rocked n’ Loaded website and YouTube channel. Keep checking back for the next entry of this roundtable, where we’ll be going into detail about the music and different tracks on Rocked n’ Loaded, and hear from the different contributors!

[Banner by Nate Horsfall]

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