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Interview with Americana Dawn’s Composer Shnabubula

December 8, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Interview with Americana Dawn’s Composer Shnabubulaon Twitter

With the Kickstarter for the JRPG Americana Dawn by indie developers Bit-Bonton chugging along, I thought it’d be a great opportunity to get ahold of the composer for the soundtrack; Samuel “Shnabubula” Ascher-Weiss!

The artist known as Shnabubula, for those who don’t know, is an amazing pianist and chiptune artist who has produced several albums, including NES Jams, Starbound and Fading Light. He also worked on the original, much smaller Kickstarter for Americana Dawn: Civilized Folk.

OSV: So to tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get into video game music, piano and eventually the arrangement scene?

Ascher-Weiss: I was huge into video games as a kid. I started playing at age 4 and it quickly became an obsession. For my 7th birthday I was given the Nintendo miracle piano teaching system. To me it was just another video game at first and I played it obsessively until I’d learned all the songs on the cartridge. So I guess, music and video games have always been inextricably linked for me. Eventually I discovered Overclocked Remix and then the whole chiptune scene through people I’d met there.

OSV:When you first saw the concept for Americana Dawn, what was the first thing that ran through your head? What was it about the soundscape of the Super Nintendo that drew you to using it for Americana Dawn?

Ascher-Weiss: Right before I found out about Americana Dawn, I had started a SNES revival movement called SNESology and I was very focused on SNES sounds and composition. At the time when I was introduced to AD, the style of sprites and tiles looked very much like an early generation SNES game and I was ecstatic at the idea of writing a real SNES soundtrack to a game that looked straight out of the era. Over the next year or so, the art style evolved to resemble something much closer to the PSX generation of 2D RPGs but in this we saw an opportunity. There’s a big shift that happens about halfway through the game, I don’t want to say to much, spoilers and all, but the SNES sounds I had made for the game had a very kind of innocent childlike quality and the drastic change from those into a much richer high quality soundscape perfectly matches and even enhances the tonal shift in the second half of the game. When we realized this, we decided to stick with the SNES sounds for the first half, even though the visuals no longer looked of that era.

Civilized Folk

OSV: How much of the soundtrack (for Americana Dawn) was inspired by the game and images directly and how much was music that you conceptualized based on the time period?

Ascher-Weiss: Pretty quickly during the composition process for the game, I found a sort of middle ground aesthetic that I got really comfortable with. I thought of how Japanese composers had taken their own unique interpretation of Celtic folk music and that had been a corner stone of a lot of the older RPG soundtracks. In this case I tried to do something similar but instead with American folk music. Luckily I had actually played a lot of civil war tunes as a child, after finishing the miracle system for NES, I got a teacher who for six months taught me nothing but old American folk music, so I already had a pretty good familiarity with the genre. My goal was to fuse elements of American folk with the traditional Japanese RPG style of composition to create a unique hybrid the way the composers of the past had done with their Celtic influences.

Wilderness Battle

OSV: I’ve heard rumor you’d previously stated that you’d wanted to avoid doing soundtracks for fully-developed video games. What was it about Americana Dawn that piqued your interest in writing the music for it, then?

Ascher-Weiss: I wouldn’t say I’d specifically avoided doing soundtracks as much as, I never thought I’d be genuinely interested in writing music for a game so it’s not something I ever pursued. With Americana Dawn, the project itself, the characters, setting and art style was only half of the picture. One of the things that struck me the most was the incredibly passion of it’s creator. Her initial message to me, telling me about the game and her belief in it, won me over almost immediately. I felt her completely devotion and love for this concept and I wanted to be part of making it a reality. I wish I could tell you all of the scenarios she’s written for the game but suffice it to say, people are in for the ride of a lifetime when the game is released.

OSV: Soshiro Hokkai is slated to work on the game’s soundtrack as well. How does it feel to work beside an industry composer who’s worked on titles like Castlevania?

Ascher-Weiss: Hokkai is probably one of the greatest composers living today. I don’t make this statement lightly. Hearing his work on Castlevania Harmony of Dissonance, literally changed my life. I’d be very hard pressed to find anybody I’d be more excited to work with, I’m still in a state of disbelief that I’ve been given this opportunity to do so.

OSV: Do you have any plans to come up with an ‘arrange album’ version of the music from the game or will this strictly be as is?

Ascher-Weiss: We have plans to do an full length arrange album with several live musicians, myself included.

I want to thank Shnabubula for taking the time to answer my questions regarding Americana Dawn, and I look forward to he Kickstarter being successfully funded so that we can all enjoy the music he’s composer for the game put to the impressive graphics and story seen thus far. Be sure to back the project and spread the word if you’re interested in a mix of American history with the gameplay of Suikoden, Chrono Trigger and Grandia. It should prove to be an excellent and unique game.

Americana Dawn Kickstarter

Shnabubula’s Bandcamp

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