Every now and then, some great opportunities arise to get to know some really neat individuals in the geek culture scene. Recently, I was able sit down and get to know Zach Kamins, one half of the awesome duo An Endless Sporadic, to talk about music and gaming. Some of their work has been featured in video games like Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. I wanted to know what gaming influences, if any, have affected his musical career.
Allahweh: What got you guys into the video game music scene? Was it something that kind of just happened one day, or was it always something you wanted to do?
Zach: In 2005, I was finishing high school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while Andy was in Woodland Hills, California working for Neversoft as a level designer for Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland. We collaborated on our first instrumental piece, “Sun of Pearl,” sending audio files back and forth online. Andy showed our tune to the music supervisor and, just like that, we had our music in a video game.
We weren’t really setting out to make video game music. It was really just intended to be an instrumental progressive rock band. I don’t consider us to be a part of the video game music scene, because we didn’t actually score music to games. Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland and Guitar Hero are both games where the music is all pre-recorded songs that weren’t initially recorded for the games themselves. However, we did record our songs keeping Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland and Guitar Hero in mind. The only criteria I was trying to follow was keep the energy up and change parts a lot to keep things interesting during gameplay.
Allahweh: A lot of your music really evokes strong memories of games I loved growing up, like Mega Man (or Mega Man X) and Castlevania. Do you guys have any influences that you draw on?
Zach: Our influences, as they relate to An Endless Sporadic, are more from musical recording artists and bands rather than music we’ve heard in video games. When we started AES, we were really into Dream Theater, Tool, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree, and a long list of many others. As far as video game music goes, I really like the music in Contra 3, Katamari, Sky Odyssey, Pilot Wings, and Halo.
Allahweh: I’m assuming you played a lot of games growing up. Do you have any favorite series or genres?
Zach: My favorite games were Donkey Kong Country, pretty much all Mario games, Bomber Man, Street Fighter, Pilot Wings 64, Golden Eye, Halo 2 and 3. My favorite game ever was Zelda Ocarina of Time.
Allahweh: There’s a huge community of professional game remixers/arrangers, like some of the folks at Overclocked Remix. Do you ever do anything with that scene, even if just for fun?
Zach: We haven’t really tapped into the world of remixing. It definitely interests us though.
Allahweh: I’ve always felt that a great soundtrack can make an okay game much, much better (like Mega Man 4-6 on the NES). These days, though, you don’t have to buy a game to listen to the music (thanks to OSTs and YouTube). Do you think that a great OST can still save a lackluster video game anymore
Zach: I think just how music for movies and television can make a strong impression and help the selling point, so does music for video games. When I hear a piece of music I like, the first thing I wonder about is the context. If the piece of music is interesting enough, and it’s from a video game, I might be inclined to buy the game. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed Katamari as much if it were different music. I feel like the music really boosted the experience with that game.
Allahweh: If you could pick any series, past or present, to get involved in making music for, what would you choose? Dream big!
Zach: Star Trek.
Allahweh: I have to ask this of everyone involved in games: for the next round of consoles, are you going Sony or Microsoft, or both maybe?
Zach: I haven’t really thought about it that much. I mostly play on my friends’ consoles, so I don’t play at home very often. I really like my Xbox 360, so I might lean towards Microsoft if I get another console.
Allahweh: There’s a huge amateur game music crowd out there. Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists for how they can “make it big?” What can they do to get there stuff out into the mainstream?
Zach: I can’t really give advice on how to specifically become mainstream with video game music, because I haven’t done so myself. I will say that I think that anyone who was able to “make it big” was able to fill a missing gap in our lives. I think it’s okay to be generic in order to show proficiency in whatever it is you do. But when working in a creative field, you become way more valued when you take chances and they miraculously work. Get crazy with what you do. Give us something we don’t have.
Allahweh: Finally, just because I’m a big 8-bit and 16-bit nerd, do you guys ever mess with old soundboards to produce “new retro music?”
Zach: I have experimented with that kind of sound with Ableton Live and a Moog Voyager. It’s kind of just an intro to a larger piece that I have yet to finish. I’ll be sure to let know you when it’s done!
To find out more about An Endless Sporadic, be sure to visit their main website!