(Re)Arranged: An OC ReMix Q&A
Years ago one might have considered OverClocked ReMix an insider game music site. These days many of you may have heard about this site which features over a thousand remixed videogame music tracks from authors all over the world. If you havenÃ‚'t visited the site by now itÃ‚'s about time you did! OC ReMix founder David Lloyd aka Ã‚"djpretzelÃ‚" took some time to talk about the early days of the project, bandwidth requirements and the remix creation process among other things so read on!
Q: First of all, what are you doing when you're not busy maintaining the website or creating rearrangements of music tracks? Is music just a hobby of yours or are you also working/studying something related to it?
David Lloyd: When not working on or for OCR, I'm working 40hrs a week as a web developer, attending night classes, driving my Mustang, payin' the bills, watching anime & foreign/domestic films, and - when time permits - actually PLAYING video games instead of remixing their soundtracks. It's a busy life.
I originally had plans to go into music as a profession, but I love it too much to have to do it day in, day out, to someone else's specifications on a deadline. It works better for me as a hobby than an occupation, where I
can do things the way I want, on my own schedule and for no other reason than self-expression and fun.
Q: When was OCRemix originally launched? How many songs were there available at launch?
DL: I don't have the specific date, but in the 4th quarter of 1999. The first couple tracks were my own, then some tracks borrowed from some of the existing C64 remix sites, then it generated enough interest to get
submissions of its own. I think it debuted with like three songs, two of my own and one C64 mix.
Q: How many songs are you hosting now?
DL: Over a thousand - increases every two or three nights, so by the time this is read, maybe almost 1100...
Q: How much bandwidth do visitors usually eat up per day/month?
DL: Too much! Around 60-70GB a day, on average. We're always looking for ways to handle the huge costs this incurs, like selling T-Shirts, donations, alternate download methods, etc.
Q: I assume you didn't expect it to become "too much" or at least on a
level like this when you originally launched OC Remix. Was there ever
a moment where you considered taking the project down (or reducing it
somehow) in order to not let the bandwidth costs seriously harm your
DL: Actually, though people often get the wrong impression, I don't fund or host
the site myself. It's hosted by a group of guys (ztnet) that primarily host
emulation web sites - some of the big ones, like mame.net, retrogames.com,
emuunlim.com, zophar.net, etc. In fact, OC ReMix sprung in part from my
participation with the emulation community. They handle the bandwidth and
funding side of things, and yes, initially no one had any idea it would
consume so much! However, they've been great at working with me to produce
the T-shirts, keep ad revenue coming in, and make sure the site remains a
source of non-profit, free game remixes. We're always looking for ways to
lessen the impact of the bandwidth costs and "break even", but it's always a
challenge, and the guys hosting OCR have been immensely helpful and
Q: How many remix submissions are there per month?
DL: This can vary a bit. I'd estimate about 75-80.
Q: As for your creative involvement: how do you start working on a project? Let's assume you got to listen to a song and think "Hey, that's it. That's sounds like one I'd like to work with." Do usually have an immediate idea of what you're going to do with it or is the rearrangement more an explorative process in which you're constantly testing out elements and pick those you like best?
DL: This depends on the song. I think my best ReMixes are of songs I'm already familiar with. One of the approaches I take is intentionally NOT to listen to a track in detail before I ReMix it - in other words, to go from memory alone, and see how my own memory differs from the real thing. This can result in so-called "happy accidents", where you remember the song a certain way which was not the way it really was and that's what constitutes the "arrangement".
Other times I'll just be humming something from a game, and suddenly think to myself "how would that sound as a funk track?" or "how could I turn that into an orchestral march?" or what not and if I can envision it in my mind, I can *usually* get what's in my mind into reality with the tools I use. The most frustrating thing is having the mix 100% perfect in your mind, yet not being able to realize it.
As far as the actual work process, it's very trial and error, and I'll sometimes throw away entire mixes that are 80% done if I can't take them to the next step after a dozen tries. I usually begin with an idea of the lead
melody in my mind, and build a bassline and drums around that, then actually record the melody, then work on chords afterwards, but that can vary wildly depending on the genre.
When I specifically sit down to listen to game soundtracks TRYING to find a piece to ReMix, I don't think the results are as natural, and those mixes usually take longer and are harder for me. I prefer to know the melody a
bit ahead of time, build the mix in my mind, and sit down at the keyboard (synth) with some idea of what I'm gonna do.
Q: How long does it usually take from the moment you listen to the original song to the final product?
DL: Sometimes I don't actually listen to the original for quite some time before I do the mix, as I mentioned, to get some distance. But from the time I start a mix to the time I finish it can again vary quite dramatically - some of my best mixes - Sonic the Hedgehog 'Love Hurts', for example - were done in several hours, whereas some lesser works took much, much longer. Generally, if I come up with an idea that just works naturally, I can do a mix in a few hours over a couple days. If it's an idea that, in order to work, I have to find the perfect sound or really refine one element that's not intuitive to the way I arrange, it can take a month.
Q: Are there any music styles (or songs from certain composers) that are easier/more difficult to work with than others?
DL: I love anything with a funk/jazz element to it, specifically electro-funk, which I think works well with pieces by Yuzo Koshiro. Anything with a really strong melody is easier for me to work with, because that's where I'll focus - more BGM/atmospheric tracks are harder for me, because I'll end up just adding way too much of my own original stuff in there. I find solo piano work very tricky, and thus don't do it, so I have a respect for those
ReMixers able to put such arrangements together. I think it helps to actually be able to play :)
Q: Which composers do you like best?
DL: Bo, Yuzo Koshiro, Koji Kondo, and Club Kukeiha (Konami) are my favorites. I prefer Yasunori Mitsuda to Nobuo Uematsu when it comes to Squaresoft stuff, but I'm more of an old-school / SEGA guy overall...
Q: What hardware and software are you using?
DL: Yamaha Motif 6 keyboard, microKorg, Roland VM31000 Pro Digital Mixer, Two PCs (one Audiophile 24/96 card, one Terratec DMX 6fire), Cubase SX, Gigastudio, and assorted VST soft synth & fx plugins.
Q: Have you (or any other authors) ever received any feedback from some of the composers of the music you rearranged?
DL: Frank Klepacki (Command & Conquer) apparently told Scott Peeples he liked his mixes, Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) said as much to Children of the Monkey Machine, and The Fat Man actually showed up on the forums and said some kind words about AmIEvil's 7th Guest ReMix, in addition to submitting
Q: Which of your rearrangements would you consider your favorites?
DL: Sometimes I'll hate a mix of my own for awhile, then go back to liking it when I listen to it again. The mixes that I'm coolest with, that I have the least regrets about, and thus that are my favorites are Sonic, Lunar, Xenogears, Zillion and Zelda 64 - the Xenogears mix was a real challenge because I actually chose to sing, of my own free will.
There's also a certain Bubble Bobble mix that, though intended as a sort of joke, worked on a musical level, too.
Q: And what are your favorite songs among the ones available at OCRemix (done by other authors)?
DL: Such a hard question - with over a thousand mixes, it's hard to pick favorites. Each mixer brings something different to the table, and as with my own mixes, I have different favorites from time to time. Some of the mixes I continue to go back and listen to on a regular basis - if that's the same thing as being a "favorite" - are:
There's just waaaaaaaay too many, the list goes on. Because we spend a lot of time judging each mix, we think that every mix on the site is worth
listening to, and picking favorites can accordingly be quite difficult. We encourage listeners to experiment with listening to games and genres they're
not familiar with, as well - there's a lot of great music out there, and it's not all Nintendo and Squaresoft techno!
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions!