It’s Monday, and we’re half way through our OCRemix interview. This is part 3, where we find out about the site itself, how it came about and what qualities remixers must have. Be sure to subscribe where we will reveal some exclusive information about Street Fighter 2 HD Remix next week!
1. What made you start OC ReMix?
djpretzel: Satan. No wait… Jesus. Flying Spaghetti Monster?
2. Tell us about the early days, how did you promote and get the site out there?
djpretzel: To answer that first question a bit better, I started OC ReMix as a side project to a retrogaming/emulation comic strip I was doing, primarily as a way to improve my own music skills, but also as a place for “one-stop shopping” for fan mixes of VGM. There were existing sites at the time, but they all focused on Commodore 64 music. Initially, the site was promoted primarily in the emulation community, since that’s where my roots are. People started mentioning it more on blogs, other sites, etc. as we kept adding songs. In the early days, I actually went “door to door” soliciting mixes, asking artists if I could post their tracks. That was a good way of building up a library quickly, but once we reached a certain point, we needed some quality control and a more established process, and hence the judges panel was born.
3. Your site has garnered a lot of attention. I remember I used to browse the site when I was in University about three years ago. What would be the tipping point of the site? The point that your site became a serious project? Were you featured in a magazine/newspaper/website which brought a lot of new interested readers?
djpretzel: Our coverage in Electronic Gaming Monthly brought in a lot of new readers, as did our original Slashdot coverage and more recently our Final Fantasy VII: Voices of the Lifestream album (http://ff7.ocremix.org) and involvement in Capcom’s Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. In general, though, it’s been more of a steady increase over the years than a series of spikes or any one major event. We’ve just kept doing what we do, persisting, gradually improving the site, and over the years that’s paid off and more and more folks have become aware of the great mixes we’ve got, and about VGM in general.
4. Do you have a quality control system for your site? What gets rejected?
Larry Oji: The judges panel inherited and formalized a great system from Dave for deciding what makes it to the front page. Nowadays, we’re more discerning of the level of arrangement and interpretation that goes into each piece, and it’s only raised the quality of what we feature. Especially in my role as head submissions evaluator, I push for a high standard. We reject about 80 to 85% of everything submitted to us, so getting a track accepted isn’t a cakewalk. Most rejections stem from aspiring artists not being able to execute the potential of their arrangement ideas. Many times, an artist will have a good, creative arrangement concept in place, but the sounds they chose don’t gel together, the timing of the instruments sounds distinctly unrealistic or the writing ideas of supporting parts like the drums are uncreative compared to the foreground parts. The other common pitfall is not bringing it with a creative, interpretive arrangement and instead sending something that’s structured nearly the exact same way as the original game music and doesn’t sound different enough versus the original tunes. Covers are cool to listen to, we’ll be the first to tell you, but the purpose behind our community is that we promote interpretation of the themes that stand on their own as unique works.
5. Obviously with a word like “ReMix” in the title it does suggest (at least to me) that the remixes are done in a dance style. Is that the case? Or do you allow other remixes such as jazz/classical/some guy blasting out the Super Mario Bros. theme on a guitar?
Larry Oji: Well, the word “ReMix” conjures up thoughts of electronica, so I’ve seen both fans and critics wrongly label OCR as a “techno” site. Back when do-it-yourself music was more cost prohibitive, the easiest way for amateurs to put together music was with digital music software, so lots of artists leaned toward electronica, which shows in many of the earlier efforts of the community. But Dave set things up in a very flexible way from the get-go, so even his own early ReMixes tried to illustrate that he was looking to include any and all styles of music. Even though it was never true, the “all techno” label couldn’t be further from the truth nowadays. Any any given time, there usually aren’t more than 5 ReMixes out of the 25 most recent displayed on our front page that broadly could be classified as electronica. We still love electronica, by the way, so electronica, jazz, orchestral, rock, ambient, dub… any genre of music is fair game. As of now, we still have no true reggae or country music mixes, and we’d love some of those too!
6. Obviously don’t go into too much detail, but have you faced any legal problems with your site, mainly a publisher not liking a remix of a work?
djpretzel: None. I think most game publishers are Internet-saavy, and realize that fan works of any kind – mods, fanfics, fanart, and OC ReMixes alike – are really just free advertising for their products. We also go to great lengths to make sure composer and copyright owners are credited and linked to, and that our music is never charged for and always available freely.
Larry Oji: I also keep track of what game industry figures have said about the site (http://www.ocremix.org/info/Industry_Recognition), because it’s important for fans and musicians to know that many composers and game developers are on board with what we’re doing. Promoting game music, educating fans on whom the composers are, that’s all part of Dave’s mission in showing respect and raising the profile of game music. For a lot of gamers out there who have merely possessed a casual interest in soundtracks, I’d like to think that we’ve put the music back on their radar and gotten them interested in learning more.
7. Have their been any hugely popular remixes featured elsewhere? I remember that the Dig Dug remix was featured on a Visual Pinball Dig Dug themed table. Any others?
Larry Oji: djp’s Bubble Bobble remix ‘Hillbilly Rodeo’ (http://www.ocremix.org/remix/OCR00015/) was a big hit in the early days of the site, and there’s still nothing like it today. Most of our ReMixes make great fodder for AMVs, Flash animations, podcast background music, those sorts of things, so we receive a lot of word of mouth that way. The Guinness record holder of game music credits and co-creator of Video Games Live, Tommy Tallarico, he’s been a huge fan of OCR and goes above and beyond the call of duty in promoting what we do. For every performance of Video Games Live, Tommy talks to the audience about what we do, and gives away CDs full of OC ReMixes. Two of the Earthworm Jim series mixes on the site were also featured on the Earthworm Jim Anthology album, put together by Tommy and produced by old school OC ReMixer Mustin.
8. And finally, the tough one – what would you say is your favourite remix?
djpretzel: It’s not so tough… I just try to have a different answer each time someone asks. This time it’s gonna be Hale-Bopp’s ‘Summertime’ ReMix from Star Ocean (http://www.ocremix.org/remix/OCR01388/) – EXTREMELY catchy, with great original lyrics and vocal harmonies.
Larry Oji: We don’t play favorites on the site, so we don’t allow formalized scoring or ranking of the tracks. But my personal favorite though has been Hazama’s Suikoden II ReMix ‘Reminiscence (Deep Sleep)’ (http://www.ocremix.org/remix/OCR00347/). Hazama took a theme by Miki Higashino that already had the potential to be very melancholy and dialed it up to 11. The piano in his ReMix sounds like it’s being played underwater, and the tempo is very deliberate. The production quality is a little rough around the edges, but the track is a very moody listen. Almost depressing in a way. Nonetheless, it really struck a chord with me as I first became familiar with OCR.