Tuesday May 08, 2012
Back in February, we asked you to submit your questions for Jun Senoue, Alex Makhlouf, Tomoya Ohtani, and Kenichi Tokoi – some of the masterminds behind the Sonic Generations soundtrack. It’s taken a bit of time, but we’re back with answers to some of the best and most frequently asked questions. Enjoy!
Alex, when you first learned you were going to be working on Sonic Generations, what was it like knowing you’d get to work with some of the most famous songs in Sonic’s history?
Alex: To be honest, I thought it was too good to be true. I’ve been a MASSIVE Sonic fan for as long I can remember, so being a part of the 20th anniversary game was a pretty big deal. Not only did I have the privilege of making music for the game, but I got to work on some of my most favorite Sonic songs – songs that I grew up loving. I am a big fan of Adventure series, so songs like “Escape from the City” and “Speed Highway” hold a special place in my childhood memories. I remember when I received the original tracks for “Escape from the City” I was listening to Ted Poley’s lone vocal asking myself “Would you ever have predicted you would be doing this!?” It was surreal and amazing!
Out of all the remixed songs in Sonic Generations, which one is your personal favorite, and why?
Jun: I think my favorite is Sky Sanctuary. Sonic 3/Sonic and Knuckles was the first title I was involved in the creation for, and it is nostalgic for me. I also like the remix of White Space, a menu screen where you can select the level where you go. I like the remix which picked up the characteristics of each level.
Kenichi: I like all the remixes because they are all cool, but I especially like the classic City Escape and Act 2 of Tropical Resort. City Escape was remixed in electro sound which made it totally different, but the house music tempo was nice. Lead sound guitar sticks out following the line, but suddenly turns to backing by arpeggio, in a great balanced remix. Tropical Resort has a great brisk, enthusiastic feel, and it makes me feel like I’m zipping through the stage. It was originally a mixture of live instruments and electro sounds, but as the tempo got faster, the strong synthesizer sound added more edge to the track and made it even cooler. I wanted this to be in the original Sonic Colors!
Tomoya: If I choose one, it will be Rooftop Run for the Modern stage. Using drum, bass, piano, and guitar as a band sound, as well as adding 12 string section to it made it an expressive track for the action stage.
Alex: I personally love Tomoya Ohtani’s classic remixes of Crisis City and Rooftop Run. He added a lot of catchy melodies that aren’t even in the original tunes. I actually like them more than original ones! Also, Jun did an amazing job with all of the modern remixes. They all capture that “Modern Sonic Sound”. I love how he completely re-worked Chemical Plant Zone by totally shifting the tempo and feel. It makes the track really stand out from the original, which I thought was awesome.
Which song were you looking forward to remixing the most, and why?
Alex: I was looking forward to remixing “City Escape”. My friends and I grew up loving SA2 as well as that particular song. It was one of the most iconic songs from that game. My friends all thought I was lying when I told them I was working on that song; it was almost too ironic. I remember calling up one of my friends and playing him the individual vocal tracks to prove it was true.
If you could work on one more Classic and/or Modern arrangement for any stage from previous games, which one would it be and why?
Jun: I think I’ll choose Emerald Hill Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It was my best track when I was a Sonic game player.
Kenichi: I’ll choose Egg Carrier in Sonic Adventure. This is a memorable track for me, as it was my first time remixing a track that was not my own. It was a great stage, and would be so fun if this stage was redesigned in the classic style. So I dream about remixing this track for classic and modern, maybe changing the tempo totally.
Tomoya: I’ll choose Sky Babylon Stage’s track in Sonic Rush Adventure. This was made for Nintendo DS, so it was made with a restriction on the number of simultaneous tones and sound quality, so there is leeway for updating. The track is dance track using oriental melody, and I like it personally.
Alex: How can I choose just one!? Some of my favorite Sonic Tunes are from Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 though. I guess it would have to be between Oil Ocean, Spring Yard, or Mystic Cave. Those songs are some of the most unique tracks from both those games. They showcase that darker side to Sonic music, which I love. As for modern sonic, I think the song “It Doesn’t Matter” would’ve been very interesting to remix. It’s definitely my favorite song from the Dreamcast era.
Alex, as a fan who grew up with Sonic games on the Genesis, how did it feel to represent your own generation of Sonic fans in remixing songs for the game?
Alex: I guess it’s sort of cheesy to say, but it almost felt like an honor. I’ve loved Sonic through thick and thin, and will continue to do so. I experienced all three generations of Sonic first hand. The game was made for huge Sonic fans like myself, so this put a lot of pressure on me while making the music. I couldn’t just remix the songs and call it a day. I needed to make each track as special and nostalgic as the game itself. That being said, I hope I made my fellow Sonic fans proud! Sonic Generations marks a milestone for franchise, and I hope that one day people look back on it the same way we look back on the Genesis titles.
When writing in-game music, do you get a look at the games first or do you imagine how the game will turn out?
Jun: It depends on the schedule. I want to match the tempo of the game play and the track itself, so I like making tracks as I play the game or watching a movie of the game. But it’s also common for me to make the tracks by looking at the image illustrations, listening to comments from the game designer, and imagining how it would be like.
Alex: Being a Sonic fan myself, this was the coolest part about working on this game. I got to see very early footage of the game, before it was even announced — it wasn’t even officially named yet! I watched the footage to get a vibe of how the level would play out. That way I could make sure my remix didn’t stray too far from feel of the gameplay. I didn’t receive footage for all of the levels I remixed though. For the others, I had to reference the original game for a rough idea of the gameplay.
What was the reasoning behind the lack of a main “theme song” for Sonic Generations?
Jun: Sonic Generations was a special title celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sonic, and we wanted to have all the included levels Sonic titles get the spotlight. So the tracks focused on how the nostalgic tracks can be remixed and be heard in new ways.
When I first heard the Classic Planet Wisp track, I was really surprised at how different it was to the Original/Modern Planet Wisp. I really like the track, and the more I listen to it, the more it reminds of the Bad Future stages from Sonic CD. I’m just wondering: was that the intention? Or was it a coincidence?
Kenichi: I didn’t intend to be so. The track was in a minor key, and the instruments used were similar, so it might remind you of the bad future in Sonic CD. But I do agree that it has lots in common with Stardust Speedway. The stage structures were meant to be novel and nostalgic for Modern and Classic respectively, and the fact that you have the same impression for our music as well just makes me very happy.
Was the beginning of the final boss song intended to sound like the beginning of Live and Learn?
Jun: If you’re referring to that sound effect played at the beginning of the cutscene where Sonic turns into Super Sonic, you’re right. This sound effect was originally played at the beginning of “Live and Learn” (the main theme of “Sonic Adventure 2, the 10th anniversary game) and it represented the final boss battle breaking out. I was more than ready to bring this sound effect into this 20th anniversary title as well.
When designing a theme for a particular character, how do you prepare the song? Do you do some role-playing as the character to get the feel for how that character would want the song?
Jun: In “Sonic Adventure 2,” we had multiple playable characters, so I composed the game music, including all of the level music, by applying 6 melodies for the 6 characters. Because many characters took turns in the 2 stories, I wanted to represent those differences through not only the game style, but through music, too.
For pieces like character theme music, I obviously try to highlight their characteristics and strength more, comparing to other types of music.
When you did Classic Planet Wisp, was that song inspired by Scrap Brain Zone? That’s the overall feel I got from it, the natural paradise being turned into a mechanical wasteland.
Kenichi: Like I said about “Sonic CD” earlier, I didn’t compose the piece with some certain music in mind. Given that the game includes Classic style, what I thought about right away when I was working on the music arrangement was what would it be like if the levels were to be designed in a nostalgic way. For “Sonic Colors,” Planet Wisp was composed while imagining a planet rich in nature being destroyed by a crazy construction machine, and I wanted to get across this image once more in the Classic stage, only this time, a bit more vividly. So I suppose the pieces do share some elements with each other, and that may be the reason for such impression.
What’s one of your favorite memories from working on the various remixes and tracks in Generations?
Alex: It was around February 2011 when Jun came to our studio to see how the remixes were coming. At the time, I only had 4 of them around 75 percent completed. Since I’m a fan of Crush 40, Jun has always been someone I looked up to. I was quite nervous and I hoped that he liked the direction I had taken the songs. It was an awesome feeling to see how much he liked the remixes I did. He liked them so much, that I ended up doing more after that point.
Can you share any secrets about the tracks or composition that fans might not know? Are there any Easter Eggs you can hint at, or tell us about?
Alex: When I was remixing the songs, I wanted to make them as nostalgic as possible. I also wanted to add things that only the truest Sonic fans would recognize. In my Classic Remix of “Escape From the City” there are quite a few Easter eggs. Around 0:08, I used the original Sega Genesis snare drum for that little drum fill that leads into the verse. When I was arranging the 2nd verse, I was trying to make a cool piano part to accompany the vocal. As I was jamming along, I remembered playing a melody incredibly similar to the Sonic 3 multiplayer song “Endless Mine”. Then I immediately realized that the verse of City Escape shared the exact chord progression as Endless Mine. Even stranger, I realized that the vocal melody was the almost identical rhythm as the synth melody. That led me to the idea to use Melodyne to manipulate the vocal so that it sang the exact same melody as Endless Mine. Although this gave a lot of Autotune sounding artifacts, I think it ended up fitting the part quite nicely. It reminds me of something Daft Punk would’ve done. Also, at the end of my remix, the synth melody is the original guitar melody from the instrumental version of the song. This melody is only heard in the demo version of SA2. Anyone like myself who bought Phantasy Star Online just to get that SA2 demo can relate to that one!
What would you say the stereotypical “SONIC SOUND” is? Is it thundering bass with crashing guitars? Or more Hip-Hoppy?
Jun: Sonic himself is a free-spirited guy, so I try not to limit myself when making music. Instead, I try to make the desired tempo first, and then attach a catchy and memorable phrase to that using edged sounds.
Kenichi: To me, “Sonic sound” has to be cool. Of course, we need to have a unified concept in each title, but to make it cool and groovy we will use a guitar sound and sometimes use soulful rhythm, too. I feel that being unconventional is some of Sonic’s appeal, so I think it’s important to have the sounds and tracks to be free and unconventional too.
Tomoya: I think that there is no one style that says “this is how Sonic sound should be”. In any genre or composition of instruments, we can express the Sonic-like sound. I think that “Sonic sound” is free and varied.
Alex: The beauty of Sonic music is its diversity. It all depends on the game, and the level. When I picture modern Sonic running at full speed through loops, I hear nothing but fast Crush 40 jams like “Live and Learn” and “Open Your Heart”. Songs like that fit the Modern Sonic attitude so well, and enhance the high-speed gameplay. But when I picture something like Classic Sonic platforming through an underwater level, I hear swung hip hop/electro beats with a nasty synth bass line. I think the reason why Sonic music has always been so special is because it’s constantly evolving along side of Sonic. This keeps the franchise from getting stale.
How did you go about incorporating your own individual style into the tracks and were there any notable challenges in doing this?
Jun: It depends on the track. For example, Green Hill and Sky Sanctuary were both a tracks that weren’t high tempo, so I used the same melody and changed the band part to show speed. I think adding this band sound was my taste. Also, Chemical Plant was one of the tracks I made to express my taste. I included the melody line and remixed it boldly.
Kenichi: Not deviating from the original track, but appealing to a different image, is a very hard thing to do. Especially for Planet Wisp, as there had already been so many remixes. Because of this, adding a new remix seemed to be difficult to do. So, I changed my way of thinking and thought to make it simple with fewer sounds. When you remix a track, we usually add sounds, but this time we tried to keep it simple. I think it ended up having a nice groove because of that.
Tomoya: Instead of adding my taste, I put my energy into expanding the concept of the original track. And as I remixed and finished the track, I think the strings became the big hook.
Alex: It all kind of just happened naturally. A lot of these tracks were made at the same time I was working on our 2nd album “Love or Lust”, so there are some familiar sounds in each. I guess this gave some of the remixes that “Cash Cash sound”. That’s where my brain was musically at the time and it just sort of felt right. Remixes like “Radical Highway”, “Big Arms”, and “Water Palace” were made way after our album was released. You can tell that I was in a completely different mindset for those. Although they sound nothing like the Cash Cash record, they still retain elements of the signature sound.
Tell us about your approach to Crisis City, one of our favorite tracks from the game. We were surprised by the combination of drum n bass with violins, so how did that combination come about?
Tomoya: There are times when I seek a music style that is completely original by mixing various music elements. When working on Crisis City, I was looking for a style which included both a dramatic melody that projects a feeling of a masterpiece, and a speedy, aggressive rhythm. I came up with the idea to mix the strings session and drum and bass beats.
What influences do you feel you brought to the Sonic Generations soundtrack that might not otherwise have been there?
Alex: With my work on Generations, I tried to diversify each song as much as I could, while still keeping that classic “Sonic” feel. Super Sonic Racing and City Escape have a retro 80’s/90’s dance vibe. They are really poppy and cheerful. I also got to showcase my signature Vocoder/Talk Box Vocal effect In “SSR”. Some people think it’s simply auto tune, but it’s actually nothing like that. I actually play a synthesizer that sends the sound signal through a tube that I put my mouth. I then shape the words and vowels to make it sound like it’s talking. If you look up some videos on how it works, it’s pretty cool and actually a lot harder than it looks. On the other hand my remixes of “Radical Highway” and “Big Arms” have an aggressive electronic sound with hints of rock. My remixes of “Speed Highway” and “Stardust Speedway (US Present and Future)” use influences from electro-house, and other modern electronic music. As a music producer, I make all genres of music, but I specialize in a mostly electronic and dance. This makes the songs diverse yet pretty cohesive as a whole at the same time.
What is the process of creating a soundtrack like this one like?
Alex: Each remix had a very different creative process. For certain tracks, Jun sent me some beta gameplay videos to get a rough idea of how the level would play out. This was before the game was even announced. While my “super fan” side was having a meltdown, my music side was analyzing the footage closely. This way I could make sure that the music fits the feel and energy of the level. For some of the other remixes, I wasn’t given any reference material besides the original song. With these I had to reference the original gameplay.
Do you record the songs with a band in a studio, or is the most of it made on a computer?
Jun: It depends on the concept of the track and who did the remix, but in my case, I usually record the real live sound and use them in the tracks. I first make the demo by myself and decide both the framework and tempo of the track. Based on this, I record the rhythm parts (drum & bass, guitars) and add them to the demo. Even for the keyboard parts, the final take of these are often the ones that are actually played.
Alex: These days there’s a fine line between a studio and computer. I guess our studio sits somewhere on that line. We don’t have an epic multi-room recording castle. (Although I wish we did!) Even though our main weapon is the computer, we still record a lot of live instruments in the small space we have. A computer can’t fake things like guitars, acoustics, and percussion, so we record those live. With synth stuff, we use a combination of hardware synths and software synths, depending on the sound of the project. Since all of the remixes were dance/electronic oriented, the drums were all programmed electronic samples to get that punchy compressed sound.
If there was one track you worked on that you feel most proud of, which would it be, and why?
Alex: I think all of the remixes turned out really cool, but if I had to pick my favorite it would be “Big Arms”. I knew the original song was a fan favorite, so I had to make it as epic as possible. Most of the remixes I made were very dance oriented, but this one was very different. I love it because I got to blend the elements of 80’s synth, heavy rock guitars, big electronic drums, and strings. This resulted in a super fast, high-energy remix that could get any listener instantly head banging, or dancing on first listen. This one was also cool because I got to add an extra breakdown section that was never in the original song. It makes the end of the track really heavy and epic. When Jun heard the song for the first time, I had recorded the original guitars. Jun loved the track, and wanted to record his own guitars with his own style and feel. When I blended his guitars with some of mine, the track truly came to life. That whole middle section before the breakdown didn’t exist until I received Jun’s guitar tracks. I think Sonic fans as well as musicians will really appreciate this version of the song.
Which track was the most fun to remix? Were some of the songs difficult to remix because either you loved them so much, or you were worried fans would dislike the new mixes?
Jun: Choosing just one is difficult. Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary, and City Escape were especially fun. I knew that all tracks were known and liked by the fans, so I was careful when selecting what I changed and what I kept as-is. Because the music in the modern City Escape level was so popular, I tried to keep it similar to the original track, but added a new intro, changed the tempo, added new guitar solo, and a section with new lyrics in order to make it new.
Tomoya: I enjoyed working on all tracks thinking about which remix fans would like. The original tracks were popular songs, so I wanted to remix them by expanding the original concept. This made the remixes easier to work on.
Alex: For me, it’s hard to pick just one because they were all fun in their own way. In my Classic remix of City Escape I got to add a ton of easter eggs, which was definitely fun. But doing heavier remixes like Big Arms and Radical Highway was awesome, because I would catch myself rocking out constantly as I worked.
Visit our friends at Original Sound Version to see Jun Senoue’s answers to two more questions!
Posted by Kellie in SEGA on 10:00:03AM May 08, 2012
SEARCH BY GAME
|No public Twitter messages.|
VIEW THE GALLERIES