“Symphonic Evolutions” Interview Part 2: Hollywood-Style Feel
In part 2 of my interview with Chad Seiter and Jeron Moore, we talk about what kind of Chad’s style of composing. We also hear the duo work with Junichi Masuda, the original composer for the Pokémon Series. Finally, I almost miss a completely obvious reference.
Matt: I may have read this on Chad’s website, but Chad you seem to go for more of a Hollywood-style feel, correct?
Chad: Yes, I am a composer, first and foremost. I’ve worked in Los Angeles for film and television for the past ten years. Jeron and I grew up listening to all the same film scores. We are both gigantic Hollywood film score nerds. It is really exciting that we get to bridge [hollywood scores and video games] together. While we are listening to the [original video game music], I’ll throw in all these little things, and Jeron will say, “Oh my god, that sounds like something Jerry Goldsmith would have done,” or “Ha, that sounds like John Williams,” or little things like that. I love that we get to put [the original music] into this Hollywood setting, and not only share our love of Pokémon, but share our love of film music and music in general with an entirely new audience.
Jeron: It’s really an interesting blend of style. While Chad is employing all of these different techniques and methods to upgrade the music to a symphonic, orchestral format. So much of what [Junichi] Masuda and his team have done; that DNA is very much a part of the music itself. That in no way has been removed. So [Symphonic Evolutions] is kind of a hybrid of flavors that just elevate the original work, and really challenges you to kind of think about it in a different way, which I think is really exciting, and what makes it so entertaining.
Matt: After you styled everything, and had [the music] written up, you had to take it to the Pokémon Company to get the final approval. What was the original composer’s [reactions] like? Was he elated when he was handed the sheet music?
Chad: Yeah. We’ve been working very closely with [Masuda-san] actually. It’s been a real pleasure, not only to work with someone who has written such iconic music, but he has given us a lot of creative freedom to explore what we have previously mentioned (our sound). He has send me giddy e-mails of things that he has really liked.
Matt: It sound like you have a good amount of freedom when you are writing this stuff. Does he throw in a lot [of suggestions]? I’m not thinking he’s saying, “Oh, this is no good,” but was he saying things like, “What if we try this?”
Chad: Yeah, he’s had a few notes like that. Just in one piece I was working on today, it was this piano solo with this loud orchestra on top of it, and he wrote back saying, “Could you make it more dissonant and tense to kind of juxtapose the beauty of the rest of the piece?” Those are my favorite notes to get.
One of the notes earlier on was, I had done an ending on a piece, and I wasn’t particularly happy with the ending, and I was going to revise it, but we sent the piece off to [Masuda] and he wrote back, “This piece is so cool. Can the ending be more cool like the rest of the song?” [laughter] And I always say, if the note is to make it more cool, those are always the best notes.
Matt: You know, I wish my boss would send me notes on my articles saying, “can you make them more cool?” It sounds like it is also pretty elating from the standpoint that you and him were on the same wavelength with the ending.
Chad: Yeah, it’s correlated a lot of times, where his notes have been exactly how I have felt about it. Since music is this evolving process, sometimes I will not go back to a piece for weeks, and then go back and say, “You know, now that I have done this, I can go back and revise these ideas to make them stronger concepts.”
Matt: Is there any point where you are writing the music, that you are thinking of the video that is accompanying it?
Chad: Yeah. It’s important to keep that in mind, because you always want to make sure you are remaining true to what the original story was; what was originally happening in the game. I am never a fan of changing the original music’s intentions. You can change where it sits orchestrally and musically, but it should always say the same thing. And that comes around to Jaron, who puts together the video, because I don’t want him cursing my name if nothing correlates as he is putting together the video.
Jeron: Yeah, visual story and musical story is very much tied together, and it is really important that these pieces work together, because it all boils down to taking the audience back to a moment in time where they were playing these games, and helping them relive those experiences in a bigger and more grandiose ways. It is emotional, and they are powerful experiences that we want to recapture. We know that very intimately working with Zelda, and have a great amount of respect for what Pokémon fans have grown up with, and have really done a lot of homework, and are very concerned with collaborating very closely with the creators of the franchise to get it right.
Matt: Continuing on with the [topic] of placing video in with the musical scores. Forgive me if it sounds like I am dismissing the visuals of Pokémon… but it seems like it might be difficult to find the right visuals for Pokémon as opposed to The Legend of Zelda.
Jeron: Oh, definitely. We don’t have to kid ourselves. [The Pokémon series] is a top-down JRPG. I’ve been really concerned about making sure you don’t have battle-screen fatigue by the time you get to the intermission. Did you see Symphony of the Goddesses?
Matt: Yeah. I saw it with a couple of other PNM staffers last year, just after E3.
Jeron: Cool. So, you understand some of the conventions that we employ when tying the music with the visuals. It’s not always about the visuals from the game. We integrate a lot of background visuals that demonstrate the abstract concept behind the music; whether that be the location, or just something even more abstract than that which sort of conjures up a specific mood…
Most of the time when we are showcasing visuals from the game, we are interacting with characters, or we are getting dialogue, or seeing really important moments or encounters. You might not think it’s interesting, but it’s really fun to reinterpret these things with the new music. It kind of becomes it’s own new experience, which I myself have been surprised by. I recall back to when we were doing this with Zelda, which has a lot more visual storytelling that you can go into with those games. Pokémon has really taken on a life of it’s own with Symphonic Evolutions, and I think the audiences are really going to enjoy what we are doing.
Chad: One of the things Jeron has done, that I absolutely love, is because we come from a Hollywood background, and my arrangements that is very musically lyrical, he has essentially edited the video in a way that feels like the battles are scored like they would be in a Hollywood film. It’s always exciting to see, and it actually makes me pretty tense. [laughter]
Jeron: At the end of the day, it’s a Pokémon Battle; they’re fun if you’re doing them, but watching them can be another story. So the trick is figuring out a way to make those engaging as well, because they are important to the story at certain momenta. I feel like we have really cracked that, and I will be excited to hear what you think.
Matt: Are there still tickets available for the August 15th show?
Jeron & Chad: Definitely.
Jeron: One thing that Chad and I are trying to press with people we are speaking with, is that these first two shows (DC on August 15th and Philadelphia on September 19th), they’re important. Not just because they are the first two shows, but in terms of how they are received, and how successful they are, will really dictate how comprehensively we can tour this show to other cities. We really want to bring this tour around. As a show, A) it’s really cool, but as an opportunity for Pokémon fans to get together, this is like the ultimate meet-up. We really want to encourage everyone to come out in cosplay, bring their games, bring TCG [Trading Card Game], bring everything that makes you happy about Pokémon and just show it off. Interface with people, make new friends, and enjoy this time-travel experience back to when you first played Pokémon.
Chad: We can’t do this without all of you. Help us help you. [laughter]
Matt: I will try my very best on that.
Jeron: We want you to be your very best.
Matt: … Like no one ever was?
Matt: I’m glad you caught that cue just in time. [laughing]
Chad: We are, too. [laughing]
Stay tuned for the third and final part tomorrow! If you haven’t seen the first part, you can check it out here!