Blaine McGurty Interview: Retro Remix Revue Volume 2 (September 2009)
Retro Remix Revue is a game music remix project who have just released their second album. In this interview, Don and Blaine recollect the first volume, discuss what's new in the second volume, and what the future of the project might be.
Interview Subject: Blaine McGurty
Interviewer: Don Kotowski
Editor: Chris Greening
Coordination: Don Kotowski, Chris Greening
Don: First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to have a second interview with us. We'll start off with a couple questions relating to the first volume, if you don't mind. Given that the first album, Retro Remix Revue Volume 1, has been out since September in digital form and just recently can be purchased on CD, how successful would you consider your first arrange album?
Blaine: I think that after a year, our album is doing pretty well, considering we have virtually no advertising going for Retro Remix Revue at all. We were fortunate enough to attend and spread our name around at MagFest in January, but other than that, we really don't have the funding right now to run any proper ads. We've really had to rely on word of mouth amongst the game music community so far. Hopefully, with Vol. 2 coming out now, we might be able to think of some more ways of getting our music heard and the project some more notice.
Don: Speaking of the physical release, it included an extra arrangement in the form of a Mega Man 2 medley. Why did you decide to include an extra arrangement on the physical release? The tracks you chose were also quite interesting. I can understand the inclusion of the Title and Intro themes, but what made you choose "Airman Stage" over a more popular theme such as "Wily Stage 1"?
Blaine: Well, when we first released Volume 1, we said it would be digital release only. So, when we were actually able to print up some physicals, we had to throw in a bonus track for the people who initially wanted the physical copy and got the digital version. And "Dr. Wily Stage" from Mega Man 2 is one of our favorites, so you will definitely be seeing our version of that in the future... we weren't trying to insult it in any way by doing Airman first.
Don: One last question related to the first volume. Given the variety of various titles and styles, what would you consider your favorite arrangement on the entire album? Those who have read my review would know that the rock based arrangements were my favorite, namely "Ken's Theme" from Street Fighter II and "Big Blue" from F-Zero.
Blaine: I don't know if we have absolute favorites. For us, it's more of a disliking certain tracks for various reasons, whether it is musically related, or mix/recording related. We're always changing up the styles and players of our tracks and improving as we go, so when we listen back on earlier remixes, we definitely hear things we don't like and always try to learn from things we did well and not so well. So, I guess we like and dislike all of the tracks in their own unique ways.
Don: OK, moving on to the new Retro Remix Revue Volume 2, what were the challenges, if any, when it came to coming up with a track list as diverse as the first?
Blaine: Well, actually, for our first few albums, it's more of a "we have too many good tunes to choose from" thing. There are a lot of old school games and plenty of good music to cover out there, so the hardest part is deciding which tracks aren't going on the albums. We figured we would start off with the bigger franchises for the most part; at least until we can increase our fan base some more. It's much harder to get notice if you start off remixing really obscure game tunes, opposed to more popular material that people recognize and want to listen to. And I don't think it's a coincidence that the most popular game tracks out there are some of the best pieces of music in older video games, anyway.
Don: In my email discussions with you, you discussed that a few RPG themes will be making it onto the album. I'm sure fans will be excited to hear that music from the two Square games will be featured on this album. Considering the first volume was absent of RPG themes, does this volume have more of an RPG focus?
Blaine: I wouldn't say Volume 2 is more RPG focused; it's just that the RPG genre is finally represented properly in our project. We try to cover a wide genre of games, but usually the actual genre of the songs is more of a determining factor on whether it makes it onto the track list. We try to keep things diverse in all aspects of the project. But yes, RPG fans will have three tracks just for them on this album from Earthbound, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario RPG.
Don: Retro Remix Revue Vol. 1 featured a variety of performers, ranging from yourself and friends, to renowned performers such as Gary Grant and Greg Bissonnette. How would you consider the overall quality of performances compared to the first album? Were you able to book any additional well-known performers for this album?
Blaine: We continued the trend of having some really heavy hitters come and sit in on our project. Gary Grant and Gregg Bissonnette are back, as well as some interesting new players. We were able to snag some string, brass, and woodwind players from the same Hollywood players club that Gary Grant is a part of. This helped us develop some more orchestral sounding remixes. We also got some awesome guest guitar players such as Scott Henderson, Alex Machacek, and Ramon Stagnaro to come fill various spots in the tunes, all playing great solos.
And some musicians out there might recognize the names Damien Schmitt and Hadrien Feraud. These guys, a drummer and a bass player respectively, are both from France and tour the world with the top jazz/fusion musicians today (like Chick Corea and John McLaughlin). It was a pretty fluke happening that we were able to get both of them to record on the project. Overall, there's been an increase in the cast of great players, and we had a blast working with all of them. I think it will go over well with the listeners. I would definitely say that the performances on Volume 2 are even better than Volume 1, including my own.
Don: This is a question for Davis. In our first interview, Blaine described your role as the "recording engineer for the project, and therefore takes care of all live recording, mixing of the tracks, as well as all post production". Would you be able to describe how long it usually takes to engineer a track from the initial recordings to the final product and the process behind it?
Davis: Every track we do varies significantly in the amount of time it takes to complete. Sometimes it will take me awhile to come up with an arrangement idea I like, or sometimes it will be a really fast process. And with the mixing and recording side of things, it also varies. Some tracks are harder to play than others, and so the actual amount of time spent on recording the track can vary drastically. For example, some tunes we will end up recording drums up to 3-4 times, whether it be because we want a different sounding drum kit, or whether the style of the player might be different than what we need. There's a lot of going back and tearing things up and re-working of our tunes. Sometimes Davis will sit on a mix for a while and constantly make slight adjustments until he's happy with it.
We probably could pump out arrangements at a slightly faster rate, but we like being able to fine-tune and tweak our tracks in order to obtain a certain level of quality. And the thing is, we're usually always working on other musical projects in the studio at the same time, so RRR doesn't necessarily get all of the attention.
Don: The physical release of Retro Remix Revue Volume 1 came quite a while after the digital release. Is this also the case for the sequel?
Blaine: We are going to be releasing a physical copy of Volume 2 once again. This time it will be available on our website within a few weeks of the digital release. So, if you like owning actual CD's and want the tunes in pristine sonic quality, you could hold out a couple weeks and wait for the physicals to come in. It's not such a long wait this time.
Don: Is there anything else either of you would like to tell the fans? Can we look forward to a Volume 3?
Blaine: We just want to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported our project so far. And to all of the people that picked up Volume 1, it's much appreciated. We can assure everyone that the little money that is earned off of these tunes is going right back into the project so we can continue to do great video game remixes with awesome players. And as long as people like what we put out there, we will continue to produce more albums. We're really hoping to start a Volume 3 in the near future.
We just want everyone to enjoy listening to these classic tunes, and we love to hear feedback from the listeners, so don't be afraid to shoot us an e-mail saying what you like/dislike. And thanks to you Don, Chris, and everyone else for having this interview with us. Here's to hoping we'll be back for another!
Please visit the official site of Retro Remix Revue to listen to samples, make digital downloads, or purchase physical copies of their two albums. For a review of Retro Remix Revue Volume 2, click here.