By AntonCaptainSeagull. Wednesday, September 24, 2008 11:25:11 PM
Awesome, awesome, AWESOME! N+ was not only able to get an interview with the man himself, but we also scored a sweet affiliation while we were at it . We now always have a permanent link to his main page in our affiliates section to the right of our page, making it easier to get to his music.
XOC and I are discussing some sort of something we can do for N+ readers as a contest for a prize or two - details are still fuzzy, but stay tuned. Within this interview XOC also gives you all the opportunity to donate your own musical creations to one of his projects so it can be on the album - and maybe even get your face in the cover art!
So hours after being handcuffed and pummeled in the N+ interrogation room, XOC opened up, he told us all that we wanted to know, and we are going to share the top secret information with all of you!
If you are ultra new to N+ or missed the previous posts, please visit them first. XOC covers Mario and XOC covers Kirby. Once you are done with those, adjust your speaker volume and read more for the interview...
Background Song: End Credits - SMW Hello XOC, first let me thank you for the interview, I am sure you are a pretty busy covering some sweet VG tracks.
I haven't recorded anything in a while - I moved into an apartment, so I haven't had the ability to lay down any drum tracks! I actually finished The Beginning of the End here, which explains why there's a few songs with no drums.
“XOC” I know you personally pronounce it “Zock”, as have I been doing, but are there other acceptable ways? Or do you get enraged when someone says it letter by letter?
I didn't think I'd like it pronounced "ecks-oh-see" until I heard someone say it in real life. I sort of like it now. But the thing that bothers me is that there are already a few organizations with the acronym X.O.C.! Especially since I chose it over using my real name - Jason Cox - because there are already at least two Jason Coxes in the "music industry" that I know of.
This last week I have been a little busy sharing your website with our members, my personal friends, and inadvertently anyone within earshot of my iPod. So to many people you are a new discovery, but from what we hear in the music, it’s clear that you have been a musician for a very long time. What was your genesis? And don’t say Sega, I want to know how and when you got your start with music.
Ha. My first instrument was the drums, and I took lessons for quite a while… I'm not very good with remembering dates, but I think I might've begun lessons when I was 10 or so. I took a little piano when I was younger too, then I started learning guitar in high school. I'm 32 now, so I've been at it a few years!
Most VG covers are done with a computer or a synthesizer imitating the sounds of actual instruments, while the artist plays nothing himself besides the game he/she is covering. When you cover tracks do you use a synthesizer? Or do you perform and record yourself on the different instruments?
There have only been a few instances where I used anything that was pre-programmed (some drum machine loops on the G2EP, the fast synth line in "Phendrana Drifts" from Metroid Prime, etc.). Whenever I'm recording a keyboard part, I've always deliberately recorded it live - that is, me playing it, and not programming it in. I'm not very MIDI-friendly.
However - I have recorded a great number of things in parts, or at slower speeds. To me, it's not about documenting musicianship, it's about getting all the notes right. So there are a lot of things recorded at half-speed - I think they're sort of obvious!
Is it a fair mix? Any buddies step in from time to time to lend you a hand with drums, guitar, vocals, kazoos, etc?
If I get anyone to join me, it's because they play something I can't (like Damian Sol on the violin). For The Beginning of the End, I was sort of flagging in getting it done, so I put an open invite on The Shizz for collaborators. It worked - I needed them to get exited again!
How many instruments can you play?
There's a big list of things I have played on my myspace page, but I know what you mean - really, I can only get along on drums, guitar, and bass. I'd rate myself as mediocre at keyboards/accordion and vocals - everything else is either studio trickery, or dumb luck.
Did you actually play the opening Kirby jingle from What’s Pink and Sucks with a real telephone? And if so what numbers do we have to press to play this?
No, that was generated using a Sound Forge synthesis tool to create "dual-tone multi-frequencies"… well, now that I think about it, you could play most of the notes on a phone. The only one I couldn't get to sound authentic was the low note (represented by a quick dial tone on the recording).
And who is narrating the prologue? - these last two questions have been on my mind since I first started listening to the album, I originally thought Busdriver did the voice-over.
No, that's me, just pitched downward a bit. I'd love to work with Busdriver though!
But back to topic, how long does it usually take you to complete one of your albums?
They've all taken quite a long time, as complete albums. I usually record all the drum parts, then all the bass parts, and then I go through and try and finish each one in a day or so. It's a piecemeal process.
How would you compare the full length albums like SMW, What’s Pink and Sucks, Videogame the Movie the Videogame the Soundtrack, or G2EP to the roughly 20 minute piece that is The Beginning of the End?
When I first started recording VG covers, my original vision was to fit together disparate tunes into a continuous medley - so that was finally realized when I combined it with the idea to do all short songs. Unfortunately, I discovered that it seemed to take longer to record, because even though they're all short, I still had 100 songs to record and mix, each one of them different from the rest!
We will get back to Beginning of the End soon, but first I have to ask how strange it is to cover a game that comes from a movie? Is the music in Gremlins 2 or Videogame the Movie the Game similar to the films at all, or were they completely different? Did it feel more like you were covering a movie score, or a game score?
The Gremlins 2 music is thematically similar to the spirit of the original theme from the first movie. Quirky, in an Oingo Boingo sort of way. The music from the Beetlejuice NES game is another favorite - all of the songs are really well-written, and each one carries its own mood throughout the game. But I wouldn't say they remind me of the film scores very much. I made a conscious effort to avoid using themes from the movies, and instead cover the music exclusive to the game. Ghostbusters was a tough one, finding something that wasn't the Ghostbusters theme… and I can't be sure, but I think the music from the Back To The Future NES game might be somebody's warped, quadruple-speed version of "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News.
Explain the super limited album: Beginning of the End to us, I mean I read the blurb about it when I ordered the disc, but it could be a deeper story coming from you. It’s obvious that it’s not just a Nintendo epic, I can hear Sega and some Arcade stuff in there
I've always tried to stick to covering music from games that I actually played growing up. Nintendo is sort of like the gold standard for videogame musicians, but I also grew up playing a lot of Colecovision, and Intellivision, Atari… and I did play a lot of arcade games! So I wanted to bring together as many systems as I could, while covering many tunes that I've never heard covered before - namely because they're too short!
I LOVE this album, even though I can’t name ALL of the jingles that go into this medley, I freak out whenever I hear something from a game I haven’t played in years, and maybe only played once. The entire thing is like a nostalgia machine gun, firing small metal chunks of millions of memories into me at high speeds, and a giant memory quiz-game. I have to try and name every jingle I can when they pop up, and I even find myself laughing or even shouting at certain points: “Haha, Duck Hunt Dog, how silly he was” or “HOLY EM-EFFING CRAP! STREETS OF RAGE!?... 2!?” and sometimes questions come up like “I know near the end its Goldeneye, but is this part in the middle from Goldeneye also?”
I played it for friends while riding in a car - and it got turned around on me! Every few seconds, they'd ask, "what game was that?" … and then I started to forget! I'd be trying to remember which one while the NEXT one was playing, and I'd get stuck. The original versions of all 100 songs, randomly shuffled, might make for a good high-speed Name That Tune.
The disc is super FUN to listen to, so my question is: is the Streets of Rage bit from #2, and is Goldeneye in it twice? I swear Sonic is, but that might be from two different Sonic games.
I learned the Streets of Rage level clear jingle from the first one, since that's the only one I ever played.
The GoldenEye death theme (which is derived from the James Bond Theme - another movie score tie-in!) is the only GoldenEye on there. You might be thinking of the "sweet corn" segment from Bad Fur Day, maybe?
And Sonic is on there twice… technically three times, but two of them ("continue?" and "game over") are run together.
When you started this project was it a solid idea from the very beginning? Or did you have a couple jingles you did laying around when you decided to cram ‘em together, do a lot more, and make a project out of it?
I should've read ahead, I sorta answered this already! But yeah, I did have a few short songs laying around, but they didn't adhere to any theme or concept for an album… until I realized that they should all be short!
Why Nintendo? Why is the majority of stuff you do Nintendo? I know you got some Sonic here and there, but really the meat and potatoes are Nintendo games.
Yup, I answered this too, sorta! I just played more Nintendo than anything else. That's mostly it. And the fact that it's easier to figure out than music on later systems doesn't hurt!
What game is your current favorite game?
That's difficult. I don't play a great variety of games any more. In recent years, I usually just freak out on one game really intensely for a period of time, and then move on. I never played Kirby's Adventure as a kid, so when I discovered that, I played it non-stop for a while, which resulted in me doing an album of it! But currently? I've just now gotten into Doom 3.
What is your favorite game of all time?
That's also difficult - because the games I consider the best of all time aren't necessarily my favorites. Quite honestly, I think it's Super Metroid.
I remember playing a hand-me-down Atari until my brother spilled soda into it. The replacement was a new Super Nintendo! Playing Super Mario World every moment of my life was all I could think about, it’s the reason my homework got done so fast (or left at school so I didn’t have any). This game transformed what used to be toys, into something much more for me. Do you have a similar experience? What game was your first love?
I spent a lot of time with Donkey Kong Jr. and Food Fight in the arcade as a kid.
In your miscellaneous pile of MP3s at the bottom of your page you have a decent amount of Metroid stuff, ever think about covering one of those games? Oh and the out of tune banjo “Kraid” is brilliance by the way.
Thanks! I've always wanted to do an all-Metroid album, covering material spanning all of the games. But there's so much good Metroid stuff people have already done, I'm going to have to work hard to make it extra weird and unique. The early concept of Metroid tunes played on only accordion probably won't ever come to fruition.
Are there any more projects you are currently working on, that are top secret? Can you spill the beans here?
I've spent a lot of time figuring out songs to cover, and I have a gigantic list. They fall into a few categories - songs for Cinema 80's volume 2, songs for Cinema 90's, stuff for another installment of short songs, and then there's a list of "just plain covers." I've also kept a detailed list of things folks have requested at one time or another, so there's another concept album there. I also had an idea to do music from unlicensed NES games, and I found quite a bit of good stuff! And finally, there's collaboration with Dan Taylor and Grant Henry of Metroid Metal that might be finished someday.
Wait, I almost forgot! I have a series of covers I call "VGMITSO" - Video Game Music In The Style Of - that I've been doing over the years. It's not quite a complete album yet, so I've kept them sorta quiet. The concept is simple: doing game covers in the style of famous artists. Some of them have original lyrics written in the style of that particular artist. I'm probably most proud of Castlevania done in the style of Primus.
This isn't linked to from anywhere but The Shizz, so exclusive-o! haha. This is just a bare-bones download page: http://www.xocmusic.com/VGMITSO
Readers who want to read the lyrics should read the original Shizz thread:
Are you ever going to cover a Sonic game? If yes, can it pretty please with cherries on top be Sonic and Knuckles/3?
If I do an all-Sonic album, it'd have to be highlights from the entire franchise. There are just too many good songs lurking in the other games!
The SMW album has been out for a while, and it has been getting awesome reviews and raves everywhere it turns up on the net, and then you spring the limited SMW Goldinum Edition on me! How limited is this baby? So many downloads, until a certain date and time, until you feel like it?
The "limited edition" thing was just a put-on. I was just making fun of some of those CD reissues with new cover art - although it does have bonus tracks!
Have you thought about doing any Wii covers? A while ago we reviewed the Robotobots about the WiiMix project, do you think that you could put your own spin into the Wii system music?
I'd love to! However, not ONE of those talking flash ads saying "congratulations, you have been selected to receive a free Nintendo Wii" has come through for me!
Is there anything else you would like to say about anything at all to wrap this up, any questions I missed that you really wanted to answer?
I can't think of anything…. wait, we didn't talk about XOC AND HEAVY FRIENDS! In case your readers don't know, here's the short version: I solicited audio from my forum friends (the only requirement was that they made it themselves and that it was original - no covers), added some of my own stuff, and rearranged it into original tunes. There are two volumes available for download:
So maybe we should get anyone reading this to submit something! These are the rules, paraphrased from the last solicitation:
- AUDIO of any kind, so long as it's you making the sound(s) - instruments, voice, percussion, non-traditional sounds, whatever you like. You can send a little or a lot - even if it's only a single note, I'll probably use it. And don't worry about completing a ton of stuff to send all at once. You can send something now, something later, no sweat.
- If you send music, it should be unaccompanied and original (no cover tunes, no vgmusic, no samples of other artists, etc.).
- Any file format is acceptable, provided I can make it into a WAV. I'm not really looking for MIDI or chiptune sequences, however.
- Don't worry about recording quality.
- ALSO send along a photo if you want to be in the cover art (whatever that turns out to be), and also how you'd like to be credited (by name, and by what you specifically contributed).
- There isn't a concrete deadline for this, but I always like to aim toward Christmas time.
PM ME ON THE SHIZZ WITH LINKS - http://theshizz.org/forum/index.php?showuser=2091
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E-MAIL ME ATTACHMENTS - it doesn't matter! - email@example.com
- Jason Cox / XOC
- Anton Espinoza / Captain Seagull