Interview: Shinesparkers - Celebrating Metroid with Music
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Recreating the adventure
Recently we became aware of Harmony of a Hunter, a two-disc album of fan-produced Metroid music that covers the history of the franchise: it's available for free from this download page. It's a project from Metroid fan-site shinesparkers.net, and a follow-up album called Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run is on the way. We spoke to Harmony of a Hunter director Darren Kerwin and assistant director Torbjørn 'Falcool' Brandrud to discuss the albums and a love of all things Metroid.
Nintendo Life: Can you tell us about the origins of Shinesparkers, and how the Harmony of a Hunter project evolved from that?
Darren Kerwin: Shinesparkers is a Metroid fan website dedicated to bringing up to date news and exclusive content such as interviews and features. We're always looking for new ways to contribute to the passionate fan base that Metroid has. I've been a long time fan of the series, and one of my favourite aspects is the music. With the 25th anniversary of Metroid approaching and no signs of Nintendo putting anything in place to mark that notable milestone, I felt it was important that Shinesparkers do something to mark the anniversary.
We put together a two disc album featuring 36 tracks from 24 artists and groups, covering music from the very first Metroid game on NES to the most recent, Other M on Wii. The music was approached with a variety of different genres and offered a diverse musical experience. Harmony of a Hunter was a tribute to our favourite video game series, one that encouraged many musicians with varied levels of experience to get involved and pay homage to a great series and mark an anniversary that Nintendo was unable to provide. Due to the feedback we received from fans of the album, we decided to put together an expansion called Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run which will include new tracks by musicians from the original project, as well as new artists. This time around, I have enlisted the help and support of an assistant director, Torbjørn 'Falcool' Brandrud to help with the project.
NL: It's an album with an extensive range of contributors: how did these artists get involved?
With the 25th anniversary of Metroid approaching and no signs of Nintendo putting anything in place to mark that notable milestone, I felt it was important that Shinesparkers do something to mark the anniversary.
Torbjørn 'Falcool' Brandrud: You contacted them yourself, right Darren?
Darren: When we started the project originally, we set up a thread on Overclocked Remix to see if there was anyone that would be interested in getting on board with an album to mark the 25th anniversary of Metroid. When I saw that people were interested in my suggestion and wanted to get on board, I felt encouraged to source musicians from a variety of places such as YouTube, Newgrounds and the internet searching through online portfolios. I even approached musicians who I had been a fan of for years, expressing how much I loved their work and if they would be interested in getting involved with the project. I am amazed at how many people were willing to get on board.
NL: Can you outline how the 101% Run project has been co-ordinated, such as receiving submissions and organising a tracklist?
Falcool: For this expansion, we looked at tracks that had not been covered in the original, or tracks that we thought were in need of a new cover.
Darren: That’s correct, there were a few reasons for this, such as musicians having other commitments and dropping from the project or simply unable to finish a track before deadline. We wanted to ensure that some of these notable themes would be heard. We first approached artists who had contributed to the previous album to see if they would be interested in getting involved again. We then decided to source out new artists who could offer something special or a little different that we hadn’t heard before. We also got a lot of feedback and suggestions from the fans on what they wanted to hear, and we took this into consideration when compiling the tracklist for 101% Run.
NL: When you have established the play order and the artists have submitted the tracks, how much editing/arrangement work is required, and how involved are the artists themselves in that process?
Falcool: I believe the editing is the work of he who mastered the first album, right Darren? And that it’ll be the same on this expansion?
Darren: Yes, when artists completed their tracks for Harmony of a Hunter, they were asked to send over an uncompressed raw audio file of their track under the specifications outlined by Lee “The Orichalcon” Barber, who mastered the project for us, and will be doing so again this time. Before a track was submitted as final, I would listen through the track to see if there were any issues and once again after I'd received the file. Once we gathered all of the music, I worked with Lee for a couple of weeks to decide the ordering of the album. Each track “blends” into another, and it was important that those transitions made sense. The majority of this work was down to Lee, I merely contributed my suggestions and input to him, which he then took into consideration.
Once the album was completed, we sent out an early copy to certain individuals to offer feedback on. After we listened to the album a couple of times and were happy with it, Lee compressed it ready for download. I have to thank Lee for his help with this vitally important stage of the project, he came into the project just a few weeks before we planned to release it due to a lack of contact from the person we had originally appointed to master. Without him, we wouldn’t have had an album that sounded anywhere near as good.
NL: Which Metroid song was the most rewarding to rearrange in the original album?
Darren: That’s a very difficult question. Due to the amount of variety the album offers, each theme was approached differently, sometimes not as people would have expected. For me personally, the most rewarding song to hear was Into the Green World (Brinstar Vegetation, Super Metroid) by Sam Dillard. He approached it in a cinematic orchestrated style that, in my opinion, matches the greatness of the original theme.
Falcool: My favourite song from the first album is definitely Solitude from Zircon and C-GPO, who did an amazing job. As for the expansion, my favourite arrangement I’ve worked on so far is probably the Secrets of the Chozo track from Stephan Wells, with his Metroid Prime Menu theme remix coming up as a second.
NL: Which Metroid game has the best soundtrack on its own, prior to any remixing?
Darren: I feel Super Metroid’s soundtrack was ambient, atmospheric and even a little haunting. It impresses me a lot considering that I started the series with Metroid Prime and went back to play Super Metroid, only to find that I was getting the same high standard of experience musically that I would have expected from a game made years later. I feel that Super Metroid also has some of the most well known and well loved pieces of music from the Metroid series and video game music in general.
Falcool: Definitely Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for me, with the title theme, Torvus Bog, Sanctuary Fortress, Emperor Ing and so on. Metroid Prime is my second favourite.
NL: The project was undertaken to celebrate 25 years for the series. After big celebrations of Mario and The Legend of Zelda, what did you make of the low key (maybe even non-existent) Metroid celebrations from Nintendo itself?
Falcool: I think it’s mostly because of the reception Other M received, which is a big shame. If it had been right after Metroid Prime 3, I think it would’ve been different. I also think it was because the Zelda celebration happened the same year. I really wish Nintendo had put a little effort into it though.
I feel that Super Metroid also has some of the most well known and well loved pieces of music from the Metroid series and video game music in general.
Darren: I disagree with Falcool that Metroid: Other M was the reason why Nintendo decided not to mark its anniversary, the series is much bigger than just one game. But, I was disappointed that Nintendo had shown no interest or given any mention to Metroid’s 25th anniversary, except for a message from the NOA Twitter account. However I understand that Nintendo was most probably focusing all of their attention on the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. Since the anniversary fell in August 2011, I felt there might be hope in 2012 for an anniversary mention. Sadly, Nintendo have decided to give Kirby a special 20th anniversary celebration, which left me feeling incredibly disappointed. Although Kirby is a great franchise, I feel that Metroid was more deserving.
NL: Aside from Metroid, are there any other game soundtracks that you particularly enjoy? And would you like to work on it one day?
Darren: I have a lot of respect for video game music in general, I feel it’s a core element of making a title special. From the top of my head, I’d say the soundtracks of Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda series and Mass Effect. Most recently, Kid Icarus: Uprising has impressed me, I consider it one of the best soundtracks from Nintendo.
Falcool: All of the Zelda games probably, Okami, a couple of Mario games and many other Nintendo titles. Really, there are tons of awesome Nintendo soundtracks.
NL: Can you both pick your favourite Metroid game? Just one please!
Darren: Wow, well if I can only choose one, it’s going to have to be Metroid Prime. It’s the game I started with, the game that inspired me to experience more games and secured my love for the Metroid franchise. I owe a lot to that game.
Falcool: Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, mainly for it’s improvements on the already fantastic Metroid Prime.
NL: In the future, would you like to see more games in the 2D style, or is the Prime approach more to your liking?
*Darren: As much as I adore the Metroid Prime trilogy, I feel that it’s time that Nintendo went back to the 2D side-scrolling games for the 3DS, and continued the Metroid story after Metroid Fusion. If we were to get another First Person Adventure game, I feel that they should move away from the Prime series and start a completely new story for the Wii U, with a new title and a new threat. I could see them doing something just prior to Metroid II to explain why the Metroids are such a galactic threat and why they had to be destroyed.
Falcool: I’d like to see more Prime, but preferably more 2D Metroid on the 3DS and Prime on the Wii U. Anything Metroid would be great right now.
NL: If you could choose your dream Metroid experience for the next title, what style would it follow and on what platform?
Falcool: A new Metroid game on the Wii U with the Metroid Prime style gameplay, a massive world and an amazing soundtrack.
Darren: It would be a 2D side scroller in a three dimensional environment, an experience like Metroid Prime but with the feel of Super Metroid. Basically, Super Metroid in the style of Shadow Complex!
One final comment from me, anyone who wants to keep up with the progress of Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run can do so on our Facebook page.
We'd like to thank Darren and Falcool for sharing their time with us.