Throughout the Nintendo Life Video Game Music Festival we're speaking to a range of composers and musicians for a mixture of in-depth interviews and shorter, sharper (and perhaps a little goofier) Q&As where we ask just ten rapid-fire personal questions; we're calling these shorter features 'Quick Beats'.
We spoke to Jake Kaufman alongside Mega Man veteran Manami Matsumae and Save Me Mr Tako composer Marc-Antoine Archier in our recent triple-shot interview feature looking specifically at how composers approach chiptune in the 21st century.
Today, though, we're shooting 10 rapid-fire questions at the Shovel Knight composer alone to find out the piece of work he's most proud of, his musical heroes, and the last thing he listened to...
Nintendo Life: What was the first song or album you remember buying?
Jake Kaufman: Prodigy, Fat of the Land. After playing Wipeout XL and hearing Firestarter.
What was the last music you listened to?
Men at Work, "Who Could It Be Now?" (Sax riff: Burrr-da-BREEEEE-der-dah)
What was the very first video game you wrote music for, and how do you feel listening back now?
First ever was Drymouth, an indie GBC puzzle game. First game as a pro was the GBC port of Q*Bert. The former is definitely more of a rare cut, with the vinyl scratching and all.
Which piece of yours are you most proud of?
The "Rad Likes Robots" episode of OK K.O. Let's Be Heroes! is my favorite. So much planning went into every second of it.
Which piece by someone else do you wish you had written?
Stardew Valley's "Summer day bgm", the upbeat one.
What do you listen to while you’re driving?
Short solo drives are mostly silent composition time. Long ones are study time, listening to whatever my passengers are into or exploring lately, or anything I haven't heard yet.
Do you have a musical hero?
Dizzy Gillespie and Leonard Bernstein share the "most awe-inspiring career" title for me.
Which decade had the best music?
I can't do this without what-abouting myself all the way back to the 18th century, then to other cultures. So I'll say, "THIS decade," and hope I turn out to be right.
Ocarina, harp or bongos — which magical instrument do you take on an epic adventure?
Bongos. Using electromagnets I can turn the drum head into a loudspeaker, and play magic samples of any other instrument! Engineering is not cheating!
If your house were on fire and you only had time to grab one keepsake before you flee to safety with your family, what would you take?
My Arduino Esplora (the discontinued gamepad-shaped one, with onboard sensors, buttons, sliders, etc). Always bring a microcontroller (see magic instrument question).
Our thanks to Jake for speaking with us. Be sure to check out our other Quick Beats interviews with the likes of Austin Wintory, Yuzo Koshiro, and Darren Korb, and keep an eye out for plenty more in the coming days as the Nintendo Life VGM Fest continues.
I love how the Men at Work sax riff written out like that instantly made me think of the correct song. Love the shoutouts to the Prodigy and Dizzy Gillespie, who I also love despite both being rather different from each other.
"Prodigy, Fat of the Land. After playing Wipeout XL and hearing Firestarter."
Good lad. That whole album is still pure gold, my favourite of theirs.
I love Fat of the Land. It's been in constant rotation with me since it came out. Although, as an old person it boggles my mind that that was someone's first ever CD, and as a parent I have to wonder what his parents thought about "Smack my B**** Up", a song which I still hesitate to play when innocent bystanders are around (I had to remove it from my phone when it came up in shuffle at work!)
Good answers, though. Dude is definitely One of Us. I'm not sure electromagnets were implied in the desert island scenario, but you know. Maybe he can MacGyver some electromagnets.
This decade being the best music is about a terrible a guess as there could be. There's nothing left but remnants of hip hop and a little bit of country. No thanks. He could have said just about anything, but this has to be the worst time for music in the last 40 years.
@tseliot While technically true, hear me out... maybe he was saying this decade is best because of nearly ubiquitous, inexpensive, and convenient access to any and all music of the many decades of his lifetime, and those famous composers and geniuses in the centuries before? Given how many engineering loopholes he's found for his "desert island" hypotheticals, I'm quite sure that's what he means by that. Jake Kaufman's a solid musician and an engineer. Give him the benefit of the doubt on this.
@RetrovisRabbit Not just that but can't forget about the formation of new genres of music. I'm not sure if you're aware of digital fusion? Jake "virt" Kaufman has agreed that some of his music is digital fusion or digifu for short. Here's a link if interested in learning a little more about it.https://waltzforluma.tumblr.com/digitalfusion
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