TSS Interview: Remix Factory

TSS Interview: Remix Factory

Look on the credits of Shadow the Hedgehog, and you’ll notice a lot of artists have put their time and dedication to the angst-fest. Obviously Crush 40 is there, and JULIEN-K makes a pleasing return. But there’s a British studio called ‘Remix Factory’, that have only done two tracks for the game but are quickly going up in the world. TSS has an exclusive chinwag with the founder, ‘LB’, on working with Jun Senoue, the origins of Remix Factory and future plans.

TSS: LB of Remix Factory, it’s great to be speaking to you today. Many Sonic fans will see your studio name listed in the credits of Shadow the Hedgehog under music production, but will likely not know much about you. Would you care to introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about how Remix Factory started and came to being?

LB: I started the Remix Factory in 2003 after I’d gained some experience in music production through my remixing. Initially it was a way to get recognised by the UK music industry, which is a horribly difficult industry to start out in. Since then even I’ve been amazed at how its evolved – it seems to have a life of its own! One day I’ll be remixing, the next writing, the next producing for Sonic the Hedgehog. It’s so crazy, every day’s a hoot!

TSS: What were your first productions? We noticed that some of your early works involved remixing pop songs such as Britney Spears and Ciara.

LB: My first productions were released by the publishing label, DMC, who release their products throughout the world. It was a great start; I actually landed my publishing deal two months after leaving a full-time office job! That was just before the Remix Factory was born. Since then I’ve gone on to work with some amazing artists and some wonderful music. The latest Britney and Ciara remixes were done for an exclusive showcase to their record label in New York, however DMC are planning to release them in Europe sometime soon. We’ve currently got several brand new remixes scheduled for release on various labels so keep your eyes peeled!

TSS: For a studio that has been going from strength to strength in the last couple of years, it still must have taken something amazing to grab the attention of SONICTEAM musician Jun Senoue. What was it that made the WaveMaster Maestro notice you, and become interested in working with you guys?

LB: Ha-ha! I don’t know about amazing… At the time I was working on a remix album – a side project – that was originally intended for a UK release. But somehow I got some interest from Japan and eventually a couple of the demo tracks fell into Jun’s hands. After he found out what we were about and hearing some of my remix work he asked if wanted to jump aboard.

TSS: How big of an opportunity was it for you guys to recieve invitation from Jun Senoue to work directly with him on the soundtrack to Shadow? Not just on a business and studio level, but creatively as well. Are there any big Sonic the Hedgehog fans in your studio?

LB: I drive everyone else nuts about Sonic!! I’m a huge fan of the franchise ever since the original release in ’91. I remember having to sneak around to my friend’s house because I didn’t have a Mega-Drive (Genesis)! I adored the ‘Adventure’ games and their soundtracks – I think I have all of them actually! When I can grab some rare few minutes I love playing Sonic even though everyone says I’m too old, but what exactly is too old? At least now I can call it ‘work’!

TSS: Could you briefly explain the music of Shadow the Hedgehog. What atmosphere, feelings or ambience were you and Senoue attempting to create with the dark one’s outing?

LB: I was pretty much given a free-reign. Being so familiar with the previous game’s soundtracks I knew the standards and styles I had to live up to. Jun gave me outlines of what my music was to be used for and since I already had a ‘feel’ for the game it was pretty easy to apply the suitable styles. It’s obviously a darker game than previous instalments so the music needed a bit more of a gritty edge.

TSS: Your studio website features previews of two works you produced for Shadow the Hedgehog: “Theme of EGGMAN” remix and “GUN Boss Present”. To clarify, are these two tracks included in the game’s soundtrack, or were these two bonus tracks you crafted?

LB: Yep, those are on the soundtrack. I was hired at the last minute when the majority of the soundtrack had already been (or pretty much) completed so these were the only two tracks left to do. Jun kept me in mind because they’re reworkings of SA2 themes so I guess all my experience with commercial remixes came in handy.

TSS: Was it your choice to remix these two tracks for the game? If it was, what was your decision for remixing the Eggman and GUN themes? What were the reasons behind remixing two pieces that were featured in Sonic Adventure 2 instead of creating original themes?

LB: It was Jun’s choice, he’s the boss! These were the two missing pieces of the soundtrack and when I came along things sort of fell into place. They’re suitable because the ‘E.G.G.M.A.N.’ theme is already a familiar favourite to fans so adding a darker tone to it suited the game. And as for the GUN theme – if I told you it would spoil things!

TSS: Where will these tracks be placed in the game? Will they simply be revamped themes and boss music, or are they intended for particular cutscenes?

LB: The tracks are in the game. Recently I saw footage of the completed game with some gameplay and cut scenes and it took me 10-15 seconds to realise it was my music!! It was so strange seeing it featured in a Sonic video-game and not blasting out some nightclub. The ‘Eggman’ piece is Doctor Eggman’s theme so it plays when he appears. And the GUN theme is for a boss… that’s all I’m saying!

TSS: What caught our eye was the title of your second piece: “G.U.N Boss Present”. Could you explain the choice in the name, was it an homage to the time travelling aspects of Sonic CD, or a possible hint at the gameplay we can expect from Shadow the Hedgehog? He does seem to have an awful lot of flashbacks after all. 🙂

LB: It is a hint, but you’ll have to play through the game to find out I’m afraid!

TSS: Aside from those two pieces on your website, has the studio made any other works of music for the Shadow soundtrack? If so, could you briefly mention them?

LB: Nope, unfortunately those two were all we did for Shadow. Of course it would have been great to have done some more, especially write some original material, but I joined the project so late in its production that I was lucky to get what I got. However I’m very grateful – it’s been hugely enjoyable!

TSS: I’m sure a lot of fans are wondering what it was like to work with the musical legend that is Jun Senoue. Did you feel any creative energy or inspiration air about him? Does he wear jeans all the time? Does he prefer tea or coffee? What was the experience like?

LB: Ha-ha! Jun’s great! I work with many people and, especially with music, you come across some truly awful people to work for and the most disorganised companies you can imagine. But I can honestly say that out of all the projects I’ve done this one has gone the most smoothly. Jun, and everyone at SEGA, are brilliant and I’d happily work with them again.

TSS: Being a British studio, there must have been a few obstacles to work around regarding production. How did you overcome working with a US-based development studio, under the scrutiny of a Japanese publishing house? Did you have to fly to the US for the duration of your production, did Jun Senoue visit the UK at all?

LB: That would have been awesome!! However, the work was done through the wonders of the Internet. It’s so easy now-a-days to send files and converse with people that you no longer have to travel across the world to work with someone in America. Because I’m currently busy working on various ventures it made sense to do things digitally rather than in person. That way the got job done without it being an issue to the rest of our work. It’s not the first time I’ve collaborated this way – it works out well.

TSS: Did you have much freedom over producing your chosen tracks, such as the Sonic Adventure 2 remixes? Were you restricted at all by Senoue, or were you just able to let your creative mind run riot?

LB: Ha-ha! If that were allowed to happen then we may have ended up with something else entirely!!! Like I said before, I knew the game and even though Jun didn’t know exactly what he wanted he gave me direction of when and where the tracks were going to be used. When you’ve grown up with a franchise like Sonic it’s easy to get inside its mind and once you’re there it reflects into your work. Hopefully the tracks have done their job. >crosses fingers<

TSS: There are various artists and producers working on Shadow the Hedgehog’s compositions. Crush 40, POWERMAN 5000, A2, MAGNA-FI, JULIEN-K, delfisound and Attic Arcade. Alongside working with Jun Senoue, did you get to meet or collaborate with the other artists making music?

LB: No, but I’m a big fan of Crush 40. That doesn’t mean to say that we won’t in the future though… I’ve said too much..!

TSS: While we’re on the subject of meeting people, did you managed to get anything signed by – or get a photo with – anyone during your time working with SEGA? Jun Senoue, Takashi Iizuka, maybe even Yuji Naka signing your shirt or something like a school leaver?

LB: Sort of… I’ve got a couple of postage invoices if that counts? Hehe! I’ve idolised Jun’s work for 7 years now, so working with him has been a massive personal honour for me. Sometimes I still feel like just a fan, but then I realise that we now work together. It’s rather strange. The first time I sent Jun some of my work I was walking around the studio saying ‘Jun Senoue is listening to my music!’ all afternoon.

TSS: What would you say have been the most challenging aspects of your production? And on the other side of the coin, what did you enjoy the most from working with SEGA and SONICTEAM?

LB: The most challenging was getting the initial concept for the Eggman track. I was so familiar with the original and its such a well-crafted and unique song that it was difficult to translate it into a brand new track as well as fullfilling all the requirements that the game demanded. Once I realised where the track was going it ran its course by itself. This project has opened a lot of doors for the Factory. I’m truly grateful to Jun and SEGA for giving us this opportunity. Its just refreshing to work with such dedicated, innovative and just plain friendly and helpful people for a change. I wish all my work was like this!

TSS: Now that Shadow’s music production is a wrap, what’s next for the Remix Factory? You mention that working on this project has been a significant step in your studio’s history on your website – have you been approached by anyone else to work on future projects? Do you think there is a chance SEGA may call on your services again?

LB: We have so much to look forward to within the next 12 months. We’ve got several remixes coming out, but also some original material too. I’m currently working on the Factory’s biggest project ever which is taking up the majority of my time, but thus far it’s turning out great and the team are very excited by it. I’ll leave the rest of the details for a surprise next spring! Video-game music has been a field I’ve wanted to break into for a while now and I don’t think we could have done any better than with ‘Shadow’, so I’m certain this will be a medium we’ll be visitng again sometime soon. And as for working again with SEGA… I’m not permitted to talk about that right now, I’m afraid.

TSS: Finally, looking at the comments from professionals made on your website, it’s obvious that you care about the end user’s response regarding your work. What kind of reaction from Sonic fans playing Shadow the Hedgehog will make you feel that you did a perfect job with your input on the soundtrack?

LB: I just hope that the tracks suit the mood and tempo of the game. If people came running up to me saying ‘why did you put a happy song in a sad scene?’ then I’ll know I’ve failed. But thus far the response from SEGA and the fans has been very positive. I just hope that the fans enjoy listening to the music as much as I enjoyed making it.

TSS: LB of Remix Factory, thank you very much for your time.

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Founder of The Sonic Stadium and creator/co-organiser of the Summer of Sonic convention. Loves talking about Sonic the Hedgehog in his spare time. Likes Sonic Colours a little too much for his own good, apparently.