Diggin' In The Carts host Nick Dwyer has been exploring Japanese video game music on his hit Red Bull Radio show for two seasons, but this year sees him expand his reach: he'll be talking with British, American, and other Western composers and artists about their processes and inspirations. Nick was kind enough to answer some questions about the show and discuss what makes an iconic video game soundtrack in this exclusive interview with The Gamer.
One of the recurring themes of Diggin' In The Carts is the humility of the composers Dwyer interviews. Time and time again, these artists seem to be, according to Nick, "blissfully unaware... of their own legendary status. Take someone like Yoko Shimomura for example, who still to this day can’t really wrap her idea around the idea that the soundtrack she composed for Streetfighter II, nearly 30 years ago, had the monumental impact it had." This applies to composers from all over the world: "All the Japanese composers are so incredibly humble, that in itself has been surprising. The UK composers too. This season I got the chance to sit down with UK composer Tim Follin who’s influence really cannot be understated, he was the kindest most generous individuals I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with."
In fact, one of the most influential composers in Dwyer's life fits that description exactly. "Now, the whole reason Diggin’ In The Carts exists as a project, to a certain extent, is because of Ben [Daglish]. When I was 7-years-old, I fell in love with the music of a game called the Last Ninja which was a Commodore 64 game with one of the most incredible soundtracks of the era. That was my introduction to electronic music period. After many years of speaking with Ben over email I finally got the opportunity a few weeks back to interview him as part of the new series. As I like to do, I asked A LOT of questions and he was incredibly patient and generous with his time. I had no idea that he was sick- he was as bubbly and effervescent as I could of hoped. It was a shock to hear the news of his passing just recently. [Ben is] a legend of not just British video game music but British electronic music." Ben Daglish, who also worked on games like Gauntlet, Trap, and Deflektor, passed away in October of this year.
Listen to the most recent episode of Diggin' In The Carts below:
When asked what the most influential video game score ever is, there is only one option: it's got to be Koji Kondo's Super Mario Bros. soundtrack. Nick puts it in more poetic terms: "You hum the first three notes from that and billions will hum the rest back to you in a flash with a giddy grin."
"You hum the first three notes from [Super Mario Bros.] and billions will hum the rest back to you in a flash..."
It's not hard to agree with Dwyer's admiration for Koji Kondo. "Koji Kondo’s experiments with folkloric traditions and instrumentations from around the world are incredible and the fact that - without us realizing it at the time - a game like the Super NES Super Mario World was introducing us to the sounds of Steel Pan, Marimba and Hindustani Classical through games like Super Mario 64 or Flamenco via The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Koji Kondo’s influence on all of us has been immense."
While Diggin' In The Carts largely explores video game music history, Dwyer doesn't ignore modern artists. "I’m not really an expert when it comes to modern game soundtracks and modern gaming in general, but what I can tell you is that in the past few months I have been listening to a lot of Disasterpeace’s work and it’s incredible," says Dwyer. Disasterpeace is the stage name of Richard Vreeland, who is best known for the soundtracks to indie game hit Fez, horror movie It Follows and, most recently, Hyper Light Drifter. "Hyper Light Drifter really is in a class of its own and people will most definitely look back on it in years to come as a classic." Disasterpeace is a guest in season 3 of Diggin' In The Carts, among other modern composers, such as the band Anamanaguchi, Tommy Tallirico, and Minecraft composer C418.
PREVIOUSLY: New Season Of Diggin' In The Carts Begins
Season 3 of Diggin' In The Carts is letting Dwyer explore parts of the video game music world he hasn't before. "Because this season we’re focusing on the 8-bit and 16-bit era from outside of Japan for the first time, I got to dive right into that incredible era of 80s British VGM." Beyond that, we can expect a number of modern, Western composers to make appearances on the show - plus a few more surprises. "Also, each series I invite artists from around the world to select their favorite video game soundtracks and on this season I have some amazing guests like Yaeji, NIghtwave, Pete from Anamanaguchi, Brainfeeder artist JamesZoo and many more! It had been an incredibly fun season to put together."
Thanks again to Nick Dwyer for this interview.