Monday, June 26, 2017

Interview: Mark Mueller (Co-Writer, "Somewhere, Someday")

The following is an interview with Mark Mueller, co-writer of “Somewhere, Someday”, a song from the Pokémon: The First Movie soundtrack.

Where did you grow up, and how did you get into doing music?

I grew up in Northern California near Palo Alto. When I was five years old, my parents bought a piano for my older brother. He lost interest quickly, but I instantly began sitting down and fooling around on the keys. From the start I could pick out melodies, etc. and “play by ear”. I started taking piano lessons and soon I was writing my first songs. I was only six or seven at the time and the songs were very simple, but I loved writing them-it just came very naturally to me. By the time I was ten I had written a musical version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and it was put on by my fifth grade class. Again, it was pretty basic songwriting, but people seemed to like it and it kept me wanting to write more.

What was the early part of your career like?

I continued to write a lot of songs in college and people would tell me I could do it professionally, but I didn’t know if you could really make a living writing music (and, as it turned out, it is not easy). I decided to try, however, and right after college I made my first demo (demonstration tape) and went down to LA to try and get it heard. I soon learned that getting into the offices of publishers and record companies was tough, but I kept banging on doors. Eventually some publishing execs started to notice and encouraged me to go for it, so I moved to LA full time to pursue my improbable dream of becoming a full-time songwriter. In the meantime, I worked as a bell-hop at the Hyatt Regency. I would save up my tips until I had enough money to do my next demo and then play it for whoever would listen.

In the 80’s, you had an opportunity to write themes for the TV shows "DuckTales" and "Rescue Rangers". How did that come about?

I eventually signed on as a staff writer at MCA Music and then got a film agent too. My film agent sent me to a meeting at Disney because they were starting this new block of animated shows called "The Disney Afternoon." They gave me a shot to write the opening song for this new show called “DuckTales”. I knew that there would be a lot of writers competing and that I likely wouldn’t get it, but I took a shot at it anyway. To my great surprise and continuing happiness...they chose my song for the opening. Woo-oo!!

Later in your career, you wrote the song “Somewhere, Someday”. There are several different arrangements of it-which version was written first, and what was the writing process like?

I believe the versions of "Somewhere, Someday" you're talking about are the one by Jennifer Paige and the one by N'Sync. As far as I remember, Jennifer Paige did the original version of the song for her album (it was not a single, just an album cut). Andy Goldmark (who’s written with and produced for everyone from Carly Simon to Michael Bolton) had the idea for the song (he and I had just written “Crush” for Jennifer). Andy played me the rough outline of this beautiful melody he'd started and asked me if I'd like to help him complete it. What he played me was beautiful and I was thrilled to help him finish the song.

I’m not exactly sure how the song came to the attention of N'Sync, but they recorded it. When I heard it for the first time I was totally knocked out. Unfortunately for me and Andy, they were in the middle of legal battles with their manager and record company and the song (although completely mixed and recorded) just sat in the can unreleased.

How did you find out about the N’Sync version of the song being selected for the Pokémon: The First Movie soundtrack? Did you have any involvement with getting it on there?

They were a huge group at the time and it was awful to have this song finished but not able to be released. However, one day I got a call from my publisher who said that she'd gotten a call from the music supervisor for the Pokémon soundtrack and that they needed one last song to finish out the album. She said there wasn’t much time and that the song would have to be ready to go immediately. She asked if I had anything that would fit those requirements. It took me about one second to tell her I had just the song they were looking for. When the Pokémon people heard that there was an N'Sync song just sitting there they got very, very excited. Somehow they were able to navigate the legal obstacles and (by some miracle) “Somewhere, Someday” ended up on the Pokémon soundtrack. It was so great that it had found its home.

What have you been working on more recently?

Lately I’ve been working on a one-woman musical with Lesley Nicol (who played Ms. Patmore on Downton Abbey.) We just performed it in London and Hong Kong. I'm also enjoying helping with the press side of the launch of the reboot of “DuckTales”.

If readers want more information on your work, what’s your website?

I have a website at markmuellermusic.com

Monday, June 19, 2017

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 9-Veronica Taylor/Movie 19 Ending Themes/Masters VGC

This episode has three segments. The first (0:52-6:37) is an interview with Veronica Taylor, the voice of Ash Ketchum for the first eight seasons of the Pokémon dub. We talk about how she got involved in the series, as well as what she's been doing lately in her career.

For the second segment (6:43-41:30), Anne from Pikapi Podcast helps me discuss the ending themes of the recently released Magerna movie. Find out which side of the ocean we think comes out on top in this matchup.

In our final segment (41:38-45:02), I interview the winner of the Masters VGC competition at this year's Midwest regional. We discuss the player's team, and the strategy behind it.



Links:

Segment 1:
Veronica's Site

Segment 2:
Pikapi Podcast

Indigo League episodes coming to digitial? (In HD?)

A seemingly early Amazon listing is still not fully explained:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Midwest VGC Regionals 2017-Winner Interview

At this year's Ohana-con, I had an opportunity to talk to Andrew Nowak, winner of the VGC Masters Division. Find out about his team and strategy:

Monday, June 12, 2017

Midwest TCG Regionals 2017-Seniors Winner Interview

Ian Robb
The following is an interview with Ian Robb, winner of the Pokémon TCG Midwest Regionals 2017 in the Seniors Division. Ian used a Drampa GX/Garbodor deck for this event.

Where are you from, and how did you get into the Pokémon TCG?
I am from Rhode Island. I started playing in 2007 when my dad gave me a Pokémon starter kit for Christmas. After that, I played at a local league casually for about three years until I became competitive. I won the US National Championship in 2012 as a Junior and also got second at Worlds the same year.

What's the basic strategy of the deck, and why did you choose it for this tournament?
The goal of my deck is to set up a Drampa GX turn two so I can attack with Berserk for (hopefully) 180 on a GX, then use Garbodor during the late game. I played the deck because it was the one deck I was comfortable with going into this mostly unknown metagame.

What are some other important cards in the deck?
Playing three Tapu Lele GX helped me get whatever supporter I need to react to my opponent, and not playing Shaymin EX in my deck helped me in the mirror so I would not have a Pokémon that they can Lysandre up for an easy two prizes. Finally, playing Delinquent helped me in the mirror because I can run my opponent out of cards in hand, giving me more time to set up.

Shaymin EX has been almost universally played ever since it came out-what was it like not using it?
During certain scenarios at the tournament I wished I played it so I could draw more cards after playing my supporter, but overall it still seemed better not to use it.

How did the finals play out? 
In the finals I played against Joey with his Metagross GX deck that was built specifically to beat Drampa GX/Garbodor.  While that is a disadvantage, we had played in Swiss so we each knew what to expect for the match-up.  The first game I was able to disrupt him and take enough knockouts to be ahead when he finally set up. Game two I was not able to do that and he crushed me.  In game three he dead drew and had no bench, and I was able to knock out his only Pokémon.

Anything you might change if you used this deck again?
I would take out Sudowoodo, since I barely used it all weekend, and add a second Field Blower or a different Pokémon because it is useful to have cards that are not items so you can safely Ultra Ball away them in the mirror.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Veronica Taylor Interview (Ohana-Con 2017)

At last weekend's Ohana-Con, I had a chance to talk to Veronica Taylor (Ash Ketchum in seasons 1-8) about her past and current voice work:

Monday, June 05, 2017

Discussion: Pokemon Movie 19 End Themes (Part 2)

Our discussion of the movie 19 end themes continues, with a verdict on which song better represents the movie:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 8-If INXS Did a Pokemon Song/Midwest Regionals 2016

 This time we have two segments. In the first (0:47-43:35), I discuss Australian rock group INXS, and which of their songs might have worked for Pokémon. Like the Perfume discussion from last time, Anne from Pikapi Podcast offers her thoughts as well.

Our second segment (43:44-48:21) is an archival interview from last year's Midwest regional, where I had a chance to talk to one of the top finishers in the TCG event. This year's regional is coming up, so I figured this was a good time to bring this one back.



INXS Corrections/Notes:
-Their self-titled debut album was released in 1980, not 1979.
-Garry somehow acquired the nickname "Gary" and ended up using both.
-Elegantly Wasted Music Videos: I'm a bit uncertain which videos from the Elegantly
Wasted album were released in 1997, and which came
out later.
-2000 Olympics: According to an article on the VH1 website, they
performed at the 2000 Olympics closing cermony.
-The Switch album has 11 tracks, not 13.

Links:

Segment 1:
Pikapi Podcast
Perfume/INXS Playlist

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Discussion: Pokemon Movie 19 End Themes (Part 1)

"Soul-Heart" and "Mailing Out My Voice" from the Magearna movie go head-to-head in this discussion with Anne of Pikapi Podcast:

Monday, May 22, 2017

If (Blank) Did a Pokemon Song: INXS (Part 2)

My INXS fanboying continues with discussions about the songs "Kick" and "Us". Listen to find out why these songs remind me of Pokemon:


Additionally, here's an excerpt from the upcoming Magearna movie discussion:


Monday, May 08, 2017

If (Blank) Did a Pokemon Song: INXS (Part 1)

INXS may never have done a Pokemon song, but the band's deep catalog does provide some alternate universe style options, which I discuss with Anne from Pikapi Podcast:

Pokemon Sun & Moon: Guardians Rising Prerelease: Madison, WI

The following in an interview with Jake, a participant at a recent Pokémon Sun & Moon: Guardians Rising prerelease in Madison, WI.

Where are you from, and how did you get into the Pokémon TCG?

I am a Pokémon player from Hartland, Wisconsin. I used to play this game as a kid but I stopped around when I turned 11, however even then I had always kept playing the videogames and never lost my love for them. A few years ago, I was in a Walmart near my house where I saw Pokémon packs on the shelves. I had a little bit of money on me and decided to relive some childhood memories. I don’t remember the exact tin that I bought but I pulled such amazing cards, including a full art Virizion EX. The card’s beautiful texture and color was something new to me, so I looked into the game by watching YouTube videos and became hooked yet again.

Which card stood out to you the most?

This set has many new cards that have caught my attention in the last few weeks. One of them is Sylveon GX- I could go on for days about just this card alone. The first attack, Magical Ribbon, lets you search for any three cards from your deck and put them into your hand, no questions asked. With this attack you are able to that completely swing the board state at any point during a game. Fairy Wind, Sylveon’s second attack, looks mediocre at first (and most of the time it is) but it does just the perfect amount of damage to OHKO Shaymin EXs and deal 2-shots to virtually any EX or Mega Evolution Pokémon. As for Plea GX, that takes two of your opponent’s benched Pokémon and puts them back into their hand. In the right circumstances, this can be completely game changing-you could stop a mega Pokémon from coming up and killing your Sylveon, or slow any deck down to your speed to keep them from overpowering you. This card in general is definitely a strong one and my favorite by far (I swear I’m not biased because Sylveon is my favorite Pokémon).

This is the second set to use the new Pokémon GX mechanic. How do you feel those cards are shaping up as a whole?

At first when the new GX mechanic was announced as part of the game I was actually not pleased. Being the naïve person I was I thought everything was going to change and I’d have to re-invent the way I play the game. While I did have to make some adjustments, since then I have grown to love these new GXs. With this new mechanic it takes more strategy to decide when to use your one GX attack for the game. Will it be Mad Bull GX for a prize swinging knock out, or will it be Hollow Hunt GX in order to get back lost resources that you may need later on? No matter what GX attack you use, it has a purpose. That's what I love about it!

What are you looking forward to this TCG season?

Meeting new people and traveling with friends to Regionals. This may be a normal thing for some, but this is the first year I have ever traveled a lot to tournaments with my friends, and I love that when I go I get the opportunity to meet all the people that I watch on YouTube and look up to as a player. It’s always a great experience when you sit across the table from a person you’ve seen online, someone that you can just have a good conversation with, or even just a random person. There is always room for interaction during the game and it allows you to make new friends that you never would have known otherwise. It has been a great experience so far and I hope that it continues in the same way for the rest of the season.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 7-Perfume/Anime Milwaukee 2017 (Part 2)

This episode has two segments. In the first (0:14-34:21), Anne from Pikapi Podcast talks about the Japanese girl group Perfume, and shares a few of their songs she thinks could have worked for Pokémon. Stay tuned after the outro (47:28) for a preview of the upcoming similar discussion of Australian rock group INXS.

Our second segment (34:29-47:02) is a set of voice actor interviews from Anime Milwaukee 2017, with actors from the main series, movies, and miniseries.



Links:

Segment 1:
Pikapi Podcast
Perfume/INXS Playlist

Segment 2:
Full Press Sessions:
Lucien/Erica
Laura Post
(No full session available for Vic Mignogna)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 6-Pokemon Heroes Music/Oceania IC 2017

This time we have two segments. In the first (0:46-41:27), Anne from Pikapi Podcast is back again to debate the merits of the English and Japanese ending themes of Pokémon Heroes. These two songs provide quite a contrast, so you should find it interesting.

Our second segment (41:53-58:29) is a series of interviews from the recent Oceania International Championship in Melbourne, Australia. I had a chance to interview some of the top finishers, as well as a collector of Pokémon merchandise.



Links:

Segment 1:
Pikapi Podcast
Songs for upcoming Perfume/INXS discussion

Segment 2:
PokeCollection



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pokemon TCG League Cup: Madison, WI

Daniel Martinez
The following is an interview with Daniel Martinez, one of the top four finishers in the Masters Division at a recent League Cup event in Madison, WI, who used a Lycanroc deck for the tournament.

Where are you from, and how did you get into the Pokémon TCG?

I was born and raised in Stevens Point, WI. I started collecting Pokémon cards as a child when the very first set was released, however I didn’t actually learn how to play until August 2015, around the time the Ancient Origins set came out. I got into playing the TCG from a friend who invited me to a league event one night, and from there I was hooked.

What’s the basic strategy of the deck, and why did you end up using it for this tournament?

So, funny story-my friend and I were talking about this deck and I told him it could be a good deck and he disagreed, so I actually made this deck just to try and prove him wrong. The strategy of the deck is to get the Carbink out so EXes can’t hurt you, then get the Carbink BREAK out and use the attack “Diamond Gift” to start powering up Rockruff/Lycanroc on the bench. I also ran Hammers to make it harder for my opponent to get themselves powered up.

What are some other important cards in the deck?

Definitely the Silent Lab Stadium card as it can shut off Volcanion’s “Steam Up”, as well as taking care of Shaymin EX and Hoopa EX, which makes it harder for the opponent to set up as fast as they would like. Also, the Strong Energy turned out to be the one of the most important cards, especially for Shaymin and Yveltal as they have Fighting resistance, which makes it hard to one-hit KO them. Another important card to mention would be Assault Vest. It reduces damage from defending Pokémon who have special energy attached to them by 40, so it really saved me against Mega Mewtwo decks.

What worked well?

Overall, the deck flowed pretty much how I wanted it to. The energy removal from Crushing and Enhanced Hammers allowed me to get a jump on opponents, especially ones with high energy cost attacks.

What didn’t work so well, and what might you change if you used this deck again?

I never accounted for the fact that I had no way to get my Rockruff back from the discard pile. This cost me a game against a Mega Mewtwo, where my opponent just kept switching out my Rockruff and knocking them out in one shot (they have only 60 HP). I had no way to get them back so my deck was essentially shut down. I’d definitely want to run Super Rod in the future.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Shelved Pokemon 20th anniversary tribute album revealed

An insider from a major American record label recently revealed to PIRN the existence of a shelved tribute album, originally intended to be released as part of 2016's Pokemon 20th anniversary celebration. The album contained a number of re-arranged covers of Pokemon songs performed by a range of artists. According to the information provided, the album was put on hold shortly after the release of Pokemon Go, as the resources needed to support the game forced The Pokemon Company to shift its focus. The source did not know of any immediate plans to revive the project.

According to the source, in early 2015, The Pokemon Company approached several labels about the possibility of having some of their performers do a cover of one or more songs. In some of these instances, The Pokemon Company suggested specific combinations of songs and artists, and in other cases it was left up to the label. Either way, artists were encouraged to tweak the songs to better fit their style.

Production continued through 2015 and into 2016, targeting a November 2016 release. However, as the album was nearing completion, Pokemon Go was released, placing an unexpectedly high demand on employees at The Pokemon Company, forcing them to assign the individuals working on the album to other tasks. The future prospects for the album remain uncertain.

The insider was able to provide a partial track list:

Double Trouble (Team Rocket)-Fall Out Boy
Misty's Song-Katy Perry
The Legend Comes To Life-London Symphony Orchestra
Pokemon Johto-Pentatonix
Nobody Don't Like Christmas-Mannheim Steamroller
Aim To Be A Pokemon Master-2Cellos

Monday, January 16, 2017

Unboxing a 2.B.A. Master Promo Cassette Tape

Albums aren't the only music product to use tapes-they were sometimes used for promotional purposes as well: