Sunday, April 04, 2021

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 44-Discussing the music of Super Smash Bros. 64 & Melee

In this between-generations discussion, Anne from Pikapi Podcast drops by to analyze the music of Super Smash Bros. for the N64 and Melee for the GameCube. While these early entries don't have the sheer volume of content featured in later iterations, there's still plenty to cover, even if we did have to include a "wish list" song. As usual, we discuss the games themselves after the outro:


Pikapi Podcast

Poke Casters Network

Monday, February 08, 2021

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 43-Discussing the Music of Pokemon Stadium 2

Anne from Pikapi Podcast joins in to discuss the music of Pokemon Stadium 2 for the N64. While not as well-known as its predecessor, there’s still a lot of material to cover, both on the battling side as well as in the minigames. Honestly, it’s pretty impressive for a game with only a single composer. If you want to know what we thought of the game itself, be sure to listen after the outro:

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 42-Veronica Weygandt/Discussing the Music of Pokemon Puzzle Challenge

In the first segment (1:18-12:33), I interview Veronica Weygandt, a percussionist who's done several covers of Pokemon music. Despite being relatively early in her career, we still had a lot to talk about, including how percussion is much more than just drums, how those instruments have been brought into the digital realm, and how she's revisited some of her earlier work.

Our second segment (13:43-1:10:11) is a discussion of the music of Pokemon Puzzle Challenge for the Game Boy Color. While most of this title is similar to its N64 counterpart, the music definitely isn't, and Anne from Pikapi Podcast was happy to help me cover it. As usual, we have a game discussion after the outro:

Veronica's Channel
Pikapi Podcast
Poke Casters Network

Monday, November 30, 2020

Veronica Weygandt discusses percussion instruments and Pokemon covers

 Percussionist Veronica Weygandt (V-Ron Media) joins me to discuss her history as a musician, experience with Pokemon, and recent covers of music from Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire, and Pokemon X/Y:


Steven: Hi folks, Steven here. I'm on the phone with Veronica Weygandt, who is a percussion teacher, but more directly relevant she has been doing a number of Pokemon covers. We're going to talk about a couple in particular. She recently did a cover of the "Duskull Graveyard" theme from "Pokemon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire" for Halloween a few weeks ago, but that's just one of the things we're going to talk about. But first of all, Veronica where are you from and how did you get into doing music?

Veronica: I'm from Spartanburg, South Carolina and I actually got into father just retired as a band director, so when I was growing up, like if we were cleaning the house, instead of just whatever's on the radio we would have music such as 80's pop or jazz or classical or romantic era music playing in the background, so I grew up listening to a large variety of different types of genres of music.

Steven: And what was your sort of formal training like? Did you take instrument lessons as a kid, or how did that work out?

Veronica: So I started-dad and I would kind of play around at our piano in the living room, but then I did start band in fourth grade and I played percussion in band class through high school, and then in high school I actually joined a class called "percussion ensemble" so instead of sitting in the back of the band room every day. we all played on percussion instruments the whole time, so it was only percussionists in the class, so we got some specialized instruction, which is always kind of nice. 

Steven: Yeah, it's always nice when you can get that sort of specialized training there. What were sort of your main instruments because a lot of folks they think, "percussion? Oh that's just drums," but it's actually a fairly wide array of instruments. What were some of the ones you learned back then? 

Veronica: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that, because sometimes people just say, "I need a drummer," or you'll get piano players that can only play mallets, but I'm thankful that I get to play a lot of them, such as the marimba, the vibraphone, xylophone, bells/glockenspiel which are all under mallets, and then I did some snare drums, some concert snare drum and rudimental marching snare drum, and some bass drum and other auxiliary...or the toy instruments like triangle and tambourine. I also learned to play timpani and drum set. 

Steven: That's a really great variety there. I think you mentioned a little bit about marching band there. Have you ever had to perform at sporting events? What's that like?

Veronica: So, my freshman year of high school I was in the front ensemble, and I played marimba and then I marched a bass drum for one year and snare drum for two years, and now I actually work at that same high school and now I teach for the front ensemble.

Steven: That is a neat little circle of life there, I suppose. All right, well let's talk about the Pokemon side-how did you get introduced to that franchise?

Veronica: So, funny enough I was actually obsessed with "A Bug's Life" as a kid, and my parents couldn't get me to watch anything but "A Bug's Life" and then one day they showed me the first Pokemon movie and specifically the "[Pikachu's] Vacation" special, and then I became obsessed with Pokemon. That was followed by the whole movie, starting the cartoon or anime, and then I got a little bit into "Pokemon Silver" and "Pokemon Red and Blue", but I mainly played a lot of the side games, such as "Pokemon Stadium", "Pokemon Stadium 2"-I love the minigames-and "Pokemon Snap" is always dear to my heart. 

Steven: Yeah, especially that first generation, they did really experiment with what they could do with the Pokemon franchise, and the side games really do show that. We're hopefully seeing more of that now with the "New Pokemon Snap" and whatnot, but moving on let's talk about your little YouTube channel that you created-how did that get started?

Veronica: I started it back in college-my junior year, I believe my third year of college-and I just started out kind of messing around on the piano figuring out what I could do and what I couldn't do, and then I would put that into a music writing software or notation software-I use Finale, some people use Musescore or Sibelius but dad had Finale, so I just always learned Finale-and then I would export that when I finished it. I would export it as a MIDI file-it's an electronic sound font or so-and I would import that into Garageband, and then I would mess around with the library samples to see what instruments those sounds sounded on the best. Then I would just upload those to YouTube, so it was all electronic based when I started, but last December I got what's called a Vibekat, and it's actually an electronic vibraphone that comes with a bunch of different sounds such as xylophone, bells, and a bunch of other things that I've mentioned previously, and now instead of filling up a room with a bunch of different big percussion instruments, I can just change the channel on this one Vibekat, so it's really useful for recording, and now I can perform in my studio and have it feel more like a live recording.

Steven: Yeah, one thing if folks look at your more recent videos, you do that sort of split-screen thing where you're performing each part of the of the composition and stuff like that, so it's it's really interesting how that's evolved over time. 

Veronica: Yeah, and I do want to point out one more thing is that a lot of different percussion instruments-specifically mallets-use different mallets on the mallet instruments, such as the xylophone uses harder mallets whereas marimba you use yarn mallets-it's just softer mallets. And so, even though I'm performing on the same instrument, I still use the different mallets in each part so you can tell the instruments apart on the screen, such as the top left or bottom right. 

Steven: That'll be a great thing for folks to look for the next time they watch one of your videos. That's pretty interesting. All right, well let's talk about one of your covers in particular. The one you put out at the end of October for Halloween was the "Duskull Graveyard" theme from "Pokemon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire". Now, I do know that you had earlier done a cover of "Lavender Town" from "[Pokemon] Red and Blue" which is sort of the default Halloween thing that a lot of folks do. So. aside from having done that already, what made you choose this one for for this year's Halloween?

Veronica: I've always loved the spin-off games-like i mentioned previously with "Pokemon Snap"-and I was actually watching a live stream on YouTube of someone playing "Pokemon Pinball", and that sort of gave me some inspiration because I had been looking for something I was thinking maybe "Jack's Theme" from "Animal Crossing" because I've done a bunch of "Animal Crossing" arrangements, but I just really love "Pokemon Pinball Ruby [and] Sapphire", and when I heard the "Duskull Graveyard" theme, I was like, "oh, that's it." I mean I get that feeling and that you pulled into it and then suddenly you lose a couple days in the studio. That's how that works.

Steven: Yeah, inspiration can often strike in a manner like that where you just happen across something and you realize it's exactly what you've been looking for, and it sounds like that's what happened there. Are there any particular parts of the cover that you wanted to call out that were interesting or difficult or you learned something from?

Veronica: Yeah, a couple things come to mind. The first thing is in the original version that's in the game, some of the instruments are actually a little bit out of time in the melody. The clarinets are not with the bass part-the bass line per se. It's electronic so it's a little hard to figure out what instrument it is sometimes in the older games, but in my arrangement I still played it in time, and at first I wasn't sure if that was going to work out or not, but in the end it did and I'm really glad that it did. I think it sounds better from a 2020 performance. 

Steven: Yeah, it can be a little difficult sometimes to tell exactly what they meant there. Obviously they were trying to have a little bit of fun-we're talking about a graveyard you know in a Pokemon game not Silent Hill, so it's going to be a little bit different there, but yeah it sounds like you did some experimentation there and took some risks and sounds like you're happy with the result, which is you know an important thing for musicians to do sometimes. 

Veronica: Yeah, one thing I'm really happy with is the part where the drum set comes in because before it's just kind of spooky and ominous with [just] the auxiliary instruments-the triangle, the claves and the wood block and and just the marimba and the bass marimba part and xylophone on the melody, and you're like, "oh, is that it is it over?" And then the drum set comes in and the melody doubles on vibraphone and bells and it just kind of builds, and then towards the end the marimba changes to four mallets and it just becomes an epic ending of sorts, and I'm really happy with how it built up the entire time.

Steven: Yeah, you had a great experience, which you know given that making a video like that is a is a lot of work, I'm glad you have some positive emotions to show for it. All right, well you did another Pokemon cover recently. Do you want to talk a little bit about that one? It's from "[Pokemon] X and Y".

Veronica: So, "Laverre City" was actually the very first arrangement I did for my channel, and after graduating college and growing as both a musician and an arranger, there are some things I felt like i could do better, especially now that I have microphones and proper recording equipment and the Vibekat. Now I could do it for my main instrument-percussion ensemble-rather than just plugging it into Garageband and figuring out what kind of worked the best but wasn't really what I wanted, now I could really do what I wanted, so I upped the tempo a little bit and I had some fun with that. I had a pretty challenging marimba part-I had to practice those notes quite a bit-but I'm really happy with how that turned out at the end. I had a nice blend with the bass marimba and piano as well. I've gotten a lot better piano this year too. so I was able to put all those things together, and I was really happy with that.

Steven: Absolutely-the more you practice the better you get. That's true for pretty much anything. Alright, well anything else you're planning on doing in the near future that you wanted to share with the audience?

Veronica: I'm planning on doing "Snowbelle City" sometime in December or January to fit the wintry theme. It's going to be kind of similar to "Laverre City", but I'm going to have a lot more auxiliary instruments in this and I'm really excited to show some of those off for sure, and I'm probably going to do some Animal Crossing too, maybe "Turkey Day" hopefully I can get that out on Thanksgiving, and a couple others as well, one that I'm really excited for.

Steven: Yeah, "Animal Crossing" another big one on your channel there, so if folks are interested in that great place to look. Speaking of which, why don't you go ahead-what's your YouTube channel name and also why don't you tell us, do you have any social media accounts yeah you can find me on YouTube at "V-ron Media" , and if you go on my YouTube channel you can find my social media in my banner or you can look it up on site so on Facebook it's @vronmediamusic at Twitter it's @vronmediamusic and then if you want to follow me on Instagram my personal account is @vlweygandtand it's mostly updates on my channel along with pictures of my cats.

Steven: All right, well thank you very much Veronica-it's been great having you on.

Veronica: Thank you for having me-I really appreciate it. 

Steven: Alright folks, thanks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 41-Disputed Pokemon Songs

 Anne from Pikapi Podcast drops by to discuss a number of "disputed" Pokemon songs. "Flying Without Wings", "Happy Together", and several others go under the microscope to determine just how tied they are to the franchise. In the process, we cover a Whoopi Goldberg movie, a car commercial, and some other oddities, so it's definitely worth a listen:

Monday, October 12, 2020

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 40-Discussing the Music of "Hey You, Pikachu!"

In this episode, Anne from Pikapi Podcast helps me discuss the music of "Hey You, Pikachu" for the N64. While this title is most famous for having the player speak to it, there's also a lot of sound output to go over. Even if you've never played this game (sorry Anne), the discussion definitely has something to offer. As usual, we also have a game discussion after the outro:

Pikapi Podcast
Poke Casters Network
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 39-Peter Moshay ("They Don't Understand")/Mark Chait ("The Power Of One")

 In the first segment (1:10-17:56), I interview Peter Moshay, an audio engineer who worked on Dream Street's "They Don't Understand" from the Pokemon 2000 soundtrack. In addition to providing details regarding the recording session, we also discuss some of the many acts he's worked with over the years.

Our second segment (19:13-36:09) is an archival interview with Mark Chait, co-writer of "The Power Of One", also from Pokemon 2000. Like Peter, Mark has had a long and storied career, so it should be an interesting listen:


Live From Daryl's House

Peter Moshay

Pam Sheyne Interview

Mark Chait

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Peter Moshay explains how Dream Street's "They Don't Understand" was recorded

Back in 2000, boy band Dream Street recorded two versions of "They Don't Understand". One for the soundtrack of Pokemon 2000, and another for their debut album released in 2001. I talk to recording engineer Peter Moshay about the process, as well as his overall career in the music industry, and how the current situation has affected his work:


Steven: So folks, before we start the interview, there is a little bit of sad news I got to put right up here at the front. Earlier this summer, Chris Trousdale-one of the members of Dream Street-very sadly after a bad case of COVID-19 passed away in early June, just before he would have turned 35. And the band did a little-you know-mini online reunion stuff like that, but it is a cruel reminder that life is not fair, and of course we're dedicating this interview to him, his fans, his band mates, his family-all that stuff. wishes given the circumstances.

Steven: Hi folks, Steven here. I'm on the phone with Peter Moshay. He's an audio engineer-he does a lot of audio work for music and maybe a few other things, but as far as Pokemon goes, he did the audio engineering for the recording session of "They Don't Understand" by Dream Street, which of course was on the soundtrack to Pokemon 2000. And we're going to talk about that as well as his more recent work and really his whole career which is very interesting. He's worked with some really interesting folks over the years, but Peter, why don't you go ahead and start off at the beginning? Where are you from originally, and how did you get into doing music?

Peter: Hi everybody, I was...I started growing up in California out in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood area, and being a musician myself when i was younger, I got very into the technical end of it early on. I worked in music stores as a kid because I would hang out in them and take lessons at the music stores. And waiting for my mom to pick me up or my dad to pick me up I spent so much time in the music stores fiddling around with all the stuff that they had, I ended up working in a music store at a very young age, and that kind of progressed into doing more technical things, where I went into working in recording studios and kind of pushed my playing to the side, and really fell in love with doing audio recording and stuff like that. 

Then it slowly went into working with a lot of particular bands going on the road with them as well, helping them to kind of duplicate the records that they were making live. So, being an audio engineer out on the road, I gravitated towards that and it's been a great career for all these years. I've worked with countless bands that many people might know. 

Steven: Yeah, and I think one of the the big ones is actually Hall and Oates, which I'm sure most folks have at least heard of [even] if they're not exactly familiar with who that is. How did that one come about?

Peter: Well, after many years of traveling with bands on the road you meet a lot of other bands. I had toured around with lots of bands over the years: The group Journey, the Cars [?], Manilow [?], groups like Quiet Riot, hard rock groups, Kenny Loggins. Over that traveling time, you meet lots of other people. Well, in the travels I met some of the guys in the Hall and Oates band, and they needed somebody and I fit the bill, and started working with them back in 1987, all the way till now. 

I still do work with them. They're out there actively, always touring and recording, and we started this show about 11+ years ago called "Live From Daryl's House" which is an musician's playing in Daryl's house, online and that's kind of become its own thing. We've been streaming that show on the Internet since since about dial-up ended and we had DSL. As soon as we got enough bandwidth to be able to put video with the audio, we were doing it and we've been doing it ever since, and we've spawned off into having  restaurants with live music in them called Daryl's House Club, and I run those places now where we have music every day of the week. Live music and great food.

Steven: Yeah, it definitely has helped you out this year. You've been very ahead of the curve with some of your knowledge there and it's really paid off this year. We'll talk more about what you're doing more recently a little bit later in the interview, but since a lot of folks may not be familiar with what goes in on the technical side of doing a recording, can you sort of briefly describe what your responsibilities are on a typical studio recording? 

Peter: Yeah. Well, once the song's written-that song was written by Steve Diamond and Robbie Neville two [indistinct] and songwriters themselves. They'll sketch out the song...generally they might sketch it out either on an acoustic guitar, piano, whatever their instrument is, and then like the two guys will get together maybe and finish off the arrangements of the song-just how it'll basically go.

Then you've got to go into the studio, which now is your laptop or even your iPad or your phone, but we would go into the recording studio and put down all the individual instruments-that's like the drums the bass, the guitars, the vocals, backing vocals, all that kind of stuff, and you do it either all at one time in part or in pieces. 

So, for instance like the guys they would record their vocal parts...usually we would put them in the same room divided with some sound treatment-sound baffling-between them, and they would sing their parts, kind of all down together. And sometimes-maybe if somebody messed up a lyric or this or that-we'd go back and fix it. That's the general idea of how you would try to do it. A lot of the instruments would be pre-recorded. That would be done before you would do the vocals, but that's kind of how it goes. You would put the instrument track down and then the vocals generally last. 

Then after that comes the mixdown process-once everything's done, the mixdown process is separate, and generally the mixdown process is done within a day, [where] you really focus on making it sound the absolute best it can. 

Steven: Okay that's a great overview. So, how did you wind up working on "They Don't Understand" then? You talked a little bit about the the writing team. Did they happen to just fall in your lap there, or were they in the orbit of certain people? How did that come about?

Peter: Yeah, they were in [the right] orbit. Both Steve and Robbie Neville were (at the time) working with both Hall and Oates, and [I?] was working on those records at the same time. So when this project came up, you know I just happened to be working on their other projects as well. So, of course you know the man in the room gets the gig, and I just moved over to that project that day.

At that period of time, every single day was a new project, whether it was the Dream Street project, or I at the time was working with Mariah Carey, or Daryl and John, there was always something going on every day at that point in time. It was a big music machine in New York City at that time.

Steven: Yeah, New York, always pretty much known for its music, but especially busy then-and largely now as well.

All right, well, what did you know about Pokemon when it came in? You seem to have some familiarity, but you definitely were not in the age demographic for the franchise at the time. What did you know about Pokemon?

Peter: Oh yeah. You know, I've been in Japan so many times, and Pokemon was huge all over the world, but especially Japan, so I had seen it quite a lot and some of the guys...Steve had kids and many of my friends had kids, so it was definitely around big time at the time. Always around, and Nintendo was so big at the time too, so everybody I think was aware of it at the time.

Steven: So you actually had some decent knowledge, which is, you know, a little different. We always hear those stories with Donna Summer or even more recently with Bill Nighy and some of the other folks on Detective Pikachu, but you seem to have sort of an inside track, so you kind of knew what you were getting into. That's pretty neat.

Peter: Yeah, there was also-at that period of time-a lot of people in the music industry starting to work on music specifically for video games and stuff, because video games at that time were starting to become really ingrained not only in culture, but it was big business and people wanted to up the quality of the the audio and the music on video games then, and get-just like this-custom songs put in. It created a whole industry in the recording world, and now it's a big part of the video game industry.

Steven: Okay, well, going back to "They Don't Understand" and the recording session for that, obviously you had...there were the various instruments in there, and of course there were the the five guys. They were really kind of like late middle school early high school back then in 2000, but they were coming in to do their vocal parts. 

One interesting thing-you had mentioned the kid that Steve Diamond had-Cole Diamond is listed as a song inspiration for "They Don't Understand". I don't know exactly what happened there. It sounds like he probably was talking with his dad said something along the lines of, "hey you could rework this into a Pokemon song. Why don't you?" and somehow that that all went through there, but there are two versions of the song. How did that kind of affect the recording process?

Peter: Yeah, What happens during the recording process is when you're doing one-at least at that time-it was kind of the start of the period of where people would think about doing multiple versions of the song, because if you would do a pop version of the song, at that time there was a lot of hip-hop going on, a lot of rap going on, a lot of different versions. A lot of electro dance music going on at the time.

So when you're doing the song, you would immediately think like, hey would this song work as like a dance club song? Could you speed it up? So we would always think that way, and we would take those original tracks that were recorded-maybe just the vocals-and get it together with a person that would do more dance oriented tracks and let them change it up into maybe a different version of the song. Very common. It keeps the cost down too because you've already kind of got the song already laid out and the vocals done on it and you can take those things, and just add different music to it and make it a new song.

Steven: And how did that exactly play out here? There are about half a dozen lines that are different between the two versions of the song-basically, the other version removes all the Pokemon references and replaces them with more relationship-based stuff. Did you have to record it through like both times, or did you record the lines that were different separately? How did that work for this session?

Peter: We would generally do alternate takes, and have some alternate version lines in there and keep them separate, just like you would do maybe in a song that has cursing in it. You would separately record those so you could do a separate mix with those vocal lines in it, and back then the music was recorded digitally [just like now], so it would be easy to splice them in.

Steven: Yeah, I figured you might want to save a little work there and not have to go through-you might do maybe the line before that and the line after it to sort of make it feel more natural, but it sounds like you wouldn't record like the whole thing, right? 

Peter: Yeah, maybe not the whole song. We would just pick the lines, but you would always just record the whole line, not just pop in a word. You'd record a whole new line because a lot of times you'd have to change the way you would phrase it or something like that. It just depends on what you're trying to do and say.

Steven: Gotcha. All right. Well, do you have any other particular memories of the recording session? I know you were kind of in a separate room from the performers and what not because you had to monitor the levels and things like that, but any other particular memories from that session?

Peter: Oh yeah, we definitely spent time hanging out and talking. They were very interested in hearing because they knew about the group Hall and Oates, and they were interested in talking about Mariah Carey at the time and all the different projects, and asking about...artists always kind of like to ask about the other people you're working with, and they're always interested in hearing stories about it.

So, I don't remember exactly specifically what we talked about, but I do remember that we were sitting around, and since they were young and they were always interested in the music of course because they were musicians, I'm sure we were telling stories about-I was telling them about things that were going on and working with other artists at that time. 

I just remember they were just such great kids, man they really were, and we always had a blast. And I saw them for multiple days actually, because I was working in the same studios, and so they were still in there doing stuff working on other songs at the time. It was always fun working during that era of time. 

Steven: All right, well, obviously it's been, you know, 20 years since that was recorded. You've done a ton of stuff since. What's some of the stuff you've been working on more recently?

Peter: Well, we have our venue that we work on we have our "Live From Daryl's House" tv show that we've been doing for 11 years now. We have a couple of restaurants/music venues-Daryl's House Club in upstate New York here where I'm at now, and we stream our live shows five nights a week usually. So you can see a lot of the stuff that we're doing already on the web, so you can's kind of like peeking into a club that has lots of live music, and it's super high quality going out so you're watching music being played live by musicians...great bands we always have great bands five nights a week, and we just like to keep the music world alive out there and just expose it to people. 

Steven: Yeah, like we said earlier, you had some experience that really has paid off given the current circumstances, which are unfortunate, but you've managed to adapt relatively well. You mentioned the the Facebook [page] for Daryl's house and whatnot. Do you have any social media or website that's that's for you specifically?

Peter: You know, I don't really...I mean I have my own, but it's you know...I'm an extension of the artists i work with, and I have been absolutely blessed to have worked with all the best artists in the world. I mean, I have done hundreds if not thousands of records over the years, and shows and traveled the entire planet numerous times. 

I really like to be seen through the artists I work with. I am an extension of the people I work with, and I love for people to go to our webpage and just check out some of the bands. I engineer and record and do the video production for all of the bands up there, and you're gonna be amazed. I guarantee people will find a new band that you didn't know about that you'll love. 

Steven: All right, well, thank you very much-been great having you on Peter.

Peter: Thanks for having me. 

Steven: This has been Steven Reich. All right folks, thanks.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Musician Interview: Jordan Moore

I recently had an opportunity to interview Jordan Moore, a musician who's produced a number of covers of both classical and video game music. We discussed his musical training, starting his YouTube channel, and his more recent and future work:

Monday, June 29, 2020

Poke Press Digest Podcast: Episode 37-Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution Movie Discussion

As promised, this episode contains our discussion of the non-musical aspects of Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution. Anne from Pikapi Podcast joins once again to go over the art style, script, and other facets of the remake. We also talk about whether the movie got released the way we wanted, and what kind of CGI Pokemon movies we'd like to see in the future:

Pikapi Podcast