Last month I was interviewed by the Russian Sci-Fi/Fantasy Magazine Mir Fantastiki!
They also published a short article I wrote and did a cool drawing of me! This is an English transcription of that interview. The original is available for you to read here: http://mirf.ru/Articles/
Art by Alexander Remizov (remizov.blogspot.ru)
Image and Article used with permission by Mir Fantastiki (mirf.ru)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today's column was written by the musician we interviewed. Who knows more about the music than the writer/performer?
Meet Careless, the careless frontman of Florida's Video Game Music (VGM) rock band, Random Encounter.
Back in 1999 the Video Game Music Scene was born with the emergence of a band called The Minibosses. I can
still remember listening to them for the first time on the internet. Real instruments were playing ‘Searching
Friends’ from Final Fantasy VI. It was revolutionary and I wanted more. Hours, days, and weeks were spent
searching for more VG songs using primitive search engines and Napster knock-offs only to yielded a handful of
more songs from VG-bands. This was the first time I’d ever had an interest in music so it was all I listened to and
it became my passion. I even spent hours each night learning to play the accordion just so I could play the songs
from the video games I loved.
Over the next five years I’d found few more bands on the internet to listen to but it wasn't until I went to
an Anime convention in 2004 that I got to SEE a performance in person by the classical VG band’ Select Start.’
The performance itself was fantastic but the night was made more remarkable by the band members staying
around after the show to socialize and answer questions. In chatting with the band’s guitarist I was told that there
wasn't any magic to starting a band and that I too could be a part of the VG performance scene if I applied myself.
With this in mind, a year later I met a talented pianist in a chance Random Encounter [Note: This is a play on words. In English Random Encounter also means the band's name] who shared in my desire
to play the songs from video games and we formed a band with a few other like-minded musicians. It was a really
great learning experience but we were without direction after the pianist graduated college and moved to Korea. It
wasn't until the band completely died and was reborn in 2010 that I became aware of the VG Music Scene. Through
playing at VG music festivals I found out that there are hundreds of people who all know and love the same music
that I do, that they enjoy the same bands, and that some of them are in the bands I enjoy. It is a friendly community
that encourages others to join it and it’s one that I’m proud to be a part of. It’s grown a lot since 1999, but the Video
Game Music community is just as special to me as the day I discovered it. There are just more of us now.
Playing: Thief: Gold (1998)
The original stealth game where you avoid hurting people
and hide in shadows to survive. It's very immersive and
does not give you an accurate map of where you are, only a handwritten one.
Listening to: Lesnikov 16 (Пенетратор 2.0)
I only just discovered these electronic cosmonauts but
they’ve been on loop in my headset for the last day, nonstop.
I really love the sounds they use and the guy’s voice is hypnotic!
Interview by Sergey Serebryanskiy
Tell me about origins of the band. How and when RE was born?
Random Encounter was actually born twice. First in 2005 after I randomly met a pianist who wanted to perform video game music. We asked the first people we saw the next day if they were musicians and we added a drummer and guitarist. It was a college band though, and as members graduated or quit we’d replace them. In 2010 the entire band dissolved but still had shows booked throughout the rest of the year. One of my best friends (Rook) thought it was a shame that the band would end so we formed a new band of the same name. The other band members joined because of other truly fortunate Random Encounters.
We've heard about some other "Random Encounter" band. One with a similar logo. Do you know more?
You've heard about them too? Back when Youtube was still kind of new I was looking for performance videos of my band and came across a very different 'Random Encounter' band from Poland that plays a very different style of music. However, they had the exact same instrumental lineup that we had. Accordion, two guitars, bass, drums and for the brief time in 2007 when we incorporated a trumpet they also started using a trumpet! It was getting really weird... And a year or so later I was able to find their website, only to discover that their logo was a Black and White circle with the letters "RE" inside it! I think they used arrows at the ends of the letters but it was still extremely strange that we were so alike and were entirely unaware of each other. I was able to chat with their front man (the accordionist as well) at some point by email, only to discover that they'd never heard of us. He was very nice and offered to play a show together if we were ever in Poland. I am under the impression that they've stopped playing as of 2008/2009 though.
It's like it's time paradox! Accordions are an unusual and rare instrument for rock music. Why did you chose to play it?
This is going to sound really weird but it’s the truth. On my 16th birthday I had a very powerful dream where I heard a sound. When I woke up I was able to identify the sound as being from an accordion and I felt a very strong impulse to recreate that sound. My parents helped me find someone who could teach me to play a week later and my love for the instrument grows every time I play.
Why were some songs from the first Random Encounter album re-recorded for the second one?
It's funny that you should ask because while Random Encounter 'Self Titled' was recorded by Random Encounter... It was recorded by a completely different group of people from the "old" Random Encounter. When Rook and I formed the "new" Random Encounter we still wanted to play some the same songs like "Terra" and "Ahead of Our Way." We were also a completely different band from the incarnations that came before and it just felt natural to re-record the songs in a way that represented the new band. We pretty much consider "Unavenged" as Random Encounter's first album, and see Self Titled as a Proto-album made by different people.
We thought songs sounded very different... It's almost like there are three Random Encounter bands! What’s more difficult: Writing your own songs or arranging melodies that were not written for a rock band?
We typically decide that we’re going to remake a song because it’s something we think will fit the band's arrangement well to begin with. These songs start off with a strong melody, are well written, and already have a following. Writing original songs is a lot more subjective and in some ways stressful. It’s a lot more of a learning process and we’ll often experiment with them during shows. For instance, our song about Baba Yaga “Swamp Witch” was originally longer, but we noticed that people seemed to loose interest and shortened it. It was terrifying releasing our new single “Dead Labs” for those reasons and I think if it were a cover song I’d have been more confident that people would like it.
Why do most of Video Game Cover bands play music from selected games: Final Fantasy VI & VII, Castlevania?
I think things are shifting and while VG bands usually prefer songs that people will be familiar with it’s becoming more common to hear bands perform or record obscure tracks. “Lords of Thunder” and “Descendants of Erdrick” are really good examples of bands that play obscure music. I’ll also shameless plug my side project “Careless Juja” as a recording group that works with more obscure tracks like ‘Sword Master’.
Is there some kind of movement, an informal club of bands playing video game music?
Yes and no... I can only speak for the U.S. VGM scene but 80% of us know and see each other a few times a year at big events. The part that amazed me is how friendly and approachable everyone is and how no one feels different then the audience members. For instance, if anyone reading this sends Random Encounter or any other VGM band a message on the internet they should know that they’ll likely get a friendly response back...
Is it true that there is a new subculture in USA, a Nerd culture? Will the Nerd culture take the place of indie culture in the world?
Nerd Culture is growing steadily in the US. Many stores carry nerdy clothes, video game & geek-television memorabilia, toys, anime, and video games. While I don’t personally think it will replace indie culture I think that it’s a large part of indie culture and in some ways has even become mainstream. For reference, the #1 Nerdy band of 2012, They Might Be Giants, just released a new album 'Nanobots' and is currently scheduled to be on tour for the next 6 months, almost non-stop, playing to large crowds of over 500- 2000 every night. A less well-known band I’m personally friends with, “The Protomen”, is also on tour for most of the year, which means that on any given night of the year over 100-300 people in any given city will come to see them perform. I feel that their success is a good indication that our culture is growing.
Do you have live concerts often? How does it go?
We typically play one or two shows a month but sometimes we’ll do one every week, or play a show every night if we’re on tour. Our shows are a lot of fun from my perspective because I enjoy singing and playing accordion with the other band mates. That fact that other people are there to watch us is an excuse for me to try out goofy things like putting the accordion on my head, playing with my teeth, or seeing if I can walk off stage and sneak up on people in the audience. It’s also really gratifying because we have the ability to make people happy if we do a good job.
Members of RE like different music. What brings you together?
Everyone in Random Encounter has completely different musical tastes. For instance, Rook loves 80’s music and I can’t stand it. Konami loves folk, and Kit is something of a Metal-head. This makes writing and arranging music difficult but we work hard to make sure that all of us enjoy the finished product. Our shared love is video games. Every one of us is a fairly hardcore gamer with a different specialty and it’s that love that brought us together.
How did you become interested in Russian culture?
(laughing) I've been waiting for this one! My great-great ancestors are from Russia so it’s always been an important place to me that I've regrettably never been to. I love history and grew up enjoying stories about Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Ivan the Great, and the strong spirit of the Russian people that has seen you through Napoleon, Hitler, and countless other great threats.
One of my American friends had lived in Tambov for a few years and told me about life there. He specifically mentioned a few stories he’d heard about about Baba Yaga, a name that VERY few Americans know. When I did some research, I found dozens of fantastic legends about Baba Yaga and lots of other supernatural beings. It was like suddenly discovering Egyptian or Greek mythology for the first time, only to find out that no one you know has ever heard any of the stories. After discussions as a band we concluded that being legendary Tambov-based supernatural monster hunters was a fun way to introduce people to these legends.
Our cover is that we are posing as a Video Game band to not be noticed as we travel around the US in our search for the hidden soul of Koschei the Deathless...which was brought to America from the Island of Buyon around the time Michael Jackson became white.
Tell the story about origins of the song “Voshititelniy Egoist”. Who helped you with the text and pronunciation?
The intention behind Delightfully Selfish was to create a love song in Russian that only used negative terms to describe endearment... I will never truly know if I succeeded or if my accent/pronounciantion was awful because I speak very little Russian. Musically it was strongly inspired by the main “Diablo” theme. I had a few friends and family members translate it to Russian, cross check, and help me pronounce it but ultimately a 2 hour pronounciation session with an elderly woman from Russia really helped me learn how to properly pronounce the song (to the best of my abilities), despite me not knowing a word of Russian beforehand. I recorded her saying the words right and repeated everything over and over for hours at a time until I finally memorized the song. I hope that some of my original vision for the song translated well.
What’s next for Random Encounter? Are there new tracks or releases in works?
We just released a new original single called ‘Dead Labs’, that is greatly inspired by the video game series Dead Space and System Shock. Now that we’re done with the single, we've started recording songs for our next album: ‘Let Me Tell You a Story’. It will be roughly 50% original, 50% cover, and will also feature a song about Baba Yaga. Based on the speed we’re currently working at I think it should be out around mid-Summer, because we want to be sure that the level of (performance and recording) quality greatly exceeds anything we’ve released. Also, I should mention here that anyone who cannot afford our music we fully welcome to torrent or stream it for free. Should you be able to support us one day, or “like” our facebook page, we appreciate it but feel free to enjoy our music in the meantime.
How do you spend your own time?
I spend at least an hour each night working on something musical... recording, writing, practicing, or just goofing off. I also host a Dungeons and Dragons [Pathfinder] game each week and regularly practice German Longsword. My favorite video games are generally the ones I’m playing at the time. This month I really enjoyed Far Cry 3, Thief, and Dishonored. I rarely get time to read but i’m a big fan of Warhammer 40k books by Dan Abnett, or certain Batman comics like ‘The Killing Joke.’ My favorite book is The Hobbit.
Can you say that Random Encounter is well-known band? Even Russian magazines interview you :)
(laughing) I am always pleasantly surprised when I find someone who has heard of us and it seems to happen fairly often. While I don’t want to call us “well known” just yet I’ll humbly concede that we’re slowly gaining recognition. Thanks for the interesting and enjoyable chat!
I almost forgot, do you have anything you'd like to tell your Russian fans?
I hope to meet you in the future, and even become a fan of your music!
From America with Love,
Careless & Random Encounter