As part of Diggin’ in the Carts, our series on video game music, we’ve asked artists to provide the soundtracks that they remember the most. For this edition we heard from Claude Speeed, the Scottish-born, Berlin-based producer and alumni of the 2011 Academy in Madrid. Speeed was part of American Men, a band signed to Glaswegian label LuckyMe, and he also has prior records as a solo artist for both LuckyMe and Planet Mu. Considering his artist name comes from a video game protagonist, you can be sure he knows a thing or two about the world of video game music.
Tune into Diggin’ in the Carts on RBMA Radio every Thursday at 7 PM EST.
Martin Galway - “Main Theme” – Arkanoid
This is the theme song for the Commodore 64 port of Arkanoid, which was released by Taito in the mid-’80s. I didn’t have a C64, so although I played Arkanoid loads on the Atari – I think it was actually called Breakout on the Atari – I didn’t know this track existed until I went to a video game exhibition. (They had a wee section for video game music.)
I put the headphones on and I skipped to this one because I recognized the title. At that point, I was into quite a lot of UK electronic music, so Warp, Planet Mu, Rephlex, all that kind of stuff. Also, I listened to a lot of Def Jux at the time. Cold Vein by Cannibal Ox is pretty much my favorite rap record, and El-P, even more than Dilla, was my favorite hip-hop producer at that point. This just totally joined the dots for me, that something happening maybe 20 years before had just pre-empted that music so much.
Manabu Namiki – “Fly to the Leaden Sky” – Battle Garegga
Hearing this was pretty much my first encounter with Manabu Namiki, or the first time I was aware of him, anyway. I have no idea how I came across it, but my guess is I’d been playing a lot of Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun, which were both Japanese shoot-’em-up games on the Dreamcast and the Saturn, respectively.
My roommate was a video game designer, and he was just super into playing these games. We had an extra TV in the living room turned sideways just to play shoot-’em-ups, basically. I got into watching videos of people completing bullet hell shoot-’em-ups in particular, and I’m guessing that’s where I would have found this. The intro to this track is unbelievable. It’s one of my favorite intros ever. Basically, the first eight seconds of this track is perfect. It’s one of the only “perfect” sections of music for me, which might sound silly, but there you go.
Michiru Oshima and Pentagon - “Heal” – Ico
Often I enjoy the short, looped pieces of music you get during intros, kill screens, menus and that sort of thing better than I like the full songs from the soundtrack. One example of that is “Heal” from Ico, which came out on the PlayStation 2 in 2001. This game had quite a profound effect on me. I think it was quite original-looking and feeling. It’s one of the purest narrative experiences that I’d had at that point in a game, and one of the most powerfully realized, in a visual sense, atmospheric sense, architectural sense and design sense.
You play a lost little boy accompanied by a kind of spirit girl, being chased by shadows, effectively. This piece of music is from the save screen, which you can access by falling asleep together on a two-seater sofa you occasionally find on the castle grounds. The melody here is the thing – it’s just really magical.
Misao Senbongi and Shusaku Uchiyama - “Serenity” – Resident Evil 4
This is also an interstitial track, from Resident Evil 4, released in 2005 by Capcom on the GameCube. That’s one of my favorite games, maybe the one I’ve completed the most after Metal Gear Solid. That soundtrack is totally brilliant, partly because it’s different to what was around at that point. I felt like soundtracks, for the most part, had gone pretty downhill, all this overdone orchestral, Hans Zimmer, pop chord, discordant pish. So the soundtrack for this game was kind of a nice surprise for me. Also, this track plays every time you meet the merchant, when you’re buying and selling items. It’s this little oasis of calm. It’s a bit of a melancholic and sinister calm, though.
Hiroshi Kawaguchi – “Passing Breeze” – Out Run
This track is one of the three selectable tracks from the original Out Run, which was released by Sega in 1986. The music was by Hiroshi Kawaguchi, who was in Sega’s official band. Yes, Sega had an official band, the S.S.T. Band. It has all this kind of jazz fusion feel to it.What makes it amazing for me is the sound palette. My band, American Men, also used this same kind of technique, writing songs with real instruments, then transposing them to what’s effectively a digital player piano. On “Passing Breeze” it just works really well, it’s so innocent and fun and sunny. Then it has this nostalgic, sad breakdown. It’s really well-suited to the game.