Having released his first full album Metrocrity Vol.1, we speak to 12 Followers / Meteo Xavier about putting out his new baby.
So tell the readers little about 12 Followers/Meteo Xavier and how you came into being?
Well, the real origin here is so ridiculous I almost feel like it should be something I’m ashamed to admit, but the real start was about 10 years ago when I graduated from high school. I wanted to get into major serious acting and my thinking at the time was if I started a rock band, that would be my in. Oh yeah, and this is before I knew jack squat about music. I actually thought that would work. 😛
Well, 10 years of reality later and an attempt to do a Christian Rock band with a friend later and slowly piecing equipment, software and knowledge together is where I land now. Over the last several years I’ve been doing “on-the-job” learning which I wanted to develop as a foundation to build and improve off of – this is 2 albums, about half-a-dozen commissioned game work, Ocremixes, what have you. I hate being limited and I enjoy being realistic (as opposed to yesteryears) so I’m interested in any music work I can get – albums, games, projects, etc.
What inspired you to take the route of a game music style approach with Meteocrity Vol.1?
Meteocrity Vol. 1 IS game music I had been commissioned to do that has yet to be published. The bitter reality of starting out in the indies is that 8 out of 10 projects never see the light of day. Game development is a time crushing activity that most people do in their spare time and life just gets in the way and I had a bunch of tracks sitting on my computer that weren’t going anywhere, so I fixed up the ones that were worth fixing, mixed them better and hired German game composer and audio producer Daniel Lippert to master and the album was finished.
When you listen to Meteocrity Vol.1, it sounds like there’s a narrative that runs throughout the album. Did you plan one and if so what was it about?
Actually, that quite surprises me. My last album had a sort-of narrative and this one did not. The only real structure to it was I had some tracks that sounded like beginning tracks and a couple that sounded like ending tracks and put them at bookends and then tried to arrange the rest of them in the smoothest progression possible, but now I’m really interested in this idea because I had no deliberate narrative going on.
There’s a real collection of different genres and it even sounds like some tracks come from different era’s of technology (8bit / 16bit). What are all the different challenges of having to compose for such a vast selection of different styles? Do you have any favourite styles?
My favorite style is the hyper-melodic prog-rock sound that Motoi Sakuraba and Hiroki Kikuta patented for their games and compositional formulas. This one has a lot of different sounding tracks because they all come from different projects and different setups I used to have. Most of these tracks reflect me being inexperienced and eager, so I pretty much gave in to the strict commissioners’ wishes and did them exactly as they wanted (I now command much more creative and quality control).
I’m not so sure I had much trouble in learning different styles. A rock track for a platformer or SHMUP can easily become a puzzle track if you slow down the tempo and make it less dynamic. I asked for audio examples, they sent me what they wanted and I did my best to learn and recreate (copy) what they wanted. This is not really the way I like to do things but sometimes it’s what’s called for in the job.
How do you start off composing a track. Do melodies come before the beats or does it change from song to song? Did some tracks come to you quicker than others?
A lot of my tracks come from an earlier exercise in something that I kept, but when I’m started from square one, I always start with drums and bass, I build some chords and fills and get a general atmosphere and direction going. After that I either develop the melody or further accompaniment (whichever works first). I discourage starting with chords and melody first and then building everything around it – that’s like building a house around your furniture out in a field somewhere. I start from the ground up, get my direction and accompaniment going and then put the melody in. The melody’s the easiest to write because you’re just writing on top of everything else.
Some tracks are definitely easier than others. Some of the tracks here on Meteocrity took like an hour – others took days. It’s just the luck of the draw when you’re making something from nothing, you build what you can build, take a look at it and go from there until it sounds like a song.
Although you have composed for a variety of other projects, this is your first commercial release. How does it feel to finally have something that is entirely your baby with name on out there?
Spiritually orgasmic. I always encourage people to finish their stuff for any reason just because it feels as good as sex and lasts a lot longer. Even if what you do sucks, you get SOMETHING from it and you can do SOMETHING with it. An unfinished track – all you’ve got is raw material to mine from. It can’t do anything by itself. Completing a project is pretty addicting, but it might be a good addiction.
You’re always busy with new projects – is there anything you can let slip for us that’s coming up in the near future?
Oh, my plate is super full and might take me more than a full year from now to work on and complete. I have a chiptune album I meant to start back in the fall but hadn’t gotten to it other than some track demos to work on. I’m the Assistant Director and Manager of the Seiken Densetsu 3 project on Ocremix and that’s going to kick some ass. I did a MIDI soundtrack for a Tower Defense game and we’re mostly done with that.
I will, sometime in the near future, be working on a new commercial album with piano maestro Ghetto Lee Lewis from OCR for the record label that’s solo piano and I can’t wait to do that because then I’ll finally get to release a “12 Followers” record and not “12 Followers/Meteo Xavier”. It will be an actual album-long collaboration.
On the flip side of things, I’m also an author under the name J.S. Lawhead and I’m going to be working on a new novel soon for Hellfire Publishing once I make some more headway in marketing my current novel, Vulgarity For the Masses.
So I have my work cut out for me, but I ain’t complaining. It’s good to have real work to do for people these days. Thank you for asking, Simon!
…and thank you so much for talking to Higher Plain Music!