Videogame Music Wizard Doctor Octoroc on 8-Bit Music, Zelda, and, Naturally, Antonin Dvorak
As far as the Internets go, Doctor Octoroc is the real deal -- he's the animator, composer, and wizard behind more or less every good retro videogame parody online, like "Jersey Shore: The RPG," "Game of Thrones RPG," "8-Bit Twilight (Interactive Game)," and more.
Based in Philadelphia, Doc Oc has made videogame-style music -- or chiptunes -- for years, even releasing a collection of Christmas songs arranged in the 8-bit style called 8-Bit Jesus in 2008. Last week, he collaborated with the Fine Bros. to create a "Saved by the Bell Interactive Game" that's racking up the views on YouTube.
Doc Oc took a few minutes to talk about his passion for videogames and their crazy beeps.
How did you get into creating videogame music?
I originally got into it because I spent most of my time as a kid recreating and rearranging different scenes in different videogames, so there was always an appeal in videogame music for me, especially in the older systems, like Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Genesis.
Which console's music do you like the best?
If I had to choose one, I'd say the raw, simple sounds of the original Nintendo and the limitations that it has; I really like working within those limitations. It provides a challenge. Once you get into the other systems it's a lot less challenging because they let you use more instruments at a time and they have a more diverse selection of instruments. But they all have their own niche sound and their own pros and cons to them. I definitely enjoy working with all of them, but the raw Nintendo sound is what I like the best.
How do you make the music?
It's from scratch. I have a Nintendo that's been amped up a little bit to have better sound quality and sound output, and I also use a cartridge called Midines that manipulates the sound card. So I'm using that raw sound card in the Nintendo to make the music, and I use a sequencing program to lay it out. It's as much from scratch as it could be without programming the music like they did back in the day.
How long does it take to make a song?
It really depends on how satisfied I am with the first run. I'd say on average it probably takes me a day to do five to 10 minutes' worth of music, just because I kind of sit down and get right to it. Rather than thinking long and hard about what I want it to sound like, I just let it happen naturally.
How much time did you spend a day playing videogames as a kid?
I started playing back when CalecoVision and Atari came out -- it goes back that far, but that was pretty much around the time I was born.
My parents were pretty strict with it, so I didn't spend more than two hours a day playing. They basically had a rule that for every hour of videogames or TV we watched or played, we had to do an equal number of hours of constructive activity, like reading or writing or drawing. Naturally, I chose to draw as my productive activity, which lent itself to a lot of stuff I do now in animation, so I kind of found a loophole that let me spend more time playing videogames.
Which videogame's soundtrack influenced you the most?
Definitely the Legend of Zelda series -- that's something that's always been a big part of my life from the time I played the very first one to even the modern ones. The music composed for those games had a much more complex feel to them, even on the simpler systems. Koji Kondo was the one that started composing for the Legend of Zelda series, and that's something that really stuck with me. Anybody who sees my tattoos will know that, because I have Legend of Zelda tattoos all up and down my left arm [laughs].