Birth: 4/16/68 Place of Birth: New York City Education:
New York University Favorite Food: Uni (sea urchin) Favorite
TV shows: New - "X-Files" - Old - "All In The Family"
a fifth generation New Yorker has composed the soundtrack for
Sony's up coming RPG "Legend of Dragoon". Mr. Martin has also
scored two Japanese TV dramas, one of which received the award
for best soundtrack for a television drama. In addition to composing,
Mr. Martin is also a producer, arranger, programmer, keyboardist
At what age did you become interested in music?
did you start composing?
I started writing music at age 15. Although my skills were limited
I still had a desire to write songs and jam with friends.
RB: How did
you get the Legend of Dragoon job? How long did you work on it?
How much freedom did you have? How did you approach writing the
A lot of introductions, meetings and tape submissions, and a bit
of luck. I was pretty free to do what I wanted but like I said
before, there is a team with a vision and you have to be flexible
(to a certain extent). When I first started writing I wanted to
take a percussive/ethnic approach. It seemed to go over well,
but the Sound designers & Director wanted strong melodies. For
me personally, I feel that a lot of melody, after looping around
10 times, can get annoying. But, a good groove, can loop forever.
you the only composer for Legend of Dragoon?
NO - I composed most of the music but, it was such a large title
that I was not able to do it alone.
RB: How closely
did you work with the other composer of Legend of Dragoon?
Believe it or not I never met him. I had only heard a few of the
songs that he composed during the making of the game. I noticed
that his style was quite different from mine. I guess that it
gave them a diverse soundtrack.
did you first start working Japan and how did you start?
About 2 years ago. I was coordinating a recording session in NYC
for a Japanese composer. I met a manager and got to be friends
with him. Submitted tapes. He now represents me in Japan.
are the differences between working in Japan and the States?
Language!! I speak Japanese pretty well but it can still be difficult.
When I am in the studio here I can say to a musician: " hey- gimme
a little more groove" & they will know what I mean, or feel what
I mean. In Japan the musicians seem to want a more clear description
of what you want.
RB: How does
the Japanese composer compare to the American composers?
Not an easy question. I think all people are individuals and it
is difficult to say that Japanese Composers are this way and American
Composers are that way. People work very hard at what they do
in Japan and expect you to do the same.
was it using the PSX sound? Have you had any experience with the
sound of PSX2 or Dreamcast?
It was a bit frustrating being limited to certain types of sounds.
I have not yet worked with the newer stuff. I hope all of the
music can be full 16 bit streaming audio. I would like to try
to record a game soundtrack with a live band!! That would be interesting.
RB: How do
you feel about temp tracks?
When I was working on Legend Of Dragoon, they occasionally sent
me a quicktime movie or video that had some music on it. It usually
made me confused because it was a totally different image that
I envisioned for that scene. It was a rare case though. Sometimes,
after I would compose a piece for a particular scene they would
send me feedback that It was not what they were looking for. So
they might send me an mp3 of a some music that had the vibe that
they wanted. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't.
tools/programs do you use to compose music?
is your gear?
It all toys if you ask me but my main gear is a G3 Mac/MOTU 2408/various
software/Korg Tinity Pro/E-mu E4x/Mu80/SY77/MonoPoly/Fender Rhodes/and
other gizmos and gadgets.
Japanese TV dramas did you compose for?
"Rasen" - Fuji Television & "The Blue Bird Syndrome"(translated)
- TV Asahi
are the differences between doing TV dramas and Games?
For the game I sequenced most of the music. On only a couple of
pieces did I work with live musicians. On the Dramas, there is
a sequenced base with a lot of live playing on top. I like to
blend live and electronics.
artists have you worked with ? How does this music compare to
doing games? Does your approach change?
(see Martin1 for credits) It is totally different. Game music
is a bit more limiting as far as the types of sounds that you
can use. Though, all of this is changing with the newer consoles.
I wasn't even allowed to use the sustain pedal!
RB: How was
it working with Utada Hikaru? How involved was she with the remix?
How long does it take to do a remix? How much freedom did you
I had a great time doing the remix. I had a lot of creative freedom.
Hikaru came in to the studio to do some additional ad libs. This
was a few years ago and she was very young, but obviously very
talented. A remix can take anywhere from a day to a couple of
weeks depending on the schedule of the client and the budget.
I sometimes have to do a mix very quickly, other times, when there
is no immediate deadline, I can relax and take my time. Sometimes
technical problems play a part. If, for example, the client wants
a faster dance mix of a slow song, then you have to work very
hard to fit the vocals into the new track. A combination of time
stretching and rephrasing is often necessary. If you can bring
the artist in to re-sing some parts that is great. That option
is not always available.
is your favorite genre to compose for and why (games, films, TV,
Artist & Band CD Projects is the far most rewarding for me. I
like the interaction in the recording studio.
RB: Do have
any favorite game composers?
No - I don't know enough to have a favorite.
RB: How do
you think your game music compares to your other music?
Well, I try to bring as much of my personal influence into the
music as possible, but there is a game team who has a certain
vision of what they feel would be best for a particular scene.
So you have to be flexible, and that sometimes means writing music
that is outside of your usual style. It can be challenging.
are your influences?
Wonder/Miles Davis/John Coltrane/Pink Floyd/Mozart/Radio Head/and
others --too many to list
are your hobbies?
RB: Do you
have any advice for people wanting to write music?
If you are writing music for yourself or for an original project
that you would like to get signed to a record label than originality
within certain parameters is necessary. What I mean by that is
if you are, for example, interested in R & B music, there are
certain sounds and production styles that the industry is used
to. So unless you are super confident that you have "The New Sound",
it is sometimes better to play it safe and stick with what works.
Be original in your chord progressions/ melodies and lyrics. If
you would like to get into soundtracks for TV Games Films etc.,
than flexibility is key. You have to be able to work as a team
player. Any of those egos that you get at band practices will
not work. Also be prepared to be called to write in styles that
you are not used to writing in. Never say that you can't do it.
Just dig down deep and come up with some magic.
Dennis Martin for taking the time for this interview.