UTG INTERVIEW: Disasterpeace


Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace, is a man of many talents and even more interests, though his bio might lead you to believe he really is only “an award winning freelance composer / sound designer based in Berkeley, CA, with a focus in producing and directing dynamic sound treatments for games.” Having released a number of albums under the moniker Disasterpeace already, Rich is just getting started. I decided to catch up with Rich amidst his busy schedule to see how things were going (and see what sorts of super top secret stuff he’s got in the works). Check out the full interview after the jump!

JM: For those who aren’t really “in the know” about chiptune music, can you give me a short description/history lesson?

RV: Wikipedia would do a better job than I could. It means a lot of things to a lot of people. But in a nutshell, it came out of music created using the dedicated sound chips of the 70s, 80s and early 90s. The music was limited in numerous ways (number of voices, sound capability, etc.), and that is part of what gives it its simplistic charm.

JM: How would you describe the “scene” around chiptune music?

RV: It’s lots of people in lots of different places who love music but have totally different taste. People involved in chiptunes come from incredibly varied backgrounds.

JM: So, I know most of the story behind you doing the Fez soundtrack–but I only know it from the other side. How was that process for you?

RV: Great. It was a dream project, and I had full access to the game every day, and the programmer, Renaud and I worked together to improve the music system to be able to do lots of interesting things. It was a blast.

JM: At that point you had done a bunch of game soundtracks/scores, but nothing of the same notoriety as Fez has gotten (besides Nelson Tethers, I guess)–how has that changed things for you on the game-scoring front?

RV: I’m grateful that the game has done well, and it has allowed me more opportunities and more people have heard my music, and I couldn’t ask for much more.

JM: So, in terms of your non-score music, you’ve explored quite a range of styles within the chiptune sound, where would you say most of your influence lies?

RV: Definitely inspired by earlier video game music, but also lots of contemporary and classical music, as well. If you listen to my older stuff, you can hear a lot of prog-rock influences, and over time it’s broadened out a bit. Level was inspired by Steve Reich and King Crimson, “Sober Colony” was inspired by George Winston, “The Insidious Evil of Spam” was inspired by Meshuggah… some of the Fez music is inspired by impressionism, composers like Ravel and Debussy. “Nocturne” is inspired by the dungeon music from The Legend of Zelda. “Compass” was inspired by the Mass Effect map music by Sam Hulick.

JM: What’s your creative process like, and how does it differ depending on the project? (Say, personal versus work for hire)

RV: Personal versus work for hire couldn’t be further apart. Working for yourself can at once be far easier and far more difficult, especially if you are your own biggest critic. At the same time, you may allow yourself the freedom to write as you please (or not). Working for others poses a different sort of challenge. It can feel more like “design” than “art”, in the sense that you are solving problems, in the sense that you may be trying to communicate specific things to the listener.

JM: One of the most interesting parts for me in chiptune music is the sheer number of sounds and textures found within it–how do you come across or create news sounds to use?

RV: I think this is partly an illusion, a result of the simplicity of the sound, where every adjustment you make can be rather noticeable as a result. When it comes to creating chiptunes, I like to create new sounds by twisting knobs in synthesizers and also by using Famitracker, a favorite tracker of mine.

JM: A while back you released a “music thing” called January, what was the inspiration behind this? And are there more fun “music things” to come?

RV: I had a game idea for licking snow, that turned out to be more like a music tool than a game, so that is sort of how it went. It was an excuse to learn how to program a game, and it sort of took on a life of its own. I’m very happy with how it turned out. I try not to force these kind of things, but if I have a really strong idea that I think I can tackle, you’ll see something new along these lines.

JM: What was the toughest part of creating January?

RV: Getting over the initial hump of “I have no idea what I’m doing.” I got to a point where I took a break to read and learn about programming fundamentals, and that helped me tremendously with my code and my ability to code the things I wanted for January.

JM: Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask what exciting new things we can expect from you next. You’re surely cooking up something awesome, yes?

RV: Yes, always! I am working on some games, and doing some scores for various moving pictures, but I prefer not to announce things until they are done, so stay tuned!

Rich is a fantastic dude who has made some really incredible albums over the last few years, all of which he’s selling for outrageously low prices over on his Bandcamp page. I highly recommend the Fez soundtrack, Level, Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar, Deorbit and NEUTRALITE. Here, have a sample:

And another:

Written and conducted by: Jordan Munson (follow him on Twitter)

(photo credit to Marjorie Becker)

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