Interview with Joe Romersa - Music Director of Silent Hill series
Meet Joe Romersa... Soul of every Silent Hill fan should tremble with hearing this name. Being a talented songwriter and vocalist he's the one behind song lyrics in Silent Hill 3, Silent Hill 4: The Room and all fresh Silent Hill: Zero. "Hometown" and "Cradle Of Forest" flowing through our ears with his deep voice... plus he's voice acting for anime and gaming industry, does sound engineering, plays multiple musical instruments and even composing his own music - Jack of all Trades, you say? it seems to be... Game-OST has shaken hands with this persona and eager to share impressions with you. Read here... with your eyes wide open.
Some of Joe's free downloads
Beatles. The Ed Sullivan Show. That was the bolt of lightning that started it all. Didn't have money for a guitar so I grabbed a couple of coat hangers and started pounding on pots, pans, couch, anything that made noise.
My grandfather was a sax player in Stan Kentons band, back in the 40's, but my dad is not a musician, my dad was an artist at Disney. My dad knew one drum beat and three chords on guitar. Dad taught me what he knew, and bought me a drum kit when I was 10. By the age of 18 I'd learned how to play drums, guitar, bass, piano, cello, flute, trumpet, tuba, bassoon and harmonica. But drums are my main instrument.
In high school, I had already been in a few different bands, so wanted something different. I studied electronic music with Moog synthesizers and Revox 2 track reel to reel tape machines. Studied Avant-garde and Muzik Concrete of pioneers in sound like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Many of the musicians I played with in school, went on to do great things. D.J. Bonebreak from X, Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro from Toto, and Michael Landow to name a few. Ever since, life has been in the studio as a producer/sound engineer or playing drums in various bands. And of course writing.
Do you have a large collection of musical instruments? Also, we're interested in software and hardware you're using in your studio.
I have 2 drum kits, an Fender Strat. electric guitar, Gibson acoustic guitar, Hamer bass, Triton 66 keyboard, 300 year pump organ,and a list of other noise makers too big to list here. I'm a Mac G4 man in need of a G5. Use Pro Tools and Digital Performer with Waves plug-ins. Joe Meek and Presonus mic pres. Photoshop and Premiere for visual editing.
You're working for a long time in anime. Haven't you learnt Japanese language by now?
skoshi! I have a hard enough time with English! I live in Los Angeles, I should know Spanish, but I don't. I love the Japanese language people and culture.
Do you have any hobby, not connected with music in any way?
I love photography. Here's a link to some of my photos.
Video editing - IMAGINE, TRIBUTE TO LOUIS PRIMA, WORDS FROM THE SUN
Other hobbies are poker and internet radio.
What can you tell about your last album "You Are Here"? When did the idea to record an instrumental album come to you? How long did you take to record?
"You Are Here" is a collection of instrumental moods. Each track done in various states of mind and time. Like "Past Masters", I wanted to just get them off my shelf and into your ears, so I can clear the way for new stuff.
The single "The New World" consists of only two tracks, and you're not singing, but reading text there. Do you have any plans on creating full vocal album?
I'm working on it. I'm fishing in Lake Muse for inspiration.
You have released three collections "Past Masters" with songs by various artists, with whom you worked as engineer, sound producer, drummer and vocalist / back-vocalist. Those tracks were mostly archive tracks. For the past time you must have collected some new material. Will you release "Past Masters Vol. 4" and which artists supposedly will be presented in it?
"Past Masters" is all my older stuff. I want to move on to the present masters. writing I'm also trying to release an album never released I did called "SOY COWBOY". A Thai-Western band I was in.
It was my first East meets West type of project. Truly unique!
I strongly recommend seeing the Soy Cowboy video.
You can hear samples of Soy Cowboy here.
We know your first experience in cooperation with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn was not for "Silent Hill 3", but song "Danger Zone" for a videogame "Top Gun" (1996). Tell us, how and when did you meet Mary?
It was? Hmmm. Danger Zone doesn't sound familiar, but that doesn't mean anything, I work on a lot of projects that have temp names like "Project 96". I've known Mary from the days I was directing dialog for "Fist Of The North Star", she voiced Julia. When I was auditioning singers for SH3 she was chosen.
Mary Elisabeth McGlynn, Akira Yamaoka and Joe Romersa. World premiere of "Silent Hill" at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, 2006.
How did you become involved in "Silent Hill 3"? How and when did you meet Akira Yamaoka? What can you tell about him as a composer and as a person?
In 2002, Yutaka Maseba and Haruyo Kanesaku at ZRO LIMIT PRODUCTIONS brought us together. I work on many game projects with ZRO LIMIT. When Yutaka introduced me to Akira, we got together and jammed at my studio, I played drums, he played on my Strat and Line 6 amp. We talked musically before we spoke through translator about SH.
There is a myth that there was a female vocals casting for Silent Hill, which attracted more than 50 candidates. Is it fact or fiction?
Fiction. There were only six.
Describe, how did the work on songs from Silent Hill go? Which instructions did Akira give to you, how did rehearsals and record sessions go? Where did the recording happen, in Japan or in USA?
The music was done in Japan. My part is the writing of the lyrics and producing of the vocal tracks, all of of which is done here in the U.S. Akira sends me mp3's of the tracks with guide melody played on guitar or keyboards, and I write the lyrics. Then the scratch vocals are done at my studio SHADOW BOX STUDIO. Work out harmony possibilities and experiment a little. All pre production work is done there, before we cut the master vocal tracks at MAGNITUDE 8 POST. Then all the vocal takes are sent to Akira to import to his master files. I never hear the final mix until the world does. Sometimes the music track ends up totally different from what we sang to.
Drawing by Eveelin, http://eveelin.deviantart.com/gallery
Did Akira presented already finished instrumental track versions or the music was composed in the process? Were there any difficulties during the recording sessions? How much time did it take?
I usually get a script and list of characters when I get the mp3's of the music. I discuss the script and characters with Akira so I have a better feel for what I'm writing. It takes a few days to write per song, depending on 'the muse' and deadline. They usually need these tracks done pretty fast. The rehearsals for 4 songs are done a couple nights in the week. Approx 4 hours per song. When we record the master vocals we only spend a couple hours pr song because we're so well rehearsed.
Can you recall any interesting incidents that happened during the recording sessions?
You mean the voices and mystery noises? We don't talk about that. Next!
In one of the interviews Mary said you used to call her shouting out loud "Mary, we gotta do an album?!" When was the first time you made her that offer? How come this idea has not been realized yet? How much long do we have to wait?
I thought about it, I don't think I shouted it, yet I was inspired by the thought of it. Akira, I'm sure, is attached to Konami, so I don't know if we can ever do a CD outside of SH boarders. But anything is possible in the future. There's so many possibilities!
What ideas do you have regarding this project? By the way in one of the recent interviews Mary said she's working on a secret vocal project. Do you know something about this or is it a big mystery?
Despite expectations there are no songs with your vocal in "Silent Hill: Zero". How did it happen?
Everyone LOVES Marys vocals. My voice is one that you either LOVE or HATE. I guess they like a sure thing!
Akira has recently said that the work on soundtrack for "Silent Hill 5" had been сompleted, and that vocal tracks had already been recorded. Will there be a song with your vocal? (of course, if you not chained with NDA to speak about it)
I'm sorry, you're breaking up, I couldn't understand that last question! Next.
Joe Romersa, Laurie Holden and Akira Yamaoka. World premiere of "Silent Hill" at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, 2006
Have you written any music or separate tracks for video games excluding Silent Hill? Have you played games you were involved in?
I've done a track for Dragon Ball Z GTX, several tracks for various Bandai trailers, for Ace Combat 5, Rumble Roses, Love and Berry, Beat Down, Wild Arms, Gundam to mention a few.
You have cooperated with many musicians and artists like Bob Dylan, John Prine, Donald Byrd and others. Whom would you like to cooperate with next?
It would be great to work with Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel or XTC.
Have you ever composed anything being a little "out of this world", simply saying drunk or drug affected? C'mon, we want to compromise you a little bit
Sorry, you're breaking up again! ...... and I can't hear you over the bong water rumble! Oh, there you are! ....... what?
Astrologists say you have new material for your next album. When will it be released and what style will it be? What are your plans for the nearest future?
My problem with releasing my own work is, I'm a perfectionist! Always looking for a new sound! It's easy for me to write about SH because it's not me. I'm like a painter that paints everything except self portraits.
Which artists' new albums have recently impressed you?
New albums? Hmm... I like Foo Fighters, Bjork, Avenge Seven Fold, Beck, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Radiohead released a new album without large recording companies' support and turned music industry upside down. Nine Inch Nails and some other artists announced a breakup with their record label. Can you make any predictions how musical industry will evolve? Do you think this tendency will remain or everything will normalize soon? Did the era of web 2.0 influence you?
What I tried to do with "The New World", was release it in digital download only, if for no other reason, to reduce the waste of unwanted CD's in land fills. I'm a very green minded person, I respect and love the earth. We need to cut down on waste.
You're now having a unique opportunity to say "hello" to all Russian people and Russia in the whole! Yeah, yeah bears, KGB agents and hard-drinking red-nosed brutal men with Russian doll in one hand and bottle of pure 38 vodka in the other are among them as well
People of Russia, wish you were here, but be glad you're there! Protect the earth! Love your mother, father, brothers, sisters and children. I am honored for your interest in what I do.
Thank you for you attention
Joe Romersa official website: www.shadowboxstudio.com
Joe Romersa at MySpace: www.myspace.com/joeromersa
“The New World”, “You Are Here” and other CDs available at CD Baby
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