An Interview With Composer for Media Python Blue
Python Blue is an American musician and composer with a unique approach to creating music that harks back to the sounds of synth-based music from the 1980s and 1990s. I talked to him about how his passion for music was sparked, his creative process and where he sees his career going in the future.
Karl Magi: How did you first become passionate about music in general?
Python Blue: I think my interest in music stems partially from my interest in video games. There was one game in particular called Myst which had a very profound impact on my life. I remember just being so sucked in by the music for that game, as well as the classic rock that tended to play in my house growing up, and I guess the persistence of music in the house bled into my interests.
KM: How did you get into the actual process of creating music?
PB: Well, it’s correlated to what got me passionate about music in general, in all honesty: I don’t remember if there was any particular event that started it, but I always had an interest in how music was made once I learned of the music that I considered intriguing enough. As for actually having the tools, I had a Yamaha drumset as a kid, but I guess things really took off once my parents gave me a keyboard for a Christmas present: I had a lot of sounds available beyond the typical piano, now, and it really got me into a deep craving for sound design ever since.
KM: What has drawn you towards video game related music and soundtrack work?
PB: Video games have been a huge influence in my life. I’ve always been interested in how they were made, and what better way to combine my interests in game design and music than to get officially involved? In addition to that, I’ve been impressed with how few household names there are among soundtrack composers, yet how many have been successful anyway. Truth be told, I never got into music for the fame, and it would certainly be nice if there was more room for low-profile successes in the industries.
KM: Who are some of the music creators that you find inspiring and why?
PB: My biggest influences would probably be the composers and electronic musicians of the 80s and 90s. Brad Fiedel and Gary Numan are two particular influences on my own work, though I also have deep respect for John Carpenter, as well as Robyn Miller’s music for the first two Myst games. A more recent name I’ve gotten into is Mikko Tarmia: his work for Frictional Games has overall been breathtaking.
KM: Tell me about the process you go through when you're creating new music.
PB: Honestly, my process starts variably. There have been a few times when I’ve started to develop ideas before putting instruments together, but usually, I don’t start at all until I’ve sat down and have opened up my music software. Even after it’s started, it can have a different situation. A lot of the ambient pieces that are personal favorites of mine were the result of just improvising on my keyboard, but otherwise, it’s usually making use of a reference piece or two to sound somewhat similar to. Emphasis on somewhat: plagiarism is a really big deal, so it’s really important that you make your own twist to something when possible.
KM: Tell me more about some of the projects you've worked on lately especially the game scores and game music remixes.
PB: Currently, things have been at a bit of a low, though that’s due partially to offline complications such as wrapping up my moving to my current residence. That being said, however, there are a few projects on the horizon for me. I’m very grateful to have met a group of game developers called the Icehouse, an affiliation which had started through my rescoring a game made by one of the others in the group (ASA: A Space Adventure), and it has led to a few promising projects, both finished game jam submissions and full out game offers down the road that, sadly, I can’t give too many details about yet. The remixes and covers I’ve been doing have been largely just filler, both to try to keep my following going and to try to get my creative juices flowing enough that I can make something original.
KM: Where do you think video game (and other media related) music fits into the broader world of contemporary music?
PB: Personally, I feel that music is a necessary component to many video games and films. That being said, I honestly consider soundtrack work a field separate from most musical acts. You don’t have to be a celebrity in order to be successful as a composer because, while sales of soundtrack releases can definitely help the musician behind it, the main source of income is through getting paid by the rest of the team, whether it’s upfront or through a cut of the sales of the product itself. All that in mind, I honestly feel that the soundtrack industries are best for musician wannabes who worry about having no private life if they make a living: my own synthwave releases haven’t exactly had stellar sales beyond a few TV show and movie placements, even after a few interviews and album reviews, and honestly, as frustrating as that can be financially, it’s probably for the better from the publicity perspective.
KM: What plans do you have for your future career?
PB: Well, for starters, I do hope to get more on top of my game, no pun intended. I’ve considered music somewhere in between a career and a hobby, and I’m growing to realize that I’m at a point in my life that I need to get reliable income. Ideally it would be through my passion, so I am hoping to try to find more music to influence me and help me develop ideas so that I can crank out original work more often.
KM: How do you recharge your creative batteries?
PB: The way I recharge my creative batteries is through distraction. Granted, more often than not it has made me procrastinate if there’s no imminent deadline, which is one of the things I realize I need to improve, but all the same, distraction in moderation is good: if you spend all day every day doing nothing but one thing, it will eventually become too easy to lose focus, or worse, your interest and motivation in it. Games have been a good distraction for me, that said, but I am also hoping to branch out and find more interests that don’t require a computer.