Another Wednesday, another Hiveswap development team interview!
Hey there folks, we’re back to our new normal: it’s Ash here once again! I’ve returned from my brief outing to E3 last week and – don’t you worry – I’ve got a brand-new Hiveswap development team interview lined up for you today, just as scheduled!
But before we get to that, I’d like to toss a great, big “Thanks, man!” Cohen’s way for posting last week’s interview in my stead and, in fact, interviewing me so I didn’t have to very awkwardly interview myself. I may not be a super-cool artist or animator, but hopefully you all found what I had to say to be sufficiently interesting nonetheless!
But speaking of our illustrious creative types, today I’ve got an interview lined up with James Roach, Hiveswap’s sound designer and lead composer! These weekly interviews have been focusing mostly on the game’s visual elements and aspects up to now, but why should eyes get all the love? Not that eyes aren’t awesome and all, but I have it on good authority that ears everywhere are also looking forward to Hiveswap. Fortunately, James has very graciously prepared a smattering of Hiveswap sound samples for you to listen to as you read through the interview, so be sure to get equipped with some headphones before you begin!
Take it away, James!
Introduce yourself to the fans! What is your specific role on the Hiveswap team?
I’m James Roach, and I’m the Sound Designer for Hiveswap! I teamed up with [Undertale creator and composer] Toby Fox to compose the soundtrack for the game. I’m also responsible for most of the game’s sound effects and ambient sound alongside Marcy Nabors!
When and how did you get your start on the Hiveswap project?
When I saw the opportunity I reached out to What Pumpkin and sent along my portfolio. I was never part of the “Homestuck music team” in any official capacity, but I was pretty active in the community, so they knew of my work. I was as surprised as any of you when they offered me a job! They paired me up with Toby, who at that point was already a Homestuck music veteran. We’ve both been on the project ever since then.
Tell us a little bit about your career background! How did you get your start in music and sound design? Do you have any advice for others looking to enter this field?
I have been playing piano since I was about four years old. My family and culture have a strong musical tradition, and my mom thought playing music would keep me out of trouble. I got my start scoring web cartoons and doing freelance work. I only started doing sound design in the last few years out of necessity. A friend needed sound work done for their thesis film and had nobody else to do it, and I can’t leave a friend hanging! As far as advice goes, I recommend having your work accessible and easy to find. Make connections and be easy to work with. Being reliable, consistent, and professional will go a lot further than solely being good at something.
We’re making a video game, so of course the question must be asked: what’s your favorite game of all time, and what games are you playing currently?
The first game I remember having a big impact on me was The Legend of Zelda on the NES. My favorite game of all time is probably Bastion, but I don’t play a ton of video games anymore. I play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. It’s all I ever talk about. My friends are so tired of me. Anyway, did you know a group of Myconids is called a “Circle?” Myconids are like cool mushroom guys that live underground. A lot of people think they might have a hive mind, but did you know they communicate using spores? Another cool thing about Myconids is–
Are there any games that you currently use or have used as inspiration for your own music and sound work here on Hiveswap, or just in general?
Obvious notes are stuff like Transistor, Luigi’s Mansion, Monkey Island, and so on and so forth. A lot of the inspiration for Hiveswap’s soundtrack comes less from games and more from my own musical and cultural background. There’s also a third-wave ska song. I have a really complicated relationship with ska.
As someone who writes music for video games, surely you must have a favorite video game composer or two (or three)! Who are they and what games have they scored?
You can’t talk about video game music without mentioning Nobuo Uematsu (the Final Fantasy series’ original composer) in some capacity, and his work has always been an inspiration to me. I think there’s an obvious Darren Korb (Supergiant Games) influence on my work as well. I’m really looking forward to hearing more of the Pyre soundtrack. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that Toby has greatly influenced my work, since I worked with him specifically on this, but he absolutely has. The way he writes counter-melodies is phenomenal.
What’s your workstation like? Do you listen to any particular kinds of music while you work? If so, tell us about it!
Because I’ve been doing a lot of Foley work, I have this bizarre assortment of things lying around everywhere in my apartment for the weird, specific sounds they make. I’ve had this bundle of straws (which I flick rapidly to make monster footstep sounds) on my desk for weeks. There’s a broken umbrella (perfect for a monster’s wing flapping) hanging on the door, and a big pot with a fork and a broken slinky in it (scraped and slapped together to make creepy, echoey laser sounds) just lying around too. It’s a disaster to live in.
Favorite Homestuck character?
Favorite Homestuck ship?
I used to be all about Intermission shipping, but it’s a little complicated to get into.
Favorite Homestuck flash?
I think like most people who started reading as a carryover from Problem Sleuth, “WV: Ascend” was the big “Whoa!” moment for me, so it’s always had a special place in my heart.
Do you have a personal message you’d like to relay to all the Homestuck and Hiveswap fans out there?
Where can people find more of your work? Link us to your own little corner(s) of the Internet!
Whenever you close your eyes and open your heart… I will be there. No, I’m kidding – please follow me. You can find me on Twitter and SoundCloud!
“Can’t hoooold on much longer… But I will neeee-ver let go!…” –oh, wait, I’m back on? Sorry about that, James’ last answer there brought out my inner Crush 40 fanboy. (Sonic Adventure had a killer soundtrack though, didn’t it?) Thank you again for letting us pick your brain for a while, James – and for those lovely sound samples, of course!