How a Russo-Nigerian Stallion Found Video Game Music, Part 2: Starting in Radio

Along with using Napster to seek out the occasional video game tracks, I also amassed a collection of mainstream tracks that I had liked over the years. Being detail-oriented, I always changed filenames, and I used Winamp to tag my tracks pretty meticulously: release year, album, publisher. But also being a very particular fan, I didn't have anything more than maybe 275-300 tracks, most bands or artists having only 1 or 2 tracks. Still though, whenever I found something good enough to keep, it was always a big deal. Especially in music, I'm of the view that one should be open to all new music, but also feel one's preferences to be the most interesting out of anybody's.

In late 2001, I guested a lot on my friend Anna Scruggs' radio show at WMRE, Emory University Student Radio. She played a good deal of pop music, but within the mix she had a lot of interesting bands, including Coldplay just before I was familiar with 'em. She picked her music well, and at the time she was a particularly big fan of Guster as well as the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. I don't even recollect why I first joined her on the air other than to hang out; I hadn't been bitten by the radio bug yet.

Due to WMRE having a webcam and being broadcast on Emory on-campus cable system, Anna, much like any and all females visible on WMRE, was frequently propositioned to flash the webcam by horny male students, always funny and/or mildly annoying on- or off-air. Thems were the breaks.

One aspect of WMRE I particularly enjoyed was working with its primitive soundboard (which was eventually upgraded to a very professional one). Using it to broadcast was pretty fun, and joining the station to be allowed to actually work with the equipment was one reason I joined. The other reason went back to my earlier mantra: one should feel one's musical preferences to be the most interesting out of anybody's. Discovering the opportunity to share my favorite music with people and spread the good word about it was all the impetus I needed to ask about having my own timeslot on the station in February 2002.

One thing job-seeking websites and books promote heavily for hungry individuals looking for opportunities is to grab tenaciously at even the smallest bite, in order to get one's foot in the door. At WMRE, that meant eagerly accepting the Thursday night, 2-4AM timeslot when it was the only one offered to me. While an objectively lousy slot, the time wasn't bad relative to my Friday class schedule, so I went for the hand I was dealt. My original show name, "(Insert Name Here)", sounded witty enough given that I couldn't come up with anything else. In any case, that's where seizing the opportunity factored in.

Where luck and the ability to stand out eventually factored in was in how diligently I filled in for DJs who couldn't make it to their scheduled shows. Most of the time, whenever a DJ announced they couldn't make it, I would swoop in and reply offering to cover their slot. Most of the time, it didn't matter how short notice it was; I was able to compose a fresh playlist in half an hour that I felt had pretty good flow and subsequently hotfoot it with my laptop over to the Longstreet dorm where the station was housed. Being committed to only 4 two-hour shows per month, within my first month at WMRE I instead managed to host over 40. By that time, I frequently got calls from people recognizing me, telling me that they saw me in the studio all of the time, with most people liking what I was playing.

My format at the time was a mixture of mainstream music, mostly UK-based bands (Travis, The Verve, Coldplay) and video game music that I could find at reasonable quality in MP3 format. That limited me to stuff like Street Fighter Alpha 3, GoldenEye 007, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom vs. SNK and other assorted goods, but I still had a fairly deep selection.

After coming in on one occasion to cover for a timeslot after another friend of mine, Matt Kertz, Matt asked me what my show format was and I mentioned the video game music portion of the playlist. Particularly a fan of the CastleVania series mixes available there, Matt recommended me to http://remix.overclocked.org, emphasizing that the tracks available there were abundantly free. Making a mental note of it, I followed up on it a few days later, which I'll elaborate on next time around.

After that month of constantly filling in for people, I received an email from WMRE's then-Program Director Caroline Riegel, who had also provided me my initial DJ training. It turned out that the Saturday night, 10PM-Midnight slot had been freed up and she had noticed my dedication to being on the air. She had sent me the email letting me know that the timeslot was free and that, due to my enthusiasm, she was offering me the opportunity to take it over or decline it before she publicly put it up for grabs. I quickly thanked her and accepted my new slot. And of course, I kept right on plowing through and substituting for other people. I loved being on the air.

While I felt it important to plug video game music on my radio show, it truly took on a life of its own once I became familiar with OverClocked ReMix. That'll take us to Part 3...


How a Russo-Nigerian Stallion Found Video Game Music, Part 1: The Games

I thought it would be appropriate to give some background on myself and why I decided to start a blog about video game music. Or, more accurately, how my girlfriend (a woman you'll hear more from known as "The Lady") encouraged me to start a blog about video game music. It's been a relatively long road getting to VGM listening as a life's hobby.

I was never big into video games as a kid. I loved the ones I did have, but never owned too many or spent way too much time playing them. In short, loved 'em, just not fanatically. And it continues that way up until the present day. I don't own a Wii, a PS3 or an Xbox 360, though I've played Wario Ware: Smooth Moves for a few minutes and loved it.

My uncle bought my (fraternal) twin brother & I an NES in 1988 for our birthday, which came with the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge (naturally). Despite playing Nintendo together at the same distance from the television, my brother's eyesight stayed 20/20 and mine started getting worse for whatever reason. I needed glasses in 1st grade (didn't end up getting them until years later).

The music of Super Mario Bros. definitely stuck with me and remains an instant bit of nostalgia, but while it planted a seed, I never sat down and tape recorded the music like a lot of colleagues I know.

Other earlier memories involved:
*a friend of my brother's, Nnamdi Ifejika, having a ton of NES games, which allowed me to sample a lot of 'em and get to know bits and pieces of several titles
*3rd grade, where my friend Eric Hole had a huge Nintendo Power strategy guide and letting me borrow it for a few days, as just reading about the games was amazing enough
*playing the Sega Master System, particularly the footbag portion of California Games, at my uncle's house (the one who bought us the NES)
*playing Duck Hunt at a brother's friend's house and chancing on a sweet spot in Clay Shooting that allowed me to hit each target no matter where it was on the screen; I eventually got nervous around Round 90 after I sportingly let one clay pigeon almost get away, then somehow got nervous and tried to shoot it directly
*Receiving both Super Mario Bros. 3, and the excellent Nintendo Power Strategy Guide for it in 1990
*Playing the SNES at Dave Riccio's house back when it first came out, especially Street Fighter II years later
*Choosing Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a birthday present (a difficult choice at the time, an excellent choice in retrospect)
*Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV
*My friend Hayden Mixsell bequeathing me his Sega Genesis after moving onto the Nintendo 64, hooking me up with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Streets of Rage 2 in the process

It's difficult to encapsulate the entire mish-mash of games of my childhood, but so many of them had really memorable themes, Streets of Rage 2 in particular. Some of Pilotwings comes to mind. Road Rash. Super Mario Bros. 2. Street Fighter Alpha had a really big impact on me. There's a big list eventually waiting to be recollected.

It wasn't until Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Napster in 2000 during my freshman year at Emory University in Atlanta, GA that I really got into trying to find video game music. As far as I knew, back in the relative infancy of the internet, there weren't any concentrated websites to buy game music let alone simply find it. But on a whim, I figured that if mainstream music was available, maybe somebody had some video game music from games I used to love.

There was no luck finding Street Fighter II, but Street Fighter Alpha 3's "Brave or Grave" came up once somehow and I decided to check it out. I'd never played the game at the time, but I loved the track. In retrospect it's not an A-grade piece of work, but the energy was pretty crazy the first time I heard it. I was gradually able to amass most of the soundtrack by searching for Street Fighter Zero 3 and becoming lucky when certain users would show up. Karin Kanzuki's theme "Simple Rating" quickly became my favorite, along with Cody's "Stripes," Vega's "Crimson," and Cammy's "Doll Eyes."

A friend of mine who lived in my freshman hall, and who I stayed friends with throughout my 4 years, Dave Share, had a Sega Dreamcast and quickly got me back into the Street Fighter game series, far and away my favorite bunch of games. Eventually, I was playing Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Capcom vs. SNK (truly a dream game when I first saw it) and Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, loving each one of the soundtracks even more than I loved the games.

It wasn't until 2001 that I became interested in spreading the word on VGM through the radio. That'll take us to Part 2...