How a Russo-Nigerian Stallion Found Video Game Music, Part 5: Scintillating Data Entry

If someone had told me back in 2002, when I first found OverClocked ReMix, that I'd end up handling much of its day-to-day operations I'd be surprised. But not too surprised.

It doesn't happen at the drop of a hat, but when I'm passionate about something, I invest a lot of personal time in learning everything I want to know. When I first started choosing ReMixes to keep at OCR, I researched tons of information like the artists' real names and websites, the original composers, and the source tunes. One other byproduct of that passion is the desire to befriend the people involved and offer my assistance if needed.

From 1999-2001, I spent a lot of time around LatestWrestlingNews.com, a now-defunct pro wrestling news site that had a reputation for only posting hard news. After establishing myself as someone who could present their point of view articulately and getting to know site creator Derrick Flippin, he offered me a position as an opinion columnist. After proving myself as being dedicated, I moved onto posting news, providing show coverage, handling discussion moderation, and handling some limited administrative duties, and we talked on the phone a good deal.

Derrick closed down the site in 2001 to focus on his music (and he's a great musician; at the time he was friends with artists like Pearl Jam, Lisa Germano & Neil Finn), and I haven't heard from him in a while, but working for him and with him was one of my first experiences on the web learning everything I could about a site I cared for, befriending its head honcho & joining the staff, and amassing more and more responsibilities over time.

After finding OCR and becoming very familiar with the material there, I private messaged djpretzel in January 2003 hoping to help fill out the vastly empty OC ReMix informational database. I'm not sure how much flack djp received at the time, but aside from the strong core of the database actually existing, there was virtually no complete information for anything. Given the amount of work involved, I can see how it wasn't a priority vs. evaluating and posting new material. Nonetheless, games frequently has no composer listing, no release year, and no publisher. The major majority of ReMixers had no information filled out as to their real names, websites, email addresses of forum profiles. With the actual skeleton of the database there, it was up to someone else to flesh it out and realize its potential.

Back then, I worked through an Excel spreadsheet to amass the data, focused on game information (year, publisher, composers), but in retrospect it was a pretty cumbersome task as djp would have to transfer all the Excel data into SQL query strings he could use to add the information. I would never actually get to hand over that Excel information as my laptop at the time fried in the middle of my work. After recovering the data a few weeks later, I didn't revisit the project until 2004 after I had officially joined the staff as a judge.

My largest projects have involved populating the site database with information on the games, composers & source tunes, and details on the ReMixers, with most of the work as well as research acumen already cultivated by the years my own personal interest. Being able to collect and (finally) apply that information to the site itself is arguably something that would have otherwise taken a team of people to accomplish.

In case you don't know, by far the most important aspect of OCR are the ReMixers who contribute their material. Even on the sidelines, I was disheartened by the lack of readily available information about them in the OCR database. Again, djpretzel is only one man. But, to me, empty information meant that fans would have fewer resources for learning more about the artists themselves, as well as what other works they created. One thing that's obvious over time is that people are inherently lazy. I don't even mean that in a bad way. But in terms of information, most want it at their fingertips; they don't want to dig around the internet the way I did. Then you have the contingent that don't even know they want the information, but end up appreciating it once they find it available.

Thus, the first major improvement to the database was filling out the ReMixer information fields, of which the major majority was done from 2004-2005. I ended up having to redo about a third of the work after that aforementioned laptop disaster, but I was able to retrace all of my steps and discover some new information.

Back around 2003, OC ReMixer Zac "Psychrophyte" Brier also spearheaded a community effort to fill out the nearly empty source tune information fields in the database, which I was a small part of. Much of the work done amounted to cataloging the original songs from popular games, amounting to about 300 added and associated tracks. After taking over and continuing the effort in 2005, I've updated incorrect and unofficial track names for existing songs and added over 700 other songs. In short, if a ReMix on OCR is associated with an original song, you probably have me to thank about 80% of the time.

Those initiatives explain much of the development of OC ReMix into a more useful tool for promoting the knowledge of both original video game music and the ReMixers who make it all happen at OCR. To the average person, however, that stuff is all pretty cumbersome, all unsexy research and data entry. The real fun of joining OCR's staff was being invited to join the site's judges panel. To be given a say in deciding what music actually makes it into OCR...that'll take us to Part 6...


How a Russo-Nigerian Stallion Found Video Game Music, Part 4: VG Frequency (The Radio Show)

After a semester of my "(Insert Name Here)" radio show, split between my favorite mainstream tracks and tracks from the amateur VGM arrangement community, I realized that most of my listening audience stuck around for the video game music. Having promoted my show more thoroughly on OverClocked ReMix's message boards, I managed to secure a tight-knit group of listeners who I'd gather up on AOL Instant Messenger in a chat room. Among them were Scott "SeattleOverCoat" Porter (later just "OverCoat", my first regular listener), a.p. "analoq" matthews, Candy "Juverna" Bullard, and Danny "SuperGreenX" Adler (now "SGX").

I honestly don't remember if any specific track prompted me to also follow the original music that amateur VGM arrangers made. Having done a great amount of personal research on the artists' homepages, I was able to familiarize myself with the fact that many of them also had original works on MP3.com or personal homepages.

As far as I recall, it was around the end of the 2002 school year when I decided to do an episode of "(Insert Name Here)" exclusively featuring original tracks by artists in the OC ReMix community. Mixers who had already heard of my show quickly turned out, so I ended up with material from all the names mentioned prior. SGX's stuff in particular was very impressive (and continues to be to this day). I was also excited to receive material from top names like Disco Dan, Ailsean, Injury, DarkeSword, Protricity, and Star Salzman.

One particular thing I remember in preparation was that I printed notes on each musician and track to reference for the introduction of each song. Not to sound egotistical, because my shows were both very loose and tongue-in-cheek, but I'm impressed at the degree of seriousness that I gave to the subject matter at the time. I was able to note real names, music competitions that they had recently taken part in, as well as previous works and relevance to the community. There was no moment where my audience went "Damn, he respects the community. He knows his stuff," but I feel those things were inherent and unspoken to those from the VGM arrangement community who tuned in.

In the summer of 2003, I finally made the move to focusing on video game music and the amateur VGM arrangement community entirely. After being stuck on a name for weeks (the best I could initially come with was VGM: Very Good Music, which I allowed Steve "D-Lux" King to steal years later), my friend Joe bantered out a few radio sounding words, including the word "Frequency." As soon as I put "VG" in front of it and said it aloud, I knew I had a very strong name for the show.

Looking back to my first episode's playlist from VGF, I'm certainly astonished by a few things:

*I forgot about my penchant for inserting songs into my playlists on the fly when requests popped up; my first track of the show was a request for Gröûp X.
*Just friends at the time, "The Lady", Paige, called into the very first show. Though basically a hater (you'll hear more from her when the time comes), she was impressed by the music of Jared Hudson and Quinn Fox.
*My selection was nowhere near as deep back then. Most of the tracks were favorite OC ReMixes.

It would take too much time to go through all the various developments in the show that were very important to me at the time. The ball started rolling with people I had known beforehand, and soon enough I was joined by people I didn't know well but knew of the show. The show clearly became more important over time as ReMixers started going out of their way to catch it, started providing me with audio bumpers, tracks to play (many times, before anyone else had heard them), works-in-progress to provide feedback to or interviews, and started treating the show's chat room as a important place to be to interact with lots of community members.

Memories of those 3 years, in shorthand:

*The headache that was streaming in RealAudio
*Commercials for Zwings 'n Things ("Miss the old days when a wing was a wing?", which Spencer Koch later admitted he had no idea how he came up with that when recording the ad)
*Bubb Rubb during all of the early aftershows
*Coining the term "e-penis" while interviewing KyleJCrb and reading the chat room window contents over the air; if you've ever heard the term anywhere, I somehow invented it
*The Wingless explains the meaning of bukkake
*The Valentine's Day shows
*Being saved in a big way by 5 interviews when audio from my computer was a no-go one week
*Interviewing Protricity, the arrival of Jim Holland and newly being able to record the shows myself, leading to jump in popularity once show MP3s became available every week
*Having friend, Emory student, WMRE DJ, and old-school OC ReMixer Electron on board as guest host
*The yearly "Best of the Best" episodes capping off each year's run
*Interviewing OC ReMix founder, David "djpretzel" Lloyd
*The surprise return for one more season after graduating from Emory University in 2005

VG Frequency certainly was a memorable experience that fueled my love for broadcasting to this day. The radio show kept me in tune with the goings-on of the amateur VGM arrangement community for quite a long time in an Internet age where people move fast and events move faster. The casual fan misses out on the high quality, diversity and vast selection in arrangements outside of OC ReMix and especially original works from artists' homepages. It made me respect the community's musicians even more, and bringing those tracks awareness they may have otherwise not received is something I'm proud of doing.

Though I served an unconventional role in the community as a radio DJ, the role was one that provided me not only the opportunity to observe the community's contributors, but ultimately the ability to actively shape the community's direction in my own small way. After doing community music reviews during the summer of 2004, I entered a few people's radar as a serious candidate for a position on the OverClocked ReMix Judges Panel. That'll take us to Part 5...


How a Russo-Nigerian Stallion Found Video Game Music, Part 3: Discovering OverClocked ReMix

When Matt Kertz mentioned to me to check out remix.overclocked.org in early 2002, I was definitely interested, but never became a hardcore fan of the site until the following summer. The first newly posted track I remember being interested in back then was DarK PurPLe's Super Mario Bros. 2 "The DarK Underground."

When I first browsed OC ReMix, I only downloaded and kept about 30 tracks. All were from games I was familiar with, including Super Mario Bros. 1-3, Super Mario 64, Sonic the Hedgehog 1-3, Streets of Rage 1-2, F-Zero, Street Fighter II and Mega Man X (which I had downloaded a ROM of). Any other games I had played had no mixes at the time, and I only played a limited number of games growing up. I quickly added enjoyable tracks from OCR to my radio show playlists, impressed at the sound quality and creativity of guys like McVaffe (Mike Vafeas). Even as a newbie, I could instantly tell the guy was treated like a huge deal there.

The advent of torrenting years later would make OCR's catalogue much more accessible than when I first arrived. But in retrospect, what's funny to me is that I initially treated the site rather nonchalantly, armed with downloading habits I'd chastise newbies for having nowadays. In that sense, I wasn't there broadly looking to find good music, I was strictly there for nostalgia. My attitude wasn't rude or dismissive, but other mixes on OCR might as well have not existed; they simply weren't on my radar.

Even when I got my first taste of ReMixes that were from games I didn't know, my horizons weren't broadened at all. I simply downloaded the new tracks that I liked and did no further exploration. My roommate back then, Dave Share, managed to download Chris J. Hampton's Chrono Trigger "New Zeal" and McVaffe's Castlevania Adventure "CV2k" (since removed from the site, no thanks to me) searching for cool stuff himself once I told him of the site. When he played those tracks on his comp, they were so catchy that I asked him what they were from and was surprised that they were also from OC ReMix. You'd think I would have learned to check out everything, but then again the task of amassing every mix back in 2002 was time-consuming and potentially not worth the returns.

Some n00b things I remember about my earliest days:
*Before realizing he was the site creator, wondering how egotistical djpretzel was for being the only person using the first person in the ReMix writeups
*Visiting VGMix shortly after learning about the ReMixer Exdous, downloading several mixes there, realizing most of the tracks sucked and subsequently never visiting it again; they had no quality control system in place at the time, and it showed
*Severely disliking Super Mario World "Flat Goom Beat" (also since removed) for being uncreative
*QuasiKaotic & Jade Gemini

Luckily I passed on the good word about OC ReMix onto my best friend, Joe Mauri. If Matt Kertz was the one who guided me to OverClocked ReMix in the first place, then Joe was the one who's actions ended up making me a hardcore fan. Back in the days when bandwidth was costly and speed was inconsistent, OCR's downloading policy strongly discouraged people hitting the site hard and snagging lots of tracks within a short period of time. About a week after telling Joe about OC ReMix however, he had unabashedly downloaded everything, the site having around 600 songs by that point. He was there for nostalgia, but he was also broadly looking to find good music.

The summer of 2002, Joe came to stay with my family during summer break, which was great for both of us. One of the most influential activities of mine that summer was taking three days to sit down and listen through all of the nearly 700 ReMixes he had, starting from the letter A and working my way down through Z. It was definitely a rewarding experiencing, as I ended up keeping about a third of the mixes, becoming familiar with lots of the artists there, and becoming indirectly familiar with a lot of popular game soundtracks. I didn't know Mega Man II's "Dr. Wily Stage 1" or Final Fantasy VI's "Terra" beforehand, but I definitely knew them now. From that point forward, OC ReMix was a daily visit. Once I lurked the forums, I decided my best approach for becoming a community regular would be to post a handful of mix reviews first to have some posts to my name; you can still see those archived posts today.

Much like my habits with mainstream music I liked, I meticulously tagged the OC ReMixes I held onto. While the framework was good, OCR's informational database was really lacking back then as it was only as complete as djpretzel's spare time or interest could manage. Thus, my curiosity had me researching the source tunes of the mixes at Zophar's Domain, original composers, ReMixer real names, email addresses and homepages; whatever wasn't readily available, I worked hard to track down out of my own personal interest.

My burgeoning interest in OverClocked ReMix quickly led to me altering the divided focus of my radio show singularly to the amateur VGM arrangement community. That'll take us to Part 4...