Posted on January 21 2013 by Legacy Staff
Today, I want to bring you an exclusive interview that I had with Theophany, the mastermind behind Time’s End.
Theophany, I first want to start this off by thanking you for agreeing to sit down with me. Time’s End was such an amazing piece of work, and I know everyone is anxiously waiting news about the release of Disc 2, but today I wanted to ask you some questions about yourself, what brought to this point, and of course, about Time’s End.
Before Time’s End you had another project called “Crystal Flash” which took us into the world of Metroid. Was that your first music project like this, or did you have prior experience?
Theophany: I had been working on Majora’s Mask a few years prior, but the aesthetic is very different. Crystal Flash was my first attempt at immersive music for Metroid but it’s not quite as tactile as Majora’s Mask. My newer work—like Gravity from Metroid Fusion has begun to move into that territory, but in general I tend to incorporate more EDM influences for Metroid tunes.
Crystal Flash was released back in 2011, you mentioned that you would be working on another Metroid project, can we can still expect to see that coming, or did Time’s End take its spot?
I had been planning Time’s End for years so I wouldn’t say I pushed anything back. I’ve been working on a follow up so I’d like to release it in the next few months.
Time’s End is a beautiful rendition of the world of Majora’s Mask, you did an fantastic job capturing its essence in song; what made you decide to do Time’s End?
I think my friend Mike and the reaction that people had to the original Time’s End were important factors. The original Time’s End is essentially Mike’s track, I didn’t come into the process until after he had written the first half of the arrangement. My contribution was mostly sound design and the idea of doing a build up to Song of Time with a reversal at the end. We did the track in one night, subbed to VGMix and stopped working on music. Then a few years later we found Time’s End on YouTube with a few hundred thousand views. We couldn’t believe it. I vaguely recall one of the comments; someone said they kept having a dream about the end of the world and every time he had the dream he could hear Time’s End playing the background.
The impact of that stuck with me. Mike used to talk about doing an album for Time’s End. Sometime around 2009 I thought, if I’m doing a Majora’s Mask remix album then it has to come out on December 21, 2012. So that became the album’s major theme as I continued to work on it. The whole concept of a countdown to the end of the world is unique to Majora’s Mask so I felt fans would immediately catch on and appreciate it. It also seemed like there was never much fan art for Majora’s Mask. Despite the love people have for this game it was always overshadowed by Ocarina of Time. I think that’s part of what inspired me to work harder and push the project as far as I could.
What inspiration did you have to bring you to the final product?
Mostly I wanted the album to be diverse. I spent a lot of time looking for unusual instruments and seeking new music for ideas. With Song of Healing, I tried anything I could to capture the melody and environment in a way that felt true to Majora’s Mask. I searched for sampled glass armonicas, celeste, crotales, angklung, music boxes, even wooden chimes to help evoke the sound of wooden masks. The album needed to balance a closer, more ghostly sound to contrast the dark and epic backdrop. I tried to be creative and to treat the material with respect; I wanted the tracks to feel more like scenes from a film and create a narrative through sound.
Were these solely your ideas alone or did members of your team contribute to how the songs should sound?
The arrangement and sound design process for 90% of the album was pretty personal. When I started sketching concepts I spent a lot of time testing ideas and searching for new sounds. The actual arranging was a long process. I believe in giving your work time to develop because you’re not going to think of everything the first time you sit down to make a track. “Terrible Fate” went through several iterations (like 3-4 different scrapped versions) and the vocal ending wasn’t included until a month or so before the album came out. Most of the project is like that—Clocktown, Moon’s Tear, Majora’s Wrath, Lover’s Mask—there are old iterations of those tracks I would never show anyone. The creative process was mostly trial and error, re-conceives, and doing as many passes as possible until the tracks felt right.
The collaboration process was more open. XPRTNovice, David (Docjazz4 on YouTube), Laura and Lorraine all made enormous contributions. Sometimes I wrote specific parts for them but I always encouraged them to improvise, do alternate takes or variations that felt natural. Some of the best moments on the album—like in Clocktown—came from a creative feedback loop. Joe would send me parts, I would lay in the stems and write more material inspired by his work. Clocktown was probably the most collaborative track in that sense. I had always wanted live help for Clocktown but the initial track was mocked up with mostly temp sounds. It stayed that way for about two years, until I got in touch with XPRTNovice through the OoT project at Overclocked Remix.
I sent him this mock up along with the guitar parts, and asked him to play whatever felt natural and encouraged him to add anything he thought would sound cool. He went beast mode with all kinds of shit—mandolin, flute, vocals. I made the track longer just to repeat and spread out the onslaught of amazing material he sent me. The same is true for Laura and Lorriane. Laura’s vocals on Time’s End basically make the entire track, and for Final Hours Lorraine sang parts she wrote herself. Docjazz’s live ocarina on Clocktown is the first thing that gets people excited for the track. It wouldn’t be the same project without them.
The members of your team all did such a great job, the vocals were amazing (done by Laura Intravia and Lorraine Noack) as were all the talented musicians Joe Zieja (XPRTNovice), David Ramos, Jeff Ball, and Darren Dvoracek) but how did you go about building such a talented team?
Initially I searched for help on YouTube. That’s where I found Lorraine and David. I’m pretty sure David was already the most famous ocarina player of all time when I contacted to him, just going by the number of views he has on YouTube, so I was fortunate he liked the project. Working with him was great, he’s an awesome guy. Lorraine was the first to join up—she has been recording material on and off since I started 3 years back. I met the rest of the team through Overclocked Remix and Shinesparker’s Harmony of a Hunter project. Jeff Ball is a well-known violinist on ocremix and I had a great opportunity to work with him on my track “Beneath the Moonlight” for my friend Wes Mcdonald’s DK3 project. I met Laura at the online premiere of Shinesparker’s 101% Run. Originally I asked if she was interested in the Ocarina of Time remix project at Overclocked Remix but as it turns out, Majora’s Mask is one of her favorite games. After I sent “Lovers Mask” she ended up working on 3 tracks. It was really an honor working with everyone.
When looking at the Majora’s Mask Album that was released in America it can be seen that Disc 1 and Disc 2 both house 50+ songs. What made you choose the songs you did?
I thought it was important for this first album to capture the major themes, as well as favorites like Clocktown, Astral Observatory, Final Hours and Time’s End. Clockworks was more of a scenic track; t’s based on Song of Healing but doesn’t include the main melodic portion of the source. It fits with the story and focuses on sound design and mood; I did tracks 1 and 2 in order to try and create a narrative. In the end I almost cut it from the album because I was worried people wouldn’t recognize it. Thankfully some friends of mine convinced me to keep it on, a lot of people really love that track. But In general I did want to try and keep things recognizable. I felt like Time’s End also gave me an opportunity to borrow Zelda’s Lullaby and Fairy Fountain in a way you wouldn’t hear in any other context. With Lovers Mask especially, I felt like there was no other way to capture the story of Anju and Kafei without using the most universal love theme to the series. It felt like Majora’s Mask and reminded me of the characters, even if it wasn’t exclusive to the OST.
For Time’s End Disc 1 you seem to have covered from when the game first begins straight to when the Moon falls. What made you decide to go this route?
(image credit belongs to Eternal Legend for this wonderful piece to the left!) I wanted to depict the first 3 days of the game—the transformation/curse, meeting the mask seller, all the things you experience in the first arch before you rediscover the Song of Time. I also wanted the album to loop somehow—where the reversal at the end drops you right back to the start. I think the first 3 day cycle represents everything Majora’s Mask is about, but there’s still a lot of challenges. The track list wasn’t finalized until a month or two before the release. Doing every track in order felt like the wrong approach because I wanted to try and create an immersive experience; falling down the cavern, starting with Skull Kid and the power of Majora’s Mask felt more compelling than starting in the forest. It felt twisted and true to what Majora’s Mask is about, and it naturally flowed into the Clockworks arch of the story.
In a lot of cases I had to experiment by producing material that would never be on the album. One of the hardest tracks to figure out was Lovers Mask—especially because the music at the end of the sidequest just doesn’t convey the feeling of finding true love just as the world is ending. I wanted it to feel like you’re hearing wedding bells and the Clocktower tolling at the same time.
How many Discs do you plan on producing?
3 or 4.
About how many tracks can we expect on Disc 2?
I’m going to try and stay true to the original concept of following the story. I want to cover everyone’s favorite tracks but I also can’t do everything, so it will be tough finding a balance. Disc 2 definitely has some great source material—Temples, Boss fights, Termina Field. There will be new challenges, but I’m looking forward to working on it.
Do you have an estimate on when we can expect to see Disc 2?
December 21, 2013.
Your promotion of Time’s End was incredible and was done in a very creative manner. Do you plan on doing something similar for Disc 2?
I’ll have to see what’s possible, but I can say there will be more 3D art.
When Disc 2 is released will it have its own website, or will we be able to get it on terriblefate.com?
Are you going to be working with the same team for Disc 2 or can we expect a new group of talented artists to be working with you?,/p>
People have been contacting me since the release, so I’m excited to feature new talent in addition to the team from Disc 1. I’m still hoping to hear from more people, especially brass players, vocalists (classically trained or otherwise), anyone who plays rare and world instruments, or anyone who performs in traditional world styles. I’m fascinated with cultural music and rare instruments. Most of all I would love to work with traditional singers—I love world music so it would be a dream come true.
Now, I asked followers on Facebook and Twitter if they themselves would like ask you a couple of questions and here is what we came up with:
“Have you ever thought about producing music from some of the more obscure Zelda games? Such as the portables, like Link’s Awakening. I love “Ballad of the Windfish.” The whole game leads up to you finding enough instruments to play that one song. It’s kind of moving when you’re finally able to, to see the power of that.”
Outside of Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time I’m trying not to think too far ahead—but Ballad of the Windfish is definitely a great track and I do want to cover it. The entire LA soundtrack is really cool. Spirit Tracks is another amazing soundtrack. Would remix, 10/10. Link to the Past… the list goes on.
“Is there anyway that we could get a physical copy of this CD or when the album is complete a physical copy of that with the art work for the case and Discs?
I haven’t considered it, just because of the cost, time, and legality. I don’t know if that constitutes selling albums. With Bandcamp you can name your own price at 0 if the account has download credits, but printing albums is more complex. There might be a way to do it, but I don’t know of one that’s feasible right now. It would potentially take me months to get the proper mailing addresses for everyone, do a print run, get everything packaged and sent, plus figuring out how to manage that and not infringe on Nintendo’s copyrights. I feel like I would be taking a significant time commitment away from Disc 2, and I’d much rather focus on the music. If someone is experienced with that I’m open to hearing from you, there may be a workable solution.
“Did you have any other outside inspiration for the Disc 1 other than Zelda or Majora’s Mask?”
A lot of my inspiration comes from film and anime soundtracks. It seems to be track by track—I usually use different approaches to see what works for a given track. I would say Hans Zimmer, Sigur Ros, and Taku Iwasaki were all sources of inspiration for tracks on Time’s End.
And lastly, do you have advice for aspiring musicians and artists out there?
Honestly, work hard. Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to start over when you know you can do better. Just because something is a lot of work doesn’t make it impossible, work on smaller pieces until you’re able to get perspective. 90% of people will give up on something amazing because it’s too much work. If you want to live in a world full of cool shit you need to contribute and believe in yourself. Listen to feedback and learn to anticipate how people will react to your work. As great as positive feedback is, it doesn’t help you grow as an artist. Creativity is a process, and you have to put in the time to test ideas and experiment. If you want good ideas to grow, you need to cultivate them and sometime that means laying down some shit ideas first. The same is true for producing. The last bit of advice I have is just try to be resourceful. You can use YouTube and Google to learn/find just about anything, so look for new sounds and ideas when you’re not sure what to do.
Theophany, I want to again thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions today, and I look forward to seeing what you produce in the future.