With the rise of both the video game community and social media, gaming has become a lot more than just buying and playing games. Various fandoms create fanart, projects and even fan games based on their favourites.
One of the biggest outlets for nerdy creativity is within the video game music community. The last twenty years have not only had musicians creating covers, but also record labels and other media focused on the VGM community. Today, I’ll be interviewing the creator of one of these record labels (and more). Allen Brasch, where we will hear about the ins and outs of GameGrooves.
First of all, who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Allen, and I run GameGrooves. I joined the video game music (VGM) community back in 2015 with a project called GameLark. That project started as me creating VGM playlists on YouTube, but eventually, I started organizing cover albums. For many reasons (money, a baby, etc.), I eventually had to leave that community in the capable hands of Ro Panuganti. Over time, I really began to miss the VGM community, so I created GameGrooves in 2019 as a website for VGM news and topics. Of course, I couldn’t stay away from producing albums, so in 2020, I started releasing video game cover albums again.
As a way to get to know you more, what was your first video game?
That depends lol. I would considerSuper Mario 64 my first video game because that was my first console game, and it was the game that kickstarted my love for gaming.
What games are you currently playing?
I just finished Kirby and the Forgotten Land (which was a blast), and before that, I finished a replay of The Last of Us Part 1. I also had a blast playing Tchia, which had an amazing soundtrack by John Robert Matz. As you can tell, my taste in gaming is pretty diverse lol.
And lastly, are there any upcoming games you’re looking forward to?
There are so many! Right now, I’m really looking forward to Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, Tears of the Kingdom, and Starfield. I’m typically drawn to single-player adventure games, but classic platformers always have a place in my heart.
Now for your background in music. What is your personal history with music as a whole?
How far back should I go lol?
I remember playing the Titanic theme by ear, and that’s when my parents encouraged me to start taking piano lessons. I played piano for years, but I was far more interested in the electric guitar since metal was my favorite genre. I tried to play guitar (poorly) for many years, and even recorded a few songs after being inspired by the Metroid Prime soundtrack, but eventually I lost touch with music until my third year in college.
In 2009, I suddenly found myself with a lot of time (for reasons I don’t want to explain lol), so I began teaching myself Ableton Live. For months, I tinkered around and made about 6 or 7 tracks. Since then, I’ve been making music off and on, but it’s never a primary focus. I just don’t have the patience to dive into the all the mechanics of mixing, mastering, etc. That’s why I leave the music to the GameGrooves artists!
Let’s talk about GameGrooves now. Just from the about section on the website, GameGrooves does quite a lot. But if someone who doesn’t have a clue was to ask “What is GameGrooves?” How would you answer?
GameGrooves is a VGM community that focuses primarily on covers and remixes (for now lol).
Where did the name “GameGrooves” come from? It has a nice ring to it!
Well, I really liked the name GameLark, but obviously that name was taken, so I thought something with the name “Game” in it would sound equally good. From there, I kind of stumbled onto GameGrooves, and I knew that it was a perfect fit for what I wanted to do.
Back to the content side of things. One thing GameGrooves does is be a record label. How did that come to be and what’s the process of creating a video game album?
As I mentioned before, I had organized video game cover albums before with GameLark, so it seemed a natural evolution for GameGrooves. Our first cover album was a joint effort with fellow VGM community Pixel Mixers (who are great btw), and after that, I slowly began building a roster of artists.
As for the process, I typically send out an announcement email, letting artists know that I want to create a video game cover album. I include details like genre/style restrictions (if there are any), an approximate timeline, and a basic contract. From there, artists are free to sign up for whatever track they like. We don’t have check-in’s or anything like that, but I send reminders every so often, and the average album takes about six months from start to finish.
Once I receive all the unmastered tracks, I arrange the tracks in order (my favorite part of the process) and send them to James C. Hoffman (our amazing mastering engineer). After he’s finished with them, I submit to Soundrop, buy some mechanical licenses from Easy Song, and schedule a Bandcamp pre-order.
GameGrooves also has various other gigs, like interviews on the website, the Uncovered Podcast and more I might be missing. Can you tell us more about that?
Sure! So, GameGrooves can essentially be broken down into four parts:
GameGrooves Gazette is our website where you can find news, reviews, and interviews from the VGM community.
GameGrooves Music is our record label where you can find our video game cover albums.
GameGrooves Studio is our hub for tutorials, how-to’s, and anything that can help budding VGM artists. This particular branch of GameGrooves is run by Peter Gillette of GHDY Studios.
Lastly, GameGrooves Uncovered is our podcast run by the incredible Ro Panuganti. He’s had a lot of interesting guests on there, and I’m always amazed at how he’s able to dive into almost any subject.
You may be the owner and editor-in-chief, but GameGrooves is a team effort. Can you tell us more about what it’s like working on something like GameGrooves with multiple people?
This is something that I am still working on lol. I’ve gotten very used to doing everything by myself, but I am trying to delegate more and more. As I said, Ro Panuganti runs GameGrooves Uncovered, and I basically let him handle all of that. Peter Gillette and I coordinate a lot with GameGrooves Studio, but he’s very flexible, so that makes it easy. We also have quite a few people who have produced albums (Psamathes, Kain White, Rahul Vanamali, Hashel, Ro Panuganti, and Thennecan), and in those cases, I try to offer as much support as I can while letting the producers make their own decisions.
As for coordinating albums, I have several templates that I use for emails and that kind of thing. We have a standard contract for charity and non-charity albums, and I am constantly trying to streamline the album production process so that it’s easy and fun as possible for artists.
Even outside of the team, GameGrooves has gotten to work with a variety of different VGM composers, even some we at Gaming Reinvented got the chance to interview. What’s it like getting to talk to and interview VGM musicians from different walks of life?
Well, it’s a huge inspiration to me, and it’s the reason I keep doing GameGrooves. Back when I was running GameLark, I used to do video interviews with various artists in the VGM community, and it was so fascinating to learn about everyone. That being said, I wanted a chance to stay in touch and continue working with these amazing artists, so my solution was to start producing cover albums.
Now, I let Ro handle the podcast interviews, but I continue to do written interviews with both composers and cover artists, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what and who is out there lol.
This might be a hard question. But what are some of your favourite VGM covers or projects you’ve seen or heard? Even if they’re projects you were involved in.
I could spend a book writing about this, so I’ll focus on three projects in particular that really made an impact on me.
There was a ZREO album that released in 2012 called Twilight Symphony, and this was the first time that I realized there was an actual community of musicians that made video game covers. Up until that point, I was really only familiar with a handful of people (Jam2995, Family Jules, etc.), but afterwards, I immediately started following a lot more artists on YouTube, and it’s arguably the reason I started GameLark in the first place.
Another project that recently inspired me was “Line Them Up! A Paper Mario: The Origami King Concert” that was produced by the fine folks at vgmtogether. This video came out at a really important time because the world was still reeling from COVID, and it showed us all that the VGM community was still close-knit, even if we couldn’t be physically close to each other. At almost 40 minutes, it showcased a wide variety of VGM artists, and the video editing and arrangements were superb. If someone were to ask me, “What is the VGM community?”, I would show them this video.
Lastly, I want to highlight DiscoCactus’s debut album, Mania Mode. If you follow me on social media, you know that I rave about this album all the time, but I can’t help myself! For me, this is the greatest VGM cover album ever, and it’s the bar that I try to reach whenever we start a new cover album.
Do you have any plans for the future of GameGrooves you can share here?
How much are you willing to pay me? Lol, jk.
So, we’re still wrapping up production on GameGrooves Studio Season 1, and there is a GameGrooves Co-Op Album Challenge that is about to get underway at the end of April. I let Ro Panuganti steer his own ship, but I’m sure they’ll be plenty more fun and interesting podcasts soon. Other than that, I’ve been keeping busy with GameGrooves Music as we have 5 albums that should be releasing this year and one major event that I have yet to announce.
Lastly, do you have any advice for those who want to get involved in the VGM community, whether that be through creating covers or making other content about it?
Ask questions. The VGM community is one of the most supportive communities that I know, and while not everyone’s advice is going to be helpful, there is no better way to learn, and you might just meet some great people!
And there you have it. Thanks again Allen for agreeing to talk about GameGrooves for the site. If you would like to follow GameGrooves on social media, you can find the socials below.