Let’s Interview; 8-bit Game Music Remixer Tater Tot Tunes!

Wow, it’s been a while since the last one of these, hasn’t it? Indeed, ever since we posted the second part of our interview with Randy Linden back in June, interviews have been pretty thin on the ground here at Gaming Reinvented, with the last two months having none whatsoever.

But that’s now all over, since today we’ve got another exclusive interview for you all.

This time, it’s with a YouTube video game music remixer called Tater Tot Tunes, known mostly for his 8-bit remixes of classic Nintendo songs. So without further ado, let’s get started with the interview!

So, first things first… who are you?

My name is Adam, I’m a musician and a retro gamer at heart. I’m currently in my senior year of high school, where I’m a trumpet player in my school’s concert band. I’ve constantly been surrounded by music for my whole life, so I thought I’d put my talents to use online.

And where did your username come from? Why Tater Tot Tunes?

I had been thinking of creating a YouTube channel for a while, but I didn’t really have many ideas on what genre to pursue. I chose Tater Tot Tunes because one of my friends suggested making the channel’s character a tater tot (I think we might have had burgers and tater tots for lunch that day). I liked it because it was a unique choice and didn’t restrict me to one genre of music.

According to your bio, you had eight years of trumpet playing experience and four years’ experience as a songwriter before staring out on the site. What kind of songs did you create then?

I had the Garageband app on my phone and used it to create music during my spare time. Most of it was going to be used in a game that I was making, but never finished.

Did you ever share those online anywhere?

The decent ones are up on my SoundCloud account, also called Tater Tot Tunes.

Clearly, you’ve got quite a lot of interest in games too. How did you get into gaming anyway?
I was introduced to gaming with the Nintendo 64 back when I was very young, with my first game being Diddy Kong Racing. Even back then I remember certain songs that would get stuck in my head.

Regardless, you’re obviously most known for your video game remixes. What made you decide to start a channel about that?

I started a channel about video game remixes mainly because I’m so familiar with them. There’s also not much risk in covering video game songs because the developers usually don’t bother you. With movies and popular songs, however, companies usually eat up all the ad revenue.

Were you inspired by any other video game remixers out there? Which ones?

I was originally inspired by remixing communities like OC Remix, and I wanted to try putting jazz styles on certain songs from gaming. The first remix I posted was the only one that I ended up finishing, as I quickly found an interest in chiptune afterward. As my channel grew I also took inspiration from some of the other channels that make chiptune music like Bulby and Loeder.

And why 8-bit versions anyway? Are you a huge fan of the NES era?

Definitely. I’ve collected NES games for years and I really enjoy the simplicity of the gameplay and the music. I didn’t mean to make 8-bit remixes the focus of my channel, however. I was originally inspired by the 8-bit sections in Super Mario Odyssey and wanted to try transcribing some of the music from the E3 demo. People requested more, so I continued.

Did any games from that era inspire you more? Like say, ones with a certain composer or music style?

Absolutely. Composers like Hirokazu Ando (Kirby’s Adventure) and Takashi Tateishi (Mega Man 2) inspire many of the styles that I choose. I usually choose to remix songs from a series in such a way that they sound like they could fit into their NES originals.

You also seem to focus a lot on remixing songs from the GameCube era and beyond? Why?

With GameCube era games and beyond, the songs got a lot more complicated in their instrumentation. In this way, they’re more interesting for me to remix, since they require a lot more creativity. My preferred era of songs to remix is the DS/Wii era, though, since it’s the era that my audience connects with the most.

There’s also a huge Nintendo focus when it comes to your song choices too. Have you ever remixed any songs from non-Nintendo titles?

A few. I’ve done a bunch of Star Wars remixes in the past to keep things fresh, but I like to keep things consistent which is probably why I’ve mainly stuck with Nintendo and Sega stuff.

How do you choose a song to remix anyway?

I usually choose songs from requests or from games I’m playing at the time. Sometimes I also hear songs in videos or other covers that inspire me to create a remix.

Do you ever decide not to make a remix for whatever reason?

Sure. I try to keep my remixes consistent, so I usually won’t choose remixes that most people wouldn’t find an interest in. Sometimes, I get really far into a remix and just decide that it’s not working, so I set it aside and pick it back up later. Other times, I realize that someone else has made a remix exactly like mine, so I decide that I’d rather work on something new and unique.

I’m also guessing you get a ton of requests too. How you deal with all of those?

I consider all requests, though obviously I can’t take them all anymore. I’m much more inclined to take certain requests if they’re from the same game that I’m currently working on. Also, the earliest requests usually get prioritized, since I typically haven’t picked my next song yet.

Onto a few taste related questions now. First up, were there any songs you just knew needed a remix the minute you heard them?

Recently, I’d say Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s theme. The second the song ended on the live stream, I downloaded the MP3 and began working. I think I got it done in just under two hours. It was funny, a lot of people thought that I had somehow gotten ahold of the song early.

And which of your remixes do you like the most?

Honestly, I have to say Boss Challenge from Diddy Kong Racing. It’s not even remotely near my most popular remixes, but I think it’s my personal favourite partly because of the song itself and partly because of my interpretation of it.

What about your least favourite? Any you think don’t hold up that well?

I’d honestly say that I’m still proud of everything I’ve put up, but I can definitely admit that some of my earlier content was weaker in a lot of areas. For example, it took me a while to get the bass to sound right. I kept trying to make it lower than it needed to be, and a lot of times you practically couldn’t even hear it. I also learned how to better modulate each note, which makes each song feel a lot more personalized and less like a copy-pasted formula.

Lastly, are there any video game songs you think were significantly improved by your remixes? Like, ones that didn’t sound great in their original form but sound better in 8-bit?

My goal is always to try and “improve” on any song I’m covering, but one that I really think turned out great was “Big Bang” from Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. I think the original song is really good, but I personally prefer my version just because I used a lot more precise instrumentation that makes it easier to distinguish the melody.

A few channel questions now. Have you ever considered making a few remixes in other gen styles? Like say, 16-bit ones inspired by the SNES/Mega Drive era?

Definitely. I’ve tried for quite a while, but never can find a style that I’m satisfied with. I’m working on one right now actually that I think will get posted, so look forward to that.

One neat thing about your channel you don’t usually see with these remix channels is the original artwork for each video. How do you create that anyway?

A lot of people are surprised to hear that I use MS Paint for all my artwork. Even though it seems humble, it’s actually quite a powerful program for creating pixel art and I encourage everyone to try it. I usually use a combination of custom art and existing art for my remixes, though I’m hoping to start featuring some community made artwork as well.

Have you ever considered using your spriting skills for other purposes? Like fan games/mods, comics or animations?

Absolutely. I’m always looking for new opportunities to create art that’s not always related to the channel. For example, I just won a contest on a discord server for a game called Mindnight, where I participants had to make an animated pixel art background to be added to the game. I’m also working on several of my own projects that I’m planning on using my art in.

Still, I’m guessing you don’t only listen to your own music on YouTube. So, what other remixers and channels do you recommend there?

Some channels that I would recommend would be the other chiptune channels like Bulby and Loeder, but I assume that most of my viewers are already aware of them. Some others I’d recommend would be Jonathan Aldrich, Gabocarina96, and marionose1. These channels all produce high quality remixes of video game music, but each has their own unique way of doing it. Jonathan Aldrich’s is mostly piano covers, Gabocarina’s focuses on guitar covers, and marionose’s makes a lot of official-sounding remasters. Check them all out, you won’t be disappointed.

Many people in the YouTube world tend to branch out at some point too. Have you ever considered making other types of videos as well? Why or why not?

I’ve considered it, but I’m not sure if I will for a while. I could definitely see myself making some tutorials in the future for how to make remixes and pixel art, since I get a lot of requests to do so. I also would like to start making games that I would feature on my channel. This wouldn’t be for a while, though.

What about other video hosting platforms? Do you ever worry that YouTube might be going the wrong direction and think about an alternative?

Not really. I know about all of the drama surrounding YouTube recently, and honestly it’s a bummer for a lot of smaller channels, but I’m not really worried about the state of my channel specifically.

Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to start remixing video game music or create a YouTube channel?

The best advice I could give a starting channel would be to find a niche. For me, that was chiptune music, and it quickly gave the channel a unique flair that it wouldn’t have had without it. Find a niche that you can really have fun with and make your own. For me, there’s not a single part of remixing that I don’t like, and I encourage everyone to try it for themselves.

And you know what? He’s right there. The key to any successful channel, blog or other website now is to have a niche that no one’s thought of yet.

Just ask Shesez of Boundary Break, who earned 400,000 subscribers simply by taking the camera out of bounds and showing people what’s outside a video game level. Ask Pannenkoek or Stryder7x, who turned Super Mario 64 and Paper Mario into their entire careers (and who could basically write a PhD out of their findings in the process).

Hell, even look at our own Wario Forums site. It’s the only one out there, and that’s really the main reason it’s done so well in recent years. People wanted a forum based on this series, and we succeeded by offering them one.

In this day and age, its uniqueness that’s key to success, and offering ‘more of the same’ that leaves you wallowing in obscurity.

So find something you like that hasn’t been monopolised by the big names, and give it your all. That’s how you find success now.

But before you go out and strike it rich, why don’t you tell us what you thought of the interview? Did you enjoy hearing about Tater Tot Tunes and the thought process behind his various music remixes? What questions do you think we should have asked here that we didn’t already?

Tell us what you think in the comments below, or on social media today. Also remember to follow Tater Tot Tunes on various social media platforms too, since he’ll definitely appreciate a few more Twitter followers or YouTube subscribers, and his videos deserve a bit more attention nowadays too.

Either way, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the other interviews we’ve got coming later this week!

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