Let’s Interview: Video Game Remixer and Cover Artist Note Block!

NoteBlock Banner

When it comes to video game remixes and covers online, the internet has done wonders for the genre. From Tater-Tot Tunes to the Noble Demon, Game & Sound to RetroSpecter and Juno Songs, sites like YouTube have become home to thousands of amazing creators covering all manner of songs from titles throughout gaming history.

And one that’s always stood out to us is NoteBlock. Named after a Mario series item and known for covering songs from popular Nintendo games, their videos have always amazed us with their editing and creativity, with the usual static image setup replaced by a far more creative one involving footage from the original game, logos and more.

It’s an awesome style, and when combined with their incredible covers, makes their work stand out as among the best on the platform.

So in this interview, we’re gonna talk to them about their channel, work and gaming as a whole. You ready? Let’s do this!

The Interview

First things first, who are you? Who is the person behind the NoteBlock channel?

Hi! I’m known around the internet as NoteBlock, but my name is Evan G. I’m a 21-year-old music producer, composer and video editor from Ontario, Canada!

And why did you choose that username in particular?

To be honest, when I first created the NoteBlock channel, I was just learning how to make music and wanted a place to archive it for myself and to show my friends. I didn’t spend a lot of time coming up with branding or anything, so I named the channel after the note block from Super Mario Bros 3. I thought it was clever at the time, but now I get people wondering why the video they clicked on isn’t game music recreated with note blocks from Minecraft. I don’t regret the name, but if I knew the channel was going to go as far as it has, I might have taken the time to put a little more thought into it!

Minecraft Note Block
The type of note block people expect on NoteBlock’s YouTube channel
Mario Note Block
The actual type of note block the channel is named after

Is the Mario series one of your favourites?

Yeah, definitely one of my favourites! Aside from having some of gaming’s best platforming titles to its name, I am also a bigtime Kart and Party fan. It’s probably apparent by looking at my channel that Mario is a pretty big inspiration for the music I create!

Regardless, what game did you start with? What got you into gaming?

As a little kid I definitely spent my fair share of time on the computer playing flash games and my cousin’s plug-and-play systems, but my first time owning a Nintendo console was what really turned video games into such a prominent passion in my life. My parents never bought me or my sister game consoles, so my first console was a gamecube that was a hand-me-down from my mom’s cousin when I was like 6 or 7 years old. With that, came 1080° Avalanche, Zoo cube??, Mario Kart Double Dash, and my favourite of the bunch- Animal Crossing! I really wish the Gamecube tracked your playtime like modern systems so I could see just how many thousands of hours I sunk into that game.

Animal Crossing GameCube

What about now? What games are you playing at the moment?

Currently I’m playing an indie action RPG by Pixpil called Eastward. It’s a really cute story brimming with personality and gorgeous pixel art. Oh, and of course a lovely soundtrack! I have a bad track record of starting games and then buying new ones without finishing anything. In an attempt to combat this, I limit myself to one game to play at a time. That said, I’ve been eyeing up that new Kirby game and am very eager to start that once I’ve finished Eastward. Aside from that, I also play Pokemon Unite, Mario Kart/Party, and recently Fortnite when I want some quick games to play with friends!

Eastward Cover Art
Currently, NoteBlock is playing this interesting indie game

Any games you’re looking forward to at the moment?

Aside from being able to try Kirby and The Forgotten Land, My most anticipated unreleased game is Breath of The Wild’s sequel! The first game was some of the most fun I’ve had in a singleplayer game in a long time and I can’t wait to explore new lands once again in its addictive gameplay style.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land
NoteBlock is very much looking forward to this 3D Kirby game

Let’s talk about video game music now. How did you get interested in that?

This question is kind of difficult to answer, but I think it mostly stems from me being exposed to it at a young age and having so many of the simple yet addictive melodies of Nintendo games digging their way into my brain ever since. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music nowadays, but loading up some tunes from my favourite games definitely has become my comfort space!

And what video game soundtracks do you like the most?

Constantly changing, but lately I’ve been going back to a lot of the beautifully arranged Mario Kart 8 tracks, as well as Undertale’s fantastic OST. The Donkey Kong Country series (Tropical Freeze is sooo good), Katamari series, Minecraft, Snipperclips, ARMS, Stardew Valley, Shantae: The Pirate’s Curse, A Short Hike, Earthbound, Hat In Time, DOOM, Pokemon series (Fave is Diamond/Pearl), Paper Mario Origami King, Splatoon, Shovel Knight, Cuphead and Planet Coaster are some soundtracks that all come to mind. The original Animal Crossing soundtrack always will have a super special place in my heart, and is the only OST that never fails to bring back that soothing feeling of childhood bliss.

Any particular composers that have inspired you a lot here?

Damn, so many. David Wise, Toby Fox, Daniel Rosenfeld, Shane Mesa, Jake Kaufman, Bo en, Koji Kondo, Hirokazu Tanaka, Kazumi Totaka, Atsuko Asahi, Yasuaki Iwata and Lena Raine are a few that immediately come to mind. There are certainly others that are escaping me right now.

What made you want to start a YouTube channel?

Since the early days of Smosh, Nyan cat, Duck song, I’ve only delved deeper into the YouTube space and honestly it was only a matter of time before I wanted to start uploading videos myself.

Why a video game remix/cover one? Did you have any other plans beforehand?

I’ve kinda explored every avenue before landing in the music space. As a youngling I made “comedy” videos, acted out with my Webkinz toys and some characters I made out of clay. I experimented with Pivot Stick Figure Animator, made my own Game Theory ripoff, and I made a let’s play channel. Those were all on separate channels that are all probably still out there somewhere, so that’ll be a fun treasure hunt for anyone who might be interested in my past. Not giving any hints for that, I’m okay with putting that stuff behind me, haha! Video game music and making my own always was something that I dreamed of doing, and starting from working off of stuff that other people made was my gateway to that I suppose!

What other YouTubers and content creators inspired you here?

There were three particular channels that really got me into the idea of creating video game music. Bowie Z, ClefferNotes and Stevie Viola. The latter two I’ve since gotten the chance to speak to and in the case of Stevie, become really great friends with. These guys were creating their own original music for hypothetical new Nintendo games, and my mind was BLOWN. It was the goal of being able to do what these guys did that started me on teaching myself to make music. Downloading MIDIs (which kinda works like digital sheet music files that can be read by computer software) from the internet was a big step in the learning process. The joy I found from just creating my own remixes from existing game music and the eventual success that I saw from posting them online was what set me on the path I’m on today! Over the past 8 years of making music I simply cannot begin to list just how many creators have inspired my work. Short answer- A LOT.

How do you decide what songs to cover/remix?

It differs! Some days I’ll have a song just stuck in my head on loop and turning it into a remix is a way of clearing my head. Some days I look through my comments and suggestion box. Some days I pick a song that my channel members have chosen. Some days I’ll make a track that relates in some way to a trend or event that’s happening, such as new game releases!

Are there any you planned to cover, but changed your mind on? Why?

Oh yeah, a bunch. Sometimes I’ll start a cover but it won’t come together the way I have in my head. More often than not, I’ve found it’s better not to force the music that doesn’t come naturally to me and try something that I’ll have more fun making. There’s a lot of songs out there for a video game musician to remix that I know would perform really well on YouTube like Megalovania or the main themes from the mainline Mario games that everyone knows, but I simply don’t have the inspiration I need to provide a unique take that I’d be happy with.

Caption: NoteBlock could cover songs like Megalovania, but they don’t have the inspiration to do so right now

What’s your process for handling requests? Do you get a lot of them?

I do get a bunch, so many that I had to ask people to stop leaving comments and start filling them all into a google poll/spreadsheet. If I ever find myself in need of inspiration of things to remix, I’ll take a look at that spreadsheet and see what some of the most common requests are!

Which of your remixes are your favourites and why?

Maybe this answer is cheating, but I’m so proud of “The ULTIMATE Smash Medley” that I did with a whole lot of people from the video game music community. Planning and coordinating that whole things was a whole heap of effort, but I got to work with so many talented people such as some of my musical idols, Garrett Williamson, Pascal Michael Stiefel (who worked on the OST for A Hat In Time) and even Banjo-Kazooie composer Grant Kirkhope! That was wild. Never imagined that this channel that I made for me and a few of my online friends would ever lead me to a project like that.

Any least favourites?

Like I said previously, I made my channel when I first learned how to make music. It really shows, haha! I’ll always keep them up because sometimes it’s fun for me to go back and see how far I’ve come, but man are some of them awful. There was one remix that I made that was so bad, it became the one exception to my no deleting videos rule. It was a mashup of the Rainbow Road themes from Mario Kart 8 and 64. Was a fun idea in concept, but the lead synth I chose was actually painful to listen to. No idea what I was thinking when I posted that! I suppose that’d be my least favourite, if that counts.

One of the most interesting projects you ran was the Super Smash Bros Ultimate Medley, where more than 90 video game musicians did remixes for every character in the game. What made you decide to start this project?

Oh shoot, I didn’t read ahead in the interview questions and ended up talking about it already. I was quite inspired by similar huge collaborations done by other creators such as Dr.Pez’s Pokemon Medleys, FamilyJules’ Super Mario Super Medley and the recent Line Them Up! Paper Mario Origami King concert organised by vgmtogether. I’ve wanted to do something big like that for a long time, and the end of Super Smash Bros Ultimate seemed like a perfect opportunity for that kind of thing. I was also motivated to do it because I hadn’t yet seen a big collab like those done with a lot of the producing side of the VGM community, featuring those of us who make electronic remixes. I also think a small part was because I really wanted to be invited to a collab and making my own was the easiest way to do that haha!

And how did you find participants here? Did you contact them yourselves, or did they reach out?

Most were recruited by me! Over the years I’ve met a lot of cool people from the community from various means and I reached out to pretty much everyone I know. I hosted a discord server for the project and allowed everyone to invite anyone else they knew that might be good to join in. I ended up meeting a lot more talented people that I’ve since gotten to work with, like Cochu and Klaymore! I sent out a lot of Twitter messages and emails to even bigger creators that I knew were pretty much shots in the dark. I was actually shocked with the number of people who came around and were super into the idea! There were probably another 50 people who I asked to be in who either turned me down or just never responded to me, but overall I was super stoked with the number of people who ended up saying yes and joined in! I still can’t believe the composer for Banjo helped me remix one of his own songs.

How did you choose musicians for each section? Did multiple people ever want to cover the same character/series?

The way that I had it work out was I created a signup sheet containing all of the songs I chose for each character and wrote into the arrangement. I sent that out to everyone and I had them choose which one they wanted to do the most, allowing them to have free reign over what they wanted to turn their part into. It was a first come, first serve kind of thing and I think it worked out surprisingly well. It led to some really cool and interesting stylistic choices for songs that I never would have thought of myself and it let people show off their own styles.

The video editing is insane too. How did you do that?

Thank you! I told people when they joined that providing a video to go with their part was recommended, but not a requirement. Luckily, a lot of people opted to send in footage. Scruffy, Artsy Omni and Hugo Junstrand are all SUPER talented artists and they went the extra mile to create animation to go with their parts. For the credits I knew I wanted to roughly replicate Melee’s iconic Shoot-em’-up-style credits sequence. Someone in the project recommended Andrat, who was thrilled to help and was able to grind out that whole thing in less than a week. I’m so thankful for their help and they definitely deserve a shoutout for helping to make the video as good as it was. There were some people who didn’t have any visuals to go with their music at all, so I did my best to use Smash Bros footage and trailers to fill in the blank space. To make the video flow nicer and not be too contrasty between those who sent video and those who didn’t, I sprinkled in some gameplay and other fun visuals throughout the whole thing. Overall it was really fun piecing it together and I hope watching the medley was just as engaging as listening to it! I’d love to do another large-scale medley like that within the next year or two.

Hell, your video editing is crazy good for most of your remixes, and has only got better over time. Do you do it all yourself, or do you have a team of editors helping out with the effects?

Thank you! I do it all myself! I’ve been doing YouTube for a long time and have spent my fair share of time in the Adobe suite learning Premiere, Photoshop and After Effects. The one thing that I can’t take credit for is all of the character artwork that I use in my thumbnails nowadays. My buddy Blaner has been making custom drawings for me every week and I think the videos wouldn’t pop as much as they do without his help! Shoutout to his friend Chester too for working with him to create me the channel banner I use!

NoteBlock Banner
NoteBlock’s friend Chester created this amazing banner

Regardless, your channel is doing amazingly well in general, with over 125K subs so far. Did you ever expect it to do this well?

I honestly did not. Like I said, this was made mostly for my online circle of friends. The fact that so many people listen to my music regularly is crazy to me. Especially back when I was still learning music and was making stuff that was honestly not that good- I wonder how anyone could hear that stuff and like it enough to subscribe! Of course, when I saw that my channel started to pick up traction, I had a dream of reaching 100k and getting a silver play button. That always felt like such a distant goal that now that I’m here, it almost doesn’t feel real. I didn’t really have any kind of plan once I got here, but the sub count keeps climbing higher and I’m still loving putting out music into the world. I have no reason not to keep going and shoot for higher. I got the play button plaque hanging above my bed and I look at it pretty much every day and think about how lucky I am. How lucky I am to have someone like you care about me enough to ask about me and my thoughts on things. The fact that you feel that I’m interesting enough that you’d want to share my answers with your audience is still over my head. I don’t mean to get sappy on you, but I’m just so grateful to everyone who helped me get where I am. Thank you!

And what are your thoughts about the situation in general? Are you happy with your channel’s progress so far?

No ):< (very much so, yes)

Is YouTube your full time job right now? If not, do you want it to be?

It is, in a way! Of course I get a good chunk of my income from YouTube and ad revenue, but through YouTube I’ve had a lot of cool creators like Nathaniel Bandy, Gaijin Goombah, Failboat, etc. come forward and commission me to make them music for their channels. I also have been working full time as an editor for Failboat’s YouTube channel and have been loving doing that!

Have you worked as a composer or musician in any other media? Like games, TV shows, films, etc?

Yes! I’ve been doing music commissions for some people who want my musical stylings for their little indie games. I don’t think any of those have come out yet though. My main project for composing has been for Dream Potion Games, who are coming out with the 2D platformer Mago! Very proud of the work that has been done on that game and it’s going to be finished quite soon! We don’t have a concrete date yet but we have a few demos of it out on Steam! The full game is coming to all major console platforms, so I’m super stoked to have music that I wrote coming out of my Nintendo Switch! On another note, I went to college for Film and Television Production and got to put my composing skills to the test on a few student films! I had a lot of fun and was happy with the opportunity to try something new. I don’t think I would ever want to pursue it as a career but would not turn down the chance to do it for a bigger budget project if anyone ever offered!

What other creators do you want to work with in future?

Honestly, anyone and everyone. There’s too many to name here and so many people whose stuff I love and would be honoured to work with.

Are there any other types of videos or content you want to try out on your channel or social media?

A great question! A lot of people that I hang out with in real life are kind of over YouTube and spend a lot of their free time on Tik Tok nowadays. Tik Tok has proven to be an incredible avenue for getting your content seen by lots of new people and growing your platform. I’d love to figure out a way to make short-form content that would thrive on Tik Tok while also helping to promote the NoteBlock YouTube channel and expand “brand” awareness. Would love some ideas!

Finally, what advice would you give creators wanting to get started in the world of video game remixes? Or YouTube in general?

I think I’m going to start by stealing a quote from Bo Burnham. Once when he was asked to give advice to people who wanted to be a successful comedian and musician like him, he replied “I would say don’t take advice from people like me who have gotten very lucky. We’re very biased. You know, like Taylor Swift telling you to follow your dreams is like a lottery winner telling you, ‘Liquidise your assets, buy Powerball tickets, it works!’” That said, I’ll give some advice anyway since you asked so nicely. I think it’s important to know you shouldn’t start a YouTube channel if your focus is to see lots of success. Make a channel if you’ve made something you’re proud of and want to share it with people. It’s very clear when a creator on the internet has passion for what they do and it’s clear when they’re in it just for the likes and subscriptions. If you make stuff you’re passionate about and you’re good at getting other people to be excited about this passion of yours, the success will come to you. If you want a less corny answer, I’d say networking. In the entertainment world, it’s not as much about what you can do as much as it is about who you know. That’s not to say you should aim straight for the top and send twitter messages to multi-million subscriber channels, often that’ll come off as annoying and you won’t get anywhere doing that. Reach out to other creators your size and work with them. Meet new people as much as you can, because those people will know people and that person might know a big youtuber who knows another and so on. For example, when Undertale came out, I made a lot of content based around it on my channel. Because of that, I was able to meet and work with Carlos Eiene, who worked with me on my Undertale medley which ended up performing miraculously well. Through that I was found by Josiah of the “MasterSword” YouTube channel, who asked me to work with him on his fangame project, Undertale Yellow. Because of my work on that, I was discovered by Dream Potion Games and recruited to compose for that game. Now when this game releases, people may hear my work and want to work with me as well. It’s all one big chain reaction. Lastly, a little trend-chasing never hurt anybody! Make some stuff based on what’s topical. Never prioritise that in lieu of stuff you enjoy though!

Thanks again for the interview, that was fun!

No worries! It was fun to speak to you about your work too.

And that’s some very good advice too. Why? Because you’ve brought to the forefront two biases that most successful creators tend to have. Survivor bias and self serving bias.

Both of which are huge issues when getting advice from creators online. For the former, you’re only getting the stories of people who made it, not those others who tried and failed. As a result, you only know what the success stories did, not whether the same strategies were necessarily the reason for their success (rather than something working against them).

So while things like posting videos every day and having good editing and a high quality microphone may be part of the recipe for success, it might not be the be all and end all. Or even necessary for success at all.

Hence you have to examine both the successes and failures here.

Meanwhile, self serving bias is when people credit their successes to hard work, and their failures to luck or outside factors. That’s another problem with ‘advice’ you usually read online. If it’s from a successful person, it’s probably going to be framed in a way that emphasises how hard said person worked rather than the ways they got lucky/had good timing.

Because of this, you have to frame their responses in that context. Their level of success will inform their opinions on how YouTube or Twitch works, and will affect how they see these systems.

And yeah, networking is definitely very important too. As the old saying goes, “it’s who you know, not what you know” that matters here.

So focus on making connections, get to know other creators, and take advice from internet celebrities with a grain of salt. If you do that, success should be at least a tad more likely than it would be otherwise.

Regardless, we hope you enjoyed the interview, and we hope to bring you more of them with other great creators in future too. If you’re interested in NoteBlock’s channel and work, check out their social media via the links below, and if you want to give your thoughts on the interview (or suggest anyone else we should talk to on this site), tell us in the comments below or on our Discord server today!

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