When it comes to video game remixes on YouTube, one of the most common types is the 8-bit one. Based on the style of music used in games for systems like the NES, Master System and Game Boy, it’s become the main focus of all manner of popular creators, including Loeder, Tater-Tot Tunes and Bulby.
And while the former two have already been interviewed here on Gaming Reinvented, the latter has not, despite us knowing about their channel and having been fans of it for many years now.
So today, we’re gonna change that, and interview Bulby about his work, channel and musical career as a whole! You ready? Let’s do this!
Starting with a bit of background info first. So who are you? Who is Bulby?
My name’s Mike, and I’ve been active as a YouTube musician and pro elite competitive gamer since 2010. On my YouTube channel I remix existing video game music into 8 Bit NES or 16 Bit SNES covers, and I’ve competed in various fighting games over the years. I also do some freelance music work on the side for remixes and original tracks.
Where did that username come from?
This is such a dumb story, but I’m happy to tell it! My username used to be Bulbamike, because at school one of my friends decided to draw my face in MS Paint, and it was so brilliant because of how void of any emotion it was. One day he decided to draw Bulbasaur and put my face on it, calling it “Bulbamike”, and I just adopted that name when creating my YouTube channel, and also when joining the Fighting Game Community (FGC). During my time playing Marvel vs. Capcom 3, the “dolan duck” meme came about, and a few of us started calling each other by our “dolan” names. Bulbamike turned into “bulby” (probably not spelt like that) and one day I decided that I actually liked Bulby as a nickname more than Bulbamike. So there it is.
How about your interest in gaming? What was your first video game?
I think my first game was either Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros. 3, which is strange because I was born in 1992, the year the SNES came out in Europe. I think my parents were a few years behind on getting new consoles up until the Gamecube. My favorite types of games are 3D platformers, over-the-top racing games, classic JRPGs and MMOs. Oh, and fighting games, obviously.
What games are you playing at the moment?
At the moment I’m no-lifing World of Warcraft Classic. I played it back in the day, so it’s been fun to relive a few things, and do all the things I missed out on. I’ve always been a console gamer at heart, it’s just that nothing has caught my interest recently. I’ll play Smash Ultimate outside of tournaments every now and then, but not as much as I used to.
Any games you’re looking forward to in future?
I’ve always been looking for the next fighting game to take my interest, since leaving the FGC and joining Smash, so I’ve got my eye on Street Fighter VI right now. I’m a big fan of the Dragon Quest series as well, so I’m looking forward to DQ Treasures and the DQ3 remake. I never play remakes of games I’ve already played, but a HD sprite overhaul of DQ3? I can make an exception for that.
What was your introduction to music? Did you play any instruments when you were younger?
My parents made me practice Trumpet from a young age, so I’d think that was my introduction. That sounds like they forced me to practice at gunpoint tied to a chair or something, but I think they did want me to take up some sort of productive hobby. I’m glad they did because although I don’t play much anymore, it taught me about self-discipline and improvement. I can also rip a pretty mean performance on the recorder. I got into the composition side of things later in school, and then remixing in college.
Onto YouTube now. What made you decide to start a YouTube channel?
I was sitting in my dorm room at university wondering how I could spend my free time doing something productive, and not just play games all day long (despite my best efforts, this still happened, Skyrim had an iron grip on me). I can remember sitting there now, and thinking, well, I like music, and I like video games. So how do I combine the two into something? At this point I wasn’t the biggest fan of doing any sort of cover work and recording real instruments, though I did one or two videos very early on. I wouldn’t say I was ever in love with the 8 Bit sound before my channel, I just thought about that genre of video game music and thought, I could give that a go.
Were there any other channels that inspired you there?
I actually think it was the lack of channels that was the inspiration, I didn’t see many people doing it at the time, so I thought I could tackle it. If I remember correctly the main one I found early on was 8BitDanooct1.
Either way, most of your covers are 8-bit takes on songs from later generations. What made you decide to go this route? Are you a huge fan of the NES and SNES?
Although I enjoyed the games growing up, I can’t say they were ever my favorites. The N64 had the biggest impact on me, but it wasn’t until I started playing NES and SNES games again through the Wii Virtual Console that I started to appreciate them a lot more. I remember downloading Mega Man 2 and having an absolutely insane trip, I thought I had just imagined that game until I played it again. That, along with playing Mega Man 9 for the first time really cemented my love for the 8 Bit sound and style. The interest in the SNES sound was just a natural progression from that.
How do you decide what songs to cover?
There are many factors that go into making the decision, but the main ones are these. 1) Do I like the song and do I think it will work well? 2) Will the general audience like or know the song? 3) Has someone already done a really good remix of the track already in the same format? After that, I upload the original track as an unlisted video to my channel to see if it gets copyright claimed. If it does, I don’t risk remixing it. There are other factors I take into consideration, but these are the main ones.
Have you ever scrapped a song because it wasn’t sounding right?
Yes, many times. You learn what works and what doesn’t as you go, so shelving projects is almost inevitable. For example, I learned from trying to remix Seven Rings in Hand that if it’s a vocal track, the vocals have to be melodically interesting, or else it just doesn’t sound great without the lyrics. I usually upload any canceled projects to my Patreon as a little bonus behind-the-scenes.
You also seem to remix mostly songs from games by companies like Nintendo, Sega, Capcom, etc. Have you done any from games on Sony or Microsoft consoles?
I have done a few in the past, one off the top of my head is the first SNES remix I ever did, Nate’s Theme from Uncharted. It was a good one to start with, as the SNES was obviously much better at creating orchestral style music due to its sample-based nature. I didn’t understand the nuances of SNES music back then, but I think it was a pretty good first try.
Either way, which of your covers are your favourites and why?
I’m very proud of a lot of my Mega Man X takes on classic Mega Man themes, I feel like I’ve found an authentic way to replicate the sound of that game. My favorites are Air Man, Spark Man and Splash Woman. Aside from those, although it’s very old now, I think my World Bowser cover still holds up the best out of any of my old remixes.
Any least favourites there?
No, everything I do is perfect.
But yeah, of course sometimes remixes don’t pan out as you expected them to, but you’re so far in you might as well release them anyway. Sometimes I’ve had remixes that I thought were not anything special, that turned out to be very well received by the viewers. I think my Mii Channel remix is borderline average, but the meme value of certain songs can carry the viewership very well.
Were there any songs you immediately wanted to remix the minute you heard them?
This has happened many times throughout the years. Of course these days I still try to do my checks before starting anything, in case it won’t work for whatever reason. The most recent case of this would be The Doomsday Zone.
It’s also neat to see all the cute animations in your videos based on the source games. How do you animate those?
I create the sprites using GIMP, sometimes I just using existing sprite sheets (mainly found on The Spriters Resource) and export the sprites individually, sometimes I edit them a bit, and other times I get sprites commissioned, usually by Ellian (the pixel artist behind Rivals of Aether). I then animate them in Adobe Premiere Elements 14 (too poor to get Premiere Pro). Sometimes my animations get a little too crazy for my own good and take longer to create than the music itself, so I’m trying to hold back on that going forward.
And how do you come up with what to show there?
I usually try to think of what might be interesting to look at. One thing I have learned recently is that although it would be impressive to replicate an entire stage playthrough for one of my remixes, it’s not always the most interesting to look at. This was something I struggled with on the Coconut Mall remix. I held off doing that one for a long time because I couldn’t think of a video idea outside of recreating Coconut Mall as a race track for Mario to drive around.. Eventually I thought of the parking idea, and these kinds of single-screen videos are what I’m going to try to do more often. If I can find an interesting way to do something more complicated then I’ll go for it.
Of course! I enjoy both of their work. I especially like that both of them have dabbled in SNES remixes, replicating the styles and instrument usage very well.
Have you guys ever considered working together on a few songs?
Not particularly, though that’s just a personal thing. Collaborating with other 8 Bit artists seems a bit redundant to me, if both artists do the same sort of thing, then it just becomes a spectacle of “x collaborated with y”, but that’s just my opinion. If either of them approached me with an idea I’d be more than happy to try something! I’m always open to collaborating with musicians in other genres, and have done so in the past (for example, DJ Cutman using my Rashid’s Theme remix).
Either way, have you ever considered making music with styles and soundfonts from other generations? Like say, N64 or Game Boy Advance style remixes of songs?
In the past I’ve done a few Sega Genesis tracks, though I never really did them justice because I’ve never had an attachment to that console or its sound. I have done one N64 remix in the past for Yooka-Laylee, and am interested in exploring other N64 styles. Though there would need to be a reason to do it, I did the Yooka-Laylee one because the game was so closely tied to Banjo-Kazooie. I have a few ideas, but as of right now I’m more interested in exploring other SNES soundfonts and refining my use of 8 Bit.
How about other types of remixes or covers in general? Like ones not based on a particular generation or instrument set?
This is actually how I started my remix journey. I made “normal” remixes of 3-4 video game tracks and posted them on Screwattack.com back in the day. If I remember correctly they were Vile’s Theme, Kremlantis, Frog Man’s stage theme, and The Legend of Zelda Overworld. They exist somewhere, but who knows, maybe that’s a Patreon reward in the future!
Either way, your channel has done super well, with nearly 100K subscribers and 10s of thousands of views per video. Did you expect it to get that big?
I never set any expectations for myself, but I do remember a golden period in my channel’s history where my music was being used and noticed by many top YouTubers at the time. Viewership has slowed down over the years though, and to be honest, in the grand scheme of YouTube, I wouldn’t necessarily consider my channel “big”. But I appreciate the kind words! I don’t usually set myself goals, but I’ve always wanted to reach 100k subs right from the start. Maybe one day, but for now I’m happy just making something I’m good at, and letting others enjoy it as well.
Is YouTube your full time job at the moment?
Absolutely not. I did at one point try to make it more than a paid hobby, but I would need to earn around 20x more than what I do now to make it a sustainable career.
What plans do you have if YouTube gets worse for creators? Do you have any other platforms lined up?
Not particularly. Of course if the opportunity presents itself, I’d be happy to take a look, but for me the channel is still primarily just a hobby (that perhaps I take way too seriously).
Any other YouTubers you watch regularly? Like other cover artists and remixers?
As well as Loeder and Tater, other active 8 Bit musicians I follow are branflakes, Lumena-tan, Chip ‘N Cellos and ZeroJanitor. My favorite non-retro music channel has to be The 8-Bit Big Band. What they do is something I’ve always wanted to organize myself, so it’s amazing to see it done so professionally. Their “One Minute Bytes” series is my favorite.
Finally, what advice do you give anyone wanting to get into video game remixes? Or interested in starting a YouTube channel in general?
There’s no better advice I can give other than: just do it. You don’t upload things to get views or make it a job immediately. Just do it because you enjoy making things, and you think others will enjoy watching or listening to it. Even if you have doubts that people won’t like what you do, just put it out there anyway. The worst that can happen is nothing comes of it, but at least you tried. Even just uploading something already puts you above all those that never try. Unless you’re gifted by the gods, you will make things that are “bad” to start, I look back at my first remixes, and oh my days they are awful. But it’s important to remember where you came from so you can continue to improve.
Yeah, isn’t that the truth Bulby? So many people are terrified to actually get started and share their work online. They’re petrified of failure so much that they’d rather just think “what could have been” rather than take the leap and kick things off.
But that’s the wrong attitude to have here. Indeed, as the old saying goes, “You miss every shot you don’t take”. Hence by not posting your work, by not getting started with your hobbies…
All you’re doing is killing your hopes and dreams in the long run.
So stop panicking, and get on with it. Create those videos you’ve always wanted to make, and share them on sites like YouTube. Make that dream game, and post it on Itch.io and other similar platforms. Draw what you’ve always wanted to draw, and share it with folks internet wide.
That’s how you truly succeed here. It may not be instant, it may not be easy, but it’s more likely than it’d ever be if you just sat around thinking of all the things you ‘should have done’.
Either way, that’s the interview! So what did you think of it? Did you enjoy hearing Bulby talk about his channel, work and life as a whole? What other creators do you want us to interview here on the Gaming Reinvented site in future?
Leave your thoughts on all this (and more) in the comments below, or on our Discord server today!