TheFeed got the chance to speak with game music creator Danny Baranowsky recently. Danny is the man behind the music of Super Meat Boy. We talk to him about the success of his indie released soundtrack for the game, where his musical inspirations come from and what he is working on now. We’ve also got some meaty sounds for your ears, so why don’t you come in and take a listen!
The Feed: Tell us how you got involved doing the soundtrack to Super Meat Boy.
Danny Baranowsky: The short story is I met a guy named Adam Saltsman over at OverClocked Remix and through that I did a game called Gravity Hook and that got me known to Edmund McMillen who was doing the original Meat Boy on Newgrounds. And he didn't have time for me to write a soundtrack but he wanted to use some of my music so he said send me whatever you are not using. So I sent him 12 random tracks that were sitting around on my hard drive and some how he picked four of them that kind of worked and made something reasonably cohesive. And it worked. Those tracks became the basis for the chapter one, three and five tracks for Super Meat Boy. Yeah, doing video game remixes got me known from one dev and he showed me to another and things happened.
The Feed: That is such a great story. So in the end, how many pieces ended up in the soundtrack for Super Meat Boy?
Baranowsky: I know un-looped it was like 50 minutes. 30 sounds about right. A lot.
The Feed: Okay, cool. Well let's talk about the digital release first of all. Was that entirely your doing? To put that initial digital album out there on Bandcamp? Or did you have any backing from the developers of the game?
Baranowsky: Well, they've always been really cool about me keeping rights. They're indie and they're cool like that. I had had some experiences with Bandcamp before but it always just struck me as a very easy way to get it out to people. Maybe make a little bit of money. I had no idea it would be this insane and huge. I think it's the coolest site in the past five years. It's like indie iTunes, it's amazing.
The Feed: With well over a million plays on Bandcamp and over 10,000 sales of the digital download the inspiration for doing the physical version?
Baranowsky: Yeah. I definitely had to the gauge interest. I honestly didn't even think the digital was going to do anything crazy. And then Edmond McMillen, the Super Meat Boy creator, he kind of just acted like it was inevitable that I was going to do a physical one. I figured I'd print the bare minimum of CDs and it would take me a year to get rid of them all. And we just ordered my third run a couple days ago. He told me from the day before I sold it, sign it and charge five dollars more. And I'm thinking no one is going to do that, whatever, and half the people did it.
The Feed: That's crazy. So how many discs were in the first two runs?
Baranowsky: 1,000 each.
The Feed: You sold 2,000 physical units. Half of which people paid almost half as much more to have you sign it.
Baranowsky: Yeah, and the thing is under normal circumstances that would be kind of against, I'm going to go all hippie on this but, I have a hard time charging people for money. The way I feel about it it's like so many people have given more than I have asked for. That's the cool thing about Bandcamp you can pay more; it's four dollars but you can pay ten or whatever and I just figured if people are going to be paying more anyway, might as well give them something, so, I'm just blown away at how many people that if you ask for four dollars and they give you twenty. You ask for ten dollars and they give you thirty, it's insane.
The Feed: You're obviously a Pink Floyd fan. For those who might be too young to appreciate the Floyd, give us a little background on the inspiration for the cover art for the physical release. For the uninitiated, it is based on the cover art of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album.
Baranowsky: First of all, I thought it was appropriate with the tone of Super Meat Boy, to have some kind of parody thing, because it just seemed to fit the humor of the game. The first idea I had I wanted to have all the characters of Super Meat Boy drawn as members of the Partridge Family. We went through many ideas, a Kiss album cover and that kind of stuff. I'm super happy how it ended up because I grew up on Pink Floyd. The first song I remember hearing ever in my life is “Time” by Pink Floyd. My Dad totally inundated us with classic rock from a young age. I can't think of any band that was more influential to me than Pink Floyd. I also thought why don't we do a Dark Side of the Moon cover. That really didn't make sense, but it's this really cool, serendipitous thing where everything is lined up and it's awesome because not only is Wish You Were Here an amazing album but just that idea of Dr. Fetus lighting Meat Boy on fire just makes sense too, you know?
The Feed: It's brilliant.
Baranowsky: You know I'm sure some people think I thought so much about it to make it like that. Meta or whatever but it really was just a Mr. Magoo moment where everything lined up. I couldn’t be more happy with it.
The Feed: Let's talk a little bit about your music. You’ve got all these different things on your Bandcamp page. Do you just have lots of ideas and they need to get out?
Baranowsky: A big part of it was the classic rock thing. A lot of the unreasonable soloing and stuff sometimes I put in there is probably an extension of wanting to be David Gilmour or Jimmy Page. I was one of those kids that listened to a lot of video game music growing up too; it was definitely a huge influence on me, especially Nobuo Uematsu and Koji Kondo. I don't know if I'm able to or even if there's a point to try to understand why but video game music always seemed to just hit me harder than what was on the radio. Super Meat Boy, this game is a distillation of the best platforming elements of the past twenty years. It kind of made sense to have the same kind of general principle for the music. I feel like it’s modern music on the most part. It's modern music that just has an older, chiptune soul.
The Feed: Now talk about meta. How bizarre is it that you now have some of your music remixed on OC remix? And you've got piano versions of some of your pieces. How weird is that coming from that world yourself?
Baranowsky: Getting remixed, my own stuff remixed on Over Clocked remix that's a mind f*ck ten years in the making, man. I started on OC remix ten years ago and like AE, now he’s called A-Rival, is one of the guys who made those (Super Meat Boy) remixes, he was one of my idols before I even wrote music. This guy is amazing and I used to make CDRs of him and force my parents to put it in the car when we went on road trips. You know, I was sixteen. But it’s just madness, a decade later I'm up there. I don't really know how to answer that question except like say yeah and giggle.
The Feed: Are you working on any new music now?
Baranowsky: I'm working on a web series called Anthony Saves The World by Mikey Neumann who was the creative director for Borderlands and Anthony Birch who made Hey, Ash, Whatcha Playin. After Super Meat Boy hit I did get quite a few offers and the real challenge is to sift through the serious ones. I do this for a living now so I have to get money for it. But it's like I was saying earlier, I'm terrible at asking for money. But what I'll sometimes do is I'll just say yes to anything that sounds cool and not realize like oh, I have to pay bills and that's not going to help, but, the cool thing is even with all that I have really good relationships with Edmond McMillen and all these indie game devs that I was so lucky to get hooked up with in my first year. You'll probably see more stuff from me and Adam Atomic and more stuff from Team Meat. I don't know if I can say what I'm doing but there is a 3DS game coming up that I am doing it for.
(Since The Feed conducted this interview, it has been revealed Danny is arranging the music for Cave Story 3D.)
The Feed: Let’s talk Twitter. You've got a pretty good sized audience listening when you talk at 140 characters at a time. Do you credit any of the success of Super Meat Boy going viral with that availability to reach an instant audience that wants to hear you talk?
Baranowsky: Totally. The game itself, Team Meat does all that too. Twitter certainly helps. I would say a ton of the success that I had on Bandcamp was definitely because of Twitter. I can see the stats of where my traffic comes from (Danny checks it on his computer) and let me see here… there's a way of telling if it's word of mouth or where it's from and I am pulling this up. Its data and I love data. Alright so, about maybe half of one percent of the hits to my Bandcamp page are from SuperMeatBoy.com. About half of that are technically from Twitter. But half of all the hits over its lifetime are direct. Which means people typed in the URL, or it was some sort of non-web enabled application which basically gives you an idea people are talking about it. So that's a way for me to know for sure that without social networking this would not be happening. Ever, at all. To any level like it is. That's the crazy thing about social networking. You just put stuff out there and hope it grows. I think that's just what a lot of people do. I'll put out stuff like, “oh hey look at this review” and that could lead to one person to sending it to somebody else who sent it to somebody else and it's almost like a religious experience. You just have to keep sending out energy to the cloud and it's going to generate good will. But you’ve got to stay active, definitely. That's one of the things I do try to do even if I don't want to twitter. Get on there and say something just so people don't start un-following you.
The Feed: Have you had offers of performing your music live?
Baranowsky: I wouldn't say anything formal but that is something that is way up on the top of my list though. Because before I ever got into anything, scoring movies, scoring games, anything, I was a drummer in a band in Phoenix. I was in marching band and orchestra in school and I was on percussion and I love performing music and I miss it, a lot. I think it’s important if you're going to charge people to come see you it has to be a compelling show and that's really important to me. That's probably the classic rock roots coming through. But ultimately, this is cool doing game music but still the end goal is to be a rock star. All I want to do is tour the world and throw music at people on a giant stage. So I'd love to find a way to take game music I've done and, I don't want to say bastardize it, but make it mainstream enough so that a bigger audience could appreciate it maybe. I’d love to do something like that. I would love to play big shows and do it in a way with vocals and maybe someday maybe even have it on the radio. But I want to do it in a way that isn't totally selling out, selling my soul and just destroying everything I stand for.
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