That makes sense. Did you write the lyrics to those songs yourself?
Oh man. What was the inspiration?
RJ: All the inspiration came from the levels themselves, really. I had a bunch of paper design docs and some concept artwork, and once they kind of... they had a short list of names for the levels, like "Reaction Factory" and "Regal Ruins" or whatever it was called.
I had to look at the level and basically write a song that would lyrically represent something in the level. So for Regal Ruins, it was the "Back in Time" track, because it's all Egyptian ruins and things like that, and "Work it Out" because it's in a factory industrial setting.
I didn't make the connection there. (laughter)
RJ: Maybe it's not that obvious, but it was the way I was thinking behind it. I didn't want to write a bunch of songs about Sonic, or any of the characters, per se, except for Super Sonic Racing, because that plays in the game when you are Super Sonic, the yellow character. They're all based around the levels, but they all had to be fast and kind of uplifting and sugar-coated and do what they say in the tune.
Did the music test as well in both markets? Since it was going for kind of the J-pop thing, did it...?
RJ: Good question. Originally, we were talking with an artist from Germany called Blümchen, which translates into "blossom." She was only like 16 or 17 at the time of making the game, and her record company found me, and they wanted to write all this stuff, and this and that. We didn't actually make the deal.
But Naka-san said, "Go and find a vocalist," so I found a vocalist I worked with before, TJ, and she's become a bit of a legend within the Sega fraternity as well. She did MSR and all that stuff with me as well. We did that stuff and sent it back to Japan, and it got the nod from Yuji Naka, and that was it. We went with it.
Sega/Traveller's Tales' Sonic R
We didn't think about the markets too much, honestly, because I don't like doing different soundtracks for different markets, even though I think it can be appropriate for some types of games. I mean, the Sonic CD Japanese version I think is just so much more appropriate for the game than the U.S. version, but then again, maybe at that time I didn't know the U.S. market as well as I do now.
We just went with one version and gave people the option to have instrumentals as well, which... of course we're not going to force them to have the vocals. But whenever I'm playing at Video Games Live or something, the fans just always talk about that game. And it came out in '97 or something? It's a long time ago.
Do you think that vocal tracks could ever be back seriously in games?
RJ: Maybe not to that degree. Not that kind of J-pop-esque kind of way. No, I don't think so, and that's probably right, because look how games have stylistically changed themselves in ten years.
Even though you get songs in the Marios still, you're now getting all the Gears and Halos where you wouldn't have done in those days. So I don't think vocal tracks, in terms of singing in that right will... but you know, some stuff... the human voice is very valid in video game soundtracks as an instrument, and is being used very, very well, and moreso at the moment.
In Highlander, I'm working with a Scottish singer, and we're actually singing the title track in Celtic, or Scottish Gaelic, rather. There is a connection that the human voice makes with any audience, whether it's in games or in cinema goers or whatever. It makes an instant connection. I think that has a very valid place in games, but maybe back to the Sonic R days? I don't think so.