We are really thrilled to chat with Andrew Skeet, a composer and orchestrator from Greatest Video Game Music 2, an album of music that is…well…some of the greatest video game music ever! One of the pieces of music on the album is the Super Metroid: Symphonic Poem and we had a chat with Andrew regarding the piece.


SS: First of all Andrew, please introduce yourself to our users and tell us about your involvement in The Greatest Video Game Music albums.

AS: Well I suppose the best place to start on that is to say that I was at a studio in London one day recording the music for a short film for Ubisoft which is being used to trail the new Ghost Recon game when the LPO phoned up to see if I wanted to do a show and CD of video game music. Clearly their regular classical guys wouldn’t be quite right for it but still someone with a lot of orchestral experience and I was lucky enough that they thought of me. This partly because ever since I left the Royal College of Music which is uber-traditional I have preferred to be involved in non-traditional stuff or music that brings in influences from elsewhere with the classical.

So I worked with a lot of bands, on films, wrote music for TV and such – so the video game music world is a bit of new one on me in that I hadn’t given it a lot of thought before other than like everyone else being aware of it in the game (or a game you’ve played a lot it feels like it’s kind of entered your DNA and you’re not even needing to listen anymore – I like that insidious quality!)

SS: It’s great that a follow up album has been made for The Greatest Video Game Music and it was quite a surprise to learn that Super Metroid would be a part of the follow up. Why did you decide to add Metroid to the album this time around?

AS: I would love to say that it was a stroke of genius thinking on my part but in fact it was a combination of my wonderful researcher Joss Campbell (who is rather fond of his old SNES) suggesting it and I had noticed when I sometimes read feedback on the last album on websites that Metroid came up quite often – usually in this form “Wtf, no Metroid?!! Dude that sucks …”.

This is usually the form the feedback takes on game websites!! Anyway I loved the music so much straight away although I had sort of forgotten about the game itself – I remember playing it at someone’s house years ago but clearly I was insane and it didn’t strike such a chord then.

Will The Greatest Video Game Music 2 album be even better than the first? With Metroid, surely!

SS: Where did you gather your inspiration from when writing Super Metroid: A Symphonic Poem? How much experience do you have with Super Metroid and the series as a whole?

AS: I was afraid you would ask this!! I must confess not a lot of experience, a brief play on the old SNES Super Metroid to check it out and lots of Youtubing. But for this one I just wanted to choose a few themes and mainly not worry too much about how faithful it was and all that. But I want to do some more from it because there are loads of themes I would like to try and it would be good to immerse myself in the game more because it has such a unique atmosphere – so claustrophobic.

SS: Putting together an album like this can’t be easy, and I’m sure it couldn’t be achieved without the hard work and dedication of everyone involved. What it was like creating the arrangement and what were some of the most challenging and rewarding moments during its production for you and the team?

AS: It’s not easy but I see it as a journey of discovery for us all. The big challenges are a mixture of the practical and the more artistic I suppose. Big challenges are making sure we have tracks that are going to appeal to as wide an audience as possible but without being dumb, or all too obvious.

Also big challenge the sheer size of the arranging and although I have some sterling help from Ben Foskett with the orchestration, I like to do as much of that and the programming myself because I kind of know what I want. Very time-consuming. Rewarding moments are mainly when I first hear the orchestra playing the pieces and then maybe at the end a listen to the finished mixes.

SS: There are plenty of memorable themes from Super Metroid, some of which have been heard in other Metroid games since its release. While your arrangement features some very memorable themes, there are some themes I was expecting to hear that weren’t shown. How did you decide on which themes to use, and why did certain themes make it over others?

AS: Hard to say – you’re right really, I was playing the game the other day and I thought “why didn’t I put that in?”. The important thing for me this time round (and it could well be different next time) was just to write a sort of homage piece not necessarily referencing everything.

Title Screen

Super Metroid: A Symphonic Poem will feature in Great Video Game Music 2 featuring a selection of well known themes from the game, beautifully performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

SS: Metroid music has a certain uniqueness compared to other video game music, with its ambient and alien sound. In some cases, it is composed of electronic sounds that an orchestra can’t produce. How important was it to retain that familiar atmosphere in your music?

AS: Really important and hard because I think considering the limitations it’s a genius bit of work. Really amazingly well-suited and intrinsic to the game. I think we could capture it better but this is a start.

SS: Once you wrote the arrangement, you had to gain the approval of Nintendo. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of having your music approved and how you felt before and after you received the feedback?

AS: Basically I’d written this one (and Dragon Roost Island and Luigi’s Mansion) and they all had to go off to Nintendo – a demo and a score. So they were finished already and between them probably represented, I don’t know, maybe 90 hours work? Or more. Something like that …. so when they came back with a few minor changes to the melodies and approved them I was mainly relieved to be honest.

SS: You also got some comments and approval from Kenji Yamamoto himself, the man who was mostly responsible for the soundtrack of Super Metroid. What was that like?

AS: Well it was cool. I mean, we didn’t exactly hang out and shoot the breeze but he sent me a very helpful annotated bits of score to tell me where he thought I’d got his melodies wrong – ha!

SS: Now that the piece is complete, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on it. Are you happy with what you have created?

AS: Well I want to be positive so I am happy – we did manage to capture something of the atmosphere of a game that I think is hard to capture orchestrally; I think the score is dark but rather beautiful which is always where I prefer to be given the choice but I would in an ideal world have liked to have got a better performance.

I feel now I understand the piece better I would do it differently in places but, you know, that’s often the case. Even when you’ve written it it’s really hard doing a first performance – you hear it in the room, it’s rather overwhelming at first, then puzzling, then things come at you in rush and then an hour later you have to say it’s done. So yeah there are a load of tiny things I might do differently next time we play it but that’s cool.

SS: If you could change one thing about the arrangement, what would it be?

AS: Actually I wouldn’t really change anything with the arrangement – I’d love to do a part two which included more themes and developed it a bit but I think as it stands it works a piece.

SS: GVGM2 features music from many franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Mass Effect, and Sonic the Hedgehog. How does Super Metroid: A Symphonic Poem compare to all of your previous work?

AS: A lot of the music has some of the game in it and some of me – that’s part of what makes it different to other versions. I think the Metroid arrangement has quite a bit of me in it although obviously inspired by and based on the music from the game so it feels more personal than some of the other more literal translations form other games.

SS: What has been your favourite piece of music from Greatest Video Game Music 2 to work on and why?

AS: All the pieces end up feeling like your children to be honest in that you care about them all, invest time and energy and belief in them all and so there is affection in different ways for them all. Metroid and Castlevania suite are probably the two I cared about most because they were difficult and I desperately wanted them to be right.

SS: Video game music seems to be getting increasingly popular and mainstream thanks to video game concerts such as Video Games Live, Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses and Play! A Video Game Symphony. ClassicFM’s Hall of Fame now includes music from video games such as Aerith’s theme from Final Fantasy 7 and the main theme from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Do you feel there are opportunities to get more people listening to video game music? What other endeavours do you think will spread the popularity of video game music?

AS: Don’t really have a view on this. People are quite resistant to being herded so I think it’s great there are high quality concerts dedicated to it and specialist radio stations and all that but equally I quite enjoyed finding a couple of Japanese people on Youtube doing a cool version of Dragon Roost Island with piano and guitar.

SS: With two albums behind you, do you think there is room for a third? Perhaps next year we can have an arrangement for Metroid Prime? :)

AS: I think there is room for more. So many pieces on our list that haven’t been done and great suggestions (like Prime!) coming in all the time.

SS: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us Andrew, it’s great to have a better understanding of how this arrangement came together. Do you have any closing comments you would like to make?

AS: Thanks so much for your interest and I hope any of you who get it really enjoy the album. Despite the title it’s really just a personal response from me to what I hear and it will be different of course to how anyone else would do it … but hopefully you’ll find it an exciting and moving journey. I tell you one thing; the London Philharmonic are almost without equal in the world and whether you like what I’ve done with the arrangements or not, you are going to love their playing!


We would like to thank Andrew Skeet for taking the time to chat with us. Great Video Game Music 2 will be available from the 6th November 2012.