Interview with Jean Of mArc

Jean Of mArc is a video game composer that specializes in music with a retro and animated vibe. Most of his work focuses on soundtracks, chiptunes or arrangements of existing video game music. His main works are on Sentinels of the Multiverse, Lazer Ryderz and Bottom of the 9th, but can also be heard within the Chiptunes = WIN, Materia Collective and OverClocked ReMix communities.

Headphones For Robots: Who is Jean Of mArc?

Jean Of mArc:

Jean Of mArc is an alias for my real name, Jean-Marc Giffin. I hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and went to Acadia University to fulfill degrees in both of my career passions: computers and music. After a few jolly jaunts to various places, I settled down as a contractor that programs games and composes soundtracks, most notably for Handelabra Games.

HFR: How did you start making music? Could you tell us a bit about your influences?

JOm: I was heavily influenced by games, especially Nintendo, growing up. Both the elements of game design and the memorability of video game music stuck with me, and thus I pursued the two fields that most connected that world.

I started making music when I was approximately 13 years old using Sonic Foundry’s ACID and some random free loops I had found online. I would experiment with pitch shifting the harmonic loops around to try and make different progressions, and chop up the percussive loops to try and make interesting rhythms. The music was pretty awful, but it was a start!

Bigger process was made during the summer time when I was about 15. I was far from most of my friends, but I had a PlayStation with MTV Music Generator, and it was then that I started composing actual melodic lines, generating my own chord progressions (that weren’t just stretched loops!) and creating rhythmic patterns from scratch. After having learned music theory, ear training, and composition at High School and University, it was from this point that I progressed to making music professionally today!

HFR: How long have you been working on videogames soundtracks? Do you play videogames?

JOm: I started doing professional video game music soundtracks about 3 years ago now. My first major project was Sentinels of the Multiverse: The Video Game, and I have since worked on other projects such as Lazer Ryderz, Bottom of the 9th, and Super Slime Arena.

I also occasionally compose music for fun, be it for OverClocked Remix and Materia Collective (game music arrangements) or in some smaller original scenes, such as Chiptunes = WIN or MusicWeeklies.

My musical style lends itself to a more animated, retro aesthetic. I enjoy bright, colourful and detailed music that brings an environment or character to life!

I play video games whenever I have the time and opportunity, but with a wife, a child, full-time work, that isn’t as often as I would like! I still try to at least keep up with the Nintendo and Indie game scenes.

HFR: What is your approach on writing music? Which are the steps you make when songwriting?

JOm: Generally I try to focus on the particular personality of a character, environment, etc, and try and find a way to match those characteristics sonically. I spend a fair bit of time just listening to different timbres, performing in various styles, and trying to match up what I hear with those elements and ideas.

Once I have established the kinds of sounds I will use, I try and “describe” the story of that character or environment through harmonies, melodies, rhythms, etc using the timbres I have discovered.

Most of my process is experimental, honing in more and more on sonic and melodic “matches” to the character/environment/theme, and discarding anything that doesn’t match.

HFR: Could you tell us a bit about your “go to” equipment? What do you use when writing a song and which are your favorite instruments?

JOm: I use a DAW called Reaper for most of my work. It is lightweight, great value, and very powerful. I used it for 60 days for free when I needed a program for a project, then bought it because it did everything I needed and I’m always discovering new features.

I generally input via MIDI, using either a 77-key Yamaha Piaggero keyboard, or a 2-octave Novation Launchkey 25 for quick entry or for anything involving knobs.

I use a large collection of VST instruments that I have amassed over the years, most at a substantial discount. I try and get a wide breadth of instruments, as opposed to getting the VERY BEST of a single instrument, so that I have the most sonic timbres to work with.

A secret weapon for me is WaveFactory’s TrackSpacer. It’s amazing how it “carves out” frequencies from a track based on the input of another track. This way I can always make one track stand on top of a second track, without killing the second track.

Mastering the Mix’s LEVELS & REFERENCE are great, affordable tools to help me get some objective looks at my mix that I may not otherwise notice, such as loudness, stereo balance, etc. I usually just try to use my ears, but it can really help to get that extra bit of information and compare to reference tracks.

HFR: What can you tell us about Lazer Ryderz, one of your last project?  

JOm: Greater Than Games was getting ready to launch a KickStarter for a neon 80s-themed light-racing tabletop game called Lazer Ryderz. The creators of the game really wanted the whole gaming experience to “feel” like the 80s, and thought that having an official soundtrack in a synthwave style would be perfect. I had the pleasure of working on the soundtrack along with Trevor Casterline, a very talented composer just beginning to stretch his musical legs publically. We took a lot of time digging through virtual emulation of old machines, as well as experimentation with every “synthwave” sound we could find, and then blasted off to create a whole album that will (hopefully) bring the board game to life for its players. Lazer Ryderz has since been released to great success.

HFR: What’s next for you? Are there any shows coming up within 2017? New

JOm: I have yet to do any live performances, but I am continuing to work on new music for Sentinels of the Multiverse, future Handelabra projects, and even some music that will be used in a live context in a medium that otherwise has nothing to do with music!

HFR: Last words?

JOm: Thanks for reaching out to me, Headphones for Robots; I appreciate the interest!


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