When “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses,” debuted in 2012, producer Jason Michael Paul had already made a name for himself. In 2006, he headed the production of “PLAY! A Video Game Symphony” and worked alongside video game music legends such as Koji Kondo and Akira Yamaoka.
We got in touch with Jason to talk about his music career, production company and history with Nintendo. We even talk a bit about his next big project. Read on!
Hello, Jason. This first question is brief and easy: who are you and what do you do that’s so interesting?
I am the producer for “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.” My job is to bring everything together that goes into a show like this, from venues and partners to arrangements and pre-production.
Music is ubiquitous. It’s on the radio, in movies, on TV, in office cubicles and all around as you walk down the street. What drew you to the music of video games in particular?
The idea of presenting the music live with an orchestra and the visuals from the game. Being the first to do something like that was what drew me to video games. The passion for video game music was already a part of me. I wanted to share the music and the visuals with fans. Fortunately, it started with Final Fantasy and drawing inspiration from the earlier video game music concerts in Japan and of course Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama who really paved the way for this medium.
Of the multiple concerts you’ve produced, from “PLAY! A Video Game Symphony” to the “Symphony of the Goddess,” which was the most enjoyable to work on? Why?
They are equally enjoyable. “rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes” is a wonderful show and it has been a wonderful experience. I am hoping to present many more rePLAY concerts along with the Zelda symphony.
And of all those concerts, which was the most challenging?
I’ll tell you once we’re done with this latest challenge!
Your work deals primarily with licensed material. How do these projects come together? Were you approached by companies like Nintendo, or did you have to earn the rights to create your shows?
It’s always a challenge to get developers on board for a project like this, but once they attend a show for themselves and see the top-notch way that we treat their material, it becomes abundantly clear how positive this can be.
Can you discuss the search for talent? From writing the music to conducting to producing the videos, how does your team come together?
I have been blessed with a great deal of talent to work with to realize these concerts. It is definitely a team effort. Many of the talents I work with are longtime associates dating back to childhood, and firms that I have worked with or for throughout my entertainment career.
Since your first gaming-inspired concert, “Dear Friends,” a number of other touring orchestrated gaming music concerts have made their mark. Recently, Pokémon joined the action. What do you think the future will be for this type of production?
I think that there is definitely room in the market for another video game concert. The Pokémon Symphony will surely be a great show.
Video game music has established itself as some of the finest contemporary works. The symphony showcases these works at the highest level.
Your concerts have primarily featured classical music. Why is that?
That has always been my style since the beginning. The use of orchestra and choir is key in bringing this show to life. Video game music has established itself as some of the finest contemporary works. The symphony showcases these works at the highest level.
The popular “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” concert went through multiple iterations, including Second and Master Quest versions, and is still going strong. Did you expect to come back to the show year after year?
I think I knew as far back as the E3 press event and the 25th Anniversary concerts. The wonderful thing about working with The Legend of Zelda is that the series is still growing and its popularity is still spreading. As such, letting the symphony evolve over time comes naturally.
How were the Zelda games and songs featured in the “Symphony of the Goddesses” concert selected? Were there any tough cuts? Famously, a fifth Majora’s Mask movement was added midway through the first season. Was this due to fan demand or planned all along?
It’s tough — obviously we want to represent many games that are iconic to the franchise. The pieces we selected help bring together a complete four-movement symphony that takes the audience through a proper hero’s journey. We do make some time for extra favorites, though, including the updated arrangement for Majora’s Mask, and the new A Link Between Worlds segment!
One of my favorite moments in the “Symphony of the Goddesses” was when conductor Eímear Noone pulled out a Wind Waker baton to conduct the movement for The Wind Waker. Who do I praise for this brilliant idea?
Li Kovacs made it and I paid for it. Eímear was nice enough to conduct with it.
What other kinds of surprises, tributes and experiences do you focus on to ensure the fans come out happy?
We’re always sure to include pre-show, intermission, and post-show activities to engage with fans. These vary from concert to concert!
Do you have a favorite Zelda game?
Ocarina of Time.
Do you have a favorite song from “PLAY! A Video Game Symphony”?
From “rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes,” probably the Yasunori Mitsuda CHRONO medley.
Any interest in an all-Nintendo music concert?
Of course. It is my hope that I can do this someday.
Of course it is “real” music. It is as real as it gets.
Are there any recent games with music that has really captured your imagination?
I’ve been pulled back in to Majora’s Mask 3D!
Is video game music “real” music?
Of course it is “real” music. It is as real as it gets. Come to one of my concerts and I guarantee you will feel it.
Any future concerts planned? What are you working on next?
I do have another big show in mind that I would love to share with the world. Rest assured that I will make it public once it’s ready!
We would like to thank Jason Michael Paul for his warm responses.