An interview with Zircon

Its a lucky thing that I remembered to post this today, its been a busy, busy week with very little sleep. That's college for you. Anyway, this week I have a very special treat to present to all of you, an interview with OverClocked Remix contributor Zircon, also known as Andrew Aversa. As of the date of this interview, Zircon had contributed a total of 23 remixes to the site itself, as well as being heavily involved in various remix compelations and running his own music studio at zirconmusic.com. Hit the jump for the interview!

How long have you been making music?

I started taking piano lessons when I was about 7 (1994), at my parent's encouragement. In particular, my mom saw that playing the piano was something I really enjoyed compared to many other activities. There were times when, as a kid, I didn't feel like practicing. My mom wouldn't berate me or force me to practice; instead, she simply said "Well, if you're not going to practice, I guess you're not interested. You can stop taking lessons." That always encouraged me to get back into it! Anyway, it wasn't until late 2002 that I started messing with computer software to actually write and produce music. Of course, at that point I was just making video game remixes. I started actually writing original songs in 2003!

How did you first come across OCR?

I think I may have found some tracks via Napster back when that was popular, and when I was still on dialup. However, I truly discovered it after my family got DSL. I asked my e-buddies from IRC (internet relay chat) what I should do with my newfound broadband connection, and one of them suggested I download everything on OCReMix. This was before OCR had torrents, so I literally started downloading every single ReMix alphabetically. Needless to say, I was hooked, and listening to the great music there really motivated me to try it myself (this was late 2002.)

How did you come up with your name?

The origin of "zircon" is actually pretty lame. As soon as I began to make music using computer software, I knew I needed a name. One of internet buddies from IRC went by the name Argon (an element on the periodic table.) Lacking, at the time, any idea how important this choice was, I simply went to the periodic table and picked one of the elements at the end of the alphabet, since Argon was at the beginning. "Zr" - zirconium, or simply "zircon". Of course, for at least a year or so, I used to call myself "dj zircon" because there were so many other "dj’s" on OCR.

What made you interested in remixing music from video games? Was it a game you played as a kid? The newness of the sound?

To be honest, I was always interested in game music. I used to sound out themes from games like Final Fantasy or Phantasy Star on the piano, and when Napster first came around, I would try to download those themes for myself. Sometimes, I found arrangements of them, as mentioned above. One of my earliest memories is when I used to rent an SNES over the weekend, and one of my favorite games to rent along with it was Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. I thought the boss theme was just amazing and I remember being so excited after hearing it that I would be humming it, jumping around and trying to play it on the piano well after I returned the SNES to the video rental store. As for actually remixing the music though, I give 100% of the credit to OCR. Once I heard what people were doing, especially artists like McVaffe, I just had to try it myself.

OCR has gotten huge over the years. Do you think that it’s a good thing?

Absolutely... though I might be biased, being on the site staff! The bigger we are, the more cool stuff we can do; adding features to the site, going to more conventions, partnering with other industry organizations, and, of course, posting more great music.

With the music that you create for OCR, how much effort do you put into it? Is it a time consuming process? What inspires you?

I put a ton of effort into making remixes. Looking at my entire body of work, I'd say I probably spend more time on average working on a given video game remix than any given original song. There are exceptions, but suffice it to say I love making remixes and really work hard on them. I wouldn't say it's incredibly time-consuming; the difficulty is in getting inspiration. I often have a lot of ideas for remixes, but when it comes time to try putting them into practice, they don't sound nearly as good as they did in my head. So, often times my remixes are almost accidental. For example, I just finished a Team Fortress 2 remix that sprung out of experimentation with a new synthesizer I got. In another situation, I was trying to mock up a drum and bass part from a Pendulum song, and I noticed it sounded a little bit like Flash Man from Mega Man 2, so I just continued in that direction.

How involved are you with the OCR community?

Very involved, though maybe not as much now as I have been in the past. I've been posting on the forums since 2003, making me one of the older community members, not to mention I have a disturbing number of actual posts (over 10,000.) I've been a submissions evaluator since 2004, so I'm also one of the senior judges on the current panel. I ran the official site podcast, VGDJ, with my wife, fellow OC ReMixer and ex-judge pixietricks (Jillian Aversa), for about a year. I've also been to numerous conventions to promote OCR and run panels, such as Otakon, MAGfest and Genericon. Additionally, I'm an IRC operator, forum moderator, and project director (FF7: Voices of the Lifestream.) Nowadays, I'm not running any projects, hosting any podcasts, or judging as much as I used to, and I haven't been to many panels this year. Nonetheless, with over 20 remixes posted to the site and frequent contributions to the site staff, I'd still say I'm extremely active.

What do you think of the community that has sprung up around OCR? What ties it together? Is it the music, the hobbies? Or something else?

I think it's just the shared passion for video games and video game music. In other words, we're all nerds. It's like the uncool kids lunch table in high school, except the table has thousands of people sitting at it, and there aren't any other tables. OCR is one of the friendliest communities I've seen online, and there's a ton of trust. The meetups that we've had on a regular basis all over the world are excellent proof of that. This is probably the only place on the Internet where you can feel perfectly comfortable meeting up with a dozen total strangers and even inviting them over to your house.

What has been your favorite moment involving OCR in any way?

It's really hard to say, since there have been many of them. So, I'll give you two! The first would be my very first OCR meetup, which was held in New York City in December 2005. At the time, I was just starting my freshman year at college, and was a bit lonely and depressed, being away from all my high school friends and having a difficult time socially at my new school. I had never met anyone from the Internet before so I didn't know what to expect. As soon as the first ReMixer - Geoffrey Taucer, aka Jeremy Waters - showed up at my parent's door, I knew I was about to have a great time. As we went into the city, I met djpretzel, Jose the Bronx Rican, Bahamut, and many other remixers and forum members who are still my good friends today. Oh, and this girl named Jill... :) That evening, four of the meetup-goers came over to my parent's house (a little outside the city) where we stayed up until 5 A.M. working on a remix. A few days later, we submitted it to the site. It was, at the time, the biggest collaborative remix yet, and we were all really proud of it. I've been to many meetups since, but I don't think anything will beat the magic of that very first one.

Another amazing moment was the release of my remix project, Voices of the Lifestream. It had been in the works for nearly two years when we finally released it. On the evening when it first came out, we desperately needed seeders for the torrent, so I was uploading as fast as I could from my apartment. Comcast kept throttling my connection, however, so I had to reset it every few minutes! I stayed up until 3 A.M. doing as much as I could. While this was going on, there were so many people excited about the project that we had to make an entirely new IRC chatroom just so people could talk about it. After I woke up the next morning, I saw that we had struck gold on Digg and traffic was through the roof. We were at one point transferring about 250 megabytes per SECOND over the torrent, a record that has yet to be beaten by any other OCR project. There were dozens of people in the IRC chatroom gushing over the project, and the forums were ablaze with reviews. Again, even if I were to do another project, I can't imagine anything topping that!

What kind of music do you listen to on your own?

This is going to sound cliche, but I listen to a whole lot of stuff. Of course, my Winamp playlist has every OC ReMix and OCR project on it, as well as a wide selection of electronic artists, but it also has various pop and R&B songs, smooth jazz, film music, hip-hop, death metal, Motown, oldies, 80s rock, anime soundtracks, prog rock, New Age/ambient, etc. I try to listen to a wide variety of genres so that I can soak in as much as possible and use it for inspiration in my own music.

Have you just submitted songs, or have you been involved with album projects? If yes, which ones and what was it like working with them?

As mentioned earlier, I've directed an album project (FF7) and participated on another (Donkey Kong Country- Kong in Concert.) Both were very fun to work on, VotL being a massive amount of work and requiring incredible coordination among over 40 people, but worth it in the end.

What do you think of OCR’s contribution to music as a whole?

We've had enough press at this point that I think the world is finally starting to realize how deep and interesting video game music can really be. Of course, with Video Games Live around, they're stealing our spotlight a bit... not that I'm upset about that! Any promotion for video game music is fine with me. There are countless stories that you can hear from the OCR community about people formerly not interested in VGM that became avid fans, or at least open-minded, thanks to OCR. I could probably tell you at least several of those myself.

If you could recommend one song for someone to hear from OCR, what would you recommend?

Another very hard question. Most people have widely varying tastes, and no one song can possibly please everyone. Star Salzman's "Pillar of Salt" from Xenogears is a popular favorite that you can't really go wrong with, though.

Is there anything else related to OCR that you would like to share?

OCReMix fundamentally changed my life. I met my wife through OCReMix. It was the basis for my career, and my choice of college. Two of my groomsmen (including my best man) were people I met through OCR. In fact, many of my good friends are on OCR. When I want to relax, I play games with people on OCR (Team Fortress, Heroes of Newerth, Street Fighter.) If I'm having a party, it's probably with people from OCR. You get the idea. My point is that it's a bit scary to think about what I would be doing and who my acquaintances and friends would be if not for this site.

A hearty thanks to Zircon and his willingness to tell us all about his experiences with OCR.

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