Saint John beatmaker/producer Hayden White channels his love for video game soundtracks into a new series of recordings.
The past year has proven to be a productive one for at-home music makers. Since the beginning of ‘the dark days”, we have been treated to dozens of releases from ambient, drone and noise projects, each offering up an interpretation of the times with moody, atmospheric tones that have become a large part of 2020’s sonic identity. And rightfully so. Yet while these highly fluid compositions remain a big part of this year’s new music catalogue, many bedroom beatmakers and home studio custodians have been equally hard at work composing new music, piecing together sampled collages and following hip hop’s fundamental grooves in new directions.
Over the past year, Hayden White (aka White VHS) has become one of New Brunswick’s most prolific pandemic-era musicians writing and releasing a staggering amount of new music. Since April of 2020 he has released nearly a dozen albums and EPs that explore everything from pop remixes to chill grooves and forward thinking alternative hip hop beats. White’s latest project takes the form of an ongoing series of albums composed using samples from video game soundtracks. To date, he has released two albums in his VGM series with a third arriving later this week.
“This project started out as a standalone album, but quickly evolved into something much larger,” said White. “My goal with this series is to have a new volume every month of this year. It’s a challenge that I’m more than willing to commit to.”
Using a process he calls eDigging – a digital version of the classic vinyl hunt synonymous with DJs and vintage record junkies alike – White combs through endless amounts of original soundtracks from games of all backgrounds and skill levels searching for just the right phrase to use.
“I either look through the original soundtracks of games I’ve played in my childhood or games my friends have played,” he said. “A couple of my close friends have been working with me on eDigging, so a fair amount of credit is due to them. They’ve been sending me songs to sample, and a lot of those tracks have turned out to be better than expected.
“The vast majority of games I’ve sampled I have played, and have a personal connection with. I usually aim for retro role playing games or early 2000s games. The composers for those really knew what they were doing.”
So what is it that sets one soundtrack apart from another? As it turns out, the qualifiers White uses to judge potential samples sound a lot like what everyone wants to find in the music they enjoy. The only difference being, most of us aren’t looking to deconstruct what pleases our ears. At least not after a first listen.
“A good VGM soundtrack to me has to fit the atmosphere of the game, convey emotions or feelings through the music, and be memorable above all else,” said White. “The best ones have melodies or chord progressions that stick with you, and invoke a feeling of nostalgia.”
VGM Vol. 3 arrives April 2 in Bandcamp.