FFO: Neo Cab, Demon Turf, Time and Eternity, T-Square and Bomb Rush Cyberfunk
Favourite Track: Unlimited∞Luv
We were lucky enough to chat with Barry "Epoch" Topping about their latest release About That... Paradise Killer B-Side. Here is what they had to say!
Q1: You recently released "About That... Paradise Killer B-Sides". Can you tell us a bit about what went into making this album?
A1: Based on the success of the original Paradise Killer soundtrack and the game itself, a B-Sides album was something I'd wanted to do for a while. Kaizen were planning an update for Paradise Killer and wanted new music so the whole thing lined up nicely. The B-Sides release itself ended up being a mix of the three new tracks we used in the update, an intro track, vocal arrangements, remixes and some frequently requested bonus tracks.
I think the original soundtrack already has quite a wide range of influences represented but I wanted to make sure the new in-game tracks were bringing something new that also fit with the pre-existing tracks. About That... Is a big late 80s arena pop tune, Unlimited∞Luv has a housey flavour and Misunderstand is my take on the Minneapolis sound.
It was interesting and a lot of fun revisiting Paradise Killer music nearly 18 months later, especially as my process has moved on somewhat since then. The biggest change is probably that I'm using a lot of hardware synths now, whereas previously I was using software synths. I'm not someone that necessarily covets the sound of boutique analogue synths that can be replicated by modern virtual instruments but all the instruments I used brought their own unique tactility to the creative process. It's not just about how an instrument sounds but how it makes you feel and how the interface marries with the notes you're playing and the sounds you're shaping, something that often isn't as directly connected to the user when you're moving knobs and sliders with a mouse, on a screen! By that token, I did a lot more playing and a lot less programming on this release and I think it comes across especially in how bassline and synth driven the new original tracks are.
Recording new music with my long-time collaborators is always amazing; Fiona, Fabian, Kyle, Tom all smashed it and getting MEEBEE and Okumura. in for their Lady Blue remix was a real treat too.
Q2: What was the process like writing lyrics for the newest versions of "About That...", "To The Heart" & "House Of Bliss"? Did you initially compose the songs with vocals in mind?
Q2: I wrote a lot of the Paradise Killer soundtrack not with vocals in mind but with enough leeway so that if it was something I ever wanted to do, I could. Turns out I did want to do it! Lyrically, I wanted the songs to have their own thing going on but also tie back into the themes of Paradise (Stay Forever) and the game itself. I feel the lyrics for all the songs exist in our universe as well as in the game's universe, they aren't strictly about the game but they thematically reference the world the game happens in.
About That... Is a song about giving yourself over to the finality of something like the rapture or the apocalypse and finding peace in that. It's about being completely pacified by a controlling force under the guise of warmth, comfort and love. When I was writing it, I imagined it as this live hypnotic musical broadcast sung by resident idol Crimson Acid to pacify the residents of an Island Sequence before their inevitable end. That's where the idea of the intro track Moonrise Rapture came from.
To The Heart is a love song largely inspired by Sam & Lydia, about how people can move on and grow apart but sometimes feelings can linger in both negative and positive ways. It's also about how love is eternal and undefeatable.
House of Bliss is a story of building something with someone, being betrayed and ultimately getting revenge at the expense of yourself. The character within the song realises at their absolute lowest point, they can have everything they want but to do so they have to completely abandon their humanity.
Of course I can't discuss these tracks without giving Fiona a shout out. She is an absolute joy to work with, a huge talent and brought so much to these tracks. If you could hear my original vocal demos you'd probably laugh but she can always interpret them exactly how I want whilst bringing her own flair to it, a legend!
Q3: Do you have any album recommendations for someone who might be new to the synth pop / city pop sound?
A3: I think a great place to start with getting into anything synth related is Yellow Magic Orchestra, an absolutely singular force in shaping everything that's good about synth music. Their albums Solid State Survivor and Naughty Boys are my favourites. I would also recommend checking out Japanese fusion band T-Square who are a huge influence on me and straddle both city pop and synth pop. Their album Truth is a great starting point. For City Pop specifically, it's very hard to find anything bad so just absolutely go for it, jump in with both feet and get Googling!
Q4: Have you had a chance to play any of these songs live?
A4: Sadly not yet! I stopped playing live a few years ago but I've played hundreds of shows in my life with various bands or on my own and I know it'd be a herculean amount of effort to do justice to music like the Paradise Killer soundtrack live. If I had the time and resources to get together an 8-piece band to play this stuff, I absolutely would. I would love to do a live session of the vocal music some day!
Q5: Do you have any future projects in the works that people should keep an eye out for?
A5: You can keep an eye on my Twitter and Soundcloud page for updates on the smaller projects I've been working on but I sadly can't talk about anything bigger just yet! I do have 3 or 4 projects yet to be announced which are currently in development, so please look forward to those!
Q6: What have you been gaming lately?
A6: I started Subnautica recently and I absolutely love it. I didn't know much about it beyond that it's a survival game with lots of crafting and you're underwater, very pleased to see it's much more than that. I also just finished Kirby and the Forgotten Land, which is the most fun I've had with a game in ages, real Mario magic in a Kirby game is something I've been hoping for. I'm a huge fan of the series and Forgotten Land really didn't disappoint!