OverClocked Records Interview: bLiNd/Jordan Steven
Hello, and welcome to another installment of OverClocked Records’ Artist Interview Series! Today, our guest of honor is Jordan Aguirre, who you might know better as bLiNd or Jordan Steven! Jordan got his start by arranging video game covers on our affiliate site, OverClocked ReMix, and has since become a notable electronica/dance musician as bLiNd. As Jordan Steven (bLiNd’s musical counterpart), Jordan approaches music more traditionally by employing his studies in musical arrangement and composition. Under this guise, Jordan composed the English release version of the Lost Angelic Chronicles of Frane: Dragons’ Odyssey OST. Jordan was kind enough to answer a few questions for OverClocked Records. Here’s what I was able to find out:
Firstly, thanks for agreeing to the interview! We’re very glad that you’re a part of the OverClocked Records community.
Ah, thank you! Glad to be a part of it! I was invited by zircon and he had mentioned it to me pretty early on before it ever launched when I was working on ‘Celestia’ for his company Impact Soundworks. I agreed immediately as I was working on EPs at the time and didn’t really want to sign it away to random labels I didn’t trust completely. It is pretty hard to get signed to major indie labels out there, and since OverClocked Records is non-exclusive I was able to release it myself as well.
How did you become passionate about video games, how did you become passionate about music, and how did those interests interact?
I was introduced to the NES when I was around 3-4 years old by a neighbor and, when I saw the colors and heard the sounds, I was immediately taken to another world and completely hooked at that point. I continued to beg my parents for a Nintendo and its games for years and found myself always stopping to listen to the music. I would find a place I couldn’t be killed by enemies in games and just sat there and jammed as a young elementary kid. It was honestly my first introduction to music and the tunes are pretty much ingrained in my DNA now. Eventually I discovered all sorts of music for myself. I loved Michael Jackson first since it was my first real exposure to what popular music was. As time went on I discovered alternative rock in the mid-90s, which in my opinion was the best time for it, and eventually discovered electronica from the movie Hackers and games like Wipeout for the PlayStation. I had heard it before, but at the time big beat/drum ‘n’ bass/trance was more prominent and it REALLY caught my ears. I went to Target with allowance money and bought my first two CDs ever which were Prodigy’s Fat of the Land and the Mortal Kombat movie soundtrack, which is like death metal stuff and some electronica.
Eventually, I started making drum loops when I discovered music software. The firsts were FruityLoops 1.0, which at the time was just a drum sampler, and Hammerhead Rhythm Station (a free drum loop creator) after being introduced to the software at a LAN party by a friend. I was introduced to emulation at the time as well and NESticle (the old NES DOS/Win95 emulator) had an export to WAV function. One day I had the genius idea to take some of my drum beats and add it to the Bomberman theme. I figured out the tempo by ear and mix-pasted my beats to the chiptune in Goldwave shareware. I eventually acquired Acid Pro 1.0 and made a whole album of this beat and chiptune stuff called Brak’s NESbeats which can be streamed at www.nesbeats.com I even made a physical CD from scratch and passed it out to family and friends. There was no turning back after this, it brought me a joy beyond words. I kept up with the software and kept making music and loops, and when Propellerheads Reason 1.0 came out, I made my first OC ReMix “Dream of Zeal” and “Temple Trance” shortly after. The rest is history.
You have a relatively large fan base based on your ReMixes, original works, and your OST for The Lost Angelic Chronicles of Frane: Dragons’ Odyssey. What would you call your biggest claim to fame? Or, how did you go from studying music as a hobby to earning a fan following?
It has honestly always been a hobby and I owe most of my fanbase to OC ReMix. This year, however, I have pursued it as a career and my jobs that would be bringing money are slowly unfolding. I am doing sound design work and actively pursuing music gigs. But, if I had some sort of claim to my current fame it would be “Temple Trance.” I get more emails and comments about that than anything else I do, with “White Skies (Club Mix)” and “Jade Catacombs” coming in at a close second. I honestly don’t know how big my fanbase is anymore. Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, and YouTube are really not accurate when it comes to fan counts. I know it’s somewhere in the thousands, but not everyone takes the time to get involved in social media. I had older bLiNd accounts that I deleted a couple years back for different vanity URLs and my new social accounts are just now passing up the old fan and subscriber counts, so whatever, haha.
I really feel that there isn’t much of an awareness of my other name “Jordan Steven” yet either. I am not sure that people know that it’s also bLiNd but since the music is so different, no electronic or synthetic stuff, I figured it would be wise to have a professional name for it. So if I am hired to compose for a game or media it would be credited under that stage name, I suppose. I really feel however that studying music and making it a hobby and earning the fanbase was all happening simultaneously. OCR is a GREAT way for people to learn and be trained in a nest for production and composing skills. Most people from the community that are turning their hobbies into successful careers can testify to this fact. It was really great to be nourished in the community for nearly a decade. You can hear the difference in quality and knowledge as you listen to my music from 1998 (NESbeats) all the way to now, especially with the Dragons’ Odyssey music. I secretly studied orchestration, composition, arrangement, and practiced with libraries by recreating old game songs (MIDI rips) using the samples to prepare for a project like a JRPG for nearly six years. Luckily, a friend I knew in Japan got me the gig and I went all out with it. The game was mediocre and has been pushed back from being released on Steam and the Android platform for a while, which is where most of audience would be, so the only people that really know of it are some OCR folks. However, things are cooking for both bLiNd and Jordan Steven right now, so I am sure awareness of both should grow over the next couple years.
Who inspires you musically?
I find myself always listening to a huge variety of tunes, but very few really inspire me to write. When it comes to Jordan Steven music, it would definitely be the Squaresoft composers of old (Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, Hiroki Kikuda, and more recently Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu) as well as my favorite anime composer, Taku Iwasaki. When it comes to bLiNd and electronica, I would have to say The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, Propellerheads, Photek, Underworld, Fluke, Future Sound of London, Sasha, Noisia, Deadmau5, Skrillex, Kill the Noise, Crystal Method, Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, trancecontrol, and sooooo many more, I can’t list them all!
What is it like to manage both sides of your musical career (bLiNd vs. Jordan Steven)? Is it difficult, or does the duality of personas come naturally alongside their musical differences?
It’s sort of difficult, because once I get into one I REALLY have to switch gears to get into the other. It is two completely different mindsets because I am so meticulous with the details and quality of sounds. bLiNd is very much a different approach to sound and arrangement than the Jordan Steven stuff. Jordan Steven is more traditional in writing music, chords, melodies, arrangements and instrumentation. bLiNd is more about taking what already exists and making something new, although I do write original music from scratch, but it’s more rhythm/sound-focused than chords/melody-focused. I find, however, that the best bLiNd music tends to be the music that I write with the Jordan Steven approach and produce with the bLiNd approach. If I ever reach bigger success one day, it will be because of the dual approach and execution.
When it comes to projects and gigs, it can be overwhelming to do too much or take a lot on at once, so I try to focus on one project at a time and say no to the rest.
As bLiNd, you’re a house/electronic musician, but as Jordan Steven, you compose orchestral music. Have you ever written any music in the genres in between? Guitar-driven rock, or maybe chiptunes?
Actually, a big chunk of the Jordan Steven songs are guitar-driven rock tracks with orchestral elements. I have also done other styles like funk, disco, big band and various others as demos and work-in-progress songs and a few made it to the Dragons’ Odyssey soundtrack, so I would say I have a diverse taste and understanding. I have actually made some chiptunes already as bLiNd, but I never released them. I started a chiptune album called My Hed A_Splod after getting out of the hospital a couple years ago and made some funny/cool chiptune sounds, but never kept going with it. Maybe I will continue it in the future. 😉
What music have you had the most fun working on?
I would definitely have to say the Jordan Steven music. I will say mainly because I recorded my dad on guitar, my uncle on trumpet, worked with my cousin on piano arrangements, recorded another cousin’s wife on viola, and I had complete creative freedom on the songs themselves. They challenged me a bit to write for themes and the music was very emotional and melody driven, but it was so fresh to me after doing electronica for so long. However, I will say that NESterYears under bLiNd was a huge blast to make, and it was completed in less than 6 weeks after I started it. I want to do that again, just blast through albums of whatever I feel like remixing, because they get done faster! I tend to be sluggish when I am asked to remix stuff because there is an element of forcing inspiration, but it’s good to be challenged and commissioned sometimes.
Anything else you’d like to plug before the end of the interview? Maybe some news on what you’re currently working on?
I will say there are some great things coming up for bLiNd in the near future.
-I am currently working on a Beatport EP release and shopping labels but will most likely release through someone I know.
-I have a Patreon (http://patreon.com/blind) if anyone wants immediate access to my current music I am making right away and feels like supporting me with their wallets.
-Also my current EPs that are on OverClocked Records are also available on my Bandcamp/website as well, as physical CDs if anyone is interested in those (http://www.blindhandicap.com)
-I am also working on my first real album as bLiNd called Bluemotions which will be very trance-oriented, not as housey or electro-ish as my two current EPs on OverClocked Records. People were calling the EPs “albums,” but this album will be more than ten tracks most likely.
-Also, I am about to become a hermit as I am doing the music for a rhythm platformer game called Klang that just got funding in Norway, so I will be extremely focused on that for the next year starting this August. Which means other things may be on the backburner depending on how I prioritize. It is also a game soundtrack that won’t be released under the name Jordan Steven as it is EDM focused, so it is a bLiNd project 😉
-My next GameChops songs are two Sonic remixes that I started nearly 8 years ago and finished recently for the new Spindash album coming up.
-Also my next major GameChops release Chozo Legacy, which will be nearly an album of Super Metroid EDM remixes, is hopefully coming out this Fall, but it may not depending on the situations coming up. I did want to release it much earlier as it was the Super Metroid 20th anniversary in March and I missed it, regretfully… But hopefully I will still hit the 20-year mark. 😉
-Lastly, for Jordan Steven, the Dragons’ Odyssey game has been released on GamersGate and iOS for 2 years, but it is being prepped for Steam right now as well as the Android devices. The Steam version will be Japanese subbed, as it was requested not to have the English dub that I had done, but if you are interested it’s still available on GamersGate. The iOS version lets you choose either. I honestly don’t know when Exe-Create will be done with them, but the plan is to release the piano arrangements of the album done by my cousin Chad Twedt with the Steam release through Loudr.fm, iTunes, OverClocked Records and possibly bundle both OSTs with the game release. You can check out the preview and actually buy the physical disc on his website now at http://www.twedt.com.
Thanks for the opportunity to interview! Much more music coming very soon!
Thank you, Jordan! It was a pleasure to interview you, and we wish you only the best in your future musical endeavors. Jordan has four albums up for sale on OverClocked Records right now (two as bLiNd and two as Jordan Steven). We hope you enjoyed reading! And remember to check back often for new releases, artist interviews, and more!
New to OverClocked Records? Download our Free Music Sampler, containing 20 tracks of the best we have to offer.
Jack also appreciates both video game music and Michael Jackson and hopes that Jordan is aware that MJ worked on the soundtrack to Sonic the Hedgehog 3. If you know of any other VGM quirks and fun facts, don’t hesitate to tweet them to Jack at @jackedcunning!