Published on October 28th, 2015 | by Mike Scherf1
Soundtracks to your Life: A Conversation about Ship to Shore Phono Co.
The Mother video game series, the second of which was released as EarthBound in America for the Super Nintendo, is a precious thing to a certain sub section of gamers. It’s one of the few and pure video game franchises left. Fans beg for a new game, re-releases, merchandise, ANYTHING… and Nintendo seems to react more often than not with a shrug. Mother 3 was never released in America (despite fans constantly asking for it) and small nods to the fan base such as a digital re-release of the first Mother or an Amiibo of Ness (the protagonist of EarthBound) are gobbled up.
That’s why back in April of this year a Kickstarter campaign for a re-release on vinyl of an arranged soundtrack for Mother caught my attention. Could it be? There’s small nod that appeals to both my gamer and vinyl collector side? And how is this even possibly legal? Would Nintendo allow this with the way they’ve handled the franchise in America?
The answer is, kind of. Because it wasn’t Nintendo’s decision to make. Nintendo sold/licensed the rights to Sony, who did a CD release long ago. So the ball was in Sony’s hands.
“For Mother, it was a very long process and we talked for a year and a half with Sony, who owns the rights. It was a very expensive process and there were a lot of royalties involved with it obviously being a Nintendo game,” he said. “It was an expensive thing and I didn’t know if we put it up for preorder if we would have paid for it. We could not have paid for it without hitting our Kickstarter goal. We raised way more money than we thought we would and it allowed us to do this.”
“I’ve just always been a huge fan of the Mother series. I rented EarthBound when I was younger and I especially loved the music. When I was older I discovered EarthBound was actually a sequel to a game, so I went back and played Mother and I loved that. I subsequently found out there was this arranged CD of this crazy Beach Boy-esque pop album and I after listening to it, it’s been in constant rotation ever since. When we started doing the record label it was one of the first things I wanted to do.”
And crazy it is. Think pop music, crossed with game music… with vocals. But there’s a little something for everyone on the release, whether you like straight game music or dig the arranged performances. Mastered for vinyl from Welcome to 1979 Studios in Nashville, it’s a pretty comprehensive piece for fans of the Mother series, vinyl, and video games in general.
“The game music is on there as well on the fourth side. It’s a medley and a nicely arranged medley. Once it gets in to the ending of it when they into the battle with Giygas it’s very very good,” he said. But the arranged stuff I like a lot, especially the instrumentals. The instrumental to Snowman is really something and they did great job with it. “Snowman,” “Fallin’ Love,” and “Magicant” are just amazing pieces of music.”
Because the Kickstarter for the re-release of the Mother arranged soundtrack went so well, why not shoot for the stars and try to do a release of the EarthBound soundtrack? EarthBound, or Mother 2, is widely regarded as one of the best video game OSTs ever and releasing it would be a jewel of any label’s crown. Ship to Shore Phono Co. was able to pull that off as well.
“I knew Sony also put out the (Mother 2/ EarthBound) CD as well, so after we put in the order for Mother I was like ‘Hey, how about Mother 2?’ They asked Japan and they said alright. The Mother 2 process was so much faster than Mother,” Hammel said.
“The Mother 2 soundtrack is game music and nothing is arranged. It’s edited together, but it’s all game music. There’s a track called “Winters”, but that track contains three different musical parts from that part of the game. So it’s edited together to form suites and the D-Side has all remixes. It doesn’t include every piece of music from the game, but I think it tells the story of the game very well which makes it an interesting piece.”
And fear not EarthBound fans – all the homages paid to American and British pop music are still there.
“That stuff is on there. It was part of the CD and I was wondering if that would come up when I was talking to Sony, but it never did,” he said. “But it’s all there; that slowed down opening to “All You Need is Love,” the drums from the “Sgt. Pepper’s Reprise,” it’s all still on there.”
Both soundtracks are up on the Ship to Shore Phono Co. site now and available for pre-order, with the goal to ship in early January. When I spoke with Aaron, he said the jackets were in the process of being printed. But this might not be a release you want to drag your feet on. Because of the cost of licensing, once they’re gone they’re gone with no plans to re-release.
But Mother and Mother 2 aren’t all Ship to Shore Phono Co. do for vinyl releases. Aaron met the other co-founder of the label, Justin Martell, on the set of Return to Nuke ‘Em High (Aaron was an Assistant Director and Justin was a Producer). Both were record collectors and become fast friend. Turns out Justin is deeply interested in Tiny Tim and wanted to release an unreleased Tiny Tim song on an Edison cylinder. They put it out and immediately sold out, so thought why not dive fully into the business and start putting out records.
Since that Tiny Tim release, they’ve put out soundtracks on vinyl such as The Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Martin, and Manos: The Hands of Fate. Between these releases and the two Mother releases, it’s a pretty diverse set of releases worth checking out.
But at the end of the day, Aaron says it’s not about just releasing one genre of music. It’s more about creating pieces that mean something to them and to fans.
“It was interesting to me that a lot of people who bought it or would message us would say they don’t own a record player but they wanted to buy it (the Mother arranged soundtrack) anyway, or they were buying a record player specifically to hear it,”
“I think that, other than the Ness Amiibo, this record is one of the only pieces of EarthBound merchandise that has come out in America. I’m happy to bring it here too.”