Stevie Pilgrim Interview: Garden State Sweetheart

If you’ve heard his music, you know that Stevie Pilgrim is one of the more unique voices in the VGM community. The easiest way to describe his music is VGM Gorillaz, but that’s an oversimplification so I wanted to know more about this artist and what makes him tick. Who are his inspirations? Does he prefer covers or original music more? Why does he think that New Jersey is the best state?

I would add my own beats, melodies, and harmonies. I didn't know it at the time, but I was dissecting the song.

How long have you been making music?

I’ve been making music since I was a child, starting with a tape recorder. I’ve been playing piano for over 20 years—classically trained, the whole nine. As far as YouTube goes, (I think) seven years and counting.

How did you get into making video game covers?

I used to beat box or hum while playing video games as a child. I would stand still at locations in the game, say in Peach's Castle or in the Forest Temple, and just listen, hoping to understand what the song was trying to accomplish. What made it stand out? What part of it was especially fantastic? Heck, I still do it now. 

I would add my own beats, melodies, harmonies, as well as sing the melodies in a 'trumpet' voice or an 'electric synth' sound. I didn't know it at the time, but I was dissecting the song. As I got older and had access to technology, I would take the way I heard the songs growing up and attempt to re-create what I heard. 

What are some your favorite composers/musicians (VGM or otherwise)?

For video game music, Koji Kondo, Kazumi Totaka, Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka. For classical music, I'd say Chopin, Bach and Satie. As for other inspirations, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Ottis Redding, Lady Gaga, Smokey Robison, Ray Charles, Dr. John, St. Vincent, and Janelle Monae. The list goes on, but these are my roots. 

I play all of my music live when I record it. I use these influences as references and ask “what would they do?” or “how would they play this live at a show?”. Then, I take it from there.

How would you define your music?

Funk/Soul. I grew up with Motown.  

Do you get a different enjoyment from releasing an original track vs. releasing a cover?

Not really, no.

Which do you prefer: covers of video game music or original music inspired by a particular video game?

Depends on how hungry I am.

I'm not re-inventing the wheel or anything, but I use to think my talent was useless for a long, long time.

You're currently working on a fangame called Danganronpa F: Shattered Hope . Can you describe that process?

Very fulfilling, but also scary. I want to make sure that I capture the vibes of the games. This is no easy task because in many ways those songs are so wickedly unique it's hard to recapture it. I want to make sure the fans of the games (our target audience) can relate to it as well. The best part is that I can write whatever the hell I want via the themes of the scenes I compose for. 

You've frequently collaborated with NoteBlock. Can you describe that collaboration process? 

Lately, we haven't been as active. We’ve both been busy—I being a music teacher and he with college/his partner. From past experiences, working with him has been quite wonderful. He has grown so much, and I wish only the best for him. I love working with him, he's got a good ear, and I am so happy I am close friends with him.

What has been the biggest challenges for you as a musician?

Truthfully, it was accepting that I have a good talent. I'm not re-inventing the wheel or anything, but I use to think my talent was useless for a long, long time. When I became a teacher, I realized that I was good thanks to my students. Again, not the next Mozart, but I knew I had the chops. I've never been happier than I am now. 

What do you consider your greatest strengths as a musician?

How I play the piano and my ear. My close friend Zac, who is the best musician I know personally, told me that he wished he had my ear. That was the best compliment I ever received. You should hear this guy—he will blow you away. He is a bassist and is just fantastic. I know a lot of musicians, and he is absolutely the top of the crop. 

New Jersey is the best state. I come from NJ, and it's the best.

Describe the process of creating "Snowman" for GameLark Gifts. Why did you choose that track? What was your experience with the album?

I was listening to LCD Soundsystem at the time, like a lot of LCD Soundsystem. I always liked how they had their sound effects played live when they recorded or did a show. I wanted to do that with 'Snowman.' I essentially recorded the tune like how they did. I wanted to see how LCD Soundsystem would recreate a Mother song. Seriously, listen to LCD Soundsystem. You won't be sorry. After you read this interview, do it.

What are you plans for the future?  

Stay close with my brother.

Do you have anything that you want people to know about yourself or your music?

New Jersey is the best state. I come from NJ, and it's the best. We gave you Danny DeVito, Patrick Warburton and Queen f**kin' Latifah. What more do you slobs want?

Stevie Pilgrim - Garden State Sweetheart

Stevie Pilgrim - Garden State Sweetheart