Hashel Interview: One Man, Many Hats
Hashel is a man that wears many hats—arranger, producer, fan, community leader. Maybe you know him from his YouTube channel, or maybe you lurked on the gametabs forums. Most likely, you know him as the fearless leader of Pixel Mixers, but whatever the case, you know that he has passion for video game music and the community that surrounds it.
I never intended to build a community.
How did you discover the VGM community?
My very first contact with the VGM world was a pure coincidence. I was looking for some Final Fantasy OSTs to download, and on a French website (FFDream), there was a remix album amongst the OSTs. It was “Voices of the Lifestream” by OverClocked ReMix.
I was blown away to discover fan-made arrangements of my favorite VGM, and I wanted more. So, I searched on the internet and discovered people on Youtube making covers. Sadly, most of them do not produce covers anymore, with the exception of Songe (previously SongeLeReveur).
When did you first start creating VGM covers?
I’ve been playing guitar since I was 20, and it was around the same time that I discovered those VGM channels, so naturally I felt the itch to try to do the same. I found some websites with tabs (UltimateGuitar, GameTabs, etc.), and in 2010 I finally found the courage to upload my first covers to Youtube. Most of these are not online anymore, for my sake and the sake of everyone’s ears.
How did you discover gametabs.net?
It was thanks to Calebelijah’s Youtube channel. He was one of the very first VGM cover channels I found, and he made tabs for his arrangements and uploaded them to Gametabs. So, I simply followed the links in the description of his videos.
How did you become involved with gametabs.net?
Mostly by being a very active and enthusiastic user. There were contests (VGM-inspired original songs), a great forum with lots of passionate people, and a “recordings” section where people shared their covers, etc. Over the years, I became one of the veterans.
What are some of your favorite memories on gametabs.net?
That’s hard to pick. It’s where I uploaded my first cover, where I did my first collab, and it’s where I composed my first original song ever. That being said, the very first VGM tribute album that I organized was truly something special.
A bunch of people uploaded several FFVII covers on the same weekend, and I made the suggestion “Hey, why not make a compilation of FFVII covers, just like OCR did!” To my surprise, people went “Let’s do it!”, and it was a really fun experience.
When did the idea for Pixel Mixers come about?
This may surprise you but…never.
I never intended to build a community. All I wanted to do was to create fun projects for the folks on Gametabs and keep the website active. But Gametabs started to face issues—there were bot attacks that made the website inaccessible for weeks and months, and we had to find a new place for our activities.
What is the goal of PM in your opinion?
This may sounds simplistic but making projects together. On a personal level, I needed to feel like I was part of something bigger than myself, to make bonds with other people.
So, if we can offer an opportunity for passionate people who want to have fun with other VGM fans, then I’ll feel like PM succeeded.
I want Pixel Mixers to still be active 10 years from now.
How did Pixel Mixers become associated with the r/VGCovers subreddit?
Back in the days when the albums and contests on Gametabs were still doing well, we were joined by Ro Panuganti who participated in our Zelda and our Boss Battle albums in 2015, and also in some contests.
During this time, he created the VGCovers subreddit and offered to also share the contests and albums there. However, due to the issues mentioned previously, the website had to close (temporarily). That’s when Ro offered us shelter on the VGCovers subreddit so we wouldn’t have to stop our activities. We moved the gametabs crew, the contests, and also the freshly-started FFVIII Tribute Album project to Reddit.
As it made no sense to keep on calling ourselves and our projects “gametabs”, we voted for a new name, and that’s how we went from Gametabs to Pixel Mixers.
How has Pixel Mixers grown over the last few years?
We went from a bunch of buddies to a 500+ people community in 4 years. I’m more than happy about it and am still amazed to see people joining our projects just for the love of making VGM Covers. I still don’t fully realize it sometimes, and it’s not always easy for me to switch to a more “professional” attitude than before, but I’m trying to improve and also share more responsibilities with others.
This year Ben (Bullicann) has been in charge of the Contests (previously, it was Subversiveasset), and I can now count on other people to organize (Dewey Newt with MMX) or co-organize (Bullicann with our future Zelda MM+OoT) albums.
I think it’s for the best, and I hope to keep going in that direction. They all did a great job with those responsibilities, and I’m really thankful that they agreed to help.
Who created the website for Pixel Mixers?
Me, with the help of a friend to set it up at first (cause I’m a noob). Now, I’m dealing with all the album-related articles and with how the website looks. Also, Kain White writes the monthly articles to highlight the top 5 most-upvoted covers from the VGCovers subreddit, and Danilo Ciaffi writes articles about the original albums from some of our members and articles about where to find to cool freebie VSTs.
What are some of your favorite PM albums?
I’m a Nobuo Uematsu and Mitsuda fan boy, so all our FF albums and our XenoGears album are amongst my favourites. If I had to pick my favourite, I’d say FFIX, mostly because of the source.
Now, if you ask me which one has the best production in general, I’d say our Ecco the Dolphin one. The album is very coherent in terms of quality from song to song, and I hope we manage to keep on slowly raising the bar.
Describe the PM community?
That’s a difficult task, but I’d say that we’re a bunch of very passionate people. Our community is VERY active on Discord, and we certainly talk too much ahah.
Of course, the best way to answer that question is to actually come and see for yourself. Our Discord is open to everyone, musician or not. So, come say hi at https://discord.gg/2YmK66G
Where do you want PM to grow in the future?
As we grow, we need to be careful not to burn out the musicians, the album organizers, and the quality control team. As we still have no plans to sell albums, I’d like to use that freedom to make tributes to smaller and lesser-known games even if it means that those projects will be less “successful”. I like to imagine that PM can help people to discover cool games and music they’ve never heard of before.
It’s also important to make sure that the community can work in the long run—I want PM to still be active 10 years from now. To achieve that, we can’t be too dependent on a single person. That’s why I’m really happy that our first test with someone else organizing an album is doing well.
Is there anything else that you want to say about PM?
I never thought I’d feel so close to people I’ve never met (yet), and I thank them all for that!
Are there any upcoming personal or PM projects that you want to mention?
We’re just released our tribute album to Ecco the Dolphin, and will be releasing a Mega Man X album very soon. We also just started work on a Valkyrie Profile 1 & 2 project, which is a niche series with fantastic music and probably my guilty pleasure project of 2019!
After that, we’ll work on a tribute album to Ocarina of Time AND Majora’s Mask, then a 20th anniversary Chrono Cross project that will be our annual “collab only album”. Finally, we’ll start a Pokémon Silver/Gold/Crystal album. So, clearly there are some big projects that will keep use busy and hyped, and I hope you all will enjoy those!