Trey Hodge Interview: Trying New Things
Two weeks ago, I had no idea who Trey Hodge was. I didn’t know that he is a studio guitarist of 15 years, that he has collaborated with several artists from Materia Collective, or that he rocks a cowboy hat (see below). When Trey reached out to me, he sent a preview of his recently released track “Rainbow Road” (see above) and asked me to feature it. Needless to say, I was hooked, and binged his entire discography before asking him to do an interview. If you’re aren’t familiar with Trey Hodge, here’s your chance to get to know him—I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Making friends through the arranging and recording process never gets old.
When did you start writing music?
I started writing music almost as soon as I began learning to play. I couldn’t help it. It was so infectious learning how to play all these cool songs and riffs that I just had to try writing my own. I ended up writing original songs for several of the rock bands I played in during high school and college.
What instrument did you start with?
I started with piano when I was about 8 years old, but I only took about 4 lessons before I quit. I really started taking music seriously when I began playing guitar at 14. I took to it quickly and never stopped.
When/how did you discover video game music?
I’ve loved video game music since before I was playing music. I remember loving the music for Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt, back when those two came in a single cartridge together.
When/how did you discover the VGM community?
That came much, much later. I began getting involved with VGM covers/creation after attending the inaugural PAX South in 2015 and meeting Akash Thakkar, Ryan Ike, and Jacob Pernell. They gave a talk about game music, and I immediately wanted to get involved. By chance, I stumbled upon the first Materia Collective album, emailed them about getting involved, and took it from there.
What makes the VGM community so unique in your opinion?
I cannot express how helpful, open, and supportive everyone is. I have yet to interact with anyone that isn’t polite, low-key, and easy to approach.
What's been your favorite experience in the VGM community so far?
Being involved with Materia Collective community albums. I’ve been able to record for more people than ever before. Making friends through the arranging and recording process never gets old.
You tend to favor traditional rock arrangements as well as more experimental/ambient songs. What's the balance for you?
I’m not really sure there is a balance. I like trying new things and just letting the sounds dictate my direction.
Sometimes, I’ll hear a song and just know what I want to do and have a plan, but typically, I’ll choose a song and focus on what it’s making me feel. That’s either from a memory or an emotion related to the game/song. Then, I’ll load up a synth or turn some amp knobs. Whatever sounds come out that tap into those feelings will direct where I go from there. There’s never a plan for, “Well, the last one was synth-y and experimental, so I better do some rockin’ this time.”
What are some of your biggest non-VGM influences?
90s rock/alternative/pop/grunge. Some 80s here and there. I’m such a huge fan of 90s music that I’m usually getting some kind of ideas from there. Specific guitar influences are probably all the regulars: Metallica, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, etc. Still, I love melodies and fun songs, and the 90s had that in spades.
Who are some people that you admire in the VGM community?
Anyone who is trying new things, I love all the new EDM and Chill tunes coming out.
More specifically, I love people who have built an audience and managed to stay fresh throughout long periods, like RichaadEB, FamilyJules, and my good friend Sean Schafianski (Video Game Music Remastered). Sean has been an invaluable source of help and advice.
What's a VGM track that you want to arrange?
I’m dying to get around to doing a cover of “Prisoners of Fate” from Chrono Cross. I’ve got a bunch of ideas, but nothing has solidified yet. That song has so much power to it, I think I’m scared I’ll ruin it.
Do you enjoy arranging covers or writing originals more?
That’s a really hard question. I love working on originals, and typically I work with my wife, my brother, and my close friends to make those happen. It’s always a blast to truly create and express something new.
That being said, working on covers has a really high return on investment for me in terms of emotional involvement. I love seeing other people relive some nostalgia when they hear these covers. So, I’m going to go with covers.
What are some musical goals that you want to achieve within the next year?
I have a secret album planned for release in the spring, and I really want to start growing engagement through my YouTube channel. I’m attempting to be consistent in uploading what I’m calling “fireside chats” about why I choose certain songs to cover. I really want folks to listen to these stories and then come hang out and share their own stories and memories about these games.
What's one thing that you want people to know about you?
I’ve been a studio guitarist for about 15 years, so I’m always trying to leverage that experience in helping others learn music production and recording. I started my other YouTube channel (www.YouTube.com/TreyMixes) to help with just that. So, if anyone reading this wants extra advice on mixing and production, please check that out and email/message me any questions—I love answering questions. I also offer mixing and guitar tracking services as well.
Do you have any upcoming releases that you can talk about?
I have a regular cover releasing every other week on all music platforms, so be on the lookout for those. The next one is from Shadow of the Colossus and has a slamming guitar solo and breakdown, so I’m definitely all about that.