We were lucky enough to have an interview with the wonderful Jeron Moore, the producer, showrunner, and lead creative of the currently-touring “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddess,” which is an ensemble of orchestrated pieces across the entire series. We learn a little more about his role in the tour, his experience with the Zelda series, and the importance of music in videogames.
Brett: What’s your role in the show? What do you exactly run?
Jeron: Well, ah, I’m the producer and the creative lead or creative director. With my and Chad Seiter’s “power” combined, we’re the planeteers. I kind of put all of the intellectual ideas together behind the actual narrative and how the show is structured and the decisions we made in terms of the music that we chose and what was necessary to tell the story we wanted to tell with the Zelda franchise, and how we wanted to illustrate each element and every melody and each piece of music. One of the things that makes this show special, is it’s the first time a video game themed concert has actually been organized into a four-movement symphony, complete with a prelude, we kick the show off with a big overture. A lot of people only heard that, the overture that was at E3 last year and that was kind of a taste test. We were sort of doing a trial run with that to announce the show, and the limited show, which was the 25th anniversary in October. That show happened, and this show is definitely carrying the banner and expanding the ideas and bringing it to a broader, wider audience.
B: That’s great. Were you the producer as well for the 25th anniversary, shortened edition.
J: I was. It was me, and I work our composer and music director Chad Seiter, and then Jason Michael Paul is the executive producer.
B: Excellent. Now did you have to play a lot of Zelda in preparation for all of this?
J: Oh, no, no, I grew up playing Zelda. I didn’t have to touch the games at all because they’re kind of on constant repeat in my brain and I’m jammin’ to Zelda tunes when I’m not on the job.
B: Definitely, because music is a huge part of those games.
J: Well, I mean, I’m a big music fan but I grew up loving orchestral music and film music. My background is in film and television production, producing and directing and that’s where my education is, and I just kind of grew up with a love and passion for musical storytelling. Being a young gamer, y’know, having a Nintendo and being right at the right age to get the first Zelda when it first came out, I’ve just kind of latched onto all those melodies and tunes. It’s been interesting because gaming didn’t start with the Nintendo Entertainment System. It did for me, I had an Atari before that but I didn’t really, y’know, that’s different. It’s been interesting being able to see the scope and the growth of game music from then to now, and it’s really grown up. The industry is really doing some interesting and fun and advanced things with it.
B: Definitely, yeah it’s definitely becoming much more of a part of the whole experience rather than just an added on experience.
J: Well, and I saw an article the other day, I wish I knew where it was I saw it. It may have been io9 or some news site. It was something about how video game soundtracks, they were kind of throwing a question out there and then kind of discussing it, that are video game soundtracks becoming the new concept albums, and I think that’s an interesting question, and definitely a valid one. I think it was in context with the new Starhawk soundtrack that came out for the PS3 which has been getting a lot of attention lately.
B: The footage that you use in the background while the orchestra is playing, do you take that right from the game, or is that something you produced on your own? Tell me a little more about that.
J: Well, it’s funny. So, Nintendo wanted to be very involved in that, and they’re involved in every aspect of the show, so it’s important for them to see everything before it goes out and approve everything and make sure that it’s in line with their vision for the brand, and of course we want that; we want that consistency and we want them to be happy with it. Fortunately, most everything we’ve done has been a matter of that formality and it’s passed on through with just very little feedback. They’ve just been very happy, and it’s fun, and it’s also a great compliment because it’s a testament to mine and Chad’s fanaticism for this franchise and sort of how well we know it. In terms of the video, they would actually have an internal video development team and a capturing team would work with them and instead of having one of those poor souls who has to play all of those games, because capturing video footage is not as easy as it might seem. There’s actually an element of acting involved, I mean you can capture the same thing ten times and it’s not going to be until the thirtieth time until you get that perfectly smooth commercial… exactly the ideal execution of a certain scene. There was a little back-and-forth from me, because what I would do is edit most of the video and supervise most of the editing as well.
We had a couple of guys working on it as well- I would basically set them loose and I would go and scavenge Youtube and look at all the “Let’s Plays” that people have been doing, and I would select the scenes that I thought best illustrated; I conceptually told the story the way I wanted to tell it and we would put together this hybrid video that highlighted the sequences in a narrative fashion and told the story the music was telling. We would present it to Nintendo and they would go and actually recapture every frame- lovingly- every frame that I presented them with so that it was crisp, clear, the highest quality that we could have. Sometimes it wouldn’t come back to my satisfaction, so I’d have to send it back and say “Ugh, tell the guy to stop rolling around everywhere; rolling around Hyrule Field just to get to the next area fast, because he had so much to capture… Tell him to run free through Hyrule Field for a little bit, I kind of need some of that. If I have him rolling around in every video, the audience is gonna think it’s silly!”. He might have jumped over something incorrectly, or turned the wrong way- in particular, there’s a Ganondorf battle from Ocarina of Time; we have a whole Ocarina section that illustrates that entire final battle, from when he’s battling Ganondorf, to where the castle is being destroyed, to where he transforms into Ganon, and that was reallyhard to edit, because you play that game and it’s basically all in one take and it has to almost be restructured dramatically, so that the music makes sense and is exciting. I mean we’ve all been there: to watch someone play the Ganondorf battle, it’s kind of boring unless you’re actually playing. It’s like a tennis match, or ping-pong, so editing that- when you see it on Wednesday night, you’ll see that there are multiple angles and perspectives. We weren’t able to free the camera from being locked to the character, but there are some clever edits that make that scene move more kinetically and you know, flow with the music more appropriately than it would if you just plugged the music in.
B: That’s great, just hearing that you’re doing a whole section on that, because I’m sure everyone from my generation and myself included, just that whole final boss scene is such a pivotal moment of my childhood, like I finally triumphed over something that made me feel proud- it’s just great.
J: Well, that’s cool! That’s part of the goal. Warning- there are spoilers in this concert. If you don’t want to see the end of a game, close your eyes, because we tell the story, and we want those who have lived through Zelda and played the games to be able to relive the adventure and relive those moments, and feel the same sense of accomplishments as we finish a movement. We want to move you, sometimes to tears; we’ve gotten quite a bit of that on the tour so far, which is really rewarding, but it’s necessary to have all those moments in there. I think you’ll dig what we’ve done.
B: Yea, I look forward to it. I wanna thank you, Jeron, for coming out. I know you’re probably under a tight schedule.
J: Nah, I’m good, I’m good.
B: You’re good?
J: I am. Thank you, do you have any more questions?
B: I think that wraps it up, we tried to keep it a little on the shorter side.
B: Thank you so much for that, we really appreciate it.
J: Yea, take care, thanks for the opportunity, and good luck, have fun at the show, all of E3; It’s gonna be a blast.
B: Take care!
To see if Symphony of the Goddess is coming to a venue near you, check out the full schedule.