ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: David Russell

By Monica Wang

David Russell is one of the co-leaders and directors of the “Multiplayer III: Wave” project, the third installment of a series of cover albums dedicated to raising money for charities across the world. This time around, they invited performers and arrangers from Materia Collective to join in on the experience, and are in the process of raising money for Water.Org with each album purchase.

“Multiplayer III: WAVE sort of spawned from the pun of audio file formats,” says Russell, who is also known in the game music world as one of the leading faces behind Project Destati. “In our conversations from earlier in the year, Ro [WAVE’s other co-director] and I would refer to the next Multiplayer album as MP3 and laugh at the relevance of the name. MP3:WAVe was just a natural arrival for us. We had been discussing themes for the album, and in this instance, this year’s theme grew naturally from the joke.”

Each album in the Multiplayer franchise focuses on raising money for a different charity; the first two are also available on iTunes, both with different themes and challenges to the musicians. WAVE, which raises money for Water.Org, features an appropriate slew of water themes in the spirit of its charity, and has raised over $1,000 in its first week of release.

Name?
HELLO. I’m David Russell / DavidRussell323 most everywhere on the interwebs~

Musical Background (What sort of musical projects are you/have you been involved in? How did you get started in music?)
Mm, let’s see—I really started music because I wanted something to do while I was at home after school. Pianists were always freaking me out with their spider-hands, and I wanted to know how the heck they did things. So, one day in middle school, I was accepted to a private piano teacher’s after-school class, and I just continued training up until I left the state for college. I almost quit playing music when I was 14 or 15 years old due to the stress of adapting to high school and learning continually more difficult pieces, but playing piano VGM scores on the side of the pieces I was assigned weekly is what pushed me over that wall of apathy. I’m so happy I’m still a musician.

Some of the projects I’ve been involved in recently have been the Multiplayer Charity annual releases (co-directing with Ro Panuganti), and Project Destati’s Kingdom Hearts reorchestrations (alongside Kristin Naigus and Sebastian Wolff). Lots of plans for the future though!

What was the first video game you played?
Oh, that’s going back, hmm. The first videogame that comes to mind is Pokémon Red—I loved that thing, and I brought my gameboy to school so I could play it on the long bus rides home. The first console game I remember playing with my brothers was probably just a few months after that: Frogger and NASCAR 98 for the Playstation 1!

What does video game music mean to you?
VGM is so, so interesting because it’s intended to be a piece to accompany an interactive medium of storytelling. Because of this, videogame music holds in it the memories of the story by which it was separated from. I can’t listen to a piece like Scherzo di Notte without also recalling the entire buildup of the Kingdom Hearts protagonist to get to the Hollow Bastion world in the game.

Although there are innumerably many pieces that stand on their own (such as much of Austin Wintory’s work, or the OST of Life is Strange and similar games), VGM scores are enhanced in their listening experience by also adding an additional element of recollection to those who have experienced the medium by which the music was meant to accompany. Without making it sound like too big of a deal, I think that videogame music will be the classical music of this generation. It has value as an expression of creativity that is, in many ways, unmatched by other forms of music.

Why did you participate with the Materia Collective? How did you get involved?
Hahaha, well, if I remember correctly… I think Sebastian was messaging Kristin and myself about wanting to put together an album to celebrate the FF7Remake that was announced. Just sort of gauging interest. His specialty is building communities, and when he threw us all in a group, the unnamed Materia Collective was spawned. It’s since grown to this massive record label, but at the time, it was just another themed album project. Happy to have watched it grow as large as it has!

If you could have any dream job in the music world, what would it be?
My dream job in music—I think it’d be a dream to arrange tunes that later turn into pieces to be played for a VGM concert. As an aside, I’m really pretty happy uploading new jams to the youtubes, playing piano for friends’ arrangements, and working on new arrangements for albums.

How do you deal with constructive criticism?
I take it well! I’ll be the first to admit I know very little about some specifics of mixing, but my experiences come from experimentation. If someone were to tell me that an arrangement doesn’t fit the story I’m trying to convey, or something could sound better with a mixing change, I’ll typically try out the changes needed and give the piece another listen.

Often times, when given a critique, the change ends up being positive! So, I’m thankful I can call upon friends to evaluate my pieces.

In an alternate reality, what would your passion be instead of music/video games?
Oh man, hmm. I love to travel and hike around when I can. In an alternate reality, I feel like I would be a photographer who captures scenes in different countries. Cooking is also another passion I find myself doing quite a lot! Maybe I’d be aiming for a Michelin Star at a restaurant specializing in soups or something? Dream big!

What inspires you, as a musician?
Honestly, the people in the community. So many work impossibly hard at perfecting their craft, and I aspire to be as dedicated as the folks around me. Jazz fusion masterminds, soulful rock ballad creators, tear-jerking wind and string specialists, as well as the incredibly skilled pianists I looked up to when I was younger!

What’s something about you most people might not know?
I went to school and became a Chemistry major because I didn’t get a passing score on my AP chemistry exam ayyyo~

If you are in a room of 50 strangers for an hour, about how many of them would you introduce yourself to and/or try to get to know?
fhlahfshua um, veeery few. (I’d probably be found standing at the food table eating all the things until the hour was up

What age would you want to be/look like forever (physically)?
Mm, I don’t really mind. As long as my fingers and brain are workin’ okay, I’m really fine with just about anything. I guess 28 might be okay.

If you could make any fictional character real and also be your best friend, who would you pick?
Xion from Kingdom Hearts! She’s just…the best. Axel would be hilarious to hang out with as well hahahaha. So sessy

Favorite Pokémon? Munchlax!

Favorite color? Purple! The color of SPACE. 

Favorite video game/soundtrack/song?
Videogame series: Kingdom Hearts
Soundtrack: Kingdom Hearts, Ace Attorney, Ori and the Blind Forest…there are so many
Song: Oh geez, this changes on a near-hourly basis, but right now I’m really digging “Sacred Somnom Woods” from Mario & Luigi Dream Team. Yoko Shimomura’s music is just other-worldly.

Favorite Meme?
disappointed

Who do you main in Super Smash Bros?
Jigglypuff! Her floatyness always catches my brothers off guard lolol. Lucas is also great. Floaty characters <3

If you had to pick an emoji/emoticon to represent yourself, which one would you pick? ᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ 🌴

Most anticipated game?
I’m most looking forward to Kingdom Hearts 3!

BONUS QUESTION:

Any musical endeavors you haven’t done yet that you want to tackle? Different genres, games, instruments?
Yes! Always a new project to work on! So, recently, I’ve been exploring the how sound works between acoustic guitar & piano arrangements, as well as arrangements featuring saxophone & piano.

One of my goals is to expand to exploring the sound of many other instruments when combined with piano—trombone, viola, and flute arrangements are things I’m interested in really thoroughly exploring in the future!