ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Jacob Pernell

By Monica Wang

Jacob is one of the few people in Materia Collective that I knew before I joined. In fact, we first met at an Eric Whitacre event, where we connected very quickly due to both of us participating in video game music performance groups in college.

It was through Jacob that I was exposed to the indie video game music scene and began learning more about the components of the game audio industry, meeting many of the people behind the scenes in the process. In person, Jacob is incredibly open and fun, with a bright, positive personality and boundless enthusiasm for the projects he embarks upon.

Jacob Pernell

Which is why when I heard that Jacob would be on of the co-producers for PATTERN, I was very excited to not only participate on the project, but also thrilled for Jacob. Knowing how he felt about the game and watching his enthusiasm and love translate into such a beautiful homage firsthand was a joy.

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have experienced in a very long time”, said Jacob, and it is this sentiment I find echoed in PATTERN. Such appreciation and passion, both of which Jacob strongly possesses, are the key ingredients to making great works of art; just like the game from which it is inspired and drawn from, PATTERN is truly a beautiful musical artwork.

Name? Jacob Pernell 

Musical Background (What sort of musical projects are you/have you been involved in? How did you get started in music?)
Growing up I was surrounded by games and music. Primarily self-taught, I’d bang on pots and pans and keyboards and any other instrument I could get my hands on and I played everything from Pokémon to Halo.

In high school, I learned about FL Studio and started making music for the games my friends and I would create in Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash. I continued making my own games and making music on the side throughout undergrad at UC Santa Cruz, and realized that I wanted to make game music full time! I am now grateful to say that I have created music and audio for various indie games such as Failsafe, OFFWORLD, SNOWHORSE (theme song), and Close Castles.

What was the first video game you played?
Two weeks before I was born, my mother beat the original Legend of Zelda… so by proxy, that one! But the first game I remember playing was Duck Hunt / Super Mario Bros for the NES.

What does video game music mean to you?
Woah, great question! For me, VGM is all about connection, world-building, and storytelling. Different themes (whether the theme be melodic or textural in nature) can help you connect with characters, places, and moments in a game. It not only binds you to the game, but with others who have also played the game as well… it creates an opportunity for people around the world to share an experience.

Just look at how quickly the Materia Collective formed to celebrate the music of FF7, for example! 🙂 VGM is community building!

Why did you participate with the Materia Collective? How did you get involved?
I am fortunate to call Sebastian one of my close friends, and when he told me he put a call out looking for artists to help with the first album, MATERIA, I hopped on board without question! Before MATERIA, I hadn’t actually done much music remixing/cover songs, so this was a super fun opportunity to try that out as well. I also got to help out with some production tasks for the album, and have since helped co-produce a few others.

If you could have any dream job in the music world, what would it be?
Lately, I have been diving in pretty heavily into virtual reality audio and development, creating various prototypes and experiences in my free time.

Most of my experiments are musical in nature, and some things I’m working on right now are a ‘virtual reality virtual choir’ project (inspired by Eric Whitacre, one of my favorite composers) and a music visualizer + DJ experience (with llamas, because why not make everything llama-themed?).

Since my VR work right now is mostly personal and for fun, I suppose my dream in this case would be to fast forward to when I am getting paid at least a living wage so I can create my VR and music experiments full time as an independent developer/composer!

How do you deal with constructive criticism?
I think as artists and creatives we can have a tendency to take things personally. Any art we create is a form of self-expression, an extension of ourselves in some way. It’s super important to have that vulnerability though because I feel that’s what creates the best art.

For me, it took many years of practice to realize that everybody communicates differently, and when it comes to constructive criticism from a game director for example, it usually is with the bigger picture for the game in mind. In other words, I do my best now to realize that any constructive criticism isn’t a personal attack on me, but instead is the developer sharing his or her vision for the project and seeing how we can adjust my music to fit that vision so that it creates the most impact for the game in the long run.

I’m still working on it, and may never become an expert at it, but I think there’s a balance to be found with being vulnerable and pouring my heart into the track, but having tough-enough skin that when the change requests come in, it doesn’t shatter my spirit completely.

In an alternate reality, what would your passion be instead of music/video games?
I almost majored in astrophysics in undergrad! I think if I wasn’t doing VGM, I would spend my time searching the universe for new planets and/or researching string theory and relativity.

What inspires you, as a musician?
Art! I’m a very visual person, and when I’m looking for inspiration for a game I’m working on for example, the first thing I will turn to is concept art for that game.

It helps place me into the world more, so that I can close my eyes and have an easier time imagining what the world of the game I’m scoring looks like, feels like, and sounds like. I am also incredibly inspired by my friends, many of whom are game designers and game audio professionals. Seeing them get fired up and passionate about what they’re working on helps make me feel fired up as well!

What’s something about you most people might not know?
In the 7th grade, my best friend Sean and I were bored so we memorized about 70 digits past the decimal of pi. We recited it to our math teacher in hopes that we would receive extra credit (spoilers: we never got extra credit…). To this day, I still remember a good handful of digits! *ahem* 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209… #nerd

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?
Generally speaking, I consider myself an introvert and if I’m feeling tired, I’d probably stick to no more than 5 people. Sometimes sticking with 1 person and having a really deep, meaningful conversation is great!

But when I’m at a convention, some switch in me flips and I love meeting everyone and want to be everybody’s friend and introducing myself is no problem… so if this question were in the context of a convention or similar event, I’d do my best to meet all 50!

What age would you want to be/look like forever (physically)? Hmm, 27!

If you could make any fictional character real and also be your best friend, who would you pick?
Kvothe from Name of the Wind. We’d have the most epic jam sessions and then go do all the magical shenanigans.

Favorite Pokemon? Umbreon! <3

Favorite color? I like a deep blue, something like #163D70

Favorite video game/soundtrack/song?
aslkfhlsdjfakldj do I have to choose just one? I’m gonna give you my top 5:

  1. Chrono Trigger
  2. Phoenix Wright (the whole series)
  3. Katamari Damacy
  4. Pokémon Red/Blue
  5. Assassin’s Creed 2

Favorite Meme?


Who do you main in Super Smash Bros?
Which version of Smash? In the WiiU version, I was getting pretty good at Zero Suit Samus! I also love sword-wielding characters, so I’d also play Lucina, Marth, and Ike a bunch.

If you had to pick an emoji/emoticon to represent yourself, which one would you pick? (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Most anticipated game? I cannot wait to play No Man’s Sky!


BONUS QUESTION:

Any musical endeavors you haven’t done yet that you want to tackle? Different genres, games, instruments?
I’d love to experiment more with choral writing. I love Jessica’s work in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and am also inspired by composers like Eric Whitacre.

While it’s not for a game, I’m currently working on writing a choir piece in a made up language. It’s also a life goal to write music for a Bollywood film! I also think it would be fun to write music for an anime or anime-esque game. I love super epic/over the top stuff!