Pokey Means Business
Occasionally I'll get a request to do a song from Earthbound, and it's almost always Pokey Means Business. In fact, throw out the almost, it is always Pokey Means Business. For those that didn't know (I didn't), the original song doesn't actually have a name, Pokey Means Business was an unofficial name that just became really popular for this theme, which, for those unaware, is the battle theme when you fight Armored Pokey towards the end of Earthbound.
I'll be honest with you, I've played very little Earthbound and only know a few things about it: anything you can gather from Smash Bros (IE: Ness uses bats and yo-yos); the entire Giygas final showdown seems like something straight from a modern-day internet 'creepy-pasta'; and Pokey should be taken seriously because he means business.
In the original version, the 'intro' part is actually an 8-bit rendition that sounds like something straight from the NES. After almost a minute, it suddenly changes into metal. The crazy thing about the original version is how good the metal part sounds. The first time I heard the song, I thought I was listening to a remix. I had to double check by downloading the actual SNES sound files from the game to realize that it was the real deal. They really pushed the limits of the SNES audio hardware for this song, which sounds like absolutely nothing else from the Earthbound OST. It's possibly the heaviest 'metal' song from an SNES title, even ahead of Big Bad Baby Bowser.
For the intro, I started out with several options. The intro in the original is really cool, so the first thought of course is to just do it in a metal style. The thing with this song, though, is the sudden 'snap' change from 8-bit to metal is really iconic, so I wanted to do something similar to that snap change effect. Option 2 was an acoustic rendition. The intro was a little too long for an acoustic bit, and I just did a rather lengthy acoustic intro 2 songs ago in the Mega Man Mega Medley, so I passed on it. Option 3, the option I almost went with, was to do a heavily keyboard/synth oriented intro.
Did you know that a lot of times you come up with the best stuff musically when you're just messing around? Such is the case with the intro. Sometimes I just goof around on guitar and do things in different musical styles. Pretty good exercise really. So I was fiddling around / half learning the lead to the intro when I started doing it in a Swing Jazz style. I suddenly had an idea in my head to do the intro to this song as a Swing bit. I almost chickened out about halfway through recording it and went with the keyboard option, but I stuck through it and made the whole thing. I really like swing music (I was in Jazz band in high school, and when I first started playing guitar I attempted to learn some Brian Setzer songs), so it was a lot of fun to do.
The metal part suddenly kicks in after about a minute. This part also has a lot of snap changes, namely in tempo. The tempo changes 4 times thoughout the song, 3 times during the heavy section. You can split these 3 changes into the 3 parts that make up the heavy section: Part 1; The beginning, up to the end of the solo bass, Part 2; the first tempo change when the song gets really fast, and Part 3; the doomy, heavy as hell slow section.
I wanted to save Part 3 for towards the end of the song, so we visit Parts 1 & 2 first. After a run through of those 2 parts, we do them again, but this time with a guitar solo, a pretty long one too. This song probably has more original lead guitar work than any of my other songs. There are a lot of fast parts in the solo, especially in part 2, some of the fastest lead stuff I've done in GaMetal. I don't consider myself a speed guy, but everything I heard in my head was 'really fast solo', so it had to be done.
After solo 1, we kick into the heavy as hell part 3. I slowed this part down more than it is in the original to emphasize the doom metal effect. Halfway through is the second guitar solo, up to the end of part 3 where a short interlude of one of the Giygas tunes hits. The song ends with a short revisit of part 1 and 2.
A very interesting note: aside from the whole Swing intro deal, this song does have something else very unique to it. With exception of the short Giygas interlude towards the end of the song, there are no keyboards in the heavy part. I don't think I've done something like that since 2009 GaMetal. During recording, when I went to record a keyboard part, I didn't really like anything I tried to put with it, and ultimately decided it sounded good enough without the extra stuff. It also helps to give it more of the 'raw' metal sound like the original.
This was a gamble song for me because there were several times during recording where I wasn't sure if it was going to be good or not. In the end I felt it was a good bet because it sounds really badass. I'm really liking the direction of GaMetal here late in 2013!