David Westerlund
Interview

Interviews:
  • David Westerlund

Official site of the concert: www.castlevaniaconcert.com

  David Westerlund is an independent concert arranger and music teacher. He currently is a lecturer at his alma mater, the Royal College of Music, Stockholm, where he teaches students about video game music. But despite this immersion in academia, David has a breadth of real world experience, both as a musician and a producer. He has written and produced three full-length musicals, several solo albums in both the modern classical and pop/rock genres, and a variety of works for theatre, TV and radio.

  As a producer, David draws upon his passion for game music. He organized a handful of game music concerts for Swedish fans, such as „An Evening of Music from FINAL FANTASY VI-X” (March 27th 2009 at the Royal College of Music) and FINAL FANTASY on TOUR (during the summer of 2009). After the success of these shows, the producer has taken it one step further – his newest project, the Castlevania Symphonic Concert, is a novel, exciting, and groundbreaking endeavor. When David announced the event, which will take place in Stockholm on February 19th 2010, all eyes of the game music world were on him. For the first time ever, there was to be a videogame concert entirely dedicated to the amazing music of the Castlevania series. The game’s themes would be performed by a symphony orchestra, a grand organ, and many singers, while the show itself would be visually spectacular, featuring special effects and other spellbinding attractions! Take a look at our interview with David to find out more about the upcoming unholy evening in Sweden, where an entire concert hall will transform into Dracula’s Castle for one fateful night.

David Westerlund
"We are going to transform the entire concert
hall into Dracula’s castle for one night,
(...) so enter at your own risk!"
  Interview Team (GameMusic.net, Innerworld.pl and Castlevania.innerworld.pl): As we learned from your biography, you were first exposed to Castlevania through the NES games. From that time on, you’ve been a big fan. What attracted you to the series?

  David Westerlund: The music and the challenge! The soundtrack was so well made, I didn´t mind repeating the later stages, over and over again.

  Interview Team: How big of a challenge was it to organize the Castlevania concert – a show planned on such a large scale? Was it tough to bring Michiru Yamane from Japan to Sweden for the performance? Can you tell us about any interesting experiences you’ve had during the event’s production?

  David: Bringing Michiru along was actually one of the first steps I took at the start of this project. I already knew that she was an excellent live performer, so I was really interested in asking her to perform something. To my great joy, she agreed. It’s so rare and interesting to hear composers perform their own music, and certainly it will be more fun - both for us and for her, as she will be participating in the concert, rather than just listening.

  About the concert as a whole: in many ways, much of its content has actually been planned in my head for years. I have had so many ideas about how the ultimate concert of Castlevania would sound, and have worked to create a vision that I think most fans of the series will share. The process has been demanding at times, but the goal is what makes it all worthwhile - to do what no one else has done before: a whole concert dedicated solely to Castlevania!

  Interview Team: Michiru Yamane will be playing at the show, along with an orchestra! Will any special guests be joining her onstage?

  David: Expect the unexpected! We have a few guest musicians and some other surprises...

  Interview Team: What other attractions will the concert offer for Castlevania fans?

  David: We are making more than just a musical concert this time. We are going to transform the entire concert hall into Dracula’s castle for one night, complete with chandeliers, armor, skeletons, and vampires, so enter at your own risk!


  Interview Team: Will the concert include arrangements of classic Castlevania tunes like “Vampire Killer”, “Wicked Child”, “Heart of Fire”, “Bloody Tears” or “Beginning”? Will the concert focus more on those classical pieces from the earliest parts of the saga, or will the setlist lean toward more modern Castlevania soundtracks like “Lament of Innocence” or “Curse of Darkness”?

  David: This is a common question from the fans. Yes, don’t worry, the classics will be there, sounding better than ever! Although the focus will lie on Super Castlevania IV and Symphony of the Night, many older and newer games will also be featured. We went through every single track from the series before making the setlist. Trust me, there are great pieces the whole way through.

  Interview Team: Does the concert setlist reflect your personal favorites? Actually, do you have a list of unforgettable Castlevania pieces?

  David: It’s really hard for me to pick out just a few favorites since I like so many, but “Chandeliers” from SCIV and “Tragic Prince” from SOTN are good examples of themes that I never tire of hearing.

  Interview Team: Our conversation seems to center around the concert setlist, more and more. Would it be possible for you to reveal the entire program, right now?

  David: Sorry, but I prefer to leave some surprises for the premiere...although if you look at our updated website (www.castlevaniaconcert.com), you can find about 70% of the setlist in the form of a YouTube playlist (in “Media” section).

  Interview Team: Let’s change the topic from soundtracks to games. Which Castlevania game do you consider your favorite? What title has the best plot, playability and graphics, in your opinion? Are there any Castlevania games that you've enjoyed so much that you've stayed up late, pulling all-nighters just to play?

  David: When it comes to the perfect Castlevania game, then it’s Super Castlevania IV, for sure. Symphony of the Night is my second favorite, it’s much deeper and more complex, but it feels almost like a Metroid game to me... still great though!

  Interview Team: What are your feelings about the upcoming “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” game, which claims to take a brand new approach to the series? Are you optimistic about it, or are you skeptical about the drastic changes that will be implemented in order to revitalize Castlevania?

  David: I’m not too crazy about the direction the series has been heading towards in the past few years... the latest trailer looks more like a new God of War. Where are the bats, skeletons, ghosts and vampires? Where is that classic horror feeling? But I will still buy it and try it when it comes out, as I did enjoy certain parts of the previous 3D installments for N64 and PS2.


  Interview Team: Well, don’t you think that the series has become very conservative, without any changes for such a long time? A few fresh ideas might be beneficial for the series. Perhaps it’s time to air out Dracula’s castle?

  David: I don’t think that this action-oriented series has really found its place in 3D yet. I still prefer the 2D Nintendo DS games, and wish they would make a great looking 2D game for XBOX360 or PS3.

  Interview Team: In regards to the Lords of Shadow soundtrack, how do you feel about the musical fragments composed by Oscar Aruja, as featured in the first game trailers?

  David: Sounds very Hollywood and very epic. Like a big blockbuster movie. Maybe it fits this new game, which seems very different altogether, but I personally prefer the old soundtracks that were influenced by classical and rock music. But I should really hear more of the new music, before giving a definite opinion.

  Interview Team: You give lectures at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm about game music. As an expert, how would you describe a well-composed soundtrack? What elements should such a composition have?

  David: Personality! That’s why the music of someone like Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) is so popular. He doesn’t have any formal musical background or education in composition, but he writes with personality. This makes almost all his works, even the minor ones, quite interesting to listen to. It’s like when you listen to lots of classical music and can say, “oh this piece is most likely by Beethoven, it’s his style of composing”. Michiru Yamane’s works also have a great deal of personality in them, with lots of classical music influences, and that makes her music really stand out in the vast ocean of videogame soundtracks.

  Interview Team: What actually inspired you to focus the attention of gamers and classical music lovers, as well as those who belong to both groups, on symphonic arrangements of pieces from video game music soundtracks?

  David: The first concert we did was with some classical/folk/jazz musicians from the Royal College of Music who were also gamers. When the event quickly became packed with hundreds of cheering fans who were just like us, we just kept on doing it. I didn’t think it would be that popular at first, but it really made me happy - we could keep making concerts and playing more of the music that we’ve always wanted to perform live!


  Interview Team: You used to organize concerts dedicated to Final Fantasy; now, you're taking on the Castlevania series. Do you have any plans for further musical conquests? Metal Gear Solid and the Legend of Zelda games have rich soundtracks, perfect for live symphonic arrangements :)

  David: I am very familiar with the music and gameplay of those series, and have some other options in mind, as well... I can’t reveal anything yet, but we do have some exciting plans coming up this year. Right now, however, my entire focus is on the Castlevania concert. This show has the potential to change the way these kinds of concerts are being performed, and the level of ambition behind them. Personally, I have felt a bit disappointed in the past when attending certain videogame concerts, mostly due to certain music choices and arrangements. That explains my devotion for this project - a great world premiere of Castlevania will show everybody how it’s done right, by true fans for fans!

  Interview Team: How do you expect classical music critics to respond to the Castlevania concert?

  David: I am sure that anyone who attends this concert will receive a very rich and musical experience, especially if they are open minded. The series contains many different genres, ranging from baroque to romantic, heavy metal and jazz. There is something for everyone, which probably explains the music’s popularity!

  Interview Team: Would you like to say a final word to Castlevania fans around the world? Additionally, how would you encourage them to attend the Castlevania show in Sweden?

  David: I’m not expecting you to travel all the way to Sweden just to see this concert. It might be worth it if you’re a die hard Castlevania music fan, or if you wish to experience a show with more special effects than any other videogame concert ever produced. We actually do have a great deal of people flying in from all over the world for the concert, so if you’re enough of a fan, I would strongly recommend that you come. I just got back from an orchestra rehearsal and it just sounds so incredibly good, and the band is tight as hell. We just played through “Tragic Prince”, and the organ in the concert hall, which is one of the biggest in Scandinavia, must be heard live to be believed! Also, you can meet Michiru and other fans of course, and we’re planning an after party as well. If you get the chance, please come!

  Interview Team: Many thanks for the opportunity to conduct this interview. We will definately attend the show – expect our event report soon.

  A little tip: to get familiar with David's artistic activity even more, be sure to check his YouTube channel.



Interview with: David Westerlund
Prepared by: Adam "Nox_A15" Dbski (Castlevania.innerworld.pl), Kamil R. (GameMusic.net), Piotr "Zell" Serafin (Innerworld.pl)
Introduction and conclusion: Kamil R. (GameMusic.net)

English translation prepared by GameMusic.net

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