Conductor Andrew Skeet looks back at the Video Game Heroes concert:
Friday 2nd September. Gig day. I like gig days. There’s a certain amount of fear but unlike recording days you know there is one shot at it and no agonizing over whether this take is better than that or whether you’ve really captured something worthwhile. So you just get on with it. It was a funny day though because in the morning Radio 6 (I love you!) played a few extracts – early mixes of a couple of the tracks. In particular what they did I think was to play original 8 bit (bleepy) versions and then cut straight into my orchestral ones which was not a bad idea and made me look good! Then loads of other radio stations who heard that in the morning starting ringing either the PR company or even my mobile directly when I was trying to chill a bit on the big day, even once when I was trying to get a little trim in the barbers and then the BBC World service just as I was about to go on stage. Bit late for publicity at that stage! Also I did an interview with Nintendo that day which I was terrified about because I know about music but I’m by no means a games expert (mind you I’m thinking about rectifying that over the next two years with my good friend Joss – time to be 21 again!) but they were in fact gentle with me and didn’t ask me too many awkward questions! Apparently this interview can be viewed via the Wii … although quite why anyone would break off from their exciting game of COD Black Ops or whatever to watch me droning on is beyond me – but perhaps they will.
The gig itself was pretty amazing – it went down really well with the audience (standing ovation darling!) and the orchestra played magnificently. It was great to see which ones the audience liked and what sort of reaction there was to the funny ones and how absorbed they seemed in the whole thing. Great audience. (It nearly got off to a very bad start though because my friend, the composer Anthony Phillips, who was there told me that I was literally centimetres from completely knocking myself out on the conductors podium metal bar with my very first rather enthusiastic bow!!
I was lucky to have a few old friends in key roles on that day – not least of which the wonderful Rabbit (aka Wayne Sargeant) on front-of-house. In other words he has a massive mixing desk with almost every instrument in the orchestra coming in separately! Scary stuff. There are very few people in the world I think who can really make an orchestra louder without making it sound worse at the same time. Much, much worse usually! This was a triumph in that respect I think because well placed spies in the audience told me it sounded like the LPO (best orchestra in the world) but a bit louder, which is what I wanted. Also we had a total crazy genius on lighting, Richard Knight, who, once I had persuaded him not to simulate machine-gunning me through the head while I was conducting (his idea for Battlefield!!!), came up with the most amazing yet subtle lighting design which really helped with all the different twists and turns. The least funny thing that happened from my point of view was when the wonderful choir (who were truly truly amazing) didn’t come in at the beginning of the last piece Liberi Fatali from Final Fantasy. Since they begin this on their own this was a problem! Once I had recovered from my heart attack I tried again thinking I might have to sing it myself if they don’t see me this time … but phew, they came in. The joys of live performance!!
Anyway I could go on listing the various great individual performances (brass wow!, drums wow!, strings wow! conductor – a bit dodgy in places …) but onwards ….
Now we’re mixing and editing the album for all this in Angel Studios. This is exciting partly because I don’t have to do very much in a way – just sit there and admire the awesome skills of Steve Price and his assistant Jez as they go through every little tiny piece of the tracks and bring it all together gradually. The thing is of course it already sounded good. You’ve got a great orchestra in a lovely room with at least 70 grand’s worth of microphones hanging up. It should sound good!! But somehow Steve still finds ways of making it far far better after that and it was incredible on Tuesday night to sit down and check out the first 16 mixes coming off the desk. I think we have something very special emerging and I think these are going to be the very best versions of these wonderful pieces of music yet recorded.
I feel really spoilt on this job – everyone involved has been so brilliant and supportive and let me get on with it. If people don’t trust you, you can’t do this kind of thing because you end up second-guessing what they want and you lose touch with your own instincts. Probably we didn’t get everything right but we entertained, and hopefully moved, a large number of people some of whom had never been to an orchestral gig before and we had a great time ourselves. What more could anyone want!
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