I had the unique opportunity last week to interview Jeron Moore and Chad Seiter about their involvement with Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions, a new video game concert series that was announced in late June. Moore and Seiter, who were also behind the massive success of the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert series, had some very exciting things to say about the world premiere in Washington D.C. and stop in Philadelphia. If you are around the Washington D.C. area or plan on attending the Pokémon World Championships, you can catch the show on Friday, August 15th (Find Tickets Here). Tickets for the show in Philadelphia are also up (Find Tickets Here), and can be purchased for the show on Friday, September 19th. As a fan of the series since its starting roots back during Pokemon Blue/Red/Yellow, I intend on making every effort to catch one of these epic premieres. The contents of the interview can be found below. A big thank you to Jeron and Chad for this amazing interview opportunity!
Williams: I’m really excited to talk to you all about Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions. A majority of my life was spent playing all the different generations of Pokémon games. Everything from Pokémon/Red/Blue/Yellow…all the way to Pokémon Y! When I heard about a symphony being orchestrated to cover all the music, I was excited. How big of a Pokémon fan are you?
Seiter: I grew up with it, but never played much. It’s been fun exploring and learning more about Pokémon, though.
Williams: How did the conversation (about creating Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions) start? Like the story of Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, there has to be some story of how this came about.
Moore: When Chad and I were on tour with Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, we were constantly thinking about new ideas and what our next project could be. Ideas like: what franchises can we bring to life (music-wise). I woke up one morning after getting back from a Legend of Zelda show, and had a crazy idea. I also grew with the Pokémon games, but like Chad, didn’t play them a lot. But I called Chad one day and said: “You know what we should do? This may sound absolutely insane…but I think we should do Pokémon.” This idea has been percolating for a while. We were so focused with Legend of Zelda though, that there wasn’t any bandwidth to give it traction. It wasn’t until the end of the Legend of Zelda tour that we started to think next steps. In a meeting with our new Executive Producer, Ed Kasses of Princeton Entertainment, is when the idea came back up.
Williams: Did the Legend of Zelda concert have a planned ending, or did you all want to continue touring? I just wonder: there may not be a Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions concert if Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses hadn’t ended.
Moore: Symphony of the Goddesses had a great life across two seasons. It had over 95 performances and could have kept going. But we all arrived at the idea that it was reaching a natural conclusion. The timing worked out.
Williams: You couldn’t have picked a better time to announce this concert series, because the rise in popularity of the Pokémon brand has come full force this year. From the Pokémon X & Y launches In October to the announcement of this; Pokémon is in the minds of people. Especially hardcore fans, who are really into the game. For example: I’m starting to competitively breed my Pokémon. I never use to do that before. It has produced another culture. The ‘hype train’ is huge right now. With the recent launch of these games in addition with the upcoming launch of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire …people are extremely interested in the franchise right now, and this will peak even more interest.
Moore: We had a sense (of the timing) during our conversations with the Pokémon Company. We even ironed out the ideas with our friends at Nintendo, and got the sense that it was good timing. At the time, we didn’t know about Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire. I know one thing that Chad and I always wanted to do was to launch the show in sync with the Pokémon World Championships. It didn’t work out to where we wanted to do it last year in Vancouver, so it’s really exciting to do it in Washington D.C.
Williams: When are the Pokémon World Championships?
Moore: August 16-18th. I’ve never been to a Pokémon World Championship before, but it’s apparently free for everyone. I’m really excited to be going during our free time, interfacing with fans, and seeing what they think. The show will have happened by the time the Championships begin.
Williams: By walking around, you’ll both be able to get a sense of the Pokémon culture/demographic.
Williams: What made you pick Washington D.C. and Philadelphia?
Moore: The Pokémon Company picked Washington D.C. (for the Pokémon Championship). Philadelphia is working under Princeton Entertainment, which are the Executive Producers for the Mann Center. That’s our home base, and it makes sense for us to launch the next show following the premiere at a venue like the Mann Center. The Mann Center is a great venue to do it at, as we have access to an amazing orchestra.
Williams: What symphony are you using? The Philadelphia Orchestra?
Seiter: We have many different options, but are still putting everything together for that. It will most likely be a ‘pickup orchestra’, with all of our favorite Philadelphia musicians.
Moore (laughing): We get to strategically build our own Pokémon orchestra for maximum super effectiveness!
Williams: Will the musicians only need a few days to rehearse beforehand? I’ve heard the music is very complex.
Seiter: It’s funny. As a composer, when you create music (for the first time in any concert series), you’ve never heard it played live before. You’ve listened to the synthesizer for so long, and forget what a real orchestra sounds like for a little bit. Then you convince yourself that the music is way too hard. But then you get to the stage, and they play it fine the first time. I eventually think: ‘It’s not as hard as I thought it was’.
Williams (laughing): In the words of Pokémon: the orchestra did not flinch!
Seiter: Exactly. Even with Legend of Zelda, we had the advantage of listening to the 25th anniversary album recording that came with Skyward Sword. The music was tested in a studio. We won’t have that luxury this time. It’s going to be a surprise for all of us to see what happens.
Williams: I’m confident that it will turn out great. I’m also excited for the symphony to make its rounds to other locations. Do you all have other locations picked out already, or will it be determined based on the reception received from these two shows?
Moore: In all of the excitement, there’s been a lot of interest expressed so far, so yes, we have some other locations in mind, we just haven’t reached the point where we are ready to announce yet. Soon, though! The big focus right now is on the first two dates, and making those experiences as exceptional as they can be.
Seiter: Jeron and I are super excited. We’ve been working really hard to put together what we consider the quintessential symphonic Pokémon experience. I think longtime fans and newcomers are going to be blown away.
Moore: Also, these concerts are being produced in an official partnership with The Pokémon Company. Not only are we bringing this music to life in really cool and exciting ways, but we’re providing an environment for fans to congregate and do things like: play the Pokémon TCG, bring their 3DS to trade and battle Pokémon, as well as exchange Street Passes and earn PokéMiles. We’re trying to generate the kind of magic that only happens when everybody gets together. On some level, Legend of Zelda fans were able to experience that. However, Pokémon is more of a social game. The Legend of Zelda is a very personal journey/experience. With Pokémon, you really need someone else in order to maximize the full benefit of the game. With Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions, we want to create a environment where we can go into all of the cities we’re touring to, where Pokémon events normally wouldn’t pop up as frequently.
Williams: I couldn’t agree more on the ‘social’ aspect. (Laughing) Don’t be surprised if communities of Pokémon fans hold up their 3DS systems instead of lighters during one of the slower songs, and start swaying!
Moore: Oh, we would love that!
Williams: But yes, that is the type of community I hope to see at the event, too. In the end, it is a very community-oriented game. Another thing Pokémon has going for it is nostalgia. Fans will be able to remember certain parts of the game they played as children when listening to the music. Music helps bring back memories. Pokémon allows me to be nostalgic. For example: listening to the Pokémon League Theme reminds me of my first time going through Victory Road and challenging the Elite Four in Pokémon Blue. Since there will be a community of people listening to the music, hopefully they will also partake in sharing their in-game experiences together as well.
Moore: We will also have a visual component to the show. The visuals will bring a special brand of Pokémon humor, and will be represented with the music. There will be visual cues that may spark a memory for a Pokémon fan during that game. That is an important aspect.
Williams: Can you give insight into any pieces we can anticipate hearing from our favorite games?
Seiter: Each generation gets quite a few songs. We try to cover the best from each, so it feels like all Pokémon fans got something they wanted. The great thing about Pokémon is: there is so much music. Throughout the concerts, we will be paying attention to what people like and hopefully start putting fan favorites into future concerts.
Moore: It’s important to note that this concert series is not programmed into an actual symphonic format. Inherently, Pokémon songs play better as one-offs. It made more sense to take the fans through the series in a chronological format, taking music from the oldest generations and playing them all the way through to the most current generation. We built this playlist in cooperation with Junichi Masuda, and he is very happy with the direction it’s going. When we announced the show, he actually tweeted about how excited he was for it. With the Legend of Zelda, we were locked in with symphonic movements. With Pokémon though, we have more flexibility. Therefore, we have the ability to insert fan favorites and popular requests when we start listening to what they would like to hear.
Williams (laughing): My request: create a Pokerap for all 718 Pokémon…GO! Now THAT would be awesome.
Seiter (laughing): Should we send you the invoice for that show?
Williams: I know fans will definitely love to give feedback and will start requesting their favorite songs to be played.
Moore: We do hope to hit the Pokémon experience right out of the gate. I know Chad has had a blast putting together the music for this. Every single piece being prepared will bring excitement to the crowd. Whether it is a song that is gorgeous/emotional or sweeping/action-packed, there is a lot in this show to be excited about.
Williams: I hear the music will feature a TON of brass. So it will be bright and loud?
Seiter: Definitely bright and loud. When we started, there was a misconception that Pokémon music is deemed as ‘light and fluffy’. But after exploring the content some more, I realized it’s not. As a result, I was able to turn it into this ‘Hollywood-sounding’ score! The songs have a wide variety of musical effects. One piece, there may be lots of strings…another piece there will be loud, dissonant brass. One thing that we’re doing at this show is lots of electronics.
Williams: So like synthesizers?
Seiter: Yes, very modern electronic music. What would be the best way to describe it, Jeron?
Moore: Think of it as a revival of 80s/90s grungy electronic textures. You hear a lot of these textures in the Mass Effect series. From a movie perspective, you also can hear this style in Blade Runner. Chad has integrated these electronic textures/pulses/rhythms, and will serve as a foundation for the orchestra to sit on top of. It ends up being this otherworldly experience that matures the music in a different way than with a choir. When you listen to the Pokémon tracks, especially the action tracks, you can hear a lot of that electronic texturing. Masuda-san and the other composers he has worked with to do Pokémon music…they’re working with ideas that go well beyond the functionality of the hardware. They are working with interesting rhythms, and trying to get sounds out of the hardware to make the music more exciting. By including this texturized electronic music, we’re trying to bring the music back to this style.
Williams: This will be a great foundation for the brass to build off of. What about the woodwinds? Do they have some pretty epic parts?
Seiter: Yes actually! I am a big believer of ‘everyone gets their time to shine’, so I build that into my music. The woodwinds are going to be doing a lot of screeching, high pitch rifts. Then there will be at times, some delicate Oboe and Flute solos. Conversely the brass will have that, too.
Williams: What tracks are you all excited to hear being played?
Seiter: I’m really excited about the finale of the show. I don’t want to ruin what it is, but it has this sweeping, Gone With The Wind feel to it. It will have some epic string sections.
Williams: The finale for just a single game, or for the entire show?
Seiter: The entire show. I’m really pumped for that one.
Moore: The finale for the entire show brings closure to the Pokémon X/Y portion, but also serves as a giant punctuation mark for all of the generations. I’m excited for the Overture. I’m also looking forward to the Battle Medley from Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow. Also…Route 113 from Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire, which we’ve titled as Falling Ashes. I also love Professor Sycamore’s Theme.
Williams (laughing): That’s from X/Y, correct? I get them confused…there are so many professors named after trees. Birch, Oak, Sycamore…
Moore: Yes, Sycamore has a fun theme and what Chad did with that song is a lot of fun.
Williams: Hopefully you all will receive enough great feedback to do the concert in other countries, as well. Maybe even Japan!
Moore: We would love to go to Japan. I know there is also a big calling for us to go to Australia and do a much more substantial tour there. We’d also like to hit up Latin America. It all boils down though to you (i.e.: the Pokémon fans).
Williams: You all have some spectacular things coming together for the concert, and I expect the fans will give positive feedback and be prepped to go crazy for the show.
Moore: We definitely appreciate the opportunity to do the interview.
Seiter: Yes, thank you Matt!
Williams: Thank you all!