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…the most interesting stories probably would come from the original Freedom Planet because none of us had any idea what we were doing. Strife, Stephen DiDuro, knew how to make a game. I knew how to make music. But, gosh, when the Kickstarter went through and we got all the VAs on-board (because originally it was just me and Strife), it was just this insane place to be. We were all jumping way ahead of ourselves. We had so much work that we had to do and so much that went unused.
“But, gosh, when the [Freedom Planet] Kickstarter went through and we got all the VAs on-board…it was just this insane place to be.”
Strife and I even had a few disagreements over the direction the music should take. He wanted more of a Megaman X style: fast-paced and in-your-face from the get-go. But I thought that since we had so many levels, we should take the time to start out quieter and more happy with these colorful characters and over time the color gets kind of sucked out from Brevon (the villain of the game) and all that. I can’t stress enough that Strife is great—he’s a great musician and he’s easy to collab with—we just had different ideas. I’m just really happy that things turned out as well as they did. The ultimate outcome of it all—and why Freedom Planet 2 sounds so different—is that he turned musical direction over to me for the sequel.
Other than that, there’s definitely some fly-by-night stuff. For example, someone contacts me to work on an imported game. And all the music in it was copyrighted music and all the characters were copyrighted characters. They’d change the characters and want me to compose the music for it. I’ve had that happen two or three times and I have no idea if these projects were ever created or where the music went. It’s fun to work on those because it gives you an opportunity to sit down and completely go-for-broke. You feel less boxed in on those projects so it becomes “Yeah! Cool let’s do this!” since you don’t really know if anyone is ever gonna hear it.
One last thing I can say from behind-the-scenes is that most of the people in the indie scene are very passionate. They want to make good games and they’re just good people. I’m sure that’s not as scandalous as maybe some of the stuff I could say and can’t but, yeah. Most of the projects don’t really have drama it’s just a lot of people throwing things together and asking if it works until it does.
“One last thing I can say from behind-the-scenes is that most of the people in the indie scene are very passionate. They want to make good games and they’re just good people. I’m sure that’s not as scandalous as maybe some of the stuff I could say and can’t but, yeah. Most of the projects don’t really have drama it’s just a lot of people throwing things together and asking if it works until it does.”
JM: We’ve got another question from Reddit—
LW: I’m scared!
JM: What was the hardest thing you’ve had to compose?
LW: Sky Battalion. I say that every time. I… hate that song so much. It’s really nobody’s fault; it was just back and forth. There’s like five unused versions of Sky Battalion, some of which are on the Freedom Planet OST in the unused section, and some that are sitting on my hard-drive gathering dust and will never see the light of day. That song was the low point in my entire career. *laughs* It just wasn’t a song that I felt was appropriate for the game.
Strife and I ended up putting it behind us and we went on to produce really great things afterward, that one was just rough on both of us. Sky Battalion is my white whale, I don’t even play the stage anymore. *laughs again*
JM: You’re self-taught, correct? What advice would you give to other budding musicians going through that same kind of struggle?
LW: Don’t get discouraged. It’s really easy, especially on the internet where anyone can say anything like, “You can’t read music? Then you aren’t a musician.” People won’t generally say things that rude but you’ll see things like that written in articles, you’ll hear them in Youtube videos when you’re researching… almost like there’s a wall there keeping you out. Just don’t get discouraged. If you’re self-taught, chances are that you’ll have the ear to pick out chords and stuff so just… do it yourself!
JM: Alright. What are your ambitions for the future?
LW: Freedom Planet 2. I’m on an NDA so I can’t say a lot about FP2, but I will say most of it is done. We’ve got some amazing people working on it. We’ve got Falk, Au Yeong, working on it. He did the mixing for Sonic Mania and a lot of other projects. The stuff I’ve heard after he’s put my work through the mixing – and I’ll freely admit I suck hard at mixing – the stuff that he’s mixed… it sounds just amazing! He’s so talented!
So FP2 it’s just going to be so much better, and the first game was great! So that’s saying something. The stuff that I’ve seen that’s done and I see it in the devchat, I can’t talk about it, but oh my god it is so much better.
“So FP2 it’s just going to be so much better, and the first game was great! So that’s saying something. The stuff that I’ve seen that’s done and I see it in the devchat, I can’t talk about it but, oh my god it is so much better.”
My other one is getting my book published. It makes the writing look easy and it’s just such a struggle. That’s slowly killing me so if I appear dead, it’s because I’ve been trying to get that thing published.
JM: From what I’ve read, I feel like you can do it. I feel like it’s good enough and that you can do it!
LW: I hope so! I really do.
JM: Just don’t give up! Never ever, ever give up!
LW: I’m trying not to! *laughs*
JM: I gotta mention that after playing the FP2 Demo about a million times, having you tell me that it’s going to better than that is making me pretty hyped for the release!
LW: I will say that demo level is pretty fun… but the later levels, the gimmicks, and ideas that Strife has come up with are… very intuitive. I’ve seen a lot of the stuff he’s come up with and I’m just wowed. The way his mind works is incredible.
I got to play a little bit at PAX and I suck at Freedom Planet. And he let me play a level where I just got killed over and over again with all the VAs watching me! I was so embarrassed.
I don’t want to over-hype it but… I do. *laughs*
JM: Is there anything that you can say about the projects that you are involved with that aren’t out yet?
LW: The one I’ve been working on recently, over the course of this year, has been a game called Miasma Caves. It’s not out yet, but…they’re making a PS1-style game. And for those that know me, I looove PS1 and Saturn RPGs. Grandia is like one of my favorite games ever. They told me they wanted to make a game like that and I said, “Oh! I AM THERE!”
“They’re making a PS1-style game, and for those that know me, I looove PS1 and Saturn RPGs. Grandia is like one of my favorite games ever. They told me they wanted to make a game like that and I said, ‘Oh! I AM THERE!'”
The other one that I’ve been working on that isn’t out yet is Leilani’s Island, and I wasn’t hired on to that just because my name is also Leilani but because the fella working on it liked my music. That game is so intuitive and it flows so well. It looks so fun.
Those are the two that have really stood out for me. There’s a bunch of other stuff that I can’t talk about, but those two have already announced that I’ll be doing the music for them so I can say that I was fortunate enough to work on them. Those are gonna be absolutely fantastic, I’m really looking forward to both.
JM: You’ve also put some serious blood, sweat, and tears into writing over the years. From what I’ve read, it really shows. It’s a book with its own soundtrack! Is there anything you would like to say about Elancia Chronicles?
LW: That’s about as close as I’ve ever gotten to bearing my soul. It might not seem like it, ya know… someone might think of it as a bunch of cartoon animals calling each other variations of the word “gay” for 900 pages. I mean… it’s definitely an acquired taste kind of thing. There’s a lot of people who would look at it and think “What is this!? Is it fantasy? Is it sci-fi? Why are some of the main characters animals?”. I’d have to say that, honestly, it’s less about the setting and more about the psychology and human nature than anything else. The setting is there but it is more about the characters and the politics than any particular genre. I can dress things up as magic or gods and demons but really it all boils down to those.
I’ve been just trying to get people to read it for feedback. I think it’s pretty good, there’s been a few others who have told me it was good, but you never know what a publisher is going to think. I’ve got friends that I’ve known for years who won’t even look at it on principle… and it’s soul-crushing.
Writing it was something I had done when I had to quit my career before music and it ended up being one of the only things I could focus on to prevent myself from falling into depression. It has it’s own foibles and flaws that are somewhat conducive to depression on top of that but, ya know, it’s my baby. They always say to kill your babies, don’t throw yourself behind these things but… I’ve never really subscribed to that mindset.
JM: Yeah, I feel like there’s a lot of that where people will tell you how to go about doing artistic things and demand that you go about it in certain ways. I’m really not a subscriber to that kind of thing, either. It should just be… “you gotta do you”.
LW: Yeah, you gotta do you. You can take other people’s advice but you have to keep in mind that it works for them. Some of it may apply, but your mileage will vary. I guess that goes back to my advice for budding musicians: if what I say doesn’t work, just do you. That’s the ultimate endeavor for any artistic ability.
JM: Have you considered going the self-publishing route at all?
LW: I’ve thought it over and decided against it because I’ve been trying to get friends of mine to read it when it isn’t self-published and I don’t think they’d change their mind if it was self-published – probably not even if it was actually published – but to me I feel better about getting it actually published.
And that’s going to be difficult because I can already see a lot of roadblocks that publishers are gonna run into like the animal thing or “ Why is there so much cursing?” and “Why is it so depressing?” Depressing animal people. It’ll fly off the shelves.
JM: I think the world needs more depression!
LW: *laughs* The whole thing really is this allegory for depression – I don’t mention that – but it is. It’s kind of how to get through it, as odd as that sounds. It’s kind of strange because I try to keep it funny all the way through. I feel like it is but it’s basically for people who struggle to see that they’re not alone. That was the main thing that I wanted to tell people; you are not alone.
“The whole thing really is this allegory for depression – I don’t mention that – but it is. It’s kind of how to get through it, as odd as that sounds. It’s kind of strange because I try to keep it funny all the way through. I feel like it is, but it’s basically for people who struggle to see that they’re not alone. That was the main thing that I wanted to tell people; you are not alone.”
JM: I’d say that is a very amazing and worthwhile message. I can’t stress how important that message is.
LW: Well, thank you!
JM: You’d mentioned you had another career before you became a composer. Would you like to talk about that?
LW: OH! Gosh, yes. Racing was my dream from when I was really, really little. I went to my first stock car race when I was about 3 weeks old. We were on the backstretch near the final kink at the old Riverside Raceway in a motorhome. My mom says I had my nose against the glass the entire time watching the part of the track we could see. My dad worked as a NASCAR official at Stockton 99 Speedway up in the central valley, and we were there every weekend pretty much. He worked at Altamont for a while, and when we moved to LA, we were at Irwindale Speedway every weekend. I knew from the point when I realized there were people in those cars that I wanted to be one of them.
Through a lot of serendipity (saving some money, having some luck, and several windfalls) I got to do it for about 3 years. Honestly, several factors stacked up though, and that was about it for me. I won one race!!! So there was that. That was still like, my proudest moment. It left a pretty big hole in my heart, and I don’t think anything can fill it but another race car. If I ever make enough money making music, I’m immediately buying a race car again. It’s pretty indescribable what makes motorsport appealing. It’s pretty much impossible to explain to folks who aren’t into it. When you’re in, you’re in. It’s more of a lifestyle than anything else.
JM: Alrighty, that’s all the big questions. If you don’t mind, would you like to do a “Lightning Round”?
LW: Lightning Round! And then the show theme starts playing, bells start ringing, and the audience is applauding. “Let’s play Fast Money!”
JM: More like Slightly-Not-Really-Fast-Money-At-All! *laughs*
LW: “Let’s Play Fast Monopoly Money!”
JM: Okay, how this is going to work is: you try to answer all the questions in the best time? Basically, anytime I have an interview – which is hopefully more than just now – we’ll have a Lightning round at the very end and everyone will be competing for the best time. So we can have a winner and everyone will try to beat them out! So do you think you can set a good bar for the first one?
LW: I can set a low bar so people can be like, “Whelp, ya know at least I did better than Leila!”
JM: Aaaaaaalriiiight… we’ll staaart riiiiight… NOW!
Favorite Freedom Planet 1 song? Pangu Lagoon
Favorite Pastime? Going to stock-car races.
Best Ninja Turtle? Oh. Uh… Michelangelo.
Alcohol of Choice? TEQUILA!
Worst Game You’ve Ever Played? Ooooh! I’ve played a few free RPGMaker games… but the worst game was Sonic Labyrinth. It was terrible.
Favorite Composer? Yasunori Mitsuda
Favorite Movie? The Usual Suspects
Favorite Author? I guess I’m gonna go with J.K. Rowling because I really like her wit.
Favorite Music Genre? Pop-punk
Biggest Influence? Also Mitsuda
Pokemon or Digimon? Pokemon? That’s another tough one.
Favorite Fictional Character? EVER!? I… guess I’ll go with Nick Wilde for now. I mean, he’s pretty awesome and he’s a fox. Everybody loves those!
Sub or Dub? Depends heavily on the quality of the dub. Death Note: Dub. Other Shows: Sub.
Favorite Food? Actually… chicken curry. Golden curry. Mmm!
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Pepsi or Coke? Pepsi. Hands down.
Favorite Animal? Fox!
Worst Disney Movie? WORST Disney movie!? Cinderella 2. Never. Again.
Vehicle of Choice? Lincoln Mk.VII… although I’m getting a Chevy Nova so maybe that.
Best Sailor Scout? Oh gosh… I can’t remember her name… the one with short hair because she drove race-cars and so did I. I thought, “She’s cool!” [Editor’s Note: Sailor Uranus]
Console of Choice? It’s between PS1 and Gameboy Advance. PS1 just for more selection.
Favorite Color? Indigo.
Best Hot-dog Condiment? Believe it or not, chopped onions.
Favorite Character Trope? I like characters who seem like jerks, I don’t know why. I just do.
Kicks or Punches? Kicks. A little more range.
Godzilla or Gamera? Gosh, I don’t even really know either of those. I’m gonna fail all of these! (After looking back, she mentioned she should have said “Rodan!”)
Favorite Freedom Planet Character? Carol. Hands down.
Favorite Elancia Character? All of the above. You don’t get to pick a favorite child.
(Super In-Joke from Her Book) Team Gunther or Team Frederik? I’ve always been on Team Gunther, just because I know he loses in the end… Oh! Spoilers, yikes! Blame Cecelia, she did it!
Current Lightning Round Record: Leila Wilson at 5 minutes and 30 seconds!
Once more, an insanely gigantic thank you goes out to Woofle for agreeing to this interview. We can only hope to provide a small glimpse into how much fun John had doing this! Putting yourself out there on the internet can be a terrifying thing, we here at Dashing Nerds are humbled and honored to have been blessed with your time, Leila!
If you enjoyed the article, the music, or were intrigued by her book, let us know in the comments below! Don’t be afraid to go to Woofle’s SoundCloud and let he know, too! Maybe even grab one of her amazing albums from Bandcamp to support a great musician!
Look forward to Freedom Planet 2 when it releases sometime in 2018! You can play the awesome demo and learn more about it here!