It's been a while since we've had the opportunity to catch up with Nerdcore superstar and RPGamer Random aka Mega Ran. When we last interviewed Random, he was killing it at on stage at Pax East 2013. Raheem Jarbo, the man behind Random Beats, has since been hard at work — managing to develop hot new material while actively touring. Back in April, he dropped a bass-heavy EP entitled TRAP or "Television and Radio Are Poison" for free (you can also support the indie scene by naming your price) and has just released a new tribute album, in the same vein as his Final Fantasy VII tribute Black Materia, entitled Castlevania: The Nocturnal Cantata — an ode to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Random aka Mega Ran's style is Nerdcore — sub-genre of hip hop music that uses themes, samples, and subject matter considered to be appealing to the nerdy crowd. Often there are allusions or tracks lifted directly from popular or classic video games. Castlevania: The Nocturnal Cantata takes Michiru Yamane's original composition and applies a modern Hip-Hop Opera approach to Symphony of the Night's narrative, with Random as Alucard, his female anologue Sammus as Maria Belmont, and fellow collaborator The Ranger as Richter Belmont. Here's a short sample:
In the midst of his crazy performing schedule in the Far East, Raheem took some time to chat with me and discuss the Castlevania: The Nocturnal Cantata's inspiration and production as well as his future plans.
Trent Seely (RPGamer): First off, thank you for taking the time out of your performance schedule to chat with us. What inspired you to attempt such an ambitious project?
Raheem Jarbo (Random aka Mega Ran): Hey Trent! I really enjoyed all of the Castlevania games, with Symphony of the Night being my favorite. It was a great moment in the franchise, as it changed the gameplay style for the better and became the template for all of the future titles. It's in my top five PlayStation games ever, so I felt it was the perfect title to pay tribute to.
I just found out that the album ranked in the top 200 rap albums sold this past week on Soundscan! Very exciting news. I'm very proud of what this means for nerd music in general. What a year, with Anamanaguchi charting, Richie Branson charting, and now an album about Castlevania. I think it's time for people to take this type of music that we do very seriously, as it is showing that it can compete on a high level. I think this is only the beginning.
Trent: What is your history with the Castlevania series? Would you consider Symphony of the Night to be your favourite?
Random: [Castlevania: Symphony of the Night] definitely was my favorite, though I loved Castlevania III and Super Castlevania IV and still go back to those from time to time.
Trent: Do you have any plans to sample other tracks from the Castlevania series in the future?
Random: Probably not. I don't want to do a particular game or franchise to death, so I do it, learn from it, and move on. Not sure if you'll hear anymore Castlevania raps, this was a hard one to put together! One shot deal; one night only. I had a crazy concept idea around the theme of The Inverted Castle, but due to time and technology constraints, I wasn't able to pull it off like I had hoped... maybe one day.
Trent: On the album you play Alucard, with Sammus as Maria Renard and The Ranger as Richter Belmont. Why did you choose to assign speaking parts to these contributors?
Random: I didn't want to play the role of the half-human son of a demonic freak, but as I studied the game, then classic vampire literature leading up the making of this album, I found a lot more similarities between Alucard and myself than I had thought. I struggled with daddy issues in my own life, and though he and I never came to blows or any intense hatred, sometimes I wished he would show more passion and interest in what went on in my life, as he and my mom separated before I could even remember. Fathers should realize that paying child support should not excuse or substitute for taking their kids to a ballpark, creating special memories on birthdays, and things like that. So going through that struggle of being in the middle of two very different parents, being a different type of child throughout most of my life, trying to fit in, I totally began to feel the struggle of Alucard, and that made it easier to "become" him.
The Ranger was a huge hit on "Black Materia" as Red XIII and it was a goal of mine to bring him back to contribute if I did another fully immersive game album with character roles. I think he's good at studying and conveying the emotion that characters feel.
Sammus was a favorite for different reasons. One is that she's just the dopest female artist I know. She's a great writer, producer, and rapper. The original Symphony of the Night score was by a woman, Michiru Yamane, and so I thought it'd be perfectly fitting if a woman sampled her tunes and put her own spin on it, so the idea was born.
Trent: What is your history with Sammus and The Ranger? Why did the three of you choose to collaborate on this project in particular?
Random: I've been working with The Ranger since 2008, we did a remix to one of my favorite songs, "Inbox." After that we joined up in Nerdy Rotten Scoundrels, a worldwide collective of MCs, artists, producers and poets.
I met Sammus through the bandcamp charts: her album M'Other Brain was there for a while. I listened and was blown away. I contacted her to say "great job" and found out she was a teacher, so I feel like we're kindred spirits. I call her my "rap sister." Since then we've done a bunch of shows together, and now a bunch of music!
Trent: You recently announced a two week tour in Japan and the possibility of collaborating with the chip-tune scene while there. Could you give us a rundown of your Kickstarter and what you have planned if it is successfully funded?
Random: This is a very expansive plan. If funded, we'll not only hit Japan for a two-week tour, we'll collaborate with some musicians while there, folks who have created such soundtracks as Street Fighter 4, Ape Escape, Streets of Rage 3, and more. While in Japan, we'll be playing shows, recording a full remix album, and filming a feature length documentary that will be given to backers on Blu-ray. A lot of bang for the buck! we're giving out awesome rewards such as music, passes to shows, and even studio equipment from myself or my DJ, DN3. The opening night of the tour is June 19th — people can see and learn more at the megaranjapan.com.
Trent: It's been mentioned that you're in the midst of developing new material while on tour. What can fans of your work look forward to in the near future?
Random: I'm always working on new material, yet first things first: we're revisiting the past a bit, and remixing some of the existing Mega Ran tracks, adding more layers, more complexity and more fun. An EP version of this remix experiment should be out in July.
Trent: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Random: Yes, thanks for the interview! Go and get The Nocturnal Cantata, and support indie music... and your local retro game store!
RPGamer would like to thank Raheem Jarbo aka Random aka Mega Ran for participating in this interview. As of this interview's posting, Random aka Mega Ran is currently in Japan prepping for his tour — check out the Japan Tour Kickstarter and his official website for further details and media.