Community Interview: MIDI Composer John Weeks

Time for another Community Interview, this time from amazing fan MIDI composer John Weeks! John is famous in the Sonic community for his sequencing of various tracks in the Sonic, NiGHTS and ChuChu Rocket games. We speak to him about his hobbies, what made him start making music and his thoughts on the NiGHTS Gamecube rumours.


TSS: Hey, Andrew here, bringing you another excusive interview with a big name in the Sonic Internet Community, thanks for taking your time to do this John.

JW: Sure thing. It’s my pleasure to do this.


TSS: What do you do in the Sonic Internet Community so you can give the fans an idea?

JW: I sequence MIDIs of songs from the Sonic series of games. I also sequence some from other SonicTeam games like NiGHTS and ChuChu Rocket!


TSS: Lots of people I know are very big fans of your MIDIs, how much work gets put into each one of them and how do you create them?

JW: I put a whole lot o’ work into each one. I can get kind o’ picky with each MIDI, ’cause I try to make each one sound as close to the original song as possible. That means I could spend days, or even weeks, with one section of a song, tryin’ to get it just right. I create my MIDIs with a program called Voyetra MIDI Orchestrator Plus. And whenever I start a new MIDI, I generally start with sequencin’ the percussion to get a good beat to work with. From there, I just sequence whatever part I want to next until I finish the song.


TSS: Where do you download this program and how much does it cost?

JW: As far as I know, it can’t be downloaded from anywhere. But, I think it can be bought off o’ Voyetra’s web site. I’m not sure of how much it would cost, though.


TSS: There are many MIDI sequencers that create MIDIs of Sonic relation, who do you like the best?

JW: Who do I like the best? Ooh… Tough question. Some o’ the best sequencers who come to mind right now are Koryan, Jarel Jones, and José Felix. They’ve all done such excellent work.


TSS: A question that has been tugging at me for while is why Sonic Team? I’ve been a Sonic fan even before the internet, have you always been a Sonic (or Sonic Team) fan and how did you get into creating MIDIs?

JW: I’ve been a Sonic fan for a while — ever since Sonic 2 on the Genesis came out. And, I got into creating MIDIs because o’ my interest in music. My interest in MIDIs came around when I first heard one by Jeff Read. Right then, I knew I wanted to learn how to sequence MIDIs. So, I got a MIDI sequencer, taught myself how to use it, and now, here I am. ^_^ That was back in 1997 when I first started sequencin’.


TSS: Are MIDIs for every one, or is it something you just can’t learn over night?

JW: I don’t think it’s somethin’ that can be learned over-night. You’ve got to have some knowledge of music before you start MIDI sequencin’ — like you’ve got to know how to read/write sheet music. Also, with some sequencin’ programs, you have to know how to play a piano, or at least know which keys go to which notes. I mean, it took me around a month to really know what I was doin’ with my sequencer. And, even years after, I was learnin’ how to do new stuff with it. ^_^


TSS: You have a website where you post your latest MIDIs, when did you start that and why did you cancel MIDI requests on there?

JW: I first created my web site back in the summer of 1998. That was as a GeoCities page. Then earlier this year, back in February, I bought my own domain name to continue my site without all the difficulties of another place hostin’ it. And, are you talkin’ about my decision to stop takin’ new MIDI requests?


TSS: Yes.

JW: I decided to do that because my site’s Sonic MIDI Request List was gettin’ way too big. I started to feel really bogged down with work. I think it had somewhere near 150 MIDI requests on it! Anyway, this summer, I decided to just temporarily stop takin’ in new MIDI requests so that I could clear the lists out some. Once I finish enough, I’m gonna re-open the lists (then I’ll probably get flooded with even more requests, but that’s OK ^_^; ). Right now, there’re only 115 remaining Sonic MIDI requests. And, two MIDI requests from NiGHTS.


TSS: You have tons of requests, but do you sequence MIDIs on your own by choice every now and then?

JW: I like to. There’re a few songs from Sonic Adventure 2 that I really wanna sequence. But, since they aren’t on the list, I’m tryin’ to hold off on those and just focus on requests.


TSS: Ever think about sequencing other Sonic Team classic songs from other games like Burning Rangers or Samba de Amigo?

JW: Actually, yeah. I was workin’ on a MIDI of the Japanese version of “I Just Smile” from Burning Rangers, but it got deleted when my computer crashed. I also want to sequence some MIDIs from Phantasy Star Online. The songs “From Seeing the Rough Wave” and “Revolution to the Origin” are the main ones that got my attention from that game’s soundtrack.


TSS: Do you play a lot of Sonic Team video games in your free time or is it all about the MIDI Sequence?

JW: I think I spend more time MIDI sequencing. But, I always like to get in a game of Sonic Adventure 2, PSO, or Samba every now and then. ^_^


TSS: What do you think of Sonic changing systems to the Gamecube and possibly other systems? Will you be sequencing Sonic Advance music in the near future also?

JW: Well, at first I didn’t like it. It just didn’t feel right to me that Sonic was gonna be on a Nintendo system. But, after a while, I got used to that fact. Now, it really doesn’t bother me, and I’m actually lookin’ forward to these future games — especially since Sonic Team is handlin’ ’em. I have faith in Sonic Team. ^_^ And, yeah, I have plans on sequencin’ MIDIs of the music from Sonic Advance once it’s released.


TSS: What do you think of the plan that Sega might have NiGHTS into Dreams remade for Gamecube?

JW: I love it! ^_^ I think it’d be cool to have a graphically-enhanced version o’ the game to play, since there were a few things I didn’t like about the graphics in the original. I just hope that the plans for this go through.


TSS: But if you know how Yuji is, he always says no to the idea, then he says yes, then no… it goes on and on. Do you think there’ll be new music to a remade game or will it just be enhanced?

JW: Oh, yeah. Yuji’s been against a “new” NiGHTS for a while. He believes that the original is “perfect just as it is.” Not that I disagree, but I still think an improved version would be great. I think the music will probably stay the same. And if so, I wouldn’t mind it bein’ enhanced some. Fumie Kumatani did an excellent job with NiGHTS’ soundtrack. But, a few “improvements” here and there never hurt. ^_^


TSS: I’ve seen that your recent updates at ESPIOKaos.com show you’ve been doing a few Sonic Chaos (MS) MIDIs, how do you define the difference between the MS version and GG?

JW: Heh. Not much difference. This was bein’ discussed on my site’s message board, too. ^_^ There’re a few songs that were changed — some completely, some slightly. For example, Gigalopolis Zone for the SMS was completely changed in the GG ver. But, Turquoise Hill Zone only had changes in the intro. Also, in the SMS ver., there’s no BGM for the Super Shoes, and there’s also only one ver. of the Special Stage theme — the GG ver.’s got two Special Stage themes.


TSS: Do you also Sequence sounds from games, like Sonic collecting a ring or smashing a Badnik?

JW: Yeah. I’ve sequenced a few sound effects — ring, star/lamp posts, special stage warping, and some others.


TSS: How long does it take to do that?

JW: Sometimes it can take only a few minutes, sometimes many, many hours.


TSS: Another thing I was wondering is do you get into other Sonic Universes? For example, maybe Archie, Anime, or SatAM?

JW: I’ve got some interest in the other universes. But, my main interest stays with SEGASonic. To me, that’s the “true” universe. ^_^ I collect the Archie Sonic comics, I watched SatAM when it came on, and I’ve got the Animé on tape.


TSS: You also sequence MIDIs for the other universes?

JW: Yeah. I’ve sequenced MIDIs from SatAM and the animé.


TSS: I’m running outta time here John, it’s been a blast interviewing you. To listen to John’s MIDIs I suggest you head to Sonic Stadium’s Music Zone or better yet get the latest MIDIs at John’s website ESPIOKaos.com.

JW: Thanks for the interview. I really enjoyed doin’ this. ^_^

You can visit John Weeks’ website at ESPIOKAOS.com.