The Legend of Zelda is one of the most popular and dearly beloved game franchises in the world. Millions of copies, over a dozen games and more than 25 years later, that much hasn’t changed. Whether it be the intricate puzzles, inventive dungeon designs, immersive worlds or entrancing music, Zelda is more popular than ever for each of these reasons. Few franchises have truly transcended their medium and invaded other areas of entertainment, but the Zelda Symphony is a perfect example of this happening. Jason Michael Paul, the Executive Producer of The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, has taken his passion for music and games and turned it into an incredible, multi-medium revolutionary experience. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to speak with Mr. Paul and ask him about his past, present and future with the concert series and particularly where he plans on going next in his career.
“I had always been an avid gamer throughout my youth,” he told me over the phone. “Everyone on my block used to get together and we would play all kinds of games, of course including Zelda, and I really think that’s where a lot of my professional influences came from.” Jason started his career working in live event production for various companies in the early 2000s and eventually scored a gig with Sony as a project manager at their first ever interactive store. “That first job with Sony really paved the way for the rest of my career – I got a lot of opportunities with them,” he said. One of those opportunities was related to the mega-successful franchise, Final Fantasy.
Jason Michael Paul developed and produced “Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy” and then eventually “More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy“. His list of successful projects and performances also contains “PLAY! A Video Game Symphony” which included music from several of the most popular and high-profile game franchises of all-time and featured several prolific composers ranging from Jeremy Soule to Nobuo Uematsu.
Fast forward to 2011 and his engagement with Nintendo and the Zelda franchise truly begins. When recanting his experience, he explains, “it’s crazy getting to work with visionaries of the industry. I’ve talked with Miyamoto – the man that created many of our childhoods – and several other leaders of the company. It still feels unreal, even a few years later. I grew up with these games.” At Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference, Jason produced a 4-minute medley of Zelda music in celebration of Skyward Sword and the 25th anniversary of the franchise, as well as the orchestral CD that accompanied many versions of the game on release later that year. Continuing with that sentiment, Jason told me that he’s “gone from playing those games as a kid, to working on the music with their creators and now being featured on a collectible music CD. How do you explain that?” Following the success of these endeavors, Jason produced a concert series specifically featuring the music of Skyward Sword and from that, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses was ultimately born; a performance that is more than just pretty music, but a performance that tells a story.
During our conversation, the biggest underlying notion that kept popping up throughout was the great conglomeration that gaming is today. “Games are a wonderful combination of so many different elements,” Jason explained. “Sure, you have that interactivity that no other entertainment medium has, but you also have these amazing visual elements, incredible story telling and of course, the music. I’ve always felt that the best music is more than just an auditory experience, but that it tells a story as well. That’s part of what, I feel, makes the Zelda Symphony so great and unique. With a live audience there, they don’t have to just listen to it – they can experience it in person. We’ve got video footage and so many other fantastic elements; the shows really come alive.”
I haven’t personally been able to attend a show yet myself (blasphemy, I know, since I’m a huge fan of everything Zelda) but I know I will now as soon as possible. However, Jason even said that “you don’t necessarily have to be a preexisting fan of the series to truly enjoy the performance. I’ve spoken with attendees that are just fans of orchestrated music in general or maybe other games and this was one of their first experiences with Zelda. With that being said though, I do think fans of the series will get the most out of it. It’s my goal to take over 25 long years of games and condence all of those memories, stories and feelings into a fully-featured performance. I think we’ve done a great job so far!” If the reviews and impressions from other fans and critics is any indication, I’d have to agree as well.
Jason has been in the industry for a while now and has achieved a lot in his time, but he’s far from finished. “I guess the question now is: what’s next?” he told me. “I mean, I’ve done a lot with games and music so far in my lifetime, but there are so many other opportunities out there. I just have to figure out where to go next.” He elaborated on his respect and gratitude towards Nintendo, but knows that he would love to work with other companies as well. “I mean, with “PLAY!” I get to do so much more as well, everything really, we feature Portal music in those performances,” Jason detailed.
So, I asked him the burning question: Does he want to work on his own, original soundtrack for a game? His answer was, of course, “Absolutely! That would be yet another dream come true for me and I would definitely love to do that. Which series it would be, or if it’s a new franchise altogether, I have no idea.”
Finally, before we ended our conversation I had to ask if he would be picking up the newly released The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds for the Nintnedo 3DS and he told me, “No, probably not. I am just so busy as of late, I barely have time to play many games anymore. I still have a huge amount of love for the industry and the activity, but I don’t get to actively play anywhere near as much as I’d like to.” He also has no plans of incorporating the new game into the the symphony; the most recent release featured is Skyward Sword.
What else would you want to know about Jason Michael Paul? Did I miss any big topics that you would have wanted to know more about? Go ahead and leave a comment down below and let us know your thoughts!