Nerd alert: I met my very good friend Shiryu on the Nintendo Life forums and comments section where we very quickly realized we had extremely similar tastes in video games. I loved the reviews he did for the site too, and a recommendation from him always goes a long way with me. He’s been super supportive and encouraging of what I’m doing with The Ghost Generation, and he’s always been there when I’ve needed help or advice. In short, a class act and I’m certainly not the only person who thinks so. The dude is a bit of an enigma, but he’s well respected by those in the know and, it turns out he’s a MASSIVELY prolific and ridiculously talented electronic musician so it was only natural that The Ghost Generation would have him as our first official interview. He’s also sarcastic as hell and seems to have fun messing with me which is ALWAYS encouraged so double awesome there.
Shiryu is based in Lisbon, Portugal and since we’re both super-busy guys I sent him some questions and he was gracious enough to answer them in a timely fashion so I could get this up before Thanksgiving. English isn’t his first language either just FYI, and I don’t want to my dude too much so cut him some slack. You’ve heard enough from me at this point, so I’m VERY proud to present The Ghost Generation’s first official interview with Shiryu:
(AFHGhost1) You’re a friend of mine so I’m super stoked to be doing this with ya. Tell the readers who you are and what you do, let them get to know you a bit!
(Shiryu) Sorry, new phone. Who this? Well, I’m sure you must be OK if you have my contact info. My name is surprisingly NOT Shiryu, but it is that handle people recognize my work online for over the decades. The first time I ever published anything without my pseudonym was on Nintendo Life over four and a half years ago. However even up to this day my colleagues have no clue what my face looks like. So all you need to know is that I’m someone from Lisbon, Portugal with a ridiculously strict work discipline that inevitably led to the insane volume of published works I currently have out there. I was very young when I began to understand my Commodore Amiga 500 multimedia-producing potential (besides playing amazing video games, of course) and that was the kickstart to everything, really. Little could have I known it would shape my life and that I would still be at it three odd decades later. I am thus no-one and everyone, another faceless dreamer on the WWW, having fun with the possibilities modern technology allows in whatever free time I can muster.
That was freakishly well said. You have your hands in a lot of cookie jars, when do you sleep exactly? I find that I get a few minutes here and there while I’m driving to work.
Sleep, a true luxury. Currently I sleep from 1 to 8 AM like some sort of robot. I don’t even use an alarm clock anymore, I just hit the sack, fall asleep, solve issues in my dreams, and open my eyes the next morning ready to implement those solutions. I fear this is some form of by-product of working in IT, but as long as I can catch those 7 hours of sleep, everything works out. But any sort of disturbance immediately affects productivity so I had to train myself to shutdown and let go of technology a few hours before bed time and it truly improved my overall quality of life. People are often shocked when I explain to them I don’t even own a smartphone. Despite having all the commodities of living in the future, in the end all those tiny distractions amount to quite a lot at the end of the day, time that you could be doing something productive, time you could me making art. You can say that for better or for worse I hacked my sleep and productivity into my lifestyle simply by not following some of the expected norms of life in the 2019’s.
Sound advice for ALL of us man, I love to see people going against the grain of what we’re “supposed” to do these days. Speaking of making art- I’m a big fan of your music and I’m curious- who are your “big ones”, your influences, the ones that helped you form your musical identity?
Sins of the father, I must admit. It was he that offered me a Yamaha PC-100 (still have it, still works!) when I was but a little child. It was on it that I learned by myself how to play, fortunately one whole year prior to putting a ZX Spectrum 48k (still have it, still works too!) in our home. If not by that order, I feared music would have never really took off in my youth, with my free time back then most certainly spent around video games instead. From my father’s vinyl and later CD collections I was exposed to Jean-Michel Jarre and Vangelis. Their compositions where so incredible and outside the regular pop sounds on the radio, it was impossible not to be fascinated by the near-infinite possibilities of electronic music. The Amiga was also a huge part of inspiration, with the compositions of Tim “CoLD StoRAGE” Wright, the legendary Chris Hüeslbeck, Martin Iveson, Barry Leitch and so, so many others in both the demo scene and commercial game releases. As time went on and my youth turned into adolescence, I discovered most of the games I was playing were either conversions or clones of Japanese games, and upon such discovery I quickly immersed myself in all-things Japan, leading me to such iconic names like Yuzo Koshiro and Nobuo Uematsu. Meanwhile we were living the golden age of European electronica: The Prodigy, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, Juno Reactor, The Future Sound of London, Orbital… and so many more that are still active nowadays. Somewhere around this mashup of chiptunes and new age electronic Shiryu Music was born. You can clearly say I stand on the shoulders of giants without a hint of exaggeration.
Those are some pretty hefty influences indeed, my friend. What’s really great about your music though, is that you pull from such a vast array of infuences but you truly do have your own thing going. It’s admirable, cause it can be extremely easy to sort of let your sound BECOME the sound of your influences if you’re not careful. The video game themed stuff you do is a pretty limitless well too. Take something you love, music from a rad game, and make it even better. How do you decide when you want to do that and when you want to do the fully original stuff?
On this I must disagree. The original music, made for the chips is utterly brilliant because of their limitations. Doing remixes or covers is daunting work for me because I nearly never manage to finish something that does justice to the original work. I decide on what games to cover by past experience with them. As often as I can I take the original chiptune format and reverse-engineer the notes into MIDI files that I use as a base to properly begin re-instrumentation and adding notes here and there. But as I often learned from my ambitious dreams, sometimes more is not necessary better, especially when related to chiptunes that people hold as dear memories from their childhood. But I did it anyway because I want more people to know about these composers and their melodies, to play out “what if…” scenarios where these compositions where not limited by technology, and that is how albums like “F-Zero GO FAST! Galactic G.P. Edition” and “Metroid Legacy: The Samus Aran Chronicles”. These games are my youth and I wanted to give something back. Other times I prefer to simply make alternative soundtracks to games I enjoy playing in more recent times which explains “Mass Effectively” or the massive “The WipEout Legacy: Perfect Lap Edition”. Add my love for all things science fiction along with the odd original album here and there and its little wonder I have over one hundred self-published albums in two decades. Plus I still keep releasing free MP3 editions for those who can’t afford the high quality versions because I too was once a poor student and I believe music, much like video games, is a universal language and should be enjoyed by everyone, anywhere in the world. It also makes me a poor, poor man with very little business profitability.
Yeah well, fuck money. Money corrupts everything, especially art. If you can live and do what you love you’re doing something right, so in that regard I think you’re doing a mighty fine job. You’re a pretty damn accomplished writer in the gaming community too, for the folks that might not know this- what’s your absolute favorite genre? Cooking simulators, right?
Hardly accomplished. All my work at Nintendo Life is expertly revised by the editors who have been putting up with my broken written English for years now, those poor chaps. In fact I never even attempted to apply to any paying positions in my own country because they simply all ceased to exist, one by one. What I do have is a truly unfair advantage over my fellow colleagues – some sort of undiagnosed Hyperthymesia – which allows me to have vivid memories of almost every single video game I ever experienced in my life. It efficiently saves me a ton of time and work in research, I can assure you. With the recent indie boom all across digital platforms, it is always fun to find very old game concepts with a new lick of paint. With so many decades and so many hardware generations under my belt, it would be extremely unfair to start naming genres because usually my favorite game is the one I am playing at this very moment. I do tend to favor arcade gaming, so you will unsurprisingly find shmups, driving games, and beat ’em ups of both the 1v1 and belt scrolling variety among my favorites. JRPGs should come as no surprise to anyone growing up on 90’s imports. I try to experience a bit of everything, but I must sadly admit never to have really got into cooking simulators… or MMORPGs. There is a simple reason for the latter: I control the video game, the video game does not control me. Any game whose rules and operations lie beyond my capacity to turn it off, walk away, and return to it at any given time without any obligation is not something I enjoy. But don’t think I am some sort of lone wolf now that couch co-op is becoming a distant memory; I am also down for some online first person or third person shooting. No battle royale, please. I like to keep things short and personal. More explosions per second instead of running around huge empty maps looking for the right ammunition for the weapon I randomly found where I landed. I reckon it’s a generation-gap thing.
My memory is a lot like that too, I have very clear memories of events that took place when I was less than a year old, they’re shitty ones but still- there nonetheless! I agree with you 100% about the battle royale thing too man, I just don’t give a shit and I’ve tried. Maybe you’re right, fuck it- let the kids keep it. Let’s get back to the music- what’s the scene like in Portugal? You doing this stuff live? Any plans to do so if you’re not already?
Never. Not a single gig! No one even knows my face. I’m that obscure/mythical sort of urban legend whose name folks whisper around the water cooler. Most people can’t even believe a single human is capable of handling all of this for as long as I have. Sadly, since the friends of my youth all grew up into responsible adults and walked away from such things like music making and video games, I ended up spending a lonely last decade and I have very little clue what anyone outside my bedroom is doing music-wise. There was a time when live shows were a real possibility, but adulting prevented those and to be honest, this is a hobby. It was never profitable and I learned from a very young age that living just outside the spotlight offers almost the same rewards with very little risks of living under it (thank you, “Babylon 5”). Live shows would most surely evolve into some sort of Daft Punk-ish mask and spectacle because I would definitely not want to be recognized in public, even more so due to the sensitive nature of my “real work” (shhhhhhhhh!). But we live in exciting times of great possibilities, mostly thanks to technology, so who knows what will happen down the line. If things would end as they are, I am more than happy with what I achieved in twenty years with little more than a mix of passion and old-school Portuguese stubbornness.
I respect the shit out of you because you’re a guy who follows his passions, and your love for what you do is abundantly clear. Following your passions is also tough work, as you’ve said- so what advice would you give others who are aspiring musicians, writers, gaming journalists, etc.? The Ghost Generation is all about brutal honesty so give it to ‘em straight!
No filler, all thriller- Forget other people. Your friends, your co-workers, your own family; they won’t understand why you do the things you do. Do listen to feedback and take criticism when it is warranted, but otherwise simply ignore them. Do the things you like because you want to do them for yourself. This might sound selfish, but if like me you get a glimpse of an idea, a project in your mind, and it drives you utterly insane until that idea becomes a reality, you must be able to pay the price to make it happen. Do not get distracted or lost among the many, many choices this modern day and age offer or you will end up with all your projects half way done before getting overwhelmed and giving up. One day at a time, one track at a time, one written feature a time. 365 sleep cycles per year equals a ton of possibilities with each coming day. Just don’t expect once you are done it immediately qualifies you for praise and awe from the audience; they are often too distracted in their own little bubbles to take notice and it is nothing personal against you. NEVER assume anything is personal against you. You will lose both perspective and productivity. Expecting fame, fortune and glory in the short run (like you were promised time and time again when growing up, making you believe that you were special) isn’t a reality, so wake up! You are driving on the the highway to failure city. Learn from your mistakes, pick yourself up, and continue along the road. Fear not experimenting “outside the box”. Do your own thing and let history judge you. Who even has the time to rest on one’s laurels in this golden age of opportunities, 15 seconds of fame, and technological possibilities? Hey, would you look at that – I just ranted clichés for a whole paragraph! Funny thing: They all actually work.
No short answers with this guy, I love it. People seem to speak in text/Tweet sized responses nowadays so even a written conversation like this feels amazing. You’re absolutely right too, now more than ever staying LASER focused is a top priority for anyone who is creating something. There’s so much around to pull us away now, you just gotta glue your face to your projects.
Now for some fun stuff- Give us your top 5 favorite video games, and your top 5 worst video games ever.
I have had that question asked so many times and each time I give a different answer because this industry is always in a state of flux. So here we go, my top 5 favorite games at the time of writing this: “Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe”, “Super Metroid”, “Gunstar Heroes”, “F-Zero GX” and “Dark Souls”. All five represent the purest, highest form in each represented genre. What a strange lack of shmups and beat ’em ups… As a gesture of respect for the developers and the community of players I will not be naming worst video games ever, but I can give you a few hints: Games that perpetually stay in “early access”, games with in-game real currency, “surprise mechanics” (please read “dissimulated gambling”), or games that clearly have no purpose other than wasting one’s precious time. Those really don’t click with me. Add toxic online fandoms and I’m twice as likely to quit. Some games you can only win by not playing and the number of those is increasing every single day.
So diplomatic of you, I’m impressed. It’s gonna start sounding like I’m kissing your ass but I REALLY do agree with what you have to say about the things you don’t like. The microtransactions, the “early access” games that come out buggy as hell- all that stuff wasn’t a thing when we we’re kids. Video games were just MAGIC, and that’s something that this generation just isn’t going to ever understand. Wow, I sound old. Fuck this, let’s have some more fun!
What are you looking for in a Mrs. Shiryu? Ladies, somehow this talented fella is single so we need to fix that shit. I mean, he lives in Portugal for god’s sake, he writes rad music, and he’s got impeccable taste in video games. Sorry man, I’ll let you talk now.
Ah, women. Truly wondrous creatures, are they not? They bring life or destroy it with a simple smile or a flick of their hair. People who see and presume my “success” clearly haven’t been paying attention because by now I should have been married and working on changing diapers every other hour. Women in my life come and go, but not a single one stayed. I am fairly certain I am at fault, but since I often must regretfully use logic instead of passion in such matters it would be truly egoistic to chase a relationship with my current lifestyle. Thus I am not really looking for anything anymore and do my best not to go around breaking hearts left and right. Wait… is your blog dealing with emotional affairs along with music and video games!? So avant-garde!
Umm, yeah! Where else can you deep-dive into music, video games, and emotional trauma in the SAME PLACE? Maybe your therapist’s office, but other than that we’re the only port in the storm! So, this has been amazing, and I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my dumb questions! Tell everyone where to find you online and I’m sure we’ll bother each other on Twitter later. Huge thanks again for doing this, The Ghost Generation wishes you NOTHING but the best and we’re glad to have you in our corner.
I still have no clue who you are, but I can only assume you will do no harm with this sensitive information I have just handed you. Or else, well… you do realize you are dependent on several invisible interconnected systems that you rely every day. I’ve spent my youth learning and tinkering to see how those work. It is ridiculously easy to throw a spanner in the works and watch the catastrophic collapse of so many things we take for granted. Good talk!
Side note- Anyone who ends an interview with a veiled threat to hack my online infrastructure and destroy me is a fucking winner in my book.
Huge thanks to Shiryu for this FANTASTIC and endlessly entertaining interview, and since he totally skipped that part up there you can find him here, here, and here. I strongly suggest you do so, and you can also find him writing for one of the world’s most fantastic gaming sites, Nintendo Life. He also just dropped some KILLER new music and already has more on the way. How he gets 7 hours of sleep every night is beyond me.
A brand new blog/website where this happily married, 30-something father of 2 little minions rants, raves, and speaks in tongues. Raw, honest, and riddled with profanity. Get on board and let’s make The Ghost Generation awesome together!http://theghostgeneration.com Twitter.com/Gh0stGeneration