The Internet abounds with Final Fantasy arrangements and arrangers. You might say, it’s a genre of its own, with so many artists active in this field that even those talented ones have a hard time being noticed. Marc Papeghin got popular some time ago owing to his film music and alternative music arrangements featuring the French horn. However, he extended this original formula for the needs of Uematsu’s music, producing truly concert-like recordings in the privacy of his own home. In his interview for Gamers Listeners, he talks – among other things – about how his newest 45-minute Final Fantasy VIII super-arrangement was created.
Gamers Listeners: Who is Marc Papeghin? Tell us something more than those three sentences in the ‘about’ section on your official website
Marc Papeghin: As far as I can remember I’ve always been into music. My mother told me I used to sing in my crib instead of crying and I remember that by the age of 3 I would constantly ask my father to put on my favorite vinyl records. (He quickly taught me how to do it myself so that I wouldn’t bother him with it anymore )
When I was 6, my parents naturally signed me up for music classes at the local Music School where I learnt Music Theory and French Horn . Later I finished my musical studies at the Conservatoire de Lille ( Northern France )
Around 2000, after hearing Dream Theater’s album Metropolis Part II, I decided to pick up the drums. I also gradually started to learn any other instrument I could get my hands on. Besides the french horn, I’m self-taught for every other instrument that I play.
Around 2005 I began composing, recording and multitracking. And the first big arrangement I released was the Tribute to John Williams for 12 French Horns.
My goal was to create a virtual french horn ensemble by recording each track one by one and then mixing them together. The final piece contained music from about 20 different scores composed by John Williams. I posted in on YouTube almost 6 years ago, having no idea whether people would like it or not , but the general reponse was really good and it’s turned out to be my biggest YouTube success to this day!
After this I continued experimenting with the whole concept of “virtual horn ensemble”. I released french horn tributes to Final Fantasy VII, to progressive metal band Dream Theater, Symphony X and Neal Morse, as well as 4 other John Williams Tributes.
And then came the first Epic Medley, based on the Final Fantasy VI OST ! The idea of creating a giant piece of FF music, pretty much in the vein of the big progressive rock epic songs I’m a fan of, was something that I’d been thinking about for years, especially after hearing the Black Mages’ albums. Since then I’ve released 3 more Epic Medleys, and already have many ideas for the next ones.
Nowadays I work as an arranger/internet session musician. I arrange/record french horn and trumpet tracks for composers around the world in various kinds of projects, ranging from film music to TV ads, video games, live shows or pop music.
Gamers Listeners: Why the French horn? Why does it fascinate you in spite of being a mainly auxiliary instrument that is hardly present in the awareness of the general public?
Marc Papeghin: I kind of instantly felt in love with the instrument. Something about its majestic , powerful yet very graceful sound. Plus my grand-father used to play the Cor de Chasse (Hunting Horn) , so there’s a good chance I might have been inflenced by that too!
Now people might not be aware of what a french horn exactly is but they all know what it sounds like, since it is one of the most prominent instruments in film music And one of the goals of my Tribute to John Williams was actually to showcase the Horn’s sound. And I’m really glad when people tell me they wanted to play it after seeing the video or that thanks to it they simply learnt what a Horn was.
Someone recently sent me a message to let me know he’d been playing the horn for 5 years, and that he’d picked it up right after seeing my Tribute. Knowing that my work can inspire people this way really is one of the best rewards I can hope for.
Gamers Listeners: The recently finished The Epic Final Fantasy VIII Medley seems to be your most ambitious production, or at least the biggest of the ones you’ve released so far. Tell us about how it was created – from its conception to the final version of the video.
Marc Papeghin: With each new Epic Medley I always try to innovate and push my own limits. And usually each new medley turns out to be longer than the previous one
I love the Final Fantasy VIII OST so much that I quickly felt its medley would be a big one. It turned out to be so big that I took the decision to split it in two, the whole thing lasting 42 minutes in total.
When I start working on a medley I make a list of the songs I want to include and then it’s like a giant puzzle I have to solve. I usually know which piece is going to open the medley and which piece is going to be last, and then I create it piece by piece, trying many combinations to see what works and what doesn’t. I especially put a lot of attention on the transitions, since I want everything to flow perfectly well. When I have the final structure I then start properly recording it, sending files to the guests, and then comes the mixing process.
I also work on the video at the same time. I usually have the video part finished before the final audio mix is done. The video requires a lot of work too since I really want it to perfectly complement the audio. I spend a lot of time making sure it’s always entertaining and engaging. I always try to put myself in the viewers’ shoes who have to watch a 20min-long video, and the last thing I want is for them to get bored.
Gamers Listeners: Before you started to invite other musicians to collaborate on your productions, you recorded all the instrumental parts on your own, so apart from the French horn, you also played the keys, electric guitar and drums, among other things. Do you find it easy to learn additional instruments that are often dissimilar to your “original” one?
Marc Papeghin: In my case , it’s never been too hard to pick up any new instrument.
I’d say it could be due to the fact that I have perfect pitch, which means that I can name any note right after hearing it. Or any noise for that matter! For example when I’m walking on the street, if I hear a car honking, a police siren, a bird singing or like a jackhammer on a construction site, the noises will automatically translate into notes or rhythms in my brain. I always find it fun when I suddenly hear exterior noises which end up being in the same key or same tempo as the music I’m listening to at the same moment.
So music has always been a part of me. And in the case of learning how to play a new intrument, it’s mainly a technical challenge, you have to learn the way it works. And then it’s just a matter of practicing it enough so that it feels natural and you don’t have to think about it anymore, just play it.
Now French Horn, Trumpet and Drums remain my main instruments. I can play the keys and the guitar, but since I’m self-taught I am perfectly aware that my technique isn’t very…academic. I just do my own thing Which is why I much prefer inviting guests who really master these on my medleys!
Gamers Listeners: Do you have any special criteria when choosing soloist to collaborate with?
Marc Papeghin: Well it turns out I’ve recently released the first part of the Making of The Epic Final Fantasy VIII Medley, which is about the guests:
But basically I just look for great musicianship. Also it’s always a plus when a soloist has good equipement to record himself. I spend a lot of time listening to other people’s VGM covers and there’s a big list of people I would love to collaborate with, so the Medleys are always like the perfect occasion for that. From now on I don’t think I’ll ever do another medley without guests. I had a blast creating the Final Fantasy VI and IX Medleys but I just love having other people’s talents bring life to my arrangements!
Gamers Listeners: Do you think your arrangements would work out in a live performance? Would you like to do something like this?
Marc Papeghin: I’ve thought about it and I definitely think it would be a lot of fun! Most of my pieces would need to be re-arranged though in order to be played live. The Final Fantasy VIII medley for example features 20 musicians (me included) with many diverse instruments ranging from a lapsteel guitar to woodwinds, ocarina and full choirs, but I’m sure we’d find a way to make it work!
Gamers Listeners: At this rate you’re going to run out of final fantasies soon – are you perhaps thinking about some other series of games that you’d like to work on in the same way?
Marc Papeghin: Well since nowadays it seems that I need more than a year to complete a medley I think I’m safe for at least another 10 years with Final Fantasy OST-s But yes, I’ve definitely thought of other games, all of them mostly being famous RPG-s.
And actually these days I’ve been working on a new medley with someone. Can’t tell what it is yet but it’s not FF nor SquareEnix. We’ve already laid down many demos and it sounds really promising. Can’t wait for it to completed!
And of course like I previously said, I already have lots of ideas for future FF Medleys. I usually want to take a little break after working for so long on a project (Final Fantasy VIII took a year and a half) but new ideas keep coming so I wouldn’t be surprised if I found myself already working on a new FF Medley in the next few days to come.
Interview was conducted by Arkadiusz Haratym. Special thanks to Marcin Moń. For more awesome medleys check Marc Papeghin’s YouTube channel.