Where Mario meets the drummer boy
As a kid, Andrew Young put his parents’ dictionary set to good use. While a makeshift drum kit wasn’t the most conventional use for them, it was how Andrew discovered his passion for music. In doing so, he gave a slightly different meaning to the phrase “play on words.” Over time, Andrew has found a unique way to combine his love of music with his interest in video games.
The Ontario native started composing music in his later teen years and has since written hundreds of songs in pursuit of his dream of composing music for video games.
“The idea came from mostly just playing a lot—playing the games. I’m kind of a nerdy guy anyway, playing the original Marios and Zeldas and stuff like that. You could probably recognize the Mario music if you heard it. That kind of thing shows that video game music actually has something to it,” Andrew said.
Andrew recounts the first time he heard video game magazines and TV shows refer to the music and talk specifically about the composer.
“I’d never really thought about it before while playing the game and enjoying the music. It became real like, ‘an actual person wrote this music. An actual team of people made this piece of interactive art’—like a piece of media and I could be a part of something like that and enjoy it,” he said.
Being a part of something bigger than an individual assignment appeals to Andrew and the team aspect of creating video game music is a huge draw for him.
“I think being a part of a team of people is a lot more attractive to me than just being that solo artist in a bedroom trying to make it,” he explained. “Especially in an orchestral-symphonic area, you need more people. There’s not really too many bedroom composers that are doing symphonies and suites and stuff like that.”
“It’s a really cool challenge and basically it’s the new venue for classical music because classical music has fallen out of popular music,” Andrew continued. “The cinematic music is mostly becoming formulaic, blockbuster cinematic music. So the place you can go to kind of experiment is the smaller indie video games. They’re slowly getting more recognition as “real music.” There’s a video game called Journey that came out in 2012 or 2013, and it’s the first video game soundtrack to be nominated for a Grammy.”
While Andrew initially started composing for fun, he’s now being contracted to write music for gaming podcasts along with other advertising material, including some for Briercrest. Andrew shared how he first began composing for other people.
“There’s an online podcast [about gaming] that I was a fan of and it kind of inspired me to write a piece of music. So I wrote something small and sent it to them over Twitter and then they used it on the show,” he said. “At that point, that was a small audience—300-400 people watching. Now the show gets between 2000-9000 viewers, so inevitably in the viewers, there’s going to be someone who’s starting up their own show or doing their own podcast. They need a theme, so then they contact me and contract me for a tiny little thing because they’ve heard my music in the breaks. It’s how I made my living last summer. I just lived on writing music.”
One of Andrew’s fascinations with writing music is exploring different genres and combining ones that don’t normally fit together.
“Like last summer, I wanted to write a full sonata, but with Game Boys. So actually having sonata form proper, proper harmony, and proper resolutions, like an A-B-A section, but with Game Boy sounds. I think that’d be fun,” he said.
Andrew’s captivation with music goes back to his childhood where he started off playing drums.
“I think I might’ve seen a music video or something. I wanted to be like the rock drummer,” Andrew said, “So even for like 10 years, I had the long hair and big beard and all that stuff.”
After wearing out his parents’ dictionaries by drumming on them, he eventually upgraded to a real drum kit, which his parents let him buy with his paper route money.
“And then along with that, [I had] to take lessons,” he explained. “It all started from that and then I spent most of my time playing in church on worship teams and on chapel teams [at Briercrest].”
Growing up in a Christian home was the beginning of Andrew’s faith journey. But despite that, his faith was put to the test in high school.
“I started to get away from it a little bit during high school and like in the bands,” he explained. “I mentioned earlier that I was in a stoner rock band. All the stuff that is associated with that like the drinking, marijuana and whatever—that got tiresome with the people I was interacting with. [I asked myself], if I call myself a Christian, ‘Can I still be playing this rock music?’ and [concluded that] the answer is pretty much no.”
During that time, as Andrew was finishing up high school, he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to do or if he even wanted to go to school. After some encouragement from his parents and his brother, who had just returned from the Kaléo program, he reluctantly agreed to come to Briercrest for a tour in the summer.
“I came to see the music program,” Andrew said. “Just talking with Keith [Molberg]—I don’t know. He knew exactly what he was talking about and he showed me the [recording] studio and the [sound] boards around the school. I was already kind of interested in learning theory, but he was just explaining it in a way that was easy to understand and that just kind of made it feel like home.”
Now, four years later, Andrew continues to hone his craft by taking theory classes, playing music, and finding opportunities to keep writing.
“Part of what was really helpful with Keith, his particular grounding in Scripture, and [practices like] reading music-related scriptures before class [helped me learn] that it’s not wrong to want to be as skillful as you can be,” Andrew said. Asking [yourself], ‘Are you doing this for you or are you doing this for God?’ And it’s not wrong to want to be the best at what you can possibly do. It’s just the intention of it.”
“I don’t intend to go into ministry at all,” he continued. “I want to go write music for video games or film or whatever, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a minister wherever I end up. Especially after school, I want to go to Montreal because that’s where a lot of video game studios are.”
“Hopefully through my time at Briercrest I’ve developed enough of a solid faith that I can kind of withstand [an environment that may be hostile to Christians] and not fall down to that—and just being in a studio of people that generally won’t be believers. So [I want to be] the best I can be as a musician and as a composer and as an engineer. [And I want to] interact with all the other composers, musicians, and engineers in a way that would both show Christ’s love and also the ability that I’ve cultivated here.”