People have been creating covers of their favorite songs from video games for years now. Just go to YouTube and you’ll find hard rock covers, hip-hop covers and even acapella covers. But one of the most interesting and unique styles of music to be applied to classic video game music is perhaps one that you’d least expect…. Jazz.
Andrew Allen has been playing music for his entire life, and after getting his degree in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern Florida he decided to combine that love of music with his passion for all things nerdy. As a fan of video games, sci-fi and superheroes it seemed like the perfect fit for him and those pillars of inspiration provided a wealth of material to draw from. Combining jazz with geek culture was unique and unexpected and his takes on the songs that we all know and love have proven to be very popular.
Andrew has released four studio albums covering recognizable tunes from Star Wars, Star Trek, Video Games and Superhero films & television. His music has also been featured on hundreds of radio programs and podcasts from Giant Bomb, Discovery Channel and more. Andrew also releases a steady stream of new music to his supporters on Patreon and tours the country performing everywhere from Las Vegas to Denver.
Andrew was kind enough recently to take a few moments and answer a few questions about his music and his love of all things geeky.
How long have you been playing music and what was it that drew you to jazz?
I’ve been playing music for about 23 years. My mother started me with piano lessons at five years old. My family was primarily interested in classical music, so that’s what I focused on until I was 18 years old. I didn’t really start playing jazz until I got to college. I took one class in jazz performance and I was hooked.
I have a deep respect for classical music, but I feel like jazz is my calling. Why play Chopin, when you can try to be Chopin instead?
Your studio albums have all had a “geek” theme, from Star Trek and Star Wars to comic books and video games. How did you come up with the idea to combine those pop culture songs with your style of music?
I graduated college and I had no idea what I was going to do. A lot of my friends who received a jazz studies degree went on to work in the service industry or education. I love education, but my main calling was always performance and composition.
I had to come up with a way to be successful and pay the bills. Jazz covers of geek culture weren’t readily available when I graduated college, so I decided to target that market. I’m a geek myself, so it wasn’t too hard to make the jump into that style of music. Basically, I combined two of my biggest passions: jazz and geek culture.
Each of those albums was produced using Kickstarter. What was it that made you decide to go the crowd funding route?
Crowdfunding is one of the most important aspects of my career. Without crowdfunding, I don’t think nearly as many people would be interested in what I do. We use crowdfunding to not only help pay for the expenses of an album, but to also promote my brand.
A lot of your music is from video games and you’ve covered everything from Super Mario 64 to Metal Gear Solid. Have you always been a gamer?
I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. I got my start on the regular Nintendo Entertainment System, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I remember a moment where my brother and I were playing against each other in the 1V1 dojo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time. I was very young at the time, and he threatened to never play a video game with me again if I beat him. Well, it’s been 21 years and he’s yet to play another video game with me. I’d like to say that I’m pretty dedicated to the video game craft.
What are some of your favorites games right now?
I’ve just recently gotten back into Diablo with my wife. She’s not a big gamer, but I think I converted her with Blizzard games. After a hard day of work, we like to pour a glass of wine, sit on the couch, and slay demons straight back to hell.
You recently began a project where you’ll be covering 2 songs a week from the upcoming NES Classic console leading up to its launch this November. What inspired you to undertake such a fun project?
I was talking with my good friend and record label colleague Brian Ibbott. We were talking about how excited we were about the NES classic coming out, and he suggested for me to do a MEGA video that included all 32 video game themes found on the system. We decided after a bit of deliberation that we would do a couple free jazz covers a week, and then we’d do the MEGA video the week before the NES classic launches.
What other projects do you have coming up that we can look forward to and how can people support your music?
I currently have a pop cover album in the works, and were planning on kickstarting that very soon. I put together an all-star band to do jazz covers of current mainstream pop music. The album features Yamaha performing artists, Grammy award nominees, and Grammy award winners. I think that everyone’s going to dig this album.
The Kickstarter will allow backers to choose their favorite songs from the past 50 years, and my group will make covers just for them. We’re pretty excited to make music, and I hope that people are excited to hear it!
and you can support his music and get cool exclusives by visiting his Patreon page!