Interview: David Javelosa (2023-12-09) by Alexander Rojas

From Sega Retro

This is an unaltered copy of an interview of David Javelosa, for use as a primary source on Sega Retro. Please do not edit the contents below.
Language: English
Original source: Alexander Rojas at Sega Retro
I'm always happy to answer your questions. I have always felt lucky, grateful and blessed to have had this career and all the experiences and people that it has brought into my life. I'm always happy to share these for the future of the arts!

1. What first inspired you to get into music? What are your musical inspirations in general, particularly when it comes to electronic sound?

I came from a musical family and started piano at a young age. My first piano instructor turned me on to a lot of classical recordings, particularly Beethoven symphonies. The pop music in the 70s was starting to feature synthesizer (analog) and I was fascinated with the sound. When I got to San Jose State, I studied in the electronic music lab with an old Buchla 100 modular system and the EMS Synthi AKS. I felt that the future of composition was in dynamic timbres; beyond pitch, rhythm, and arrangement. Electronic instruments made this happen.

2. Before working with the Genesis, what was your experience with FM synthesizers?

After touring with Los Microwaves and Baby Buddha using analog synths on stage and in the studio with other bands, I started hearing about MIDI and computer sequencing. My first MIDI synths were Casio cz101s driven by a Commodore 64. Some of the bands I worked with were into the Yamaha DX7, the first big breakthrough FM synth. I didn't like them at first because of the difficulty in programming and the expense. But soon there were more affordable versions, and with out keyboards due to MIDI control. My first FM synth was the TX81z by Yamaha, a single rack module with multi-timbrel ability; meaning I could get 6 different sounds at the same time, OR six notes poly-phonically. I started performing live with it and my C64 as well as studio work. This is what caught the attention of LX Rudis who asked me to work on the Genesis with him.

3. During your early consulting/freelance period (Spider-Man, etc), can you describe the "Yamaha synth to Genesis specs” process you devised? Do you recall which Yamaha you used in particular?

Porting patches from the TX81z to the Genesis engine was simple enough but had to be done manually. The parameter values had to be transcribed from the synth to the editor tool. The main difference in the two chips was the Genesis could not do multiple wave shapes like the TX. Before GEMS, all my FM patches were transcribed by SOJ or in house at SOA.

4. You mentioned that Mark Miller did “implementation” on a lot of your early Genesis work. How was he involved in the sound creation process, and what games did you work together on?

Mark Miller was one of the in house SOA freelancers. Nobody was full time music until I got hired. But Mark was a good sound programmer in his own right. Our work together was mostly on Spiderman. But I was working long distance in LA so some of what we did might have been together on other titles.

5. Can you describe the custom sound driver you created for 688 Attack Sub?

I have never programmed a sound driver because I'm not a “programmer”! I created MIDI files and FM patch descriptions for 688 but they were implemented by someone else. I don't know exactly which tool was used.

6. Why was your Sonic 2 song "Night Club Scene" created, when the soundtrack was already being handled by Sega of Japan? Was it for a potential Mean Bean Machine situation, where US music replaced JP tracks? Who commissioned its creation?

Night Club Scene was originally one of the many pieces I created in house to get better at GEMS. Sonic 2 was not released when I started working on it, but I though it could be in the style of a Sonic game. Mean Bean was produced by Max Taylor who asked me to do new music for the repurposed Puyo Puyo game. My MIDI files were used but implementation was done at SOJ. My title music and some level music was used, along with a track by Barry Blum, and the original SOJ music from Puyo.

7. You seem to have been a member of Sega of America’s early domestic production team, the Product Development Team. We know very little about this team, and how it fits into your work with the company. Could you describe your time with them? Were you a member of both Product Development and Multimedia Studio at the same time, or was this a Balthaser-related SMS technicality?

I was hired full time by Ken Balthaser Sr. originally to be part of the internal product development team. As the CD system was being developed, management wanted to address the multimedia trend, so the internal team was renamed Multimedia Studio. We were still responsible for supporting the producers doing outside development. It was chaotic!

8. Do you remember exactly when SMS was established? One of our sources indicates it began in late 1991, which would have been just before you were hired full-time in 1992… Do you know if the studio had performed any meaingful work before you arrived, or were you the one brought in to actually begin operations?

Sega Music Studios? That was a creation of Spencer Nilsen supported by Joe Miller, as Joe was replacing Ken Balthaser as VP of Prod Dev. Spencer was inspired by the game soundtrack LPs coming out of Japan and wanted to do the same for the US. He focused on bringing outside recording artists into game soundtracks as well. This spun out of the Prod Dev/Multimedia team about a year after I had hired Spencer (92) for in house soundtrack production. He and Joe arranged for a different recording facility in San Francisco where it stayed until closing.

9. From what we know, SMS provided support/recording/composition for “nearly two-dozen titles”. Apart from Jurassic Park and the later Wild Woody, do you recall any other notable projects that SMS was involved with?

Sega Multimedia Studio was early 92. Sega MUSIC Studios was late 93/94. Jurassic Park was the Multimedia Studio when the Prod Dev sound team was myself, Spencer, Brian Coburn, Barry Blum and Tom Miley as programmer support. I was originally hired as the first sound guy for the Multimedia team in early 92. The studio worked on a number of proposed projects besides JP and Woody, but many never made it to release. One of those was a SETI project with celebrity astrophysicist Fiorella Terrenzi.

10. What was working on Jurassic Park like? Can you describe your role in development?

Working on JP was also very chaotic. We were pioneering the abilities and features of the Genesis and CD rom systems while trying to create the killer content for it. A lot of it was PC game design approach but constrained to an 8bit color side-scrolling engine with FM sound mixed with CD audio and samples. It was amazing that we got it done and shipped. I was one of 4 contributing composers, sound supervisor and liaison design and programming. We had switched producers 3 times!

11. Following the establishment of Sega Music Group, you mention SMS was split up. Did this happen immediately? Importantly, do you remember the date of when this three-way split happened?

After Spencer's Sega Music Group was set up, the Multimedia studio also spun off Creative Support. There was a lot of fracturing and political competition. This was as I was contemplating going freelance and moving back to LA. Around 1994.

12. SMS was split into Sega Music Group, Creative Support, and a third group which covered technical support. Is this third group  Developer Technical Support?

Dev Tech Support was created just as Creative Support was started and they all overlapped with the Multimedia studio. The different divisions were competing for staff members! DTS was a well run operation and did great stuff like the sound demo cartridge by Ken Cho.

13. What was Creative Support and what were its responsibilities? Was it a direct continuation of the SMS team, or something different? We know almost nothing about it.

Creative Support was set up to support outside development while the rest of Multimedia worked on inside titles. Some people like myself, would go back and forth. These were NOT well run operations!

14. Following your departure from SMS in 1994, you spent the next two years in a consulting role. What were a few Sega projects you worked on during that time?

After I left, the Sega work I freelanced on were projects I had worked on while still on staff: Sega Channel and Iron Hammer. I also got third party Genesis work with Disney's Pocahontas and Ahh Real Monsters.

15. When exactly did you leave your consulting role in 1996? Was there a specific reason for doing so?

By the end of 94 I was back in LA. Besides freelancing and consulting, I was teaching part time at UCLA and working on my book Sound and Music for Multimedia. I consulted for game middle-ware tech as well as music and audio for other platforms: N64, Playstation 1 and 2, Windows and internet. I was approached by Yamaha to be the game industry consultant and then brought in full time from 99-2001.

16. Looking back at your many years of teaching, has your time at Sega influenced how or what you educate?

It was a major hiring point for SMC. The career technical programs always want to hire people from industry.