Q&A: Greatest Bits

Megan Patsavas

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“Greatest Bits,” one of Northwestern’s newest and quirkiest radio shows, made its winter debut last week on WNUR. Brought to you by three-fourths of the NU-based band The Earth is a Man, the show features Doug Kaplan, Max Allison and Zach Robinson as hosts. The music-savvy trio answered questions about their show, geeked out about video game music and told The Current about some of their favorite games.

TC: How would you describe “Greatest Bits” to someone who hasn’t heard of it before?

Allison: We aim to cover video game music of all different eras, so for each hour of air time we try to play music inspired by or directly from video games… and we also try to focus on bands or artists that are not necessarily video game music, per se, but they incorporate elements of it in their arrangements. Our repertoire is pretty small and it’s easy to find highlights because either they’re games that we played ourselves or games that have a really great soundtrack. So we try to have a diverse, wide-spanning set.

TC: Why did you pick the name “Greatest Bits?”

Kaplan: The original name was the “BowseR Beat,” which is not nearly as good as “Greatest Bits.” All of the eras of video games are usually referred to in their processing power, so the first era is the 8-bit era, then was the 16-bit era and 32 at the same time pretty much, followed by the 64/128-bit era. and now it’s exponential bits, super bits.

TC: So, do you have a specific target audience? Are you geared toward just video gamers?

Robinson: I think that it really is possibly the most esoteric show on WNUR right now. It’s the kind of thing that people I don’t think would generally just turn on the radio and hear this kind of music and (say), “Oh, yeah, I’m going to listen to this.” …But I think what we’re trying to do with this kind of show is change that. Because the whole point of the show is that we think that this music is honestly really great music, and it stands alone.

Kaplan: At points on our show we are playing music that’s more popular than anything else being played on WNUR when we’re playing the theme from Mario or very recognizable themes from video games. It’s pretty interesTing, because WNUR is always focusing on the most underrepresented music genres, and video game music is such an underrepresented genre because it’s not getting airplay anywhere in the country. It’s really hard to find the music itself, but at the same time, it’s some of the most recognizable themes of any music composed in the last 20 years.

TC: When and how did you all get into video game music?

Kaplan: I remember when I was a kid, I had a Gameboy and one of my favorite games was Yoshi’s Cookie, which was a really bad rip-off of Tetris. It was not fun. I don’t know why I liked it so much. But there were three options for music that you could choose from, and I had, like, a song written in my head ­- like lyrics – written for each one. I would sing them. One was about a landlord. I was, like, seven.

Robinson: That’s really cute. Super cute.

TC: Do you have any favorite video games in general? Or ones with a particularly amazing soundtrack?

Allison: I have a great answer for that: Katamari Damacy is the highlight of all soundtracks.

Kaplan: I think we can all agree that we all very much like Super Smash Brothers Brawl. That’s a really good game with very good music.

Robinson: I can say that my favorite video game score and possibly my favorite video game is a recent one that came out in, like, 2007. It’s called BioShock. The music in that is some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard… It’s just gorgeous music and we’re definitely going to play it on the show.

“Greatest Bits” airs on Wednesday at 10 p.m. and can be streamed through WNUR’s website, wnur.org. Kaplan, Allison and Robinson’s band The Earth is a Man plans to release a new album later this quarter.

“This was originally published in The Current, a weekly supplement to The Daily Northwestern.”