Interview: Pure Nintendo Talks to GameGrooves and Ska Punk International About Limit Breaker: A Ska Tribute to Final Fantasy VII

The kind of joking idea that snowballs into something brilliant and unique, Limit Breaker: A Ska Tribute to Final Fantasy VII is a new album imagined by GameGrooves and brought to life by the Ska Punk International family. The album features the work of a number of incredible ska musicians and is comprised of 14 songs inspired by the soundtrack of Final Fantasy VII.

Pure Nintendo caught up with Allen at GameGrooves and Chris at Ska Punk International to find out more about the album and the collaboration.

Pure Nintendo: Tell us about your Final Fantasy VII inspired ska album.

GameGrooves (Allen): After Skario Kart (our Mario Kart 64 Ska album) was well-received, I jokingly posted about another ska album on Twitter, and Chris (Ska Punk International) sent me a DM offering to collaborate on our next ska project. From there, we just clicked, and while it’s been a long road to release the album, it’s been a very fun one.

Ska Punk International (Chris): Basically, it’s 14 ska covers from the Final Fantasy 7 soundtrack. It features composers and arrangers from the gaming community as well as bands from the ska community. There are also many different types of ska covers on this album from more traditional ska to skapunk and even skacore. I’m extremely proud of both communities coming together so seamlessly.

Pure Nintendo: How did the idea for the album come about?

GameGrooves (Allen): After Ska Punk International (SPI) reached out to me, I knew that we would do a follow-up of sorts to Skario Kart. I think that we each came up with a few ideas for what game soundtrack to cover, but we both decided that Final Fantasy VII felt like a good fit. I mean, who doesn’t think of ska when they hear “One-Winged Angel”?

Ska Punk International (Chris): I got into ska in 1997, the same year that Final Fantasy 7 originally came out. In my head, they’ve always been linked. I was literally listening to my Less Than Jake, Skankin Pickle and Kemuri CDs while I was grinding for the Knights of the Round materia. So when Allen and I started talking about collaborating, this was one of the first ideas I had. We definitely talked about other games that would have been fun, but I’m very happy we settled on this one. 15 year old Chris is super stoked about this.

Pure Nintendo: How did you decide which elements of the original soundtrack you wanted to use for the album?

GameGrooves (Allen): I leave all the arranging to the individual artists. Of course, artists are expected to keep the main melody intact, but when it comes to genre/style, anything goes for most albums. For this particular album, I asked for ska arrangements, and that was all the guidance that I needed to give.

Ska Punk International (Chris): Right exactly, we put the call out and let the artists run wild with their interpretations of ska and the tracks they chose. It’s also been awesome working with Allen and GameGrooves overall. 

Pure Nintendo: What is the process like for switching the genre of a piece of music while still retaining the recognisable core?

GameGrooves (Allen): In some cases, the combination of soundtrack and genre makes sense or it’s been done a lot before (e.g. Zelda metal arrangements or orchestral Final Fantasy arrangements), but sometimes, I think it’s fun to throw a curveball. GameGrooves has done this a few times before with Skario Kart, our previous ska album, and Link-182, our pop-punk tribute to Ocarina of Time.

Ska Punk International (Chris): I can only speak from the ska and punk perspective, but ska is such a danceable and groovy genre that it becomes about finding the groove and going from there. That’s why you’ll hear so many of these songs feature sick solos while letting the groove ride out. There’s also so many types of ska that it’s an extremely flexible and fluid genre, and I think you can hear that in the different types of covers we have in this album. Deciding what direction you want your ska rhythms to take is one of the essential and most fun parts of a ska cover.

Pure Nintendo: What are your personal favorite tracks from the album?

GameGrooves (Allen): Like any good parent, I can’t choose favorites, but I will say that I never expected to hear “One-Winged Angel” as a ska arrangement, so let’s go with that lol.

Ska Punk International (Chris): Yeah asking me to choose a favorite isn’t fair hahah I’m definitely a huge fan of Flying Raccoon Suit’s “Those Who Fight” it’s the heaviest and most skacore song on the album so of course I love that. Have to mention Simple Minded Symphony’s “Under The Rotting Pizza” the solos on that track are incredible. Oh! The solos on Flip and the Combined Effort’s “Mako Reactor” are sick too. See I can’t pick, I could list them all!!!

Pure Nintendo: This has been a very different kind of project to your usual releases. Was there anything about the process that came as a particular surprise for you compared to what you’re used to?

GameGrooves (Allen): For my part, it was a real blessing to work with SPI because GameGrooves had never done a physical release before this album. Chris helped me every step of the way, and he brought new artists onboard, so I could not have done it without him. 

Ska Punk International (Chris): Yeah, it has definitely been a bit different. I’ve done compilations before, but nothing like this. It’s been most surprising how much the gaming community has embraced the idea and the ska community. The artists/composers that come from the gaming side of things really went all out on their tracks, and I love it so much. Also, I saw how much the gaming community overall enjoyed Skario Kart but the support has been even crazier than I imagined it would be. It’s been an amazing experience so far.

Pure Nintendo: Are you planning on doing any more releases like this in future?

GameGrooves (Allen): We definitely plan on releasing more video game cover albums, and we will probably do another ska album in the future (Super Mario 64?). Of course, I would love to work with SPI again, and as for collaborating with other labels, I would love to find more communities like the ska community that are inclusive, diverse, and passionate.

Ska Punk International (Chris): Yeah I’d love to do something else like this in the future. It’s been a dream come true. I have a lot of “regular” ska releases in the works for the next few years, but I’m sure I could find some time for another like this if (ahem) SOMEONE (nudge) asked me.

Pure Nintendo: Are there any other games that have soundtracks you’d like to play with?

GameGrooves (Allen): Too many to count. Majora’s Mask, Undertale, Ōkami, Super Mario Galaxy, Chrono Trigger, Pizza Tower. The list goes on and on.

Ska Punk International (Chris): Yeah I also have a huge list. Earthbound, Persona 5, Link To The Past, Ninja Gaiden, Super Mario 64, Splatoon, basically any other Final Fantasy. So many!

Pure Nintendo: What do you hope people take away from the album?

GameGrooves (Allen): I hope that people realize how many awesome and creative artists there are in both the ska and video game music communities. 

Ska Punk International (Chris): Gaming soundtracks and ska are pretty similar in a lot of ways. Both aren’t taken as seriously as their communities would like and both have a lot of depth and variety when you really dig in.

I want people from the gaming side of things to hear this album and dig deeper into the bands they hear and even go a step further and check out more bands they play with and are labelmates with. There’s so many sick ska bands that are active right now so I hope that together we can turn some people onto more of these bands. 

I’m also hoping that people from the ska side of things will dig deeper into some of these composers and arrangers. The work they do is incredible and deserves more of a spotlight as well.

Pure Nintendo: Do you have any advice for anyone inspired to take on similar creative projects?

GameGrooves (Allen): Be flexible. This album was delayed for almost 6 months, and we had to make several adjustments along the way. Fortunately, Chris and I are on the same wavelength, but in order to collaborate, you have to communicate often and be as flexible as possible.

Ska Punk International (Chris): I say just go for it. Whatever your idea is, just get started. Definitely be willing to be flexible just Allen said, but it’ll never happen if you don’t get started.

Limit Breaker: A Ska Tribute to Final Fantasy VII is available to stream and purchase now. Links to all platforms can be found here. You can get it on Bandcamp here. You can pre-order CDs and casettes here.

You can find out more about Ska Punk International by checking out their website here.

You can find out more about GameGrooves by checking out their website here.

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