Celebrating video game music with Dedeco’s stunning DJ sets

Video game music has a fascinating and proud history, and it’s well worth exploring independently of the games themselves.

That’s exactly what Brazilian DJ André Pádua, better known as dedeco (with shiny emojis), has been getting up to during the lockdown, so I thought it would be interesting to have a chat with him about video game music, his astonishingly solid video game music DJ sets and what inspired him to develop this project.

“My first console was the Nintendo 64,” dedeco tells me. “My Dad did his research really well and got all the heavy hitters like Zelda, Mario, Banjo and so on. Mario 64 still sits neatly in my top 5 games ever, and I play through it every year.”

For those unfamiliar with Brazilian gaming culture, there has long been a passionate community of enthusiastic gamers in the country, but due to a variety of reasons including distribution issues, the region has often struggled over the years to get reasonable stocks of new releases in a timely manner. Dedeco was quite lucky to have a decent selection of his own games — he recalls having about seven titles for the N64, which was a decent haul at the time; many Brazilian gamers instead had to turn to alternative means to get their fix.

“Brazil’s game culture was all about PS1 piracy!” dedeco admits. “It was hard to get N64 [reproduction cartridges] though, so for me it was all about going to the locadora, or rental shop, every week to try out some new stuff. I rented Bomberman Hero a lot — even though the game is kinda average, let’s be honest! I barely played the game, and would just sit there in the first stage bumping to the music!”

Locadoras were establishments where you could show up, pay a fee and play whatever video games they had in stock for a period of time corresponding to the fee you paid. For many Brazilian gamers, attending a locadora was as much a social occasion as it was an activity to do yourself; for example, the enduring popularity of the arcade racing genre in the region can be traced right back to Kemco’s classic Top Gear on the Super NES.

But I digress. Dedeco’s favourite rental (and video game music soundtrack) Bomberman Hero, it turns out, would go on to be a defining influence in his life, and on the work he is doing now.

“During my teens, I was super into this band from Rio de Janeiro called Dorgas,” he tells me. “I was reading some stuff on them where they said the soundtrack from Bomberman Hero was one of their major influences. I actually met the guys later in my life and they told me they were joking — I actually believe they were only half-joking — but reading that really brought me back to my childhood. I fired up the soundtrack on YouTube and thought that was amazing. Thinking back, I think that was one of the most formative moments of my career.”

So how did this interest in video game music and its possible influences on more “mainstream” music inspire dedeco to come up with his video game music DJ sets, then?

“My research as a DJ and electronic music producer often led to digging through some game music,” he explains. “I have actually played tracks from Persona, Streets of Rage and Ridge Racer in actual parties before the pandemic started, with very good reactions from the crowd!

“In 2019 a friend of mine invited me to remix a track from a chiptune tape he was releasing, which I signed as PADAWAN,” he continues. “He threw a release party, and I thought it would be cool to make a video game music-only mix. It was more of a live set where I played synths, finger drumming and even sang a song from Sonic R karaoke style! The Video Game Music DJ Set series stems from all that.”

One of the most interesting things about dedeco’s video game music DJ sets is that he provides a full commentary to them. Rather than spoiling the purity of the music by speaking over it, however, he instead incorporates the music into the closed captions of the videos. In this way, you can either simply enjoy the music of the videos (and dedeco’s energetic performances) or you can actively watch them with the captions enabled to find out a bit more about the tracks used, why dedeco chose to add them to the mix, and some of his thoughts on video game music and gaming culture in general.

The commentary is actually well worth spending the time to watch; there’s a bit of a ’90s demoscene “scrolltext” vibe from it. By this I mean that a lot of it comes across as being written from the heart by an individual rather than trying to be some sort of dry historical or analytical reference; it’s genuinely entertaining in its own right, and it’s an excellent means of providing a bit of “added value” to the videos. I was curious as to what inspired dedeco to adopt this format.

“I can’t count the times I’ve watched like 30 seconds of Boiler Room videos,” he explains, referring to the popular club music channel on YouTube. “It’s hard to grab anyone’s attention these days, so I thought the commentary would make the videos more engaging and fun to watch!”

He certainly succeeded there; these videos are great lockdown entertainment. But does he have any plans to take the show on the road once the pandemic is under control. Or has he perhaps already done so prior to the chaos of last year?

“Not in this format yet,” he says. “I can’t wait to do so when possible! Ridge Racer Type-4 music can really get a crowd moving, and the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack for the PS1 can easily bring down the roof of a dancefloor at 3AM.”

Consider us intrigued — and consider dedeco’s work as well worth supporting. Not only is he celebrating the wonderful medium of video game music in a delightfully unique way, he’s also doing his best to support himself with his music during a period of considerable turmoil in his home country.

To that end, if you like what he does, consider stopping by his Patreon and signing up as a supporter or executive producer for his work. You’ll get access to his community Discord and, at the higher tiers, have access to lossless downloads, exclusive streams, behind-the-scenes videos and even Ableton Live projects and sample stems that you can mess around with yourself.

At present in the video game music space, dedeco is working on a set entirely based on Wipeout, with sets for Bomberman Hero, Ape Escape and Streets of Rage following when some loftier Patreon goals are met. Alongside all this, he’s working on original music primarily built from N64 samples, which you can find here. And you can follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Soundcloud to stay up to date with all his latest work.

Thanks to dedeco for agreeing to speak with us — long live the wonder that is video game music!

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Pete Davison
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