Interview with Joe Romersa, the man behind the voice

Posted on Jan 22, 2014

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Joe Romersa is a musician born in Los Angeles. For most Silent Hill fans, he is the man behind the voice. Or the man with the voice. He sung songs from Silent Hill with his deep, velvety voice. But who is the man behind the voice?

Most people know your name because of your work in the Silent Hill games, but I am sure there’s a lot more to you. Please tell us about your professional life non linked to Silent Hill.

A musician/songwriter first, but I’ve also made a living as a sound engineer/producer.
After a tragic early tour I did at age 19 which left me homeless sleeping on a park bench in New Jersey, I had to find a way to make money and still be close to what I love, music.
Being a sound engineer put me in projects other than just music recordings.
In 1986, I started recording and mixing actors and foley for animation and movies.
In 1991 working with Howie Epstein bass player from The Heartbreakers, on an album I played drums and engineered on, won a Grammy, an album called John Prine “The Missing Years”.
Then in 1994 started engineering, voice acting and ADR Directing on Anime and Game projects, which led to Silent Hill.

Speaking of which, what songs were you actually involved with?

All the songs that had vocals, lyrics were written by me. First was “SH3”. Last was “Shattered Memories”.
The very last project I worked on with Akira and Mary was “Shadows of the Damned” which was not SH.
At the beginning there were some of the songs that had key words to use, but I had to make them work with the music and melody. And were translated words as well.

How was the creative process?

The process was basically, Akira would give me an instrumental of a song in two versions, one with melody and one without melody, sometimes played on keyboard, sometimes guitar. Then I would listen over and over to the melody, counting syllables, reading the script, taking keywords and turning them into words easy to sing.
Then get together with Mary to rehearse it and record it at my studio Shadow Box Studio.
I would send the rehearsal recording to Akira and Konami for approval.
Once approved, Akira, Mary and I would record the master vocals at Magnitude 8 Post, Les Claypool’s studio in Arleta, California.
Once finished with the vocals, Akira would take the vocal tracks back to Japan, where he would finish the music around the vocals. Similar to what Howie and I did with Prine back in ’91.
I wouldn’t hear the final mix it’s release, usually 6 to 8 months later.

How, as an artist, did you approach a project such as Silent Hill? What frame of mind must one attune to in order to create for such a beautifully grotesque production?

I have always been an artist leaning toward the dark side. I think because of my depression, so that was easy to tap. But I also have a hopeful love of humanity and a deep philosophical mind. I just read the script for each project and put myself in the story, then write lyrics as if I was there.

Would you like to work for a future Silent Hill game? Would you consider dubbing a character or maybe being a narrator of sorts?

Yes I would, but only if Akira and Mary were on board.

What do you think about the newest Silent Hill games? Do you think there will be more games to come?

Don’t know. I’ve never played any of the SH games. My game was to write lyrics and record Mary.

Tell us a little about what you currently do.

I do what I’ve always done, play drums, compose and produce music, engineering and now teaching sound for film.
Each day brings new experiences. I’m not good at going out to find projects, they usually find me.

What is it like to be a teacher?

I love it! I taught sound engineering back in the late 80’s at the tail end of the analog days, recording music. Now I’m teaching digital sound for movies. Sometimes when students ask me for music it inspires me to come up with new instrumentals. But more than that, sharing knowledge and watching students getting better and better at filmmaking is very rewarding to me!

As musician, what do you think about the music industry nowadays compared to when you started?

You’re asking about two things here, music and industry. Music is fine, the industry is messed up!
The internet is killing both music and movie related industries. It cost a lot of money to record talent and recouping that money is getting harder and harder because people are downloading music and movies for free!

 Have you worked in other games that are not Silent Hill?

I wrote the Theme Song for “Ace Combat 5”. Sound design and music editing on “Resident Evil 5 and 6”. I was ADR Director for “Shadow of Memories”, “Seven Samurai 20XX”, “Breakdown”, “Suikoden IV”, “Galerians: Ash”.

What kind of games do you prefer playing?

These days it’s pretty much just online poker, play money of course.
It’s phycological, non-violent, gutsy and translates to analog hand held cards in case of a black out!
The games I played in my youth were Space Invaders, Galaga, Pac Man, Mario Bros and Tetris.

Do you like travelling around the world? What is your favorite and least favorite part of this?

Don’t like flying, but I do like seeing different people, cultures and places.
Austria was wonderful! I played in a band that opened for Simple Minds at a festival there once and was blown away by the food and people.
I’ve been to Italy, Spain, Switzerland and France. Hope someday to go to Japan!
I’ve always had a love for eastern cultures. Soy Cowboy was my first east/west experience.

What are the similarities and differences when working for a videogame and working for an album?

On an album, a group of people work together on a piece of art.
Video games are done with many more people, but separate departments.
But after all it’s all a game isn’t it? No matter what you’re creating, each with it’s own unique challenge.

What musicians have you worked with? Tell us an anecdote.

Back in the 90’s working with Howie I got to play drums with Bob Dylan at his house in Malibu, California.
Dylan used me and Howie as a rhythm section while Dylan auditioned guitarists.
For more stories of me and Dylan go to this link

Other greats include Donald Byrd, Jackson Brown, Melanie, Bruce Spingsteen, Eden Ahbez, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Lukather, Tom Petty and Shuggie Otis to name a few.

Who are your main inspirations? Have you worked with them, or do you plan to do so in the future?

Beatles are at the top of list without hesitation. Met George once when I was was working at Pro Drum Shop in Hollywood back in ’82, but that was only a shake of a hand and autograph.
But my inspirations are eclectic to say the least. Beethoven, John Cage, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Prima, Pink Floyd, Zepplin, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Emerson Lake and Palmer, The Move and David Bowie are on that list too!
Who I’ll be working with in the future?
I can’t tell the future, the future tells me.

Do you like Japanese music?

Yes I do! Both pop and traditional! I like my friends Kazha who play many of the Anime cons!!!     http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/Kazha

Do you like playing live? Which was one of your best experiences?

I do like playing live but my home is in the studio and studio in the home.
Best experience?
Other than playing with Akira, Mary and Troy at Saboten Con 2012 in Arizona?
The Austria gig I mentioned above was cool! I like outdoor festival type concerts!
Back in the 80’s I toured with The Marc Tanner Band playing drums. playing at 10,000 seat arenas opening for Fire Fall and Jefferson Starship. Those were wild times! We were signed to Electra at the time and use to use Dolly Parton’s tour bus that slept 9 people.

Have you released an album of your own? Do you plan on doing so?

These ten releases only at this point. I have much more recorded but not released yet.

Tell us about your experience in the field of voice acting.

Since at an early age getting into recording, of course recording my voice was my first instrument.
But being a good voice actor means acting and I’m not really an actor. I’m a lucky fuck!
During my time engineering the many Anime and game projects there were times they needed a deep voice guy.
I did the best I could, but I can’t compete with the true actors in the business. Make no mistake, it is hard work!

What is your favorite part of this kind of work?

My favorite part of this kind of work is I don’t have to set up and tear down drums, and of course the money!

Send a message to your fans!

Thank you for making me feel like I’ve done something important.
I hope to release something new this year….stay tuned!
Tread thought my friends. Be careful of what you think. And only carry the items you need.

Thanks Joe!

~Elisa

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