The Bard Behind the Beard: an Interview with Smooth McGroove
I got a chance to talk to Max Gleason today. Most of you know this beautiful, bearded man as Smooth McGroove. We've even written about him on GameSkinny before. He's the youtube sensation that's famous for doing acapella video game covers.
Not only is the man a great musician, but he's also a really nice guy. He was awesome enough to allow me the time to interview him via Facebook:
Joseph: You have already touched a bit on your musical background in other interviews, but I figured it'd be fun to flesh that out a bit more. Who do you consider your biggest musical inspirations both inside and outside the realm of video games?
Smooth McGroove: Inside the realm of video games, I'd say Koji Kondo has been a huge influence due to the amount of games I played as a child that featured his music. Outside of video games, well that's much tougher. Too many good artists to name!
J: Understandably so. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint a favorite when there's so many greats out there. Naming some recent favorites might be easier. Who have you been listening to most in the last month?
S: Last month has been LOTS of video game music. Lately I've probably been listening to Pokemon music the most, and mostly the first generation.
J: Do you have a favorite track from the first games?
S: The trainer battle music is epic.
J: Any chance we'll see an acapella cover of that one sometime in the future?
S: Possibly! There are so many songs I want to do that it's hard to make decisions.
J: If you don't mind revealing some of your secrets, what is your set-up like? You mentioned using Cubase before in another interview. Is that the only program you use? What physical equipment (mic, amp, etc.) do you use?
S: I use a condenser mic, which I think is Audio Technica. I use a Focusrite audio interface and some old studio monitors. I use Cubase because I've used it for years and have become very comfortable with it and its default plugins.
J: A few youtube comments have popped up suggesting that you use pitch correction for the really high notes. In your interview with IGN, you said you can generally modify a song to fit your vocal range by whistling the high notes or just singing them in a lower octave. usually, it's pretty easy to tell when pitch correction is being used and I personally can't hear it in any of your songs, but I was wondering if you wanted to say anything regarding any use/non-use of pitch correction?
S: I don't use auto-tune or any pitch correction because it's the most obvious thing in the world. I hear it and cringe, which is sad because so many singers think they need it. Mistakes make you human, and you'll hear plenty of those in my acapellas (though I do laboriously record takes until I'm happy.)
J: Great. I figured it'd be good to clarify that. Alright, next up are some video game questions. In your rap about your amazing Strenth, you mentioned League of Legends. Do you still play the game? Who are/were your favorite champs?
S: I haven't played it much since I started making acapella videos, but I really liked playing as Teemo! I generally like versatile ranged classes in games.
J: Any other recent games you've been into or do you mostly just play older games?
S: I've been playing old games recently, but I just got Bioshock Infinite which I'm looking forward to playing. I've also hosted a Minecraft server for the past seven or eight months, which I log onto occasionally.
J: Alright, let's get to the last round of questions: you recently did a collaboration with Dookieshed. Any plans for more collaborations in the future? Any specific youtubers you'd love to work with?
S: I have a few collaboration opportunities in front of me, but I don't want to give anything away until they actually start happening. There are several specific Youtubers that I'd like to work with, but it's just me being a fanboy.
J: How long have you been growing the beard and do you use products to help it grow? What is the name of your cat? Any special messages/closing thoughts?
S: The beard's been growing for about two years now, and no I don't use any products on it. My cat's name is Charl, and until recently I thought Charl was a fake name I made up. Then someone informed me that a dude named Charl won the master's golf tournament!
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If you want to help support Smooth McGroove and his amazing acapella adventures, check out his Bandcamp page. I suggest picking up the $9, 22 track "VGM Acapella - Volume 1." If you can't afford it, just throw him a subscribe on Youtube, like him on Facebook, and/or follow him on Twitter.
Oh, and one more thing, Smooth McGroove did a Flaming Lips cover! How can you not love him?