Donkey Kong Country composer talks about his creative process in interview 

Image taken from Kaminari's YouTube channel

David Wise is a former Rare composer who created popular OSTs for the Donkey Kong Country series. Recently, two Japanese comedians that go by the stage name Kaminari decided to go to England so they could meet and talk to Wise.  

Kaminari is a comedy duo from Japan, consisting of members Takumi and Manabu. The two are active on TV programs, but recently they are particularly popular for their YouTube channel.

The channel highlights the two members’ hobbies and interests, and a particularly popular feature are Takumi’s video game related videos, including a recent series called “I want to enjoy the OST of Donkey Kong Country.

This series began with Takumi’s personal desire to enjoy his favorite background music from the Donkey Kong Country series that he played as a child. The Donkey Kong Country series is a classic of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The game design, graphics, and sound were all at an extremely high level for the time, and the background music that beautifully complements the stage environments is so popular that it still has a devoted fan base.  

In a series of videos the Kaminari pair are seen announcing and planning their trip to interview Wise, also mentioning how they plan to ask him to make them a channel theme song and sign their copies of Donkey Kong Country 2. 

On May 13, Kaminari posted the video in which they meet and get to talk to Wise, the legendary composer. They ask him questions about his creative process and motivation.  

When asked what his main motivation was when composing the OST for Donkey Kong Country 2, Wise replied that it was the challenge of making good sounding music with a very limited memory capacity. For the Donkey Kong Country 2 OST, Wise used Korg’s Wavestation synth which allowed him to create complex sounds using very little memory. One of the things that made Wise’s sound stand out from others was the fact that he didn’t use Sound Tools from Nintendo or MIDI, he coded everything by typing in a text editor. 

Another source of inspiration for the music were the great characters of the title such as Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong, as well as the background graphics of the game. Wise mentions he would always look at the elements of the background to draw inspiration for the sounds, which is why the OST features a lot of environmental sounds. 

When asked about the track Mining Melancholy, Wise explained that he used the image of pickaxes as inspiration to create a cushion loop of metallic sounds. On the other side, the extremely popular track Stickerbush Symphony was more of an expression of how Wise was feeling inside at the time, as well as conveying a sense of wonder and intrigue at technology and anticipation of what can be achieved by it in music.  

A peculiar detail regarding this track is that it was composed having a sea level in mind, but ended up in an almost opposite setting, which resulted in a striking contrast between the calm music and the thorny bushes of the level. 

As his musical influences, Wise mentions various artists such as The Police, Genesis, Phil Collins and Hans Zimmer, but notes that while composing the OST for Donkey Kong Country 2, he was particularly influenced by classical Russian composers such as Prokofiev. The first game OSTs Wise came in contact with were the Mario theme song and The Legend of Zelda OST. 

Wise reminisced that, as a self-taught composer, at first he did not plan to be in the industry for long, but his works ended up being much more popular than he imagined. He attributes part of the popularity to the fact that the SNES was one of the first consoles to allow the player to pause the game and continue listening to the music. 

Written by. Amber V based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2023-05-15 09:43 JST)