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Last week, we talked about rebuilding audio found in World of Warcraft; this week, we've got audio rebuilding of an entirely different kind. Rather than giving in-game music and sounds a revamp, today's guest takes modern day music and rewrites the lyrics to form parodies with a uniquely WoW twist. She's been writing and producing parodies for quite some time now -- Shut Up and Grind, a parody of Rihanna's Shut Up and Drive, was uploaded to YouTube on July 21, 2009.
Exactly two years and plenty of songs later, the bubbly and ever-charming Ember Isolte is still busily creating music parodies -- for WoW, and for other games as well. From the incredibly catchy Ninja Raiders to her newest release, Boomkin, Ember's done nothing but improve in leaps and bounds. It's crafting of an entirely different kind, and we recently had the distinct pleasure of sitting down and having a chat with Ember about music, lyrics, ideas and of course, World of Warcraft.
World of WarCrafts: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How long have you been involved in music -- what got you interested in it?
Ember Isolte: I've been singing ever since ... well, probably before I could even speak real words! I've just always liked to sing along with the radio, CDs, and the occassional karaoke with my family. I sang in a few talent shows growing up and joined my middle school choir in the sixth grade. And actually, my fifth grade talent show was filmed and put on YouTube -- yep, that's a little Ember.
When I was growing up, I never thought about becoming a professional singer as an adult because I was raised with the mindset of "It won't pay the bills." Even the thought of calling myself a singer didn't cross my mind until my eighth grade graduation came around. I was asked by the principal of my school to sing at the graduation ceremony because I was kind of their go-to girl for performing at a few previous parent-teacher functions.
So I sang Whitney Houston's The Greatest Love Of All in front of all of my peers, and the social repercussions embedded "I'm a singer" into my brain forever. I swear, there's not a single signature in my eighth grade yearbook that doesn't somehow refer or relate to my singing at graduation. Even years later, throughout high school, my peers still called me "the singer." So if anything got me interested in it, it was the fact that everyone in my life knew that I could sing.
Have you had any kind of vocal training at all?
The only formal training I've had was when I was in choir my senior year of high school, which was ironically the only year I ever could be in choir during grades 9 through 12, since I was an honors student and my class schedule was always full until grade 12! I learned a lot during that one year about breathing, a little bit about reading music and proper music vocabulary. I do wish I had more training, though, because as of now I can't read music for the life of me, and I'm sure there are things someone can teach me that could help me keep improving on my vocals.
To be honest, most of what I know now about my voice and what I'm capable of, I've learned from recording, listening, and re-recording tracks hundreds of times until I get the sound I'm looking for. I can wholeheartedly say that knowledge and improvement definitely come from experience.
You've got some of the best WoW parodies out there. Do you write the lyrics yourself, or do you have someone else work on them?
Well, firstly, thank you for the epic compliment! And I do write my own lyrics. But I have sung more than a few collaborations that are written by other people entirely. So, if I have an idea or if someone suggests an idea to me that I really like, I'll usually go at it alone with the occasional bounce off a couple close friends for feedback. I rarely work with people on the lyric writing part of building a parody song. It's either I write it all myself, or someone else has written one and they ask me to sing it.
On the downloads page of my blog, I've been trying to keep an updated list of all my parodies, and in that list I've made it a point to show who the writers are, because the parodies are as much theirs as they are mine!
Ninja Raiders and Altoholic however are two special parody songs in that I found them on YouTube already recorded/performed by their respective lyricists, and I went to them asking if I could simply cover their parodies ... and boy, did Ninja Raiders make a name for me in the WoW music/parody/YouTube community! I can't thank Ryan Myers enough for allowing me to cover that one!
How do you come up with the idea for a parody song?
Inspiration strikes whenever and however it wants, but when I really think about it there are two general ways I'd say that I birth parodies:
I'm playing WoW or having a conversation with someone about WoW, and we say/sing or I think of something that perfectly fits into a song lyric. I decide it's too perfect of a fit not to parody, and I go from there. Example: I'm Undead parody of Jason Derulo's In My Head. I was coming down from the undead high of my Lament of the Highborne cover and was still on an "I'm undead" trip. The original song came on and ... BAM! Light bulb on! Parody time! Go, go!
I choose a song that I really, really enjoy and just make it work. Example: AttentionWhore parody of Lady Gaga's Paparazzi.
I think the first time I heard you was back with the Ninja Raiders video. You've done so much since then! Do you have a favorite parody you've done?
Aw, man. This is actually a really tough question! It's so hard for me to choose one because (I really hate to sound conceited, but ...) I never release a song until I absolutely love it myself. And I've done a lot more collaborations now! Each one has a uniquely amazing thing about it that makes every single one a potential favorite! So ... I'm gonna go the listen to what I can really do route and say that Keep Feeding, a parody of Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love, is my favorite parody, and it's actually not even about WoW! Is that even allowed in this interview? But it's my favorite, even for the sake of this interview, because I really feel that it showcases my vocal talents more than any of my other parodies. And ... to be completely honest ... I actually didn't think I could do the crazy vocal stuff I did at the end of the song. I won't lie; I'm really proud of myself!
If I can choose a fave original song I've sung -- hands down, Sentinel Hill, written and composed by Greyfoo.
What do you use to record? Do you do all your own vocal mixing, or do you collaborate with other people? Your recent songs sound like professional recordings; do you have your own studio?
I am so proud when people say that my stuff sounds pro because my setup really isn't! I do my own audio production in Apple's Garageband (don't laugh!) on my 2.2 GHz MacBook Pro. And just a couple of months ago, I upgraded my microphone from a Blue Snowball to a Samson C03U. I record at my computer desk in my bedroom. All I got is my mic, my pop filter, and my lappy ... and luck with my apartment and neighbors not having anything terribly noisy happening on days that I plan to record!
Most everything I know about Garageband is self-taught. And I know I still have a heckuvalot to learn about audio production. Actually, on Boomkin, my most recent release, I got some epic mixing tips from theMachinimaSound. He's like my audio guru lately, and I'm so excited about my production quality improving with the knowledge he's sharing with me!
Got any future parodies in the works you'd like to talk about?
I have a few ideas rolling around in my head -- a couple solos and a few collaboration ideas -- but nothing fleshed out enough to say anything substantial about. Sowwie!
Anything else you'd like to add?
I'm goin' to BrizzCan this year! So if you're going too, I will see you there! Wee! (BlizzCon... I just like calling it BrizzCan, mkay?!)
Also, please subscribe to my good friend, collaborator, and fellow WoW parodist, Crykoda, because he has a couple songs on his channel that I've collaborated with him on that I have not uploaded to my channel -- simply because I think it's silly to have more than one upload of the same song because it's harder to track video stats that way like demographics and how popular it actually is. And please subscribe to me on YouTube if you're not already! You can also check out my blog, follow me on Twitter and on Facebook!
And I think that's it! Thank you so much for this interview. I am so honored to hear that some of you at WoW Insider like mah shtuff! And I hope I can keep on keepin' you all entertained in the future!
To hear more of Ember Isolte's WoW parodies and other songs, you can check out her channel on YouTube. If you'd like to download her songs for your very own, you can get those on her blog, Girls Do Play WoW. Thanks again, Ember, for taking the time to chat! World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including arts and crafts, fan art, WoW-themed recipes, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your not-for-profit, WoW-inspired creations.