Quick Beats: Shovel Knight Composer on Q * Bert, The Prodigy and Magical Bongos

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Throughout the Nintendo Life Video Game Music Festival, we chat with a range of songwriters and musicians for a mix of in-depth interviews and shorter, more precise (and maybe a little more awkward) Q&A where we let’s just ask ten quick personal questions; we call these shorter features ‘Quick Beats’.

We spoke to Jake Kaufman alongside Mega Man veteran Manami Matsumae and Save Me Mr Tako composer Marc-Antoine Archier in our recent three-shot interview article that focused specifically on how composers approach the chiptune in the 21st century.

Today, however, we ask 10 quick-fire questions of Shovel Knight’s one songwriter to discover the work he’s most proud of, his musical heroes, and the last thing he heard …


Nintendo Life: What’s the first song or album you remember buying?

Jake kaufman: Prodigy, Fat of the Earth. After playing Wipeout XL and hearing Firestarter.

What’s the last music you listened to?

Men at work, “Who could it be now?” (Sax riff: Burrr-da-BREEEEE-der-dah)

What was the very first video game you wrote music for, and how do you feel listening to it now?

First of all was Dry mouth, a GBC indie puzzle game. The first game as a pro was the GBC port of Q * Bert. The former is definitely more of a rare cut, with the scratches from the vinyl and everything.

Which room are you most proud of?

The episode “Rad Likes Robots” from OK KO Let’s Be Heroes! is my preferred. So much planning has gone into every second.

What someone else’s piece would you have liked to write?

Stardew Valley’s “Summer day bgm”, the most optimistic.

What do you listen to while driving?

Short solo trips are mostly silent composition times. The longest is the time to study, to listen to whatever my passengers like or explore lately, or whatever I haven’t heard yet.

Do you have a musical hero?

Dizzy Gillespie and Leonard Bernstein share for me the title of “most impressive career”.

What decade had the best music?

i can’t do this without what about myself until the 18th century, then to other cultures. So I’ll say “THIS decade” and hope I’m right.

Ocarina, harp or bongos, which magical instrument are you taking on an epic adventure?

Bongo. Using electromagnets I can turn the drumhead into a speaker and play magic samples from any other instrument! Engineering doesn’t cheat!

If your house was on fire and you only had time to take one memory before you fled to safety with your family, what would you take?

My Arduino Esplora (the one in the form of an abandoned gamepad, with built-in sensors, buttons, sliders, etc.). Always bring a microcontroller (see question about the magic instrument).


Be sure to check out our other Quick Beats interviews with Austin Wintory, Yuzo Koshiro, and Darren Korb, and keep an eye out for more in the coming days as the Nintendo Life VGM Fest continues.


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