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Rising Stars: Meet Chase Bethea

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chase Bethea.

Chase, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I was born and raised in Chicago. I started composing music when I was in the 5th grade. I was in the advanced band choir from 5th – 7th grade. During my saxophone practice at home, I started composing melodies out of boredom from the music pieces I was learning. Melodies were coming to me often because I was singing regularly.

I moved to Los Angeles, California in 2001. I primarily lived between Sherman Oaks and Simi Valley. Later on in high school, I was making music but since that time people told me it sounded like video game music. I took it as an insult because I wanted to make Hip-Hop. I never could escape the video game music sound I was told I had. My signature sound was established that early.

I knew a year before graduating that I wanted to attend the Los Angeles Recording School to hone my audio production skills. So, I enrolled in that school the same year I graduated High School. (2006 – 2007). If I only had a more optimistic mind and I regret this still, I would have listened to the people who told me my music sounds like video game music and would have pursued it then.

I realized in 2008 that I wanted to work in the video game industry. The hint had always been thrown at me subtlety but it never clicked until I was working at an Internet Media Company called Music Plus Television /Vlaze. I had composed some orchestral music for a video clip and my friend Jason, who worked as the main IT lead, told me that it sounded similar to Castle Crashers. From there, I researched the game and compared the music. Then, I realized I CAN do this. From there, I began to pursue my career in video games.

Moorpark College was the best time. Here was where I began my composition journey to become a video game composer. During this time, I was playing catch up as well as reinventing myself. I was taking classical piano and made it into their elite applied music program. Orbie Ingersoll (Music Professor), Professor James Song (Dept Chair/Symphony Orchestra Conductor), Mona DeCesare (Pianist) and Sheila Rumenapp (Math Teacher) were my most beloved professors and I am so thankful for them.

During my time at Moorpark College, I knew I could not wait until I graduated to start working in the industry. I happened to be working at Lenscrafters and a coworker had an Uncle working in games. His Uncle introduced me to the CEO and I was able to obtain a paid internship at a mobile game Studio (Mobotory – 2011). Less than a year later, the studio shut down and I did some research of how to be a freelancer in Game Audio. I found the book “The Complete Guide to Game Audio” by Aaron Marks. I read half the book, applied to two music requests on a game dev forum. I received a bite from one, wrote a one minute music demo and got the gig. The game project turned out to be paid and it shipped six months later. The game is called Electron Flux (2012).

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It certainly has not been a smooth road. I have faced a lot of adversity and still do. Typically, I now noticed it comes from access to resources. Other times it often feels like people not willing to give me a chance. So, I constantly have to create opportunities for myself to exhibit I am worthy, I am competitive, I am competent as well as creative and have proven so on multiple projects and occasions.

Some other challenges for me have been visibility and being undervalued. I noticed over the years that I am a very niche composer, but niche is not always accepted by the masses right away. With my career title being over-saturated for over a decade now, it has pushed the value of the craft to be worth nothing. So, I aim to educate new game developers the importance of value in services, time and self-worth.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
As a freelance composer, I specialize in writing adaptive/interactive music. I truly believe games could benefit more from some dynamic/adaptive music that the player can distinguish from “linear” forms of audio. In addition to super enhancing the player experience and aligning with any game mechanics. This is the extra polish that hooks in and retains the player as well as cultivates the ultimate game moments.

I achieve adaptive music composition by scoring in the digital audio workstation, Steinberg Cubase and then implementing the score into an audio middle-ware called ELIAS. ELIAS gives me the creativity to design the score to match the embodiment of the game project world. Since I own over 800 physical copies of video games that I use for research, I am perspicacious with game development workflow, pipelines, game design and more. It’s all about figuring out what fits the game best. Choosing my instruments for audio consistency, using various techniques and tools to create what is in my head to the game and test it. Viewing my work from the perspective of the player is important. I play games and listen well. I know what would and would not annoy me as a player. I try my best to avoid those annoyances and instead convey positive and effective sounds and tunes for the game. In a nutshell, I want to make ear candy for the player.

I’m mostly known for my abstract/niche sound. I don’t sound like any video game composer that came before me or anyone in the industry now. I write in very odd time signatures. My textures are complex. My melodies are obvious to those that listen well. I write for the entire artform, the game. My signature sound brings nostalgia to my age range and above and excitement and allurement to the younger generations.

I am most proud of my shipped title accomplishments (20 games in 10 years). Game development is not easy. A lot of things can go wrong with budgets, communication, time management and more. It’s a blessing to have been part of some many games and work with talented and skilled people to create art for people to enjoy at any time or period in their life.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
My favourite childhood memory is thinking about being at my Grandma’s house looking out the Chicago skyline and playing GameBoy games on her couch. These days were sunny, peaceful and quiet. I would get to play until the batteries died and when they did, take out the batteries from the TV remote and play some more.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Bryan Zamora and Michael K. Kim

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