Mother Fucking Earthbound by ErichWK

Mother Fucking Earthbound by ErichWK pressed on transparent blue with green splatter vinyl by Debug Records

“I miss you…”

Eight Melodies

Take a trip to Eagleland as we uncover the jazzy and eccentric Mother Fucking Earthbound by ErichWK. Pressed on transparent blue with green splatter by Debug Records, this cover album to Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka’s iconic soundtrack is a masterful journey through the world of Earthbound. This week I sat down with Caleb of Debug Records and Erich Beckmann to uncover all the beautiful details of how this album came to be, and how it became the birth of a label. Grab your Sound Stone, because it’s time to collect the melodies of Mother Fucking Earthbound!

Title Screen / Opening Credits

Born from the drive to give back to the community he loves, Caleb Denney of Debug Records has founded a brand new video game music label. Debug Records is dedicated to leveling up your vinyl collection by bringing high quality releases to some of the best soundtracks, covers, and video game adjacent albums to vinyl. Starting as a fan-born passion project, I can think of no better story to tell than Caleb’s love for the industry we have all grown fond of:

“Quite simply, I wanted to become a creator of something. I wanted to be able to look at a physical item or product and say, ‘I helped make this happen.’ Starting any business requires a lot of relevant subject knowledge. Reflecting upon my own knowledge-base, a record label made the most sense to pursue. I'm very much into music, and the VGM genre has been growing rapidly over the past couple years. There's a lot of great content out there, and as video games continue to grow in popular culture, so does the fanbase. I already knew a lot about and participated frequently within the vgmvinyl community. My weakest points were around licensing. Fortunately there are some very friendly people out there who answered a lot of my questions around licensing before I decided to jump in (Hi Cass, Ryan, and Sebastian!)

In order to balance my personal life, professional career, and this record label, I recruited two others to help me run Debug Records (Hi Michael and Dimitar!). Both of them have experience being involved in startups and running successful businesses. It's really a great team dynamic, as they allow me to focus on the community, vinyl, games, licensing, etc. Meanwhile they handle some of the more background and operational business tasks, as well as help keep me in-check for some of my crazy and, quite frankly, outlandish ideas.”

Your Name Please

Surrounding himself with some of the industry’s greatest mentors and some of his best friends, Caleb set his eyes on starting something truly special. Debug Records isn’t just “another label” -- it is a labor of love, a platform of excellence where video game music can be celebrated. Caleb’s passion is palpable, and quite frankly, contagious. Watching his interactions within the video game vinyl community, as well as listening to him speak on the Video Game Grooves podcast and to myself, I was able to discern what his intentions are with making such an incredible life choice to pursue his dreams. Caleb is dedicated, driven, and passionate about anything he sets his mind to. Debug Records is the perfect platform to help personify his personality into something tangible for the world to enjoy.

“Debug Records is how I plan on giving back to this great community. I became involved in the vgmvinyl community first as a hobbyist, and this label is the best method through which I feel I can contribute to our little subculture. I'm always excited to talk with all of you, whether it be through Facebook, Discord, Twitter, the subreddit, you name it! I love sharing this hobby with you all and hope that I can bring you happiness with our releases!”

Onett: Let The Adventure Begin

Caleb is friendly, engaging, and shows through everything he does that he lives and breathes vgmvinyl. His journey as a creator began with finding the right project, with the right person, at the right time. As it so happens, the perfect opportunity presented itself through the dedicated VGMVinyl Discord that many of us frequent as a community. As one could guess, this community is absolutely thriving with talented people, creators, and fans with one very important thing in common: a love for video game music. One of the greatest resources in this entire community is right at Caleb’s fingertips, giving way for everything to fall into place!

“Our plan from the get-go has always been to have our first release be with someone who is approachable and willing to take a bit of a risk on a group of guys who have never actually produced a record before. This ruled out a large chunk of developers, leaving behind the possibility of smaller indie devs and artists with cover albums. 

The opportunity really sort of fell on our lap from the VGMVinyl Discord. [I] was just hanging out when JMR made the comment that there are plenty of cover albums he'd like to see make their way to vinyl (Hi JMR!). I chimed in and pointed out that at least Kirby's Dream Band are committed to vinyl. JMR then tagged Erich and made the comment that if anyone wanted to fund an outstanding arrangement for vinyl, talk to Erich. Erich chimed in and basically just said, ‘Someone please fund my album for vinyl,’ and he linked to a video of the final version of the song 'Smiles and Tears.' I gave it a listen, and was immediately in love. I PM'd Erich and expressed my interest. He sent me a couple more demos to some unfinished tracks and basically just said let's make this thing happen! So we agreed that this needed to happen -- we waited for the last few tracks to be finished, then we took the audio and ran with it!”

Enjoy Your Stay at the El Bimbo

And ran with it he did. Caleb’s appreciation for music doesn’t just include a surface level connection. He truly immerses himself in the music he enjoys. His dedication to bringing quality products to fans stems from his passion as a creator. This level of devotion and appreciation he has for the music he helps press on vinyl shows the kind of commitment he has, not only to his label, but to the artists he works with.

“I've definitely come to appreciate the dedication that artists put in to an album. I've always known that creating an album really requires a lot of time and effort, but getting to see it firsthand is an entirely different experience. It's been rewarding to be a part of something like this, and I can't wait to do it again!”

Pollyanna

If you’re looking to work with someone who shares the same passion for your art and want to see it on vinyl, look no further than Caleb and his team at Debug Records. This new label is comprised of truly talented people that just love what they do. I definitely can’t wait to see what they come up with next. I’m sure if it’s anything like Debug-001, we are all in for a spectacular album! I’ll just let Caleb speak for himself here!

“By the time you are reading this article, Mother Fucking Earthbound should be on its way to you, if not in your hands already! We'll spend some time continuing to market MFE before transitioning our full attention over to Debug-002. We've got something we're already working on, and it's not a cover album... ;)”

Twinkle Elementary School

ErichWK, otherwise known as Erich Beckmann, is an artist, composer, and drummer extraordinaire based out of San Diego, California. Some of you might know him from his incredible work with Kirby’s Dream Band on The Pink Album, but Erich has many other side projects like Grim Luck, Vic Viper, Watashi Wa Dance Party, and his own solo work, Alberto Fucking González, his loving tribute to classic video game music composer Alberto Gonzáles that is just as breathtaking as the work which inspired it. Erich is such a force to witness, and nothing is more evident of that fact than this album. Mother Fucking Earthboud is the epitome of spectacular cover albums. Some would say the music speaks for itself, and while I do agree, why not let the artist himself chime in!

“Smiles and Tears is one of my favorite songs ever written. Not just for video game music, but in ever. I've always wanted my other band, Kirby's Dream Band to do a cover of it but I felt we wouldn't be able to do it justice with the current instruments we had. I wanted way more synths, guitars, and control..so I decided to do it myself, and if I was gonna set up all my recording equipment to record the song then I might as well record a full album of Earthbound covers.”

Bein' Friends

From one song to an entire album, Erich’s drive is the one thing that transcends this entire project, and is the one thing that will leave you completely and utterly slack-jawed until the final run out groove. Covering such an iconic soundtrack is no easy task, yet Erich makes it sound like a complete breeze in terms of its absolute perfection. I asked how it was working within the confines of the original music, and how it drove his own compositions in such a unique way:

“I wanted to try to add a bunch of texture and weird oddball moments in the album. The original soundtrack for the game is so bizarre and weird. I feel like not a lot of bands capture how strange of a soundtrack it actually is. So I tried thinking a lot past the melodies and instrumentation and the moments that can happen in between the notes. I am also heavily influenced by another artist named XOC who thinks very outside the box when it comes to the instrument choices he makes, and I really admire that. It makes me want to push myself to be more creative and odd.”

Twoson: Boy Meets Girl

Creative and odd is an understatement to the solid performance that Erich and his friends have on this album. The drumming is absolutely tight, and the synth work is mind-blowing to witness; if you add that alongside the horns, you have something quite special here. The sheer quality of compositions and instrumentation on this album is of a completely new level, and has the gravitas and quirkiness of the original soundtrack in Erich’s own special flair. I wanted to know how Erich’s previous cover work translated into this project, and what are some things that he learned and wanted to expand upon with this new project. This is what he had to say:

“Kirby's Dream Band is very much a note for note cover band. I've had it drilled in my mind that before I add flare or things that aren't in the original, I really need to make sure every note, voice, and instrument is represented in my arrangements in some way. So before I recorded anything, I midi'd out every single track in the original by ear and made sure it was perfect. I think that is a really important part of video game covers.. it shows respect for the source material, the composers, and also its great practice as a musician for your ear. One day when I have time, I really want to put out all my midi data to the internet so anyone can make their own accurate covers of Mother 1 & 2. Having the right notes is awesome!”

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The Paradise Line

Erich’s methodical approach to his compositions here is one of the most breathtaking aspects of this entire album. The sheer dedication and time he gives to authentically recreate the original compositions shows his prowess as he starts to peel back the layers and give room for his own quirky style to take over the music. Erich shared with me one of his favorite memories during the writing process, giving a window into just how serious he is about his work, and how much he relishes in the victories of achieving his own standards of quality:

“My favorite memory is when Andreas sent me the first mix of the entire album.. and that was for Onett. I wanted to cry because it sounded so good and I already had spent 2 years trying to get to the point where I felt comfortable sending him the Stems to start the mixing process.”

Yucca Desert

Erich is absolutely relentless in every aspect of the creative process, and nothing can be more evident of that fact than Erich’s own recording process.

“So my process for recording VGM covers, is first I listen to the songs endlessly. I think about every possibility the instruments can take. I listen to my favorite bands and hear what cool tricks they do when they record or other Earthbound covers to know what to avoid and how to be different from the way they did it. I then put all the tracks in a recording program and cut and splice them to make it a complete song. Adding loops where I want another loop, pauses where I think it would be cool.. and figure out all the tempos exactly down to the decibel. 3rd and 4th Generation consoles use the refresh rates of the TV, that’s why some games sound odd when played on in PAL compared to NTSC. That's why the tempo for Fourside is 170.83, or Yucca Desert is 180.28. Since I don't have a band for this..technically.. I start by the drums myself. I mostly do one or two straight takes to give it a more punk/garage band feel.. you can hear a lot of mistakes because I am not perfect and I think it adds to the character of this album. With KDB I will do a lot of takes and a lot of comping and editing to make the drums perfect..because that band calls for that. I then will record bass myself..then all the parts I think should have guitar, and then spend hours and hours and days and months figuring out the right synths for all the other parts. I have probably over a thousand synth samples that I go through with every song and blend and mix and match to create new sounds not often heard. I do use a lot of guest musicians on this record, but it's mostly for the horns (where I feel needed to be live horns and not synths). I also used my producer/mixer to record some high gain shredding guitar because I am not that kind of player. My guitar skills mostly come from Punk Rock, Ska, and gypsy jazz rhythms.”

Snowman / Winters' White

Hearing Erich fawn over all the technical music aspects of his recording process adds a whole new appreciation for his finesse as a musician and composer. Going so far as to track out each song to the minute details of frames and tempo shows just how serious Erich is about accuracy. From what I have gathered, Erich is an absolute perfectionist in his attention to detail in all aspects of this project. This is something many of us will marvel at for a long time. If any of you want to know just how insane Erich’s own set up is, look no further than his own equipment he used to bring Mother Fucking Earthbound to life!

“This was recorded all in Studio One intro a crummy PreSonus firepod. After the album was done, I upgraded to an Apollo 8p and it's incredible. The drums were recorded in my dad's pool-house with mid tier mics, like an SM57 and cheap guitar center drum mic bundles. I upgraded to really nice mics, recently..but it kind of showed me what’s most important when recording is placement, good drum heads, and your playing. Also, Andreas (who mixed my album) is god tier and was able to make everything super super crisp and clear. As far as other instruments.. It really depended on the song. For clean sounding guitar, I used a Japanese early 90s' Strat or my 65' Jazzmaster. For Higher gain stuff I used my Les Paul Jr. As far as bass goes I started off using my Fujigen Jazz Bass I bought while I was in Japan, and then tried using my 1978 Music Man Sabre for the more rocking tunes. Then I went into my dad's closet and raided it for his AWESOME late 70s Fender Jazz bass in Olympic White. The heaviest, most thick bass tones on the album came from that thing. I swear to god it weighs more than I do but it sounds so good. I get my bass tone by running it through a Dark Glass Compressor, B7k, and B3k to get the nice grind out of it. Then the weird bass tones that sound like a rocket ship taking off came from a clone of the Roland JetPhase. The JetPhase is probably the best bass phaser you could ever find. The original is pretty expensive..and clones are REALLY hard to find but I swear to god it's worth it if you come across one!”

Threed: One Day For Sure

Through Erich’s catch-all library of equipment and his masterful musical abilities it’s no wonder he was able to achieve the remarkable sound he did on this album. Everything is just so raw, while being meticulously clean. He knew he had to get this project pressed to vinyl, he just didn’t know how he’d have the time… that is, until Caleb came on the scene, and the marriage between these two professionals was born through grooves:

“I always felt this record was good enough to be put out on vinyl..It's just I didn't have the time to do it myself. I do all the merch and Vinyl work for Kirby's Dream Band and we are about to release a new album with a new vinyl and I knew they both would overlap and I would only be able to have time to focus on one...so I went to a VGM Vinyl Discord, made a shout out asking who wants to put this out and thank god Caleb instantly messaged me and said he wants to do it. We were both pretty involved in different ways. It made life so much easier and he did a lot of the grunt work behind the scenes stuff that I have no idea how to approach, like licensing.”

All That I Needed Was You

From concept to reality, what has been achieved here is nothing short of a milestone. Mother Fucking Earthbound is going to be a benchmark going forward when looking at what cover albums should be and how they should be executed. Through their effort and the teamwork of all their friends and family, Mother Fucking Earthbound came to life under the most exceptional circumstances -- circumstances that will live on in the people that created it, and to those who take the leap to set their needle into its gorgeous grooves.

Hi Hi Hi

As soon as the needle nuzzles into this stunning blue disc, you are transported into Erich’s melancholic field of dreams; a toy piano plinks away carrying you off with playful melodies and chord progressions that are so airy and beautiful. I just love how this album takes you through this soft, short interlude at the beginning, before taking off and completely blowing your head back with a sheer wall of horns and a funky breakdown that will leave you dancing until the album is over. This album doesn’t waste it’s time getting you into the swing of things. Erich’s drumming is absolutely impeccable and drives the whole album forward with a panache akin to his style. 

The Metropolis of Fourside

This album is downright funky, from syncopating synthesizers playing with your ears to a resonant bass that draws you deep down into its grooves amongst all the playful intricacies that Erich has laid out in front of you. Before you know it, everything drops out and sends you around the room dancing at 33 revolutions per minute. This album is just pure fun. As it takes you from down tempo melodic ballads to off-the-wall head banging rock anthems, I am so here for it! Every single revolution has something new for you to discover along this journey of melodies that Erich has collected. 

Voyage to Scaraba

Each and every aspect of this album just oozes with love. You can just hear how much fun Erich was having with this album as it spins along. His compositional skills are on a totally different level along with his impeccable finesse on guitar, with insane little solos that creep up out of nowhere. There’s many times in this albums where I was like, “hold on... I have got to hear that again!” and reached for my tone arm to track it back a bit. The album is full of all these special moments that will no doubt bring you back again and again to be embraced by it’s lovingly crafted grooves. 

Welcome Home

Another incredible aspect of this album is just how playful and creative Erich gets with the synthesizer tones and sound effects from the game, sprinkling in little pieces of flavor here or there. It left me with a smile from ear to ear every time. This is one of the best albums I have heard this year!

Because I Love You

As Debug Records’ first release, Mother Fucking Earthbound is astounding to say the least. Everything about the packaging, down to the color of the records is just phenomenal for a label’s first go. The album art commissioned for this release is by Maiko, with an awesome oil painting style art featuring Erich and his friends in excruciatingly amazing detail as Earthbound characters. The Ominous Giygas surrounding them is just stunningly grotesque. The gatefold artwork by Ian “Barfchan” Eckelman depicts the characters of Earthbound chasing after the meteorite that will change their lives forever, and is just spectacular to stare at! The records themselves are a gorgeous blue with green splatter, adorned with the cartoon-style characters from the gatefold, adding an awesome cohesiveness across this whole release. The mastering here from Andreas Kotsamanidis is downright phenomenal as well. Everything is very clear and clean -- I often got lost in the melodies long after the run out groove had been spinning for a good minute or two. There is just so much to ruminate on each side of the record here that I couldn’t help but get lost along the way!

Good Friends, Bad Friends

Overall I have to say that Debug Records has made a solid foothold as being one of the best labels in the business. I can’t wait to see what we get with their second release, because if it’s anything like this album's perfection, we are all in for an amazing future with this label around!

Smiles and Tears

I want to give a huge thanks to both Caleb and Erich for taking the time to talk with me and deal with my craziness the past month or so. This has been an insanely fun release to cover and that has a lot to do with being able to chat with you guys and really pick your brains about this entire project. It was an absolute pleasure and I can’t wait to do it again. Thanks so much to the entire Debug Records team for sending over a copy for the purposes of this review, and just for being so awesome throughout everything and seeing this project come to life.

If you’d like a chance of winning a copy of this gorgeous album, head on over to Debug Records’ Twitter today where we will be giving a copy away to celebrate its release and this article!

Album Details

Music by:
ErichWK

Remastered for vinyl by:
Andreas Kotsamanidis

Artwork by:
Maiko & Barfchan

Vinyl produced & distributed by:
Debug Records

Where to Buy?

This album is still readily available directly from Debug Records for $35.00. As this is a pressing limited to 500, I would absolutely head over there right now to secure this masterpiece of video game music history. I have no doubt that this album will go down as one of the greatest Earthbound covers of all time. You owe it to yourself to add this record to your collection!

You can also snag a digital copy of the album from ErichWK’s Bandcamp page for free, or if you’d like to add the item to your library and support Erich directly you can pay whatever you want!

Purchase Vinyl Here: $35.00