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Gavin Dunne is a Cork native and has gigged around the country for years. More recently though Gavin has found success under a different name, Miracle of Sound. After never finding the success he wanted endlessly gigging Gavin started to write songs about video games and, 300 thousand subscribers and 82 million views on YouTube later, never looked back. Occupying a unique niche as an independent musician making songs largely about games but also on TV and movies, the Miracle of Sound project has led Gavin to financial independence and popularity. Sitting down with the man himself for a pint or two, Byline asked Gavin about his independence, his musical niche and the pitfalls of social media.
BYLINE: In an Irish examiner piece from this March you were described as “the most successful indie artist in Ireland”, do you still self-describe as indie?
That was kind of a misquote, I said “one of the most successful” and it came across very arrogant. What I was trying to say was that it’s amazing I’ve been able to do this and reach the level of success that a lot of Irish artists who are on labels find it difficult to reach. I was kinda making a point that you don’t need a record label, that was what I was trying to say there *laughs*
I think everyone’s definition of indie is different in every media that has indie things, I think I’m about as indie as it gets since I do everything in my bedroom. I’m completely independent, by every definition of the word I’m independent. No record label, no PR, nothing. All I have is an agent who’s trying to get me into some film and TV stuff but that has nothing to do with the main gaming side of stuff.
Is that a guild or something else?
No it’s an actual agency in Dublin, Lisa Richards agency, they have me on their roster. It’s a really good agency. Anything outside of my main Miracle of Sound project is a bonus like soundtracks, ads, TV anything like that. It’s not something I’m actively pursuing, if I like it and I think I can do a good piece for it I’ll do it. I did a soundtrack for a short film this year that was in the Galway film festival and hopefully it’ll be in the Cork one as well. That was really nice, it was a darker piece. I got put on a rom com at one point and that just didn’t work at all. That was not playing to my strengths.
Since you managed to break big as a type of indie artist do you have any advice for others?
Well it’s really hard for me to give advice to bands who aren’t niche the way I am because my success came from taking the stories people already liked and making something new out of that. That’s how Kate Bush broke big by doing Wuthering Heights. It’s hard for me to give advice on that because I’m not going to say “just make something about something people already like” because people aren’t going to do that you know. People focus their stuff on personal songs, I would say though that social media is huge for everyone now. Also this whole idea of you gig until you get a record deal is bullshit. I was fed that line of bullshit for about 10 years in the music industry and you can gig and gig and gig till you’re blue in the face and you might never get anywhere.
Did you spend that long gigging with bands?
Yeah I’ve been in and out of bands since about 1997. Miracle of sound is my third big project, it started about 2010. One of my first songs, Commander Shepard, was around when Mass Effect 2 came out. So its 5 years since the first MOS song on September 9th I think. I still wake up every day wondering how am I going to sustain this job, not realising that the years are going by and it has been sustainable
Are you happier when you meet your monetary goals or when your channel hits major milestones as a metric for success?
It’s more to me about just being able to do what I want, like I think this sounds so pretentious to so many people but money should never be a motivator. I love having and making money because it means you have an easier life, an easier time just doing what you want. But it’s never been the main motivator to me. I’m not going to lie though it is very nice to have been making a good living the last few years. I make more now than my old boss who told me music wasn’t a job it was a hobby.
You work on other people’s stories, making something new out of them, a lot of the time those stories are from games. Do you try and make those songs accessible to people who may not know the games?
Yeah about 60/70% games, the thing is I’m not a huge fan of the early MOS songs because they’re very kind of obviously fan art and you know they’re very obvious references, it’s all a bit novelty is the word I think I’d use. What I try to do now is try to write the songs in a way that someone who never played the game in their life gets some kind of emotion or story from the song. So the songs can speak on a general level. Maybe it’s an ego thing but every artist wants to be respected in that way you know, for something to stand on its own.
So when the majority of your stuff is about games you very much exist in the gaming sphere, is it a challenge or an advantage?
See the thing is I have a very boring life and I’m happy with that, I don’t really have that much to write about in my own life and when I do I do. Like I put out a metal album this year which is 10 songs that had nothing to do with anyone else’s things, they were all personal songs. I had that out of my system and I dunno, I love stories in games and TV so actually sometimes I prefer writing about people whose lives are far more interesting than mine
It has worked out well for you, you haven’t had to build a career music wise by building on genre fans, you have to build on a more general gaming audience
Yeah actually and that’s a huge bonus for me as well because one of the big problems I always had when I was in bands was that there was no one genre that I would stay in. You’ve probably heard that in the songs, they’re all completely different. Classical, jazz, metal, blues, rock, pop everything.
You were saying in a recent podcast that you don’t care what the new Assassin’s Creed is like but what the song is gonna be?
Oh yeah it’s gonna be based on like 90s era happy Mondays, oasis, all that good stuff. Yeah for me that’s all I need sometimes, cos the new song about AC isn’t really going to be about AC it’s going to be about the Industrial Revolution in London and the idea of the rich using the poor and that’s such an easy thing to write about, with so much scope to make a song that someone who has no idea what AC can enjoy
You work with Jim Sterling and and Laura Dale (gaming journalists/critics) on Podquisition (gaming podcast), is that fun for you do you consider it an additional aspect of your work?
Oh it’s absolutely fun, if I had a different job I think I would still be doing that but they certainly are a lot of fun
That show has a lot of reach between Jim and Laura’s outlets and twitters and your twitter following and all that. You have more twitter follows than a lot of people at IGN (large gaming website) proper now so do you consider yourself a tastemaker, this term that’s being thrown at Pewdiepie and the like?
No my job is very different to theirs, not so much Pewdiepie but definitely Jim and Laura, their job is to critique games where as I just celebrate the good bits of games that I like. I don’t have to talk about the bad bits if I don’t want to where they do. They pick up a lot of flak for that from the gaming public, gamers don’t like having their medium criticised. It’s a funny one because criticism helps things to grow, if I didn’t listen to criticism when I started this project it wouldn’t be where it is now. In honesty a lot of what I was doing was shit and people were vocal about that. When people point out what they don’t like in a constructive way people should listen, I dunno what it is about that vocal subset of gamers that when something gets a review score under 9 it’s a tragedy like I don’ know, I don’t get it
If you look at people like Jacksepticeye if you know the Irish YouTuber guy, he has a similar thing where he doesn’t have to critique anything and has no onus to anyone but when he likes something sales rise, is it something you’ve ever been conscious of, something you ever wanted?
Yes, I’m kind of indifferent to it. Actually I like it, it means I don’t ever have trouble from developers for using their footage and things because they know that this stuff is free advertising for them. They see the views on the song and go hmmm. Depending on the song, at the start some songs would take the piss out of some games and I kinda cut back on that cos a I know a lot of people in the industry now and I feel bad about it. I made such a conscious effort in the last couple years to cut negativity out of my work and life and that’s really hard to do in the gaming community and I just don’t want to express negativity through my work if I can avoid it since there’s enough of it on social media. I try not to get involved but when you have 4 or 5 pints and see something that annoys you, the rant begins. Sober you then wonders why did I do that, delete, delete, delete
You made a point there about the kind of backlash you can get for an innocuous comment on twitter, does that seem more severe among the gaming community?
Gaming is a young medium, before the last 5 or 6 years it hasn’t been subject to the same criticism other media forms have and we’re not used to it. I think there’s just a thing that like the vast majority of people who are gamers are very savvy with online and forums and it’s been a way for, I don’t think it’s unfair to say a lot of gamers are quite introverted and the internet has been a way for them to express themselves. I’m the opposite because to me gaming is my me time. My friends are mostly musicians and not gamers so I’m trying to explain things like “gamergaters” and “SJWs” to them and they wonder if this is actually real stuff
There was a period over the last few years where people seemed sure console gaming was dead and mobile would take over. Did you ever have a backup plan for that situation?
I don’t do plans, I don’t do plans. It’s just not me, I can’t, I’d love to. I don’t go by the whole rock and roll lifestyle code, I can’t, I’m terrible with money. My girlfriend has to manage all my finances, I’m terrible. People ask me what my work method is, its chaos. I might have a riff here, a line over here, a melody in on project that might fit into another one. This should be self-evident in the art, when people ask what inspires you, did you not listen to the song? You know *laughs*