More Please: That 8 Bit Dude Wrestling Themes
When the Fabulous Freebirds began strutting towards the ring to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" in the late 70s, wrestling's love affair with entrance theme music was born. Soon after Vince McMahon and the WWF would go on to produce original themes for their larger than life wrestlers. Today, every professional wrestler has a theme, a song that captivates their personalities, extends their character, and energizes the crowd.
Professional wrestling existed for well over 50 years before themes became ubiquitous, whereas video games had a soundtrack since birth. Technological limitations during video game's infancy meant bleeps and bloops were usually looped monophonic sound played only on the title screen. Now, video game soundtracks can be as grand as any summer blockbuster movie. And with the resurgence of synthesized electronic music (Chiptune), Nick Colella aka That 8 Bit Dude, is turning WWE wrestling themes into 8-bit.
That 8 Bit Dude...
Born and raised in New York, Nick Colella spent the majority of his youth unaware of professional wrestling. When Nick was 8, a visit to his cousins' house introduced him to WCW v.s NWO World Tour." At that time, the only wrestler Nick recognized was Hulk Hogan, and that's because he'd seen Gremlins 2: The New Batch. But after playing the game for hours, Nick was hooked. "The next night my father and I made our weekly trip to Blockbuster Video (I still have my card) and he saw that I picked out that video game to rent. Unbeknownst to me, my father was a huge WWF fan. He saw what I picked up and surprisingly said 'WCW? let me show you the real stuff.'
Before Nick's cousin and father opened his eyes to professional wrestling, there was Nick's first love, music. "The only thing I see myself doing in life is something music related. I love the feeling and emotion that it can give out and contain" Nick would go from playing clarinet in concert and marching band in high school, to picking up bass after his best friend and him dreamt of being in a rock band. "He picked up the guitar so naturally I picked up the bass so we could play some songs together."
Nick took lessons sporadically over a year, but for the most part he's a self taught musician. After high school Nick got involved in the Staten Island music scene, and now plays bass in a Metalcore band called Heroes.
Inspired by WWE's current theme makers, CFO$ (Phenomenal - AJ Styles, The Rising Sun - Shinsuke Nakamura) and Jim Johnston (The New Day - The New Day, "ChaChaLaLa" - Fandango) Nick looked at wrestlers themes as over-the-top extensions of the Superstar themselves. Add that to Nick's love of video games and That 8 bit Dude was born. "I thought to myself, man wouldn't these sound awesome coming out of an old NES or an old Game Boy."
Transforming a WWE theme song into an 8 bit version requires Nick learning how to play the particular theme by ear. Nick plugs each instrument or drum hit note by note into midi program called Tabit. Then Nick exports the midi out to a sequencer then into a Reaper, a DAW (digital audio workstation). Lastly each track gets either EQ'd slightly or volume adjusted, plus fade ins and outs.
Choosing which theme to 8 bit is a less complicated process, "I usually pick whatever themes sound awesome already. Sometimes I'll ask a buddy what theme they are really feeling at the moment and I'll just get to work."
While technically not 8-bit, since Nick's themes use more than five instruments. "I use 8 Bit as more of a generalization for these renditions of the songs." It doesn't matter what classification Nick's remixes fall under, they sound amazing. The limitations bring out the core energy of the themes. Adding charm and sometimes whimsy to even the most hardcore of themes. Playing off one's nostalgia of days spent button mashing on an NES controller trying to defeat King Slender in Pro Wrestling.
Listening to one of Nick's 8 bit themes, instantly brought a smile to my face and had me attempting to match one of Nick's 8 bit themes to an NES classic. For instance, Kevin Owen's Fight sounds like something straight out of River City Ransom or Double Dragon. While Shinsuke Nakamura's The Rising Sun could easily be the theme to the ending credits of Ninja Gaiden.