How CFO$ went retro for T.J. Perkins’ 8-bit entrance music
The Cruiserweight division has been the talk of the WWE Universe since its debut on Monday Night Raw. Reigning Cruiserweight Champion T.J. Perkins has had the world buzzing not only for the exciting action he provides between the ropes, but for his retro, inspired entrance.
Perkins’ high-octane ring walk is capped off with entrance music that sounds like it came straight out of a classic video game. The Fil-Am Flash’s entrance has been a hit in the gaming world, earning shout-outs from the esteemed E3 convention and video gaming icon Mega Man.
Aside from being a perfect fit for the Cruiserweight Champion’s entrance, the entrance music, entitled “Playing with Power,” was a passion project for WWE’s musical masterminds, CFO$. To get the story behind the song, WWE.com spoke with composers John Alicastro & Mike Lauri for this exclusive interview.
WWE.COM: When we were first introduced, you guys mentioned Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda as some of your inspirations for Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme. Is it safe to say you guys are big gamers?
JOHN ALICASTRO: Absolutely. We’ve been playing since we were kids, and still play on a daily basis.
MIKE LAURI: Especially retro games. We grew up playing that generation of games, and now they’re seeing a resurgence in pop culture. Retro games make up a big chunk of what we play today.
WWE.COM: Have you wanted to do a song like this for a Superstar for a while?
ALICASTRO: I have literally wanted to write a video game-style song since I first started playing music. From when I was 10 years old, I was so inspired by that style of music. It was the soundtrack of our childhood, and when we were given the opportunity to do this, it was a dream come true.
LAURI: It’s all about that 8-bit pallet. That’s what the foundation of T.J.’s theme is, with a rock track happening over it. Utilizing those sounds isn’t something we typically get to do, which makes it exciting. Instead of using more common instrumentation, we got to delve back into those chip sounds from the 80s.
WWE.COM: What made T.J. Perkins the right fit for this type of theme song?
ALICASTRO: We got with T.J. and started talking. We realized that we shared a lot of interest in the same games – [we] grew up playing a lot of the same games, and currently play the same games. We bonded over that and talked about the game soundtracks that inspired us. That gave us the general vibe we wanted to capture. We then got in the studio and the song just started pouring out of us.
WWE.COM: Before Clash of Champions, you guys tweeted out a picture of what we assume is a sound chip. Can you explain what that was?
LAURI: That’s an SID [Sound Interface Device] chip.
ALICASTRO: It was first used in the Commodore 64. You could almost say that when these chips first came out and were being used to create music for games, it was the first incarnation of electronic music. We posted a picture of that chip as a teaser, but there were a number of other chips that we used in the song. We used software from the guys over at Plogue, called Chipsounds, which is incredible. They took all these old pieces of hardware, removed the chips and were able to emulate them into a soft synth like nothing we've heard before. They are the best, in our opinion, and that’s what is at the core of the song. We built the rest off that.
LAURI: It's the closest thing to getting the actual sound out of those chips without physically having them in our studio.
ALICASTRO: We chose the picture of that SID chip because we feel that the SID in particular was the most important in the advancement of music in games. It’s like the Godfather of chips.
LAURI: Yeah, we wanted to drop a hint to everyone that something big was coming.
WWE.COM: What was the process of creating the song like?
ALICASTRO: We decided to build out the entire song using only the sounds from the chips first, to make sure that it would be up to par as a chiptune. After that, we added the drums, guitar and bass, bringing it into this hybrid space. But it was really important to us that it could stand on its own as an authentic chiptune. Hopefully, we’ll be able to share that version of the song with the WWE Universe at some point.
WWE.COM: When you saw the whole package come together at Clash of Champions for T.J.’s entrance, with the character select screen, the sprites, your song and everything else, what were you thinking?
LAURI: We loved it. It really fit what we had in our heads when we were writing it. Of course, it always takes the talent – T.J. in this case – to really bring something like this to life. What we love about it is that it’s so different. It's something the fans aren’t used to seeing or hearing. I think that’s why, so far, the reaction has been really good.
WWE.COM: Speaking of the reactions, how do you feel about the reaction the song has received from the video game community? Not everyone gets a shout-out from Mega Man.
LAURI: It's been awesome. We grew up playing these games as kids, so that shout-out was a welcome surprise.
ALICASTRO: The E3 and Xavier Woods shout-outs were awesome too. So far, the gaming community has embraced it and showed us a lot of love. It’s really cool and gratifying.
LAURI: It’s great to see because the video game community and the WWE Universe cross over a lot. There are a lot of the same interests rolled up into one in T.J.’s entrance.
WWE.COM: What does getting to experiment with so many different styles mean for you as artists?
LAURI: This was a first for us. We’ve written in a lot of different genres for WWE, but this is one we were waiting for. I believe we knocked it out of the park, because it had been pent up inside us for so long. It was cool to finally be able to do it. T.J.’s an electrifying personality, so it’s great that he’s able to have this as his theme.
ALICASTRO: We’ve been creating music like this on our own, for fun, for quite some time now. It was fun to be able to turn it into a Superstar theme and see it blow up the way it has. We made history. If I’m not mistaken, I think this is the first chiptune entrance theme for a WWE Superstar. Hopefully, it’s not the last.
WWE.COM: Is there any other Superstar you think would be a good fit for a chiptune theme?
ALICASTRO: We’d love to work with Xavier Woods. We’re big fans of UpUpDownDown and watch it all the time. We’d love to do some 8-bit themes for him, maybe create a soundtrack for the channel!