Interview: Artisan on Going Viral with Windows XP Remix

Guest columnist Virginia Glaze gives us a look into the meteoric rise of 19-year old internet phenom Artisan.

On September 1st, 19-year-old music producer and hobbyist ‘Artisan’ found himself going viral after his remix of the Windows XP startup sound captured imaginations across the net. What ensued was something that still “doesn’t even feel real” to the young artist — and it’s making him rethink his entire future in music.

For those old enough to have used the operating system, the Windows XP startup sound is a nostalgic, classic melody that hearkens to highschool days and 3D Pinball — but what happens when you take those simple, five notes and put a spin on them that completely transforms the signature sound into a totally new experience?

That’s exactly what 19-year-old ‘Artisan’ has discovered, after his remix of the theme went viral online. This is no dubstep or trap rendition, as readers might predict; instead, Artisan brought listeners into the fantastical world of role-playing video games, a unique premise that he used as inspiration for his most recent composition that has become a verified hit across social media.

“I honestly think it’s funny how the idea came to me,” Artisan said of his remix, which has since garnered over 73,000 views on Twitter, alone. “About a year ago, for no reason at all, I searched on YouTube to see if there were any remixes of the Windows XP startup sound. Sure enough, there were, but I wasn’t personally interested in most of them. Then, it occurred to me that I could make one of my own. I actually put out a poll on Twitter to see if that would interest people, and I ended up getting way more engagement on that post than I normally got. I then put out the first 30 seconds or so of a very early version of it, and it was clear that people liked it. However, I slowly stopped working on it over time. I then posted it to TikTok, one day, just out of curiosity, and the response was a bit overwhelming.”

Thus unfolds the story of Artisan’s viral Windows XP remix, which he claims was created out of a collection of orchestral “sketches” — a music making process not dissimilar to Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu’s famed “One Winged Angel.” However, unlike Sephiroth’s iconic theme song, Artisan only used one of these “sketches” as the opener for his remix and let his creativity handle the rest.

“As for the process, it was weirdly straightforward in a way,” he continued. “By then, I had made a bunch of small orchestral ‘sketches,’ none of which I uploaded, where I had tested out different ideas. The opening of the remix is inspired by one of the sketches I made, but the rest of the song kinda just happened, so to speak. It’s one of those things where it comes to you in a flash and you look back on it wondering how it ever occurred to you. To this day, I’m not 100% certain how I ever came up with a lot of the things I made.”

As for the nitty-gritty of Artisan’s creative process, his setup is “nothing special.” The producer described his hardware as a mere “computer, mouse, and stock Apple earbuds, if you can believe it!” For mixing his tunes, Artisan uses Mixcraft 8, as well as a variety of sample libraries from Kontakt — mostly, as can be heard in many of his compositions, 8dio’s Grandiose Violins and the Sordino Strings library.

“I find them very versatile, so it’s what I opt for mainly in my songs,” he mused. “I use them in pretty much every track to be honest. A lot of other sounds I use are freely available on the internet such as LABS by Spitfire audio. I love the range of instruments they offer and it's totally free! That said, I do love searching for new sounds to use once in a while. I find it helps diversify my music.”

Of course, Artisan’s viral rendition wasn’t borne out of his head, alone; he is likewise an avid video game fan, as hinted at by the very premise of his Windows remix, and he’s taken a ton of inspiration from soundtracks for some of the world’s biggest games — including titles like NieR: Automata, the music for which is “some of the best [he’s] ever heard in any form of media.”

This passion for gaming began in his childhood, as did his interest in music, which Artisan claims sparked “long before” he was even in middle school.

“As a kid, I was really obsessed with video games, and especially the music in them,” he explained. “I think one of my very first inspirations came from the Sonic franchise. I was so mesmerized by the music and always listened to it in my free time. I only got into making music in middle school because I had a music class where we used Garageband to make little projects. I wasn’t really any good, but it quickly became my favorite class. That’s when I decided to try it out for myself outside of school.”

“Growing up, I started playing a mobile rhythm game called Cytus, which had a diverse range of artists with styles I was very much new to. This had a huge impact on the music I was exposed to, because it was really outside the realm of what I thought music could be. It was an interesting mix of orchestral elements with unique electronic sound design that captivated me.”

This uncommon blend of orchestral tones and electronic beats can be found in many of Artisan’s original works, which he uploads to SoundCloud to the tune of over 3,000 followers. A quick listen to ‘Pact II’ and ‘Valiance’ puts his influences from games like Cytus and NieR into perspective, revealing deeply emotional, sweeping compositions that inspire the mind and quicken the heart — a truly refreshing take that hearkens to the likes of epic film soundtracks and breathtaking natural views.

In fact, many of Artisan’s listeners have described his songs as such, a sentiment that he agrees is present in his works.

“I’m very touched by all the lovely people who comment on anything I do!” he said of these comments. “It really makes me happy to see people enjoying what I create. I do think there is an emotional aspect with some of my music, because I think what inspires it is very emotional in nature. There has been many times where I listened to the Princess Mononoke soundtrack — specifically, ‘The legend of Ashitaka’ — where I got teary-eyed haha. So, in short, I would agree!”

It’s these same listeners — and a slew of new fans drawn in by his recent social media explosion — that are now reaching out to the artist for potential gigs, leading to a completely unanticipated response to his RPG-inspired remix. Now, the young college student is being presented with opportunities he’s only dreamed of, and it’s making him completely reconsider what he had in mind for his future in music.

“I can honestly remember wanting to create music for video games at a very young age, and I never thought it’d even be a possibility,” he said of his newfound internet fame. “After all this happened, it made me have to think a lot about my future — something, I admit, I wasn’t quite ready to do, seeing as I only just turned 19 this year and I still have 3 years of college ahead of me. I just plan to take it slow and take things as they come. I still have school to worry about — in a pandemic, no less — so a career on top of that is admittedly daunting for me, though I’m not really ruling anything out, just yet. I think what I’ve learned after all this is that life can be unpredictable. So as far as I’m concerned, the future is very much a mystery — maybe even more so now, I guess.”

Artisan’s talent is certainly no mystery, and it has resulted in a potentially new career path for the young producer, who is already well on his way to a successful future in the industry. As for where he’s taking his skills, he can’t quite say just yet, but his compositions have already led us on unforgettable adventures — to the tune of the Windows XP theme, no less.

You can follow Artisan on Twitter, SoundCloud and YouTube.