Thursday, July 6, 2006

Straight From the Dog's Mouth

A quick note: This eventually does get interesting in the fun way that esoteric pop-culture looping back in on itself can be. You just have to stick with the story through a brief dive into the sewers of geekdom.

Off and on — and on various Nintendo systems for the past few years — I’ve played the Animal Crossing series. It’s a neat little simulation game where you live in a town populated by animals. That’s it. There’s no real challenge, no danger, no turtle dragon throwing hammers that you have to trick into eating bombs in order to save the planet. The enjoyment factor hinges entirely on the way your character interacts with his critter-neighbors and the environment they all live in. Sounds lame, yes, but it works. Anyway, one of the various personalities who from time to time strolls through town is K.K. Slider, a guitar playing dog known in Japan as “Totakeke.” He looks like this:

When you speak to this dog, he will play a song for you that, in a purposefully crude manor, mimics the sound of various pop music genres. “K.K. Western,” for example, sounds like “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” while “K.K. Rockin’” sounds like “Johnny B Goode.” Regardless of the genre, any song K.K. Slider performs consists of strummy guitar synth and a funny electronic-sounding voice sample. It’s quite distinctive. Then, adorably, he slips your character a bootleg of the performance, claiming he doesn’t want to appease the music industry fat cats. (And in this game, they probably really are cats, too.)

Anyway, this little guy has enjoyed a certain cult popularity among people who like video games. He’s not the game’s main character, and if you don’t know where and when he appears, you could easily enjoy your copy of Animal Crossing” without ever interacting with him. However, his innate novelty and the fact that he is a subtle reference to a rather prolific video game music composer named Kazumi Totaka have given him a following dedicated enough to know him if they heard him.

And then they did hear him. And they weren’t playing video games.

An article titled “Are the Pet Shop Boys Secret Nintendo Fans?” ran this week on the Discopop Directory website. The article notes that “Minimal,” the next single from the Pet Shop Boys’ album Fundamental, contains some sound effects that sound a lot like this little singing dog.
[ link: the Discopop Directory article ]
Check it out. The page offers sound samples that are pretty hard to argue with. I just like the thought of the Pet Shop Boys being found out and being surprised that anybody would both play this game and listen to their music.

Oh wait — that never got un-dorky, did it?


  1. Don't be silly. Haven't you ever heard of vocoders? It's an electronic instrument that codifies the voice in order to make it sound really electronic. You know that old robot effect? It's been used in music for over 30 years. Try kraftwerk, Air or Daft Punk, for example. Madonna and Cher borh used a more modern version of vocoder called autotune, as many many other artists.

  2. i don't think it matters if they used a muscial device that madonna or whoever else used before becuase it still does sound like the dog, whether intentional or it wasn't.