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27th April 2017
A Conversation with Sabrina "Bina" Bianca, Songwriter for "Alan Wake Tribute"

In December 2012, Sabrina Bianca created and performed a song inspired by Alan Wake. Gaining over twenty-five thousand views for the YouTube video, the haunting tune and lyrics remained with listeners. The song also caught the attention of Remedy who had returned the Alan Wake series earlier that year for American Nightmare. While uploaded years ago, the song still holds strong today, frequently emerging in the community.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Sabrina about her channel, motivations and the process of creating her Alan Wake tribute song!

Photo from her channel's Facebook page.
Sabrina was born in Germany and grew up surrounded by music; "my dad made music with me and introduced me to musicals like Singing In The Rain and Some Like It Hot". In addition to family and musical inspiration, she also turned the negative aspects of her childhood into a drive, seeking comfort in creating songs as a form of escapism. Her school days was where that escapism was needed, "I had a rough time in school, so I used music to shut myself out from all the bullying." There's nothing good from having to deal with childhood bullies. The situation sucks. The lack of mentor support is disheartening. And it doesn't strengthen character. But seeking safety in music showed a clear and early connection, "I guess I never stopped making music and I am so glad".

Over the years, her passion for music grew and in 2009, Sabrina started a YouTube channel for her songs under the name, Bina Bianca. "I kept telling everyone that it all started out as a bet," she revealed, but acceptance and recognition by equals was also her hopes for her new channel. "I wish I could talk to my younger self to explain to her, what really matters in life. I am glad I overcame this whole 'I wanna be famous' part and started making music for myself."
Photo from her channel's Facebook page.
Inspiration for her channel came from fellow YouTube composer and singer, Malukah, who is best known for her work on video game tributes. Work began on Sabrina's songs a little later as another need for escapism. "I started writing tribute songs, when I wasn't able to move because of a foot surgery AND I wanted to get to know Malukah". The first videos on her channel featured a variety of covers and original songs, unrelated to the game tributes that she would soon become known for. In a short space of time, her videos transformed from being an individual venture to being collaborative one with the presence of Max and Thomas (as guitarists) in some of the live gigs.

In November 2012, Sabrina posted her first video game tribute, dedicated to Dragon Age: Origins. The shift in channel direction has been one that she's maintained since, although song covers and original non-gaming related songs are uploaded every now and then, on the whole her page has mainly been game-based. Over the years she has written about titles such as Life is Strange, The Walking Dead, Bioshock, Dishonored and more. In December 2012, just a month after the switch to gaming channel, Sabrina uploaded her latest song, inspired by Alan Wake.

Reasons why Wake's adventure would be the topic for her next project came from a personal interest "because the game was AMAZING!!!!! I guess it was the first 'horror' game I've every played through because I couldn't stop, even though I was terrified at some points. The story was amazing. Funny story: When I finished playing the game, we had road works going on in front of our hose. This one night, I had to take my dog for a walk and there was this big bulldozer standing in front of our house ... I was sooooooo freaking scared XD"

While the majority of the song writing takes place after the game is finished, some preparation takes place during the playthrough "At first I play through the game. I usually play games in English with German subtitles. Whenever there is a quote I really like, I write it down so I don't forget it. I sometimes write down feelings, plot changes and emotions, to capture everything while playing. After I've finished playing a game I usually take a bath and that's where I get all my ideas from. Bathtub poetry." It's in the preparation of the lyrics that the most difficulty appears especially with Sabrina switching between languages, "there are so many songs out there, it's almost impossible to come out with a unique style or catchy phrases, no one has ever used before. Additionally, English is not my native langue. It may sound a lot better than German and more people understand it, but it's challenging to put honest emotions into English lyrics."

As of 2017, Sabrina's channel has been running for eight years, five years of which dedicated to video game tributes. At first it was a project that she started as a student, "Back when I was a student, I had lots of time and would work a whole day on a song. From 10 a.m till 4 a.m. the next day. Still, I remember having some trouble recording the chorus, since those high notes were sort of out of my range. Back then, I wasn't able to use Autotune, since I had NO IDEA, such thing would exist. My vocals had to be on point and the chorus was soooo hard to sing. Took me several days until I was sort of satisfied with it. The Alan Wake Tribute song is now my absolute favorite."
Photo from her channel's Facebook page.
The response for the tribute song was positive, receiving thousands of views on the music video as well as catching the eye of Remedy. "When I got the letter from Remedy, I felt so happy. No one has ever done this for me. Taking the time to write a letter and send me merchandise, JUST to say "thanks for writing a song", additionally, the COMPOSER [Petri Alanko] telling me that he had listened to the song while driving the car... god. I died :D"

In the five years since, Sabrina has expanded her range of skills further, with each new video showcasing new talents. She's also exploring more paths, trying out new covers and new original songs, but speaking to her in late January, it's clear that she's not planning on stopping the gaming tracks any time soon. "I am sooooo waiting for the new Episodes from The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Other games on my list are: Last Guardian, Resident Evil 7, Horizon and Detroit - Become Human".

Thank you to Bina for talking to us! You can follow her adventures on Facebook and Patreon. If you haven't already, make sure to check out her music videos on her YouTube Channel, HERE


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