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Old 1st December 2016

Question: How did you got into the JD-990 cult? The reason i ask is because i remember the time it came out and most of us thought "ahhh it's just a rack version of JD-800". Little did we know how wrong we were. Then two years later the JV-1080 came out and we were ALL over it. Everyone i knew bought it, including myself. Now looking back one can immediately hear how good JD is in the high registers, the filter high freq response and stereo width. It's just head and shoulders above (though 1080 is a stellar synth as well). So... i wonder how come you decided for 990 and not 1080?

I was living in Copenhagen when I first saw the JD800. A very expensive and totally mind-bogbling synth that I didn’t even dare dream of owning. At the time I was in a synth band with my best friend and we would spend nights and weekends creating tracks with our collection of synths, drum machines, samplers etc all controlled by the amazing Dr. T's KCS Keyboard Controlled Sequencer on the Amiga. I was around 15 at the time. So the Roland JD 800 came out a few years later and really left a mark on me in my teenage years. After starting a game company and moving to the US I was tasked with writing the soundtrakcs for all the Zyrinx, Lemon and most of the Scavenger games. So lots of game soundtracks to be written and kick ass games needed great music and so we needed to get some music equipment. I was working with lots of game teams such as Saxs Persson who later become studio head of Shiny Entertainment. The founders of Starbreeze Studios were also working with Scavenger - Lemon and Zyrinx later mutated into IO Interactive. My first equipment in the US included a JD990 (I finally got one!), Marion's MSR2 (Tom Oberheim's company), Ensoniq TS12 (actually got that in Boston and used it for my Sega Genesis music writing), Akai S2800 Sampler, Emulator 6400 (I was using 3 Emulator 6400s when I retired them), Juno 60 and Oberheim OBXa. In answer to your question, I always wanted a Roland JD synth. I bought the JD990 in 1994 and so the 1080 might not have been out yet. I was using the first PC Cubase program called Cubase Score and there were no audio features, just midi to run your synths (this was before Giga Studio).

Thinking about this really reminds me of how music wasnt made with computers back then. They were only used to sequence midi notes. In some ways that added more variation to the music, what I mean is that these days everyone uses the same orchestral libraries, mastering software and VST synths. I was lucky that I got to release most of the music I have written over the years, starting with my music for the demo scene when I was 13. That music is still out there on YouTube and demo scene web sites etc. So while I have been moving my music forward since the beginning, that also means everything I learned over the years, most of my music experiments, it's all out there, in my music, for people to hear. In a sense, I grew up in the music industry and my music grew up in the public domain.

Question: Although i recognize the JD's Fantasynth waveform in this track, the way this sound is filtered is something really really magical. Did you used a help of some external filter or perhaps Emulator E-4 or was it straight from 990? The whole Hospital theme (Hitman Codename 47 soundtrack) has those eerie filter sweeps all over it. In fact to this day i wonder how did you achieve that. Because it sounds scary. It really does. Amazing sound design skills.

The Hitman Codename 47 soundtrack was made in Microsoft Direct Music (one of the few scores to be done in Direct Music I think). A complete nightmare for me since it is a very non-creative platform. So I decided to write all the music in Cubase instead and sample sequences and assemble everything inside Direct Music. I was using the Akai S2800 sampler, experimenting a lot with re-sampling and downsampling to make all the music fit inside the ram requirements of the game. In Direct Music it was also possible to play back samples in different pitches (without using more ram) and so that made it easier to make the ambient music take up less ram.Working with ram limitations is something I had done many times before. Starting with ram limitations on the C64, the Amiga, Sega Genesis and the Sega Saturn Sound System (which was also tricky to work with but it had some great built-in effects). I must admit when PlayStation 2 came around and CD-based music become the norm I was very happy. I had been practicing my CD-based music for years and was eager to start growing my music in this format.

Question: I've read in one older interview that you used an E-MU Emulator 4. I'm curious do you still have it? Did you used it in the Hitman Codename 47 soundtrack? I can hear what sounds like bit reduction / downsampling of some of the samples, particularly in the Hospital theme. I always imagined you used E4 to do that kind of processing. But i'm probably wrong.

Yeah, I still have a couple of my Emu 6400s left. I can’t get myself to sell them. Such great machines and filters. I also still have my Akai S2800 and often think about how to get back into using the Akai samplers. The music I did with samplers is just so different from working with a perfect sounding computer. These days a S2800 costs the same as S5000, which is insane, so I might have to look into that soon.

Question: Do you have a general rule prior to making a track. For example do you compile your sounds and program them first, then go write a track, or you first start with something like a piano and a note sheet, then start to look for sounds that would match the composition? I assume the answer is somewhere in the middle but i'm curious to learn from your experience and what you found to work best in relation to: note vs sound design.

Sometimes I record my own sounds first, especially if I have an idea for the recording and how it will affect the score. Other times I start with the melody and sit at the piano and scribble ideas down on paper (though the mics are always recording when I am playing the piano - I never know what music comes out when sitting down at a piano).

In general, I find it's much easier to write music if you know what you are aiming for. But with many of my scores the sound is a bit more out there. With scores such as Assassin’s Creed 2 it really took some experimenting before a new sound emerged. I had never written any renaissance music and knew nothing about music for the time period before starting.

Regarding notes vs sound design, my music notes are often a mix of chord progressions, music notes and general notes. I don't care about making proper note sheets etc, I am more intersted in the actual mood and atmosphere. How you play 3 notes is more interesting than what the the actual 3 notes are. You can make the 3 most non-musical notes sound great with the right emotional balance. Pushing things regarding mood and atmosphere is what makes music sound interesting, unique and modern to me.

Question: Which gear you had at the time of writing Codename 47 soundtrack?

Instruments used for the Hitman: Codename 47 score included: Yamaha VL-1, Ensoniq TS-12, Yamaha FS1R, Marion MSR2 (Tom Oberheim), Roland JD990, Akai S2800, Roland JP8080, Roland Juno 60, Roland TB303, Roland 707, Roland 606, Oberheim OBXa and Oberheim Matrix 6.

Not sure if all these synths showed up on the score, but those were the synths I was using at the time.

Question: Funny one. When do you usually get up, when you go to sleep.

Well, when I get up depends on how late I work. It's not unusual for me to work until 04:30 in the morning but I try to stop work around 02:00 am every night. So I start work in the studio around 10:00 am, work until 18:00. Take a break and usually get back to work around 22:00.

Question:In fact i wanted to ask about the lo-fi gritty sounds present on Codename 47 and as far as i can understand that was all downsampled in Akai S2800.

Yeah, downsampled on Akai S2800.

Question: I will also presume those eerie filter sweeps most likely originate from Akai since you mentioned a lot of processing and resampling?

Yes and they were also played in different octaves which gave the music an eerie quality when played back in Direct Music.