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Old 1st December 2016

Question: When approaching a new project, how do you begin selecting sounds, themes, particular tools to see the project through? What, if any, limits do you place on yourself?

That's a great question...well it really depends on what the approach should be. If coming up with a new sound is the priority then that will be the force that drives the score. I usually try to experiment and find new ideas that feel like they deepen the world which you are scoring or fits the character if it’s a character-driven score. Once you start to find something that really enhances the experience, it becomes easier and then I really get going

Question: Did you ever had a data loss tragedy in the studio. i.e. failed HD drive or some file mistakenly overwritten by another? Is fo, how did you deal with it?

No, I am very careful to back up my music.

Question: Going back to Codename 47 soundtrack, Harbor Theme. In the first 20 seconds of the track I can hear a lot of industrial types of sounds. Were these all sampled by yourself or you used some specific sample CDs?

Those are my own sounds, created by sampling my own performances and then filtering and meddling with the sounds.

Question: Then there is this beautiful arpeggio-like arrangement in the 4th minute and i will be honest i've never heard anything like that before. Do you remember how you constructed it? Was FM synthesis involved? Is is just phenomenal, because one can not point exactly what kind of instrument it is.

I think I programmed that on the Roland JD990 and then sequenced it in Cubase.

Question: How big was your sample CD collection back then? In the Codename 47 Main Title I can hear a breakbeat from the cult Masterbits sample CD ROM which was titled "House, Hip-Hop, Electro". Did you had some other CD titles during that time if so, which was your favorite?

It was very small. I used a variety of source material when sampling. Then I tweak, program and filter until the sound is completely changed.

Question: Do you get a chance to get a taste of the game before composing? Do you relate the artwork/style/theme of the game to your music as a source of inspiration? The Borderlands OST is my personal favorite and I'm thinking of Borderlands for this question.

Yes, I often get a chance to see or play the game. It's a big help and it does influence the music. However it's not unusual for a game to really come together towards the end of a development cycle, meaning the games are often too early in their development to really get a sense of the mood and atmosphere in the game. Borderlands is an action game but that's not how I would define the score - it's a lot of location-based music. I would be shown these locations and based on how complete the levels were, I would let that influence the music.

Question: Has it ever worked the other way around, i.e., has your music influenced the game artwork or inspired the design of the atmosphere of the game?

Sure, I am often told that developers enjoy listening to the soundtrack being written while working on the game. I don't think that's something happening that is unique to me and my music.

There are also moments where the game has been adjusted to better fit with the timing of the music.

Question: Are your synths tuned to 440 or some other freq?


Question: Do you work with Solfeggio frequencies or other precise frequencies?

No, I am more interested in experimenting with mood than really precise ways of getting there.

Question: What would be your Ambient 101 lesson on chord progressions (popular keys, phrasing, voicing, frequency of changes, etc.)?

I don't think of myself as writing ambient music and I don't think much about chord progressions either. I step further back and work towards what enhances the game. It's more of an instinct and I often find the less I think about the music, the more the composition flows naturally. Of course, if writing a theme, you do have to look at the notes and be aware of what's there.

Some composers like to study scores that they feel fit what's required for a certain theme and that's certainly a fine way to go about writing themes. I just like to do things my way, originality to me is very important. So many themes and music styles are being recycled over and over and that's not the kind of music I like to listen to or create.

Question: What would be your advanced lesson on chord progressions and what are your favorite chord extension techniques (pedal tones, modal mixtures, key modulation, suspensions, deceptive cadences, root moves, etc).

I actually try to move away from all that and let the music come out through my fingers. I often find that when closing my eyes and playing the piano completely different music comes out than if I watch my hands. When watching my hands I think about what I'm playing and try to go on that journey. It's two different approaches and for me the first method usually creates something more interesting melodically.

Question: Since Ambient productions tend to be very long how do you structure the form of the composition? How do you go about arranging such long compositions?

Again, I don't think of my music as ambient. If I was to write ambient music it would sound very different. I think the only score I have written that I consider ambient is "Soldier" which is a game from 2000 based on the Kurt Russell movie that was never released. Anyway, I have always been writing long form music. Look at my early work for Sega Genesis, some of those tracks are 10+ minutes long, playing away at Main Title screens to give the audience a chance to rock out to the mood of the game. That is something that C64 composers did. I always loved playing games on the C64 and then taking a break and listening to the main title music before diving back in to play the game again. And the best of those soundtrack moments were the ones that just kept on going - and after 15 minutes or so you’d wonder "wow, how long can this go on for?" Love that, it's a clear sign of a composer loving his craft, caring about the audience and going that extra mile.

So long form has always been my style. The challenge for me has been to enjoy writing in short form. You can tell a lot in 30 seconds with a film style music cue (you can go from a love scene to the end of the world in 10 seconds!) I've been more interested in really digging deep in long form writing, not telling people how to feel but giving a mood and saying, here, take this mood and see where it takes you. My score for Darksiders 2 especially, makes this very clear, with songs for the afterlife inspired by ideas such as Death, Heaven, Hell etc. This music doesn’t sound the way it's supposed to and on some days you might feel a certain way when hearing it and on other days this music will make you feel something completely different. That is something classical music, songs and albums do so well and I believe long form music really helps with this. For example, a 30 second film cue for an action scene or a product jingle for a commercial are usually designed to work only on one level of reality. It's meant to make you feel the same way, regardless of the mood you are in. However, when a film scores go beyond this concept, the film can be enhanced in really interesting ways and there are examples of film scores breaking this tradition and making more long form sounding music.

Question: Favorite all time gear - HW & SW (including FX)?

Hardware: Yamaha CS80, all Eventide gear, Prophet 10, Roland SH5, TC2290 Delay, Lexicon 224x, AKG BX20 Spring Reverb Tower.

Software: Too many to mention, some of my favs are Omnisphere, SynthMaster2, Zebra, Cytomic Glue…

Question: How do you provoke your musical inspiration - other artists, nature, meditation???

Love reading, playing games, watching movies, listening to music, spending time with family.

Question: What synthesizers did you use for the Freedom Fighters soundtrack (if any?) Also what was your inspiration for the overall vibe of that soundtrack? It remains one of my favorites to this day. Brilliant work.

Thanks! Yamaha CS80, Alesis Andromeda, Oberheim OBXa, Oberheim Matrix 6, Roland Juno 60.

Question: Which music artists were the inspiration for composing the music of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Contracts, both the classical and electronic elements of those soundtracks? I would love ideas of similar music to listen to, that you have done very well.

I try not to listen to a lot of music when coming up with the sound of a score since I don't want anything to creep in there. I do remember really enjoying Star Wars The Phantom Menace by John Williams at the time. That was about the only influence.

Many fans (probably most) of the Hitman games state that these two are the best in the series, and the music is a large part of what gives them the atmosphere they needed to have. I listen to the Hitman soundtracks even while not playing the games. Some of the music is mellow ambient or classical, and it could go into something gritty and sinister later, and I thought the music transitions were great, based around what you do while playing the games. I believe the music you've done for the Hitman games is wonderful, as well as the Assassin's Creed series!

Thanks! Great to hear you like it

- end of the interview -

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