That’s interesting, that approach must have been rather unique at the time.
It was, it was very unique because back then you had to be a computer programmer in order to make music for video games, and I didn’t really know too much about programming. I was like everyone at the time, coding games in BASIC when growing up (Laughs), but not much else.
But the whole idea of a musician making music for a video game was pretty new at the time, so I got programmers to write me programs, which would enable me to play my musical keyboard into the computer so you could take that data, and translate it into programming language. Really it was as simple as ‘note on’, ‘note off’, ‘note duration’ and ‘note velocity’ – just a bunch of zero’s and one’s that could be easily managed by the coders.
The bespoke programs I had made for me was really the reason why some of my earlier games on the Genesis (Mega Drive) like Earthworm Jim
, Disney’s Aladdin
, Global Gladiators
and Cool Spot
sounded like real music played from a keyboard – because it actually allowed me to do that. It gave me a complete unfair advantage over everybody else though (Laughs)!
Who would you say is a great inspiration to you, in terms of musicians and video game developers? Who inspires your music?
Yeah, some of my major influences musically are as I said before – Beethoven is probably my biggest influence. John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Mozart are also pretty big inspirations to me as well. From a song writing and structure standpoint I really admire Sting, both with his solo work and with The Police – he’s just a beautiful songwriter.
And of course, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, both from a melodic standpoint… and Van Halen, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin also influence my writing and inspiration, even outside of music in general.
In terms of developers, I think one of my favourite designers is Michel Ancel. Beyond Good and Evil
was one of my favourite games and if you remember last year’s Video Games Live he made an appearance on stage. I love everything about Beyond Good and Evil
, the music, design and… just the things Michel has done in his career have really amazed me.
I also got the chance to work with (Mario
creator) Shigeru Miyamoto when I worked on Metroid Prime
, and that was awesome to work with the master of video games – just to see his approach and thinking about how games should be created is inspiring. It’s so different from anyone else out there.
What was his direction like? We hear plenty of good things about his process.
Well, I’ll give you a quick example – I did the sound design for Metroid Prime
(and was actually the first sound guy hired for the project); we were coming up with all the weapon sounds early on. Most of the time in video games and film, sound design is seen as very much a post-production process. Like when I worked on the Unreal
franchise, they’d make a gun, show me the animation and I make a sound for it.
What Miyamoto did was say to me, “Look, forget about all the visuals and everything else – I want you to just make really awesome sounds. Really awesome weapon sounds. I don’t want to give you any direction at all, I just want you to make it sound cool”. Then what the development team did was take my sounds and they created a lot of the weapons around my sound design.
That was interesting because it gave the artists inspiration to create weapons just by listening. Something like that gives you a little bit of insight into the mind of Miyamoto and why he is who he is. It’s not luck! (Laughs)