Editor's Note: This is not your son's "Pokemon" plinka plinka f$%%#$* plinka midi soundtrack. On a lark, I picked up Amon Tobin's "Splinter Cell - Chaos Theory" DVD-Audio disc this week. I wish the Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Santana DVD-A's worked half as well as this one does. It does come with a wee problem...no menu(!)..but the Hi Rez 5.1 thoroughly stripped the fur off our cats.
Interviewed by Hamish Mackintosh
Thursday May 19, 2005
Did you enjoy writing music for a computer game? It was about doing something interactive, which I've never really done before. The music has to change all the time so it was a different approach - technically limiting but challenging. There's more room for manoeuvre than in the old 8-bit days of computer games, but then you tend to make things even more complicated.
Were you familiar with Splinter Cell? I wasn't a massive games fan. I play a few games quite a lot. I was into video games as I kid. It's changed a lot, though, as games aren't so much directed towards kids. Games are moving closer to being interactive movies. There's a degree of realism now. When you look at Splinter Cell, it's as if you're watching a movie and controlling the main character.
What games did you grow up with? My dad worked at a language school so sometimes he'd come home with a Commodore 64, or an Acorn BBC. I loved Aztec Challenge (www.quernhorst.de/atari/ac.html), and Ghosts 'N Goblins (http://emustatus.rainemu.com/games/gng.htm). I recently read an article where someone was complaining about how "the charm of 8-bit Super Mario sounds was lost" and how soundtracks of computer games were trying to become too grand. But you couldn't put an 8-bit soundtrack on something like Splinter Cell, it would sound stupid. Whole games have changed, not just the sound.
Do you see the gaming and music worlds merging even more?
As production values expand and there are fewer technical limitations, there's scope for giving music a bigger role. I think everyone agrees on the importance of musical direction, whether in a movie or game. I approached it as if I was scoring a movie. I used all my heroes who've scored movies as a point of reference and tried to create recurring musical themes throughout the game. The process of scoring was meticulous - no sound was lifted from a sample. If you hear a gunshot, it's because sound designers at Ubisoft went into the desert and shot a load of guns.
What is your view on MP3s? A lot has to do with perceived audio quality and that is subjective. I'm more interested in formats that give you genuinely higher quality. I'm also not concerned with the transfer of information - if I have to wait a week to get a track in its entirety, I'll wait. I have no use for an iPod.
Do you record on 24-bit all the time? Definitely. It takes up more hard disk space and things take longer to process, but hard disk space is much cheaper than it was and processors are faster so it balances out. My hope is always that technology will become cheaper and more accessible. I would never have been able to get into music or afford an orchestra in a track but the advent of samplers 10 years ago allowed me to use sounds I could never have used before. Advances in technology have levelled the playing field.