We had the pleasure of getting a interview with music composer, Jamie Christopherson. He was commissioned by Platinum Games to write both the score and songs for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
What types of instruments did you use to create the soundtrack?
We decided early on that the music for the game would be very heavy metal influenced, so it was natural to use drums (double kicks), guitars, bass and vocals. But on top of that I used a lot of electronics (synthesizers), orchestra, huge percussion and ethnic instruments to match scenes and locations. All of it blends together most of the time.
Which of the instruments was the most "unique?"
My concept was a kind of post-apocolyptic heavy metal sound. So a lot of the guitars take that approach with distant wailing and a interesting textures. Often the guitars would be blended with synthesizers to come up with a unique sound that was somewhere in between the two.
Of the various songs, which one is your favorite?
I have an attachment to every one of the boss battle songs, since we worked so long and hard on them. The writing and production process for the songs took several months and went through several iterations. Every song is very specific to the bosses, including the lyrics, instrumentation and singers chosen.
So it's really hard for me to pick just one. I do like the end credit song "The War Still Rages Within" a lot still because it was the last song written and it didn't have to be written specifically for a boss battle. I feel like it really captures the essence of what the players just went through in the game.
How long did it take to finish the soundtrack?
I started working on the project at the end of 2011, so a little over a year from start to finish. But it wasn't non-stop writing, as the project would come and go at various times while the development team was designing more levels, boss battles and cutscenes. But there were many intense periods of writing music, and lots of it!
How many people were involved?
This project was the biggest collaborative effort that I've been a part of so far. If you look at the end credits for the game you can see the names of everyone involved in the music production. It would be hard for me to mention everyone involved here. Definitely the most important collaborator was Naoto Tanaka at PlatinumGames, as his vision for the music and implementation of it in the game is why it works so well. I worked very closely with the whole development team to make sure the music fit the gameplay just right.
To nail the metal side of things, I brought in heavy metal producer Logan Mader (former guitarist for Machine Head) to co-write and co-produce songs with me. He really helped with the authenticity of the metal tracks and brought in many talented musicians to perform on the songs. I also co-wrote a lot of the music with a Graeme Cornies and the rest of Voodoo Highway Music & Post. Graeme also sings three of the vocal tracks, including the end credit song.
I was able to work with top notch singers and musicians from all over the world. For example, I worked on one track with an electronic producer from Scandinavia named Ferry Corsten, and the end results were very cool. Also the vocal tracks were remixed in house by PlatinumGames and by a talented group of guys named Maniac Agenda. We all worked closely together to give the metal mixes a more modern spin in the end.
Finally, I'd also like to point out the help that I had from Soundelux Design Music Group (who also did the sound effects for the game). The sheer amount of files passed back and forth between everyone was pretty immense, and they helped to make sure management of the audio and visual elements were tracked properly.
What is your favorite type of music?
I love all types of music really. It depends on my mood really. Film scores, classical music, jazz, new indy. The ironic thing is that I didn't listen to heavy metal music much growing up. But now that I have done a full soundtrack of it, I have such more respect and understanding of the musicianship and style. I'm still not a "metal" head, but I catch myself banging my head a lot more now.
How did you get involved in creating music for games?
I started creating "musical" sound design for a few game composers, which led into doing additional music for games. I wasn't specifically looking to get into writing game music, but when I heard how much the quality of game music had evolved since the early days I was very intrigued and excited about the possibilities.
Any advice to people wanting to get into career of games music?
It's a wonderful time to get into game music, as there are many independent game developers for iPhone games and such. And each one of those games needs music!
Any advice for those who want to have a music career?
Focus first and foremost on improving your composing skills. Write music for anything and everything that you can, and always try to make your next composition better and more unique than your last. Try to stretch outside of your comfort zone sometimes (like I did with this game).
What type game music are you listening to?
To be honest I haven't had much of a chance to play games in a while (other than builds of games I'm working on). But lately I love listening to KCRW to new music when I'm driving to work and back. I'll even catch myself stopping on a heavy metal radio station from time to time now.