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Benny Oschmann
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Jesper Kyd
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Jesper Kyd

Name:Jesper Kyd - Music in Games 3
Links: Jesper Kyd Homepage
Jesper Kyd - Music in Games 3 (interview von yak)

This time we had the chance to talk to the Jesper Kyd, composer of "Hitman1&2", "MDK2", "Messiah" and "The Nations", to name just a few.

Hi Jesper, thank you very much that you are at our disposal for an interview. First I would like to ask you some biographical questions. How did you get towards "music" itself ?

Well, when I think back…I guess I was always around a piano. My parents had a piano and so did my mom's grand parents, my dad's grand parents, my aunt, my uncle etc. Naturally, once I moved away from home to central Copenhagen, I bought a piano for my place too. Then when I was like 10 years old I took 5 years of classical guitar training, 2 years of note reading and 2 years of choir practice. I didn't really care for guitar, so after that I took 4 years of piano training focusing on composition. In 1985 I got my first computer, a Commodore C128 and started making music with a program called Electro Sound. Then came advanced C64 programs like Chris Huelsbecks Sound Monitor and later the Amiga computer. The Amiga was a really amazing machine. With 4 sample channels, suddenly you had to sample all your instruments. I worked on Amiga music for around 6 years, and then started using it for Sega Genesis/Megadrive scores. Around the time I got the Amiga I also bought my first keyboard, a Roland D20. I made tons of music with the D20 and then bought a few more keyboards. It was always very important to me to be able to do "real" music with keyboards, since I always knew that one day that was the kind of music I would be writing. If you only did C64 music you limit yourself to one format, and what would happen once that computer was replaced by a new and better one, like the Genesis. In the end, the most important format is CD or "real" music.

Has your vocational training been orientated in a classical way ?

Yeah I studied classical guitar and classical composition for years.

Who are your favorite musicians in the classical field or in the field of film composers ?

My favorite classical composers are Scelsi, Rachmaninov & Stravinsky. Favorite film composers are Vangelis, John Williams, Jerry Goldmsith, James Horner.

How did you get into the world of computer games?

It started with getting a Commodore 128. My friends and I started a demo group and I was also doing music for other groups. Once I got an Amiga500 we joined a Swedish demo group called Silents and started the Danish division, Silents Denmark. We made some popular demos and joined forces with another demo group called Crionics. We did a few demos and games on the Amiga, and then got into developing games for the Sega Genesis. After we completed our Genesis game called Subterrania, we were offered to move to Boston to do games for a company called Scavenger. I became the audio guy at Scavenger and worked on music for all their games. Once Scavenger collapsed, my friends from Silents and Crionics went back to Denmark and created the Hitman Series. I decided to stay in NYC and become a freelance composer.

Do you play computergames yourself ? If yes, which are your favorites?

Yep, I am a gamer. GTA3 on PC is currently what I play. Other favorites include Aquanox (PC), Rouge Squadron (Gamecube) and Dead or Alive 3 (Xbox).

What is the difference between composing a soundtrack for a computer game and composing one for a movie?

There is a big difference. For games you are not a slave to the image. Instead you have to come up with an atmosphere that displays what the game player should be feeling. For films you usually come up with a couple of main themes and then work on music that fits the transition of a scene. A game might take 25-50 hours to complete and a movie only last around 2 hours, so for games it's not unusual to write like 15 different themes.

Your main titel for the sequel to Hitman is just impressive. Big, orchestral, bombastic music with chorus, what more can we ask for ? Why did you choose the form of a requiem for it?

I wanted the title music to be different from the in-game music, and a requiem just seemed to make sense, since hitman is the bringer of death.

Who has had the idea to record the score for Hitman 2 with a big orchestra? Has it already been intended at the beginning? Was it difficult to receive the budget for such an expansive recording?

IOI wanted to try something different for the Hitman2 score and approached me with the idea of using a big orchestra. We talked about this from the beginning of the H2 development. Yep, it sure was a challenge to put such a big budget together.

The Hitman2 main title reminds me a bit of the Finale to Jerry Goldsmiths Omen Trilogy, did you get a temp track to get the "musical mood" the gamedesigner wanted to have?

Well no, there was no temp track given to me (thank god!) But they did mention a couple of soundtracks that were bombastic and heroic.

Did you use thematic material from Hitman 1 in the sequel, or did you compose completely new themes?

I composed interely new music for H2. So many things are different in H2. It's not just a new story, but a vast improvement of many things such as graphics & control.

Do you think that electronic-produced music is easier to handle, being placed or edited within a game, than music recorded with a live orchestra?

That's an interesting question. It's certainly easier for the listener to be able to handle an electronic or ambient piece of music looping 5 times, than for a big orchestral piece of music to be played 5 times in a row. Ambient orchestral music can be created with electronics, so when I use a symphony for H2 I use it for big bombastic elements. Big bombastic elements are not meant to be listened to many times since it makes its impact, delivers the message, right away. For moments when music needs to be looped several times, we use low key electronic music.

Will there be a chance to get the Hitman 2 soundtrack as Audio CD ? (a special DVD Version of the game should include the soundtrack)

The official Hitman2 soundtrack is in development and will be released in August/September. I will post more info on the H2 soundtrack at www.jesperkyd.com soon.

How did you feel as you first time heard your score being played in such a grandeur with a big orchestra and chorus? (You find MP3 of the music on Jespers Homepage)

It felt pretty great. It also made me think that I have a lot to learn and that I am nowhere near reaching my limit.

How much was the budget for the Hitman 2 Soundtrack recording ?

I'm not sure I can disclose this information. Let me just say that is was around 3 times that of an electronic score.

You composed for different game genres. What is more difficult or gives you more artistical freedom, action games (like Hitman, MDK2) or RTS games (like The Nations)?

It's not as simple as that. It really depends on if the developer listens to your suggestions or if there are lots of set rules in which I have to confide and transfer your music style to. The more artistic freedom the better, since it will make for a more creative and original score.

Would you have had the chance to record Hitman 1 with full orchestra, too? The Jungle Action Theme literally SCREAMS for a 90+ Orchestra ;) .

That would have been fun to get performed, Hitman1 was IOI's first game though, and having a big audio budget when creating your first title is usually not an option.

How do you select your projects?

I take on projects that are creatively interesting to me at that time. I constantly go through phases thinking I am no good at this and that. For example, after a symphonic project I look for a dance music project so that I can practice my electronic rhythms. Then after that it might be time to practice the classical percussion side of things etc. Basically what I try to avoid is doing 2 projects in a row that require the same kind of score.

How do you get your musical "mood" for the game, when do you get your inspiration, do you get a kind of script before? Is there some sort of presciption concerning the style of the soundtrack, be it a complete orchestra, electronics or choires?

This is done through everything I can think of. Game demos, game videos, game script, story boards, character designs, set designs, art books, films, music CDs etc Also, talking to the developer about what they are looking for, especially when writing the first tracks is very important.

Do you get prescriptions by the producers or do you have a free choice? Is the working method concerning computer games similar to those of the movie industries, regarding the usage of temp-tracks?

Well, just like with movies, sometimes developers use temp tracks, sometimes they don't.

How much time do you have for the development?

Usually anywhere from 4 - 12 weeks.

Which sort of technical equipment is used?

I have a studio with 25+ synths, drum machines, samplers, mixers, computers, soft synths and plugins.

Which game would you have liked most to compose music for?

Aquanox would be a fun game to compose music for.

What about the future and capability of development concerning interactive music?

Until CD music can somehow be mixed as interactive music I am not convinced about interactive music developments. Currently sound quality is sacrificed for interactivity, and as a composer that is not a good thing. As a gamer, I guess its pretty cool.

How is it possible to change the soundtrack according to the present situation within the game, without disturbing the fluency of the soundtrack or the composition, unless using the fade in/out method?

The music must be written with this in mind. Some music in H2 is designed to work together, so that more intense or more ambient music can be mixed together. Also, you have to set up a few music rules within the game. For example, if a big heroic H2 theme is played, you can't just fade this down for some reason. It would ruin the moment.

Did you receive prescriptions to compose music that sounds like "Horner", "Zimmer" or "Williams" or more like "We want it to sound like Star Trek" ?

IOI likes the Gladiator score very much, and they asked me to compose something as bombastic.

Do you compose in a traditional manner? On the piano or via computer?

I compose via the piano.

Are there differences in composing for more complex PC Games or for arcarde-like console games?

There really is no difference between composing for PC and console. Still, arcade games tend to have like 10 action tracks where as story progression games are more like film scores, since they have different levels of intensity and often has like a heroic theme, a love theme, discovery theme etc.

Are you involved in the SoundFX Department in any way?

When we do sound effects I supervise the production and make sure everything sounds good.

Which of your work in the field of computer games are you most proud of?

I like all my scores. Currently my favorite score is Freedom: Battle for Liberty Island which was performed by a huge Hungarian choir. A French novelist named Gaelle Obiegly wrote the Russian lyrics for all the choir tracks. The choir is mixed with drum beats and synths sounds for a very unique sounding score.

What are your future projects?

I can't really talk about my upcoming projects just yet. Currently I am working on Freedom: Battle for Liberty Island for EA Games.

Any chance to hear your next gamesoundtrack again with a full orchestra ?

Well, it looks like I will be doing another score with full orchestra soon.

Which are your personal favorite games you play on the computer?

Grand Theft Auto 3

What is your most liked CD (Classical, Filmscore, Others)?

Hm, I like Vangelis Earth CD very much.

Thank you for your efforts and your time that you have been at our disposal and thank you very much for the interview.

No problem.

Dank an Karsta Preiß für die Unterstützung bei den Übersetzungen.
Copyright of the characters used within the picture by Eidos, Interplay, JoWooD, Bioware, Shiny

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