|Richard Jacques: - Music in Games 2 (interview von yak)|
we would like to continue our interview-series we did with game-composers.
Last Time we had the chance to interview Jeremy
Soule about music in PC Games, now we would like to look inside the production
of console-games, the differences to PC Games and the body of your work. First
some biographical questions.
How did you get in touch with music?
I come from a musical family and began learning the piano from the age
of 5, closely followed by the trombone aged 7, then I followed music through school and
Tell us about the games, you composed music for (year, system, title)
- Shinobi X (Saturn) 1995
- Darxide (32X) 1995
- F1 Challenge (Saturn) 1995
- Sonic 3D Flickies Island (Saturn/PC) 1996
- Daytona CCE (Saturn) 1997
- Worldwide Soccer '98 (Saturn) 1998
- Sonic R (Saturn/ PC) 1998
- Snowsurfers (Dreamcast) 1999
- Metropolis Street Racer (Dreamcast) 1999
- Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast) 2000
- Headhunter (Dreamcast/PS2) 2001
- Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox) 2002
Has your vocational training been orientated in a classical way ?
Yes, it certainly has. When I was learning piano and trombone when I was
young, I was following a formal classical training; for example I was playing trombone in
symphony orchestras. Then I continued studying all through school, as well as having music
lessons at the Junior Royal Academy of Music in London, taking all my exams on trombone
and piano as well as taking up percussion and drums.Then I studied for a music degree at
University, so you could say it was a classical training route.
Who are your favourite musicians in the classical field or in the field
of film composers?
I have many favourites, but they include: Danny Elfman, David Arnold,
Howard Shore, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer.
How did you get into the world of computer games?
It was by coincidence really! I have been playing games since I was very
young, so was always a gamer. When I was just about to finish University I saw a job at
Sega advertised. So I applied for it and got the job! This is very lucky and I was delighted
as I could share my 3 interests which were writing music, working with technology and playing
Do you play computer games yourself? If yes, which are your favourites?
Yes indeed I still play games regularly and am currently playing MGS2
(PS2), Dropship (PS2) and Sonic Advance (GBA). My favourite games include NiGHTs (Saturn),
Panzer Dragoon Zwei (Saturn) and Outrun (Arcade).
Which is the primary/fundamental difference between compositions of soundtracks
for computer games, soundtracks for movies and TV commercials?
The main difference is the difference between linear and non-linear composing.
On a film or a TV show you would have a set segment of film to score to. This will always
be the same length and exactly the same things would always happen. In a game you are still
providing mood music and setting the scene in many ways, but you do not know what the player
may choose to do in a game, so you may have to prepare to switch from one music cue to another
quickly, or to build the pace and the tension is a different way from a linear score.
How do you select your projects?
Now I am freelance it's nice to have a choice. It's usually based on if
the game interests me, or rather if I would play that game myself. Also if it involves working
with a talented developer and what style of music is required also affects my decision.
Are there limitations on the technical side for console game music in comparison
to PC Games (e.g. Memory restrictions).?
Memory restrictions occur in PC games and console games, but only if the
music is being done via the sound chip (and therefore stored in memory). Most soundtracks
are CD based and there are not really any limitations (other than disc space) to consider.
How do you get your musical "mood" for the game, when do you get your inspiration,
do you get a script beforehand? Is there some sort of prescription concerning the style
of the soundtrack?
Often the inspiration for the mood comes from looking at the game itself.
Sometimes I may be working from a script or some character or background sketches but I
can still get a lot of inspiration from these. Regarding the style it is often discussed
between the games producers and myself.
Do you get prescriptions by the producers or do you have a free choice?
Is the working method concerning console games similar to those of the movie industries,
regarding the usage of temp-tracks? Is there a problem that the producer might wish to have
this so-called "Horner","Williams" or "Zimmer" sound?
This is true to a certain degree. Sometimes people may use temp tracks
to get a feel for the right atmosphere / mood / tempo etc, and yes some people do insist
on a "Williams" or "Horner" sound, but I am trying to get away from that now and give people
a "Jacques" sound, if you know what I mean!
How much time do you have at your disposal for the development? Is the soundtrack
not being created until the game is practically finished?
It depends on the development cycle. These days, with good technology
and demanding soundtracks, I am often brought on board about half way through a project
or even more. The shortest time I ever had was 2.5 weeks to do a whole game and for example
Metropolis Street Racer was so complicated for both music and sound design it took 2 years!
Are there restrictions on budget or is there for instance a possibility
to let the soundtrack be played by a full orchestra, as it has already been the case with
your soundtrack on " Headhunter" ?
Of course there is always a limit on budget but more developers and publishers
are realising that soundtracks are very important and for example with Headhunter it gave
the game a unique sound. Also we hope to release the soundtrack in the near future.
Which sort of technical equipment are used?
I use many different types of equipment For example 2 Apple Mac G4's (one
running Pro Tools 64 track hard disk recording system, and one running Cubase and Logic
sequencing programs), also 10 Akai samplers, an 80 channel Mackie mixing desk, many MIDI
modules, many outboard equipment etc.
Which game would you have liked most to compose music for, but never get
the chance to do?
Either Panzer Dragoon or Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy.
What about the future and capability of development concerning interactive
Now the technology is getting really good and the internal quality of
a console is very high, the interactive music is getting very good indeed. I would like
to explore it more using CD or DVD streaming so that we could have a fully interactive score
with a full orchestra.
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?
If the soundtrack is CD based, it can be very difficult to do this unless
using some kind of fading techniques, but you could achieve it using smaller segments and
various look up tables.
In Japan game soundtracks gain a much higher value than in Europe or America?
Do you vision the future of game soundtracks to be a new way to bring modern, classical
orientated music in public, or does it seem to remain a marginal appearance?
I would hope that in Europe and the US that game soundtracks will start
to achieve the same status that film scores do. Since there are many gamers that wish to
buy this kind of music (I get many emails asking the same question) hopefully the record
companies will realise this and start to release more soundtracks.
Are there similar problems with mixing the soundtracks of the games with
the sound effects as it is the case with movies and the sound effects there, or does the
composer of game soundtracks get much more into contact with the section which is responsible
for the effects, respectively is he literally involved in this process as well?
This can vary greatly. Sometimes the composer will be asked to do the
sound design as well, sometimes the composer may just hand over all the tracks when a project
is finished. I like to work with the sound designer as much as possible. On Headhunter I
was very lucky to be working with sound designer Dominic Gibbs who is currently working
on the new Bond film, Die Another Day. This was of great benefit because we knew exactly
what each other was doing for a scene in the game, so we could ensure that the music and
sound design worked well together.
Are there differences in composing for more complex PC Games or arcarde
In terms of composition, no there shouldn't be any difference between
the platforms but of course a huge PC RPG would present its own challenges compared with
a console racing game.
Is there a consideration of techniques like Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital
5.1 or MP3 during the creation of the soundtrack? Are there advantages or disadvantages
Yes the composer would need to take this on board right from the start.
The main things to consider would be recording and miking techniques, mixing in surround,
as well as the physical disc space and compression used. The advantages are HUGE when playing
a game that has full 5.1 music and sound and far outweigh the disadvantages.
How was the feeling to stand before an orchestra in the famous Abbey road
studio, where legends like Jerry Goldsmith recorded some of his finest works, to hear your
music played by some of England's most talented musicians? And why you choose Abbey Road
It certainly was an incredible feeling knowing that many of these musicians
have recorded some of the greatest film soundtracks. One amazing thing was that many of
them contacted me after the recording to say how much they had enjoyed playing the music,
so that was excellent to hear. We wanted somewhere like Abbey Road because it has a very
large symphonic sounding hall.
Why did you record in England instead of the much cheaper sessions with
Russian orchestras (like most of the Score Rerecordings done by William Stromberg for Marco
If we didn't have the budget we may have gone to Prague or Moscow, but
I wanted to record in London because the musicians are some of the finest in the world,
which is why so many film composers record here.
How much was the budget for the Headhunter Soundtrack?
Is there any chance to see Headhunter as Audio CD Release?
Yes we are currently discussing this with record companies, so watch this
It seems that the software companies are increasingly featuring higher quality
soundtracks in their games and therefore increase the budgets. Do you think "Headhunter"
was "one of a kind"?
I think it was fairly rare for Headhunter but many companies are realising
that it is so important in games to have a good soundtrack so hopefully it will happen more
and more in the future.
Your very beautiful Dream Sequence with the French Horns in Headhunter reminds
me of a bit in the musical Style of Film composer David Shire (Return to Oz) and the very
military Main Theme reminds of the way Ennio Morricone did his orchestrations. Very good
work! Do you orchestrate all of your music by yourself. Are you influenced or take references
by Film composers?
Thank you! I did the orchestrations myself but orchestration is something
you never stop learning. Of course all composers listen to other composers styles of orchestration,
even the greats like John Williams.
Do you think, that more Film composers will join the new interactive medium?
I don't think it will happen so much as film composers don't know about
the technology and challenges involved in games. Also, the games industry has some very
talented people working in it.
What are your future projects?
I am afraid I can't speak about them yet, only to say I hope to return
to Abbey Road next summer for another orchestral project.
Are there any PC Titles in process?
I am not currently working on any PC titles.
What is your most liked CD
- Classical: Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite
- Filmscore: John Williams - Star Wars
- Pop: I don't really listen to much "pop" but
dance music would be Prodigy - Fat of the Land
- Jazz (or something else): Jazzanova - Remixes
Which of your work in the field of computer games are you most proud of?
Thank you very much for the interview
You are very welcome.
Photo von Richard Jacques by Sega, Derek Asken.