How does composing a videogame soundtrack compare to other projects you've done in the past?
AM: Each project I work on has its own set of new requirements that are different from the last, so I'm constantly adjusting my processes and workflow to best serve that project. In that sense, this project was no different. But being my first videogame, I had to adjust how I wrote music in a few interesting ways.
Videogame music is loop-based, for the most part, so it can last for quite a long time if need be. Making music that is loopable by design was a new challenge. The starts and ends of each cue had to match up in intensity and instrumentation for the most part. If not, the player will definitely start hearing the loop. With film music, I'm used to having the freedom to have a sparse intro, build throughout the cue and end with a climax. That change in intensity builds interest, keeps the scene moving. I had to find other ways to keep up the interest. It's kind of a Zen paradox to always be there, never building too much, but still going in a direction that is interesting.
Thematic content is a big part of film music. This game required it as well, to a certain degree, but in a different way. Film music themes can often be heavily melodic and identifiable, to underscore a character and pivotal moments. But in a videogame, you never know exactly what will be happening on screen, so a hugely identifiable melody can either take a player out of the action, or repeat so often that the player starts to hear the loop. I tried to stick to smaller motivic melodies, riffs, and also thematic devices that relied less on melody and more on rhythm, instrumentation, and timbre. It's a fresh and valuable way of looking at music for me, one that will affect everything I create moving forward.
WM: I write melody for our scores the same way I do for an Alexisonfire song. It's usually the first idea that comes to me. I take a lot of inspiration from old punk and hardcore in my songwriting, and that's just as important in writing a theme for Far Cry or when I working on Alexisonfire's music.
What is special about the title tracks, and what made them representative of their respective adventures as a whole?
AM: The title track "Lost on Mars" includes a lot of the sounds that appear in the game, and is mostly a traditional western theme performed by vintage ‘70s synths to keep it tongue-in-cheek. There is also acoustic guitar, electric guitar, orchestral percussion, and theremin in the orchestration for extra western and sci-fi fun flavor. It contains a lot of sounds you hear throughout the game.
AGM: We had written that melody early on, but as soon as we heard Kim play it on the Dan Tranh, we knew that needed to be "Hours of Darkness." It was instant. It felt like that one lick, played on that instrument, was the "fingerprint" for the rest of the score.
How do you decide on the names of each track?
AM: After finishing the music, we had some help from a writer on the game to make sure the titles really connected to the story and gameplay. The names are pretty silly, to go along with the over-the-top nature of the game and the Far Cry series. It's so nice, at the end of a project, to hear all the cues back-to-back and finally give each piece a proper name. Then they're ready for the world.
WM: I have a pretty exhaustive list of song titles going at all times. Then, it was a matter of doing some research on wartime slang and history, and combining everything into the title the fit the piece.
What's your favorite track and why?
AM: My favorite track is "Yeti Meltdown." It makes the speakers physically pump in and out, even at low volume. I like the funky Minimoog bassline, along with the wacky harmony created by the retro ‘70s sci-fi orchestra samples. It's quite extreme in punchiness, and sounds unique to me in an old-meets-new kind of way.
AGM: The entire score was a blast, and they're all near and dear to our hearts, but "Thunder Road" may have been the most fun to make. It's built out of a jam where Kim encouraged Wade to play the Moon Lute while she played Dan Tranh over a rhythm track that I had sketched out.
Lost on Mars, Hours of Darkness, and Dead Living Zombies are available now to Far Cry 5 owners, either for individual purchase or through the Season Pass. For more on the game, check out our previous Far Cry 5 coverage.
ESRB - M