Are you having fun with what you're doing?
Yes, I get to make music for a living, writing music all day that will be heard by millions of people worldwide. I’ve travelled further than I ever imagined.
How did you get into composition from the beginning?
When the Commodore 64 came out and I discovered how you could sequence full tracks and create songs, that’s when I really got into composition. Before that I was plugging away at different instruments and taking more theoretical music classes. On the C64 I started creating complete songs that you could sequence. I was inspired by this new technology that allowed me to be more creative and wanted to see where I could take this kind of composing technique.
What is the hardest part about creating music for a game?
The biggest challenge is to create a really good soundtrack that stands out on its own. It is not that hard to create music for video games that does its job and is exactly what you would expect. I am more interested in taking the music forward to create original music with a unique identity.
How much time does it take to create music for a AAA-class game? Do developers and producers give you freedom in your work or control you when you create the soundtrack?
It really depends on the amount of music. Comfortably, I would say it takes about 3 – 4 months to create 90 minutes of music.
If you’re trying to create original music it is going to be hard no matter what. Whether it’s a AAA title or not, the passion that you put into your music should be the same. However, AAA titles do come with added pressures since there are more people involved with more decisions/opinions as well as working with a development team under tremendous pressure. There are a lot more concerns overall and the artistic freedom can become less when a team is under a lot of pressure.
What do you think about Hitman Absolution?
IO recently showed me the game and I think it looks phenomenal. Not only am I a friend of the franchise, I am a fan of the Hitman series and I can’t wait to check it out. They’re still some of my favorite games.
How did Ubisoft contact you to work on Assassin's Creed and what did you like in this project?
There was a selection process that I went through. I was selected among a dozen composers invited to pitch. Creative Director Patrice Desilets and Producer Jade Raymond along with the rest of the Assassin’s Creed team believed I would be a good match for the series because they wanted a composer who could mix traditional acoustic instruments (including orchestra) and modern synth sounds. The music had to be edgy and contemporary. That is an important element in Assassin’s Creed given that the entire franchise is driven by Desmond’s experiences in the Animus which takes place in the near future.
It was a very ambitious project and I loved the fact that they were looking for a unique score incorporating elements of historical music styles. This was combined with the tragedy of the Crusades as well as the mysticism surrounding the Assassin’s brotherhood. In particular, the mysticism side interested me because combining the electronic music from the Animus with an acoustic performed historical score was a perfect fit for my music style. I really enjoy writing emotional, hybrid music styles with lots of live instruments and performances.
What criteria do you pay attention to when chose new project to work at? May developers who create indie-games and have small budgets hope to work with you?
There are many different criteria. First of all, it’s important that there’s a connection with the team. The subject matter has to be interesting. I am always looking for projects that have rich and unique storylines where I can take elements of the world and the story that you might not see or play but by adding those elements into the music, the music will help the game feel bigger than it is. In short, it will enhance the atmosphere instead of just supporting the atmosphere, so I look for projects where I can enhance the experience. I also love being involved in the birth of a new franchise because it allows me to create or brand a style of music for the franchise. This is what I’ve done with Hitman and Assassin’s Creed, for example. Also, if the game has interesting characters that also helps me to decide, especially if I’m going to write the score from the perspective of the main character.
What is your favorite game of all time and why?
I have several favorite games and they include Battle Zone on the PC, GTA Vice City (the most fun I’ve had playing a game) and I love Assassin’s Creed II - there was some real magic there.
Have you ever been suggested to work on films?
I’m currently scoring the upcoming live action TV series Heavy Metal aka Métal Hurlant based on the French graphic novels by legendary comic book artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud. I’m also scoring Cameron Romero’s next movie Radical. I previously scored his debut horror film, Staunton Hill.
Any future projects that you would like to tell us about?
I’m working with producer Jeff Blenkinsopp on my solo album. Another project I can mention is my debut album of trailer music which is completed and will be released soon on the Fired Earth Music label. I’m also very excited about a new major game title that I’m currently working on.
How much longer do you see yourself in the gaming industry?
As long as I’m having fun working in the gaming industry I will continue to score games. But I also love composing film scores. I’m definitely enjoying working on film and TV projects as well as working on my own album. The trailer music world is also very interesting. I consider myself a composer for the entertainment industry.
talking Anton Zhuk
translate by Kirill Ulezko
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