|06-14-2009, 06:09 AM||#1|
Never Say Die
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Western PA
Video Game Composer Cris Velasco - The Amazon Interview
(Joe info in blue)
If you have played a video game since the days of Pong you should be well aware of the impact that sound and music have on the overall gaming experience. But if this is news to you, the Amazon.com/games team is here to drive the point home. Recently Kathy Dongo, Buyer for the Amazon team, was lucky enough to get a little sit down time with Video Game Composer, Cris Velasco.
One of the most in-demand composers in the industry today, Cris has a resume that includes video games, trailers, commercials and more. The video game portion of this stretches from Battlestar Galactica, and TMNT, to Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Haze, Mythos and the God of War series among others. Read on to get the skinny on how he got into the business and how he works, hear about what he's done and maybe even get the scoop on what his current and future projects are.
Amazon.com/games: You have been playing video games since childhood. What games did you play? Any favorites?
Cris Velasco: As a little kid I used to love going to the grocery store with my parents because they had Space Invaders set up off to the side of the aisles. This was the game that reeled me in. But it wasn’t until I played Bard’s Tale on my Commodore 64 that I was truly hooked. A bit later in the arcades, Ms Pacman and Galaga were big hits for me. In fact, I have the tabletop arcade version of them both and to this day remain the undefeated champion (of my house)!
Amazon.com/games: Growing up, were you always passionate about music? Which artists did you listen to?
Cris Velasco: I didn’t really get into music until I was about 16. That’s when I started playing electric guitar in a band I formed with some friends called Tribal Corruption. We played death metal and my influences for the band were groups like Sepultura, Carcass, Morbid Angel, and a bit of Metallica of course. Exactly what parents want to hear coming from their garage.
Before the band though I listened to a lot of punk and whatever was being played at my house. Usually, it was a lot of Beatles and Neil Diamond.
When I started college I began to get into classical guitar and piano which really broadened my influences into the classical repertoire.
Amazon.com/games: After high school you went on to study at UCLA. When did you discover that you wanted a career in music?
Cris Velasco: Before UCLA I actually attended a local Community College for a bit to figure out what path I wanted to take. I just happened to have a music appreciation course one quarter and it was there that I had my epiphany. The last movement of Mozart’s 40th Symphony was played in class and it moved me so much that I knew I wanted to study music composition. From that moment I began to study music very seriously. I then switched to UCLA and was introduced to the world of film scoring by one of my professors. It was there that I also decided that I wanted to pursue writing music for games.
Amazon.com/games: Battlestar Galactica (2003) was one of your first video game scores. How did that opportunity come about and what was that experience like for you?
Cris Velasco: Battlestar was a turning point in my life. If I hadn’t been able to work on that one, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion now. I had been trying to break into the gaming industry as a composer for years and was finally at my breaking point. The opportunity to score BG came up and I demoed but I didn’t get the gig. I remember telling my mother that I was finally giving up and was going to pursue a degree in Culinary School. She told me to have a little more patience because she was sure that Vivendi would call me back and change their mind. Well, this never happens of course. Except this time it did. I wrote maybe 12 minutes and then went on to work with Vivendi on three more titles that year. Battlestar Galactica really became my springboard into a game music career.
Amazon.com/games: You have gone on to create music for God of War I & II, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Haze and Mythos. How do you select your projects? How do you prepare for them?
Cris Velasco: I always try to go after the games that not only look amazing and innovative, but that will allow the opportunity to write a unique score. I’d much rather focus on trying to create something new than rip off whatever the latest film score is.
In preparing for a new score, I really like to immerse myself in as much material from the game as possible. Sometimes this means that I just get to see a few screenshots or concept art. But other times I get to actually play a build of the game and get a feel for the environment and the pacing of the game. Other than that all I really do is take a few days and try to stake out the sound of the score that will become its musical identity.
Amazon.com/games: After working for months (weeks) on a game how likely is it that you would play the game?
Cris Velasco: I always play every game I’ve worked on, to a point. I only wish I could say that I finished each one. ;o)
Amazon.com/games: You’ve described working with Clive Barker on Jericho as a “dream project.” Who are some other artists/franchises you would like to work with or on?
Cris Velasco: Working with Clive was definitely one of the highlights of my career, and I look forward to working with him again. Neil Gaiman is another writer I admire that I’d be excited to work with. I’d also like to be able to immerse myself in an epic fantasy type setting like George R.R. Martin’s “Ice and Fire” series.
There are a bunch of artists whose work inspires me as well. The works of Richard Kirk, Kris Kuksi, Edward Miller, and Giger all speak to me in a very creative but tangible way. I’ve become personally acquainted with most of them actually and I hope that some project will present itself soon that allows for us to collaborate.
Finally, I’ve been blessed with being able to write for one of the great modern game franchises, God of War. This series really helped put me on the map so to speak. I’d also love to contribute to the Star Wars franchise. John Williams has always been a big source of inspiration for me. To work within the musical universe he’s set up would be both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I truly enjoy writing music for all games though. I’d be hard pressed to think of a series or style that I wouldn’t enjoy working on.
Amazon.com/games: Cris spent a few weeks last fall at Skywalker Ranch working on the latest game from EA Hasbro – G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra....Did you watch it as a child? If so, who was your favorite character?
Cris Velasco: Of course! Snake-Eyes, was and is, my favorite.
Amazon.com/games: The G.I. Joe TV series had music of its own. Knowing that, did your process change when coming up with music for the game? Did it influence you?
Cris Velasco: It’s funny. My writing partner, Sascha Dikiciyan, and I were asked to listen to the old theme and do a few “modern” versions of it for certain key moments in the game. I always remembered that theme being so awesome. It still is of course, however, I didn’t remember it being so 70’s sounding. It’s got a very swinging, jazzy, Love Boat style to it that doesn’t gel at all with my memory. The rest of our score is completely contemporary and features a big, energetic hybrid style (orchestra and electronics) score that we’ve become known for. As you mentioned, we recorded at the famous Skywalker Sound with a 60 piece orchestra.
Amazon.com/games: What is next on your plate? I promise not to tell a soul……..
Cris Velasco: Well, I can tell you that my next big release with Sascha is called Prototype. We recorded that one with a huge orchestra at Skywalker too. It’ll be out in June and looks amazing. We’re also working on a really cool next-gen MMO from Sony Online that should be coming out next year. And I’m also currently finishing up Darksiders with my friend Mike Reagan. We’ll be recording a big choir at, you guessed it… Skywalker. There are lots of others on the plate now but I can’t really talk about them.
Many thanks to Cris for taking the time to speak with us. We appreciate it and look forward to "hearing" how all his projects turn out...
Article from:Amazon Game Room's Blog: Video Game Composer Cris Velasco - The Amazon Interview Permalink
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