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We talk to a couple of musicians responsible for crafting the soundtrack to Cole MacGrath's journey.
Comic-Con is happening this week, and while we will most likely be bombarded with bright costumes and plenty of spandex, not all superheroes or villains don a flowing cape or ridiculously hard-to-run-in boots. Infamous 2's Cole MacGrath was a bike courier who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or was it the right place at the right time? Either way, he has superpowers and can zap people, so it could have been worse. A team of composers--including Bryan "Brain" Mantia, former drummer for Guns N' Roses, and Stanton Moore of Galactic--had to come up with the right tone and setting for this modern-day adventure. Get to know the composers in the following email interview (busy schedules don't always allow for a nice sit-down camera interview), where we talk about how they got into composing for video games and what it was like working on Infamous 2. We have some music clips from Infamous 2 for you to check out as well and follow @gs_soundbyte on Twitter for a chance to win the soundtrack! For even more Infamous 2 music and for tunes from other video games, be sure to head on over to Sound Byte Radio.
GameSpot: Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your musical background?
Bryan Mantia: I am Brain. I like to think of my musical background as more of a "movement" so to speak. The evolution of a drummer into a composer…. Metamorphosis… Emotional, spiritual, and visceral… Real life. I began drumming in high school (egg stage). The drums and I had respect for one another and worked together for many years to establish an understanding (larva stage). This resulted in my having a desire for higher learning, attending college to hopefully become one with the drums (pupa stage). Later on down the path I had the good fortune of playing in bands like Primus, Guns n' Roses, and for Tom Waits (adult stage). Now, having gone into composing, I like to think of the current state of my life as "backstage."
GS: What was the first instrument you picked up?
BM: The first instrument I picked up was violin. I had an affinity for Paganini, which quickly turned into a hatred.
GS: Is there an instrument you wish you knew how to play?
BM: I wish I knew how to play the hammer dulcimer. This instrument would give me the perfect marriage between what I do and what I feel.
GS: What is your fondest memory when it comes to music?
BM: My fondest musical memory is blowing into a straw at McDonald's, hearing the pitch, and wondering if I had just played middle C while I ate my Big Mac.
GS: How did you get into making music for video games?
BM: I got into video game composing by talking to the heavies about how I would like to join their club. They liked my shoes, so I got asked back for a second meeting.
GS: What was it like working with a team of musicians and collaborating on this project? Do you prefer to work alone?
BM: The group of musicians I worked with on Infamous 2 were top-notch. If I were to be given the choice to work with them or work alone, I would pick them. But if it were anyone else, I would need a really good reason to share my creative vulnerability.
GS: How did you approach the music for Infamous 2?
BM: Describing the approach to my Infamous 2 composing is simple: keep my body nourished, never say no to good ideas, and make Jonathan Mayer say the word "awesome." In all seriousness, my compositional approach was to match the vibe of the game with the music as much as possible, adding an emotional undercurrent whenever appropriate. I used a lot of live instruments (many nonconventional like pieces of junk, metal, trash cans recorded in odd places). I found what really worked was an overall aggressive and bent sound with little beautiful and simple melodies woven throughout.
GS: Did it turn out how you wanted it to?
BM: It absolutely turned out how I had hoped it would. Ballsy, captivating, and tenacious.
GS: What is your process when composing for a particular track?
BM: My process is usually to figure out what I want to say with the piece (in the simplest way possible), then hang all my bells and whistles on top of that strong main message. That main message may be a rhythm that captures the essence of a particular district or a melody that gives the player some insight on how Cole might be feeling. It usually takes a bit of trial and error, but once I arrived on the right path, it would be clear immediately.
GS: How has your percussionist background helped you with composing?
BM: My percussion background has helped in that I was able to instruct members of my own writing team to play different rhythms on their respective instruments that they normally wouldn't have.
GS: Where do you see video game music heading into the future?
BM: I see bright things in the future for video game music. I think it will soon be recognized as one of the biggest ways people are exposed to new music.
GS: What other artists in the game music industry do you admire and why?
BM: I give Jim Dooley the award for biggest neckerchief ever to be worn at Skywalker, and for that I admire him. I also admire Tim Davies for his mysterious accent and charming smile.
GS: What projects are you currently working on?
BM: Currently I am working on a number of projects, most notably on scoring a film (with my writing partner Melissa Reese) called Detention. It is directed by music video heavy Joseph Kahn and stars Dane Cook and Josh Hutcherson. I am also preparing to run a marathon.
GS: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians and composers?
BM: My main advice for aspiring musicians and composers is: make music from the heart, and the rest will come.
Gotta love when people being interviewed think they're comedians. Bryan you do a great job composing so please don't quit your day job.