Galactic’s inFamous Score
When Galactic agreed to do the project, knowing their New Orleans background, did the designers leave them to their own devices or did they have specific criteria for them to fill?
JM: That’s an awesome question because that’s one of the things that we were most excited to see was how it played out on the project. We’re very specific with our composers and a huge function of my job is to provide that bridge between the team making the game and the contractors we bring in to score it and making sure the communication is clear. A lot of times the language that musicians need to get their feedback in may be very different from the language that I hear day to day from the folks making the game. The guys in Galactic kind of blew our minds in terms of how detail oriented and thorough they were with that direction.
So we would provide fairly specific concept art, like “here’s a gang of enemies you may encounter and here’s the part of town they control and here’s the kind of scenario, intensity-wise.” We’d get as specific as we could and they were overwhelmingly exacting in how they responded to that stuff. Not only that, but when they had to iterate on those pieces they always nailed it. I don’t think they ever did more than one revision of anything because they were always hyper-specific about addressing our notes—which in and of itself is a phenomenal skill. Sometimes really, really experienced film composers, who are used to that kind of feedback on a regular basis, have trouble with that kind of stuff. But the Galactic guys were just spot on every time.
Was the soundtrack largely charted out or did it rely more on improvisation?
SM: Improvisation played a huge role. Luckily, with Galactic when we make a record I go in and play a bunch of grooves I’ve been working on and they pick what they like and they start writing. So when they gave us actual drawings of the scenes and paintings of some of the characters they told us what they were looking for—some were themes for some of the characters. So when we saw all this, we were able to envision what we thought should go with it.
Sometimes, I would start improvising based off one of the pictures I’d seen—just improvising a one and a half minute episode based off what I’d see on the paper. So it would start off pretty ambient and open and let the tension build to pick up the momentum to where it was getting pretty brutal in the middle, and then let it resolve itself. And there were different kinds of confrontations between the characters or the monsters. So I was just kind of improvising and imagining these things, and they dug it. And then Jonathan Meyer would come in with string quartet pieces that he had already written and had already been composed. So those were fixed, but I would go in and just improvise on top of those.
Stanton, what was your knowledge of previous video game music? Bands like Green Jelly are largely believed to be the pioneers of single band video game soundtracks. Did that type of music influence the soundtrack you created?
SM: Yeah, nothing specifically. We did listen to the previous inFamous soundtrack. We had an idea of what they were looking for and they described what they wanted us to do. We didn’t want to be too aware, to tell you the truth, of what other people were doing. We wanted it to be different, so we didn’t want to be too informed and then have that influence what we were doing.
So we felt like we were comfortable having seen thousands of movies and heard hundreds of video game soundtracks, to go do our own interpretation of what we thought would fit this video game. Especially with it being [based in] New Orleans, we feel like we have a strong understanding the traditional New Orleans stuff but also what could be done to make it really experimental.
Some of the stuff I was doing was Mardi Gras Indian grooves after seeing the Mardi Gras Indians in the street. I’d take a cowbell pattern that one guy was playing and try and combine that with a tambourine pattern [that] another guy was playing and then play something on the bass drum that would be similar to what the guys in the streets are playing. You’ve usually got one guy on each of these instruments so I would try to incorporate it into the drum set.
How much of your decision to be a part of the game was based on the concept that the game took place in a fictional destroyed New Orleans?
SM: We would have been just as willing no matter where it was based. But being based in a fictional New Orleans, that just made it that much easier. We knew that we’d be able to do it and that it would be something we’d be very comfortable with.
How representative of New Orleans was New Marais?
SM: It was very representative to me. I mean, some of the stuff was paintings of a post-apocalyptic French Quarter, and then there’s also the outer lying swamps and all that, too. Having been to the swamps, we said we needed some stuff that was the theme for this swamp monster cat. So I knew what to do with that. It reminded me of New Orleans and the outer lying swamps. So that was cool.
Is this something you’d consider doing again?
SM: We would absolutely do it again. Nobody has approached us as of yet, but we’re hoping to get more calls to do more stuff. We definitely enjoyed it.