Interview: Rocking out with Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance composer Jamie Christopherson
For some, composing musical scores for video games is a passion. Some people really manage to embrace it and love doing it. In some ways, you can really sense the energy that's being put into a soundtrack as you listen to it.
That's definitely the case for the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance soundtrack, which was put together by Jamie Christopherson. Christopherson has previously worked on Lost Planet 2 and the Bionic Commando revival for Capcom. With Revengeance, he went with a fast-tempo approach, backed by a powerful band of rockers to make each battle theme sound even more epic than the last.
The soundtrack is automatically included with the limited edition of Revengeance, or you can buy it at retailers like Amazon, in both physical and downloadable form. We definitely recommend listening and cranking it to 11, while we sit down with Jamie and discuss what went into its creation.
GameZone: First of all, how did you get involved with the project? Did Platinum Games contact you, or did you send over a demo?
Jamie Christopherson: I've done a lot of game music and a lot of it for Japanese clients, actually (Capcom, KOEI, etc.). When Platinum Games hired Soundelux DMG to do all of the sound effects and voiceover work for the game, they also requested that I do the music.
GZ: Would you say that putting the soundtrack together was different from the work you put into Bionic Commando and Lost Planet 2?
JC: The thing that sets this soundtrack apart from other ones I've done are the vocal tracks. I've written songs for projects before, but I've never been commissioned to write a full album's worth (13 tracks) for a game. The sheer amount of work and collaboration that went into those songs was something completely different than I've experienced before in producing a soundtrack.
GZ: How did you approach putting the soundtrack into place? Were you like, "Oh, yeah, this is as high tempo as game soundtracks get?" Any experimentation involved?
JC: Being a hack-n-slash game, the tempo and energy had to be extremely high in Revengeance. The trick was to have the whole soundtrack be energetic without being overwhelming to listen to. There really was a lot of experimentation involved in the score, especially with the vocal songs.
GZ: You gathered quite an interesting band for this soundtrack. There are different vocalists and musicians contributing here. How'd you get them all together?
JC: This soundtrack is by far the most collaborative effort of any project that I've worked on. For starters, when I found out that most of the vocal music was going to be heavy metal based, I knew that I would need to collaborate with a bunch of authentic heavy metal artists. I enlisted the help of Logan Mader (ex-guitarist for Machine Head) to help co-write tracks and co-produce songs with me. At the same time, I was working closely with singer Graeme Cornies (Voodoo Highway Music & Post) to write some of the initial song lyrics and produce early demos. Somewhere along the way, I had the pleasure of being introduced to electronic DJ/producer Ferry Corsten by one of the guys at Platinum Games, and we worked closed together on producing one of the tracks for the game. Then, of course, there are the musicians and singers, of which there are really too many to name here -- but all of them so talented. And finally, we worked with re-mixers Maniac Agenda and Platinum Games to shed new light on the tracks. A full list of credits can be seen in the end credit scroll of the game.
GZ: Did Hideo Kojima and his team provide any advice for making the soundtrack to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance just right? Or were there other advisors to help you out?
JC: In writing the lyrics to the game, I had some guidelines from them to follow for each boss. They were a great inspiration and source to draw from. I personally interfaced directly with Platinum Games the whole way through the process.
GZ: How awesome was it to perform at the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance party a couple of weeks ago? I saw clips of it and it looked like it rocked the house.
JC: We had a blast performing the songs live at the launch party for the game in LA. Many of the fans didn't even know that the concert was going to happen, as Konami took the first 150 people standing in line for the midnight launch and let them in to the launch event. It was a really great experience and a lot of fun to play with the awesome musicians and vocalists from the game.
GZ: Would you like to do some performing down the road? Maybe Video Games Live, perhaps? A Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance world tour?
JC: Performing live is a great way to connect with fans. I think it would be a blast to perform the songs in Japan!
GZ: What was the trickiest part of the soundtrack? Sounds like remixing the vocals took a good amount of time, especially on "The Stains of Time."
JC: The songs definitely were the most challenging and rewarding parts of the soundtrack. We composed and produced them over a six month period.
GZ: What would you say is your favorite instrument when putting together video game music?
JC: My favorite instrument is the instrument that suits each project, just as a carpenter picks the right tool for each job.
GZ: Finally, what's next? Another action game, or maybe something a little softer?
JC: I'm currently co-composing additional music for the show Revolution (NBC) with my friend Christopher Lennertz. It's very dramatic orchestral music, and we get to record with a live orchestra every week. I'm also writing music for Born to Race: Fast Track, which is a very fun car racing movie. I like to jump between genres and entertainment mediums as much as possible.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is available now for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.