GZ Interview: Music Artist Tom Salta lends tracks to RalliSport Challenge 2 and Street Racing Syndicate


Music Artist Tom Salta lends tracks to “RalliSport Challenge 2”
and “Street Racing Syndicate”

by

Louis Bedigian


 


“I’m incredibly
inspired by the imagery of video games and I wanted that to be a significant
part of the record.”

 

 

                    
Photo by photographer Enid Alvarez


Introduction
 

 

Hi,
this is Tom Salta. I’m an artist, composer and producer. I’ve been producing,
writing, arranging, and programming music professionally for over 15 years.

My path in the industry has been a bit circuitous and quite diverse actually. 
My first major "leap" into the music industry was in the early nineties when I
was asked to be the lead sound designer and keyboard tech for Bobby Brown’s "Humpin’
Around the World" tour.  That was a great experience, and an incredible
challenge.  Before the tour went out, it was my job to listen to all of Bobby
Brown’s music, figure out what synths needed to be purchased, make a complete
shopping list for all FIVE keyboard players and then proceed to design each and
every sound that every keyboardist would play on every keyboard, on every song. 
That sounds like a lot, and it was.

After a few years of other tours, I realized that my true love was studio work. 
This was the birth of my production studio and business.  For the next few
years, I worked on releases by a diverse array of artists, which included Deep
Forest, Everything but the Girl, Peter Gabriel, Sinead O’Connor, Amy Grant,
Julio Iglesias, Jr. etc.  Additionally, I partnered with a friend and colleague
to produce some independent records as well as some majors like the hard rock
band Primer 55 on Island Def Jam Records.  I also had the opportunity to meet
and work with the acclaimed

DJ/Producer, Junior Vasquez and started doing major remix projects.  This taught
me a lot about dance music and how to work very quickly.   From there I’ve
worked on everything from hard rock to jazz, lots of commercials, television, 
major label production, mixing, mastering,


themes, pop records, Christian records, you name it.

 

In recent
years, I have become incredibly inspired to create music for games.  When I was
young, I would always come home from the arcade and play the music from my
favorite games.  I remember sitting for hours with headphones and listening to
movie scores.  But only a few years ago did I begin to sit up and take notice of
the true potential of game music.  And then it all started to come together.  It
was almost as if I had a revelation overnight and thought, “Wait a minute, this
is it, this is what I was meant to do.”  Now for me, there’s no turning back. 
Game music can combine everything I love to create with all the skills and
experience I’ve developed over the last 15 years.  Electronic, orchestral,
dreamy, scary, pretty, futuristic, ancient, anything…even songwriting.  It’s as
limitless as the imaginative worlds that are conceived. To me that’s a lot more
exciting than the limitations and “rules” of Pop music.

 

I believe my
diverse music experience over the past 15 years has given me a well rounded
background that a developer or producer can readily apply to meet their
demanding deadlines & various storylines. An Audio director can tap into a range
of musical sourcing, i.e. song writing, varied production and mixing for
assorted music genres, rather than just relying on my composer ability.


I tend to favor music
that engages the listener no matter if it’s an epic movie theme, pop music,
mysterious ambient music or hip-hop. Music provides the player with an emotional
connection to the game so it should always complement and enhance the feeling of
the game.

 

****

 

GameZone Online: I
understand that you have written some music for both RalliSport Challenge 2 and
Street Racing Syndicate.  How much did you contribute to those games?

 


TS:

RalliSport Challenge 2 licensed three songs off my solo album "Atlas Plug" and
Street Racing Syndicate licensed one track.

 

The
highly-anticipated RalliSport Challenge 2.

 

 

Microsoft has a habit of
licensing indie bands for their games.  Are any additional tracks included on
RalliSport Challenge 2, or are you the sole composer?

 


TS:

I’m quite sure they licensed plenty of other bands as well.

 

Do you play games?

 


TS:

Absolutely.  I’m a huge gamer. I play on Xbox Live quite a bit when I have the
time.

 

Console or PC?  Which genres
are your favorite?

 


TS:

I’ve played games since the Amiga 500 and now I’m a real fan of console games. I
like a big TV and a couch! (laughs) I enjoy racing games but I’m also very keen
to score an epic action game, or any game that tells a great story.

 

I’ve been asking everyone
this question, so now I must ask you: what is your take on interactive music in
games?

 


TS:

I say, bring it on!  In my opinion, it’s not a matter of technology anymore. 
I’m quite confident the technology exists.  I think it’s a matter of a software
developer who is willing to work alongside a small team of composers/producers
to make a powerful music engine that ideally can become a standard in PC games
and consoles alike. 

 

The burden
also lies with the hardware manufacturers to make a system powerful enough to
support a major music engine. I’m not talking about some cheesy sound card, but
rather a powerful Virtual Instrument or Software Engine that integrates into the
game design.

 

About 90% of
the Atlas Plug album as well as the orchestral music I compose is created
entirely in the digital domain. So, in theory, if the kind of music software I
use was built into a powerful-enough console, some serious music could be
generated in real-time and can therefore be truly interactive.

 

Before this
can happen, however, I think hardware developers need to acknowledge how
important music and audio is to the gaming experience and start dedicating a
more equal share of “horsepower” to the music engine rather than how it is
today.  In my first conversation with my manager Bob Rice (Four Bars
Intertainment), he quoted Steven Spielberg who said,

"Sound and music make up
more than half of communicating a story, greater even than what you’re seeing…"
So why not give up some more resources to the music engine?

 Bob also
likes to say, “
Great
music and sound make great games better. Bad music and sound can make great
games bad.”

Think about
it. Imagine Star Wars without John Williams’ classic score, or any other epic
movie for that matter.  Many modern day games aspire to be interactive movies
and that’s why the quality, sophistication and integration of music have to keep
up with the other technologies.  Until “the balance of power” for memory and
space is closer to 50/50, I don’t think “Interactive Music” is going to see its
true potential.

 

Atlas Plug.

 

 

You recently did a
commercial for Volvo.  How do you get inspired to write a song for something
like that?  Is it easier than it sounds?

 


TS:

In the case of the Volvo commercial, they picked a finished track off the Atlas
Plug album that fit perfectly with the commercial’s visuals.  It’s actually
interesting because, as you may know, the Volvo S 40 commercial is using the
graphics from Microsoft’s RalliSport Challenge 2.  The song Volvo selected for
the commercial ("2 Days Or Die") is the same song Microsoft used as the opening
music for RSC2, so it ties in quite nicely with the game.

 

How did your music end up on
MTV’s Tough Enough?

 


TS:

Hats off to my publisher, Tyler Bacon.  His skill and focus are on making great
connections and placements.

 

In your bio it says that
you’ve worked with artists like Cher, Peter Gabriel, and Whitney Houston.  Is
there anything you’d like to share with us about those experiences, or any other
experiences that you’ve had?

 


TS:

I was actually working in the studio with Cher laying down some basic tracks for
a song on the “Believe” album the day before Sonny died!  How freaky is that

 

As for Peter
Gabriel, since I’m such a big fan, it was an amazing opportunity to receive a
recording of just his vocals and program and arrange his music.  

 

With Whitney,
it was a pretty straightforward remix. I was asked to do a remix of “How Will I
Know” for her greatest hits album.  That happens to be my favorite Whitney song
so I never had to listen to the original since I already knew it by heart.  I
put a rough virtual mix together so everyone could make comments. The A&R guy
loved it as is and that’s the version that ended up on the record.  In my mind,
I never got a chance to finish it.

 

Give us the goods on your
new record, “2 Days Or Die”.

 


TS:

A labor of love if I ever had one.  Where do I begin?  Fifty points to whom ever
figures out the connection between my name and "Atlas". 😉

 

The initial
decision to make the record was actually a business decision.  I wanted to make
an album’s worth of music perfect for licensing in games, film and TV. The idea
was also spurred on by the changing and challenging state of the music business
in recent years.  I noticed a dramatic slow down in creative and innovative
projects and I felt it was a perfect time to take matters into my own hands, so
I started my own label and created Atlas Plug.

 

Creatively, I needed to make
a decision though. I was free to do whatever I wanted but I realized the
importance of an underlying consistency.  As a producer, I’ve done so many
different styles of music over the years that I had to take off the “producer
hat” for a minute and put on the “artist hat.” What styles do I personally love
and how can I write something unique?

 

I’m incredibly
inspired by the imagery of video games and I wanted that to be a significant
part of the record.  In fact, certain songs were written with specific games in
mind.  For example, “Steel Run” was inspired by the imagery of Mech Assault,
“Infiltrate This” by Splinter Cell, “Winds of Sand” by Prince of
Persia
, etc. Some have described the album as a

fusion of hi-octane
electronica, hard techno beats and orchestral anthems but there are also LOUD
rock guitar elements.

 

I love the epic nature of
orchestral music yet I enjoy the limitless palette of electronic sounds.  I love
combining beauty and grit.  I love combining opposites and elements you wouldn’t
normally expect to hear together.  I also wanted to
create the same power and intensity most commonly associated with hard rock and
industrial music, but keep it positive and uplifting.  I wanted to prove to
myself that you don’t need to slap a Parental Advisory on a record to get an
adrenaline rush and make it shake down the walls.

 

Splinter Cell,
a great game that inspires greatness.

 

 

What significance does the
title, "2 Days or Die," have?

 


TS:

Must I give up the secret so soon? (laughs)  Well if you insist.  It has
symbolism for the entire album and it also applies more literally to that
specific track (“2 Days Or Die”). I work well under pressure, even if it is
self-induced. (laughs)  Before attempting that particular track, I wanted to
experiment and test my creative endurance by self-imposing a window of creative
opportunity for only two days.  When you don’t have much time to work on
something, it forces you to become more focused and centered on the things that
really matter.  So I gave myself two days to finish it.

 

Where did the cover for your
album come from?

 


TS:

From an amazing artist in Austria named Wilhelm Steiner (www.deaddreamer.com). 
I wanted Atlas Plug to be a very visual experience and every song to create a
scene for the imagination. I wanted artwork that would enhance the listening
experience, artwork that creates a mood and shows the various sides to the Atlas
Plug “world.” When you take a look at all the art in the CD package, you can
really appreciate the work that went into it.


 

Is Atlas Plug your first
solo release?

 

TS:
Yes.

 


Atlas Plug is
going to be available at the iTunes Store.  Do you think the Internet is a good
place to sell music?  Piracy wasn’t very widespread when music was only on CD,
but now that it’s available on the Internet, fewer people want to pay for it.

 


TS:

I think the Internet is a great place to market and sell music.  The music
industry is finally realizing that the one way to combat piracy and file sharing
is to make it easy and fun to pay for downloaded music.  I think that’s
the main reason why iTunes is so popular.  They made it incredibly fast and
convenient to find the music you want. 

 

Should another domain for
selling music – something different from the Internet – be developed to
alleviate this problem?

 


TS:

I don’t think it’s necessary.  I feel the World Wide Web is the best and most
universal place for connecting everybody together as well as for selling
practically anything, including music.  People will always find a way to beat
the system if they want to.  I think it’s a matter of working out a good system
to encourage legal music downloading and thwart piracy.

 

What are your thoughts on
shows like American Idol, which take a nobody and try to turn him or her into a
somebody?

 


TS:

Well I must say my wife enjoys tuning into the show from time to time (laughs).
Ironically, I worked on the most recent Pop Stars 2 record with my good friend,
producer Philippe Saisse. (Pop Stars is the French equivalent of American
Idol.)  I think it is what it is.  I give the show credit because the public is
choosing the talent, and those are the same people who will buy the record. 
Talk about a built-in fan base…ingenious.  Granted, the most talented singers
don’t always win, in my opinion, but that’s not the name of the show, is it? 

 

I’ll take the
American Idol method any day over the trend that fortunately came to an end a
few years ago; namely record companies creating cookie cutter boy bands or any
other kind of prefabricated concept.  I’ve been in the studio with some
significant “names” and have been amazed at how some got as far as they did.  If
some of those artists were put on American Idol, I think Simon would truly have
a field day. 😉

 

Street Racing
Syndicate.

Thanks to
Namco it will finally see the light of day.

 

 


When you’re
not working on music, what kind of music do you listen to?  Who are your
favorite artists?

 


TS:

With a three year old son, I’ll say "The Wheels on the Bus" and the Wiggles.
(laughs)  Actually, most of the time when driving I put on the news to take a
break and remove myself from the “Studio Vacuum.” I enjoy a variety of music;
Classical, soundtracks, Classic Rock, Hip hop, Pop, Dance…just great songs. I
always tell people, I don’t have a favorite group or artist, just favorite
songs.  Why limit yourself to a certain style of music?  There’s so much great
stuff out there.  I think it’s part of being a well rounded composer and
musician.  I’m waiting for my iPod so I can put together a greatest collection
of everything I love.

 

Some influences over the
years that come to mind are groups/artists like Peter Gabriel, Information
Society, Depeche Mode, Yes; Producers like Trevor Horn, Quincy Jones, David
Foster, Jam & Lewis, Mutt Lange, BT, Trent Reznor; Composers like Chopin,
Mozart, Bach; and modern film composers like Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, John
Williams, and Danny Elfman.

 

18. What are you going to
pursue next – more games, more commercials, etc…?

 


TS:

My main focus right now is twofold; scoring music for games and creating
music that can be licensed for Games, Film and TV.  I’m not sure when I’ll begin
the next Atlas Plug album, but probably within the year. I also enjoy working on
album projects for other artists so I will continue with that as well.

 


Thank you Tom
for all the interesting comments.

 

 


Tom Salta Web Sites:





www.tomsalta.com


 



www.atlasplug.com


 


Tom Salta is represented by Bob Rice of Four Bars Intertainment.