November 10, 2011 11:00 PM | jeriaska
UK hip-hop duo Alex Paterson and Dom Beken of High Frequency Bandwidth received a BAFTA award nomination for their music for PixelJunk Shooter. Their latest game score, for Q-Games' PixelJunk SideScroller, has been entered in the coming Independent Games Festival competition, taking place during the 2012 Game Developers Conference. We caught up with HFB to hear their thoughts on sound design for the PSN exclusive for PlayStation 3.
Sidescroller Music Advert by Dom Beken
When PixelJunk SideScroller was first announced, Q-Games described the soundtrack as remixes of music from your PixelJunk Shooter scores. How did this concept for the soundtrack first emerge?
Dom Beken: I'm trying to suppress the desire to scream in agony at the mention the word "remix." Dylan Cuthbert from Q-Games came to us and said that they loved the music from Shooter and wanted to do a new game that was an extension of the bonus area from Shooter 2, with remixes of tracks from Shooter 1 & 2. I think his idea was that this would be an easy process for us, taking the tracks we did before and just sticking a new beat on them, right? That happens not to be the way we, or any artist I think, prefers to work.
Music heard in PixelJunk Shooter has appeared in multiple variations on your albums Hell Fire & Brimstone and HFB PixelJunked. There, new renditions were created from the ground up with additional recordings. For PixelJunk SideScroller, how in-depth was the process of reinterpreting these preexisting compositions?
We wrote these tracks ourselves and they reflect our interpretation of our own work. Trying to reinterpret them ourselves was like creating a kind of crazy feedback loop. So while the idea was that this would be really easy, it caused more work than anything we had done before. It only really started to work when we binned the concept of remixing stuff and started writing something completely new.
There ended up being a few iconic sounds from previous tunes that we chopped up and re-recorded using turntables, printing dubplates of some of the parts. But since we had already worked hard to make the original soundtracks the best they possibly could be, SideScroller only really started to work when we decided this would be brand new music continuing the sound, attitude and emotion of the previous soundtracks.
Some of those thematic ties to PixelJunk Shooter are in the form of vocals by Dynamax and Aadesh Shrivastava. What interested you in sampling these recording sessions, and where did you start over from scratch for vocal performances on SideScroller?
We featured the vocal that Aadesh Shrivastava did for us, simply because we did not have time to fly back out to Bombay to work with him again. The collaboration with Dynamax has led to an incredibly fruitful relationship. We went on to write an album together, Underdog Nation, as Years of the Canine. "Camel Hump (Photographic)" has the same lyrics as "Hidden Foto Banks," but all the vocals by Alex and I were re-recorded from scratch.
Were there genre influences that you were interested in exploring on this soundtrack, like hints of dubstep or funk intended to be emblematic of influential musical traditions?
Absolutely, we're constantly learning from new genres. Dubstep, like drum and bass or hip-hop originally, offers pointers for new ways to use sounds. Artists like Ganja White Night have taken the genre and elevated it to a whole new musical concept in its own right.
That genre has something to say for itself and those sounds have massively interested us on tracks like "High Flying Birds (Kookaburra Version)" and "Dog is no Hero." Going in the other direction, we've looked at the German art movement of the 1970's, the Zodiak Free Arts Club as well as early Ultravox, and that electronica has just started to become dragged in to the mix on the track "Zodiak 3 Arts Klub."
With funk, using wah on rhythm guitars, as well as using wah pedals on keyboards, is on "Frozen Reign/Metal Skype." But that's a mainstay of HFB going all the way back to Transit Kings. I've always been heavily influenced by funk and jazz, the use of filters and modulators on rhythm tracks, since day one. However, we really don't sit down and say, "What's the market for this song? What we really need is to hit is the dubstep/jazz/funk cross-over market with this track!" I've seen so many artists my entire life chasing the latest craze, and what we tend to do is to do our own thing.
For each of these three PixelJunk titles, you have designed unique twenty-second intro songs that play as the game is booting up. What was informing the sound of the opening jingle for PixelJunk SideScroller?
Alex and I have fond memories from before we had kids of when we were teenagers, playing tabletop game consoles in pubs. SideScroller heavily harkens back to that era of ZX Spectrum and BBC Microcomputers that I remember when I was younger and had loads of time for gaming. Looking at the way Q-Games has put together the visuals for SideScroller, we began looking at sound sources from those days. I dug up some floppy discs and miked those up, as well as cassette tapes of games that I had recorded. All of those sounds have gone into that opening.
Have those concepts informing the sound for the game been influenced by play movies sent to you from the developer's office in Kyoto?
All the way through from beginning to end we were getting early builds of the game. Also, we got ten-minute play videos by programmers who really know the game inside-out. From the ground-up we were being clued in to what Dylan and the team at Q-Games were looking to do. There was a constant back-and-forth of material, where one inspired the other. Compared with Shooter, the music is less interactive, but that's part of the retro attitude of SideScroller.
Going forward, do you have any interest in releasing this music as a soundtrack, or part of another High Frequency Bandwidth EP?
We are very proud of this music, so we would like to release an album containing the seven tracks licensed for SideScroller. We might write an additional couple instrumental tracks in a similar vein to make it a proper album. It's just a matter of looking at the practicality, as there's always mountain of shit to climb to release an album.
Happy Funkin' Birthday (Scorching Hot Volcano Mix) by Dom Beken
This article is available in Italian on Gamesource.it. For more information on High Frequency Bandwidth, visit the artists' official website and PixelJunk Radio's recent SideScroller-cast. Images courtesy of High Frequency Bandwidth and Q-Games.