July 23, 2012 12:30 PM | jeriaska
Alex Paterson and Dom Beken of the hip-hop duo High Frequency Bandwidth were nominated for a BAFTA Award for their score to Q-Games' independently developed title PixelJunk Shooter.
The UK music group and Kyoto game studio have since collaborated on PixelJunk Shooter 2 and PixelJunk SideScroller for PlayStation Network. We had the chance to catch up with Dom Beken for a brief overview of the history behind the latest soundtrack release, SideTracks: The Soundtrack to Sidescroller, now out on iTunes and Amazon Mp3.
Q-Games appears to have integrated musicianship into the daily operation of the Kyoto office. Designers there have formed a band called the Electric Bends, and have uploaded an album to Bandcamp.
Dom Beken: We have a lively and amusing email string going on about production techniques. I only wish I could manage to knock out a few computer games over my lunch break.
Another area of overlap between your music group and Q-Games is the multicultural dimension of your collaborations. Both English and Japanese language speakers work at the Kyoto office, while there are assorted genres and languages being welcomed into the mix on your soundtracks.
Music is something that is not confined to cultural backgrounds. You can very easily borrow and mix up sounds and languages without it feeling contrived. We're all talking the same language when it comes to music.
The sessions with Aadesh [Shrivastava] came out of having scored two Bollywood films together, then forming a band with Juliet Russel. Recording with Dynamax from New York has led to Years of the Canine, which, as with SideTracks, will be put out on Projector Room Records.
When you began working with Q-Games on building the interactive score for PixelJunk Shooter, were you considering the potential for this to lead to a soundtrack album?
We were recording for the album Hell Fire and Brimstone when Dylan [Cuthbert] got in touch with us. We then sent him some of the demos and took a look at what Q-Games was working on. It was our intention that Hell Fire and Brimstone would then act as the soundtrack to PixelJunk Shooter. But the fans of the game felt that with the added vocals and the new song structure, it didn't have the same feel as what is in the game. That convinced us to make a proper soundtrack album.
The difference between that album and HFB Pixel Junked is that you find the same track titles with difference mix names. On SideTracks, the music was written specifically for the game and those are the songs heard within the game.
Do you see hip-hop as lending itself to the kind of gameplay experience that is entailed in this PixelJunk trilogy?
It's a genre that has summed up an attitude with us. Sampling and mashing up different genres like jazz, swing and film score gives you a freedom to range over genres of music. It doesn't constrain you to guitar, drums and bass.
What led to the three original songs appearing on SideTracks: The Soundtrack to Sidescroller?
Once we had written the music that Q-Games needed for SideScroller, straight away there were additional tracks that had sprung into our minds. One was "Planet Thanet" which was based on the idea that the game's characters were flying back home in the spacecraft, having finished their mission, playing these sidescroller games. They would have a lot of time to look out the window and daydream.
"Planet Thanet" started as a dream about home. Thanet is a small island off the coast of Kent, just east of London. It's fairly barren, marshy. Another song was born from the frustration with how long everything was taking in publishing the soundtrack. That is how it received the title, "Are We Nearly There Yet?" At the very end, we wanted to do a string arrangement of the orchestral parts of "Planet Thanet" and thought it was nice enough to stand by itself.
Company president Dylan Cuthbert and designers Eddie Lee, Jaymin Kessler, Kalin and Paul Leonard record their own songs. Is this appreciation of music evident in the process of working with the Kyoto studio?
Absolutely. They get what you are trying to do. When you put in the extra effort in your production, everyone hears it.
At the same time, I don't remember ever having anything knocked back. I've done a number of projects synching music to image for big advertising firms, film and television, where the whole process is fraught with tons of people having ridiculous things to say to you. You have focus groups, commercial pressures, loads of decisions are made by committee. That does not happen at Q-Games. It's been an amazingly bullshit-free experience, creating great sounding and great looking artistic products.
Follow High Frequency Bandwidth on twitter. Images courtesy of Q-Games