Composer Interview: Gareth Coker (Ori and the Blind Forest)

hello guys my name is Ashton Glickman I'm here with the global composers Network one of Facebook's can do is top resources for composers musicians and orchestrators we discussed composition media scoring and text we also have challenges that brings composers together from all around the world today I'm here I'm pleased to be joined by Gareth Coker who's a fantastic video game and some composer he's known for projects like Ori and the blind forest and it's follow-up game Ori in the will of wisps the unspoken ark survival evolved and so much more his style is characterized by powerful visceral sound scapes lush orchestration and gripping thematic material Gareth thank you so much for joining us today thanks so much I'm honored to be the first I'll try and set the bar really low so that whoever's following me can can do a better job sounds fantastic all right so the first question I just wanted to get on to start out with is I want to talk a little bit about your career how you got started in music so the first question is how did you get started in music and what was your first experience you remember with films flash game music okay so I got I can go right back to the beginning when I was 8 my parents bought me piano lessons and I hated it and I really wasn't really was didn't have much of an interest in like learning music and then also when I was 8 they sent me to boarding school and I was like wow they I guess my parents really don't like me but boarding going to boarding school in England is actually ok and that boarding school there's really nothing to do like especially at the weekends so I just started practicing like crazy and then well if you practice a lot you get better and then I guess after a while like I became I became decent improvising I was in the school jazz band I was in school orchestra but I was a lot of the stuff I was doing at the gaining of my career was was jazz based and I think the improvisation helped like start getting me interest started get me interested in actually composing but I'll be honest I didn't really like write my first piece of music until I was like 17 and then like six months later I'm applying to the Royal Academy of Music and I really had no idea like how I got accepted and I did actually ask my professor at the time now why did he pick many basically said well because you can write a melody and if you can do that the rest of the stuff you can teach but it's quite hard to like I mean you can teach how to write Mele there's like all sorts of shortcuts you can you can take to like get you over a certain point because like that's the that's basically the reason why we picked you and then while I was at the Academy I've learned all the orchestration and the arranging and all the rest of it in terms of my first encounter like first becoming aware of film and game music probably when I saw Forrest Gump for the first time and then immediately after seeing that film I think we just went to the music store just like music for the main title theme was available for piano and that was that was one of the first pieces I liked first definitely the first piece of film music alone on the piano for sure and that's kind of stayed with me and but you know funnily enough that's also got an incredibly strong melody so that probably like I really like the approach of the especially the 90s film scores because they're they're not particularly subtle and I think that's okay I quite like I quite like the the bold bold thematic stuff like it's like they weren't afraid to make a statement because that theme goes on for like three minutes at the beginning of the film that's a long opening title no matter which way you look at it it's a long time to look at a further but it's a perfect example of how composure just takes one specific idea and you just sort of enriches it and modulates it and and uses orchestration as its main tool to keep the viewer engaged in and I think which is so fantastic or so definitely great score to it to start a composer up so on this that leads us into the second question so what were some of your biggest influences in your development so this could be composers and movies games that sort of has to do with that what you were saying about Forrest Gump's so what were some composers that were very influential in your own style I think in terms of film and just classical composers in general I always I always tend to come back to Ravel on this answer because Ravel is the the god of orchestration in my in my eyes at least especially in terms of like how to orchestrate for film like you can just look at most of the textures that Rebelle wrote and they are literally lifted almost every day in and you'll you'll see or hear a film score and you if it was recorded with the orchestra you'll probably hear a Rebell influence and I just happen to really like that sound as well which really helps in terms of film composers I mean it's kind of all over the map because you know ever every soft and I like a film composer comes up with a new sound and that's in vogue for a while but I'll give you I'll give you some names Tom Newman James Newton Howard Michael Donna those are probably the three a-and there is kind of like a little bit of a cross-section between between those three composers but I particularly like Michael Donna because of his I think he is the best at combining music from the rest of the world with the conventional Western Hollywood soundtrack obviously best shown in Life of Pi but if you listen to all of his scores prior to Life of Pi he's been doing that for years and Life of Pi was like the vehicle that allowed him to show what he's been doing for years on a massive stage yeah absolutely so what was it about the relationship between visual media and music that that sort of tugs at your emotion and sort of made you want to go into music for visual media I mean if this is such a standard answer but it's really like the opportunity to tell stories with music I've always enjoyed seeing other people react to my music like that I guess that's partially an ego thing but it's also just fun to see you know it's fun to get a response from your work it doesn't matter like it I don't even care if it's bad I don't even care if someone says they like it cuz at least they responded to it but like for example with with Ori like the amount of twitch streams that I've watched of people watching the opening or getting you know such satisfaction from completing one of the the famous like chase sequences from the game that never gets old like and we announce forget we announced a sequel like a month ago and there was a renewed interest in the original game and so you know being I've been going onto twitch again and just watching other people play I guess I would say stalking them but like it's it's it's just real like I don't think you can get that in any other medium it's not like you can see the audience's reaction during a film because unless you've got an infrared camera you can't really see their faces but with twitch twitch is such a unique medium for the games that you really can get great feedback on how you are doing like the deal with your design with your music with your art we we're lucky with Ori because we have the help of Microsoft so we kind of get to do the the testing with someone like watching there's Microsoft testing basically there's a camera watching you at all times there's a camera on your hands there's a camera like on the screen so like there's we kind of get a little bit of that but like with with twitch it's real people playing your game in real-time and reacting in real-time like you can't really get that anywhere else and so not only is it a learning experience but it's also it's just really enjoyable because you get to see what you did right and you get to see you know you you get to see what you did wrong and there are things in Oriya I would go back and change but you know it's done now so what project in your career has taught you the most you know through through the writing process or just simply through the experience of proposing for their project all of them I mean that like seriously but the project I've learned from the most is the one I just finished because like I don't know it just just when it seems like he figured everything out something something new comes out like because every project is completely different as it has its own set of requirements it has you know has its own instrumentation as its own melodies it has its own implementation into the game the score I just finished recording was for Ark survival evolved now that was a new experience because it was my first time to London it was my first time recording with a 93 piece Orchestra biggest but before that was 65 and 93 is a big jump from 65 plus just the experience alone of stepping into studio one and you know thinking about all the soundtracks that have been recorded there I mean literally like every not every major film score but a lot of the big ones it was the first time I ever had like impostor syndrome because I've got I've got the fill ammonia orchestra in front of me I've got Simon Rhodes who recorded avatar engineering my session and I'm standing in studio one I'm like okay I'm like the the weakest link in the chain here but you know you get it done and you figure it out and there's there's unique problems that that come up when you're when you're hiring like that number of players and you know if one even if even if there's like one error in the score like it can take it can take like two minutes to solve because what happens is when one person finds an error then the rest of the orchestra starts looking for errors and then and then chaos can happen very very quickly in the recording if you've not got your stuff together and I'm pretty pressuring because you have you know people who are paying money to have you at that studio and so mistakes are always yes it's not exciting to spend three days with ninety because because we did all in the room at the same time we did not do any striping and you know that worked out well that's that's something I can spend like a lifetime on whether to record strings and brass separately or whether to record everyone in the room at the same time but like I know that it's like sometimes like Alan Morrison for example will have them record the extremes short strings long have you ever had a situation where the mixing engineer wanted you to record separate through our circulation for the mixing process or if you always wanted the musicians to all record together I generally there's been a couple of times when we've recorded a couple of lines separately just it's usually just for safety reasons but like sometimes it can help in the mix it really but it also it depends on what kind of mix you are going for like that I mean the I don't know the extent to which Allen myosin goes into like the fine tuning of like the mixers but I do know like his thing is you know getting a lot of the stuff separately and the mixes and super clean it's undeniable and they have all the time in the world to like get it to a good performance level but generally speaking I you know most games have decent budgets but they don't have the kind of budgets where you can just spend two weeks like I'm locking out studio one and just recording strength you know we had to record about 130 minutes of music in three days which but 90 players is a lot and this is not like this is not Ori it's the opposite of Oread all combat music it's all really loud super epic combat music so there's a lot going on I think we could have gotten more done if it was if it was a softer score but it but it wasn't so when when you are recording everyone in the room you'd better make sure your orchestration is good that's that's the one thing and I'm going to be honest like I like my I think my situation is fine but you know I just don't have the experience like that's the so I generally play it safe with the orchestration I'm not doing anything like super crazy but oftentimes that's the best solution is to not do anything crazy at all but yeah like so if your orchestration is good then it makes it easier to record everything in the room at the same time and I mean one thing that is pretty certain is that the players love it and when the players love it they love you and they want to do the best they can for you now of course like it's not the players don't love playing you know sessions period but generally speaking you'll get a lot I might limit very limited experience you'll get a much better vibe in the room if everyone is in there together but that said there are times when you do need to grab things separately because if you're writing fortissimo brass it doesn't matter how good the string section is or how well balanced it is it's fortissimo brass and it's going to destroy everything so I would say for arc about 80% of it is all in the room and then 20% of it is strings and woodwinds on one pass and then brass on the other and generally speaking that got us over the line it sounds I'm biased obviously but I think it sounds pretty good yeah do you think that do you think that might because you do you orchestrate your own stuff arc I orchestrated the entire core game and I left the expansion's to my two colleagues exact lemon and Alex rod who I've worked with since I went to school at USC with them and Alex is also my conductor I don't conduct I can conduct but I don't although I did I did conduct sorry I did conduct the last hour Abbey rope it was really just a fun because we were basically done I'm sorry go ahead yes so I would presume like one of the issues is like the translation between your sort of MIDI mock-up and then like the lack performance a lot of the times samples lie to us in terms of you know and the availability that we have when we're composing at a computer to sort of control everything like we could have like low flutes at the top of a brass section which would never you know be able to actually happen with the real Orchestra so would you imagine one of the issues of somebody recording with a live orchestra for the first time when they weren't heavily involved in the actual orchestration process is the the balance and everything like that yeah I mean if you're doing if you're writing low flute / high brass with the samples and you expect that to sound the same well that's that's just bad like just don't do that like or just all just record it separately but if you're expecting it to sound good in the room then well then good luck but you know I mean even then like even if you've got a brilliant orchestrated there's still going to be things that don't sound exactly the same or exactly how you expected it expected it to and for arc like there's still some times like in the mix where I'm going to the samples to to support like to support the live stuff because there is there's there's one part in one of the tracks which is like it's got a bunch of really loud fortissimo brass tabs you can't do that for three minutes even if they are taking even if there's room for them to breathe you can't play fortissimo brass tab for like two minutes it's impossible but it's really easy to do that on when you've got your amazing Spitfire samples which have like the great stabby brass sound but you can't do that for two minutes and you can do it for like twenty to thirty seconds but that it's just not going to sound the same in the last 20 seconds it is in the first and yes we could have recorded like four measures and four measures and four measures and gotten the whole thing but that sounds really boring in an incredible waste of time so we just didn't do it and I was just like well we'll just layer in the samples because the samples these days are good enough and there's certain I think with the translation from samples to mock-up for me it's less about the balance it's more about the feel if you're good if you're a good mock-up artist to me is not who sounds the most realistic it's who translates the most feeling in the music I don't really care if it like my mock-up doesn't sound realistic what is realistic these days anyway like the only thing that's realistic is like the actual orchestra in the room if you can get it to sound like that with your markup well great job but I think that's like an incredible time time sink that most composers don't have time for unless they have permanent mock-up artists which if you're working at the highest level you might be able to do but frankly speaking if you're working like one or two or three people which 99% of us are you know time to make it sound like a real Orchestra so you've got like the thing I focus on first is like translating the feeling in my mock-ups and I'll be honest like some of my you know most epic tracks like we did for Ark there only have like 21 21 tracks in the sequence because the ensemble patches are enough and you have enough control of them to get the right feeling and if you can get the right feeling in your music that's what sells it to the director and then all you have to do is figure out how to get that exact same feeling in the live session that can be easier said than done but yeah my focus on markup is getting getting the right feeling I think if you focus too much on realism it can actually suck the feeling out of the music but that's just me there are lots of approach ways it's very approaching in this place so how important do you feel it is for the players to really know what they're playing for like for them to really feel and understand the story of what they're you know performing oh I think that's incredibly important even if it's just like a simple performance instruction like yeah Ark is a game which you know it's there's a lot of dinosaurs in the game so I just put like you know in the instructional score you know a t-rex is chasing you like and that can be enough but like I mean towards I think on the third day we put inflatable dinosaurs on the on the balcony of Abbey Road which I know sounds really silly but like the game is quite over the top and ridiculous and it kind of like got them into the right frame of mind oh it's that kind of project I would never do that with with Ori obviously I wouldn't like have an inflatable Ori like sitting on the podium or like the soft toy that we just made but you know it's I think I think if you can like just sum up in like two sentences what a queue is about to the players and say it in a way that's entertaining then you've you've gotten them in the zone very very quickly and also if you're recording with them for like a you know a three day period they're going to get the field like after the opening our assuming that the score is generally consistent from start to finish but I especially when everyone's in the room it really does make a difference because a lot about making good music to me is about chemistry and it's not just chemistry within the orchestra it's chemistry within the entire team the engineer the orchestrators the conductor the composer like the players can tell when the conductor doesn't like the composer because I've seen sessions where this is the case and the players can also tell when the conductor and the composer's were having an amazing time now Alex my conductor here's this really super cheerful big blue eyes long hair happy-go-lucky British guy from the north so he is like the good cop and I'm like the bad cop because I'm more stoic and serious and that's fine so like he he's able to entertain the orchestra and tell stories while I'm just deciding what to do and that's why he's out there and I'm in the booth and it just works it just works really well like that and when you've worked with someone for eight years and you kind of know everything about them and he knows everything about me there's there's a chemistry there that happens and if you look if you look at all the major composers they've had the same similar teams for most of their careers or they at least have one or two guys that are always there like how long have hands and law and bass been working together for example or totally impeccable and I would imagine that and I would imagine that the conductor is such an important part I remember Conrad Pope saying something like it isn't about like you know conducting a performance it's about noticing a performance and it's about so I giving the orchestra the energy that they need to be able to play the best that they possibly can so I'd imagine it's a very important part of the find yeah a find a perfect conductor so you started out scoring trailers and music and advertising what was that experience like and it did you ever feel restricted by the sort of formulaic quality of it and it's sort of the lack of composing to a specific story all the time yeah it can be it can be really difficult to get motivated to write that stuff I mean honestly the side of my career the motivation was money so that was like a little bit easier to like hey I need to get paid so I need to do these tracks but you know by the time it gets round to track like 50 of the dubstep album which I did like a lot of that back in 2012 when dubstep was a thing it's how do you reinvent the wheel again and make it sound interesting is it's it's really difficult but on the other hand once you get used to the structure because there is the structure for writing library music once you get used to that you can kind I don't say go on autopilot because you do need to be inspired to a point but also at the same time it's library music and a lot of the time it's going to be behind something you don't actually need it to have the attention-grabbing thing the whole way through see one of the things I struggled with at the beginning with library music is I want to add like a tune on top of everything and a lot of times library music like yes there's too much melody no no we don't like that and I'm like really okay well the melody is like what sells this piece of music so I'm going to have to rethink that that was the biggest challenge for me so I generally succeeded with more of the sound design e electronic e trailers or the ones which did allow me to write a melody and like have a big cinematic build kind of thing I think I've got like six tracks on this album which is literally called cinematic builds for KPM and yet so either it's either one or the other for me like either give me the really crazy like do anything electronic sound design weird stuff or let me write a tune and a build and I'm quite happy doing that all day long but I mean the other thing that is is tricky about library music is the production value on some of the top libraries is absolutely insane and it's insane and some of these people using samples only and I have no idea like how they're getting it to that level I think there's a there's a lot of time spent on the mixing for sure and it does it does sound it does sound really incredible I think it became clear to me in about 2013-2014 it was like I'm either gonna have to focus on one or the other I think I could have like a really like long career in library music if I really put my mind to it or I can do what I really enjoy which is telling stories but it might be it might not be as rewarding initially because you know you're the chance to tell stories is entirely dependent on the project you get to work on now I got really really lucky because I got to work on Ori and I'm getting to work on all Ritu and those two projects alone are likely going to help me for a long time assuming we don't screw up the second one but you know not not everyone has that kind of luck but so you do need a little bit of luck in getting the right project that's it I think you make your own luck a little bit but I think for me I I dabble in library music now and then like I should be doing it now because I'm in like a month or two or downtime I really should be like cranking out a few tracks but getting from the mindset of like having a story to having no story is really tricky and some composers are absolutely some of the like best library music composer absolutely brilliant at it I think Thomas Bergesen said he didn't want to do film music because he said it would be too limiting in terms of structure I do believe that is a quote that is like lurking around either VI control or some other forum but because because you know he gets to write music and structure and exactly the way he wants which I totally understand and actually on the will of the wisps trailer we just did for ory – I basically got to write the piece of music to the storyboards and they tweaked the length of the storyboards to the music so I wasn't really writing to picture they they tweaked the trailer to my music track so I could build the track as I wanted and when it became clear that like the build was like five seconds too short I'm like can you guys extend this we guys be able to extend this scene by like five seconds because it will give me like an extra eight beats to really make the most of the building like yeah no problem so I am finding like there's a bit more push-pull now in especially in games especially with important cutscene but library music you do have that total freedom but for me the total freedom scares me because I like to have a little bit of structure defined by like the story that I'm working with yeah absolutely so one of the things that characterizes your music is the extraordinary use of the orchestra and making use of like each individual section for example like your your very subtle yet powerful use of the woodwind section Ori I think the woodwinds are often a section that are looked over a lot in modern music so when was it that you really learned how to write for Orchestra and what was that process like for you well I I got my crash course because going back to my time at the Royal Academy music so the portfolio I wrote for them the it was literally like five piano tracks and a string quartet no orchestral stuff and like trust me I looked at the other people who had applied because I was like we were all like in the same room and I looked at their portfolios I'm like there's no way I'm getting accepted because it was like full orchestra like beautifully notated all of that I didn't know any of that I literally knew nothing about writing for the orchestra it's amazing I even wrote a string quartet to be honest but anyway once I started the orchestration teacher at the time is like look just go into the practice rooms and ask musician if they'll spend an hour with you to teach them about your instrument because trust me everyone's going to say yes because frankly they don't want to practice they just want to hang out or at least they're willing to take an hour out of their eight hours a day of practicing that's the good thing about the Royal Academy music is that there's literally geniuses around every corner and that's basically what I did I you know I learnt from really talented players you know the limits of their instruments and you can get all this stuff in the textbook but it's much more fun to do it with a real person and they could like once they show you like physically what what you can and can't do with the instrument you just learn a lot more quickly and it's a lot more inspiring than looking at a textbook for hours and hours and hours and this was before the age of YouTube so like you know now you can just go on YouTube and you'll probably be able to find something like a range of the flute and they'll probably be like 20 videos range of the flute so really there's no excuse for anyone who's starting orchestrating today like that they don't to complain that they don't have the resources because they're everywhere but like when I was a school yeah that's that's what I did I basically went through every instrument in the orchestra and it wasn't just one hour I would like you know I try and do it you know every so often and once I started writing for the instruments more than I take the parts to the players as displayable is it not playable the only section of the orchestra I did have an understanding of was brass because I played the trumpet and trombone in school but no woodwinds I didn't have a clue strings I didn't have a clue percussion is percussion but those things you can and can't do like range of Tampines for example like you know it's it's always funny like you see some crazy timpani parts where it's like seven different notes in like three seconds I'm like yeah unless unless you have seven timpani which could be doable but you generally speaking the limits usually five yeah it's it's just like lots of little things that you accumulate over time and it was a four year course so and they gave us lots of recording sessions there which you know you learn very quickly whenever you have a recording session about what works and what doesn't you know that's the time to make a mistake make a mistake when you're in school no-one's no one's going to fire you while you may commit like in school it's going to give you a give you a bad grade and you move on but yeah that's that's how I got my understanding and then the rest of it is literally just experience and not being afraid to like hire live musicians even when there's no budget like even if you can hire one person it just makes such a huge difference and I'm sure that's something you've heard many times before yeah so how early was it an Ori when you decided that you were going to have that that color of the the solo voice how it really was that the vocal let's see it was actually honestly it was quite late it was only actually a year before we finished the game I knew I wanted voice but I didn't I just hadn't found the right voice and I didn't I didn't want to hire a session singer partially because I wanted someone that would fit into the vibe of the team and orey's a Laurie one was a low-budget game I know everyone says that oh it was published by Microsoft it must have had a lot of my no no it really didn't I can't go into like what the music budget was for Ori but I can I can tell you right now that most people will be shocked at what the music budget was for away anyway it's a low budget game and we're all like the studio was pretty desperate full of people like the director he left his amazing job at Blizzard at Blizzard as a senior cinematic director to make this indie game a lot of people had left big big jobs that like decent what you know company safe jobs to make a game that they were passionate about so everyone was kind of like desperate for it to succeed so I was looking for a singer who was like just getting started and I don't know how I found early on YouTube but I found early on YouTube and then I reached out to her and then you know she lives it she lived in Los Angeles at the time I'm like oh okay well let's meet up and then the first piece of music we actually recorded was what we used for the launch trailer not the announcement trailer the launch trailer which we did in March 2015 was okay this is definitely going to work and then we did the announcement trailer which had actually been written like six months prior to meeting airily but I'm like way now I can put instead of relying on the piano now I can put a real voice on this opening like melody pod and then after the reception for that trailer I'm like okay well we can use the voice for pretty much any significant non gameplay moment because the thing the thing about error Lee's voice is it's so it demands your attention and so whenever she's singing like you're really paying attention to end like we tried it with we tried her vocals with gameplay stuff and it was it was a little bit – it was like overpowering the gameplay because it's like something significant is because her vocal is here so we chose not to do it we chose not to use it for the actual in-game sequences but I think for almost every cutscene we're using her voice and because our cutscenes aware we used to advance the story and most of the time and yeah it was just it was the the right voice the right time maybe she's a big she's a huge part of the sound of Ori like it's it's not really the ORA soundtrack without her and that that kind of tells its own story on the Spotify players like all of the tracks featuring have by far the most Spotify plays so yeah it's I think that's what makes the soundtrack so nostalgic and memorable is that like the first hit and the soundtrack it's just it's her voice and that's the first thing that you hear I think it's the last thing you hear as well because it's literate it's it's a it actually no it is just piano yet piano and I think like humming at the very end but yeah it's I don't know how we'll use her in the second game because we're still like it's still very early but for sure for sure araly will return and it will really just depend on the story like how we use her voice but yeah it ended up it ended up working even even better than I had envisioned for so we won absolutely so what was it like for you sort of being like the musical casting director for the project unspoken for which you had a few individual SIL instrumentalists well that was that was an interesting project because they they had these three characters and they like we need them to have a unique identity but we want the school to be electronic and I'm like well but that that could be tricky and I'm decided then I made a suggestion it's like well what if we had like one featured instrument for each for each character and they were okay with that and I was like yes okay that's that's good because you can do a lot with so Louis and then I'm like well let's look at what these characters do and what they sound like so the blackjack character is this like more mysterious mysterious magician character so I chose to use mini page here's like super super wispy and ethereal voice it's not it's not quite as like deeply powerful as airily but it has its own unique angelic quality then I chose T's Vani Brooksbank on electric violin and violin for the kinetic cyst that I wanted something I wanted the electric string sound but I want it to be like fast and quick sounding which is why use a high-pitched string instrument and then for the anarchist it sounds totally predictable but sometimes the most predictable answer is the best one I use Tina glow on cello because it just it just was clearly the best solution I mean like half of her videos represent anarchy anyway so I was just like let's just cast this properly and all the track's that she played on do sound do sound they have they have the Tina sound which is basically what was perfect for that character but working on that project they kind of just gave me total freedom like we don't care as long as it fits the characters so yeah insomniac the only the only real criteria is that they needed it to have like an electronic core so they needed to be rooted in the sense well but like once I suggest them let's like let's get these three soloists and let's have some real drums so just to make it just to make it not so Cynthia and program II that'll really help like the feel of everything and you know we just booked out east-west studio 2 for for two days and yeah it didn't really break the budget because it's only four it's only four players so we've had a great time rocking out for a weekend and the rest is all just me doing sense and programming yeah and I would assume you did a lot of like post-production like you created drones out of out of what you recorded and six your source on yeah I mean it's great yeah I mean a lot of a lot of it's a mix of pre-production I think we did less on the post-production because like a lot of it was already in the playing like the switching of articulation from Tina like one of Tina's sick bitches are switching from regular to soul ponticello back to regular then maybe the salt ass though but she's always moving moving where she's playing and you kind of don't want to mess with that but in terms of delays and reverb and reverse reverb there are there are some things which we grabbed I think maybe the most significant thing that we did though on several of the tracks we put the electric sound on the right channel and the acoustic sound on the left channel whether they were playing the same or different originally my plan was to use them separately but then I think like while I was listening to playback it was an accident they played both parts back at the same time and I was like oh that's actually pretty cool let's let's do that yeah I I tend to spend less time in post-production like messing things up because once I get to the recording stage I'm kind of checked out with the composition process so I try and do as much as possible like during the composition process yeah once after recording I'm like ready to mix and get the thing shipped off the only exception I would say was you know probably just recording voice on orede where I need it like the voice to like help sell the idea so if it's a production thing that I need to like sell to the director then of course I'll like go all the way at the beginning but in time but otherwise yeah post-production I'm like looking to get it done and get it finished I I am NOT a Tweaker or I don't fiddle about with stuff too much I just kind of like wanna I don't want I don't say wrap things up as quick as possible but I feel like if the concept is good any stay true to it then and if you've executed the concept like how it is in your head then what more can you do then you just kind of have to put it into the world and see what the world thinks but that's me like there are lots of tweakers who do really good stuff to that's just every one has a different approach right yeah yeah yeah so we asked to have the global composers Network what they wanted to ask you and somebody asked what's the difference between scoring four films versus video games and how do you find the overall aesthetic difference as well as the difference to works well films I find the time at least in my experience the timeline is ridiculously condensed like you've got you've got a you know a month or two to come up with the concepts come up with the instrumentation come up with the theme write all the music match it all to picture and if you're lucky enough to have an orchestra record it makes it see you later good night with games games unless you are very very lucky like me and you have full unfiltered access to the entire game build which on really big games like the ones that would be soft and now we're trying to go out to making you absolutely don't generally speaking with games you're writing to concept art and you're writing to ideas so you're writing a little bit more conceptually I think this is a I think it's a big problem in the game industry by the way that's like a hole that I could spend a whole podcast just on that why I think that the best games with the best soundtracks the ones where the composer was like embedded into the process like really early on kind of like our hands does with Christopher Nolan like how early did he start working on interstellar I'm sure he started working on Dunkirk really early too and you know just I think the results especially in games where things are changing all the time just better but it's also you're not dealing with reshoots and re edits and games it's a lot you know it's not like you have to hire the whole production crew to like reshoot a scene and in a film with a game it's just you just move you can just move the camera around and it looks is looking look like a completely different scene that's how a lot of fixes are done so it's not it's not difficult to as difficult to make changes in in a game in terms of the process for games it can be the frustrating part is is getting your stuff into the game and making sure it's playing back properly like one of the biggest parts of Ori that isn't really noticed by the player is that I tested the game like crazy now in a film you're going to sit down with the director and what the film with the director several times and the director is going to tell you this part sucks this part is good this boat sucks and then you're going to go back and do a version two and you're going to repeat it you can't really do that with a game because games are really big who has 8 to 10 hours to you know play the game from start to finish every day but I personally believe especially in a narrative game like obviously in a racing game which usually doesn't have narrative it's completely different but I'm just going to speak on narrative games at the moment I think if you're doing a game which is telling a story you've got to play it from start to finish and if you can't do it then hire someone to play it like if you're not a good gamer then hire someone or if you're not a good gamer get a development team to make cheats for you so you can like skip to the section you want to play which is what we did on Ori like I could jump to any section of the game and test it out immediately and get a feel for how the music flows see the mistake a lot of developers are making is you you'll get your spreadsheet and it's like level 1 music level 2 music 3 4 5 6 7 and you you're like crossing off the list of tracks that you need to do and that's very satisfying and then you might test them in an isolated state but how do you know what the transition from level 1 to level 2 sounds like how does that feel to the like who's looking at the big picture like okay level 1 music sounds great but you need to think about an overall slow and arc and feeling in the game just like you would in a film like you know the you I think you know very early on when a film has good pacing because the heights feel really high and the lows feel really low like until recently a lot of the big blockbuster action films were just throwing visuals and like music at you all the time and when when everything is epic nothing is epic but when you have like that dynamic Evan flow like you feel more from it but if you're not testing for that in the in the game you're never you're never going to be able to like know what it's like to the player but that requires you also to get into the mindset of what a player might be feeling it can be difficult to do that as a composer because you're you're so attached to the music so that's where you know maybe it is a benefit to like hire someone else to play the game for you but I think that's one thing I can always tell when I'm playing a game I can always tell when the composer during the writing process played the game like you can just feel it because there is a unique synergy between the music and the gameplay like the pace of the music and the gameplay that is fundamentally important like most of the templates for the game play music in Ori between 100 and 125 beats per minute and there's there is there is a subtle reason for that it's to do with the speed of the footsteps and it's to do with the speed of the attacks and the speed of like how quickly chori traverses the environment it's not just like I didn't just choose random tempos like there is a reason why all of the gameplay tracks a certain tempo there's a reason why all the bus tracks are 150 I think and I think the final boss tracks like 165 you know it's it's subtle things like that like that can really like make a big difference to how a game feels and I think it's something that isn't really thought about because the amount of game music that has to be written as a composer is intimidating and you're just looking to get that massive long queue list finished but then you got to test it and that's the part that like you're not really getting paid for I think maybe going forward some savvy agent needs to work out like music testing time into the contract because it's incredibly important and unless you have an amazing audio lead which an end on every indie project you're not going to have an audio at least someone like testing the audio for you it's something you're going to have to do so it's something I would anyone doing game music don't just write the music for the game please play it and test it there really is like a no excuse especially at the independent developer level for them not to be able to get you a build of the game that you can play yourself on your computer like I said the only exception is with the really big stuff like with Ubisoft and Electronic Arts the reason why they won't give you access is usually for security reasons they won't let stuff off-site but in that case why not ask them to fly out to Ubisoft or Sony or Electronic Arts and play the game they're like oh no your life is so tough you have to spend a day at Sony like that's that's like that that's what that's like how I would solve that problem but I haven't worked on a project would be so FDA or Sony yet so I haven't had that problem to deal with one of the nice things working with moon studios is that even though there are Microsoft Project Microsoft have they kind of like let us do what we need to do so it's been nice like having the freedom I think I think I think I think when a lot of people I think when a lot of these video game movies are being made I think the difficulty is it's like how do you remain faithful to the fans of the game but also make a compelling movie experience you know a lot of the Assassin's Creed games you know take 20 to 30 hours to finish and so like how do you condense that kind of story into something that's two hours it's really difficult is the answer and in terms of like the creative control aspect I mean on those kinds of projects there are just so many moving parts that I also have know very little experience with maybe one day they'll make a movie I make an Ori movie and then like I might have direct experience with it but like it's that that I can I can see you know those are not small budget projects I mean it's a secrete films probably like at least like 60 million if not more and already that like that's like 60 million dollars for a film is like a medium budget film that's like a really high budget game so like just you know with those kinds of projects like the really big projects of course the executives are probably going to take over but you I do I do wonder sometimes like you know I've I've I've met several executives from like the film or game world and I do wonder sometimes like how many of them like actually play games from start to finish you just made me maybe they do but like you you don't really know like and that's why I think it's really important like if you're if you're if you're on the development side if you have the fortune to be working on a game I think it's incredibly to be actually playing it don't just don't don't take your composure title and think of it you're just a composer because you your your you are responsible for how the game plays back your music – gotcha okay so obese ox has just hired Garrett Coker for the next Assassin's Creed game what is going to be your first step in taming the Beast that is like 20 hour gameplay well you put me on the spot there I guess the first thing I would ask them is like do they want me to use the original like Assassin's Creed theme which is like which constantly comes up like some composers have years that some composers happen because it's not being Jesper Kyd – some time now that's the first thing I would cover because like am I going to need to do a theme or not basically because if they you know honestly it's a really good theme the original one and I think it's the one that they had to has been reused the first is like establishing themes then obviously I need to find out like the location like and if there's any like like what world music research do I need to do depending on where it's set like I think the newest one is set in Egypt how how Middle Eastern would they want the score to sound for example like I think Sarah schockner is doing the score for the new one and I'm sure she's asked similar questions and then really it's usually in the Assassin's Creed games there's usually a bunch of core locations and they usually tend to have unique ambient music per location if my memory serves me correctly and unique battle musically location one thing I've noticed about the Assassin's Creed music is that the transitions and not actually fantastic between ambient and battle music battle music oftentimes it's just fade in fade out and you can actually like audibly hear the fade in fade out there's another thing by the way that I absolutely love because most gamers really don't care about how seamless the music is all they care about is does the battle music play at the right time and as long as it's within like two to three seconds good but yeah otherwise in terms of scope my approach with scope has been to do what is required and usually usually I would love to have unique music for almost every cutscene or at least every major cutscene and then like enough so that the ambient and baffle music doesn't get repetitive Ori is a 10-hour game for most people and it has 135 minutes of music and that's about right see the reason why already works in terms of like dealing with repetition things because you're never in the same area for or you're never hearing the same music you for like longer than 10 minutes unless you're getting stuck and if you're getting stuck well tough you're going to hear the same music you but I didn't really do I didn't really well no we didn't do anything like all of all his music is just stereo tracks playing on loop like there's no there's no fancy implementation now what I did doing Ori is think very very very hard about like wend music changes from one location to another location and the cool thing is like I get very easily defined like each location in the game which has unique music but yeah if you get stuck you're going to hear the same cue but that's theirs what are you going to do otherwise like you're going to randomly change the music while you're stuck like what could be more annoying to the player like let's have a piece of music that tells the player that they're stuck or let's just go silent then if you go silent then yeah you're hearing the ambience but who wants to be in silence for for like an hour not many people and then if you go into silence well when do you bring the music back in like you bring it back in when they solve the puzzle that's the most obvious thing to do but most people in a game like Ori and every game is different they they kind of want something in the background especially there's no dialogue you know like you need to have something so that said most of the game play music and Ori is fairly in obtrusive it's not like stabbing you in the face the whole time so if the music was louder I would definitely like think about like when to take it out if a player gets stuck but for example like the the crazy water chase sequence the music's just a loop there and it's full-on like it's all orchestral music and when you die it just starts again and I did wonder about that like is this going to be too repetitive and I'm just like well this feels like a good piece of music to me let's just see what happens and see if you know if we get the feedback that's too repetitive I'll just have to learn from it and suck it up and move on but the feedback was the music inspired me to keep on going when I died and I'm like well that's I could I the only way I figured that out is because I played it and if it feels good to me then I trust myself to put it in the game if it doesn't feel good to me that I'm never going to put it in the game that's why you know but you can't figure that out until you tested it I think was Elliot Goldenthal and Trevor Evan who said that exact same thing and in the score film music documentary they said the exact same thing like if it oh no it was junkie XL and illegal yo they said like no junkie XL Trevor Raven they said like if the music does not give them goosebumps they cannot expect the audience to feel those goosebumps yes so that's that's always my approach like if I'm not feeling anything then it doesn't it doesn't get if I'm not feeling anything I didn't even show it to the developers or the director like let alone let alone the audience so yeah that's that's that's my that's my approach like I test it before it even before anyone else even hears it so but yet that's that's just my approach so that is for a couple tacky stop just for the composers that are out there for watching this these always come up and it's a composer group so it's okay I've done a lot of panels where it's like where it's just fans and like when fans are like asking technical questions I'm like come on man like there's a bunch of people here aren't composers but because it's a composers group I'm happy to answer all the tech questions ever so go for it so go for I would assume the first thing that people are interested in knowing is white DWD use and why you always bet on that dot see this persistence of this is a fun one because like I use one of the least popular ones and I always I always like to play like guess which door I use but I use I use sonar plan so I'm PC bound and I'm sorry I'm using sonar which is an incredibly rare combination now the reason I've been using them is because they were the first to go 64-bit they were actually the first sequence with the go 64-bit and I saw a 64-bit before everyone else like did and if you're a Mac user you know that Mac was quite late to the party especially via logic user Mac was very late to the party on getting everything 64-bit so sonar at the time when I started using it which is 2008 its interface was awful its handling of audio was pretty bad its handling a video was really bad so if you're working in film just not not going to happen but I wasn't really working in film at the time it the most I was doing was working in trailers so I could survive but what they did have is amazing so Anna has always had great MIDI like MIDI editing and all of that which is pretty essential for our job and it was first go 64-bit and that had amazing benefits which like which meant I've been working on one computer for a very long time I hate the whole slave setup I'm all self-contained like I my computer's powerful enough that I can run everything I run everything I need within sonar and it's its environment the loading times are occasionally a bit long but that's been helped by solid-state drive so even that is like a non-issue now one other thing that your audience might be interesting is I I hate templates the only time in a template become makes sense is like after I've established the overall theme for a project for example the minecraft Chinese mythology project it was pretty clear I was going to have a consistent set of instruments for the whole thing and I was like we had a live orchestra at the end of it so like I kind of knew what I was writing for so yes then I'd make like us but not not like a 300 track template like maybe two two or three contact instances and that's it but no generally speaking I don't use templates because I don't like being limited it to a certain sound set and that includes orchestral samples I think different for Kestrel samples have different purposes yes so I know that a lot of TV composers will like to actually build their template over like a season for example like the uses you have to the set of sounds next episode they'll take those sounds and then they'll add to that and by the end of the season I have a really hardcore template because they'll carry over into the second season do you tend to to build like that and on occasion yeah I think I think with so with Ark it was generally mostly orchestral the whole way through so that was actually kind of easy like one side one side found the sound for the mock-up like that transferred to all of the other tracks like what sound works in game like what orchestral samples working game and also percussion as well like getting getting that right with Ori Ori is very unique like each area has an incredibly unique palette because always regarded as an orchestral score but if you listen carefully it's really not it's it's a hybrid score and there's a lot of stuff going on behind the orchestra and yeah I would say each major area in the game has a unique palette the only thing that's transferring across is like Oh which muted strings patch am I going to use this time the awesome one from Spitfire or the awesome one from some phobia like but other than that like there wasn't really much much that was transferring across but that said the T V approach I think for a lot of projects would work really well like you do start to have favorite sounds within within projects but might the way I write scores is so is so texture based anyway at least from the starting point it starts with the texture and then the and like an instrument choices and then like the melodies come after that but starting with the textures like it means I ever really have a consistent template but that's part of my process and it doesn't really slow me down anymore because I get really inspired by like finding new sounds and once I found like what I think is the right combination and right palate I can write incredibly quickly like once the palette is there I'll right superfast because it's not like I'm not writing while I'm designing the pad I'm usually just noodling around like and you know noodling around on cool sounds is really fun for me so that noodling around process is part of the like filtering through all the trash that you write in order to find a good thing yeah absolutely Sadie generate free a lot or usually ready to camp oh oh I'm always running to Tampa I think the only I think if I got a real piano in the house I would but we don't really have room but then I would start like doing more of my sketches of Matt cos I'm still a pretty good piano player I mean I've been playing since I was a I don't obviously don't practice anymore but I'm obviously playing everyday because of the composing but you know you you play in practice six hours a day for ten years you don't you don't really lose that so if we had a real piano in the house then I would do a lot more on the real Kanak that for me is like a super inspiring instrument to play and I actually think I should probably do it sooner rather than later cuz I feel like my compositions might improve I'm more adventurous on a real piano for whatever reason I can't really explain it this is just real weird psychological thing like I feel very uninspired when I'm looking at a MIDI controller like it's not really as satisfying as like hearing those strings resume you know I thought you know I've got really good piano sample libraries but it's just not the same when you don't when you're not like physically like hearing the the strings vibrate but yeah I tend to write in I tend to write and sketch all in a sequencer and I do it all to temper yeah I don't really doing the free time thing scares me because then has to be fixed and that's just like a whole thing I don't really want to do yeah so that that is the thing is they know a lot of composers will like to act even though they're you know da W sequencers and they write the whole scores in the sequencer sometimes they like to get away from that and they like to sketch out all their ideas you know handwritten like for example Harry gregson-williams does it but he is scoring everything in a sequencer but then again you have composers like consumer who's known to have the whole musical diary idea and you know writes his sketches in the sequencer so what do you think is that aesthetic difference like what do you think that really encompasses I think when you're doing pencil and paper like I think it's good to get away from the computer for a while and yeah I do try and do that even if it's just like doing something in my head like I can walk around the house and just do something in my head for a while but yeah I think with pencil and paper once you're separating from yourself from the computer you are you're like relying on a certain part of your brain more whereas when you're at the computer like you're you're really relying on the the creative side of your brain a little less I think like I think I think pencil and paper force you to think a little bit more and it's also just more physical I think when you're engaging your entire body physically into something that can that can like help help with the writing process be know who most of the time we're Sat hopefully in a good quality chair at a desk all day and looking at a screen all day and that is not particularly healthy and I think like even just getting up and walking around see my big thing is doing exercise like I since I started exercising my productivity has gone through the roof for like several years I didn't do anything and then last year I started doing three times a week and I feel like a million times better and I can work so long it's not actually it's not actually I can work for longer I work more efficiently and sometimes when you're stuck in front of the screen all day like you feel like you're working but you're not actually getting much done and I think that's where like changing the process or doing something physical even if it's just as simple as getting up and doing something with pencil and paper even if you don't know how to write for pencil and paper just like get up and like start like humming a tune or something or like singing what's in your head that can make a huge difference to the mindset but yeah if you're if you're like stuck at the screen all day I mean you could I think you can do it when the deadlines on and when I like the pressures on then of course like adrenaline can carry you through a lot of things but what do you do when the adrenaline isn't there that's like when it's really so that's the pencil on paper even though I'm classically trained the pencil on paper is now second for me just because we're in we're in the modern world now it's just like it's it's just the way things are like I I do sometimes sketch on pencil and paper but at the end of the day like I'm still like my ideas are written on my MIDI controller so I might as well record them you know now I think I would use if I had the real piano I would definitely use pencil and paper more for sure but then again maybe not maybe I would just get a real piano that recorded directly to MIDI because those exist right like so like or or I would just you know take a recorder like an audio recorder and just record everything for an hour like who know I don't know what I would do yet but like I do feel like my approach would improve if I had a real instrument that's for sure the one question I know a lot of people will have for you is just when there is so much research to write and there's there's there's such a demand and maybe one day you the tap just goes off and you're just contemplating you know idea and you have no idea where you're going at that point so how do you escape writer's block and are there any things that you you'd normally go to to defeat writer's block okay well the first thing I do is to not try and fight it which I know seems like crazy especially if you have a deadline but I've I've generally found I don't want to set a precedent here because the most important thing in any like client employee relationship is communication but like if you communicate with your client that you're struggling or you need an extra day that general almost all deadlines are like slightly movable in the entertainment industry especially now of course if you're getting started that can be quite intimidating to do if you've got like a body of work which like proves that you can get it done then it's a lot easier to make that request but yeah it does happen from time to time and when I recognize that it's happening or sometimes I'm just tired you know like I'm just like screw it I'm not going to write anything now I'll just stop and I'll do something completely different I'll go watch your film I'll go play a game the most important thing for me is to get out of this room because this is obviously where I spend the vast majority of my time I have a nice living room a huge television I live in a nice neighborhood of you know go out for a walk or or literally just do anything else like that makes me forget about what a terrible time I just had composing and sometimes that can be just taking a nap you know like it can be as simple as that but I think the longer you spend trying to fight the writer's block at least in my experience then the worse it makes you feel and the word if it makes you feel bad then it's going to be harder for you to get out of that malade if you can like recognize early in the process like oh boy it's going to be a struggle I don't think it's worth fighting this then just cancel it completely it's I find it's usually easier to get out of the rut now in the situations where you have no choice where you've got to finish something well then you just got to rely on technique and hopefully you've written enough music in your career that you know something that's worked and you can go back through and like well this idea worked there maybe it'll work here it can be as simple as like hey that chord sequence works there what if I wrote a different melody over that chord sequence all that texture worked in this track that I did two years ago what if what if that what if that works here if you keep your past music well organized which most composers should do then it can be easy to find this old stuff to get inspired and like just use stuff that you've done in the past to get you over the finishing line because at the end of the day if you do have a hard deadline you've got to get it done like you've just got to find a way to get it done and that's when you rely on technique and past experience and that is where also where education can help a lot to like there are times when I've been struggling it's like okay let's get out the textbook like let's see like you know I mean some of the textbooks they literally have hundreds and hundreds of chord sequences like written out for you ready to go like you know use one of them why if it gets you over the finishing line it's just a chord sequence at the end of the day like there's there's thousands of them sometimes the textbook can remind you of things that have forgotten like you know melody using retrograde right the melody in Reverse like you know when was the last time anyone wrote a counter melody like that's like you know because counter melody is a lost art like and it can be can be an easy way to make something sound interesting like just I've got dozens of text books that I barely refer to anymore because I know them inside out but okay so I'll eat you know you forget stuff and it can just be inspiring to pick up that book and like read through some other stuff but that you forgot or just remind remind you of things that you already know but like you're looking you're looking at looking at it on a piece of paper and it can help like it can sometimes help trade or something but yeah generally speaking relying on technique and past experience can get you over the finishing line when you need to you've got to get something done and I see which is one of those things where it does not hurt to know you know there's a lot of people nowadays who who go around just smashing music theory oh I don't need it whatever you know it's crap until they get to a point to where they can't think of anything and then it would be nice to know that oh if I want something Irish eyo that I can just use a Dorian scale because it has that the natural sick or you know that's that type of stuff you know what I mean it's just boy yeah yeah I'm overlooked you've just reminded me of a page in like one of my books which was like literally my professor wrote like so it's only available to the students like who take his pause and there's literally one page where it lists all the modes and then the emotional quality is that those modes have like a bunch of adjectives I'm like well this is a gold mine just this just this one page here as a gold mine it's just stuff that you can forget about and I mean yeah like the debate on music theory like look you can have an amazing career without music theory of that there is no doubt but I think there's a quote by Danny Elfman like he said like if he had time to do a music education he would absolutely do a music education like I think there was some article that like slammed them for like not being an educated music composer and it's like at the end of the day who cares he like he writes great music and that like he wrote a response and he's like look I'm not knocking music education like I would get one if I could and I had no doubt that would be valuable to me but it's also at the end of the day music is music and it's as much about the theory as like what's in here that's that I don't I don't think I don't think you could not music theory just because like literally you can learn you if you're going from no music theory to even like knowing what a basic scale is you've improved your musical knowledge one of my pet things like I've had a couple of composition students I generally don't teach but there's like there are a couple who I've had and honestly like one of the most basic things that is overlooked how much music do we hear in root position like so much music in root position and I'm guilty of it too rule I think we're all anyone working in film and games is guilty of it because root position is powerful but you can make your music a million times more interesting just change that bass note just change it from the root position to the first inversion and you've instantly got something like way more compelling and instra interesting even if you only do it for one chord like it's amazing the difference like the changing changing the bass note of the chord makes and it's so simple but I think a lot of composers are using their right hand to write the melody and the left hand to do the bass note because they're all writing on keyboard and not every composer is great on the keyboard so they are forgive the pun they are rooted in root position and they're afraid to like they're afraid to like go beyond root position and just like adventure out but like honestly once you go beyond root position you've opened up like literally like 90% of the vocabulary like you could ever need like if you're just willing to like and you will advance your music so much by going beyond that damn root position which is don't get me wrong it's really hard to get out of and it's fun right music in root position because it's because it's usually action stuff and it's all treilery stuff but like your music sounds way more interesting if you choose the right time to like get it get away from using the root position chords you are you are entering a goldmine and a treasure chest and like all and the pot at the end of the rainbow it's like all of those things and your music will take a giant leap forward now the scary thing is but because you've got so many options once you move away from the root position it's like how do you get back to the root position like and that's just something you can only learn with with time but like oh okay any any composer like who is not confident on the piano like just play chords and like move to a different chord and just change the route and understand like what like makes gives that chord its quality like that's like the tube the two pet things for me are like the root position first inversion second inversion thing and then the voice leading like once you've learnt those two things you can literally write almost anything in my opinion least in the film and game world like obviously there are exceptions but you can't write a horror score like with the with the orchestral effects but like in terms of the harmonic vocabulary like learn voice leading and learn the different positions for the bass note in the chord and you you will have you will you will solve a lot of problems and that comes back to the writer's block thing by the way like get out of root position I guarantee that will solve like a big part of your writers blog I think I said like one point I was setting like an L gar score and he diseases this most amazing thing he's like he uses inversions all the way up until he wants like the most impactful moment and then he'll just like smack the viewer in the face with the root you know inversion is just like it's so much more heartwarming like even like a Nimrod you know it's like you know such an impactful emotional piece and sometimes you're like what is that core cuz it doesn't exactly sound like the root position but it but it has the same notes but the way for which the emotional you know changes from from that root position it's just amazing so I definitely agree what you call it it's much harder to build tension when you're when you're when you're using root position because you're always so rounded but like once he wants you and music is all about tension and release we I think every composer knows that but like so you want to like help yourself build tension will get away from the root it's like that's like one of the easiest ways easiest ways to do it and yeah that's it can really help writers plug to like because often I find myself like writing to root position a lot to just because it's in the film vocabulary so much these days and it's like wait no just come on use your brain just a little bit like move that left hand like lift pick it up and put it somewhere else because it'll probably sound good and hey presto that you use like found the next chord absolutely so whatever much we spend it and I know root position I know yeah yeah so I think we get set for a couple more questions so this the second to last question is what sample libraries do commonly find yourself using and do you make your own so I I I don't make my own I hire others to do the recordings for me and based on so I would say I produce my own that's but like in terms of the actual act now I'm just too lazy it's and it sort no it's not lazy it's just like there are people who can do the recordings better than me and I'd rather just give them a creative concept and have them run with it so yeah I don't make my own it's all just very labor intensive like doing all that stuff in contact is literally my worst nightmare so it's just not something I'm into but no in terms of creating sounds for me that's something I'm thankfully now in a position to do a little bit more than I was in the past so that's pretty cool in terms of my go-to sample libraries I own the entire Spitfire collection I think they're incredible one of the things I love about Spitfire is that they're they're orchestral interfaces aren't obnoxiously large I don't I don't like composing in contact if you get what I'm saying I like to load my instrument and then forget the contact even exists like I'll set up my mic positions but I'm usually loading up the CT and the mics and and spitfyre anyway and then I'm just forgetting about it so yeah Spitfire is the bulk of my orchestral template I use I usually go to Berlin woodwinds for for the woodwind II stuff especially the solo stuff is unbelievable for brass it's kind of all over the map it really depends on the type of sound I want because I find that the brass sounds from library to library are really really different like if I have some really good stuff but so the cinah brass the only one I don't have yet is Berlin brass but it sounds pretty good to me but the sim phobia brass is a really nice sound if you want like that low warm like accompanying soft brass cord sound which you need a lot in film music I'm a big fan of ensemble libraries because they save a lot of time and they make your mock-up sound good I don't care that like if they're not like super realistic it's about like the performance yeah project Sam Spitfire with a with a dose of descent and sample stuff and the Berlin Berlin stuff and then sometimes it's about like a certain sound I want like occasionally I'll go back to the ATO stuff or the 8w stuff like some of those like amazing swells can really just add like it even though it's like a what is a 200p string section and the 8w thing like it's it's completely ludicrous but it has a certain sound quality that is very unique and can add something to a production but yet the go twos for orchestral stuff for a Spitfire project Sam and Berlin Berlin but I'm probably going to I'm probably gonna invest from the brass pretty soon because I've heard too many good things percussion all over the map I think I literally have every percussion library better because there's they're all recorded slightly differently so they all have like a slightly different tone quality and then you know it's funny like the logical follow-up question would be like how do you you know what the right sound is to use because that's one thing that my conductor Alex always asks me is like how do you know like you you're mock-ups are usually pretty good like how do you know how to found the right sound I'm like I spend a lot of time getting to learn my sample libraries I think one of the mistakes a lot of beginner composers make is expecting sample libraries to solve all of their compositional problems that if only it was that simple and I think it's really important to write to the strengths of your libraries like some libraries are just better at doing the legato thing some libraries are just better at doing the sustain thing you've got to get to you've got to get to know your libraries and what they're good at and what they're not good at and unfortunately you'll spend a lot of money in that process and you'll probably buy some stuff that you're incredibly satisfied with that said I think with almost any orchestral library you can get a good sound out of it if you're willing to invest the time it can it can even be like the cheapest one because at the end of the day it and it comes back to what I said earlier it's not about the realism that is going to like sell your music it's about the feeling and if you can program feeling into the crappiest sample it's not going to matter how bad the sample was all that the person listening is going to remember that they felt something when listening to your music and I've heard both ends of the spectrum I've heard people here like I've heard people do mock-ups with what is perceived as a poor sample library and I've seen people like emote from them heck being go back to the Final Fantasy 7 games which was done entirely in MIDI and people are motive from the music in that so like that's just a perfect example on the other end of the scale I have heard people do terrible mock-ups with sim phobia which is well regarded as like one of the best libraries like ever made and people are still using it like so at the end of the day it comes down not just to the sample quality it's like how you're using it how you're programming it how are using it and of course how you're composing and arranging with it at the end of the day a bad arrangement with the best samples is still going to be a bad arrangement so you know these things all kind of go hand in hand like yes get good sample libraries but also you know keep up your orchestration chops unfortunately in this day and age you've got like a million skills as a composer to keep up with and that's before you even start with the problem how do you get work yeah definitely so what about since and do you program any your own do you zebra or you know what kind of since key is again like this is one of those things like now because I'm in a position where I have the luxury of having a budget to do these things I'm able to hire other people to do custom since sets for me I'm about to hire the unfinished for e2 which is going to be fun and a couple of other people a couple of other people are going to be doing some stuff since stuff for me for we took there's a lot of pulses in ori too but like not they're not the you know the the zebra like cynthy pulses it's just usually a lot of bell ostinatos for example like a lot of metallic ii sounding like things that just kind of take away in the background because it is a platformer and you're constantly moving so it's like it's it's that kind of like organic pulses is what I'm looking for I do tend I'm I do tend to enjoy like tweaking presets like I spend a lot of time in on this fear too but I'd never used the core sound library anymore because it's like it's everywhere there's so many third-party sound libraries but on this they're not just the unfinished but like there's like literally like I think I have like about 80 and and I'm sure yes and they're all fantastic because they're all using like they're all using like original material because now that you can import original material into atmosphere too it's it's like it's just the best instrument ever and because some of these libraries are less known that means they're lesser used and like but not like you don't hear like the certain sounds like that are like everywhere across the film and TV thing like I think there's one sound on the sphere one like it's ode to mr. Newman and it's like one of the most used like patches I think ever it's this really cool arpeggiated thing and it does have a really cool sound quality but I've heard it in many things now and in some really big productions too and and hey it's a good sound so whatever and you know composers are in a rush sometimes and you're going to go to the sound that works but I think I think with sense stuff yeah I'm using ominous fear zebra I love all the UHE stuff give me a sec I'm going to load up get a load of my thing until you exactly what happen I remember because I have quite a few okay here we go I just got a few months ago I got key scape which I know technically isn't a sense but oh my god the sounds in that are incredible and now that you can put key scape into omnisphere oh my goodness it's so much fun yeah there's nothing to like crazy here I guess I use a there's a lot of people programming sent stuff in contact as well one of my favorites sense for the really aggressive Stephanie is that a lot in the unspoken is the Olga synth have you heard of that one it's like a distort it's really like a synthesizer for distortion but all the controls are in Russian so you can't really understand them which makes it great for experimenting and ya know I've had that for a while any other weird toys here no it's really it's really just like the custom stuff for omnisphere to now I think that's it's probably the direction I'm going to take just like I like all the effects within on the sphere too like there's just so much you can do it's funny I was talking to you how I don't like composing in contact I love composing and on this fear like I love fiddling around in there like because the interface is amazing I would do it more in zebra but like zebra is just like everything's too small even with the like you can enlarge the interface it's just something that just like hurts my eyesight with with zebra but yes I like fiddling around enormous fear oh the other one which isn't even a veil anymore unless you're a logic owner is alchemy which was originally by camel audio but then Apple bought them much to my annoyance because I think they're an incredible company but yeah alchemy has some really really cool stuff in their stock library it's I think it's really great because it has like this it's kind of like an XY axis thing but you can like blend like with the XY axis between like eight different variations of the same sound in real time so you can get like these really cool performances just by like moving in XY axes it's unbelievable but alchemy also has amazing third-party sound sets by Simon Stockhausen who is related to karl-heinz Stockhausen but he runs a site called patch pool de and i all of the alchemy sound sets unbelievable and it has it has one of the best solo violins I've ever heard even though it's only made up of four recordings it is just this most perfect searing sound that I layer on quite a lot of things it's all over the ori soundtrack even though we recorded a real string section i still left it in there it has this unique searing quality probably is it nori to be alchemy it's now not available unless you use logic so tough for anyone who wants to get it so if you really want to use alchemy just have to get logic those people who do use logic you're very lucky and I'm jealous because that new version is in logic looks absolutely glorious but I will just have to suffer with I think the last version I had was like 2014 that's the but it's still it's in 64-bit so its future proof and it will be a part of my my setup forever because that's the sequence like that sorry that's the sense I go to for when I need to do weird stuff or the violin sound it's weird stuff or the violin sound okay so here's the last question so it's a pretty commonly asked question so what is your advice to a composer entering the realm of video game film music for media composition and also to the people that are just enter the realm of getting paid for gigs and you know how there's so much going around now and people are still asking for unpaid composers but composers need to make money so how do you how do you get through that and how do you get yourself you know going into the composing world well I mean I guess the best advice is to tell people what happened to me so and I'm I've been quite open about this especially recently because I'm a bit more established now so after USC I was I was an assistant I mean actually I did three assistantships during USC and one just after and basically to cut a long story short I was a terrible assistant and I was bad I like I had the I probably had the wrong attitude and I just didn't do a very good job of that okay it's the first thing if you're young enough and you're doing the assistant thing have a really amazing attitude and say yes to everything like even if you don't know how to do it because that's what Google is for and that's what YouTube is for and that's what your friends are for and probably your colleagues are too so if you do the assistant thing which will be a direction for a lot of people make sure you have a positive attitude a better attitude than I did so with that after I did the assistant thing and then stop doing the assistant thing well I graduated USC and I didn't really have any contact so I kind of had nothing and I had like five to six months of doing nothing then I almost went broke so what am I going to do so first things first I just started getting online and like you know it sounds like such a cliche but I literally typed into Google how to make money as an independent musician I know this sounds like such a cliche thing but it started providing me could be it's not really the action of typing it into Google it got me into the mindset of looking for work and youth like if you want to if you actually are serious about getting work like and you get into the mindset like it's amazing what changes it sounds like this really like hippie dippie flowerpower thing is like if you think about it it will happen but actually like changing your mindset and get enter my instead of like oh my god I need work can actually is like the first step but then of course he got a black follow-through so what I did I was like okay well first I need to earn money and that was when I joined the royalty-free music website audiojungle and so I uploaded almost all of my student stuff that I've ever done which is quite a lot of work and at the time audio jungle wasn't what it is today which is a really really big marketplace with a saturation of tracks for sure but I got on at the right time and I was still doing like I was doing the trailer thing but it wasn't cut really enough to support like living in Los Angeles but I had enough like treilery tracks but like were well produced I had reasonable production values in 2010 so they stood out on audio jungle which at the time there were not many like prominent users on audio jungle so I had this like set of tracks which I just called epic drums of doom and it's like a set of five literally treilery drum tracks and they sold like hotcakes and that like took care of rent for like a couple of months so I was like okay well now I can like breathe and also in that time frame I was doing I was doing trailers like here and there but it wasn't really enough but also in that time frame I was putting my music onto a bunch of different websites like literally every website I could find like video game website like film music websites I'm just setting up a profile with a link to probably not SoundCloud I'm playing so I'm not sure SoundCloud even existed but maybe it did but just getting my music out there and that's one of the things you absolutely have to do like get your music out there and try and direct people to it it's not enough to create a Twitter account because like who's following you no one it's not enough to create a YouTube page because you've got to get followers you've got to like actually get out there and like interact with people and to get them to follow you anyway I made a bunch of these profiles bunch of forum posting and then one day on on this website called mod DB calm which is a small issue website we're developers go to make mods for videogames which is like add-ons the people are making in their spare time and I contributed to a couple of things for free and I had started doing this like when I was a student glad really taking my profile page very seriously so I put that together and then quite quickly I got contacted by a guy who needed music for his dinosaur game he didn't pay me anything upfront but he offered me back-end and quite significant back-end and I was like ok well this works and the game eventually came out in 2012 and I am still receiving checks from that game in 2017 just to give you an idea of like they're not big checks but they still checks and interestingly enough your biggest project to date now is a dinosaur game right right that's well that's that's it so here's the funny thing about that right because this is how things start so that game I did for free primal carnage led to several things so it led to my profile on mod DB now here's the first thing that my first other thing that my mod DB profile led to the director I've already contacted me through mod DB and at the time it wasn't called or II said I've got this prototype game that needs music and I'm going to pitch it to various publishers I've been following your work and I think it stops kind of good and maybe you'll be a good fit for this game if you score the prototype for free and we get a successful pitch for the game you can do the music for the game so I played the prototype I was like hey this game looks pretty cool I guess I'll do the prototype for free and I'm kind of desperate anyway I can't afford to say no so I might as well and then six months later I had the Ori cake so this is just the result of like doing things for free up front can result in things down the line now getting back to the the primal carnage thing though because that led to the following so primal carnage came out but also on the side one of the developers who was working on primal carnage left to make his own game called in momentum which I also did the music for that because that director liked the music for babe's doing for prom or clown isms like you want to do the score for this game and I was like yeah and I got paid on the back end for that and kept 100% of the soundtrack royalties which I'm still getting paid for today then primal carnage came out and then three years later the director of primal carnage was making this game called mean Green's now mean greens he also didn't have anything to pay me upfront because if he made a new company out of primal carnage but he was like I'll give you back end and I got even better back end and it's not as back end on the soundtrack it's like the game sales itself and I got back-end on me and greens too and what I did on me and greens I recorded with a full orchestra even though there was no budget up front I spent a significant amount because this was four months after Ori had come out I'd gotten my first check from Ori which was enough to cover a short orchestral recording session and I paid for orchestral recording session for me and greens now that was a calculated gamble I made a guess on what I thought me and greens would sell and it doubled my expectations on what it would sell and so I had not only made my money back I also made a profit on the game which had zero budget and I spent money on a live orchestral session four so that was another calculated gamble and the result of that is I have an hour of live orchestral music as well continuing from the same director I promise this will end soon but it's all stems from like one director who like I work for free this one director the sound designer he ended up leaving after mean Green's actually know during mean greens to work for a company called insomniac games and then about six months later maybe eight months later I get a get a message from him from him from him on skype he's like yeah we've got this cool VR project coming up would you like to pitch for it and so I pitched for it and then hey like three months after that I've got the unspoken but best of all I'm saving the best one for last so the director for mean greens on the side his company was doing all the creature design for a game called Ark survival evolved and they needed a composer and so I got pitch to be composer and so not only did I get that gig through him the doing the composition for Ark survival evolved eventually led to what I was doing in June at the end of May which was recording at Abbey Road with 93 musicians so that all stemmed from doing one thing for free back when I was struggling and that's like the pics you've got to take I'm probably gonna do this was talked about as a GDC like about on career development because like literally one seed can grow into this ridiculous like full blossoming flower and it's amazing how I don't say incestuous but like it kind of is because like you when you work on a game I like people are aware of your music like the artists maybe they want to make a game one day well the sound designer maybe he wants to make a game one day with a program and maybe he wants to make a game one day and they're all going to remember hear they're all going to branch out and like maybe do their own their own thing so when you're starting out you should never say no to anything because you just don't know who you are saying no to like what if I'd said at the beginning sorry I can't do your primal carnage game for free upfront for free upfront because I'm struggling for money like that's where the audio jungle and the library music stuff helped me out because it like helped keep me afloat one thing I left out it's also quite important the other thing that kept me afloat I got lucky with a trailer placement I got a trail placement on The King's Speech which won several Oscars and that like kept me afloat for a long time and solved several problems like like you need to you need to find like as many income streams as you can and like in this day and age there are so many like you can and and I'm not just talking about composing like if you've got tech skills there are composers who don't have tech skills if you've got orchestration skills trust me there are a lot of composers who need orchestration skills if you've got music preparation skills then go and do that for someone else if you've got mixing skills go and do that for someone else like there's lots of ways to make money as a composer not like necessarily using your actual composition skills but you've got to do something to keep yourself afloat in the mean time so offer your services to other people and you never know where it like might lead in in return and but yeah the other like don't don't ever put yourself in a position at the start of your career whe where you have to say no that's like that's that's that's where things can fall apart very quickly like you should be saying yes to everything and especially if you're a student oh my goodness you have no excuse like you should be you should be working for free like when you're a student and working for free is like this kind of weird thing because like usually does something on the back end like that can be made available and if it's not something on the back end like exchange services or something like because the director of the project probably has some other skill that will help you down the line like the director is a film director maybe they'll film one of your recording sessions for free like in five years like just build up this stack of favors that you can call in when you most need them I alluded to the fact that Ori was a very low-budget game and trust me I called in every favor I possibly could for for Ori because I knew it was going to be a reasonably successful game and that turned out to be a good decision you know whereas the mean greens thing with a calculated gamble you've also got to sometimes you just got to take a risk and like put all your eggs in one basket and hope for the best but generally speaking even if you do put your egg all your eggs in one basket if you've helped enough people you help other people they'll be there to help you and help you keep keep you afloat like when when when you're struggling but yeah basically don't say no help other people and honestly it's about hard work there's this classic phrase where hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard and that's very very very true like you can be the most talented person in the world if you don't do the work doesn't matter Wow it's absolutely incredible – Gareth I mean thank you so much for dedicating an hour and 40 minutes to spend a marathon but a great with that I I'll be amazing people tune into the whole thing but no well what I'll say is that if you've watched this whole thing leave a comment below and say that you made it through it and me and Erica like both be incredibly impressed and and so yeah so thank you so much for for letting us in on all this stuff and we all cannot wait to hear Ark survival evolved a bit it'll be fantastic and badass and in-your-face and you know that's that's it that's what we're all expecting so I'm sure it'll be great but but anyways yeah that advice is brilliant and I'm sure that everyone especially on the gcn is going to be very very thankful for it so thank you for being our first victim in the gcn interview series this gentleman since Gareth Coker you can find its music on Amazon on iTunes and and so yeah so thank you so much and I will see you guys later you

32 thoughts on “Composer Interview: Gareth Coker (Ori and the Blind Forest)

  1. Thank you so much for giving these guys a platform so people can recognize them the way they deserve to be.
    I would love to see an interview with Arkadiusz Reikowski (if you ever get the chance) because he is way too underrated.
    His soundtrack for the two Layers of Fear games made it one of my Top 3 game series ever.

  2. I am not a film composer but I absolutely love a good score so I made it through this whole thing. I came here specifically because I was searching for any behind-the-scenes footage of Gareth's brilliant score to Ori And The Blind Forest and this certainly did not disappoint. Thank you so much for this!

  3. But seriously, i`m in love with Gareth`s score for Ori and the game itself! Truly a masterpiece! Me and my 4-year daughter can`t wait for WOTW!

  4. of course I've watched it all! Gareth is an amazing composer and he's so inspiring with his way explaining his work and his advises. I'm a starting composer and I've taken note of all he said. thank you ashton!

  5. Made it all the way through. The soundtrack in Ori really makes the game; it wouldn't be nearly as good without it.

  6. Incredible story and incredible musician – wonderful to hear everything both technical and musical! So insightful, many thanks for doing this 🙂

  7. I easily listened to this entire show, Gareth has done wonderful work and it was great learning more about his career and methods. A truly humble and inspiring person. I would happily watch another. I've been a fan ever since I heard his Ori score, which I adore… Wise words. Thank you both!

  8. Amazing interview! Thanks Aston, for organising this, and thanks Gareth, for sharing your experience and expertise. Definitely watched the whole thing a couple of times.

  9. Loved this video! I could listen to Gareth talk for hours about music. He should do a masterclass on composing/arranging. I'd be super interested to see how he works.

  10. One of the best interviews I've ever seen. Thank you Gareth, and Ashton! Definitely watched the whole thing.

  11. I've enjoyed this Interview very much. Very open and inspirational in many ways. Thanks very much Ashton and Gareth for this one !

  12. 1 hour and 42 minutes was just not enough.. I can't explain how much the music of Ori speaks to me. Great first interview. Thank you, Ashton.

  13. I love your passion for music and composing in general Ashton, at such a young age it's great to see and also for someone like myself starting to study these things in my own time around a full time job these videos and all of your videos are pertinent to my learning, I do appreciate the era that we live in being able to learn from each other to keep music alive and to consistently grow music as a whole, thanks again.

  14. That was seriously a cool interview!
    I have actually took a couple notes while watching this x)
    Seriously I cannot way to see more episode of your new serie you have created as this first pilot project of yours. 😀

    Also I made it through the whole thing in one shot at (finished watching the whole thing at 1:41am)
    It was worth the whole watch in one go and I might still come back to it too later cause human memory isn't scarfed in stone well yet. x)

  15. Thanks Ashton. Good work as usual. Btw, I would love to see you do a review/how-you-use-it video on the NI S88 controller. I actually purchase it, cause 1) I needed it, and 2) Junkie XL and You….both use it for your primary controller.

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