Bear McCreary just became one of my favorite Hollywood composers ever. We’ve known for awhile that he’s really into games, but after talking to him at Comic Con yesterday, it’s obvious that he knows his stuff and really has an appreciation for classic gaming and music. He even went as far as to say that modern game music has “devolved” with all the new technology.
We talk about his work on Dark Void, how he got the gig, and how much music he wrote for the game. His Battlestar Galactica band is also briefly discussed along with some of his upcoming projects, including another top-secret game project that he’s pretty excited about. I’m SO looking forward to having my ears mauled by Bear McCreary’s Dark Void soundtrack!
Read our review from the Comic Con showfloor after the jump.
OSV: Hey, so we’re here with film and television composer Bear McCreary who is now working on Capcom’s Dark Void. The most obvious question is, “How did you get involved with this project and the game industry?”
McCreary: Capcom’s producer, Morgan Gray, who was producing Dark Void called me in ,and I met with a bunch of the other Capcom guys and they said they wanted me to score Dark Void, and that’s really how I got into games. I mean, they were [Battlestar Galactica] fans and Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles fans, and they wanted to take a chance and see if a TV guy could do this.
OSV: Very cool. So I know you’re a big gamer, and you spend a lot of time playing games, so how was it making that transition from something you enjoyed as a hobby to something you’re doing as a job?
McCreary: Oh, it was very exciting. I’ve been playing games my whole life, and ever since I was a kid, I wanted to write game music. Watching the technology evolve over the past 25 years that I’ve been playing games has been very exciting, but I always felt like it could be done even better. So this is a really exciting opportunity for me to kind of roll up my sleeves and see what can be done.
OSV: So if I can put you on the spot, I want to ask you what your top 5 favorite games are.
McCreary: Top 5 favorite games? Alright, I’m not going to put them in order. Out of order, they would include Metal Gear Solid 3, Metal Gear Solid 1, Mega Man 3, Mega Man 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
OSV: Awesome. That’s a really good spread of games there.
McCreary: Yeah, it really spans the whole network. Close runners-up would be Metal Gear Solid 4, I really enjoyed Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Grand Theft Auto 4.
OSV: Do you have a favorite game composer?
McCreary: I’m not super versed with all of their names, honestly, but whoever scored Mega Man 2 is a genius.
OSV: Well, they all had code names, so very few people know who all of them are.
McCreary: Yeah, so those are my favorites. And honestly, if I can get on my soapbox a little bit, game scores I think have gotten arguably worse as the technology gets better because the guys in the 80s, all they had were these sine wave generators. That’s all they had to make music. So to create music that was memorable, they had to create melody, rhythm, and actual tunes. And as the sounds got better, I always felt that game music kind of devolved into loops and orchestra stings, and pads and all this bullshit. But it’s like, still, I think that Mega Man 2 has melodies that are more memorable than half the stuff that came out last year, and I think it’s because the technology has changed, and it’s exciting that it sounds so good, but there’s something about making 5 tones with a sine wave generator on the NES hardware and making music out of that, there was some music creativity that happened then that I’d love to see return.
OSV: Well, thank you for that. I think you’re now my favorite Hollywood composer. Somebody needed to say that, and I’m glad you did it. [Laughs]
McCreary: [Laughs] If you go to my blog , I have an entry about Dark Void. We sampled and created emulators of the NES hardware so I could do a Mega Man-style version of my Dark Void theme. As soon as I found out that the guy who created Mega Man was working on Dark Void, I knew I had to do this. And honestly, the orchestral score that I wrote is awesome and it’s huge, but that Mega Man version may be my favorite track from the soundtrack.
OSV: Awesome. We’re going to have to check that out and write something about it. So, working with Inafune-san on this game, was it like a dream come true for you?
McCreary: Absolutely a dream come true. And like I said, that’s why I created that sort of tribute to him by making my 8-bit version of the Dark Void theme.
OSV: So I’m curious. How many minutes of music did you write for the game?
McCreary: All in all, we created about 4 hours of music for the game. Honestly, I created more than I think would even fit in the Xbox version of the game, so I don’t even know if it’s all going to go in there.
OSV: Is it all orchestral, or are there some electronic elements, or what’s going on?
McCreary: You’re going to hear a lot of different things. It’s mostly orchestral, but it has a lot of ethnic soloists. Basically, the band that plays for me on Battlestar reunited for Dark Void and you’ve got a lot of ethnic percussion, you’ve got a lot of woodwind, guitars, Steve Bartek and John Avila from Oingo Boingo are playing. We have a [keyboard] from 1920, it’s this electric keyboard instrument that kinda sounds like a theramin that you’ll hear in the main title, so really, all in all, it’s a massive amount of musicians that are involved.
OSV: About the Battlestar Galactica Band, I know you’re performing all week at the House of Blues, people need to get out there tonight or tomorrow night [Editor’s Note: their last performance in San Diego will be on Saturday, July 25], as these are the last two nights. What’s this all about, and what do you play in the band?
McCreary: I play keyboards, and I conduct, and I even play accordion in the band. But we have a row of taiko drummers, we’ve got guitars, bass, strings, bagpipes, electric fiddle, duduk, singers, Edward James Olmos was there hosting last night, he’s there tonight. We had a bunch of other cast members, and we play music from the show. The score from the show is pretty bombastic, it’s not the typical orchestral music you’d expect. It works more like a rock concert than an orchestral concert.
OSV: Well, I hope we can get out to see that sometime. We’re curious about the film and game dynamics versus static experience. Has that been challenging?
McCreary: Yeah, it was challenging at first, yeah, it really was, because I had to kind or rewire my thinking creatively and approach it from a different perspective, but once I got past that initial roadblock, writing for Dark Void was incredibly rewarding. I think you’ll hear when you play the game that it’s my imagination run amok. I really just got to go wild.
OSV: Awesome, we’re looking forward to it. In conclusion, are you going to be working on some more games in the future, and what other projects do you have lined up for the rest of the year?
McCreary: I’ve got a couple other TV shows coming up in the fall. I’m doing Caprica for SyFy, and I do have another game that I’m working on. It’s not a Capcom title. I’m very excited about it, but it’s not announced yet. But it’ll be soon, and it’s going to be pretty awesome.
OSV: Well we can’t wait. Congratulations on getting into the game industry, we’re so excited to have you here. And it’s awesome to hear your comments about oldschool gaming music. The fans are really going to appreciate it, so thank you.
McCreary: Alright!Tags: 8-Bit, Bear McCreary, Capcom, Comic Con, Comic Con 2009, Dark Void, Hollywood, Mega Man, Orchestral, Videogame