We’ve had our eyes on Front Mission Evolved ever since we learned that Garry Schyman was scoring the game. While some people may be writing the title off as a Hollywood-ized distraction from the series’ traditional strategy roots in Japan, our time with the game at E3 showed that it while it is certainly is an action game, it still requires a degree of strategy, and I personally enjoyed what I saw a whole lot. I’m definitely excited about the music, and even more by the prospect of a Front Mission soundtrack box as well.
Moving on to the topic at hand, it seems like it was just yesterday that we interviewed Garry Schyman. We covered Dante’s Inferno and BioShock 2 quite extensively, and as it turns out, Front Mission Evolved was tucked right in with these titles as far as the composition timeline goes. We also discuss the history of the franchise, its popularity in Japan, and how he feels about the score and the project overall.
Join us for our interview after the jump.
OSV: Garry, it’s great to speak with you! We’re excited that you’ll be scoring Square Enix’s Front Mission Evolved. This has been a long-running series, and we’re anxious to see where you’ll be taking it musically.
Can you start by telling us how you came to work on the project? Having recently completed work on Dante’s Inferno and BioShock 2, which were both massive scores, where did Front Mission Evolved fit into the timeline in terms of when you started working on the music?
Schyman: I came to work on FME because the game’s audio director, JP Walton, contacted me and asked me if I would do it. The project sounded very interesting and I was happy to sign on. As far as the logistics, I started working on it just as I was finishing my work on Dante’s Inferno. It was a bit of a tight schedule (for videogames, anyway) because in the middle of my work on the score I had to go to London to record the orchestra and choir for Dante’s Inferno. But, to be honest, I prefer a little pressure to finish things and I produced the score on a film style schedule writing a couple of minutes a day or so. I love being challenged to do that and if there is any downside to videogame scoring it’s that the schedules can drag on for many months.
OSV: It clearly states on the game’s website that the team is shooting for a Hollywood style. Did the team at Double Helix specifically asked you to write Hollywood-style music for the game?
Schyman: I don’t think they ever used the term “Hollywood style” in the direction they gave me. In reality there is no precise Hollywood style per se. But my score was certainly much less experimental than say BioShock 1 or 2 and Dante’s Inferno and more traditional stylistically. Additionally, they really wanted my input on what the music should sound like. I experimented for a while until I came up with a theme and style that felt right. JP liked the direction but wanted to tweak it a bit. Finally I came up with something that felt right for the game and its characters.
OSV: Does this emphasis on a cinematic sound mean you’ll be recording a live orchestra for some of the game’s music? We’d love to hear some live orchestral music in a Front Mission game.
Schyman: The entire score was recorded with a live orchestra as well as my samples mixed in (as I always do with my orchestral scores). We recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. We had a great orchestra and the results were fantastic.
OSV: This project is being developed by Double Helix and published by Square Enix. What have your interactions been with the two companies? Have you worked directly with Square Enix at all, and have you already written all of the game’s music?
Schyman: I finished scoring Front Mission many months ago. I worked directly with JP Walton at Double Helix. If he liked what I wrote he would pass it to Square Enix which had final approval.
OSV: Were you able to score the game’s scenes directly with footage to work with, or were you working off verbal directions and cues from the Double Helix team? I imagine it’s probably a whole lot easier to score this kind of game when you have the visuals in hand, right?
Schyman: Double Helix provided me with movie captures of gameplay to score to. And yes, it is much easier, even if the game is in a relatively primitive state, to have a visual reference to look at as I write.
OSV: How many minutes of music are you writing? Do you know at this time if we’ll see a soundtrack release?
Schyman: I’ve written 60 minutes of music for FME and I have not heard yet whether they intend to release a soundtrack. I certainly hope so.
OSV: One of the biggest questions that fans of the Front Mission series have is whether or not you were able to dig into the history of the series before working on the score. I know sometimes composers like to avoid listening to past material to avoid being influenced by it, but with such a rich musical history featuring some of Japan’s top game composers, we’re curious as to whether or not you listened to any of it.
Schyman: Double Helix and Square Enix consciously wanted to change the style of the music for Front Mission Evolved as it has for the entire game itself. I therefore consciously did not listen to any of the music from the previous games. I am hoping that the fans of the previous games will be open to a fresh approach.
OSV: Has the game’s Japanese roots influenced how you’ve approached the score at all? Do you feel that, despite the Western approach, the music has a global appeal? It may very well be that the music from this game will reach Japanese gamers in a big way. Has this thought been in the back of your mind?
Schyman: I wasn’t consciously thinking about that as I wrote. I composed for each section of the game music that I thought best reflected the feel and vibe needed. Frankly that’s what I always do.
I do believe music is universal and I see no reason fans in Japan would not appreciate the score. Obviously hard core fans of the score for previous Front Mission games may want to hear the style of those previous games reprised. But, as I said, I was not asked to do that. I do believe that if any style of music is universal it is the “Hollywood” style. People all over the world have been immersed in it for 80 years and they seem to prize Hollywood made films more than that of any other style.
OSV: How have you enjoyed working on the project thus far? It sounds quite different from your other game scores. Did Front Mission Evolved offer you something unique in comparison to past projects you’ve worked on, and did this factor into your decision to work on the title?
Schyman: Yes, I did enjoy the process very much. I love to be challenged to write different kinds of music and I found this to be a whole lot of fun to compose. That said, all but about 4 minutes of the score was combat action music – which is some of the most difficult music to write. Lots of notes and lots of work to really achieve the level of intensity and stress that the music needs to impart. So yes, it was fun to write in a style that I have not been asked to write in for a while – but lots of work as well. In the end the thing that is the most satisfying about my work is being challenged, meeting and achieving the expectations of those I work for. That is an awesome feeling of accomplishment.
OSV: The only music we’ve heard so far is the background piece that’s featured on the game’s official website, and I have to say I’m liking it a whole lot. It certainly has that epic Hollywood quality, but seems to go for a more melodic approach compared to a cinematic one that we’d expect from a Hollywood score. What can you tell us about this piece of music, and will it be used in the game?
Schyman: It was written for one of the combat situations. They loved it and decided it would be great to use it to score the trailer. I think it worked great for that purpose.
OSV: Would you say this piece is representative of the rest of the music you’ve written for the game? Do you feel you’ve been able to accomplish something new with the Front Mission Evolved soundtrack?
Schyman: Yes, it’s definitely in the style for the score. I am not sure I accomplished something new – but it is certainly new for me. I have written music like this before but never an entire score in this big epic combat style.
OSV: Can you give us any more teasers about what we can expect from the game’s soundtrack, or do you have any interesting stories about your work on the project?
Schyman: Well, as I said, I wrote the score relatively quickly. Of course that’s quickly from a videogame point of view, which very often has long production time for the composer. So it was more like the time a film composer has to write and record a big film score. As I said I like to have that pressure as it gets my creative juices flowing and forces me to be very disciplined (which usually means working all day and all night for weeks on end). I sometimes write my best stuff under those situations. Now bear in mind I had almost two months so it wasn’t like I just had a few weeks, and there is nothing worse than having too little time to really do a great job. So this was sort of the happy medium for me. In any event Square Enix and Double Helix were very pleased with the result and so was I. I just hope everyone else agrees!
OSV: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. We’re looking forward to hearing your score for Front Mission Evolved in its entirety!
Schyman: You’re very welcome!Tags: Front Mission, Front Mission Evolved, Garry Schyman, Interviews, Orchestral, Square Enix