Olivier Zuccaro Interview: French Cyberworlds (August 2011)
Interview Subject: Olivier Zuccaro
Interviewer: Michael Naumenko
Editor: Michael Naumenko, Simon Elchlepp
Coordination: Michael Naumenko
Michael: Can you tell us how you entered the wonderful world of video game music? We must admit that you appeared on our radar all of a sudden, with the amazing score for E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy.
Olivier: Thanks! I think it all started when I laid hands on my first game. It was on the Atari 2600 (VCS) at the time, and I was too young to realize that I wanted to make my own games - but still, I became addicted to video games. Approximately ten years later, Duke Nukem 3D landed on my PC. It was my first try at modifying a game. Since then, every game that had a SDK or modding tools was an opportunity for me to discover how engines and video games technologies worked. After working by myself for a while, I joined modding projects like Stargate Special Unit and Unreal Fantasy, and eventually, I started my own project with a few guys from the Nofrag.com community, called Requiem Avenging Angel.
In 2008, I met the guys from Streum On Studio. I contacted Pierrick [Le Nestour, Co-owner and Vice-CEO of Streum On Studion] to offer my help, but only to write a cue for a trailer. Instead, they asked me to join the project as the composer... and here I am.
Michael: Have you been playing in bands?
Olivier Zuccaro: I have! I played in a private school orchestra as a saxophonist. I also played as a bassist in both a metal band and recently a death metal band called Breeding Abhorrence, which split up in 2006, if memory serves me right. Since then, I've been improving my composition skills at home.
Michael: What games have you worked on besides E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy?
Olivier Zuccaro: My biggest modding projects have been Stargate Special Unit and Requiem Avenging Angel. I also composed the soundtrack for Diaspora, an independent game set in the Battlestar Galactica universe.
Michael: When and why did you decide to write music? What groups / composers have influenced you the most?
Olivier Zuccaro: My father being a musician, I kinda started playing drums, bass guitars and electric guitars at the age of 3. I've always enjoyed writing music... I worked with the ancestors of mod trackers on Atari 520, wrote some midi songs on Cubase LE and worked a lot on my first band's songs with my brother.
My musical tastes are pretty broad: Pink Floyd, Marillion, Dream Theater, Fear Factory, At the Gates, Pat Metheny, Hans Zimmer, Kenji Kawai, Vangelis, Danny Elfman, Bear McCreary... and a lot more. I can't really say that one artist influenced me more than another... At times I prefer to listen to soundtracks or progressive rock or even extreme music and it indeed affects my music.
Michael: Have you had a formal music education? What instruments are you able to play and which ones do you have in your collection right now?
Olivier Zuccaro: I learned music theory for five or six years in a music school when I was younger, playing saxophone and learning rhythm tapping on a wooden table for hours. So you could say that I can play saxophone, but it was a long time ago. I can play bass, guitar and a bit of piano... Bass guitar is what I do best, but honestly, I'm not much of a great performer.
Michael: What hard- and software are you using in your studio ?
Olivier Zuccaro: Well, this is not really a studio right now... I'm still working at home and I hope to upgrade my workspace someday. Anyway, I'm working on a PC with Cubase 5 and a lot of VST instruments (EWQL Banks, Omnisphere...), Edirol FA-66, Yamaha HS50m and Mackie Control Universal.
Michael: Were there any art or design documents available when you began working on the game, or did you work with a game demo?
Olivier Zuccaro: Pierrick, who was in charge of the musical direction, gave me two videos and asked me to write two songs to this material. We worked together for two months, and after that, I finally got the internal go ahead to work on the next cues for the game. I never worked with design documents on E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy, Pierrick always wanted me to get into the ambiance of the levels directly. It was pretty hard since I didn't know how the music would fit into the game... but overall, I think it turned out pretty well.
Michael: How much time did you spend working on E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy's soundtrack? What difficulties did you face during the work? Are there any tracks that didn't make it into the game?
Olivier Zuccaro: I joined the E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy project in December 2008. The creative direction evolved a lot and I worked on the soundtrack all along with the level designers. Certain songs in the game are really different from what they sounded like originally, for example the rejected version of "qnB" I gave you.
Michael: You use an interesting naming pattern on E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy: qnA, qnB, qnC, etc. What's the meaning behind this?
Olivier Zuccaro: Haha… it's actually a "clin d'oeil" (a nod, as we say in French) to pigFreezer, a friend from Nancy. He was using some strange name patterns for his songs a few years ago, and since I didn't really know where and when the songs would end up being used in the game, I didn't want to find a name for each of them, so I used pigFreezer's technique to name my songs :) It means "Cue Number X" and I didn't want to use numbers, so I used letters instead. "reJ" is for rejected songs, and "extended" is for an extended version of a song I liked and that I wanted to give a different feeling to or write a longer version of.
Michael: Your name comes up in one of the game's trailers. Does that mean that your work on E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy wasn't limited to just writing the the score? Did you work on any other aspects of the game?
Olivier Zuccaro: Yes, I also worked on the sound fx, on some of the trailers and I made the secondary websites (angel corp and metanarcho). I also worked on some UI prototypes that didn’t make it into the game.
Michael: What is the very first thing that you do when writing a cue?
Olivier Zuccaro: Singing in my shower or in my car! I always have something in mind, whistling or singing... I record it on my phone and then I try to work on it when I come back home. I wish I could just sit and compose... but sometimes, it's just really hard to put some notes together. Also, sometimes I can be more inspired when I'm away from the computer or my instruments, which can be pretty frustrating.
Michael: Where did you get your inspiration from when working on E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy?
Olivier Zuccaro: It''s not really difficult to create something when you have an inspiring universe in front of you. Pierrick gave me guidelines and lots of reference points he had for the game, like Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner, to name a few. After listening to a bunch of stuff he gave me and trying to find similar artists, I began to find my own style and started digging for specific sound textures that truly portray the universe of E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy.
Michael: Can you recall for our readers some of the most interesting moments of working on the game?
Olivier Zuccaro: Two moments actually. My first song, "qnA", was a one shot... It was already in the game when I got the first internal release. The other moment was when I met Kirumi, a level designer from Nancy. I worked with him for about 6 months on the music for a particular level, without knowing he was living five minutes away. The first time we met, we visited an abandoned factory near my place to take some pictures for the game and when we got back, we worked on the cue ("qnT"), which is not in the final game - but it made for a really interesting and inspiring afternoon.
Michael: On to some general questions. What recent music albums have you enjoyed?
Olivier Zuccaro: Mechanize (Fear Factory), Inception, Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, Human Target Season 1, 8 (Uneven Structure), Shatter and Söldner-X 2. I don't think all of them are "recent", but I haven't been able to stop listening to these albums for the last few months.
Michael: What video games have you played recently, and what are some of your all-time favourites?
Olivier Zuccaro: Mortal Kombat 9, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Sacred 2, Crysis 2, Divinity 2, Terraria, Brink, Magicka, Jamestown, The Void, Shatter, Amnesia, Revenge of the Titans, Atom Zombie Smasher... Marvel vs Capcom 3 is just awesome. Magicka, Jamestown, The Void, Amnesia, Revenge of the Titans and Atom Zombie Smasher are indies gems... Oh, and Terraria. I'm actually on rehab... I just couldn't stop playing.
Michael: Are there any artists that you would like to collaborate with?
Olivier Zuccaro: Definitely Bear McCreary. I discovered him on Battlestar Galactica and it was mind blowing. He has such a peculiar way of writing his soundtracks... I think his work is the most innovative I have listened to in the last few years.
Michael: What are your plans for the future?
Olivier Zuccaro: I can't really talk about that right now... but yeah, I do have some plans and you'll be among the first to know when there’s something to reveal.
Michael: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We look forward to hearing more of your music in the future!
Olivier Zuccaro: Thank you guys to give me the opportunity to talk about my work :)