Mona Mur Interview: Blurring music and sound design for Kane & Lynch 2 (September 2010)
For Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, Danish game studio IO Interactive decided to get rid of music and leave players with multilayered sound ambience. German avant-garde singer and composer Mona Mur was responsible for the game's depressive-destructive soundscapes. In this interview, Mur talks about her inspirations for the game's unusual and grim sound design.
Interview Subject: Mona Mur
Interviewer: Michael Naumenko
Editor: Michael Naumenko, Simon Elchlepp
Coordination: Michael Naumenko
Michael: How did you land the composing job on Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days? Did IO Interactive approach you with an already completed concept for the game's soundtrack or did you participate in designing the direction in which the music would go?
Mona Mur: IO had the conception perfectly ready. The instructions they gave me were absolutely clear, and I was hired because of my experience and expertise in the realm of ambient soundscapes.
Michael: What references did IO Interactive give you and what was your approach to this soundtrack?
Mona Mur: I was introduced to a dark, gritty Shanghai that looked like the megalopolis in Blade Runner. This classic, dark science fiction epic was indeed at the top of the designers' list. For the suspense layers, I was asked to think "eerie", for the action layers, I should go for "suspense". Attributes like "bleak" and "un-staged" were topped by the instruction that the gamer should perceive the whole thing as a "game without music", but with a very strong sense of environment.
I think we were successful.
Michael: Where did you get your inspiration from while working on this soundtrack - any particular books, music, movies or maybe other games?
Mona Mur: There are no other games which use soundscapes in the way Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days does, and I wonder why, as there is no method more immersive than this. Manhunt might be the only game that comes to mind.
It was not difficult to get inspired by Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days's highly intoxicating, phantastic setting, which I got to enjoy during my work through gameplay videos. Generally, I've been doing research and experiments in this realm during my whole professional life as a musician. I am inspired by travel, by films like Eraserhead, David Lynch's first movie, and of course Blade Runner, which provides a soundtrack consisting of multiple noise layers, atmosphere and music that I would still call "state of the art". I can't recall how many times I have enjoyed this marvel.
My vocals will be in there but in a totally different way... you will find out in the game!
Michael: Is it correct that those compositions for which En Esch [Mur's collaborator on 2009's 120 Tage] wrote guitar parts were used in the game's action-packed scenes?
Mona Mur: No, he didn't play any guitar parts in the conventional sense and certainly not for "action-packed" scenes. Although we did use electric guitars and bass guitars, among other tools, for certain parts of the sound layers, I am sure you won't recognize any of these instruments. You have to leave behind about all your ideas about "normal" ingame music.
Michael: Did you do any field recordings? If so, could you recall for us any unusual locations where you recorded? Did you only write city ambience themes?
Mona Mur: There is nothing but the city - the Moloch - and the panic and hysteria that the two "most revolting characters ever to disgrace a game console" generate.
Yes, I do field recordings, for instance when I travel, and I'm constantly drawing from these sources. For Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, I used a lot of the recordings that the IO team had done in Shanghai, in the streets, markets, on the rooftops and in the basements of the city.
Michael: How will the music/soundscapes in the game react to the gamer's actions? Will it be location- or event-based?
Mona Mur: It is both location- and action-based.
Michael: How much music did you write for the game and how long did this take you? Did the game's unusual approach to its graphics and audio pose any difficulties or impose any limitations?
Mona Mur: I wrote about 100 minutes of ambient tracks plus numerous shorter "moments" and "extras". The whole process took about five months. Difficulties, limitations – on the contrary, I was totally in my element.
Michael: IO Interactive has said that they don't plan to release Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days's soundtrack separately from the game. Have you discussed with IO Interactive the possibility of releasing the music through a third-party label?
Mona Mur: Yes, actually we're discussing this right now. We have an offer from a very respectable label, and I hope I will get the opportunity to mix the unique and actually in parts very musical tracks from each level into ten different four minute pieces of abysmal beauty.
Michael: You wrote a Russian version of "120 Tage" for the game Culpa Innata 2: Chaos Rising. The song and particularly its music video are quite unusual. How did the decision to sing the track in Russian come about?
Mona Mur: MOMENTUM DMT, the Turkish developers of Culpa Innata, came up with the idea. They were seeking a song for a special location in the game, a rogue bar in a future Odessa. A huge part of the sequel takes place in a devastated Russia, since Russian adventure gamers loved the first Culpa Innata. Eventually, MOMENTUM DMT asked me to do the soundtrack for Culpa Innata 2: Chaos Rising, and they had fallen in love with our song "120 Tage". I think it works so well in Russian! What a beautiful and deep language. I also have some affinity to the Russian language due to my family roots - my mother speaks some Russian and she sang Russian songs the whole day. At the moment, the game seems to be on hold unfortunately, and there is only the demo with our scene in the bar in 3D. We really hope MOMENTUM DMT will carry on.
Michael: You've recently been to Russia on a concert tour, is that correct?
Mona Mur: We, Mona Mur & En Esch, had the pleasure of playing in St. Petersburg and Moscow at the end of January this year. We met some really sweet and enthusiastic people during our stay, for instance at the Zoccolo Club in St. Petersburg. It was an impressive experience, and we hope to come back in summer or fall when it is a little warmer.
Michael: Thank you for your time!