Interview with Piotr Koczewski - Wasteland Theme composer
Interview with Piotr Koczewski - Wasteland Theme composer
Game-OST was able to contact and talk to Piotr Koczewski, who are famous for his Fallout tribute project Wasteland Theme and some of online post-apocalyptic games, one of which is Fallout Online 2238, by the way. Below you can find intervew full of interesting musical facts about Piotr's childhood, his tastes, projects and methods of work. Enjoy!
Priviet! In 2005 I sent my “old” demo to a project of the Burgeoise RPG (now the Afterfall). I did not get in, but I learnt a lot of things during that enterprise, which was for my own good. Frankly speaking, if it had not been for that defeat, I would not have learnt to create the music the way I do it now. Later on I took part in a few amateur projects, which were published after some time (e.g. the Implosion). Nevertheless, the milestone of my career was the Spellarena project, which paved by way to further ones. It was when I could start calling myself a “game developer”.
When and why did you decide to write music? What groups / composers influenced you most? Maybe you can remember some of your childhood moments related to music in any way?
I began to create music more or less in the years 2005 – 2006. That activity soon became my job, because many people started to encourage me to do more (this is where the Wasteland Theme album originated from). I have always said that creating music is my genuine passion. I have never attended a musical school, I have only listened to music.
Currently I am most inspired by Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Tom Salta and Harry Gregson-Williams. When I was a child, I liked the Crimson Tide and The Rock film music, not mentioning what I felt when I heard the music from the Fallout 2 game on one summer day in 1999.
What's the very first thing you do while you are creating your music? Could you estimate an average time you spend for creating a single composition?
At the beginning I read the plot of the game, look at the draft sketches, artworks and screens. I create the melody in my head and improvise at the keyboard, writing even 3-5 different themes per day. I still remember the 90s, when a lot more time was spent on mixing in order to achieve the desired effect, and the records from that times are still worth listening to now.
I try to create outstanding pieces, hence on average it takes me 3 days before I find a piece complete. I do it this way, because I want my music to be considered good in 10 years as well.
What hard ‘n’ soft are you using in your studio?
In my home studio I use, first of all, EWQLSO and Project SAM Symphobia (I really recommend it, because it is worth every penny spent on it).
Other components include the Maya44 sound card, Technics SA-AX720 amplifier, Altus Tonsil 300 stage monitors , MDR XD-300 headphones and the MIDI keyboard M-Audio 61 ES.
As far as the computer is concerned, I use the Windows XP 64-bit system with the 64-bit Cubase 5 and the Intel 2.5 GHz dual core processor with 4 GB RAM. I admit I am planning to change the equipment for a better one.
Intro Flight the Angel of Doom
What was the most difficult project for you up to date? For what game did you write the biggest amount of music?
The Storm over the Pacific project – almost an hour of World War 2 music.
How much time did you spend on Wasteland Theme 1 & 2?
WT 1 – Two years (I spent one year making the music and one year on waiting and seeking the label).
WT 2 – I spent 6 months working on it, alongside the Storm over the Pacific project and other orders. Just for sheer curiosity – I spent two months of that time working on Modern Warfare piece.
Can you tell us why you have changed dark ambient of Wasteland Theme on rhythmic and destructive electronic of Wasteland Theme 2?
Why have I changed my style? Well, I wanted to do something new and acquire new skills. I still cannot believe I created my own music style with the Universum Call of Duty Modern Warfare. In these days the AAA composers make dynamic trailer music and if you don`t want to be left behind, you have to remain updated as far as the game “standards” were concerned.
It looks like people were not interested in Wasteland Theme. Don’t you think that commercial release of album was a mistake? How do you look on services like Bandcamp, where you can upload album, set its price, choose format (including lossless), make music absolutely free to download or set random price (like it was made by Radiohead and NiN)?
I both agree and disagree, because the Wasteland Theme was available for free on Soundclick. Another thing is that the Wasteland Theme was an ambient and dark electronic album. Not many people listen to this kind of music. I think that the album was played approximately 15 thousand times at various websites. That album was actually a promotional one (music from it was used in a few games). Not many people buy an album, if they had a chance to listen to it for free. Now the Wasteland Theme 2 is available at iTunes and Amazon, as well as other online stores. I had intended to keep creating it until it was ready and worth its price. Some customers pre-ordered the Wasteland Theme 2 at the CD Baby, which made me really happy. As far as the Bandcamp service is concerned, I would like to share a little secret with you. Making an album available for listening to it for free is beneficial only for the bands, which play concerts. Due to this marketing trick, we have a lot of CDs uploaded at, e.g., the MySpace portal, where you may listen to them before their opening night. The .wav format can be substituted with the .mp3 format with the bit rate of 320 kbps.
We heard Polish (and Czech too) gamedev has much in common with Russian and Ukranine game industry (well, our country just bigger and, therefore, we have more studios): there are not much good games, AAA-projects are very rare. So, this kind of things touching sound and music in videogames too. Are we got right that you have only few pro sound-guys in your country?
It sometimes seems to me that some people in this industry do it only for money, not creating anything ambitious or breath-taking (an exception is the work of Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe over the Modern Warfare 2). Well, to some extent this is the right approach. I know a few really talented musicians, who would compose outstanding music, was it not for the “occupied place” in the studio by other professionals. This is the reason why there are such few of us.
If you have opportunity to rise the bar of quality for developed games and created music, in which ways do you do this? Do you have game and sound conferences in your country? We have, but it’s just place when one guys promote another. There it too small amount of experience exchanging…
I know the Instytut Rozbitek (Cast-away Institute) by Jan A.P Kaczmarek, but this is the film music. As far as the game development is concerned, we have a new series of gatherings called Zlot Tworców Gier Komputerowych (Computer Games Developers Gathering). The annual event takes place in the centre of Poland and are called the Computer Games Engineering. The other venue is the Silesia voivodeship during the Game Day event. I recommend distributing your own albums during such enterprises, rather than your business cards. The best way to improve your skills is, in my opinion, the exchange of knowledge, and also supporting your friends from the demo scene times.
«It sometimes seems to me that some people in this industry do it only for money, not creating anything ambitious or breath-taking»Do you have sound-specialized web-sites? Not only http://www.gamemusic.pl (hi, guys!) but those, who targeted professional developers, sound directors and composers?
The only websites I know are VGMDB.net and mobygames.com.
Did you start to think about the concept of the new solo album? What name will it have? Wasteland Theme 3? :)
I have some idea how I am going to end the Wasteland Theme Trilogy. I am planning to make my own Trailer Music Soundtrack, just like the Audiomachine, X ray Dog, Epic Score, Immediate Music and Two Steps from Hell.
What recent music albums did you like?
Red Alert 3, Modern Warfare 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of Patriots Soundtrack.
What recent videogames did you like from point of composer and sound-designer? Are there any Polish releases?
I like Arkadiusz Reikowski’s Sadness Soundtrack (available as free download). Regarding the sound design, I learn a lot playing the Hawx and the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Many polish video games musicians expect to work solely on the games. They forget about refining their skills by recording their own albums. I did the same thing as Tom Salta at his solo album Atlas Plug. He said that there are no creative limitations when one is making his own music, therefore the sky is the limit. In my opinion the video games music should be timeless, and not just another temporary creation, like the film music. I would like to add that the games beat the film industry and the blue ray disc sales altogether.
What musical guys (musicians, composer or maybe vocal guys) do you want to work together with?
When I was creating music for the Trailer Afterfall Insanity, I was planning to hire a vocalist. Nevertheless, I did not have any time to do that, because I was supposed to work on the gameplay music (someone else was in charge of the music for the game itself). Maybe one day I will record music with the orchestra controlling the recording process remotely.
That is right. I am busy working on the Krai Mira, because I also work in this project as the Marketing and Public Relations Manager. I also give my advice to the Postworld team. These guys are just great! What surprised me most was that they wanted my music for any price. I created a few ambient pieces for them, including the main theme, and you can expect the gameplay music released in its beta version. As far as this soundtrack is concerned, it will be different from any other, because this is the post-apocalyptic world reigned by its own rules. Speaking about the Krai Mira, I could include my own ideas there, e.g. each character in this game will have a separate motive ascribed to it, so called Leitmotif. Sincerely, I would be able to wrote music to each game having a good plot, excluding the casual games (these are good fun for only 5 minutes).
We heard your main theme for a Postworld, it sounds unusal and fresh with it mix of western and industrial. Can you tell us more about project? What other projects are you working on at that moment? What genres or style would you like to work in?
The project started out as a mod for Crysis and our intention was to recreate the original Fallout 1 experience using the CE2 engine, and the mod's name was going to be Fallout: Rebirth.
As time went by, we started drifting from our original goal, because we felt that there were so many new and interesting ideas that would dramatically alter the player's experience.
There was also a bit of tension in the team, some people thought that making use of the classic was wrong, the others thought it would be an easier solution, compared to coming up with something new. The fact that Bethesda wasn't too fond of our idea did not help... well, we do not blame them. In the end we just trashed all our original plans, switched to the Unity3D and set ourselves a new target. That was how the Postworld came about.
For about a year we were getting to know the Unity and earlier that year we decided it was the engine for us... Then we pre-purchased the Pro license for the Unity 3, which is due for release later this year. We are planning to release our first tech demo later this year. It will showcase some of the usual RPG features, such as dialogs, player character control, NPC interaction etc. It will also feature a few level maps from one of the locations we want to include in the final game.
It is possible that the Postworld will be compatible with the iPhone, iPod and other mobile platforms. I do not want to spoil anything by elaborating on any further projects, and apart from that I am bound by the NDA contract concerning the future enterprises. In my free time I write articles for the shockwave sound.com and the 1 soundfx.com. I would really like to create music for the FPS and RPG games, having the post-apocalyptic atmosphere and similar to the Modern Warfare/Battlefield 2 Bad Company.
Don’t you plan to open your own label? Does the situation with soundtrack release difficult in Polish gamedev too? Our publishers keep rights on music for themselves and never gave them to music labels. Also, they don’t publish it or upload for free listening. They just don’t get idea that game music has its own value. Though, nobody gets it except Japan :)
I am going to open the Piotr Koczewski Records soon. As a composer I have no problem with releasing the music from the games whose creation I contributed to.
Have you ever composed anything being a little "out of this world", simply saying drunk or drug affected? : C'mon, we want to compromise you a little bit… :)
All right. When I was in Wroclaw with my good friend Piotr Szwach, we were working on the music till 5 a.m., drunk and tired. In the meantime we were discussing various topics and exchanging knowledge, sharing secretes from the video games world.
Can you predict the future? If so, what can you say about game music industry? Will there be place for lone freelancers or large musical studios will play the leading role?
There will be more independent games creators, working remotely in studios and doing fantastic job, comparable to the work done in the studios creating the AAA games. Recently the number of recording studios has increased. They hire the orchestra musicians to work remotely, therefore even the freelancers may hire the entire orchestra for the purpose of recording a soundtrack, like Jesper Kid (of course if the budget allows that).
Is there anything you could advise to rookie composers and amateurs?
It does not matter, what your level is. Listen to music every day. After some time you will learn to program virtual instruments on your own. Personally, even if I had to quit working on music for video games, I would still treat the very creation of music as a hobby.
You're now having a unique opportunity to say "hello" to all russian people and Russia in the whole! Yep… Vodka, bears with balalaikas and stunningly beautiful women among them :)
I greet all my Russian fans! I am very glad to hear that my music is popular in Russia. By the way – I wrote two special pieces including elements characteristic for the Russian culture - “The Red Army” and the “Kremlin” for the Storm over The Pacific game, released by the Matrix Games. I also composed the “Spetsnaz” piece to my album (part of which was played on the balalaika) Wasteland Theme 2.