Klaus Badelt and Ian Honeyman Interview: San Francisco Cool Meets the Nuclear Apocalypse (March 2011)
Klaus Badelt is best know known for his soundtrack for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. However, he has worked on a total of about 60 soundtracks, including Equilibrium, Constantine, Ultraviolet and Time Machine. Ian Honeyman has collaborated with Badelt on many occasions and written additional music for his projects. Furthermore, he has worked solo on feature films such as Redline, Operation Endgame and Disney's Lilly the Witch: The Dragon and the Magic Book. Badelt and Honeyman's most recent collaboration has been MotorStorm: Apocalypse.
Interview Subject: Klaus Badelt, Ian Honeyman
Interviewer: Michael Naumenko
Editor: Michael Naumenko, Simon Elchlepp
Coordination: Michael Naumenko
Michael: Greetings Klaus and Ian. Increasingly, there's been a trend of Hollywood composers writing for video games. First it was Harry Gregson-Williams with the Metal Gear Solid series, then Hans Zimmer with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Paul Haslinger with Need for Speed: Undercover, and now the two of you. Tell us how you got involved with MotorStorm Apocalypse.
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: The MotorStorm: Apocalypse producers were really interested in blending several different styles of music for this score, particularly serious electronic production with a huge orchestral sound. This is what we do all the time (although this score went in some interesting new directions), and they had heard several of our scores that blended these genres, so they approached us to do the music.
Michael: MotorStorm Apocalypse features an inspiring scenario: wrecked cities, falling skyscrapers, marauders with machine guns and aggressive army helicopters in the sky. How did you translate this into music?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: The idea is that the game does not take place after a nuclear apocalypse, it takes place during a nuclear apocalypse. It also takes place in San Francisco, and the producers wanted a really fun, funky, bluesy edge to it. So it is "San Fran Cool" meets "Nuclear Annihilation" - a combination we've never done before! So there are hardcore electronics and beats, walls of guitars and percussion, and a massive orchestra which twists into funk and blues riffs and back again! End of the world musical mayhem!
Michael: Split/Second, another futuristic racing game, had a similar setting and featured a mix of symphonic and electronic music. What references were you given for MotorStorm Apocalypse?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: Let's see, the references were actually things like Bullitt and Dirty Harry... "San Francisco Cool" music, but they didn't have much to do with a nuclear apocalypse! That was part of the fun, there weren't really any references that matched these ideas the way we wanted to do it, so we had to make it up for ourselves.
Michael: A number of DJs and remixers have also contributed music for MotorStorm Apocalypse. Previous MotorStorm titles never featured original music, so in what parts of the game will your compositions play?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: Actually we haven't seen the finished product - the idea was that the DJs would take the music we wrote and remix it... chop it all up, filter it, take all the material and make it their own. The music in the game will be a combination of our tracks and theirs, but I don't know exactly which piece of music will go where.
Michael: What was your collaboration with MotorStorm Apocalypse's audio director like? What materials did you receive while working on the soundtrack?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: They sent over a Playstation 3 with a working copy of the game. Not the whole game, but a few of the levels so we would know what the game's world was like. They also sent a lot of artworks and some movie trailer-like video clips, all to demonstrate what their vision was. We also worked really closely with the producers on the smallest details of the music... Since every element of the score will get cut up and remixed, it was important that everyone was really happy with it, down to the smallest details. We sent demos back and forth, trying out different sounds, and really polishing it.
Michael: MotorStorm Apocalypse looks like it's going to be a very loud game. Do you think that the music for this type of racing game must be very aggressive and easily audible for the player, or play more of a supporting role?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: When you have a loud action scene in a film, you usually have loud music and loud sound effects. Even if the music is played quietly under the sound effects, it still needs to be powerful, to fill in and take over whenever there are any gaps. I think a game is similar... The music should be really powerful so that even when there is a very loud car engine, crashes, something exploding or whatever else, the music is still under there somewhere, providing a lot of support.
Michael: What's the first instrument you think of when you hear the word 'engine'?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: Tough question… I'd say electric guitar!
Michael: Could you tell us a bit about where the soundtrack was recorded and how big the orchestra was?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: We recorded it at Abbey Road Studios in London. We had a huge orchestra, the biggest we could fit, with separate sessions for strings and brass.
Michael: Who were the orchestrator and conductor that you worked with?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: The orchestrator was Bob Elhai and the conductor Andy Brown. We've worked with both of them on many, many projects... They are both top professionals and a fantastic addition to the team.
Michael: Composers often change the size and composition of the orchestra, depeding on the requirements of their projects - Jason Graves used an expanded low brass and woodwind section for Dead Space 2, while God of War III features an immense brass section. Did you do anything similar on MotorStorm Apocalpyse?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: We got the biggest orchestra we could fit in the room! We did make sure to have a nice big brass section, with extra french horns and trombones, because this was such an aggressive, brassy score. We also brought in an electric cello player, Caroline Dale, to play some of the more "evil" solo parts. We put the electric cello through some distortion pedals and a guitar amp… A really cool sound.
Michael: Michael Giacchino used plane parts for the percussion on Lost's main theme. Did you try anything simliar with car parts?
Klaus Badelt / Ian Honeyman: No car parts, but we did record a lot of various metal objects being hit, as well as stacks of guitars through various effects, tons of percussion and distorted synths.
Michael: In general, how do you go about developing a new composition from scratch? What is your usual method of working?
Klaus Badelt: I like to start playing around with sounds, find a few that inspire me, and then find some kind of musical hook or just one first idea, and use that idea to lead to other ideas, and just build and build. When it goes well, everything builds organically.
Michael: Some composers say that games give them more freedom and allow them to experiment more, compared to writing for films. What is your opinion on this?
Klaus Badelt: I don't know… I always like to experiment with every project, but I can say I've had a great time on this one and wrote some music I can't imagine having written for anything else!
Michael: Thank you for your time and we hope to hear more of your music soon!