Andreas Waldetoft Interview: Scoring Majesty 2 (May 2009)
Interview Subject: Andreas Waldetoft
Interviewer: Michael Naumenko
Editor: Michael Naumenko, Simon Elchlepp
Coordination: Michael Naumenko
Michael: Greetings, Andreas. Please tell us about yourself - how and when did you start working in the game industry?
Andreas Waldetoft: Hi there! I'm a Swedish composer who loves games and especially doing music for them. I got into the game industry while I was in my last university year and got in touch with a producer for a game developer who liked my music. I had done some film and TV work before this, but scoring a game was something I really wanted to do. I guess I was lucky, since getting your foot in the door can be pretty hard in the game business. I was hired to do the soundtrack for Hearts of Iron 2, which was a World War II strategy game. Not the easiest first job, but very educational as I had to compose and record the music in a very short amount of time.
Michael: Have you had a classical music education?
Andreas Waldetoft: I have, I took theory classes when I was a kid and I studied music and composition from high school through to university.
MIchael: How did you land the composing gig on Majesty 2? Did you play the original Majesty and if so, what did you think of Kevin Manthei's soundtrack?
Andreas Waldetoft: The same producer who got me my first game scoring job gave my name to Ino-Co, the developers of Majesty 2. Later they asked me to send in a demo with music I've done. I guess they liked it, as I got the job. Yes, I've played the original Majesty and enjoyed it very much, so I was really excited to work on Majesty 2. I really like what Kevin did with the first one, his themes were catchy and fit the game very well. I hope people will like my take on the music as well.
Michael: Is your soundtrack using any musical material from Majesty?
Andreas Waldetoft: Well, there are some hints of Majesty's score in there, but I am using my own themes.
Michael: Judging by the demo tracks on Majesty 2's official website, the soundtrack will be fully orchestral. What hard- and software did you use to create the music? Did you record any live instruments?
Andreas Waldetoft: Yes, the music is mostly symphonic, but not only in a big orchestral way. Smaller ensembles were used as well. The most important software I use is Steinberg Cubase Sequencer and Vienna Symphonic Library, which is an incredible sample library recorded with extreme detail. I also use some libraries from the East West/Quantum Leap sample libraries. I have one sequencer computer and a couple of sample server computers which are all connected via a network. These days, I am trying to get rid of as much hardware as I can. Software plugins are getting so good that you don't need big racks of hardware anymore. This also saves a lot of time.
To create a more realistic sound, I sometimes record live solo players layered with samples - this makes the samples sound much more dynamic. I did this trick on the Majesty 2 soundtrack and I also recorded a great soprano singer, Nathalie Hernborg, for some of the tracks. I also play the guitar and some of the percussion.
Micheal: Where did you get your inspiration from while you were writing Majesty 2? Can you maybe name some classic composers that have influenced you the most?
Andreas Waldetoft: The developers sent me art work, screenshots and early game builds and this was really helpful for 'getting' the feeling of the game. Written word from the music directors was also very important - they had quite a firm idea of what music they wanted. Some of my biggest influences are Richard Wagner, Sergei Prokofiev, John Williams, Igor Stravinsky, Jerry Goldsmith. The list goes on and on.
Michael: How much time were you given to complete the soundtrack, and how many minutes of music did you write?
Andreas Waldetoft: I've been involved with the project for quite a few months - first I was contracted to do a trailer, a few months after that I did the main part of the music which took a few months. Recently, I also wrote additional music when it was needed. I'm not sure how much music is in the game now - I was asked for about 40 minutes, but there's much more now in Majesty 2. :)
Michael: Your soundtrack for Europa Universalis III was released as part of the game's Collector's Edition. Are there any plans to release Majesty 2's music on a separate CD?
Andreas Waldetoft: I actually don't know at this point - I hope so. I always get e-mails about releasing soundtrack CDs, but it's up to the publishers at this point, as I am not involved in these business decisions, unfortunately.
Michael: Can you maybe recall for us some funny moments while you were working on Majesty 2?
Andreas Waldetoft: The funniest stuff happened while testing some of the really early alpha builds and funny stuff happened on screen, like buildings getting wrecked and bits flying all over the screen. I don't think the physics engine was working as intended at that point.
Michael: What sets Majesty 2 apart from other orchestral game scores?
Andreas Waldetoft: The music is written for Majesty 2, that will give it a bit of a twist, whether I like it or not, as it is a truly unique game. There are lots of different moods in the music, from fast to slow, comedic, dramatic, epic and much more, but I try to maintain a fantasy kingdom-feeling all the way through.
Michael: If it's not a secret, tell us about your current projects?
Andreas Waldetoft: At the moment, I'm working on Hearts of Iron 3, so I'm doing war music all day long.
Michael: What do you think the future of game music will look like?
Andreas Waldetoft: I think we will see a lot happening in terms of the direction of game music - not only in regards to the music itself, but also how you score a game and the actual implementation of the music. The first problem game music had was that the playback took too much computer power. Nowadays that's not a problem anymore, so I think the next big step is to make the music as interactive as the game itself.
MIchael: What advice can you give to aspiring composers? Share the wisdom!
Andreas Waldetoft: Well, I'm not a wise man, but if you're serious about composing, listen to the true master composers and study how they did it. I know it sounds boring, but buy books or go to some theory classes to at least get the basics of music theory and orchestration/instrumentation. Get some music production software and start recording on it - it's so easy and cheap to put together a decent studio nowadays. You just need a computer and a decent audio interface and you're good to go. Regarding recording with samples, you really need to work out the kinks in the beginning to get the samples to sound dynamic and good in general. Try to use samples that have crossfaded samples so you can control the dynamics with a modwheel. And don't overquantize, you don't want the music to sound like a robot is playing it. Experiment with tempo settings so that it's not the same bpm all the way through. You can have the most expensive set of samples, but if you don't know how to work with them, more often than not it will end up sounding very stiff and lifeless.
After that... the sky or your imagination is the limit, which is very satisfying to know. Usually, you also need to be something of a jack of all trades, doing everything from recording engineer, mixer, composer, orchestrator and everything in between.
Michael: To close the interview, let's move on to some general questions. Do you like to play computer/console games? If so, what games are you playing right now?
Andreas Waldetoft: Oh yes, I'm a gamer for sure. I'm part of the generation that grew up with the Commodore 64 and 8-bit consoles, and I've been into gaming since my early childhood. At the moment I'm trying to get through Resident Evil 5, Killzone 2, NHL 09 and I have an EVE Online account that I check out sometimes. I don't have too much time to play, so I seem to not have the time to finish any of these games, unfortunately.
Michael: What groups and composers are you listening to at the moment? Are any game music artists among them?
Andreas Waldetoft: I really like Bill Brown (Lineage 2, Rainbow Six/Ghost Recon and nowadays CSI New York) and have had him high up on my playlist for a while now.
Michael: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Andreas Waldetoft: I like to play games and watch movies. Sitting in front of the piano or computer isn't so good for your back, so I try to workout as well.
Michael: And finally, some words to our readers!
Andreas Waldetoft: Thanks for a good time and the great questions. Game music is starting to get the attention it deserves and it's thanks to you game fans who care about the music. Cheers everyone.
- Info about Andreas Waldetoft