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Winifred Phillips & The Spore Hero Soundtrack Interview

November 23, 2009

Writing music for video games seem to be second nature for you. How did you get into this field?

I got into the videogame field by being offered two projects simultaneously – the music supervisor for Sony Computer Entertainment America brought me in to write music for God of War, and at the same time I was hired to score the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory game, which was a tie-in to the movie directed by Tim Burton.  Before those two games, my background had been mostly in music composition for a music/drama series on National Public Radio and XM Satellite Radio, called Radio Tales. The Radio Tales series presented classics of science fiction, fantasy and horror each week; I wrote a wall-to-wall musical score for every half-hour program, and there were over one hundred programs in the series. I worked on the series with my long-time music producer Winnie Waldron, who now works with me producing my music for the videogame industry. After God of War and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I was offered another big project – The Da Vinci Code videogame tie-in to the Ron Howard/Tom Hanks film – and my schedule of videogame scoring work hasn’t let up since.  I’ve been privileged to create music for a lot of exciting projects, and that definitely fuels my enthusiasm for my work.

What inspires your music compositions?

It helps when the source material is inspiring.  For instance, working on the Shrek the Third videogame was a lot of fun, mostly because of all the creative stimulation that comes from working with characters like Shrek and all his fairy-tale pals.  In the same vein, I had a great time creating music for the Speed Racer videogame tie-in to the Wachowski brothers film, because of that terrific ‘James Bond’ flavor that was written into the original manga.  I’ve also worked on projects that were based on ideas created by the game developers themselves, like SimAnimals and Spore Hero. For those sorts of projects, my music producer Winnie Waldron and I rely on the developers to involve us in their creative process and show us as much as possible, from concept art and design documents to finished gameplay.  That way, as a composer I can be inspired not only by the game that the developers are creating, but also by the enthusiasm they have for their work, and as a producer Winnie can guide the creation of the music in a way that best serves the developer’s vision for their game.

How do you feel when you see the finished product–your music with the animation of the video games?

I’m always very excited to play the completed game.  In many cases, the finished product takes a different direction than the one I’d been shown during development, and I’m always surprised and intrigued by how my music complements these sorts of changes.  I also enjoy watching other people playing a game I’ve worked on.  It’s great watching someone who is really enjoying a game that I scored.

What has been your most difficult project to date?

I can’t really think of any project that I could call ‘most difficult’.  No project is ever easy.  Some projects posed unique challenges, though.  Both God of War and The Da Vinci Code called for choral writing in archaic languages, so I worked with ancient Greek for God of War and Latin for The Da Vinci Code. For the Speed Racer project I wrote some aggressive Electronica with strong funk influences, and that was something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do in my previous projects.  Working in new creative territory is always a little daunting, but I tend to welcome the chances to learn something new.  For instance, a recent project for Xbox Live Arcade, The Maw, called for my music producer Winnie Waldron and myself to step in and design the music interactivity for the score I had composed.  We closely guided the interactive design and music implementation, which was an invaluable experience.

What advice would you give anyone looking to get into the gaming industry?

I’ve been asked this question quite a few times: it’s a difficult one to answer.  I can’t offer advice for other subfields within the interactive entertainment field, but I can speak in a very limited way regarding my own.  All composers have their own unique gifts, and those divergent talents will take them down radically different career paths.  Advice I might give someone with a symphonic mind-set would be completely inappropriate for a DJ-style9 composer, and vice versa.  All I can say at this point is that the technical and artistic standards are very high.  Without the necessary skills or the highest-quality equipment, a composer is going to have a very hard time breaking in.  Unlike other performers or creators, a modern-day composer has to be considered a full-scale company, offering not only a pool of talents and a set of skills, but a dedicated production facility and the technical wherewithal to exploit that technology to its fullest.

Be sure to check out Winifred Phillips’ albums online:

Spore Hero

SimAnimals

And learn more about Winifred Phillips at http://www.winifredphillips.com

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