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  • Interview: Mick Gordon

    [05.17.11]
    - Darren Yeow

  • Can you recount to me the story of getting this last project, the NFS: Shift gig seeing as it was a product I'm sure most of us are familiar with being the best NFS since the early days?

    MG: The awesome award winning composer Lennie Moore runs an annual competition at GDC where he tasks composers with a tricky and creative brief.

    The entries are lodged online, people on the Internet vote on the best four or five, which then go on to be judged by the GDC audience to find a winner. They are always a hoot for the composers and audience alike.

    In 2009, Lennie's challenge was to write some post-apocalyptic music using nothing but the human voice as an instrument which sounded like a stack of fun to me, so I decided to enter.

    Figuring that most composers would do choir/orchestral type music, I opted to differentiate myself by creating a score that sounded like videogame music using regular instruments, except that I'd create every sound using the human voice...90% of which was my own!

    I put some music together and I ended up being one of the four to show their track off at the GDC for the audience to vote on!

    Instead of a PowerPoint presentation with a bunch of text talking about my tracks, I brought my session along and showed the audience exactly how I created the sounds out of recordings of my voice and then manipulating it in various ways to create new sounds.

    Here's a link to the track -- first you'll hear an "ambient" layer, then you'll hear a "combat" layer come in. Everything is human voice, no other instruments were used whatsoever.

    Anyway, sitting in the audience happened to be the Senior Audio Creative Director for EA, Charles Deenen and I must have impressed him, because a few weeks after the GDC, Charles contacted me and asked if I'd like to put a demo together for Need for Speed: Shift. Naturally, I jumped at the chance!

    They liked the demo and I started doing some menu sound design, I was then asked to write some post-race music and ended up scoring the cinematics as well.

    What sort of marketing do you do to get work? You already mentioned trawling social media and news sites, is there anything else you feel is noteworthy to mention?

    MG: Yeah marketing is a tricky thing I guess. I definitely don't pay for advertising anywhere but I do spend a lot of time meeting people and keeping tabs on the industry that we work in.

    Keeping strong relationships is the most important thing in life and I guess that's the best thing anyone can do to help their success, and that definitely applies to a lot more than making noises for games.

    It's no secret the recent tough economic conditions have really affected the games industry here in Australia? What are your thoughts on the current climate?

    MG: I think the toughest thing for me to see in the last 18 months has been so many of my friends lose their jobs. I used to work at Pandemic Studios and seeing those guys go down was rough, especially next to Interzone, Transmission and a whole swag of others around the world.

    The toughest one for me was a project that I held very dear, and one that had an incredible team behind it, which was Fuzzyeyes and poor ol' Edge of Twilight.

    This game was an absolute blast to work on and I'll be releasing some of the cool work we were doing on the game over the next few weeks.

    Lots of people were digging what we were doing too -- when we released the "Someone Special" E3 trailer in 2009 I had over a thousand emails in the following week from people saying how much they loved the trailer and couldn't wait to play the game. Unfortunately, the studio ran into troubles and shut down before the game was released.

    A lot of those talented people have moved onto studios such as THQ, Rocksteady, Rare, Grasshopper Manufacture, and Quantic Dream and are working on some of the coolest projects around!

    One of my childhood idols who I played with in a band for a few years, Peter Daley, once said to me "a door never closes without a window opening. And if that doesn't work, squeeze through a mouse hole or grab a sledgehammer and knockdown a wall."

    And another childhood mate of mine, Big KJ, used to say "Smile, it's free!"

    Yeah, it's a shame, but thing will inevitably turn back around like they always do. So, what do you see on the horizon for yourself and the games industry?

    MG: Oh man! Well, there's lots of cool stuff going on! The trouble is there's a sniper sitting in the building across the street, who thinks I don't know he's there but I do, and he'll shoot me in the forehead if I say much about it!

    I'm mega busy with Need for Speed: World and Marvel, and I've got a bunch of E3 trailers to work on at the moment too. What would I like more of on the horizon? Just cool, fun and awesome projects man!

    I really, really, really want to do some more horror stuff as I totally love that.

    As for the industry, despite the recent scaling back, I think it will get back on track, it will keep getting bigger and better and games will get cooler and cooler dude!

    Every time we think someone has topped the bar it gets raised again! The caliber of games coming out now is incredible -- look at stuff like Uncharted 2, Red Dead Redemption and God of War III -- amazing! I can't wait to see what's coming up and being a part of all of this is absolutely brilliant.

    What are some problems in the industry currently that you have experienced?

    MG: Well every industry has problems really and it is how that industry deals with those problems that determines its longevity and prosperity and I don't think you can ever question the resilience and determination of young creative minds. The game industry is full of these!

    The best part about the game industry? We help people working in other jobs and industries forget their problems when they sit down to play one of our games for a few hours. How cool is that?

    Advice for people breaking into the industry?

    MG: Well, I think the two things that people look for when hiring anyone for any job are:

    1. They like your skills.

    2. They like you.

    If you've got good skills and you're easy to get along with then it's only a matter of time, perseverance and energy.

    When I started out I asked an agent the same question, his reply was "do good work and don't be a dickhead".

    Makes perfect sense!

    Last question, have you always been such a positive energetic person?

    MG: Ha! Man, you ask some fun questions!

    Look man, I remember realizing when I was about 12 or 13 that unless you've got a reason to be negative, unless you've been walking down the street and your clavicle falls off, or the Earth suddenly gets knocked off the billiard table, or a bolt of lightning destroys your favorite pair of socks -- unless you've got an absolute, legitimate, solid reason to be down...then being positive is nothing more than a choice.

    And it's easy, because that choice is up to you. And being positive certainly makes the punch line of life a whole lot easier to swallow.

    As long as the sun comes up in the morning, then everything else that happens that day is a bonus!


    Darren Yeow is a 29 year old senior artist hailing from Adelaide, Australia who has worked as a concept artist, user interface designer and art director in video game companies for the past 7 years. He currently lives in Melbourne running his own design studio Stylus Monkey Design.

     https://www.sylus-monkey.com

     

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