My Favourite Game

The gui­tarist and synth vir­tu­oso talks card­board pro­gram­ming and how In­tel­li­gent Sys­tems sus­tained his for­mer band

EDGE - - SECTIONS - Iain Cook

Chvrches’ Iain Cook on Ad­vance

Wars and pre­tend pro­gram­ming

Best known for be­ing one-third of Chvrches, Iain Cook is also an es­tab­lished com­poser for film and TV, a record pro­ducer, and has plied his craft for Les Tinglies, Aere­ogramme and the still-ac­tive The Unwinding Hours. De­spite th­ese com­mit­ments, he’s found a way for mu­sic and games to co­ex­ist.

You’re a pro­lific com­poser of film and TV scores, but no games yet. This is true! It’s some­thing that I’m quite sur­prised hasn’t come up over the years, given the peo­ple I know who make videogames; it’s some­thing I’d def­i­nitely be in­ter­ested in. But I’m not re­ally that keen on do­ing a film-score-type thing… I’m more in­ter­ested in the things in­die de­vel­op­ers are do­ing th­ese days – do­ing some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, and find­ing ways to make mu­sic and videogames work to­gether, rather than just a layer of Hol­ly­wood-style back­ing group mu­sic. That’s of­ten the case, es­pe­cially with big-bud­get videogames, get­ting big com­posers like Clint Mansell and Harry Greg­son-Wil­liams to do th­ese blockbuster games. Ob­vi­ously, there’s a place for that, but it’s not re­ally ad­vanc­ing the art form in any way. I think if I was to get in­volved with videogames, it would be some­thing that was a bit smarter and a bit more in­ven­tive, but don’t ask me what!

You thanked In­tel­li­gent Sys­tems and Ad­vance Wars in Sleep And Re­lease’s liner notes. What was that about? Back in the early Aere­ogramme days, the tours were pretty gru­elling, be­cause we were play­ing small venues that weren’t sold out and there was re­ally no bud­get. We were lucky enough to have six-week Amer­i­can tours, though. But the thing that re­ally held the band to­gether, I guess, was that we all had Game­Boy Ad­vance SPs with copies of Ad­vance Wars, Tetris and Mario Kart. And we just played and played and played dur­ing the six-to-ten­hour drives ev­ery day. Ad­vance Wars was some­thing that we re­ally bonded over and we played it ob­ses­sively. I was shit at it, by the way! Ac­tu­ally, there were a lot of videogame sam­ples on that record that we, er, didn’t dis­close for copy­right rea­sons! It prob­a­bly doesn’t mat­ter any more. I’m not say­ing there is, but there might be sam­ples from De­fender, Q*Bert and Silent Hill 2. There might not be, of course.

While we’re on the sub­ject of clas­sics, when did you get into games? I sup­pose it was prob­a­bly ei­ther see­ing some older guys play­ing a Space In­vaders cabi­net at the lo­cal com­mu­nity cen­tre a long time ago, or when a friend of my dad’s lent us an Atari 2600 and I played Com­bat. Those two things I re­mem­ber re­ally clearly. Af­ter that, the ear­li­est mem­ory I have is when I got my ZX Spec­trum in 1983. I re­mem­ber be­ing so ob­sessed with the idea of own­ing one that, be­fore Christ­mas, I got my mum to give me the man­ual so I could read how to pro­gram in BA­SIC! I had a big cutout pic­ture of the rub­ber keys from Your Sin­clair that I would prac­tice on. The first thing I did was to pro­gram mu­sic on it, so I guess there’s a kind of sym­me­try in there.

Would you say videogames sparked your cre­ative side, then? It prob­a­bly did, come to think of it. I’d been go­ing to pi­ano lessons since I was about five or six, so there was always mu­sic around me, and I was always in­volved in it in some way. But it wasn’t un­til I got fed up with videogames and picked up a gui­tar at about 15 that I re­alised that mu­sic was some­thing I re­ally wanted to do, rather than some­thing that had been forced on me! I loved Led Zep­pelin and Jimi Hen­drix, and I taught my­self to play gui­tar from there. But then, at the end of the SNES era, I got back into videogames again when I re­alised that the two could co­ex­ist!

“There were a lot of videogame sam­ples on that record that we, er, didn’t dis­close for copy­right rea­sons”

And which game is your all-time favourite? It’s re­ally hard to pin it down, but it’s def­i­nitely a toss up between Mario Kart and Street Fighter… Specif­i­cally Mario Kart: Dou­ble Dash on GameCube and Mario Kart DS, and Street Fighter IV on Xbox and all the it­er­a­tions there­after. But if I had to choose one, I would say it’s prob­a­bly Street Fighter. I’ve spent hun­dreds and hun­dreds of hours play­ing that game. I don’t know why it’s grabbed me in the way that it has. I played a lot of Su­per Street Fighter II when it came out on SNES, but then I went away from it for a long time. I just feel that in IV, ev­ery­thing’s come to­gether. Ev­ery­thing they’ve added has worked – the Fo­cus thing worked, the Ul­tra thing is a bit bro­ken, but that’s kind of part of the fun. And it’s just re­ally well bal­anced.

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