John Famigli­etti

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The Health bassist on ex­press­ing the joy of games, be­ing mis­er­able in De­mon’s Souls, and sound­track­ing Max Payne 3

Noise rock out­fit Health’s brand of proto-in­dus­trial punk prim­i­tivism has gained it a huge fol­low­ing since its de­but al­bum re­leased in 2007. Rock­star Games counts among those fans, and the stu­dio reached out to the band for con­tri­bu­tions to the Max Payne 3 sound­track. That deal ended up go­ing much fur­ther, as John Famigli­etti tells us. Max Payne 3 was Health’s first sound­track – how did that come about? It was really crazy. We just got a call say­ing, ‘Hey, Rock­star games wants to take you guys out for din­ner in New York – they’re com­ing to your show.’ And I’m like, ‘Really? Cool!’ I’m a really big fan of Rock­star.’ And as soon as I heard that, I im­me­di­ately started day­dream­ing about the idea of them ask­ing us to score a game. But I fig­ured they’d just take us out for din­ner and say, ‘Hey, we’re Rock­star Games; would you let us li­cense a track for GTA? ’But as soon as we started talk­ing they said, ‘We’re do­ing this game – would you guys like to con­trib­ute some of the score mu­sic?’ And I was like, ‘Holy shit, man, did I just man­i­fest that or some­thing?’ We were orig­i­nally brought in just to as­sist with scor­ing, but we got really am­bi­tious. They gave us videos of two lev­els, so we en­tirely scored both, then gave it to them and said, ‘This is what we see for the game.’ They really liked that and it kept mov­ing, and even­tu­ally we took over the game. How did the mu­sic de­velop from there? First and fore­most was the nar­ra­tive. We wanted to fol­low that. It was about the emo­tion – is [this scene] more tense, is it MAL­ADY MAKER Health’s self-ti­tled de­but al­bum was re­leased in 2007, fol­lowed the next year by Health/Disco, which remixes the tracks from its de­but record. The band’s sec­ond al­bum, Get Color, came out in 2009 and was again fol­lowed by a remix al­bum the next year, this time called Health::Disco2.

launched in 2012, and Health sub­se­quently recorded a track for more scary, y’know? And of course Rock­star had a stem sys­tem, and they wanted par­tic­u­lar moods, but what was in­cred­i­ble was they really re­spected us. They told us what they thought it should sound like, we cre­ated our mu­sic, and they let us know what was work­ing and what wasn’t as they tested it.

We put in mu­si­cal tones that in­spire con­tem­pla­tion. If you’re this per­son in the game and you’ve killed 10,000 peo­ple in a row, and it was easy for you to do that, how would that weigh on your mind or your con­science? So we wanted to have th­ese mo­ments where you could de­tach and re­flect on your­self as this in­cred­i­bly dam­aged, de­pressed killing ma­chine that’s able to per­ceive time slowly. How dif­fer­ent was that process com­pared to cre­at­ing albums? We’d never scored any­thing be­fore, but we’re huge fans of movies; I’m a huge fan of games. With an al­bum, you don’t know if any­thing’s good, and it’s al­ways stress­ful: ‘Is this shitty? Do I suck now?’ But with a game or a movie, if you put the mu­sic against the im­age and it doesn’t feel right, you know it sucks. It’s very clear. So we could tell im­me­di­ately if it was work­ing or not. Is ev­ery­one in Health into games? No, I’m the only one who plays games. It’s very sep­a­rate from most of my so­cial cir­cle and definitely my band­mates. Jake [Duzsik, singer and guitarist] is really into the ex­tremely old games that he played as a kid – he loves Mario and Tetris, but that’s where it ends. Whereas I read Ko­taku or what­ever ev­ery day. With videogames there’s this weird trans­la­tion prob­lem where peo­ple who don’t play games ei­ther have no in­ter­est in them or it’s too hard to ex­plain. I talk to band­mates and peo­ple I love about movies, mu­sic and art and how it af­fects me, and I want to talk in that way about games like Blood­borne, you know? But there’s no way for me to really re­lay it. Are you also a fan of the Souls games? They’re prob­a­bly my favourite thing in the past few years. It’s really be­come an ob­ses­sion for me. It’s the coolest shit ever. I started with De­mon’s Souls, ac­tu­ally, and I was really blown away. You’re kind of mis­er­able most of the time, but then when you do suc­ceed and get some­where, it’s really awesome. And I like that the sto­ry­line is built into the game me­chan­ics. You’re in this ex­is­ten­tial hell be­cause you lit­er­ally can’t die. You’re liv­ing in a shit­hole where you have to re­peat stuff, and the best thing you can do is just slightly ad­vance. And which game is your favourite? That’s very hard. Be­cause when I go back to my favourite games ever, like Bal­dur’s Gate II or some­thing, it’s not the same. You get used to new stuff. I tried to play them again re­cently, and you can’t really go back… I feel weird say­ing it’s my favourite, but Bal­dur’s Gate was pretty good for me.

“Rock­star had a stem sys­tem, and they wanted par­tic­u­lar moods, but they really re­spected us”

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