My Favourite Game

Will Wiesen­feld on Sonic The Hedge­hog’s ex­cel­lent mu­sic taste

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The ex­per­i­men­tal mu­si­cian on beat­ing the beauty of game worlds, and Sonic The Hedge­hog’s ex­cel­lent taste in mu­sic

AKA Baths, Will Wiesen­feld is a clas­si­cally trained mu­si­cian who lay­ers sam­ples of house­hold noises with falsetto vo­cals, elec­tron­ics and synths. Signed to ex­per­i­men­tal LA-based la­bel An­ti­con, Baths’ mu­sic is in­ti­mate, of­ten in­tro­spec­tive, and al­ways oth­er­worldly – an aes­thetic he looks for in games, too. You tweeted that you had trou­ble with The Wit­ness – how’s that go­ing? Yes! I’m not any more. I had a great time play­ing it, and I com­pleted it on my own – I’m proud to say I only had to write down four puz­zles. I pride my­self on be­ing able to stare at some­thing for long enough and try to visualise it, then make it hap­pen. I should have [made more notes] – it would have made play­ing the game much faster – but I wanted to make it as chal­leng­ing as pos­si­ble. Is it too much to sug­gest that there are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween your mu­sic and The Wit­ness’s at­mos­phere? I think I write a lot about lone­li­ness be­cause it’s some­thing I’m fa­mil­iar with and al­ways write about. And that was the first thing I got from The Wit­ness, too. You just walk in and there’s no in­ter­ac­tion, and the only things that are re­motely hu­man, you can’t even in­ter­act with. You get th­ese dis­em­bod­ied voices telling you about meta, in­tel­lec­tual things – and it’s so in­hu­man at the same time as be­ing re­ally hu­man. Very lonely and strange. And that’s some­thing that ap­peals to you in games? I think all of my favourite games have that ‘out­sider’ feel­ing, or some­thing dif­fer­ent and new, but it skips gen­res. One of my favourite of all time is Silent Hill 2, which is a su­per-dark, dread­ful, scary thing. But it’s also beau­ti­ful and oth­er­worldly, so un­like any other hor­ror game that came be­fore or af­ter it. I just re­cently re­played it with my friends, and it holds up so well – it’s crazy how much bet­ter it is than al­most ev­ery other hor­ror game ever made. Have you played Soma? Yes! And I loved it – that’s such a good ex­am­ple to bring up. I played it with my friend Reed, who’s a writer, and my friend Ben, who’s a videogame de­signer. We all geek on games in a dif­fer­ent way, and love talk­ing about them in dif­fer­ent ways. It was us pass­ing the con­troller around, and we went so deep into the plot and read ev­ery sin­gle thing we came across. It was so good, we had a great time – it’s re­ally smart, well writ­ten. So did that fas­ci­na­tion with games feed into your mu­sic in any way? I mean, I’m think­ing of all the games that I re­ally love, and mu­sic was al­ways a re­ally big part of that – es­pe­cially Fi­nal Fan­tasy VIII and Sonic 2. They had th­ese re­ally mo­ti­va­tion­ally charged pop things go­ing on a lot of the time, even if it was the pop or­ches­tral stuff in Fi­nal Fan­tasy. There’s a level called Ice Cap Zone in Sonic 3, which has the great­est videogame song ever – su­per, su­per pop. But an emo­tional at­mos­phere tied in with re­ally grandiose fan­tasy en­vi­ron­ments was al­ways some­thing that I felt was ex­actly my thing – my aes­thetic or vibe or what­ever. So I think that very much car­ried over into my mu­sic with­out me even think­ing about it. I wasn’t like, “That’s what I have to do – ex­actly trans­late the feels I get in videogames to mu­sic.” It just hap­pened like that be­cause all my favourite games are like that – they have some pre­vail­ing emo­tional state that’s so un­like my nor­mal life. And which game stands out most among all of those? I think it would be the first Mass Ef­fect, which my brother and I played through at the same time. It gets a lot of gripe for the weapons sys­tem, which is a lit­tle funky. But that’s not at all what’s im­por­tant to me when I’m play­ing a game. It’s al­ways story, and how the story is de­liv­ered, and how you in­ter­act with it. And on those terms it’s by far the great­est game ever – it’s un­par­al­leled in how big and in­cred­i­ble the story is. The point I was mak­ing to a lot of peo­ple at the time – be­cause I fin­ished it and was freak­ing out about it and wouldn’t stop talk­ing about it – was that it could only ex­ist as a videogame. Which is what’s so beau­ti­ful about it. There’s no way to do the 40 to 50-plus hours that I put into that game in the form of a movie. You can never get the same ex­pe­ri­ence out of it. You can never feel the same way you do about all the char­ac­ters you meet, and the grav­ity of all the sit­u­a­tions that hap­pen.

“I think all of my favourite games have that ‘out­sider’ feel­ing, or some­thing dif­fer­ent and new”

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