My Favourite Game
Will Wiesenfeld on Sonic The Hedgehog’s excellent music taste
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”