My Favourite Game

The Sword & Sworcery com­poser and in­die mu­si­cian dis­cusses com­pos­ing on PS1, ‘anti-game mu­sic’, and Res­i­dent Evil 4


Mu­si­cian Jim Guthrie talks PS1 demo discs and Res­i­dent Evil 4

Award-win­ning Cana­dian mu­si­cian Jim Guthrie is a pro­lific solo artist and has recorded as a mem­ber of Is­lands, Hu­man High­way and Royal City. He has also cre­ated or con­trib­uted to the sound­tracks of Su­per­broth­ers: Sword & Sworcery EP, Planet Coaster and In­die Game: The Movie, and is scor­ing Xbox One ti­tle Be­low. His game ca­reer, though, had its beginnings on PlaySta­tion kit… Be­fore Sword & Sworcery’s dark elec­tron­ica, you were a rock/folk artist. How did you make that leap? A friend gave me a PS1, but I was so broke I used to play a lot of demos from Of­fi­cial PlaySta­tion Mag­a­zine cover discs. One of them had MTV Mu­sic Gen­er­a­tor on it. I still have a PSOne with a fold­ing screen that I use to com­pose mu­sic on from time to time. Craig Adams got in touch be­cause he was a fan of my mu­sic. I ended up send­ing him a CD of mu­sic I’d made on the PlaySta­tion, and he re­ally dug it. We stayed friends and then maybe six years later he asked me to work on Swords & Sworcery. He loved those record­ings so much we ended up us­ing them. I’d had the op­por­tu­nity to do ad work, scor­ing a film and a few other things, but games gave me my first op­por­tu­nity to stretch my­self as an in­stru­men­tal com­poser. That vis­ual and au­ral aes­thetic has be­come quite fash­ion­able now. Yeah. I re­mem­ber when I did Sword & Sworcery I was shocked that there weren’t more peo­ple from in­die rock and other places mak­ing mu­sic for games. The more we can mash that up, the bet­ter. Com­pos­ing for videogames wasn’t al­ways in your sights, then? I think if I knew I could com­pose mu­sic for games when I was 16, I would have gone in that di­rec­tion. But when you’re 16, that stuff just seems out of reach. How has the process of com­pos­ing for Be­low felt dif­fer­ent? It’s a slightly dif­fer­ent group of peo­ple – it’s still with Capy, but Craig’s not there. Kris Piotrowski is the cre­ative di­rec­tor – he likes what I do, and I love the way he thinks, so it’s ba­si­cally him try­ing to please me try­ing to please him. The sound­track is very dif­fer­ent to Sword & Sworcery – it’s much more droney and at­mo­spheric, and there’s not re­ally beats as much, and not as many melodies you can hold on to. We’re try­ing to set moods that aren’t spoon­fed at ev­ery mo­ment – it’s more like we’re lay­ing out th­ese blan­kets and you just lay on them and roll around a bit. Planet Coaster feels like a sur­pris­ing ad­di­tion to your CV. [Fron­tier’s] Janesta Boudreau got in touch and knew my in­die and folk stuff from way back when, and was like, “I don’t know what you’re up to, but I know you’ve done games in the past and I’m work­ing on this thing – I think you might be a re­ally good fit”. As a self-em­ployed guy, I’m al­ways up to hear about a new job. Ba­si­cally, when they said they loved my stuff, they had me right there. And I’d been mak­ing so much dark, scary mu­sic for Be­low that it was re­ally fun to just strum on an acous­tic again. The way they pitched it to me was that they were go­ing to have this kind of game mu­sic that hap­pens on the rides, but then I would cre­ate other stuff which is al­most, as they put it, ‘anti-game mu­sic’. It’s a re­ally easy sell if you say, “You know that thing you’ve been do­ing for the past 20 years and not mak­ing that much money do­ing? Just do that some more, but here, we’ll to­tally pay you to do it.” It’s like, “Are you kid­ding me, you just want me to be me?” That’s a huge com­pli­ment, and hope­fully it’s a huge com­pli­ment to them for me to recog­nise that I think that it’s a lit­tle risky or weird, in a way, to put that in there.

“I still have a PSOne with a fold­ing screen that I use to com­pose mu­sic on from time to time”

So which game is your per­sonal favourite? Well, I’ve spent just as much time play­ing MTV Mu­sic Gen­er­a­tor as any other game, so it’s ei­ther that or Res­i­dent Evil 4. I’d played RE1, but then didn’t play any of the other ones. And RE4 re­ally stuck out in the cat­a­logue of what was avail­able on the Wii. I played a whole lot and I thought about it all the time – I loved the com­bat, the weapons and the mu­sic. And the to­tally ridicu­lous di­a­logue. I’ve prob­a­bly fin­ished it 20 times – there was a lot of re­playa­bil­ity. And it wouldn’t make you feel like a jerk if you weren’t good at it – it was mon­i­tor­ing how ac­cu­rate your shots were, and how well you were do­ing, and if you weren’t very good at it, when you got to the harder lev­els it wouldn’t throw more peo­ple at you.

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