The lights are on
filters his formal classical background through a love of cutting edge electronic
music. This is evidenced in his innovative score for Capcom's Remember Me,
which digitally manipulates live orchestral recordings into a score that feels
We spoke with Deriviere
about his musical background, video game composition, and musical inspirations.
Talk a little bit about your background with music? Were
you musical as a child?
My parents are
great music lovers and they were always listening to a large variety of genres
such as classical, folk, pop, world music and many more - country music
included! At eight years old I was
already listening to video game soundtracks and creating tapes full of computer
music from the C64, Atari ST and Amiga.
Tell us about your formal musical education and how that
informs your work as a game composer?
At the age of five
my parents sent me to the conservatory to study classical percussion and piano.
When I grew up I took some harmony and instrumentation courses. Eventually I
went to Berklee College of Music to learn film scoring and Jazz. I think
composition is a process of practice and now thanks to computers you can
experiment a lot! However I believe what really helps me today writing for
games is that my first passion is video games. I started playing on a C64, and since
then I haven't stopped. I think to experience a game is the best education for
a composer learning how to write music for games.
What are some of your musical influences, from either the
classical world or the world of popular music?
for his work on textures and melodies. Dimitri Shostakovich for the incredible
clarity of his orchestration and themes. Finally, Aphex Twin, as I believe he
created the next step in music history using electronic instruments.
How did you come to work in games? Had you done
composition for other media before?
I wanted to
create games since my childhood and the best way to participate was to use my
strength in music. I worked in film and advertising and received some commissions
but my first major assignment was for Obscure, developed by Hydravision. Back
then we were all juniors with little experience. I remember the first time we met my ideas were
initially frowned upon -I was "crazy" to want a children's choir in the music.
A week later, I got a phone call to inform me that I was chosen. It happened
thanks to one person who was as passionate as I am and he trusted me. So it's a
matter of hard work, luck, and, sometimes, balls.
Do you play games in your spare time?
This is my main concern - I don't play enough! I really try to play a lot of
games, not only the big titles but also the indie games. I think it is really
important to experience all that video games have to offer. We are now on the
edge of a new era, the next generation of course but also the indie scene that
is getting more and more attention. It's a really exciting time since it's been
years that we haven't had such a prolific expression in games.
When you begin a game project, what's the process for
coming up with a vision for the score? Do you work closely with the developer?
Describe the process.
It all starts
with the creative director. I spend a long time talking with him/her because they
have been working on the game for days, weeks, months, years maybe, and I have
to capture their vision. This is when the best ideas come up because I'm fresh
and, like a sponge, I absorb every word. It takes some time to adjust the
translation and usually after a few exchanges back and forth I share their
vision but in a different language. They use words; I use musical notes.
Meanwhile I'm also working very close with the audio team to prepare the music implementation.
I think it's the key for a great video game score. In terms of schedule the
sooner I'm involved the better so we can push everything to its maximum
potential. But I really start to score during the second half of the game's
production, when you can actually walk through the game. I love that process!
What are some of the video game projects you've worked on
that you're most proud of?
Every time I
work on a project that is released, I'm proud of it. In this industry it
becomes more and more difficult to finish a project and have it released on
shelves. I also try to work with different people on different projects. Working
on Obscure and Obscure 2 were really
personal, a very small team. Alone In The
Dark was a completely different story, a lot of pressure for a big title. Remember
Me is perhaps my most accomplished soundtrack so far in terms of music
production. We went to record the Philharmonia Orchestra with Grammy
award-winning recording engineer John Kurlander in London and I kept telling
him, "Don't be mad at me when I will screw up this wonderful recording with
my electronic processing!"
Your bio says you've worked with the Mystery of Bulgarian
Voices women's choir. What project was that for? They are tremendous, such an
eerie feeling. What was that experience like?
That was for Alone
In The Dark. I had a long conversation with the creative director David Nadal,
and the more he was talking about the mystery of his game, the more I tried to
capture this in the music. I remember all of sudden saying, "Let's put in
some Bulgarian voices." He looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. The
recording in Bulgaria was one of a kind. The choir is really mystical and when
they started singing my music I couldn't believe it. They took my score and
made it theirs, you can't anticipate such a sound...and of course they are
really nice and incredible artists!
How did you come to be involved with Remember Me?
think it's because I'm French but not at all. There was a pitching process, and
I did something completely crazy because I felt this game needed such a risk.
When I got the email that confirmed I was selected as the composer it took me a
week to really believe it. But what surprised me even more is when I first met
Jean-Max Moris, the creative director, he asked me to go even crazier. I guess
I was lucky, once again.
Listening to the soundtrack samples, it's really a
striking score. There's a very odd feel, a mix of traditional orchestral work
with a glitchy, electronic feel. How was that accomplished?
Thank you! Every
time I score a game I really try to add something unique; to give the game a
flavor that no one out there has done before. I can't explain exactly with
words how I did it but it was a long process to achieve this. I was thinking
about this idea already in 2001 when Aphex Twin released his album Druqks. The concept of the music is not
to have a mix between electronic and acoustic; it's to manipulate the acoustic
to become electronic.
The game obviously deals with the manipulation of our
minds and memories, was the score intended to evoke that through electronic
manipulation of the music?
Me is not just a game; it's a fully realized world that the creative team at
DONTNOD created from scratch. During my first contact [with the game], I was
quite confused by so much information and I felt the music should reflect this
confusion. The music supports what's happening in the game, not as an
illustration but as another layer of information. I think you can understand
everything by listening to the soundtrack on its own.
Are there any other game composers that you admire, or
particular game soundtracks that you admire today?
When Halo was
released in 2001 I was just stunned. Great theme, great instrumentation,
incredible implementation...I really think Martin O'Donnell did a fantastic job
and to know that he is also the audio director at Bungie makes sense. Also, I
have to mention Jeremy Soule. He wrote one of the best themes and music with The
Elder Scrolls series, even though the implementation is not sophisticated, it
works perfectly for such an atmospheric and personal game experience.
What's next for you after Remember Me? Any upcoming game
I'm finishing an
indie game called Harold from Moonspider Studio. It's a platform race-runner
game. For this one, I merged some gospel choir with Arabic music, Calypso style
and...dubstep. Then I will work on a game made by Spider Games (Mars: War Logs)
called Bound By Flames, it's going to be a very cold ambient style. Hopefully
after that I will have some spare time to beat Bioshock Infinite - I'm so late.
For music samples from Remember Me and other projects head over to Olivier Derivierre's Soundcloud Page.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.