Hey everyone, Chris here! I work with marketing on Toadman Interactive and I had a sit down with Linus Söderlund to talk about the work he has done on Immortal: Unchained and his story becoming a composer for video games. Linus has created the soundtrack to Immortal and he has also done sound design and implementation on the game.
Could you tell me a little bit about when and why you started composing?
I started to play the piano at a very early age and I was, already at that time, quite experimental with the music. Music has always been a big part of my family and I learned new techniques fairly quickly just by listening to the music my parents played and trying to copy that. One of the first songs that I managed to play from start to finish was the final countdown by the Swedish band Europe.
Did you have any early references and have they changed over time?
I inherited a lot of my preferences from my parents. My father was into classical music and progressive symphony rock like YES, Genesis (before Peter Gabriel left), but also classical composers like Chopin, Vivaldi, Greig and so on. I listened to all of that when I was a kid and I really liked it.
Linus told me that when he was about 23 years old, he took aim on the video game industry, determined to get there someday.
I realized that if I want to keep doing this even as I get older, that’s the space I need to be. I had a lot of friends that focused on popular music and some of them were struggling. My conclusion was that it might be better for me to get into video games instead, especially since I was more into orchestral music. I worked for ten years making music for TV and movies. During some of that time, I also toured as a circus musician/composer, playing a lot of gigs with different artists. My first gig in the video game industry came later on which was at the game studio Fatshark, working on War of the Roses.
What do you find most challenging when scoring music for video games?
First off, obviously, TV and film is usually a linear format. , on the other hand, strive for a more dynamic approach. You always know when the music will start, however, you never know when it’s going to stop because that is determined by the player. Then It’s our job as a composer to make sure that the music isn’t getting repetitive. There is a couple of different techniques to accomplish this.
Could you share with us one of those techniques?
Yes, write a lot of material. Having a lot of music to choose from is always helpful. It’s also useful to be working in layers. That means to have multiple versions of the same piece of music but introducing new instruments in different versions. The end goal is to have the music feel tailored for every single second of the game.
How do you see the future changing for video game composers?
Most composers can’t afford an entire orchestra, we are making electronic music with orchestral sample sounds. So naturally, we rely heavily upon the quality of those samples, and so, most of the development is in trying to increase the sample quality. The instruments are becoming more convincing by the day and with the right person behind the wheel, the music will sound exactly as if it was recorded with a live orchestra.
Do you have any favorite video game composers of your own?
Sure! I can mention Gary Schyman who wrote the music for the Bioshock games, his music is excellent. Jason Graves is also really good. He is probably most famous for making the music to the Deadspace titles and I really like what he has done on that game. I actually don’t play that game much anymore, but I can appreciate listening to the score which I think is a sign of well-written music. A great soundtrack should not only enhance the game but also be enjoyable to consume without the game as context, which is something I strive for.
Could you tell me a little bit about the music production on Immortal: Unchained?
Yeah, sure. Usually, you have a couple of meetings with the team where you try to start up the creative process and define what the game is about. The next step is to create a prototype, something we call a vertical slice. As a composer for Immortal that was creating the track Heart of Anger. Heart of Anger set the tone for the rest of the game, which is how I usually work, trying to make one defining track.
Is Heart of Anger your favorite track from the Immortal: Unchained Soundtrack?
Yes. The track is played when you face Malog and it is quite slow, even though it is made for a boss encounter where one usually use fast-paced tracks. It’s a general theme that we have kept throughout the game, having a slower pace to make it more impactful.
Do you have any advice to someone who wants to get into composing for video games?
Obviously, contacts are very important. But, other than that, try to understand what is required of you to make music for games. It is quite rare that someone is hired for a project without him or her knowing exactly what needs to be done. You have to already have mastered the job when you are hired.
I also realized early on that it is much easier to land a job if you are also able to provide sound design. That way they only need to hire one person which makes you more attractive.
Lastly, I would advise learning how to implement the sounds into the game. It is usually the most important task for a sound designer, and if you also have that skill, that will really help to get you hired. As a bonus, if you know how to implement sounds into the game, it’s also easier to make sure the end product turns out the way you envisioned.
I hope you enjoyed the interview. Don’t forget that you can download the soundtrack on steam for free!
Signing off, Chris