Like what you heard from our last Deus Ex Sound Byte? Learn more about the man behind the music, Michael McCann.
I'm sure many of you just can't wait to get your hands on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. We recently interviewed audio director Steve Szczepkowski who filled us in on his role and how he approached sound design. If you haven't had a chance to see it, you can view it here. Below, we also have embedded some of composer Michael McCann's music from the game, so have a listen and let us know what you think. You can get the soundtrack if you purchase the limited Augmented Edition of the game. As always, head over to Sound Byte Radio if you want to listen to more video game tunes and follow us on Twitter @gs_soundbyte for updates and giveaways.
GameSpot: Let's start things off by telling us about yourself and your musical background.
Michael McCann: I started with music when I was really young, mainly just learning songs by ear and playing them on various instruments around the house. I started a band with some friends when I was about 13, and after a few live shows, I started to realize I didn't like playing live. This pushed me into scoring stage plays in high school and then onto doing a couple of albums and writing music for a ton of short films in my late teens/early 20s. I noticed in the '90s that there was a lot of sound design being incorporated into scoring; music was becoming much more immersive as opposed to the traditional orchestral scores from John Williams, John Barry, etc. Because of this, I started picking up sound-design jobs in film--trying to figure out a way to bring the two worlds together--which eventually became what I do now, a mix of acoustic/electronic music with sound design elements mixed in around it.
Some of my earlier breaks were as sound designer and music editor on films like FUBAR and It's All Gone Pete Tong, which became cult hits in Canada and the UK. I also worked a lot in advertising, television (themes, ads, etc.), and in many different genres (comedy, drama, action, etc.). Each genre and each medium really teaches you something different about scoring to picture and especially how music and sound design affect timing, emotion, and editing. When going into games with Splinter Cell: Double Agent and then into Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it's great to be able to pull from all these sources since scoring for games often includes not just the score, but also doing source music, trailers, etc.
GS: How did you get into composing for video games?
MM: I had the opportunity to pitch for Splinter Cell: Double Agent back in 2005. I was working with a company called Wave Generation in Montreal who used to rep a lot of composers. Splinter Cell: Double Agent came up, and they thought I'd fit the world really well, so I pitched Ubisoft about five minutes of music. I'm sure there was some hesitation, as I'd never scored a game before and I was pitching against some very experienced composers. But they offered me the job, and that was that. It was definitely a big learning curve; interactive music is very different from scoring to TV/movies, and it was interesting to go from doing relatively obscure films/projects right to a major title overnight.
GS: Are you more of a composer or do you perform or play?
MM: I don't perform or play live. I'm fairly reclusive when it comes to creating music, and I'm not really into the idea of sharing music with an audience in a live setting. I see making music a lot like how an editor will put together a film. For example, an editor will take all of these different takes from actors…all of these different shots in different styles, different locations, etc. and assemble it all into the final story. In the end, the film exists in one static form; it does not get performed differently and does not change when put in front of an audience. With music, I like the idea that I can put it together in a similar way, and in the end--after it is performed, recorded, and mixed--that is the only version of that music that will ever exist or be heard.
GS: So what was the first instrument that you picked up?
GS: Is there an instrument you wish you knew how to play?
MM: Cello or violin. I use it so much, and I know that playing it would help me better understand how to express much more complex ideas.
GS: What is your fondest memory when it comes to music?
MM: Oh wow. All of it? I don't think one in particular. Fondest is always finishing a project. When I finished my first albums, when I finished Splinter Cell and Deus Ex…when you finish and you can finally look back at all the work and see what you've done. The analogy I've used before is the idea that you're working on a 100-foot sculpture and you're working on like a fingernail, and someone at the bottom is looking up saying "How's it going," but you've never seen the whole thing for yourself. When you're finally able to go down and look at it and see if it worked or not…I think that's usually the best feeling. Well, when it works at least! [laughs]
GS: What do you like dislike about the industry compared to TV/film?
MM: The big difference is in the creative direction and structure. In film, the director oversees everything: the editing, the visual design, casting, musical score, sound design…everything. He's the guy everyone turns to. With games, it's much more decentralized. The audio team has a lot more control over how the game will sound. I think this allows for more experimentation and makes the work much more personal. But at the same time, it makes it much riskier since there isn't that one person's vision controlling every aspect of the project. Sure, there is always a creative director overseeing the whole game but not in the same way as it works in film. I'm not sure yet whether I like this about games or not. I'm much more a fan of the total control a director has over a film, as in the end, the film can feel way more cohesive than a game. But because I don't think games would work like this and there are some incredible games in this world, perhaps games benefit from this decentralized creative process. I'm not sure, but I definitely prefer the director style of creativity.
I just wanted to compliment the article, great job GS. What Michael McCann said about the relationship between movies in the early 1900s and the Video Game Industry is spot on. In time, I believe it will continue to evolve and grow into its own distinctive art form.
Wow this guy is super intelligent! Definitely a control freak, you can tell but can't argue with a man who knows what he's doing!
WOW...talk about powerful muisic. This is the exact kind of music I could see myself throwing on the ipod and listening to in bed at night. Problem is this kind of music is usualy best heard at CD quality or better. I'm sure it will be on the DVD tommorow as mp3 though. Oh well, no biggie. I'll still enjoy the hell out of it. I was leaning toward getting the AE tomorow since it's only $10 more. Looks like that's definate now.
can someone find upper hengsha theme i need it best song in the game btw i finished the game it's awesome 9.5/10
I read a lot of articles on this website but rarely leave comments, but had to in this case. How awesome does these four tracks from the up coming Dues Ex sound? Like Assassin's Creed, Dragon Age, and Heavy Rain I believe game soundtracks are fast becoming a commodity and reason for me to buy special editions of the game.
who is reviewing Deus EX? I bet is Kevin or maybe.... Chris idk I can't wait to see the review a lot of other have been giving high scores