Another excellent read here, another pretty nice and generous guy. Didn't play the game but just watched a video footage showing good soundtrack samples and it reminded me of Soul Star (Sega CD)--one of my favorite videogame soundtracks ever. Keep up the great work Matthew and Sophia. ;)
Composer Matthew Harwood shares how he gets the right sound for THQ's recent shooter, Homefront.
There is no shortage of first-person shooters on the market, but Homefront does make its mark by featuring a unique setting in the not-so-distant future where a unified Korea has invaded the United States. While shooters generally have short campaigns, and the bulk of your time is spent in multiplayer, it can be a challenge to find the right tone to complement the story as well as come up with a theme that can be used for extended periods of time and still be interactive.
Matthew Harwood shares with us his experience on Homefront and how he got into the video game industry. For the video review, check it out below! Also, courtesy of Sumthing Else Music Works (where you can purchase game music soundtracks), we have five Homefront soundtracks to give away this week! To be eligible, you have to live within the US and have a Twitter account. Follow gs_soundbyte for details.
GameSpot: Could you please tell us a bit about yourself?
Matthew Harwood: Sure! I am Matthew Harwood. I am the audio director at Kaos Studios. Heading up most of the sound design in the game and composing the music for Homefront is where I spent much of my time during Homefront's dev cycle. I live in the Hudson Valley of New York. I am 6'4". I love my wife, my four kids, and playing outdoors with them and my dog, Wilson. I am a Christian. The guys at work call me "Lumber Jack." I think it's because I wear plaid a lot, I am tall, and can kick their butts.
GS: What is your musical background?
MH: I grew up in a musical family; my father played the bass trombone in the New York Philharmonic for 30-plus years (currently retired), so I like to say that music is in my blood. I have always studied music throughout school, various classes, and in college, but most of my experience comes from just sitting down and producing music for various projects. Trial by fire. Music and sound as a career was not entirely clear until an odd turn of events presented itself.
I was helping a friend of mine move his family down in Florida where I got my big break. Jim Elston (the friend I helped) was an animator at Disney and knew a few guys making a Disney film pitch, and he introduced me to them knowing my background. Elliot Bour and Saul Blinkoff were pitching an idea about a pig that could fly to the big wigs and wanted music for it. I composed a theme for them, and they loved it. I flew down later to do an interview and perform the theme at a studio there at the Disney animation studio in front of them and other suits. They also loved it. Later, the project was put on the shelf. Even still, that was the motivating spark I needed to give confidence that I could do this as my career.
GS: What was the first instrument that you picked up?
MH: I started to play the piano when I was 3 in the laundry room where I grew up. And it still is my main instrument, as the keyboard is the conduit to the computer for music. But it's strange: the computer and the "studio"--that is, synths, samplers, etc. hooked up to the computer--is becoming more of an instrument to me these days, but not in the traditional sense.
GS: Is there an instrument you wish you knew how to play?
MH: Yes, for sure. I have always wanted to learn the uilleann pipes.
GS: What is your fondest memory when it comes to music?
MH: This is hard because I have a few. My dad would invite the brass section from the orchestra to our church every year during Christmas to play in the balcony during the service and after. I played trombone when I was growing up for years, and after a while Dad let me play with them. I was not very good, so I had to play quiet (ha ha!), but it was a thrill to be there and sit with these world-class musicians. Meeting John Williams was up there, but as of recent, having my father at the recording sessions for the Homefront score was just awesome. To have him at my side making him proud was very special. Full circle you know?
GS: How did you get into making music for video games?
MH: After school I took a job out in Indiana selling music gear as a base job to pay the bills and start my life newly married. My thought was that it would gather contacts in the industry. It worked. Using the contacts, I started to freelance. I knew I needed to do more than just one thing to support my family, so using my new contacts, I started to freelance, stretching my abilities out to include more than just music. I began creating sound design for TV shows, websites, games, and many other interactive oddities, recording bands and producing them, recording loads of books and completing postproduction on films and various other projects. During that time, I discovered I had a real knack for sound design as well. I did that for seven years and slowly acquired a rich database of clients from Adidas to Disney, from Dateline NBC to Fox News and America's Most Wanted, from The Behemoth to Activision. Freelance is great, but I thought it would be an interesting change of pace to try and find a full-time job, to work on one project long term and work closely with a team. So I found Kaos Studios on Gamasutra. I said, "Hey, it is a New York-based studio. I might as well try." So I applied, auditioned, and I got it.
GS: What is your process when composing a particular track?
MH: With Homefront I wanted to really nail a few specific themes. I wanted to make sure to permeate those melodies throughout the game. So at the very beginning of production I started to sketch out a bunch of different ideas to see what would stick. During this process I would go talk to the concept guys and see what they were working on, see what environments they were drawing based on that part of the story in the game. Many times I would get inspired by these images and build a tune based off of that picture alone. Several of the themes came from this process; incidentally, the main theme came from a very early drawing of a man in a yard with his gun, a downed heli in the background that crash-landed in a house, his family inside the other house. I imagined him protecting them and doing what it takes to keep them safe. So confidence and steadfast resourcefulness were key emotions I wanted to evoke. I used horns for their noble character, and a driving rhythm section based around taiko and koto drumming to add ethnic flair. Other themes, like the Oasis, were almost completely based off of the inspiration from a drawing. The drawing was of a huge tree in the middle of a backyard, kids playing under a thin veal of safety behind camo skrims keeping them from being detected and obliterated for not following the rules. Temporary happiness, with elements of unsure, trepidation, and an uneasy peace were emotions that I felt appropriate. So the piano with strings and a few woodwinds were the instruments of choice here.
I second TheRealLisaAnn's comment. As I am an aspiring composer, I personally enjoy and find great value in these interviews. Thanks GameSpot.
I loved the music in this game. It really made you feel the desperation and tension. Those of you skipping this game because of what others say about it are missing out.
I've been having an interesting issue with sound in this game, IT"S ALL MIXED HORRIBLEY!!!! there is no fading in or out of environmental sounds, the sound menu doesn't work, and you can't hear the dialog because all the sounds in the game are turned all the way up...even the foot steps are blarring!! Asside from that.... THIS GAME IS AMAZING!!! YOU REALLY NEED TO PLAY THIS...IT'S SO EMOTIIONALLY ENGAGING AND REALLY HITS YOU IN THE HEART!
Friend of mine bought this, sounds interesting. But when I read about game soundtracks, I'd like to listen to at least one song! Reading just doesn't do it justice... Matthew sounds like a fun guy though, a lot of the time composers tend to be pretty introverted, glad to see that's not the case here. :)
@RealHarry @hyttenhoof - Christopher Tin composed the song that was featured in Civ 4, which won the Grammy. Although he had to re-release it with his album Calling All Dawns before it was noticed. Check back next week for his interview :)
@hyttenhoof Yeah, you're right on that. But I guess I was referring more to the point of knowing the people who made the music on other games we love. Like the score for Uncharted 2, or even the Ace Attorney games, I enjoyed the music in both games but I still don't know much about the composer and the process behind it. So this blog is a good step towards that. I'm decently well informed about games so if I don't know much about them, then chances are others have no idea.
@RealHarry Civ 4 won a grammy or something, as far as I remember, that's some nice exposure. Jesper Kyd of Assassins creed is like the most well known figure in the entire team
Nice seeing the music composers getting some exposure. Except for all the Nintendo (Final Fantasy, Zelda etc) big guns, all the other composers don't get credit for all the awesome music in their games.
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