Sound Byte: Meet the Composer - Richard Jacques

We talk to the former Sega Europe composer about his work on James Bond 007: Blood Stone and the upcoming Little Big Planet 2: The Muppets DLC.

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Music fans may recognise Richard Jacques for his work at Sega Europe; he is notable for doing the futuristic industrial melodies of Jet Set Radio Future and other songs for the Sonic the Hedgehog and Headhunter series. After leaving Sega around 2001, he became a freelancer. Apart from contributing music to the first Mass Effect game, he was nominated for a BAFTA video game award for original music for his work on James Bond 007: Blood Stone in 2010.

GameSpot recently had a chat with the London-based composer about his current projects.

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GameSpot: Tell us how you got started in the music-making business.

Richard Jacques: I come from a musical family and began learning the piano, trombone, and percussion from an early age. I had always been interested in composition and technology and started composing at the age of seven, working in various styles whilst I was studying music. As part of my studies, I was playing in orchestras, big bands, and percussion ensembles, and in my spare time I was DJ-ing, playing in various bands, and writing music for myself.

After I completed my music degree, I started out as an in-house composer here in London with a large video game publisher. I worked on many big franchises and in various styles of music, which was a great experience. I formed my own company in 2001 and now work with all the major video game publishers, as well as scoring for TV, film, and commercials.

GS: Who are your influences in this line of work?

RJ: Some of my influences include Stravinsky, Debussy, Hindemith, Chic Corea, Dave Grusin, John Williams, and Michael Kamen. I draw influences from many different styles of music, from classical to electronic.

GS: Let's talk about the work you did for 007: Blood Stone. Is it safe to assume that you had to rewatch the modern Bond flicks (Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig era) to get the feel of what you'd be composing?

RJ: Yes, indeed. I am actually a huge Bond fan, and so I knew all of the movies well, but did rewatch every single one from Connery to Craig and everything in between. Blood Stone is very much Daniel Craig's Bond, and so that was the most relevant era for my research.

GS: How did you differentiate 007: Blood Stone's compositions from the rest of the music from other third-person shooters when you were handed this assignment?

RJ: We went to great lengths to ensure the interactivity of the music was matching the game perfectly, because Bond as a character can switch from an all-action gunfight or punch-up to a stealthy approach in a matter of seconds. I wanted the score to sound like Bond, for the player to feel that they are Bond, and so musically it was approached differently to a more standard third-person shooter, in a sense that the score had to weave perfectly around the story and the action.

GS: What are the primary instruments used for the game's music?

RJ: The score is traditionally full orchestra with heavy brass and screaming trumpets (very Bond), plus it features contemporary electronic elements, ethnic instruments, and percussion for the various locations featured in the game, such as Istanbul and Bangkok.

GS: Which track did you have the most fun creating? Which ones were the most time-consuming to figure out? Why?

RJ: I created the main theme very early on in the process, and one of my favourite tracks is "Athens Harbour Chase," which is where the player is driving a speedboat through the harbour in Athens, pursuing the bad guys. This is a pure Bond moment.

One of the most complex tracks to compose was "Bond Confronts Rak," as this is the last big boss fight of the game. I remember composing and orchestrating it in about 30 hours solid, then heading to the studio to record it. It was an intense time and is an intense track!

GS: Let's jump to the latest OST you recently composed this year, for Little Big Planet 2: The Muppets DLC. How many Muppets shows did you have to tune in to and do research about until you got the vibe of re-creating the soundtrack?

RJ: I grew up with The Muppets! It was very nostalgic to revisit some classic episodes to get "in the zone," so to speak. The shows always had some wonderful musical numbers, and the music is all about having fun. I know this style very well, especially because of all the classic American TV shows I grew up with, so I was very comfortable working in this style.

GS:Were there any notable instruments being used for the game's compositions?

RJ: We used a full big band to record the music, featuring some of the "A-list" jazz musicians here in London. We also used 16 West End show singers to rerecord the Muppets theme.

GS: Which tracks were the most fun to compose? And why?

RJ: That would have to be "Pigs in Space"--think '70s sci-fi-based funk!

GS: What other projects will you be working on?

RJ: I have recently moved into a new studio facility, which I have spent the past three years building. It's an exciting time and opens up no end of creative possibilities. I am currently working on three unannounced projects.

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