image

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes” – David Bowie

This month’s theme is change. Sometimes a song doesn’t quite work out the way you wanted and you’re forced to start all over. Other times, outside influence can make you realize how something is being percieved when you meant to express something entirely different – forcing a change. Both of these songs went through big changes in thier lifetime: “The New Black Gold” before it was released, and “Brothers Of The Creed” afterwards. They also represent complete opposite ends of the spectrum in their reception from the public.

First things first, though.

Questions

I’ll start with the most common question I’ve been asked this month.

WHEN ARE YOU DOING A SKYRIM SONG????

Drink a Potion Of Calm, folks. More than likely not until January. Give me a chance to play it first. I also just spent every penny I have on new music gear and want to learn how to use it before tackling a Skyrim song. The wait will be worth it, I promise.

What is the best beard style?

Nord preset 4th from the left.

Do you have a limit on how heavy or discordant you can go or are you just trusted to keep it reasonably listenable?

No, there is no limit put on me by The Escapist. I can go as crazy/heavy/ear-destroying as I want with the songs and I indeed plan to at some time in the future. I won’t be doing it very often though, as dichordant/extremely noisy music is a niche that not everyone appreciates.

Are you a fan of cars? I often tend to think of songs in terms of what sort of driving soundtrack they’d belong on.

I don’t drive (I live in the city) but I have been told by a few people that I make good driving music!

Does The Escapist decide which games you should make songs for, or is it your own decision to focus on newly released titles?

It’s my own decision to focus on new/popular games as more popular games get more views. This is my job, after all. If an older game gets enough requests I’ll do it!

Why don’t you guys do commercials? The last couple of songs have made me want to go out and buy/replay the game that moment.

Feel free to let the developers know that, hehe.

Brothers Of The Creed

This was a strange one for me. It showed me that my perception of a song can be completely different to everyone elses, in many ways. I wrote and recorded it in April and since then it’s been my favorite of my gaming songs. I loved the way it sounded, I loved the lyrics, I loved the Eastern feel of the musical scales and the monk-like chants. I loved the way the bassline descended for the chorus while keeping the riff the same and how it reminded me of early 90s Peter Gabriel. I loved the scream at the end. I just loved everything about it and was certain it would get an amazing response. Boy, was I mistaken.

Before I get to the criticism and my response to it, I want to talk a little about the lyrics in the song, which were a bone of contention for some people. I think most of you were expecting a song about Ezio stealthing through the night and stabbing people in the neck but this wasn’t at all what I wanted for this song.

The lyrics are about a)the Animus and Desmond and b) the long, ancient history of the Hashashin. As this history is steeped in Eastern philosophy and culture I wanted the song to have an Eastern flavor musically. It made sense to anyone who played the first game, but to anyone who only played AC2 or Brotherhood it seemed out of place.

“Eyes of Eden are on me” – this is a simple reference to the Assassins always being watched by the templars and to the pieces of Eden. “Eve by the apple tree” is obviously a Biblical reference to the original human sin and is meant to represent the duality of the Assassins in that their methods of upholding thier morals are based on an act that most consider the worst sin of all. It is also simply meant to imply that this story is very ancient and makes appearances in many cultures.

The line that I eventually changed (for the Itunes/Bandcamp release) was “I kill for good under my white hood.” Some people took great offense to this line and said that it sounded like I was singing about the KKK. It seemed odd to me that an entire game about dudes in white hoods killing people (and what that might imply) was fine, but it was not ok for me to make lyrics about it. Also, this game is set long before the KKK ever existed, not to mention that, being Irish myself, the KKK doesn’t even factor into my conciousness as they have no history here.

But that’s all besides the point. I changed the line to “Signal’s out of range, I was forced to change,” as I was sick of people misinterpreting the song’s message and didn’t want it to happen again. Someone mentioned they could hear the bitter spit in the way I sang that line. They might be right.

“Zeroes and ones I bleed” simply means fighting in the Animus – as Ezio gets into vicious battles but it’s all just computer number crunching to Desmond. “See the world in a dark room” represents the player’s experience which is mirrored by Desmond in those fourth wall breaking story moments, such as the ending to AC2, as well as meaning seeing the world through the animus from the Assassin HQ.

To make the choir effect at the beginning, I recorded my own voice 24 times doing different harmonies and layered it all up together. It sounded too cluttered so I stripped it back to 18 voices, which then sounded just right, at least to my ears. The mix between the modern feel (rock guitars, keyboards, drums etc) and the Eastern scales was, to me, a way to express the dual stories of the games, past and present.

Criticisms

While a good song, it seems to repeat too much towards the end due to not having any new lyrics other than “Zeros and ones……..Eyes of Eden are on me”.

This is a fair criticism. the song does get a little repetitive at the end, even I can see that in hindsight. I also understand how people got turned off by how many times the chorus was repeated. It’s something I’m looking into for the future.

ENTIRELY WRONG TEMPO AND VOICE I am amazed you could fail proper matching after doing so well with Deus Ex

Quite possibly the least constructive, most imbecilic piece of criticism I have ever recieved, it was so epic in its utter missing of the point that it deserves a mention here.

I liked the song but i realy would prefer it be more about the Assasins and the Creed and less about Minerva and Ones and Zeroes ;p just that ;p

You’ll get your wish eventually. I have more AC songs planned.

Loved the references to the pieces of Eden in the lyrics as well- an aspect of the story that gets forgotten a little when you’re dashing across rooftops in Venice or breaking into the Vatican

Exactly.

Don’t wanna come off sounding unimpressed but a deeper, more powerful vocalist would have kicked this songs ass. Think like a five finger or killswitch style voice.

Not much I can do about that i’m afraid. I don’t have a metal voice nor do I have the budget to use other singers regularly.

“And I kill for the good in my white hood.”*facepalm* They really didn’t think that one through. What other “White Hoods” does that make you think of? Hint: K.

I always wonder why condescending snarkiness is the chosen method of communication for so many forum users. It seems to me like these things would be much better expressed in non-confrontational, polite manner.

The New Black Gold

On the entirely opposite end of the spectrum, here is a song I was quite unsure of and insecure about yet went on to be by far my best recieved one. Funny how these things work.

I like the lyrics in this song a lot and so did you guys. “The New Black Gold” has a double meaning. It refers to the color scheme of the game as well as the augmentation technology becmoing the new big commodity. “Black gold” has always been used to describe “great commodities,” hence the lines about “fossil fuel” (oil) and “slavery” (the enslavement of Africans by America, also morbidly referred to as “Black Gold” by some).

The song is from Adam Jensen’s perspective, learning to come to terms with the advantages and trials of his new body and the philosophical question of “How much machine must you be before you cease to be a man?”

The first verse just describes the game’s atmosphere, with its “neon glow” and “high tech cathedrals.” Some of you noticed the “gods in the machines” lyric – this was a sneaky reference to the game’s title. Verse two is about how no matter how high tech your “secret science” of augmentation may be, a man is still prone to “mortal flaws.”

What people don’t know is that the song was complely different in its first version. I don’t mean different as in a few notes here or there, I mean a completely different song. The lyrics were the same but the tone, tempo, melody, chords and general feel were all completely different. When it just felt all wrong to me I was getting pretty frustrated and in the end I just wiped the whole thing and started again. Destroy – Erase- Improve, as Meshuggah once said.

The first version was this big, sweeping synthscape thing with no drums. It had long, drawn out melodies and was a bit wishy washy and boring. So after scrapping that I decided on making something much more poppy and accessible. I wanted to capture the “humanity meets technology” theme of the game so I used highly mechanical-sounding programmed synths and drums and tried to sing as soulfully as I could to give it that contrast.

Nine Inch Nails were again a huge influence on this song, as was the game’s Vangelis-esque soundtrack. I wanted something sleek and brooding to match the game’s aesthetic. Someone mentioned it sounded very 90s; this was intentional.

Little note for fans of the original game: The lonely drone synth at the beginning of the song is meant to sound a bit like the Statue Of Liberty music from its opening level.

Criticism

Very poetic lyrics, but I feel like you could have done better than repeating “Slave to the New… man within” twice each time.

There’s that repetition criticism again. It’s something I’m looking into guys, promise.

Why oh why isn’t stuff like this in the charts instead of the crap the music industry churns out.

Because the music industry is a giant pile of festering, stinking dogshit that is slowly eating itself from the inside with regurgitated, autotuned X-factor contestants stuck to its shitty teeth.

This made me want to watch Blade Runner for some reason.

That’ll be because of the Vangelis-esque feel of the song and game’s soundtrack.

Also, your voice NEEDED to be synthed for this, the whole techno-electronic thing doesn’t work with your gruff bluesy/rocky voice.

Actually that was the entire point.

Must you make picking a favorite out of all your songs so difficult?

Shit man, sorry about that, hah!

So there you go. Two songs that went through some big changes in thier short lifetimes. Don’t forget to let me know what songs you want to hear about next time (“Redemption Blues” is already on my list so give me other ones!) or ask me any questions you’d like answered.

Comments

Leave a reply

You may also like