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The two songs I’m writing about this week come from opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of fun vs serious. For most Miracle of Sound songs I tend to lean towards the more sober, earnest side. This is because I tend to write about the games with stories I love, so I feel they deserve something a little more than just to have the piss taken out of them. However, every now and again it’s fun to take off my “srs bsns” blinkers and just make something silly and funny – gaming does have an awful lot of ludicrous tropes after all and sometimes it can be cathartic to poke affectionate fun at them.

“Life In Bullet Time” is one of the darkest and most sombre songs I’ve done for Miracle of Sound. It felt right for Max Payne as his character in the game is more beat up and fed up with life than Niko Bellic’s car. “Shooter Guy” is the complete opposite; a very goofy send up of all the ridiculous situations that military shooters repeatedly present us with in an endless stream of OscarMike-ology and gritty sincerity.

Question Time:

How can I meet you at SD Comic Con?

I will be telling you guys where I am on Twitter and Facebook and how you can come find me over the 3 days. I expect to be around the BioWare booth quite a bit and will definitely be at any panels they do. I’m going to try and meet up with as many of you guys as possible. Looking forward to it, it should be fun!

Which songs are you going to play at the Escapist Expo?

I haven’t decided yet as I may have some new ones I want to do by then. I will try to pick songs that a lot of people enjoy. You can expect to hear “Sovngarde Song,” “New Black Gold” and “Commander Shepard” for example.

Did you enjoy the ME3 extended cut?

I did. While it didn’t fix some of the glaring flaws in the logic of the story and the forced ABC endomatic-3000 Deus Ex machine it did present a respectful and much more emotionally satisfying finale to the series. As our own Susan Arendt eloquently phrased here it gave the player a much needed chance to say goodbye to their Commander Shepard.

What game are you most looking forward to this year? Are you excited about AC3?

GTA5 is the only game that has me very excited if I’m honest. I am a little skeptical about Assassin’s Creed 3 after E3. Those ship battles look like the kind of thing that will make me demolish a controller (if they are anything like the one in Brotherhood, they will) and I would have liked a more unfamiliar location and culture than America. No offense to my American friends, I love America – but gaming already has enough patriotism and flag waving (both of which are very abundant in the latest trailer) and the AC series was always a welcome step into more exotic places and ways of life. Still, the Revolution era itself hasn’t been done much so they might be able to make it feel fresh. Here’s hoping.

Life In Bullet Time

The idea for this song was to try and make everything feel like it was moving in slow motion. This was to represent both the combat mechanics (and wonderful visuals that accompany them) and Max’s state of mind where every day seems to just pass him by in slow motion as he continues to exist without a reason or cause.

The rolling bassline and slow, drifting rhythm were, to me, a representation of the visual effect of Max performing a bullet dodge dive or slowing time to line up a perfect headshot. The bluesy piano sections were there as a tribute to both the original two games and their soundtracks (I felt like the piano scenes in MP3 were there for this purpose, too).

There are also long, heavily distorted synth screeches in parts of the song which are there to invoke the feel of the amazing soundtrack to game done by the band Health. No-one who played MP3 will ever forget that spacious airport level and the cathartic release it offered the player as that amazing song pulsed in the background. One of gaming’s finest ever moments, right there. I felt Rockstar did an amazing job matching the music and visuals in the game in a very unique and original way.

This song was very inspired by (and by “inspired by” I mean I totally ripped off their sound) Faith No More, particularly in the vocals. I am a huge fan of Mike Patton’s diverse vocal range and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to emulate parts of his style at any given opportunity. I think you can really hear the difference my new vocal microphone makes in this song – the very low, breathy verses have a crisp clarity to them that I could never achieve before now. In fact this song, out of all the MOS songs, is the one that I am the most happy with on a production/mix level. I feel like everything just fits nicely together, the many layers of sound don’t clutter eachother up and turn to mud as much as they do in some of my other mixes.

Justin’s video for this song is really great. It pretty much perfectly captures the vibe I was going for, the grim, ugly beauty of Max’s violent slow motion acrobatics and downbeat lifestyle. I was very happy with the response to the song, I was expecting it to get a very mixed reaction but it was one of the best received Miracle of Sound songs so far, so thanks guys.

Criticisms:

Brilliant song but I’d love to hear a guitar solo once in a while, especially now that you’ve got your Les Paul!

I would love to do some solos but alas I suck at guitar too much to do them. I taught myself how to play and never learned the proper techniques involved in soloing and playing scales, stuff like that. The closest you’ll ever hear to a solo from me is some simple blues noodling or rudimentary tapping.

This was your best song yet. You’ll never top this one!

Once again, we shall see.

I’m really glad you focused on the character’s identity and not the violence in the game. It really added a beautifully sad quality to the song that I don’t think could have been captured by singing about pseudo Matrix wannabe shoot-outs and slow motion death shots.

It makes me happy when people understand where I’m coming from like this. I was half expecting the usual claims that the song wasn’t brutal enough to match the game.

You get the hook aspect of making songs but you should really experiment with making more progressive music. Simple templates for making weekly music is your job but fuck that. Work your way outside the norm, create something truly remarkable.

This was an interesting criticism. I think it comes down to taste more than anything – I am not really a big fan of music that is very obtuse or “arty.” I like simple, structured songs and they please my ears so that’s why I make them. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of Opeth or Tool every now and again and The Downward Spiral by NIN is one of my most listened-to albums ever. I just feel that my own strengths lie in a more direct style. However, next week’s song is a little bit out there. Musically it’s definitely something a bit more progressive than I’m used to doing. So you might enjoy that.

Shooter Guy

I like military shooters. They’re fun. Modern Warefare 2‘s campaign was one of the most fun 7 or 8 hours I ever spent in front of my Xbox. But they are beginning to feel a little bit tired and formulaic these days. E3 was a perfect example; it felt like a game-loving army general had become the boss of every publisher at the event – shooter after shooter after shooter.

“Shooter Guy” was my way of having a little fun with all the silly things we see over and over again in these games and also my way of pointing out that well, maybe some if these things are overused a bit. I consider the song an affectionate poke at them rather than an angry rant though.

Musically, this one was easy. I wanted it to sound like something the guys in the game would actually listen to. The big, bluesy overdriven slide guitar always makes me think of Southern rock, and the pumping, almost hip-hop beat gave it a more contemporary edge.

Another thing this song is poking gentle fun at is gaming raps, or “nerdcore” as I have been informed it is called (emphasis on “gentle” – I have had some very upset internet rappers lambast me on Twitter for my comments regarding the genre). While there are some examples of excellent game related raps out there (Dan Bull and Jace Hall come to mind), I find the majority of the stuff out there to be utter aural defecation displaying no talent, lyrical ability or musical creativity. Oh, you can mumble about getting a headshot over a sample or parody of someone else’s song? Congratulations, Dr. Dre must be real jealous.

The “360 no-scope” and “pre-pubescent sniper” parts also got some sensitive souls very upset, to which I would say I am truly very sorry … not for the song, but sorry that you appear to have no sense of humour or the ability to laugh at yourself.

Anyway, before I get myself in more trouble I’ll move on. The lyrical style in the song is inspired by the gaming rap stuff in a way. It’s not really rap but it’s not really just singing either – it’s somewhere stuck between the two. I guess that was my way of saying that very rhythmical and staccato vocals can also be musical, there isn’t a rule to say they should be mutually exclusive.

Criticisms:

Judging by the video, you really suck at these games.

Judging by my life, sucking at games isn’t something that bothers or worries me.

Is “middle class white kids rapping is so ghetto” a jab at gaming raps?

Maybe. Or perhaps I genuinely enjoy middle class white kids rapping about their no-scope headshot ladder stall skills and feel that they are in fact, acutely representative of the multi-cultured working class neighborhoods that first spawned the gangsta-rap genre and its associated ebonics.

Was that a Yahtzee reference on the “chest high wall” line?

Wink.

This was good until he got all racist against white people. Self hating white guy, pathetic.

If you interpreted that line as racist in any way shape or form, you have some issues you need to look at. The line is making fun of people who try to act like something they are not.

This sounds really like that song from Borderlands.

I don’t think it does but I can see how someone would – they both have slide guitar and a mid tempo groove.

Why no Halo in the video? Why do you hate Halo so much?

Why are Halo fans so bloody sensitive? I like Halo. I just didn’t think to use it in the video.

As always folks, let me know which songs you’d like to hear about next. If you want me talk about some older ones then I will! Have a good fortnight, keep an eye on Twitter and I’ll see you at SDCC!

Miracle of Sound’s new album, Level 2, will be out on Bandcamp and iTunes the 12th of July.

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