Team Tuesday is back, with a special interview with music producers Steve Burke and Robin Beanland. Enjoy!
[Lionhead] Introduce yourselves!
[Steve] I used to work at Rare Ltd. in the UK, as a Composer and Sound Designer, from 2001-2009. In that time I got to work on some cool games writing music to Kameo: Elements of Power, Viva Piñata games, Jetpac Refuelled, and the Xbox Avatars music that is pre-installed on all the Xbox 360′s. Recently I’ve also worked for Microsoft Studios & Starfire Studios, composing the music to Fusion: Genesis on Xbox Live Arcade.
[Robin]Hi I’m Robin Beanland and I’m the head of music for Rare Ltd, where I’ve been working since 1994…crikey!
[Lionhead] What was it like working on Fable Heroes?
[Steve] I was on holiday in Laos, exploring some ancient temples in the searing heat, when an email message popped up on my phone from Kristofor Mellroth (Audio Director @ Microsoft Studios in Seattle) asking if I’d be available to write music for an upcoming Lionhead Studios game. Sounded great, so I immediately booked a flight back home, and by the weekend I was in my studio starting on the music score to Fable Heroes.
The team at Lionhead sent me video footage from the game, and a list of music that was needed for each area. The first few days for me was a time for experimenting with different styles of music. A couple of conference calls with the team Leads and myself really helped to get a better understanding of what Fable Heroes was all about. It was great to have chance to talk with Russell Shaw, the composer of the Fable games, and ask if it would be ok to bring in some of his themes in to the music of Fable Heroes. In that conference call we hit upon a description that would shape the musical direction to the game: “Fable Heroes arcade sounding, as if it were an Nintendo 64 game. Keep it fun!”.
So, arcadey music was the order of the day. The first track I wrote was a sketch of a Main Theme, which wasn’t quite right. But that’s half the fun of starting on a new game. Trying things out if they are right or wrong for the game, it all helps to get the ideas flowing. Here’s my very first track written for Fable Heroes, which was too serious sounding and heavy in orchestration, so it’s not used in the game.
The deadline for completed music was just over a month away. The first four days were experimenting, jotting down ideas for the different level themes, and picking the instruments that would create the overall identity of the soundtrack. After that, it was all about knuckling down and writing the music, based on directions from Jennifer (Clixby) and Ted (Timmins), and making any changes based on the feedback from the team. To get in the mood of the game, I ran video footage from the level of the game I was scoring on a large screen, alongside my Cubase music sequencer system.
Five days before the deadline, and it was the final stretch of mixing and mastering the music. Robin sent me the tracks he’d written, and I took along mine, and the final polish to each track was done in a world class mastering studio. That’s all the reverb, EQ’ing, compression, and checking the score sounds as good as it can through any speaker system.
Final delivery of the music was delivered to Jessica Saunders at Lionhead Studios. Jess, along with creating fantastic sound effects for Fable Heroes, also implemented the music and ensured everything transitioned well and worked alongside the other sound elements of the game.
You can download a copy of the Heroes medley from here
[Robin] Fantastic! It was so nice to revisit a compositional style I haven’t written in for a while and to work again with Steve (who I miss very much…sniff). I was only able to commit five days to the project, but I think sometimes you’re at your most creative when you have a deadline like that.
It was also great to take Russ’s themes from the Fable series and embellish upon them to give them their own ‘Heroes’ identity. On top of all that, the team were just such a lovely enthusiastic bunch to work with it made the whole experience very pleasurable indeed.
[Lionhead] We’ve heard how games like Gauntlet and Streets of Rage inspired some of the gameplay elements in Fable Heroes, so were there any other games that inspired the soundtrack to Fable Heroes?
[Steve] Some of the Rare games from the N64 era had a style of music that seemed to be ideally matched to Fable Heroes. Especially Grant’s music to the Banjo Kazooie games. Further back in time than that, and something that I still love to this day, is music from the Commodore 64 games. As an avid games player growing up with the C64, music to Monty On The Run, Thing On A Spring, and of course Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
[Robin] Because I was on such a tight time scale, Steve did a lot of the early ground work with the team to define the style we would compose in. After a little bit of toing and froing it was decided that a quirky fable direction would be the perfect fit for heroes. Jen (Clixby) then forwarded on some YouTube links of game music that the team felt fitted that bill and to my surprise a lot of it was from Rare’s N64 era…even the music I wrote for a certain squirrel…err …extinguishing fire imps.. ahem
[Lionhead] When you first heard about Fable Heroes, what was your initial reaction to the game?
[Steve] Totally taken by surprise by the look of the game. It was just so much fun, and a fantastic opportunity to write music in the old school arcade style that I’ve not had chance to do for a long time. More projects like this please!
[Robin] The fact that the game came about from a creative day at Lionhead for me is just brilliant!! Then when I saw the first lot of videos Jen sent through I was like Wow! I could tell a lot of blood sweat and tears had gone into making it and couldn’t wait to have a play. Truth be told though, I haven’t had a look in yet because my two boys haven’t stopped playing it since its release.…I need to get a third controller so I can join in .
[Lionhead] Steve – You worked on Fable Heroes all the way out in Asia! What was it like working with Microsoft, Lionhead, and Robin – who are in completely different time zones!
[Steve]The time difference was a good thing. It meant I could work all day, and in the evening send over a version of the track I was composing, and it’d be with the team at Lionhead by 9am. They could test it out in the game, get me feedback ready for when I started work next day. That combined with plenty of email, Messenger, and phone calls, meant we were always on the same page with the direction I was taking. The team at Lionhead were so lovely to work with, and I could tell from the very start that everybody involved was passionate about the game, and their enthusiasm really pushed me to do the best work I could.
Great to work with Robin again, who I know well from my days in the music department at Rare. We both took on different levels of the game, and between the two of us, managed to write the complete 45min score in a month.
[Lionhead] And finally, what is your favourite soundtrack to a video game, either past or present!
[Steve] David Wise’s score to Donkey Kong Country 2.
[Robin] Ooh tricky one, so many to pick from. Currently for me I absolutely adore the soundtrack to Journey and prior to that it would be Flower. So there’s definitely something about That Game Company’s approach to soundtracks that resonates with me.
This piece of music will always have a special place in my heart though.