Q: What is your job at Harmonix?
A: I'm the audio lead on Rock Band and was the audio lead on Guitar Hero &
Guitar Hero II.
Q: What games have you worked on?
A: I've been at HMX for only a couple years now, so here I've worked on those 3: RB, GH1 and GH2. Previously I was at Irrational Games, where I worked on BioShock, the Freedom Force games, System Shock 2, Tribes: Vengeance, Swat 4 and The Lost (which very sadly never got released). And before that, I was at Looking Glass Studios where I worked on all of the Thief games, and a whole bunch of others.
Q: How did you get into the video game industry?
A: Stumbled into it via our own Dan Schmidt, if I remember correctly. Maybe 14 years ago (I dunno), Dan was the project lead at Looking Glass on TerraNova: Strike Force Centauri and needed music for the game. I played in a local band which he knew of and he asked if we (me and my wife Terri, also in the band) would take a stab a writing the music. So we did. Later as the band finally fell apart, I was an audio contractor at LG, then finally stayed on full-time.
Q: How do you approach the process of authoring the songs for the game? Do you aim
more for expert players or beginners?
A: We don't really aim for experts or beginners; we hope the 4 difficulty levels take care of the entire range of players. But our number one goal is to be true to the music and author songs in a way that really feels like you're playing the instrument. Everyone on the audio team is a musician and
plays at least one instrument...many more than one. So for example, we have a pretty good feel for how the guitar part in a song would be played on a real guitar. And we strive to make the authoring give you that feeling that you're playing a real guitar, even though the game controller is really
quite an abstraction. I'm often still surprised at how much it really does feel like playing a real guitar.
Q: What is the best section of a rock song ever?
A: Hard to answer.... I love in The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" after the long quiet synth part near the end of the song: there's some ultra cool Keith Moon madness all leading up the big "YeeeaaaaahhhhH!!!!!" when everyone kicks back in. Chills man.
Q: What is the coolest part of your job?
A: Listening to tons of music, trying to figure out what songs should go into the game. And one of the biggest: getting the master tracks to songs by some of my personal heroes. Getting to listen carefully to just the drum or guitar tracks or discovering the the little extra noises (humming, breathing, etc) in the isolated vocal tracks. Generally just getting a clue how some of these great, classic songs were put together.
Q: What is the hardest part?
A: Listening to tons of music, trying to figure out what songs should go into the game. Licensing is sort of a headache, but we have great people doing the hardest parts...so I just really have to keep track of it all. And there's always pressure at the end of any game project, but every time it gets stressful...I try to remind myself that I make video games for a living. And that they're really cool video games and I work for a really cool company. Can't really complain too much.
Q: What do you think makes a song really good for Rock Band?
A: Ideally we'd love to have songs where all the parts are fantastic, interesting and varied, plus the songs are well-known and loved, ultra-cool and rock to the point of making everyone playing want to jump up and down repeatedly. That doesn't alway happen, or really even need to happen. Different songs have different purposes in the game usually because they fulfill one or more of
the above ideals.
I like songs where each instrument has a few moments to shine on its own (a guitar solo or awesome rhythm part, a breakdown to just bass & drums, fantastic drum fills, super-catchy melody in the chorus, etc...). I also like songs that are just pure energy...they're always fun just make you smile. They have those moments when the whole band kicks back in after some quiet part. I dunno... if the music's good, we win.