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Home » Featured, Interviews

Resistance 3 composer shares his secrets on making an epic soundtrack

Submitted by on Wednesday, 7 September 2011One Comment

Boris Salchow, composer of Resistance 3, reveals the secrets behind making a stunning soundtrack in this exclusive interview with PS3 Attitude.

Resistance 3 is the latest in a string of successful projects with Insomniac Games for Salchow, which also includes Resistance 2 and Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time. He also provided additional music and co-produced on Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

Away from games, Salchow has worked on the feature films 80 Minutes, Prom Night, Elsewhere and Der Himmel Hat Vier Ecken, as well as commercials for Audi, Lamborghini and Adidas.

Visit Salchow’s official site for more information on his work.

[PS3 Attitude] Insomniac has gone for a visceral approach to storytelling for Resistance 3. In what way did this affect your score?

[Boris Salchow] This game uses a much more subdued and intimate musical palette. Of course we still have a lot of action-driven music as well because we are dealing with a dark, gritty first person shooter, but there is a whole second layer taking place with very somber cues, intimate instrumentation and some very emotional moments.

[PS3A] Can you tell us a little about your character themes, and what they say about the character’s personalities?

[BS] Sure. Probably the most important one is the Resistance 3 main theme. It functions as the Joe Capelli theme as well as a theme for the mission itself. It is heroic but quite subdued at the same time. It is very human and determined – definitely not one of those over-the-top military fanfares. In my eyes a character like Joe Capelli is not a complete person until he has a purpose in life. That is why in the beginning you will hear hints and parts of his theme but you will only hear the full version once he decides to leave his family behind and he starts his journey.

Salchow at work at Abbey Road Studios. Photograph: Tom Bowles

Throughout his journey Joe’s thoughts repeatedly go back to his family, not knowing if they are still alive and if he did indeed make the right decision to leave them behind. I introduced another theme just to represent his family – his son and his wife – and his role as a loving father. This theme rests in a very warm harmonic realm, representing the only place of beauty in this brutal world.

There are many more themes, motifs and signature sounds for other characters in the game. And I also make a general distinction between human and alien setups. I mainly achieve this through using different kinds of sounds and scales. That way, even if there is a lot of music and a lot of different music in the game, I tried to still have some coherence throughout the whole span of the story.

[PS3A] Resistance 3 is set in the ‘50s. Did the music of this period influence you?

[BS] Yes and no. In the end we opted for a combination where the source music that you hear out of radios and record players really sets the mood for the period, and with the score itself we focused on a timeless approach; meaning I made sure that I am only using instruments that were around at that time and that do not sound too dated today. And I did treat a lot of instruments in a way that they create unusual sounds, but I tried to achieve this by the way you play them rather than running them through software plug-ins etc.

[PS3A] How many musicians worked on Resistance 3? Was it more or less than previous Resistance games?

[BS] More than 60 musicians, which is a bit more than on Resistance 2. But the bigger difference is probably that the kind of music is very different this time. In fact, we are a lot more musical than Resistance 2 for which we mainly recorded these horror film-like soundscapes with the orchestra.

More than 60 musicians worked on Resistance 3's epic score. Photograph: Tom Bowles

[PS3A] Music is usually designed to enhance the story, which is fine for the singleplayer campaign where you have a strong narrative thread, but you don’t have this narrative thread when playing online multiplayer. How does this affect your approach?

[BS] With the Resistance series I barely write music specifically for the multiplayer. My job is really to create the score for the story-based campaign mode and usually the audio team at Insomniac then uses parts of the music for the multiplayer games.

[PS3A] Killzone 3, Heavy Rain, Lord of the Rings and Resistance 3 are all recorded at Abbey Road Studios. It looks as though it’s now the go-to place for videogame soundtracks. Why is that?

[BS] Because it’s an amazing studio and they have some of the best players in the world.

[PS3A] Which game sets the benchmark for videogame music?

[BS] Like with movies, I think you cannot reduce it to one title for the whole industry. But there are a lot of extremely well-crafted game scores out there that pushed the envelope for each of the many different genres.

[PS3A] Do videogame composers get enough recognition for the quality of their work?

[BS] Inside the game community I think they do. Of course, people who do not play games themselves are usually not aware of how big games and soundtracks for games have become. But it will only be a matter of time until the current generation grows up – because many in this generation have spent more time playing games than watching movies.